the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

My Father vs. Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

Today is Father’s Day. This is the first Father’s Day since my father passed away in September.

Tomorrow is also my father’s birthday.

I’m hoping he’s celebrating Father’s Day and his birthday up in heaven. In fact, this is what I imagine is happening up there:

My father is in a Jewish deli in heaven, having a corned beef sandwich and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda. He is at a table talking with four of his new friends — Cary Grant, Victor Mclaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, and Sam Jaffe — the cast of his favorite movie, Gunga Din (1939). My father loves hearing the inside stories about the film’s production.

“Arthur, my dear friend,” says Cary Grant., dressed in the same casual white suit he would have worn to the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in 1940. “Did you know that Howard Hawks was the original director until he worked with me on “Bringing Up Baby.” It was such a box-office disaster, that RKO brought in poor Georgie Stevens!”

“RKO back then was run by a bunch of pussies!” insists Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

“F**k ’em all!” screams the drunk Victor Mclaglen.

“Hey, Vic, didn’t you say the same thing when we brought back those hot-to-trot “Wizard of Oz” Munchkins to our hotel that night?” jokes Sam Jaffe, the former Yiddish child actor who played Gunga Din, and was later blacklisted. “We certainly f**ked them all!”

Victor Mclaglen lets out a hearty laugh, and offers my father a beer — but my father is not much of a drinker. My father sticks with his Cel-Ray soda.

Douglas Fairbanks looks in the Arts section of the Heaven Times.

“Hey, Arthur, look at this. Citizen of the Month happens to be the new #1 blog in Heaven, having just knocked “Dooce” down to #2.”

“That’s my boy,” says my father.

“When’s he going to do another talking penis post?” asks Cary Grant. “Those are hilarious.”

“Do you think he and Sophia will ever get back together?” asks Sam Jaffe, using his Gunga Din voice for effect.

My father sighs.

“I remember telling him that he should marry an easy-going woman like Elaine, but did he listen?”

“Children never listen. I know mine never did,” adds Douglas Fairbanks.

“But I love that Sophia,” my father adds.  “She always takes care of my boy.”

Yes, this is what I imagine.

My father having a great time — celebrating with his new friends. But as a big movie fan, my father knows that every story needs a good villain… and some action…

So, into the deli walks the villain —

— British poet Rudyard Kipling, the original writer of Gunga Din. Everyone in Heaven hates Rudyard Kipling. He is the town grouch.

He ambles over to my father’s table and laughs at the sight of the actors.

“So, if it isn’t the four stooges of Hollywood, still talking about that inane Hollywood misinterpretation of my masterpiece.”

“Mr. Kipling, I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave us alone,” says Cary Grant. “We don’t need any of your negativity.”

“What is the matter with you bloody degenerates?” asks Kipling. “Don’t you realize we are all DEAD? Who care about we did on Earth? It was all one big waste of our energy.”

“Rudyard, you’re a real shmuck,” says Sam Jaffe. “You used to be such an inspirational writer. Now all you do is kvetch.”

“Shut up Sam.” seethes Kipling. “Or isn’t your real name Shalom? How in the world did they pick a Yid like you to play the 19th Century Indian Gunga Din?”

“Mr. Kipling, I’m a big fan of your work, but could you please watch your language,” says my father, a bit meekly.

“And who are you?!”

“My name is Arthur Kramer.”

“And why should I care about the opinion of you?”

Cary Grant taps Kipling’s shoulder.

“Arthur’s son, Neil, writes the blog “Citizen of the Month.”

“Am I supposed to be impressed? I’ve read that nonsense.” says Kipling. “The talking penis guy.”

Victor Mclaglen stands, angry at Kipling.

“Rudyard, don’t be a jerk.”

“I’m very proud of him.” says my father.

“Proud of him for what?” asks Kipling. “He’s a talentless piece of shit. The Jungle Book, Kim — what I wrote is pure genius. Your son is a lowly blogger who doesn’t deserve to kiss my shoes.”

“Oh, yeah?” says my father, furious. “Maybe you can kiss my shoes, Mr. Kipling, when you’re lying flat on the floor!”

My father gives Rudyard Kipling a wallop that sends him flying into a passing waiter carrying a tray of food. A bowl of matzoh ball soup falls on Kipling’s head and he is OUT COLD.

The entire deli stands up and cheers for my father. Not only did Rudyard Kipling get what he deserved, but my father showed everyone how much he loves his son.

Of course in real life, my father would never do that. I don’t think he ever hit anyone in his life. But he always loves his son. And I love him.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Happy Birthday, Dad!


  1. Tatyana

    Reading classics, before breakfast? Tz-tz-tz.

    Pangs of jealousy aren’t becoming, even to bespectacled adorably egotistic prestidigitators.

    Nave a happy day.

  2. Brooke

    But but but…he wrote Rikki Tikki Tavi! Anyone who wrote that can’t be all bad. Still, it’s nice to see you think of your dad as a badass.

    Hope you get through the day ok. I know it’s a rough one.

  3. Wendy

    Funny, Neil. And nice tribute. But a terrible waste of matzo ball soup.

  4. Edgy Mama

    Damn, you’re making me cry again.

    Thinking of you today.

    Rudyard was an old grump, but the man could write!

  5. Alison

    Sweet, in its own way. Really.

  6. kimananda

    In World Cup terms (and, these days, everything is put in World Cup terms), I’d say that’s 3 points for Neil’s Dad!

  7. The Retropolitan

    Heaven is a lot more violent than I thought.

    But it was for a good cause.

  8. Karl

    I’ve always thought Kipling was a smug bastard. Nice to have it confirmed. A fitting tribute for your dad.

  9. Tara

    I’m glad that we get to obsessively read people’s blogs in heaven. It sounds even more attractive now – that and the brawls, of course.

    Take care this weekend.

  10. cruisin-mom

    Neil, you made me laugh and cry all in one sitting.
    As I go through my 40th father’s day without my dad…your post points out to me, that no matter what age you are, or how many years it’s been, the feelings are the same.

  11. Miss Syl

    Aw, Neil.

    Just remember: There are no bologna sandwiches on white bread with mayo in heaven, and the streets are filled with cheese blintzes.

    Okay, I’ve just made a joke based on a Spielberg’s “An American Tail” reference to try to make you laugh on a hard day. I don’t humiliate myself like that for everyone, you know.

    Kipling can kiss my ass. Your dad rocks the Canter’s bar. (Does Canter’s have a bar?)

    See, now a bad Clash pun, too. I’m working humiliation overtime for you today, baby.

    Hang in.

  12. ms. sizzle

    great post. the first year is the hardest though i don’t think it ever gets “easy”- thinking of you today.

  13. Non-Highlighted Heather

    Good god, you blow my mind sometimes.

  14. Paris Parfait

    Great tribute to your dad – he would be proud, all kidding aside. Well done, Neil.

  15. Stefanie

    Yes Cantor’s has a bar – the Kibbitz Room. Your dad can hang out with degenerate underage wannabe musicians who won’t give a rats ass about blogging or reading in general. But they will have all the Dr. Browns he can handle.

  16. Danny

    One of my favorite posts ever (how can you go wrong with a drunken Victor McLaglen?) and a great tribute to your dad. My late mom’s birthday was also the day after Mother’s Day so I can imagine how much your dad will be on your mind this week. Happy Father’s Day, Mr. K.

  17. Lydia

    Great post! Your dad WOULD be proud – I’m sure of it.
    A villian in heaven?? Damn it – we’re not even safe there!

  18. MA

    Great tribute to your dad, Neil. Yay!

  19. Neil

    Thanks, all! I know I’m not the only one that lost a father this year. I know of at least two other bloggers on my blogroll that had the same thing happen this year. And there are a number of you out there that had close calls with your Dads and their health. But on the postitive side, some bloggers I know became Dads for the first time (and my friend Rob just had his second son)! Let’s hope all the fathers out there get at least one really cool tie this year.

  20. anne

    Lovely tribute, Neil. Your dad is certainly as proud of you as you are of him.

  21. jules

    Your dad left a very talented son as his legacy. I’m sure he’s up there looking down on you with pride. Peace to you today.

  22. Caryn

    Typical Rudyard.

    Father’s Day without your father is hard at any angle, but I think you manage to combine humor, remembrance, love and kicking Kipling’s ass in a very healing way.

  23. bettyonthebeach

    My thoughts are with you Neil. Lovely tribute!

  24. Alex

    This post reminded me how glad I am to have my parents here this weekend visiting me. I hope your dad is somewhere up there where he can read your writing!

  25. stephanie

    Do you think he had some half sours to go with that sandwich?

    {{hugs to you on this sad anniversary}}

  26. eeekat

    ohhhhh…this was funny and touching. my dad and i are estranged, and his birthday (70th) is this week, too. this post may be the last of many recent inspirations to finally do something about this….

  27. Manic Mom

    What a beautiful post. Your Dad is proud right about now.

    Anyway, found you over at Mo’s so now I’ve got to search around to find this Talking Penis thing.

  28. Therese

    By now I really should know better than to visit your blog without the popcorn and glosette raisins (Canadian raisinettes).

    *raises glass to Neil’s dad*

  29. V-Grrrl

    As Clint Eastwood would say, “Rudyard Kipling had it coming.”

    Next post opens with this line: “A talking penis walks into a bar in heaven, steps over a man lying on the floor and says….”

    Hmmm, maybe it should be an Internet cafe instead of a bar…..

  30. Bill

    My own father, who has been gone for probably 20 years now, is up there and probably indifferent to the movies, except maybe Ball of Fire where Gene Krupa plays drums with matchsticks.

    Yes, he was an accountant into jazz and so he’s hanging with Ellington, Armstrong and Wild Bill Davison. (He played horn himself.)

    To Kipling he would simply say, “Go take a shit your hat.”

  31. Fitèna

    This is so beautifully done Neil.
    *sad* *smile* *sad* *smile*
    Thinking of you!
    mouaah! *blowing kisses*

  32. kristen

    I like your dad’s crew; I’d have Cary Grant there as well, although we wouldn’t be talking! I love that Citizen of the Month becomes #1 over Dooce ~ brilliant!!

  33. ekramer

    well done

  34. Steph

    What a great way to remember your Dad.
    Awesome post.

  35. justrun

    Great job!

  36. Margaret

    Cheers to Arthur Kramer!

  37. Kevin

    F Kipling. F him in his stupid arse.

    Lowly blogger? Bah! Time to bad mouth the Rud!

    That is a great tribute.

  38. TE

    He didn’t dislike them, but my dad didn’t frequent delis much. But I’m hoping that once he got word of the crowd that hangs out at this particular deli, he became a frequent customer. “No dad father’s day” #5 for me.

    You are a genius, by the way.

  39. Caitlinator

    My dad supposedly kicked his mother-in-law’s ass (my mom’s mother) in heaven. She deserved it, too. Happy Father’s Day to both our ass-kicking dads.

  40. Blonde Vigilante

    Oh good, Heaven has motzah balls.

    I always saw it as more of a place where I’d get my full of salami, but motzah balls are better than nothing.

    Your father was/is lucky to have a son like you.

  41. Dustin

    Are you so sure Cary Grant made it to heaven?

  42. Megan

    What a beautiful tribute to your dad.

  43. girlgoyle

    Great post. Could you have your dad in heaven say hi to my grammy in passing. I could use a little help down here lately…that is if they have time to spare between walloping eachother and discussing movies.

  44. Dating Dummy

    Now that’s a dad. I enjoyed reading that.

  45. Roberta

    Beautiful post.

    I’ve been away, and am playing catch-up, and have noticed, upon skimming the blogs,

    that you being hungry seems to get blogs written.

  46. ashbloem

    That was really sweet, Neil. I actually felt a lump in my throat. Even at the violent part at the end. And even though, while mentioned, your penis was not a main character.

    Lovely tribute.

  47. party girl

    That, was very lovely.

    Who doesn’t like a cast of pre-technicolor characters?

  48. tiff

    A good imagination is a wonderful thing. Thanks for showing us that honoring those who have passed on can be amusing and imaginative, and not just sad.

  49. Bre

    Lovely. Absolutely lovely.

  50. Trixie

    Happy Father’s Day, and Birthday, Mr. Kramer. Thanks for bringing Neil (and his talking penis) in to the world. He makes a lot of people smile every single day. You did good.

  51. Erica

    What a wonderful post! I was THERE, it was so vividly done. Your dad is, of course, right to have given ol’ Rud a roundhouse to his smug chops.

    Thanks for visiting my blog, too – I’ll be back to see yours again!

  52. akaky

    Neil, remember something always: your father had you until the day he died. He got see you marry Sophia, he got to see your blog be successful, he got contentment out of life. Rudyard Kipling’s son John wanted to join the army after the outbreak of the First World War and was rejected because of poor eyesight. He prevailed upon his father to use his contacts to get him into the army; Rudyard Kipling finally managed to wangle his son a commission in the Irish Guards. In 1915, during the Battle of Loos, John Kipling was wounded severely in the neck and was last seen trying to get back to an aid station, weeping from the intense pain of his wound, stumbling blindly back because his glasses, which he was almost blind without, had been smashed in the fighting. He never made to the aid station. His body was never found; in all likelihood John Kipling’s body was blasted to pieces in the massive bombardment that accompanied all WWI attacks and counterattacks. In the mid 90’s I read that the British War Graves Commission thought that they may have found him, but it now seems likely that the body they found was not John Kipling at all, and so John Kipling remains one of the half million or so British casualties whose remains were lost in that war, probably lost forever at this point. While the war was still being fought Kipling never accepted that his son was dead; he talked to anyone who could provide some information as to where the boy could be, but after the war, and especially after the repatriation of the British POWs, Kipling had to accept that his son was dead. He never stopped looking for his son’s body and never stopped blaming himself for pushing so hard to get the boy into the army. So your dad might want to cut Rudyard a little slack now and again; if Kipling doesnt like the usual my son the this that or the other thing bragging, there’s a reason for it.

  53. mariemm3

    Very beautiful piece. Your father is a lucky man.

  54. Neil

    Thanks again, everyone. And Akaky, wow! You need to go on Jeopardy!

  55. better safe than sorry

    awwww, that is lovely. it was my mom’s birthday on father’s day, but my own dad is deceased, so it’s kind of bittersweet this year, one without the other.

  56. Painterbeachgirl

    that was a terrific post. I am just now catching up with stuff. I kind of missed Father’s Day this year other than a call to my dad in Pac Pal.

  57. anne arkham

    What a sweet post.

  58. Virenda

    That was a beautiful post and I’m sorry about your dad. It must have been hard but at least you were able to make your dad kick some ass…

  59. 2nd Pearl at the Post

    heavens! That’s livelier up there than I ever imagined. Maybe I should rescind my hell-pass and see if I can upgrade.

  60. Think Frustrated

    Great post. However, for all this to even be plausible, we would have to buy into one very hard-to-believe fact: Kipling reads blogs. I think maybe Mellville or Twain, but probably not Kipling.

  61. Laura Young

    I’ve just found your blog and now I have fallen hopelessly in love.
    I love this in so many different ways I can’t even begin to say.
    You mean we may be allowed to kick some ass in Heaven? Oh…the possibilities are endless.
    You have given me hope for a far more interesting afterlife than I ever would have dared dream…

  62. Stephen

    All this talk about death already!

    I loved and miss my dad, and love and adore my son, but any way you look at it, Kipling ended up suffering on account of his own ignorance about the realities of war (see Akaky’s comment). Another fool caught with “patriotism”

    But hey, enough of this, pass the wine!
    P.S. I like your Dads crew also.

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