Who is Deborah Schwartz?
The experiences of Deborah Schwartz
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The Caterer

Obviously, this isn't a happy occasion.
Getting everything ready for Brian's mother's unveiling shouldn't have been that bad. I guess maybe it's something we haven't really wanted to concentrate on, so we have been taking care of things only in fits and starts.

There is no home base anymore in Clearwater. The house has been sold. So we decided to hold a little lunch after the ceremony at the synagogue. We got the okay from the Rabbi, and we asked him to suggest someone to provide the food. I called the caterer last week, and she said that she understood this was not a happy time for us, and that she would do her best to make sure that things were as easy and painless as possible.

Then she proceeded to try to bleed us.

Maybe I'm being too dramatic, but initially, she had given us a ballpark estimate. "$15-18 dollars . . . plus, plus." The only deadline she gave us was this Thursday, the date by which we needed to get her a final count.

Then we got the written estimate. It was for $22 a person, which did not include the $75 to have a person come and help set up and clean up. I emailed about downgrading the desserts maybe. She emailed back that it was too late in the game to change the order.

I emailed that I had to think about it some more. She emailed back that she needed to order the food, and would need to have a count ASAP.

I emailed back that the only deadline she had given me was Thursday. She said she needed a close count by Monday morning.

I emailed back that this event was 3 children, all (still) under 30, trying to plan a nice little lunch after their mother's unveiling. She emailed back that her catering was exquisite, and that she needed the count and to confirm the menu ASAP.

I emailed back that I thought we might drop the $75 person. I pointed out that it added up to about $25/hr to have someone stand around a buffet table and make sure there was enough coffee. I don't even make $25/hr, and I like to think my job is slightly more skilled. She wrote back to say that if we lost the $75 guy, we would lose the linens, the coffee, and (for some reason) the dessert as well. Oh, and she needed the count, the menu confirmation, and a check ASAP.

So I wrote her what was in my heart. I did manage to refrain from much profanity.

Then she called me on the phone to "clear some things up." I conference Brian in. Then I screamed into the receiver and told her she was an awful lying person who was trying to take advantage of a couple of distraught kids throwing a memorial lunch for their dead mother."

She said, "What do you want me to do at this point? Tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it. Anything you want to make you feel better about this. Except lower the price. I absolutely cannot lower the price any further."

Brian said, "I think we are all a little tense here. The way things are going, Sunday will probably not end well."

She said that Sunday could do nothing but end well, that she was an exquisite caterer, that her food was excellent.

I screamed "Maybe the problem is that you thought we were throwing a Bar Mitzvah, and not making a somber memorial brunch for a 60 year old woman who died of ovarian cancer."

She said, "I am truly, truly sorry for your loss. I'll do anything you want to prove that to you. But I just can't give any more discounts."

"I don't give a shit about your discounts. You lied to us."

"I never lied to you."

Brian said, "I think we all just had a misunderstanding."

She said, "I told you it would be $15-$18, plus, plus. Plus, plus meant plus the linens, plus the coffee, plus the delivery fees . . ."

"I thought 'plus, plus' meant tax and tip. How the hell was I supposed to know that's what 'plus, plus' means?"

"That's what 'plus, plus' means in the biz."


Brian said, "This is obviously not going to work out. There really appears to be nothing we can do to salvage things at this point. Karen, you need certain things from us that we can't give you. Deb and I are looking for something a little different than what you have the capacity to offer. I think everyone is feeling very bad now, and we should just end this relationship as soon as possible."

"I'm sorry you're feeling bad about things," she said. "That's not what I want. I want you guys to be as happy as possible at this sad time. I want this to be as easy as possible for you. And I know I can throw an exquisite lunch that everyone will enjoy. But the price is non-negotiable."

It went on like this for another few minutes. The caterer continued to blather on about her high quality of food and service, and that if you asked anyone who knew her, they would all agree. She repeated numerous times that she did not want us to go away feeling badly about our dealings with her business, and that she would do anything to make it up to us. Anything, but adjust the menu or lower the price.

Eventually, I stopped talking, because I realized my mouth was so full of expletives, the moment I opened it, they would all come pouring out.

So we are ordering platters from the supermarket and a deli in St. Petersburg. We will have to buy all the plasticware and table cloths. We will have to set up the tables and chairs ourselves. But I don't care, as long as that catering woman doesn't get a dime from me.

