the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Chase Manhattan


I’m back in New York.    Wow.    Blank page.    Wait, I didn’t mean that as a metaphor for my life.   I meant an actual blank page that I am writing on.  You see, I’m not ready yet to write anything.   But a great man once said, “Just start writing something and the rest will flow.”  He was an asshole, but others accepted his thought as wisdom, so why not? — I am putting on my writer’s cloak, made in the finest shop in London, and will attempt to write something.

My lack of focus with this post is amusing because earlier today, I was on the phone with Amy about our storytelling session at BlogHer, discussing the agenda, particularly what makes a “good” story.  After typing out an outline about  the  fundamental, engraved-in-stone rules of an effective narrative, handed down by storytelling gurus from campfire to campfire, Irish bar to Irish bar, I now sit down and write this piece of crap, which follows none of the precepts of storytelling.  “Where is the drama?” I ask you.   Or you should be asking me.  You’re the dumb one reading this.

The drama is here, of course, but it is internal.   It is locked away in a safety deposit box, behind a steel gate, in the main branch of the Chase Manhattan of my mind.  You’ll notice how I just wrote, “Chase Manhattan.”  That bank is now gone.  It is now repackaged as “Chase,” and it is a conglomerate of several banks that went under during the past year.    Is there anyone who hasn’t had their bank change hands at least three times in the last ten years?

Even though the marketers have renamed the bank Chase, I still call it Chase Manhattan, because I am used to it, and I am stubborn.  It is comforting to grab onto something from the past and keep it from leaving your consciousness, even if it is a struggle at times, like the tugging of the rope to prevents a colorful hot air balloon from taking off from you backyard, while travelers are inside the basket, hoping to make a journey over the Napa Valley, cursing at you and throwing apples and baguettes from their picnic baskets at your head for delaying their trip, thinking you the most selfish individual in the universe.

You want, you need, to keep the status quo, your history, from flying away.  You yearn for it so badly that you ignore the pain, the feeling of the muscles in your biceps ripping apart as you reach for an unobtainable victory in this one-sided  tug-of-war with the elements.  The future is pushing forward, the balloon is taking off, the heat and fire are burning you scalp, but you want one more taste of the past, a cookie that your mother baked, some comfort food.

Chase Manhattan may be long gone, but fuck it; you’re still going to use the old name, just to be spiteful.  Screw you, name changing bitches and harlots of the world.  And you know what, suckers? — even after Pic-N-Save became Big Lots, I still called it Pic-N-Save.  Until this day, I still say Pic-N-Save, whenever I go into the store to buy cheap energy saving light bulbs to brighten my office with off-color light, stubbornly holding onto a disappearing world like the elderly Brooklyn Dodger fan still blabbing about Ebbets Field.  I hate the name Big Lots.  It sounds repulsive.    Like huge pieces of shit.  “I just made a couple of big lots!”  What kind of name is that for a store?  Pic-N-Save was pure elegance!

I know I am sounding like a grouch, but I don’t care.  At some point, every man has to stomp his sneaker onto the ground and say, that’s enough.  Some things are not going to change, and if they are for everyone else, I will just follow my own army into battle, even if it is a useless, bloody war.

But don’t worry about me.  All of my emotions are locked up in the safe in Chase Manhattan.  I’m mellow as yellow, well-read and well-fed.    These dangerous feelings, unsteady emotions with no place to go, will not come out like a stumbling, hungry Yeti to bother you.  They are in a box, behind a metal gate.


  1. Elise

    I so feel you. I just wrote a blog where I kept calling CD’s records, then wrote it’s my generations version of calling a fridge and ice box. You’re much more eloquent though. Also I call it pic-n-save too

  2. headbang8

    Ah, Neil.

    You’ve locked up these feelings. Like the jewels in a Chase Manhattan safe deposit box, you don’t intend to wear them every day. But they are amongst your most precious possessions.

    Break them out. Let them glisten. Enjoy them. If they’re vulgar and showy, big deal. Big emotions always are.

  3. Twenty Four At Heart

    Wow – a lot of anger. I think, from the sound of this post, you need to treat yourself to 3 drunken days at blogher. I know you say you’re not much of a drinker. Sometimes … sometimes a person just needs to let loose though. I think you’re overdue. Also? I think men have a harder time with change than women. Even when change is necessary or positive. At least that’s been my observation.

  4. threeboys1mommy

    Huh, I keep birth certificates, ss cards and an old Portuguese Dollar w/ my maiden name on it in that box. I’ll definitely have to stuff some emotions in there… just as soon as I find the key… wait did you just call me dumb?… Don’t answer that.

  5. jess

    i get it.

  6. Chris Hoke

    It may interest you to know that the song Mellow Yellow was originally thought to be about smoking banana peels to get hight but is now thought to be about a sex toy the same shape and color of a banana.

    Just saying.

  7. sassy

    That was really beautiful writing Neil, beautiful, yet very, very sad.

  8. bri

    I have an ex just like you.

  9. teahouseblossom

    Ugh, I hate Chase. I’ll never bank with them. Never, never, NEVER!

    Welcome back to the Big Apple.

  10. Laura

    Lovely. Even in the anguish, your writing is fun. Did I just say I’m enjoying your anguish? I think I did.

  11. Annika

    I still think of them as Chase Manhattan Bank (all three words, always). But my bank just became Chase and I think of it as a wholly different bank that happens to have part of the same name. Because Chase Manhattan Bank is on Broadway.

  12. Danny

    I think “Chase Manhattan” is much more eloquent. Like you’re chasing Manhattan to find those lost emotions. I hope you take frequent dips into that safety deposit box. As for me, I HATE change but it keeps on coming. Oh, and when you’re in Chicago for BlogHer, and you go to the best department store in the world on State Street, you must call it MARSHALL FIELD’S, not MACY’S (shudder).

  13. AnnieH(the other Annie)

    I’m going to need to read this a few more times to see if something else filters through. Especially the hot air balloon analogy…
    However, I, too, keep the old names for many reasons–some out of laziness, curmudgeonlyness, lack of caring what the hell they call the bank anymore as long as they have not stolen my last damn dime.
    Mostly though, I remember the old names because it’s right to remember. Not just the names, but what has happened during the name changes. “The Man” and the system are counting on us all to forget. It makes the masses much more malleable. I’m not malleable.


    “They are in a box, behind a metal gate.”
    In a bank that doesn’t exist. Shit. We’re all screwed now. Here comes the yeti…

  15. Otir

    Sassy said it all but I am going to repeat it: That was really beautiful writing Neil, beautiful, yet very, very sad.

  16. 180/360

    I agree, very lovely! I can’t think of one instance where I’ve liked the rename better than the original. And seriously, WTF does Big Lots mean?

  17. Tara R.

    That sir, was very eloquent storytelling. Looking forward to your session at BlogHer.

  18. CP

    I think any Jewish New Yorker will always refer to Chase as Chase Manhattan. It just sounds so much more lofty and pristine that way. Good for you for carrying on the tradition! Fight the powers that be, Neil!

  19. gp

    sounds like you can bank on it

  20. floating princess

    I liked Pick n Save and shopped there frequently. After they changed to Big Lots it lost something. I hate the name. It sounds like a place where you buy clothes the size of tents and has circus peanuts, both of which are unappealing.

    My emotional bank looks more like a mason jar. You have much more class with the Chase Manhattan box.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial