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



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Anniversary, Take I

The day before yesterday, the day that was our first go-round for an anniversary dinner, before we actually met for dinner, before I stood out in the cold for ten minutes waiting for Brian to get out of work, I left my office and walked to his.

Because of my new-ish appreciation for rats and my curiosity regarding more forgotten parts of New York City, I walked down Theater Alley, that dingy old alley between Ann and Beekman Streets near Park Row.

I did in fact see rats. A nice number of them, too. They were scampering and playing and rifling through the mounds of garbage that lined parts of the alley. Seeing them made me feel happy. I took some pictures, though it was quite dark.

Then I waited outside Brian's office for him for some time in the cold, then we went uptown to see our friend, Julian's gallery opening. Then we went to dinner, which was a disaster in so many ways.

We went to what had been one of our favorite Indian restaurants in Manhattan. It was not very crowded, and looked somehow dingier than I had remembered. In particular, there was a door I hadn't remembered. I'm sure it was there before, but maybe I was only seeing it now because it stood out bruised and dirty against the otherwise white walls.

For some reason, I felt if I stared at the slit of light at the bottom of the door long enough, I might see something. Something shadowy and murine.

Eventually, it appeared. Silhouetted legs and tail. Then it darted away. "Brian!" I said, "A mouse!"

Brian looked troubled. I told him that I had felt that if I stared at the dingy door (which was apparently to the basement) long enough, I would see a mouse. And I had!

The legs came and went again, but not long enough for Brian to turn around and see. But ten minutes later it was back again. This time, it stayed and walked back and forth. And then it ducked its head and walked into the restaurant proper.

It was a very charming-looking critter, much smaller and cuter than its ratty brethren which I had seen only hours earlier. Also, instead of frolicking in a dark, garbage-strewn alley, it was walking around the restaurant in which I was eating. As the mouse neared our table, Brian and I lost our appetites.

January 26 was a rodent day! Too bad it's the year of the Ox.

He talked extensively about airports. He talked about which ones he liked best and the hubs in which he made the most connecting flights.

He was maybe almost 40. I could never really tell. He was facing me as I waited for Brian. The woman he was with had her back to me.

He was the type of guy who used Just for Men and wore pinstriped, cufflinked shirts. All I could see of the woman he was with was long dark hair, black sweater, and that she was quite thin.

"Do you have any plans to travel anytime soon?" He said. I couldn't hear her response. But he replied, "Oh, yeah, Boston is great. I love Boston."

First date? Business dinner? They knew each other, but not well. He was talking a lot. She seemed only to be nodding. Brian still hadn't even gotten off the train. This was our second attempt at an anniversary dinner.

The guy behind me, who was dining alone, was saying into his cell phone, "I just got out of a vodka focus group. A VODKA FOCUS GROUP. Yeah. This one was Ketel One. I do this a couple times a year."

I checked my watch. Ten minutes and no Brian. He had kept me waiting as long in the cold the night before. Tonight, I was inside a restauraunt. They seated me, too. It was almost empty. The bad economy? The hostess had said as she placed the menus on the table, "It's one of those nights. I guess everyone thinks it's going to snow?"

Did they?

Really? Was that it? I checked my watch again. The douchey guy in front of me was still talking. "I've never heard anything bad about Austin. It's always Dallas this and Huston that, but never anything about Austin."

Who were these people to each other? I wanted to see that woman's face. Did she feel as tourtured listening to Just for Men as I did? Was this a date? Was she enjoying the conversation? How could she be? It was awful. I felt relieved to be married. As troubled as my marriage was, as failing as even this second attempt was at an anniversary dinner, at least I didn't have to sit through evening smiling and nodding at this ridiculous conversation.

The man behind me was talking on his phone again. "I love cold cuts," he was saying, "I totally fucking love coldcuts."

Brian finally arrived. The dinner was a bit strained. I stayed focused on the couple in front of us

Finally, she got up to go to the bathroom. On her way back, I looked right at her. I don't know what I was expecting to see. But I was very surprised. "Brian!" I said, "That chick is Jenny's friend. The one married to that skinny guy, Tray."

"Troy?" Brian said.

"Yeah. I think they live in Park Slope too. She's a graphic designer. I think her name is Kathy or Katie. They are a super cute couple. It's her. It's that girl. Should I say something?"

Brian looked mortified. "God, no!"

We watched them bundle up and leave. The guy behind me was talking on the phone about the blonde bartender from Jersey.

This was 7 years of marriage. Well, it certainly could be worse.

Brian didn't win the charity Scrabble tournament.
But his team kicked some butt.

They won their first two rounds and advanced to the semi-finals, where they played the reigning champs and were decimated.

But it wasn't for naught. With the support of friends and family, Brian and I helped raise almost a thousand dollars for a worthwhile organization. And the event was a lot of fun, and I got to sit around for hours taking pictures and trying to not talk, which was actually quite difficult for me.

Click here to see more pictures

Today is Brian and my 7th wedding anniversary. That initial great, big wedding party seems silly in retrospect. We should get a steadily larger party every year that we're still together. Oh, well. Today is also my brother's birthday.

Yesterday, while chopping spinach, I chopped my finger. Just the tip of my middle finger, but boy! did it *hurt.* At first, the wound was white, white, but then it started to bleed, and I held it over the bathroom sink as Brian helped me open a Band-Aid. It bled and bled. I bled through three Band-Aids before it subsided. I had forgotten about the sink. When I saw it again an hour later, the blood had gotten dark and crusty. As I scrubbed the sink, I thought, Well, that was just the tip of a finger. Can you imagine if I had stabbed someone in the chest? It would be just too much of a mess!

Sometimes our thoughts can be so morbidly practical.

And You Will Know Me By My Burgundy Blazer/Vest....

I've seen this sign up in the booth at the Fulton Street 4/5 station quite a lot. The intense declarative language always gives me a chuckle. By the way, I don't think I've ever seen a live person in that booth, and I haven't noticed any Burgundy Blazer/Vest-ers wandering around the station either.

I was listening to NPR this morning, and they were reporting on all the bills President Obama had signed or was about to sign. It sounded crazy to my ears. This country had been leaning ever more fundamentalist for so many years — it had gotten to the point where I could barely breathe. The world seemed to be shrinking, getting smaller, simpler, more narrow-minded. We were living in a world full of empty words and spin, where we touted small-town values while raiding the kitty, legislating the hoo-ha, and running the enviornment into the groud. We wrapped ourselves in the flag while burning the writ of habeas corpus.

But everything is changing. It's not just because Old Creepy Pants is out of office. It's because it seems like all of America wants a do-over in which they get to be the nice guy. I am experiencing dangerously high levels of glee.

Speaking of being a nice guy: I'm sorry to keep bothering everybody, but Brian's charity scrabble tournament is this Saturday at noon. The more money he raises, the better chance he has at winning. And as much as I love the children, I am ALL ABOUT WINNING. If you haven't already given and can spare $5 or $10, we'd love you to help Brian crush his opponents. Thanks!

It's official!
Barak Obama is our president. Gosh, it seemed like it was taking forever. I'm so thrilled that Old Creepy Pants is out.

My sister got tickets to see the inauguration and had traveled all the way from South Florida to witness the event. However, she and others in the purple viewing section were turned away at the gate because of a reported security breach. They stood in the cold for hours waiting for further updates, and when no word came, my sister and her friend Kevin retreated to a random overcrowded sports bar with a TV. She sent this link this morning. How disappointing.

This past weekend was quite beautiful as big, fluffy snow flakes fell almost continuously and blanketed our neighborhood, making it look new and fresh. Snow clung to the branches and leaves of trees, giving them a kind of reverse shadow, and the cars all looked like they were wearing white pillowcases.

It's not too slushy now. Mostly frosty and icing, but not too bad. Maybe it's because I grew up in a place with only one season (hot!), but I never get bored of the snow.

I took this picture last night. It doesn't look like much of anything, but the people demand pictures:

I've been wearing my red rain boots again. I applied Shoe GOO, as some of you had recommended. So far, they've been holding up.

Not to keep pestering everyone, but Brian's charity scrabble tournament is this Saturday at noon. He's got some more money to raise. If you've donated, thanks so very much. If you haven't and have a few dollars you wouldn't mind throwing at children in the name of literacy and whatnot, CLICK HERE and then click on the "Sponsor Me" button. Thanks so much.

Brian's friend Bill is on the board of a nonprofit organization.
That would be neither here nor there, except that Bill's nonprofit, 826NYC is having a fundraiser, and Brian is going to participate.

826NYC, in their own words, is an organization "dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write." Their upcoming fundraiser is called "Scrabble for Cheaters." I don't completely understand the premise, but I think he'll be playing scrabble, and the more money he raises, the more letters he can buy, which will help him crush his opponents. Or something like that.

Who cares if I understand the premise? It's for a good cause! It's for Kids!

He is on a team with another friend of Bill's (someone we've never met), a random pairing of two friends of Bill who were without teammates. I am not playing because I am an atrocious speller (I think I may be dyslexic) and therefore, a woefully poor Scrabble player. Brian and the random, whose name is Sarah and who seems perfectly nice, are charged with raising $1,000. For kids!

The event is taking place on January 24th. Their team name is "Friends of Bill." I made the graphic on Brian's fundraising page, which he agreed to upload. So far he has done little else to sex up his page.