Also, I'm sure if there be such a thing as Heaven, Meryl is looking down, happy that we are paying a reasonable price and not getting taken for a ride.

Though she might not appreciate all my blue language.

30 . . . 30 . . . 30 . . . 30 . . .
I'm turning 30 on November 14th. I am trying to get my mind used to the sound of 30.

It's difficult for me to think of myself as actually being 30, because I kind of still think of myself as 11.

In the long run, I know I'm just a tiny blip in the continuum of life in our ever-expanding universe. I don't want to freak out too much, because I know how annoying it is. A girl I once worked with turned 23. She sounded like she was having a meltdown, that she had stared in the mirror and saw wrinkles, could feel her body falling apart. She said something like, "I feel like this is the beginning of the end."

"23?" I said. "Naw! 23 is nothing. I barely remember it."

I'm sure I'll feel that way about 30 in a few more years.

Still, one of my biggest issues with getting older is that I don't like seeing myself as an adult. I'm my mind, I'm still a 'tween. At the same time, I don't necessarily want to be seen as a really immature 30-year-old.

In the end, if I'm lucky, I'll probably just keep aging and being me, until I shrink and wrinkle, my spine curling up, until I look like a startling replica of my grouchy, sailor's-mouth grandmother.

Enough about me. Let's talk about you: Where do you want to celebrate my 30th birthday with me?

I want to have a little Happy 30th Birthday to Me Happy Hour. It'll be on Tuesday, the 14th. All DebCentral readers are invited (except that freaky weirdo who told me to die). Zonk in or email me. I am open to suggestions.

Brian's mother's yartzeit is on November 6th.
We have scheduled her unveiling for Sunday, November 5th. Brian and I have been horribly disorganized in the planning. This has been an especially hard year for Brian, as he was put in charge of selling his mother's home and is still trying to divide up her assets between the three children. I do not envy him.

I booked the flight back to Clearwater last week. I emailed him the confirmation, and it occurred to him that during those dark times, while his mother was in hospice and he was flying back and forth, working for several days, then flying home to help take care of his dying mother, that he had cancelled an American Airlines flight, and that they had offered him a credit, but that he had never cashed it in.

Maybe it was worth $200. The airline offered him a credit that was good for a year. Brian said to me last week, "I'm going to lose all that money."

"It's a shame to lose $200, but those are the things that happen at a time like that."

"I should call, shouldn't I? Just to see if I can extend it."

"I guess," I said. "It wouldn't hurt to call."

It took Brian another week to make the call. But he did. He was told that unless he booked a flight by October 29th, he would lose the flight credit. He transcribed the conversation with the American Airlines sales representative as follows:

"So basically Iíve lost that money."

"Yes, sir."


"Please do not use that language, sir. It is not becoming."

"I canít believe youíre taking my money away and you wonít let me use a bad word."

"Sir, I will have to hang up if you continue using that language. Do you plan to make any travel arrangements with that ticket?"

"Fuck no. Bye."

The change in weather has caused sinus pressure.
For a day and a half, I had a low-to-mid grade sinus headache. Last night, I rummaged through our overthecounter pill stash and found something that said both "sinus" and "nighttime". I took it.

At 10:30, I plunged into sleep. During the night, I would turn a bit and surface, the breaking foam of waking in my nose. Then I would turn again, and a wave of sleep would pass over me. I would sink deeper, colorful dreams flitting by like fish.

I was in Washington Square Park looking for a tapestry with an elephant on it when I heard the rustling of Brian getting out of bed. It was only 5:30. He said he had a lot of work to do, and was trying to get into the office early. "Go back to sleep," he said. I did.

I was trying to move through someone's labyrinthine wooded backyard deck when I opened my eyes to see it was already 8 AM. I felt numb and exhausted. I closed my eyes again. By 9 o'clock, I was sick of hearing bunches of grapes with human faces sing about the kinds of wine they would produce. Fine. I was up. But my face felt like it was melting and my limbs felt like jellied meat.

I was painfully slow in accomplishing morning rituals. I stared off into space in the shower for a full ten minutes. Putting on my tights was three minutes per leg. I got out of the house a good deal later than I would have liked. I put on my little ipod shuffle to see if a beat would help me pick up the pace.

