by micah epstein
Gay Rage was up for sale. We were sitting in the Blooddega, our local watering hole, when Bryce told us that their big-shot developer daddy was now listing our most sacred arena on the algorithmic market. Our turf, tirelessly done up in spray paint and climbing tomato vines, was about to be computationally assessed, marketed, and ultimately replaced by soulless glass office towers. I was a little impressed that Bryce would choose to give us a tip and possibly undermine their daddy’s money, the same money that let them buy all the season’s latest skates and SuckCreme hoodies. I guess Bryce really had the rage, but their daddy was (un)cool and calm, tryna collect.
The Gay Rage Garage was up for sale, and we would be losing the best derby course this side of the Ooze. We had to do something. Time to throw a monkey wrench in the face of the man. Or in our case, into the face of a god-like algorithmic super-system.
The Gay Rage Garage was up for sale, but I had a plan, a perfect plan for us derby punks who really only knew how to do one thing: skate. But to really skate we needed competition, so we pinged our rival gangs and talked all kinds of smack about how sickly their compost heaps were and how barren their community fridge was. We knew that would have ‘em chomping at the bit to prove their punk credentials.
Next, we shut down the whole street in front of Gay Rage. It’s stupid easy to block streets in the age of the autonomous car—a technique known as the Bridle Ritual. First, label a can of white spray paint “salt.” Second, find a buddy who trusts you and use them as bait. Push ‘em in front of the car. It will be ethically required to stop. Third, while the car is stopped, draw two concentric circles of white paint around it. Its sensors will return a DO NOT CROSS marking and it will be stranded. The first step isn’t strictly necessary, but I love the black magic aesthetic of drawing a circle of salt around a neoliberal demon car. We did that to a whole mess of them at each end of the street, and suddenly we had all the space we needed to really make a scene. We were almost ready. From its place of honor hanging on the wall of our garden tool shed, we took down Gus.
Gus was a real vintage gunpowder and lead double barreled shotgun, beautiful choking ivy (very solar) engraved into the stock. In this age of “non-lethal” tear gas, tasers, and cyberwarfare, a gunshot signaled to the whole neighborhood that shit was about to hit the fan. And fans. The Doomsday Derby was about to begin.
When the market switched our automobile system to autonomous, cars stopped needing to park. Instead, they circled the block and spewed emissions into the air until their owner finished their errand or job or date or whatever yuppie biz they were up to. Empty lots and poor people’s homes were fed into one end of the market, high-rises were spat out the other. But parking garages, in all their brutalist invincibility, were hard to tear down or retrofit. That’s when Derby gangs like us rolled in. We squatted and tagged, built planter beds, and from the broken glass and cigarette butts birthed the totally novel institution that is Doomsday Derby.
It was an ungodly blend of roller derby, parkour, downhill, and the music, fashion, lingo, and recipes that went with all of them; the sum was greater than the parts, I thought. Incredibly dangerous and even more fun, it was niche, relegated to the fringes of society. Until today.
Gus thundered. Daytime fireworks of dyed dandelion spores raked the sky and we were off. The best of us knew to cut across the abandoned solar panel array (left unmaintained since the North had been re-opened for deep drilling). We jumped from panel to panel, dodging silica shards. The last jump was over the community garden – the most risky cause no one would dare crash our orderly rows.
From there, we plunged into the cool concrete darkness of the Gay Rage Garage. Our course was the best of the best—a huge, banked ovoid, spiraling down into darkness. Squat pillars interjected just often enough to keep things interesting. At the fringes of my vision and then right in front of the pack, hologram ghosts of corporate mascots flickered and appeared, the last vestige of the mall the Garage originally served. Some noobs ahead of me tried to dodge and ate compost. I bunny-hopped over them, blowing through the hologram and feeling their electric flesh tingle on mine in a way that would probably give me cancer in twenty to thirty years, but I had bigger Ooze-fish to fry. Specifically, some goon from the Thrasher Gang was drafting off my left elbow. I gave him a shove, and took the next bend on the edge of my skates, throwing sparks.
We came onto the final bend of the Garage, and I could see the window of blue sky that marked our big, derby-defying finale. I put down my head, to maximize speed and look cool, and took the plywood jump out of the second story window. I expected a crowd, stranded or otherwise, made curious by our Bridles and party vibes, pushing against the Rage Gang human wall that kept our runway open. I didn’t expect the flash of news cameras, the lances of sunshine cutting through the smog, the buzz of surveillance drones, the collective hush and awe. My city, my whole world looked on as I burst through a curtain of ivy, arced from forty feet up with recycled-aluminum blades strapped to my feet. I landed with practiced ease, breaking the caution tape finish line. A horde of punks in their most flamboyant shroom-leathers tumbled and landed behind me, vying for second place. Something clicked in that moment. Doomsday Derby was here, and it was cool.
I could never have imagined how successful my plan would be. The algorithmic market, ever tapped into the zeitgeist of its city, ever listening to the chatter and scroll and hashtags of its citizens, immediately recognized Doomsday Derby as a cultural institution of the first order and added the Gay Rage Garage to its historic buildings ledger. With the protection and registration, safety rails were added and the broken glass was swept up. The mascot ghosts were disabled (can’t have sacred trademarks on a live broadcast) and Gus was traded in for a less acoustically offensive airhorn. Soon, digital marketing brands and derby-inspired streetwear boutiques began to move into the neighborhood.
The Blooddega was systematically evicted and became a place that exclusively served cauliflower toast. an elder council of horticulturists swapped out our humble rooftop veggie garden for an admittedly majestic crown of blossoming vines and carbon-sink palms. The Garage still stood, bigger and greener than ever, the seed of a global phenomenon—but Gay Rage had been sold. We had made Gay Rage cool and hip and good for this planet in its own small, important way. And the market had made it media, fit for consumption.
micah (they/them) is a storyteller and systems meddler currently based in the City of Sibling Love in the United States. They are originally from the overrated utopia of Boulder, Colorado, which left them awestruck by the majesty of nature – and frustrated by communities without diversity or vision. They are currently pursuing a masters degree in Urban Planning, and hope to use visual communication and design methods to make systems of power more democratic and accessible. When not pushing pixels, you can find them headbanging in grimy basements or racing (and beating) c*rs on their rusty fixed gear.