the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Noble Savage


I’m a long time admirer of 18th Century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, even though his beliefs are a bit nutty. 

Rousseau contended that man is essentially good, a “noble savage” when in the state of nature (the state of all the “other animals”, and the condition man was in before the creation of civilization and society), and that good people are made unhappy and corrupted by their experiences in society. He viewed society as “artificial” and “corrupt” and that the furthering of society results in the continuing unhappiness of man.

“Man is born free but everywhere is in chains,” said Rousseau.  His solution:  “Let us return to nature.”

Last week, I returned to nature.   I became a different person.  I didn’t shave.  I let my hair grow wild.  I did physical labor, I took my shirt off, I tried to f**k a woman in a rowboat.  Eventually, I just gave up wearing clothes completely.  I became a wild man.  At night, I would sit by the lake and talk with the ducks, as if they were my long-time friends.

But, soon it was time to go home.   The four hours back to New York City were the longest in my life.  As Sophia and my mother played “20 Questions,” I had a harder task — to slowly return to civilized society.  When we hit Poughkeepsie, NY, we stopped at a Mobil station.  I went into the restroom and shaved my beard off.   When we made it to Yonkers, we stopped at a McDonald’s.  I carried my clothes into the men’s room and covered my nakedness for the first time in three days.  It made me feel “civilized” again, but it also felt restrictive, as if I were wearing a mask.   By the time we crossed over the Throng’s Neck Bridge into the Bronx, I was beginning to speak words again, although I thought I was communicating fine with just my grunts and scratching of my chest hairs.  After all, if you think about it, words, like clothes, are facades we hide behind as we manipulate and abuse each another.

As we drove into Queens, my Berkshires vacation became nothing more than a memory.  I couldn’t visualize the lake anymore or hear the sound of the water. I forgot the names of the ducks and how I befriended them.

By the time we drove into Flushing, we were starved.  I remember that Mrs. Mogul wrote a comment a few days ago insisting I try East on Kissena Boulevard, saying it was one the best Chinese restaurants she’d ever eaten in.  We quickly headed to the restaurant to have some dinner.  Mrs. Mogul was right.  The food was absolutely delicious, especially the duck.

Yes, we were back to urban life.

Confucius says, “A wise man lives with ducks in nature, and eats them in the city.”


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  The Body Woman


  1. Lou P.

    They must be understanding women to deal with you communicating via grunts for a week.

  2. Pearl

    (get ready to groan)

    You quack me up, Neil!

  3. mari

    You’re a tremendous writer, Neil.

  4. mrsmogul

    yay you went to East!!! I used to love DUCK in the pancakes but now that I feed them here I can’t look at the poor things in the window!

  5. kristen

    As long as you weren’t sucking on duck feet while scratching your chest hairs (I hate that word!) you probably re-assimilated just fine.

  6. treespotter

    i’m glad you could still blog though. that’s one step further than most savages.

  7. amanda

    nothing says new york or civilization better than some peking duck hanging in a window.

  8. Sarcasmom

    If your time in the Bershires took you out of the everyday, then it was indeed a vacation. Loved the rowboat story.

  9. M.A.

    mmmm Chinese food. I have no other comment.

  10. Brooke

    Personally, I would have liked to have seen a post in your new grunting language.

  11. Elisabeth

    I am so impressed that you snuck in some Rousseau into this post. I am the ultimate antiphysis individual, and tend to think that Rousseau was a nut case (let not even go near his mysoginy!). The Noble Savage thing is a bunch of bunk – look at you, you were reduced to expressing yourself in grunts, for God’s sake! Ducks are made to be pressed and savored at the Tour d’Argent in Paris.

    I also loved all the stuff about civilization having created masks (language, clothing) that we use to conceal our true “nature.” Read Gide on this, it’s fascinating. But, hey, I am all for artifice myself.

  12. Sarah

    Peking duck is my absolute favorite thing in the world to eat.
    I am actually commenting, however, because I had to let you know that I was born in Poughkeepsie, NY, and it was so weird to see it mentioned in your post! I never see it written anywhere or hear people talk about it except for my parents.

  13. Kevin

    You were naked?!? I am horrified and offended! But you were in Yonkers by the time you put your clothes back on, so I guess it’s par for the course.

    “Civilized society”?!?! Apparently, the fresh, country air messed with your head.

  14. Blonde Vigilante

    It all comes full circle…always.

  15. justrun

    You outght to find a way to hold onto a little of that. It’s totally worth it.

