Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: March 2007 (page 1 of 3)

April 12th

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Ever since I moved back in with Sophia, she’s been trying to get me to move out of the house and into my own apartment.   I’m always telling her that I’m too depressed to go through all the trouble of looking through the classifieds, etc. 

Now I have something to admit to you.   Sophia cleverly found a way to break me out of my depression.  She threw this amazing virtual surprise birthday party for me, in which so many of you sent such lovely cards and gifts.  All your kindness and friendship worked better than Prozac!

But here is the actual surprising part, and it is a little embarrassing to reveal, but  — it wasn’t really my birthday!   The entire event was all set up by Sophia as a last-ditch effort to “make me feel good,” right before our trip to Portland,  so I wouldn’t have any excuses not to move out the house when we returned. 

Isn’t Sophia devious, but amazingly clever?  I’ve started visiting some vacancies today in Los Angeles with my mother, thanks to Sophia’s push (and with your generous help!)

Luckily, I have some other good news.  My REAL birthday is coming up on April 12th!  If you were unable to send a gift the first time, here is your opportunity to do so now!  I would also love it if everyone who sent me a card or gift for my fake birthday, does it again for my authentic birthday.  It would mean so much to me.  All of you are such good friends!

Since I’m not sure if I’m going to be living with Sophia or in my new apartment in two weeks, please send all packages to Danny.

Thank you in advance for making my upcoming birthday on April 12th the best one I’ve ever had!

Love, Neil

The Sprint Phone and the Ticking Clock

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A year ago, I wrote about being offered a free Sprint phone as part of the Sprint Ambassador Program for bloggers.   All the service, music, TV on the phone and other special doodads were included for free for 6 months.  Sophia, being the gadget freak of the family, was extremely jealous, so much so that she convinced Sprint that she should get one too as my blog editor. 

After six months, the service was cut off and Sophia went into severe withdrawal.   She insisted that I pimp myself out on my blog so Sprint would include us in Phase II of their Ambassador Program.  What I didn’t realize was, that during the six months, Sophia had been giving Sprint extensive feedback on the phone and the various services, which explained why Sprint offered Sophia a different free phone for Phase II, but told me to go to hell and use the Devil’s pay phone.

Phase II is now coming to an end, and all week, Sophia has been acting all jittery.  She even kicked me out of bed a few nights ago, saying there wasn’t enough room for the two of us AND her Sprint phone all in the same bed.   The next morning, I found the two of them cuddling together, the flip-top of the LG Fusic phone leaning comfortably on the softness of Sophia’s right breast, singing her a love song that was a free purchase, of course, under the terms of the Ambassador Program.

Two nights ago, we were driving home from the Valley, stuck in traffic on the 405.  Sophia was reading her email on her phone.

“Oh God!  Sprint is announcing Phase III!   They’re already chosen the participants, but are leaving 100 slots for previous Ambassadors!  The first 100 people… First come, first served!  Stop the car!  We need to sign up.”

“Can’t we wait until we get home?”

“Are you crazy?  It’s only 100 people!  And it’s some brand new exciting-sounding phone.”

“Can’t you sign up ON the phone?”

“No, we have to go online.  I have the laptop in the trunk.  We need to find some place with wi-fi.”

“We’ll be home in a half hour.”

She glanced down at her mobile Yahoo account.

“Look, there’s another email for you.  They’re offering you a chance to sign up, too!”

“They are?  That changes everything!   We need to stop the car right now!”

I twirled the steering wheel, exiting the freeway, nearly causing three accidents, all that time thinking who gets to sign up for the phone first.  After all – it’s first come, first served.

Right off the freeway was a McDonald’s.

“McDonald’s has wi-fi.”

“They do?”

“Yeah, they all do.  It’s like $2.95 an hour.”

“OK, let’s do it.”

We pulled into McDonald’s.  Sophia set up the laptop as I ordered a diet Coke, not because I was thirsty, but because I felt weird sitting there without ordering something.  Microsoft Windows booted up, but we didn’t receive any wireless signal.  

My luck.  I picked the only McDonald’s in Los Angeles County without wi-fi.

“There must be a Starbucks around here,” said Sophia.

“Do you know how much wi-fi is in Starbucks?!”

“Now’s not the time to be chintzy.  The clock is ticking.”

