the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Shower Curtain

Blogging has become so popular that all meaning has been lost.  People call themselves “writers,” and ramble on about nothing, as if the minutia of their lives are as important as the big issues of the day, the tragedies that confront us all.

Which brings me to my story of the shower curtain.

It has always bothered me to come home from a trip, and be confronted with the house a mess.  What type of “Welcome Home” greeting is that?  I am always rushing before I leave to somewhere, frantically packing at the last minute, tossing my socks and underwear from the top drawer of my cabinet until they have flown clear across the bedroom, some brave Hanes briefs even hanging upside down from the overhead lamp, as if they are Russian trapeze artists performing in a circus act.

Before I left for Florida a few weeks ago, I promised myself, “This time I am going to CLEAN UP before I leave, so I can return to a nice, pleasant home.”  I did my vacuuming, dusting, and kitchen cleaning, using some new “green” product that promises not to kill any animals.  When I entered the bathroom for my final stop during my cleaning rounds, I realized that I had not cleaned the shower curtain in three months.  The bottom tenth of the curtain was black with mold.

“Shit, that is disgusting!” I said, turning my nose up snobbishly as I spoke to myself in the bathroom mirror, gazing at my own face, which I usually do when I speak to myself in the bathroom.

Now, I know bad economic times means frugality and making do with what you already have, but there was no f**king way I was going to touch the bottom of that shower curtain, even with a sponge in my hand and my entire body covered in a plastic six-foot condom.  I ripped the shower curtain from the hooks and tossed it into the garbage.

The next day, I flew to Florida.

Ten days later, I returned.

I was pleased.  The house was nice, clean, and inviting, just like I had hoped it would be.   I unpacked, undressed, and prepared to take a nice relaxing shower.

I bet you can figure out what happened next.  Exactly!

I walked into the bathroom, looked at my naked body approvingly, which I always do when I see myself in the bathroom mirror, stepped into the bathtub, ready for the warm water to wash away all my problems — when I realized that there was NO SHOWER CURTAIN!

I may be a lot of things, but I am not rude to others.  I COULD have attempted to take a shower without the curtain, but I was worried about the apartment below.   In the past, our downstairs neighbors had complained about leaks in their bathroom when I take a long shower.

I decided to take my first bath in ten years.

Let me just come out and say this publicly — I have nothing against baths.  I enjoy them.  As a child, I did not cry when I was told to take a bath.  Baths were fun.  I would play in the water, imagining I was in some sort of James Bond-like adventure, and I had to rescue some woman from some isolated island.  But at a certain point in my life, most of the bathtubs in the world just became too small for my six foot body.  What is UP with that?  Are most bathtubs made in Asia for petite women?  Or are bathtubs still modeled on the tubs of the 18th Century, when adults were shorter than they are today?  I don’t take baths because it is impossible to take a bath and have my entire body submerged in the water at the same time.  Either I have to keep my knees up, or sit up straight, exposing my chest and back to the cold air coming out of the vent.  Can you imagine how uncomfortable it is to have your waist down heated to a temperature of 80 degrees, while your upper half is stuck in the 50 degree wind?  You can get a cold, or a shiver.  Who needs it?

No shower curtain meant no shower, I had to take a bath.  And I did.  It was not a fun, but I managed, accepting it as something required, like a geometry class in junior high school.   Some people glorify the New York water system.  They say that it is the “water” that makes New York bagels the best.   But there is a dark side to New York water.  It appears cloudy.  When you pour a glass of tap water, sometimes you have to wait a whole minute until the water appears clear.  Taking a bath in cloudy water is depressing.    No man wants to look at his beloved penis, sitting there under the grainy, unclear water, like a long-forgotten ship wreck on the ocean floor.

The bad economy has a role to play in this story.  Until recently, there was a large “National Wholesale Liquidators” a block away from my mother’s apartment building.    Wholesale Liquidators was one of those enormous discount stores that has EVERYTHING and is always crowded with a masses of people speaking a hundred different languages, at least in Queens.  It was a great place to walk around and laugh at the  sheer amount of useless products created in this world.  Last month, the store went out of business.  The enormous store is now a boxy hulk of emptiness, a showcase for latest in the local graffiti artists and pigeon shit.

The Wholesale Liquidators was the only store within three blocks of my mother’s apartment building where I could buy a shower curtain.  Otherwise, I would have to take a bus or train to Kmart, or some similar type of chain, and that would require me to… uh, leave the house.

Some people might call this personality trait as  “laziness,” but I find that an ugly word.   I like to consider myself as “intensely focused on the trivial,” like blogging, or fighting with people on Twitter.    That is my only explanation for living in an apartment without a shower curtain for two weeks.   Every day, I would take another cloudy-water bath in the tub, until it became such a common experience, I developed a routine to wash my body:  first my upper half would be cleaned, and then I would slide up and clean my lower half.  Washing my hair proved awkward, but not impossible.  I would lower my head under the faucet-spout, carefully turning my head from side to side.  It was a difficult operation doing my hair, because if I wasn’t careful, I would end up dunking my face in the dirty water already in the tub, and that was is just as disgusting as the original moldy shower curtain.

Two days ago, I received a call from my mother.  It was March 31st.   Winter was over.  Her three month tour of duty in Boca Raton’s “Century Village” was over.  It was time for her return to the big city.

I was caught off-guard.  The house was a mess again, and I’m sure she wanted to return to a clean house, just the way I did when I came back from Florida.

The pressure was on.  I had one day to clean the house and do the laundry.  I worked my butt off.   I threw away the rancid Chinese take-out food that was in the fridge for two months.    I deleted all the bookmarks to “Librarians Gone Wild” on the desktop in the living room.   The clock was ticking.  My mother was landing at LaGuardia in an hour.   I went to the bathroom to pee, and as I was standing there — yes, you are ahead of me — I saw that there was something missing from the apartment, something that is pretty common for every bathroom to have hanging over the tub.

I saw that there was no shower curtain!

That would not be acceptable.  I did what any normal person does during a time of stress — I went onto Twitter and asked for advice.

“Where can I buy a shower curtain in an hour?”

Someone suggested Duane Reade, but when I called my local pharmacy, the guy on the phone did not seem to know what a shower curtain even was.

“Shower spray?” he asked repeatedly.

I was desperate.  I knew there was a dollar store a few blocks away, and I was reluctant to go there, mostly because everything that I have ever bought at this store has ended up being defective.  I was concerned that a dollar store shower curtain would emit dangerous fumes from the plastic, and poisoning my mother while she takes her first shower is not a very happy “welcome home” gift.   But I had no choice.   Better to have a dollar store shower curtain, than none at all.

I quickly put on my shoes, ready to dash to the dollar store, hoping to save the day, in much the same way that the guy in the movies runs to the airport to stop the girl he loves from flying to London and marrying the other guy, because he knows that  she will be unhappy with me, but instead of running to the airport, it was my mother flying INTO the airport, and I didn’t want to disappoint the woman I loved by her showing up, and seeing her apartment without a shower curtain.

But it was too late.  My phone rang.  It was my mother, calling from a cab as it pulled up in front of the apartment building.

“Can you come down and help me with the luggage?” she asked.

I went downstairs, ready to accept my fate.

As I wheeled the luggage into the bedroom, my mother inspected the house.

“Not perfect, but better than I expected.”

“There’s just one problem.”  I mumbled.  “I know this might sound weird, but we don’t have a shower curtain.”

My body froze, ready for her to ask me the journalistic questions of what, where, how, why, and when?

Instead, she shrugged her shoulders, and opened up the hallway closet.  Folded on top, were three other shower curtains.

“They were on sale a while back,” she said.  “You never know when you might need an extra shower curtain.”

I probably should have saved this post for mother’s day, because this story clearly says everything you need to know about motherhood.


  1. ingrid

    “intensely focused on the trivial” is now my favorite self description. 🙂 awesome post.

  2. SciFi Dad

    Either that, or you just found out your mother is the person to call when you need to dispose of a body.

    Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to.

  3. Peeved Michelle

    I got so sick of moldy shower curtains, I finally just bought a fabric one. Throw it in the washer, hang it back up. Done.

  4. Stacey

    I love this post.

  5. ali

    OF COURSE she had extra shower curtains. every good jewish mother does, Neil…

  6. sizzle

    Your Mom is awesome. And prepared!

    “No man wants to look at his beloved penis, sitting there under the grainy, unclear water, like a long-forgotten ship wreck on the ocean floor.”

    This is a great line.

  7. Finn

    You eked an entire post out of a moldy shower curtain. That’s talent, my friend.

  8. Twenty Four At Heart

    I laughed so many times while reading this … I don’t know if it was really THAT funny or maybe somebody slipped me one of my pain pills while I was at PT today? In either case, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  9. Miguelina

    I love your mom.

  10. Gwen

    Hmmm. I have some extra shower curtains, too. That doesn’t make me a good Jewish mother, but perhaps I can now comfortably spend more time arguing with people on Twitter.

  11. Karen Sugarpants

    You crack me up dude. Great post!

  12. Elaine Kramer

    it was a fabric shower curtain

  13. Rachel

    I love Jewish mothers.

