Manhattan Psychiatric Center no longer accepts cash.
My uncle now uses a hospital-issued debit card. Because cash is contraband.
Usually, at the end of our visit, Brian and I slip Uncle Ira five cool Lincolns. But as cash money is now contraband, he had us go to Safety (the police check point at the front of the hospital) to have the money deposited into his account. Normally, we speak to the officers through a window, like at a theater ticket counter. But the officer we spoke with was new to this process, and had us come inside the security console while he figured out to deposit the money.
While we were inside, Brian noticed an interesting note up on the peg board. It looked like this. He thought it was so remarkable, he surreptitiously took a picture of it with his camera phone. It is a little difficult to make out, but I believe it reads:
Level 3 kiddie rapist--Soon after our visit with Uncle Ira, we had dinner with my grandmother. Then we went downtown to watch a show. With her. Someone she knows from her "dramatics" class (a continuing education program for senior citizens) was performing in a community production of "Whose Life Is It Anyway?", a play in two acts about our right to choose how we want to live and when we want to die. It is about a quadriplegic fellow who cannot survive outside of the hospital, and his fight to be release to die with dignity.
There was a feisty octogenarian in front of us who kept mumbling things like, "This play makes me want to die" and "Oh, gosh, that guys isn't dead yet?" At one point, his wife said, "If you hate this play so much, then why don't we leave?" He responded, "No! I've sat here this long. I really want to see this guy die."
His heckling made the play worthwhile.
After the production, we waited for my grandmother's dramatics friend. When he came out from backstage, my grandmother greeted him and told him that she was very impressed with how large a part he had in the play. They talked "dramatics" for a little while, then my grandmother said, "You know, Bob, this play was really quite apropos for us. You see, Brian's mother just died recently. She had cancer. She was very sick, but she hung around for six month or so, and, you know, it was very difficult on the children."
I said, "She was in hospice for two months. She was first diagnosed three and a half years ago."
My grandmother continued, "It is very painful, you know, to watch someone who just won't let go of life. Brian practically had to move back to Florida. And Debbie was going back and for and back and forth. She didn't know if she was coming or going. It was a bad situation that seemed to drag on forever." Then she turned to us and wagged her head knowingly. "Well," she said, "Thank god that's over and done with."
I was annoyed. Brian just sat there. The dramatics friend became noticeably uncomfortable, said his goodbyes, then scurried away.
It has been over a year since I received the Arts & Letters award.
While I was in Georgia, I met and had a nice time chatting with the poetry judge, Molly Peacock. I had recently noticed that she would be performing in a one-woman show here in New York City. So I bought us tickets.
Before the show, Brian and I ate at a Caribbean place whose fare made me sure I would get food poisoning. In order to mask the rancidly bland taste of my meal, I dumped massive amounts of hot sauce on my vegetable patty. It wasn't until I finished the entirety of my beverage that I noticed my mouth area was suffering from what felt like a smoldering rash. By that time, we were 100 feet from the theater. So I decided to tough it out. Loudly. With chewing gum.
I really love chewing gum. Because I like the minty-fresh flavor. But also because I really like to chew. I am a nervous person, and nothing makes me feel in control of the universe like intense chewing. I have TMJ, which sometimes afflicts me so I can hardly open my mouth.
But still, I need chewing gum.
On this particular night, I was nervous that my mouth and my gut would explode simultaneously. So I began chewing.
As the opening bars of music were being played, a woman in the row in front of us looked up wearing a face that said, "Who's making all that noise." It was an ugly, crinkled-up, mean-person's face. So I continued on. But a little more self-consciously now.
When I chew, I always keep my mouth shut. I am not one of those open-mouthed, gum-chewing working gals who pops her gum and sound like a cow. I chew fast and with great intensity. As if to say If I stop chewing, things will fall apart. It becomes like an active mantra. Chew-chew-chew-chew-chew.
But I am not a loud chewer. I am very contained.
Of course, I had a very nice time at the show, and, of course, neither my mouth nor my gut exploded. The people in the seats above us were kind of unusual. Two middle-aged women who talked about working on their "Christmas play", and a flamboyant young man who spoke of his love for song writing, cabarets, and dating women. They spoke much before the performance began and during intermission. After the show ended, Brian and I stood up to leave. That's when I heard the flamboyant young man say loudly to his companions. "Did my gum-chewing bother you too much?"
The women he was with said, "Oh, no! We didn't even hear you."
The young man said flamboyantly, "I do try to be quiet about it. That's why I always chew with my MOUTH CLOSED. Otherwise, it gets DREADFULLY NOISY."
I elbowed Brian. "Was my gum chewing that loud?"
"It was simply awful," Brian said. "I couldn't hear even the show."
I was mortified. "Really?"
"I was that loud? But I chewed with my mouth closed."
"What are you walking about?"
"Wait. Did you or didn't you think I was chewing my gum loudly?"
"No. I didn't even notice it."
"But, Brian, I think that guy was just talking about me."
"I think he was making fun of me."
"I don't even know what you're talking about." Brian was baffled and annoyed.
"That guy above us, he was saying stuff about people who chew their gum too loud. I think he was suggesting that my gum-chewing was too loud."
"Well, I didn't notice it."
"But you never notice anything."
"I think that's very caddy. To make an announcement insinuating that someone is chewing their gum too loud."
"I didn't even hear it. The gum chewing or that guy's comment."
"I chew with my MOUTH CLOSED," I said. "And that man DOES NOT DATE WOMEN."
Brian just rolled his eyes and pushed his way through the crowd.
I don't really see the point in Valentine's Day.
