Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: November 2006 (page 1 of 4)

The Miracle of Kew Garden Hills – The Final Chapter

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(from The Miracle of Kew Garden Hills – Chapter Two

Nick took my mother’s other hand.

“Your mother and I are friends… ” he said.

“Very good friends…” added my mother.

It suddenly became real to me.   This was Santa Claus.  And Santa Claus was a horny older guy leering at my mother’s figure!

“Mom?”  I gasped.  ”Are you doing it with Santa Claus?!!”

“What kind of question is that to ask your mother?!” she answered.  “And I’m a adult.”

“But I’m shocked,” I stammered.

Nick laughed his “Ho Ho Ho.”

“How can someone who writes about his penis all the time be such a prude?” he joked.

“But, Mom?” I cried incredulously.  “What about Dad?  It’s only been 15 months since he passed away.”

“Your father would be the FIRST person to want me to date again.  Being over 65 is young today!” 

I began feeling dizzy.   My mother gave me her kindly smile.

“Think about every Christmas since you were a child.  What did your father do at Queens General Hospital?”

“He would dress as Santa and visit the children’s wing.”

“He was the funniest-looking Santa ever,” Nick added. “He was so skinny… and those Woody Allen glasses!  But he was the best!”

“So who better to take on as a lover…” said my mother, “than the REAL Santa Claus?!  Your father would be impressed!”

I turned towards Nick, still defiant.

“And what about you, Nick?  Aren’t you still married?”

“Technically, I am still married to Mrs. Claus.  But we are, uh, separated.  Although we still live near each other in the North Pole, and love each other, we can still date, but… it’s all very complicated.  I’m not sure if you can understand…”

“Oh, I can.  I can…”  I replied.

My mother took me by my arm and led me to the living room couch.  It was in perfect condition for an old couch because of the plastic that covered it for 30 years.

“Mom, are you sure you know what you are doing?” I asked.

“Is there anything wrong with Nick bringing some “joy” into my life?” she said.

I shook my head, confused.

“I don’t understand.  How did you and Santa… uh, Nick… meet?”

“At Shirley’s house.  It seems that Nick is quite a whiz at Mah-Jongg and came over for a game.”

Nick sat down across from us.

“My mother, Miriam Clausiwitz, god rest her soul, played Mah-Jongg every Tuesday when I was growing up in the Bronx.  I  can still hear the click of the tiles and the chattering of the women.  I even taught the elves how to play!  Oh, you should see some of their competitive tournaments!”

“My head is spinning” I said.

My mother gave me a hug.

“All is good, Neil.  The world is good, despite your bad experiences on the plane and the cab ride over here.  People ARE good.  We just forget to look at the positive side sometimes.  I don’t know if it will work out between Nick and I, but I’ve learned so much from him.”

“And I’ve learned so much from your mother.” said Nick.  “She’s a wonderful woman.  And so full of energy!   Be inspired by her, Neil.  It’s up to you and other wonderful bloggers to spread the joy throughout the blogosphere.” 

“You mean the Holiday Concert?  The Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Holiday Concert?”

“Yes, Neil!  The Holiday Concert on your blodge” said my mother, beaming with pride.

“It would be a mitzvah!” echoed Nick.

I could hear MUSIC coming from upstairs, but it wasn’t coming from the apartment upstairs.  The music was surrounding us.  It felt spiritual. 

“That music?” I said as I looked for the source.  “It sound so familiar.  It sounds like the soundtrack from “Gunga Din” my father’s favorite movie.”

“It is your father… !” said Nick. “From the beyond! 

My mother listened carefully, as if she understood. 

“I think Artie wants to say that he loves the Holiday concert idea.   It could be a Holiday tradition, just like when he used to dress up like Santa Claus at the hospital every year!”

Suddenly, I heard my father’s voice calling out to me.

“Go ahead, Neil.” he said.  “Make the announcement about the concert already!”

“And what about Mom and Santa Claus?  What should I do” I asked my father.  “Doesn’t it make you upset?  Doesn’t it make you jealous?”

“Nah.  If Elaine passed away first, you don’t think I would be shtupping other women by now?  Besides, what’s there to be jealous of?   Have you seen the tiny size of Santa Claus’ c**k?!”

“You are too funny, Dad.  I love you.”

“Go and put up the sign-up sheet,” he instructed me.  “The Holiday Season is upon us.  Let everyone “Be of Good Cheer!”

