Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: August 2009 (page 1 of 2)

World of Tomorrow

I would love to travel back in time to the World of Tomorrow exhibit at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park. During this famous fair, the most popular exhibit was the Futurama at the General Motors pavilion. Futurama was a massive, 36,000 square-foot scale model of America in 1960, complete with futuristic homes, urban complexes, bridges, dams, surrounding landscape, and, most important, an advanced highway system which permitted speeds of 100 miles per hour.

If I traveled back in time, I imagine meeting some young boy, maybe from Brooklyn, jauntily wearing a baseball cap to the side, visiting the fair with his parents, dreaming of the amazing future in store for him. He would not know that this world seen in front of him in the model would never come to exist in 1960, or ever. This boy from Brooklyn would have little knowledge of Germany or Japan, or realize, that by next year, our country would be involved in a war. A barbaric war that was completely at odds with the positive, hopeful, advanced futuristic vision shown in the scale model in the GM pavilion.

I would not tell this boy the truth about his future. I would not want to ruin his wonderment. I would not want to tell any visitor to the World of Tomorrow that I am from the future, and I know that this vision of the future is dead on arrival. Inspiration is important, even if it overly idealistic. Who knows where this inspiration would later lead this boy? The space program fizzled out, but how many of us were inspired to be astronauts and see the universe, like Captain Kirk? Or live in a world like The Jetsons? Perhaps if more boys and girls had attended this Futurama exhibit in 1939, and took it seriously enough, this fantasy world would have been created in reality during the next generation.

Am I alone in viewing the internet as a modern marvel, or am I as naive and misguided as the boy at the World’s Fair of 1939? Most of us have started to take the internet for granted, just like we have done with television.

A few years after the World’s Fair, this boy, now a young man, probably bought his first television. Television was once a wonder. Images and voices broadcast into people’s homes! Neighbors would gather together to watch “I Love Lucy.” Now, we all have big screen TVs and hundreds of channels, and most of the content on TV is the same. In a very real way, television was a disappointment. Is the internet already as un-interesting as television? How quickly anything that changes our perception of the world becomes mostly about porn and selling ringtones!

As a writer, blogging a godsend. It is groundbreaking to be able to publish your own material and have others read it, even if you write nonsense, even if you have three readers. Sure, most of us don’t make a penny, but in the past, you had to prove yourself (or know someone) before you could be heard by anyone in the world. Now, that isn’t the case — for better or for worse. I know many of us crave to be known as “real” writers, but that is immaterial to the technological marvel right in front of us. The fact that we argue about who we follow on Twitter, and Integrity badges, and “best” mommyblogger lists, and advertising revenue, and which blogger is writing a book, doesn’t matter in the long run. We will always fight and complain, because it is human nature. The Israelites were kvetching five minutes after seeing God give Moses the Ten Commandments! (Who’s in charge? Why is he boss? Let’s build a golden calf and sell it to the highest bidder?)

We are also in the middle of a historic event as huge as the invention of the printing press. The internet is like an expanding star, growing at a rate faster and farther than any of can imagine, with the potential to break down barriers that have existed for centuries. I wanted to remind myself of that today. The online experience is not just about how we can exploit it to personal gain. It is force bigger than each of individually. It is changing the world, a place where writing, television, radio, journalism, consumerism, and sexting all converge!

Today, I received a blog comment from someone in Germany. I flirted on Twitter with a woman in the UK. I emailed someone in Wisconsin. I IM-ed with Sophia in California. I went on Skype on my iPhone and talked to someone’s computer in Nashville. I read a blog post written by someone living in a small town in Canada, and then I sent her a comment. I read the NY Times. I ordered sneakers online. And this was all in one hour’s time!

That is amazing!

Email from Roselyn in a Hong Kong Hospital

(An actual email I received today.  I’m sure you have received the same types of email.  Even though I know they are horribly manipulative, I always read them for the crazy stories.)

Dearest Love One,

I am Mrs Roselyn Kopaya, i am a 56 years old woman and a citizen of Romania. But i am a resident in Hong Kong through my late husband who was an hong kong man.

I was born an orphan and GOD blessed me abundantly with riches but no children.  And i am not a happy woman because, i have no husband and children.  As at now, i am seriously sick, i just came out from hospital back to my home.  I am suffering.  I can no longer talk and half of my body is paralysed.  The doctor say i have about two months to live. I send this email to you with the help of my private female nurse who is typing my request.  I have little time so, i have committed myself in spreading my wealth towards better health care for mankind in the hospital where i am, i have given the hospital management us$15 millions to upgrade and build a new research facility.   I have also made some cash donations to orphanage children in somalia, ethiopian, sudan and some in south africa.  I have succeded in spreading my liquid cash towards well deserved means.  My soul is happy.  What i am doing gives me joy.  I am now sharing my properties and valuables.

Morever, i dont know you but i am contacting you with the hope that, you will be able to carry out my wish for the sake of humanity.  I have the sum of us $15.6 million given to me by my late chinese husband.  The funds is deposited in a financial house. I want you to take custody of the funds and use it to build and operate orphanage house in your country or you can look for someone to operate it, if you are unable to operate it.   You will name the orphanage house Mrs Roselyn Kopaya Orphanage house.  You must follow my wish for it will gladen my heart.   If you are ready to do this and carry out my wish, then send me then informatrions below:

[1]Your Names,
[2]Your Phone And Fax Numbers,
[3]Your Residental Address,

My Lawyer will be in contact with you. May GOD guide us.

Send your reply along with your personal details only to this email

I await your reply.

My warm greetings
Mrs Roselyn Kopaya

my reply:

Dear Mrs. Roselyn Kopaya,

Thank you so much for thinking of me during your final days.  You are an inspiration to us all.  Surely this $15.6 million will go a long way in helping other orphans and further your legacy of good will towards humanity.

Let me be perfectly frank with you about my intitial intentions.  When I first read this email, my first instinct was completely selfish.   “Why not lie to this woman?” I asked myself, “I could tell her that I would follow her wishes of starting an orphanage, but then blow the millions of dollars on myself, using it for hedonistic activities.”

And then I thought about your uplifting story.  A poor orphan from a small town in Romania, who through hard work and dedication, grew into a successful and powerful businesswoman woman, who started a new life for herself in Hong Kong, finding true love with a caring and brilliant Chinese man.  You have experienced so much, and you still want to help others, despite the crippling illness that has stricken you at such a young age.

How could I take that money now?  I would be heartless.  This email has made me into a better man.  A better human being.   I would love to take this money to follow your wishes of starting this orphanage, but am I really the right person for this endeavor?  I am a lowly blogger, a writer, a wordsmith, without much experience in real-life business enterprises.  I would have no knowledge of starting an orphanage, or even know who to contact as associates to help me with the work.  Perhaps some of my blogging friends will be better suited for this honorable enterprise.  Enclosed are the names, phone numbers, and addresses of some other good-hearted bloggers, which I copied off of Facebook.

I sincerely you find the perfect custodian for your project.   God speed!

My warm greetings,
Neilochka

The Wealthiest Man in Town

shtetl
(Mayer Kirshenblatt’s “Purim Play: The Krakow Wedding”)

(translated from the Yiddish by Neil Kramer — ok, not really)

The wealthiest man in town went to the village Rabbi and said, “All my life, I worked hard. I have become rich and successful. But now everyone in town feels jealous of me, and I feel like a stranger in my own village.  What should I do?”

The Rabbi pondered this question, like Rabbis tend to do, and then replied, “You need to convince the others, that despite your great wealth, you are the the same as they are, a man of flesh and blood, a man who laughs and cries.”

The wealthiest man in town nodded, understanding the Rabbi’s wisdom.

So, on Shabbos, the wealthiest man in town went to the home of the poorest family in the village and shared their humble Sabbath dinner.  He ate their radishes and bread.  He shared stories, and he laughed and he cried, and after the meal, he announced, “I am just like you,” and then he called his horse and carriage to take him back to his palatial  home on the hill.

The next day, the wealthiest man in town returned to the Rabbi and said the plan was as unsuccessful as getting a donkey to carry a bucket of water with his teeth.  The minute he returned to his home on the hill, everyone hated him again.  Not one person in town believed that he was “just like them.”

The Rabbi stroked his beard and thought and thought, analyzing the situation.  Finallly, he spoke.  “I think our villagers are a insecure bunch with self-esteem issues,” he said.  “Rather than telling others that you are “just like them,” which doesn’t impress them, since they don’t think very highly of themselves anyway, it is better if you say “You are just like me,” so that they will feel ennobled and inspired that you — the wealthiest man in town — see them as equals.

So, that Shabbos, the wealthiest man in town invited as many villagers as could fit into his dining room and offered them a grand feast of duck and beef and exotic vegetables, all brought in from Prague, served on his best Polish dishware.  After the meal, he toasted the group with a glass of wine and said, “You are just like me,” and then the villagers returned home, on foot, down the hill, along the dusty, rocky road, their faces souring like Kosher pickles with each step closer to their dingy village.

The next morning, the Rabbi was already stroking his beard when the wealthiest man in town arrived at the shul.   The Rabbi had already heard the not-so-favorable gossip about his grand announcement of, “You are just like me,” which was as pleasing to the town as the off-key singing voice of the butcher’s wife, who could sometimes be heard warbling Yiddish lullabies as she chased the chickens in the yard before they were killed.

The wealthiest man in town was desperate, and Rabbi was determined to find the answer.  “This appears to be a problem that even King Solomon would struggle with in solving.” he said as he opened the Talmud.  “The villagers were offended when you said, “I am just like you.”  And they were insulted when you said, “You are just like me.”  Perhaps the only solution is NOT to make any announcements at all.  True?”

The wealthiest man in town nodded, and left the rabbi, but in all honesty, he was dumbfounded by the Rabbi’s vague wisdom, but since he was the only Rabbi in town, the wealthiest man in town was stuck with his advice, and figured he better follow it.

So, on Shabbos, the wealthiest man in town suggested that the entire village throw a dinner in the center of town, with each family bringing a dish of their choice.  It was a beautiful sunset and as the darkness covered the sky like a warm blanket, the stars opened their eyes and flickered like candles.   The villagers dined on the large selection of food, from simple beans to expensive fish, which was all spread on one enormous table covered in a pearl white cloth, and the wealthiest man in town ate and drank and danced and flirted and prayed with all of the others until the next morning, and never once did he say, “I am like you” or “You are like me,” and for the first time in years, he felt like he was part of the village, and they accepted him.

Wood-Grained Turntable

I was reading your writing, listening to the pain in your voices, and then, finally, I heard mine. It was faint at first, but as I moved closer, exploring my own sensation, the impact of my unsteady step caused a screech, the sound of an imaginary LP album skipping on an old wood-grained turntable of the 1970’s, jolting my eardrum. I twisted the knob in my head to the left, and turned the volume down, back to faint. It was better that way, I thought, not hearing this secret, painful message, embedded in the groove of the record, like the infamous “Paul is Dead” that Barry’s sister said you can only hear if you play a Beatles album backwards. All night, the air-conditioner blew on me, the icy breathe of a spiteful Nordic God, and I hummed to myself, avoiding any thought about my marriage.

Finding My Tribe

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Leaving The House

F You, Blogosphere! F You Twitter! F You BlogHer! F You Blogging Badges! F You, Those with One Reader. F You, Those Making Millions From Blogging! F You, Facebook! F You Maggie Dammit! (That’s right, Even You, You All-Around-Good-Person And Talented Writer) No one escapes my wrath this time! No one!

I love you. I hate you. You inspire me. You bore me. You tease me. I tease you.

It’s time for me to leave the house, go into the city and SEE REAL LIFE!

Be back next week.

Ozymandias and PB&J

ozymandias

I’m not a particular religious or spiritual person, but I do notice connections between events, people, and ideas that lead me to believe that there is some unifying force, sort of a Six Degrees of Life.   I usually have no idea what the connections mean, if anything, but I get a calming sense in my body when things make sense in the world, and God isn’t just randomly throwing dice onto the Yahtzee board.

Like many of us, I have reconnected with some old schoolmates on Facebook.  Yesterday morning, I had a brief chat with a girl from elementary school.  Well, when I say “girl,” I still visualize her as one, still with pigtails, when she is really a married attorney with two children.  We joked about this poem we forced to memorize in sixth grade – Ozymandias by Percy Shelley.

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

At the time, it seemed a completely useless exercise in rote learning.  None of us, at that age, had any idea what this boring poem meant, but we were required to stand, one at a time, like in one of those movies about some prep school in England, and recite it out loud.  I remember practicing this stupid poem in front of my mother for hours.

My schoolmate and I were surprised that we still remembered some of the lines, particularly the opening.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

In high school, I encountered this famous poem again in Mrs. Waters’ class.  Now I could better understood the meaning, even if I still didn’t care — about how even the mighty eventually fade into dust, with Ozymandias being another name for Ramesses the Great, Pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt.

Yesterday, during lunch, I took a walk, still laughing about my early morning conversation with an old friend.   When I say “old friend,” I think I liked her a lot more than she liked me, and I used to doodle her name on the back of my notebook and she probably never thought about me, but that’s all in the past now.  I think.

Anyway, as I’m walking along Kissena Boulevard, I passed a parked car.  An couple in their late sixties were putting shopping bags into their trunk from the supermarket.   Hey — the woman was my former kindergarten teacher, now retired!  We chatted, and I told her that I had just spoken to another classmate who was in her class.  We talked about Facebook and email.  My former kindergarten teacher is learning more about the internet herself.

Here’s a photo I took (I know you see more of her chest than her face.  You can read WHATEVER you want into that)

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After my falafel lunch, I encountered some kids returning from private school.   I forgot!  It is mid-August.  It is time for school again for some kids!  I know different schools start earlier and later, depending on the state and whether it is public or private.    But here they were — friendly looking kids with their new notebooks and pencils.

Since I had just eaten lunch, I suddenly had memories of school lunches — of metal lunch boxes promoting  the hottest TV shows (the first example of branding — are there American Idol lunch boxes?  Top Chef?) and the atrocious hot lunches we were served in the school cafeteria, filled with mystery meat and served by what seemed like angry prison guards.  School lunch was a blast, because we were always making fun about the awful nutritional level of the meals, but enjoyed it anyway.

Like many of you, my mother packed a PB&J sandwich almost every day in my lunchbox.  It was the STANDARD.

pbj

When I returned to my computer after lunch, I went on Twitter, with school lunches dancing in my head.  I asked all the mothers online if they still are mostly giving their kids peanut and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  I was surprised by the response — a unanimous cry of “no” — showing how out of it I am regarding children.  While I certainly knew about peanut allergies in kids, I didn’t realize how rampant it is today in the states.  I thought it was McDonald’s just trying not to get sued by separating the peanuts from the ice cream sundae, as told to by their smart lawyers.  But apparently, peanut butter is banned from most schools, like an obscene book.  At first I joked about the extremism of “peanut haters,” but then a few parents told me of the horror stories of their kids just touching a peanut butter jar and getting dangerously sick.

I had no idea this was such a serious matter.  I wonder why peanut allergies have become so rampant nowadays?

But this post is not really about peanut allergies.  It is about connections.  I started the day talking with a classmate about the poem Ozymandias.  We joked about it, much like we did when we learned geometry.  Why do we need to learn this?  What relevance will it ever have in our lives?

Yesterday, it finally had some relevance.   Yesterday, I learned that the KING of school lunches, the PB&J, had fallen from his throne.  Like Ozymandias, Pharoahs, Presidents, Actors, Singers — all of us — never stay King forever…

Yesterday, was a day to connect random events to my school days.  I talked to an old classmate.  I met my old teacher.   And I remembered that school — or something more mysterious — had taught me to connect poetry to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

(This post is dedicated to Dana in honor of her birthday because she loves poetry. She writes at Read Write Poem and My Gorgeous Somewhere)

Badge of Honor

badge

I respect the ideas behind this new idea titled Blogging with Integrity.  I’m fans of the four women behind the concept, and met two of them at BlogHer, so I a bit nervous to talk about it, but as most of my long-time readers know, I always have issues with blog badges, and this one is particularly powerful.   It quickly appeared on the blogs of hundreds of women and got media attention just as BlogHer ended.  I would love to talk about it further in a civilized manner, analyzing the pros and cons, and whether this is the correct approach to the problem.

This is the copy on the BLOG with INTEGRITY webpage:

By displaying the Blog with Integrity badge or signing the pledge, I assert that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is important to me.

I treat others respectfully, attacking ideas and not people. I also welcome respectful disagreement with my own ideas.

I believe in intellectual property rights, providing links, citing sources, and crediting inspiration where appropriate.

I disclose my material relationships, policies and business practices. My readers will know the difference between editorial, advertorial, and advertising, should I choose to have it. If I do sponsored or paid posts, they are clearly marked.

When collaborating with marketers and PR professionals, I handle myself professionally and abide by basic journalistic standards.

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

I own my words. Even if I occasionally have to eat them.

Sounds good and decent.  Who would disagree with that?

What is the real issue here?    Unless I am wrong,  I am guessing this is primarily about the new FTC ethics guidelines, product reviews, and proper disclosure, with the swag-fighting at BlogHer only adding fuel to the fire.   Something must be done to show that bloggers are serious folk!

Are we talking only about mommybloggers?    The press seems to say so —

Now a group of “mommy bloggers” is banding together to promote a group called Blog With Integrity. The self-organised, self-policing group aims to instill a new measure of credibility in the blogosphere by encouraging bloggers to come out and proclaim their incorruptibility. (Financial Times of London)

One of the promoters, Susan Getgood, explains it like this: Blog With Intergity is “a tangible and collective way to express our commitment to a simple code of blogging conduct.”

First off, it would be nice for an issue as big as this one would move beyond the mommyblogging world.    What about daddybloggers?  Are daddybloggers completely honest in their dealings online, while mothers need overseeing?   Why not include a daddy blogger on the “editorial board,” giving a signal to corporations that men will abide by the same rules as women?  This is one of the few issues that I believe should not be segregated by sex.  If we are going to start a blogging union with blogging rules, let’s open it up to everyone.

So, what is the problem?   Everyone wants to create a better relationship between bloggers, the readership of blogs, and the corporations and PR firms who want to sell things.  This badge would be sort of a Blogging Good Housekeeping Seal of approval, announcing to others that this blogger who displays it acts honorably.

Or as my blogging friend Teensygreen says on her blog —

By signing the pledge and putting a button on your blog, you’re aligning yourself with wonderful people who truly care about the content they’re putting out there.

My biggest issue with the words in the pledge are these:

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

I’m pretty honest.  I am being honest right now.  But the very IDEA of pledging to be honest goes so against the grain of everything I believe, that I am rather shocked that more of you don’t have a problem signing this pledge.

As much as I respect the sentiments, I hope this badge doesn’t become too popular.  I would hate to see a two tier system on the blogosphere, where one person displays a badge of integrity, like a preacher carrying the Holy Book for all to see, while the rest of us are branded as lying heathens in Sodom, fucking goats.  Isn’t the logical conclusion — the hope of the promoters — that marketers will notice this badge and work with those displaying it?   Do we really want that to happen?   Ask Sophia’s parents about life in the Soviet Union, when people had to take pledges before getting jobs and apartments.

Am I overreacting?  Probably?  Maybe this is all a clever PR campaign to get some buzz.   But I am taking what is given to me — at face value – and see some problems with it.

Think about what this pledge really means.   When you pimp a book, are you going to say that it was written by your blogging buddy and that you never really got past page one?   Will you stop stumbling your friends on Stumbleupon as a “you scratch my back” gesture and only link to posts of high quality?   We all do disingenuous things online.

I think these women have done a great service to get the ball rolling, so we call all discuss the issue of honesty and integrity online.

I understand the FTC issue and the disclosure issue.  The women who created this badge are funny, creative women.  I just want to play devil’s advocate, so we remember that sometimes the best intentions can have negative consequences.

I blog so I can be creative.   Hopefully, I will win your trust with my actions, not with a pledge.

Change of Fantasy

Hi, dear reader.  Today, I’d like to report a change in my typical male fantasy. You know, the one I have when I’m  sitting in McDonald’s or the supermarket or the subway and think about sex.  I have no idea what this change of fantasy means or why it has occurred in such a juncture of my life.  I seriously doubt that you will understand it, so don’t bother to analyze it unless you have an advanced degree in Neilology.

Let’s begin.  For many year, my male fantasy involved me being on the bottom, and the woman on top.  Why am I on the bottom?  Perhaps it insecurity?  Who knows?  My personal theory is that I am voyeuristic.  When I’m on the bottom during lovemaking, it is like a two-for-one-deal.  Not only do you get to fuck a woman, you get a free Las Vegas show.  The woman is like an exotic dancer.  You can check out her body as she moves.  You can watch her face, her breasts, her stomach.  I like this a lot, even though it means I usually have to wear my glasses during sex.

You also have your hands free. Woo-hoo!  I like to change things up with my hands.  Sometimes I like to grab her ass.  Sometimes, especially if a classical music station is on the radio, I imagine I am conducting the New York Philharmonic in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (The Eroica – get it?) while she rides me.

This male fantasy served me well for many a year. Being on the bottom gave me the ultimate control, and the fantasy woman on top, who could be anyone from my wife, a blogger, a waitress at Denny’s, or Meryl Streep, was always satisfied with the way I took my time, extending the session like a Lakers game in overtime, until she was screaming out my name, along with assorted obscenities and pleas to do it again.

Yeah, those were the days.  Nice fantasies.

But something has changed in my fantasy life since the start of the summer. Is it the economy?  The Obama administration?  I have become more aggressive.  I am no longer conducting music with an imaginary baton in my hands.  I am ripping the clothes off her body, like some vicious gangster with no respect for woman.  Ripping off clothes?  This would make make wife laugh.  After schlepping to Macy’s with her, standing around for hours while she buys a t-shirt, and then paying for it with my Mastercard, the last thing I would ever do is go home and SHRED the t-shirt into tiny bits, reducing it into a designer rag to wipe the dust off of the television.  For me to rip off a woman’s t-shirt would mean a desire, a yearning, to expose her breasts and hungrily bite her nipples in the same way that a vampire needs to suck his victim’s blood.  That is not me.   Or is it?  How did this happen?  Am I angry?  How did I become so selfish in my fantasy life.  Why does she like it?  Why does she raise her knees so I can enter her wetness fully, teasing my cock while we kiss.

What makes this fantasy so odd is that it doesn’t seem violent at all.  We levitate into the air as we fuck, as if we were in outer space, with zero gravity, so the intensity is counter-balanced by the floating, and the anger fades, and we both feel as light as feathers, objects without weight, carefree and beautiful as a warm summer breeze.

Silent Night

When readers — even Sophia — write comments, saying they liked a post, it puts me in the difficult position of deciding what to do next.  I am familiar with the old Yiddish saying —  a man should never try to strike a hot coal twice, or the embers will burn his toes.

Since the last post was about words, I decided to be playful, and write a post about silence.  Aren’t I a clever fool?  Ha Ha Ha, I love blogging.  I can write any shit and at least one person will read it.

Silence.

This post idea had me laughing and laughing and laughing, amusing myself to no end, when it occurred to me that I was making a racket with my guffaws and wheezing (allergy season).  Could I even write a post about silence?

Writing about silence is not an easy task for someone like me.  I come from a long line of talky Jews.  I like the noisy city.  Urban life wraps me like a worn, but comfy blanket.   I do my best writing in crowded public locales where traffic is whizzing by, offbeat horns honking in cacophony.   A few years ago, I stayed a month in a small Vermont hamlet, populations mostly cows.  It was so quiet at night that it FREAKED me out!   Every night, I expected a bear, or serial killer, or monstrous cow to jump out at me from each shadow.  I felt naked in the silence.

Silence.  Page One.

I cleared the couch of random papers and iphone chargers, and stretched out, flat on my back.  My goal was to lie quietly, focusing on the nothingness around me, until I could hear the silence.

It was late at night, so there was little traffic outside.  I could hear a car or two pass by, and a police siren in the distance, probably near the liquor store, but Queens had settled in for the night.  I was alone at home.  The computer was off.  The television was off.  The radio was off.  Usually, when I come home, and I am alone, I flick on one of these electronic objects, just so I will have some company sent my way through the cables of Time Warner.

But now I was alone.  Really alone.  I tried to focus on the quiet, but there was a distraction.  There was a buzzing in the background.  I tried to ignore it, but I could not.  I decided to track it down.  I closed my eyes, using my ears as my compass, and felt my way to the sound.  I ended up in front the Kenmore refrigerator.  Of course.  Despite their advertising it as a “quiet cool” in Sears,  this huge appliance was the noisiest monolith in the apartment.

I unplugged the refrigerator.  Yes, I was so motivated to hear the silence, so loyal to my experiment, that I pushed past my comfort zone and took my food source off her respirator.  And this was not an empty refrigerator.  I had recently gone shopping, and it was bursting with food products — turkey slices, peanut butter, even some expensive Butter Pecan ice cream in the freezer!  I was risking it all for my writing.  I was Blogging with Integrity!

I returned to the living room couch and assumed my position.  I closed my eyes, and prepared for the silence.  Any moment, and I would be a Buddhist monk, a Zen Master, a Kabbalist, at one with the nothingness in the world.

But silence does not come easy.  The brain does not fucking stay quiet.

“The ice cream is melting!” said my nagging mind.  “The milk is getting sour.  What if the refrigerator doesn’t turn on again?  What kind of idiot turns off the refrigerator to listen to the silence?”

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” I screamed.  “I can’t hear the silence.”

But it was hopeless.  I gave a walk of shame into the kitchen, and re-plugged the refrigerator into the wall.  The familiar hum of the Kenmore returned and it relaxed me.   I never had noticed this sound before, but now I considered it a friend, as if we were neighbors gossiping in the kitchen.  I turned on the TV, radio, and computer, opened the window so I could better hear the distant traffic, took some Butter Pecan ice cream, still mostly frozen, and sat down to write this post.

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