Old Style

Two Golden Girls gone and the world feels so much bleaker.
Heck's Kitchen posted a Tribute to Bea Arthur:

Rock Hudson and Bea sing "Sniff Swig Puff!" Easily the catchiest and most upbeat song about drug addicts ever sung. Two old alkies just ramblin' on about weed and pills and poppers and cocaine. The lyrics are simply genius, and also probably written by someone addicted to "horse."

I have recently fallen in love with the name Maude. If I can't name a baby that, then maybe I'll get a dog. Or a fish.

Bea! Estelle! You've got style! Miami of my youth! 80s of my Aqua Net! Old people of my discontent. Of my incontinent. Shoulder pads that could poke your eye out. Early-birding, un-assisted-living, gold-lamé-ing, cheese-cake-eating. I tip a 40 of prune juice to you.

Hit it girls!


In the news....
Item 1:
Our friend Dave S. sent me a link to tampabay.com's story "Crist signs 'shylock' bill; other developments" with the comment: "Who pays these photogs anyway - no respect for FL's 99th."

It seems my mother, on the far right, is all but cut out of the picture.

I felt bad at first, but not for long, as I scrolled down and read the comments, which seemed to range from apathetic to anti-Semitic. How strange, what some people consider acceptable commentary to leave on a reputable news source's public internet forum. I find myself wishing commentors were forced to post pictures of themselves next to their comments. That, or their email addresses.

Item 2:
I heard a nice, though brief, story on our public radio station yesterday concerning New York City rats: "The Short Unhappy Life of a Subway Rat." "Rat School"? Wow. Apparently, in 2005 the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launched the NYC Rodent Control Academy. It sounds simply lovely.

As you can tell, I've fallen awfully behind lately. I will try to do better. Hope all is well with you.


Brian and I rarely leave for work at the same time.
But it's nice when it happens. It happened the other morning, and on our way, we bumped into a friendly acquaintance. We all walked together to the train, chatting about current events.

We all made the switch together from a crowded F train to a very crowded A. It is sometimes awkward to have a casual conversation with a friendly acquaintance when you are standing four inches from their nose.

We talked about the New York City real estate market. He said, "What I paid ten years ago for my apartment in Park Slope ... Today, I couldn't even buy a place in East New York."

Brian and I smiled the sad, knowing smile of ridiculously overpriced real estate, and I was about to add something when I heard someone say, "If your looking to buy, may I suggest the fine paradise of Portland, Oregon, where you can purchase a three bedroom house for $340,000."

My plan was to ignore the random's comment. But he wasn't dismissed so easily. "Fresh air, tons of beautiful trees...."

I turned to look. The random was shabbily dress, with long, stringy hair emanating from beneath a back-ended trucker cap. My assessment was in limbo: old-hippy or roadside-beach-trash? Or maybe he was just crazy? We smiled to acknowledge him, said something like, "Right, right, of course," and tried to continue. But he wasn't done.

"You ever been to Portland? It's a beautiful place and everything is still pretty affordable there...."

I hate mornings and I hate crowded trains and I hate crazy people who insist on engaging me in conversations on topics about which I have no interest. I girded myself for a trying session of forcible neglect, when I heard another voice say, "Portland's great."

"You been there?"

"Yeah, I grew up on the West Coast."


"California. Los Angeles area...."

Now, I'm no geography professor, but I know Portland is no where near L.A. I craned my neck to see which new crazy was talking to the original crazy, but was surprised to find a tall, young, clean-cut fellow wearing a suite and a yarmulke. The old-trashy-hippy and the well-kempt-modern-Orthodox kid appeared to be getting along famously. They were still talking when I disembarked at Fulton Street.

This made me remember with a smile of that funk duo I often see on that same platform when I'm heading home. One evening, the sax man was wailing out Michael Jackson's "Rock with You," and while most commuters nodded or swayed smilingly, a homeless woman was letting loose with the boogey. She danced ecstatically, so much so that it made me think she coming down. A short, bearded, filthy-looking man stood beside her and barked the lyrics loudly, atonal and out of time. Instinct told me he was probably a schizo, pumped up with enough meds to kill an elephant.

The guitar man strummed and the sax man wailed and just a few feet away was a small pocket of two very broken people. But they looked so happy. They did not interact. I couldn't even tell if they knew one another existed. But they were both there now enjoying the same moment of funky Jackson happiness.

I wanna rrrrrrrrrooooccccckkkkk with you....

On a different note, I saw this grafitti on a wall outside the 4th and 9th Street station yesterday and it made me smile. Maybe because I've seen people urinating there before.


I saw the subject line.
"Your Submission to Gulf Coast."

Oh crap. I girded myself for the inevitable rejection.

But I was shocked to find something else.

Hi Deb,

I'm a fiction editor at Gulf Coast and we'd like to take your story "Music in the Storm" for publication in our next issue (release date October '09).

Would you let me know as soon as possible if it's still available? If so, please send an electronic copy along with your most recent bio and mailing address. We'll get you a contract soon after.

All best,

[Fiction Editor]

Wow. Wow-wow. Wowwowowoawesome!

It seems, after almost a decade of submitting my work, things are actually beginning to pick up. But that doesn't mean there isn't a boatload of rejections still waiting for me.

Sometimes, I think my struggles with the futility and vaingloriousness of writing to be like that scene from the movie WarGames when Matthew Broderick teaches the computer to play tic tac toe against itself. Winner: None.

Still. Acceptance is nice. How about a nice game of chess?

Love Poem for New York

Thursday afternoon, and I was on a crowded 4/5 train with Brian.
We were talking about evening plans when I heard a voice behind me say, "I'm sick. I'm sick."

I turned and saw the rustle of bodies shifting to make way. A woman was moving through the crowded train. Oh my! "Brian!" I said, "It's that girl. The American flag sweater girl."

How long had it been? At least two years. Probably more. I had seen that same poor girl on the subway platform at Bowling Green singing and laughing and talking to no one. She had looked so fresh-faced and innocent, possessed by demons.

"She looks worse now," I said. She was dressed sloppily and wore a washer-woman kerchief on her head. Her escaping blonde curls were in disarray.

She kept repeating, "I'm sick, I'm sick," pleadingly, to no one in particular.

I said, "Years have past and she's at it again. You think she's off her meds? Why can't the poor girl stay on her meds?"

The evening plans were to go to an opening in SoHo where my friend Anna works. I was chatting with some of her friends when an East Coast/West Coast debate picked up. One girl was from L.A. She missed home. The fellow I'd been talking to (I think his name was Tom) had grown up in East New York, had recently visited L.A., and disliked it immensely. He said, "It's like God scooped up a city, shook it up in his hands, and spilled it out all over the place."

I said I too had just been there, and had spent a lot of time reconciling New York and L.A. The city's sprawling nature bothered me as well, that you had to drive everywhere, but we both agreed we loved that you could buy hard liquor in the Rite-Aid.

I said maybe what I loved most about New York City was how crowded and bizarre and filthy it is. I thought about my crazy American flag sweater girl, about seeing her again three years later, I thought about the subway, splayed, branching, running like veins, spilling people out neighborhood by neighborhood. How different poor, ravaged, East New York was from tony, galleried SoHo, but a fluid 30 minutes underground would get me there, crushed up against people of a hundred different nationalities, so many different types, the stock broker, the court reporter, the plumber, the reality show housewife, the greasy hipster, the aspiring actor, the American flag girl, the tranny bum....

Anna was closing up the gallery, and we exited to the street, started walking up Wooster. Tom and I continued trying to say what about New York kept us so intoxicated. As we ambled north, we passed a mound of black garbage bags piled expectantly on loading platform — not an uncommon sight. Except the garbage bags began to move.

The bags shifted and swayed, and we saw in the gold shine of street-light-lit night in the inky darkness that in the middle of the pile was a person, a tiny person dressed in garbage bags, crowned by them. She wore a garbage bag on her head like a full headdress, like an enormous fall. Garbage bags on her arms and torso. As she shifted, it was like a ballet of garbage bags. Her emergence, her unfurling of garbage bag arms and head while sitting in, surrounded by, piles of huddled other bags, black paunch pillows of filth and refuse, the unwanted, the tossed-away, now animated, living, breathing, moving — How magnificent! How beautiful!

