Friday, November 14, 2008

The Nationals

Located just east of the Thrift Lodge with cool sliding art in each window

Waking up on the west coast with the clock set three hours behind Eastern standard you'd think I'd get up earlier? nope. Woke up at 10am, got outside and headed east. I thought I'd try the opposite direction today from last night. That's the great thing about being in a new city is that any direction you take will be something new and interesting.

Forgetting to pack all my travel stuff during my last minute haste, today I was on a quest for shampoo. There weren't any variety stores or grocery stores in sight (at least going east). But there were other things of interest. Car dealerships, bottling companies, the odd food place. I would make note of the food places as they're always good to have in the back of your head when you're hungry.

You can buy that electric car for $12,000.

notice the old 7up sign in the background

I felt like I was walking suburbia. Not too many places to buy food let alone get supplies and everything was at least a few blocks away from each other. Where were these places hiding? Oooh, a record, CD, DVD store open until midnight. Note to self: remember location.

EM, a DVD, CD, record store open until midnight every day

One of the interesting things about the US, being a country built for cars, they have drive thrus for everything it seems. In Ohio there was the beer drive thru. Here in Portland, a Goodwill drive thru and a Starbucks drive thru are just two drive thrus I noticed. As convenient as they seem I found it irritating last night when wandering around for food. A lot of restaurants are open until wee hours of the morning but in order to get food from them you have to be in a car. What about the people walking around? Thank goodness for Muchas Gracias! Yes, that was a plug. They deserve it as they were open 24 hours and open to people on foot (as well as a drive thru). Hooray!!

The goodwill drive thru

One of the car dealerships I walked by

I just liked the sign

A curved fence

Some sunglasses in the Hollywood district

The old Hollywood theatre - first opened Saturday, July 17, 1926

What's this Superman thing?

Things from another World

Finally after about 40 minutes I arrived in a section called Hollywood. There was a Rite-Aid pharmacy (I suppose the west coast's version of Shoppers Drug mart only better - more selection and that sort of thing). Right next to it was Things from another World. It's amazing that I find these stores. It's like the nerd gods, if there is such a thing, program into my brain the night before where to randomly wander so I can stumble across these places.

I had to go in. Of course I did. It's funny as I checked around peeping the merch I also looked at the people in the store. It must be universal. Comic book/figurine geeks all look pretty much the same. Dressed in black, wearing the comic book/movie T-shirt, dark long overcoat as popularized by John Woo movies, whatever it was that they were wearing I seemed to be able to fit right in. So cool and yes, soooo nerdy.

I didn't have a lot of time as I had to return to the hotel by 2pm to meet up with the Montrealers that were flying in. JP and Raph had text messaged me saying the plane should be landing around that time. I tore myself away from the Domo figurines and left to buy the shampoo. On the way out I noticed the sign for the Hollywood theatre. D'oh, it was tonight. I wouldn't be able to go.

Oh! So that's what that superman thing was about

A phone booth courtesy of Qwest.

I arrived at the hotel just ten minutes before they called to say they were in. The walk back was a bit quicker (25 minutes) as I wasn't taking as many photos on the way back. Raph needed to buy shampoo. We ended up back at the rite-aid store. It only took about 5 minutes by car. We even went into the TFAW store as Raph just wanted a quick peek. Wooweewooooo. Talk about deja vu.

Raph and J.P. at the local sandwich shop just east on the corner from TFAW.

After grabbing a bite to eat and dropping off our stuff back at the hotel we were off to the Nationals...

The Nationals!!!

As soon as we were checked into the building I made a bee line for a place to sit and shoot. I missed all the merch tables thinking I'd check them out later on. This was only day one after all. The track was lit with an enormous amount of incredible lighting. It wasn't just a roller derby track, it was a photographer's dream. A season filled with all those dim lit arenas and to end with this... wow! (insert small shoe theory here)

It was at this point that it dawned on me that I was on the west coast, I was in Portland, and I was about to shoot the Nationals, the Nationals!! The crazy last minute correspondence to get a camera pass, the crappy screen with no selections in front of me on the airplane, the long waits at the airports, the bad signage at the vancouver airport, the bad airport food, the walking around all night looking for a place to eat the night before... it was all worth it. This was the Nationals! THE NATIONALS!!!!

The top eight teams from across the US, four from the east, four from the west, were going to skate it out in the next three days. Combine that with the fans that came out from all over. Add to that the familiar faces that I recognized from the Eastern Regionals and RollerCon and any other derby place I'd been to in the last year, the term "Wow" just doesn't seem to encapsulate the whole excitement very well.

I got my gear together, set up my stereo camera rig, and waited. The anticipation for something to happen was high, you could feel it in the audience. Like me, they were all wired. I wondered if any of them were jet lagged before getting here. I know I was for almost the whole day. I felt a bit tired. That was all gone now. It was like being in a casino pumped with air back in Vegas or perhaps like a large shot of adrenaline running through ones veins.

Holy crap! A marching band!

I'm not sure why but those were the words coming out of my mouth, out loud. "Holy Crap! A marching band", complete with wand twirlers and flag wavers.It was one of those bigger than life moments. They came out playing in formation, the flag wavers and twirlers did their thing. Following the band were the eight teams of roller girls. The Windy City, Philly, Carolina, Gotham from the East, Texas, Rat City, Duke City, and Bay Area from the west.

Crackerjack would address the crowd. Eventually we would hear the words "Are you ready to see some roller derby?". By that point the crowd went nuts. Cheering, applauding, copious amounts of smiling all around. We were going to love the following two games. Every single minute of them.

Carolina VS Texas

Suzy Hot Rod of the Gotham Girls

Cheap Skate in the middle of a roll calls off the last jam of the first period

Gotham VS Duke City

The final scores were...
Texas (125) VS Carolina (61)
Gotham (182) VS Duke City (25)

After the two bouts it had occurred to me that I hadn't eaten anything since before we left for the convention centre. J.P. and I ended up at the Doug Fir, a swanky restaurant attached to the equally fancy (or at least from the outside) Jupiter Hotel. The food was great. Although much like the mexican food I had yesterday which was also great, the food was probably 1000x better just due to the fact that I was starving. Once finished we went down the street (west) to B-side, one of the venues of the roller derby to see what was going on. It seemed not too much was going on.

Jean-Philippe sits in the Doug Fir.

J.P. in front of the B-side venue

It should be noted that the Thrift Lodge was picked (by J.P.) for it's convenient location. It was located just across the street from the party venues for the days to come. A very important detail in a potentially crazy roller derby party world.

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