Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fixie-Foolery

If you live outside the Portland area, you may have never heard of the fixie a.k.a. my current transportation arch nemesis. A fixie is the cutesy poo name for a fixed-gear track bike (is that redundant?): a bike with one gear, a frame that looks like a strong wind could break it in half, and most notably no brakes. (Don’t hyperventilate yet. Some fixies do come with brakes but most that I encounter on the hardscrabble streets of Portland are blissfully break-free.) These hip young things are intended to be ridden on a track such as the Velodrome, a controlled cycling environment, but the current crop of young coolios have taken the track bike to the streets, my streets and streetlights and sidewalks and grassy knolls, transforming me—innocent me who is such a big-hearted lover of everyone and everything—into an unabashed hater.

Exhibit 1: The no braking thing

The fixie riders claim that they CAN brake, they just don’t do it with the traditional handbrakes, but rather with their leg strength by pedaling backwards. Sounds reasonable in theory. In theory. Most fixies that I encounter ride a meandering path, moseying onto sidewalks, lawns, the thighs of chubby teenagers, whatever to avoid braking. Frequently they ride in front of traffic, trusting that the driver will stop. Not wanting a dead hipster cyclist on their consciences, most of the time they do. The fixie rides away, oblivious, missing the chorus of honks and “asshole” calls left in his-her wake, and generally contributing to the delinquency of the cyclist reputation. If all the meandering fails, they attempt the backpedal-brake maneuver with mixed results. I’ve seen dangerous fishtails as they struggle to come to a stop and a couple of wipe-outs.

One guy gave me a “what’re ya gonna do” shrug when he barely stopped his fixie before a river of rush hour traffic. “Get some fucking brakes, asshole,” thus spake I with my intense stare. He probably thought I was constipated.

Exhibit 2: The no gear thing
Gears are not some sort of cycle luxury; they are a practical response to the different geographies of this great land of ours. (Doesn’t that sound like I’m writing a paper entitled “Brakes: A Manmade Miracle!”) If I could, I would make love to those low gears that have saved my burning thighs on many an uphill trek. Likewise I would give a hearty slap on the bottom to the high gears that increase my speed on the downhill grades. (Digression #539,999: Is there such a thing as bike porn? Does anyone actually want to fuck a bike?)

Being without gears, the fixie rider can go one speed. Since most fixie pilots view their riding as some sort of zen rebel pose, don’t expect the fixie in front of you to accommodate higher speeds on downhill coasts. Nay, they just zigzag along, pedals forever in motion, oblivious to everything since 99% of them (in an unscientific crud observational study) are plugged into an iPod, which brings me to…

Exhibit 3: The uniform
No helmet unless for decorative purposes. Instead a jaunty hat or stocking cap pulled over ear buds whose cords snake into the low-slung pants pocket. Unlike the speed racers decked out like Lance Armstrong, most of the fixie riders don the twentysomething nerd-chic hipster outfit: too tight floods with sneakers or ballet flats and a boxy jacket on top. Even in the pouringest of downpours, or on the darkest of nights, the fixie rider does not deign to wear the practical yellow rain jacket. I can sympathize on this count. I purchased my first rain jacket four years ago, a full six years after moving to the Pacific Northwest. I thought my super cool insulated sweatshirt with the Boy Scout patches that struck me as hip for some reason would be adequate shield against the rain. Not so much. Once the mildew stench started to cling to the clothes I wore underneath, I joined the neon yellow army.

Exhibit 4: Safety? Fuck Safety
I am not the perfect picture of safe cycling. I don’t wear one of those neon orange safety vests. I’ve been known to run a red light or two (or three or four at 5:30 a.m. when I’m riding to yoga). I make mistakes, most frequently in the name of racing home so we can get a table at Yoko’s before the rush hits. (Everyone, stop going to Yoko’s, please. For my safety. For the, uh, safety of the children.) In my defense (get off my back, people!) I always wear a helmet, use lights when it’s dark or pea soup-y, and obey most traffic laws if only so I can affect an air of haughty superiority at moments like these. The fixie rider? No helmet, no lights, no obeying of traffic laws. I keep waiting for the flood of fixie-related deaths to ignite yet another cyclists v. drivers battle royale on the Oregonian editorial page. I don’t wish anyone dead or injured or even mosquito bit, but tragedy seems inevitable as fixie popularity grows among the young, a group not known for their attention to safety. (There but for the grace of somebody go I.)

Convinced yet?

I’m not wholly unsympathetic to the kids of today. I too purchased a bike that had more to do with fashion than practicality when I first moved to Portland. In my day, the kids rode mountain bikes. Theoretically I could have gone on rock hopping adventures, but realistically, I got the bike because it looked sturdy, fat (or rather phat—oh man, when did people stop saying phat? I’m so freaking old.), and it was the style at the time. Also, the tires looked like they wouldn’t easily puncture, which for a repair-a-phobe like me, was a huge bonus.

A few years later after tiring of the extra effort it took to pedal uphill with the smaller circumferenced mountain bike tires, and realizing that a rugged terrain cycling habit would never develop, I purchased a hybrid, which serves me well until this day. Even though it’s more delicate than the old Specialized, it could still rip the head off and shit down the neck of any fixie in town. And that’s what counts, right?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Happy Friday--Me and the Mystical Horses




In an effort to keep myself fresh for a Friday o' party down fun, I just spent 15 minutes doing a photo shoot with ye olde computerre monitorre camerrrra. How does this keep me fresh? The photo shoot keeps me away from that energy drainer of the first degree, work. Kind of like getting healthy by replacing your hamburger with a cheese sandwich. Or something like that.

I'm not usually a mystical horses type o' gal, but this journal makes me laugh every time I crack it open to fill its pages with my trademark wit and brilliance.

Have a lovely weekend. Ride that sexy mystical horse.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Please Make This Reality (TV) Go Away


When Mr. Crud is away my television viewing choices go downhill. Not just a rolling Shenandoah Valley hill but an alpine slope. His presence and the threat of a reality check—“What ARE you watching?”—keep me grounded. A typical Crud family night’s viewing habits: a little Daily Show, some Food Channel diversions, and a sprinkling of OPB to keep the brain from totally oozing out of my ear.

Last Tuesday evening I was alone with the remote, a bit loopy from some wine, and ready to engage in the dreaded channel crawl in search of entertainment. Unlike Mr. Crud, I have not memorized the worthy channels thus must wade through all the home shopping-ortunities and the jiggly camera cable access shows. I haven’t yet forgiven him for leaving me like this. It wasn’t pretty.

After ruling out the high falutin’ channels—Comedy Central (They cancel Strangers With Candy but allow that Mencia douchebag to live on. Explain, please.), Food Channel, the HBOs, IFC-- my flicking finger pauses on Lisa Williams’ My Life Among the Dead. A show about a woman—a medium, not a psychic she stresses—who communicates with the dead is probably not the wisest viewing choice a mere 3 days after burying my grandfather, but I’m having a rubbernecking moment.

Two women talk to the camera about their excitement at meeting Lisa. They don’t mention who the person they hope to communicate with is, but immediately I know it’s their mother. I wonder if people can take one look at me and know that my father died. Lisa takes a necklace from the blonder of the women and within a few moments she is “talking” to their mother. The daughters dissolve into tears broken by laughter and the oft-repeatd phrase, “that’s so Mom!” Initially I found the girls to be of the giggly, overly made up, too tight dress sort, but I feel a flash of kinship with them. I would love to hear from my dad once more. At the end of his life, he was so far gone to cancer and pain medication that his only communication was a frightened “huh” when we shouted his name in his ear. He didn’t even respond to “dad.” Even though Lisa is telling these women what their mother is saying—the usual I love you, I’m proud of you stuff—and I’m shaking my head at the cliché-ness of it all, I also feel a tug of wishing to hear her chirpy British accent describe my dad. I would tell him that I loved him, which is a bit of a duh statement but feels necessary, and, if possible, that he should watch The Colbert Report. I am so pissed that my dad died before seeing it. I start thinking of all the other things I’d say: Check out The Office too, especially Dwight Schrute; Mom really should get a dog, can I tell her that you said she should get a dog?; I miss you, I miss you, I miss you.

“You need to not watch this,” I say aloud and start inching up the channels.

Thank Tori Spelling! She helps me to shake off the sadness with some good old-fashioned hating. (I remember all too well how she started off on this road to reality TV-land:"Donna Martin graduates! Donna Martin graduates!")

