Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: May 2007 (page 2 of 3)

All ABBA, All The Time

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Have you ever found yourself feeling like you’re going a little insane? I don’t usually talk about these things, but you’re all my friends and Google doesn’t spider everything so it remains on the internet forever, so I’m safe, right?

On Mother’s Day, I posted a video of ABBA singing “Mama Mia.” I thought it was a cute idea. Today, I apologized to the mommybloggers by posting another ABBA music video, “Does Your Mother Know?”

Now, I remember ABBA as a youth, but their music means little to me, unlike that of Bruce Springsteen or Prince.

But something strange and magical happened today. After posting those two videos on my blog, I have became ABBA obsessed. I spent all night reading about and listening to ABBA. I even downloaded a documentary about them — in Swedish! I saw them win Eurovision in the seventies with “Waterloo.” I listened to their hits. I learned from Wikipedia that the name ABBA is the combined first letters of the four group members — Agnetha, Anni-Frid “Frida,” Benny, and Bjorn. I’ve become fascinated by the behind-the-scenes romances — the marriage of Frida and Benny, the breakup of Agnetha and Bjorn. For several hours, ABBA has become my life.

Why has this happened? What is going on with me? Is it stress? Sexual frustration? Is it because I got turned on by Frida bouncing on the piano bench in “Does Your Mother Know?”

Actually, no. I know this sounds weird to you, but the ABBA songs were “speaking to me,” as if they were written especially for me — as if they had some inner meaning beyond their silly lyrics. And honestly — no pot was involved, real or virtual. Could it be Trader Joe’s veggie gyozas?

I was especially taken by the lyrics of “Dancing Queen” —

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life
See that girl, watch that scene, dig in the dancing queen

Friday night and the lights are low
Looking out for the place to go
Where they play the right music, getting in the swing
You come in to look for a king
Anybody could be that guy
Night is young and the musics high
With a bit of rock music, everything is fine
You’re in the mood for a dance
And when you get the chance…

And guess what — it is FRIDAY NIGHT right now, as I listen to the song! How did they know? Tears were filling my eyes as I heard this. And how do Agnetha, Frida, Benny, and Bjorn know that I’m “looking for the place to go… where they play the right “music?”

I could be that guy.
I can have the time of my life.
I am in the mood for a dance
I am the dancing queen!

Or maybe I should just go out and rent Muriel’s Wedding.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Neilochka Sez: Boycott the Fashion Industry

I Apologize to all Mommybloggers

I apologize for this post. Please don’t ban me from the internet. I know you mommybloggers are so powerful that you have the power to do so. Remember, I was also once an innocent baby in a mother’s arms!

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Transform Your Blog into a Book!

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I felt guilty about my last post since mommybloggers have been so nice to me lately, sending Sophia cards and wishing her well on her surgery. And how do I respond? — by attacking their precious children! What a jerk I am!

It occurred to me that people write what they know. Businessmen write blogs about stocks and Microsoft. Mommies write about their kids. What’s so wrong about that? (except for the fact that so many of these mommybloggers never come to read my blog) But that’s my fault, not theirs.

Sometimes, I wish I had a clearcut theme… I wish I could say I was a “something”-blogger. It gives you an instant community. I love all my readers and blogging friends, but I’m not sure how to describe this bizarre community. I always hear about bloggers getting book deals from their blogs. I think agents and publishers also like blogs that have a clearcut theme or “story,” because it helps them visualize the book.

For example:

Blog about having sex with everyone in Washington D.C. = book about having sex with everyone in Washington D.C.

Blog about working for big law firm and having sex with everyone in law firm = book about working for big law firm and having sex with everyone in law firm.

Blog about working in hip restaurant and having sex with customers = Book about working in hip restaurant and having sex with customers

Blog about getting divorced and taking up knitting = Book about getting divorce and taking up knitting (I’m not sure how much sex is in this one, though, but there are a lot of cats)

Blog about being a wonderful mommy = book about being a wonderful mommy.

WTF is my blog about?

I’ve been really distraught about this issue, but luckily, like magic, help came this morning in the way of a pop-up ad while using Internet Explorer (kids, use Firefox!) It seems that writing guru Ann Mcindoo has all the answers to turning your blog into a book.

A book? From my blog? What fun! After taking one of her very short seminars, I’m now about to visualize the whole plot of my book.

