the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Ram

When unconditional love fades, it doesn’t melt away like the Wicked Witch after she is splashed with a bucket of water.  It happens slower, in a more painful way.  Like the drip drip drip of Chinese water torture.

I was in the laundromat.  It was Saturday night.  It was quiet except for the sound of the the dryers.  There was one other customer.  He was about 60.  Joe introduced himself.  He said he played the mandolin, and gave me his card.  He lived in some trailer park. 

“You mind if I change the channel?” he asked. 

I shrugged.  In the right corner of the laundromat was a small TV that was playing the Dodger game.  The Dodgers were losing.  Joe turned the channel to one of those “America’s Funniest Home Video” rip-offs.  I hate these shows.  I don’t find kids falling into mud or dogs biting their own tails funny.  Ever.  And I consider myself to have a sense of humor.  Since when is pain, shown out of context, funny?

On the TV, a ram was butting his head into a children’s swing set. The bench swung in an arc and then hit the ram back in the head.  The ram showed no fear.  He pushed to the other side of the swing set, and then rammed his way from the opposite side.  He banged his head a second time.  He was relentless.  He attacked the swing set over and over again, each time with the same result.  I know rams do this naturally, but I was worrying about the animal’s health.  Was he damaging his brain?  Was he trying to forget about something?  About someone?  Was he in and out of love?

The onscreen audience was laughing and cheering.  Joe was cracking up.

“Are you watching this?  Man oh man, this is hilarious!”

I went to fold my laundry.  This stubborn ram doing stupid things to himself was not funny, even if he was deceiving himself into thinking he was being productive.  He was in pain.  Emotional pain.


  1. Anonymous City Girl

    I’m sorry.

  2. TorontoPearl

    (get ready to groan, Neil)
    And what was that ram really thinking?

    “SHOFAR, so good.”

  3. Neil

    That was one bad Jewish joke, Pearl. But I liked it.

  4. Jane

    Really bad, Pearl, but I giggled so I must have liked it, too.

    The ram is, perhaps not coincidentally, the symbol of my astrological sign. Perhaps my headaches have a deeper root cause, like emotional pain. Or people laughing at my emotional pain.

    I wonder if Advil covers that.

  5. Annie

    Hey Neil, I may be a bit slow as I did not get the joke, but am I wrong in thinking that you might need a hug?
    Just in case I am sending you a big
    internet hug right now :-).

  6. Neil

    Annie — during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, they blow the shofar, the ram’s horn, as part of the tradition. Pearl has an odd sense of humor.

  7. chris


  8. Pumpkin

    Boy was I that ram in the relationship with my ex husband.
    I know it sounds cheesy, but it is true that it really will get better. *Hugs*

  9. Neil

    Chris — was that for the post or the shofar joke?

  10. margalit

    All I can think of when I see that photo is ….tikiyah! Truah…. Tikiyah godol.

    I know, sad isn’t it?

    Rams brains don’t rattle in their heads like human brains do. They have protective skulls so they can…RAM… things. I know, it seems horrid but it’s true!

  11. natalie

    nothing. i have nothing. i have been sitting here trying to come up with something to say about this post. it was well written…it was. i don’t usually enjoy laughing at people falling down or stuff like that either. and rams have very hard heads so they can ram things. yeah…i got nothing. of course i am fighting a migraine so i’ll just use that as my excuse for lameness today. maybe it was the minor traffic incident i was in yesterday. maybe that’s why my head hurts. hm…

  12. sassy

    Shikes Neil, I’m just so so sorry for you. Really. I’m going to shut up now.

  13. Mr. Fabulous

    Damn man. This one snuck on me. This past weekend has been all about emotional pain for me. Shit.

  14. Lady Jaye

    I’ve been the ram and I know what you mean about the Chinese water torture. It’s awful and the pain is unreal sometimes you feel like you can’t even breathe. But in time these things lessen and the wounds start to heal. I will thinking of you *HUGS*

  15. Tuck

    But what happened to Joe?

  16. Memarie Lane

    I have to agree with you, and I’m glad I’m not the only one that’s wallowing right now. Yesterday I saw a video on the JibJab site of a couple of men watching a video clip (yes a video of a video, it’s already sad enough) of a model walking down a runway. She’s impossibly thin, and she’s wearing impossibly high platform shoes. She falls twice, wobbling all over the place on the awful shoes, and the men just think it’s hilarious. And I thought it was one of the most depressing things I’d ever seen.

  17. Finn


  18. Backpacking Dad

    Pain. Sorrow. Hurt.

    But a dude running into a pole or a sliding glass door is always funny.


  19. sa_scully

    I’ve never understood people laughing at other people in pain. It goes all the way back to Sesame Street when I was little. Remember the baker who stood at the top of a long staircase with armfulls of cakes he just proudly made? And then he falls and all that hard work is smashed all over his face? That made me cry. I don’t cry at America’s Funniest Home Videos or movies like Home Alone 3, but I don’t seek out to watch them, either.

  20. Yvonne

    I’m sorry Neil about your pain. I think I must be very, very naive – I honestly don’t understand why you and Sophia are separating, because you so obviously still love and respect each other. My partner and I were in counselling last year because we were having a lot of problems, but our counsellor said she always knew we would make it because love and respect was still there. It was a horrible time…I never want to go through it again, but I know that I will if it means we can still be together. I hope your pain eases soon and that you can figure out a way through this very sad time. Hugs.

  21. Jonathon

    If it’s any consolation, that’s how my “career” as a writer feels sometimes too.

  22. greg mills

    The genius of those shows SHOULD be a frank portrayal of the irony of terror and humiliation. Instead , they sublimate it with gooey Art Linklater bullshit.

    I WANT Germany’s Most Disturbing Home Videos.

    Anyway, pay for a service. Laundromats are not places for the heartsick.

  23. Mad William

    The air is full of emotional pain lately. I think it’s time a group blog hug.

  24. Caron

    AFHV – A modern version of gallows humor. A way to cope for some people some times.

    Rams are tough. He may have a scar or two, but they make for interesting stories, as well as a reminder to think twice before taking on another swing set. Why was he near a swingset to begin with?

  25. piglet

    that’s the shitty thing about this type of situation, there is NOTHING one can do to reduce the horrible pain that comes with it.

    the only solace is the knowledge that each day that passes, you are one more day closer to the “other side”.

    my experience has been, for every really crazy, painful situation i’ve been in i always come out on the other side better than i was when i started and then some.

  26. DaveX

    Hey, that shofar bit was my joke from March…

  27. cruisin-mom

    I think you’re in trouble Pearl

  28. Heather B.

    That first paragraph is so true that it hurts.

    And as for the Shofar, my boss had one in his office that one of my coworkers used to blow. Ya know, just to see if he could. He couldn’t of course but we had a lot of free time.

  29. V-Grrrl

    No advice. No comforting words. A big sigh.

    When my parents died, I grieved not just for their personalities and their presence but for the death of *unconditional* love. My life since 1992 has been coming to terms with its absence.

  30. Leslie

    What V-Grrrrl said.


  31. Neil

    Thanks all. I hug you back. A very close hug. Maybe too close. Maybe even inappropriate.

    Melissa — I accidentally deleted your comment because it got stuck in spam. I consider it special now because only I read it.

  32. Kristabella

    Oh man, I think falling is the funniest thing in the world. I don’t know why, but just thinking of someone falling off a curb will send me into a fit of giggles.

  33. sarah

    the mundane details of this made me horribly sad. great post.

  34. gorillabuns

    Yes, we are primal beings, aren’t we?

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