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17th Century Susan

The other day, my friend Andrea wrote an email to our friend Susan and me:
From: Andrea
Subject: 17th Century Susan...

Ok so this Frans Hals painting is going to be in our upcoming exhibition.... and if you look beyond the drab clothes, I think she looks like she could be your sister. Or twin. Maybe Deb can photoshop some fun curls onto it and we can know for sure if this is your Dutch doppelganger?...

So that's what I did. And I was a little shocked by the results. Here is Frans Hal's Portrait of a Young Woman becoming portrait of my friend, Susan.

Susan wrote back:
oh my god. that is seriously weird. I mean, all my life I've wonder what ethnicity I am, what with the whole grandparents converting and changing their name, and Johnson being mid-western swedish and all, and here it is, I'm totally dutch.

And, I have apparently had multiple lives...

Of course, Susan is cuter and dresses way better. But I do so love photoshop.

It's here!

Two different friends of ours forwarded Brian and me the same article.
It was cnn.com's "Fighting with spouse can be good for your health."

Oh, well. It looks like I can easily sail into my 90s. Though I may very well do so alone.

Speaking of old and alone, in honor of Nonna's 90th Birthday, Molly has composed another haiku:

How I idolize
Spry nonogenarians
Like Julia Schwartz

Yesterday evening, Brian showed me this from the New York magazine blog: Because He Got High

Last night, David Paterson told NY1 that he has used marijuana and cocaine "a couple of times." Not that he's hitting the chronic before looking over the budget, mind you this was a while ago. "I don't think I've touched marijuana since the late seventies," he said. He doesn't think! But who can be sure? Can we? Do we care? We seem to have gotten over Obama's hippie-days drug use, and, anyway, Paterson already admitted this back when he was running for lieutenant governor in 2006. Oh. Did you not hear that then? Maybe it was because no one ever imagined in their wildest dreams that Eliot Spitzer, moral crusader, would resign after it was revealed that he had sex with hookers many, many times, and then we'd be left with a blind adulterous pothead governing the state. Guess THAT will teach us not to pay attention to the lieutenant governor!
Happy Getting Angry, Getting Old, and Falling Up!

Karen & Rich had us over for Easter dinner.
Karen made a whole lot of food.

Susan made some very festive cupcakes.

I tried to make a dessert too. I wanted to make a Heath bar cheese cake, something my mother and sister have made before. I got kind of confused reading the recipe. When it should have taken 45 minutes to bake, my cake was still very liquidy. Even after an hour and a half. So I had to just pack it in and hope for the best. Oh yeah, and I couldn't find any Heath bars, so I had to use Reese's peanut butter cups.

When I was talking to my mother about transporting the still hot cheesecake, she said, "Carry it in a box with something for insulation at the bottom. When you get to your friends house, shove it in the refrigerator. Then, when you're ready to serve it, don't call it a cheesecake. Call it cheesecake pudding."

She went on to say, "You remember the story about your father and my first Thanksgiving together?" I did. They were living in a studio apartment on the Upper East Side. It was 1968. They had just gotten married. Both my mother's parents and my father's parents came over. Everyone was huddled together in the small space when my mother, then 25, walked out of the kitchen with the turkey. Which promptly fell off the tray and onto the floor. On the phone, recalling the event, my mother said, "These things happen. And you know what Nonna said? She said I should have picked up the turkey, put it back on the platter, headed back to the kitchen and announced 'Now I'm going to bring out the other turkey.'"

In the end, my cheesecake tasted okay. Though it looked kind of lousy. It looked like this:

In other news, I think that issue of the Kenyon Review with my story in it should be available any day now. I recently got their check in the mail.

Brian's Aunt Bonnie thinks I should have a signing party. Maybe I will. Maybe I'll set up a table at a local Barnes & Nobel's and sign copies. Maybe. It could be fun. But it might be lonely.

Have we talked yet about the face-off I want to see?
Young Hall & Oats vs. Young Air Supply

I imagine throwing them into a gladiatorial pit and making them have a Smooth-Off ... To the death.

Naturally, I think Hall & Oats would be scrappier. But I wonder if Air Supply might not have a secret weapon up its sleeve, like maybe Graham Russell can shoot killer rainbows out of his hair (like Gamera's enemy, Barugon).

But maybe Oats fashions a shiv out of his mustache. It could get so damn ugly.

Young Hall & Oats vs. Young Air Supply. Who do you think would win?

I had a 9am doctor's appointment.
In the waiting room was a young woman and her 3 year old son, who was quietly playing in the corner. Also, there was a middle-aged man wearing a flannel shirt and mustache sitting next to what appeared to be his 20-something son. The son looked a bit like a tough, with a red hoody (hood up), baggy jeans, and large, silver jewelry. The son seemed worked up.

"I get so angry at mom," he said. "Sometimes, I want to punch her."

The man sitting next to him shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head, as if this were an inevitability.

"She's always saying she can punch you out. 'Hey! I'll punch your lights out!' But she's totally full of shit. Grandpa even said so. Grandpa said the other day that one day, when mommy challenges him, he's going to deck her. And she deserves it too."