ANNOUNCING THE FIRST ANNUAL BLOGGER Christmahanukwanzaakah HOLIDAY CONCERT — December 20, 2006

(sign-up sheet coming later)

The Miracle of Kew Garden Hills – Chapter Two

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(from The Miracle of Kew Garden Hills, Chapter One)

“Here’s what I want, Neil.  Have you ever thought about hosting a Holiday Concert on your blog, where other bloggers spread the joy by sending in holiday music and songs they recorded themselves?”

“Host a Holiday Concert?  Me?  But I’m Jewish!”

“So am I, Neilochka…” said Nick.  “So am I…”

“Who else do you think they could get to work on Christmas Eve?” he laughed.

“And how exactly would this Blogger Holiday concert work?” I inquired.

“Ho Ho Ho.  Easy as fruitcake.  Tomorrow on your blog, you would put up a sign-up sheet.  Bloggers could volunteer to perform a holiday song for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa.  They can sing or play an instrument, or both.   They could send the finished piece over the internet either in .wav or MP3 format, edited or unedited.  I’m sure you can help explain all this.  Even with all those Playstation 3s I’m hearing about, I’m not much of a techie.”

“And when would I hold this Christmahanukwanzaakah Concert?”

“December 20 sounds right.”

“And what about those bloggers who can’t sing or play an instrument?”

“You mean the talentless ones?  They could always send you a photo of their menorah or Christmas tree.  Just NO KITTENS.”

“What did you say your name was again?”

“Nick.  Although some call me Kris Kringle.  Or Santa Claus.”

“Santa Claus?!  You have to be kidding?”  I cried, my eyes rolling in disbelief.

The elevator door opened.  My mother was standing down the hall, waiting for me, much as she used to when I would come home from school.  I grabbed my suitcase and rushed towards her, trying to get as far away from this nut as possible.

“Hurry, Mom!  Let me in and then close the door behind us!”

“Hello, Neil,” my mother said in her usual cheerful, comforting voice.  “And hello, Nick.”

“Nick?!”

I twirled around like a dreidel and saw Nick following right behind me.

“My Sweet Elaine.” Nick purred, as he took my mother in his arms.  They kissed, passionately.

“MOM?!  What the…!!!”

My mother took my hand, sensing my concern.

“Neil, I was going to tell you later about Santa… uh, Nick.. but… but…”

Nick took my mother’s other hand.

“Your mother and I are friends… ” he said.

“Very good friends…” added my mother.

It suddenly became real to me.   This was Santa Claus.  And Santa Claus was a horny older guy leering at my mother’s figure!

“Mom?”  I gasped.  “Are you doing it with Santa Claus?!!”

(TO BE CONTINUED)

The Miracle of Kew Garden Hills

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“Would you mind switching with me?” asked the well-dressed gentleman sitting directly behind me.  I had just boarded the plane at LAX.  “They mistakenly put my wife next to you.” he continued, smiling at the elegant woman to my right.  “Of course,” I said, always eager to help a married couple so clearly in love.  We switched seats, and I sat behind the gentleman.  Within five minutes of taking off, the man leaned his seat all the way back, blocking most of the space needed for my long legs.

“Some thanks” I mumbled to myself.

I bought these tickets at the last moment, so I had no choice but to switch planes at Dulles.  Once we got to Washington, there was a delay and we had to circle the airport for fifteen minutes.  I was getting nervous about missing my connection. 

As we started our descent, a flight attendant made an announcement on the loudspeaker, “There is one passenger who needs to connect to a flight to JFK.  Could you please raise your hand?”

I meekly put up my hand.  The flight attendant pointed me out and the rest of the plane looked in my direction.

“When we arrive at the gate,” she continued, “would everyone be kind enough to stay in their seats and let this passenger exit the plane first?”

“How nice.” I thought.

The plane landed.  The moment the seat belt sign went off, everyone completely ignored the previous announcement and stood to get their luggage from the overhead bins.  I was trapped in my seat.

The flight attendant spoke into her microphone again, this time with a bit more emphasis, “Could everyone please return to their seats and let the passenger who needs to make his flight to JFK deplane first?”
 
The grouchy passengers grumbled as I made my way down the center aisle.  I weaved my way past the obstacle course of opened bins, luggage in the aisle, and dirty looks, I heard a wife complain to her husband, “Why didn’t he take a STRAIGHT-THROUGH flight like everyone else rather than make us all wait?!”  It was apparent that the other passengers really didn’t give a damn whether or not I made my flight.  Not only that, they wished me DEAD for making them wait ten seconds.

Now I have several wonderful blogging friends in the Washington D.C. area, so I’m not going to make any generalizations about the residents of our nation’s capital. 

And to be honest, my arrival in New York was just as unfriendly.

Once at JFK, I wheeled my suitcase to the taxi stand.  There was a long line of cabs waiting to pick up tourists for the $45 trip to Manhattan.  Some unlucky cabbie got stuck with me — a local fare staying in Queens.

For most of my trip home, I had to endure this cabbie’s dramatic monologue, which consisted of “F***k, F***k, F***k, I waited for twenty f**king minutes for this s**t!” said over and over.

I finally made it home and overtipped the cabbie out of guilt.  He zoomed off without a thank you. 

I stood in front of my familiar old apartment building, but I didn’t feel any joy.  Instead, the trip had just made me depressed. 

I thought of that gentleman who shoved his seat in my face as a thank you for my switching rows with him.  I remembered the callous passengers on the flight to Dulles, so selfish they couldn’t wait a few seconds to let me off the plane.  I saw the face of the disgruntled New York cabbie, who ruined my welcome home with his obscenities and hateful stares.  Is this humanity?  Is this the best we can do?  People suck!  I could feel any empathy for the human race drain out of my body, like the sweat does when I’m in the San Fernando Valley in August.

I entered my apartment building.  The elevator was waiting and I got inright away.  As the elevator door was about to close, I heard a voice calling out, “Hold it!”  I quickly pushed the “Door Open” button, and a hefty man jumped inside the elevator.

“Thank you, kind sir,” he said.

This hefty man was a odd looking guy.  He was at least 65 years old.  He had thick white hair, a long white beard, retro Ben Franklin glasses, and extremely red cheeks, almost like sugar plums.  When he laughed, he did this hardy “Ho Ho Ho” that sounded a bit fake, but at the same time it was very endearing.  He said his name was Nick. I never saw him before, so I assumed he was a new resident in the apartment building.

“Did you just fly in?” he asked.

“Uh-huh.”

“What did you fly on?”

“Jet Blue.”

“You name yours Jet Blue?”

“Huh?  It’s an airline.”

“Oh, yeah, I should try one of those some day.  Can’t be any worst than listening to Rudolph and Prancer argue all night about their “alternative lifestyle.””

This strange man was making me nervous. 

“Do you… uh… live here?”  I stammered.

“Oh, no.  I came here to see you, Neilochka.”

“Me?!  How do you know my name?!”

“Oh, that.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but I see you when you’re sleeping.  I see you when you’re awake.”

I started reaching for my cellphone to call 911. 

“You’ve been a very good boy this year, Neil.” he said, smiling.  “Well… except maybe for you, uh, “decorating your Christmas tree” a little too often in the morning when you wake up.  But hey, even I send out the Mrs. for some gingerbread cookies when I want some alone time.”

“Who the hell are you?”  I demanded.

He laughed his oddball “Ho Ho Ho.” 

“It sounds like you’ve had a terrible trip to New York, my friend.  And you’re beginning to doubt the good in humanity.”

“Is this elevator broken?”

I started pushing buttons at  random. 

“Life can be harsh.” he continued in his deep voice.  “Many lose hope at this time of the year.  They grow depressed as the days get darker and nights get colder.”

 “Well, thanks, but I have my Prozac for that.  I’m going to call the police now for help.  I think we’re stuck.”

“Neilochka, you are stuck, but not in the way you are thinking.   You are stuck because you are not seeing the joy of life.”

“What joy?”

“Ah… what if there was a way you could find this joy of life again and help others as well… help others see what is wonderful with the world…”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.  Maybe you should move to Los Angeles.  You can make millions giving New Age seminars.  What do you want from ME?”

“Here’s what I want, Neil.  Have you ever thought about hosting a Holiday Concert on your blog, where other bloggers spread the joy by sending in holiday music and songs they recorded themselves?”

“Host a Holiday Concert?  Me?  But I’m Jewish!”

“So am I, Neilochka…” said Nick.  “So am I.”

(TO BE CONTINUED)

The Eye of the Mah-Jongg

There are some who dream and some who do. I am a dreamer. There are so many things I would like to do, but fear prevents me from taking the first step. But there is one member of my family who is a true champion, a real Rocky Balboa. Despite being an underdog, this person is not afraid of facing the toughest, most steely-eyed competitors in her field. Yes, for three full days, my mother has taken off from work so she can do battle in a Mah-Jongg Tournament at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City. How this ancient Chinese game became popular with Jewish women of the last generation is a long story, and you can read some of the history of Mah-Jongg on Wikipedia.

