Cross On Over

The rink at Orbit Skate Center

The rink at Orbit Skate Center

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about learning how to do crossovers, kind of. I was able to wrap my brain around putting one skate in front of the other, but I was still unable to convince myself to pick up that opposite foot and plant it next to the crossing one. It just really takes a lot to trick yourself into believing crossing your feet while moving in roller skates is a good thing to do. I practiced again at Start Out last Saturday, but still couldn’t pull them off. That was a good class though, because we learned how to do plough stops and skate backwards, both of which came easier to me than I thought they would.

But I was still disappointed about my crossovers. I wanted to nail them, and get faster, like I was told I would once I learned them. Lucky for me, there was Steve.

Steve teaches a speed skating class several times a week at Orbit Skate Center, the rink I went to after work on New Years Eve. I’ve known about this class for a long time now, after a woman named Sherry at Derby Lite let me know she goes sometimes. However, the times the class is offered are from 8-10 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, or Saturday mornings at 7:30. Since the rink is by my office, it would mean staying in the ‘burbs for several hours on a weeknight before class, or getting up hella early to drive there on a day when I wouldn’t normally have to. Still, I wanted to go, so this past Monday I packed my skates and my laptop and took them to the office. I hung out at a coffee shop and got some writing done before going to the rink.

There was a birthday party going on when I showed up a little early, so I changed in the locker room and put my laptop, bag, and coat into a small locker. I carted my suitcase containing my skates and parked myself at a cafeteria table. As the place cleared out, a guy came up to me and asked if I was there for the speed class. I said I was, and we introduced ourselves. Steve is 32 and has been skating since he was 9 — not speed skating the whole time, but he’s been coaching people in it for the last 10 years.

When I walked onto the rink in gym shoes, I was one of four adults: Me, Steve, a woman maybe a few years older than me, and a man older than Steve. The rest were a handful of children. I felt a little disappointed, because the last time I’d skated at Orbit, that afternoon New Years Eve, I’d struggled to dodge kids and felt anxious about knocking into them. I shrugged it off. We ran some laps, did some stretches, and then laced up.

Immediately it became clear to me that those kids all skated much faster than me, by far. And they were all doing crossovers, without a second thought to how terrifying each one was to me as an observer.

We did some drills as a group, and Steve simultaneously took it easy on me while also improving my form and giving me instruction with each attempt. He was a good teacher and didn’t seem lazily annoyed with me the way my coach at WCR had (justifiably) been. He guessed immediately I was starting out in roller derby and that I didn’t quite have the hang of crossovers yet.

After class, he offered to stay to help me and one of the kids, one-on-one. He had me skate on one foot for as long as I could while he did a drill with the boy, and after the boy left, he asked me if I wanted to give crossovers a try. It was past 10 p.m. by then and I had a 30-minute drive home, but the answer was still yes, of course.

We made a lap, and when I still faltered, he took a new approach. He had me stand mid-rink, on a foot-tall green, painted line that stretched from end to end of the floor. He had me walk sideways along the line, putting my right foot across the left, over and over. My feet got used to the motion after a sideways pass across the rink like that, and then we skated another lap.

I crossed my right foot over my left and stepped into it all the way, just like I had on the line — only I was moving in a circle, fast. The move made me go faster. I lifted my arms in celebration, and nearly fell over. I crossed over again and again, skating faster than I could quite handle and feeling invincible. I thanked Steve.

While on a break at some point, the boy who stayed late, who was maybe 11 or 12, told me I seemed afraid to fall. He encouraged me to do so. I laughed, but I knew what he meant. I’m sure he’s right. I’ve fallen slightly a handful of times, but I still haven’t had my first actual, full-speed, feet-out-from-under-me FALL fall. I guess it shows. The other speed skaters all wore helmets and wrist guards, but I was alone in my knee/elbow pads and mouth guard. I must have looked silly, but as Steve said, I’m ready to fall. I’m prepared for it. Just not in my mind.

I plan on going back to Orbit for more speed skating, but I need to find a time that’s best. Monday nights would have been good, but my friend Gina and I are about to start recording six weeks’ worth of podcast episodes on Mondays. Tuesdays will have to do, unless I want to make some Saturday morning concessions.

The funny thing is, my uncle knows Steve and some of the other speed skaters at Orbit. He once designed a skin suit for Team Rainbo, the skating team that practices there. I guess the speed skating community is tight-knit, spanning states and regions. It’s a small world.

Oh, Hell

Bye, yellow room.

Bye, yellow room.

I know better than to complain about the times when I throw my own life into complete upheaval, but when someone or something else does it to me, I will scream from rooftops: Adele and I found out a couple of weeks ago that we have to move. We rent someone’s condo, and that someone would like to sell it, as soon as our lease is up April 30, like I mentioned in an earlier post. I feel like I just moved there — probably because I did. Less than eight months ago. Goodbye, lovely yellow room.

Readers who are paying attention know that I wasn’t planning on staying there for too much longer, but Adele and I had still planned on renewing. We were just going to cross bridges when we got to them; Now we know the next bridge in our path is in the process of collapsing.

She’s looking for a one-bedroom on her own for May 1, having now had two roommates up and move out (or announce moving out) of the state on her. I don’t blame her, poor thing. Meanwhile, I can’t sign a lease I don’t intend to sit through even half of, so I am at a crossroads once again.

Back to my old blue room?

Back to my old blue room?

It sure would be nice to only have to pay to move once in 2015, even it’s months sooner than I expected. Plans are in the works to see if that’s a possibility, but I won’t know for a few weeks yet. If it’s not, as I said before, Christina has graciously agreed to let me live with her again, and her boyfriend John. It would be a nice bookend to my time in this city, and I’d live really close to Stef’s place. Plus, I loved living with Christina — I only moved out in 2012 because Kevin asked me to move in with him. Things in Christina’s life and mine are very, very different than they were when I moved in with her Week Two of my Chicago experience, four and a half years ago, but I think we could manage to pull off having just as much fun. Chicken wings and Gilmore Girls marathons are coming back! Not a bad way to kill time between spring and July.

The more I think about my plans, the more excited I get. It is late February and it is snowing and cold, and tomorrow morning I will have to dig out my car in the dark before I can drive to work. I sleep with lights on because I am afraid and I know it is pointless to feel afraid yet I cannot convince myself to stop feeling afraid. It is not Chicago’s fault I got picked up by the wrong cab driver two winter months ago but I do keep them in reproach for not holding him responsible the way they could have. But that’s a post for another time, probably weeks from now when I am hopefully over the shock and can get a grasp on what just happened.

I love most things about my life in Chicago. I hope the people I am lucky enough spend my time with here know that.

Halfway Through Start Out

My roller derby class has been going really well. I’m almost halfway through with the 12-week Derby Lite Start Out, which is kind of crazy. The toe stops on my skates are still a slight hindrance, but I am getting better at navigating the track with them. We learned how to properly do T-stops — as my uncle pointed out to me via email after my post about trying it on my own, I made a large error: The skate making the top of the ‘T’ is supposed to go behind your other skate — not in front of it. It’s so silly now to think of myself doing that — it’s no wonder I crumpled over immediately. Live and learn.

Speaking of learning, this past Saturday, our instructors taught us something I’d been waiting for ever since my Windy City Rollers skate clinic experience: How to do crossovers. This is the technique Lindsey told me would make me a much faster skater, and what would get me to my 27 in 5. As this blog post explains, being able to round the derby track 27 times in five minutes is a major milestone for any derby girl in training. Making 27 in 5 is the speed trials bench mark for WFTDA players, and now that I can (almost) do crossovers, I would love to see soon how much I improve on my initial speed trial result of 20 laps.

Crossovers are largely a battle of mind over matter — you have to convince yourself to put one skate directly in front of the other and push off from there — then lift your other stationary foot to meet the one propelling you. It’s best if you just watch (skip to the 1:10 mark):

I was able to get to the point where I was comfortable putting my right skate in front of the left, but I couldn’t quite master moving my left to follow suit. I hope I get a chance to work on that on my own at some point soon. I could already feel myself going so much faster with my partial crossover move, so that’s extremely encouraging.

I’ve been having a great time getting to know some of the other women in my class and learning with them each week. My favorite recent interaction was a moment off-track, when I took my mouthguard out of my mouth to speak. Frustrated, I turned to a teammate and asked, “Where do you put this thing when you’re not wearing it?”

Without a word, Lisa pulled down the neck of her shirt to show her mouth guard looped in a ‘U’ around her bra strap for safe keeping. Genius. I’ve been doing this ever since.

My next class is Saturday — week six of 12.

A Working Winter


My byline, on the main page of HG

It’s been a busy few weeks. Since I last updated in mid-January, I’ve learned that I have to move unexpectedly in April, that I’ll be going to Portland again that same month with two Columbus friends, and that I’ve been accepted as a regular (paid!) contributor to a major online publication. It’s an exciting and scary time, and that’s not even including my roller derby progress — but that’s a post for another time (soon).

I’m also performing standup for the first (and likely last) time this week. I’ve really enjoyed my intro FemCom class, but like with improv, I’ve done enough to have a completely new level of respect for those who do it, and to know it’s not for me — and that’s okay. Our instructor is amazing and lifts us up while also taking the time to give each of us meaningful, helpful constructive criticism. I’d recommend the class to anyone.

Now: About this apartment business. Neither Adele nor I knew what we were going to do longterm, but we were both planning on renewing our lease for our place when it ends in April. We knew it was likely I’d be leaving the lease about halfway through, but we thought we’d cross that bridge once we got to it. Instead, I’m looking at one last move within the city of Chicago — a mere 10 months after my most recent one. The woman who owns the condo we rent is selling the unit, and so we’re out. I totally get it, but it still threw us for a loop. It hadn’t even occurred to me that she would want to stop renting it out, but I also don’t know a single thing about real estate in Chicago.

On Saturday I talked to Christina, my old roommate in Avondale, about the possibility of me moving back in with her and her boyfriend for anywhere from one to six months. I’m very lucky that she was open to this discussion. I’m still going to look for other possible sublease or short-term lease options, but I’m thankful she’s got my back if nothing else works out. It looks like I may need to make my longer term plans a little sooner than I thought.

In terms of less-stressful things in my life right now, I’m pleased to say my second piece was published on Hello Giggles this week — my first byline/paid essay. I’m now on their list of regular contributors and can pick assignments from an editorial calendar as well as pitch my own stuff. I’ve emailed my editor about a series on being a roller derby rookie, which I would love to see get picked up. Fingers crossed.

I continue to cover Albany Park for DNAinfo and write Chicago-specific lists, articles, and videos for Chicago NewsCastic. It’s crazy to me that I have four regular writing gigs these days, three of which are paid. I’ve been putting the extra money in savings on top of what I can save from each paycheck.

And finally, I planned a second trip to Portland for April 3-7. I thought I’d see the city during the rainy season, just to make sure it’s the place I thought it was when I loved it in the fall. By some luck, I’ll be traveling with friends this time — Stacey and Shane, two Columbus friends, were planning a Portland trip for February. When I mentioned I was going back in April, Stacey suggested we coordinate schedules. We’ll be sharing a really great airbnb that week in the Alberta Arts district. I don’t have a lot of my to-do list aside from a Rose City Rollers bout.

It’s been an incredibly busy 2015, and even though I know I do it to myself, I can’t help but feel like something else is at play here. Every time I decide to scale back on something, I’m given a reason not to. I had just announced I was giving up on sending pitches to Hello Giggles when they got back to me and put me on their roster. I’m not sure what the universe is trying to tell me these days, about much of anything. I just know the timing is right for what change is to come.