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Published on October 3rd, 2011 | by Rev. Norb


The Gospel According To Rev Norb: FOXZ ON THE RUN: A HARD DAY’S FLINT (Chapter 2)

Read Chapter 1 of this epic derby travelogue here.


I don’t know much about Flint. I know ex-Milwaukee Buck Charlie Bell was from there, I know white folks are a minority there, and I know you can buy a house there for the approximate price of a copy of Conan The Barbarian #1 and a beef jerky log. Lower Michigan is kind of mysterious to Wisconsinites in general. It’s right there, yet…some dipshit put a big lake in the way, making travel impractical. I’ve been to Lower Michigan maybe a half-dozen times in my life, which I find amazing, considering how many times I’ve been to any other state in Wisconsin’s general vicinity. LOWER MICHIGAN IS A LAND O’ MYSTERY I TELL YOU!!!

We roll up to Rollhaven – home rink of the Flint City Derby Girls, Earth’s longest-tenured WFTDA apprentice league – with about two and a half hours ‘til bout time. PLENTY of time to spare! S.P. Rocket and Yaya haul their gear inside, and I go in to socialize and figure out where the hell our hotel is and if I should go find the hotel and check in and drop the dog off there or what, and, if so, how on the down-low does the whole dog thing have to be, blah blah blah.

My understanding of the situation is, yep, there should be a room for us at the team hotel. No problem. I haven’t actually spoken to anyone at the hotel, or given anyone a credit card number, but I’ve been told everything should be good. I flit around from person to person, trying to figure out who knows what the hell the deal is with the hotel. Do we have rooms already? Did the team pay for a block of rooms, and then I pay someone else? Do I have to check in somewhere? Am I already checked in? I can’t be already checked in; nobody has my info. Can I be?

I finally wind up talking to our captain, Boun C. Ballz. Ballz informs me that the hotel room I thought I had was actually for LAST night – the night we spent in glorious Epoufette. This seems like an odd way to break up a 481-mile drive – like, you know, drive it ALL on Friday, so Saturday you can get up early in Flint and go…uh…look for Charlie Bell or something? Buy a home? What am I missing here? So, yes. They had a block of rooms last night. Anyone who wanted a room for tonight, at the team rate, needed to reserve it by mid-afternoon today ((because, apparently, it is also logical to assume that most skaters will bout, hit the after-party, and then drive the 481 miles back home that night. Well, maybe it was assumed we’d all drive thru Chicago. Then it’s only 477 miles. I retract the allegation)).

The “hotel rooms on Friday, option for Saturday” thing seems so backwards to me as to be veritably calling out for a direction-of-play major, but I’m the dope who didn’t get this stuff confirmed before I left town, so this is on me. Either way, I figured I’d better go find the hotel, and see if they had a room for us. “It’s really simple,” says our star jammer, Dizzy Dame. “Go that way, and take a right at the lights.” She points in one direction. “It’s actually this way” says her father – Papa Dizzy – who has made the trip with the team, pointing in the exact opposite direction. I absorb the various theories of time and space expounded upon by the Dizzy family with regard to the location of our hotel.

I figure that, either way, I either go left and turn right or go right and turn right; I have plenty of time before I need to be back at the bout and should be able to divulge the hotel’s location by trial and error if nothing else. Figuring Papa Dizzy has seniority, I follow his instructions to turn left out of the parking lot onto Saginaw Road, then right at the first lights. This turns out to be almost – but not quite – correct. It’s actually the SECOND lights, not the first, on which I should be turning. The problem with this minor gaffe is that Saginaw Road – unbeknownst to me – runs at an angle. The street at the first, incorrect set of lights, runs north-south. The street at the second, correct set of lights runs east-west. I, therefore, am heading south off Saginaw, believing that I am, in fact, heading west. Hilarity ensues. I wind up driving the length and breadth of a suburb named Grand Blanc, which roughly translates from the French as “big white.” It is exactly what one would imagine a suburb whose name means “big white” would be like if that suburb was a suburb of a city where Caucasians were not a majority, as is indeed the case. Madcap I tell you.

Wolfgang the Pomeranian and I drive errantly southward for miles on end. It’s ok. I got time. We stop to get gas. 16 oz. cans of Labatt’s Blue are really cheap in Michigan, so we get a couple of those, too – one for me, one for him ((although, as noted previously, Wolfie doesn’t like beer, so I wind up having to drink his Labatt’s for him)). Eventually, I decide I have bet on the wrong horse in the Dizzy sweepstakes – I shoulda listened to Dizzy Dame, not Papa Dizzy, and turned LEFT onto Saginaw. Wolfie and I head back north, imagining we are heading east. We eventually get back to Rollhaven, and try the whole operation again, this time heading RIGHT out of the parking lot. We wind up even more fucked than before, and, twenty minutes later, find ourselves completely and utterly lost in Flint, Michigan. We drive this way and that, occasionally stopping to replenish our supply of 16 oz. cans of Labatt’s Blue. BEING LOST IN MICHIGAN IS THIRSTY WORK!

Like any American male, I am adverse to stopping at gas stations to ask directions, probably because you usually wind up with two members of the same family pointing in opposite directions – meaning that I could, theoretically, have driven in the wrong direction until I hit like Indiana or someplace goofy like that. However, as fate would have it, I wound up driving past a COMIC BOOK STORE. I have no such compunction against stopping at a comic book store under any circumstances! My time cushion has been significantly depleted, but, once in the store, I can’t help but poke around a little bit. I’ve been kind of getting into old issues of WORLD’S FINEST as of late – DC’s old Superman/Batman team-up book – so, when I come across a box of beat up WORLD’S FINESTs, the comic book nerd in me trumps the derby announcer in me, and I spend a while digging thru the longbox, excavating a few goodies here and there.

The comics are unpriced ((which I HATE)); so I must take my stack of potential purchases up to the counter and have the guy look up the price for each issue in the Overstreet guide. This is okay in theory, because it allows me a convenient conversational opening: “I have two questions for you. Number one, what’s the going rate on these? Number two, how do I get to the Hampton Inn by the highway?” The guy behind the counter handles these tasks in order of importance: First, we price the comics; second, we get directions to the hotel. He quotes me a price of twenty-six bucks for the six comic books. I pass. Low-grade issues of WORLD’S FINEST really aren’t selling for much these days, and the issues I’ve taken to the counter are at the lowest end of FAIR condition – probably 0.5 on the standard scale of 1-10. This guy wants 1.0 money for ‘em.

This is not a large distinction in quality, nor a large amount of money, but I am a cheapskate, and I am also well versed in the currently prevailing rates of low-grade silver age comic books ((plus I’m not really sure which issues I have and which I don’t, so I could be buying some duplicates)) so I pass. Comic Book Guy is cool about it, and gives me directions to the Hampton Inn, even though I don’t wind up buying anything. Sometimes it’s good to have multiple subculture citizenship.

I get to the Hampton Inn. It’s fricking fancy. Big and clean and shiny. If I don’t get some kinda super-special derby girl rate, I likely can’t afford this place, and I’ll have to go back into Flint and waggle my copy of Conan The Barbarian #1 and a beef jerky log around until somebody sells me their house. I’m certainly not dressed to impress: I’m wearing my de rigeur summer garb of a sleeveless t-shirt and ripped-up Ramones-style Levis. My time cushion has now completely evaporated; I am now, officially, IN A HURRY.

I give my pitch to the girl at the desk. “I’m with the Fox Cityz Foxz women’s flat track roller derby team…although…I guess I don’t appear to be female…but…er…I assure you that this is the case…” She pokes around on her computer terminal for a while. “I think all those girls have left on the shuttle bus.” I inform her that I am aware of this; that, in essence, I just need another room, at the super-special Fox Cityz Foxz roller derby girl rate. More pausing and hitting of random keyboard parts. “It looks like we’re out of rooms,” she concludes. Great. I’m in Flint, Michigan, with two girls and a small hairy dog and I have no place to stay. The desk lady gives me directions to a number of other fine hotel establishments. I make sure she doesn’t point in conflicting directions.

I go across the highway, where I wind up booking a room at an AmericInn just because it looks the cheapest and shittiest. The room is nice and winds up being 99 bucks, which is actually what I would have paid at the Hampton Inn anyway. I sneak the tiny little hairy dog in, and leave him in his cage watching cartoons. As I walk back out thru the lobby, someone walks in with a Great Dane. I suspect my sneaking-in of Wolfgang might have been an undue precaution on my part. It is now about 20 minutes to bout time. Clad in my trademark Good ‘n’ Plenty pajamas, I stop at a gas station for another round of LaBatt’s Blue 16 oz. cans. BEING LATE IS THIRSTY WORK!

Confoundingly, the gas station has plenty of LaBatt’s Blue, but NO COFFEE. I actually don’t NEED any coffee, but I do need my daily ration of Throat Coat tea. I swear by Throat Coat tea. Throat Coat tea the day of bout = Voice love you long time. No Throat Coat tea the day of bout = Voice departs unceremoniously for greener pastures at inopportune intervals. I basically need a cup of hot liquid into which I can chuck a bag of Throat Coat, and I don’t care what that liquid is ((within reason)). Taste is not a concern; whipping my therapeutic teabag into a cup of shitty coffee is absolutely fine at this point.

However, apparently, the only way to get coffee at this place is to order it at the adjoining Dunkin’ Donuts, so I walk my PJ-clad ass to the Dunkin’ Donuts and try to find someone who’ll sell me coffee. This takes far more effort than I’d like it to, being fifteen minutes before game time and all. As I, the sole customer, wait to be waited on, I noticed that Dunkin’ Donuts now serves tea. I’m kinda not supposed to have a lotta caffeine, owing to some blood pressure issues, so I figure tea would be better than coffee to soak my Throat Coat in, so, when the counter girl finally takes my order, I order tea.

“We don’t get a lot of orders for tea here,” she says, and goes on about the novelty of my request in such a rambling fashion that I conclude the making of tea requires some manner of extra, time-consuming effort on her part, so I switch my order to coffee. “You want coffee, and not tea?” “COFFEE, TEA, HOT WATER, I DON’T CARE WHICH! WHATEVER’S EASIEST! I JUST NEED A SMALL CUP OF HOT LIQUID! GIVE ME ANYTHING! ANYTHING AT ALL!” “Do you want cream and sugar with that? Do you want to try our cinnamon swirl super-ultra-mocha-pudding-pop-a-chino?” “FOR! THE! LOVE! OF! GOD! JUST! GIVE! ME! ANYTHING!!! ANYTHING AT ALL!!!”

I am eventually served a small, Styrofoam cup of coffee ((I guess)). I whip my teabag in it, crack another Labatt’s, and burn rubber for Rollhaven. I arrive no more than five minutes before bout time. In times like these, I often wonder what my mentor, Bob Noxious, must be thinking, as he observes my shoddy announcer conduct while looking down at me from heaven. Then I remember that Bob is not dead, and is thusly not observing me from heaven, and therefore can’t tell how badly I’m mangling the announcer code of conduct, so fuck it.

To be continued….

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