Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Look Who's Talking

Please take a moment from your busy day of Britney fiasco-tracking to feast your eyes on Mr. Crud’s recently created blog: Clambeard’s Whatnot. Mr. Crud is more than the voice of reason on this blog and my ever-awesome husband. He is a sociological whiz, the ass-kicking drummer for pirate rockers, Sunken Chest, and an all-around smarty-pants when it comes to sci-fi, rock ‘n roll, and useless trivia.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Odd Crushes I Have Known: Pre-Teen Edition

Bill Bixby a.k.a. the guy who played David Banner on The Incredible Hulk
The age 8 Kt cut out a picture of David Banner from the Washington Post and carried it around in my pocket until it was discovered by the neighborhood kids. Between our biking in circles around the cul de sac and games of kickball, I whipped out my crinkled photo.

“You love him,” sneered Donna, the snotty neighborhood elder who I worshipped.

“No, I don’t.”

“Then rip it up.” She said, hands on bony hips.

I held it on my palm. Did I love Bruce or merely the fact that he could transform into a raging hulk at the slightest provocation? How, as the brothers Gibb inquired, deep was my love? Deep enough to holler from the rooftops? To doodle on my notebook? To confide to Donna whose favor teetered on an invisible tightrope? I stuffed the picture back into my pocket.

“See, you love him. I knew it.”

Not the first nor the last time I would cave into peer pressure. I pulled the slip of newspaper from my pocket, held it for a moment in my shaking palm before I ripped it up and let the pieces flutter to the pavement.

“Litterer!” Donna taunted and rode off on her bike. My brother and the rest of the gang followed, chanting “Kt is a litterer!”

Robin Williams as Popeye
The moment he walked on screen I knew it was love. So I wrote in my short-lived official Diary. It was the kind with a picture of a calico cat next to a bonneted girl with a book open in her lap on the cover and an easily jiggered lock. I must have spent the two hours swooning over Popeye’s fake biceps and hoping that he could look past the blinding beauty of Olive Oil one day. Perhaps I was testing the flimsy diary lock. Should my brother start making cracks about fat calf muscles or spinach, I could bust him for snooping.

Richard Chamberlain
I was on the cusp of adolescence when I happened upon a showing of 80s miniseries favorite, The Thorn Birds. Word on the 6th grade street was that there was a scene where Rachel Ward got her period so I watched on in hopes that this whole period mystery would be revealed. Instead I fell for my first unattainable man, the priest as played by Richard Chamberlain. Every night before I fell asleep, I imagined him coming into my room and offering sage advice with a side of smooching.

Gary Coleman
My kingdom for the autographed photo of Gary Coleman that I once kept safely on the top shelf of my dresser! Every time my mom forces me to sift through the remainder of my childhood effects in (foolish) hopes that I will declare it all trash, I am on the edge of my seat for Gary sightings. In the picture he wore a striped shirt and that smile that made a nation fall in love with chubby black kids. My mom explained to me several times that Gary was actually a man even though he played a kid on TV. But the heart knows no boundaries.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Secrets and Lies Part II: Basketball v Rock 'n Roll

Two forces battled for dominance my senior year basketball season. The Milwaukee’s Best-fueled bad girl life with its attendant punk rock soundtrack versus the last standing remnants of my old honor roll suck-up life of attempted respectability. The latter included basketball, a sport I’d started playing in 5th grade after ballet didn’t pan out.

My freshman year I played basketball, volleyball, and “ran” track. I didn’t do much running in track, but rather was christened a discus thrower and shotputter. I neither knew how to throw a shotput or discus nor had any training beyond my coach’s hasty instructions to watch what the other trained throwers were doing and to imitate it. I came in last every time aside from that glorious day when no discus could be found for us to throw, thus everyone either won or lost, depending on your point of view. I chalked it up to a victory. Then vowed to ditch the track team next year.

Sophomore year I kept basketball and volleyball. I even made the varsity volleyball team, a minor coup due to my underclassmen status. At the practice before the teams were chosen, I executed a perfect save. The ball about to hit the floor I extended my arms in front of me and dove, sliding across the dusty gym floor just in time to bump the ball over the net. The coach’s eyes gleamed. My volleyball compatriots looked on in awe. Such play was never to be repeated. I became a disappointment, a well of untapped potential, a daily reminder of my coach’s error in judgment. I was subjected to pep talk after pep talk in lieu of the yelling style favored by the coach because I was—and remain to this day—a total cry baby. He always brought up my perfect save.

