We didn't make this up. Our university happens to be based in the safest city of its size in America. So we wondered, given all this safety: are there stories to be told, people to contemplate, risks to be taken? Find out alongside our blog's authors -- two sections of a journalism reporting class whose goal is to show people at work and at play in and around Irvine, Calif. We invite you to read the articles below.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Artists' Block

Despite Economic Pressures, Local Artist Keeps Laguna Culture Alive
By: Anush J Benliyan

Rummaging around in her studio, looking for an appropriate sized piece of French print paper, local artist, Hedy Buźan, explains that it is the busiest time of the year. As June approaches, Buźan is in the midst of preparing for Laguna Beach’s annual local summer art festivals, The Sawdust Festival and The Festival of Arts, in which she has been showing for many years. It was through this involvement that her dynamic monotypes, collages, and paintings, which illustrate a perfect hybrid between locally inspired landscape and abstract art, were noted and she was asked to join the other 26 members of the Laguna Canyon Artists in 2008. What looks like a housing complex along Laguna Canyon Road is in fact a collection of rented individual artist studios where local professional artists working in diverse media produce artwork. This is where we find Buźan rummaging, still, looking for that piece of paper…

“I’m constantly reorganizing,” Hedy admits, having finally found the small paper support, a square about 6” by 6”, an essential component in the craft of hand-pulling prints, an elaborate form of using an etching-press and an etched zinc plate to create a work of art. She places the paper in a tray of water, submerging it completely among a group of six or seven already soaked sheets. A look of deep wonder momentarily occupies her face, and Hedy begins to open and close cabinets and drawers, clearly on the search for something, again. She bends down and reappears almost instantly with a box of her previously hand-carved etched metal and plastic plates. Fingering through them, she picks out a small metal plate and moves swiftly to the desk to her left, its glass tabletop already prepped with five blotches of paint. To the untrained eye, a simple black, blue, yellow, red and green, but to Hedy, a very carefully picked out palette: a mixed black, an ultramarine (classic) blue, an Indian (classic) yellow, a mixed earth red, and a mixed green . The colors, she explains, are reminiscent of the colors of nature. “They’re not the new, bright colors that come out of your printer. They’re pigments with less intensity. A fairly limited palette.”


Hedy Buźan’s self-assigned, challenging palette is not the only limit to her art, however. Laguna Beach, which has attracted and inspired artists and creative-minds with its coastal landscape, weather, and lighting since the 1920s, has a different, critical limitation for its working artists today: its ever increasing high cost of living.

Buźan, whose father was also a Laguna Beach artist, shares that she understood at a young age, living among other artists and intellectuals, that the life of an artist was not an affluent one. “I knew that there was no money in it,” she says, but admits that this is an especially mounting issue for aspiring artists in Laguna Beach today.

Although the artist colony has been a tourist destination since the early 20th century, many of its artists, who undoubtedly aid in the city’s magnetism, are becoming more and more incapable of affording to live in their community, as the city attracts wealthier visitors and inhabitants. According to a recent study based on average home prices, Laguna Beach is the third most expensive city in the United States today, with a whopping $6,069,151 as an average home cost, over $800,000 more than Beverly Hills’ average home price.

From a quick glance you can tell that Hedy Buźan is a Laguna Beach local, with her sun-kissed skin and flip-flops. Yet even after being born and raised in Laguna Beach, Buźan, the self-declared “Canyon Rat” was obligated to move out of her city to her current home in Laguna Woods. “I’ve had a rich lifestyle…but not a wealthy one,” Hedy says sagely. Still, she is grateful. “The Festival of Arts and the Sawdust Arts Festival allow artists to live here,” she says proudly, giving good reason for her dedication to the festivals after so many years.



She dips the end of a scrap of thick paper into the mixed black paint, using it as a brush, and wipes down the palette. The subtle yet dynamic elevations in the carved plexiglass are flushed with color, its abstract indentations filled with paint. She grabs a piece of porous fabric and wipes down the plate, staining it (and her fingers) in the process. She repeats this procedure – adds a layer of paint, stains, wipes a good amount off, adds a layer, stains, wipes, and so on.

With the professionalism and speed that only an artist with years of experience can exemplify, Buźan adds bits of her limited palette to the surface, playing around with the paints’ fluidity, manipulating it with an ease and a sense of comfort.

“The reason I like to make prints,” Hedy reveals, “is there’s something about the way that the ink moves and glides, (especially on acid-etched metal), that’s really interesting to me.” She elaborates, not once losing her focus. “I’m really interested in accidents,” she continues, “or actually, the part of accidents that you choose to retain. What life hands you and what you choose to accept out of that…”



Hedy loads some of her pieces into her Chevrolet, on whose bumper a worn-down sticker sits, apparently several years old, which reads: “Half the World Lives on $2 a Day.” She heads South, towards the two festivals, both under construction for the approaching season, to check up on her booths.

“A real lifeline for people in this community,” Hedy explains, “has been the Sawdust Festival. But the thing is, you need to establish residency for two years, and that’s not having a studio, that’s having a residence in Laguna Beach. And, pretty much, the cheap little places to live in Laguna Beach have really dried up. So that’s a problem.”

The Sawdust Arts Festival, established in the 1960s, has a fair-like atmosphere which is open to artists, jewelers, and craftsmen alike, and open to more locals than The Festival of Arts, despite their residency requirement. The Festival of Arts, founded in the 1930s, according to Buźan, is more exclusive, with a jury that hand selects applicants to the show. With less of an arts-and-crafts feel, the Festival of Arts is more like an outdoor art gallery, Buźan says. Here, visitors are prepared to spend the big bucks, an ideal event for avid art collectors.

Furthermore, the Festival of Arts hosts the popular Pageant of the Masters, a live human reenactment of famous artists’ masterpieces, which sells out nearly every night, according to Hedy, and brings in plenty of profits. It is these profits that allow selected artists, like Buźan, to afford booths, costing the artists about $275, in contrast to the Sawdust’s booths, which can cost anywhere from $650 to $1,250.

These art festivals are keeping the artist community alive, a real lifeline in a sense. With revenues from the Festival of Arts given to the city of Laguna Beach and a large tourist gathering for the Pageant of the Masters, the summer’s premier attraction, artists lucky enough to have their feet in the door are able to show, sell, and work.

Satisfied with her painted monotype, at last, Buźan returns to her 6” by 6” soaking French-print paper and removes it, 30 minutes later, to take to the press. The relatively small press, which Hedy had paid $1,800 for, has been the source of many of her smaller-scaled works. She cautiously places the monotype and the now responsive French print paper in their correct positions between the felt blankets and turns the handle which propels the press bed between two stainless steel rollers, pressing the moistened paper tightly into the grooved plate and capturing the ink. As the end product awaits to be pulled from the plate, Hedy explains that when it comes to printmaking, she begins with about 75 percent of an initial vision, but a 25 percent of chance, allowing her to “see where [the piece] goes.” A lot of it is intuitive, she explains. “When I start a piece, I don’t think of my audience. My personal interest can be a technique and I conceptualize and find my intent along the way.”

She pulls the print. “This one might be a hard one,” she reflects. “[It] has very little relationship to landscape, except for maybe a swampland…” She places it down next to some previously finished monoprints, a series of pieces, created in the same method, with a limited palette and a small format. “When I was looking at this, I was figuring I’m going to get a bright light here, I’m going to get repetition here, and movement,” she says, pointing. “…But this I’m probably not satisfied with. I’d need some more time to finish it off.” She abandons her new work of art, briefly, in search of something, yet again, only to return with a rolled up paper tube which she drags through the ink. “I know right now that I want a line right here,” she claims as she draws a thin horizontal line, about three centimeters long, along the top of the small monotype. “And I don’t know why!” she exclaims. “I just wanted a line right there…”


Walking around what will in due time be the Festival of Arts, Hedy, all smiles and greeting everyone who passes by with their name, explains her hope to reach the public with her art.“I’m not just out there for myself,” Buźan explains, implying that she is not creating for the sake of creating, that she does have to sell her work. “There is a percentage of my work that I consider to be a product, but then I also just find that if I make what I like, people will discover it for themselves.”

Buźan believes in making art affordable, even in the pricey Laguna Beach, yet not losing her artistic honor, aiding in her own way to save Laguna Beach’s art colony. Take her series of small hand-pulled prints, for instance. “This little series, this is very close to my heart,” she remarks, passionately. “…Yet I know that it will retail at an affordable price [about $55] because they are small.” Buźan says she hopes people will like the series, stating: “I put a lot of my artistic integrity and thought into them.”

The Festival of Arts will take place July 7 – August, 31, 2011 in Laguna Beach, CA.
The Sawdust Festival will take place June 24 – August 28, 2011 in Laguna Beach, CA.

Personal Observation, Hedy Buźan at Work
Hedy Buźan, interview 5/19
Hedy Buźan, interview 5/27
Stephanie Cunningham, interview 5/27
Anne England, interview 5/27







A Second Chance at Living a Normal Life

By: John Walberg
A metallic red Nissan pulls up to the front of the Tustin PetSmart store, around 11:30AM. The medium size car parks in the blue handicap spot, covered by the shadow of the large department store building. The driver’s door slowly swings open and out steps an old frail, Italian woman, Fran Moore. She unbuckles her seatbelt and opens the truck of her car with the click of a button. Sitting in the back of the trunk are three vanilla colored crates holding eight different cats that have been rescued from a Santa Ana, CA animal hoarder. Squished behind the crates is an ordinary dark, coal colored table. A young female volunteer, Kelly Swanholm, approaches Fran. Kelly helps unload the crates and brings them into the PetSmart store.

While walking into the store, Fran and Kelly head back to the far left corner, where the stores “Cat” section is located. In this section are other cats that reside inside the store. PetSmart’s cat kennel area contains eight medium sized and one large holding areas. In each holding area, there are various types of cats sleeping near the plastic, transparent windows. In each holding area, there is a clean litter box, food, water and colorful bedding. The type of cats residing in these storage areas range from Torti’s to Calico’s to Tabby’s. In the large holding area is an eight year old, orange Tabby named Ollie.

Ollie is lying on his back, stomach up, while sleeping on his cotton cat bed. When Fran approaches the window, he opens his eyes and recognizes her. Ollie stands up on all four legs and stretches. He sits back down and lifts his paw up, tapping the window separating himself and Fran.

Fran and Kelly begin to set up the tables. Fran walks into the small space behind the cat kennels and brings out three cages. Once the tables and cages are set up, the cats are brought out of the crates. Inside crate number one are four kittens, two black and two gray, no older than ten weeks. Kelly slowly takes out the four kittens, placing them inside one of the cages. Inside crate number two are two brown calico mix cats. The two cats are from the same litter and are placed in the middle cage. Inside the last crate are two black and white cats, also from the same litter.

The Orange County Animal Rescue Coalition rescues and adopts out homeless cats from the Corona shelter. The organization does not take stray cats off the streets and require that all cats the organization adopts out are spayed and neutered. The organization mostly adopts out cats, but on occasion will foster and adopt out dogs if the Corona shelter is impacted. The Corona shelter is given cats from local animal hoarding cases in the Southern California area.

One issue that the Orange County Animal Rescue Coalition responds to is animal hoarding, such as in a recent case back in March, in Santa Ana, CA. The Corona shelter received a call from a family that complained about a foul smell coming from their neighbor’s house. Animal control arrived at the house and discovered sixty five cats living in a small, confined space. Fran did not see this hoarding with her own eyes, but heard about the gruesome details through a source that wanted to remain anonymous.

Animal control walked through the house wearing hazmat suits and respiratory masks, while capturing all of the cats. To trap the cats the two animal control workers had to use nets, to prevent them from escaping the house. Inside the house the cats were skittish and scattering around the halls. A foul, strong stench of urine was coming from the carpet. A thick layer of garbage and feces was covering the countertops. The cats did not appear to be healthy. Most were too skinny and were sneezing. A four foot pile of feces was found outside of the kitchen, with an unbearably, awful stench. Not a single litter box was found inside the house. None of the cats were spayed or neutered and were breeding amongst each other.

The animal hoarder was an elderly man, who has been battling Alzheimer’s for quite some time. name not released to the public. His house was so filthy on the inside that he had placed his own mattress out in the backyard. The elderly man regularly received neighborhood complaints about the hazardous environment he was living in. He was brought to a hospital in Santa Ana, CA, where he underwent a 5150 psych evaluation.

The cats were brought to a veterinarian to be treated for various illnesses after being removed from the elderly man’s house. The extremely thin and frail cats all suffered from upper respiratory and giardia, a parasite. There were also ear mites and fleas found in the fur of each individual cat. The two animal control workers fell ill to pneumonia, even though they both wore the hazmat suits, while trapping the sixty five cats.

The OCARC only was able to rescue eighteen from the Corona Shelter due to the lack of well being from the other remaining cats. The Corona shelter does not have a high budget or a large enough staff to take care of the rest of the forty seven cats. Most of them were euthanized due to the limited space and their poor health. “We pulled the cats that we thought were somewhat social and highly adoptable,” says Fran. The eighteen cats were fostered by Fran, Joan and Erica. About half of those cats rescued fell ill to pneumonia. The cats were under special care and were using a nebulizer to help clear out their lungs. Eight of the eighteen were brought to the adoptions on this Saturday, due to their fast recovery.

Around 12:30 PM, people begin to swarm around the cages filled with the kittens and other cats from the hoarding situation. Young children begin to stick their fingers inside the cage to pet the kittens. At this point, the kittens are not very active and are piling on top of each other to take a nap. In one of the windows, Jane, an overweight white cat, with green eyes, stares at the different people gathering around the kittens.

A young woman, Rosemary, walks up to the kittens and smiles, but passes sees Jane in the window. She makes her way through the crowd and looks through the window, at Jane. Rosemary’s husband walks up to her side and looks at Jane. Rosemary walks over to Fran. Rosemary asks “Can we please take a look at Jane?” “You certainly can. Just fill out this paperwork first” Fran says. Fran hands her a clipboard with the paperwork attached. Rosemary answers with a grin on her face, “Thank you!” Rosemary grabs the clipboard and walks away from the crowd, to fill out the paperwork.

Fifteen minutes later Rosemary brings the paperwork to Fran. While Fran reviews the paperwork, Kelly walks back to Jane’s cage to bring her into the play room. The play room is where people looking to adopt can spend time with the cats they are interested in. Fran gives the couple the “okay” to go see Jane. The couple walks into the room, where Kelly is sitting with Jane on her lap. Kelly hands Jane over to Rosemary and they instantly start to bond. Jane purrs as Rosemary scratches behind her ears.

Outside the play room, the crowd has dwindled down to just a mother and daughter. The mother smiles as she walks past the cages, holding her daughter’s hand. The daughter stops in her tracks but her mother whispers, “not today sweetie.” The daughter starts to frown as she leaves the “Cat” section with her mother.

Fran sits alone for a few moments, until the door to the play room opens. The couple walks out with large grins on their faces.
Fran asks, “So would you two like to adopt Jane?”
Rosemary answers, “Yes!”
“Great to hear, she’s such a sweetheart.”
“We both fell in love with her personality! We are going to go around and pick up a few things before for Jane. Is that alright?”
Rosemary and her husband walk off to buy the necessary items for Jane.

At 1:50 PM, Rosemary and her husband meet back up with Fran, this time with a blue shopping cart. Inside the cart are a collar, medium sized crate, cat litter, litter box, food and toys. Rosemary’s husband hands Fran a check for a hundred and fifty dollars. Kelly walks out with Jane in her arms. She gently places Jane into the medium sized crate. Rosemary and her husband are ecstatic. Rosemary hugs Fran before leaving with her new addition.

Around 3 PM, a family of four walks up to the cage where the four kittens are placed. The daughter sees one of the gray cats, with bright green eyes. She immediately turns to her father and asks if they could adopt the kitten. At first the father is hesitant but agrees to fill out the necessary paperwork. As he fills out the paperwork, he tells Fran about their family cat that had passed away three months prior. The cat fell ill to a very rare disease and had to be put down. Fran approves the family’s application and allows the family to spend time with the gray kitten, inside the play room. Twenty minutes go by and the father steps out to speak with Fran about the history of the Orange County Animal Rescue Coalition.

In 2003, the OCARC was founded by Fran and three other women: Bonnie, Marty and Loretta. The women all met while volunteering at the Irvine animal shelter. After being at the shelter for over a decade, Fran decided she wanted to start her own organization with the other women, to save more animals. Fran and Bonnie were the most instrumental in forming the OCARC. The organization rescues and adopts out homeless cats from the Corona Animal shelter.

The OCARC originally rescued cats from the Santa Ana shelter until it was shut down. Shortly after the Santa Ana shelter shut down, Fran tried to work side by side with the Orange County shelter. Unfortunately, the shelter was not cooperative and made it extremely difficult for Fran to work with them. The Orange County shelter wanted to charge a pull fee as well as an adoption fee, which Fran and the other women did not want to pay. Fran heard about the Corona shelter from her family that lived over in the area. She immediately got in touch with the staff and has been working with them since 2006. Over the last five years, the OCARC and the Corona shelter has rescued around 1,850 cats. There have been over 2,000 cats rescued since the start of the organization. The number of cats adopted out each week can vary. Some weeks there were in between five to ten cats adopted out. Usually there is at least one adopted out each week, but on some occasions there are none.

There are now over thirty five, volunteers not including the board members of OCARC, dedicating their own time to help nurture these abandoned cats. Those volunteers help out by cleaning the cat cages at the PetSmart store every morning and afternoon. Their responsibilities include changing the litter, giving the cats food and filling up the cats’ water bowl. A group of ten foster volunteers take in and nurture the newly rescued cats. Each of the volunteers brings three to four cats home with them at a time. When the amount of adoptions increase some volunteers may only foster one or two cats at a time.

Since the start of the OCARC the organization has rescued kittens, elderly cats and even cats with broken bones. According to Fran, “It’s always been very important to me to spay and neuter every single cat we adopt out.” Spaying and neutering cats is essential to prevent a large population increase of stray cats. There are several high kill shelters in the area and many innocent strays, consisting of kittens and adult cats that are being euthanized due to overpopulation.

According to the California non-profit organization, Social Compassion, there were a total number of 432,512 dogs and cats euthanized in 2009. People have been abandoning their pets because of the poor economy and the recession. Animal owners are over-breeding of dogs and cats. There are stray dogs and cats reproducing frequently because they are not spayed or neutered. These factors are the reason why there is no place at most shelters and why so many innocent animals are being euthanized.

As the clock strikes 3:45 PM, the family tells Fran they would like to adopt the small gray kitten. The family grabs a foldable cardboard cat carrier, off the shelf, near the adoption area. The father writes Fran a check for a hundred and fifty dollars. Kelly walks out of the play room holding the petite gray kitten and a tiny pink blanket. She lays the pink blanket down on the bottom of the carrier and places the kitten inside. The daughter walks up to Fran and hugs her tightly. Tears of joy form in her eyes as she thanks Fran for letting her family adopt the tiny gray kitten. She whispers to Fran that she’s going to name the kitten Mindy. The daughter walks back over to her father and holds his hand. The happy family leaves together with their new addition with them.

Fifteen minutes pass by. Fran and Kelly place the remaining seven cats into the three separate vanilla colored crates. Kelly breaks down the coal colored tables, placing one of them in the PetSmart storage area. Fran brings one of the crates out to her car, while Kelly brings the other two out with her. Fran clicks a button on her car keys and the trunk door opens. She places the three crates in the back of her car, while Kelly goes back in the store to grab the table.

By the time the car is all packed up, it’s now 4:15 PM. Fran thanks Kelly for the help and steps inside her car. She places her key in the ignition of her metallic red Nissan and buckles her seatbelt. The shadow of the PetSmart building covers the front half of the parking lot. Fran drives away knowing she helped two different cats find permanent new homes.

Reporting Notes:
One thirty minute interview with Fran
One ten minute interview with Kelly
Observed three separate four hour adoptions at PetSmart
Research from: http://www.animalshelter.org/shelters/Orange_County_Animal_Rescue_Coalition_OR_ARC_rId577_rS_pC.html

Youth Foster Resource Center Devoted To Teaching Life Sklls For a Better Tomorrow

A glass jar of some sand is placed before the foster youth. Next to it lie a pile of rocks and small stones. “What do I do next?” he asks. Clang. Clang. Clang. The rocks tumble into the glass jar. He continues this process with the small stones. He then tries to close the jar only to find that it wouldn’t close. Mouth wide opened and eyes enlarged, he watches as the next foster youth succeeds in the same task. Looking at the jar before him he notices that the sand has been left out. The sand symbolizes the unnecessary, whereas the stones represent small daily tasks and the rocks embody long term goals. This icebreaker is an introduction into today’s Independent Living Program (ILP) workshop of time management held by Orangewood Children Foundation. OCF is a foundation built upon improving the lives of foster youth in Orange County through its Orangewood Children Home and resource center by providing over 1000 neglected, physically, sexually, or emotionally abused children refuge.

The workshop officially begins at 6:30 P.M. There are 6 different tables and a different activity relating to time management is assigned to each table. The tables consist of two peer mentors in which one will rotate while the other stays. Our first task is to jot down the things we needed to finish. Another includes a crossword puzzle with terms involving the topic of time management. During one activity I let out a slight smile as the peer mentor questioned the amount of time each person uses on the phone. “I see you smiling, want to explain why?” she asks me. I tell her that I’m often on the phone because I’m in a long distance relationship. However, the girl next to me with a face full of make up and often chatting away with her neighbor gave an opposite answer of me. “I don’t feel the need to use the phone at all. It’s unnecessary.”

As the workshop continues, peer mentor, Wilson reminds the foster youth to keep all of their worksheets from today as proof of attending the workshop to earn their 30 OCF dollars. OCF dollars are often used to make purchases for clothing, food, or household items. Head of ILP, Jessica reminds the foster youth that OCF dollars should be best used to pay rent, phone bills, and school tuition. Another option that the foster youth have is to put it into their savings. Although, the amount of OCF dollars earned belongs to the foster youth but peer mentors have the ultimate control over it. Whenever these foster youth would like to use their OCF dollars they must notify their peer mentor. It is okay for foster youth to spend their OCF dollars on favorable things such as shoes, but only when there are no bills or rent waiting to be handled. Peer mentors usually step up and remind or advise the foster youth to spend their OCF dollars wisely.

Although, one workshop only gives up to 30 OCF dollars but to these foster youth the amount is sufficient enough for their survival. Piter, a tall dark former foster youth of German descent is an example of this. Based on the financial aid from OCF and his savings of OCF dollars he is able to pay for his college tuition at the Art Institute of Santa Ana. He is currently trying to pursue an AA degree in computer science and computer graphic website design.