In the first shot the plastic Ms. Spelling hawks jewelry on QVC. Then we cut to a scene of her husband pacing around their living room watching the QVC extravaganza, their bouncing baby boy cuddled on the lap of a nanny. Tori and Dean Inn Love. Let the rubbernecking continue. Tori is like so excited that her jewelry is selling but she like totally misses her husband and baby. Aww, how cute. She thinks she’s people. She ruminates about whether she should let her baby be used in a photo shoot. Would this be exploitive? Dangerous? How is this different from parading your baby around on a fucking TV show?

A few months ago I read an essay by the woman Dean divorced to be with Tori. I wonder if she ever tunes in to this boring humiliation of a TV show. The temptation must be so great, yet the aftermath of giving in would be a trip into Kurtz’s jungle. After a minute or two I get bored. I imagine that my ex-boyfriends have their own reality shows where I can watch them coo over hot ladies and fuck before my very eyes. I would totally watch that shit. But still, ex-wife of Dean guy. Don’t. Just don’t.

I hit the up arrow. Oh shit, the Tila Tequila bi-sexual dating show. Tonight it’s the ladies’ turn to woo the fake-tanned and boobed idiotic imp. The ten minutes that I watch sets feminism back at least 25 years.

Tila opines to the camera, “Girls are like so emotional. Sometimes you just wanna say ‘shut up’ and get busy.” (I’m paraphrasing as I was too busy gaping in horror to take notes.)

Ms. Tequila does just that on several occasions. She sticks her tongue down one woman’s throat while another looks on, pouting. It feels like high school except not as classy. I wonder if these women are actually lesbians or if they view playing a lesbian on a d-list reality show as a wise career move. One of them, Kendall, is the spitting image of my high school nemesis. Red Bull-Vodka loosely in hand, she bounces around the awkward reality party, shouting “Hey whassup whassup whassup?” and clearly views herself as the party girl of the group. She invades on another woman’s face time with Tila with nary an apology or sign that she has done something wrong. (How could you, Kendall? I really think those two were soulmates. Tila’s hand was totally down her pants.) When you’re fighting for the lust of a Mrs. Myspace Popularity, things can get a bit dog-eat-dog (or friend-eat-friend).

A woman can only take so much and then she can’t takes no more.

I crawl into bed and reach for the book that I should have been reading instead of being sucked into the horror-the horror of bad reality TV. Gary Shteyngart, take me away!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Message From Our Sponsor

Greetings my cruddy friends. I will be away from the crud for the next week or so, unfortunately not for any super happy fun reasons (or birthday-related reasons, which I must mention is coming up tomorrow), but rather because my grandfather passed away last weekend, and I will be going eastward to spend time with my family.

The next post is from the forthcoming Crudbucket #7 The All Grown Up With Nowhere To Go Issue*. I cut and scotch taped my fingers to the bone last weekend, but still have a few blank pages that await divine inspiration.

I’ll be back soon with more crud for your reading pleasure.



* Let’s get this out of the way—I am way too into The Office. Some may say obsessed. Not Sopranos obsessed, but close. Even though recounting the details of a sitcom is about as interesting as explaining a comic strip with no visual aids, I insist on a Friday night recap for Mr. Crud who has the poor taste to schedule band practice during this most amazing show. “And then Michael Scott said ‘That’s what she said’ and it was awesome,” I giggle as Mr. Crud humors me yet again. On last week’s episode Michael Scott tousled the triumphantly returning Ryan’s hair and said “Look, you’re all grown up with nowhere to go.” I almost jumped off the couch with excitement because I am a huge dork.

Thank You. No, Thank YOU.


Whenever I send out a query letter to an agent—which I did today thanks to a swift kick in the arse by Ariel Gore’s book, How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead--I don’t have a please-please-please love my book ritual or a lucky candle or even a pair of lucky underwear. (The black French-cut Jockeys have officially been retired after assisting me on several smooch-seeking missions during high school and college.) No, the first thing I do is to start mentally writing my acknowledgements page. Typically, I drop off my query letters of hope during my lunch hour, so my entire break is spent walking around downtown Portland, thinking about all of those who have been the wind beneath my wings.

The obvious: Mom, Dad, my brother, Mr. Crud, and the entire Crud clan who support me more in theory than in appreciation of my specific projects. After I was a finalist in a story contest and was published online, Grandpa informed me that I use too many curse words. This has been the sum total of my family’s remarks on my writing. After finishing CB (the insider’s, aka my, shorthand for Crudbucket) number 4, I decided I could finally tell my family that I had a zine. After several scans for mentions of drug use, smoking, and sex, I deemed CB4 safe for parental and grandparental consumption. At the annual Crud Christmas gathering, I dropped what I felt like was a bombshell.

“I’ve been self-publishing this magazine-like thingy for a few years, and um, people like it, and uh, if you want to see it I have some copies right here.”

My uncle slapped his leg. “Well, that’s great.”

Grandpa added an “oh,” but I had no takers. The conversation shifted to the Redskins. I crumpled a little and filled my wine glass to the brim to drown my sorrows.

Some of my writer friends envy my family’s eyes-off policy.

“My mom wants to read everything I write. It’s kinda stifling,” one friend tells me.

“Not me,” I say, “they are terrified.”

She thinks I’m lucky. Most of the time I agree. Knowing that my blog is safe from parental eyes definitely frees me up to curse and be honest about who I am and my many super fun vices. But sometimes I get unnerved on a base level. Am I really so scary? So combustible? Would it topple everyone’s lives to read the truth about me and my life? Mr. Crud believes I subconsciously scare my family off. He does have a point. In a heated argument about my cigarette habit a few days before my dad died, in a flashback to pure high school anger I screamed at my mother, “You don’t know me. I have secrets!” Yes, I, a 33-year-old woman, yelled this at my mother who had been caring for my cancer-stricken father for years. Nice moment, believe me.

My mom knows that I have secrets. She prefers not to scratch off too much of the veneer. The don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy has served us well since I turned thirteen. But still when I tell her of my successes no matter how minor, she is unflagging in her pride. When I get bummed that I remain in the office work ghetto, she reminds me “You are a writer. You are an artist. You do important work.” Even if she never reads a word I write, the kid stays on the list.

After the family, come the writing teachers (especially those who will cause people to raise their eyebrows and get very impressed), and the tireless Crudbucket supporters (I’m looking at you, Kevin, your space is officially reserved). Even though I do feel genuine gratitude to my teachers, I occasionally wonder if this isn’t just another form of name dropping. I would not be the writer I am today—that being an unpublished writer who still supports herself from administrative assistanting—if I hadn’t taken Diana Abu-Jaber’s Intro to Fiction class 11 (holy fuck!) years ago. In fact I would still be scribbling away in my journal, believing that a career as a writer was something that would just happen to me. But when I mention her name, I feel a certain undercover eye roll coming from some corners of the room. Maybe it’s jealousy or maybe my mention is inappropriate. I have been known to drop a name now and again, knowing as the name flops from my mouth that I sound like a total poseur.

I desperately do not want to be the traveling fictioneer who talks up all the workshops they’ve taken and centers every story around some famous so-and-so who said that their work has potential. I’m hesitant to the point of idiocy on this count, going so far as to be totally shy with writers I admire or else writing them a stilted email in which I

A) sound like a stalker as I have a propensity to claim that I AM NOT A STALKER in the few fan letters that I’ve written or
B) be so bland that nobody in their right mind would want to read my writing or know I exist.

My recent victory was getting a kind email from a writer I admire. I was on cloud 9 for days about this until I wrote an email back that included my famous anti-stalking promise. Fuck me! Thank g-d, he still returns me emails (which will never ever reference stalking again so help me g-d). Eric, a spot on the acknowledgements page is looking good for you right now…if you play your cards right.

After the writing teachers and roll call of writing group members over the years, I get stuck. I am tempted to thank all the high school heroes and dickheads who inspired me (or who’s shunning and assholery forced me out of the preppy-jock trajectory that I so wanted as a freshman). Then I wonder if the characters, who are loosely (verrrry loosely) based on so-called real people, will sue me if I thank them, if my acknowledgements page can be held against me in a court of law. At this point in the lunchtime acknowledgement extravaganza, I laugh at myself. Usually out loud. To have such things to worry about! I worry that I’ve psychically weighed my once innocent query letter down with this acknowledgement baggage.

