Thursday, August 30, 2012

Airing my Dirty Laundry. AKA what to wear: Rollercon Edition

***a note for you, my gentle reader*** It took a village to write this damn post. And it wouldn't even be done now if not for the efforts of a whole crew of people who tracked down and sent me photos taken during the trip. Even then, I had to use photos from last year. So extra credit thanks to Jersey and Commanda and Sam (and a few others who shall remain nameless to protect the not-so-innocent) for your assistance with photo coverage. And Max, who just took two outfit photos in our living room because for GAWD'S SAKE lets get this thing up already AMIRIGHT?

Sadly, I do not have pictures of myself in the gigantic pink woolen vagina suit. It left lint all over my tux that was a bitch to get off, but the color was quite flattering so if anyone has photographic evidence, please do send that along.

And for real-life packing inspiration, you should go check out Maggie's Mighty Closet, because those posts are some of my favorite things to read on the internet - Maggie and her friends have extraordinary style, with pieces that are applicable to the general population and don't involve running around convention centers half naked. Or at least, not posting poorly lit pictures of it.

For the last week of July, I went to Las Vegas for Rollercon, which has now become a bit of an annual tradition. Sam was added to the mix this year, and I am fairly certain he is now a permanent fixture at this event. Rollercon has a tendency - whether you skate or not - to get under your skin.

I personally think it's because of the fabulous "pants optional" celebratory nature of the conference - but Sam also pointed out that we spent 3 solid days watching games and attending lectures, and we had pants on for that. Well, at least he did.

Since I was traveling to Vegas from the East Coast (leaving the kids with my mom) and Sam was traveling from Maui to meet me, I had packed a suitcase at my mother's with a few things for the first couple of days before Sam arrived - but he was bringing a bag of "Vegas clothes" from home. These clothes were sequined, animal printed, high-heeled, mostly black, and worn with fishnets. Not a lot of call for those in Connecticut so I had left them in Maui for Sam to throw in his suitcase.

As a result, I ended up having 2 suitcases full of clothes at my disposal.
Which is why it's so remarkable that I ended up wearing this at least once Every. Single. Day.

And one night, I wore this:

I know, I know. You are sitting there shaking you head at this sad demonstration. I get it. But here's the thing - no one at Rollercon batted a fucking eyelash. I went to a lecture in that glitter-crusted, sequin-tailed body suit you see in the first picture (more photos below) and no one even noticed.

This is why I love Rollercon.

This may (secretly) be why Sami loved Rollercon, as well. Well, that and the Peppermill. Which is also, blessedly, a place where no one seems concerned if you show up dressed like.....well, dressed like this:

For your reference, I will go over the list of things I brought to Rollercon; but please keep in mind that the only thing you really need is a killer unitard and maybe some clean underwear. Or you can just jump in the pool fully clothed and  let the chlorine freshen you right up.
Whatever you decide, you really shouldn't wear your unitard on the plane because it makes people nervous and you don't want any trouble before you get your Rollercon on. Besides, you don't want to get any Xanax wine on there. SO the first step is having the right bags. This is a conference, and you will bringing home more than you came with. It could be a few new pairs of socks, or it could be a new bag full of gear - either way, be prepared. Bring an extra bag to fill, and bring a bag that you can easily carry around. Purses are a huge pain in the ass at something like this, which is why I bought this bag at IKEA right before I left.

This bag is, to put it mildly, The Shit. (or, as the Swede's call it, The Upptacka)

It's a wheeled backpack suitcase, and normally I would be totally averse to this EXCEPT it has a smaller backpack/padded laptop bag zipped on the front that is REMOVABLE.


This bag rocked my world. Commuters, moms, derby girls, and pretty much every other person on the planet should own this. I had a bag to hold all my gear/clothes/etc., and then a smaller backpack which doubled as my purse/briefcase during the day. Seriously, get one. That is all I have to say about that, except to stress that I have never loved a piece of luggage like I love this bag. I love this bag like I love my Vitamix - and that is a lot of love.

But what is IN the bag, you ask?

That is such a good question.

Here's a basic rundown of what I packed for Rollercon. Gentlemen of the derby world, I can't help you. Buy the bag, and then fill it with clean underwear and black and white shirts, a vaguely obscene black and/or blue outfit and a pair of dress pants, and you'll be good to go, I think. But no one is really looking at you anyway.

This one is for the ladies.

Let's start with the basics:
Skaters, you need a couple of black tanks or shirts, and a couple of white ones. All should have your name and number on the back. You need extra socks, and bandaids, and a few ziplock bags to make ice packs in your room with ice from the ice machine. You also need a huge sharpie. A pair of scissors is a great idea if you are checking your bag but airlines won't let you carry them on. You will need a couple of bandannas, and an air freshener to stick in your skate bag, or your hotel room will smell like a locker room.

I was off-skates again this year, so I got to play around a little bit with my clothing. I feel weird wearing my name and number as a non-skater, so I only brought a few personalized shirts. Like I said, Vegas for me equals glitter and animal prints. I am very serious about this.

And to properly rock the flash, you need some basics in supporting roles. I started by packing 2 pairs of basic black leggings. For me, leggings are basics. For you, this may be weird, and you may be wondering why one would wear such a thing in public. Well, my dear, one would wear these things at Rollercon without raising an eyebrow. Put on your leggings, and be comfortable for goodness sake. We're all friends here. Also, I brought my team jacket, and I purchased a neat-o knit circle scarf from one of the Rollercon vendors that is cotton-blend, soft, machine washable, and nice to have in the air conditioning. I brought rubber slippers (aka flip flops) for easy, lightweight footwear that I can also wear by the pool and won't be upset if I lose. Shoes (and other things) get lost a lot at Rollercon. Speaking of the pool, bring a suit. And if you want to walk the Strip, bring some sneakers or something like that.

I added one animal print top, a pair of skinny jeans, and a pashmina in case I felt like getting fancy, as documented by Max here at home for your (albeit blurry) viewing pleasure.

I also had knee-high black boots and a little black dress that for some reason compelled senior citizens to stick their faces in my cleavage.

I am not kidding.

That really happened.

In a tent in front of a lot of people, on stage, under a tight rope.

Don't worry, they bought me two drinks.

I also packed an outfit for the black and blue ball.

And an outfit for the Reidell costume party - this year the party was luau themed, and our team went dressed as warriors, in matching sarongs and tribal tattoos.

Despite all of this, I didn't really have anything appropriate for my role as MC and I had a few presentations to make during the weekend. Which is why - almost as soon as we arrived - Sarah bought me the aforementioned tuxedo, which was a one-of-a-kind from Derbyskinz

Now we are home, and the glitter and sequins and animal prints are (mostly) put away.
Side note: these things are a bitch to wash. I have glitter all over my bathroom, bedroom, porch, and laundry.

But our neighbor totally wants to go to Rollercon next year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From Smartphone to No Phone. ET, give me a call. On my landline.

We are just coming up on 48 hours since I switched off my beloved smartphone (a Samsung Epic, for inquiring minds) and activated a new-to-me but definitely not new cellphone. After a solid month of vacationing and leaving my phone in the car (or my purse, or occasionally at the house) so that I could actually enjoy the moments instead of recording them for posterity, I have finally totally cut the UBS cord.

It all began the day that we were packing up to head home at the end of July.

I rode my bike over to Lizard's house. "Did you get my text?" she asked me. "We're going out to lunch."
"I don't actually have my phone with me." I answered.
Her grin spread from ear to ear as we high-fived, and then came in for a hug.
"It feels weird." I confessed.
"It's GREAT!" she replied.

That experience led me to the conclusion that my phone had become.....intrusive. It wasn't adding to my life, it was preventing me from experiencing it fully. And my behavior "on smartphone" was - dare I say it - rude. Or at the very least, distracted.

So I got rid of the damn thing - my second brain, my filter, my lifeline - and I went down to the store and bought a second-hand cellphone. It's cute - but it doesn't have internet access and it's not going to talk to me or tell me where to go. I am going to have to figure out what to say, when to leave, and how to get there all by myself. I hope I still know how.

I powered it on, had my contacts transferred, and figured out how to access my address book. The first call was to Jersey.

"How's it going? Like your new phone?"
"Um, it's okay. It's cute. Small. Really lightweight actually. I forgot how little they could be!"
We talked for a while - the reception kind of sucked and of course I was quick to blame the new, lesser phone. Plus it kept BEEPING. So annoying.
"What IS that?" Max hissed when it beeped loudly for the 4th time.
"I have no idea. I don't know how to work this thing. Maybe it's call waiting?"

And then the battery died and everything came to a screeching halt.

It's about 49 hours since that new-to-me cellphone's battery ran out of juice mid-conversation, never to be revived. Over the ensuing hours (now days) I have driven to town and delivered the poor, unresponsive cellphone back to the store for testing. DOA, I was told. They had another phone in stock that they were going to return to factory settings for me: erasing the address book, clearing the memory, etc. but it would take a few hours. I opted to pick it up the next day.

For the time being, I am phone-less.

There is no dinging bicycle bell to alert me to a new text message, no guitar riff signaling an incoming call, no buzz to remind me of an upcoming appointment.  I have finally put down the smartphone and stopped scrolling through social media messages during lulls in conversation. Instead, I *gasp* change the subject. Or enjoy the view. Or order a cheese plate (emotional eating). Or nap. It is peaceful, being unplugged like this. It's also incredibly boring at times, and frustrating at others.

I know that even when I do get a phone back, my life is going to be very different. No posting photos from my phone to Facebook. No gps to tell me how to get where I need to go, or Googling for answers to the kids unending questions. No tweeting snarky comments.

I'm just going to use my phone to call people.

Oh, the horror.

I have the smartphone tucked away, for travel and other times when I deem it necessary to remain in full and unwavering contact with every fucking person I know. But for now it is resting quietly in it's box, instead of overheating on my kitchen counter where it frequently vibe-alerted itself right onto the floor.

Those days are over for now. I am sitting in my living room reading the magazines that have piled up over the summer, and charging the battery for my camera. That's right, I said it. I'm going to take pictures with a camera. Mind-boggling.

This may sound crazy, but call me maybe.

Friday, August 10, 2012

No child of mine eats lettuce at a buffet.

We're home.

For 6 weeks I have traversed the US with and without my children, and the grand finale was an extended layover in Las Vegas, otherwise known as "The Buffet Capital of the World". (Perhaps you thought Las Vegas was renowned for it's gambling, or maybe the showgirls. But no. It's the buffets.)

We had plans to see a show, and swim in the pool, but as soon as I saw the sign for "BUFFET OF BUFFETS" all of those plans went right out the window. I knew what the next 24 hours had in store for us.

Crab Legs.

Here's the deal with the Buffet of Buffets. For $45 per person, you have 24 hours to basically eat as much as you can. It is awesome in it's genius, in that there are 6 buffets to choose from - so you can stop in on the different buffets as you make your way from casino to (participating) casino. We had our first dinner at 9pm, then breakfast, lunch, and another earlier dinner the next night, and it was all included in that one price. If you have children who eat like my children eat, then you can appreciate the incredible value this is.

In line, the kids were completely freaking out. They hadn't eaten in hours and the jet lag was setting in. I regaled them with tales of the best buffets we had ever been to, and reminded them that as soon as we were seated they could go straight to the buffet and get food - no waiting to be served, this was the best kind of fast food there was.

We finally got a table, and got down to business. We know what to do in situations like this: skip the carbs, pile on the red meat and seafood, look for the cheese platter and then hit the dessert, and hit it hard. I went straight for the massive pile of crab legs and shrimp cocktail, and got a second plate for prime rib. Sam was right behind me, pausing to add barbecue while I put a small scoop of mashed potatoes next to the roast -breaking my "no carbs at a buffet" rule because, frankly, I needed a vehicle for my gravy.

Lucy came back to the table with her first plate: a small wedge of cherry pie.
Max came back with 2 barbecued ribs.

"Um, what the heck are you doing?" I asked, bewildered.
"Dude, you can do better than that guys. Are you serious right now?" Sam looked back and forth between them, clearly distressed.

Lucy stabbed at her pie. "What? I love cherry pie!"
Max put his first rib down and sat poking at the second one. "I don't know what I want to eat."

I set my fork down. "Now you listen, and you listen good. I want you both up there getting plates full of something expensive TOOT SWEET. And Lucy, grab me another piece of that cherry pie, please." I picked up a crab leg and snapped it in half ferociously. "This is an all-you-can-eat buffet, and dammit that -" I paused to point a crab claw at the kids' plates " NOT all you can eat."

They stood up and wandered back towards the buffet reluctantly. Lucy returned a short time later with a plate of spaghetti, Max had a few leaves of lettuce drizzled with blue cheese dressing.

I thought Sam was going to have a stroke.

"They must be tired" I tried to reassure him. "Don't worry, they'll get the hang of it tomorrow. I know they can do better."

"You have crab on your nose." Sam said as he got up for a gelato. He came back with four. Unfortunately, Lucy was already asleep in the booth, and Max was savoring his Sprite and showed no interest in dessert.

A quick (free!) shuttle ride brought us back at our hotel. We were staying at Bally's, which is an iconic casino right smack dab in the middle of the strip, and home to Jubilee! Jubilee! is the ultimate (read: "topless") showgirl show upon which all other showgirl shows are simply cheap imitations some of the taglines in their advertising include "The headdresses weigh 45 pounds. The rest of the costume could fit in a teacup" and "Hundreds of thousands of rhinestones covering practically nothing." and "Usually you have to be in church on Sunday to say 'Hallelujah.'"

Hallelujah, indeed. Lucy was devastated to learn the show was for ages 18+, but luckily the billboards and posters all over the hotel (like the one above) gave her enough information to decide that being a showgirl would be AWESOME because they don't have to wear pants to work. I decided not to tell her that there were other jobs that also don't require pants, because I want her to be a showgirl when she grows up. They have excellent posture.

Note: Jubilee! should absolutely NOT be confused with Jubilee! which is something totally different, but equally inspirational. Although the quote on their website ("The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.—Frederick Buechner") could technically apply to either Jubilee! I do wonder if they were aware of the other Jubilee! when they chose their name. If they did, WELL PLAYED INDEED, JUBILEE!.

Bally's is part of a much larger group of resorts and casinos - 7 of them within a 4 block radius. And almost all of them have a buffet. What this means is, we had absolutely no time to see any shows because we clearly had a lot of work to do to train our kids on buffet etiquette.

The next morning found the kids standing at a crepe station, ready to fully embrace all of the make-to-order buffet options I had spent an hour discussing in detail, beginning with "The Monkey" - a banana and Nutella combo they were pretty damn excited about. I was happily breaking my no-carb rule, loading my plate with potatoes smothered in brie cheese and bacon. Sam was just loading his plate with bacon. Lucy asked if she could have a strawberry, which I gleefully fetched for her. They sat down with three plates between them, and began to eat. "It's okay if you can't eat the whole thing" I reassured them. "That is a very big crepe, and I know it's sweet. Just eat what you can." Lucy made a solid effort, then pushed the plate over to Max. "Can I have some more fruit?"
"OF COURSE YOU CAN." I leaped out of my seat and reached out a hand, ready o escort her back to the strawberries and watermelon. She picked up her plate and reached for my hand. "No, sweetie, you leave the plate here and get a clean one every time you go up."

She stopped in her tracks, and looked at me with her mouth hanging open. "WHAT?!"

"You have to get a fresh plate,  honey. You can't bring up a dirty plate, because it has germs on it."

"Where should I put my dirty plate?" She was confused. Poor sweet thing.

"Just leave it here and our waitress will take it away."

"Mom. Are you telling me that I can take as much food as I want, eat only what I feel like eating, and then leave my plate on the table and go get a clean one and start all over again AS MANY TIMES AS I WANT?!"

"Well, yes. I guess. Sort of. Not really. You need to take only what you think you can eat. We don't want to waste food, but this is a great opportunity to try new things, or try a small amount of lots of things.... but you should eat what you take. And you should make sure you get some fruits and veggies too."

"But last night when Max got salad you yelled at him!"

"I didn't yell. And that wasn't salad, that was lettuce."

So wasn't convinced, but she set the plate down and took my hand, and we went over to get some more fruit. Which she ate happily for the next 30 minutes. Such a good girl.

A few hours later, it was lunch time. We went to a new resort, both to hit the buffet, and also to try to sneak into their pool. Because IT'S A GOOD SKILL TO HAVE. This buffet was not as good as the other two, so I half-heartedly took another slice of roast beef, and a few eggrolls, and then went back to the table where I found Lucy completely covered in chocolate.

"Mom" she said, waving her hands in the air. "This buffet? Has a chocolate fountain. "THIS BUFFET HAS A CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN."

Now we're getting somewhere.

And for the piece de resistance, the coda of our buffet experience, in the last of our 24 buffet hours, we found the buffet with a cotton candy machine.

And according to Max, that beats naked chicks with feathers on their heads ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.
For now. Somehow, I have a feeling his opinion might change.