Piter is 19 and has been in the foster youth system since 11 months old. He's been kicked out of about every school district that he’s attended. In doing so, he’s moved around a total of 8 times all around Southern California. To name a few, Los Angeles, Valencia, Anaheim, Corona Del Mar, Trabuco Canyon. Yet, the Piter sitting before me is clam and mellow, but as he explains during ILP’s break, this was not always the case. Piter warns me about the person he once was.

“You would run. You SHOULD run. If I didn’t like you, I would whoop your ass for the first time.”

At the age of 11 Piter received his first misdemeanor due to assault and battery.

“She said something I wasn’t in the mood, I kind of jumped up and punched/kicked her in the face. That was the first, I was 11. The second time was on the therapist, he was trying to settle me down but I got up and started whomping on his face that was strike two. The last one was one of the teachers, I did the same thing. I’ve known him and he knew me because of my history. He said something that kind of touched me so he gave me a chance to work my anger off and that would’ve been my third strike if I didn’t work it off.”

The first offense landed Piter in Juvenile hall for 2 1/2 weeks and the second, 3 months. If he didn’t work things off then, he would now be sitting in jail for at least 20-25 years.

In the end, Piter chose to work his anger off by putting himself in a more controlled environment, such as teaching martial arts. From his chance to work things off he also understood another thing. “I understood people were afraid of me, it was whatever but as time passed by and I grew up I started feeling lonely and wanted to be accepted.”

When asked about his impressions of Orangewood, he replies, “ At first, all of the kids hate being directed and having criticisms against them but when it comes straight down to it, it really helps. Sure, at the remainder of the time it seems like they’re trying to control you. Even for myself, at first I didn’t like being control but now that I look back on it, it was a good experience for me.”

With the resources provided by Orangewood, Piter was not only able to make a ton of friends, but also gathered important life long skills. Before the break ended Piter makes a few final remarks.

“My mom suffers from schizophrenia, dyslexia and some other things. I, myself suffer from depression and mood disorders. It doesn’t hold me back, it keeps me moving forward. For the physical aspect of it all, even though people go through abuse and stuff doesn’t entirely mean they should live by it. Like with me, I was one of the worst kids possible.”

Piter and the many other foster youth of the OC are considered to be very lucky. They are provided with resource centers such as Orangewood to help them through the process of emancipation, while in other counties it is the opposite.

Peer mentor, Wilson is originally from L.A. county. He states that "L.A. county is not as helpful. Things were a little more ruthless, more crime rate. OC is more wealthy. Orangewood home looks like a paradise compared to L.A. We had nothing but crappy bunk beds. In L.A., we had to cut their lawns whereas, people in the OC pay people for cutting their lawns for them."

In Wilson’s situation he was left to fend for himself the minute he was placed into L.A.’s foster care. At age 12, his father burned his mother to death. When the incident happened Wilson’s father was unemployed, an alcoholic and a gambler. He thought that his wife (Wilson’s mother) was cheating on him and being religiously Buddhist, he went to a fortune teller to seek an answer. The fortune teller informs him that there is a possibility and from his words alone, Wilson’s father committed the homicide, as“revenge.” Aside from the murder, his father was also physically abusing his grandparents and because of this they booted him out prior to the murder. Wilson is then put into his grandparents’ custody after his mother’s death, but not for long. Several months later his grandpa fell ill due to the idea of losing his only daughter and the inability to protect his wife. He passed away and that left Wilson in the hands of L.A. county’s foster care. However, things there weren’t so great there either for Wilson.

“Right when I went to foster care that’s when things kind of went up and down. I did well academically, but at one point I didn’t feel recognize. After feeling not so accepted by everyone I went into this tangent to try to make it on my own. I did mischievous things that I’m not so proud of to survive and got incarcerated throughout the year. My first incarceration was because of grand theft auto. One day, I finally gave up because no one acknowledged the grades I was getting to pursue a college degree. I jacked the car of the foster home that I was living in as my last words to them.”

While on the freeway, Wilson eventually blacked out because of all the turmoil he was going through and crashed. He woke up in the hospital thinking he was dead, but he wasn’t. For about half of the duration that year he went “AWOL.” AWOL is when a foster youth runs away from the foster home and refuses to be found. Deanna Johnston, Orangewood Resource Center Supervisor warns me that those that go AWOL at or after the age of 18 are considered “improperly emancipated.” This means that they are automatically emancipated and lose the benefits that come with those being properly emancipated. However, if they were to return anytime before their 18th birthday they will be eligible for a proper emancipation and Orangewood will help them through that.

When Wilson went AWOL for half a year he was living on the streets for about 2 weeks and often couch-surfing. He describes the streets of L.A. to be “filthy” and the experience as being very different because he went from having something to nothing at all.

“One night, I was trying to sleep under some tunnel so the cops don’t see me because I was underage (a sophomore in high school). Since I was underage I had to make sure that by nightfall I was away from the cops, hiding in parks, under covers, tunnels, whatever, and so the cops don’t see me. Yeah, even though I was wearing several layers of clothes, but it’s not enough. The streets were very cold.”

As for couch-surfing, it involves a whole different strategy.

Wilson explains, “I was moving from home to home of friends. They helped me during the day, but I had to find somewhere to sleep at night so I’d alternate. I had to shift around so parents aren’t asking why the heck is this kid sleeping here everyday?”

Eventually, Wilson found a suitable home a year later after he turned himself in for awolling. Even then, he slept with a pocket knife under his pillow for 6 months. Trust was something that Wilson was very cautious about no matter how genuine his foster father seemed.

“There are good foster parents out there but I wasn’t lucky until then,“ states Wilson.

When a youth is placed in foster care it is basically a matter of luck. Although, social services conduct background checks prior to placing foster youth, but it is hard to predict future events. DeAnna tells me that it is common for foster youth to be placed in more than 8 different homes throughout their lives. In the end some choose to AWOL whereas, others decide to emancipate. Whatever the story is behind each foster youth, with resource centers like Orangewood the survival skills obtained replaces the lack of love from one’s immediate family. These survival skills open pathways for a better tomorrow.

DeAnna informs me that when most foster youth turn 18 they have this mentality that “I’m 18 and you don’t get to tell me what I can or can’t do.” Usually, these foster youth believe that they’ll finish their diploma later in life but the majority of cases don’t occur so. In addition, DeAnna often implements the importantance of the word “resource” in Orangewood Resource Center. She begins by first clearing up the misconception of foster youth as being “too old” to stay in the system.

“There is one misconception out there and that is at age 18 the system says boom your done and they kick you out, but that’s not entirely true. When a youth is approaching their 18th birthday, there is a group within social services that kind of comes around and helps them emancipate.”

Emancipation is when foster youth transition into adulthood, officially leaving the foster care system. Orangewood gathers that about 200-300 foster youth emancipate every year at the age of 18, but 65% of those emancipated are without a home in California. To prevent situations like these, Orangewood offers ILP ILP workshops such as time management. These workshops occur several times a month focusing on four key areas including, education, career, relationships, and daily living. “Independent City” is also another ILP workshop that exposes foster youth to the challenges found in real life. Independent city is an event held at Irvine’s “Pretend City” where foster youths rotate from one station to another with the assistance of their peer mentors. Each station focuses on various life skills. It can include something as simple as calculating the amount of money needed for gas or to something as complex as managing a checkbook.

Another benefit that the foster youth of Orangewood are eligible for is known as “Rising Tide Transitional Housing Program.” Rising tide are opened to emancipated foster and probation youth ages 18 and up. The goal is to help foster youth transition to being on their own. However, prior to the eligibility foster youth must go through a rigorous interview process to make sure that rising tide fits them. Rising Tide is successful because it follows a certain set of procedures. The first month of rent is $200 and increases $50 every 3 months until they reach $750. The point is to ease them into what they’re looking at when they pay rent of their own. In “Rising Tide” they’re also encouraged to work or go to school. The RA living there are OCF’s employees put there to help the foster youth with “budgeting” and finding resources. For example, if the toilet is overflowing, the youth is often advised by the RA to call a certain person but they’re completely on their own from there. “They’re not there to rescue the kids but to show the youth what to do. They have to obey the law of the complex and the rules of rising tide. Two of the goal of rising tide is when the youth of rising tide emancipated they will have 10,000 in savings and maybe purchase a car. The RA is all up in their financial business, to help them. When they leave, they get a certain chunk of change that is a part of the rent they put out there.”

OCF also offers various other programs such as “Children’s Trust Fund.” Children Trust Fund is basically a designated amount of financial aid that each foster youth receive based on their age group. When asked what is the hardest part of her job as supervisor of Orangewood Resource Center, DeAnna states that “it is to remember that these foster youth are self-determining individuals, keeping in mind that my main job is to help without making judgments.”

1 1/2 hour lengthy interview with DeAnna Johnston
15 minutes brief interview with Piter
35 minutes interview with Wilson
3 hours of observation at ILP workshop
1 1/2 observation of O-Wood

Spills, Thrills, and Frills: The OC Roller Girl’s Journey to Bring Banked Track Roller Derby Back to Anaheim

By: Jessica Carreiro

Hidden in a deserted nondescript industrial park in Huntington Beach is a warehouse with something inside that is far from ordinary. Women in fishnets and quad skates speed around a wooden track pounding each other around under alias’ like Princess Slaya. This is the all girl revival of roller derby: a sport, a show, a feminist movement, and for these girls, a lifestyle. Part of roller derby culture is replacing the name you were born with, your government name, with an irreverant nom de plume. Some girls choose to put their spin on pop culture references with names like Skatey Gaga, Chick Norris, and Darla Deville. Others prefer more intimidating names like Indian Burn, Char Mean, Hell Toro, and P.I.T.A. as known as Pain In The Ass. The rest pick names that fit their personality like Ruby Rocker, Motown, and Ivanna Cocktail.

On April 19, 2011, the Orange County Roller Girls are huddled up by one of the warehouse’s expansive white walls. They begin every practice this way: sitting between a large, wooden banked track and red electrical tape on the floor that serves as the flat track. You can play derby on a flat track or a banked track. Banked for all 360 degrees, the steepest angle of the bank track is elevated over 4 feet from the ground. Although, when tumbling over the protective rail at speeds of 10 to 15 miles per hour, it feels farther.

As they talk, they take off their everyday gear and slip into their pads and customized helmets. However, because today is picture day, they leave their helmets and pads on the floor with their sports bags and purses. Like girls at prom, they watch to see how the next girl to walk into practice did her hair and makeup. Before the picture, they go into the bathroom to make last minute alterations. Looking into one of the three mirrors, a girl with the name Jabberwocky printed on the back of her shirt sighs and whips her short hair into two pigtails on the top of her head, “I’m not going on the banked track today. I have a love-hate relationship with that thing, and it’s been a rough past couple of days--I just don’t feel like having a bad day on the banked track.”

The picture only takes a few seconds. They know the drill. Tall in back, short in front. Smile. Click.

As they disperse, they pull their hair back, put their helmets on, and get ready to skate. The girls need their pratice. In just under a month, the OC Roller Girls will be the first to bring a banked track roller derby event to the city of Anaheim in over 30 years. The game, or as it’s called in derby, “the bout,” has to go off without a hitch. One of the founding members of OC Roller Girls, Mia Roller, government name Elena Parra, knows how much work has gone into the banked track. “We’ve been working on it for months. We built it ourselves.” she says, “Everything, from every nut, to the paint, to the materials. I think it took us about four months. And that’s one of the fastest that’s gone up.” Using a Kitten Traxx blueprint, they planned the construction. Derby girl D’Cup Runith Ov’r #33D, and her boyfriend, ref, and carpenter Cameltron headed the project. Everyone chipped in where they could spare the time from work and outside life, and eventually it was finished. The wood is painted gray to look like cement. The black padding that covers the safety rail matches the steel rods that elevate the track. Each of the 44 pillars that hold up the top bar of the safety railing are marked with an orange stripe. The girls wanted the track that they’ve dreamed of skating on for 10 years to be covered in orange and black: their team colors.

Roller derby started out in the 1880s as endurance races. Races lasted up to six days at times resulting in death from exhaustion. In 1914, the six-day race of the past was transformed into a 24-hour marathon. Leo Seltzer, credited with helping to craft the sport into what it is today, tells Pop Cult Magazine that the major turn for the sport came when he and famed sports writer, Damon Runyon, realized the crowd’s appeal to illegal conduct. When the fast skaters attempted to break free from the pack and lap the slow skaters, the pack would join together so they couldn’t pass. “At first they didn’t want them to do that,” Seltzer recalls “but then people liked it so much, they kind of allowed blocking.” So Seltzer and Runyon decided to make a new roller derby. One for the people.

Instead of long marathons, the game is composed of a series of short sprints, called jams. During a jam, a whistle releases a pack of eight people, four on each team. These are the blockers. A second whistle, shortly after, signals two jammers waiting 20 feet behind the pack. Once the jammers catch up to the pack, they must squeeze and shove to fight their way through. The first jammer to break free is dubbed lead jammer. The jammers race around the track until they are met again by a wall of blockers. For each blocker of the opposing team a jammer passes, they earn a point. Jammers have only two minutes to accumulate as many points as possible.

When roller derby was at the peak of its popularity in the 60s and 70s, derby leagues made up of male and female teams traveled to stadiums of sold out crowds in every major city. The phenomenon was televised in the popular series Roller Games. Part of derby’s success was its ability to cater to the audience. The skaters knew people wanted to see them fight, so they staged fights in which the crowd favorites pretended to get angry and knock each other off the track. The constant thrills and spills of the game captivated the crowd. Despite the game’s widespread attraction, the show was canceled, and the sport began to die out by the late 70s, early 80s. It wasn’t until 20 years later that the sport was seen again, but it wasn’t the same as when it disappeared.

Today’s roller derby is more than a sport, it’s a feminist movement. In Orange County, the OC Roller Girls recruit and produce strong women. If you base your knowledge of Orange County women on the reality T.V. show, “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” you might be deceived into thinking that Orange County women spend their days gossiping about their neighbors to their plastic surgeons. That’s not the first impression you get from derby girls.

It’s difficult to pin point exactly what’s so intimidating about these girls. It could be the height advantage they get when standing in their two-inch high quad derby skates. Or it could be that with their sleeves of tattoos and the rough, but funny way they have of insulting each other, they seem like the kind of girls who could have a usual at a biker bar. Yet, after spending some time with them, it’s clear that what’s intimidating about them has nothing to do with their physical appearance. Rather, it’s their confidence. Their complete lack of insecurity about how they look, what they say, and what they do.

For Mia Roller, the banked track is what saved her from losing her passion for the sport. A mother of two, one 10 year old boy, Nicolas, and one 17 month old girl, Bella, Mia found her priorities shifting after she had her baby girl. Derby was less important. All the girls are forced to pay membership dues, but there’s no requirement to go to practice. The incentive is more game time, but as a woking mother, she’s got more on her mind than trying to make the A-team. “I think that’s how I’ve kind of progressively move down teams. You know, less committed. After I had the baby, I was a mom. When I was on the A-team, it was kill, kill, kill, derby, derby, derby. You know, my kid was ten and he could just hang out. But, you know, having a new baby, my commitment is just--I can’t get through as much. I love it, but I’m not in love with it like I used to be. So the priorities changed.” Now her priorities are family, work, and church. “Derby kind of fits fourth. Because then you have your friends. We call them NDFs. Your non-derby friends. Your NDFs suffer because you’re like work, kids, life, work, derby, work, church, and, oh, somewhere in there I can fit you in for lunch at 2 o’clock on Thursday.”

