Quality Testing: Derby Gear

When I was home for Christmas, my uncle gave me a pretty amazing gift: A brand new pair of derby skates, like the ones Derby Lite had for us to borrow at the one-off lesson.

New skates!

New skates!

I’d emailed him my blog post about the class because I thought he’d be interested, and he was psyched. I am still in disbelief that he got me these skates. He even outfitted them with better wheels than the default set they came with and showed me how to change them with the tool included in the box.

I tried them on that day, and they felt like they fit — at least, they felt like an appropriately-sized pair of shoes with wheels on them. I won’t know for sure until I skate in them. I had hoped to try them out this past Tuesday, during a Derby Lite event, but when I emailed to register I was told I couldn’t participate in the event until I’ve been through training. That makes sense — It was a scrimmage, kind of, and they don’t want people who don’t know what they’re doing yet on the track.

On Sunday night I placed an order online for my gear. I’d written down the sizes of what I’d borrowed for reference and got my own knee and elbow pads, a mouth guard, wrist guards, and a royal blue helmet. The box containing them came to my office in the morning on New Year’s Eve, and I opened it eagerly.

Helmet, guards, pads

Helmet, guards, pads

An hour later, the CEO and president of our company sent us home early to celebrate New Years Eve. It was noon, and I decided to spend my half-day off at the roller rink. I had checked online earlier and had been surprised to see there’s one only three miles north of my office. Cursing myself for not planning ahead and bringing the new skates to try, I decided to go anyway and at least test out the new gear.

It’s funny how roller rinks across America all smell the same. I don’t know what causes it, but it’s the same at every rink I’ve been to. I showed up around 12:30, and while the door was unlocked, the place was dark inside. I went into the bathroom to change and try on the gear — with the exception of my helmet, because my hair was in a giant, tall bun. I also felt silly putting on a helmet to skate around a giant rink completely alone. After about 15 minutes of adjusting and making sure everything fit, I walked back to the lobby. I saw then that I would no longer be skating alone. A line had formed, of twenty or so kids and teens. A New Year’s Eve skate party was starting at 1, it turned out, and no one was in school for the day.

I paid my admission and skate rental and watched the place slowly fill up. Out on the rink it was fine at first, and I skated quickly and confidently. However, more kids entered the rink every minute and I had to slow down for fear of running into them. The silver lining is that because of this, I discovered I’m really good and weaving in and out among other skaters. I just did so worrying that any second I was going to get told off for it by an employee.

I only skated about an hour, practicing holding the derby play stance I’d learned: full-on squat, butt out, back straight, hands up in prayer position, and elbows in. When I got off the track, I decided to try to T-stop, where you take one skate and place it in front of the other, forming a T, and serving as a brake. Even though I couldn’t have been skating more than 3-5 miles per hour, I absolutely crumpled to the ground the second I did it. It was the only time I fell the whole time, and I wasn’t even on the rink.

The good news is, I had my wrist guards on straight this time. That’s important too, because they’re what hit the floor first.

I am sad I didn’t get to try my new skates, but I’m packing them in my car with the hopes I will get to go back to the rink by work in the next few days. One thing I need now is a zipped gym bag to hold all this new stuff: Skates, pads, guards, helmet. The skates are pretty heavy on their own, so I’ll need something that’s durable and up to the challenge.

I keep resisting the urge to buy a custom Penny Pain shirt. It feels wrong enough that I’ve already settled on a name before starting training, and I feel like buying something with my chosen name this early would be either a bad omen, or presumptuous. Nothing will stop me from looking at all that Etsy has to offer, though.

Don’t try to force it

Mike, director of photography, blocking a shot for the CRGs

Mike, DP, blocks a shot

I woke up at 5:45 Saturday morning, accidentally woke up my uncle and the family dog on my way out, got into my car in the dark and drove to Cincinnati for an 8 a.m. start time with Plum St. It was Rollergirl day. We set up lights and breakfast when we got there, and before 10, several players for the Cincinnati Rollergirls started showing up. They rolled in laughing together, talking. I asked them to sign a talent release form and let us know what kind of pizza they wanted for lunch. They were very friendly and polite and seemed generally happy to be there.

Staying in position

Staying in position

The commercial, as I said, was for FORCE, an organization that raises cancer awareness. I was assistant director for the first time with Plum St., and at first I didn’t think this would mean having much responsibility beyond serving  as a go-to between the directors and crew, and keeping everyone on schedule. That’s what I remembered previous ADs doing on the set of other projects, but early in the morning I found out I would be the one calling “action” and “cut” all day. At first, while in front of a group of people whose company was paying Plum St. for their work, I felt this was a pretty nerve wracking realization. However, after the first few takes, I found I was more comfortable in the role than I thought I would be. That’s usually how these Plum St. gigs go; I drive to Cincinnati feeling jittery and self conscious, and then after I get my feet wet, I get into my element and by the end of the day I’m so glad I went that I agree to do whatever project they tell me about next. That’s got to be the sign of a great team, and one that makes you feel welcome and useful. The folks at Plum St. always thank me for making the trip and tell me they appreciate my work.

Group shot

Another duty I had Saturday was working with the rollergirls who didn’t have a speaking role and giving them direction for each shot. Fortunately, this direction was usually limited to “Skate faster this time,” and “Let’s do that one more time.” Another important lesson: on set, “One more take,” almost never means one more take. Lucky for me, the team was very patient, so they made my job much easier. It was fun for me just watching and listening to them interact with each other, constantly joking around at varying degrees of vulgarity. Some of the names of the players cracked me up, from Karma Krash to Sister Sacrilegious to Michele D’Bomya. My personal favorite, Miss Print, is a reporter at The Cincinnati Enquirer. When I was skating after my “Whip It” fever, I asked Brandon what my derby name should be. He came up with Penny Pain, which I think is better than I could ever ever come up with.

Me with Sister Sac at the end of the day

Watching them skate around the track made me remember why I loved the idea of roller derby and the female friendships that seem to go along with it. They showed off bruises like champs, swapping stories of epic blows.

The 30-second spot was mostly Brandi (aka Sister Sac) speaking while the rollergirls skated behind her. They all eventually lined up behind her at the end and gave a line in unison. We started filming before 10 and wrapped by 3, so that was pretty short and sweet. I met a few new Plum St. people as well, and liked them a lot. I got along really well with everyone on set for the day and we had a great time together. After the last shot that involved all the rollergirls wrapped I asked Chenney to take my picture with them. Best day ever.

One of these things is not like the others

Ahoy weekend

Tonight there is yet another SNP going away party (good luck, Lisa!) and unlike last week, I don’t have a work conference to be at. I’m carpooling with fellow SNP-er Rachel, who left the company but, unlike most of the others, managed to stay in journalism. Lisa is actually staying in the field as well and will be freelancing for a local chain of suburban papers that will remain nameless. She’ll also be further developing her successful photography business, and through this venture, following her dreams while actually making money at it. Jealous? I am. Does anyone want to pay me to finish my screenplay?

Tomorrow I will be serving as assistant director for a Plum St. Productions commercial. The Cincinnati Rollergirls have a partnership with FORCE, an organization that raises cancer awareness. Some of the girls will appear in a promo for FORCE tomorrow, which means I will get to fulfill my dream of meeting an actual roller derby player. I will try not to act too starstruck.

On Sunday, I am moving my stuff back into my apartment. Brandon’s moved in with some guy friends, which means I’m heading back in. Last night I made my big thank you dinner for my family. It took almost an hour and a half to make (which was about twice as long as I expected) but they were very patient with me. I really need to learn to cook, you guys.

It will be weird living alone, but I try to remember the short time I lived by myself in the city; a couple years ago, there was one month in between moving out of Doug and Chandra’s and Christina moving in where I was on my own. The first few nights, I stayed up late, paranoid and convinced I was about to murdered in my sleep. Granted, there was a serial rapist running loose at the time, but still, I was a little nuts. After I got used to it, I took advantage of the time alone in an apartment with no furniture and painted, read and wrote. It was actually a pretty sweet month. I do miss that apartment sometimes.

But that’s enough reminiscing; the time to live is now. I’m going to get so much done in the next couple months. And I don’t just mean tracking down season three of “Veronica Mars” and watching it with Eileen. I burned through the first season in a week and I’m almost done with the second, sigh.

New Plum St. Commercial

Remember how after seeing the movie “Whip It!” I became momentarily obsessed with roller derby? With that in mind, you can imagine how excited I was to hear that Plum St. had been commissioned to make promos for the Cincinnati Rollergirls. Here is their first commercial of the season. I think it’s extremely well done, possibly my favorite piece of theirs. And I didn’t even work on this one, so I’m not (that) biased.

I’ll be teaming up again with Plum St. next month as assistant director on a commercial. Pretty exciting stuff.

Also, what do you think of the new layout? It’s now been a year since I moved this blog over to WordPress so I thought I’d give it a new look.

Weighing in, off the wagon

When I fall off the wagon, I fall hard, you guys.

It snowed a whole bunch last night, so I didn’t go to the gym. Instead, in my lethargic state, I ordered a pizza. Poor pizza delivery guy. And those mini fried apple pies I ordered probably weren’t necessary. I won’t be going to the gym tonight either, because I have an SNP going away party to go to at 6 (good luck, Rachel!). If I have any hope of completing the third day of week two of Couch to 5k, I’ll have to either go tomorrow before my first improv class or (God forbid) run outside on Sunday. Why is my gym closed on Sundays? Grrrr.

I haven’t lost any more weight, but I gained two pounds back. Yay. EDIT: This is after running twice and roller skating once this week. Lame.

Also, it seems that running gives me lower back pain. But just on one side. Thoughts? Someone said new running shoes would help. Running shoes = very expensive. Worth it?

Making further progress

I am not doing so bad on those resolutions. Yesterday I started a book and today I found out I lost a little more weight. I have lost 13 pounds since Oct. 12!

The book I am now reading is “Whip It!” and I have to say, so far I like the movie character better than her paperback counterpart. The book’s narrator is just mean. But, I’m only around 40 pages in. Perhaps she sweetens to more of an Ellen Page standard at some point, although I am doubtful.

Speaking of “Whip It!” look at what I got for Christmas this year:


Ohmygoodness. You have no idea how excited I was to open that box. I had roller skates on my wish list this year but I didn’t really expect anyone to shell out the cash for them. And purple, even! Thank you, Owen and Jamie, for loving me this dollar amount’s worth! (And thank you, Michael Scott for that one). They said they were going to get me these along with the movie, but it turns out it’s not on DVD yet.

Last week I started Couch to 5K, a running program that, in theory, trains you for a 5K in nine weeks. I downloaded an iPhone app for it (one of the three apps I have now been willing to pay for). Brandon got me an arm band for my phone, so I strap the phone in, open the app and start the day’s run. Until you are more used to running (around week 5, as far as I can tell) the program has you alternating running with walking. A scary man’s voice tells you over your head phones to run, and then a minute or so later it tells you to walk. The app lets you play your iPod’s music through it and when you’re done with your work out it gives you the option to post a braggy message on facebook. I start week 2 tonight and will be running 90 seconds, then walking for 2 minutes, running, walking, etc. I am not a runner, and I was so sore all last week from doing what was essentially a mere 9 minutes of actual running three days a week. It’s a lot different from the elliptical machine, but you’re supposed to vary your cardio routine. Too bad running doesn’t burn as many calories. Thanks to Jessie E. for telling me about the program; she begins week 2 today as well.

Also, Brandon got me a work out game for the Wii in an after Christmas sale online. EA Active should be coming in the mail today or tomorrow, and then we’ll both be able to work out at the same time for a change. I got a Marshall’s gift card from Brandon’s brother and used it over the weekend to invest in some new work out clothes and a yoga mat. I do aerobics in our living room and our scratchy carpet does me no favors.

Another thing I bought this weekend is this:

I actually went to a sporting goods store of my own volition

College friend (and The Sleeper Hit reader) Jessi D. told me her thoughtful boyfriend picked up a set of these bicycle pedals for her to use at home. He also helpfully suggested she take them to the park and sit on a bench reading a book, pedaling away, to see how many odd looks she got. I am all in favor of this idea (videotaping = a must). I took these babies into work only to discover they don’t fit under my desk very well. Some furniture rearranging is needed. I tried to smuggle them into the building surreptitiously, but alas, there was one witness. He looked at me kind of funny.

From my family for Christmas, I was lucky enough to get not one, but TWO Hungry Girl cook books. I’ve been making one recipe from them every week night. Brandon likes what I’ve made so far, so that helps. It’s hard to lose weight without the support of the people you live with. In fact, with all this outpouring of love from my friends and family, I best be skinny come my birthday.

Year in Review: 2009

This was the second year of The Sleeper Hit’s existence, and this blog documented a lot of changes in my world in 2009. Granted, 2008 was my first year in a new city, living on my own, buying a car, etc. But 2009 brought lots of new things as well. After all, 2009 was the year I decided to make movies and actually did. As I did last year, here is a recap of the inane and the important, a.k.a., the things I deemed worthy of blogging about.

January: Brandon started his job at OSU. Coincidentally, we stopped cooking dinner in the apartment around the same time. The pipes in our old place froze. Obama was sworn into office. I started the screenplay for “Beacon Alley” (untitled at the time) and read lots of books about how to write screenplays. I cut nearly a foot of hair off, and so did Brandon. The Sleeper Hit turned one year old.

February: I left my car unlocked and someone rifled through it and stole my faceplate but not my stereo. I discovered Club Trillion and did not do much work for a of couple days. Owen and Jamie found out they would be having a girl, which I totally called. I discovered my undying love for curry and finished writing “Beacon Alley”.

March: I began seeking donations from local businesses for the movie but got poor response. Casting for “Beacon Alley” took place this month, starting with heroine Becca and ending with villain Melissa. Brandon and I went apartment hunting and found our new place near campus. I switched from Live Journal to WordPress. I joined and promptly quit Twitter. A generous friend donated some gift cards to use to buy food for cast and crew on shooting days. I bought a high-def camera. Filming for “Beacon Alley” began.

April: Brandon bought me a new faceplate for my car stereo. Surly Girl allowed me to film at their place. Filming took place every weekend this month and I woke up shaking with fear every day of it. During the actual filming I felt awesome, and even better after we wrapped for the day. I named my production company Wilmer Productions, an homage to Owen’s former Willow Films. We made t-shirts. I juggled moving out of our old apartment with the final days of filming. It was slightly stressful.

May: I chose the name “Beacon Alley” after taking a photo of a street sign by our old place. Editing began. I co-hosted a baby shower for my sister-in-law with my aunt. I ran into many technical issues and discovered the importance of lighting. I got the idea for my web series, “Paper Cuts”. I threw a cast party to debut the trailer of “Beacon Alley” and scheduled the premiere with Studio 35. I watched the “Glee” pilot and flipped for that show before the rest of you bitches. Count it. I re-joined Twitter and saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

June: Saw the Decemberists with Brandon after he won tickets from CD101. I began casting for “Paper Cuts” and met my muse, Taylor. Editing of “Beacon Alley” continued, and I wrote the first four episodes of the show. Met Monsterbeard who advised on my scripts. Watched a lot of web series. My beautiful niece was born. Participated in Cincinnati’s 48 Film Project and met the awesome folks of Plum St. Productions: love at first shoot. Michael Jackson died.

July: Production of “Paper Cuts” began as editing of “Beacon Alley” wrapped. Showed episodes one and two before the movie at the premiere, which was well attended to my relief. My blog stats hit an all time high the week of the premiere as people googled “Beacon Alley” after presumably seeing it on the marquee at the theater. Brandon and I planned a fall trip to Colorado.

August: Filming of “Paper Cuts” continued and involved casting new extras for each episode, one of which included child actors. It was weird. Brandon dressed in a borrowed tiger suit. I had a last-minute cameo in episode six after a friend had to cancel her role as a bridezilla. Filming wrapped at the end of the month. I lamented majoring in journalism rather than engineering or nursing or some other field that is still hiring.

September: Realized I had somehow gained ten pounds over the summer. Brandon’s gallbladder attacked him in his sleep. Went to Ft. Collins, CO and San Francisco, CA to visit friends on my first-ever vacation as an adult. I tried to write a one-hour TV show pilot while in California. Got one of the worst sunburns of my life.

October: Plum St. Productions exploded into prominence. I helped them with their short film, “Gnomewhere to Hide” and loaned them my camera. Got an iPhone and began using it to help me lose weight. Brandon got his gallbladder removed and his parents paid us a visit for Halloween. Became obsessed with roller derby after seeing “Whip It!” and visited a retro rink by the interstate.

November: Spent time with my dad on a sad anniversary. Spent Thanksgiving in Chicago with Brandon’s family again, saw Second City. Became very interested in both improv acting and stand up comedy (influenced partly by seeing “Funny People”). Started announcing my weight loss progress (or regress) on my blog. Actually lost some weight.

December: Visited my mom’s parents in Cleveland with my brother and his family. Lost the ten pounds I’d gained over the summer. Brandon got new glasses. Wrote 2009 Year in Review. Oh, wait…

Rolling right along


Remember how excited you were to win such crappy prizes? Treasure indeed

Last night I went to my gym around 5:30 when I realized I’d forgotten to pack my running shoes. I must have looked pretty strange, walking into the locker room only to sift through my gym bag and walk right back out. I was really annoyed until I remembered I’d read that the skating rink I mentioned yesterday was having a public open skate from 6:30 until 8:30. I drove over to see what fun, action-packed event they had going on until then. Surely they had something going on until 6:30, like a kid’s skate or a birthday party.

The rink is less than a mile from my gym so I drove over and walked in. It was brightly lit, but eerily quiet. The crazy thing is, it smelled exactly like the roller rink I used to go to all the time in Marietta, when I was in high school. It must be some kind of cleaning product they use. Either that, or the smell of used roller skates. I didn’t see anyone, so I kept walking toward the rink. A guy came up to me and told me they were closed until the all-skate started. It was bizarre. There were all kinds of arcade games and a rock-climbing wall but no one there. This is starting to sound like the plot of a horror movie, and I’ll remember that when I make my upcoming “Paranormal Activity” wannabe movie.


The whole place had this retro mural of a theme park painted all around it

I went home and waited for Brandon to get back from work. He agreed to go back at 6:30 with me to check it out, with the promise that there might be pinball involved. He made a judgment call and opted out of trying roller skates for the first time in years just days after having gallbladder removal surgery. Wuss. He was so nice to come with me only to sit at a cafeteria style table next to the rink, playing on his Blackberry as I occasionally swerved ungracefully by. It turned out they were replacing game tickets and refilling token machines the whole time we were there, so there was really not much for him to do.


I'm just a blur, I'm so fast

I started out with roller blades, since that is what I always used in high school and college. I remembered experiencing ankle pain from them before, but that wouldn’t happen until after I’d been skating for a long time. Last night it happened almost immediately. Somewhat discouraged, I asked to trade them in for skates. I hadn’t worn skates since I was 10, at the oldest. It was rough at first, but after several minutes of winding around the rink I kind of found my stride. Just like riding a bike. Or… roller skating. I think there’s a real advantage to having four wheels evenly spaced below your feet, as opposed to blades, where you stand on top a row of wheels and have to balance yourself on them. Must be something to do with weight distribution. In any case, the skates didn’t hurt my ankles, or anything, really. My lower back hurt a little bit at the time, and I think it was from the stress of trying to keep myself from falling. It’s fine today.


Brandon played ski ball on the one machine (of five) that wasn't broken; unfortunately it was out of tickets so it wouldn't let him play a second game

My mom’s brother is an inline skater who actually competes in races every month. I think when I saw “Whip It,” part of me was sure there was a professional skater inside me somewhere, and that I had the genes to prove it. But the truth is, no one can be naturally amazing at any sport if they’re not trying. You don’t just pick up a pair of skates after several years and start whizzing around like an Olympian. You have to decide which things in life are worth working toward becoming better at, like film making or basketball or skating or painting. The average person probably doesn’t have the time or resources to become a master of all these things. And that’s okay, boys and girls.


Old school concession stand

We were only there an hour or so, but I am really glad we went. It was a different kind of experience, and one we shared only with the handful of people who happened to be working there at the time. Having a nearly vacant rink was strange, but also a thing to be thankful for, since there wasn’t anyone for me to run into. The people working skated together once in a while, showing off their abilities of skating backwards, doing jumps. Maybe someday I, too, will be able to jump forward while wearing skates. Not today, though. Probably not tomorrow, either.

It was a nice change from the gym, but unless I invest in a pair of skates, it’s going to cost me $9 to “work out” there. Too bad, because skating sure beats the elliptical machine.

Speaking of which, this morning I found out I have lost five of my ten summer pounds since Oct. 12. Good riddance. I also dropped below a certain weight, but that’s a number I don’t care to share at the moment. If I reach my goal weight, you bet I’ll be bragging about what I *used* to weigh in at. But not until it’s in the past tense.

Whip It Good

I finally got around to seeing “Whip It!” yesterday, after I realized it was down to two showings a day at the AMC at Easton and about to fall off the roster altogether. I’d been wanting to see it for a while and I’m so glad I did. It was amazing. I told Brandon I wish it had come out at the beginning of summer so I could have felt slightly motivated to roller blade all season. But instead I saw it on the first day of November and it’s freaking cold out today. I need an indoor rink; I know there’s one close to I-71 – hopefully it’s not in the ghetto. Who’s with me?

Anyway. I heart Ellen Page. And Drew Barrymore. Kristen Wiig. That girl who plays Maeby on “Arrested Development.” I liked how the romantic interest wasn’t even a huge part of the plot, and that is was much more a movie about female friendships. Very cool change of pace. Had I seen this movie before Halloween, there is no doubt I would have dressed as a Hurl Scout instead of a fairy like I have for the past three years. I’m getting some real mileage out of those green Tinkerbell wings. Oh well, there’s always next year, when it will be far less topical.

Even Brandon liked it, although that may have had something to do with the scantily clad ladies beating the living crap out of each other on skates. I am so checking out the book the screenplay was adapted from. The author also wrote the screenplay, which is a pretty sweet rarity.

In other movie news, I am getting more and more envious of “Paranormal Activity” and its massive success. Brandon showed me an article about its budget, which mainly consisted of a camera, some equipment, tapes and catering. The director spent around $11,000 of his own money and was given an additional $4,000 to shoot a new ending. That movie made just a little bit more than that in profits. Just a little.

I don’t think you can justifiably make a horror movie if you are unable to sit through one. Just guessing. Brandon saw it with a couple of my friends from Caldwell, who made the trek to Columbus just to see it, before it was in wide release. I saw “Fame” with Eileen instead and that was fine by me.

Me and Brandon in Marysville

Me and Brandon in Marysville


Abby and me, in costume (barely)


Jake and Abby's dog Leo joined us