Rolling with it

It began just as dinner with the new neighbors. Marc hails from New York originally, Marie from Paris. She used to produce French public television; he happens to be the new executive director of the Sacramento Philharmonic.

So it felt a little funny to be asking them out for pizza, like we should have invited them over for foie gras, Champagne and a lofty discussion of Descartes. But we finished off two large pies in record time, and had a fun, freewheeling conversation about foreign films, world music and politics.

In fact, it was such a good time that I almost forgot I’d made plans with a friend for that same night. I apologized for having to cut dinner short. Then Marie asked the question I’d been dreading. She asked what the plans were.

Roller derby, I admitted.

Marc laughed, surprised. Marie was intrigued. I tried to explain, but as I’d never actually been to a live roller derby before—all I had to go on were vague childhood memories of that weird, dead hour between Saturday morning cartoons and the Creature Double Feature. “Girls on skates … in shorts … knocking each other down.”

En route to Roseville, I informed my friend that the couple would be joining us. He asked who they were and I told him, and he may have thought I was pulling his leg.

The rink was packed. We managed to nudge through the crowd to a perfect vantage point in the “beer garden” (i.e., a corner of the rink roped off with police tape). The Sacred City Derby Girls got busy pummeling their Bakersfield opponents, with “jammers” Candy Crusher and Brawllen Angel slipping through the pack as if skating in another dimension. Before we knew it, my friend and I were shouting ourselves hoarse, pumping our fists in the air as the ladies racked up the points.

I figured Marc knew me well enough to look for me near the kegs. But with the first period well underway, there was no sign of him or Marie. Was the lack of foie gras a problem after all?

Then I spotted them waiting at the beer garden entrance. I dashed over to see what was holding them up. Poor Marie, never carded in her life, had left her driver’s license at home. Welcome to America.

By the third period, the Sacred City girls had a 50-point lead, and even us roller-derby virgins knew it was all over but the shoutin’. We retired to our version of a salon—the parking lot—for more discussion about the wonders of Sacramento’s cultural life. For instance, not even in Paris can you take the executive director of the Philharmonic to roller derby.

Later, Marc laid out his plan to send out small trios and quartets to play in galleries on Second Saturdays.

“In jeans,” he stressed.