Know Your Readers
Last night, I noticed that someone had left this message on my zonkboard:
go to hell bitch ya you deb die.Okay, People: Let's remember that my blog is neither political nor inflammatory. Let's remember that my last post concerned how my lousy posture matched that of my new tailor's. What's the deal!
The idea of a readership always overwhelmed me. I know that once I post an item (or image) on my site, just about anyone with a computer has access to it. And although I would like to think that my blog is being read by thousands of adoring fans all over the world, thousands of people who are amused by my keen writing and funny self-effacing stories, the truth appears to be that my blog is read by
If I am correct in my assumptions, it appears that almost half my readership wishes me ill. Which is totally not cool. I started this fansite dedicated to myself because I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be loved. But now, crazy people keep writing me emails and zonking my site with their poorly constructed sentences of hate.
By the way, wishing someone dead is never funny.
Unless I say it. And then maybe it's funny.
But if the grammar is lousy, then, no, it's never funny.
I've found a new tailor.
She is actually only a couple of doors down from the tailor who felt me up. I went to her to fix a suit jacket of Brian's, and I thought she was very pleasant and very competent. So then I returned with a pair of Brian's pants that needed to be re-hemmed. She was extremely non-threatening, a little woman in her 60s maybe, maybe from a former soviet satellite. I had another blouse, one I had purchased almost a year ago, which had been sitting under my bed. It needed much the same treatment as the "feel-up" shirt. Today, I took the blouse to my new tailor.
I told her I had paid forty dollars for the at Century 21, and that I wanted it taken in on the sides, because when I wore it, it made me look like I was wearing a large kite. I had paid $35 for alterations on the other shirt. My new tailor took in the sides and said she would charge me $15.
It looked much nicer now. And $15! I got so excited, I said, "The back is still a little blousey. Is there any way to take that in too."
She told me yes, that she could add a couple of darts in the back, but then she would have to charge me another $10.
$25. I was still doing better than I had at the lascivious tailor. The shirt was looking even better. And it was a Versace shirt that had been marked down from $110 to $40 (not that I would have ever spend $110 on the shirt, even if it were made out of fairy wings and gold). But it was a nice shirt, a really nice material in a great color, and it was really starting to look quite sleek.
I picked at the shoulders and said, "I have very narrow shoulders. Nothing fits me right. The seam for the shoulders is always halfway down my arm. Do you think you could take up the seam for the shoulders as well?"
As the new tailor began to pin the shoulders, she said, "Now the alterations gonna cost you what the shirt cost you."
"Oh. What are we up to now?"
"45! Oh. I don't know. I only paid 40 for the whole shirt."
She showed me how it would look, and, yes, it did look much sleeker. She said, "But you said you don't wear the shirt for a year. Now it's like you buy a new shirt the right size."
I thought about this. I said, "It's such a problem. I am narrow-shouldered and small-chested and high-waisted and no shirts ever fit me right."
She said. "I know. I got same problem. Narrow shoulders. Nothing fits. You can't wear purse on shoulder 'cause it always falling off."
"YES!" I said, "That happens to me too!"
"Yes." She smiled in agreement. "Narrow shoulders a problem. Narrow sloping shoulders. They narrow and sloping and hunched and you can never wear purse, because shoulders so sloping and hunched."
I looked at her in wide-eyed shock.
"Me," she corrected. "I talk about my shoulders. My shoulders sloping and hunched."
I exhaled, relieved that she hadn't been calling me a hunchback.
But had she been that far off? I looked at the mirror. At my horrendous posture. The stoop that made strangers stop me on the street to correct my posture. The sloping stooping hunch that made people say, "You would be so pretty if only you would STAND UP STRAIGHT."
"It's true," I told the tailor. "I do have narrow, sloping, hunched shoulders."
We looked at each other with great meaning. And then we both tried to straighten our spines. Out of mutual embarrassment.
It's that time again . . .
Here's a batch of 25 of the latest emails from my grandmother:
FW: Laughed so hard lost my waterPlease note that emails 11 and 14 are actually the same email. Also, the emails entitled "FW: A card from David, Holly & Carolyn Minott" and "FW: A card from Helen LiFeber-Rosener", which appear to be more personal, are actually forwards of exactly identical non-personalized e-cards which feature a cartoon of a bird opening a champagne bottle, pouring the champaign into glass, and taking a bath and in it.
