— Feathers and Wax

Roller Derby


“The first thing I want you to do is slide on your pads into the bowl at its deepest end.”

I sat at the edge of the bowl, like a concrete pool with no water in it, and gazed down its concave edges to the bottom, about 10 feet below. The edges were steep. My palms started to itch, sweating furiously inside my wristguards. My heart went wild while my feet in my skates felt like bricks, pulling me down.

The longer I sit here and fret about this the less likely it is that I’ll do it, I thought.

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I always look forward to doing a “currently” post after I’ve been posting a lot about my travels. Trust me, I still love Houston and I haven’t just been sitting around, mooning over Paris! Instead I’ve been spending time actually sitting on the moon.

Bad jokes aside, read on for what I’ve been up to lately!

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Houston has had some incredible weather these past few weekends! Highs in the 70s, sunny and simply beautiful. So my rollerskating buddies and I took advantage of it with a street skate and…my first ever trip to a skate park!

Spoiler alert: I didn’t actually die. Whew.

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Decembers are always hectic for me but I have to admit it that part of me loves it. There are so many parties to go to, so many fun errands to do and so many lovely things to make. I’m honestly a bit sad that it’s almost Christmas, but there’s always New Year’s Eve to look forward to.

Read on for all the merrymaking I’ve been up to lately, as well as a bonus cocktail recipe for your next holiday party!

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The final Houston Roller Derby game of the 2015 season was this past weekend, which means it’s been a whole year since I retired. Well, that came up fast, ha!

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Houston is a city that runs on oil. We love our trucks, primarily, and our cars. It’s why the city is so massive and why the sprawl is never ending. It’s why people are still building brand new suburbs and freeways constantly go under construction. We see our city as a series of blurred strip malls and parking lots as we whiz by on four tires.

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But that’s not all Houston is, and I’m not sure I would know that as well as I do if it wasn’t for street skates. They’ve exposed me to pockets of this town I never knew existed, and would have remained undiscovered by me had I kept to the beaten path.

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Like how there’s a bike trail that runs under the freeways and along the bayou just outside of downtown. Or how there’s this hole-in-the-wall bar in the shadows of skyscrapers that feels almost like it was air-dropped in from a backwoods part of the state. Or how there’s this warehouse yard that is home to multiple bust statues of US presidents.

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I wouldn’t get to experience any of this if it wasn’t for these folks: The Urban Animals.

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The Urban Animals is a group of Houston street skaters that formed in the late 70s. If you want to watch the most bizarre and impressive roller skating antics ever, check out “Speed Street” by Patrick Waugh on youtube, part I and part II (I’m serious, just skip past the slow parts, it’s worth it). The group lived up to the latter half of their name, becoming notorious in Houston in those days primarily for their late night cross-town skates as well as roller jousts (which were basically exactly what that sounds like).

Photo by George Hixson

Our city’s rebellious street skating past is something to be proud of. In those days it was illegal to skate in downtown but the Animals fought against those laws and eventually got them overturned in 1991 (Sec. 45-16 of Houston Code of Ordinances), which means I get to do it whenever I want. Who needs a roller rink when you have this to play in?

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Houston’s downtown is more of a business district than a living district, so the streets are largely empty after about 7 p.m. It makes for prime street skating – beautiful, pothole-free streets and multiple places to stop for a pint, all filled with locals who will smile and ask how often you fall down on “those things.”

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Now that it’s warmer out, I went on my first skate of the year this past weekend and have fallen fully back in love with it all. It’s all speed and sweat and the wind in your face. Skating hard through empty streets until you have to stop, hands on your knees and sucking wind while the group’s whoops and hollers echo off the marble sides of skyscrapers. You take a minute to laugh at some crass graffiti on a sidewalk and then wave to the bar patrons who yell “roller derby” at you from across the street. You gingerly skip over the train tracks, lips tightening as you remember the stories about so-and-so skater who broke her leg that way once, long ago. It won’t ever be easy-going and it won’t ever be slow-paced but no one is ever left behind either. And the things that go down during the night will sometimes become legend.

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You shout out jokes and tease other skaters in between the warnings of “car up,” “car back” and “clear.” Inhibitions are lowered even while traffic rules are (mostly) respected, and everyone watches each other’s backs. Tabs are never opened at the bar and decision making about where to go next happens at lightning speed. A few words are spoken and then you’re off through the back alleys and on the bike paths, crossing over on the turns and owning the lane and bitching about the cracks in the pavement.

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Before the night’s through you’ll have a belly full of Frank’s pizza and tired legs, with a few scratches from that time you hit a patch of gravel and took a dive. But you’ll already be devising how to make the next skate into one hell of a night.

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Thanks for reading Feathers and Wax! x

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After a very physical roller derby game on Saturday (seriously, ouch), and a hectic workweek ahead, I couldn’t wait for a break from life on Sunday. I built in some time to recover in the morning, and planned to hit up a few museum exhibits that afternoon. It ended up being a fairly dreary day with rain on the forecast – perfect.

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I am a huge fan of dance, and in particular love to see ballets. Lucky for me, my city has a fantastic company in Houston Ballet. When I first moved to downtown Houston about five years ago and saw their in-house production of “Marie Antoinette,” I fell in love.

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Right now they’re putting on a mixed repertory program, which is my favorite kind. Instead of a story ballet which follows the same plot through three acts, a mixed repertory brings a variety of performances, choreographers, styles, dancers and costumes. It’s far more exciting, in my book. For this show, Houston Ballet’s artistic director Stanton Welch choreographed all three of the performances. Welch has headed up the company for the past 10 years and his choreography is incredibly unique and modern. He has this knack for taking angular, nearly awkward movements and turning them into something interesting and beautiful. His ballets also tend to use costumes that are more on the avant-garde side, which I love.

The best performance, hands down, was the second one titled “Maninyas.” There was a lot of passion, physical strength and intense emotion in this one, and it featured a duet by my two favorite dancers in the company, Ian Casady and Karina Gonzalez. It’s hard to describe the beauty of ballet dancing in words. That’s why I’m eternally grateful that Houston Ballet has a youtube channel, so you can watch Casady and Gonzalez yourself if you’d like!

Before the ballet, my friend Antonia and I met for dinner at Provisions where we unwittingly both ordered pink drinks. Her’s was their spin on a moscow mule, mine was pink champagne. Both were as delicious as they were adorable.

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I knew the performance would bring my favorite kinds of modern ballet with striking costumes, so I felt like going a bit modern myself. I love the bright orange of this clutch and the use of leather in this cocktail dress.

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I couldn’t stay out too late after the ballet because I had to get up bright and early in the morning on Sunday. My derby league, Houston Roller Derby, arranged for Smarty Pants of Texas Rollergirls to come host skating workshops for us. Smarty is an incredibly talented skater and I had taken a class of her’s at Rollercon (a huge roller derby convention) before so I couldn’t wait to get another dose of that Smarty Pants magic.

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One of the best parts of her workshop was that she encouraged us to film each other doing the drills so we could watch and see our own strengths and weaknesses. It was hugely eye-opening for me.

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Thanks for stopping by Feathers and Wax! xoxo

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