Who is Deborah Schwartz?
The experiences of Deborah Schwartz
The persistance of Deborah Schwartz.
The relations of Deborah Schwartz






hair issues:








Brian and I saw our first prospective apartment yesterday.
It was a large-ish studio in the heart of Fort Greene for $1,295 (10% broker's fee). The broker was very nice and not greasy at all. The apartment seemed in pretty good condition, and had very high ceilings. It was also about a one minute walk from the C train, and a 7 minute walk from the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. stop. I was almost ready to take it. Even though it was a studio. Because I hate, hate, hate looking for apartments.

Brian insisted that we think about it a bit, at least over dinner. Which, of course, made perfect sense. So we shook hands with the broker and headed out to look for a restaurant.

I am not really religious, and I wouldn't even say I was a particularly spiritual person. But when I feel I am in a proverbial foxhole, I turn downright Voodoo. Apartment hunting sends me into a metaphysical tizzy. It makes me seek signs like a heroin addict looking for a methadone clinic. Gnawed chicken bones on the bus. Broken glass in the street. Pooping pigeons and limbless bums. I examine sidewalk cracks like some people read tea leaves. Anything might be a sign. You just have to know how to read it.

We crossed the street, and Brian said, "You sound like you're leaning towards this apartment, but I'm leaning away from it. It's less space than we have now." I agreed. But the high ceilings. The low broker's fee. The nice man. The end of the search. Already I was saying that I was looking for a sign, I needed a sign. And no sooner had I finished my though when I spotted a giant dead rat on the sidewalk in front of us. It was quite dead, but not particularly gory. Like maybe it had had apoplexy. THIS WAS DEFINITELY A SIGN!

I pointed this out. Brian considered it. Yes. A dead rat. Maybe this is an ill omen. We kept walking. Brian said he half-hoped to see a piece of paper in one of the windows of the brownstones we were now passing advertising an apartment for rent. We both looked up and down the block for rental signs, of which there were none. No rental signs. But there was one construction sign. And the construction company name was A. MALEK. Amalek! the the archetypal enemy of the Jewish people. I could not imagine a more foreboding sign. Even Brian agreed.

Now, though I felt the dead rat and the enemy of the Jews were definitely bad signs, I wondered if two signs were enough. Should I be looking for a more traditional three signs? Or is three a goyisha number. How many signs should Jews look for? 18 (for chai)? 10 (for the number of plagues visited upon the Egyptians)? 2 (for the number of times we dip on Passover).

I continued to look for signs all evening. I planned to total up the number of signs, then decide whether this equaled a legitimately bad message from God. I found a dead cockroach in the bathroom at the restaurant. My meal didn't taste so great. We waited for 15 minutes for a C train. Brian and I got in an argument on the train ride home. Were these signs?

In the end, I decided that only the first two signs were real signs. And that two could be enough, as we dip twice on Passover. So, yes, Brian was right. This was not the apartment for us.

This morning, I saw a listing on craigslist for a nice-sized one bedroom in Park Slope for only $1.400. No broker's fee. A sign! We emailed them immediately. But they haven't contacted us back. Another sign?!?

We have been apartment hunting for exactly four days now, but it is already driving me crazy.

I received the following email from my father this afternoon:
Subject: A Room with a View

As some of you may know my office looks over Biscayne Bay and is across from another office building called Miami Center. This morning while on the phone I was treated to the spectacle of watching someone fly by my window. This was preceded by a flurry of papers which looked like someone emptied all of his files out of the window. One of our clerks informed me that a man had broken the window of his office with a chair and jumped from the 33 floor. I had a good view from my window of an inert body in the grassy area in front of the building.

RIP, visits to Manhattan Psych.
Yesterday may turn out to be our last visit to my Uncle Ira while he's on Ward's Island. Today he made his first unescorted visit home.