It would be easier to quit derby. There are plenty of less time consuming hobbies and forms of exercise. She tried the gym. She tried kickboxing. But nothing sucked her in like derby. She remembers as a kid sitting in front of the television watching derby games. Even in the 70s, when her mom asked her what she wanted to be in life, she’d say, “I wanna be a derby girl!” Skating was already a part of her life. She competed as both a figure skater and a speed skater. However, a knee injury when she was 14 took her out of competition. “ And then after that, you know, I was just a normal teenage kid. I was 14 when roller blades came out and then it wasn’t cool to be on quad-skates because everyone else bladed. I just quit.” It wasn’t until about 2004, that her mom heard about women starting up a roller derby league in L.A. on the news and told her to check it out. The L.A. Derby Dolls were the first all-girls roller derby revival league to hit southern California. They were passionate, organized, and quick to get a bank track. The only problem was that they were in L.A. She was going to school at O.C.C. and working two jobs. She couldn’t move, and driving to L.A. twice a week for practice adds up. Her childhood dream was just a county away, but it was impractical.

One night while scrolling through Craigslist, she came across an ad looking for women in Orange County who wanted to skate. She decided to check it out. Her and four other girls met at the Holiday Skate Center in Orange. They skated around the rink for a session. It wasn’t much, but it was the beginnings of roller derby in Orange County. Six years later, 200 members are proud to be a part of the Orange County Roller Girls.

With only six practices left until the banked track debut in Anaheim, the girls have a lot of work to do. Not only do they have to perfect their banked track technique, but they also have to stay conditioned for flat track games. Disco, head of OC derby, has wanted a banked track for a long time, but now that she has one, she also wants to maintain their flat track teams. They have three flat track teams that vary in skill. The A-team is Blockwork Orange. The B-team is The Wheel Housewives of Orange County. And the C-team is Pulp Friction, the team Mia skates for. These teams travel all over the states to bout in cities like New York, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Their two banked track teams are Orange Whip and The Traffic Jammers. As homemade signs decorating the walls of the warehouse will inform you, OCRD is “bi-tractual and proud.”

Before breaking into teams to scrimmage, head coach Bryan Hunt makes the girls skate some warm-up laps. He’s one of a handful of men that regularly attend practice. Another is Quadzilla, or as Mia refers to him, “That awesome black guy all the girls want to skate like.” He helps coach the girls when he can. On the sidelines are Mia and Beantown Brawler’s sons who are similar in age and spend most of their time walking around the warehouse, the parkinglot, and picking on Beantown’s husband. This is a favorite activity of the girls as well. Sitting in a lawnchair he brought from home, Mr. Beantown chats with the girls who can’t practice due to injuries and cheers on his wife. Always smiling and very sociable, Mr. Beantown is an easy target for the girl’s ridicule.

When the girl’s focus becomes more on their jokes than on their skating, Bryan knows how to get their attention with his own brand of humor. He frequently comes up from behind girls not paying attention and gives them a shove. This usually results in a yelp and an awkward flailing of the arms and jerking of the hips as the girl desperately attempts to regain balance. Bryan laughs grabbing his stomach.

Although the girls love to kid around, once the scrimmages start, the joking stops. They’re well aware that in two weeks, their rivals, Long Beach Roller Derby, will be having their first banked track event. Though the two leagues share many of the same coaching assistants and refs, there is still some feuding between the girls. Mia explains, “Long Beach is kind of the unspoken rivalry against everybody because they’re new and they’re kind of doing their own system. Their banked track’s a little different. Their rules are a little different. And there’s some renegade leagues out there that say, ‘We play by no rules.’ So, to us, that’s kind of like we’re athletes and you’re WWE. There’s always going to be the ‘we’re better, no we’re better’ aspect to the game. But its pretty much off the track. But with Long Beach it’s kinda--different teams have different personas. Just like different girls have different personas. There’s the cool girls and the dorky girls and the mean girls. Long Beach is kinda,” Mia tosses her hair and scoffs in imitation, “‘We’re Long Beach, we’re better.’ I mean don’t get me wrong, I love them to death. Some girls have more drama with them than I do, but yeah there is definite, ‘We’re Long Beach, we’re tougher. We have more street cred.’ You know, and we’re kind of,” she perks up with a big smile and tilts her head to the side, “‘We’re Orange County.’”

On April 22nd at the Queen Mary Dome in Long Beach, two lines of people, each a city block long, wait to be let in to the kickoff banked bout of the LBRD season. Standing outside a huge white dome, former home of the Spruce Goose, next to the even bigger Queen Mary cruise ship, it’s an odd setting for a derby match. The group of impatient soon-to-be-spectators looks like a cross between people you’d find at a hockey game and people you’d find at a punk concert. Harsh winds and increasingly dark gray skies make the young crowd of people in their 20s and 30s antsy to get inside. Half an hour over the scheduled “doors open” time, the doors finally open to the sold out game.

Inbetween two large metal stands is the banked track. It’s not painted, and the yellowish protective foam that covers the railings is taped on. Fans pile into their seats with homemade signs. A group friends cheer on their friend with the poster, “I ♥ Adolf Hitzer.” At the top of the track, there’s an elevated stage for the band Hard Copy Rebels. They’re a five man rock band dressed in tan police uniforms, fake mustaches, and shorts almost as short as those the girls are wearing. In their repetoire are covers of Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Katie Perry. They play while the girls get ready to skate. The lights turn off, every one cheers, and all the people that were standing by the bar area move to the benches with their drinks. A spotlight illuminates the track. The Terminal Island Tootsies enter the track. They skate around the ring waving to the audience as the announcer introduces the players. As the next team is introduced, the song "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry blasts out of the speakers. The Fourth Street Retro Rollers dance into the ring sporting big headphones and groovy moves. The uniforms are less like sports wear and more like costumes. The Retro Rollers are wearing brown, orange, and yellow colored tank-tops and shorts straight out of the 60s. The Tootsies wear short red, white, and blue sailor outfits with little white hats before replacing them with red helmets. It’s clear the captains of the teams, and co-founders of the league, Estro Jen and Diesel aim to entertain the crowd. From the music to the outfits to the comedic announcers, its a show. Estro Jen tells the Long Beach Gazette she wants it to be “a production.”

However, the production doesn’t go without technical difficulties. As their track moneky crew works out the kinks, two male coaches, one of which is Quadzilla, challenge each other to a skate off. They each take turns skating around the track doing tricks. Every trick more daring than the next has the crowd on the edge of their uncomfortable metal seats. Unable to distinguish a clear winner, they decide to settle it with an Evil Knievel inspired death trick. They go over to their team benches and pick out three girls, two refs, and a manager. They direct them to lay down side-by-side on the track. Quadzilla pumps up the crowd waving his arms in the air. The excited crowd shouts and claps. There’s a drumroll. He starts skating away from the six stiff bodies on the track. As he circles back towards them, people get on their feet. Six feet away from the daredevils laying on the floor, he stops building up speed and steadies his feet. He crouches down to prepare for flight. Some people in the audience cover their eyes. He jumps. The drumroll and gasps are the only sounds filling the dome as he cuts through the air. He lands safely a few feet away from Terminal Tootsie, Ida Capitate's chest. The crowd screams and applaudes. After a short victory lap, he riles up the crowd for the coach of the T.I.T.s. Encouraged by their cheers, he starts off around the track. As he rounds the last turn before the jump, Quadzilla slips onto the end of the line. Just seconds before he jumps, now there's seven people on the ground. He clears it with easy. They claim dual-winnership and raise their clasped hands into the air as the crowd cheers. Shortly after, at half-time, the band turned out more amusing covers as the lead singer went into the crowd to give lap dances. Though the derby was good, it was more of an aspect to the show, than the entire focus.

For Orange County, roller derby is a sport. It’s not a show. While the girls don’t mind entertaining the crowd with exciting jams, they don’t want to detract from the sport of derby with costumes and side shows. They’ve trained hard and want derby to exhibit their athletesism. On May 7, the OC Roller Girls were ready to premiere their track. They dissembled the entire 101x57 foot structure and moved all 44 sections from Huntington Beach to the Anaheim Convention Center to reassemble it. Derby girls Bout Bot and Captain Holler wait by open doors to receive the crowd. The age of the crowd varies from parents who have brought their babies to 80 year olds who have come to watch derby as they did in their youth. The brightly lit stadium displays the black and orange colors worn by members of the crowd that sprinkle the cushioned blue seats. They don’t fill the 7,500 available seats, but the audience of a few hundred people waits with the same anticipation as a sold out crowd. A seven piece reggae band fills the time before the bout. The teams enter and line up along the center of the track kneeling on one knee. A row of neatly arranged orange shirts next to a row of perfectly placed black shirts. The announcer describes the origins of OC Roller Girls. He asks Mia to stand up and take a bow for her contributions. Her big bright smile can be seen from the top of the stands. She waves. The announcer gives special mention to two members of the crowd. One, named John Hall, was an original member of the 1960s Los Angeles Thunderbirds. The other, a security worker at the Convention Center named Ruby Gaither, was a derby girl in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The crowd applauds. The announcer asks everyone to please stand and salute the flag as derby girl Chick Norris sings the national anthem. The audience cheers as she holds the last note of, “And the land of the brave.” Jammers for Orange Whip and The Traffic Jammers assume their position behind the blockers. The bout begins.

People go up to Ruby asking for autographs. A tall, boisterous African American women with curly hair and a big smile, Ruby is glowing with excitement. She tells stories about traveling with the international derby team to Japan and Hawaii. She’s photocopied and autographed pictures from her roller derby photo album and hands them out to whoever comes to talk with her. From the rules to the amount of padding, Ruby can’t believe how much derby has changed, “We wore--you know, the pants and the pads on the butt, and on the hips, and maybe little knee pads. That was the extent of our padding. So it really hurt when you fell!” She didn’t wear a helmet, elbow pads, or a mouthguard. She remembers getting injured fondly, “Oh lord, yes.” She laughs, “I had a dislocated back. I broke my arm and a wrist. And you know the track? If you get a bruise, it buurns--when water hit it--it burns like hell! It felt like you put peroxide on it. But it burns, like, so bad. Oh yeah, ooooooh yeah!” She started playing derby in 1964 and was on and off for the next two decades. “I was number 36,” she says showing a picture of her old uniform. She can’t deicde what her favorite position was. She liked being a jammer so she could score points, but she also liked being a blocker. “I liked to play as a blocker because I could knock ‘em into the rail and knock ‘em out--and see, that’s what the fans like. You know, whenever you can use the fans to interact with.” She didn’t get paid much to play derby, but she loved it. After having her two sons, she decided it was time to give derby up, but it was always a part of who she was. The years that derby took her to Tokyo and Hawaii were the most exciting times of her life. When she talks about it, tears fill up in her eyes. When asked why she loves derby so much, she responds the same way as Mia. She looks off into the distance for a moment, thinking about the question, then turns back shrugging her shoulders and smiling, “Because it’s fun!”

At half-time the girls go up to their friends and family. Mia picks up her daughter Bella and poses for pictures. At 17 months, Bella already has a pair of skates. Mia hopes one day she’ll grow up to be an amazing skater.

The bout was organized and went without technical difficulties. The only scary moment came in the second half. Ruby Rocker, who got into derby after writing an article on the OC Derby Girls while attending Cal State Fullerton, took a hard fall. The girls behind her were unable to stop in time and tripped over her, ramming their skates into her ribs. The domino effect resulted a pile up of girls. Its a common occurance in derby, but this time, Ruby wasn’t getting up. As the rest of the pack stood up and took off, Ruby laid on the track curled up, clutching her ribs. Girls on the opposing team dragged her off the track and over to their bench. They call a time out. After a few tears, she dries off her eyes and makes her way back to her team’s bench. The team chiropractor, Dr. Marta L. Collatta, checks her out asking how she feels. Ruby lies and says she's fine, “I didn’t want them to take me out. I wanted to keep playing!” Her coach allows her to play. Though she continues to grab her ribs during resting periods, she won't let her injury take her out of the game. She took two practices to recover, but was back to skating in a week.

The final score of the bout was 124, Orange Whip, to 112, Traffic Jammers. The girls cheer along with the crowd as the last whistle is blown. They have successfully brought banked track roller derby back to Orange County. They accomplished something no one had in over 30 years. The girls, the refs, the coaches, and the managers piled onto the track. Hugging, with tears in their eyes, they pose for pictures.

Reporting Notes:

Three 3 hour practices

One 4 hour LBRD bout

One 4 hour OCRG bout

One 25 minute interview with Mia Roller a.k.a Elena Parra

One 15 minute interview with Ruby Rocker a.k.a Sarah Cruz

One 20 minute interview with Ruby Gaither

Bring on the Pain(t)

It only takes $40 and two friends to start an organization on campus. But to keep an organization running, it takes continuous funding and committed members. There are over 530 registered clubs at the University of California, Irvine. These clubs vary from multicultural to philanthropic organizations; some have even been here since the university was founded in 1965. Within the past forty-five years, top notch clubs such as Dumbledore’s Anteaters, Mock Trial club, and even the Future Grandmothers of America club have gained recognition amongst the Eater community. These organizations on campus are aimed to enhance student leadership and involvement and the Paintball Club at UCI does exactly that. Tragically, our economy’s financial status is making its way towards our education system. Even as a club sport on campus the Paintball team has also been affected by ongoing budget cuts. This year $624 million from general state funding were granted to the University of California system; which goes untouched by student organizations because these funds are classified for the use of “other resources.” Regardless, the paintball team has tried to remain a functional club on campus—even if they do have to pay out of their own pockets for practice.

As if the physical exertion of the sport wasn’t enough, team members continue to put in 110% with some blood, sweat, and tears. “Well, there’s not really any bleeding involved.” Damn. I was ready to hear the war-like stories of the Paintball Club at UCI. Ranking in as one of the top collegiate competitive teams in the nation (taking in third at the National College Paintball Association, West Coast Event) I had expected to interact with a person like Master Chief from Halo, one of the most iconic gunplay figures. Instead, I sat in the corner of the on-campus Starbucks with an unlikely character surrounded by piles of paper and binders. Standing tall at 5’ 10”, weighing in at 145 pounds, and the UCI Paintball Club president (cue applause)…Colin Campbell. Colin casually picked up

paintballing in middle school and dragged the love of the sport with him from his hometown of Saratogoa to Irvine. The University of California, Irvine had offered him the opportunity to work for a degree in biological sciences, but no playtime with a paintball team. Unfortunately, by the time Colin had been admitted into UCI all the members of the university’s professional team had graduated. With determination, love for the game, and a little bit of help from the team’s alumni Colin had reinstated the club.