A day of imposed romantic expectation seems like an enormous opportunity for disappointment. So Brian and I just had cheap sushi for dinner, then rented "The Warriors," which neither of us had seen, but both of us loved. In honor of the day of imposed romantic expectations, from our meeting at the Brooklyn Bridge subway station until the start of the DVD, Brian and I managed to get into about 16 little arguments, not the least of which was Where did you put the remote for the DVD player?
But that's behind us now.
I checked my special email account that is established only to receive emails from my grandmother and ebay information, and discovered my inbox contained 14 new messages, all from my grandmother. It looked like this:
( none )I got excited when I saw that the first message was not a forward. Finally! A personal email from my grandmother. I opened it, only to find this:
Date: Mon Feb 13 10:23:21 2006Of course, like any good forwarded email message, it goes on like that for another 3 or 4 screen-lengths. Oh, well. I do like the play-by-play commentary regarding the spacing of my grandmother's email
We spent the weekend in Baltimore
Brian and I visited our friends and new parents Clare Banks and Stephen Reichter, and their new human Maeve Banks Reichert.
Our friend Duncan Primeaux joined us too. Mostly, we sat around and drank beer (not so much Maeve or Clare) and made fun of the Olympic male figure skaters blousy outfits. On Saturday, it snowed a whole bunch. I enjoyed holding the baby, because she smelled nice and was warm and not too heavy. When she wasn't sleeping, eating, or crying, she made nifty little noises and funny faces, which were tons more interesting than the figure skaters blousy outfits.
I took more pictures too, but I haven't had time to post them.
The snow was a lot worse in New York City, and we had trouble getting home on Sunday night. We took the Amtrak Acela train, because it seemed to be the only thing running. It was scheduled to take about 2 hours and 20 minutes, but it actually took over 5 hours. The train moved like an old woman with a hip condition. It was crowded, and we had to ask the ticket taker to help us find two seats together. He approached two gentleman who were snoozing with their caps pulled over their eyes and baggage piled up next to them in their seating quad. At the ticket taker's request, they moved their bags and let us occupy the two now-empty seats. Then they returned to snoozing.
When we were still miles from Wilmington, the train simply stopped and we sat on the tracks for over an hour. Many people gave conflicting accounts of how much snow fell in New York City. Reports ranged from 8 inches to over three feet. Estimates regarding what time we would arrive in Penn Station were also wildly varied. One woman came back from the Snack Car and declared loudly, "You better buy breakfast, people, because we're not getting to New York before morning."
Our snoozing neighbors awoke and began chatting a bit. They exchanged pleanstries and found they both lived in New Jersey. They talked about New Jersey and their jobs in the city. A fellow traveler returned to his seat with a half-drunk bottle of Corona. The larger of the two neighbors said, "Where the hell'd you get that?" The Corona guys said, "In the Snack Car." Our neighbors looked at each other and said, "Well, what the hell we doing here?!"
Half an hour later, our neighbors still hadn't returned. We went back to the Snack Car, and one might have thought it was a popular local bar. People were swigging beer and doing shots, talking and laughing loudly. The loudest talkers and biggest swiggers were in fact our two quad neighbors. They cheered as well, and sometimes sang in a drunken uneven manner. It appeared that those sleeping New Jersey fellows, who we thought looked like duds, were now the life of the party.
We went back to our seat. An hour later, the big neighbor ran back and said, "Give me my cell phone!" When we did so, he said, "If I don't get to Newark in 55 minutes, I'll be stuck at the station until 6 in the morning. I'm going to try to rent a car in Philly." Then he ran away.
An hour and a half went by, and we still didn't see him. Though we did see a neon sign with the Trenton city motto: "Trenton Makes. The World Takes." When the train finally pulled into Newark, our neighbors both came bounding back to the seating quad. They grabbed their things and ran off the train just before the doors closed. We wondered in they'd be stuck there until 6 AM. It was almost 3, so maybe it was no longer such a big deal.
It's cold again.
Not too cold, really. But it's been unseasonably warm for such a long time, it was beginning to make me nervous.
Recently, I stepped onto the elevator in my building. It was one of those highs-in-the-mid-fifties days. An upper-east-side number with big rings and face work stepped in next to me, and as the door closed, she began fanning herself with a bejeweled hand.
I took off my hat and undid my scarf. "It's so warm," I said.
"That's right, it's warm." she said.
"I guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth," I said, "but I think 55 degrees in February is weird." I hate the expression look a gift horse in the mouth, yet I still use it. Too much. And especially when I'm around old people. It makes me hate myself.
The woman said, "Weird? Huh! It's downright suspicious."
I nodded in agreement. "But what do you think we should be suspicious of?"
She looked at me conspiratorially, lifted an eyebrow, and said in a hushed voice, "The. End. Of. The. World."
I laughed too loudly, especially given that this woman appeared to be speaking in earnest. The bell dinged and the elevator door opened on my floor. "Let's hope. . . " I said, and I shrugged my shoulders. I stepped out of the elevator, smiling and shrugging, thinking this was somehow an appropriate thing to say, yet not sure what we were supposed to be hoping for--cold weather or the End of the World.
Recently, I received a number of nice messages from debcentral readers assuring me that they did not want to kill me. I received zero new messages from debcentral readers alerting me that they were seeking to have me eliminated. Happy day!
One non-threatening message came from regular reader and non-threatener Nick Kocz. I responded to him asking if he thought the message in question was from a cyberterrorist who simply hated our freedoms. His answer:
Let's put it this way: do you think it's just a coincidence that your zonk board crackpot has emerged just at a time when Osama bin Laden and his minions are putting out tapes warning of new terror attacks?Excellent point. I believe we are on to something.