Opinion

Good people ride motorcycles, play rock music

For several weeks, I weighed the invitation that Olympic Kidney Poker Run organizer Danny Hoffer had given me, but riding on the back of a Harley for five hours as it looped through the Olympic Peninsula, stopping only at biker bars was totally outside my comfort zone.

Still, a friend kept urging me, saying, “You must do this. You’ll have an amazing time. It’s the chance of a lifetime. It’ll be so empowering. You will love it.”

So, after much bullying, I went, but not before calling the friend in the morning and saying, “I hate you and I will continue to hate you, and if I hate the run, I will hate you even more.”

Truth be told though, I didn’t hate the run. Quite the contrary.

It was empowering and fun. After my nerves calmed (I don’t even ride roller coasters) and my heart settled back into my chest, I realized with clarity that all 150 or so bikes were on the road because of Danny.

People gave of their Sunday because they loved and supported this man who daily battles kidney disease but who tells you with gratitude that he is one of the lucky ones.

The vistas of mountain, water and forest taken from the back of a motorcycle were just a bonus. Being in the company of people doing something bigger than themselves was what made the ride worthwhile.

Danny had found me a seat with a seasoned rider named Robin, who I discovered had such a depth of caring for his fellow riders that he was constantly on the lookout for others, signaling to them when to change lanes and slowing down whenever someone looked to be in trouble. His two herniated disks made riding painful, but still he came out for Danny.

Armed with that knowledge, my own fears seemed small. Plus, sometimes a girl has to leave her comfort zone, test her mettle and figure out what she is capable of.

Whether that’s cruising around hairpin turns on the back of a Harley or playing in a rock and roll band, sometimes a girl has to see if she can down oyster shooters or play electric guitar.

For Blaine Ewig, it wasn’t a choice of whether or not to try. Growing up with parents who loved rock music — specifically edgy, alternative rock — the 14-year-old eighth grader was always drawn to music, pleading with her parents for an electric guitar at the tender age of six.

By 8 she had her guitar, lessons and a desire to go to a rock-and-roll camp for girls in Portland, Ore.

She loved looking through magazines like ‘Women who Rock’ and one day she spotted this tiny, fortune cookie-sized ad and decided she had to go.

Started as a thesis project by Misty McElroy for a women’s studies class, the rock-and-roll camp for girls seeks to empower young girls to go beyond stereotypes and to stretch their understanding of themselves and others, sort of like a motorcycle run.

Girls from 8 to 18 from all over the United States and even beyond meet for the first time at the day camp and before the week is out they have formed a band, written a song and performed it live to an audience of 600 to 1,000 people.

Begun in 2001, the day camp has grown from a pilot, school project, held at Portland State University that worked with seven girls to a three session camp that serves over 250 girls each year.

Blaine, from Port Orchard, has had the privilege of attending for five straight years, starting at the age of 9. Each year she experiments with a different genre of music and has tested out a range of instruments, including the guitar, drums and her own vocals.

Each year her bands, with names like ‘vide infra’ (read between the lines), That One Band and We put the Fun into Dysfunctional, write and perform their own songs.

When she was 10, the two-person band she and another girl created wrote a song, “The World is a Wasteland,” that plays on the camp’s My Space site.

However, as her mother, Jennifer Ewig, is quick to point out, “It’s not just about music. It’s (the camp is) about so much more.”

Each day of camp is filled with instruction in various instrument playing and song writing, but also includes workshops in self-defense, art, body acceptance and more including creating their own magazines.

“While everyone starts out alone, sitting by themselves that first day, by the time the camp ends everyone is laughing and talking,” explained Blaine. “It’s all about loving yourself and being accepting and accepted for who you are. It’s not at all like junior high. There are no clicks. They teach tolerance on all levels.”

Added Jennifer, “They learn to collaborate, agree, adapt and compromise. It’s wonderful. Blaine comes back just smiling.”

The success of the camp reached the ears of film makers and producers and “Girls Rock,” a documentary was born. Just released, it highlights the strengths of the program in inspiring and empowering girls to look beyond societal and their own perceived limitations.

“The film is a hopeful, rollicking, rocking, humorous, heartbreaking journey.” says Paula Nechak of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The Seattle Times urges, “Mothers take your daughters.”

Opening in Port Orchard this weekend at the Historic Orchard Theater downtown, Blaine will introduce the film and answer questions on Friday and Saturday nights. While she wasn’t one of the featured four girls, who she describes as “hilarious,” she and her family had been interviewed by the film’s creators at their home for six hours and she shows up playing the guitar in the credits.

When not playing rock and roll music or seeking band members, Blaine skates in a junior roller derby group coached by her mother.

Jennifer, a Slaughter County Roller Vixen, works with the Kitsap Derby Brats, who will be on hand to support Blaine and celebrate the opening of Girls Rock on Friday evening.

Check out www.girlsrockcamp.org; www.girlsrockmovie.com; MySpace/kitsapderbybrats08.com and/or www.orchardtheater.com or call (360) 896-0564 for show times and remember, bring your daughters.

You can also contact Jennifer at kitsapderbybrats08@gmail.com because all girls need a little encouragement to stretch themselves on their way to finding more self awareness and acceptance.

Mary Colborn is a Port Orchard resident.

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