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In Our Time of Loss

I still like my pomade.
Last night, the museum youth of today saw off friend and recent ex-co-worker Zina Miller. Zina is leaving for law school. We are happy for her future, but sad at our loss. In honor of all this, we drank too much wine.

Before that, other friend and older ex-co-worker Ruth Sergel had a benefit at the Bowery Poetry Club. This was to raise funds for her new short film Belle, which stars maybe the cutest and feistiest old ladies you've ever met.

Many of the old Here Is New York flunkies were there. This was a gallery I worked for before they saw fit to liberate me. Luckily, many others were liberated at the same time, so our communal bitterness creates fraternity.

One friend and ex-co-worker revealed that she has been reading my blog and thought of posting on the zonkboard, but felt hesitant. I want to go on record as saying hear ye, hear ye, the zonkboard is for the people . . . by the people. It is like democracy itself . . . but with emoticons.

Brian's sister Jessie is in town this week. We are going to meet her tonight for dinner. I feel I have been moving from one large meal to the next. All the additives and preservatives from my pre-made food are collecting in my pores and slowly poising me, making me tired and bloated and sluggish. Or maybe it's just all the wine.

I have a new pomade. It is making me very happy.

Today, I stopped into a market to get lunch. In the chilled beverage section, a certain ginger ale caught my eye. It advertised an instant win game. There was bright orange writing which suggested that under the cap on this plastic bottle was a prize worth $10,000.

I usually fancy myself indifferent to such contests. But this time was different. I could feel something shift. Time or space or luck. I saw blasé myself unscrewing to cap to discover I'd won $10,000. The bottle was nearly glowing with its secret promise. I bought it.

I ate my lunch on a park bench in Battery Park. I was alone and very anxious. It was perfectly clear to me that this ginger ale and I had an understanding. We were both winners. I began twisting off the cap.

And the ginger ale began to froth. It exploded. All over me. And the bench. But I held my fingers firm on the cap, untwisting it. Breathless. To discover that I had won nothing. I was advised only to continue purchasing ginger ale and try again, like every other ginger ale-drinking yokel who thinks he or she has finally got the winning ticket.

This bottle and I, we are the same. Inside, we are both just plain old ginger and the suggestion that we might do better next time.

Today, I saw man singing and dancing in front of a "No Trespassing" sign. He appeared to be singing and dancing to the "No Trespassing" sign. He would occasionally put his hands behind his head, bend his knees, and boogie a bit, then point to the sign, wiggle a little more, and continue singing. I felt this to be odd.

Brian and I may have accomplished the impossible: We have gotten Brian's mother on the internet. Today, she reported to us that she has actually turned on the computer, dialed up, and checked her email. This is very exciting. I'm just hoping she can keep it up.

I received a response from good friend and educated consumer Brian Mack in reference to my recent blog, "Men Who Sing About Men" :

While I've never considered myself a huge Jim Croce fan, I do know a fair bit about his music as my father was/is absolutely nuts about the mustachioed crooner. My father still rocks a bushy mustache, and has for about 25 years, that bears a striking resemblance to Croce's lip rug.

When you mentioned Bad Bad Leroy Brown, as being a song about a man singing about how cool another man is, I immediately recalled a handful of other Croce tunes that had similar themes. A quick check of Croce's discography reveals no less than 4 songs sung by men about other cool men

They are…
From the "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" LP released 1972

  • Rapid Roy (That Stock Car Boy)
  • You Don't Mess Around With Jim
    From the "Life And Times" LP released 1973
  • Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
  • Speedball Tucker
    These may have been thinly veiled portraits of who Croce was, or who he wished he was. Or in the early seventies Croce may have been, um, experimenting, if you know what I mean.
  • 07.25.03
    Who needs a telephone when you have high speed internet?
    We now have a cable modem, and our internet connection is wonderfully zippy. We were told that there was (as I had feared) some problem with our phone connection (phone service being part of our bundled package deal). The tech fellow said that our phone had not been switched over properly, and was now not working. This confused us, as when we picked up the phone, we got a dial tone. When we dialed our home number from the cell phone, the land line rang. When my uncle called, the phone rang and the technician was able to answer the phone.

    "WHAT FUNNY BUSINESS IS GOING ON HERE?" my uncle screamed into the receiver. We heard that loud and clear. So, though we are told our phone line is not hooked up correctly, we think it is working all too well.

    My uncle screamed on the phone that he is very concerned. That his mother is dying a slow and painful death. And what do we call that kind of death? Old age. She is 85, and she is dying of old age. This year alone she was plagued with cataract surgery in one eye and the removal of -- not one -- but two cists from her torso. She also has a chronic sinus infection and is often in a bad mood. This is proof of her imminent demise.

    When I commented that she was actually in very good health for her 85 years, and that she often walks 2 miles a day, lugging groceries and collecting circulars to stay in shape, he only paused briefly, gasped for breath, then launched into a "YOU DON'T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND WHAT I'M SAYING HERE! MY MOTHER IS DYING!!!"

    My uncle's new hobby is obsessing over his 85-year-old mother's eventual passing. I'm not sure if it is better than his old hobby: obsessing over the mind-control techniques administered by the head of the psychiatric facility. Before that, he obsessed over the menu for our impending visits.

    Hours and hours of delight. If I am to lose my noodle, It will have less to do with hereditary and more to do with exposure.

    In the end, a short synopsis: Our cable TV is fine; our internet connection is speedy; our phone "appears" to be working; our Ira is as loud and lunatic as ever.

    This evening, B and I are departing for Clearwater, Fla, to visit his mother. Cheers!

    Presently, Brian and I possess the decidedly un-hip "dial-up" internet connection.
    This makes us decidedly unhappy and frustrated, to the point of often spilling beer on our keyboard. We spill beer on the keyboard to express our unhappiness and frustration, because we were raised in a barn. One full of beer and keyboards.

    Today, though, all this will change. Hopefully.

    RCN has offered us a bundled package of joy of phone, cable, and high speed internet service. We held off in accepting this for a long time, as we had no way of knowing when Uncle Ira would be released from the kookoo house, at which time we would have to relinquish the use of his apartment -- even though we look much better in it than him.

    Last week, Brian and I finally decided to order RCN's package deal (we were also offered a discount, free installation, a $100 gift certificate, and a tuberculin Rumanian infant). Except, as the phone and cable are in my uncle's name, we were not permitted to make changes to the account. The sales woman on the phone kept repeating, "If you have your uncle call us to add you to the account . . . " And I kept responding like an idiot, "But, my uncle is in prison. It would be a little difficult to have him call you from prison"

    At last, the sales woman, at her wit's end, cried out, "If a man were to call claiming to be your uncle and asking to have you added to the account, you would then be able to order our high speed internet package!"

    So that's what we did. "Uncle Ira" called up and had me added to the account. Then I called up and ordered the high speed internet package. Of course, Uncle Ira sans quote marks is just my plain old crazy uncle. But the moment one adds a striking pair of quote marks, one is actually now referring to Brian "Uncle Ira" Geller.

    We are having the cable modem hooked up this very evening. I feel like I am doing something illegal. Like stealing cable. Only, I am actually paying for more cable. I am stealing my uncle's name, though. I think if I told him about it, he wouldn't much care. He doesn't understand what the internet is. Brian and I have tried to explain it as a TV with a typewriter attached, and you can control what is on the TV by typing on the typewriter. If you haven't spilled too much beer into it.

    I can admit it when I'm wrong.
    For years, I have been making fun of Brian. No. I mean, for something in specific. Brian and I are both inflicted with a serious problem which disenables us to hear song lyrics correctly.

    We had experienced a dual-revelation in learning that we had misheard the lyrics for "You Belong to the City" by Glenn Frey. We were shocked to find that the line "palm trees under your feet" was actually in fact "concrete under your feet."

    We had agreed that palm trees made perfect sense, as Mr. Frey was often associated with those sub-tropic cops of Miami Vice. And I think the music video had palm trees in it. And, hell, we gave him credit for being metaphoric.

    We may have come to agree on concrete, but then a new issue arose: to whom is the song being sung. When Glenn Frey croons, "You belong to the city, you belong to the night. . . . " I felt surely he was singing to a woman/love interest. Brian said, "No, he's just singing to a really cool guy."

    "WHAT?" said I.

    Brian repeated, "He's singing to a really cool guy. You know, telling him that he's cool and all. Like Sonny Crocket. Glenn Frey is telling a guy like Sonny Crocket that he's cool, that he belongs to the city."

    Hm. We argued about this for some time. I have laughed about this with friends. Glenn Frey singing a song to a really cool guy. Telling him that he belongs to the city and to the night, living in a river of darkness, beneath the neon light.

    Two days ago, that really cool guy didn't seem quite so funny. I was talking with a co-worker, making ha-has about my husband, when my co-worker pulled the songs lyrics up on the internet. Lo! The lyrics continue: "You were born in the city/Concrete under your feet/It's in your blood, its in your moves/You're a man of the street."

    Can we categorize "You Belong to the City" with Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife", and Bob Dylan's "Mighty Quinn"? Men singing about and paying tribute to other really cool men?

    Except "You Belong to the City" possesses a kind of sultriness, no? Not so much tall tale. More hot night. Neon light. Concrete. Street. Help me out here.

    I had a very restful weekend. I've found that the less I do in a weekend, the longer the weekend feels. If I am able to acquire six naps in a period of two days, I feel I really got my money's worth.

    Brian and I managed to squeeze a couple more movies into our busy nap schedule. On Friday night, we saw Singing In the Rain at the Film Forum. We also had a pre-theater snack at a nearby cafe, and partook of the best mozzarella cheese we have ever eaten. On Saturday, we took a couple more naps, then rented Sunrise by F.W. Murnau. It was very artistic and rather silent. Then we took a long nap.

    Sunday was a bit productive. A few more naps were taken. And then the B Man and I went to see Tinkle at Pianos downtown. This is a weekly comedy show hosted by David Cross and H. Jon Benjamin in the crowded back room of an east village bar. Brian was so anxious about getting tickets, we arrived at the bar three hours early. Since there were no tickets to be given out three hours before the show, we did what any normal couple would do: We sat at the bar and drank frozen margaritas for three hours. Whoowee!

    Another long nap soon followed.

    This morning, I flew too close to the sun.
    I attempted to upload a personalized 404 Error page, and the results were catastrophic. The first two times I attempted the upload, nothing happened. On the third try, my entire site went down.

    So far, everything appears back to normal.

    Last night, the Deb/Brian Movie Night Contingent saw The Weather Underground at the Film Forum. Zina Miller and friend Gabe came along, and a good time was had by all. What we learned about radical splinter groups of the 70s: Many of them wore cool looking glasses, but not all of them had good hair. I enjoyed the soundtrack, but Gabe and Zina made fun of it.

    The four of us discussed the present state of our society. The economy is in the toilet. We are somewhat at war. There is the looming threat of terrorism at home. Social services are collapsing. The time seems right for the rise of some more plum domestic radical splinter groups. Only, this doesn't seem to be happening.

    My theory: Americans eat too much ice cream. Ice cream makes people content. And sleepy. They eat their ice cream and grow content and sluggish, and then they doze off for a little. When they wake up again, they may be worried about the effects of all that ice cream they've been consuming. So they go to the gym and watch daytime television as they climb phantom stairs.

    At the end of the day, between the ice cream, the naps, and the phantom stairs, there is just no time for social revolution.

    This is just too bad, because social revolution can bring about cool glasses and great hair coifs. Though I believe the "bed head" look is alright, it's still a little too ice cream and daytime TV for me.

    Yesterday, I partook of the free vegetarian kosher Indian food which had been left over from a conference. Several hours later, I went to yoga class. I spent a large part of my practice sweating on myself and burping up curry. This is so gross, I thought to myself. But then I thought, Maybe this is actually more authentic. The person on the mat next to me was noticeably disgusted.

    Today, Heck's Kitchen writes:

    Ever wondered what it would be like to live with Bob? After my first night in temporary residence with Mr. Brumfield, I can report that living with Bob is Hot and Dirty. But you knew that.
    I realize that Heck's Kitchen wasn't speaking directly to me. Still, Brian and I recently spent a night and then some at Bobby's place, and not only was it very hot, it was also rather dirty. The apartment was very well-appointed, but lacked such things as food and air circulation. At night, Bob fell asleep all slumped over in a chair, the back door left agape. When asked if he were nervous about getting robbed or shot, Bob said "It's just too *bleeping* hot to worry about that kind of *bleep*."

    Oh, and there's a fat, emotionally co-dependant cat living in the apartment as well. We laughed. We cried. We'd stay with Bob again.

    I'm feeling a bit low lately. But my place of work had some kosher vegetarian Indian food left over from a conference. So I was able to eat lunch free of cost. This made me happy.

    It was noted by a parent of mine that I might nix the time stamp anymore, so as to protect the innocent. So I have taken that advice. Anyway, like in other aspects of my life, I had been fudging the time a bit. I don't know why. It's a compulsive thing of mine. I think I may be the only person I know who pre-dates her checks. This is so people will think I am more on the ball, and had actually written the check out on time, yet it is arriving to them a little late.

    Everyone knows you can't trust the post office.

    Thanks to Jill McElmurry, Heck's Kitchen has a new mascot. Welcome, Chairman Meow.

    It has been noted by some that it has been a full month since my old man's last blog entry. Hey, Brian, get on the horse!

    Did I mention, by the way, that I saw Kiss Me Kate this weekend at the film forum. Zina Miller, Heather Scott, Mr. B, and I all witnessed this movie in 3-D! This was excellent, because there appeared really no reason why the movies should be shown in 3-D, so to make up for that, the actors would occasionally throw scarves and bananas and dice at the camera. This made us happy.

    Then we all partook of $3 margaritas. This made us happy as well.

    ps: I'm going back to yoga again today. Go me.

    I will be very brief today, as I am busier than I'd like to be.
    It has been called to my attention by alert reader Nick Kocz that my uncle makes the word "juicy" appear to read "juky". I think you will agree with me when I say that one might think twice before employing either of these two adjectives in his or her contemporary poetry.

    In other news, alert reader Spider suggests that Debcentral hold a contest to complete Uncle Ira’s poem “Jessica” (remember: the real version has four more pages). He suggests the winner be chosen as the one that most closely resembles my uncle's disturbing, uncomfortable and juvenile writing.

    Gentlemen (and Ladies): On your mark . . . . get set . . . . GO!

    I look forward to seeing your tortured art.

    My office is very cold today. Cold and empty.

    In the cold emptiness, I can't much think of what to say. Except that on the zonkboard yesterday, there was a request for a readable version of Uncle Ira's poem. Again, I had not finished scanning it in before the old version was lost. And now my old school scanner won't work with my shiny new computer. What I will do, because I love you all so much, and because you humor me, is I will post the first page of the poem on my site.

    Truthfully, you do not need any more than this. It is quite enough to get the idea. Very disturbing. In an uncomfortable and juvenile sort of way.

    I think I am going back to yoga again tomorrow. This makes me happy. I will pretend I am both flexible and graceful.

    The zonkboard was so crazy yesterday. Today it is quite. Like my office.

    I don't like being alone in here, because I have to buzz other offices just to make fun of people. This is labor-intensive. Or I must walk over to other people's desks and loiter and chat. Which is somewhat aerobic. And yet, it has it's draw-backs. Like people asking you to please go away. Or your supervisor walking by and suggesting that you should find your way back to your desk if you should like to remain gainfully employed.

    What do they know.

    I have never been so happy about my uncle's obsessiveness.
    Monday night, Brian and I searched our entire tiny apartment looking for my uncle's poem. This was both frustrating and disturbing. I was ready to give up, but combed again through a box of my uncle's personal effect. At the bottom of the box was a brown folder. And inside the folder was . . . . six different copies of my uncle's poem! Sadly, none of them looked identical to the version I had misplaced. But I am hoping that heavy medication will be my guide in preventing my uncle from distinguishing between the two versions.

    I made a photocopy for our favorite uncle, and mailed the poem out yesterday. I am off the hook for now.

    When I had begun scanning in my uncle's poem (before I misplaced it), I had also been scanning in some pictures of him that I had found shoved into crannies around the apartment. This morning, I came across this fellow here, which had been saved to an unmarked zip disk. I hope to have it posted on my Ira section sometime in the near future.

    Last night I had a very vivid dream that my nose had been crookedly affixed to my face. I was so shocked at having never before noticed this. My nose was absolutely crooked and turned nearly 30 degrees to the left. This was a bit of a downer.

    Happier news: Yesterday was my first day back at yoga in just over two months. I was very nervous all day about going back. I was afraid that other yogis would spit on me. Or that I would be shamefully weak. Or that I would arrive so late, I wouldn't have enough time to practice. Of course, it all worked out okay. I felt very good and loved. They speak in Ashtanga of heating up the blood to purify it. My blood was probably very pure, because I was shvitzing like a pig.

    After practice, I felt very light and airy. I think I will try to go back on Friday.

    I am all alone now.
    My officemates have left me. And somehow, their leaving has caused me to be very busy. Or maybe just more industrious. Or maybe it only appears so, because my boss has spent many an hour today in my office, sorting through my ex-coworkers' leftover goodies.

    I, myself, have been feeling too low to pillage the chocolates in the plastic pumpkin. In part, because I seem to have misplaced Uncle Ira's poem, "Jessica". It is his "OBRA MAESTRA!" as he puts it. Sure, it's packed full of tortured lunatic gold. But it is also six pages long, rambling, and a bit disturbing.

    The comedy of all this is that I had been scanning the poem to post on my website, when I was interrupted by various and sundry things, such as being bored, getting a new computer, and going to 90 million weddings. And now Uncle Ira wants a copy of his OBRA MAESTRA! to show his creative writing counselor, but I can't find it.

    I need not tell you that Uncle Ira doesn't understand "I can't find it." If he is too ill to distinguish between right and wrong, than he won't be able to comprehend "I lost your obra maestra."

    In the process of turning over our o'er crowded studio apartment, I did happen to find my uncle's "portfolio". Brian and I were delighted by all the "POWER TO THE BLACK PANTHERS!" posters he had scribbled in crayon at various institutions around New York. We also found a wide selection of the famed "PYRAMID OF POWER WITH THE ALL-SEEING EYE!" What a treat.

    Tonight, Brian and I again will scour the apartment for the obra in question. Wish us luck. We will need it. Uncle Ira can yell awful loud when he's angry.

    I have for many years had an unnatural fear of strange bathrooms. This is only second, maybe, to my fear of clowns.

    I have trouble even describing this bathroom-related fear. It is rather peculiar, and has something to do with entering a bathroom and finding someone already inside doing something which I am not supposed to see. "Like what?" you ask. Frankly, I'm not really sure. But I know it's kind of bad. I have thought of it as a fear of walking in on the public bathroom pervert.

    But, Ho! I have had a recovered memory. Several weeks ago, I was chatting with my officemates (as I am known to do), and the subject of the Letter People was brought up (by me!). Of course, my officemates had never heard of those psychedelic vestiges of the late 70s "Teaching with Puppets" movement. I tried to explain the Letter People, how there was a show on PBS that my kindergarten teacher forced us to watch, and there were accompanying plastic blow-up dolls of the various Letter People. And as I explained all this, I RECOVERED A REPRESSED TRAUMA!

    The kindergarten classrooms were laid out with two classrooms connected by a hallway which contained both an individual bathroom and a large bin which housed our letter people blow-up teaching tools. The bathroom was there because the little kindergarteners couldn't be counted on to make it all the way to the regular boys and girls restrooms. Soon, as scandal broke: Someone had been trying to flush the letter people down the toilet. This went on for weeks. First Mr. F. . . . Then Miss A. . . . And Mr. H. Fingers were pointing. McCarthy-like paranoia was so thick, you could cut it with a spork.

    Then one day, a young and un-matching Debbie Schwartz decided that she needed to use the bathroom.

    I walked down the hall, and noticed the bathroom light was on (which could mean there was someone inside), yet the door was slightly ajar (meaning the room was probably empty). I walked slower. Breathless. Was it, in fact, occupied? When I got to the door, I pushed it only lightly. And it open. To reveal . . . CHUBBY CLASSMATE JUAN IN THE ACT OF FLUSHING A LETTER PERSON DOWN THE TOILET.

    I don't know if I screamed. But Juan looked up, startled, adjusted his large plastic glasses. He asked me not to tell the teacher. But I ran back to our classroom. I felt dirty -- I had to tell Ms. Altieri what I had seen.

    Of course, Juan got in trouble. He had not only been stopping up the toilets at the expense of little children and their poor bladder functioning, but he had also been ruining our Letter People.

    Now I have unburdened myself only to find out that no one seem to know what the Letter People are. I have done some internet detective work, and have come up with the above references to Letter People as I knew them. My sister remembers them as well, and how scary they looked.

    If you remember the Letter People, or would like to share an innocuous recovered memory, you can email me or share it on our public zonkboard.

    Last night, Brian and I went to a Staten Island Yankees game.
    It was a work-related event for him. It was fun, because we got to ride the ferry. We pretended that we were going back to our home on Staten Island. I suppose the fun was knowing that we didn't actually live on Staten Island. Ha-ha!

    Brian's co-worker Katie went to the game with us. She is a proud member of the friendster Internet community. Katie actually went to the University of Florida too, and it seems we know a bunch of the same people. She told me about a whole smorgasbord of people we know are on friendster. I asked her what one did once one got on friendster and found these people. She said she wasn't sure.

    I found out that, though both of my coworkers have their last day tomorrow, my supervisor is still interviewing to replace them. This process will extend into next week. Then she will commence the decision-making. But even after she has chosen two lucky candidates, the new officemates will probably not start immediately. I will most likely be alone in my office for a good month. This sucks.

    I've been incredibly jumpy lately. I am naturally a very anxious person. Both of my officemates are anxious about leaving (they are both leaving the state and going to grad school) and I am anxious about taking over their jobs until my superior sees fit to hire someone new. Right now, things are fairly slow, but even so, I am so tense I am climbing the walls.

    So I bought an iced coffee. It has not actually helped me to relax, but it tastes good.

    What do you think of the new zonkboard? I even had emoticons added for flava.

    I had a story I wanted to tell you. But I am too jumpy to write it now. I will give the story a big build up, and then you will read it with rapt attention.

    So, stay tuned till tomorrow when Debcentral asks: What's the Deal with Deb Schwartz's Weird Childhood Bathroom Trauma. . . .

    I promised you changes.
    I hope you are satisfied. The sidebar is revamped. And I sure hope it works. I archived all the old stuff for logistical reasons. You may not think so now, but you'll thank me later.

    This zonkboard thing I stole from Heck's Kitchen. I'm not sure if it is a good idea. Or if there is enough room on the web for two zonkboards. If you hate it, now is your chance to tell me so directly, in public, and without any of that nuisance email crap.

    In the mean time, here are the pictures I promised you.

    In other news, this morning a lady stumbled as she was getting off the bus. Then the man right behind her fell on top of her. Shoes, papers, and wallet went flying. Both people stood up, brushed themselves off, and the man handed the lady one of her shoes, which had been ejected during the turbulence. Then they both continued on their way as if nothing had happened. I am very relieve it was not I who tripped down the steps or fell on someone else.

    Old chum Will Vash will be making a guest appearance in New York City this weekend. We are very excited to see him.

    Also, lucky local crazy man Uncle Ira gets a visit from us this weekend, which fills our hearts and drains our souls. He has apparently gotten approved for transfer from Albany, but his transfer will be challenged by the D.A. My uncle kept screaming on the phone last night that he had heard that both the D.A. and the judge were women. "Can you beat that!" he said to me. "Both of them are women. Have you ever heard of such a thing? . . . . Have you?!"

    I lied and told him that I had never heard of a situation in which both the district attorney and the judge were women. After we finally hung up, he called me back again to remind me to bring him extra soy sauce, extra duck sauce, and extra mustard with his Chinese food this weekend.

    Those who have not been made to witness my uncle eating Chinese food may never understand how lucky they are.

    Speaking of lucky, I really do not understand this friendster deal. I joined about a month ago, and nothing much has happened to me. Until yesterday, when I discover that I had been contacted by an individual identifying himself as "Crazy Uncle" and asking me to be his "oracle" to help him "fight the dragons".

    People can be so odd.

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