  16. akaky

    All right, now I’m confused. If you were coming down the Taconic how did you get to a Mobil station in Poughkeepsie, since the Taconic doesnt go through Poughkeepsie?

  17. Neil

    Akaky — You’re absolutely right. I was trying to limit the post to 1000 words. But if I didn’t, I would have written:

    “Take Taconic State Parkway to Route 55, Poughkeepsie – Exit onto Route 55 west – Route 55 west will join Route 44 at the Poughkeepsie city line. Continue on Route 44 & 55 west through the city of Poughkeepsie; stay in left hand lane.”

  18. ashbloem

    Did your penis go on this vacation too? Or did you just find talking to the ducks more satisfying? Or were you BOTH talking to the ducks?

    Now that would be a sight.

  19. peefer

    Nice surprise ending.

    It seems the ducks were the most f**ked of all.

  20. Melissa

    Neil as Grizzly Adams… hmmm. Holds some marketable appeal.

  21. supa

    “Naked ’til Yonkers.” That would make a great name for a book.

  22. Tara

    So, did the nakedness and the savage grunting work its magic on Sophia once you were away from your mom and back in LA?

  23. akaky

    So you took 44 and 55 into PK; I am assuming you then hung a left and went down to the city on 9?

  24. Neil

    Tara — still in thunder-stormin’ NYC with Sophia and Mom for the rest of the week.

    Akaky — I’m gonna make believe I understood what you said and say “yes.”

  25. party girl

    If only we could run wild, naked, and free all the time! Jump into water fountains like children and not be stared at in horror by the civilized! I think we would all be much happier individuals if we did this on a regular, if not daily basis. I try to do this daily, but alas, even I fail sometimes.

    Sounds like you had a nice time. Even if you weren’t able to have sex in a rowboat. (It’s over-rated, anyhow. You’re worried the whole time that the thing will tip over. The boat, that is.)

  26. laurie

    I prefer men who just grunt, actually. It’s all the talking that gets in the way of things.

  27. Sarcomical

    loved this.

    so…i bet those guys at the Mobil station gave you some interesting looks when you asked for that big bathroom key naked.

    heh. 😉

  28. akaky

    I ask, goodly sirrah, because if you came down Route 9 you could have stopped here in our happy little burg and enjoyed some of the comity and good will for which this place is justly well known for, as opposed to wandering naked in Yonkers looking for a pair of duck’s underwear.

  29. akaky

    As for running wild, naked, and free, this is certainly a nice thing to contemplate, but one should not indulge a passion for this sort of thing on a regular basis in any country with large amounts of poison ivy or a large hole in the ozone layer; nature, in the main, looks better on television than it does in real life.

  30. mariemm3

    Locke was better than Rouseau – but live free – be naked.

  31. rachh

    And life goes on…..back to normality. Hope you get a little more lucky in the forseable future than you did in the rowboat Neilochka.

  32. Tatyana

    Neilochka, this was the last drop.

    A naked man, his skin swollen with mosqito bites, hair electrisized by a lightning, grunts to the ducks on a rural lake.

    What is my heart made of, a stone?

    Neil, tell Sophia to call me, I’ll give her the key. You can have my apartment all to yourself till 9pm; all this week I work late.

  33. Jenni

    Not so sure I could be “one with nature” and then turn around less than 24 hours later and eat it.

    To each his own.

  34. Lynn

    “After all, if you think about it, words, like clothes, are facades we hide behind as we manipulate and abuse each another.”

    That is really deep, Neil. But wait, are you just trying to manipulate me? I feel so abused.

  35. Bill

    Still, I’d rather communue with a duck than talk with Paris Hilton. But that may be just because it’s summer, very hot, and I’m naked and my bum is stuck to the chair.

  36. adeline

    I too love that you worked Rousseau into this. I used to actually study that stuff and think that this is what life was about. but then i left college and now no one mentions this man, but he was so important back then.

    a very visual image there neil! i am imagining a white man scratching himself on a desk and grunting.

    agree naked til yonkers would be an excellent title.

    as for the comment about the interview, i know that she probably was having a bad day. And now I have talked myself out of wanting the job, so I’ll be in a real pickle if I get it.

  37. Roberta

    The road to civilization is paved with “animal, vegetable, or mineral”.

  38. 2nd Pearl Past the Post

    McDonalds served the full monty at breakfast. Get any tips?

  39. Paris Parfait

    Aha! And we’re having maigret for dinner. BTW, didn’t get a chance to photograph those geese in London for you. Will try to accommodate soon!

  40. Lauren penmen

    there not really abused just wierd
    thats stupid

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial