*Photo courtesy of Andreas Koch @nolapus
Due to my own relative physical inactivity, it never fails to amaze me when someone I know displays an overwhelming passion for a particular sport. I’m speaking here of individuals who are so enamored, they take it upon themselves and their busy schedules to incorporate participating in what is essentially, just a game.
A few weeks ago, I met with a friend of mine who has done just that. Heather Goodwin, a.k.a. Vieux Careen of the Big Easy Roller Girls invited me into her Algiers home just across the Mississippi River in an effort to continue my research of the ubiquitous crawfish boil.
Born in Columbia, Maryland; Heather is still local to me considering she moved to Baton Rouge at six months old and then into New Orleans when she was eight-years-old. Heather’s parents divorced when she was only five and she left with her mother, Dolores, and her brother Charles to live in a one bedroom apartment off of Severn Avenue in Metairie.
When Heather speaks of her mom, a light glints in her eyes and she sits up straighter, obviously proud of her mother’s accomplishments. Apparently, right after the divorce, Dolores went back to school at Louisiana State University (her ex-husband agreed to pay for college) to major in Physical Therapy. Heather describes the short time in the Metairie apartment as “a summer that felt like an eternity,” but Heather’s mom went on to became one of the premier physical therapists in the state of Louisiana. “My mom is an amazing, strong and independent woman.” Heather says with pride.
Dolores remarried about a year after her divorce to a man named Ike Hardee and moved, with her two children, into a three bedroom trailer in Westwego. “It was so crazy,” Heather explains, “I was living with my mom, stepfather, brother Charles, stepsister Sherri and stepbrother Joe.”
In the 5th grade, Heather’s new family moved into Algiers, the city she has never left. She attended Rosenwald Middle School in the “cutoff in the hood” where she learned how to “curse, smoke cigarettes and skip school.” Obviously, school was not one of her passions. In fact, her hatred of school was a strong factor in keeping her virginity intact until she graduated. “My mother who is very religious, told me that girls who got pregnant didn’t graduate from high school. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from getting out of there!” she exclaimed.
Likely due to her parents’ strictness, Heather rebelled and moved out of the house only three months before she graduated when she was 17-years-old. For only a year, she lived in the Parc Fontaine apartment complex with her roommate, a “crazy” guy named Jason Huffman. “He thought he was either my father or my husband, neither of which were true. I was young and stupid and naive, and as I look back on it now, I think he was madly in love with me.” A feeling which was obviously not mutual. It only lasted about a year before she moved out.
Throughout her life, Heather has been employed in the service industry as a waitress, bartender, and hostess, working at restaurants like Steak & Ale (ain’t dere no more) and the Dry Dock Cafe. But, it seems she enjoyed bartending the most, especially at The Old Point Bar where she stayed for six years.
At 22, Heather gave birth to her son Kyle and decided that bartending and its risks (she was held up twice at gunpoint) wasn’t conducive to raising a son. She decided to go back to school to get a degree in Graphic Design from the Southeast College of Technology.
In 2004, she started what could have been a successful graphic design company with her friend Rachel. Unfortunately, they were working out of a house in Lakeview and lost everything (almost $50,000 in computer equipment and software) under 15 feet of water when Katrina hit and the levees failed in 2005.
Heather’s latest obsession began only a year ago when she decided to try out for the Big Easy Roller Girls. After months of practicing and trying out…Heather made it onto the team and is now part of Crescent Wenches playing as Vieux Careen and attending practice 2-3 times a week to retain “active” status.
“I am trying to find a happy medium between derby and life, because derby takes over very easily.” she explains. Heather makes an effort to talk about other things besides derby, but it has become such a big part of what she had become, that is is a difficult endeavor. “When I start not liking it, we’ll have a bout and it puts everything back into perspective. I love it!”
When I asked her what derby veterans on the team she would like to emulate, Heather replied “All of them?” and laughed. “I would like to have Lacy’s mobility and then Peaches is tough and small and firecracky and Slaughter is just perfect! When she falls, it’s graceful.” In essence, Heather just tries to do the best that she can and puts out 100% of herself…and she has a fabulous time doing it.
Because she’s lived in New Orleans most of her life, remembering her first crawfish boil was difficult, if not impossible. As far back as she can remember, her stepfather Ike would have boils (pronounced “bowls”) every spring and summer.
When her boyfriend Pat comes home from work each spring, the first thing he buys is a big sack of crawfish for a boil. Although Pat won’t reveal his “secret” seasonings, Heather did say he liked to add oranges, mushrooms, celery, garlic, onions and Zatarain’s Crab Boil.
Yes, Heather most definitely sucks the heads too. “I even eat the orange stuff inside…don’t know what it is, but I love it.”