Our friend Heather's father died last night.
In October, he was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. His only symptom had been a lump on his neck he found while shaving.
Brian has known Heather since he was in high school. Which is to say he has known her parents since he was in high school. I met them after Brian and I started dating in college. They were exceptional people. The kind of people who, the first time you meet them, ask you to sit down on the couch and tell them what you're up to. Can they get you anything to drink? Extremely warm, earnest, and good-humored.
Bob was a great story teller and could make the perfect gin and tonic. Really. They were the best I've ever had. And he laughed at all of our jokes. And all of his own jokes too.
At the beginning of April, we attended a cousin's bat mitzvah out on Long Island. Not far from Bob and Mary. We got dropped off at their house afterward and spent the afternoon chatting with them. Bob looked great. I couldn't get over it. He had lost all his hair and a lot of weight. Mostly because he said after the chemo, food had lost its taste. But his smile was the same. His laugh was the same. His penchant for story-telling was the same.
He had been holding up quite well these last eight months, given the circumstances. And, last night, he and Mary had only several hours before come back from a trip to Petsmart. He went to bed, and about ten o'clock woke up with a coughing fit. He was coughing up blood. Tons of blood. Mary called the ambulance. But she could tell he was already gone.
Heather wrote, "We're kind of in shock--not the end we expected." Us too. Somehow, though I knew in my heart it was impossible, I had wanted so badly for Bob to be the one to defy the odds.
Brian and I shared a couple (or four) gin and tonics this evening in Bob Scott's memory. We sipped, and toasted the memory of a great guy, a warm host, and a beloved presence. He will be missed.
Some people judge achievement in terms of financial success.
Some people judge it terms of relative fame or by one's collection of possessions. It would not be unusual that a person in her early thirties might feel a sense of profound achievement if she had established a career, a home, and a family.
For me, if I make it across the street before the light changes, I'm happy. If I get a seat on the subway in the morning, I am bordering on ecstatic.
Sure, living in New York City can feel like a hassle. Especially compared with the suburban South Florida lifestyle of having an elderly man bag groceries for you, then push your shopping cart out to your car. Where I live, schlepping groceries home is only slightly more glamorous than having bundles tied to both ends of a broomstick which is balancing on the back of your neck.
But, inspite of the hassle — or maybe because of it — I am able to feel a profound sense of achievement every single day I do not get hit by a bus.
The other morning, as I was walking up the stairs from the Fulton Street subway platform, I found myself behind a women with a cane and an enormous handbag. It was the kind of handbag that could easily hold a bowling ball and all the accouchements for a grand picnic. As she was "with cane", she was moving rather slowly. And with each gimped step, her purse swung first forward, then back, knocking me square in the chest. It felt like she had a bowling ball and two bottles of white wine in there.
The person behind me was even more frustrated than I about the rush-hour up-the-stairs hold-up. Which caused him/her to repeatedly step on the backs of my ankles. This was possibly even more painful and annoying than being knocked in the chest by the massive purse.
It went on for about 20 steps. The woman with the cane climbs a step. Her purse swings forward. It swings back. It knocks me in the chest. The person behind me steps on my ankles. I move up a step. He/she moves up a step. The woman with the cane climbs a step. Her purse swings forward.
I felt no small sense of achievement that I did not lean forward and push the woman in front of me, then turn and ninja kick the ankle-stepper in the groin.
On that note: Molly sent me some more mass transit haikus.
You see six angels
Really glad I know
Hate to interrupt
I can't help but stare
Court: notice your smile
I am close enough
When it rains, it pours.
I received an email yesterday from someone named Nancy. The subject line was "Tax Stuff". It read:
Deb,There was tax information attached, and the address listed was the same as that of co-op in Chelsea. Poor debschwartz1.
Okay. Here's my new most favorite youtube video.
Several days ago, I received an email whose subject line was "Building News memo"
There was no message in the body, but there was a Word document attached called CW June08 Memo to Shareholders. The sender appeared to be from a realty company. I opened the document and found a memo from the board of directors to the shareholders of a building in Chelsea, New York City. There was a note about a recent film shoot that was done on the building's property, mention of a long-time board member stepping down, and a save the date for the next shareholders meeting.
No stranger to misdirected email messages, I wrote back:
I believe this email was meant for someone else.Several minutes later, I got a reply:
Deb,I was a little bewildered at the response. It seemed kind of aggressive. So I wrote back:
Where would I have signed up for this?I've signed up for a number of email notifications having to do with city housing and transportation. I checked the attached document again. Nope. This definitely looked to be for a co-op in Chelsea. So I wrote back again:
I live in Brooklyn. I think you might have a wrong address for the person who wants these email updates.I felt like I had dealt with the situation pretty thoroughly. But then I got another email. It was that aggressive real estate guy again forwarding an email he claimed to be from me:
Deb-A-HA! So aggressive! And yet, so sloppy! I wrote back:
Please note that this person's email address is debschwartz1. My email address is debschwartz.And I received back:
My apologies, sorry for the inconvenience.Why did this man think he could embarrass me into admitting I was the Deb Schwartz in question? His aggressive prove-you-wrong attitude coupled with a devil-may-care typing technique led to an eventual email comeuppance. Deb Schwartz - 1. Aggressive Real Estate Guy - 0. DebSchwartz1 - 0.
