I am occasionally told that I have a hardened edge to my personality. It could be due to my Schwarzenegger biceps, multiple facial piercings and military buzz-cut, but it's most likely my sassy genetics.
You see, my five-foot-tall grandma is known by most as Gramma, or GMA when she's feeling thugged out, but a special few know her as Brutal Barbara from Brooklyn, a name attached to her skills with the skates and her dream of speeding around a ring while beating the living crap out of other girls. Yes, hardcore runs in the blood.
When I phoned her and told her I was having second thoughts about going to the Mad Rollin' Dolls semi-finals on Saturday, she told me to snap out of my funk. And I did. If I visited home without tales of the derby, there'd be hell to pay -- and Lord knows she can be a beast with that spatula.
Fast Forward Skate Center's packed parking lot suggested that all of Madison was inside. When I entered the rink, I realized it was less an assumption than a fact. In my hometown, roller rinks are few and far between (I know, so deprived), so it amazed me how many people got classy to spend a night watching hardcore girls on wheels.
The antics of the crowd were as noteworthy as its size.
I always find interesting the lengths that people will go to for something they are passionate about. I've seen countless soccer matches and music events where people get up and leave because they don't have a nice cushy spot to rest their derrieres.
Apparently, you Midwestern sports enthusiasts love your Mad Rollin' Dolls. People were packed in like olives in a jar, some bobbing up and down on risers to catch a glimpse of the action, while others contorted themselves on top of the lockers, lifting the corkboard ceiling with their heads. "No pain, no gain" was never more applicable.
The rink glistened with wax and sweat beneath the dim glow of Christmas lights and Chinese lanterns. The air filled with the smell of soft pretzels, mustard, Rolling Rock beer and, presumably, the aroma of a ZZ Top music video set. It was heartwarming to see girls unafraid to break a nail ogled by onlookers.
And then came the fire and fury. The Mad Rollin' Dolls were sheer chaos in short-shorts: hooting and hollering, making the metal sign, clenching jaws on mouth guards, thwacking, whacking, cracking and otherwise Batman-popping the opposing chicas. I haven't heard that many skulls crack on the floor since Bush won the election!
I don't know what was more dizzying -- a bunch of girls pummeling each other at a frantic pace; the heavyset, nearly naked guy parading around in a bondage harness; the sunglasses-and-suit-wearing mafioso; the ratio of babies and small children to leather daddies with long braided hair; or the thought of my grandma in fishnets.
It was a fantasy, a nightmare, and an acid trip rolled into one -- kind of like every holiday celebration, ever. This is my grandma's dream? Oy vey! She is meshugeneh!
My grandma has two dreams: to have an alien land in her backyard and to join a roller derby. I feel as if perhaps my tale shall allow her to vicariously experience her wish. As for the aliens? Bring it on, ET.