I visualized bloggers around the country typing on their PCs, signing up for a free phone while some Sprint executive was sitting in Sprint headquarters counting down how many of those hundred extra phones were left to hand out first come, first serve. 

Sprint Executive:  “100… 99… 98… 97…”

It felt like we were in an episode of “24,” and the split-screen was filling up with several different events all happening at once —

1)  Sophia adjusting the laptop in different directions, hoping to steal some wi-fi.

2)  Neil asking the McDonald’s manager for the location of the nearest Starbucks.

3)   The Sprint executive packing phones into boxes, one by one —

Sprint Executive:  “91…90… 89…88…”

“I have an idea!” I told Sophia.  “We can use the Sprint phone from Phase II to help us get the Sprint phone from Phase III.”

Sophia nodded, understanding my suggestion.  The Phase II Sprint phone came with a USB cord that you could connect to the laptop, so you could use the phone as a modem.

I ran outside to the parking lot to search the glove compartment of Sophia’s Prius for the USB data cord.

Sprint Executive:  “81… 80… 79… 78…”

I “sprinted” back into the fast-food joint, clutching the cord.  We connected everything together — the laptop into McDonald’s outlet, the modem into the USB slot, the data cord into the Sprint phone.  As we were about to make lift-off, the phone started to beep and sputter.  Uh-oh, it was seriously out of juice.

“I told you to charge it last night!” yelled Sophia.

“It’s your phone.  Not mine! I don’t have the Phase II fancy-schmancy phone like you do!”  I screamed back.

As in any tense situation, the affected parties began to blame each other for the miserable turn of events.

“Wait…wait…wait….” I shouted.  “I have that emergency Energizer phone charger that Chelle sent me for my birthday!   It’s in the car, still in the package!”

If ever another blogger had saved my marriage, this surely was it.

I ran to the car again. 

Sprint Executive:  “61… 60… 59…”

By the time I rushed back in, holding Chelle’s gift, everyone in the McDonald’s was staring at us, wondering if we doing some top secret government work.

Sprint Executive:  “52… 51…”

All I had to do now was open the package, but it was impossible to do, either with your hands… or with a McDonald’s plastic fork.    I cursed Energizer and their Bunny.    Luckily, a car key finally did the job and sliced the plastic.   I extracted the emergency charger and tried to plug it into the Sprint phone, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it fit.

“Can’t you read?!” said Sophia, annoyed.  “This charger is for your Nokia phone, not for my Sprint LG Phone.”

“Why do they have to make this electronics crap so complicated?!”

Sophia and I glared at each other.  Things were getting worse by the second.  Visions of divorce papers floated over our heads, all because of our greediness for this new Sprint phone.

Sprint Executive:  “48… 47… 46… 45… 44…”

Our quest seemed hopeless.  But as “The Secret” has shown us, if you believe it, good things can happen.

“Over here!  Come over here!”  called out a Voice.  Was it God?

No.  It was some Asian guy in a UCLA shirt, sitting with his Pocket PC on the other side of McDonald’s, beckoning to us.

“If you come over here you can steal wi-fi from the 1-800-Mattress store next door!”

We quickly made the move to the other side of the McDonald’s, right next to the display for their new “Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken Snack Wrap.”   The good Samaritan’s kindness made us feel guilty for the harsh words we exchanged with each other.  We told each other how much we loved each other, and begged that the OTHER sign up first.

“You go first,” I told Sophia.

“No, no, you go.” she said.

The clock was still ticking. 

Sprint Executive:  “31… 30… 29… 28…”

“Well, one of us should sign up already!  Go.” she said.

“OK, if you insist!”

Sprint Executive:  “21… 20…19…”

Frankly, I was really glad I was going first.  I mean, Sophia is great and all, but I AM the blogger.  I’m the one who deserves the phone, right?  I signed up for the Sprint Ambassador Program, Phase III.  It took me about ten minutes, because I had some technical problems.  I received a message that I would be under consideration. 

“My turn!  My turn!” cried Sophia, almost pulling her curly hair out.  I gave her the laptop and she signed up as well.  She got the same message:  under consideration.

Today, Sophia received an email that she was accepted.  They loved all the feedback that she has been giving Sprint.   Her new Sprint phone was in the mail. 

