Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I, Bete Noir


Her name is Alice.* She works at the pita sandwich booth at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market. Sometimes she takes the same Sunday yoga class as me. She has shoulder length brown hair, a face that settles nicely around her large-ish nose, and wears her Old Navy tanks inside out to class. Also, she hates me.

Well, I dramatize. Hate is a very strong word and should only be applied to white Hummers and groups of richie rich white people who commandeer a tiny, struggling breakfast place and order off-the-menu like it is their divine right. (I’m looking at you Surfsand Resort a-holes.) Alice probably doesn’t lie awake at night biting pillows at the thought of me. In fact she likely rarely thinks of me at all—unless she shares my unfortunate penchant for obsessing over the minor bete noirish characters of everyday life—but when I stand before her, all 6 feet 200 (or close now that my body has been colonized by the growing alien-dinosaur-fetus-baby we call Purvis**), her lip curls in disgust.

Last Sunday, yoga class. Mr. Crud and I stand in the doorway that opens from the airy orange and pink yoga room to the foyer. I turn to step through. Alice approaches. I immediately swing into appeasement mode. Alice’s silent hostility towards me has been building for at least a year. We only see each other occasionally, but on every occasion she is all ice and averted eyes. I don’t know why I continue my quest to try and make her reconsider her opinion of me. The injustice that someone who doesn’t even know me, who I haven’t even had the chance to fuck over, dislikes me roils my blood. I’m nice, goddamnit. Then why does she breeze by me, not even a smile or acknowledgement that I demurred to allow her to pass through the door to the yoga studio before me? I step into the foyer, followed by Mr. Crud.

“Did you see that? She’s here. The woman who hates me,” I whisper.

“Who?”

“The woman in the green shirt. The one who just passed us.”

He makes a move towards the yoga room. I pull him back. “Don’t look,” I hiss.

He shrugs. “Whatever.”

Mr. Crud knows of Alice a.k.a. The Woman Who Seems to Dislike Me For No Apparent Reason. (Need to come up with a snappier name, I do.) But not unsurprisingly, he does not keep track of her like I do. He humors me when I toss around my theories:

• Alice hates non-tippers. I tip semi-regularly at the pita sandwich booth. The sandwiches alone are $7. I’m not made of money.
• I once confirmed with Alice that my sandwich had chickpeas on it. The previous time I ended up chickpea-less and, needless to say, quite bereft and cursing the hand of the sandwich-maker who f-ed up my precious lunch. After I said “These have chick peas, right?” I notice she slipped me a side-eye. Should I have apologized for questioning her sandwich-making prowess?
• I have been known to perhaps flirt the tiniest bit with the owner of the sandwich cart. Are they married or something? (Note to Mr. Crud—I’m only doing it for the extra roasted shitakes!)
• Alice is one of those competitive yoginis who doesn’t like it when another student displays more yoga prowess than she. In that case she should love me now as my prowess has nosedived in the days of Purvis.

In the yoga studio Mr. Crud heads back to the room while I use the bathroom. I return to my mat and discover that Alice has chosen the spot next to mine. I detect a silent groan as I squat down on the mat and start with my pre-class twists. I turn to Mr. Crud who has claimed a spot behind me and nod my head ever so subtly in her direction. He gives me a puzzled look. We really need to work on this couple mind-reading thing.

The teacher enters. We breathe. We chant. We vinyasa. I try to ignore Alice, but as tends to happen I feel my ire rising with each sun salutation. Who the hell does she think she is to dislike me? What exactly did I do to her? So I questioned her sandwich…ONCE. I am a nice and respectful customer. I tip when I can. I can’t be the only person who doesn’t tip. What. The. Fuck.

After a few times through the thigh-burn-tastic vinyasa our teacher cuts us free to do our own thing. I breathe and flow from asana to asana, letting my Alice ponderings go for a few precious moments until we are somehow face-to-face in a semi-squat torture called horse pose. I review my vinyasa: did I mess up and do everything on the same leg twice? Why else would we end up facing each other unless one of us is off. I review the last minute. Nope, solid. Alice is the double-leg doer. Silly Alice. She looks past me. I look past her. Into yogic infinity or rather over each other’s shoulders. My inner Nelson awakens—HA ha. (And in this moment I am certainly NOT doing yoga, but rather what my first teacher labeled ego or what I label yoga jackassery.) I fight the urge to send myself into some difficult pose to show Alice who’s yoga boss. I release the moment, laughing at myself and the silly games my mind plays. (Now that’s yoga.) Oh Alice.

I don’t remember when I first felt the heat of Alice’s hostility. It may have been the sandwich stand where I noticed her purposefully slowing down her transaction when I was next in line in order to not be stuck making my sandwich. Or in yoga class when I gave her a smile of recognition—just a little “Hey you, I know you, I know you”—and she stared intentionally past me.