On the R train platform, I tried to read a few more pages in The Sun Also Rises. I noticed a shadow over to my right. A woman was standing beside me. She was small and wrinkled like an old onion, wearing a head scarf and holding out a booklet towards me. I couldn't hear what she was saying over the music. I watched her lips moving. The booklet had a drawing of the night sky, but I couldn't quite read the words. I pointed to my earphones, but the woman kept talking, so I turned off my ipod.

She was saying " . . . Jesus into your heart for eternal salvation . . . "

Of course. I used to tell people like this, "I'm Jewish," implying that I neither feared hell, nor was interested in what they were selling. Eventually, I realized that some proselytizers felt they got extra points for converting a perfidious Jew. This time, I simply waved, saying, "Not interested."

My arm weighed 50 pounds. The wave pained me, and I turned away from her. When the train came, I got in one car over. Then I sat. Staring off into space. Wondering if my lips were made of rubber or cheese.

I'm aware that I have terrible posture.
Painfully aware.

I don't remember when it all started. But I can tell you that in 7th grade they herded all the girls into the library to do scoliosis testing. At that time, I was in a little social clique with about five other girls. Everyone looked at me and shook their heads. Then we each went for our private scoliosis consultation. I was asked to take off my shirt and bend over like I was touching my toes. When I stood up, the test administrator gave me a funny look. I was asked to do it one more time, and then I was was dismissed. When I convened with my friends, every last one of them revealed that she had been diagnosed with scoliosis. Everyone except me.

One of the girls said, "How is that possible? You have the worst posture of all of us."

It was true. But I didn't have scoliosis. I was just lazy and crooked and hunched. More than 15 years later, I have lost contact with every last one of those girls, but my posture is still just as horrendous.

People have stopped me on the street and said, "Isn't it painful to stand like that?"

This is my life.

I went to the movies last week with Brian and Sam and one of Sam's friends. She said, "I saw a picture in a magazine this week, and it totally made me think of you." She pulled the magazine out of her bag and rifled through the pages. "Here," she said, and she pointed to the image of a slouched person for an article entitle something like, "So You Have a Crooked Back . . ."

This made me especially self-conscious. My back, it was hurting. Maybe it had been hurting for some time. Yes. Of course it was. And my bed wasn't helping.

For the last several weeks, Brian had begun to obsess about our bed, how every time one shifted one's weight half an ounce, the bed let out a royal squeak that was capable of waking up a coma patient. When I turned in the night, it would wake him up. He couldn't sleep.

It was true. Our bed was crappy. Our mattress was lumpy and sloping and if you ran your hand over the top, you could feel the springs and mechanics inside. Our box spring appeared to be shot as well.

On Thursday evening, as we watched the Mets lose, friends of ours suggested we go to the Fulton Street Mall. One could buy a designer bed which had served as a floor model for a fraction of its retail price.

We went on Saturday. It was in the basement of the Conways. In the corner. We bounced up and down on a series of beds, and finally chose a Simmons plush top Beautyrest, which we were told retailed for $2,500, but which we were going to get (box spring and all) for $599. We paid an addition $25 to have it delivered.

I was so excited and hopeful, it was all I could talk about at work. My new bed. My good deal. My back, which would soon feel better.

This evening, I called to check up on the delivery. The woman, who had been very nice, said that she had noticed that the bed we had chosen had a tear in the side. So she sent along another bed, an even better bed, which normally sold for $699, but she would give it to us at no extra price. I thanked her.

The bed was delivered, and when the delivery people pulled off the plastic, we notice that the make of our new bed was a "Sleep-Tell Cyber Sleeper". The label on the mattress was framed with cheap gilding, and there was a picture of that caduces thing and a drawing of a bed with wings.

Brian said, "What the hell is a Cyber Sleeper?"

I googled "Cyber Sleeper" and "Sleep-Tell" and came up with nothing. I felt like a had been duped. Then we jumped up and down on our new bed, and it let out a few audible squeaks. I felt crumbled and ruined inside.

Brian said, "Do you think it could it be the bed frame?"

So we pulled up the bed mattress and the box spring and moved the metal frame out of the way. Then we placed back everything down on the floor, climbed on top of the new, very large bed, and began to jumping up and down.

It was silent.

I looked at Brian dolefully. "This whole time it was the metal frame?"

"No," Brian said. "Our old bed was a piece of crap. Remember? We hated it. We always hated it."

It's true. For some reason, we had always hated our old bed. It had, for seven years, served as a scapegoat to bad night sleeps and hunched-back posturing.

We decided to try the new bed out for at least week before we start complaining. Cyber Sleeper? Really!

