Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How To Clean Your Roller Derby Pads

People keep asking me how I clean my pads, so I figure I'd just write it up for good. Everyone has their own way of cleaning their gear. You should use whatever way you like best - this is just mine.

I skate with a rec league, so at best, I'll have two "real" practices a week, plus whatever skate time I can fit in on my own. I don't take very good care of my gear - I don't spray it down after practice, I don't really even ever take it out of my bag. I only wash it when it gets to gag-worthy level, which is usually every 4 months, or as soon as it hits 90 degrees in Denver, whichever happens first.

So. How I to wash your gear. (And by gear, I mean wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads. Obviously, DO NOT drop your bearings in the washing machine!)

Step 1: Wait until your gear becomes ungodly stinky. Dead skunk on a July day in the sun with flies stinky. (Or whenever you feel like cleaning it. In fact, you should probably NOT wait as long as I do.)

Step 2: Remove gear from your bag. Try not to gag.

Step 3: Put white vinegar in a clean spray bottle. Lay gear out, and spritz down. When I say "spritz," I mean "go to town." Undo the velcro bits and get every last bit of surface. If any of the guard-y bits are removable, feel free to remove them, but I never have on mine. Make sure it soaks in and gets to the foam, the vinegar will help kill the bacteria that is actually living in there, and causing all the stinkifying. Spray the velcro. The elastic. Inside the little air holes that serve as ventilation straight in to the padding. EVERYWHERE. Do this in a well ventilated area. I do it in my bathtub, with the windows open, at night.

Step 4: Let the vinegar soak in, to the point of evaporating or nearly evaporating. I usually let it hang out overnight.

Step 5: Place gear in lingerie/mesh washing bags. I put the kneepads in one, and the wrist guards/elbow pads in another.

Step 6: Put in washing machine with about a cup of baking soda and detergent. I use Boulder 100% Natural Laundry Detergent, which I picked up at CostCo for like $10. Use however much is equivalent to what you'd use for a (whatever you plug in as the size as your load of laundry) load of laundry. (Win is also supposedly good at getting rid of odors, but I've never used it.) Boulder has a very mild citrus scent. I'd recommend using something similar, or unscented, to avoid irritating your skin later.

Step 7: This depends on your washing machine. I set mine for a "large" load and a "delicate/knit" washing cycle. Do whatever approximates a lot of water and delicate swishing. The water temperature should be cold wash and cold rinse. Let the machine fill up, and let the gear soak for a few minutes.


Step 9: Take your gear out and let it line dry in the sun. The UV from the sun also helps kill the bacteria.

Step 10: Clean gear! Sniff test: does it smell tolerable? If so, you're done! If it still smells like vinegar (if it still smells like skunk, it may just be time for new gear), run it through the wash (same steps) and line dry again.

That's it! It may sound like a lot, or time consuming, but I swear that this process has rescued my gear from the point of no return every single time I think I've hit the point of no return. The key, I think, is the one-two punch of bacteria elimination (the vinegar AND the UV), and then swishing out all the dead bacteria. (Obviously, I am not a scientist. That is guesswork.)

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Anxiety Nightmares #2

Item: My dad is my best friend.

Item: My dad's health is not, and has not been, for a very long time, the best.

Without getting in to the details of his maladies, suffice it to say, the idea of my dad getting even sicker, or worse, dying, has been an source of anxiety-to-the-point-of-trauma for me for a very, very long time.

It's bad enough that I can make myself physically ill with worry during the day, using nothing but controlled, conscious thought. What's worse is how much worse (better?) my subconscious is at drawing out fantastic, excruciating, unbelievable versions of these same anxiety-fantasies.

 I have had recurring dreams of my father's death/decline for as long as I can remember dreaming. Not the same dream, but the same storyline. (Do other people dream in movies, like I do?) What's truly impressive is the staggering number of storylines my subconscious has come up with to exploit this fear with me.

The one where I lose him in a crowd at a Flyers game at the Spectrum, and the next thing I know, I see his memorial obit picture on the jumbotron.

The one where, in a stunning recreation of an actual event from his childhood, he wanders down the beach and never comes back.