I said, "This is it! This is why I love New York City! This garbage bag woman. Her existence is the love poem to New York City I have never been able to write."

"—It's a man," my friend Anna cut in.

"What? No. I think it's a woman."

"No. It's a man. I know it is. I see him every day. He's always there, sitting in that pile of garbage bags, wearing a garbage bag on his head. It's a man."

"Oh." I shrugged. "Still. He's kind of like a poem. I wish I had my camera."

Ups & Downs

Over the past week, we've attended three Passover Seders.
They were all very different, but they were all wonderfully fun (are Seder's supposed to be fun?).

The first Seder was with my friend Rebecca's family. Her family is Modern Orthodox, and there were enough people that the table was actually four tables pushed together. The second Seder was with my friend Betsy's family. The Seder was smaller and more intimate, and her ultra liberal haggadah posed questions to like: "Why do we repeat the story of the Israelities' exodus from Egypt every year even though we know that much of the story is factually incorrect."

Our last Seder was here at our place. We managed to squeeze 23 people (plus us) into our small apartment and we made our friends read from the nursery school coloring book haggadah my family used for years. I had a wonderful time, except when Brian tried to make a Manischewitz champagne fountain but only succeeded in making a big mess.

The festivities are over, and today has had its ups and downs. This morning, my grandmother called because she is supposed to perform a scene from Cabaret for her dramatics class, but the book store didn't have anything but a glossy $35 coffee-table version. One of her classmates suggested she look for the book on the internet, but she wasn't sure how to begin doing such a thing.

She said, "And then there's the matter of paying for the book. How do I pay for it through the computer? Is it safe to give my credit card to the computer? It sounds very dangerous to me. Especially at a time like this."

I told her I did it all the time and thought it was quite safe. She reacted as if I had told her the majority of my income came from playing the horses or selling human organs on the black market.

It was really quite adorable. In the end, she decided she would try to borrow the book from her teacher.

After work, I purchased a light-weight vacuum cleaner to clean our wood floors. I hate sweeping. I'm hoping that now my sweeping days are numbered.

The vacuum is powerful, but very, very noisy. I fear if I use it too much, my downstairs neighbor may get irritated, and then all my days may be numbered.

As I was lugging my new vacuum cleaner into my apartment, I checked the mail. I got a statement from my IRA. Down 5.75%. Shoot. I'm glad I chose to have my pre-tax dollars deducted from my paycheck to be directly flushed down the toilet.

I leafed though previous statements. Last quarter: down 13.33%. The quarter before that: down 9.84%. Okay. Then maybe things are looking up.

Along with my statement came two thin envelopes: two more rejection slips. One was from Hotel Amerika and the other from The Pinch.

Both of the new rejection slips seemed pretty antiseptic. While they didn't inspire any deep rage, they didn't quite fill me with joy.

Then I noticed that the stamp on one of the envelopes hadn't been cancelled. That's 42 cents in my pocket. 42 cents towards another go at the literary slots. Wow. Silver lining?

Jesus Is Matzo

I am preparing myself for Passover.
One of the things I did to prepare was to make this:

Jesus is risen ... But my matzos have not.

I'd been thinking about that Virgin Mary on a bank window in Clearwater, Florida. And the time she showed up on a grilled cheese sandwich. I started googling, and actually managed to come up with a site advertising matzography, the process by which one might create a fine art print on a piece of matzo. I said to myself: I bet I could do that.

I spent weeks devising the plan. A friend pointed out that though the Virgin Mary appears more often on food, due to the nature of the Easter holiday, Jesus might make a better candidate for my unleavened art.

I made a couple of attempts last night, and I was able to get a nice result on only the second try. I tried to replicate my success this morning, but wound up with only several sheets of horribly charred cracker.

I will keep trying to perfect the process. Then maybe I will sell them on ebay. I will become horribly rich and tremendously famous. But I will always remember my humble roots and donate regularly to charities I like.

Or I guess it will have been enough just to create one single Matzo Jesus to show to my friends. Dayenu! Happy Pesach.