the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

A Man of New England

(from bedroom porch)

The old Neilochka was urban, only comfortable in New York or Los Angeles. The old Neilochka was an effete metrosexual, afraid of nature.

The old Neilochka arrived at the lakeside cabin in Cheshire, Massachusetts yesterday afternoon.

1) Neilochka refused to walk to the lake because “of all the bugs.”

2) Neilochka was scared of chasing the geese from the lawn because “they might bite.”

3) Neilochka acted like he knew it all, just because he spent some summers at “sleep-away camp.”

For example, Neilochka and his mother had this conversation last night while sitting on the cabin’s back porch:

Neil: “Did you see the firefly?”

Mom: “Where?”

Neil: “There!”

Mom: I didn’t see it.

Neil: “You have to look closely. You see the light go on and then quickly go off. There it is!”

Mom: “Are you sure that’s a firefly?”

Neil: “Of course I am. What else could it be?”

Answer: Sophia sitting in the dark nearby, opening and closing her LED-lit cellphone to read her email on Yahoo.

That was Neilochka yesterday. A total country-living novice.

Today, he woke up a different man.

As he opened his eyes, he saw the lake just outside his window. He heard the birds. He dragged a row boat from the lake and turned it over when it started to rain.  He fearlessly chased some geese away. He picked berries on a farm. He cooked meat. He stopped being a Californian and became a sturdy New Englander. He drank beer with Herman Melville. He wrestled with Edith Wharton. He made love to Emily Dickinson on her kitchen floor, then showed her how to blog using WordPress. He stood on his cabin’s balcony after Sophia and his mother were fast asleep. He was naked to the stars — a new man born.

He also went to Tanglewood to hear a chamber orchestra and had a good latte in Lenox, MA — but he thought that sounded wimpy and didn’t fit in with the theme of the post.

A Year Ago in Citizen of the Month:  Blinded by Science Project


  1. DebR

    Pretty picture!

    Can’t wait to read Emily’s blog. 😀

  2. Erin


    I think geese do bite and they could have bird flu so watch out!

  3. Nelumbo

    Glad you are enjoying the outdoors 🙂

    Yes, geese do bite!

  4. idighootchandcootch

    even picking berries sounds a bit wimpy. You may want to go with an activity a little more manly, like shooting some squirrels or engaging in hand-to-beak combat with the geese.

  5. Ash

    I think its a ploy to pick up female bloggers 🙂 Nothing like a post about being a ‘real’ man to get our hearts fluttering 😉

  6. Bill

    My image, as I take the bus, ride the subway, jostle in elevators and on escalators, of the perfect day is sitting in a rowboat on a lake going nowhere in particular. And if I can do the wild thing with Edith Wharton, all the better.

  7. madeleine

    The fireflies comment was too cute, Neil

  8. anne

    Lovely picture.
    And where is that link to Emily Dickinson’s blog??

  9. The Retropolitan

    Did you or Wharton win?

  10. treespotter

    there’s always a first time. does that mean you now have two birthday??

    how unfair

  11. ams

    Oh Neil – should we expect some romantisized tales of you having to squat in the bushes and having to kill tiny bunnies in order to feed your tribe?

  12. Alison

    I’m not sure Neil has it in him to kill bunnies. Now kittens, on the other hand, are another matter.

  13. mari

    ohhh, wonderful post.

  14. Pearl

    Hey, Thoreau, um I mean Neil, of all places, you pick one called CHESHIRE. Now who’s laughing at whom — you at Mother Nature or Mother Nature at you?
    Any fishing in your near future? I’m sure we’d love to hear about that!

  15. girlgoyle

    Isn’t return to nature grand? Who wants to return to the hustle and bustle of the city after the thrill of being chased by geese. By the way – they say geese are the best guardians of property cuz they are vicious and they do bite and they work in packs. So unless it’s a golden egg you are after, I’d steer clear.

  16. kristen

    When I go to the woods/country, I feel more scared than I do in the city. During the day is a different story. Bugs and creatures aside, there is nothing that soothes my soul than being in the woods.
    Growing up in Los Angeles, I didn’t have much nature to contend with and it is the one thing I love best about the Northeast.

  17. Elisabeth

    I am taking copious notes, in anticipation of a possible camping trip with my boyfriend. Just like you, I am the ultimate urban beast – I just don’t “do” nature really well.

    And yes, a link to Emily’s blog would have been grand.

  18. serena

    I think the perfect man would be a combination of outdoor adventurer and appreciate a good latte.

  19. eeekat

    i knew something strange and mystical was in the air last night….and now i know: i felt your near presence! glad you made it to tanglewood…..except for the bathrooms, that place is gorgeous….

  20. Kevin

    I feel like the Neilochka of Yesterday. As much as I love the concept of the woods and being out in nature, it’s just been so damned long, I’m not sure how I’d react.

    And to think I used to go to weeklong Boy Scout summer camps. Weird.

  21. ms. sizzle

    that firefly bit was pretty darn funny.

  22. peefer

    Everywhere I turn, people are writing about fireflies. Something is in the air.

  23. peefer

    Fireflies, perhaps.

  24. Dagny

    At least you are staying in a cabin because the idea of sleeping in a tent? Ick. So wrong.

  25. Blonde Vigilante

    Please don’t get all Thoreau on us.

    Oh, and geese do bite…they have teeth…it hurts.

  26. better safe than sorry

    and good morning to the new you!

  27. justrun

    At any given moment, you can choose to enjoy where you are. Maybe you were natur-ey all along.

  28. Roberta

    Congratulations; it’s a good feeling — like you’ve conquered nature herself. I’ve been going on these camping trips now for around 15 years, but I’m a princess at heart, and every time I figure out a new trick (this year I used a little rope thingy to tie my rainfly to an actual tree!) I am all kinds of proud. I particuarly love offering this depiction via laptop from my suburban garden apartment with the soothing tones of highway construction muted by my air conditioner.
    And yay, I’m really glad you got to Lenox and to Tanglewood. It’s a veritable mecca for New York Jews and too-cool celebs (Bobby McFerrin, Yo Yo Ma and Norman Rockwell frequently meet for a sort of modern day, less drunk algonquin scene).

  29. Edgy Mama

    did Edith kick your heinie or what?

  30. Nance

    Geese, and Melville for that matter, are far more vicious than Wharton. Enjoy your communion with Nature, Neil. Sneak in a little Walt Whitman while you’re at it.

  31. Neil

    How does everyone know so much about geese?

    And they were ‘wild’ berries I picked, making it a manly job.

  32. Leesa

    My geese aren’t mean to me. They do chase the cats sometimes though. The deer avoid them also.

  33. Paris Parfait

    Well the last paragraph confirmed you haven’t totally shed the skin of your urban self. 🙂

  34. Sarah

    Ah, our Neilochka is finally becoming a man! *sniff sniff*
    Geese are EVIL. They do the work of Satan. STAY AWAY!

  35. rachh

    Is being ‘naked to the stars’ the new way forward for you? Would you have done it if the girls were awake?

  36. Russell Allen

    You do have to look out for geese. However, ganders are a pushover. But I wouldn’t recommend getting too close just to check which one they are.

  37. Dagny

    Geese are some of the most evil creatures. When I lived in Virginia, I had a friend who had various birds — chickens, turkeys, geese. She had to get rid of the geese because they made the chickens so nervous, the poor chickens were plucking themselves bald.

  38. Melissa

    Seriously, you’re on vacation!!! Unplug!!!

  39. Scarlet

    Aw, I love New England:)

    (How was Emily D. in the sack er, on the floor? and what’s her url?)

  40. stephanie

    Glad you’re enjoying your stay in the Berkshires (Hearty New Englander… bah!)

  41. schrodinger

    I say pshaw on ‘theme’! Good post!

  42. modigli

    He made love to Emily Dickinson on her kitchen floor, then showed her how to blog using WordPress.

    I suppose that’s not such a rustic, outdoorsy thing to do; but it was still my favorite line! 🙂

  43. Tara

    I loved the firefly bit. Here we call them lighning bugs – who knows why.

    I think the real question is, will you be able to shed your new manly man noble savage self for your metro man self when the time comes? I’m picturing you as a Crocodile Dundee for the aught years once you’re back in Los Angeles.

  44. 2nd Pearl at the Post

    You’ve found your true environs. And within easy reach of an orchestra. Well placed.

    Do give Emily’s url once she’s launched. Will it be a sex blog?

  45. jules

    So…is this Neil Gone Wild? I love it!

  46. Jessica

    Will Emily be your Blog Crush O’ The Day?

  47. lizardek

    I miss lightning bugs, they don’t have them in Sweden, isn’t that sad?

  48. Stefanie

    Neil, first off, damn you get a lot of comments. Secondly, I, here in my own neighborhood of Encino, sitting outside on a nice suburban lawn chair at a friend’s house enjoying a pomegranate margarita, GOT STUNG BY A FUCKING BEE. And it still hurts. No more outdoorsy Stef for me. It’s all indoors and Lifetime.

  49. ashbloem

    No Boston for you? So close!!

  50. Painterbeachgirl

    You are fabulous, this was great. When I go camping, I start out trying to keep things neat and clean and then say “to hell with it” and start walking around barefoot in the dirt and grab fish out of the lake with my bare hands, that sort of thing…most definitely not as much as a wuss as you were on your first day though. Gorgeous photo, I need to check out the Berkshires next…

  51. Rabbit

    If you truly want to prove that you’re a real man, come back out to visit us in January and experience a New England winter.

  52. party girl

    That picture? It makes me breathe a little bit deeper. And exhale a little bit longer.

  53. maitresse

    god I love the berkshires. that’s one major problem with moving to france: missing summer weekends picnicking on the lawn at tanglewood.
    be sure to check out the williamstown theatre festival while you’re up there…

  54. DawnKelly

    Careful Neil,

    The Boy Wonder was concieved in The Bershires.

    In the Louisa May Alcott room of the West Stickbridge Inn.

    I’m just saying.

  55. V-Grrrl

    I´m a country girl who had to be taught how to ride the subway. My favorite NYer in the country story was when we I overhead a guy pointing to a squirrel and telling his wife it was a fox.

  56. Deb_LA

    I think I am allergic to the country. I went into it once and I broke out in hives. Also, I think I need to smog and pollution to keep my supernatural powers.

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