We move to the floor poses. We sit tall on our sitz bones, bringing our right leg in close to our bodies bent in an upside down V. “Marichyasana 3” (or C as us ashtangis call it), the teacher says. I twist gently into the traditional pose, but don’t get far before the Purvis region says an emphatic no. Twists are generally the first poses to go in the second trimester. So, I do as another teacher suggested and twist the opposite way, putting me face-to-face a second time with Alice. Out of the corner of my eye I catch hers. She looks at me and, I swear to G-d, rolls her eyes at me. You bitch! A teacher trainee approaches. She’s about to tell me I’m doing it wrong. I know how to do a goddamned Marichyasana C, I want to scream. The trainee bends over as my teacher approaches her. Seconds before the teacher can tap her shoulder and explain why I am twisting the opposite way, I say, “I’m pregnant. That’s why—“ The trainee nods. “I’m glad you told me.”

I want to look at Alice and say, “And also fuck you and your rolled eyes.” Instead I feel my eyes tearing up. I can’t discern if I’m upset at Alice’s rolled eyes or the insinuation by the trainee that I didn’t know what I was doing. I already feel awkward enough in yoga class modifying poses while others give me puzzled looks. While I look mildly pregnant, I’m still not obviously pregnant so my fellow yogis may mistake me for a chubby lady who doesn’t know her ass from her asana.

I breathe. I let this latest indignity go. Thank you, yoga.

After class Mr. Crud and I ponder my options.

• I could get all gangsta on Alice and get up in her grill as they say. “What?” I’d bellow fluffing up my chest in her face. “You got a problem, bee-yatch?”
• I could go overly sensitive hippie: “Hi, um yeah. I seem to have noticed some bad vibes coming from you where I am concerned. Did I do anything to offend you? Was it the sandwich because really, you are a terrific sandwich artist.”
• I could be aggressively friendly with Alice, melt her heart of stone or further solidify her conviction that I am an a-hole.

Or I could let the whole thing go and embrace my bete noir status. Consider it the circle of life. I have plenty of my own, a collection of people who have irked me for passing me at stop signs on my bicycle or breathing too loud in yoga class or a hundred other minor offenses that make me feel sheepish for even admitting how much they get to me. I could chalk this up to a fine opportunity to walk around in the shoes of the people who annoy me, to see how it does hurt just a little bit when someone seems to dislike you for no apparent reason. Wouldn’t that be mature?

I suspect that I will continue to oscillate between tamped down outrage, laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, and, every now and then, a tug of hurt feelings. I will try be yoga about things and not intentionally fuck with Alice by putting my mat next to hers or accosting her with forced good cheer. Maybe I’ll get so yoga that I include her in my silent blessings every morning, sending her peace and ease and wishes for a good day. Or not.


* Names have been changed to protect the annoyed.
** To read more about our adventures with Purvis check out the Peabody Project Chronicles 2.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life and Times of the Ignored


(A sneak preview of the soon--soon being a relative term--to be released, Crudbucket #8 The Infinite Issue.)

When I started my Facebook (FB) career, I made rules. (A woman’s got to have a code.) I would only accept requests from true friends, I would not let my number of friends climb too high (oh how I scoffed at those who listed more than 200 friends. I labeled them—derisively of course—“collectors.”), and I, in turn, would only send friend requests to those I felt confident would accept. I would not be one of those people whose picture pops up on your friend request screen and causes a crinkled brow (“who exactly is that?”) or snorts of dismay (“We’re friends? In what universe?”). Nor would I beg. Because that’s just sad.

After a few months, I learned that I am no Omar Little when it comes to my FB code. I accepted requests from people whose existence I would never have remembered if it weren’t for my yearly stroll through my old yearbooks while visiting my mom. I accepted a request from a guy who mocked me from junior high through my senior year of high school. I grew more liberal in my friend requesting ways as well, which as you might expect has led to some mini-disses and many conspiracy theories.

A Partial List of People* Who Have Ignored Me

Ananda: She was the first to ignore me. (You always remember the first.) An old yoga teacher who at one time invited me to parties and included me on an email list of her goings-on, Ananda seemed to be the type who would be happy to reconnect in the FB-iverse. Sure, I didn’t attend any of the parties she invited me to, but that wasn’t personal. I barely attend parties period. She stopped teaching my Mysore class a couple of years ago after growing skeptical of ashtanga so I only see her every now and again.

Conspiracy theory: None. I think Ananda is choosy or I offended her during one of my ill-fated attempts at being funny.

Diss rating (on a scale of 1-10): 4
Can I refrain from bringing up Facebook next time we run into each other? Will one of those blank FB profile pics hover between us for all eternity?

Kelly: If I don’t hear back about a friend request for a few days, usually I don’t take it personally. Some folks are more involved in FB-ing than others. Maybe she created the account and walked away, I reason. Not all of us are so fascinated by our pasts that they spend hours scrolling through pictures of random guy we knew in high school. Some people dislike nostalgia. (And good for them.)