My uncle had his gallbladder removed about a week and a half ago.
While he was in the hospital, they stopped giving him his antipsychotic medications. I have a feeling they had trouble getting him back on line since he returned to the mental hospital.
He called me at home Sunday evening, which was unusual. Since he was moved to a ward with only a pay phone, he has deemed me unworthy of the 50 cent cost of the phone call. Until Sunday night.
He has been so sedate over the past year and a half that I had forgotten how truly crazy he was. But Sunday night was a trip down memory lane. He kept me on the phone for 35 minutes of high-volume monologue, and towards the end, revealed that he knew he was "ranting and raving", but that he was doing so because he hadn't slept in over two days.
I wish I had been able to capture the whole loud hash-dream-like speech. I began to type it, but he was speaking too quickly, and I type like awkward pre-teens ballroom-dance.
I would like to present you with something I call an "impressionistic vibe" of my uncle's conversation the other night. I do not purport to be giving you a factual record of our phone conversation. It is just a vibe. So don't sue me. A couple things you should know: My brother, Dennis, was raised Reform Jewish like me, but is now very Orthodox. Also, before being moved to Manhattan Psychiatric Center's (MPC) civil facility, my uncle resided for seven years in their criminal facility, which was nicknamed "Kirby".
They lost my coat. Did mother tell you about that? I left the hospital and I forgot to take my coat with me--they rushed me out so quick--and when I remembered, they called them at the hospital, but they said it wasn't there. Mother even went back to the hospital to look for the coat, but it wasn't there. And do you know why? Do you think it was a mistake? Do you think it was just a coincidence? I know what's really going on. They can't fool me. I know that shit that they're playing. And when mother and Dennis came to visit me--they made them come up to the infirmary--Dennis brought me a new coat. One just like the one I had, but in a different color. I didn't even want it. But I took it anyway. I couldn't use it because I was all cooped up in the hospital's infirmary. It's so hot in the rooms here. They have the heat on. The heat just keeps coming out of the pipes and you can't control it and you can't open a window because the windows are sealed shut. It gets so hot at night my pajamas get soaked with sweat. But they didn't make me take a shower. Because of the bandages. They knew that if they made me take a shower, they would have to replace my bandages and they didn't want to do that. So I haven't taken a shower in almost two weeks. But I'm clean. I have four holes in me now. Two tiny ones on either side--I guess those were to look in--and one small one a little farther down and a big hole right by my bellybutton. That must be where they pulled my gallbladder out from. When I was in the hospital they didn't even have any bandages on me, but when I got back to MPC the big one started to ooze. So they put a bandage on it. Eh, it's been alright since then. And when Mother and Dennis were here, they brought a deluxe hamburger and French fries. It's a lot of food, you know. A lot of food. I can't finish all that food myself. Do you know how many slices of tomato they gave me? Three! Three slices of tomato! Can you believe that? And the fries looked like a double order, but I knew they were only a single order. But it's big! So I sent the leftovers home with Mother. It's really a double reward for her, because she can eat off the leftovers two or three times, and then she doesn't have to spend the money. I know she likes that. But Dennis wouldn't touch anything. What is he afraid of? Who does he think he's fooling saying he's kosher? How long do you think this will last? How long can he go on like this? I know what it's like. You can't keep it up. When I first in Kirby, I asked them for a kosher meal, but I couldn't eat it. All they give you is fish and pasta. And I hate pasta. And you can't it the fish, because it's real stink-o. A lot of crap. So I had them switch my meals and now I'm no fish/no pasta. The doctors tried to switch me to no pork. Ha-ha. Very funny. I talked to the social worker about that and she said she'd see what she could do. But this guy in Kirby, he was real yeshiva and all, real orthodox, with a kippah and everything. And he started out getting kosher meals too. But he had to switch. Do you know why? Because it Isn't Enough Food! That's right. It isn't enough food. And you don't get seconds. So he finally switched to regular meals so he could get seconds, because it just isn't enough food. When is your brother going to learn?
For real: Baby things are cute.
I think God made them this way so we didn't accidentally eat them.
I would like to offer you two baby things that we shall not eat, because they are just too cute.
Born on December 12th at 9:25 PM, Baby Maeve belongs to Clare Banks and Stephen Reichter (of Smartish Pace fame). Clare and Stephen have been providing us with the requisite amount of baby pictures, but as this is not enough, we are planning to visit them Baltimore in early February.