“Remember that practice? That terrific dive?”

I nodded despondently, wishing I’d never shown a glimmer of potential.

Volleyball was too static. Too much standing around gave me time to stare off into the lights, imagine what my life would be like when I was a dancer-model-actress living in a chic New York apartment. Wait. Did the ball just hit my forehead?

Junior year I whittled my sports participation down to basketball, which concerned everyone. Quitting track they could understand—“She’s not much of a runner,” my mom confided to another parent—but volleyball, well that was another story. I was tall, thus genetically predispositioned to volleyball and basketball. When I declared I would never again slide across the filthy gym floor in the name of keeping a white ball aloft, my parents acted like I was dropping out of school. Like this began the inexorable slide into crack addiction and whoring myself out for pencils.

My parents confronted me with a plastic packet of white powder they’d found in a shoebox. “What exactly is this?” Mom held out the packet. Dad stood by her. A united front of worried disappointment.

“I don’t know,” I said, instantly relieved that I was being accused of something I didn’t do rather than the catalog of stuff I had done.

They pressed further and my “I don’t know-s” grew more shrill until finally I noticed that the packet had the word “dessicant” on it. My mom grabbed the packet from me, stomped angrily out of the room, and promptly forgot the entire conversation ever happened. (When recently asked if she remembered our big drug confrontation, my mom denied its existence.)

Senior year I wanted to ditch basketball too, but was far too entrenched to even consider it. Imagining the “serious talks about your future” I would have to suffer through at the mere suggestion that I not play was enough to endure the line drills, shin splints, and heat exhaustion of our August practices. This year I was one of two star players on the team: Dana, the hot cha cha point guard was the other jewel in the Osbourn High girl’s basketball crown. I was interviewed by the local paper: Osbourn Pins Hopes on KT Crud (What? You didn’t think that was my real name?). Unfortunately I proved an unworthy vessel for my crummy high school’s hopes. It was the volleyball dive all over again.

I didn’t totally collapse. I remained a frequent high scorer and our team was in the top four in the region, but, according to the coaches, my play lacked heart. My jayvee basketball coach, who was also a family friend and an enduring crush of mine, came to the house to talk some sense into me. A lite version of the talk that would have befallen me had I attempted to quit basketball.

“You look tired out there, distracted,” he said as he leaned his elbows on his knees and shot me the concerned-about-your-future look.

“Sorry,” I said, my cheeks burning.

“Is there something wrong? You know you can tell me.”

If only I could have told him that I was addicted to crack or bulimic or couldn’t read, but I only managed a non-committal shoulder shrug. Telling him that I’d rather be smoking cigarettes and listening to Jane’s Addiction would have only invited a different talk. “Oh, I remember when I was your age. I loved the Rolling Stones,” he would say before telling me that music would always be there; sports were my future.

My parents listened in from the kitchen. I promised my ex-coach to try harder and everyone seemed satisfied that I’d be back to the old please-authority-figures-at-any-cost me posthaste.

So I pretended. I played. I tried to make myself care, but could only muster any fire for our rival team, Parkview. At 12, I had played on an AAUP team with their star point guard, Nikki. (Would it be immature of me to call her Nikkki here? Probably.) She marked me from the start as her personal whipping girl. Whenever we shared the floor, she never passed me the ball and blamed any error, whether I was near the ball or not, on me. Nikki was a great lover of fat jokes and relished making me cry. What a gal.

A few weeks after the big talk with my ex-coach, we played Parkview. I was pumped. The coaches were abuzz over the triumphant return of my ball-playing heart and soul.

“You showed us something out there,” they said, knowing coach looks in their eyes.

It was a hard fought game, and I was the high scorer. Nikki cried after the buzzer sounded. Oh sweet revenge. My play even garnered some interest from a local d-list college. I had no desire to play college ball, but still I was flattered.

After a few more cakewalk wins, we started the play-offs. We would likely meet Parkview again in the finals. The only problem was that the finals conflicted with my preferred new life. If we made it, I would miss both a free mid-afternoon Red Hot Chili Peppers show and Pylon at the 9:30 Club. Missing Pylon would be especially bad because Holly, my record store coworker, knew the band and they knew R.E.M., and there was no fucking way that I would miss meeting somebody who knew R. fucking E.M.

In the locker room our coach gave us her usual intense pre-game speech. My dormant competitive spirit rose a bit after we huddled and piled our hands on top of each other, but mainly I already felt tired. As the rest of the team filtered onto the court for warm-ups, Dana and I remained.

“Man, I’m tired,” Dana said as she laced up her shoe.

“For real. I’m over this.” I said, quietly very quietly. The wrath of my coach involved lots and lots of sprints. We had felt her wrath in spades the last couple of weeks. We hadn’t done as well as expected, which I’m sure could be traced to the whole pinning of their hopes on me.

“I don’t even care anymore,” Dana said in an equally quiet voice.

“I got stuff to do next weekend.”

Our eyes met. Coach’s voice rang through the locker room. “Out here NOW, ladies!” Dana stood up and we walked out together, a pact made that we could never speak of again. (That is unless one of us is a loudmouth writer who can’t keep a friggin’ secret to save her life.)

I fouled out. Dana did too. I scored 4 points somehow. Everybody on the team worked their asses off and cried when the buzzer sounded and we were down by 6. I felt a little sad. This was the final game of my basketball career—nope, that college didn’t offer me a scholarship to turn down—and I had played horribly. The coaches were kind. My parents hugged me and told me that I’d done the best I could while I stood there thinking “no, I didn’t,” and wondering if Dana felt as shitty as I did.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were in full sock regalia and even got arrested for indecent exposure. Sweet! Pylon kicked much ass and I got to hang out with them backstage, and drink their beer.

“You should come for a visit,” Vanessa, the lead singer, drawled sweetly after I told her of my burgeoning Athens worship.

“I totally will. Totally.”

The members of Pylon autographed my address book and talked to me like I was a real person. A cool person despite the fact that I had displayed extreme uncoolness by asking for their autographs. My lips loosened from the free beer, I confessed “I threw a basketball game so I could come tonight.” The crowd of six woohoo-ed. We clunked Budweiser cans together. The walls around me were covered in old rock posters: Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Gray Matter and even more that I had never heard of before. The room smelled of the holy trinity of rock: beer, body odor, and cigarettes. I drank it all in. Perfection.

Friday, January 4, 2008

My Cruddy Christmas Vacation


Our Christmas vacation routine remains the same: December 23 – 28 we venture to visit my mom in Lusby, Maryland, the crappy hamlet nestled between Prince Frederick and resorty Solomon’s Island, where Mr. Crud and I are ogled as if we don purple mohawks and forgot our pants. Hard not-one-of-us stares, which make our stay oh so delightful, and the prospect of leaving my mom’s house unsavory. (Perhaps she pays the Lusbians—-no, saying “Lusbians” never gets old—-to be so ornery so we don’t want to venture out. A smart cookie, that one.) On the big C-mas, we were joined by my brother, Max, and his wife, Kathy. Gifts were exchanged. Hearts were warmed. Head colds were passed to and fro.

And now for a breakdown of the highlights and lowlights.

Magazines Read

US Weekly
3 (!!!) issues thanks to the donation by Kathy. All Britney all the time.

That Rachael Ray Magazine
I was desperate. The Albequerque airport filled me with a dread that purchasing another magazine could only dent. I feared being stuck here with nothing to read. Flipping through the EVOO-soaked pages did not make me feel any better.

Rolling Stone

Ghostface Killah reads the Koran AND gets a lot of (in his own words) pussy. Who knew?

Entertainment Weekly

After claiming loudly and proudly that this mag had gone out of print, and being a bit bossy about the whole thing for Mr. Crud’s benefit (or rather his detriment), I picked up a copy and realized that Premiere was the defunct one. So many end-of-year "Best of" lists.

O: The Oprah Magazine

Can’t resist the siren song of my favorite abusive boyfriend.

Glamour
Hooray for the year-end fashion dos and don’ts extravaganza. Someday I will be the lady with my eyes covered by a black box. I shall dress everyday as if Glamour is waiting to make me a don’t.

People

More year-end blah, blah, blah with a side of Britney.

Ms.
I did more skimming than reading, I admit it. Still I felt like the US Weeklies were almost flushed from my system.

Martha Stewart’s Body + Soul
O + Health + Natural Health + Cooking Light = Body + Soul.

Yoga something something
Another yoga magazine that I don’t like as much as Yoga Journal. I always think that reading about yoga will somehow make me feel more relaxed in the holiday stress-sweat drenched airports. Doesn’t really work that way. Sometimes I’ll try doing a squat to open up my hips or a forward bend, but people stare and I get self-conscious.

Books Read

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
A thrilling thriller set in Portland, Oregon with a crazy-sexy-scary serial killer, a damaged cop, and a spunky pink-haired reporter. Perfect airplane reading.

Foreskin’s Lament
by Shalom Auslander
Sure, he’s narcissistic and depressing, but also funny and smart. Will I ever escape this memoir ghetto?

Baltimore Blues
by Laura Lippman
When in Rome. Even though not technically in Baltimore, I was in a Baltimore mood. The Wire season premiere is Sunday. YAY!!! Still working my way though this one. Not as good as Heartsick, but a decent mystery.

Quest Fulfilled

Every time Mr. Crud and I return to the metropolitan D.C. area the following things are said:

“You need to try Five Guys this time. Their burgers and fries are awesome,” says I.

“Quit dangling that carrot. We always conveniently run out of time and never make it there,” sneers Mr. Crud as if the Crud clan is conspiring to keep him apart from a good burger.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries is a local chain that has grown from three tiny storefronts circa 1990 to a franchise to be reckoned with. My old beau was a burger fiend and I appreciate a good French fry as much as the next lady. I also liked that they had huge boxes of peanuts to munch while you waited for your order to be ready. A few years ago, I remembered this yumminess and shared my tales with Mr. Crud. A quest was born.

When we were in Virginia for my grandfather’s funeral, I discovered that the mega-mall next to our hotel had a Five Guys. Our last day in town we raced around the mall in search of the elusive burger. Once we found the red and white checkered burger grail, I realized that we wouldn’t have enough time to wait for his order to be ready. The line snaked into the food court. We returned to the car in silence.

It almost seemed like our burger plot, which I’d promised to carry out, would be foiled again when our luggage was lost en route to BWI. Christmas Eve was the designated burger day, and we had to spend our day driving back to BWI—3 hours round-trip—instead of scurrying around Target in search of a gift for my 16-year-old cousin whose tastes run toward those of a middle-aged man and, more importantly, getting Mr. Crud his g-ddamned burger.

Christmas Day was out and the following day was a designated crab cake feast. The burger dejection crept back into Mr. Crud’s eyes on the 27th, our final full day as temporary Lusbians. The extended Crud family came over for a mid-afternoon lunch. There may have been enough leftovers for a second feast, but I couldn’t let this Christmas turn grinchy. So we made it to Five Guys. We munched peanuts while we waited. The fries were awesome. The burger was good.

“Worth it?” I asked.

“A Christmas miracle!” Mr. Crud said, mouth full of delicious beef.

God bless us, everyone.

(Fun fact—The extra credit question on my 7th grade test on Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol": What were the last words of this story?
Of course I had not actually read the story, having witnessed numerous sitcom variations on it, my favorite being when Alex P. Keaton was shown the error of his ways on Family Ties. It’s gotta be that sappy Tiny Tim shit, I thought, though probably not in such crude terms. Indeed it was! My teacher used me as an example of someone who actually read the story instead of seeing a movie “like the rest of you,” she said, eyeing the class angrily.)

Illnesses Endured
Stomach Cruddiness
My mystery stomach ailment followed me to Lusby, alternating between constipation and what I’ll politely call a bad case of the cha-cha-cha-s. Whatever nastiness resided within did work its way out in time for Christmas brunch. Christmas miracle part 2!

Head Cold

Mr. Crud was struck down on Christmas Eve. My case came on as we searched for food in the Albequerque airport, one of the crappiest airports I’ve ever had the displeasure of laying over in. (It kills me to end that sentence with not one but two prepositions, but I am too tired/lazy to perform grammatical gymnastics at the moment.)

At the ironically named Buenos Comidas, a hair-netted woman piled anemic cucumbers atop a slab o’ Swiss while a manager type barked instructions at her. “The peppers are always last. Always last!” Mr. Crud opted for a burrito—described as “not bad” during the eating and later as “I shouldn’t have eaten that burrito”—while I decided I really needed some vegetables. The hairnetted woman coughed into her shoulder while piling more limp veggies on my sammy. I should’ve gotten out of line and called it a day, counted my “Veggie Delight” out for the day but I felt some sort of loyalty to the depressed workers at Buenos Comidas. I paid $10.14 for a sandwich I could only eat half of as the image of her coughs haunted every bite.

The day after we returned home, I awoke with a scratchy throat. I flashed to Buenos Comidas lady and her barely stifled coughs. More likely, I’d picked up the germs from the fellow I’d been smooching and sharing a tiny double bed with for the past week.

The Greatest Gift of All

I’m going to be an auntie again thanks to the fancy reproductive work of Max and Kathy Crud. I can’t wait to teach my newest niece or nephew to curse, smoke, and drink whiskey.

No, They Di-in’t
Two words: lost luggage. FUCK! After my first experience with lost luggage courtesy of United Airlines, I stopped checking luggage altogether. Never again, I vowed, would I experience the sinking feeling as I watched the same three pieces of foreign luggage go round and round while I tried to keep from freaking out. I bought a quality carry-on sized piece o’ luggage and learned to pack light.

All was fine and dandy until those TSA fuckers instituted the 3-ounce liquid limit. What of my hair goo? My hair goo (Bedhead’s Off the Hook mousse, if you must know), contact solution (generic), and face wash (varies depending on the pimple situation) do not come in 3-ounce containers. With trepidation, I began the crapshoot of checking luggage once again. I learned to trust again. Even to love a bit more and better. But then came the empty luggage carousel, the woman with braided hair who ranted about her day of travel mishaps to anyone in shouting distance, the poor weeping teenaged mom who stalked the baggage claim area in her pajamas, and the clunk clunk clunk as the carousel chugged to a stop.

Mr. Crud and I filed our claim. I kept my tears under wraps as I, making more vows in the thick airport air, promised to get yoga about this. Non-attachment, non-attachment, non-attachment, I silently chanted. Only clothes and face wash. They’ll make it. Plus, I had packed an emergency outfit and pair of pajamas in my carry-on just in case. Earlier that day Mr. Crud had gently laughed at my need to lug these emergency togs around with me. “It’s so cute that you’re prepared.”

Who’s cute now?

The woman who filed our lost luggage claim shook her head at the culprit: Midway Airport. Bastards. She told us that our luggage arrive on a later flight so we might want to stick around. Because Lusby is outside of Southwest Airlines’ delivery radius, when our luggage arrived we would have to pick it up, or else wait to receive it until the last day of our trip due to the holiday. We decided to wait. For 4 hours I haunted carousel after carousel and stared at the incoming flight board in search of more Midway flights. I tried to read Heartsick, to eat some trail mix, to relax, but anything non-luggage related was fruitless. For a half hour, a man dressed as Santa sat next to me and chatted up waves of kids waiting for their baggage. He didn’t seem to be working for the airport. He too checked the incoming flight boards a few times. Mr. Crud and I pondered the meaning of an “unofficial Santa” and whether it was creepy or not.

At 10:00, I could take no more. We headed home, dejected.

“You feel like we left a man behind?” I asked Mr. Crud after we had slipped into the front seat of our rented Chevy Impala.

“Yeah, sort of.”

Luckily we found a Safeway that was open until midnight and picked up emergency supplies.

Our luggage was found the next morning. I only had to walk around in the world with shitty hair for one day. It IS a wonderful life.

The Crud 2007
Because I know you hang on my every word and recommendation, here is a list of art (pronounced ahhht, of course) stuff that I liked this year. As always, thanks for humoring me.

MUSIC

Not necessarily released in 2007, but became part of my cruddy world this past year. This year the ladies and the hip hoppers battled for my dangerously enlarged heart.

Lily Allen: Alright, Still
Amy Winehouse (Whiny Amehouse as she’s called in Crud Castle): Back to Black
Tegan and Sara: The Con
Lupe Fiasco: The Cool
Ghostface Killah: Big Doe Rehab
Clipse: Lord Willin’ and Hell Hath No Fury
M.I.A.: Kala
Lifesavas: Gutterfly
Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

WORDS
This list only includes books I’ve read in the past few months because where reading material is concerned, I have the memory of a fly. (They have notoriously short memories, right?) Thanks to goodreads.com (It’s like myspace but with books. Join! Befriend me!) I will keep better track next year.

Lauren Weedman’s A Woman Trapped in a Woman’s Body (Tales from a Life of Cringe)
Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Sherman Alexie’s Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie’s Flight
Josh Ferris’ And Then We Came to the End
Fart Party by Julia Wertz