"You mother...." the flannel man said weakly.

"She's always challenging people to a fight. I'm going to drop that bitch. Really I am. Mommy keeps getting up in my face, and one day I'm going to drop her. She's not that strong. Even Grandpa said he thinks he could take her down."

The flannel man shrugged again, and the tough continued, "Ever since we moved to Queens, she's been lying. Lying all the time. She even lies to Grandpa. She lives in his house and lies right to his face."

"Before the TV show...."

"I don't blame the TV show. I blame Kristin, that friend of hers. She was the one that got mommy on the show in the first place. And now she walks around thinking she's all strong and shit, challenging me to a fight, threatening to beat me up. But she's not all that. I could take her down. And one day, POW! I'm going to knock mommy's lights out. She deserves it."

I couldn't figure out what the hell these men were talking about. They were quiet for a while, and when I looked up, the young tough was gone. I guessed he had been called into a room. Shortly thereafter, the father was called into a room too. A few minutes later, so was I.

While I was walking to the examining room, I heard the nurses talking. One said, "Put him in room two."

The other said, "No, the other one's in room two."

"They're both getting seen?

"Yeah. Both."

"Shit. Nobody tells me nothing."

It was kind of strange and sweet that a father and his 20-something son would arrange their check-ups back-to-back. And it was kind of cute the way the young tough repeatedly referred to his mother as "Mommy". But I had to wonder if they were there together because they had both been beaten up by the same woman. Probably not.

Tomorrow, Nonna turns 90!
My family was all here for the celebratory weekend. Many interesting things happened. One of which was that my grandmother lifted her shirt over her head at dinner. We were in a restaurant, and my grandmother wanted to show me how a dermatologist had fixed a scar she had on the area that could be thought of as her cleavage.

My father was sitting between us. When my grandmother flashed the restaurant, my father turned away in shock. "Ma!" he said, "Pull your blouse down!"

"This is none of your business," she said, "I'm showing Debbie my scar!" She kind of lingered like that for some time.

Later, I was talking to my mother about this event. I said, "Nonna can't kept her clothes on in her old age."

My mother said, "She was always like that."

As a gift to all DebCentral readers, I would like to make available official Nonna Schwartz wallpaper. I think my grandmother is an uncommonly beautiful woman with one of the strongest personalities I have ever come across.

And here are two bonus images: One of my grandmother at the Four Season restaurant, blowing out the candle on her cake. She initially blew out the candle too quickly for us to have taken pictures. So the server re-lit it, and she pretended to look surprised and to blow out the candle for about five more minutes.

And the other is Andrea Blanken, on the other side of the country, celebrating Nonna's birthday with an incredibly appropos custom-made t-shirt.

This morning, on my way to work, I was thinking about blogging.
But I can't remember about what I was thinking of blogging.

So, instead, I will post a picture of a giant blow-up rat.

I have been thinking a lot about rats lately, especially as I have been reading a book called Rats, about history, sociology, New York City, and, of course, rats. I would highly recommend it.

Nonna is 90 on the 18th. My parents, sister, and brother-in-law are all in town to celebrate. Enter awesomeness.

I excuse my grandmother when she makes comments suggesting it's the wife's fault when a man cheats with a hooker. I excuse this because she's almost 90, and because I know she relished being a dirty old lady.

But there are no excuses for Dr. Laura, except that she's a living, breathing female douche bag.

She is someone who has been divorced before, who has carried on an affair with a married man, who has posed for nudy pictures, and who acts like a psychologist when her PhD is in physiology. She is really no one anyone should ever listen to in matters of love or relationships, and I have seen her make even very benign housewives angry. What she does when she gives her opinions to ladies is the female equivalent to dog fighting.

In short: I am not a fan.

But I am a tremendous fan of new babies with tasty-smelling heads and drooly, teething faces. So here are some pictures of one of my favorite babies, Sean Sobush, who we finally met in person this weekend. His parents are okay too.

I spoke to my grandmother about New York's gubernatorial sex scandal.
She said of Elliot Spitzer, "I don't blame him, really. I bet that wife of his is a cold sonofabitch and he's been running around hot in the pants. I feel bad because I know now I was in the wrong business."

She paused for a moment, and said, "Do you think it's too late for me?"

I said, "It takes all kinds. I'm sure there's a market for nonagenarians."

She said, "I don't think I could get 5,000 bucks, but anything would help."

I'm headed to Albany today to lobby for affordable housing. Though I'm sure Albany will be as interesting as it ever was, I have a feeling that no one will be too interested in affordable housing.

Growing old reminds me of my youth.
I still haven't found my glasses. I've been taking a continuing ed class, and yesterday, I couldn't see the board.

I took turns covering one eye and then the other to see if this would help me focus. I tried copying off my neighbor, but whatever he was doing wasn't actually classwork. I ended up repeatedly asking the lab assistant to read me the code the teacher had written. It was embarrassing. I kept apologizing, saying, "I lost my glasses. But I'm far-sided. But I can't see the screen."

The lab assistant seemed about as interested as if I had been prattling off a jello mold recipe.

When I was younger, I had trouble seeing the board and my parents took me to the eye doctor. They both wore glasses, as did my older brother. So glasses seemed inevitable.

I told the eye doctor that when I closed one eye and then the other objects moved around. I said that through one eye, it looked like everything was made up of tiny dots. When he put the massive, medieval-torture-device-like goggles on me, he kept asking which lens looked better ... this one or this one? But I couldn't tell. I couldn't make up my mind. I started to panic. The doctor got frustrated and spoke harshly. This made me cry. Then he told me he knew I was making it all up just because I wanted glasses.

By the time he released me to return to my mother, I was a blubbering mess. I never went back to that eye doctor.

Years went by, as did a number of different eye doctors and pairs of glasses. It wasn't until I was in grad school that an ophthalmologist revealed to me that what I had was a lazy eye. He said my right eye was fine. My left I was rather far-sided. But it didn't much like taking the trouble to focus; it was used to getting a free ride. A strong prescription wouldn't help much, because the eye had little desire to work. It was like that employee who just sits around waiting for his pension to vest. When my right eye gets tired, the left eye is be forced to take on new assignments. But it is resentful, and the work it puts out is sloppy and inconsistent.

The doctor told me that if this had been caught when I was younger, they could have put a patch on my good eye to strengthen my bad one. But it was a little late now.

This explained why I had such poor depth perception. And why 3-D glasses didn't really work on me. And why in all my school pictures, I always seemed to be half-winking.

Mostly, I wore my new glasses for reading. But I was always taking them off when I wasn't reading and then misplacing them. In 2004, I lost two pairs of glasses in less than six months. When I got the next pair, the doctor recommended I just leave them on all the time, which I did.

Sometimes, I still think I am much more glamorous without my glasses. But then I see pictures of myself, and there's that wonky eye again. I need to make an appointment with an eye doctor.

Everything smells.
Lately, I've been feeling like everything is stinky. That weird, fermenting, musky smell of people in too warm coats in not cold enough weather. The subway is the worst. Both on the platform and in the train. But I smell it at the gym and sometimes small stores too.

The world is overripe. We're ready for spring.

On top of being olfactorily plagued, I lost my glasses. I wore them to work two days ago. That's all I can figure. When I went to put them on yesterday morning, I couldn't find them.

When I go to the gym, I usually put them inside my coat pocket in my locker. Sometimes I remember to take them out when I get home. Then I place them, as usual, on the dresser. When I don't remember, when they are not on the dresser the next morning, I am usually able to retrieve them from my coat pocket.

But not yesterday. They were not on the dresser. And they were not in my coat pocket. I thought it was possible that I might have left them at work.

But they weren't at work. They weren't at the gym. And they don't seem to be at home.

I'm not blind. But I do feel demoralized.

Two different people offered me extra pairs of their own glasses. I told them thanks, but I was far sided, and only in one eye (my right eye is fine). I'd be fine. Both people then offered to pop out a lens. It was really sweet. But seeing is not nearly as big an issue as is feeling dumb.

Sunday was the 75th Anniversary of the original King Kong
Neither Brian nor I had seen King Kong before. I was pretty excited. The movie theater was full. But we were able to get two seats in the middle of the third row (we like sitting close to the screen).

A rather large man, his rather large wife, and their normal-sized, bratty, ten year old sat in front of us.

The kid said, "We're too close. I can't see anything."

The dad said, "It'll be fine. The screen is small."

The kid said, "No! No! No!" and threw a temper tantrum. The mother turned around, desperately looking for better real estate.

There were two seats to my right and one to my left. The woman said, "You wouldn't mind moving over so we could have three seats together, would you?"

Normally, moving over so a family could sit together makes me feel generous. But because the kid was such a brat, I was annoyed. But I did it anyway.

The father, who was really quite turgid, sat next to me and encroached on my personal space. An old fellow introduced the film and asked the audience who had seen this movie more than ten times. The mother and father waved their turgid little hands excitedly. This annoyed me too.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by what could be deemed as the film's racial insensitivity. But I was. And I was even more shocked that a giant ape could do such a keen job of finding his favorite blonde inside an enclosed high rise. But what I found most troubling of all was the moment when Kong plucks a plain-looking brunette out of bed, looks disappointed, then drops her to her certain death.

In this clip on youtube, the scene in question runs between minutes 6:10 and 6:45.

For me, there was something very poignant about this scene. I imagine that most brunettes who have ever been on a blind date or hung around a bar with their blonde friends might feel similarly.

Who wants to be picked up by that hairy, crass, low-brow animal? Still, rejection stings. Though I imagine being dropped from the 25th floor by a giant ape might hurt more.

The worst part of the film, however, was when King Kong was on top of the Empire State Building. As he was swatting at airplanes, the fat man's cell phone went off. He pressed a button to silence it. But it beeped again when the caller left a message.

I was very annoyed by this. But not as annoyed as I was when King Kong gave Fay Wray a last longing glance, and the phone rang again. When King Kong was plummeting to his death, the phone rang a third time.

If there was ever anyone I wanted to see dropped from the 25th floor by a giant ape, it was the man sitting next to me. Some people are beasts.

Please feel free to contact me.

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