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



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American Boy

One more video!
This video was taken by Brian while he was out on the town with Stephen in Chicago.

It features an awkward person dancing awkwardly (with fleeting, even-more-awkward moments of abandon) while always remaining on the periphery of a dance floor. It was taken around 4 in the morning, long after Clare and I had gone back to the hotel to sleep. I would have been angry at Brian for staying out so late if I weren't so happy he brought this video into my life.

The Awkward Dancer!

I have watched this video about three dozen times and it still makes me laugh, especially when the guy makes that herky-jerky robot-style kick-move in time with the music.

I just met my new favorite movie.
Or, at least, my new favorite movie title: Hallelujah, I'm a Bum. Made in 1933 and staring Al Jolson, Madge Evans, Harry Langdon, and the yet-to-be Wizard of Oz Frank Morgan, this film is no Citizen Kane, Viridiana, or Polyester, but it's got heaps of heart (and crumpled up newspapers). There's song, dance, a weak love story, a drunk mayor, loads of hobos, and plenty of sometimes subtle, sometimes not-so-subtle swipes at capitalism.

Blah, blah, blah. I was obviously not born to write film reviews. Here's a clip:

A DVD of Hallelujah, I'm a Bum appears to be available on netflix. Add it to your queue. It's only 82 minutes long!

As today seems to be a very video day, I will direct you to yet another video. This one is starting — not Al Jolson, but — ME! And Brian and Clare and Stephen and Tracy and Jake and all the Smartish people who stopped by the Smartish Pace Table and party at this past weekend's AWP conference in Chicago.

If you like looking at shots of me impromptu dancing and sleeping with a towel over my face while my mouth hangs agape, then this is the video for you!

I have too much information to impart, the kind of information that no one much cares about but occasionally one's mother.

I will go over the recent events with you and I will try to be brief.

  • We went to the AWP conference in Chicago. We stayed at another Travelodge. This one was slightly nicer than we had feared. We worked the Smartish Pace table with our friends Clare and Stephen. We had a lot of fun. You can see some pictures here:

  • Towards the end of the conference, I started to get sick. By the time we got home, I had aches, chills, and was running a fever. It was lousy, but mostly I slept, which felt kind of nice. I don't so much mind losing track of time that way.

  • On Tuesday, during my period of convalescence, I discovered a very terrible thing occurring with our toilet. It was almost unspeakable and made me very freaked out, so much so, that I wondered if all my nightmares would now contain imagines of this almost unspeakable miscarriage of plumbing. Or maybe, now that I had seen such a thing, it could never become the stuff of grandiose somnambulant aberration. I guess we shall see.

    When the plumber came the next morning, he kept telling me not to drop sanitary napkins and hairbrushes in the toilet, which I assured him I hadn't been doing. When I asked how such a gross toilet injustice could have possibly occurred, he answered flatly that it was a theoretical impossibility. This answer seemed to satisfy him. I felt it was wanting.

  • Finally, everything seemed to be back on track. We were back home. Our toilet was not backed up, and I was feeling more back-to-normal. Then, around 11 o'clock, I started feeling a headache coming on. The headache got worse and worse. It started to feel like there was something wrong with my sinuses, like that hot, hot, burning feeling you get, capped by a headache, when water goes up your nose. Like when you're in the pool. I never quite learned to dive because I always hate hate hated this feeling.

    It was 1:30 now, and I was far from falling asleep. My head really HURT. It had been slowly getting WORSE. I got out of bed. I flipped the switch in the bathroom and the light pierced my brain. I turned it off again, swallowed pills for sinus headaches and scurried back to bed. Sinus headche pills usually do the trick, but this headache was something else. It just got worse and worse and worse. The water-up-the-nose feeling twisted and grew until I felt that someone was driving spikes through my eye sockets and nostrils and into the back of my brain. I became sure I was being ravaged by brain cancer. I got up and took two Aleve. I was 2:30 now. I got back into bed and started to cry, but this only made the pain worse. I shook Brian awake. "My head!" I said. "My tear ducts! I feel like I have brain cancer!" Brian said, "I'm sorry you're hurting," threw an arm over me, and starting snoring in my face. I screamed, "MY HEAD IS CRACKING OPEN! I FEEL LIKE I'M DYING! IF YOU SNORE IN MY FACE ONE MORE TIME I WILL F*CKING KILL YOU!" He apologized and turned over.

    By 3:20, I was delusional. I hadn't slept a wink. My head was in constant, gnawing, fiery, metal-spike-through-the-eyeball pain and I felt I could now see into the back of my skull. There it was. What a dull, dull place. Someone should really clean up in here. I envisioned hosing it down. And that's when I remembered my saline bottle thing. I got up and toddled out of bed. I felt like I could barely see. I fumbled for the bottle, the salt packet, the warm water from the facet. And as I flushed out my nasal cavity with the gross, salty, warm water — I allofasudden felt better.

    I waited a bit. The pain started to flow back. I tried my saline bottle thing again. Again I felt better. I would have stayed in the bathroom all night shooting water up my nose, but I was so tired I could hardly stand. When I got back into bed, I had only a mild headache. It was magical. I felt peaceful.

    Now, I've had a couple of migraines and a handful of sinus headaches, and this was something completely different. I have no idea what it was, but it was awful, and could only be kept at bay by shooting salty, warm water up my nose. Does anyone have any ideas?

I have been meaning to write.
Really, I have. But I've been too busy.

I have a lot to say, but I will try to keep things brief.

First off, Susan pointed me to the article that ran in the New Yorker, "The Ponzi State," all about the collapse of the housing market (and the credit market and the market market) in Florida. It's quite interesting, and, like Susan, I too would highly recommend reading it.

That article makes reference to an article that ran on November 30 in the St. Pete Times, "A case study in housing collapse," which is also quite interesting.

As if that weren't enough, this past Sunday, another story ran in the New York Times all about the economically-decimated Florida exurb, Lehigh Acres, "In Florida, Despair and Foreclosures."

I am not claiming to have any kind of prophetic powers or any special knowledge of complicated topics like "the economy" or "home buying" or "banks," but I want to say that I was one of the doofuses who for years has been saying things like, "This housing market can't just keep going up like this forever," and "Something seems a little off here," and "No parcel of land in Florida, the land of hurricanes and trailer parks, should be worth that much," and "How is it possible that hoards of people with saggy knees, frizzled hair, leathery skin, and a penchant for buying sweatpants and groceries in the same giant discount store can live in homes which sell for enough to buy my death, while all my hard work buys me is a rented cardboard box in Brooklyn?"

So that's my news round-up. Next is a new rejection. Brian and I have been working off and on for the past few years (much more off than on) on a list of phrases one might say after reading one's fortune cookie fortune, replacing the stale, joyless, and occasionally woefully inappropriate "in bed" or "between the sheet." We recently completed our list and Brian emailed it to McSweeneys.net, which rejected us again, for a change.

Their loss. Your gain. Here's our list:

By Deborah Schwartz and B. Herman Geller

"... during your period of convalescence in bed!"
"... for tax purposes."
"... weather permitting."
"... excluding Alaska and Hawaii"
"... pending any necessary zoning board approvals."
"... within the confines of Biosphere 2."
"... notwithstanding your poor performance to date."
"... at least until the end of the Robot Wars."
"... effective January 20, 2009."

Yeah! We love lists!

Do you have a list? Send it to me and I will post it on this site, which my own mother says she no longer reads with any regularity. But Internets will make you famous, so email me.

Lastly, Brian and I will be at the AWP conference this weekend (we're flying out tomorrow). So on the off chance you're reading this and will be in Chicago too, drop me a line or stop by the Smartish Pace table and say hi.


This had been going on since 2005, and while this scare was neither as deadly nor as long in the tooth as the anthrax mystery of 2001, I am very happy it has finally been solved. Here is coverage from Gothamist.

I posted my happiness as a status update on facebook, and this exchange took place:

Deb Schwartz is happy the maple syrup odor mystery has finally been solved

Yael: i too have been following this for years.

Anna: Me too!

Eileen: I'm inclined to agree with Mayor Bloomberg, it could be a far worse odor coming from New Jersey. In fact plenty of far worse odors already come from New Jersey. And isn't that the state with the most Superfund Sites in the country? THIS is the least of our problems.

Yael: the irony here is that the bad "jersey smell" really comes from staten island.

Eileen: But Wu Tang is from Staten Island, so that makes up for it

Ha, ha! A mean New Jersey joke followed by a cut to Staten Island, followed by a shout-out to the Wu Tang Clan. I laughed for ten minutes. I have the sense of humor of ten-year-old-boy-meets-chain-smoking-grandma. I do so love my friends!

Speaking of New-York-specific things, the other day Heck's Kitchen had a cute link (from Bob) to I LEGO N.Y.

Also, some good news: my brother recently got engaged. I am very happy for him and his fiance. We met her on Sunday, and she seemed very nice. Naches! Or, as someone recently wrote in an email to my parents, Nachos!.

This morning my subway car smelled like pee.
Before I walked on, I was quite glad to see that the subway car wasn't too crowded. It seems I will never, ever, nurver, never, learn. A half-empty subway car during rush hour is not serendipitous; It's suspicious.

I briefly toyed with the idea of sticking around, as seats were plentiful, and a good number of people appeared either to not noticed or not mind the pee stink. I tried walking to the other end of the car, but the pee smell permeated the entire car. No. It was too early for this. And whatever sniffles I had were not enough to stifle the permeating pee smell.

By the time I got to the door at the other end of the car, I was flanked by several other young women wearing similarly disgusted faces. Okay. It wasn't just me.

It snowed again last night. How snowy it's been lately! I am still enjoying the snow, but hating the ice, and fearing for my hips as I slide down the city sidewalks.

Here's a picture I took last night of Brian's bike in the snow. I thought it looked cute.

Be careful, though! It only takes one icy patch to ruin an otherwise perfectly pee-aroma-free day.

Brian came with me to pick up a prescription.
There had been some mild drama earlier, but the prescription was filled now. And as I was handing over the credit card, the young man behind the counter said the total was $71.30.


He repeated the total, and I said, "But it's a generic!"

"This is the total of the medication, ma'am."

"But I have insurance," I said. "Is that total with insurance?"

"This is the total with your insurance, ma'am."

We went back and forth about this, especially as I had filled other prescriptions recently, and the totals came to what I deemed to be more normal numbers. Finally the young man said flatly, "This is the cost of your medication, ma'am. What part of that don't you understand?"

That's when the pharmacist stepped forward and explained that there was an issue with a deductible. I said that we had never had a deductible for generics before, but he said I would have to take that up with my carrier. Fine.

A few days later, I called our boot insurance carrier. The woman on the phone told me that at present, our plan included a $150 deductible for prescription medication. I told her I didn't think this had been the case in the past. She said, "Your present plan requires a $150 deductible. I can't speak to any past plans."

I asked about the cost of generic drugs after the $150 deductible had been reached. She said, "Your plan requires you to pay 20% of the cash value of generic drugs and 40% of the cash value of name-brand drugs."

I said I remembered numbers like "$10 and $35, not percentages. Again, she said could not speak to any previous plans and any pricing scheduling they may have offered.

I asked what she meant by "cash value." She said it meant the "value in cash." I said, "Like if I were to sell it on the street?" She said, "It's the cost you would have to pay for the drug if you had no insurance."

I said, "But with past insurers we've had a schedule. Like, $10 for generics, $35 for tier one name brands, etc." I was pretty sure our insurer had had this too. "That's the purpose of insurance," I said, "because the medication is bought in bulk, right. Now you're telling me to pay 20% of the highest possible cost of the drug?"

"No, I'm telling you to take the cash value of the drug. The cash value is the actual cost the manufacturer incurs for the ingredients for the drug and the process of making it."

I said, "You can't be serious. You're telling me that the ingredients to make my drug and put it in a little plastic bottle is really $71.30?"

"Yes," she said, "It's the cost of the ingredients that go in to making the drug."

"Do you really think the ingredients to make a generic drug and put it in a little plastic bottle really costs that much? When the crooked pharmaceutical companies spend money like water taking doctors out to dinner and giving them free t-shirts and magnets and all-expenses-paid vacations, and especially when other insurance companies who say that same little bottle of pills only costs $10?"

There was a pause and then she said sourly, "Do you have any other questions?"

When I said no, she hung up on me.

Please feel free to contact me.

the history of debcentral