I spoke to my uncle on the phone.
This past weekend, he was granted a three-day pass. My grandmother took him to a community theater production (one of her "dramatics" classmates was performing). My uncle walked out shortly after intermission because it was too long and too boring. My grandmother and he had a heated verbal interchange directly thereafter.

My uncle said about my grandmother, "In perfect Brooklynese, and you're living there now, so you ought to know this, she is a 'Pain in the Ass.'"

He went on for a bit talking about how his mother (my grandmother) would be 89 this year, how she is now almost completely deaf, increasingly more crabby and critical of him, and growing ever-more closer to death. He seems to both fantasize about and fear his mother's demise.

While he was in the apartment, he went through his Jets and his Player Pictorials. He calculated that a good 60% of his collection is still there. But what happened to the rest of it, the rest of his magazine collection?

"It's gone," he said. "God is telling me something."

I was hoping that God was telling him to stop collecting pornography and thinking that he was black.

He said when he got back to the hospital, he was talking to some of the other patients. One of them was looking for something. Another patient said, "It's gone." There it was again.

"Listen, Debbie." My uncle sounded like a frustrated teacher pleading with a dim student. "God is telling me something. 'It's gone.' 'He's gone' Do you get it?"

I didn't. "God?" I said, utterly confused.

"Listen! It's Gone. He's Gone. He's Gone, by the Chantels, their first single in 1957." My uncle was talking Doo Wop again, lead singers and B sides. Arlene Smith dated Frankie Lymon and helped the Chantels catch a break. This is what God was telling my uncle. No real message. Nothing imperative. God just wanted to chat. And wouldn't you know that God likes Doo Wop too.

Dave and Heather Sobush visited us this weekend.
It was their first time in New York City, so we did some touristy things. But mostly, we drank a lot of beer.

Here are some pictures:

Yesterday was a very weird day.
It began as I realized that an increasing number of people I grew up with, from high school, from college, from grad school, are pregnant (or have babies). Despite what I think, this can no longer be considered "teen tragedy". We are pushing 30.

My friends who are pregnant are very excited about started a family. My friends who have babies have wonderful, adorable children that they love. It makes me wonder what's wrong with me.

I do think I want a family. I don't want to grow old and shriveled and feeble and have no one to visit me and give me kisses on my hairy old-woman's cheek or mock me for forgetting where I am or what day it is.

Brian and I have been married for almost five years. We have finally graduated to an apartment with a bedroom door. But we are still just making ends meet. How could we afford a child? And where would we put it? We couldn't just have one, because what if something very bad happened to it? We would need a backup child. Also, only-children are sometimes selfish.

But my friends having children, I think the drive is such, the passion and love is such, that they are not thinking, "Where am I going to plop this baby down at night? And does this mean I can't go to the movies on the weekend anymore?" I think I am too immature to feel comfortable with a little alien pod growing inside me.

So I was wracked with doubt as I walked to the subway -- without an umbrella. Because even though it was very cloudy and dark outside, I checked weather.com, and it TOTALLY said that it was not going to rain, that it would just be cloudy all day.

Now, I am not a complete idiot. Even Uncle Ira knows that "They can't predict the weather. It is only a guess." But as soon as I got to work, the sky opened up and it began to pour buckets. I kept saying, "I don't get it. Weather.com said it wasn't going to rain." And people kept responding, "The paper [or the TV or the news] said it was going to pour all day."

So everyone else knew it was going to rain, except me? I have a long walk from home to the subway, and a longer one from the subway to work. I always bring my umbrella. Just in case. But I didn't yesterday, because I had gotten sick of schlepping it around for no reason. And weather.com said it wasn't going to rain. So I believed it. But it LIED to me. It was like that stupid dream when everyone else knows it's finals today, but you didn't even remember that you were still enrolled in school, and you are totally unprepared and will probably fail all your finals now and get left back.

Of course, by late afternoon, one of my coworkers screamed above her cubicle, "A SMALL PLANE HAS CRASHED INTO THE SIDE OF A BUILDING!"

This was very similar to the initial reports that came in the early part of September 11, 2001. My museum is all the way downtown, and so a lot of people are already pretty traumatized. We spent the next several hours trying to figure out what was going on. There wasn't so much available on the Internet yet. When I heard it was on the Upper East Side, I called my grandmother (who still lives in the neighborhood). She turned on the TV, and was able to hear heaps about the accident (as was I, her TV was so loud). She said, "This is a terrible thing! People live in that building. They were probably just sitting around or sleeping or something, and than *BANG!*"

What I like best about her statement is that the accident happened mid-day on a Wednesday, and my grandmother assumes the building is full of sleeping or lounging people wearing their house clothes and watching TV (not unlike her at that moment).

So the story went from TERRORIST ATTACK? to BUILDING HIT to A YANKEE!, and by the end of the day, it was almost a joke. The news was no longer full of the story. Mark Foley crept back up into the headlines, and all was normal again.

Such is the resiliency of New Yorkers.

On Tuesday we went to the KGB bar to hear fellow writer Kyle Minor read from his essay in the new 20 Something Essays by 20 Something Writers. It was a lot of fun. Today, our friends Dave and Heather are flying in, and we will show them New York City. I will try to take some pictures.

My parents were in this weekend.
We spent a nice part of the visit with Uncle Ira, who, I forgot to mention, has recently achieved the status of "Unescorted Weekend Pass".

I made a movie about it. Have a look:

(click the play button or go here)

On Friday night, we went to Karen 's 28th birthday party. It was a lot of fun. Several action figures made an appearance.

Karen caught the essence of things on her new-ish website. Have a look.

Karen teaches today's youth and the future for a better tomorrow. So let's forget about the drunken debauchery and remember that she also makes very nice knitted items.

Thank you, Ms. Ramirez.

I feel like I have nothing to say today.
But I hear a picture is worth a thousand words.

So here is my 7th grade class picture. Enjoy!

The best part about being on vacation was not working.
I love taking naps in the middle of the day. When your day contains 9 to 10 hour block of work, it makes nap-taking that much more complicated. I love waking up whenever, going to bed whenever, and mid-day napping.

However, neither Prague nor Budapest were all-night cities. Most shops closed at 6 or 7. Most restaurants closed by 10. So we never slept too late, and never got to bed too late. But I did manage to sneak in some plum nappage.

We went to a thermal bath. I am usually very body-conscious. I always fear that my belly is too big, my thighs too fat, my chest too small. I am embarrassed that I succumb to such self-doubt and self-loathing. But the feeling is malignant and fierce, and I have never been able to conquer it. This is one of the things that keeps me from the beach (that, and the sand and heat and saltwater and sea-lice).

We accidentally choose the thermal bath that only locals attend. When Brian and I stepped out in our bathing suits, we were the Beautiful People. Most pool-goers were heavy and lumpy and grumpy and elderly, and some were even outright missing limbs. The men wore tiny suits which exposed fully their enormous stomachs and gnarled toes. A number of women were rousting about in large-and-in-charge brassiere-and-panty sets, which appeared when wet as a translucent white film clinging to plentiful, folded flesh. One 70-something actually went topless, basking in the beautiful day as clear and bright as an enormous crystal bowl.

All body shame left me. I felt triumphant. Brian and I splashed and played like children.

This I loved.

What I hated most (besides the lack of vegetarian options) was the fact that over the 6 days we were away, my face broke out terribly, and my skin began to scab over. I felt like a freak. I don't know if it was the water or the detergent in the sheets and towels. I was always feeling the need to explain to people that at home, my skin never resembled a molting lizard's shucked off outter layer.

Anyway, without further ado, Here are some highlights from our visit to Budapest.

Tonight is Kol Nidre.
I am not very religious, but in matters like this, I tend to try to follow the rules . . . just in case.

I have missed going to services before on High Holidays, but it has always been with the lurking fear that I would get hit by a lightening bolt or a bus -- not so much as punishment, but as a last laugh, because I had not bothered to pray for my soul or ask forgiveness.

What's more, we were in Prague during Rosh Hashanah. I thought about going to services, and even packed appropriate clothing, but their synagogue is the oldest working synagogue in Europe, and it is simply medieval. The women have to sit in a tiny narrow room and can only peep at the service through small slits in the wall. It's just not my bag.

Brian and I are planning to go to services tonight. In keeping with this very holy day, and with my general lack of planning, I would like to use this space to forgive anyone who has wronged me over the course of this past year. And I would like to ask forgiveness of anyone who believes I have wronged.

Though, I was probably right, and you were probably wrong.

But that's not the point. You think I wronged you, so I'm sorry.

Regardless of whether I was right and you were wrong.

Just in case.

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