Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: October 2009 (page 1 of 3)

The Mommyblogger’s Demon Child

(first part of story here)

(continuation)

This was the strangest week.  I was depressed lately, rarely leaving the house.  I spent a lot of time in my office, introducing my mother to new technology.  I showed her how to use Firefox on her laptop and how to quick dial on her new phone.  My mother is officially the only one I know in real life who has a Barbra Streisand song as her ringtone.

On Tuesday, I was invited to this party at a hotel in Midtown.  Yes, me — Neil Kramer, who never gets invited anywhere. A group of mommybloggers had started a group website and were having a launch party at the Hilton.  They were arriving from all over the country.  Toshiba sponsored the the party.  The event would be a way for bloggers to socialize, as well as for Toshiba to showcase some of their latest products.

When I first received the invitation, I didn’t want to attend the party.  Would I be accepted by the others?  I had made enemies in the mommyblogging community lately because of some comments I had made on Twitter, accusing them of ruining blogging with all their giveaways and monetization.

My mother convinced me that I should go to the party.  She was worried that I was turning into a hermit and shut-in.  There was another reason I wanted to attend.  I was curious to meet Eleanor.  Eleanor, one of the writers for this new blog, was a single mother from Arkansas.  We had flirted a bit on IM.  She had never been to New York before and was bringing along her daughter, Sarah, for the event.

Despite the rain and the first game of the World Series, the party was a huge success.  I spent most of my time chatting with Eleanor and drinking “dirty martinis.”  I related to Eleanor.  Unlike some of the other mothers, who were unnaturally upbeat, there was a darkness to Eleanor. It felt as if she had “experienced life,” good and bad, and I found her sexy.

Eleanor brought Sarah to the party for an hour, just so she could meet everyone.  I had read so much about Sarah’s on Eleanor’s blog, it was as if I knew her.  She was five years old, with raven hair — the most adorable young girl you’d ever seen.  Sarah and I had a discussion about “My Little Pony,” which apparently was her favorite toy.  Luckily, “My Little Pony” was the giveaway in the latest Happy Meal, and I had just read about it while standing in line at McDonald’s, so I was able to fake my knowledge.  It worked, because I clearly won over this sweet girl!

After Eleanor put Sarah to bed, Eleanor and I continued our conversation in the hotel bar.  She talked about her last relationship.  I talked about Sophia.  When it was time for the bar to close, she invited me upstairs to her hotel room.

“You mean… stay here?” I asked, surprised.

“Will your mother mind?” she asked, laughing.

“Mind?!  She’ll be grateful!  But what about Sarah?”

“I have a two room suite.”  she said. “And she’s fast asleep.”

As anyone who has read my blog, you know I don’t hold back from telling you about my life.  I am an open book.  I would love to report back, in complete detail, about what happened in that New York City hotel room during the next few hours, with the lights of Fifth Avenue sparkling below, but I can hardly remember what occurred, and if I could, it would hardly make logical sense.  I remember her long, thin body, her hard nipples, and her long hair falling on my chest.  I can hear the bed ramming loudly against the wall.  But were those moans of pleasure or pain?

In the morning, I opened my eyes and groaned.  The light was burning my retinas.  I had the worst hangover in my entire life.  The mattress was half off the bed.  I was in bed naked and alone.  There were deep scratches and bruises all over my chest, stomach, and thighs, as if I were attacked by a jaguar.

What happened last night?  And were was Eleanor?  I turned towards the window and saw that I was not alone.  But it wasn’t Eleanor.  It was Sarah, sitting comfortably in the arm chair, her feet crossed, innocently playing with her My Little Pony.  I quickly covered my bruised body with the sheet.

“Uh, hello there, Sarah.  Where’s your mother?”

Sarah rose up, but didn’t speak.  She handed me a letter, written on the hotel stationery.  It was from Eleanor.

Dear Neil,

For the last six years, I have been a mommyblogger, and have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.  I have given seminars at BlogHer, had lunch with both Amalah and Bossy, and I am ALWAYS included in those books which compile blog posts on motherhood.

Lately, I have been disappointed with the direction of the momosphere.  New mothers want to move up the ranks without doing the hard work.  That is why I have decided to quit being a mommyblogger, and re-brand my blog as a fashion blog.  My brief stay in New York has opened my eyes to the world of fashion.  I am bored with Arkansas.  Women are so glamorous in the big city, and I want to be part of this world.  Last night, as we made love, my mind drifted to my career goals.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a fashion blog in Paris?  I could name it “Arkansas Gal Goes to Paris” and it could be about my exploits in the French fashion world.  I definitely could monetize that!