After I friended Kelly—at the suggestion of a mutual acquaintance—I forgot about it until I received the automated message from the FB gods that Kelly had accepted the friend request of another one of our mutual friends who I’d told that Kelly was now on FB. Oh really. I clicked over to Kelly’s profile, still hidden to me because I was not an official friend. “Friendship Request Pending” it read. Oh. Really. So that’s how it’s going to be.

Conspiracy theory: After racking my brain for possible fights with Kelly-- a partner-in-underage-drinking and concert-going my senior year of high school--and coming up nil, I let my imagination toy around with the possibilities like a cat tossing around a half-dead mouse. We lost touch during our freshman year of college. One of our last conversations involved her trying to convince me that one of the popular girls from my high school was actually pretty cool. They were dorm mates and friends. (The horror!)

“She likes The Smiths,” Kelly had said as proof of Miss Popular’s viability.

No way. She can’t. She’s not allowed to, I had thought. “Uh okay,” I said.

“No really. She’s cool. You might like her now.”

“I doubt it.” I said, flashing on an image of her in French class swiveled around in her seat and oozing derisiveness because I had the gall to answer a question.

Perhaps Kelly had chosen Miss Popular’s version of events over mine. Although I can’t quite believe Miss Popular could build a case against me on the basis that I once seemed to be showing off my Swatch by raising my hand in the 7th grade. (No, I’m not bitter about that at all.) Didn’t Kelly understand that for the 6 years I knew Miss Popular I had merely responded to her muttered comments about my outfits, my watches, my taste in music, my French accent by mirroring her disdain. Defensive snobbery. Right?

Diss Rating: 8
I’m still here, Kelly. Pending.

Timmy: He was more of a friend of a friend than a friend-friend, but we hung out occasionally (at which time I may have acted a bit skeezy). He still has my Fishbone CD, which I am happy to have given him as a token of apology for trying to mack on a boy who clearly did not wish to be macked upon. He was polite enough (or lusting after my beer and cigarette stash enough) to not throw my hand off his shoulder and yell something like “Pick on someone your own size! Or your own age at least. Jeez!”

I totally deserve that Jeez. In my defense, he was really cute.

Conspiracy theory: Timmy was a teenaged alcoholic and when he sees my name in his friend request list all he can think about is how he traded on his good looks and charm for a few warm Milwaukee’s Bests and crumpled Camel Lights. Alcoholics Anonymous did not prepare him for the horrid images that resurface from a mere friend request. He flashes back to the night when we were tipsy and hanging out in my parents’ backyard smoking. I put my arm around his shoulders “because it’s damn cold out here” (or so I claimed) and leaned my head close to his just in case he had a sudden urge to make out with me. For warmth of course. When he remembers that night, he shudders at what he might have done in the name of intoxication. I dodged a bullet there, he thinks. No CD is worth that.

Or perhaps he just doesn’t want to give it back. Fishbone is pretty great.

Diss Rating: 6 (I would still like my CD back)

I’m sure I’m forgetting some folks here, but they were probably not really my friends. It’s just that “People you know” feature can trick you. Yes, I do know her! She definitely wants to be my friend. Or not.

On a tangentially related note (are there any other kinds?): I don’t recommend getting friend request-y after having a few drinks. The comradery you feel might not translate. Or you might try to mack on a boy 2 years your junior and 50 pounds lighter than you. Just saying.


* Names have been changed to protect people who have the terrible taste not to want to be my friend. Mon dieu!

Friday, April 3, 2009

My Cruddy Spring Break 2009


Every spring break Mr. Crud and I discount airline ourselves across the country to visit JADE, the supergroup/family made up of Jonah, my almost 3-year-old nephew, Anna, my crazysexycoolsmartyawesome sister-in-law, Dan, bro-in-law extraordinaire, and Emma my 6-year-old niece and BFF. Most of the time we lounge by the pool, read, play, and eat very very well. This is our story.

Magazines Read (It’s a very long flight)

US Weekly (2 issues): With this trip I fulfill my travel dream of having 2 different issues of gossip goodness (actually badness) to peruse while flying over the lower 48. I am impressed at US Weekly’s skill in professing to love celebrities while simultaneously tearing them down. They have mastered the back-handed compliment.

People (2 issues): Slightly less trashy than US Weekly with almost exactly the same photos of Angelina making a movie and Halle frolicking with her baby.

O The Oprah Magazine: An interview with Michelle Obama that makes me love her even more. Bonus article on the supposed more fluid sexuality of women which confirms gender stereotypes while pretending to upend them. That’s my O.

Self: I read these while spending time in the bathroom Chez JADE. Inspiration to live healthier seems to have taken hold. I made a salad for dinner last night, and not just as an accompaniment to real food. Just salad. Who am I again?

Glamour: A half-step above the typical women’s rag. I still love the Do’s and Don’ts section most of all. You’ll be relieved to learn that President Obama is a Do.

