There has been a lot of talk lately about CHANGE. Voting for Obama is for Change. Yom Kippur is this week — a time for change. Fall is about change. The leaves have already started to change colors in New England. Overnight, the dress code went from t-shirts to sweaters.
I need to embrace change. My fear of change is one of my biggest faults. Sophia and I cannot live in limbo-land forever. It is frustrating for both of us. Man cannot live without woman for long. It is one of the few Biblical statements based on fact. Look at Adam. He had the wondrous Garden of Eden and the first human Penis – the prototype – and still it wasn’t enough for him.
“WHAT do I do with it, brainiac?” Adam asked God in a sarcastic tone.
God did not like Adam’s pissy attitude.
“No problem,” said the Big Prankster, ” I will give you a Wo-man! Good luck, sucker!”
Within days of Eve’s arrival, Adam was so pussywhipped that he was doing her bidding.
“Eat this Apple,” said Eve.
“What for?” asked Adam.
Eve removed the fig leaf covering her nakedness.
“F*ck!” said the dumb-as-shit Adam, as he bit the apple. “You always win.”
It is hard being alone. OK, I did tell you about that one sexy email experience that I had a few weeks ago. We did have another encounter after that, but I need her approval before I write about it. But it was more depressing than fun. What’s the point of virtual sex? More frustration?
“Seriously…” I said to nice girl who I don’t really know, “Why would we want to send sexy emails to each other. We live thousands of miles apart. We’re not going to hook up in real life. We don’t even know each other. It’s just going to make us feel lonelier!”
“I love it!” she said. “There is something so sexy about frustration, a fantasy that can never be fulfilled.”
WTF? I could hear God laughing at me, just as he once did with Adam. You wanted Wo-man, you are stuck with her, sucker!
Last night, I watched Now, Voyager, starring Bette Davis, on the Turner Classics channel. This is the famous film where Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes in his mouth and hands over. He does this not once, but about fifteen times in the course of the story. I’ve seen this film many times and always found it a corny, melodramatic girl-flick. But have I officially changed? Have I become an adult who enjoys crap like this? I was completely taken in with the story about marriage, commitment, secret love, and lust. For the first time, I UNDERSTOOD THE STORY! No wonder I am having such a hard time writing a script about two single guys trying to get laid. I’m not that person anymore. I have joined the ranks of adult “complications” where the getting “laid” is not the goal anymore. I’ve already gotten laid, and I know what happens afterwards. It is Wo-man! The apple is never free. They are trouble. Thanks a lot, God!
What was I talking about in this post anyway? Oh right, change. You see, I can’t even stay focused on talking about “change.” I avoid it by chatting about Adam and Eve and Adam’s penis. Let’s get back to the point.
I need to embrace change.
I came to New York to embrace change. But so far, I have failed. All that happened was that I got into another rut, another routine.
For example, every day I take a walk, but it is always the same path, always encountering the exact same individuals.
My Daily Walk by Neil Kramer
I leave my mother’s apartment building. As I step out, I run into Juan, the building’s effective but hated super. Juan works hard for the building and takes great pride in his work, but so much so, that he thinks he owns the place. He treats the tenants — his employers — like shit. He yells at them for walking in the lobby after he washes the floor. God help you if you take a short-cut across the lawn. He sees you with his third eye.
“Get off the grass, you jerk. I just cut it!” he bellows.
In August, I got stuck in the elevator for fifteen minutes. It was an unsettling experience. When he finally “rescued” me, he blamed ME for taking the elevator.
“Kramer, didn’t you know this elevator had a problem? You’re wasting my time! I have work to do.”
“How was I supposed to know that?” I answered, still dizzy. “There’s no sign on the wall.”
“I’ve been telling people all week. You need to listen! Don’t they listen in California, or are you too busy drinking margaritas by the pool with Tom Cruise?”
The “Board of Directors” of the co-op has tried to fire Juan from his job, but he is PART OF THE UNION, which means they have to come up with some legitimate reason to dump him. Unfortunately, he does an excellent job and is a great super. What can they say to the union – that they want to fire him because he is rude and obnoxious? This is New York! The supers have more power than the tenants!
OK, back to my daily walk.
My next encounter is with Eleanor, a retired woman who sits on the benches in the courtyard between the “A” and “B” buildings of the co-op. We live in the “A” building. Eleanor lives in the “B” building. Her husband has been in a wheelchair since his stroke, so the best they can do for getting out of the house is sitting outside, watching everyone walk by. My mother also plays Mah Jongg with her on Tuesday night.
Now my regular readers have read a lot about my mother. You all seem to “love” her. You think she is fun. She is fun. She is also cool enough to read my blog every day. But she is private. She would never keep a blog. When I asked her if everyone at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux had seen the pictures of her retirement party that I had posted, she said no. She revealed to me – for the first time ever — that she never told most of her co-workers about my blog.
“Why not?” I asked. “Because of the cursing? The sex talk?”
“Nah,” she said.
“So, what’s the problem?”
“It is none of their business to know about you and Sophia.”
I learned something new. My mother has not been forthcoming with her some of her friends about our separation.
“Are you ashamed?” I asked.
“No, of course not. You should hear about some of their screwed up kids? Divorced, in rehab, Scientologists… you’re pretty normal in comparison.”
But it bothered me that my mother was hiding the truth, especially with those in the apartment building. But then, I realized – so was I! My mother was right… why does everyone need to know your business?! There are a lot of yentas in my building, always prying for personal information. Whenever I meet one of these yentas in the elevator, I freeze up, knowing that she is going to grill me like an attorney questioning a witness on “Law and Order?”
“How’s your beautiful wife — Sophia?” one yenta asked recently.
“She’s doing fine.”
“Is she in New York with you?”
“No, she’s in LA, working.”
“You’ve been in New York a few months now, haven’t you?”
“You must miss each other.”
“Will she be coming here soon?”
Luckily, I live on the first floor, so my elevator ride is a short one.
“That’s my floor!” I shouted as I jump off.
“Send my regards to your beautiful wife, Sophia!’
There are some days that I take the stairs, just to avoid meeting these yentas.
I eventually convinced my mother to tell her friends at her weekly Mah Jongg game. After all, if they are truly her “friends,” they are not going to mock her or think she did a crappy job as a mother. I am separated. I didn’t rob a bank.
Eleanor, the woman who sits in the back with her husband in the wheel chair, is one of those who knows the real story about why I am in New York. After all, how long can I really be “visiting” for? But good intentions have bad results. Since then, I cannot walk past Eleanor without her calling me over for one of her “helpful” lectures about marriage and relationships.
“I have been married for fifty one years,” she told me a few weeks ago, her husband nodding in the background. “And let me tell you, it hasn’t always been easy. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that I truly understood what marriage is all about… what makes a marriage work. It was all because I read a book. You must read this book. This book changed my life. I don’t know if you ever heard of it, but it is called… “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” Have you read this book?”
I have read this book and thought it was hogwash, so I lied.
“I haven’t read it. But I have heard of it. It is about how men and women are different.”
“Exactly. After reading this book, everything about men and women became clear to me. This book is as important as the Old Testament. Let me give you an example of why. A husband and wife are getting dressed to go to a Temple function. Everyone who’s anyone is going to be there. The husband says, “Let’s get going. We’re going to be late.” The wife is busy putting on her make-up, wanting to look her best. The wife asks, “How do I look?” The husband says, “Fine. Now, let’s go.” And then the wife is upset at her husband for the rest of the night because he said she was looking “fine” and not “beautiful.” “What did I say?” asks the husband. He doesn’t get it. That’s because he is from Mars and she is from Venus. You are from Mars. Your wife is from Venus. Always remember that.”
Frankly, I think a big problem with my marriage is that I’m from Venus and she’s from Mars, but I kept that to myself.
Every day, every time I take my walk, she is sitting on the bench with her husband, waiting for me.
“Did you read the book yet?” she asks.
“I’ll get it this weekend at the library.”
“You must. You are from Mars. She is from Venus. Remember that.”
Only once she did try to be a matchmaker. She has a granddaughter who is interested in television production, a “beautiful redhead” who is having trouble finding a “Jewish man with a good soul.”
“But she’s just 22, so you are too old.” she added at the end.
“No, she’s not,” screamed my Penis, but the muffled sound from inside my pants never reached Eleanor and her hearing aide. Eh, her granddaughter is probably a Wo-man from Venus anyway, which does not bode well for our relationship.
Onward, with my walk.
A few blocks after meeting Eleanor, I pass another apartment complex, one for lower-income tenants. The complex has many buildings, and looks like a typical urban housing project. In front of one of the buildings, I always encounter Charles, a friendly tenant, working on his garden. Charles takes great pride in caring for his flowers. He can be interesting to talk to, but he is also mentally-challenged, so he tends to be long-winded and repetitive, going into the same details about his flowers.
“These are gladiolas,” he would say.
“I water them a lot.”
“Do they need a lot of water?”
“Yes, that’s why I water them a lot. I use the hose, but I have to be careful not to put it too high because then the flowers don’t like it… and the manger says I use too much water… but the flowers like the water… but not too much water…”
Sometimes I speed up as I pass, giving a quick “hello,” making believe I’m in a hurry to catch the bus. I feel like a jerk, but so what… proof that I’m not THAT nice.
As I turn the corner, I enter an area of look-alike garden apartments, townhouses, each with two families. All summer, at the third garden apartment from the corner, sat a little Puerto Rican girl on the lawn, who had set up a table and was selling lemonade for five cents. On the porch, was her grandmother, watching closely. I found this scene very quaint. I don’t remember anyone selling lemonade when I was a child. It seemed very middle-American, like in a Dennis the Menace comic book, not an activity you would see in New York.
For some reason, I always said hello, but never stopped for a drink. I think the main reason was because the grandmother gave me an evil eye whenever I approached. It sucks being a guy nowadays. You can’t even say hello to a little girl without being thought of as a predator. I feared buying a cup of lemonade, thinking the grandmother would send her German Shepherd, who was waiting inside with his black eyes, to attack.
On Friday afternoon, I took my usual walk in the neighborhood. It was the same as every day. I met Juan, the cranky super, Eleanor, the Men are from Mars Yenta, and Charles, the retarded gardener. The sun had come out, giving New York one last gasp of summer before Fall took permanent residence. As I rounded the corner, I noticed that the Puerto Rican girl was still in business. I figured that today would be her last hurrah as the colder weather crept in, and the lemonade lovers went into hibernation.
I thought about my daily walks all summer. Always the same. Same path. Same actions.
“Whatever happened to my commitment to change?” I asked myself.
I decided to break the pattern. No more procrastinating. I was going to start my change NOW. I was going to fight my fears and have myself a lemonade before it was too late. After a summer of passing by the little girl with just a smile, I was going to act. This would have a domino effect on my life, creating changes everywhere as one tile fell, creating a chain reaction in my brain and in my heart.
I stepped onto the lawn and approached the little girl.
“I’ll have a cup of lemonade.” I said.
The grandmother, who was sitting on a rattan chair reading the National Enquirer, put down the paper, and leaned forward, her neck stretching outwards like that of a Bald Eagle.
As the girl poured me some of her lemonade from a plastic Tupperware pitcher into a Dixie cup, I realized that I had been reading the price wrong since day one. It was 50 cents a cup. The cardboard sign was folded, making me think it was just 5 cents . 50 cents for a Dixie cup of lemonade? I thought it was a bit of a rip-off, but maybe I was living in the past. After all, Lucy from the Peanuts used to give Psychiatric Advice for 5 cents. Now, I bet she is $200 an hour!
But I didn’t protest. This cup of lemonade was not to quench my thirst. It was a symbol of change.
The little girl handed me my drink. I handed her two quarters. I had a tremendous urge to make some sort of traditional toast before I drank the elixir from my holy grail, the way I might before drinking wine at a wedding or at a Passover seder. I lifted my glass to the young girl, making sure I kept my distance for the sake of the staring grandmother.
“Thank you sincerely for this fine lemonade.” I said, speaking in a pompous tone, as if I was performing in a Shakespeare play at the Old Globe. “My I just say that this lemonade is extremely important to me today. It is more than a cool drink on a hot day. It is about CHANGE.”
“No change,” the little girl said, angrily. “It is FIFTY cents.”
“I didn’t mean that.” I muttered.
The grandmother stood up, her National Enquirer falling to the ground, her hungry dog appearing behind the screen door of her garden apartment.
“Is there anything wrong, Lizzie?” she asked.
“He paid fifty cents. Now he wants CHANGE!”
“NO CHANGE. NO CHANGE!” yelled the grandmother.
I wanted to explain more, but it was hopeless, and I could already see the dog salivating. I drank my lemonade, and quickly left.
Any adventure requires an obstacle, and here was mine. Just when I made the choice to change, the forces of the status quo were striking back, telling me “NO CHANGE. NO CHANGE!”
Well, screw you, forces of the status quo. Just you wait!