Guidelines for inclusion on KT Crud’s Acknowledgements Page:
• Inspire me
• Pay me for writing
• Be my agent, editor, publisher, or—if you got some moolah to invest—patron
• Flattery will get you everywhere (unless it’s too much then I wonder why you think I’m so great and distrust everything you say)
• Comment on my blog (hollah, people! Or should that be hollah back? I’m so bad at hip hop lingo)

It’s just that easy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Tale of Two Randies

Skating Randy
In eighth grade my best friend Krista and I pinned our social hopes on a roller rink. Skate City U.S.A. on Mathis Avenue was not the triumphant good time gal that the name implies. She was dingy and trashy and smelled of sweat, popcorn, burnt pizza and the vague waft of urine whenever you got anywhere near the bathroom. Every Friday Krista and I squeezed into our tightest jeans, wiped wide swaths of blue eyeshadow across our lids and twirled around in her basement for each other, confirming that tonight might finally at last be THE night when our lives would begin, aka the night some boy asked us to skate during the slow songs and please-G-d-yes kissed our waiting and heavily glossed lips.

Krista generally got more takers than I. I suffered from the adolescent trifecta of misery: braces, glasses, and chubbiness. (Whenever I hear about the obesity epidemic among the youth of today, I lament that the epidemic didn’t hit when I was a teen. I would have been considered fit among my fat peers. The kids have it so easy today.) Occasionally a skeezy older guy would skate up to me and take me by the hand to join the other couples looping circle after circle while “Secret Lovers” or “You’re the Inspiration” crackled from the speakers.

After the last skate was untied, Krista and I decamped to her bedroom to pick over the details and offer verdicts on the acceptability of our evening’s partners. More often it turned into a biggest loser competition. My “partners” were always victorious in that department. Score 1 for the fat girl!

I’d harbored a crush on Larry Stuart since the 5th grade when he whispered sarcastic comments under his breath from the desk beside me. I now realize he’d been placed there because he was struggling academically and I, goody two shoes that I was, had been charged unbeknownst to me to bring up his grades. It probably worked since I let this object of my affections cheat off my papers. Even though he was the first boy to break my heart by turning down my offer to “go with him,” I still liked Larry in 7th grade. He was morphing into a bad boy smoker (and would one day be one of the dudes to brag about the large size of his truck) but he was still a smooth skater. We skated a few times. Pity skates on his part while I panted excitedly, thinking that he had finally come around and seen through to my inner beauty while I was kind enough to overlook the stupid caterpillar mustache spreading across his top lip like a prickly rash.

Larry introduced me to Randy. Randy of the middle-parted and feathered hair. Randy of the skinny neck and huge adam’s apple. Randy the tall. Randy the best skater in all of Skate City, U.S.A. Somehow Randy and I ended up together during the final couple’s skate, his arms around my hips and mine around his neck. Yes, he could skate backwards, yes, he could sense when a turn was coming and cross his skates without tripping. Yes, yes, Randy, yes.

That night I had the upper hand in the Krista-Kt cute boy talk. We decided that Randy was the only deep boy in the entire skate rink, that he liked me, that I should definitely ask him out skating for the next Friday. He would be there anyway so why not call it a date?

Larry was barely able to keep a straight face when I asked him for Randy’s number, but he scrawled it down for me on a sheet of paper during health class. “He might have a girlfriend,” Larry said. In fact, I later learned that Larry and Randy were engaged in a battle for the affections of the concessions girl, Lynn. She was a 10th grader! With boobs!! I had been a pawn in their love triangle, but I was too googly over backwards-skating Randy to see any of the underlying games.

Before dialing his number, I wrote a list of potential topics of conversation: Larry, skating, what music he likes, how he learned to skate so well, where he went to school. I also wrote down my opener: “Hi, this is Kt, you know the girl you skated with to “Secret Lovers” at Skate City.” Just Skate City, because I was hip. My pulse raced. My mouth tasted of assy cotton ball.

I dialed.

He picked up.

“Hi, this is Kt, you know, the girl you skated with to—“

“Oh yeah. Hey.”

I heard the dread in his voice. He knew what was coming. We both did, yet were powerless to stop it. Well, I wasn’t powerless. The second I heard his voice I knew that he did not wish to be my secret lover, but still I forged on.

“So, uh, you going skating on Friday night?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Yeah. Probably, I guess,” he said.

“Maybe we could meet up early, you know for some pizza or just in front of Skate City.”

“Ummm, I can’t. I don’t know if I’m going, you know?”

Because I didn’t know Randy so well, I dispensed with any begging or cajoling. Any of the boys I asked out during the years from 1984 – 1987 will tell you that I don’t give up without a fight or spreading a thick layer of guilt over the naysayer. (Um, this continued into the sexless college years I spoke of, but I’m pretty sure I learned my lesson shortly before Mr. Crud and I met. Since he said yes to my advances, we’ll never know.)

I doodled on the page where I had listed potential topics of conversation. The doodle still reads HE DOESN’T LIKE ME in jagged letters. I think the smudge beside it is from a tear. Aw.


Randy Randy
Never fear—this is not another story of Kt rejection. I never liked this Randy as anything but a friend. Hard to believe, I know. I have been known to look for love in all the wrong places at all the wrong times with all the wrong people following all the wrong crowds but that’s a story or twenty for another time (like the next Crudbucket post probably).


Randy was a sparkly-eyed charmer. Despite some acne scars and a mullet, he had the confidence and the biceps to pull off his hot guy attitude. He was our high school’s Patrick Swayze minus the fighting ability. Despite his muscles, Randy had a rep for being a bit of a wuss. He was well-loved by the ladies, most of whom would coo “Hey Randy” and line up to hug him when he entered a room. He didn’t discriminate. If you were nice and female, Randy would hug you and make you feel like the prettiest lady in the room. Maybe he was smarter than I gave him credit for and knew that his magnanimous ways would pay off when he did find that special cute lady, or maybe he was genuinely a nice guy.

He dated a friend of mine on the volleyball team. Knowing that I was dateless and a bit depressed on my fourteenth birthday, the two of them took me out to see “Dirty Dancing.” Perhaps that is where the Swazye association was born. Whatever it was, Randy wasn’t for me as I have a powerful aversion to Patrick Swayze and anyone who reminds me of the Swayze.

Also, Randy was horny. Very horny. Randy wore tight jeans and was not afraid to show the ladies just what was on his mind, especially after all those hugs. Or as another Swayze-type fellow put it “all those boobs against my chest.” I know that teenage guys are horny as a rule, but Randy seemed to exceed the daily recommended servings of lust. He lived up to his name and was a double entendre machine.

Randy and I were casual friends until heartbreak brought us together. For as long as I’d known him Randy had his pick of girlfriends. He never went more than a few weeks without a lady on his arm. I was the opposite. My first real boyfriend lasted 9 months and after he broke up with me, I mourned that relationship as if it had been a favorite pet. For months, then years. Then I wrote a novel about it. (Will publication of that novel finally exorcise it from me? Let’s give it a shot!)

Around the time that I was in the most dramatic phase of mourning—shortly after my ex had gotten himself a new and improved girlfriend—Randy was turned down for the first time since I’d known him. Her name--somewhat coincidentally for this post--was Krista. She was a youth group leader, a certified nice person and beautiful to boot. Every boy in the youth group had a crush on her at some point and now that it was Randy’s turn, he thought he could turn it into true love always.

Her rejection came at a party. I found Randy by a tree, crying. He didn’t shoo me away as he had other partygoers.

“You know what it feels like,” he said as we hugged.

“Yeah, it totally sucks,” I said, feeling tears come to my eyes.

We spent the rest of the party talking by the bushes about love, whether it was better to have loved and lost and all that drama queen high school love crap. At one point, I wondered if maybe we might fall in love now that we had shared our total disappointment in love. Maybe I could overlook the haircut and the terrible taste in music—he was Journey, I was a Smiths type of gal. Or at least we could kiss. I really missed kissing.

In the darkening fall sky, Randy lost the Swayze and I affirmed to myself that I wouldn’t be upset if he kissed me. If anyone caught us we could say we’d been lost in the moment and lost track of the true loves whose stories were etched on our souls. (I’m really channeling my inner high schooler, yes?) Alas, we merely picked the patch of grass where we sat bald and lamented the sad state of our hearts.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.