Cosmopolitan: A.k.a. horrible people monthly. I picked this up for half-price at the university bookstore knowing that it would raise my ire and hackles. It did not disappoint. This issue was the sex issue (isn’t every issue of Cosmo the sex issue?) in which douchebags and the women who are trying to trap them into loving them tell all their secrets. Most representative article: “The Bitchy Little Move That Men Love.” The secret: be kind of a bitch but not too much of one. Can’t we all just get along?

BUST: More and more this once beloved magazine disappoints me. It’s been weird and sad watching the fortunes of BUST rise as they go more commercial while Bitch has to struggle to keep afloat. Depressing.

Spin: Lily Allen. Again. When did Spin get so lame?

Books Read


The Will to Whatevs by Eugene Mirman
I chuckled, guffawed, and tittered my way through Mr. Mirman’s worthy tomb.
My favorite quote: “Being an uncle is like being a rock star no one but your niece or nephew has heard of.”

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Wowowowowowow! What a wonderful booky book. I haven’t been blown away by a story or cried as I devoured the final word of a book in a long time. I recommend this one to anyone.

Bits and pieces of The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket
Mr. Crud and I alternated reading to Emma from her latest favorite book series. I found myself quickly absorbed in the trials and tribulations of the Baudelaire orphans. I too became swept up in uncovering the meaning of the mysterious initials V.F.D. We spent a lazy afternoon brainstorming possible meanings while Emma took notes. Violet Fights Death? Violet Fakes Death? Very Fudgy Dessert? (“Don’t be silly, Uncle Mr. Crud!”) The mystery continues. (Actually it doesn’t. Mr. Crud wikipediaed and learned all, but we will never tell.)

Tabled: The Likeness by Tana French

Games, Games and More Games
Organized Division: Whoonu
A delightful game for the 8 and up set that asks players to rank things they like (or don’t like) while others try to guess how said likes and dislikes will rank on a scale of 1 to 6. Players get points for guessing correctly. The deadly hand: SUVs and Starbucks. None among us like such things, which I like very much.

Disorganized Division: Mermaid v. Sea Monster

Every time we headed to the back patio for some poolside lounging Emma declared it open season on the dreaded sea monster, played here by Uncle Mr. Crud. I was her mermaid partner. Our traps included acorns that when properly placed created rainbows, which shot lightning bolts (my idea). While confronting the sea monster I whistled the Herb Alpert hit—and Dating Game theme song—“Little Spanish Flea” while Emma sang “There was a little Spanish flea, doo doo doo doo dee dee dee dee.” (Also my idea.) But the totally confusing execution was all Emma.

“Here now you have to hide behind the tree so he won’t see you. No! The other tree!! Make yourself skinny! Oh no, he’ll see you!!!” I moved to the correct tree and awaited further instructions. She stage whispered, “Aunt Kt, is it time for a month later yet?” I gave her the thumbs up.

“A month later!” she yelled, holding her acorn aloft.

Mr. Crud spun in the water. She tossed the acorn beside him. “Now you’re dead.” She scrambled to the side of the pool. “Now give me back the acorn. In real life.”

The mermaids always won this one.

Witches

I introduced the idea of witches a few years ago as a counterpoint Emma’s princess love. Now whenever I come over, witches is on the tip of her tongue. This time around we collected ingredients for a witch’s brew (dirt, rocks, extremely confused ants, acorns, some crackly brown flower petals, and more dirt) and then killed the soda company director, Mr. Crud, who we only revived if he promised to give us unlimited Dr. Pepper.

If You Build it We Will Run Over It with a Scooter
Jonah enticed me to his block-building game with a cute smile and mischievous look in his eye. “Let’s make it. Let’s make it!” he chanted while piling laminated blocks with pictures of numbers and animals on the side. Once our shining towers were completed, he hopped over to his scooter and drove through as if they were nothing more than…well, paper blocks.

Booty Butt Dance Party

We like big butts, we cannot lie so why not have a dance party dedicated to the bootylicious among us. Dan fired up the Booty Butt Mix that Mr. Crud created and we immediately got to getting down. I showed Emma a few moves and she invited me to do the butt bump, which required some serious deep knee bends on my part. My quads ached but bumping the butt of such a sweet child was well worth it.

Art Class
Emma is both artsy and craftsy so Art Class nears the top of her to-do list. I harbor art dreams but in reality my drawings look more like the doodlings of a kindergartener so I was hesitant to take on the role of teacher in our first round of Art Class. However I am pretty proud of my eye-drawing prowess. After the eyes, I let her take over, and yes, I learned a thing or two about drawing noses and mouths. On our final morning chez JADE I was dressing and finishing up the packing. A knock at the door.

“Yes?” I asked.

Emma poked her head through the crack. “Art class!”

“I don’t know if I have time, but you can play.”

While she drew treasure maps on the floor and directed me to add a few choice bits, in the spirit of Art Class, I told Emma about Portland in hopes of enlisting her on the Crud team to bring JADE out for a visit this summer.