Although my mother plays in her weekly “dollar” game in her apartment building, this is her first sanctioned tournament. When her friend invited her, I would never expect my mother to say yes. But something has changed in my mother since my father’s death and her trip to Spain. She has surprised us again. She joined the American Mah-Jongg Association and paid the $150 entrance fee. Now, if my mother “plays her tiles” right, she can win thousands of dollars.

The competition is three days, for at least three hours each day. There are dozens of tables set up, and after a certain amount of games, there is a rotation to different tables. The champion is the one who wins the most games. According to my mother, most of the women at the tournament are Jewish women over 55. Mah-Jongg is also popular in the Asian community, but supposedly, their tournaments have slightly different rules. I was disappointed to hear this. I was so looking forward to a Jewish-Chinese showdown.

My mother promised to call me up several times a day, so I could “live blog” about the big tournament. For some reason, ESPN isn’t covering it yet (although the Discovery Channel is doing some taping tomorrow for some documentary). Is Celebrity Mah-Jongg the next big thing?

Day 1 Highlights —

My mother and her friend, Shirley, took the early morning bus to Atlantic City from Penn Station. My mother said most of the bus was filled with “lowlifes and gamblers” who travel to Atlantic City for the day. During the trip, my mother and Shirley talked about whatever the usually talk about, when they noticed “some gambler in a pea-coat” moving away from them. My mother said “a guy who smelled of cheap liquor” also moved to the back of the bus. After my mother asked what was going on, a third gambler explained that the “regulars” usually sleep on the morning bus and their “loud yakking” was keeping them up. My mother apologized to the drunks and gamblers, and everyone went back to sleep.

My mother made it to casino. She described the Taj Mahal as “large and unfriendly, but they gave us a free buffet, so I guess it is OK.”

As for the first day of the tournament, my mother played at tables 39, 40, 41, and 42 — and didn’t win any games today. Shirley won one game. My mother said that the women played too fast for her, so she felt rushed. I think my mother is being intimidated by those tough-as-nails Jewish women from Long Island, like a NBA rookie in a room of Kobe Bryants.

Tonight, my mother was going to the buffet with Shirley and some of the other women. As my mother’s “coach,” I strongly rejected this idea. I suggested that she stay in her room and watch videotapes of today’s games, so she can strategize for tomorrow. My mother just laughed at me. Would Rocky Balboa do that to his coach’s face?

Are there any athletes out there who can offer my mother some proven techniques so she can better focus tomorrow on WINNING IT ALL?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Who is Really the Sexiest Man Alive?

New York Social Life

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from New York Social Diary:

“The American Association lit up the night, displaying close to $6 Million in colored gemstones at an event to celebrate their annual Spectrum Awards, which also raised over $11,000 for Project Renewal. Project Renewal’s mission is to renew the lives of New York City’s homeless by helping them return to self-sufficient life in the community.

Chessy Wilson [center] chose to top her Burberry dress with an 18K white gold necklace by Ziad Noshie, featuring eleven freshwater pearls and diamonds and a white gold “Ariel” ring by Bradley Dean Weber, featuring graduated Akoya pearls accented with diamonds.

[The event was held] in a secret downtown loft- where security was tight due to the jewels- 350 elegant juniors partied till midnight.”

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(any better, Tatyana?)

(Personal Note: I’m in New York for a couple of weeks and my mother only has dial-up. My wireless is also having trouble so I can’t go to Starbucks for wi-fi as of yet. So, my blogging is very SLOW. Bloglines takes forever just to come on. So, I apologize if I don’t visit your blog as often this week. Does anyone know a way to download all your RSS feeds offline?

Mostly, I hate to miss out on all the soap operas of your lives. So, don’t feel shy to email to tell me that something exciting is going on it your lives and that I can’t miss your new post — a divorce, a baby, a threesome, or if you have discovered a cure for the common cold. Please don’t email me if you post is about your cats (Laurie, Ashbloem, Jenny) or a meme about your favorite songs of the 80’s.)

A Year Ago today on Citizen of the Month: Writing for Blogebrity

Upstairs, Downstairs

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Neilochka from the Block

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Neil’s Mother:  Why are you taking your camera with you just to walk down the block?

Neil:  Maybe I’ll take photos of Valentino’s.

Neil’s Mother:  Who wants to see photos of Valentino’s?

Neil:  You’d be surprised at what crazy stuff people find interesting.  Besides, it’s my blog.  I can do what I want.

