Posts Categorized: People

Get in the Rink: Rollerderby!

Strap on your quads; We’re goin’ derby

By Aryn Henning Nichols . Photo by Studio J Photography

Photo by Studio J PhotographyBy day she’s the housewife. The attorney. The writer, the stylist, the chef. She moves with confidence, a fresh bruise merely a reminder of her latest battle, and like a rogue superhero, she can’t wait to pull on her fishnets and hot pants, slap on some red lipstick and get back in the rink to kick some derby ass. It’s just the way she rolls.

In a post-feminist era where romance is no longer a dirty word, but yes, the lady still just might want to mow the lawn, roller derby seems a natural fit. It rides a line between burlesque and brawn: the girls are sexy AND tough. They come together from all kinds of backgrounds and in all kinds of packages, united by their love of all things derby. Or they just like beating the crap out of each other while on old school quad skates. Either way, it’s not exactly your grandmother’s roller race.

Inducted in the 1930s by Chicago businessman Leo Seltzer, roller derby experienced a series of highs, lows, and evolutions over the decades until the 60s and 70s when the spectacle of it took precedent over the sport. Roller derby’s popularity fizzled out. Revival efforts didn’t take until 2001 when a group of Texas women pulled it out of its grave and gave it a whole new look.

The game goes like this: Two teams of five players are on the track, each with one jammer (she has a star on her helmet and is the one who scores) and four blockers (the blocker with a stripe on her helmet, the pivot, leads her blockers). For every opponent the jammer passes, her team scores a point. But short of throwing elbows or making human clotheslines, these girls are doing everything they can to keep the opposing jammer back and get their jammer through.

“One of the reasons roller derby is so popular is because of the explosive, fantastic combination of sport, entertainment, female aggression, and (dare I say it?) sex appeal,” says Decorah native Regan (Johnson) Jacobsen. “Let me be explicit – this is a real, full-contact sport.”

Jacobsen, aka Tammy Faye Undertakker or more often, TFU (a tribute to Ms. Tammy Faye Bakker, the late overly-made up televangelist), lives in Madison and has been skating with the Mad Rollin’ Dolls going on four years. For her, all it took was one bout. She wanted in.

“The second I walked in the door I was hooked. I just KNEW I had to do this,” she says. “I didn’t for a second consider the time, the money, the injuries, or the fact that the closest thing I ever played to a sport was marching band.”

The Mad Rollin’ Dolls (MRD), kicking off their sixth season the end of January 2010, were Midwestern pioneers of the sport alongside other leagues like the Minnesota Roller Girls (MNRG). Leagues like these frequently have thousands of people come to see them skate (at a recent MNRG bout, they had nearly 4,000 attendees!), but it definitely took a lot of work getting there. And as with most things, being a pioneer has its pros and cons.

Zara Danz, aka Candi Pain (“I picked my name because it seemed sweet and bad ass. The play on words thing is pretty big with derby names. Also I really like candy!”), has been with the Minneapolis-based Minnesota Roller Girls since day one. She says being one of the first Midwestern teams had some physical perks.

“I decided I wanted to be the one hitting the hardest, not the one getting knocked over. That motivated me,” Danz says. “I was lucky though, because at the point I started it was new to all of us. We were the first league to bring derby to Minnesota. Now when rookies start, they get pounded by seasoned vets.”

Jacobsen says MRD had to blaze a wide trail for leagues that would one day join the ranks.

“Madison didn’t have any blueprints, any mentors, or any limits. That’s been a challenge and also a great responsibility – to help the leagues that formed after us learn from our mistakes, improve on what we did right, and succeed where we have failed,” she says.

According to Jacobsen, everybody has a “fresh meat” story – “I was scared as hell when I started. The first time I went to a practice with ‘veteran’ skaters flying by me on the track on all sides, their wheels clacking up against my wheels… it was terrifying” – but teammates work hard to train new players.

“Derby is very ‘Three Musketeers’ in that regard,” Jacobsen explains. “Don’t get me wrong, we want everyone to improve so it’s more of a challenge to knock them down and more exciting to watch, but we want everyone to improve, regardless. It’s just not fun to knock down someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Ok, it is, but you don’t feel as accomplished.”

Closer to home, smaller cities like La Crosse are founding their own leagues. The La Crosse Skating Sirens, not even one year old yet, look to teams like MRD and MNRG for guidance and advice. Because starting a roller derby league isn’t easy: it’s a business. You need organization, recruits, money. Skating Sirens founder and president Melissa Larivee, aka Skin Kitty, is proud of how far they’ve come in just a few short months. They have great sponsors (“The people who back us, back us.”), skate all their home bouts at a great venue – the La Crosse Center – they have enough members for two teams on their league, and they’re improving on the track.