According to Colin, the most blood you’re probably going to experience is during the game when your ears pump blood and hearing becomes difficult. Actually, there are few injuries in paintball because the game is entirely ruled by safety. The paintball gun was originally used as a way to keep count of trees and cattle; now paintballing is considered one of the world’s most popular extreme sports. Paintball can be played through role-playings scenes, hyperballing, or speedballing. The most common (and what’s used for that Nation College Paintball Association) is recreational. There are two ways to victory: capture the opposing team’s flag or terminate the enemies. Airsoft guns, another name for paintball

guns, are anything but soft. Now I have to admit, witnessing a person getting hit with gelatin paint-filled capsules is actually quite entertaining, as horrendous as that sounds. Even if there really isn’t any bloodshed it’s still cool. Using red paint would possibly have made the battle even more realistic, but the official Paintball Legislation (the big guys who control the league) had made the decision to band red paint with the best intension to not add to the negative stigma the game already has. But what lacks in gore is made up through the team’s professionalism within skill and strategy. Playing aggressively requires the use of pads, helmets, and facemask. For the UCI paintball club protective gear is a must. Colin had stressed to me that the facemask is “everything in paintball” and to ensure the safety of the players and the seriousness of paintballing, team members dedicate roughly 80% of game play to protecting the players. “The most a player could get hurt would have to be from hitting the ground hard...accidents do happen--it’s still less than any other sport,” Colin explained.

Those who’ve witnessed the team play can vouch that they live up to their title as being one of the best in nation. With the five minute rounds it’s almost impossible to catch everything at once, but to a paintballer every second matters. “The few seconds before the game starts are some of the slowest seconds I can imagine and every tendon in my legs gets ready for the sprint to cover,” Colin mentioned.

Players have to get to the opposite side before the paint flies across the field, and that takes about one second. This is real, guns are loaded; CO2 tanks are still cold and ready for the few minutes ahead. Both bystanders and players anticipate for the referee to start the countdown. Your muscles tighten as you look around to where each players going to bum rush to for cover. “Do the players ever panic?” I continued to ask Colin. I was afraid I had lost him, the deeper we got into the conversation about the game, the more into the moment he was.

3! Players look up at where their opponents are, hoping not to lose track of any of them. 2! Everyone clicks the safety off and makes sure your hopper (case that holds the paint) is fastened and ready to go. 1! “The rest of the game is a blur of heightened sense. You could fall to tunnel vision where the space between you and your target gets sharper and the rest of the world ceases to be. Ideally, you strain to hear the yells of your teammates above the pounding of blood in your ears and the heaviness of your breathing. You then yell back louder to confirm orders and relay information on where your opponents are….It’s raw power, lots of communication. The goal is to act like a team. You should be able to CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS! In the heat moment think analytically--fight or flight.”

GO COLIN, GO!!! He sprints toward one of the inflatable covers as he tries and fires off a few rounds hoping one might stray and hit an opponent. All anyone hears are the clicks of dozens of paintball rounds being fired off into the air all around the field. Players look out into the field gun raised at the ready. Paintballs curve left, others curve right but a few hit the mark dead and true. A referee waves to an opponent that he’s out and he has no choice but to leave the field. Colin had assured me, “The hurt is minor, but the loss really affects the team. With five on five match ups, everyone in the league counts.”

The only things that should stand in their way of triumph are the blown up cushions (used to act as shields and obstacles) and the challengers. Although winning does grant bragging rights, the UCI paintball team embodies the idea of growth as an individual and as a teammate. “Competition brings paintballers closer - we need a strong community to keep the players alive.” But what’s also keeping the paintball team afloat isn’t just their drive, but their wallets. The lightheartedness of Colin’s expression soon dropped as I began questioning what really puts a toll on the team. Time and money.

There’s a big spectrum of members on the team. Colin states that freshman are vital assets because not only are they skilled, but they will be able to help with the growth of the team just as Colin did in his early college career. There are currently twenty members on the team and individually they pay ninety percent of the cost towards running the paintball team. On average each practice (which normally runs for about seven hours) costs about sixty dollars per team member. This excludes transportation or additional gear maintenance, when entering competitions, a team is around two-hundred dollars each registration. Even as a registered club the team isn’t funded by the university. They used to be but there aren’t any available resources anymore. Their title as one of the top in the nation can’t even pursue the arc (Anteater Recreation Center) for a little bit of funding. The paintball team actually travels all the way to Riverside to Action Star Games Paintball Park to practice. This field is owned by locals and the owner takes care of their customers this includes clinics and reasonable prices. Everyone on their team is self-equipped with their own gear and that’s “more than enough if you have your own stuff.” Of course they aren’t entirely left in the dust. Colin had mentioned that Monster energy drink supports the team by providing free drinks. A well-known alumni in the paintball industry simply known as Steve provides the team with some scholarships. It’s still a little unfair though that other university teams get funded.

So why doesn’t the paintball team set up a booth on Ring Road and sell boba milk tea for two dollars? Thy Hoang, one of this year’s CORE consultants provided me with some solutions. CORE (Campus Organizations Resources and Education), a department under the Dean of Students Office at UCI, aims to enhance student leadership and involvement by providing necessary resources and information to all clubs and its members through workshops, funding, event marketing/publicity, and liability insurance. Thy had given me a simplified break down of how funding works on campus for different organization and had said that clubs can apply for funding through various boards (with a various acronyms such as SPFB, TGIF, MPC, Dean’s Fund, and CSFB). It was explained that each board has specific guidelines that must be followed to be considered for funding. “For Dean’s Fund which is overseen by all the CORE Consultants, the consultants work together as a group and decide on an allocation amount. The maximum we are allowed to fund for each event is $400.” Thy had left me with some closing notes that would be beneficial to any organization: Follow the guidelines. Read the rules carefully and be clear on the application and that will guarantee funding. “Two most important guidelines that I always emphasize is 1) Event must be open to all students—not just club members and affiliates and 2) Event must be on campus to receive funding.”

The struggle the paintball faces is only a representation of the entire problem at hand. The downward spiral of the budget has affected the team, but their determination and will to push the organization should be recognized. Some organizations haven’t been as fortunate. Patrick Le, a student advocate, mentions, “Although I’ve never been involved with club sports, I know they’ve been affected like everyone else. One of my friends was a swimmer; really good and really fast in the pool. She came in as a freshman, handpicked by the University to be its top swimmer. Then ironically, the year she comes, the swim team gets cut. So you had students on a full-ride swim scholarship at Irvine but didn’t have a swim team to swim on. She ended up dropping out of school because she wasn’t able to do what she loved.” Patrick has many affiliations on campus, but is extremely familiar with the budget cuts. He had shared, “I think the recurring budget cuts, fee increases, and overall deterioration of our schools show that education is no longer a priority in the State of California... When you deal with 1 billion of cuts, things will be sacrificed. The first thing that comes to mind is usually funding for clubs. All activities, programming, is threatened by the cuts. I believe that it is during those exact harsh economic times that you need to invest in schools and universities.”

Well, “there simply isn’t enough man power or advertisement,” Colin says. Everyone on the team is extremely busy and any free time left is dedicated to practicing paintball. For instance, you can catch Colin either volunteering at the UCI Medical Center, working it out as a Rock Wall Instructor, studying to remain a full fledge Campuswide Honors Program student, continuing his research in biological sciences, writing up the bad guys as a community assistant in VDC, or walking backwards as a Campus Representative. “The campus social scene has its reputations to strangers, but I believe that it's true worth lies. In the fact, students have to go out and seize the experiences that they want. We earn our stories here, and oh what fun they've been.”

And with that, Colin had taken one last sip of his coffee and continued on his paper. Knowing that if he didn’t finish this paper soon he wouldn’t have enough energy to gear up and have some paintball fun at 8am on a Saturday morning..

Online References:


Official Footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtfIw6xxZwk


Patrick Lee—Student Activist
Thy Hoang—CORE Consultant
Colin Campbell—President of Paintball Club