Uncle Ira talked about taking the bus from the Manhattan Psychiatric Center on Ward's Island to "the clinic" on 125th Street and 7th Avenue. Metrocards made him nervous. But he was getting the hang of them. He was really shocked to see how Harlem has changed in a decade, how cleaned up it is. He said, "I like getting high. But I've GOT TO STAY ALERT. I drink a little coffee, a little soda. I have to keep my eyes open ALL THE TIME." Then he talked about being stealthy enough to have made some of the more challenging bus transfers.

He speculated that the people in our building probably had not changed as much. He said, "People in the building are very paranoid. If I bring a black girl up to my room, or a Puerto Rican girl, they assume it's a prostitute. Which is NOT TRUE."

I'm guessing that in the past, the issue was less about ethnicity and more about the dress and conduct of the women in question. And that they exchanged sex for money or drugs.

Two middle-aged men sat about ten feet from us conducting their own visit. One looked completely normal. The other gentleman had absolutely no teeth, a bald head, accompanying sunken cheeks, and was wearing a shiny powder blue basketball jersey. I guessed (correctly!) that the normal-looking one was a visitor, and the toothless one was a patient. Every ten minutes, the toothless one would get up and walk over to our table to try to snatch food away from us. His companion would say, "Put that down!" or "Give it back!" Admonished, the toothless man would put down the food and skulk back to his own seat.

Then several patient-looking individuals entered the room, escorted by a woman in scrubs. One of them appeared to be maybe in his 70s. He was very small and had gray hair, which stuck up from his head at every imaginable angle. There a brief time in which all they all took turns going to the bathroom and switching seats. Then the woman in scrubs screamed at the tiny old man. She said, "MARK! WHAT DID I TELL YOU? WHAT DID I JUST SAY TO YOU? DO NOT GIVE THIS MAN ANY FOOD!"

The bald toothless man was clutching a Three Musketeers bar and looking around nervously. The woman grabbed the candy bar out of his hands. She didn't even look at him as she did it. Her eyes were still fixed on the tiny old man. She continued, "MARK, DO YOU WANT HIM TO CHOKE? IF HE EATS THIS, HE'S GONNA CHOKE. DO YOU WANT THAT? WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT GIVING HIM FOOD?"

She tossed the Three Musketeers bar back to the tiny old man, who caught it and excitedly began unwrapping and eating it.


Mark nodded to confirm that he did not want to choke. He slowed down his eating, but ate with extreme agitation. When he was all finished, he walked up to the toothless man and caressed his head. He said, "Nice man. You nice man. Nice man. Nice man."

He did this for much longer a time than made me comfortable. All the while, the visitor and the woman in scrubs looked on with expressions that were somewhere in between Isn't that nice and Well, what can you do?

Ira took almost no notice the whole time this was going on. He just continued eating his chicken wings, snot hanging from his nose like a translucent shiny tendril, mumbling that everyone in this entire place was crazy.

True dat, Uncle Ira.

I was telling our friend Alison the latest regarding our living situation.

from Ira's most recent court papers

She asked if I was annoyed that we had to move. I said not really. I told her that our "subletting" my crazy uncle's apartment these past four years has been kind of like being an a convenient but emotionally unhealthy long-term relationship.

Brian and I were single and had nowhere to go. So we shacked up with Uncle Ira's apartment. A year grew into two, and then three.

We were never a good match from the start, but we stayed together, because Brian and I needed the cheap rent, and Uncle Ira needed more visitors. So the apartment and we stayed together.

We bickered a lot, this apartment and Brian and I. We felt like the apartment was holding us back. We couldn't have our own furniture. We were questioned if we took down pictures of Ira's and replaced them with our own. We were subject to random grandma-searches and weekly 5 pm grandma-dinners. We felt like we were being emotionally stunted. We wanted more space. And we complained about it bitterly.

Our friends would say, "Why do you guys stay together? You should really break up."

And we would say, "We know, we know. We don't know if we were ever really in love. We're going to move out. We know it will be for the best. We're going to do it soon."

We postured like this for almost the entire four years the we lived with the apartment. We were so ready to go. We were always threatening to leave. We had had enough.

And then the apartment dumped us.

It called our bluff and said, "If you want to go, then leave. I've found somebody else. I am going back to my Ex. Crazy Uncle Ira. And now I need you to move out."