“We live a block away from a park. And there’s a volcano that has a playground just a few minutes from our house.”

“Cool!” she said looking up from the heart she was coloring.

“Maybe we can go to the mountain and ride inner tubes down in the snow,” I said.

“Wow!”

I considered telling her that in Oregon trees were made of cotton candy and popcorn, and that the grass tasted like chocolate, but thought better of overselling it. She’s impressed enough by the fact that we have a basement and an attic.

Words Created
What do you call those shirt-handkerchief thingies that the young ladies wear to be hotsy and why do they exist?

“They exist so ladies can show that they aren’t wearing a bra,” I posited.

“Yeah, but what do you call them?” asked Mr. Crud.

“Skank tops?” I offered, patting myself on the back for my clever idea.

“Skankerchiefs?” said Anna.

We all agreed: skankerchiefs it is.

Notable Quotables:
I Made a MESS in my ROOM!
Jonah loves him some ice cream. Dinner? Unless it’s pizza or “chicken” nuggets, not so much. Dan and Anna were doing their diplomatic best to find Jonah some chow that would grant him entry to the freezer and the mint chocolate chip winking at him so coquettishly. After he splattered some cottage cheese, Anna had enough and sent Jonah to his room for a time-out. A few minutes later Emma volunteered to check on him. We finished up our fine turkey burger dinner and chatted adult-like until we heard Emma’s voice.

“Jonah made a mess!”

Dan jumped up from the table. I imagined poop smears on the walls with a storm of Legos on the side. It wasn’t so dire, just some toys strewn about the floor.

Jonah’s voice piped up loud and clear. “I made a MESS in my ROOM!” He sounded proud and taunting as much as an almost-3-year-old can taunt. He repeated it a few more times while we dissolved into laughter.

Since returning home Mr. Crud and I have sprinkled Jonah’s words of wisdom throughout our everyday discourse. “You’re totally going to make a mess in your room,” I say to Mr. Crud after he tells me of the latest work indignity. Then in unison, “I made a MESS in my ROOM!”

2nd Runner Up: Awe-sum
Emma’s favorite punctuation is the exclamation point. Her favorite way to exclaim: awe-sum. So young to be a teenager.

Best Business Names in Wilton Manors

Mr. Crud’s mom kindly springs for a fancy dinner for the adults in the crew during our yearly visit. This year we went with sushi at Galangal, one of the many Sushi-Thai restaurants in southern Florida. (Cruddy question: Does your hometown host any strange ethnic hybrid cuisines? Discuss.) Galangal is known for its yummy lobster sushi roll and the hot gay waiters that serve it. This hot spot is located in the heart of the fancy gay ghetto, Wilton Manors. En route I collected my favorite gay-themed business names:

Tops and Bottoms: A clothery, I presume.

Gaymart: If it’s gay, they got it.

Out of the Closet: A thrift store natch.

Dairy Queen: Context is everything.

Best Overheard in Wilton Manors
“You are a hot mess! You are such a hot mess! Come on, hot mess!” the guy texting on his phone yelled to a woman with shorty shorts teetering out of her car. I have few goals in this life but someday I would like to be called a hot mess. However I will not wear hot pants to achieve this goal.

Souvenirs
1 can of boiled peanuts. Not as good as buying them from a roadside stand and munching straight out of the soggy paper bag, but I’m hoping a warming up on the stovetop will bring back memories of the famed Gollyrocket-Cornpopp tour of ’93 that introduced me to this southern delicacy.

1 pair of Hot Rod sunglasses
For kicks Mr. Crud and I walk to the local grocery store, Publix while JADE is at work or school. Last year I found some perfectly asshole-ish sunglasses in the Foster Grant display by the cash registers. I wore them until they broke a few months later. So deep was my love that I scoured every Foster Grant display I saw to replace them. Mr. Crud contacted the good folks at Foster Grant who informed him that the Hot Rod model had been discontinued. Nooooooooo! I bought some lookalikes but they were no Hot Rods. Our first full day in Pompano Beach we headed to the store and I was reunited with my beloved. “Precious,” I whispered as I cradled them to my breast. I contemplated buying out the entire stock of Hot Rods, but decided hoarding would ruin the mystique. Now they sit atop my desk beckoning me to walk in the sun. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any since we returned.

10 nasty welts of bug hatred
Why do the mosquitoes love my sweet blood so? Why? 10 is actually not so bad. I’ve walked away with upwards of 50 bug bites from a single trip to visit my mom during the summer in her swampy neck of the woods. Me = bug food.

Assorted drawings from Emma created during Art Class: The feared alien Grachta Waspook, the Mackenshack-Plack siblings, and a drawing of the sun with “Awesome. It’s the sun,” written across the top.

The Long Road Home
We pulled up to the departure terminal at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Throngs of flip-flopped, tanned cruise-goers sagging with luggage crowded the curbside check-in. The line went on as far as the eye could see.

“Oh shit,” I said, stepping out of the car. “Did they evacuate the airport?”

Mr. Crud craned to see. “Nope there’s people inside too.”

We said our tearful good-byes and inched through the crowd. The inside was worst than outside. “Oh shit,” I said as tears sprung to my eyes. I looked at my watch. An hour until our flight. We would never make it. A Southwest employee hustled us into line. Behind us a woman was in worst shape.

“Your flight leaves in 30 minutes?” The Southwest employee asked. “Here. Good luck,” she said in a voice the clearly wished this woman no luck at all.

The next hour was pure anxiety as we moved from line to line, sharing disbelieving stories with our compadres in airport misery. “I’ve never seen it like this,” said the man ahead of us in the security line. “And I fly out of here every weekend.”

“5 cruises just arrived,” a woman piped up behind us.

I flashed back to one of our many games of Whoonu. “Would you all ever take a cruise?” Anna asked.

“Uh maybe,” I said.

As I stood looking at the tanned mobs, I re-answered her question. Hell to the no. One of the reason I hate airports is the crowd factor. A cruise would be one big crowd of middle America. No, no, and no again. (Snobby much?) But ask again later when I’ve had time to scrub the panic from my psyche.

We stood in line and cursed the airlines, cursed the cruise ships, cursed the stupid security procedures that keep no one safe, cursed Dan for assuring us that an hour was enough time for us to check our bags and make our flight, but then reversed the Dan curse because even the recommended one and a half hours wouldn’t have been enough. I cursed my full bladder and wondered when I’d have time for a pit stop. I saw a full day of cramped, urine stinky airplane toilets in my future and shuddered. As soon as we got through security, I booked to the Dunkin’ Donuts stand, which served nary a donut, and loaded up on pricey bottles of water. For the first time in an hour, I felt secure. I may have to pee my pants, but I would not dehydrate.

Despite the doubt and panic, we indeed made our flight, and the connection, which we learned, upon boarding, would be stopping in Kansas City, MO. “No biggie,” spaketh Mr. Crud, “we won’t have to get off the airplane.” Our row-mate leaned over, “I hear it’s snowing in Kansas City. When I left last week it was 80 degrees.”

“You’re kidding,” Mr. Crud said.

We exchanged worried looks. Our previous air travel experience happened during the storm of the decade in Portland, a blizzard we followed to Chicago and which almost prevented us from getting east for the Christmas holiday. That day topped my worst air travel experiences ever (although the first-class bump on the flight from PDX to ORD almost saved it).

“Are we cursed?” I asked Mr. Crud.

He shrugged.

“I guess if we were cursed we would have never made it back for Christmas,” I said. Most of the people hadn’t made it out of PDX including many that had been stranded at airports for days.

We settled into the flight. I settled into US Weekly Issue #2 and marveled at how stars were really like us. I’m waiting for the day when there’s a shot of Blohan on the toilet and the caption “Taking a crap. Just like us!!!!” (I have a sneaking suspicion that I just recycled a joke. Please forgive this latest round of self-plagiarism.)

The plane descended and the captain’s voice crackled through the speakers. “As you can tell, we’re making our final descent. Unfortunately it’s not into Kansas City. We’re landing in St. Louis to wait out the storm.”

Blood pounded in my ears. Trapped! Trapped in St. Louis. “Do we know anyone in St. Louis?” I asked Mr. Crud.

“A friend from college’s dad who I met one Thanksgiving,” he said.

Whenever I fly, I try to route myself through airports with friends or family nearby just in case. Usually it’s pretty easy as Mr. Crud’s parents live in a suburb of Chicago, our most frequent hub en route to the east coast. On St. Louis, I had nothing.

We landed and waited. Two dudes with extreme southern drawls made call after call about their gig that night. Mr. Crud and I pegged them as crappy new country and stopped caring if they made their gig or not. A gel-spiked hair Southwest fellow boarded the plane and gave us the scoop. We could be stuck here for a few hours or the night. All depended on the storm. People flying to Oklahoma City, Oakland, and Alberquerque were in luck: the airline had booked them on new flights. I looked at them with bald envy as they grabbed their bags and deplaned.

The Portlanders in the bunch murmured that we should skip Kansas City and just go on to Portland. I felt the same. I am disturbed at how easily I slip into total selfishness and disregard for others when I feel out of control of my situation. Airline travel brings out the worst in everyone. We don’t want to be left out of the special plan that makes everything better so we push and shove and smile frozen desperate smiles in hopes of ingratiating airline employees so we get ours. Fuck the rabble.

Luckily the rabble did not have to be fucked. As I waited for a crappy California Pizza Kitchen cheese pizza to be prepared by the most listless airport restaurant employee in history, Mr. Crud speed walked by. “Our flight is boarding.”

I looked at the pizza oven, I looked toward our gate. “You go. Get our seats back. I’ll get there as soon as I can. Don’t let them leave without me!” I said more dramatically than necessary.

