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The experiences of Deborah Schwartz
The persistance of Deborah Schwartz.
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My Uncle Ira Story

Oh, my gosh.
I totally forgot.

-->Here's my Uncle Ira story<--.

The title is what it is. Please read on.

Brian and I celebrated our first Gentile Thanksgiving.
I think I have always spent Thanksgiving with my own family or Brian's family, or maybe once or twice, with a friend of the family. But this was my first Thanksgiving in which there was present not even one member of either of our families, and no one was Jewish at this dinner except for us.

Our friends Karen and Rich invited us to Karen's parents' place out in Port Jefferson (Long Island). The evening was not so terribly different from other Thanksgivings I've been to, except that there was what seemed like an endless supply of good wine. And we played a board game after dinner. Oh, and for fun, I dressed up in Grandma Dot's hand-sewn Christmas Vest and Brian and I posed in front of a Christmas wreath with a mechanical dog that sings Christmas songs. It looked something like this:

Do we look like gentiles?

And here is a group photo:

Our Gentile Thanksgiving

Susan had bought her own turkey, but never got to prepare it, so we went over to her place on Saturday to have another Thanksgiving meal. That was fun too.

One of my longest-running friends of all time is Erin. She lives in Los Angeles now. She was in New York City this weekend, and we got to hang out all day Sunday. It was wonderful. I hadn't seen her in maybe 8 years.

Erin and I have been friends on and off since I was in first grade and she was in second grade. We were in nerd class together. It was Erin who told me that the Simon and Garfunkel lyric was "Silence like a cancer grows, and not what I had been singing, which was "Silence like a casserole." I think we were about eight or nine then. We were precocious, nerdy little Simon and Garfunkel fans, even back in elementary school.

Once, in nerd class, our teacher had us do a debate exercise. We were to debate whether the lost island of Atlantis never existed, once existed, but no longer exists, or once existed and still exists. I chose the middle one, because I felt it to be the most moderate (and because I am a middle child). Everyone else in the class said that Atlantis had never existed (nerd class was filled with math geeks). But Erin (and her friend Jaime) viciously debated that the island of Atlantis still indeed existed.

Erin: Dreamer. Fighter. Folk Music Lover. It was nice seeing her again.

In honor of this Thanksgiving Day holiday,
I present you with two timeless images:

Hand-written subway sign warning of the apocalyse of 2010, when 100 million people will die and the neo-Germans, Christ, and new the prophet Herbert W. Johnston will lead all the English speaking nations to global victory


Signage outside a mediocre Mexican restaurant

After writing my treatise on the middle child, I spoke with my mother last night. She recalled (unprompted) about how my older brother and I used to gang up on our younger sister.

"You two were so terrible to her," my mother said, "But Ali fought back. She was just this little pipsqueak, but she wasn't going to let you guys get away with anything."

Sorry, Ali. I guess the youngest child has it pretty rough too.

Creative. Adaptable. Sensitive. Peacemaking. Attention-seeking.
These are some of the traits of the Middle Child.

A couple months ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Eileen about siblings. Eileen is the youngest of three girls. We were comparing notes of devious and strange sibling behaviors, when Eileen mentioned that her middle sister had possessed the odd quirk of hording her Halloween candy and eating it very slowly over a prolonged period of time. Both Eileen and her older sister would polish off their candy immediately, then sneak in and steal from their middle sister, who they knew to still have a stash.

"That was me!" I said. "I did that! I horded things, and then my sister and brother would steal from me!"

A-ha! It was because I was a middle child. It all made sense now. I don't know which came first--the hording or the stealing. But the pattern was the same. Candy, toys, money, clothing, it seemed like anything could be quickly and easily co-opted by my siblings. And so I horded more and guarded better.

But because I was a middle-child, if I were to see that my siblings lacked something, I would offer them some of mine. From my horded stash. Then they would know I had a bunch of what-ever-it-was, and they would go in and steal from me when my back was turned.

This morning, Brian and I went down to a nearby patisserie and bought a scone for me, a muffin for him, and a yogurt parfait to share. Brian finished his muffin, then ate half the yogurt parfait. I worked slowly through my scone, pacing myself. When I was about half done, I left the table to take a shower. I figured I would finish the rest on my way to work. When I got out of the shower, I discovered that Brian had finished off the rest of the yogurt parfait and almost all of my scone.

The middle child threw a fit.

Brian is the oldest of three. He defies most first-born stereotypes of being authoritarian, driven, controlling, perfectionistic. But he certainly doesn't understand the plight of the middle child.