As you can imagine, my daughter will not be an asset to my online business as I re-brand.  As a mommyblogger, she was essential, of course.  I will always appreciate everything she did for me during my early years of blogging.  Most of my readership came from stories about her, starting when I live blogged her birth.  My blog would not have been a success without my weekly photos of Sarah, especially the ones where I dressed her up in funny clothes during Halloween, but I think now is the time for BOTH of us to search for new opportunities.

As Sarah’s mother, I want the best for her.  And that is why I thought about YOU.  Who do I know who could use a child to enhance his reputation with the online community?  You!  Now with a child, you can be a parent blogger like the rest of us.  You can be ONE OF US!

I was shocked and intrigued by the content of this letter. And perhaps Eleanor was right.  Having a daughter would change my online life.   I heard Eleanor’s voice ringing in my head.

“You can be ONE OF US!  ONE OF US!  ONE OF US!  ONE OF US!”

I glanced over at Sarah and she smiled at me, but when I stared into her eyes, I had to avert from her gaze.  I saw something inside her dark eyes that I found troubling, but what?!

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity.  I brought Sarah back to Queens, and my mother was ecstatic.  She had always wanted to be a “grandmother.”  My mother introduced Sarah to the neighbors in the apartment building, bragging about how smart she was, and how she was going to attend Harvard Medical School and make something of herself, unlike her son.

“Success always skips a generation,” she told Muriel, my next door neighbor.

Despite my fears, nothing bad came to pass.  In fact, Sarah had only brought me good luck.  The news of my new “daughter” spread throughout the blogosphere.  Within a day, my readership had tripled, and PR companies were inviting me to free trips to Disney World.

My nights were filled with new and fun parental activities.  I was either baking Tollhouse cookies, playing Candyland, or enjoying the latest show on the Disney channel.  I was happy.

But something changed when I was alone with Sarah.  Twice a week, my mother went to play mah jongg at a neighbor’s apartment.  The minute my mother closed the door behind her, Sarah became more obstinate.

“I don’t want to put away my f**king toys!” she would say to me.

I tried to remain calm, knowing that changing families can be hard on a young child.

“Now, Sarah, in this house, when we finish playing with our toys, like My Little Pony, we put them into our nice toy box.”

“Eat sh*t, you motherf**ker!”

“Now, Sarah. I know the type of language they have on TV nowadays.  I sometimes watch Entourage, too, but it is inappropriate to speak this way to someone older than you.”

“I bet you have a tiny d*ck,” she replied.

I found this entire exchange troubling.  When my mother returned from mah jongg, I told my mother about Sarah’s misbehavior, but when we walked into her bedroom (which used to be MY bedroom), the young girl was sleeping soundly, looking like an angel.

“You must be imagining all of that,” said my mother.  “Sarah is the most perfect child I have ever seen.  Are you jealous because she is getting so much attention from me?”

My mother assured me that I would always be her son, even if she doted on Sarah and treated her like the daughter she always wanted instead of a boy.

“By the way.  Please clean out your closet to make room for all the new clothes that I want to buy Sarah at TJ Maxx,” said my mother.

I went to sleep on the uncomfortable living room couch, the plastic cover sticking to my body.  I felt confused.  Maybe Sarah was just tired from all the excitement.  That would explain her temper tantrums.  She needed time to adjust to her new environment.

The next morning, I woke up.  The head of Sarah’s My Little Pony, cracked off the rest of the body, was sitting on my pillow, in a pool of ketchup.  I could hear Sarah laughing in my her bedroom — in MY old bedroom.  It was not the gentle laugh of an adorable child, but the crazed guffaw of Satan’s offspring.

+++

“You need to bond with her,” said my mother as she made French Toast for breakfast the next morning.  “Then she’ll be your friend.”

“You make the best French Toast in all the world, ma’am,” said Sarah to my mother.  Sarah was sitting at the kitchen table, her hands folded like the teacher’s pet.

“Thank you, sweetie.  You are so nice and polite.  And please… call me Grandmama.”

“OK, Grandmama.  I love you, Grandmama!  One day I will go to Harvard Medical School and make you proud of me!  I will never waste my life on Twitter like Neilochka does!”

My mother suggested that I decorate the house for Halloween with Sarah.

While my mother attended her mah jongg game, I bought a large pumpkin.

“How about we make a Jack O’Lantern together!” I announced cheerfully.

“Yayyyyyy!” Sarah yelled, with youthful enthusiasm.

We went into the kitchen to start the project.  I cut off the top of the pumpkin, and threw out the guck inside.  I gave Sarah a Sharpie so she could draw a “spooky face” on the exterior of the pumpkin.

“This is fun!” she said.

I was glad that we were finally bonding.

I found the sharpest kitchen knife, one that my mother recently bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond with a 20% off coupon, in the utensil drawer, and used it to start carving out the face.  As I worked on our creation, I entertained Sarah by teaching her the words of “The Monster Mash.”

It was at this point that Sarah’s demeanor changed for the worse.

“You cannot sing for sh*t,” she said.

“That is not very nice thing for you to say, Sarah.  It is not polite to criticize someone’s singing.  If you don’t have anything nice to say…”

“Loser!  Dummy!  Fart-face!  Moron!  P*ssy!”

I could tell that words alone were not enough to discipline her.  I was forced to say the most hated statement that any parent could ever speak.

“Sarah, stop that, or I will spank you!”

“You don’t have the guts to spank me, you weenie! I piss on you.”

Sarah started to pee all over the kitchen floor, laughing like a hyena.

“This is unacceptable!” I said.  I kneeled down with a roll of paper towels to wipe the pee.  Being a parent to a child was more work than I ever realized!

As I scrubbed the floor, I decided to have a serious conversation with Sarah about her behavior, but when I turned to my side, she was not there.  I immediately noticed that the knife that I was using to carve the pumpkin was also gone.  Whaaaa…?

I angled my body backwards and there was Sarah, behind me, holding the knife over her head, the florescent light reflecting the  sharpness of the metal blade.

Sarah’s face was blood red as she uttered her mantra —

“I must kill you for your mocking comments about mommybloggers.  I must kill you.  I must kill you because I was brought to this earth to do evil and EVIL I must do!”

This Daughter of Lucifer was about to stab this kitchen knife into me, when the front door opened.  It was my mother, having just finished her game of Mah Jonng at Mildred’s.

“No!” screamed my mother.  “And not with that brand new knife!”

I had heard stories of how human beings can develop super-strength when their adrenaline is pumping.  I read about a father who lifted up a Chevy truck with his bare hands in order to rescue his son trapped underneath.  The parental bond is that strong, and so it was with my mother.  When she saw that I was in danger, she leaped into the sky and knocked the knife out of Sarah’s hand.  Sarah went flying across the linoleum floor.

“F*ck you, Grandmama,” said the angry girl.

“That’s it, young lady.  You’re punished.”

My mother dragged Sarah into the bathroom, where she proceeded to wash her mouth out with a bar of Ivory Soap.  I remember my mother once did this to me because of my “potty mouth,” and it was an experience I would never forget.  However,  Sarah was unrepentant.  She continued to curse at both of us, and her head did a 360 degree turn, which was a clear sign that she was up to no good.

“This child is inhabited by the evil power of Lucifer,” said my mother.  “We need to find an exorcist!”

“Where are we going to find an exorcist in Queens?” I asked.

We both agree that we needed to find a religious figure, a person of education and faith, one equipped to fight this monstrous Beelzebub that was inside this young girl.

The next day, on Halloween, we dragged Sarah over to Beth Israel and requested a meeting with Rabbi Gold.  It seemed natural to first seek counsel from “one of your own.”  Rabbi Gold was new to the temple, a handsome young rabbi, still single, fresh from the rabbinical seminary.  After we told him about our problem, he was honest with us, and said that he had never dealt with the spawn of the devil before.

“Maybe we should call up Father O’Herily at Saint Francis.  He’s probably more experienced.  When Jews get possessed by Satan, they usually don’t come to their rabbi.  They usually go into therapy.”

“Hey there Jew-boy,” teased Sarah.  “You wearing that yarmulke to cover that bald spot?!”

“Sarah, that is so rude!” yelled my mother.

The red-faced rabbi rifled through the Talmud looking for instructions on how to do a exorcism.

“I don’t know if this will work,” said the rabbi when he found the appropriate passage, “But we can try this fifteen century pray written to combat evil.”