  14. ChurchPunkMom

    I’m only 5’2″ and I can’t be submerged in a tub either.. it sucks man.

    I loved this story, awesome.

  15. brettdl

    Fabric shower curtain? They still make those?

  16. carma

    Yeah, so I fell for your big twitter giveaway announcement. I can’t pass up a guaranteed prize!!
    And thank God I arrived to this blog post about something of substance, not minutia, as I had been expecting. Anyone who can wax poetic about a moldy shower curtain is alright in my book. Oh, and your mom is an absolute gem 🙂

  17. Maria

    I ADORED this story. Thank you.

  18. maggie, dammit

    Completely 100% awesome.

  19. kenju

    I LOVE your mother!! She’s like me.

  20. kenju

    P.S. Next time, go to Century 21.

  21. catnip

    Now I agree that most bloggers aren’t really writers, but you? You are most definitely one. I love this.

  22. Kerry

    If I’d known about this at the start of the two weeks, I would have told you that you can get shower curtains on Amazon. Even the cheap plastic kind.

    But then you wouldn’t have posted this, and that would have been tragic.

  23. Mona Mildew

    when i started reading this i was like “hey, i need to tell him how to easily wash the shower curtain rather than throw it away…” then i got to the bottom. 😛

    but, just in case you ever need to know:
    wash plastic shower curtains and or liners in the washing machine with 1 cup of white vinegar and regular laundry detergent with a few old light colored towels on a regular cycle. re-hang immediately when through. works great!

  24. Neil

    Kenju — You know, I never even heard of Century 21 Department Store until right now. Is it new? Does it have any connection to Century 21 Real Estate?

  25. Neil

    Mona “Mildew” — Still sounds easier just to throw it out, as un-“green” as that sounds.

  26. Kate Hood

    I think that you and my husband share a brain. But scarier thought: I think your mother and I share a brain. I loved this story – best thing I’ve read all week.

  27. threeboys1mommy

    I was really hoping she would ground you.

  28. mamatulip

    A brilliant piece, Neil. I love it – and your mom. She’s crafty.

  29. teahouseblossom

    Whenever my shower curtain gets moldy, I just spray a bunch of Clorox Cleanup on it and walk away. When I come back, it’s totally clean. No touching required. Easy as pie.

  30. gorillabuns

    i have always wondered what men thought of their penis when submerged in water. thanks for the visual.

  31. Otir

    I had read the story in Twitter.

  32. better safe than sorry

    i have extra shower curtains as well, they take up no storage space and i use them for drop cloths when i’m painting.
    welcome back mrs. kramer!

  33. Lola/Laura

    I love this story. I love that your mother matter of factly provided the curtain. It just goes to show you that whatever you (as in we) work yourself up about is not really worth the anxiety.

  34. Chris

    I hadn’t had time until now to sit quietly and enjoy this fully. You are so entertaining, Neil.

    I like, “…gazing at my own face, which I usually do when I speak to myself in the bathroom.” And it’s sister line, “…looked at my naked body approvingly, which I always do when I see myself in the bathroom mirror…”

    This would have been a great mother’s day post, but I bet you have million of them. You should have called your mother upon first discovering the mold. I will use this as a lesson for my own boys.

  35. Hilly

    Wait wait, so I thought the meaning of blogging *was* in the minutiae….some of us don’t want to be writers though, so maybe that is the difference.

  36. Dragon

    Neil, honey, you were missing the best part of baths….the bubbles! You have to have bubbles. You wouldn’t notice any cloudy water and all your parts would be covered. 🙂

  37. John

    The only use I ever have for the Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% coupon that comes in the mail every week – new shower curtain every 4 months. : )

  38. Annie

    Wonderful post. Love your mom.

  39. lizriz

    You can wash a shower curtain in the washing machine on cold.

    Just be sure to hang it back up to dry. 🙂

  40. Musing

    This post is beautiful.

  41. Claire

    A couple months ago, I read a post by a blogger living in Japan and she had a tub that was 4 feet deep! Big in the other dimensions as well if I recall correctly. Now that’s a bath.

  42. lindsey

    omg! you had me at “shower.”

  43. madman

    Is that Murphy’s Law? I always do that, have a chore on my brain that just works itself out somehow.

  44. Venus

    I am laughing at your first paragraph. Did people reflect on the bigger mysteries of the universe on a regular basis in the old days of blogging? But, that is quite a story. I love how calm your mother is in the face of a shower curtain crisis. I guess that’s what makes her a mother.

  45. Curtain Track Systems

    It was really amazing story. You made me laughed in the first place. Because of that story I missed my mom.
    Our Mother is great among the whole wide world.
    Thanks for sharing this story.

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