Born roughly 11 months ago, this Lab/Beagle mix belongs to Kristin and Greg Kovach of Murfreesboro, TN. I am unsure as to whether young Kovach has acquired an official name, but last I heard, the couple was considering "Schatzie". The happy parents were interested to giving their young one a German name. I (Auntie Debbie) would like to recommend the name "Staubsauger", which I am told means "Vacuum Cleaner".
I have been working on my mother's campaign website. There still isn't much there, but you can look upon it here and email me compliments here: contact @ debcentral.com.
At about the same time the news about JT LeRoy was coming in, the story broke on another fictionalizing memoirist.
As I'm sure you've heard by now, the Smoking Gun ran A Million Little Lies: Exposing James Frey's Fiction Addiction. I have not read any of Frey's work, and am actually so out of touch with current literature that I first heard of the book about a month ago. But I can say that the Smoking Gun story was quite interesting and humorous.
In defense of these writers, I want to note that (speaking as a quasi-writer) it is very hard to keep from exaggerating, embellishing, or omitting details for the sake of a better story. I more or less refuse to read memoirs, as I understand them to be a large lump of partial-truths in book form. Maybe I think this because if I were to write a memoir, it would be a large lump of partial-truths. And a lot of self-portraits taken with me holding the camera at arms length.
I have been thinking a lot lately about truth in writing, and I caught myself saying to myself, "Well, that's why I don't ever claim to write non-fiction." I suddenly realized that this claim, in itself, was a lie. That most of what I've been writing over the past three years has been memoir-like, not the least of which is this "masquerading as journal" blog.
I would like to make a disclaimer: Though I have never claimed to be a crack-addled criminal or a strung-out teen hustler, I don't think everything I say should be taken as absolute fact. And who knows: Maybe I was a crack-addled criminal or a strung-out teen hustler. But probably not.
Brian emailed me this morning:
you're not the only one who gets e-mail by mistake! I think I'll write this guy back telling him he's got the wrong bgellerY'all?
My father left a message on my answering machine last night.
He asked me if I had read the very interesting story on writer JT LeRoy. I thought it odd, but nice that my father was interested in more cutting-edge fiction writing. Or fiction writing at all. I should have known.
This morning, Brian and I checked the web, and read all about the bizarre twists of identity in this story. I first heard of LeRoy when he was interviewed by NPR's Terry Gross in late November of 2001. I was sitting around our apartment in Queens, feeling alone and bizarre during the day, perpetually relatively unemployed, when I heard the interview on Fresh Air. I, too, was (am) an aspiring writer, and I thought: If only I was a disturbed strung out young male prostitute, maybe then I could get published.
I have still never read any of JT LeRoy's work, so do not feel at all betrayed at being duped. Instead, I am riveted by all the stranger-than-fiction details as this the layers of this mystery are peeled away. Maybe it's because I fancy myself a sort of amateur detective, solving various domestic mysteries that crop up around our studio apartment.
I am actually a bit relieved that the writer of the acclaimed works was not in fact a precocious teen, but instead, a woman in her later thirties. I'm 29 now, so I still have plenty of time to dream up a new hardscrabble youth.
I phoned my uncle last night to get the skinny on his visit home. I am not a very fast typist, but I tried to record the conversation for posterity. It went something like this:
How was the visit?
Do you remember when my parents were in the Charlotte airport and were scandalized by what they believed to be the exposure of a young woman's tush?
My family (and some of debcentral's readers) went back and forth trying to decide whether that was in fact that young woman's tush, or whether it was her back, which was strangely fleshy and folded. I was never quite able make up my mind.
Well . . . Last night, Brian and I were in the Fort Lauderdale airport waiting to fly back to New York, and what should be see but another young woman's tush-like back part. I called my father immediately, and said, "I'm sorry I don't have a camera phone to take a picture for you."
I was kindly reminded that I did have an in earnest camera with me. I said, "Dad, it would be awkward and rude to try to take a picture of this poor girl's tush."
"Just see if you can get a picture," my father said.
The gauntlet was thrown down.
At first, Brian thought it was a very bad idea. But slowly he got into it. I had him stand next to the poor girl and I shot a series of pictures of him like that. By the time we got on the plane, we were feeling quite giddy. We flew Song, and Brian played no less than five games of in-flight trivia trying to win so that everyone's screen would display this image.
Back on the crack front: The girl appeared to have some sort of smudgy tattoo thing right around said crack area. When she finally stood up to board the aircraft, it was revealed that she did indeed have a tattoo . . . on her lower back. So I guess the mystery is solved.
A word to the wise: YOUNG WOMEN OF TODAY, PLEASE WEAR BELTS WITH YOUR LOW-RISE JEANS.
This morning, I awoke to find this email in my inbox
Date: Thu, 05 Jan 2006 08:34:45Sam and I did a search for all the times I've used the word "Milledgeville" in my blog. I can only imagine that the "article" to which Mr. Horton is referring is a blog entry I wrote after having received the first place fiction prize from Arts & Letters
I really really wanted to write this fellow back. All the exclamation points. That strange ellipses. The assertion that I am a sham. The fact that he CC-ed someone on the email. But any response I came up with Brian told me sounded like I was defending myself. He thought I should write back something like: "Nice use of exclamation points!!!"
I have learned that it is nearly impossible to insult crazy people and religious zealots. So I will leave well enough alone and just sit and wait for the next drooling lunatic with Internet access to write me an email.
My grandmother called me at work today.
She said that my uncle has been asking where all his papers and such are now. I assume this is true, as he has asked me the same kinds of questions. Repeatedly. For the past three-plus-years.
Well, now he will get a chance to once again comb through those papers, those letters and pictures. Now that he has his homecoming this coming Sunday, after being locked up for almost a decade, he will finally get a chance to once more look for his knife sharpener, to see that we have taken down his cheaply framed poster of Charlie Parker and stowed it behind the couch. My grandmother made an appointment with me for Friday morning to come down and have me show her where we've been keeping various personal items of my uncle's. Because, of course, after being locked away in an mental institution for nearly a decade, he's going to want to see these things again.
My grandmother said, "Just show me which desk drawer his papers are in."
I said, "They're, er, not really in a desk drawer. They're kind of in a box."
"Well, then just show me where the box is. I'm sure Ira's going to want to see all the papers he's been asking about."
I said, "They're not all in one box. They're in a couple of different boxes."
All lumped together in a big pile. We have not, to be honest, been keeping my uncle's different paper collections in the best and most organized state. But, in our defense, they were not left in the best and most organized state. And, of course, as I have stated on numerous occasions, we felt we had to put some things (read: pornographic magazine collection) into storage.
My uncle has been gone for almost ten years, but we have only been here since late August of 2002. My brother occupied the apartment for five years before us. And the cleaning woman is in once a week for the past decade to wash all our surfaces with Windex and throw out my socks one at a time. Really, though. When we first moved in, there was a collection of expired medications in the medicine cabinet. As much as I wanted to toss them, I didn't. Out of fear of some weird freak visit home like the one that is about to happen. Then, one day, I noticed there weren't any more old medication bottles in the bathroom. The cleaning woman had disposed of them. I never asked her about it, but I began to follow suit, tossing the old gross shampoo in the shower. Getting rid of a hopelessly dirty old mug. I no longer know what I have done, what she has done, what my brother had done before me. There is no question that no matter how hard we tried, my uncle will come home to find his home altered.
It is not only this delusional crazy man I have to content with, but with my grandmother as well, who obviously doesn't understand why the apartment three floors beneath her own has not been kept as a museum to her son in the ten years of his absence.
My mind has been circling all day. I am nervous. Why does this make me nervous? Why do I care so much? Should I go through all those boxes and organize the "documents" inside? Should I take down our posters on the wall and put up his? Should I fan out the Black Tail magazine on the coffee table? A nice little Hello with some cookies and milk, maybe. And maybe a bottle of Bacardi 151 for that special uncle with the history of substance abuse.
It took my uncle three weeks to get over the fact that they changed his day to do laundry. Of course, he will come and have a hard time of it. And, of course, my grandmother will have something nasty to say about the way we've kept the place. Because she always has something nasty to say. But thank god I will be far away in Florida, and do not have to see it go down first hand.
And it's not like he's coming back to live with us. Still. . . .
On the Monday before, I learned from my father that the mental institution was unable to find my uncle an escort for the day.
I don't think I told you that my mother has declared her candidacy of Florida State Representative. Her kick-off is scheduled for January 8th. I had told my parents that I did not think I would be able to make it, that I had taken off too many days recently, and that it is rather difficult for me to get Sundays off anyway. My father explained that my mother would very much like to see me there. And that she would be disappointed if I couldn't make it. He even offered to pay for Brian and my airfare down to Florida. Still, I maintained that I didn't think I could make it.