Agents! Publishers! Here is the summary of “Citizen of the Month,” the book:

Writer guy in Los Angeles is separated from his wild foreign-born wife. Sexually frustrated, he tries to flirt with women online, but they end up mostly seeing him as their “metrosexual” friend, except for that one time he went a little further with a nice blogger back East. Guy’s Penis gets upset at him and wants him to start f**king again, and threatens to “move on” if he doesn’t get any p***y. Guy’s beloved father dies but continues talking to his son from the beyond, telling him to “always be good to women.” Guy’s mother transforms her life and becomes a professional Mah Jongg player, while having an affair with Santa Claus. Guy sneaks back to live with his separated wife when she is away working and he then refuses to leave, even though he isn’t very fond of living in Redondo Beach, finding it too “goyish.” Separated wife faces breast cancer. Penis scolds guy for not paying him “enough attention.” Mother scolds guy for forgetting to send mother’s day card. Separated Wife scolds guy for telling her “don’t be upset” over having surgery. Blogger comments on Dooce, but gets no response.

The end.

(but in the Hollywood version of the book, Dooce does comment, and they have an affair, which makes guy’s wife jealous, so guy and separated wife reunite in a gala second wedding in Hawaii, officiated by Communicatrix. During their second honeymoon in Italy, guy’s totally satisfied-sexually wife tells husband that he is a “real man who should be shared with the world,” and that it is OK for him to continue flirting with other female bloggers — in fact, it is his destiny!)

A Mild Rant Against Mommybloggers

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My virtual pot smoking didn’t really work, so I’m still in a grouchy mood.  I feel like taking it out on someone, so I picked an easy target — mommybloggers.

Now I love women and I love children.  And I adore my mother.  But isn’t having a child supposed to be the greatest blessing to happen to someone?  The greatest joy?  So, isn’t it a bit immodest to show your child every day on your blog, as if you’re showing off your new shoes from Nordstrom?   I understand that you love your child and your child is the ticket to the gated suburban blog community of Dooce, Amalah, and the incestuous Federated Media advertising-sponsored mommy/daddy blogs, but I love my Toyota Prius, and I’m not going to talk about it EVERY day.   After all, I don’t want to make the guy with the 1985 Honda Civic feel bad about his crappy car.  It just ain’t polite.

P.S. — Sophia just reminded me that the Toyota Prius is actually her car, and that I DO drive a crappy car.

P.P.S. — I guess I’m just feeling sad about not having kids tonight, since if I had some kids, I could get them to do the dishes instead of me.   Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Passing the Joint

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I tried to be funny in today’s post, but NOTHING.  Imagine you’re a man and you’re in bed with the most beautiful woman and she’s moving down your body with her hand, breasts, and mouth, and just NOTHING.  Nothing but anxiety and stress.  Not that I would know anything about that, but I’m just using this as an example to help you understand my dilemma about being “funny” today.

I’ve been so stressed out for the last couple of weeks.  Desperate times require desperate measures.

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I haven’t smoked a joint since I was fourteen years old (even then I was wimpy and didn’t really inhale (just like President Clinton — I totally believed him!).   For some reason, because of Sophia’s surgery, I thought it would be good idea to smoke a joint today and do some relaxing with Pink Floyd on the “stereo.”   Of course, I’m too cheap to actually buy marijuana, so I got together some “virtual pot.”  And you know what — I’d like to share it with YOU — because I’m sure you can use some today, as well.  Who wants to be sitting in the office on a Wednesday afternoon? 

Mom, even you can “burn one” (that’s pot slang for smoking) if you want.  I think I may even have some real pot in the back of my underwear drawer left over from years ago.

(If you are a teenager and reading this blog, please do not try any of my virtual pot without your mother’s permission.  Or wait until she is totally high and will let you do anything.)

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OK, I’m smoking my joint now.  Oh, that was good.   Oh, man, I am so high.   I just want to take off all my clothes and eat potato chips.   I love the Dark Side of the Moon!  It speaks to me!

Who am I passing the joint to next? 

Good News/Bad News

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The good news is that Sophia doesn’t have invasive breast cancer.

The bad news is she has DCIS (Ductal carcinoma in situ).

What is DCIS?

DCIS is not life-threatening. It is non-invasive, and is considered the earliest form of cancer—Stage 0. Stage 0 breast cancer (sometimes called pre-cancer) is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells that is stuck inside the milk duct where it started. It has not yet figured out how to spread outside the duct or to other areas of the body.

Although this cancer stays inside the milk ducts, it is associated with an increased risk of getting an invasive cancer, or cancer that has spread to surrounding tissues, in the future. The risk of the DCIS coming back is extremely variable and depends on the size and personality of the DCIS, as well as the type of treatment. Recurrence of cancer can be either non-invasive (not life-threatening) or invasive (potentially serious). The main goal of treating DCIS is to reduce the risk of an invasive cancer later on.

Another downer is that the doctors want Sophia to come back for another surgery in the same spot– in TWO AND A HALF WEEKS from now. This will be the third surgery she’s had at Cedars-Sinai in less than two months. It seems that the DCIS was found very close to one of the margins, so they have to do a bigger surgery.

Now, remember when we bad-mouthed Cedars-Sinai for their treatment of Sophia’s mother when she was in the hospital? Remember we changed our mind about Cedars-Sinai when everyone was so kind to Sophia during her surgery? Well, we’ve changed our mind AGAIN. It seems that when the surgeon at Cedars-Sinai took out the tissue, he forgot to mark the orientation (the North and South, so to speak) of it, so now the pathologists have no idea whatsoever near which margin the DCIS is located. Apparently, doing the orienting is a standard procedure. Because of this error, the surgeon will have to cut out more tissue all around. Sophia is incredibly pissed off at the doctor for that. She insisted that I write about this detail here, but I was nervous about mentioning the surgeon’s mistake.

“Do we really want to get on his bad side?” I asked. “After all, he’s probably going to be doing the surgery again.”

Sophia was adamant.

“Don’t write about it all if you’re NOT going to tell the truth about what happened to all the people who have been waiting to hear from us.”

Sophia is pretty sad and upset. I’ve been trying to be upbeat all night, telling her to look on the bright side. It is non-invasive. But maybe I’ll shut up for a while. Sometimes, it’s good to let someone be angry, although this is an area that I’m not very good at. I never know what to say, other than “Don’t be angry and sad.”

Thank you all for your wishes, prayers, and the good cheer you sent Sophia’s way. Keep ’em coming.

“You should go back to writing your regular stuff.” said Sophia. “We all could use something funny.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!


Mr. T – Treat Your Mother Right


Always ask you Mom! (TV commercial)


Shir Biton, Israeli Idol 3 winner — “Eema” (Mama)


My Yiddishe Mama (TV commercial)


Jay Chou — Listen to Mother (Ting Ma Ma De Hua)


ABBA – Mama Mia on Wonderama 1976

Sophia’s Pre-Surgery Photos

Only Sophia would take photos seconds before her surgery at Cedars-Sinai so I could post them on my blog!

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Dr. Scott Karlan, the best surgeon ever, and Dr. Ellis Lai, the coolest anesthesiologist.

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The doctors joking with Sophia.

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Sophia making sure the doctors write down “citizenofthemonth.com” before the surgery, so they can see their photos on my blog. 

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Dr. Karlan was kind enough to let me consult with him before the surgery, seeing that I watched “Gray’s Anatomy” the night before.

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Romel, the friendly surgery nurse.

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Sophia’s feet.  Former blogger Eileen from Sydney, Australia sent these homemade stickers with Sophia’s name written on each label:  “Dancing for Sophia,” “Smiling for Sophia, “Praying for Sophia,” etc.

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Everyone loved Sophia and wanted to put the stickers on, including the doctors.

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Dr. Karlan:  “Let’s get the show on the road.”   He has a great sense of humor.   As Sophia was being rolled into surgery, he was cracking jokes to make her smile.

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Elvira, the pretty recovery nurse.

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A bunch-load of cards greeted Sophia when she came back home!

Special thanks to (and apologies if I’m forgetting someone):

Stacy at Jurgen Nation
Ms. Mamma
Ms. Sizzle
Tamarika
Heather Anne
Danny
Pearl
Schmutzie
Laurie at Crazy Aunt Purl
Jane Poe
Long Story Longer
Communicatrix
Javacurls
Noel
Kanani at Easy Writer
Tracie Lyn at Red Door Studios
Non-Highlighted Heather
Irina at The Ignoble Experiment
Alexandra at Marvelous Madness
Alissa and Evan
Otir
Finn
Buzzgirl

Leah at Only Partially Insane
Marilyn
Maven at The Sanctum Sactorum
Mike and Karen
Anonymous from Albany
Kristen
V-grrrl

Claire
Expat Jane
Karl

Paperback Writer
Pia at Courting Destiny
Cynical Girl
Eileen

Richard Heft
Jason
Caron
Katie

Orieyenta and Little Orieyenta
Akaky
Ariel
Villanovababy
Better Safe Than Sorry
Michelle V.