I finally rode my new bike.
Miss Banana and I went for a ride around Prospect Park one and a half times.
My bike is rather low to the ground. Which I like. Because it minimizes damage to my person when I inevitably fall off. However, there is a massive hill in Prospect Park. Not steep so much as maybe a half mile of steady incline. And while other cyclists and joggers were definitely straining, I, on my tiny bike, was moving so slowly, I appeared to be standing still. It's a wonder I didn't just fall over.
I'm still alive, though. And the Banana took a picture. Here I am:
This picture was taken well before I almost died of exertion.
I've been a bit swamped lately.
So instead of commentary, I will offer you pictures. When we were in Paris, we met up with our friend Ann.
Last week, My grandmother's dramatics class had "gig" in the basement of a local church. She performed a scene from Noel Cowered's Blithe Spirit, and played the eccentric medium, Madame Arcati. Here are some pictures.
My uncle sat in the audience with me, and he was mostly socially-appropriate. Except for the time he noisily ate a sandwich that had been used as a prop in a previous scene.
It's too hot outside. Yesterday, it was so hot, I think I experienced the emotional equivalent of rolling brown-outs. Brian wanted to go to movies, and this would make perfect sense, but I was so hot and flustered, I couldn't even get off the couch.
Last Wednesday, I was chatting with a coworker about bicycles. She wanted to start a bicycle blog. I told her about the wonderful bike I had had in college. My soul's bike. Three speed, banana seat, and blue. It was called a Barracuda, and it had a stick shift on the bike's stem. She said she couldn't picture such a thing, so I tried googling to get an image. The second entry that came up was a craigslist posting from earlier that same day. Someone on the upperwest side was selling a yellow three speed banana seat Barracuda.
I wrote back immediately and said I wanted to buy it.
On Friday afternoon the fellow wrote back. On Saturday, Brian and I ran up to the upperwest side to see the bike. And buy it.
Now it's mine.
All I need is a helmet and bike lock and a practical place to store it.
Please note the flames on the seat.
Also, here are a couple more pictures from Paris. I was going to make the page this weekend. Really I was. But it was just too dern hot.
The Stairs inside the Arc de Triomphe
A quick break from Paris.
For a crack.
It was a set up! Upon closer look, you can see the man behind us is in possession of some serious crack.
Gosh. It never gets old.
Yes. We had a nice time.
Let me tell you a story. For five days I schlepped around my enormous, heavy camera. On the sixth and last day, after we had come back to the hotel to freshen up, I realized the camera I had been schlepping around with me, the camera which had gotten so heavy I gave it to Brian to hold, was no longer with us. After I turned the room apart looking for the camera, I collapsed on the dingy hotel carpet and began to wail the ungodly ululation of a mother who's child has gone missing.
Eventually, I pulled myself together. My karma is terrible, but Brian's is freakishly blessed. Since I have known him, he has lost his wallet, his phone (several times), his blackberry (twice) and an entire checkbook of checks. And all of these things have been returned to him by kind strangers. I was pick-pocketed on the bus once and no one would even lift their dumb ugly feet to help me check under the seats.
So I told myself that because Brian was the last person to have the camera, it was very possible I would see it again. We looked every place we could in the hotel and then we began to retrace out steps outside. On our walk back to the patisserie, I came to terms with the loss of my camera and the loss of all the pictures from our trip. They were gone. What did it feel like? It felt like nothing. I was in good health. Brian was in good health. Everything would be okay.
It was after seven and I was shocked that the patisserie was even open. We crossed the street and as we walked inside we could see that the shelves for pastries were empty. The woman behind the counter, sweet faced and rosy checked — she looked like she could have been made of marzipan — was frowning, but when she saw us coming, her eyes opened wide.
She held up my camera bag.
She had stayed open waiting for our return, I think. I was crying. I hugged this stranger. She spoke in French and I spoke in English and neither of us understood each other. We were all very happy.
We walked back to the hotel to pick up our tour book again. I felt light. Ethereal. I stood outside in the half-hidden sunlight while Brian ran upstairs. I thought about life and of possessions. I thought about how I was ready to renounce my camera when I thought it was gone. But now that I had it, it felt even more precious. I was grateful. I thanked heaven.
And then ... a bird pooped on my head.
Coming home bought a nice surprise. Thanks, Kyle. For looking out for me. A brief, nice review of my Kenyon story can be found here.
I also liked Deborah Schwartz’s “The City and the Moon,” a quietly sad story about how, in a short period of time, death takes a number of people closest to the main character. The concluding note is not despair, for he still has a loving wife, but a sense that memories will haunt his nighttime hours. Schwartz masterfully uses scenes and back story – instead of mere words – to accomplish this mood.