The one where I sit in the hospital with him for days and days and days and the doctors refuse to tell me why we're there.

It goes on. I've forgotten most of them, thank God. I mostly remember just waking up in cold sweats, consciously toeing that line between knowing it's a dream and just needing it all to STOP, and knowing it's a dream and being so horrified by the nightmare scenario playing out that I want to see it all the way through to the end.

And so, today's. I took a nap after I came home from Kentucky, and got served what may have been my most vivid version of this shitshow to date, and a uniquely nauseating one, to boot.

This wasn't a dream about my dad's death, for a change. The thought and fear of that was a bright and pulsing undercurrent for the dream, to be sure, but not the literal content.

We're driving home in a car that is mine, but is not my Element, though it is suggestive of it. We are driving from a vague but familiar point west - Genaurdi's, perhaps. The doctor's office. We are initially driving past Not-Radnor-High (you know how dreamscape geography is), under the 476 underpass at Lancaster & KoP, when the underpass area becomes more urban (a larger underpass area, more lanes, more concrete, more confusion) and more forest (more leaves on the ground, low-forest shrubs in the same concrete-y area) than before. The area merges to a combination of the underpass intersection of Sproul and Conestoga, but with the trailheads of Enke Park/Radnor Chester Road transposed on the SW side of Sproul.

This locations are important, because they're such a familiar, background part of my daily drives back home. That section of Sproul, particularly, is one of my favourite bits of road to drive on. The scenery and landscape are familiar, homey. So it makes what happens next all the more distressing.

The roads become this morph of roads, and they become difficult to navigate. The car is physically having a difficult time travelling over them. The traffic is getting more condensed - not heavier, just as if the roads are merging - and though I don't see it, it feels as if we're fording a river. I'm becoming claustrophic.

I feel the car pass over what might be a speed bump, as we're passed on the left by a large, white, fast moving vehicle. This is insufficient. It's a vehicle that seems to be part DeathRace 2000 racecar, part boat. The part that is exposed to me, on the driver's side left, is the right side of the vehicle, which is essential the white, oversized ridged bilge of a crappy speedboat, if that speedboat bilge had been stretched with the bow and stern on the horizontal, and the bilge pulled vertically along the gunwales, almost to form a sail (maybe a shield) that obscures the rest of the craft from me as it passes by, though I see enough of it to know that it is attached by a simple joint, like an umbrella, or what is used to hold up deck awnings.

It passes us, and between the reflections (or what, I'm not sure, just that they're glaringly bright) and the water it splashes, I am blinded and run off road.

We are in a patch of the underpass underbelly, stuck in some sort of mud-quicksand-grass-island-median. Dreamscape, all things at once. We're being passed by men and women on foot, in costume. Dad gets out of the car, and wanders in to a storefront, one of many that has appeared, and look like they have come out of a set, or Main Street Disneyland. They look faux, false.

I realize that the men and women in costume are part of one of those doofy themed 5ks, and the Disney set we appear to be on is, in fact, a set that has been built on top of these familiar roads. The bilge vehicle DID offroad us over breakers, and we ARE in the middle of the course. And this course IS partially submerged in water, the racers DO have to ford it (there are large black whitewater rafts, though it is unclear how racers are chosen for them. Teams? Fighting?), and run it, and obstacle course it.

The car is stuck, and there is no way back to where we started. The terrain is unpassable in that direction, and we are beginning to be overcome with course runners. I manage to find a race official to explain the situation, but Dad has wandered in to a storefront, something that appears to be a cross between a tailor's shop and a western saloon. He stands on a slightly elevated square of a pedestal, as you do in a dressing room, while women both measure and coo over him. This added measure of sexuality makes me intensely uncomfortable as a watch them drape themselves over him.

The staffer I talk to is at first perplexed - she doesn't understand that we're not part of the race, that we don't want to be a part of the race, that I just need to get my car off of the "lot" and go home. Eventually, she leads me behind the "scenes" - it is exactly like a false front on a set, or a prop front on a stage, and, from the back of a "barn" front, she throws open the double doors and says that I can drive out that way. Even with my narrow Element, the frame is not quite wide enough for me to fit my car through, I tell her. She gets upset, and re-explains that this is how I should leave. We go through this for a while, til she eventually sighs, exasperated, and pushes a wall to the side, like a pocket door.

I go to retrieve my father, and he doesn't want to go. He doesn't protest, doesn't say he isn't ready - and that's the most frightening part. He is acting like someone wholly unlike the person I know. This is the part I find hardest to describe, because none of the actions he is taking or words he is saying are inappropriate or lewd or unbecoming. There is simply this aura of his behavior, his body language, his words and tone, that is distinctly off and frighteningly wrong. His physical form has shifted. He is not the man who is currently my father, but somehow a dream-ish version of him when I was younger, one that I have cobbled together from pictures, but not actually rooted in memory. Not problem-free, but healthier than he has been in a long time. Brunette, not grey. And I am surrounded by people who cannot see this, who do not understand why these behavior changes, along with the physical retrogression, distress me so much.

I become increasingly desperate to collect my father, to leave this situation, but in between spurts of me not being able to find him, being overcome by runners in (superhero) costumes, by the spray from the obstacles, I can't. And no one will help me.

"You're being a stick in the mud," they tell me. "He's just discovering himself. Maybe this is his true self. Maybe this is how it's meant to be."

But that is not my perception. The actions and interactions I see my father performing are so wrong (on him) that they are shaking me to my core. I am on the edge of hysteria, as the people around me ignore the years of relationship that my father and I have built, telling me that his current actions are the way he really is, should be, wants to be. And that way is rude, childish, fedorable. He stands in front of a fountain like the one in Triangle Park, Lexington (onyx stairs), with his brown hair and enormous tortoiseshell glasses, and looks at me. Looks past me. Like he's not interested, or like I'm only something he imagined, once.

I can only try to explain my terror, in that moment, of someone who is being told that their loved one's cancer, or mental health, or broken limbs, are "natural," and the treatment options that are usual for them are hurting them, that they should be free to be their "true" self. That their suffering/pain/distress is actually pleasant, a release. Or like when a child goes missing, and someone suggests to her friends and family that the reason they ran was a reason so far from the realm of known possibilities that it is actually offensive. (This did, in fact, happen to me several weeks ago. Maybe some of that is bleeding through, here.)

Maybe I'm seeing a version of my father that never was - of a person he wasn't able to be, because of his illnesses holding him back. But in the moment, all I can see is my dad, my best friend, who is acting like he hardly knows me, like he doesn't care, and like he has no responsibility to get back in the car, and back towards the time-sensitive treatments that allow him to continue being my best friend.

I go from person to person, trying to get them to help me bring my dad back to me. Every one of them chides me, asking how dare I pretend to know what is best for him, how I can deny him his true self. "Look how happy he is," they say!

All I can see (feel) is how close we are to that timeclock running out on when he last took his insulin, what he looks like when he goes in to shock, what will happen when medicine can't keep him patched up and running. hHow powerless I feel when bad things happen to him and I can't help him. I can't do anything. Nothing I do or want or say can save him. He stands by that fountain and grins.

I wake up, per usual, drenched in cold sweat and tears.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Just Wondering, Do You Want to Help Me Out With My Random Fetish?

Maybe it's spring fever, maybe it's spring what-the-hell-is-snowstorm-about.

Either way, my friends and I have seen a noticible uptick in online dating messages that are blatant unsolicited solicitations for us to indulge the user's sexual fetish of choice. Generally, these inquiries come from users who are located a fair distance (500+ miles) from us, have very low match percentages with us, no or minimal profile information filled out and, obviously, no pictures.

"Oh, I'm not really serious," they respond when we ask them WTF is up with these inappropriate messages. (Inappropriate because they're unsolicited and/or explicitly the opposite of what the receiver has stated they're looking for. Not because the fetish is weird. Fetishes are healthy and normal!) "I'm just gathering information."

Well, budding sexologists, I have done the data gathering for you, and am willing to share my results, for free. No market research barriers to entry here at ReadaGoddamnBook!

You don't have to thank me. You're very welcome.