the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Owning My Words

One day I would like to own my words.  Unfortunately, I still rent.

Sure, sometimes I borrow.  Sometimes I even steal.  But mostly it is a month to month payment plan.

Today was a beautiful day in New York.  It was a good day to try to own some words.  I don’t know if you all know this, but in New York City, words like to fly in the summer air, hoping to escape the heat of all the tiny apartments without sufficient air conditioning.  I woke up early, hoping to beat the other word-searchers, and headed to Central Park with my butterfly net.  I was ready to catch some words, wrestle them to the ground if necessary.  Once they were in my possession, I would take them home on the subway, trapping them in a coffee can I brought in a knapsack, and then — tad-ah! — I would finally own my words.  How proud I would be to write a new post, announcing to everyone that the words you are reading are my own true words, copyrighted and trademarked like Google, Disney, and Snapple!

I was tip-toeing near the Central Park boathouse, binoculars at eye-level,  when I encountered a middle-aged couple in the midst of an argument.  They were about 50 feet up ahead.  He had a gray beard and looked like a professor.  She was thin, with the demeanor of a magazine editor.  She looked like Diane Keaton. I tried to eavesdrop on their argument, but couldn’t make out much of the conversation.  They spoke in a calm manner, even during this heated discussion, nothing like the dishes thrown against wall affairs in my own home.  The professor said something about “Martin” and “Connecticut” and “not again.”  He was very animated with his hands.  The magazine editor said, “You’re wrong!” She said it was a sudden energy, with an anger she didn’t even know existed, and she was jolted by her own words, and it was at that moment that I saw the word “wrong” speed away into the muggy air, like a thoroughbred at the Belmont Stakes.  Was the word “wrong” angry?  Was it waiting for this moment of intensity to finally escape the tension building in this woman’s tongue and lips and vocal cords.  I did not wait to learn.  I really didn’t care.  I had work to do.  I was going to capture that word for my own.

I know some of you are members of PETA or humanists who don’t think I should be out in Central Park hunting down words and capturing them like slaves in Egypt, imprisoning them for my own enjoyment, forcing them into hard labor.  I know your type.  Hypocrites!  How much do you pay your own words?  I read your blogs.  Do you give your words medical care?  Or do you just use your words like Walmart uses Chinese children in a Guangdong sweatshop, making sweaters for suburban housewives at discount prices?

Let’s get real.  The world of words is one of finders keepers.  If I can capture a word with my butterfly net, it is none of your freakin’ business.

I raced through the park, and down Fifth Avenue, smashing my elbow into baby strollers, like a swag-crazy mother at the Swiffer party at BlogHer, a predator after my prey.   I wanted that word.

And then with one long off-balanced swoop of the arm, I grabbed the word, entrapping it in my net.  At least.  I now owned a word.

I owned the word “wrong.”

Why are our joys so short-lived?  By the time, I returned to Queens, much of my  enthusiasm had faded.  I had time to think while on that lonely subway ride.  What could I do with one word?  After all, there is not much to write when you only own one word.

Wrong.   Wrong.   Wrong.

It is a little boring, right?

So, I released the word, and off “Wrong” flew, over Valentino’s Pizzeria and into the night sky.

I’m still a renter of words.  One day, I hope to find the right group of words, and make them my own.


  1. Momo Fali

    I don’t know, one word might be okay. It just depends on what it is.

  2. Suebob

    I like this very much, Neil.

  3. kate

    Wonderful. You rent like a master

  4. Becky

    You make me smile. I paid for those words. Now if someone will just pay me …

  5. churchpunkmom

    i. love. this. post.

    seriously. LOVE it.

  6. Julie @ The Mom Slant

    Most of the words I found in New York were obscenities. I think I spent too much time at work and in the subway.

  7. Chris

    The visual I have in my mind is great! You own your words, Neil. You and a few others are lousy with them. You could be the Bill Gates of writers — philanthropic with your abundant words.

  8. Middle-Aged-Woman

    If you have not read Jasper Fforde’s (not misspelled, he’s Welsh) Thursday Next novels, you really should. Literary/humor/detective novels all rolled into one. This post reminds me of his style very much. Clever and graceful all at the same time.

  9. Heather

    Would you mind if I borrowed some of your words? I mean, I guess I could pay you, but.. it might be awhile 😉

  10. jess

    this was really wonderful.


  11. Danielle

    Neil, this is lovely. Perfectly paced, fabulous visuals, and makes me miss NYC.


  12. Sophia

    One of best things you’ve written, Neilochka.

  13. 180/360

    awesome, neil!

  14. headbang8

    It’s still your word. Use it any time you feel the need.

    It may seem like it’s flown away, but it’s just playing in the backyard of your mind.

    One day, that angry “wrong” will burst out of a character’s lips, and it will be, if youl’ pardon the expression, absolutely right.

  15. Heather

    I read this and I think two things: rent control and children’s book. The imagery in this is hysterical.

  16. caron

    You maybe don’t own the words, but, you can lay claim to the style.

  17. AnnieH(the other Annie)

    One word–Fabulous. And yes, I’m on the “Rent-To-Own” plan, behind in my payments:>)

  18. maggie, dammit

    Completely awesome, Neil. I’m with you — let that word go, and you yourself will fly.

  19. Loukia

    Great post… and you are wrong. You know why? You already own the words you write. Your posts are captivating and well-written and make me want to come back for more. So there ya go. Be proud.

  20. Headless Mom


    (God I hate to leave these kind of comments.)

    You are a true story-teller. A Craftsman of words.

  21. Corina

    Wonderful imagery. I have often said that writers need to try on others words and wear them as their own to find their own voice. I think that you may have conquered that hump though. Wait. That sounded a little dirty.

  22. slouchy

    You certainly owned THESE words.

  23. momtrolfreak

    I will gladly pay you Tuesday for the word “hamburger” today.
    (nice blogher reference, BTW) 😉

  24. alejna

    I love it!

    (I was going to try to use a creative word, but my account is running low.)

  25. Nat

    “Like a swag-crazy mother at the Swiffer party at BlogHer” – you may rent words but you OWN this simile!

    Love this post.

  26. Twenty Four At Heart

    I wish I hadn’t drank so much vodka right before I read this! Are you trying to make me think when I’m in Hawaii and vacationing? This is beautiful and lyrical. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will also re-read it tomorrow without vodka in my brain.

  27. Mik

    Great post, I rent my words from the drunken kilt wearing Scotsman who lives behind a dumpster, although I guess I’m overdue on paying.

  28. Susannah

    such beautiful words, Neil

  29. better safe than sorry


  30. Caitlinator

    This was great. Reminded me a bit of Scott’s writing, over at Caveat Emptor. Playful, insightful, and honest.

  31. pia

    Wonderfully written. Reminded me of Neil Kramer:) The whole concept of renting words not yet owning them is awesome

    Central Park and the Hudson River can make anybody feel glad to be alive

  32. Sarcomical

    you’re so good, Neil. i forget to stop by (not just here…everywhere) but now i’m here and it’s still true. you. are. good.

    but, i just have to know:

    did you at least stop for some of that pizza?

  33. Margaret (Nanny Goats)

    If I were you, and sometimes, I like to think that I am, I would consider a Lease-To-Buy option on one full sentence. Then after one year, add an extended warranty that covers two sentences. By the time you retire, you might have a whole paragraph. And THEN think where you’ll be!

  34. Gwen

    I just want to know what’s up with Martin and Connecticut. Is that so …. wrong? (ba dum bum!)

  35. Ren

    Been reading for a while and this is my favorite post of yours so far. Nicely done.

  36. southernfemme

    This is the Neil I first started reading several years ago. Bravo.

  37. Jennifer

    You can’t see me, but I’m giving you a standing ovation over here. Bravo.

Leave a Reply

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

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial