Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: February 2009 (page 1 of 2)

Lisa

In my general circle of blogging friends, Lisa is the first one to face a serious illness and not win her battle. Lisa of Clusterfook passed away last night. I was not as close a friend with her as many of you – I never met her in person – but we read each other’s blogs and IM-ed several times.

Lisa was brave enough to share her experiences with us on her blog, particularly her fears and anger. At times, her strong opinions even caused some infighting amongst her friends. No one knew exactly what to do, or the best way to deal with a blogging friend in need. It was all a new chapter in our blogging lives, and for many of us, the online world is better equipped for promoting consumer products than healing.

Lisa’s illness was messy, which made it uniquely honest — the anger, the frustration, the confusion, all mixed into the stew with the concern and love. And we all know the truth — the longer we stay online and blog, the more personal tragedies we will have to face in the lives of our friends. I’m proud of Lisa for not showing us illness in a Hollywood movie manner, with glowing lights surrounding her and the John Tesh music playing. Illness is difficult, and there is always the unanswerable question, “Why me?”

My prayers go to Lisa’s family. And a special thanks to all of Lisa’s special blogging friends, like Karl, who kept her comforted and entertained.

Rest in peace, Lisa. Thank you for being a part of my blogging experience. I am currently reading every single comment you ever wrote on my blog, thinking of you smiling as you typed them on your keyboard.

Big Brains

My brain is so slow today after this mega cold, that I am going to have to slum it here on the blog again today and write something cheap and unnecessary, with no redeeming value to humanity. Unlike the rest of the year.

I picked up an old Glamour magazine in the makeshift “library” we have in our apartment building next to the compactor room. Nicole Kidman is on the front cover. Anne Hathaway is on the back cover – an ad for Lancome’s Magnifique. Neither of these actresses appeals to me, but hey, the magazine is free!

As I perused through the magazine, the article that most caught my attention was “Guys’ Weird New Habits: Why? Why?” In the article, the magazine’s “intrepid” sex reporters answered the questions that women want to know, such as “Why are Guys Getting Waxed There?” “Why are Young Guys Getting Vasectomies?” and “Why are Guys Obsessed with Making Sex Tapes?” Being a guy, I already knew the answers to these questions, so I skipped those, but I was stumped by this one: “Why are Guys so Amused by “Braining”?”

I have never heard of “braining.”

“Men love to play practical jokes one one another – and the latest prank is “braining.” If you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works: A guy falls asleep after drinking. His buddy – the “brainer” – takes out just his testicles. which on their own, resemble a mini brain, and places them next to the snoozer’s face. (The positioning of the big kahuna varies.) Then he points a camera downward, snaps a photo of the spectcle and posts it on his Facebook page!”

Huh? So basically you show everyone you know on Facebook YOUR OWN testicles, and this is a joke you are playing on the sleeping guy?

I do remember in camp, putting a sleeping person’s hand in a bucket of water so the sleeping guy starts feeling the urge to pee, but I don’t remember if this “stunt” ever actually worked.

Men are stupid.

The Housing Market

(the following is written after watching a commercial for a horror movie on TV. I was taking Nyquil)

A young couple is being shown a three bedroom home in Long Island by a realtor.

YOUNG WOMAN: I love it. The kitchen is so cozy. And look, Ben, a breakfast nook.

YOUNG MAN: (to realtor) Are you sure the price is only $150,000. In such a nice neighborhood? Is this a foreclosure?

REALTOR: Oh, no. Absolutely not.

YOUNG WOMAN: It’s the economy, Ben. Housing prices have been going down.

YOUNG MAN: But $150,000?

REALTOR: There are some other factors.

YOUNG MAN: I knew it! It sounded too good to be true. Is there a problem withe the plumbing, because…

REALTOR: No, no, no…I didn’t mean that. It just that before it was renovated in 1965, this house used to be a funeral parlor.

YOUNG MAN: Oh, that’s fine. Isn’t it honey?

YOUNG WOMAN: Absolutely. That’s why the living room is so large. That must be where all the coffins were stored!

REALTOR: Exactly. It’s a beautiful room. Difficult to find wood paneling like that. The first family that lived here after the renovation, the Kensingtons, used to have gala Christmas celebrations in here, with sparkling lights and eggnog, and a beautiful tree.

YOUNG WOMAN: How lovely!

REALTOR: Sadly, the entire family was massacred by a roving band of escaped mental patients.

YOUNG MAN: Hmmm, that doesn’t sound very good…

REALTOR: Oh, don’t worry. The mental patients were captured and returned to the institution.

YOUNG WOMAN: You see, Sweetie. You worry over nothing! (to realtor) Can we see the bedrooms?

REALTOR: Of course.

They climb the creaky stairs to the master bedroom.

REALTOR: Don’t mind the blood stains on the walls. They’ll be cleaned off by next week.

YOUNG MAN: What happened? Why are there so many blood stains?

REALTOR: Well, this is going to sound silly, and rather unimportant, but many years ago, a group of women were burned at the stake as witches on this exact spot, and past owners sometimes complained of ghosts and evil spirts. But I don’t believe in ghosts or evil spirits, do you?

YOUNG WOMAN: Of course not. we’re professionals. We’re both web designers!

YOUNG MAN: You still haven’t explained the blood stains on the walls…

REALTOR: Oh, it’s the last owner. A young guy. A college kid with wealthy parents. He shared the place with some roommates. Lots of girls and drinking and sex, until each was killed in some grisly manner. It was a very odd coincidence.

YOUNG MAN: The owner was killed too?

REALTOR: Oh no, he committed suicide by impaling himself on the kitchen chandelier.

YOUNG MAN: That sounds a little uh, drama queen-ish.

REALTOR: Eh, you know, college kids. Sowing their wild oats. I was pretty wild myself back in Alabama State before I settled down with the little lady. Go Crimsons!

YOUNG MAN: (turning to his wife) Honey, are you sure this is the right house for us?

REALTOR: (pulling an envelope from his pocket) Oh yeah, the last owner left this envelope for “The Next Owner: Must Open Immediately.” But is it really necessary to read the letter? I think this place is perfect for the two of you. Why be bothered by anything right now that will ruin the moment?

YOUNG WOMAN: He’s right, Ben. I love it. So much room. We can have wonderful dinner parties in here with the Axelrods! We can celebrate Rob Axelrod’s early release from prison for that manslaughter charge!

YOUNG MAN: OK, then I guess we are interested!

REALTOR: And the envelope?

YOUNG MAN: Who needs to read it?! Rip it up! Let’s start fresh!

The Young Couple kisses as the realtor starts the paperwork.

Telegram!

message

Strong Wind Blows Over Truck

After deleting my last three posts for various reasons, I needed a way to win my readership back.    While eating my eggs and toast at the Dominican Coffee Shop this morning, I saw this news item on the TV about a truck being blown over on the highway by the wind.   Perfect!  Why write about something that interests people, like the Oscars, when you can write a bad Dr. Seuss-type poem about a truck blowing over on the highway?!

Strong Wind Blows Over Truck

A man, a woman, or even a truck
They all have days that really suck

Cause heavy winds blow all the same
Without a care for height or name

The wind’s a bully, his toy the road
He loves to torment the weighty load

He loves the fiery and noisy crash
The glass a-shattering, the tire slash

The ticking and tocking of the bomb
The tension of the sudden calm

And then the clicking of the timer
The wind’s a movie by Jerry Bruckheimer

Poor, poor truck lying on his side
Middle of highway, nowhere to hide

Like a sleeping baby taking a rest
But maybe, just maybe, it’s for the best

Who drives so fast in the pouring rain?
Only the crazy and those in pain

Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino
Take a break and drink some vino

Visit the waitress in Albuquerque
The one with the smile that’s slightly quirky

Stay the night, don’t walk the line
The wind will fade, the sun with shine

And then you’ll be back on the road
To tell the others of this ode.

Aligning the Planets

I was returning from having a cup of coffee at the McDonald’s across the street when I encountered a white-haired elderly man who lived in my apartment building.  I didn’t remember his name, but I knew him from my youth as the red-haired tenant with ultra-straight posture who would chase the kids from playing Frisbee on the front grassy area.

“You’re ruining the grass,” he would shout.  “Play in the back where you are supposed to!” referring to the concrete slab between the two apartment buildings that created the co-op, a fenced-in area with ground so hard and child-unfriendly that you would scrap your knees if you fell, especially on the broken glass left over from the older kids previous night’s contraband smashed beer bottles.

But time changes, and this tenant now seemed frail and friendly.  Most of the kids playing in the grass had grown up and moved on.  Only I had unceremoniously returned again as an adult.

“You’re Kramer’s son?” he asked.

“Yes.”

The men from my father’s generation, the first group of tenants in this apartment building, always spoke of the offspring in relation to the patriarch.  I am always “Kramer’s son.”  I am never the “real” Kramer.

“We need you,” he said.  “We need a tenth person for a minyan.”

A minyan in Judaism refers to the quorum required for certain religious obligations, such as getting together for a prayer service. The traditional minyan for most cases consists of ten men, which continues to be the position with Orthodox Judaism.   However, Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism accept women in the minyan.  In this case, I assumed this traditional, old-school guy was looking for a tenth MAN.  Some of the older guys prayed together on Friday night in one of the apartments, instead of schlepping to the temple all the way on Main Street.  In order to make this kosher,  they needed ten men.  And tonight, they were one short.

I was about to opt out, because I had hoped to watch an episode of “Flight of the Conchords” on Tivo, but I didn’t speak up fast enough.

“We’re meeting in Apartment 5C.  They’re sitting shiva.”

The mention of the shiva changed everything, and made me feel guilty about saying no.  In Judaism, shiva is the week-long period of grief and mourning for the seven first-degree relatives: father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, and spouse. (Grandparents and grandchildren are not included).  As most regular activity is interrupted, the process of following the shiva ritual is referred to as “sitting shiva.”  Shiva is a part of the customs for bereavement in Judaism.

The group was not only meeting for the Sabbath, but was praying in the apartment of someone bereaved.

I was told to arrive at Apartment 5C at 6PM, and I did.  I entered a crowded living room, a room too small for all ten of us — nine gray-haired, sloppily-dressed men in yarmulkes, and me.   We all looked like we wanted to be elsewhere, but were obligated by religious law to gather.  I recognized the faces of the men, but only knew one of them well, Mr. Weiner, the father of my childhood friend, Barry.

Someone’s husband had died earlier that week.  This was his home.  The widow was in the bedroom.  You could hear her crying.   The grieving son and grand-daughter sat by the piano in the living room, apart from the men. They were not particularly friendly towards us, as if we were a roaming band of gypsies invading their home.    They were probably having this ceremony for the “sake of their mother.”  No one talked, partly because of the solemn occasion, but mostly because the son and grand-daughter seemed like rude assholes.  Couldn’t they at least say hello or “thank you for being with us when you could be home watching “Flight of the Conchords?”

I wasn’t sure who was crying in the bedroom.  I don’t ever remember being in Apartment 5C ever before, although it pretty much looked like every other apartment in the building.    Who was it who died?  Do I know him?  If my mother was here, she would know.   She gossips with everyone in the elevator.  I usually leave the building through the side door so I don’t have to interact with anyone, so I miss all the inside info.

The apartment was not that much different than ours.  There was a couch that once had plastic on it to keep it fresh-looking, and a fake Chagall print on the wall, something the Torah demands of every Jewish household in Queens.

The grand-daughter sat in a director’s chair by the terrace window.  She was in her early twenties.  She looked bored and was staring into space as if she was watching some imaginary movie on her bigscreen TV.  I thought she was dressed inappropriately for the occasion, in a tight T-shirt with cleavage.

“Do you have any prayer books?” asked Mr. Weiner.

The son reached for a pile of black hard-covered books sitting on the piano bench and passed it the grand-daughter.  She dropped one of the books, and bent down to retrieve it.

“My God,” I thought, as I looked down the top of her shirt.  She had the most round and perfect breasts I had ever seen.  I felt like I could spend my life between them.  I was not the only one mesmerized by the sight.  All the men were sitting straighter and looking more youthful, as if they had just had their first true religious experience of the evening.   I think a few of them had the first hard-ons they have had since turning seventy years old.

The grand-daughters amazingly young and full breasts seemed to energize the room, and became the ice-breaker that was needed for the men to start talking with each other.  It was now 6:15 and we were still waiting for some local rabbi, who was going to lead the special service in honor of the deceased.

“Maybe he’s having trouble finding parking in this neighborhood.” said the son, a psychotherapist in New Jersey.  You could tell that he was a snob who looked down on “the old neighborhood” and thought it was over-crowded and unsafe.  “I certainly didn’t want to leave my Lexus in front of McDonalds!”

One of the other men spoke up, a skinny man with pants that were too short.

“Is this Rabbi Greenstein that’s coming here tonight?” he asked.

The son nodded.

“That’s the problem.  Rabbi Greenstein is ALWAYS telling everyone to show up a half hour early so he doesn’t have to wait!  When he says come at 6PM, that means he is coming at 6:30.”

“That’s not nice,” said the grand-daughter, the one and only time I heard her speak the entire night.

Some of the men laughed at her statement about Rabbi Greenstein.  A man named “Ralph,” with glasses and a hearing aide, called this rabbi a jerk.  He gave the son some simple advice.

“Next time there is a death, call Rabbi Goodwin from the “other temple” on Main Street,” he said.

Mr. Weiner, Barry’s father, and a friend of Rabbi Greenstein, disagreed with Ralph.

“Let’s be honest, Ralph.  If Rabbi Greenstein told us to all be here at 6:30, half of us would be walking in at 6:40. so rather than insulting the nice rabbi, I think we should acknowledge him as a clever and intelligent man.   I don’t know about you, but I like that in a rabbi.  You don’t want a dumb rabbi.”

“He has a point,” said the man who initially met me out in the front.  “Say what you want about Obama, but he’s very very smart.  And we need that now in this country.  Would you rather have Bush in office?  Someone dumb?   It’s also good to have a smart rabbi.”

“Bush was good for Israel” said another man, the one conservative in the home.

“Bush was the worst president ever.” said someone Mr. Weiner, and everyone accepted his word, as he was known to read the entire New York Times every morning in the Dominican coffee shop.”

As the men discussed rabbis and Presidents, my mind wandered back to the grand-daughter, and the true land of Milk and Honey calling my name from beneath her shirt.

“How’s your mother doing?” asked Mr. Weiner, bringing me back to reality.

“Good.  Thanks.  Hey, I saw Barry last week.  We took a ride down to see Shea Stadium being dismantled.   He was very sad.   He loved Shea Stadium.”

“How’s the new stadium?”

“It’s OK.  Supposedly it is replica of Ebbett’s Field.”

“Phooey,” said Ralph.  “There is only ONE Ebbett’s Field.  I used to live one block away from Ebbett’s Field.  You could literally hear the crack when Jackie Robinson swung his bat.”

“That’s bullshit.” said the Bush supporter.  “I used to live on Bedford Avenue.  I used to cut school every day to go to the game.  You could not hear the bat swinging.  Maybe you were hearing your mother making gefilte fish in the bathtub!”

The men at laughed at this clever diss.  The party was just getting going, when the clock rang 6:30 and the rabbi showed up at the front door.  The widow came out to join the others.  All of the men got up to greet her.  I stood up as well, out of respect.

I was surprised to see Eleanor, one of the women who played mah jongg with my mother.

“Oh, Neil.  How nice of you to come here,” she said.

“i’m so sorry to hear about this,” I replied.

While I am not terribly close with this woman, she was the first person in the building to know the “real” reason for my return to Queens, after I scolded my mother from keeping my separation a secret out of embarrassment.   I even wrote a post several month ago about Eleanor, and her attempt to revive my marriage by reading her favorite book, “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.”

From October 2008 —

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.”

It was her husband that had passed away a few days ago.  And no, I never read the book again after she suggested it.

I also remember another conversation that I had with her in the Fall while I was taking one of my walks.

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.

Are you saying that Ms. Perfect Breasts is this woman’s 22 year old grand-daughter?!

The rabbi started the prayer service.  He had us face east, towards Jerusalem.  This required that I did a 180 turn, which put the grand-daughter behind me, which was probably for the best.  I was now facing a wall entirely covered by photographs of the family, snapshots of this married couple’s life.   There were fading black and white photos from the old days, Kodachrome shots from the 1970s of their son growing up, his bar mitzvah, his graduation, a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, a vacation in Puerto Rico, the son’s wedding, the birth of the grand-daughter who would one day grow up to have these Godly-blessed ample breasts!

Eleanor had been married for fifty-one years.  What a run!  What memories!

After the service, I thought there might be some food, as is usual in any Jewish event, but it seemed that everyone just wanted to go home to their families.  I said good-bye to the unfriendly son and grand-daughter from New Jersey, taking a quick look down the grand-daughter’s shirt one last time before I left, in case I never had the opportunity ever again.

I went over to Eleanor and gave my condolences.   She seemed so grateful that I came for the service.

“Say hello to your mother for me! ” she said.  “The mah jongg game is not the same without her.”

I tried to think of something clever to say, but I drew a blank.  I am terrible at these moments.  What can you say to someone who just lost their husband of fifty-one years?   I hugged her.

“Have you read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” yet? she asked.

“No,” I said.  “But I will.   And I will think of you and your husband, because the two of you clearly figured out a way to align the planets.”

My Once A Year Jewish Rant

Today, I’m going to take this time to explore some Jewish-related subjects that I’m in the mood to rant about to you, my Jewish and non-Jewish friends.  I’m not sure why it occurred to me to write this today.  Maybe it was the bagels and lox I had for breakfast.

I’m usually much of a ranter.   I don’t have too many hang-ups over religion.   I’m not overly-touchy about Israel.   I don’t see anti-Semitism in every joke.  That would make me hypocritical, especially since I spend a good deal of my day making jokes about Catholics and Mormons.  We all have our own ethnic and religious prides and foibles, and the great thing about America is that we can freely express it.

It’s pretty clear that I am a Jewish guy, right?  So, I think it might be interesting to you to hear what I think about some of the following topics.  And if you disagree with anything I say, don’t be afraid to say it.

1) Merry Christmas – Happy Holidays

christmasandhannukah

Remember me?  The guy who throws the online Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa concert every year?  I like all holidays. Maybe next year, we can throw in a Muslim holiday into the concert mix as well! I’m all for inclusiveness.   However, every year, I find myself in the middle of the same boring argument — should Christians say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays?”  Some are adamant that America is really a “Christian” nation and are upset that outsiders are undermining the sacredness of this three month consumer bonanza we call “Christmas.”  Naturally, the haters always come out to play.  And we all know who are the biggest kvetchers about Christmas, right?  The Jews.  First Jesus, now Christmas.  What spoilers!

Here’s my take.  If you live in a big city were there are many religions and minorities, you should be able to make a big public display of your holiday.  There are plenty of those not celebrating your holiday, so we don’t feel bad.  We go for Chinese food.  Everyone loves Christmas trees.  However, if you live in a small town in mid-America where there is only one Jewish and one Muslim family, it probably would be nice if you went OUT OF YOUR WAY to make the outsiders feel comfortable, which means stop pushing for nativity scenes outside of the public library and city hall!  Who wants to be told “It’s a Christian nation” right to your face? It isn’t polite.

2) Israel and Gaza

gaza

Is God playing a joke on the Jews with Israel?  What a pain in the ass this country is! And have you ever tried to date an Israeli woman.  Talk about tough!  Israel is a tough subject for liberal Jews to talk about in public.  I have no problem with it.  During the recent election, I found it extremely annoying how the McCain campaign was trying to appeal to American Jews by creating “Obama is a Muslim” fear, as if we were a bunch of idiots.  Jews go to college.  We’re not that stupid.  On the other hand, I don’t find much of the progressive community a big fan of Israel, since these good-hearted souls prefer to side with the underdog, and not the American-allied bully.  And who can honestly root for a country that bombs poverty-stricken innocent women and children in their mosques and schools?

So what is a liberal Jew supposed to do?

I’ll never forget when some columnist wrote a post on the BlogHer political site advocating shipping all Jews from Israel to some place in Siberia, which would help defuse the problem in the Middle East, and friends of mine, normally outspoken political women, were protecting this writer, saying, “Well, perhaps it is an issue we should discuss.”  Maybe conservatives are right about liberals being the Jewish people’s worst friends!  My mother went to Boca Raton to escape the cold.  No Jew WANTS to move to Siberia!

Some of my favorite progressive bloggers, especially the ones in Europe, were very angry over the recent fighting in Gaza.  Many Europeans dislike the Israeli government, and think the American media is controlled by the pro-Israeli propaganda machine.  Two bloggers I know wrote pieces demanding that Israel be held for war crimes for the murder of innocent children.  On one of the posts, the word HAMAS was never used once. The scenario in Gaza was presented as “Israeli occupiers vs. people of Gaza.”

“What happened to the real bad guys in the story?” I commented.

Talk about propaganda!  While I was worried that I was losing my liberal credentials by bringing this up, it bugged me that someone could complain about slanted views, and substitute it with another man’s propaganda!   Wasn’t Hamas shipping in increasingly powerful weapons and hiding them in schools and mosques AND purposely endangering innocent victims for their own purposes?   What the hell was Hamas doing (with Iran’s help) by sacrificing their innocents for power and ideology?  Shouldn’t THEY be put up for war crimes?  The deaths of so many innocents is shameful, and it angers me that so many excuse the actions of Hamas as if they a local boy scout troup.

Sometimes I think the best thing for the Palestinians to do is to accept that they lost the endless war and start to figure out a way to live peacefully with their strong victors, like Japan did after World War II. Forget talking about 1948 and 1967.   Much of the Arab world likes to keep the Palestinians angry and in poverty, so they can keep them as a symbolic thorn in Israel’s side, and control their own corrupt governments.  HAMAS needs to accept Israel already, stop throwing bricks at the big bully’s head, and start asking their Arab brothers to help build some nice hotels by the Ocean and trying to really compete with Israel by offering better vacation packages.

But no one progressive would ever say that.

3) Beautiful Barcelona

barcelona

January 27th was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day to remember the victims of the Holocaust.  This date marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

As I mentioned, Europeans were very angry over the recent fighting in Gaza.  And many European cities have large Muslim populations that are a growing political power.  Because the local Barcelona media had run stories comparing the Israeli stance on the situation in the Strip to Nazi atrocities, the Catalunya government called off the city’s public memorial service.  This was to be the only public event marking the day, and was scheduled to take place in Barcelona’s central piazza.

“Marking the Jewish Holocaust while a Palestinian Holocaust is taking place is not right,” a local City official told Barcelona’s La Vanguardia newspaper.

Despite my love for the beautiful city of Barcelona, I found this quite disturbing.   Even if one is upset over Israel’s actions, why exactly is this the fault of those exterminated in Nazi death camps?  They don’t live in Israel.  They’re already dead.  If the Barcelona government was more logical, they would CELEBRATE this occasion, because if these six million would survived, there is a strong chance that THEY would be living in Israel themselves, as well as their children and grand-children, and the Israeli population would be three times as large, and Israel would even have a larger army in which to go into Gaza!  So next year, rather than pooh-poohing the holiday, I say free Tapas in Barcelona for everyone!

4) 1/3 of all Europeans

berniemadoff

A week after the Bernie Madoff scandal broke, I was having coffee with my friend Barry.  We were discussing the amazing hubris of this guy.  How could he pull this off?

“There’s one thing that is cool about this country,” I said.   “Bernie Madoff is clearly Jewish and his victims were wealthy Jews, but Americans never say things like, “Oh, the Jews, they’re always ripping people off.   All they care about is money.”

My friend laughed and said, “In Queens, they don’t, but believe me. they’re are doing it everywhere else.”

Call me naive, but I would assume most of those old stereotypes have died already in a country with an African-American President.  That’s why it is good to have Europe around for some of that old-fashioned anti-Semitism.  Good ol’ Europe — home of the Crusades, the Inquisition, forced conversion, and the Holocaust.  Even when most of the Jews are killed off, it is still the fault of the Jews… especially during economic downturns.   It has to be someone’s fault, right?

The Anti-Defamation League said Tuesday that a survey it commissioned found nearly a third of Europeans polled blame Jews for the global economic meltdown and that a greater number think Jews have too much power in the business world.   In Spain, 74 percent of those asked say they feel that Jews hold too much sway over the global financial markets.  That is the highest percentage in the survey.  Nearly two-thirds of Spanish respondents said Jews were also more loyal to Israel than they were to their home countries.

Did I ever tell you that Sophia and I honeymooned in Spain?  We loved it, except for the fact that it was almost impossible to find anything to eat that wasn’t made from the pig!  Hmmm…

5) Circumcision

bris

Can you believe that until I read this post on Her Bad Mother, I didn’t know that circumcision was such a big issue and that there are many ANGRY over it?!   I know that Americans tend to be circumcised more readily than Europeans (uh-oh, I can feel the American Jewish doctors having a hand in this… more trouble), and that it is considered unnecessary to many.  But what is the big deal?  I say, if you don’t want your son to get circumcized, don’t do it.  Who cares?  I don’t remember any discussion in the locker room between circumcised and uncircumcised men, or any laughing and pointing.  They are just penises.

But the fact is that circumcision is a big deal in Judaism.   It is probably one of the oldest traditions in the book, a symbol of the convenant between God and his people.   Jews have been doing it a long time without much trauma (unless research shows that circumcision is the cause of our neurotic behavior, but how would we then explain the neurotic Jewish women?).

Her Bad Mother’s post was intelligent and well-reasoned about her personal decision not to have her son circumcised, but if you do some googling on the subject, you find some scary stuff, and not just from crazy people, but from seemingly “loving” people who care about their children.   Circumcision is called “primitive” and “barbaric” and “genital mutation.”  It “destroys a man’s sexual pleasure” and “torments” the baby and should be “made illegal!”  WTF are we talking about?  Jack Bauer’s interrogation techniques on “24?”

Even if a person did have these beliefs about circumcision, I would think it impolite to blast a tradition so integral to another religion — in public!  There are all sorts of weird rites and rituals that occur around the world, and we appreciate them as part of some other culture.  Do people really want to make the bris illegal?  Would the same person feel as comfortable saying that wearing a burka should be made illegal?  Can you really compare the bris to female genital mutilation?

The whole issue sort of amused me.   Have you ever been to a bris?  The ceremony is done quickly, and then everyone eats a lot of food.  The only thing barbaric about the event is the amount of cholesterol in traditional Jewish food and the overly-sweet taste of the kosher wine.

Danny told me that he once wrote a post about the Jewish bris on the Huffington Post, and it received so many anti-Semitic comments that they had to remove the post from the Huffington Post.

Here is Danny’s post
, which is on his own blog, Jew Eat Yet.

This was his reaction after taking the post off the Huffington Post. And remember — the Huffington Post readership is a progressive one, believers in freedom of speech and religion.

Last Friday I posted my piece about circumcision which was mostly a family reminiscence based on an old discovered film I saw of my 1959 bris. I added a few comments about the people who oppose circumcision and I adopted an over-the-top and I thought humorous tone of intransigence about Kendall’s ambivalence towards the procedure. When I first saw my post zooming to the “Top Posts” list on Huffington, a way they have to track the most-read pieces, and the comments started pouring in fast and furious, I was excited that my post was generating such controversy. But I was unprepared for the level of hysteria that the “anti-circ” people would unleash, some of it accompanied by blatant anti-Semitism. Never in a million years did I mean to imply that circumcising your male child was the “right” thing to do, I was just sharing my own very personal feelings on the subject, all the while saying that this anti-circumcision group makes some valid points (which I still feel they muck up by resorting to outrageous hyperbole and propaganda).

I thought I had a very tough skin when it came to people sharing opposing views but I am not used to the level of personal attacks I received on the Huffington Post. Here is a sampling:

—Pull your head out of your egotistical Jewish ass.

—Let’s make a movie…at least this time it will have sound to preserve your pompous Jewish pontification (or should I say rabbification?).

—Your wife has a better sense of what a woman wants a penis partner to look like. Unless you’re planning to raise a gay son.

—Would you think the same thing if all male babies had to have their ears cut off at birth? Let’s dress up and make a fucking ritual of it and have a party with covered dishes!

—This last bit of animal sacrifice needs to end no matter the sentimental charm it has over older Jews.

—While you’re at it, Danny, you should really think about having all your children’s fingernails removed. After all, they are unnecessary in the evolutionary sense.

—YOU are the reason there are self-hating Jews, asshole. Your son would have every reason to hate you for being a coward.

—I demand that you CUT YOUR SON’S PENIS YOURSELF. See if THAT brings you closer to God!

—Fascism comes in all forms and degrees…you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

—Is this “mark” kind of like that yellow star the Nazis had all Jews sew on their clothes during WW2? They tried tattoos, too. How did those work out?

—Kendall, don’t damage and risk your child’s life by allowing some idiot to chop off the most sexually pleasurable part of his penis. Chop off that idiot you married instead, and do it before you get pregnant. Find a human being for a father for your children and replace this monster.

—Being Jewish and circumcised is no excuse for the kind of abusive behavior Miller exhibits. Many Jews are humane, decent people. This bozo is a disgrace to the good name of Judaism.

—Circumcising infants is a Satanic blood ritual. That is the only possible explanation for the persistence of this heinous evil. Human beings are not this evil. Only Satan himself is. All children circumcised are severely injured for life.

All I can say is that I am blessed with my friendly readership. You seem to like me, despite my circumcised Jewish talking penis.

Dreaming About Right Field

Valentine’s Day was now over. I went to sleep late. In the middle of the night, I had a dream. At first, it seemed inspirational — maybe about love? taking chances? — and then it turned into a nightmare.

I just got a job with the LA Dodgers farm team in Florida (I think they are in Arizona now, right?), which is pretty good in this bad economy. It was our first game of the season. Tommy Lasorda (!) gave us a rousing speech, saying there was no room for defeat. It was difficult for me not to laugh during his over-the-top statements about the importance of our mission. I was sitting next to a Christine F. from elementary school, who was now an attractive attorney. In fact the whole team consisted of friends from my past, some still twelve years old, and others now grown up.

“Kramer, get in there!’ said Lasorda. “You’re right field.”

I went out onto the baseball field. I was the last one out. Players were throwing baseballs back and forth. The grass was bright green, and the sunshine was bothering my eyes. I had no idea where to go. I was not sure WHICH side was right field. Was it like stage left? Was it the side I was facing, or from the POV of the field facing home plate? I started to panic. Steve W., someone I have not seen since sleepaway camp years ago, was playing first base. He was always a good athlete.

“Neil, take off your winter coat and winter hat. Are you nuts? You can’t play wearing that!”

I woke up with a headache.

Loving Neil #8

I just got off the phone with Sophia.

“Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. What are you doing?” I asked.

“Nothing. You?”

“Nothing.”

I noticed that a few writers online were using Valentine’s Day to participate in Hilly’s Happy Self Love Day, which turns the holiday upside down, so that each person focuses on self-acceptance and self-love rather than buying overpriced flowers for others.

I think it is a great idea, but I’m not going to do it. I don’t like to step on the toes of others who might appreciate the romance of the day. And who knows what the future is going to hold? I might be into the holiday next year! One of my female friends is holding an anti-Valentine’s Day. I can bet you a thousand dollars that she becomes a Valentine’s Day maniac once she meets the right guy. The only true anti-Valentiners are those who remain aloof from the stuffed bears who play “Love Me Tender” when you press their tummies and the corny Hallmark cards — both during the lean years AND the fruitful years, relationships be damned, and very few of us have that fortitude. So, I say, go ahead, enjoy Valentine’s Day! Next February 14th, I hope I can join you in spreading the love to others!

Long time readers of this blog will remember the fun we had two years ago, during the Valentine’s Day Emergency Hotline, in which we took turns “standing by” on IM 24/7 in case someone needed some virtual loving. We could probably update the whole concept now, and do it on Twitter. Maybe next year. Hopefully, by then, no one will need it. We all will be in LOVE and perfectly happy.

Every self-help book in the world always gives the same cliched advice — you have to love yourself first. So, maybe Hilly’s Happy Self Love Day is a more fruitful Valentine’s Day exercise than patting the lovelorn on the back and saying that everything will be all right.

Do I love Neil? I suppose I do. I spend a lot of time with him. He doesn’t bore me. He likes the same TV shows that I do. We agree on most things. But what distinguishes this Neil from the countless other Neils out there in the world? Do I love this Neil more than any other?

There is a blogger in Glasgow named Neil, who is also trying to find himself as a Neil.

“I am not althogether comfortable in my own name… Neil doesn’t quite fits with me. I try to embrace it, I acknowledge that I am probably stuck with it, but a part of me can never quite embody it.

Partly this is to do with association. I couldn’t identify with the other person at school who was called Neil (not Neil Spencer, not old Speggy!) and didn’t have any public figure who impressed me much. But maybe that has changed in the last twenty years. So I thought it might be interesting to have a look at Google’s top Neils to see what they say about the name.”

Neil Gaiman, Neil Armstrong, Neil Young, Neil Diamond… and then there I was, one notch above Neil Patrick Harris —

#8 — Neil Kramer – A blogger who, from my cursory examination, seems to be very into blogging for the sake of blogging. Rather like this then.

I was one of the Neils. How did this guy in Glasgow feel about this? Who did he think I was? Did my appearance on his list change his opinion of his Neil name? I don’t know if it helped him, but it certainly made me feel good. How can I not love a Neil… especially the #8 Neil on Google, maybe not a Neil Diamond, but a Neil diamond-in-the-rough? So, thank you, Neil of Glasgow, from Neil of New York. And on Valentine’s Day, I will accept that in lieu of any candy.

I hope those who have romantic stuff planned for tomorrow night, get lucky. Happy Valentine’s Day! And try to love yourself as well.

Grace in Small Things: Part 1

1. I healed myself back to health without depending on the goodness of a woman.

2) I’ve been splurging on myself with the iphone, the trip to Chicago, and the more expensive ice cream at the supermarket.

3) My Mead Composition books. Not sure why I love them so much. Maybe the connection to childhood.

4) That Schmutzie is going to laugh when she sees that I finally did one of these Grace in Small Things, and that makes me laugh.

5) Peeing in the shower this morning, just because I could.

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