In this time of economic glut, when all of you leave your cushy corporate jobs to go home and take a nice warm bath in dollar bills and caviar, maybe you could find it in your wallets to spare $5 or $10 for the kids. And so Brian might better crush his opponents.

His fundraising page is here. Thank you in advance ... for helping us to set a terrible example for future generations.

I'm having some sinus issues.
I feel like someone drilled a whole into my skull through the middle of my face, jammed in a spigot, and now my nose is stuffed up and dripping like a tapped maple tree. Colds and flu have been passed around the office like ... what's passed around an office? ... maybe one of those birthday cards that everyone on staff has to sign when it's for someone that no one really knows or likes.

I've been on the precipice of getting sick for about a month now. In the meantime, I've watched as my coworkers have come in sneezing or with chills or wrapped up like Inuits, looking like death, or don't come in at all. There's been a perpetual refrain of, Don't get too close; I don't want to make you sick.

What a drag.

And right at the moment when I want to really complain, my brain makes me think of my poor father, who's still at home and in pain after his bicycle accident/internal bleeding episode. And of my parents' next-door-neighbors' son, who has lymphoma and has to be rushed to the hospital every other week.

It's cold outside, and I bought a new pair of gloves, but they make grasping things very difficult. I was thinking about this as I was walking out of the subway, feeling sorry for myself because my head was stuffy and my nose was running. But then I remembered the poor fellow who works at the falafel stand on Fulton Street & Cliff, and how the fingers on his left hand are pincer-like, with only a thumb and one weird, fat pointer-like finger. A birth defect? An accident? I can always take off my gloves, but for him....

Sometimes, I look in the mirror and say to myself What awful skin I have! I have the under-eye bags of an 80 year old., but then I have to tap my lips and make the pfoo-pfoo-pfoo sound, so as not to tempt the evil eye, because there are people out there whose faces are marred with lumpy acne or have become webby after being ravaged by fire.

Yes, yes, I am perpetually glass-half-empty. But maybe this ridiculous exercise keeps me from forgetting there are people who have no glasses at all.

It's so so very strange to meet people who seem content with their lot, people who, when you ask them how they are, rattle off a list of lovely things that are happening to them. They have a great career that they love, a great place to live, a significant other they adore. Being around their family and in-laws is a real treat. Life is swell.

Don't they know about pfoo-pfoo-pfoo-ing? Don't they know that with each spoken happiness, they are further opening the door to those mischievous dark spirits who like to see people eat their shoes... and choke on them?

I will never get WASPy people. As for me, I'm okay.I've been feeling a little under the weather, but I know people who have been feeling considerably worse this winter. And I still have a job to go to and a roof over my head; I'm not living on the street, begging for scraps; my body is not riddled with infection and my brain still functions — albeit with a nice dose of forgetfullness; I have mobility in all my limbs knockonwood; my skin is not all webby from fire or exposure to acid. Things could be better, but I can't complain, because they could certainly be worse, pfoo-pfoo.

Why don't I ever have a camera when I need one!
I had to take this picture with my camera phone camera, which, as some might say, is totally boot.

I hadn't even noticed the dead pigeon. Brian pointed out, mostly because it seemed as if it landed on the news box, felt all was too much, and keeled over. Que romantico!

Maybe it will still be there tomorrow. But would that be a good thing?

Language can be strange and dumb, and yet still fascinating.
In corresponding with a photographer for work, we got into a conversation about taking pictures outdoors at night. He suggested I try employing a diffuser dome. I wrote:
Is there a diffuser dome you would recommend? Does it matter that my bounce flash is kind of boot? Should I be investing in something better?
The photographer wrote back:
What do you mean when you say your flash is kind of boot?
Well. I didn't exactly know. I had to do some soul-searching. I remembered the time I had used the term "tool" to describe a person, and was questioned on my meaning. But everyone knows what a tool is now, right?

But boot? What kind of slang term was that? I told the photographer I thought it might have been derived from "bootleg" and connoted something that was of lesser quality, something inauthentic or cheaply or shoddily made. I went on urbandictionary.com, and got through the first 4 of 9 pages of entries, but found no definition that looked even close.

I called Brian and asked him if he were familiar with the term. "Sure," he said. But then he admitted the first time he had heard it used was by me. "In fact," he said, "I don't think I've ever heard anyone else use the word 'boot' that way besides you. Maybe you made it up."

But I didn't. Maybe it was regional. I promptly emailed some grad school friends. Below is my exchange with Bob:

me: hey, have you ever heard of the word "boot" used to describe something of substandard quality

robert: please give me an example of its usage in a sentence

me: like, "I spent a lot of money on my camera, but the bounce flash is totally boot. I got it used for $50."

robert: huh. Never heard it. is that clever new slang that we don't understand because we're so old, decrepit?

me: No. It's old slang. I swear.

robert: don't remember it.

me: I used it today in an email (about my flash), and the person I was emailing was like "Wha?" So I have polling people.

robert: god was wrong!

So I went farther back, back to college. I wrote Susan, saying that I had looked the word up on urbandictionary.com, but couldn't find anything. I said I refuse to believe that I made up the term. She wrote back
um... if you made it up, why/how did you make it up? I mean, did you really just pull it out of thin air?
That said, I've never heard anyone say such a thing. Not even you.
Oh lord. Now the pool must get smaller. I emailed a bunch people who grew up in South Florida. Dawn wrote back:
I can confirm this, although maybe I heard it from you. Sorry. I'll start using it more if that makes you feel better?
Erin wrote:
I totally use the expression "bootleg" but I think it's b/c my ex-boyfriend taught in the ghetto and picked it up and then I started using it.
David wrote:
I totally use the word....it could be a south florida thing.
Bingo! Finally. But questions about the word "boot" still burned within me, so I delved further into that great font of knowledge, urbandictionary.com.

If I had kept going, I would have seen this:

Entry 31
1. something that is ghetto
2. poor
3. cheap ("boot"leg)

Entry 42
ghetto; cheap; also referring to poor or lower-class
Man, that school is so boot, all falling apart and dirty.

Entry 47
short for bootleg or booty. Implying something is cheap or inferior in performance or quality; a knock off.
Or used as a description of an action implying inferior effort or work.
My new computer broke yesterday its boot.
His presentation is completely boot.

Well, at least I'm not crazy. On Friday, I interloped on a happy hour with Bob and talked with complete strangers about the oddities of regional slag. No one at the table had heard of the term boot being used this way. But Bob said and another fellow confirmed that in West Virginia, the word "toboggan" is often used to mean a knit cap. Who knew?

On Monday morning I woke up to an email from my mother.
She had written all three of the children around midnight saying she was writing from the emergency room, and that my father had fallen off his bicycle earlier that day. He had apparently continued cycling ... in the rain ... for another 20 miles before returning home. His side ached increasingly throughout the day, and then, around 11 pm, he passed out and woke up to find himself mysteriously at the bottom of the bathtub.

All three kids kind of freaked out. When I finally got through to my mother, she was home again, but she gave me my father's hospital room number. The line just rang and rang. I tried a little later, but got more of the same. Then I tried his cell phone, and to my surprise, he answered. He said that though he was taken to the hospital by ambulance, there were no rooms available once he got there. He had spent the night internally bleeding while sitting around with my mother in the emergency room.

Once in a room, they ran numerous tests, took x-rays, a brain scan, a cat scan. While he was telling me this, he was also half-heckling a hospital attendant. There was no phone in his room, which was why no one had picked earlier. And there were no chairs, so my mother had had no place to sit. The ward they plopped him down in wound up being the "heart ward," so the food they'd been giving him was part of a no-sodium regimen — and if you know my father, this was what hurt the most.

He's home now, but feeling very uncomfortable. They're still not sure why he passed out. His side is all blown up and he can't put any weight on that foot, so getting around has been nearly impossible. Whenever I call to ask how he's feeling, he always says, "I think I'll live."

I feel very grateful to my mother and sister for being there for him. But I still feel troubled. Thinking about it almost immediately sends me through the wormhole of memory, back to 5th grade, on the Sunday of Katie McCormick's birthday party. Katie was very popular, and though I was hopelessly awkward and uncool, I had been invited to her beach party, and I would sooner murder my parents than not go.

Because my mother had been out running errands, my father was supposed to take me as soon as he got home from his bicycle ride. But he was late. And later. When he walked in, I was furious. I was so busy angrily stomping my be-jelly-shoed feet that I didn't notice that my father looked like he had just walked off the set of "Night of the Living Dead."

His bicycle outfit was all ripped up. And he had open wounds that were actively bleeding. And he could hardly move. He had fallen off his bicycle, and when he felt he couldn't get back on, tried hitch-hiking until a man with a truck took him and his bicycle home.

My dad got into the car, which was stick-shift, and drove me to Katie's party. Then he drove himself to the emergency room. They diagnosed him with a broken collar bone. He stayed in the hospital for several days.

Throughout my entire life my father has been ridiculously stoic. And I ... well ... I sometimes tend to be a little self-involved. I know that everything will probably be okay, and that I'm making a big deal out of things, but right now I'm feeling pretty small. And helpless.

By the way, I can't really remember, but I don't think Katie's party was all that great — certainly not parents-murdering-great. And I remained hopelessly uncool for at least another decade. Sorry, Dad.

Brrrr. I'm cold.
Hope you had an adequate New Year's Eve. Ours was pretty fun. Here are some pictures. Enjoy!

Please feel free to contact me.

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