I checked my email.  I received nothing except for a few more spams telling me where to get some Viagra on the cheap. 

The Sanjaya of the Blogosphere

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My mother arrived in Los Angeles today, in preparation for Passover next week.   After she unpacked, Sophia and I showed her all of the birthday cards that I received from other bloggers.

“You see, Mom, friendship is more important than actually making a decent living through writing.” 

“Well, let’s not get carried away this…” added Sophia.

My mother opened up a cutesy hand-made card from a Canadian blogger.

“And so many women!”

“Neilochka’s very popular with female bloggers.” explained Sophia.

I beamed with pride.  My mother may have once imagined me as a Jewish doctor or lawyer, but I doubt she dreamed that I would grow up to become an international sex symbol. 

“You’re like that boy on TV,” she said.

“What boy?”

“The boy in American Idol.   The boy all the girls like.  The Indian boy.”

“Sanjaya?”

“Sanjaya!” Sophia repeated, laughing.

I felt insulted by my own mother.  She just nodded.

“When I saw him the first time on TV, I knew he was going to win.  He has so much personality.  So much more than his sister.”

“Personality!?  He’s awful,” I protested.

“Oh, yeah?  I bet you five cents that he wins.” offered my high-gambling mother, her recent Mah-Jongg winnings making her cocky.

For the rest of the day, my mother’s words rang in my head, making me wonder if I should have accepted that Prozac from that therapist last week. 

While my mother was upstairs, I cornered Sophia in the kitchen.

“I’m not like Sanjaya.  Am I?” I stuttered anxiously, acting just like a person with a dependent personality structure.

“Well, maybe your mother has a point.” said Sophia.   “I think little girls like Sanjaya because he is safe and non-threatening.”

“Are you saying female bloggers think I’m safe and non-threatening?”

“Well…”

There was a silence heard around Redondo Beach.

“How can I be safe and non-threatening?!  I’m always writing about sex… about how I want to f**k them!”

“Yeah, well… sure… you write about it.   Sanjaya also wore a mohawk last night, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to be a punk rocker.”

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A Year Ago On Citizen of the MonthThe Best Teacher I Ever Had

Well-Developed Intuition

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Sophia got this email today, supposedly from the Ukranian woman in this photo. It links to some dopey website matching American men and young Russian girls.

Hi, dear —

I can imagine that you will wonder to get today the letter from unknown, but pretty woman from such far country like Ukraine. As for me I could not yet believe that I write to foreign man whom I don’t know, but whom I do want. The reason of my letter is very simple: I want to find my love, my soul mate, that is why I am here. I decided to try to find love with you. I feel with all fibres of my soul that you are descent man and your heart is kind and is able to love. You may ask me how I know. I will tell you that I have well-developed intuition and my intuition chose you among thousands. and I want you to become the One…

I ask you not to ignore my letter and not to throw it to the rubbish bin. Read it, please, as attentively as you can. I am as serious as i have never been. I am fed up to be lonely and to feel jelous if I see loving couples. I want to scream, I want to cry, but I doing nothing I won’t change situation. If love don’t come to me, I want to invite love to come into my heart. And that is why I need to find my soul mate. If you agree to help me to find love, become my soul mate -write me, I will wait (at some website)

Waiting for your mail

Nastena

Sophia: “Isn’t that funny?”

Neil: “I dunno. It’s kind of touching.”

Sophia: “Are you crazy? It is email spam saying I’m her male soulmate!”

Neil: “Maybe it’s my new poetic sensibility. I feel her yearning for love.”

Sophia: “It’s fake!”

Neil: “What is “fake” after all? Isn’t all writing “fake?” On the other hand, maybe life itself is an illusion? And language is the reality. Do we even know if the material world exists outside of language?”

Sophia: “Yes, we do. And I STILL want you to clean the guest bathroom before your mother shows up for Passover.”

Neil: “Wait, wait… poetic inspiration —
“Ah, graceful toilet, porcelain throne,
Sitting in the corner, yet all alone…””

(THE REST OF THIS POST WAS DELETED ON THE ADVICE OF THE BLOG EDITOR AND THE SUBJECT COMPLETELY CHANGED)

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I have a lot of bad qualities. I can be vain. I can be passive-aggressive. I sometimes stare at cleavage a little too long. But I DO KEEP MY WORD. For my birthday, a few bloggers sent me scratch-off lottery tickets from other states and Canada. In a previous post about my birthday, I said that if I won something, I would share the winnings with my fellow bloggers. Well, good news! Indiana’s own Oospy Daisy sent me a “9’s in a Line” scratch-off from the Hoosier Lottery, and we’ve hit the jackpot. Three nines in a row! Ten dollars!

Who wants in? Just tell me and once I work out the long division, I will mail you a check with your share of the winnings. It’s the least I could do to repay your for all of YOUR kindness.

By the way, Danny has been in New York, so I still haven’t seen some of your birthday cards and gifts, which are still in his living room. So, if I haven’t thanked you yet, don’t blame me, blame Danny.

Quiz

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For which website am I LEAST likely to have written a post today?

A) ebony-ivory.oregon.gov — African-Americans Who Love Portland

B) do-svidanya.ru — The Self-Help Site for Separated Men with Foreign-Born Wives

C) members-only.biz — A Forum for Co-Dependent Men and Their Co-Dependent Penises

D) poetrythursday.org — An online project that builds community by encouraging bloggers to read and enjoy poetry, as well as sharing it with others.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Teacher of the Year

Mama’s Boy

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Dear Mom,

I think it’s great that you coming to visit on Wednesday.  I know you think you’re coming for Passover, but before we have any seder, we have one with little matter to discuss —

You see, on Friday, I went to my very first therapy session.   The doctor seemed like a nice enough guy, although all his Peruvian and Asian vases gave off a pretentious vibe.  I would have felt more at ease chatting with him if his office was decorated like a Denny’s coffee shop. 

The doctor asked me several questions while reading from a little red book and making notes on his computer.

“Do you ever feel anxious?” he asked.

“Sometimes.”

“Do you wake up in the middle of the night, feeling anxious?”

“No.”

“Do you ever wake up wanting to harm yourself?”

“No.   Uh, unless you’re using that as a euphemism for “playing with yourself?””

“No, I wasn’t.”

“Just joking.”

“Do you feel depressed?”

“Right now?”

“No.  In general.”

“Not really.”

“Do you sometimes not want to get out of bed in the morning?”

“That’s depression?!  I thought that was normal?”

After forty five minutes, he told me that I should see someone else, mostly because he was a psychiatrist who dealt primarily in medications, while what I really needed was THERAPY.  And, yes, he did say “really needed.”  He offered me some Prozac and said I should look for a good cognitive behaviorist therapist.

“So, no Thai massage therapists?” I asked.

“No.”

Therapy = not funny. 

Oh, and what does he think is wrong with me?   Well, he didn’t give me a definitive diagnosis, but he thinks I have a “dependent personality structure,” or as Sophia immediately called it – Mama’s Boy Ailment (M.B.A.)

In other words, IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT, MOM!

So, Mom, I thought of buying the Streit’s matzo for the seder before you show up, but it just tastes so much better when YOU buy it.   See you soon…

P.S. — 

Sophia’s funny tagline of the day:

“Finally, I got a husband with an M.B.A!”

A Year Ago On Citizen of the MonthThe Racist Cabbie

When in Trouble for Writing a Post about Portland, Always Go to Cats

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Apology to the City of Portland

I have many faults, but I try to own up to my mistakes, and apologize when warranted. I had a wonderful time in Portland. It is a beautiful city with excellent beer and fine citizens. I was especially impressed with Powell’s Bookstore, which I thought was even more impressive than the Strand Bookstore in New York. Unfortunately, I seemed to have angered many Portlandians when I mentioned in a previous post that Sophia and I saw only one black person in the entire city during our four days there, and this was the sax player in a fifteen member big band at a jazz club.

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Maybe I was wrong for bringing up this bit of random information on this blog, especially now that I know I was wrong.  There isn’t just one African-American in Portland.  There are TWO —

From the awful Donald Trump-produced Miss USA show on TV tonight — Miss Oregon from Portland

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Sophia: “Maybe it’s his daughter.”

Locomotive Breath

There are some songs that you like because they are good, and some you like just because you associate them with a specific event or memory. I would never consider “Maneater” by Hall and Oates to be a rock classic, but it is memorable to me because it was playing on the radio when Jessica Neinbaum talked to me at a party.

Sometimes, the meaning of a song can change throughout time. “Locomotive Breath” is an old song by Jethro Tull. The reason this song is important to me is that it brings up memories of Camp Kinder-Ring in Sylvan Lake, New York. It was already an old song when I attended camp, but it was the favorite band of one of our camp counselors. Whenever we would practice basketball lay-ups before a game, this counselor would put this high energy song on the loudspeaker in order to energize us. The song became engraved in my mind as a “fight song” before a big game.

I loved summer camp, the song, and the lay-ups. It didn’t matter that I never got a lay-up IN the basket. I was a bad basketball player, despite being one of the tallest campers. Just to make it clear to you how bad I was — this was a JEWISH camp, and I was still one of the worst!

In truth, it was an odd choice for a fight song. Years later, in college, when I actually bought the album, “Aqualung,” and read the lyrics, I noticed how depressing the song actually was:

In the shuffling madness
of the locomotive breath,
runs the all-time loser,
headlong to his death.
He feels the piston scraping —
steam breaking on his brow —
old Charlie stole the handle and
the train won’t stop going —
no way to slow down.

But who cares? It was one of the few Jethro Tull songs with a beat.

Fast forward to three weeks ago. Sophia and I were getting into the car with our luggage, about to go on our trip to Portland.

“One more thing!” I said as I ran back into the house and grabbed a random assortment of music CDs — rock, Latin, classical, jazz, etc. What type of road trip would it be without music?

As I drove up the 405, Sophia rifled through my assortment of CDs.

“What the hell is a Jethro Tull?”

I told her the story about doing lay-ups at my Jewish summer camp.

“Play it. It’s song number 10. Forget the rest of the album which I KNOW you will hate.”

Sophia played the song, and liked it. “Locomotive Breath” became the anthem to our trip. Every morning, as we would start the next leg of our trip, we would put on song number 10, “Locomotive Breath,” and blast it on the speakers.

He sees his children jumping off
at the stations — one by one.
His woman and his best friend —
in bed and having fun.
He’s crawling down the corridor
on his hands and knees —
old Charlie stole the handle and
the train won’t stop going —
no way to slow down.

Gradually, the meaning of this song changed for me. It wasn’t about camp anymore. It was the THEME song to “Neil and Sophia’s Road Trip.”

70’s Progressive Rock.

Ian Anderson on the flute.

Separated husband and wife visiting bloggers in Portland.

It made sense. And maybe it was the bombastic theatricality of our 70’s theme song that inspired us to get stopped by the cops THREE times during our trip (twice for Sophia and once for me. Sophia was let off, of course. I got a ticket).

Jethro Tull made us into progressive rock rebels.

Last night, Sophia asked me to pick up some eggs at the supermarket. We’ve been home a few days now, and there is still nothing in the fridge. I’m embarrassed to say that I decided to drive the one block to the store. When I turned on the ignition, “Locomotive Breath” started playing on the speakers. One of us must have left the CD on when we left the car.

He hears the silence howling —
catches angels as they fall.
And the all-time winner
has got him by the balls.

I sang along in my garbled New York accent as I drove to Von’s Supermarket. I hadn’t gone half a block when I noticed a police car sitting at the corner of the street. He turned his siren and lights on.

“Pull over” he announced.

What was the problem? Get this — I didn’t have my seat-belt on!

Did he know who he was talking to? I follow every driving rule in the book. I always have my seat belt on! I was just driving one block… and Jethro Tull was distracting me!

The officer gave me a ticket… my second ticket in a week.

Locomotive Breathe. From now on, I will remember YOU as the song that made me into a criminal.

He picks up Gideons Bible —
open at page one —
old Charlie stole the handle and
the train won’t stop going —
no way to slow down.


(not Jethro Tull and definitely not me)

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Neilochka Stalker

Make Believe


The Boyfriend Trouser — for the woman who doen’t have a boyfriend, but wants to make believe she does.

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The Nike Cap — For the couch potato who doesn’t play golf like Tiger Woods, but wants to make believe he does.

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The Leather Jacket — for the person who isn’t tough, but wants to make believe he is.

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Friendster — for the person who doesn’t have any friends, but wants to make believe she does.

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Technorati — for the person who isn’t important, but wants to make believe he is.

A Year Ago in Citizen of the Month: Man and Woman: Morning

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