We were flabbergasted. Stunned. We always thought we were the ones in control. That we could leave anytime we liked. That we were going to be the ones to leave. But little dumpy Studio Apartment must have gone to an apartment-empowerment workshop or read self-help or watched Opera.

We had talked such a big game. We were embarrassed. Our pride was hurt. But now we know it was for the best. We were really never meant to be. We just stuck around. For too long. Because it was easier than breaking up and finding a new place to live.

We were never really in love with Studio Apartment anyway. We were in love with the idea of not paying market value.

I have an aol account that I almost never check.
Because I hate aol. It is an account I have had for over a decade. The account name is a little juvenile, a letter/number combination which I have deemed immature for someone of my advanced age. But my mother continues to bills. So the account continues to exist.

Every now and then, I remember to check it. This usually happens when I am feeling the intense low-grade heartburn of ennui.

This afternoon was such a time.

I was rewarded with the following email in my inbox.

From: Webmaster netihotell.net
To: wndrwmn33@aol.com
Subject: Link exchange request
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2006 19:01:42 -0500

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I wish you the best with your website and believe this link exchange can be useful for our websites by seeking better search engine ranking. If you have any questions, do not hesitate, contact me.

Jeff P.M

And it's true. If you google ago+hours+minutes+zip+move+day+search+hotel+car+hilton, you might, in fact, come across my website. I am so glad that Jeff P.M and I share similar themes.

Sometimes things happened that seem so staged.
I can see them as they are happening, I can see them as if I am outside myself, setting up the players, adjusting the lighting. I only wish I could have a stenographer follow me around and record it all.

[SETTING: City Hall Park. It is early summer, in the waining heat of the late hot afternoon. The air is filled with the sickeningly strong scent of (name of pungent flower here) and gasoline. A man and a woman, 29-years-young, sit on a park bench. They are bickering]

How many times do we have to have the same fight?

[Looks down at bellybutton distractedly]

You're not listing to me.

I'm listening.

No you're not!

[An old bedraggled indigent person walks in front of them. One of his eyes is an eerie cataract blue. He is moving his chin in such a way as to indicate he has few, if any, teeth in his head. He walks over to the water fountain in front of them, and begins slurping in a hurried, pained, and shaky manner.]

How can you tell I'm not listening?

Because you're looking down at your bellybutton. That's why.

[All of a sudden indigent man begins to shake and sputter, then spits up all the water he has drunk.]

Do you think that man has hydrophobia?

I don't know. . .

[The indigent man spits up again, and begins to shake violently, then returns to slurping water.]

I feel like you are withholding from me. Emotionally. Over the last six months or so, you've been increasingly more emotionally unavailable.

You're so goddamn sensitive.

Because you don't tell me anything.

But when I do, you yell at me.

[Indigent man begins retching up water again]



[Indigent man turns his back to the couple, facing some park greenery]

That man is not going to urinate now, is he?

[The indigent man undoes his pants and begins urinating]

I guess he is.

Well, it's been a while since I've seen that. I think the last time was in Washington Square Park. But that was a while ago.

I guess we were due.

Do you want to go?

I don't care.

But you do care. You're just being passive-aggressive. I hate when you do this.

[The indigent man turns slowly, tucking himself back in. Another young couple, a happier couple, walks by. The indigent man begins to shake violently again, then vomits water on their feet. The happy couple runs away in disgust]


Yeah. Gross.

What is that? Hydrophobia? D.T.s?

I have no idea.

Let's get out of here.

We can fight on the way to the subway.

[Bickering couple exits. Indigent man returns to the water fountain]

Our visit to Uncle Ira this weekend may be our last.
On Thursday of last week, the court reviewed the institution's request for my uncle to be given unescorted rights to the clinic on 125th and home. He has not as of yet received his metrocard. Once he gets the metrocard, he will be on his own.

He will use his metrocard to take the bus from the institution down to the upper east side. The social worker told my grandmother that first he will be granted a four hour leave. Then they will up the time to five or six hours. Soon, he will be able to spend the weekend (with my grandmother . . . and I assume he will want to stay in his apartment . . . which is presently our apartment). Both my grandmother and my uncle have been assured that after over ten years of institutionalization, he will finally be released within the next three to four months.

I am thinking about containers.

This weekend, Brian and I flew down to Florida for my sister's graduation.
Ali is now a Doctor of Psychology.

It was a very nice occasion. My grandmother flew down with us. And my brother came home too. We were a whole bunch of people. In one house. And then . . . one of the toilets broke.

Six (and sometimes eight) people all sharing one toilet for a weekend . . . . This completely upstaged the more joyous event.

I'm exhausted.

Still. Mazel tov, Ali. Now, go out an get you some crazies!

The train was crowded but it wasn't that crowded.
There was a prissy-looking Sex-in-the-City type woman sitting in such a middling way as to not let quite enough room for another person on either side of her. I stood right to the left of her and kind of wiggled my rear like I was making to sit down. She looked at me, hard, and remained absolutely still.

So I made another florid motion. As a warning. And then I sat right down, in that tight little space, trying to bump her over a bit.

In the process, I apparently stepped on one of her high-heel-sanded toes.

She let out a piercing "OWWWW!" and gave me such death eyes, it made me scared for an instant. I, of course, apologized. This was around Brooklyn Bridge. She glared at me all the way to Grand Central. She glared and made nasty little huffing noises. Occasionally, she would look at the business man to her right, rolling her eyes in an attempt to achieve his sympathy. From what I could tell, he didn't appear to notice.

She got off the train, and another woman sat down. She was a much larger-reared woman than Sex-in-the-City-Sandals was. But she did not plop herself down in the middle of the bench, so I had even more room than I had had before.

I will write a haiku about how this made me feel:

My ears were filled with
her nasty pained OW!. I felt
only mean delight.
We met up with Heather Scott for dinner, and then stopped by a vegetable market to get some sorbet. A tall, skinny blonde was in front of us in line. She tersely stuffed her receipt into her wallet, then looked at Brian, Heather, and me, and the four or five people behind us, and announced, "Could you all PLEASE move out of the way so I can get out of this place."

We all moved aside, sort of shocked, and the woman stormed out. She was barely out of the store when Brian, Heather, and I broke out laughing. The fellow behind us was smirking too, but he said, "This is probably very mean. That woman must really have problems.

Maybe the woman
has agoraphobia.
Still, it was funny.
Brian and I walked to the train together this morning. We talked about how mean and hard we've become. How we have no compunction against pushing people aside to get out of the train, or at laughing at the crazy old man wearing a garbage bag like a turban. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Once on the train, I eventually managed to get a seat next to a man with a large piece of luggage. He was holding it on his lap. The luggage looked like a sports bag, but its sides were made of a mesh material. He unzipped the top. A tiny Shih Tzu was inside. The man was tall and clean-shaven, even his head. He had a sort of mod European look. Like his name might be Manfred. He put his hand inside the bag and gently petted the dog, cooing to it. He seemed to be reassuring it. But not with baby-talk. It was something sadder.

Was the dog ill? Was it in pain? Was he being forced to give it away? There was something beautiful and tragic in the way the man petted the dog. In the way the dog seemed to be fighting to be responsive. I imagined a dozen heartbreaking scenarios in my head. Surely, the dog had cancer. This man had recently split up with his lover, and had lost custody of the dog in the process. He was moving back to Europe, and could not take the dog with him. My eyes filled with ridiculous tears.

I kept trying to think of a way to connect with this man and his dog. I wanted to ask if everything was okay? If this was the dog's first subway ride? How old was the little fellow? Every sentence I thought of sounded silly. This moment belonged to this man and this dog. I should not interrupt. Just because I was filled with a terrible longing to be part of it too. I just sat and watched shamelessly, my eyes wet and gummy.

I make up stories
for this man and dog, wishing
to be part of them.

More Subway Haikus from Molly:
"By all means" I say
To the violent cougher
"Don't cover your mouth"

Take advice from Matt
Do not lick the subway pole
He learned the hard way

Welcome to Park Slope
A clean and safe neighborhood
chirp the giant rats

Oh, to see the day
When no one has vomited
On the R platform

I just love subway haikus.

Anyone else?

contact @ debcentral.com

I lead an inactive lifestyle
I am normally a rather sedentary person, turning on my other side every now and then to avoid bedsores. I was so worked up and nervous about our impending move this weekend, that I went jogging. To work off the anxiety. I jogged south along the East River, passing all the crazy bums with plastic bags on their heads who were laid out on the park benches, sleeping, communing with pigeons, or shamelessly and doggedly masturbating. I jogged down to about 65th, then over the pedestrian bridge and back up along York. Here, I passed many people wearing scrubs, stethoscopes slung rakishly around their necks like fashionable scarves. They walked fast, sipping coffee as they scuttled to their Saturday morning shift at the hospital. They had an important job to attend to.

I don't know who made me feel lousier, the be-plastic-bagged masturbating bums or the purposeful coffee-sipping doctors and nurses.

When I got home, I was a little more tired, but also a little more depressed. I showered and got dressed. Then Brian and I met our friends Clare and Stephen (and baby Maeve), who were visiting from Baltimore, as well as Yvette, who, though wildly pregnant, took the Hampton Jitney in to meet us.

We had a very pleasant day of walking around and getting into museums for free. I took some pictures too.

On Sunday, I was still anxious. I did not go jogging. But I did go into work. I discovered that the best way to curb my anxiety was to dream about all the wonderful containers I would purchase at the Container Store. In packing, I would find the perfect container to pack up the medicine cabinet. And another perfect container for all our loose CDs. I would find a number of perfect boxes for all the stuff in the desk. Ah. How wonderful!

We met up for dinner with Marc and David, who were visiting from Orlando. Another pleasant evening of eating and a little walking. Here's a picture of them between eating and moving.

When I woke up Monday morning, I could hardly walk. My ilio-tibial band was incredibly sore, at both the the hip and the knee. I dressed in pain and hobbled off to the subway. As I was hobbling, I was thinking about how much pain I was in. I was really concentrating on it, feeling lousy, totally consumed in self-pity. I was so much in my own head that I didn't notice the enormous plastic comb in the gutter. It was the size of my entire foot. And like two hearts making a whole, I stepped down directly onto it, my forward lean and my shift of balance turning the enormous plastic comb into a skate. I slid about a foot towards the curb, arms flailing. I tried to catch my balance by thrusting my other foot forward to catch myself. And it worked. But not before my toe hit the curb.


Now my ilio-tibial band is still giving be problems. And my left big toe is probably fractured. And I still have to move, but have not yet found somewhere to move to.

I am dreaming of perfect containers . . .

The thing that I have feared for so long is finally happening.
On Thursday, Uncle Ira goes to court to achieve the privilege of unescorted rights to visit the clinic on 125th Street. And unescorted rights to visit home for the day. And for the weekend.

After over a decade of institutionalization, my uncle appears to be on a fast track to release. One of the hospital's lawyers told my grandmother that he thought Uncle Ira would be home by September. October at the latest.

After four years of spending our limited free time together visiting my uncle in the mental hospital and passing almost every Saturday evening with my grandmother eating the 5 pm "Pre-Theater Prix Fixe", the best thing in the world for Brian and me would be to have our own apartment. Far away from the crazy family.

But moving is stressful and scary. Brian and I even discussed the possibility of buying something. But it seemed the most we could afford was a closet or a storage locker. We talked and dreamed and stalled and waited. Until the inevitable happened. Now we must get the hell out, or spend our free time with Uncle Ira as he rummages through the (his) apartment looking for his Black Tail magazines.

I keep waking up at 3 am, anxiety gripping my chest like a fist, my mind racing as I imagine boxing up all of my belongings. Wrapping the dishes in newspaper. Taking the pictures off the walls.

Brian and I moved 7 times in 7 years. But we have been completely stationary for the last four. We have acquired more stuff. At first, I tried to keep throwing the stuff away. Because I knew we would be moving sooner or later. I was very good at getting rid of stuff. But I got lazier about it. And the stuff piled up. And when Brian's mother's house was sold, we got boxes and boxes of more stuff. Stuff that had no place to go. More stuff and more stuff.

We have forgotten what it was like to pack and to move. The first, last, and security deposit. We have not had to feel the sting of New York City rent in four years. I haven't been able to sleep at night for thinking about these things. And it is always a million times worse in the carnival mirror of 3 a.m.

Our goal now is to move in the next couple months. We're thinking Brooklyn. Somewhere not too far from a major subway line. But far enough from the Upper East Side that Uncle Ira won't drop by to visit. Any suggestions?

For the three people I have not yet told: I had a colonoscopy today.
I believe this entire post will fall under the category of "Too Much Information," so if you're one of the those people who finds him/herself interrupting others to say, "T.M.I.," then stop reading right now.

For me, nothing is sacred, so I will continue.

As you may already know, I have some G.I. issues. Probably because I'm Jewish. And because I am a serial worrier. So my doctor thought it would be fun to take a look inside and make sure everything was peachy. Or maybe just to confirm that I was a hypochondriac.

Many more people than I ever could have dreamed have had colonoscopies. I would whisper to someone that I was nervous about this procedure, and the person would say, "By gum, don't be nervous! I've had half a million colonscopies. They're a cake walk."

Some people looked at me almost enviously. They'd say, "The prep is a drag, but the drugs they give you are just fabulous."

The prep certainly was a drag. It was a totally unpleasant experience. Really, really unpleasant.

When I got to the doctor's this morning, she said, "And how are you feeling?" I told her about my prep experience, and she said, "But don't you feel skinny? People love the preparation, because they say it really cleans them out and makes them feel so nice and thin. Some women have asked if they could do it once a month. The prep, that is, not the colonoscopy."

There was an anesthesiologist there, and an assistant, and my doctor. They put me into that twilight sleep. I have no recollection of going out. But I do think I kind of woke up twice during the procedure. I have a distinct memory of the anesthesiologist saying, "My husband left me while I was still an internist. Then he tried suing me for alimony." I remember responding, "That's just terrible!" Then I remembered them looking like they were adjusting the dosage of my twilight sleep.

When I woke up, I mostly felt drunk. I said, "I think I woke up a couple of times during the procedure."

The anesthesiologist said, "It's only a twilight sleep. People sometimes become conscious for a moment, then fall back to sleep." She didn't show any sign of being scandalized that I had suddenly woken up and commented on her messy divorce. Maybe I dreamt it

They told me I could rest up in the recovery room. So I got up, put my pants on my head, and fell back to sleep. I got up again. This time I put my pants on right, and stumbled out of the room. Brian had been waiting the whole time. I gave him a kiss and tried leaving the office, but was told the doctor wanted to chat with me about the procedure. They offered me some orange juice, which I drank, then made another attempt to leave the office. I talked to the doctor briefly. Things looked mostly okay in there, she told me. They had to pump up my colon with air during the procedure, so I might feel a bit uncomfortable. Which I did. I stumbled out again and thanked everyone for their help. I thanked the doorman of the building as well.

Brian propped me up and escorted me back home. On our way out, he said, "What was so funny?"

"What do you mean?"

"When you were talking with the doctor I heard a lot of laughing."


"Yeah. A lot of giggling and laughing. Coming from the office."

I thought about it for a while. "I have no idea."

Molly Sullivan has been writing Subway Haikus.
I think they are fantastic.

Here are some

Express or local?
The difference in time could
Mean peeing my pants

You improved my skin
You improved my life as well
Thank you, Doctor Z!

Middle-Eastern man
Approaches middle age, the
Spice Girls his soundtrack

Today on the F
Yet another under-fed
Trust fund musician

Band-aids from a girl
Who sympathizes with my
cute new shoe blisters

Trying to find space
On a narrow subway seat
For me and your fat

Send me one of your own and I will post it.

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