the history of debcentral



clare & stephen
amy & scott
andrea & jonathan marc & liza

grandma's window
state of mind


hair issues:
my pink hair mistake
my purple hair mistake

chinatown/little italy
thanksgiving 2003

moving day
our new digs
garden of stones

eleanor turns 26
deb turns 27
deb's birthday collage
susan's holiday party
new year's 2004

jenny miller in nyc
lakeland, fla

zina and me
our ira visit
gators v. vols
ny state drivers license

Good Days and Bad

Paul Schneider is H-O-T. hot!
On Thursday night, Eleanor, Susan, Brian and I went to The Onion Film Series presentation of All the Real Girls. Paul Schneider, who stars in the movie, and who co-wrote the story, was there to introduce the film and answer questions afterward.

We all just loved the movie, and Mr. Schneider was so cute and funny and charming and self-deprecating, while occasionally making fun of questions from the audience.

We got into the theater at Anthology Film Archives for the student rate of just $5 (my Maryland I.D. is getting a little old). On the back of our little program was a coupon for one free Stella Artois at a local pub where an after-party was being held. Wow. We were making our money back already. And then, at the bar, Mr. Schneider brushed past my elbow. It was very exciting. Susan even went up to him and told him that she thought he had made a lovely movie. He replied, "Yeah, you and my mother." What a cutie!

If I had a really nice time last night, than I had a less nice time today. I was trying to get all my work in order for my impending absence due to jury duty. I took a break for lunch, and I believe it was here at the Garden Cafe that I lost my cell phone. It wasn’t until I was cleaning up my desk to leave for the day that I discovered the phone was missing. Brian had come downtown to meet me, and we were on our way to Brooklyn to go to the movies. I schlepped him all the way back to the diner, which was closing. The staff kept asking me to check the table we sat at for lunch. I kept asking them if they had a lost and found, and they would just say, "Did you look on the table?"

I dragged Brian back to the office, where I once again went through my drawers and dumped out the contents of my purse. I freaked out, full of shame and anger at myself, because the whole week I kept making grand announcement that no matter how long they kept me at jury duty, I would be reachable to answer all questions, big or small, if people would simply call my cell phone.

We have an Ira visit tomorrow, and Brian’s grandfather’s unveiling on Sunday. And then the Jury Duty. I panicked. Well, I have a new phone now. The old phone was a troubled phone anyway. I’m not proud of what I did.

Here I am, on a Friday night, finishing up a blog entry, feeling stupid, plugging phone numbers into my new phone’s address book. I’m too grumpy to even rent a movie. My grandmother left us an insulting message on the answering machine disparaging us in a five minute long message for our tardiness in getting her our rent check. Even though we have been going through person and familial turmoil, there is simply no excuse for our "unprofessional" behavior.

I know I sound very ungrateful, as we pay a significantly reduced rent to live in a very nice building on the upper east side of manhattan, which is an amazing deal. But what’s with the nasty messages on the answering machine?

To our credit, Brian and I were both sure we had paid the rent, but no check has cleared yet for the rent payment, and our books are not in the best of order. So we cut her a check and sneaked upstairs and slipped it under her door. Boy, does she keep the TV on loud! We could hear it down the hall. She will surely disparage us some more tomorrow when we see her before we leave to visit Uncle Ira, but I thought the note under the door might be funny.

I'm a little busy today, trying to tie up all the loose ends before my jury duty on Monday. But here is something nice: My sister send me a link to a picture of her finishing a 15 K race. It was her second, and she says she came in 3rd in her age category. What a good egg. Mazel tov, Ali Schwartz

In Jewish tradition, about a year after a person has died, the family holds a ceremony to unveil the tombstone and end the mourning process.

Brian's grandfather will be having his unveiling ceremony this coming Sunday. Brian's mother and sister are flying up for the occassion.

This Sunday was also supposed to be a visit to Uncle Ira. I called him up the other night to ask if we could come on Saturday instead, and he got very annoyed. He always takes his showers on Saturday night, and if we came on Saturday, he would have to move his shower to Friday night, which would cause a big scheduling problem for some reason that I could not begin to understand.

"Fine," I said. "Don't shower. We don't care."

"You don't understand," he told me. "I only take showers twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. If you come on Saturday, I'll have to move my shower to Friday. It'll never work."

Of course, there is a reason he is where he is. Still, one feels compelled to employ logic for some ludicrous reason. What about a shower on Thursday? What about Saturday morning? Do people really need to be clean? Why bathe only twice a week? He just kept asking if we couldn’t come on Sunday instead, and just go to the unveiling late. Only the two events were to occur simultaneously, one in Plainfield, New Jersey, and the other in the Cuckoo House on Ward’s Island.

It was finally established that the alternative to us coming on Saturday was for my grandmother to come on Sunday in place of us. If she came on Sunday, she would not bring with her shrimp in lobster sauce, as she found the odor made her want to vomit.

So a happy weekend of tombstones and shrimp with lobster sauce awaits us. Our go-go lives.

George Bush is a bad man.
Does he really think our country's heart is right for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage? Is a constitutional amendment banning sodomy next? What about a constitutional amendment banning alcohol? Or an amendment banning interracial marriage? What about an amendment to disenfranchise African Americans and women?

What business does the federal government have to "protect the sanctity of marriage"? Is that the federal government's job? Was I absent the semester we discussed federal government in high school?

Maybe the federal government would like to crawl up into my underpants just make sure everything's under control. And silly me always thought it was the democrats who were accused of wanting big government and squelching states' rights.

Maybe the federal government should be urged to protect the sanctity of my underpants. Maybe the federal government should pass a constitutional amendment banning my underpants. Maybe if the federal government is urged to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, we should be urged to Baker Act the federal government.

Speaking of totalitarian regimes: Heck's Kitchen gives us the skinny on What you should know about Communism - and Why.

Brian found a silent film at the Alliance Francaise.
The film was called Visages d’enfants. I guess we didn't quite understand that there would be live accompaniment by a string quintet, clarinet, bassoon, French horn and piano, even though it says as much on the web page. The live music was very nice, until the English translation of the intertitles pooped out about 5 minutes into the film. I realized that I could not now scream out, "BOO!" or "WHERE'D THE SUBTITLES GO!?! I DON'T SPEAK FRENCH!", because the musicians might take it personally.

On Saturday, I dragged Brian to the Freakatorium, a tiny museum on the Lower East Side packed with photographs, artifacts, and curiosities relating to the world entertainment--the freakier, the better. Johnny Fox, a sword swallower, is the proprietor of the dime museum. My friend Susan had visited a couple of months ago, and said that Johnny Fox actually swallowed a sword for her and a fellow patron. I feel tremendously honored. Brian and I got to see him swallow a sword as well.

Mr. Fox had on display old photographs of Lobster Boy and the Elephant Lady, of people without arms or with a third leg or with shrunken second bodies sprouting from torsos, as well as any number of sets of conjoined twins. He had a live two-headed turtle in an aquarium and a freakish shriveled hybrid thing that P.T. Barnum had touted as the Fiji Mermaid, which is mainly a taxidermied monkey top stuck to the bottom of a fish. Yes!

Mr. Fox is a fabulously nice guy. He is approachable, chatty, and sword-swallowing. Admission is $5, but a visit is well worth the money. Mr. Fox even has a tusk on display from the ever-allusive narwhal.

Lastly, Brian, Heather Scott, and I all checked out the Enormo-Whole Foods by Columbus Circle. It is reported to be the largest supermarket in Manhattan, but you really couldn't judge the square footage as it was jam-packed with hordes of roving healthful people. It's not just a natural foods supermarket, it's an experience.

Changes are afoot.
I recently learned about how the MTA is rerouting sections of the B, D, M, N, Q, R and W. The changes begin today. I feel I have gotten little warning, and am overcome with anxiety.

When I try to talk to people about the anxiety I'm feeling, they keep asking, "Do you ride any of those trains on a regular basis." The answer is no, but that does not prevent my uneasiness.

Brian has brought this to my attention. I hope this whole gay marriage issue explodes and rains down across America, covering fundamentalists in a fine layer of left-wing loven. If that doesn't happen, then I hope vapid, annoying, mismatched heterosexual couples will be prevented from marrying and reproducing their teaming mediocre spawn.

Maybe we should view marriage like your teacher used to view snacks: if we don't have enough for everyone in the class, we shouldn't have any at all.

Keep the feedback coming.
Yesterday, I got this interesting email:

Did you know that The Paris Review was a CIA front?
Get a copy of The American Conservative, the Feb.16 2004 issue, and read my article, "An American In Paris" to get the details.
Best wishes and congratulations on being rejected by them. It means you must be authentic.
I am categorizing this email as "fan mail". It is certainly more so than the email I got telling me to get off my pity pot, that it wasn’t a matter of “what you know but who you know, and not who you know but who you blow.”

Yes, this nay-sayer was an odd and insulting bird, but he/she also signed the email with a gender-neutral name followed by two pseudonyms. I put his/her email in the category of hate mail/crazy mail.

I am making risotto for dinner, and it is taking way too long. I bought a bottle of white wine to dump in my risotto, but since it has taking so long, I’ve been drinking it instead. This is one of the many reasons I don’t usually cook. Another one being that I’d too dern lazy.

By the way, did I ever say how much I like this American Folk Music CD Brian got me for my birthday five years ago? I like listening to it, because it makes me feel folksy and poor, like a mountain person. Mostly, though, I’m just poor. But in an uninteresting "over-educated" "white" way.

Did I mention the CDs came with a fun booklet with pictures?

My writing class is fun.
I was afraid everyone would be too touchy-feely in the class, saying how brave the writers were for writing, how enchanted their language was, how their pieces transcend the need for plot or scene or characters.

But they weren't. A lot of them were very no-nonsense, and some of them were even meaner than me. Yea!

But all that talk of the necessity for plot got me worried. It occurred to me that my first completed fiction piece in two and a half years doesn't quite have a plot. I mean, it kind of does. But mostly it doesn't. If I had to write: "This story is about . . . " I don't know how I would finish the sentence. Except maybe to say there is a couple and some death and an obese cat who pees in people's shoes. Is that a plot? Does that count? Or could I say that it is a story about man coming to terms with his own mortality? That sounds pretty vague and pretentious, doesn't it? I guess that means it doesn't have a plot.

I went back to the computer after class and added a scene to the front-end of the story. Now I have to fix up the back-end, the coming to terms with the mortality part. This should be fun. Thankfully, I don't turn it in until March 8th.

I kind of like worry about what my characters do and say. I like panicking over a lack of plot. Because if my characters fail to be believable, no one loses his or her job. No one gets sick. I can still sit here at the Museum, plugging away, answering the phone, eating my lunch at my desk, and the world will remain unaffected by my bad story with all its glaring holes like a worn-out gym sock.

Hopefully, though, one day it will be different. Hopefully, one day, I will have hell to pay for a lousy-written scene. Hopefully, crazed groupies will read my books like a religion and send me locks of hair and fingernails and their sawed off fingers as promises of their intense and undying loyalty.

Until then, I can smile knowing that I got a free left-over vegetable sandwich today from the conference room. I can save my yogurt and peanut butter and jelly for tomorrow. Ah. The future.

Our plane leaves at 2:30pm
We are heading back to winter this afternoon, and I have my writing workshop tonight at the Y. We will be reviewing sections of two different novels. It should be interesting.

Or not.

Wish me luck, because no one likes the person who says, "I felt in reading this story, I wasted an hour of my life." That person is a bitter old person who has no business bringing his or her grumpy cloud of gloom to the Y.

This evening, I will be the person who sits quietly and makes one or two thoughtful and encouraging comments. This will be an enormous change for me.

Sunny Florida has been overcast and muggy.
Our flight on Thursday left at 6:15 am, which meant I got up at 3, because I am a nervous person. And because I am a nervous person, I did not want to wear too much warm clothing for our trip down to Florida, as I knew upon arrival, I might be a little warm. So I wore only jeans and a turtleneck shirt under my winter coat (it was 24 degrees when we left).

We had a layover in Atlanta and some delays on top of that. We arrived in Clearwater about noon and it was 80 degrees and humid like the city was wrapped inside a hot soggy towel. What is wrong with this state? I was dying. People were wearing shorts and flip flops and I was in a black turtleneck and jeans and sweating like I was having a hot flash.

I never pack correctly when we come to Florida in the winter. One travels in the sky for a few hours, and it’s as if one has leapfrogged two seasons. I only brought one tee shirt. And I spilled cranberry juice on it last night.

Brian’s sister is in Colorado now, visiting her boyfriend. This is good and bad. We really enjoy spending time with her. She’s funny in a way that’s thoughtful and a little dark. We sit on the couch and drink wine and chat for hours. But she likes her coffee weak.

Whenever we are down in Florida at the same time, there is a constant fight over who makes the coffee. I will wake up at 7 am in a plan to subvert her weak coffee, only to find she has foiled me again. A pot of translucent-brown freshly-made coffee waits for me, smiling mockingly. So I dump out her coffee and make a pot of my own. Dark like tar. Yum. We go back and forth in this way, never actually acknowledging that we’ve been sabotaging each others’ coffee-making exploits.

This visit, I get the coffee pot all to myself. But it is a rather sad and empty victory. Hopefully, for our next visit, she will be back. Maybe I will bring a one-cup coffee maker with me, a gesture for a peaceful coexistence.

Today is Valentines Day, which, as I have said before, is a goyisha holiday. According to my cheap and lousy internet research, I have deduced that it is a holiday in honor of a religious fellow who was clubbed to death and then beheaded. What a rotten way to go.

Today, we have turned down a romantic trip to the Dade City Rodeo. I hate rodeos like I hate clowns. And funny enough, rodeos have rodeo clowns. Maybe that’s why I hate them most of all. I dislike clowns and rodeos and romance and babies because I have no heart. I am a grouchy dried up old woman in the body of a grouchy dried up young woman.

I must go now and wash my one tee shirt so I can wear it again today.

I finished!
They asked that I show up to the first writing class at the 92nd Street Y with a short piece ready for workshop. I did. I finished. The first real short story I’ve finished in two and a half years. I'm done. Happy day!

Then, as fate would have it, we all picked dates to have our stories workshopped in class, and my date isn’t until the middle of March. I wanted an earlier date, but the people in my class were louder and quicker than me. Now I have a full month to keep editing.

Well, even if my story is dreck, I am still filled with an incredible sense of relief. All week, I had churned out maybe a paragraph or two. I woke up in a sweat at 2:30 AM on Sunday and sat down to write. I wrote for three hours straight. The story may not have much of a point, but it has both a morbidly obese cat and an ending: two things any short story can't be without.

The teacher was nice and the class seemed intelligent. There were a couple of people there who were working on their novels and wanted to turn in upwards of fifty pages at a time to the class. I am suspicious of these people. One of the novel girls asked, “You keep using the term ‘workshop’ as a verb. What exactly do you mean by this?” She also introduced herself as an actor “by career”, saying she is often (“sadly”) forced back to L.A. for shoots. She looked about twelve. She is probably a perfectly nice person, but in my mind, I cackled at her the bitter cackle of the old and crusty.

On Friday, Brian, Heather Scott, and I went to see Monster. Oh, Florida, how many serial murderers have passed over your mucky peninsular lands? Brian wasn’t thrilled about the movie, and Heather thought it was okay. But I just loved it. Ooo, how they uglied-up that nice-looking Charlize Theron. I’ve been around a whole bunch of crazy people in my life, and Ms. Theron really looked and acted the part. Make-over shows are nice, people going from frumpy to beautiful princess. But this is so much better. I thought the movie was a blast, though I didn’t pay too much attention to the murders or the love story.

Just for the record: my uncle is not a pleasant person.
I sometimes worry that people will think me cruel for telling quirky stories about this poor ill man. But he is incredibly obnoxious. He called me on Tuesday night, demanding that I call him back. I called him on Wednesday night, and he immediately said, "Why didn't you call me back last night?"

I said, "I'm calling you back now."

He said, "But last night was free phone calls. We get free phone calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays."

"Okay," I said. "So you called me for free last night, and now I'm calling you back tonight."

"Debbie," he said, "I don't think you understand me. When I call you on the phone, I need you to call me back the same night."

I told him that that was not always possible. There were nights I get home after their permitted phone hours. "You've got to try harder. When I call you, it's because I have something important to ask you. I need you to call me back immediately." I asked him what the emergency. "I need to know if you got my card for Dennis."

"Yes," I said. My brother's birthday had been about a week and a half ago. My uncle, not knowing my brother's new address, had sent a card address to him to my (his) apartment. He asked if I had given my brother the card yet, and I told him that I had not, as I had not seen my brother since I received the card in the mail.

"Can't you bring it to him?"

"I've been busy. I'm going to see him this Sunday, and I'll give it to him then."

"Can't he come and pick it up."

"He's busy too. But I'll give it to him when I see him this Sunday." He asked me for the postmark. Then he asked again why I had not given it to my brother. I repeated again that I had not seen my brother since I got the card. He restated that he would appreciate getting a call back on the same night he calls me, and that I should write him more often. I heard someone on in the other end scream for my uncle to shut up. My uncle yelled back, "Awright, awright," and then to me, in a hoarse whisper, "Debbie, how many times do I got to tell you: when I call you, you've got to return my phone calls."

This is my uncle.

Also, this is a whack rice pudding place on Spring Street. We went there with Eleanor last night. What a niche market!

My writing class begins on Monday and I am not nearly done with my new piece. But I think it looks okay so far. I wonder what they'll say.

I can already hear the comments, especially about adding a cat that pees in people's shoes. They might say something like, "The peeing cat is really too gimmicky." Or maybe they'll say, "I felt the character of the morbidly obese peeing cat was not fully fleshed out." Or there is always the, "While I thought the idea of a cat who peed in people's shoes was interesting, I found it distracting and felt it took away from the story."

Maybe if I already know what everyone's going to say I shouldn't even bother to go to the class.

My parents are coming to visit this weekend. I am pretty excited. They will pay for my meals, whoohoo! And their upbeat conversation helps to deflect otherwise the fun topics on which grandmother loves to dwell, such as: how much weight has Debbie put on lately; why doesn't Debbie have more ambition; what is Debbie going to do with her life; and why doesn't Brian have a job lined up yet?

On a more political note, I don't understand why Janet Jackson's pastied breast exposure is such a big deal. It's all fake anyway. Both the pasty and the breast.

On a more more political note, why doesn't anyone love Howard Dean any more? Even Jenny is jumping ship. I really liked his campaign shriek. It was authentic, unlike our present president. Or Janet Jackson's breast.

And speaking of Jenny and our civic duty, both Brian and I were recently summoned for jury duty. But on different days. Sarah refers to it as ""trying out" for jury duty. I almost hope I make the cut. And I hope my case is heart-wrenchingly complex.

Let me backtrack a bit.
On Thursday, Brian and I went to the Anthology Film Archives to see Anna May Wong in the silent film Piccadilly. The film was interesting and wonderful. But more interesting and less wonderful was the man sitting behind us at the movie. The show had been sold out, and the film was showing in a small (not tiny) art house theater. Before the lights even went out, the man sitting behind us, who was repeatedly grumbling, exclaimed loudly, "What is this? Auschwitz? It's so crowded in here, I feel like I'm in a cattle car on my way to Auschwitz!"

That is the most bizarre use of hyperbole I've heard in a long time. It's hard to know even where to begin talking about the wrong-ness of that statement. Later on, the bulb in the projector blew and the picture went out. The man stood up and screamed "BOO! BOO!" I think he was a crazy.

Speaking of crazies, we visited Uncle Ira again this past weekend, and he told us the story of his family's trip to California. It was in celebration of my father finishing law school. The year was 1967. The place was L.A. My uncle asked to borrow the rented car one evening to go to Redd Fox's (I think that's what he said), which was apparently a night club of some kind (maybe owned by the infamous Redd Fox. Or maybe it was a nudy club. Context clues were hard to come by).

So he went to the club, and was headed home, when he picked up a hitch-hiker. The hitch-hiker spotted a pretty lady in a car near by, and suggested that my uncle tail her, which he apparently did. Then the hitch-hiker got out. Then he pulled up to the pretty lady and she asked him if he were following her. He responded affirmatively, and she made the logical next step of inviting him back to her house.

Once there, she and a friend made my uncle a salad composed of avocados and ham. And they drank something, but he doesn't remember what. Then he slept over. He came back sometime the next day, and couldn't understand why the whole family was so angry, just because this was the day they had planned to visit Disney Land.

The story continues that once back in Brooklyn, he wrote the Avocado and Ham Salad lady a letter. And she wrote back. They exchanged correspondences once more, but he never got her last letter, because it arrived while he was serving time in a penitentiary. I asked him for what he had been serving time, and he looked at me with annoyance. "Grand larceny. For stealing that taxi cab."

Ah! Of course.

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