Then my father told me that my uncle's new date for his first escorted visit home was on January 8th. So I pulled out all the stops, and now we're flying down this weekend to support my mother in her campaign for state representative. And also because we want to get the hell out of the apartment when Uncle Ira comes to visit.
We visited Ira this past Saturday (December 31st), and he told us that they were still having trouble finding him an escort. He was afraid they might move his first visit back even farther. Oh well.
As I said earlier, Uncle Ira has already begun making escorted visits to the clinic on 125th Street. I asked him how the group therapy sessions were going, and he said, "It's shit. It's the same shit as here, only it's there."
He told me that there are two different groups at the clinic on 125th Street. One is called MICA (Mental Illness Chemical Abuse) and the other is CAMI (Chemical Abuse Mental Illness). He said that he goes to the group sessions for the latter category. He said that it has been noted that he is firstly someone who has a problem with chemical dependency, and mental illness is only a side effect of the chemical abuse. My uncle told us that during his last forensic examination (when they deemed that he should be in the CAMI group), he explained again that he started the fire because he had gone off his medication. And he had gone off his medication because it gave him "bad side effects". And the "bad side effects" were that he was not able to perform sexually while he was taking his anti-psychotic medications.
Now, we've heard this story before, and I think it is just fine if my uncle is unable to perform sexual acts because he is taking a strict regiment of anti-psychotic medications. Especially as some of his documentation lumps his "hypersexual behavior" with "prosecutory delusions, violent and angry outburst[s], poor judgment" and, my personal favorite, "fire-setting". My uncle seemed to think the treatment team was sympathetic to his plight. I think he might not be so delusional, as they are letting him come home to visit. And they did place him in the CAMI group. That would mean they think of him first a drug addict and only second a mental case. I really really believe that it's the other way around.
This weekend, I finished redoing my friend Ruth Sergelís Street Pictures website. I also made a scrapbook of Brianís brother Eddie Gellerís graduation. In addition, I went to bed at 9:30 on December 31st. Because I had had a tough day. And because I had to go to work the next morning. And because I am just a tired old bag with a suitcase full of excuses.
We spent our New Year's Eve like everyone should:
Having an early dinner with my grandmother.
We went to a restaurant a few doors down from our building. My grandmother likes it there because it's close by, the food in reliably good, and because they have a prix fix menu. She has a real soft spot for the prix fix.
They are often rude to us at this restaurant, and I imagine this is because they understand my grandmother to be an often, demanding, and irascible customer who is notorious for tipping poorly. On this evening (5 PM), Brian sneaked away from the table and slipped some money to the waiter without my grandmother knowing. He asked that a bottle of sparkling wine be brought to the table in honor of the new year. Sometime later, the waiter showed up with said bottle of sparkling wine. He announced its origins ("your grandchildren would like to treat you to a bottle of sparkling wine"), but since my grandmother is nearly deaf, she misheard, and thought the management (or the waiter himself) had sent over the wine. My grandmother got very flattered and very flustered, and immediately began flirting with the waiter.
The waiter, of course, could not figure out what he had said wrong, and was very taken aback by my nearly 88-year-old grandmother's coy chidings ("I hope you're not trying to get me drunk . . . "). At first, Brian and I tried to correct my grandmother, but then we thought better of it. If she found out it was her grandchildren who had purchased the wine, she would get annoyed that we had "wasted our money". But while she thought the wine had been provided to her by the restaurant, she felt special, like a celebrity of some sort. She kept going on and on about how nice it was, how she had noticed that no one else in the restaurant received champagne as well, and how they really must value us as customers.
When the check came, my grandmother placed $100 cash into the bill sleeve. They brought her her change. The total had come to $63.40 (not including the $28 bottle of sparking wine which we had paid for in advance). My grandmother removed a crisp $10 out of the congregation of change. She put the $0.60 back into her change purse and folded the rest of the bills carefully back into her wallet. Then, as she slipped the $10 back into the bill sleeve, she looked at us with a face almost like an apology. She said, "I know I'm being extravagant, but they did bring us champagne on the house."
As we usually do, Brian and I emptied our pockets of some additional dollars and left them under the empty bottle on the table.
Just for the record: A full 20% tip would have been $12.68.