Neil’s Mother:  Wouldn’t you rather wait and take photos at the museum tomorrow?

Neil:  The museum?!  Boring!  EVERYBODY takes photos at the museum!
 

1)  Here is Valentino’s, the best pizza in Queens —

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2)  Sophia likes to make fun of Flushing as a big nothing, but look at this — 

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— the crappy little local liquor store next to Valentino’s has Le Beaulolais Nouveau 2006!  Hah, Sophia!  I don’t see that sign in REDONDO BEACH, home of the ubiquitous fish taco.

3)  At the famous “National Wholesale Liquidators” —  

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— I saw this perfect Christmas toy for a neighborhood where 3/4 of the residents speak another language.

This is the local police precinct — 

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— the 107th Precinct of the NYPD, which moved to this location when I was younger. 

I remember there being a big uproar over the structure on the roof, because local residents thought it was a huge satellite antenna.  Residents stormed a community council meeting because some crackpots thought the police were spying on them or the government was doing some top-secret experiment in Flushing.  Others worried about getting cancer from the high voltage of the electricity. 

Eventually, it turned out that the structure was none of the above — but an incredibly ugly SCULPTURE foisted on the precinct because the City had begun forcing new municipal buildings to include shitty pieces of art by out-of-work New York artists.  After it was learned that this was just an awful piece of modern art, there were protests to get rid of the eyesore, but like the old adage goes — you can’t fight City Hall. 

Today, most current residents take a weird pride in the monstrosity, like it is their Eiffel Tower.

A Tour of my Childhood Bedroom in Queens

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I know the photo is awful.  Give me a break.  I just got off a plane from LA. 

This is the room I grew up in.  I lived here until college.  Behind me, is where my old, comfy bed used to be.  Now it is a “convertible bed” that my father put in several years ago  to make my room “more adult.”  You can actually feel the metal coils sticking into your back.

The clock in the background has not worked in twenty years, but no one has ever thought about taking it down.

The poster at the top right has changed throughout the years, from that of the New York Mets to long-forgotten rock groups.  The current poster is of Sophia acting in a children’s play she directed in Israel. 

My pants belonged to my father, but I don’t think he ever wore them.  My t-shirt is from a Target in Los Angeles.  I’m using an old digital camera that works so-so.

After taking the photos, my mother made me a turkey sandwich and we watched “What Not to Wear,” which is pretty much the same thing I would have done if I was sitting on the couch with Sophia.  

Off to New York

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I’m off to New York.  I’m very excited because I will finally have the opportunity to see IN PERSON the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Can you believe I grew up in New York and never went to that amazing fun-filled parade? 

A Chorus Line!  Diana Degarmo!  Al Roker!  Santa Claus ho-ho-ho-ing and handing out Macy’s credit cards!

What?  The parade was YESTERDAY?  OY! 

Well, I guess I’ll just spend my time in New York standing in line for a bagel.

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(normally, I wouldn’t have written such a stupid post, but I’m doing that damn NamBloPoMo, and had to write something just to impress the girls.) 

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Oh no, am I a Racist Blogger?

Can Jews Have Sex During Hanukkah?

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Help!  Today is Thanksgiving!  That means, that Sophia and I are going over to Beth and Roger’s home for dinner.  They are lovely people and I’m sure everything will be terrific.  It’s just that their family is so… not Jewish. 

I hate to bring this up, but you know that scene in Annie Hall when Annie Hall’s family looks at Woody Allen like he is a Hasid.  It’s not the ham that bothers me.  They also serve turkey.   I’ve gotten used to all the pumpkin-colored sweaters that everyone wears.  I can even deal with everyone holding hands before the meal and thanking Jesus, our Savior.  And it’s not even the drunken woman who actually asked me last year “Can Jews can have sex during Hanukkah?” 

For me, the big problem is… the football. 

After the Thanksgiving meal, the women hang out in the kitchen while the men go into the living room to watch sports.   Bleh!  Call me a metrosexual if you want, but from my point of view, shouldn’t men WANT to hang around with the gender that smells good and has tits?

Last year, Sophia pushed me into the living room, hoping I’d do some male bonding.  I did get one good laugh out of the guys, when I mistakenly called NASCAR as NASDAQ. 

This year, I want to be prepared for the inevitable male-bonding:

Who is playing in the big game today and what are the names of the top players of each team?   Women are not the only ones who know how to fake things.

P.S. — If you haven’t had a chance to “Thank Your First Commenter,” feel free to do so today!

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