Brian said, "You got up to take a shower. I thought you were finished."

"But I wasn't finished! You should have asked first!"

Now, the hidden truth is that if he had asked first, I would have let him eat my food. Because I am a middle child. And I would have been gladdened at my own diplomacy. Until I felt he had crossed a line. And then I would have thrown a fit.

But he hadn't crossed a line yet. So it was okay. Except that he didn't ask first. He just took. So I threw a fit. We fought for about two hours.

Over the past nine and a half years we've been together, we have had this same fight easily hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Mostly over food. Because I (middle child) horde my food, eat it slowly, am only too happy to give it over. And Brian (oldest child), I suppose, assumes that if I'm going to give over my food anyway, he might as well just take it.

I think the first time we fought about this was about two months into our relationship. We were at a restaurant, and he had finished his Coke even before the meal arrived. He then absent-mindedly picked up my Coke and took a sip. Of course, I had been hording my Coke, and he had just stole it from me, so I threw a fit.

In this world, people are suffering and dying, people are hurting and sweating and scraping by. There is something so horribly ridiculous about our constant fight. But it is as if we are doomed. We just can't get it right. Maybe because I am the middle and he is the oldest.

This weekend we got guilted into dinner with my grandmother and my uncle.
Sure, being in Brooklyn, we are far enough away that we never have to worry about those two just happening over. But now, when our appearance is mandatory, the trip to the Upper East Side can take upwards of an hour and a half.

After dinner, we went back to my uncle's apartment. It made me both glad and depressed to see the apartment we had lived in for four years transformed back into the home of a crazy man with a cleaning woman. Everything was neat and uncluttered and in order. He proudly showed us the neat stacks of his dirty magazines. They looked something like this:

Ira is slowing organizing his magazines in chronological order

Uncle Ira opined how his magazines, which had once been simply posing, were now very much pornographic. It was hard for us to tell the difference, but mostly we tried not to look.

Uncle Ira let us look at all his meds. They looked something like this:

But only two of the bottles are neuroleptics . . . the others are 'just shit'

Uncle Ira also gave us our tour of his bathroom. He showed us the shaving cream we had left behind. We was very happy to have it. His happiness looked something like this:

Brian and he use the exact same shaving cream . . . except that they are different brands

Then Uncle Ira wanted to know if we wanted to take back the shampoo we had left behind. We said no, that he could keep it. He asked, "What would I need that for?" We asked, didn't he used shampoo, and he said, no, he didn't use any. He just let the water run over his hair, and then he combed it out.

I haven't found a better way to post the little cameraphone movies, but if you have quick time, you might be able to see a part of the conversation here

Please also remember that my uncle uses Vaseline to style his hair. Bleh!

Lastly, the wonderful Karen has emailed me a picture from my 30th birthday happy hour. It looked something like this:

Brian looks cute. Me? Not so much

Brian looks cute. Me? Not so much. In case you can't quite see, I am wearing my birthday tiara and carrying my birthday scepter. I am also wearing my matching birthday dress, which made a number of people uncomfortable, as its plunge-neck top revealed my gaping white concave chest. Sorry.

This day feels lousy.
I didn't sleep well last night. When I finally fell asleep, I had a weird dream.

We were leaving a service for Brian mother (she died a year ago today), we were all walking down the street. My parents were there, and some of Brian's family, and some of our friends. Brian's sister's ex-boyfriend was there, too. Everyone was unhappy and in a bad mood. We decided to go into a Chinese restaurant, which turned out to have a deli menu. We were sat at a shiny black marble top table which was very low to the ground and long. But the table was actually a wading pool. People were getting in and splashing around. So I got in too. But I hadn't ordered my food yet. I kept wading over to the side of the pool to look at the menu, but I couldn't find any vegetarian options. Then my father told me I had waited too long to order, and so I wasn't going to be able to eat. I looked around. Everyone else was eating. And now I was the only one in the pool. I was still wearing my clothes. I felt dumb.

Whatever. Dreams are stupid. But the poor night's sleep and the weird, very vivid dream gave me a foreboding feeling.

My friend Andrea's leaving today. She's moving back to Seattle.

It was my friend Amy's 29th birthday yesterday. I kept meaning to call her all day, but I never did. I am a bad friend.

Some days more than others I feel the swiftness and easiness of time passing. It's simply disappearing.

Several days ago, Bob sent me a picture of the young human he had helped to produce with his castaway sperm. Bob donated his sperms, and now a happy lesbian couple has a baby. Let's look at the picture again:

giant lesbaby w a smarmy look on its head
Ack! I can't get over it. Bob as as a baby girl. It's too eerie. Bob is freaked out too. I have been staring at this picture for two days now. I even made it my desktop wallpaper. I just can't stop staring. Bob? Are you there? Why are you so little and wearing a pink sweater?

Life is so queer. Mwhahahaha.

I feel sick.
I was doing just fine. Pacing myself. But sometime towards the end of the evening, there were shots bought and shots drunk. Then, all of a sudden, it was 5 in the morning and I was in my own bed, nauseous and without any clothes on.

I must learn to stop taking shots on a dare. It never ends well.

I bought a new tiara for my special day. And Brian surprised me with a matching be-rhinestoned scepter. I had a good deal of giggly fun during the day, though I'm sure I looked like a tremendous doofus.

I am such a terrible attention hog. Brian is such a nice person. Why does he put up with me?

Thank you to everyone who showed up at my birthday happy hour. And thank you for listening to me drunkenly read an excerpt from my story about crazy Uncle Ira.

The following is a transcript of my parents' birthday conference call voicemail to me yesterday:

Yeah, hi, Debs, Daddy's on with me too. We want to wish you a happy birthday. I'm sorry we missed you.

Happy birthday, Debs

Yeah, we love you a lot. I know it's a big one. I hope you have fun tonight at your . . .

This is a big one? Is this a big one? This is only 29. Right?

No. She's now 30.

Oh, god. She's so old.

My god, I know. We're pretty old ourselves.

We're ancient.

Don't you feel it? Sorry Debs. It's just been one of those days. Hope you're having a nice day.


Love you.

Last night, as soon as the lights went out, my chest became tight.
"Brian," I said, "I'm not ready to be 30. I'm not ready yet."

"It's going to be all right," he said. "It's not such a big deal."

"I know. But I'm having an anxiety attack. I'm not ready."

I have nothing but respect for my friends who passed into their 30s with quiet dignity. But these last few weeks have become increasingly difficult for me. And I don't want to go without a fight.

Let's examine my irrational fear of turning 30.

  • 30 = Adult.
    I am not quite ready to be considered an adult yet.
  • This baby thing.
    People have babies in their 30s. Not so much in their 40s and beyond. I feel like my mind is still a good decade away from making a decision about children. My body may not feel so generous.
  • I had a list of things I wanted to accomplished by 30
    The list is far from completion. I thought I would have a real career by now, that I would have a book published, that I would have an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. But no. No. I just don't know.
  • Ah. I can't stop it. It's going to happen whether I like it or not. I will have to turn 30. Or die trying not to. I don't like this. Not one bit. If I could just have a couple more weeks . . .

    I am hoping that when it actually comes (in less than 12 hours), it will be allofasudden, and nobigdeal, so I can stop having an anxiety attack. Then, things can go back to normal, and I can grouse a lot and wear a tiara to work and go out and drink strong beverages with friends and family until I forget how to read (but not how to sing).

    Wish me luck.

    Arthur finally wrote me again.
    Accidentally. . . Again. . .
    From: "arthur schwartz"
    To: deborah_schwartz@hotmail.com
    Subject: blood tests
    Date: Thu, 09 Nov 2006 17:08:53 +0000

    Hi -- Thanks for the update on the tests. As you know, Deborah and I will be in Washington for the weekend (leaving late tonight, returning midday Monday). If anything comes up with respect to the test results, please call me immediately. I'll have my cell phone on all the time.


    This does sound serious. Hopefully, he will accidentally write me again, and I can find out how my blood tests went.

    Yesterday afternoon we went to Oliver and Ryan's Practice Thanksgiving party. It was quite fun. Then we went out for a night on the town with former coworker Andrea, who is abandoning the east coast for groovy Seattle living. She's totally going to miss us.

    My Happy Hour Birthday Party is still on for Tuesday. I don't know why I'm so freaked out about turning 30. My friend Clare wrote:

    After 6 months as a 30 year old, I've discovered it isn't that bad.
    Besides, everybody's turning 30 these days, it's a popular choice.
    Anyway, what are my alternatives?

    The reading went really well.
    I loved sitting in the spotlight. I loved the sound of people laughing at my jokes. I haven't read my work out loud in years, but last night made me realize how much I really enjoy doing readings. This is because I love the attention.

    But I don't so much like going back to my seat and listening to other people's stories. This is because I'm selfish.

    I remind myself of my own crazy uncle. Uncle Ira once told me that he hated his group therapy session. He hated that when he had something to say, the group leader would accuse him of commandeering the session. I assume this was because he acted in group as he did during our visits, talking loudly and constantly and not letting anyone get a word in. Uncle Ira said it was all just a trap, though, because when he would be quite during group, they would accuse him of not paying attention and of falling asleep.

    I asked him, "You weren't actually asleep, though, were you?"


    And so, there I am, hopped up on attention until it's someone else's turn. And then I'm ready to fall asleep. How terrible of me. Maybe I need to do more readings and practice some better manners.

    Big gains for Democrats, Rummy resigns, the county gives GWB the finger.
    I couldn't have asked for a nicer present as I enter my 30th year on this planet we call America.

    It all seems so unreal. Too fragile. If Virginia voting numbers could just stay where they are . . . If Democrats could take back both the House and the Senate . . . And with my mother in power as Florida State Rep, Dist. 99, who knows what's possible.

    Check out Heck's Kitchen's celebratory new layout.

    Do you have your date books out? Let's go over our plans again.

    This Thursday, I'm reading a story I wrote about my crazy uncle.

    Thursday, November 9th, 2006
    @ 7:30pm
    Readings by NYCollective & Friends
    @ MO' PITKINS - 31 Ave A

    And the following Tuesday, I'm turning 30.

    Tuesday, November 14th
    @ 7PM
    Happy Birthday Happy Hour
    @ Dempsey's Pub 61 2nd Ave
    (btwn. 3rd & 4th)

    Maybe you stop by and say hi?

    We voted.
    Brian and I traveled all the way back to the Upper East Side just to do so.

    Of course, I couldn't vote for my mother, but it looks like she's going to be okay without it.

    Congratulations to the next Florida State Representative, District 99!
    Congratulations, Mom!

    Everything went well.
    We stayed with Dave and Heather, and they were beyond helpful. The food was fine, and we ordered plenty, but not too much. My parents drove up from So Flo, even though it's four hours each way, even though they were only in town for a few hours, even though my mother's election in tomorrow.

    Being so busy with all the planning for the unveiling, it was almost too easy to forget the reason for the unveiling. I'm embarrassed to say that this was a relief. It is impossible to sum up a life in a thought or a few words. And all the people there had had such different experiences with Brian's mother, known different sides of the same woman. My brain is constantly trying to put the little shards together, trying to create a whole vision of what is now this all-too finite thing.

    I cannot begin to imagine what my mother-in-law went through. But when I think of those last two months of her life, I want to vomit. To watch her suffer, to not be able to help. And to see how angry she became when we would try. But how could we not? And if we didn't, how culpable were we when she would all of a sudden become worse. Still, my stomach knowingly re-knots, turns over on itself. I want to forget about those last two months. I want to only think about before. I want to remember Meryl only before that. It's all such a mess inside my head.

    Some news:
    I went to my friend Eileen's Halloween party this past Saturday. I dressed up as a pigeon. It would have been a more brilliant costume if the spray paint I had bought had actually been gray, like I thought it was, and not silver. My wings were still too white and not dirty-looking enough. People kept asking if I were just a really lame angle.

    Brian dressed up as someone who spent the evening without his no-good-nik wife, celebrating his uncle's 65th birthday with family. His follow-through was excellent. I went to Eileen's party alone. But it was still fun.

    As you may already know, I do pretty much all my own coding by hand. Which means that every month, I go through and update each individual archived blog page. October, 2006 marked archive50.html. of debcentral.com/education. In honor of my 50th archived blog page, I made this. Of course, I will now need to update all fifty blog archive pages as well. Such is life.

    Do you still have your date books out? You remember that we're all going out for drinks on my birthday, right? November 14th. The big three-zero.

    Wait. Don't put the date book away. I have another date for you. November 9th.

    Friends of mine from a writing class are now editors of a fairly new literary magazine, Collectanea*. They asked me if I wouldn' t like to submit something for this latest issue. I said sure, and I began banging on my keyboard liked a coked-up monkey. I got a call back that the piece was still too weak, but they would like to have another piece I had once workshopped with them.

    Because all I care about is being famous and published, and because I am WAY behind on my list of things to do by the time I turn 30, I handed it over post-haste.

    So watch for me in this new issue of Collectanea. And if you are free and living in the city on Thursday, November 9th, please come hear me read an excerpt from my story.

    Thursday, November 9th, 2006
    @ 7:30pm
    Readings by NYCollective & Friends
    @ MO' PITKINS - 31 Ave A NYC
    Maybe you'll stop by, no?

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