“We got our asses kicked at our first bout,” Larivee says. “But we’re getting better. We’re losing by less now.”

At the interview, Larivee’s left wrist is in a cast, and her nose is healing nicely after a dirty bout punch, she says.

“She’s our league clutz,” jokes Skating Sirens vice president Marghie Arttus, aka Hiss’n Kitten.

“No, I’m just aggressive,” Larivee retorts. The two agree they are complete opposites, but because of derby, they’re best friends.

“It’s all about the comraderie,” Larivee says. “We want women to have a place to go to be athletic and skate. Women can dominate this sport. It does take a certain kind of woman, you just don’t know who that is exactly. There isn’t a stereotype for it. You can have your basketball star and your Goth out there on the track together. But I think it’s popular because it’s all women – the guys are in the minority.”

So the fact that men’s leagues are starting to form across the nation naturally raises the derby dander a bit. Jacobsen explains.

“When I first heard about men’s derby leagues popping up, I was upset. I felt, “Can’t we just have one thing!?” because women have traditionally been so excluded from sports; and women’s sports and women athletes are not given the same clout or attention as men’s sports and male athletes. I was afraid men’s roller derby would surpass women’s derby in popularity and co-opt all the hard work derby leagues have done to popularize the sport and bring it into the mainstream.”

She continues, “But, then I saw men playing roller derby… let’s just say my fears were waylayed. It’s an entirely different animal than all-female derby. And also, derby is fun. I don’t want to discourage anyone from having fun, working out, and participating in a community. Seriously, though, have you ever seen a six-foot tall man with hairy legs in hot pants? Yikes.”

Beside men, the derby leagues all have their rivals. For Danz, it’s the Mad Rollin’ Dolls.

“As far as our Allstar traveling team, our biggest rivals would be Madison,” Danz says. “Madison has an amazing league! We have a fantastic fun-loving border battle with them.”

MNRG has four home teams that play each other, and Danz is the captain of the Dagger Dolls. “I think this year we’ll be the force to be reckoned with. We have some amazing rookies and killer vets!”

MRD has six teams in their league, and Jacobsen skates for the Unholy Rollers. She’s her own biggest rival (“I am constantly trying to improve my game”), followed by MRD’s Reservoir Dolls. (“There is no team I enjoy beating more than the Res Dolls.”)

The Skating Sirens are still figuring out their opponents. “We don’t have any real rivals yet,” Arttus says. “Although we’ve played some pretty dirty skaters, most everyone is having fun.”

Fun is the emphasis for skaters and attendees at derby bouts.

“Everyone goes to see derby,” Danz says. “There are bands, games, giveaways, food and delicious PBR! I think there is a serious cool and fun factor that nothing else out there has. I could go on and on. Roller derby fever is contagious!”

Perhaps it’s the short skirts and stockings. The racy names. Or the motley crew that is the roller derby norm. But it truly does seem to kick ass.

“Derby is like the Island of Misfit Toys for grown-ups,” Jacobsen says. “We’re all a little nutty, injured, socially inept, what have you, but we came together because no one else would accept us or no one else was doing what appealed to us. We accept each other for better or for worse, and together we make something phenomenal.”

Aryn Henning Nichols thinks it would be amazing to start a Decorah derby league. I mean, WTFDA rhymes with UFFDA…can you think of a better sign? Now…to find the time…

Repurposeful: Recycling in Winneshiek County

 

Terry Buenzow

Terry Buenzow

 

By Aryn Henning Nichols

He’s been called the Willy Wonka of recycling. Terry Buenzow walks around the Winneshiek County Recycling Center pointing at different contraptions that squeeze, shrink, shred, and generally squish all sorts of recyclable materials. With a friendly, teaching sort of voice, he talks over the clang of cans and the whir of forklifts, explaining the path of the cardboard box or number one plastic ­– “You’re wearing number one right there. Polyester!” He names off numbers and details on each item like he’s listing off grandchildren; this guy really loves recycling.

For nearly a decade, Buenzow has been watching the paper/plastic/metal/textile/glass market to analyze what’s going to happen in the recycling world and how to most effectively and efficiently put items we no longer need or want back into use or back on our shelves. Since the Winneshiek County Recycling Center (WCRC) became a public facility on April 1, 2009, interest in the center has increased dramatically. People are stopping out to drop off items, learn a little (or a lot) or to just say hello.

“Our direct traffic out here since April 1 has tripled,” Buenzow says. “A lot of people in this county feel some ownership now. Which is good. That’s the kind of attitude you want in this business.”

Perhaps it’s this attitude that makes the area’s recycling so consistently high quality.

“People in this county are really great about recycling. Things are clean and there is very little public dumping,” Buenzow says. “As far as the recycling jobs in Iowa, I got the best one. This is it. I don’t complain.”

Other counties have a harder time, especially with appliances, and when it’s $15 a pop for disposal, this can really add up. “We are fortunate we don’t have to deal with that very much,” Buenzow says.

That being said, Buenzow has seen some interesting items come into the center over the course of his time there.

“You name it, I’ve seen it in here,” he says.

Barbie dolls?

“Tons of ‘em.” (FYI: you CAN’T recycle Barbie dolls – take them to a second hand store for reuse.)

Toilets?

“I’ve seen a toilet come in here,” Buenzow says. “But they’re hard to fit in the bins anymore ‘cause we made the openings smaller.”

The things they do accept have a varied life. Each state has its own recycling policies, Buezow says, and most centers are county-run. The different materials go to manufacturers across the US and Canada, and it is an ever changing market. The sale of recyclable plastic, for instance, is entirely tied to the natural gas market. The type of paper you’ve got in a bale can more than double its worth. Textiles can go to another country for reuse or cut up to be repurposed. It’s an amazing world of working with what you’ve got – something people seem to be relearning these days.

Luckily, the path can be pretty short for recyclables in Northeast Iowa. There are many manufacturers just a short truck route away. International Paper in Cedar Rapids. the largest cardboard recycling mill in the country, second in the world, is just 90 miles away.

“I’ll have a dedicated semi-load of cardboard in six days, same with paper,” Buenzow says. “Most likely it will go to Cedar Rapids, and it can be there in just a couple of hours.”

Check out Inspire(d)’s illustration of sample paths many of the things you put in those bright blue bins might take. Buenzow says that although people around here are educated about recycling, the center could accept even more materials. He hopes his latest education efforts – like entering the social networking world by putting WCRC on Facebook – will help people learn even more and in turn recycle even more. Check them out to learn more about recycling or how your tax dollars are being spent. Or stop out and say hi. Better yet, volunteer to help and really take ownership of this publicly funded organization.

“It’s great if you want some therapy – just come out and smash or shred stuff,” Buenzow says, (after signing a liability form, of course, he adds). “Junk is fun!”

Aryn Henning Nichols was excited to win the golden ticket and visit Terry Buenzow and the Recycling Factory.

Winneshiek County Recycling Center, 2510 172nd Avenue, Decorah, IA, 52101
563-382-6514

Find Winneshiek County Recycling on Facebook – there’s lots more information and even guides on how to prepare your recycled materials!

Below is some information Inspire(d) got on recycling in Winneshiek County while visiting Terry Buenzow.

Cardboard: Most of the WCRC cardboard heads to Cedar Rapids International Paper, the largest cardboard recycling mill in the country. “The cardboard industry thrives on recycled content. The International Paper mill is running totally recycled,” Buenzow says. Do accept: Basic brown corrugated boxes, cereal, cracker and cake boxes, 12-pack cartons and pizza boxes, shoe boxes and mailing tubes. Do not accept: Waxy containers like butter boxes and orange juice cartons. $65/ton

Paper: Paper comes in different grades – office paper, newsprint, mixed waste (the “I can do no wrong” paper) – the price range for paper starts at  $25/ton and runs up to $250/ton (that’s for sorted white, ledger). It might go to some tissue mills in Wisconsin or a newsprint mill in Ontario. “Our first choice is always to make a similar product.”
# 8 News – needs to be 80% newsprint – this is worth around $35 to $40/ton
Office paper – traditionally strong $165/ton at least – pure white $250/ton
And yes, you CAN recycle magazines! If you’ve passed Inspire(d) on and on and on and don’t want to save it for your “collection,” recycle it!
Things you might not know about paper recycling: don’t worry about staples or little plastic windows. Paper plates? Not recyclable, sorry.

Plastic –  #1 & 2 hold the best market value. The price of plastic is tied entirely to the price of natural gas. “Plastics are the most complicated and confusing of all the materials we take. We have to sort the plastics by their number at the recycling center because the different types are not compatible with each other when they are re-melted at a plastic processor.”
#1 – pop bottles, water bottles, etc.– might go to a place like Mowawk Carpets in Georgia Makes good carpet, fabrics, fleece blankets, etc. It’s a very strong plastic. “The power of number 1 plastic is unbelievable.” Over the past six months #1 has been worth from $120 – $175/ton.
#2 – milk jugs – can get 15,000 pounds in one bale. It squishes better. It can be made into pails, toys, car parts, or construction materials. The rest of the numbers (3-7) go into waste reduction bales along with enough 1 and 2 to make them at attractive on the market. The bales are sold to a variety of plastic processors.

Aluminum/Tin/Metal – “Metal items are some of the easiest products to recycle. In fact, almost all of them have some recycled content. The basic tin can may end up being part of a new car or made into a can again. Aluminum beverage cans usually become new beverage cans or foil. Aluminum frying pans and cookie sheets can become about any other aluminum product there is.” Some goes to processor in Eau Clair, WI, to make steel siding – you can buy that siding at Menard’s – and a lot of other metals go to Le Roy Iron.
Do accept: Food cans (the basic “tin” can), beer cans and pop cans, aluminum foil (they have an aluminum foil cubing machine), pie plates and roaster pans, metal cookware, such as frying pans, cookie sheets, sauce pans, etc., decorative canisters and tins, electric motors, electrical cords and wall chargers. Metal prices can range from $30/ton to quite a bit more for

Textiles and shoes: Take your used clothing and shoes to the Depot Outlet in Decorah (or another second hand store in your town). WCRC works closely with the Depot. What they can’t sell goes to WCRC for baling or sorting and selling. Textile bales may go some place like Toronto for resale “What’s not fashionable here might be there.”

Glass: “It’s really hard to work with,” Buenzow says. “That’s why there isn’t a market for it.” It’s not a favorite topic at recycling centers. That being said, you may take glass directly to WCRC. It will be crushed and used for landfill drainage at the Winneshiek County Sanitary Landfill. Best option? Be conscious of glass packaging you do buy. Choose plastic if possible.

Interview with Winneshiek County Paramedics

By Mary Marx

Steve Vanden Brink

Staring out my window at leaves falling from a crab apple tree, Steve Vanden Brink replays a scene in his mind – I watch as he carefully weighs his willingness to share a story.

Steve is a paramedic specialist. He’s one of the few who respond when your car is wedged between two trees or when you’re helplessly lying on the bathroom floor. He gives life-saving breath and coaxes your heart to beat on its own. Steve brings calm to your chaos.

He apparently reaches some conclusion and our conversation resumes. “I see death and dying more than your average person. One day, three people died…traumatically… in 12 hours. They were young,” Steve says to the corner of my desk. “Every call affects each paramedic differently – over the past 20 years, there are always those calls that stand out.”

Steve studies the notes he prepared for this very interview. “It was maybe 15 years ago – I worked the night shift – and the ambulance was dispatched to a home birth. We delivered the baby; that’s not something we get to do very often. The crew brought both mother and baby to the hospital for care and then, about an hour later we were called to a house – to a family just like the one celebrating a new child – to try to revive an unresponsive infant. We gave that child all we had, our combined expertise, our equipment, everything, but the baby died.”

In this profession, nights like these are sad realities. But there is also life. There is beauty in the eyes of someone whose pain has subsided and joy in the monotonous tones of a heart once again beating on its own.

“I heard a call for first responders to the home of one of my friends,” says Steve. “He’d collapsed while getting ready for a night out – his wife found him. I got there first and did CPR until the ambulance arrived. The paramedics on duty shocked him with the defibrillator – and we waited for the beep to start, but nothing happened. And then, the lines on the screen began to move. Everything worked that night – it happened the way it should – and now I see him jogging through town, enjoying the life he almost lost.”

Dave Neinhaus

“You have to absorb the good moments,” says paramedic Dave Nienhaus. “You have to let those happy endings fill you up… and enjoy them.”

Dave’s first happy ending earned him the gratitude of the patient, and a canned ham.

“I was a first responder at the time – pretty green, I was out only two years. I heard the call and arrived on scene, shocked the patient and her heart began beating again. Not too long afterward, she stopped over to my house, gave me a hug and pressed a canned ham into my hands.  It was such a touching – and memorable – gift; I don’t think I will ever forget it.”

In Dave’s mind, paramedics are not in the business of “saving lives.”

“Whether or not someone lives, that is between the patient and God,” he says. “If they are to live, and I am part of that plan, I am happy to serve and will do so to the very best of my ability.”

Training and experience play a significant role in a paramedic’s ability to help a patient, but “good equipment and new technology make it a whole lot easier.”

The Advanced Life Support monitors the Winneshiek Medical Center Foundation is raising funds for this year through Festival of Trees allow paramedics to attend multiple things at once. The monitors will hook up with the chest compression machine and deliver shocks as needed. The paramedics will be able to provide better care, and that means more happy endings.

“People expect us to come busting into their home, perform CPR and shocks and then whisk the patient back to the ER where they will make a full recovery – kind of like it happens on TV,” says Dave. “When this happens in the real world, it is a kind of euphoria – like you are experiencing the scene from somewhere on the ceiling. You watch hands placing the machine on someone’s bare skin, see their chest rise with returning breath – it is surreal. And then, you meet them walking to cardiac rehab two weeks later and you know you had a part in it.”

Occasionally the happy ending is more bittersweet.

“Sometimes, if we can bring someone back, it is just long enough to say goodbye to loved ones,” Dave says. “We don’t save them in a physical way, but it brings a sort of acceptance to the family. Like I said, I don’t save lives – I just help people.”

Dave Reutlinger

He’s been there. Dave Reutlinger has provided emergency care for people as long as I have been alive – 29 years – and I cannot even fathom the different experiences that have shaped him into who he is today.

Dave is nationally certified in … and a specialist in… and licensed in…, but amid all the accolades, I get the feeling that experience is his true teacher. Yet he is anything but boastful. As I attempt to understand the whys and hows that are his life’s work, Dave is reluctant to share too much. This man carries within him some the most personal experiences of many of us reading this very article– his stories are ours.

“When we are on our way to a call – maybe a car accident – we make our plan,” Dave says. He explains that everything makes a difference in what to expect: the voice inflection of the dispatcher (which could mean a serious call or an over-excited caller reporting the accident), the weather conditions, time of day, even the way the glass is broken or the vehicle is dented or the smell of the scene when they arrive.

I can imagine that his kind face and quiet way of speaking would bring calm to even the most frantic of patients. “If we can, we get in the car with the patient – talk to them while starting IVs or assessing their injuries,” says Dave. “We explain what the sounds mean – the snapping and banging of the metal roof being cut away, why the car is swaying, that we are doing everything we can for them.”

Dave stresses that they are not alone in their task.

“The entire emergency system is… interconnected, on the scene with first responders, law enforcement, the fire department,” he says. “And when we return to the emergency department –everyone has a hand in saving a life.”

Josh Moore

Time is constant. Seconds turn to minutes, minutes to hours. But it doesn’t always seem that way.

“Time had never moved so slowly,” recalls Josh Moore. “We were waiting for the defibrillator to give us direction after the shock. It only takes about 10 seconds to analyze, but when a teenager is lying at your side without a pulse, those 10 seconds…”

His eyes are bloodshot and he offers a weary smile – it is seven in the morning and time for him to go home. It was a quiet night in the emergency department, though that is something to never even suggest in the presence of the staff who work there. Josh willingly puts off a good night’s (day’s) sleep for 10 more minutes to share the memory of what he calls, “his first save.”

“I worked with my dad and a few other guys in a basic ambulance service. We got the call of a man down at the school, and following our protocol, ran lights and sirens to get there, though it was only a few blocks from our garage.”  Josh was the baby, the newbie, green. “When we rolled up to the school, it was my job to get the jump kit while the others went to the patient. We only knew someone was down in the gym; I assumed in my head they had hurt their ankle – something pretty minor.”

Josh focuses on a point somewhere above my head and continues, “He was only 19. It was a scrimmage game, something for fun. He fell past the three-point line, just short of the hawk emblem painted in the center of the floor, and his teammates could only stand over their friend – they knew his pulse was gone. I was the one who placed the defibrillator patches on his chest. I remember the lump in my throat as the machine said, ‘shock advised,’ and I pushed the button and watched his body jerk… and waited.”

After 10 painstaking seconds, the defibrillator advised the paramedics to begin chest compressions once more. “I started compressions,” says Josh, “and just willed his heart to begin beating. And then, against the heel of my hand, under his sternum, I felt pounding – I actually experienced his heart come back to life.”

He goes on. “We delivered the patient to the nearest emergency room and were heading back out to the garage when the doctor stopped us – he told us, ‘He’s in there talking to his family because of you guys. Congratulations,’ – and it was at that moment I committed to this path – one of day shifts and night shifts, adrenaline rushes and lulls. I want to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Mary Marx is a life-long Winneshiek County-ian, and is proud of her family and this year’s garden. Her favorite things include crushing hugs from her two sons, a good cosmopolitan and watching the sun set from her back porch with her husband, who also happens to be her best friend.