the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: June 2008 (Page 1 of 3)

Buy My Peanut Brittle!

My problem started when I was eleven years old.  Our Hebrew school had a decent basketball team and we made it to the New York State Hebrew School championship in Albany.  As a fundraising stunt, we were supposed to sell boxes of Peanut Brittle to our neighbors in order to pay for transportation.   I hated selling things to other people.  I felt like I was imposing on them.  Chances are, most of neighbors would have bought a box from me, just because they know my parents, and my mother usually bought Girl Scout cookies from their kids.  I just felt guilty asking people to buy things they really didn’t need or want. 

Even then, I was a realist.

“Who in the world REALLY wants a box of peanut brittle?!” I asked myself. “That stuff is nasty and can crack your tooth!”

I sold two boxes.  One to my mother and one to my grandmother.

Fast forward to today.  I’m pretty much the same.  There is no way you could get me to walk around my apartment building and ask neighbors to shell over their hard-earned money for some peanut brittle. 

Rule #1 in therapy.  A person will never overcome his fear until he fights it.

This is where YOU come in.

I would like you to buy some boxes of peanut brittle. 

There is no cost per box because you will never actually get any of this peanut brittle.  It is all theoretical, the aim being that I overcome my fear by asking you to buy it from me. 

Please buy as many boxes as you want.  Buy some for yourself.  Buy for you co-workers.   They also make excellent birthday and wedding gifts for family members.

I am pretty confident that most of you will buy a few boxes of peanut brittle from me.  You seem to be a caring bunch and you realize that this will be a tremendous boost to my self-esteem.  After all, I am in this limbo-land with Sophia and living here with my mother.  I’m not feeling very manly and I really need a BIG BOOST!

Recently, Firefox promoted it’s new Firefox 3 browser by announcing a “Download Day.”  They attempted to create a Guinness Book of World Record for the “most downloaded software” in one day.  I’m not sure they achieved their ultimate goal, but they had 8 million downloads in 24 hours.

Imagine how cool it would be to brag to the women at BlogHer that I am a Guinness Book of World Record Holder!  Talk about a line that will definitely get me laid!

So here’s the deal.  I’m going to show you how much my cojones have grown since I have come to New York.  I don’t want you to simply buy a few imaginary boxes of peanut brittle from me.  I want you to buy SO MANY BOXES OF IMAGINARY PEANUT BRITTLE that I will become the undeniable GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORD HOLDER of selling imaginary peanut brittle in a single 24-hour day!

How many boxes of peanut brittle would you like?

No credit cards accepted for purchases under ten boxes.

Not Playing By The Rules

Important Update: Monday 1:15PM — Before you read any further, I have been reminded by a friendly caller from the Los Angeles area that I have called HER as much as she has called ME, and that this post is completely one-sided.    She is right.   OK, now continue:

Important Update 2:  When Sophia called about the lizard in the garage, she just wanted to tell the story.  She never asked me for advice on how to capture it or to insinuate that I should do anything to help her — other than look on the internet and google “lizards.”

I am going to get in so much trouble for this post, so be nice and don’t take sides.  These are more philosophical questions than anything else.

When a married couple separates and moves 3000 miles away from each other to “get some space,” is it really appropriate for the female party to call twice a day and then get upset if the male party would rather chat with some blogger than play online backgammon with her?

If a man is walking in Manhattan enjoying the sites and he gets a call from his separated wife 3000 miles away that there is a “lizard” in the garage, what the hell is he supposed to do?  Take a flight home to kill it?

If a man buys a webcam at Radio Shack (on sale!) thinking he might “communicate” with his separated wife 3000 miles away on Saturday night, is that wrong?

Other than that, I’m doing pretty good.  I forgot what being with myself all the time was all about.  Well, myself… with my mother cooking dinner.   OK, I know that is hurting my sexy quotient with some of you, so let’s just keep the information about me living here with my mother for the summer very quiet… at least until BlogHer is over.   From now on, I will refer to her as “the older hipster/roommate who was written about in the New Yorker magazine.”

On Saturday night, I went into “the city” and met a group of really cool bloggers — Miss Britt, Karl, NYC Watchdog, Poppy Cedes, Cissa Fireheart, and hellohahanarf, as well as some strange overly-friendly guy we met walking on the street who ended up coming to dinner with us and hitting on both Karl and hellohahanarf!

I always find it so much fun to meet bloggers for the first time.    Sometimes, they are more shy than their online personality.  Other times, it is the complete opposite.  It is always the one who writes the knitting blog who ends up standing on the bar stool, waving her blouse in the air.  Unfortunately, nothing that dramatic happened on Saturday night, other than someone kissing that strange guy we met on the street.   The New York heat was oppressive, so we didn’t want to walk too much (Note to visitors:  come to New York in the fall, spring, and winter.   Avoid the summer!   This is when everyone leaves.)   We ended up in a karaoke bar.  It was a decent place, but the contigent from Florida was insulted that they charged two dollars just to sing a song.

Welcome to New York City!

The 2AM Rapper

special to the New York Times:

Elvis.  The Beatles.  Prince.   In every generation, a new musical artist comes on the scene who so energizes his audience during his straight-from-the-heart performance that whoever was lucky enough to be in attendance is riveted to his every word.  Such was the case last night during the ground-breaking act of rapper Master Crazy Dude on the MTA Queens 23 bus at 2AM.

Using his unique beatbox technique, Master Crazy Dude repeated his raw, intense, lyrics over and over again until everyone on the bus, passengers of all colors and creeds, were united in moving t0 the front of the bus, in fear for their lives.

I may be funny
But I’m no Ben Stiller
I did my time
For being a killer
Parker Lewis… he just can’t Lose
But not when I hit him with a bottle of booze
F**k you!
F**k you!
F**k you!
F**k you everyone on the bus!

The vibrant musical energy of the street is alive in New York City, which makes this the greatest city in the world (just keep it away from the condos on the Upper East Side).

The Wrong Apartment 1H

For the last few days, we’ve had guests in the house — my cousin Alan and his wife, Beth, came in from Cleveland.  I don’t know them well.  I only met them once before, during my bar mitzvah.  Both of them are in their fifties, and former hippies. 

“I’ve been to all three Woodstocks” Alan told me. 

I had no idea that there were three Woodstocks. 

During the last one, Alan camped out near the concert site with a friend.  On the second day of the concert, they decided to take a hike.

“Should we take the tent with us?”  asked his friend.

“Nah.  This is Woodstock, man!” he answered.

When they returned, their tent was stolen and they had to sleep in the van during a rainstorm.

Alan is also an obsessive baseball fan.  His main reason for coming to New York was to attend games at Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium before both teams moved to their new homes.

Alan and Beth are nice enough, but the hippy shtick, which was probably once cute, is now annoying to anyone with a real life.  I hope I don’t sound too anti-family, but you just don’t walk around naked in the morning unless you are VERY close relatives.  And it wasn’t like they were coming here to build homes for the poor… or to even visit us.  They just drove to New York to see some baseball games. 

They also provided bad luck for our New York teams.  Both teams lost.  The Mets lost 11-0.

Ex-hippies may have XM radio nowadays, but they apparently don’t believe in suitcases.  I met my cousins by their car when they pulled in.  Their luggage was in twenty-five shopping bags.  Since they were vegans, three of the shopping bags contained food.  Two of the shopping bags were vitamins.  The rest were clothes.  What a pain in the ass.  It took a half hour to carry everything upstairs.  Alan also brought a guitar.

“Do you play?” I asked.

“No,” he answered.  “But I always wanted to learn.”

I carried the guitar upstairs and it sat unopened in the hallway until I carried it back to the car several days later, when they left.

Alan took a bit interest in me when he saw me in the kitchen with my laptop, and I told him that I was “writing a screenplay.”  He said that he believed in past lives, and that in a past life, he was “a successful New York playwright living in the late 1950’s.”  I told him that even though I am skeptical about “past lives,” I respected his belief.  I didn’t tell him that since he was alive in the late 1950’s, he could not possibly have had a past life as a successful New York playwright in the late 1950’s.  But who needs logic?

I hate to go for the stereotype, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this couple had, at one time in the past, consumed immense quantities of marijuana.  They had the worst sense of direction.  When hey wanted to go somewhere on their own, I gave them explicit instructions printed from MapQuest. 

They want to visit a local bakery.  They walked several miles the wrong way. 

They wanted to visit the Museum of Natural History.  They got lost on the subway and visited “The Museum of Sex” instead.  They loved it!

My apartment complex consists of two buildings.  Although the buildngs look alike, their entrance ways are located on opposite streets.  Each building has a different address, which is clearly printed over the entrance.   I’ve never heard of anyone mistaking one building for the other. 

On the way home from “The Museum of Sex,” Alan and Beth walked into the wrong apartment building.  They took the elevator to the first floor and walked to Apartment 1H, where is our apartment number, although the one in the other building.  Alan and Beth tried to open the front door with the house keys that I gave to him on the first day.  Neither of them could open the door.  They started arguing and jiggling the knob in frustration. 

Suddenly, Mary Fanelli, the tenant of the other Apartment 1H, opened the door, the doorchain still firmly attached, brandishing a steak knife and screaming for the police. 

Alan explained who he was, and luckily, Mary knew my mother from the weekly mah jonng game.

I can’t wait to hear the gossip at the next game.

Bad “Sexy Email” Advice

The internet is one big vat of useless advice given by experts who know sh*t.   You would think a guy could learn something useful from being online.  After all, I don’t just want to spend all my time online reading the sob stories that you call “your blogs.”

Today, I was thinking of something much more important — ways to improve my sex life.  I figured I would do the logical thing: search Google with the phrase “How to Improve Your Sex Life.”  I immediately came across this article titled “How to Improve Your Sex Life with Sexy Emails.” Hmm… sexy emails.  I can do that. I already write a blog.  Maybe I can actually use my writing skills and my English degree for some practical purpose.

So I spent some time lookng over “the six steps to spicing up my sex life by writing sexy emails,” as outlined by the eHow Relationships Editor.

None of it made much sense.

Step 1 –

Identify how you want to improve your sex life with sexy emails.

This is a really dumb step.  Isn’t it obvious?  I hope to improve my sex life with sexy emails by actually have sex with someone.  Duh.

Step 2 –

Meet people in your area by posting personal ads or responding to posts in adult forums.  Start corresponding with people in whom you are interested, moving straight into sexual chat or taking things slowly at first and elevating them as the situation warrants.

Hmm… go straight into the sexual chat OR take things slowly?  Let’s see.  You say I should go on an ADULT FORUM, and then you want me to take things slowly?  How slowly should I go?  I’m on an ADULT FORUM!  I realize I may look desperate by jumping right in with the dirty talk, but should I really be disguising the fact that I am on an ADULT FORUM lookng to chat about sex?

“You mean this isn’t the “Celebrity Circus” Forum?  Whoops!  What is this forum about anyway?  Women who love men with c*ck rings?  How intriguing?!  I never would have guessed.  This is so unlike me to be on this forum.  Are you wearing a bra?”

Step 3 –

Allow the situation time to evolve naturally.  Once you’ve maintained an ongoing correspondence with a partner you like, you can suggest a real-life rendezvous over dinner or drinks.  From there, there’s no telling where things might lead.

From there, there’s no telling where things might lead?  What are you saying…that she may end up stabbing me in the subway station and leaving me for dead?  I don’t want surprises.  I WANT to BE TOLD where this might lead!  I want this to end in SEX.  Period.

Step 4 –

Improve your sex life with an existing partner by using sexy email to explore your desires. Surprise your partner with a sexy note, taking it easy at first until you test the waters out, and pay attention to how your partner replies to your move.  If she’s game, she’ll respond in kind.

This step was an utter failure. I tried it tonight.

Yahoo IM: “Sophia, are you wearing a bra?”

Yahoo IM: “Neilochka, no, I’m not.  Hey, do you want to play a game of online backgammon?”

Step 5 –

Use sexy emails to describe scenes you’d like to play out with your partner or to drop hints about sexual tricks you want to try out.

Scenes?  Tricks?  What are you talking about?  I don’t want to put on a Broadway play or a magic show! I want to have sex.  Sheesh.

Step 6 –

Post ads seeking people to join you and your partner if you’re looking to add some group fun to your sex life.  Then, you and your partner can act as a team to seduce a third (or fourth or fifth) party to take part in your bedroom fun.

Huh?  Five people in one bed?  Is that supposed to be fun?  What size bed do most people have?  I thought five people in one bed was the reason most people escape from third world poverty-stricken regimes?

The internet sucks.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  The Pigeon on the Patio

The Top Ten New York Desserts, According to Me

Today, James Dobson of the Christian-oriented “Focus on the Family” will make a radio address attacking Barack Obama.  The AP was already given an advance copy of the speech.  In it, Dobson hammers Obama’s views of religion, and says the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is trying to govern by the “lowest common denominator of morality,” and calls Obama’s views “a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.”

After reading about this fruitcake reference online, I immediately became hungry.  Even though I’m Jewish, I’ve always enjoyed fruitcake, especially around Christmastime.  I never understand why fruitcake gets such a bad rap.  And how did fruitcake ever get associated with gays?  Gays seem much more “cupcake” than “fruitcake,” except maybe for the guys who work out in West Hollywood, who are definitely “cheesecake.”

As you can see, it is 1:30 in the morning, and I am starving.  I know this is the City that Never Sleeps, but my part of Queens apparently goes to sleep at nine o’clock.   My mother has cookies and ice cream in the fridge, but her desserts are of the no fat, no sugar variety, which for some reason my mother thinks are “healthier.”  Sugar is bad.  Splenda — whatever the hell it is — good for ya.

Being hungry, I wrote this post, about my favorite New York desserts.

Most of these have actually NOTHING to do with New York, except in my imagination, or an association with my childhood.  But it’s my blog, so tough.   People just come here to read the comments, anyway.

In random order:

1)  The Linzer Tart

2)  Drake’s Funny Bones

3)  The Black and White Cookie

4)   The Jelly Donut

5)  The Fancy Cupcake

6) Cannoli

7)  The Nabisco Mallomar

8)  New York Cheesecake

9)  Hamentashen

10)  The Carvel Flying Saucer

What Would Sophia Do?

Is it being in New York, with all the tough-talking characters?  Is it being on my own?  Is it out of necessity?  Whatever the reason, I seem to be growing some balls here in New York. 

I think I can both blame AND praise Sophia.  She has bigger balls than me, so when I am with her in Los Angeles, I pull back.  I even go the other away to counteract her, so the scales are balanced.  But — I have seen how she does it, how she deals with people in an assertive manner, and wins the respect of others.  Who needs therapy?  I can learn from the master!  When I get myself into a situation that requires some cojones, I have a model to look up to.  I can ask myself, “What would Sophia do?”

Yesterday morning, I started my day with breakfast at my local Dominican-owned coffee shop.  I ordered the breakfast special — a cholesterol-laden mess that comes with coffee and orange juice for — $3.99!  It probably wasn’t good for my health, but — $3.99!  After I gulped down my meal, I went to pay.  I had a long subway ride to Coney Island to meet Sarah.  I handed the owner by Mastercard.

“Your bill was $3.99.  There is a $10 minimum on credit cards.”

I suddenly remembered that in these days of credit cards and Metrocards, I didn’t have any cash on me.

“I’m sorry,” I replied.  “I don’t have any cash.”

He pointed to a greasy-looking ATM machine standing by the men’s room.

I told him that I didn’t have my ATYM card.  I was from out of state.  This was true, but even if I did have my card, I wouldn’t want to get the “service charge” from this ATM, conveniently owned by “Giovanni Brothers, Inc.”

“I don’t have my ATM card.” I said.

“You’ll have to buy something or I’m going to have to charge your card ten dollars.”

“Why’s that?”

“Cause they charge me for using the credit card.  The breakfast was only $3.99.  It would be like giving you the meal for free.”

Although I knew this was partly bullshit, I was feeling sympathy for him. He was a hard-working restaurant owner.  He probably didn’t have much money to his name. 

I had a debate with myself.

“Of course, I don’t have any money either, but I bet he doesn’t even have a wii-fit.  And a $3.99 breakfast special IS an amazing deal.  Especially in New York.  Should I just buy a tuna fish sandwich and a diet coke to go?”

I forced my brain to stop kvetching.  Did I call my therapist?  No.  I did something better.  I asked myself, “What would Sophia do?”

“Listen,” I told the owner, “You have two choices.  You can charge my Mastercard the $3.99 or I can walk home — I’m just a few blocks away — and I will bring you back the $3.99.”

He caved in.  He charged my card $3.99, cursing under his breath.

Before I left, I thanked him, apologized, and told him that I will bring cash the next time.  I’m still polite.

At the Mermaid Parade, I met up with Sarah and a few of her friends she knows from Flickr, all of them amazing photographers.  They had come to the event to get some cool shots.  I’m not much of a photographer, but I felt competitive, and tried to impress Sarah with my photos.  As she ran around with her cool camera, I tried to find shots that interested me.  Surprising, most of them ended up being shots of women’s asses.

I came across some girls who were hardly wearing anything at all.  I tried to grab a photo of them surreptitiously, but I ended up chopping their heads off in the frame.

“What would Sophia do?”

I called out to them, like I was a paparazzi  photographing Paris Hilton in Hollywood.”

“Hey, ladies!” I cried out. “You look gorgeous.  Can I take a photo of you?  I love your smiles!”

It worked.  I mean, I’ve done this before a million times with YOU on your blogs and Twitter, but NEVER in real life!”

Women DO respond to flattery in real life TOO!

On the way home from Brooklyn, I took the bus.  It was crowded, so I had to stand with several other passengers.  All of the seats were filled, except for one open window seat.  It was part of a two seater.  The outer seat was occupied by a tough-looking guy, a bald black man wearing intimidating Wesley Snipes sunglasses.  He was sitting with his legs wide open, sending out the non-verbal message that “this seat next to me is NOT available.”

No one dared make a move.

For two bus stops, I thought about the rudeness of this dude.  And why was everyone so scared of him?  Even if this guy was someone who would kill you in the alleyway, the chances are slim that he is going to shoot you, during daylight, in the middle of a crowded city bus?

“What would Sophia do?”

Remember, Sophia is a Republican.  Republicans always get a bad rap for being “racist” and “anti-minority.”  Actually, I’ve never met anyone who treats everyone as equally as Sophia does. She doesn’t resort to stereotypes.  She does not get pushed around by the wealthy in Beverly Hills or the aggressive-looking black guy on the city bus. 

There is no way Sophia would let this asshole get away with taking up two seats.

I adjusted my crotch, and John Wayned over to him.  I could feel the eyes of the other passengers burning a hole in the back of my shirt.  I think they were trying to figure out their next move.  Should they stop me?  Should they pull the emergency cord?  Should they jump out the window, women and children first?

“Excuse me, sir,” I said to him, trying to disarm him with kindness.  “Can I get in there?”

“Oh yeah,” he said in a deep voice, sliding his legs over to allow me in.  “Sorry about that.”

After I sat down, I also had to open my legs a little wider, since I could feel my balls growing.

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