It's amazing to me that so many people care. That's NEVER a bad feeling! But it's something I never expected either. Of all the things I've experienced, all the people I have met, and the many organizations that I've reached out to, nothing has matched "falling in love" with Canadian Derby in 2012. Realize, that I've been involved in the sport going on nine years. That's a lot considering, as I always say, "Derby is a lifestyle, not a hobby." I can't figure out if it's gone fast, or if it's made me feel older? I'll argue that derby years has a multiplier, like dogs. I figure nine years older in calendar years equals about 187 years, six months, three weeks, and 2.5 hours in derby years. Don't ask me about that algorithm, because it makes the WFTDA ranking equations look easy.
SO WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT'S THE FUSS ABOUT?
Well, there's my version and then there's the truth. My version is much more interesting. I've been working as a committee member with the RDAC (Roller Derby Association of Canada) since last year. I would have jumped at the opportunity, but didn't have to. I simply received an e-mail stating I was on their Events Committee. So, before I tell my bullshit story, that is partly true. I was honored by the way I was recruited! Sorta like being subpoenaed. But getting a good subpoena....yeah, I know, what's a "good" subpoena? Just keep reading.
Working with the RDAC is likely the result of a combination of things. I've supported derby in Canada since its inception. There was a time when I could tell you the starting lineup for Hammer City's All-Stars. I knew them all by name, got to know their coach, Paul Piche, and even knew their fearless leader - Staplehead. Oh, sorry, how could I leave out ref extraordinaire, Hot Carl (insert "Drunk and naked!" chant here). Even today, I know a handful of them and enjoy reliving days of old with Bitchslap Barbie. My t-shirt company of the time - Flyin' Squirrel - even suited up the first Team Canada that traveled to the UK five years ago or so.
HAIR BANDS ARE BIG IN JAPAN, BOB IS BIG IN CANADA
And I don't really know why! One of the most fun experiences I've EVER had was FINALLY attending Beast last year. It was also very surreal. I work for Brown Paper Tickets and my role is to do what I've done for a long time - meet people, find out their needs, help out anyway I can. Seriously, that IS my job description. Did you read "opening accounts" or "sales volume" in that statement? NO! BPT is a very cool company who thrives on word of mouth. I was hired not quite three years ago to help derby grow by a for profit-company with total trust in the ways in which I would do that. This is why you find me at so many events. I go where there are a lot of people to meet, and Beast was no different...except it was maybe the most fun weekend I've had meeting people. I'm devastated I've missed it this year.
Beast is where Canada and I began to grow close. Up to that point, I'd been in Canada twice. To the original Best in the West Tournament and Toronto for World Cup. The World CupI barely remember, unfortunately. I was added to assist with the event announcing about 3 weeks beforehand. Given we had 22 voices, I pulled my infamous "I just won't sleep for a few weeks" stint - I do that way too often - and there was no relaxing once there. Someday, I'll have a moment of lucidity where memories of that historic event wriggle out of my subconscious and I'll smile in recollection. Hopefully before I'm so old I fall asleep in my food and drool all the time.
Beast wasn't just a great event, it's where I found out I was known in Canada. The good kind of known. The majority of people I met knew me by sight, by hearing my voice, or the trademark red sport coat. Sure, there are people in the states who can pick me out of a lineup, but never an entire event that could. OK, so the occasional greeting was, "You're that announcer guy!" but that's cool. I've been called much worse. Even the unforgettable moment meeting NoREFX and his wife Cherry, from Guelph (amazing people) was "different" but flattering...I think. NoREFX is at the same hotel, standing at the entrance. It's snowing, and he stops me. "Hey, you're way too important to get snow on your jacket," he tells me as he's wiping the snow off of me. "Oh yeah, why is that?" "Because you're' that...um...that...guy! You know!" He turns his head back toward the hotel's front door and yells, "Hey, Cherry, this is that guy! What's his name? The red jacket guy." Cherry yells back, "OH YEAH! Uh...hmmm...the announcer!" He turns, as if I didn't hear her and says, "Yeah, you're that announcer guy!" I actually did know that. Personally, if someone was going to recognize me, that's the way I want it to happen. One of my favorite derby moments ever.
New friends were made, I caught up with some I've known forever, and it was terrific. Shortly after that, I hear from the RDAC, and help with three Regional Playoffs.
I work all three in 2012, have a blast at all of them, and now comes last March, where I get to see the payoff. The very first Canadian National Championships in Edmonton!
Or, so I thought...
SHUNNED BY THE LAND OF THE GREAT ONE (GRETZKY, THAT IS) - MY STORY
In my mind I've done nothing wrong. In fact, in the statutes of Canada's border laws, I did nothing wrong. The proving it part was the issue. In my mind, I was totally focused on Edmonton, the honor of working the country's first National Championship, and hanging out with friends made from the previous year. I'd been in Canada seven times since a PREVIOUS BORDER CROSSING INCIDENT (this plays into my issue). I was next in that infamous line where the "booth people" live. When asked to step to the window, dressed like I always am - jeans, black t-shirt, my favorite derby hoodie (South Bend), bearing necklace, and my NY Shock Exchange cap - I'm asked about my trip, tell them I'm attending the first Canadian National Championship with friends, they look it up, verify, and...SEND ME TO IMMIGRATIONS! Shit, f**k, g******it, son of a bitch...I run out of slang in my head. WHY? This almost always happens (they don't scan passports at that phase). I'm not worried about being stopped from crossing, just that someone is waiting to pick me up and Immigration Officers are not known for their expeditious speed. You're essentially detained, once in their office, and they process you like it. Not sayin' the US is any better, cuz they've stopped me too. So, I know they'll ask me a buncha questions (I have practice), go through my stuff, and that should be enough.
MY STORY - they rummage through my stuff, call my mother names, copy my passport photo and draw horns on my head while writing unflattering comments on it, find a derby patch they feel is a secret code they read in a Dan Brown novel, call me names in Pig Latin I can clearly make out, then grab my phone, upon which it takes no less than 10 officers to pull me off the guy! IF any of that were made to sound true, it would be libel. It's not true, obviously. That would be a whole lot more interesting.
THE TRUTH - I didn't have paperwork telling them I didn't need paperwork. TAKE NOTE! This is for everyone to know, because nobody involved with the Nationals, nor myself, had any way of knowing. Paperwork CAN be asked of any entity, volunteer or not, called a Labour Market Assessment. I assume the event host probably answers a bunch of questions which then determines if foreign participants require a work permit. They felt I needed a work permit , the second time this has happened in 5 years. This is where having baseball as a national sport would have come in handy - you only get two strikes on this, not three! Really? WHOEVER heard of a two strike system? The first time I was turned around for "needing a work permit' was trying to reach the first Beast of the East. I had a t-shirt company, was invited to announce and sell my wares, spent 12 hours filling out customs paperwork, only to be told I couldn't sell them there by Immigrations. Huh? Customs can't tell me that? Like all bureaucracy, it's goofed up. Got a hotel, sent my goods back home the next morning, tried to cross, only to have Immigrations ask me about the work permit I was required to have? For what now? I had been "counseled" about my need for a work permit and how to obtain one, so I was told. That actually never happened, BUT, to quote the Violent Femmes, "this will go down on your permanent recooorrrddd." I was there, I never fainted, didn't have any attention deficit issues I was aware of, and the words "work permit" were NEVER mentioned, much less my "counseling" in the matter (whatever that would be). Sad part is, "being counseled" once before, probably was the undoing. On my record, someone sat down with me, explained why I needed a work permit (I didn't need one actually) and how to obtain one. That was, obviously, added to the report after I turned around to get rid of my merchandise. "Oops! Should have told him this too, but better write it down!" Well, thanks for that, because it's not only not true, but it's led to the loss of thousands of dollars in travel, kept me from one event five years ago and now maybe seven or more this year. All AS A VOLUNTEER, which the statutes clearly state is not reason for needing a work permit.
So, what's next? Beats me. I can't appeal...I'm literally not qualified for an appeal - so I'll work with the region's consulate while the RDAC does everything they can. Maybe hire an Immigration Lawyer. It's a mess, it hurts, I hate it, there is not a single incident in all of my work in derby that has affected me more. Though I'm glad my work with the RDAC continues, my not being on-hand for the playoffs would suck. There or not, I'm still committed to Canadian derby and the development of the RDAC, who has been totally open to the knowledge I have and work I can do. So I, like the rest of their BOD and committee members, will forge a head with my time to help solidify the tournament process into a system and lend a hand with anything else that I can. Worst case, I look toward, dare I say...2014. In the meantime, all I can offer of myself, and for my own solace, is the official "Free Bob" t-shirt...finally.