Heather B.
Juliness

… and everyone who wrote such nice things on the blog and in emails!

Sophia is resting at home and we’re waiting…

Before Surgery

Last night, we went to the pier to watch the sunset.  It was very calming for Sophia.  The water.  The sky.  The smell in the air.  My mind was playing tricks on me because everything normal was infused with meaning, even the kids who were fishing off the end of the pier.  I was rooting for the fish not to be fooled by the lure.  Why should they be put into unnecessary danger?  I wanted them to swim away.. safely. 

I told Sophia about a new restaurant that opened, a real dive, but with excellent homemade Lebanese/Pakistani food (the female cook is Lebanese and the male owner is Pakistani), so we went there for dinner.   The owners were clearly Muslim, which didn’t stop Sophia from telling them how she lived in Israel and was Jewish, and loved this type of food.    The owners didn’t seem to care what we were, and kept on bringing us free samples to try.  Sophia told the woman that she had surgery tomorrow, and the information brought out the mother in this female cook.  She put some extra spices into the food, saying they are healing, and then promised to pray to Allah for her health.

It is now five in the morning.  I am in the living room.  I slept on the couch.  Sophia is upstairs.  She sleeps better by herself.  I hope she got a good night sleep.  She needs it.  I wish I was upstairs with her.  I’d like to be able to calm her.  Hell, I could use some calming myself. 

Maybe I’ll go back to sleep for another hour.  We don’t have to leave until nine o’clock, but I wanted to clean out the car before we left and do another wash in the laundry.  I have to remember that Sophia can’t drink anything today, even water.  I’m not sure why.  It is very hot in Los Angeles, which sucks, since we don’t have air-conditioning.  Even Griffith Park is burning.

I wish I was upstairs, listening to Sophia breath as she soundly sleeps.  I wish I was upstairs, kissing her, tasting her sweetness. 

The Bracelet

Thank you to everyone who sent cards and good wishes to Sophia concerning her surgery tomorrow, both in the mail and through email. What an amazing group of people! She has been very touched.

I’ll be thanking everyone personally. I can’t believe how many people responded. I had to stand on line at the post office for a half hour because I received a note that all the mail couldn’t fit in my P.O. Box. Along with a ton of cards from bloggers around the world, Danny sent Sophia food from Zingerman’s Deli (sorry, I ate the brownies). Ms. Mamma sent some of her beautiful photos. Heather Anne sent her a copy of one of her favorite books, “The Tale of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo. Pearl sent a lovely notepad. Question Girl is putting Sophia’s name on her shirt when she walks for a cure. Jane Poe sent a tiny Chinese gong so Sophia can “ring me” from the bedroom during her recovery (that one I’m sure will get the most use!).

One little gift was very special because it came with a beautiful story. The gift is a bracelet sent from Tamarika in Philadelphia. With her permission, I’m just going to give you her words:

Dear Sophia,

Last July I had a breast cancer scare. Tom was away all of the summer and I hardly know anyone in Philadelphia. Needless to say — it was hell! One day I met a woman (too long a story for here) and we got to talking. I told her about my fears. She makes jewelry. At the end of our conversation, she gave me this bracelet she had made. She murmured something about crystals, energy, spiritual power. I put it on my left wrist and have not taken it off since then — even to shower, sleep, swim — whatever… until this morning. It’s time to pass the goodness of this bracelet — the kindness of my new friend — onto you. I cannot image how you are feeling. But I hope this dear little crystal bracelet might give you a few moments of comfort and support through this difficult time — just as it did for me. I almost feel as if it is my dearest possession. You are in my thoughts.

Love, Tamar

Dear Neil,

You are constantly in my thoughts too. Smiles.

Thanks, all! You lifted our spirits. I’m hoping that the news will be good, and soon Sophia can pass this bracelet to someone else who may need it!

P.S. — Some of you wanted to send Sophia flowers but didn’t want to send it to a P.O.Box. If anyone wants the home address, just email me.

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