I contemplated leaving my $9 shit pizza that I’d only ordered because Mr. Crud was urging me to eat away the gnawing stress, but realized that the punchy flight crew would not leave me and my pizza behind.

So off we were again to a snowy Kansas City then Portland. I love the moment when we break through the clouds and the lights of Portland fill my window. My stomach gets giggly. I love you, my sweet Portland. I love your drivers who do not try to kill me with their Florida Marlins be-decked SUVS. I love your delicious eateries who understand food allergies without judgment. I. Love. You.

Although we arrived home 4 hours later than our itinerary, we made it all the same. Mr. Crud ordered us some Thai food. (A cruddy mystery—Why do I get so hungry on airline travel days when all I do is sit and read trashy magazines?) Our answering machine blinked. We prayed for no whammies.

Emma’s voice: “Hi Uncle Mr. Crud and Aunt Kt,” she said in her girly sheepish phone voice. “We figured out what the V in V.F.D. stands for,” she said. “It’s Volunteer.”

Mr. Crud and I waited for her message to finish and then hit play again. If only we could do that for the whole week.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Party Tips for Aging (Dork) Rockers


Last Saturday I attended a band party for the first time in months. You know the kind of party where the chow is ironic instead of edible; bands play in the basement and never ever in the history of parties at the time scheduled even when band members swear that this time, for real this time, they would start at 9:00; and folks stand around in clumps chatting about who is married/pregnant/divorced/in rehab/should be in rehab.

Here are a few tips for those of us who are more Oldy Olderson than fresh faced scenester.

Imbibery

Long past are the days in which my only requirements for a party drink be that it is potable and alcoholic. I’ve sweated—and spent many a day running to the toilet--through too many a Pabst Blue Ribbon hangover to allow such swill to pass my lips. In fact the entire genre of beer no longer works for my delicate system. I’m a vodka and wine kind of girl. Mostly wine since vodka takes me to the point of no return at bullet’s speed.

Until last summer this preference caused me party stress. The bottles of wine I brought to house parties to share were inevitably drunk clean by the time I came back for my first refill. I tried hiding places. I tried just drinking some freaking beer for Christ’s sake (“What are you, a pansy?” I taunted myself.). I grew sullen and distraught at the mention of a party at a new house. “But what will I drink?” I whined.

Then my flash of genius: wine in a water bottle. Brilliant!

Last summer I toted a half bottle of wine in the Nalgene container that—before the discovery of toxic plastic—was my go-to water bottle. I also brought a small plastic cup from our outdoor collection. All night—meaning the 2-3 hours I can tolerate in a party—I poured myself cups from the wine stash nestled in my purse. This idea opened up a whole new world of party going. So when Mr. Crud and I were invited to see a friend’s band play at a nearby house party, I didn’t hesitate.

Lessons learned—For some reason all the plastic bottles I have used to transport my tasty beverages have leaked. This time I wised up and stashed the bottle in a plastic Ziploc bag. Sadly the bag did not protect me from myself. A few seconds after making my grand entrance into the basement-bar-band room, I whipped out my bagged bottle of wine and poured.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Mr. Crud said. “Watch it, Spillio.”

In a matter of seconds I had spilled a good quarter of the bottle all over the floor because of another unforeseen leak.

I caught a few disdainful glances as I re-zipped my bag and jammed it back into my purse. Ever so casually I stepped my foot onto the spreading red puddle. I keep it classy.

Transport

There was a time when I would ride my trusty Specialized steed 30 minutes in the rain to get to a cross-town party. No more. My first recommendation is befriending folks who live in your neighborhood. A 20-minute walk clears the head both before the festivities and post. If you do have far-flung amigos, I suggest convincing your partner (or housemate or friend) that cleaning the bathroom weekly for the last 10 years of your cohabitation entitles you to be driven around drunk whenever necessary. When I was in high school I worked this angle without the bathroom duty. Seems I’ve lost a step in my old age.

Some may also recommend moderation and not getting so drunk that you can’t drive. How mature of them.

Conversation

When you don’t regularly circulate on the party circuit, it can be hard coming up with things to talk about, especially if you are a woman trapped with the social skill set of a 13-year-old tuba player. The answer is cigarettes. A majority of the post-30 set have given up their pack-a-day habit. Good for us. But a majority of that majority still get a hankering for the sweet smoky burn once they get a little liquor humming through their veins. Buy a pack. Light up in a prominent corner of the yard, far enough away so that you don’t invite anti-smoking venom, but in vision of those who are sympathetic to your cause. And watch them flock like moths.

“I quit a few years ago, but…”

“Sorry to bother you, but would you mind…”

“You’ll be happy to know that I will savor this all night…”

Of the 6 people I met at this party, three of them were drawn to my cigarette. I don’t mind giving them out since I sure as hell don’t want to smoke all of them.

Facebook is another ripe topic of conversation. “Yeah, it’s kinda cool but kinda weird” is a safe opinion to get things started. At some point you can make the joke about how fucked up it is that you are talking to each other in person at a party but still talking about the world of virtual networking. You will seem suave and meta.

Bitching about kids today is another handy topic. “Back in my day music came from actual instruments” or “What is up with those pants?” But beware, the 20-somethings with their emo pants may be lurking around every corner. Trying to defend your views to the young ‘uns will have the unfortunate side effect of making you feel like your dad.

Attire
What to wear! It was so much easier when I was a simple rocker girl with a slutty heart. Something black. Something tight. Finish off with clunky boots and a thrift store fake fur and I was good to go. While I’m not ready to Eileen Fisher out, I feel a bit like I’m trying too hard, like one of those heavily made-up mothers who trails her daughter in The Gap so she can pick out clothes that she will “borrow,” and also sending off the wrong signal (the signal being “I’m naked under all these clothes”) if I go too tight. I find that flattering jeans and some t-shirt variation works well for the laid-back kind of gal. Also if you spill, as I inevitably do, you won’t be messing up your Sunday best. Don’t forget the bright thrifted scarf to show that you are still down with the people.

Midnight? Already?
I’m a sleepy drunk. I pass a certain point and there is no going back to my flushed cheek giggly drunk. I once combated the sleepies with ephedrine, which led to a buzzing good time of a night but also to the most horrific of hangovers. Being a nice married lady, I’m also out of the hook up scene. The possibility of smooches or sex would keep me awake to all hours of the night once upon a time, but lacking this energy, I find myself double handicapped in the staying awake category. Did I mention that my bedtime is 9:00 on most days?

Unless you want to pick up another pain-in-the-ass-to-kick drug habit, you’ll have to go with common sense and the dreaded maturity for this category. Sneak in a glass of water here and there. Maybe some coffee if you’re really feeling exhausted. And perhaps let that joint that’s circling the party pass you by un-smoked. Snacks can also keep you fueled for fun. (Unless those snacks are tiny little crabs covered in sesame seeds, which you should never ever eat because they are disgusting.) In fact the lust for snacks has replaced the lust for illicit hook-ups that once fueled my late night partying.

(Thanks to Rino and Libby for convincing Mr. Crud and me to come out of our domestic cave for some good time partying. Sorry we didn’t bid you a proper farewell, but that’s how we party ninjas do.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blue Boots

I pull up to the yoga studio at--as my friend Laertes so eloquently puts it--the crack of ass. A few stragglers roam the streets of the Pearl district before the clackety clack of Pearl doyenne heels and the swing of briefcases sweeps them out to the parks and soup kitchens. Across the street, a man with ragged, sagging pants clutches a pale blue blanket like OG blanket-lover, Linus. He pauses his stream of babble. I dismount my bike and pull my lock from the back rack. His mumbles restart and grow nearer. I glance in the studio. Empty.

“Blue boots. Those blue boots? I like blue boots,” the man says. He leans against the brick wall of the art gallery next door to the yoga studio. He hisses his “s-es.” Not many teeth left to shape the sound.

“Yes, they are blue boots.” I say, “thank you. I like them too.” I sound too much like a kindergarten teacher. I turn the key in the bike lock and glance over my shoulder, praying my teacher, Jason, is pulling up behind me.

I smile at the man. Hesitant smile. Smile that says, “wow, this was sure fun. Please go away now.”

He wipes at his nose. He stutters, “I h-have a pretty big dick.” He grins a gummy, sheepish grin.

I am stuck between saying, “Good for you!” and wanting to fifty-yard dash it to the diner down the street. Part of me wants to be agreeable. “Yeah, so do I. Imagine that.”

How to be compassionate yet firm. Kind, yet you-get-outta-here-now. When I recount the story to Mr. Crud he suggests that maybe this was the man’s way of expressing “Yes, I have blue boots too. Maybe the meaning got lost in translation.”

Perhaps.

I take a deep breath. “Please leave me alone.” I don’t beg or bark. The vibe emanating from the man isn’t scary so much as creepy and confused.

He grows silent. His stare follows me as I walk to the studio. I huddle by the door. I jiggle the handle. Locked. The man shambles down the street, stopping every few steps to look my way. I tie my hair up in a ponytail, careful not to be too shampoo commercial about it lest the man interpret my swinging hair as an invitation.

Jason pedals up the sidewalk and executes a suave moving dismount in front of the door. “Been waiting long?”

The man looks back once more before he turns the corner, his blanket dragging behind him like a tail.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Slack-Ass Mofo

I hold up a shield of holiday excess, hard work on Crudbucket #8 The Infinity Issue (which is really earning it's title as the creation of said issue drags on), and a snowstorm to protect me against the slings and arrows of crud fans who want regular posts. Yeah, yeah, I know. And I am sorry.

If you need a little something to keep you going, and don't mind occasionally depressing topics, hop on over to my musings on life after miscarrage at The Peabody Project Chronicles.

Keep it cruddy, y'all.