Friday, September 27, 2013

"Skate Expectations"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien, whose fantastic writings did not, for some reason, include a story about roller derby, I am the lord of the rink.

Or I would have been if I had been able to stand on skates long enough to be a roller derby queen.

That was my goal when I went to World Gym in East Setauket, N.Y., to try out for the Strong Island Derby Revolution, a women’s flat-track roller derby league whose travel team competes against squads from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

I signed up for the recruiting session because, even though I am a guy and would not be eligible to play, I have a feminine side. Unfortunately, that’s the side I frequently landed on, a more compelling reason why I wasn’t eligible to play.

I should have known I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the women who tried out because I had never been on roller skates, I am old and I am pathetically out of shape.

That didn’t stop Kristi Altieri-Smith, the Revolution’s head of public relations and one of the league’s best players, from welcoming me to the tryout.

“We would love for you to attend,” Kristi wrote in an email, which she signed with her roller derby nickname: Bite-Size Brawler.

When I arrived at the rink, I picked my own roller derby nickname: Average-Size Geezer.

Julie Dekom, who co-founded the Revolution in 2011 and is known as Wreck’em Deck’em, liked my nickname so much that she wrote it on a piece of white tape that she stuck on my black helmet, part of the mandatory equipment that included knee and elbow pads and, of course, roller skates.

After putting on my size 11s, which were kindly provided by the league, I took one step and down I went. After several more spectacular spills, Diane White, also known as Doc Block, said, “You’re falling better.”

I replied, “I turned the other cheek.”

Diane admitted, “I’m not a real doctorI got my nickname from a character in ‘Grindhouse’but I play one in roller derby.”

She wasn’t skating because she recently needed the services of a real doctor for such foot problems as tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. She also once tore a rotator cuff. 

Julie sustained a trimalleolar fracture in 2011 but has fully recovered and is back in action. “They put some titanium screws in my ankle,” she said matter-of-factly.

Injuries are part of the game. But these roller derby players are real athletes, which is more than I can say for myself. That’s why I didn’t join the action in the center of the rink. I figured I would fall — this time on my faceand be run over by so many roller skate wheels that I would end up as flat as a pepperoni pizza, though not nearly as appetizing.

The women in the league ( pay a fee to play. Their bouts, which regularly draw hundreds of fans, have raised money for charitable causes such as the Wounded Warrior Project and the Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And they come from all walks (or rolls) of life.

“We have doctors, lawyers, women from diverse backgrounds,” said Julie, who works as a processor for a financial group and has three children. “A lot of us are moms. We even have a couple of grandmothers.”

“I’m a new grandpa,” I said.

“Congratulations!” Julie said. “You’d fit right in.”

“Even though I can barely stand up?” I asked.

“You’re doing much better,” Julie noted. “A couple more days on skates and you’ll be a pro.”

“Call it feminine intuition,” I said, “but I’ll never be a roller derby queen.”
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Stubble, Stubble, Toil and Trouble"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

When I was in high school and was just starting to shave, which led to so much blood loss that I should have been honored by the Red Cross, I read “The Razor’s Edge,” the W. Somerset Maugham classic that was not, much to my amazement, because I was a stupid kid, about shaving.

Young men reading the book today would be similarly surprised, which is why many of them, unwilling to risk bleeding to death, barely shave at all.

Lately I have noticed that stubble is in style. Everywhere you look, there are guys with 5 o’clock shadow.

I don’t know what happens when the time changes and it’s either 6 o’clock or 4 o’clock (spring ahead, fall behind, cut yourself, wounds to bind), but I do know that women love this look on young guys but hate it on geezers like me.

One of them is my wife, Sue, to whom I cuddled up on a rare day when I didn’t shave.

“Stop it!” she shrieked when I nuzzled her with a face (mine, naturally) that looked and felt like sandpaper.

“Don’t you like the rugged look?” I asked.

“No!” she cried. “Go away!”

So I did. The next day, after I shaved, I went to the Art of Shaving, a New York City-based store with locations nationwide, including in my hometown of Stamford, Conn., as well as in Huntington Station, N.Y., where I went for wisdom in what has become the lost art of shaving.

Because I didn’t know where the store was in the mall, I violated the unwritten law that men should never ask other men for directions and asked Scott Molloy, who was manning the guest services desk, for directions.

Scott, 28, sported a three-day stubble.

“I’m not making a fashion statement,” he explained. “I just haven’t had the time to shave.”

“A lot of young guys don’t shave because they think women like the rugged look,” I said.

“I know,” Scott said. “They’re trying to be hip. But a real man wakes up every morning and shaves. Tomorrow I’ll get rid of this stubble.”

“I got rid of mine this morning,” I said.

“You’re a real man,” said Scott, who directed me to the Art of Shaving, where I spoke with manager Linda Wheeless.

“These young guys think they started the trend, but it originated with Crockett and Tubbs,” she said, referring to the characters played by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas on the 1980s cop show “Miami Vice.”

“It wasn’t even cool then,” I said. “And it looks really dumb on these young guys today, especially the ones who get all dressed up but don’t shave.”

“It makes them look unkempt,” Linda said.

“I like to look kempt,” I replied. “My wife appreciates it, too.”

Linda, whose son shaves not just his face but his head and whose grandson is too young to shave, showed me a picture of her husband, Richard, a handsome guy with a beard.

“He keeps it neat,” she said. “No stubble. I wouldn’t like that.”

Then she showed me one of the most popular items in the store, a trimmer that can be set to help guys keep a perpetual stubble.

“Why don’t they just use it to shave?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Linda answered. “As long as they buy it, I don’t care.”

The next day, after I used my trusty twin-blade razor, I snuggled up to Sue again.

“How does that feel?” I asked.

“Much better,” she said. “Nice and smooth.”

It was, of course, a close shave.
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima