Part One of Panic in Detroit to follow soon! Adventures to and down in Detroit Derby Girls land.
Merry Christmas everybody!

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The story so far.

Every story has a beginning. And this story began on the night before with the report of a police shooting on a Toronto Transit Commission [TTC] subway car on Friday night.

The subway had adopted a new line of subway cars that are connected from front to back with no barriers between any cars. So wandering on the subway has become more commonplace with the appearance of even more of the down and trodden and oddball characters: scavengers or ask for a handful of change. Those who talked to themselves took amusement playing with little pieces of yellow scarves. I had just been on the subway that night and missed all the excitement.

Packing the camera equipment for another trip to Detroit was the last minute thing to do, and by one in the morning everything was compacted and secured. Even the passport. Sleep if any did not come easy.

Date: Saturday, December 14, 2013

The weather outside was dark and the snow was clinging to the roads in white and slush. Wicked weather this way comes.

The six o’clock alarm rang and then the clock was slammed off. Bus departure time from the Greyhound station was 8:30 a.m. Which bay was going from Toronto to Windsor? Had no idea.

Morning repacking. Forgot the possibility of clothes! and chocolate and water. 7:19 a.m. at the neighbourhood bus stop across the street. Bus is late. Bus is packed! and picking up every single waiting passenger at a bus stop along the way to Eglinton station. Remember the shooting we mentioned? The TTC was shut down between Bloor and Queen station. And one of those in-between stations was Dundas Station. [Eglinton, Davisville, St. Clair, Summerhill, Rosedale, Bloor, Wellesley, College, DUNDAS, Queen]. 30 minutes to get to Bay and Dundas and trying to figure out the options. Bloor Station by 8:10 a.m. The Plan B is to go over to St. George Station and race down the St George line to Dundas and University then run over to Bay Street.

Race down the escalator with suitcases and luggage in hand. Bump into another lady in the same boat going to the Greyhound station trying to catch her own 8:30 a.m. bus. Her idea is to go over to Bay Station and take the taxi down. I tell her I am taking the same bus as her. Agree to share the cab. However, she still has to buy her bus ticket. Mine is in my luggage. Subway takes five minutes to come, then a minute to Bay. 8:15 a.m. and fifteen minutes to go. Lady is griping at me to get into the cab as I look for an empty seat in the front.

8:20 a.m. She throws money at the cab driver and gets out and goes one way to the station. I go the other way to the bus terminal itself. Race around looking for the bay that I need. First day on job person seems to have no idea. Run to other bus. This could be the bus. However, the line-up is long and will there be room. Panic sets in as we realize we are only carrying one piece of luggage. Left the suitcase in the other line-up. The suitcase is still there. It’s cold and slushy, but we are sweating like mad. New person on job will not let me put both luggage in the compartment in the side of the bus. Take the suitcase aboard. Hope the other case with the stands and the rest of the camera gear will not be crushed.

Next stop: London, Ontario

The highway on the way to London was dreary and boring. The bus was silent as the passengers caught up with sleep, lying across two seats if they could. The girl in the seat in front was sleeping with her laptop still open. The snow was slowing the speed of vehicles. ETA for London that was supposed to be 10:50 a.m. went out the window. Waiting at the Greyhound station would be Devon NightWing from the Thames Fatales. An exchange was in the offering. The last time we were in London had been a week earlier to partake of the adventures of the Nickel City Knockouts back to play against their friendliest rivals Thames Fatales of Forest City Derby League. EFF CEE!

Talking about burying the lead inside the story. Destination: Windsor, Ontario. South Detroit.

the story continues here

Whatever schedule the Greyhound bus was on fell by the wayside. Devon was waiting at the bus terminal – thankfully with a smile and a warmly needed Tim Hortons double double in hand.  The exchange of package was made. The sleepies were still in sleepy mode aboard the bus – and one quick pit stop. The 20 minute pitstop was way too short yet so needed. The neighbouring bus from Guelph disgorged its passengers onto ours.

The bus ride was long and dreary and if this was Chatham we were already one hour behind for Windsor. In the wintry conditions, Windsor could very well have been Chatham. However, when we finally were at the border of Windsor, telling by the worndown downtown this was actually Windsor. The Lance Harwood photography was waiting at the terminal, without coffee in hand. Photo gear was reloaded into the truck and the next destination was picking up a guest for the day plus a pitstop at Subway. It would be the last food of the day for a very long time.  LH and jm go to White Castle† would have to be another movie another day.

Doors opening at the Masonic Temple was 4:45  p.m. in Detroit, yet the border and the Windsor Tunnel was still ahead, slogging through the snow in the truck while manoeuvering behind and around cars clearly not ready for the wintry conditions. Would we even get to Detroit at this rate, let alone make first whistle. The tunnel going north from Windsor to Detroit goes on forever and ever. When at the border, and in a car, smiling and saying you are going to Detroit for the night to see Derby usually gets you through quickly.

There is no mistaking that one is in Detroit. Unshovelled streets and the distinctness of downtown around Rosa Parks. Neon snowflakes lit up the dim. Abandoned ballpark field and parking across the street from the Masonic Temple, a jewel of classic architecture. Up the snowy steps and through the revolving doors. Approaching ground level, the ladies of Detroit Derby Girls are a friendly lot, a machine in action. Media accreditation. Tickets. Agreement to be signed.Christmas was in the air inside the temple. The Masonic Temple is the mecca of Derby. The elevator to the third floor was jam packed with fans, some skaters, and two suitcases of gear along with one quasi-photographer. Once out of the elevator and a walk down the hallway past banners of Detroit Derby Girls in action adorning the pillars and into the mecca of derby.

The wooden floors of the Masonic Temple are so reflective and the room is so expansive. Seating from wall to wall and a gallery of benches in its own nook. Merchandise tables and three large refreshment bars in three corners. The announcers table stretching down one wall between the two player benches. What makes the Masonic Temple even more the conduit for fandom is the drink special for the night and the TWO dollar beer special that is on before first whistle is sounded. The first two dollar beer goes down cold. It may be Stolz but anything cold after a long bus ride and a car through the tunnel and navigating the streets of Detroit hits the spot. And if you’re smart, you get two. Because the line-up only gets longer the shorter the time before that six o’clock first whistle.

Detroit Derby girls like to hit, and skate and hit. It is the first thing that strikes you once you enter the hall. The thunder of the wheels on the wooden floor is beyond compare. Hearing that sound makes the whole trip all the more worthwhile. You have reached derby paradise that is Detroit.

Raising the bar for the night on this December night of nights was this bout as the rematch of the Detroit Derby Girls championship of the 2013 season: the purple and black vs the blue and red.

/…. more to come

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