Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

It’s International Women’s Day!


I’m honored to know that my Blogiversary falls on the same day as International Women’s Day. 

Did you know it was International Women’s Day?  It’s actually a pretty big holiday around the world.  Sophia celebrates it.  It’s a holiday with a unique history.

In its various incarnations, ranging from a communist holiday to a U.N.-sponsored event, International Women’s Day has been celebrated for almost 90 years.

Inspired by an American commemoration of working women, the German socialist Klara Zetkin organized International Women’s Day (IWD) in 1911. On March 19, socialists from Germany, Austria, Denmark and other European countries held strikes and marches. Russian revolutionary and feminist Aleksandra Kollontai, who helped organize the event, described it as "one seething trembling sea of women."

(photo by kerry alaric cheeseboro)

I love the diversity of women out there.   On a typical day reading my blogroll, I meet intellectual professors, devoted mothers, knitters, widows, shoe-crazed fashionistas, nymphomaniacs, poets, breast cancer survivors, teachers, and overworked career-women.

Today, I’d like to pay tribute to a special type of woman — one who can actually FIX THINGS with her hands.  

Now I know many women go weak in the knees when they meet a solid man who’s good with his hands.  I’m talking about the type of man who can build a house by himself, fix a leaky roof, or replace an engine in a car. 

I am not that man.  I grew up in an apartment building where we called the "super" whenever there was a problem.  My father could fix absolutely NOTHING.  And I’m not much better.  I call the AAA to change my tire.

For me, there is nothing sexier than a woman who can do the dirty work for me!

On Friday night, I was doing some chores in the house.  I decided to clean out my refrigerator.  I found an open can of kidney beans that had been sitting there for three weeks.   I dumped it into the garbage disposal.  By the next day, my kitchen sink was completely clogged from all the beans.  And Mario, the maintenance guy, wasn’t back until Monday! 

So, what was a guy like me to do?  Find a handy woman!  I looked over my blogroll.  I remembered that Anne Arkham, a blogger from Chicago, had written on her blog that she was very good at fixing things. 

I sent her an email. (these are the contents of actual emails!)

Neil to Anne:  My sink is clogged with old kidney beans I threw in the garbage disposal. Drano doesn’t work. Can you come over and replace the pipes?

Anne to Neil:  Hmmm. . . are both sides clogged or just the side with the disposal?

Neil to Anne:  Both sides are clogged!

Anne to Neil:  Try a plunger – a toilet plunger – preferably a clean one.  Like, brand new. Otherwise no one will eat at your house or kiss you ever again. 

OK, easy enough.  I tried using a toilet plunger.  It only made the water rise higher. And suddenly my eyes started burning.  I read the back of the Drano container.  It read, "Do not use with plunger or dangerous gases could be released."

I went to sleep, distraught.  The next day, I asked Anne for more help.  She quickly emailed me back.

Anne to Neil:  There’s an apparatus called a plumber’s snake that might work. It’s basically a long metal coil that you push down your drain and crank around  to stir things up. Plumber’s snakes are cheap – like $10 – and you can get them at any hardware store. They sell them in various lengths. The short one will work fine, but you’ll be happier if you buy one with a handle that’s easy to turn. Also, before you buy one, notice how big the opening is on your drain, and then, at the store, check out the diameter of the snake coil. Make sure you can get the thing through your drain opening. Get down on the floor and open up your pipes. Unscrew the sink trap (the u-shaped section of pipe) and clean it out. This sounds scary, but it’s not. If you can’t unscrew the joint by hand, you’ll have to get a wrench, but that’s not scary either. Go to the hardware store and tell them what’s going on. They’ll be helpful, and they won’t make fun of you. Make sure you have a bucket or something underneath the area when you start unscrewing, though, cause water’s going to come out. If you think you found the clog when you opened the trap, that’s cool. Otherwise it couldn’t hurt to run the plumber’s snake through the pipes around it. Just thread the thing in and crank it around.

Neil to Anne:  Open my fucking pipes — are you kidding?  But I’ll try the snake…

Anne to Neil:  You big baby. It’s not hard. Do a google search for "clogged kitchen sink"or something like that. And, really, what’s the worst that could happen?  You’d get a kickass blog entry out of it at the very least.

I started to panic.  Anne is a very pretty woman.  And she can fix things.  The perfect woman.  And here she’s setting me up to a challenge.   Sort of like the princess making the knight kill the dragon before he can win her hand.  I paced up and down the room, unable to email her back.  I avoided her for the rest of the day, thinking she would just forget the whole conversation.   But on Sunday, she sent me another email.

Anne to Neil:  I just checked the trap under my kitchen sink. It’s easily removable without a wrench. You just look for the U-shaped part, and unscrew the top and bottom with your bare hands, empty it, and screw it back in. ANYBODY could do it.

The clock was ticking.  I knew I had to answer.  I bit my lip and emailed her back, trying to use some humor to defuse the tension.

Neil to Anne:  If i get my new boxer-briefs dirty, I’m blaming you.  I actually stayed at Sophia’s last night, just to avoid having to do it — and there’s no handyman until tomorrow.  Let’s see how brave I am after the Oscars when I go home.

Anne to Neil:  Yeah, well, during the commercials, or during Susan Sarandon’s political commentary, or Michael Moore’s political commentary, or sometime like that, open the cupboard under Sophia’s kitchen sink and look at her pipes.  They’re not scary, I promise.  Just remember to have a bucket under the area, because water will come out.  It’s supposed to come out.  You haven’t broken anything.  Just scoop out the festering kidney beans, and screw it back in.

That night, I begged Sophia to let me stay another night  — anything to avoid looking at my kitchen sink.  In the middle of the night, Sophia woke me up.  I was having nightmares in bed.   I was on a mountain top in Scotland, dressed like a knight in armor — in one hand a plunger and the other a pipe wrench.   And then there was a loud rumble as the monster approached — a  collection of festering kidney beans walking towards me.  I took a deep breath.

"I must do this for the fair maiden Anne — and for women everywhere.  I must prove that I am a man!"

The next morning, I tucked myself into a brand new pair of boxer-briefs and decided to face the dragon  — my sink.  I drove home and parked in the garage.  I sat in the car for a few minutes, thinking to myself:

"You know, if I accidentally bump into Mario on the way upstairs, I might as well just ask him to fix it.  After all, it’s his job.  I wouldn’t want to insult him.  I mean, that wouldn’t be cheating on my part.  I still got the sink unclogged.  I’m sure Anne will still be impressed with me."

I took the elevator to the first floor, where I usually see Mario doing some maintenance work.  But no Mario. 

"You know, I really could use some exercise.  Maybe if I walk around a bit, outside to the pool.  Maybe  I’ll just happen to meet Mario."

As I head for the pool, I pass the manager’s office.  The manager — this grouchy, gruff-faced British woman, is at her desk.  (previous appearance here)

Neil:  Excuse me.  Have you seen Mario?

Manager:  Who are you?

Neil:  I’m staying at Phil’s place.

Note to readers:  I’m subletting from a friend.   In exchange for my cheap(ish) rent, I’m not allowed to use the pool or the exercise room.

Manager:  I thought you were gone a long time ago!

Uh-oh.  Did I just do the stupidest thing in the world?

Here’s my last email to Anne:

Neil to Anne:  I came home this morning, all ready to do what you told me, then I decided to cop out and find the maintenance man.  But I couldn’t find him, so I put my head into the manager’s office and asked if she saw him.  To make a long story short, the manager didn’t know I was staying in this apartment (even though I’ve been here over a year) and said it was an illegal sublet  and now we’re waiting to see if I’m going to get kicked out.  And she wouldn’t even allow Mario to fix my sink!   All because of some kidney beans in a pipe.  I should have listened to you. The moral of the story:  always listen to Anne Arkham.  

And to women in general.

Now, I’m back at Sophia’s, waiting for Phil to talk to the manager — and to see if I get kicked out.   And the sink is still clogged, four days later.

So, on this special Blogiversary edition of "Citizen of the Month" — I’d like to thank all the strong women out there, from Anne Arkham to the female soldiers in Iraq. 


Hell, I’ll even wish a Happy International Women’s Day to that bitchy manager in my apartment building.


  1. Anne is totally awesome. So are most women.

  2. Oh Neil, You are so funny, don’t be afraid of the sink…it is broken already, if you do further damage at least you were “trying” to fix it!

    I recently fixed my toilet…nothing nasty or difficult just a broken flusher arm, but I felt good about being the homeowner who can fix her own toilet. (although the men at Home Depot did not seem to think I should be doing this type of thing).

    Thanks for the International Women’s day alert! I will now make sure I celebrate it!!

  3. i knew that it was today. i do all sorts of home renovation stuff myself, i’ve taken courses, bought myself power tools, it’s great.

  4. My tactic: just cover the old kitchen with a tarp, and then get a hotplate from Rite-Aid. You can still get water from the bathroom sink!

  5. “Today, I’d like to pay tribute to a special type of woman — one who can actually FIX THINGS with her hands.”

    As opposed to her using what to fix things, Neil?

  6. Neil

    March 8, 2006 at 10:58 am

    Retro — Not a bad idea. And if I just leave the water in the kitchen sink all the time, I can impress my friends by telling them I have an indoor “jacuzzi.”

    Akaky — I’ve travelled to Bangkok. You should see what some of the women at the “entertainment” shows use to get things done.

  7. I certainly didn’t know how to do things like that until I started living in the wilderness alone. Then you HAVE to figure it out. Or call a neighbor. I usually try to figure it out on my own. Thanks to the internet :)

  8. Just want to say I’m enjoying your site and looking forward to sharing a round of shots at TC06.

    This should teach you, though. Never toss a can of kidney beans into the garbage disposal again. You never know what malady may strike.

  9. The real question, Neil, is “have you faced your nemesis?” I mean, of course, your pipes…

  10. I wanna know what your penis has to say about all of this.

  11. This is as Freudian as I get, but the opportunity is there: Cruisin’ Mom, no doubt Penis said something like, “So, Neil, you really need to bring another ‘snake’ into the picture? What, I’m not good enough for you? I need the competition like a hole in my head! Just ’cause Anne says stuff like this:
    “…that you push down your drain and crank around to stir things up…. They sell them in various lengths. The short one will work fine, but you’ll be happier if you buy one with a handle that’s easy to turn. Also, before you buy one, notice how big the opening is on your drain, and then, at the store, check out the diameter of the snake coil. Make sure you can get the thing through your drain opening.”

  12. Really? And does Sophia or your mom know that you are a connossieur of such…”entertainment”?

  13. Pearl, you reminded me of the old Soviet Army joke.
    Goes something like this:(psycho tests for soldiers)
    -Prvt. Petrov, what do you see on this picture?
    -A brick, Dr.
    -Prvt. Ivanov, what do you see on this picture?
    – Tits(I’ve substituted, for the sake of tender individuals like Tanya – T.)
    -What made you think about tits when you see a brick?
    -I think of tits all the time.

  14. I think I just developed a crush on Anne. You go girl! (Yes, I know that nobody says that anymore.)

  15. I love to assemble things, fix broken things and take things apart to see how they work. Bring it on.

  16. Hey Neil,

    Here’s hoping you don’t get kicked out of your apartment. As a fellow Los Angeleno, I know how hard it can be to find a good, cheap, safe apartment complex around this place.

    But let me get this straight –

    You have a guy in your complex – who happens to be good at plumbing – named Mario?

    If he’s busy, check and see if his brother Luigi is available. Heck, even Yoshi might be able to lend a hand.

    The very least he can do is lend you some gigantic gold coins.

  17. Or, and this might be something of a stretch, call a plumber and pay the weekend rate.

  18. I did know and I can do stuff too—my beloved New Beetle is a quirky lil beast that requires a lot of attention.

    Hubster being in NY 6 days a week = me learning how to do things myself so as not to have to pay outragous labor fees to service guys.

    There is better things to spend my $$ on like shoes and lattes.

  19. Mike – that was hilarious. Poor Neil. Hope you don’t get kicked out. Lucky for you I’ve just fixed-up my guest bedroom. But the commute’s a bitch.

  20. Neil

    March 8, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    Cruisin’ — Jeez, not every post is about my penis.

    Mike — That was funny. And his name really is Mario. No mustache, though.

  21. Dude,that whole thing is so wrong-even when we did have a disposal, my parents would have made my ass a hat for dumping a can of rancid beans down it.
    The rest was obviously just the result of panic.Bummer. Hope you don’t get kicked out.

  22. Sophia

    March 8, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    Anne, you told Neil to look at my pipes?

  23. Good luck, and thanks for totally grossing me out.

  24. Oy, Neil, what did you do to me? I ran the garbage disposal tonight and couldn’t help but think of you and your plumbing problems. Will I always associate you now with garbage and drains…and plumbers’ snakes?

  25. Sophia: I didn’t think you’d mind. I mean, I didn’t tell him to touch them.

  26. I once called AAA to change a broken windshield wiper.

  27. I know you won’t be especially surprised to hear that I am inept in these situations too…

    My first reaction is to pick up the phone and call my dad!

  28. Yikes! While Anne rocks, I would have likely been in your shoes. I hope the manager got distracted or something and forgot about you.

  29. Anne rocks. And so do you, Neil. Just in different ways! :)

  30. How the heck did I miss International Womens Day? That does it, I’m going back to bed.

  31. Congrats on the blogiversary!

    *was left a little unsatisfied. I really wanted to read that you had tackled those pipes. Sigh.

  32. This was GREAT! Except for the getting outed and the clogged sink, obvs. Happy blogiversary!!!

    Now just unclog your damn sink already– FACE the FEAR, Luke. Use the force!

  33. I’m handy with a lot of things but plumbing isn’t one of them. I hope everything works out and you don’t get kicked out.
    Thanks for the very nice post about women.

  34. I can’t believe that even with just good hints you still wouldn’t even try! What a chicken!

  35. Neil

    March 9, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Jay, you’re absolutely right. There are some men out there who just can’t do anything without a woman around. If only there was a way for me to get courage. If only there was some sort of great Wizard who could give me what I’m looking for, along with those who need a heart, a brain, and a way home to Kansas.

  36. I absolutely want to become one of those sexy chicks who can fix anything, Neil. In the meantime, I taught my daughter a horible lesson in female helplessness yesterday (see my blog entry for March 9) – International Women’s Day – and I still feel (mildly) horrible about it.

  37. Oh Neil, I really hope you don’t get kicked out. I’ve had my share of apt. woes and it’s stressful and totally sucks.

    As for the rest, I love building and fixing stuff, though I would call AAA too. Heck, you’ve already paid for the service, so you may as well use it.

    The next time you have Mario (or someone else) fix something for you, watch them do it. You might just feel better about trying to do it yourself the next time.

    Good luck with the pipes and apt.!

  38. Neil

    March 9, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Why do I have this awful feeling that I just blew it with 3/4 of my female readers by revealing my ineptness in fixing things. But before you toss me aside, you fickle women — hear this — I cannot fix a toilet, but I can make an excellent meatballs and spaghetti!

    By the way, I consider myself a feminist and believe in equal rights and equal pay. That’s why I see nothing wrong with YOU fixing the toilet.

  39. You forgot to tell them to get back in the kitchen where they belong.

  40. Good luck with being able to stay in the apartment.

    It seems like the sink should have been manageable. My mom had a toilet at her house that had all the original stuff in the tank. In order to stop all of the annoying running and leaking, I changed out the parts. Never been intimidated by plumbing.

  41. “Cruisin’ — Jeez, not every post is about my penis.”
    Um, HELLOooo Neil…I think the little guy (oops), the big guy has a say in all your posts.

  42. Real men think it’s ok to kiss-ass on women.

  43. Meatballs and spaghetti are worth a lot in my book.

  44. Neil

    March 9, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks, Anne. But I still feel a little down on myself. I was just watching a “Fear Factor” rerun and I saw how brave those contestants were in bungee jumping into Hoover Dam and eating rat intestines. They kept on saying “how competitive” they were and they were there to win. They were taunting each other, trying to make each one afraid of doing the stunt. I would probably neither bungee jump nor eat rat intestines (is it kosher?) That’s just me. But someday, I would like to. And maybe if I had started facing my fear with the pipes —

    I noticed that even Sophia is disappointed that I didn’t solve the pipe problem myself. In order to prove my worth to my readers — and Sophia — I have decided to be proactive. I have paid one of Sophia’s Russian friends (we think he may be a mobster) $300 to come over later to Sophia’s house when I’m out having dinner with her. I will leave the door ajar and asked him to loosen the pipes in the dishwasher after he puts it on, so when we come back home, the entire first floor is flooded. I will then email Anne again and she will tell me what to do — and this time I will solve the problem. My readers will be impressed. Sophia will be be impressed, especially after I tell her that I caused the flood myself just to prove my manliness to her. And I’m sure she’s going to be so turned on by my actions, that you going to see some hot blog post tomorrow giving all the sexy details of what happened after!

  45. I love a story with layers. That’s you, Neil. Layers. Like an onion, baby.

  46. I can build stuff, fix stuff, and change my own tires . . . yet I still need a shower buddy to soap me up and dispense shampoo.

  47. Why didn’t I know about this holiday? Why didn’t I have the day off? Why is it a man had to tell me about it? Why can’t I stop asking questions?

  48. I’ll tell you what to do right now: tighten the loose dishwasher pipe.

  49. Yep, pretty much sums it up.

    BTW, Happy Blogversary.

  50. So you find women who do their own plumbing sexy? Now you tell me. I would have brought my basin wrench to the Mundies.

  51. Brooke, you would totally have a day off if you move to Russia. And men would cook for you, present you with rotten yellow mimosa blossoms (the only flowers available in season) and expect you praise their goodwill and benevolence while you clean up the mess they produce in you spic&span kitchen.

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