Rabbi Gold started reciting the powerful Hebrew text, but Sarah just laughed.

“Going up?” she asked, as if she was an elevator operator, and she lifted the rabbi into the air with her powers, pinning him to the ceiling of the temple.

“Bring him down right now,” scolded my mother.

“Sorry, Grandmama, but maybe Neilochka can keep him company.”

Sarah extended her hand and I zoomed up against the ceiling, landing next to the Rabbi.

With the rabbi and I helpless, this left my mother alone with Sarah, female vs. female.

“What is wrong with you?” asked my mother.  “Why are you so evil?  Who’s ever going to want to date you when you get older?  You’re a total bitch!”

Sarah lifted up the top of her shirt.

“Girls Gone Wild!”

“Ugh,” we all said in unison, disgusted and uncomfortable.

Sarah then told us about how her mother, Eleanor, worked in a funeral parlor after graduate school, and how on one lonely, rainy night, Eleanor made love to a handsome, but decapitated man who was lying dead on a slab, but still with a hard-on, and how, because of this terrible and unnatural lust, she became pregnant and gave birth to a child from Hell.  Sarah then revealed the secret details of that recent elite Mommyblogging summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, where top mommybloggers gathered to come up with a plan to kill me, as punishment for some unflattering comments I made on Twitter.  It was Eleanor who suggested using her evil daughter to take care of things.

“And that is why I am who I am!  I was BORN EVIL!”

I was shocked by this story, at the horror of it all, and how easily demons can take hold of even the most innocent of creatures and turn them into cruel and inhumane monsters.

“And now to take care of ALL OF YOU.” the devil girl cried, her eyes glowing with hatred.

Sarah raised her thin hands again and the synagogue shook.  The stained glassed windows cracked, and the floor started to break apart, as if Hell itself was gobbling us up into the fire.  Blood spilled from the walls, and we could hear screams of agony from those imprisoned in the underworld.

“Good-bye, Mom.  Good-bye Rabbi Gold.  Goodbye World.”  I said, sobbing.

And then there was a faint sound.  A voice of goodness.  Of joy.  A voice that cut through the violence.  It was my mother’s cellphone.  It was Mildred calling, wondering if they were still playing mah jongg on Halloween.  But it was not Mildred that we heard.  It was my mother’s new ringtone, Barbra Streisand singing “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from the movie Yentl.

Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you see me?
Papa can you find me in the night?
Papa are you near me?
Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you help me not be frightened?

As Barbra sang, Sarah released her raised hands and crumbled to the floor in tears, vulnerable and child-like for the very first time.

“Daddy!  Where are you?  Who are you?” she asked, as tears ran down her face.

Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you see me?
Papa can you find me in the night?
Papa are you near me?
Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you help me not be frightened?

The Rabbi and I slowly drifted down to safety and the shaking of the building ceased.  The blood on the walls disappeared.

“So, this is it,” said the rabbi.  “She never knew her father, and this longing has created the anger within!  And only Barbra Streisand’s voice and the lyrics to this song have healed her!”

“Oh, poor baby,” said my mother, her maternal instinct returning, as she went to hug Sarah.

“I’m a freak!” said Sarah.  “A freak because of my father!”

“No, you’re not,” said my mother.  “You’re just different.  And different can be interesting.  Look at Neil.  He’s a weirdo, and people still like him.”

“That’s true,” replied Sarah.

Just then, a ghost appeared.  It was a handsome man, his head decapitated and hanging to the side, still with a raging hard-on.

“Who’s your daddy?” he asked, a smile forming on the decapitated head.

“Papa?!” yelled Sarah.

“Yes, I am your father.  And even though I was dead when I impregnated your mother, I have always been proud of you.  I always will watch over you, even with my decapitated head. There’s no reason for you to be the spawn of Satan anymore.  It’s been done already anyway.  Be original!”

“Thank you, Papa.  I love you.”

“I love you, too.  Whenever you hear Barbra singing, think of me!”

And with those wise words, the ghost of Sarah’s decapitated father with the hard-on faded into the air.

Sarah was a new girl.  A girl of innocence and joy,

“Can we go get some ice cream now?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.  “We will ALL go for ice cream!”

And off we went to Baskin Robbins to celebrate the rebirth of Sarah, now non-Satanic.  The rabbi thought it would be good idea to contact her mother and tell her the good news.  He sent an email to his cousin in Paris, who was doing a junior year abroad.  The rabbi’s cousin was able to track down Eleanor, who was floundering as a fashion blogger.  Eleanor returned to the states to reconnect with her daughter.

Rabbi Gold went with Sarah to pick up Eleanor at the Air France terminal at JFK. The minute the Rabbi and Eleanor locked eyes, there was an immediate chemistry between the two, and they were married the next day, standing under the chuppah at the rabbi’s temple.  My mother and I also attended and were happy to dance at the wedding.  Sarah moved in with Eleanor and the Rabbi, and they became a happy family unit.  Sarah accepted the Rabbi as her step-father, knowing that the ghost of her decapitated biological father was always with her in spirit. Eleanor became a successful blogger, writing about Jewish crafts.

As for us, it was sad to lose Sarah, even if my mother and I were happy that she found a good home.  My mother looked at the bright side.

“You are such a neurotic mess.  Let’s first try to get you straightened out before we take in another Devil child.”

I would be lying if I didn’t admit enjoying my short-lived experience as a parent.  But, more importantly, I gained a new respect for YOU — my online friends who are parents.  You do deserve all the freebies and trips to Disney World.  Because — holy crap, being a parent is HELL.

Happy Halloween.

From the writer of such horrific Halloween tales as Giving Head (2008), The Werewolf (2007), and The Joy of 666 (2006)

The Dread Crew Meme

header-meme

Long time readers of this blog know that I am too lazy to ever do a meme.   They are hard work!    Recently, Kate Inglis, who blogs at “Sweet / Salty” put up a meme on her blog as a promotion for her new book, “The Dread Crew.”   The fact that I am doing this meme should tell you a lot about what I think about her.    She is a special person, soon-to-be big-shot writer or not.  I met her at BlogHer and she glows with positive creative energy.

I should also admit that doing this meme has been useful for me, so I am glad to did it.   I’m realizing now, as I scan over my book list, that I need to get back into reading more books.  My book reading has thinned since I started blogging.  I can’t live on a diet of blog posts forever.

From the blog of Kate Inglis

Here we have it—a baker’s dozen meme all about storytelling and the stories of any genre that have impacted you. Post your answers in the comments on [Kate’s site] or on your own blog (link to the Dread Crew site and this post, and then share the link to your answers in the comments on [Kate’s site].

On Halloween Night, a random selection of five meme participants will win a copy of The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods signed by the author, and a spot in the reviewer’s circle on the author’s blog at kateinglis.com.   Now—go!

My answers —

1)  You are facing an epic journey. You may choose one companion, one tool and one vehicle from any book or film to accompany you. Or just one of the three.  It’s up to you. What do you choose?

This was a tough question.  There are so many literary tools and vehicles to choose from that would be incredibly useful on a journey — from magical swords to flying carpets.  But, as any real reader knows, these material objects are useless without the essential tool — a sidekick.  Would Frodo had made it a block out of the Shire without Sam at his side?  While our hero is pushing the journey forward, he needs someone who is supportive and loving nearby, someone will fight WITH him, and AGAINST  him, if necessary.  I would be lost on an amazing adventure if  I had to undertake it on by myself.    Soon, my brain would play tricks on me, stuck in my own head’s maze, fighting windmills rather than than true villains opposing me.  Like Don Quixote, I would need a Sancho Panza.  Sancho Panza is THE sidekick.  He would be witty, faithful, and would put up with me as I slowly go crazy.  That is more powerful than any magic sword.

2)  You can escape to the insides of any book. Where do you go, and why?

I think I might get a kick inhabiting the world of Henry James’ “The Portrait of a Lady.”  I can see myself as the uncultured American trying to fit into sophisticated European society, hoping to win the hand of the very hot and very wealthy Isabel Archer.  There would be a lot of gossip, mean-spirited cliques, class-consciousness, and back-stabbing in this nineteenth century world, and the whole culture would remind me of the blogosphere of today, so I would fit right in!

3)  You can bring one literary character into your current life. Who do you choose, and why?

Moses, and not because he spoke to God.  He seems like a cool guy, not pretentious, even with his famous contacts in Heaven.  This is a dude who went from zero to hero.   He didn’t start off as super-confident, but gradually he learned to kiss some ass.  I think he could help me get my life in gear because of his unique leadership ability.  Now that would be a corporate “bootcamp” that I would want to attend.  Also, imagine how impressive my Passover seder would be if I had Moses there in attendance!

4)  _________________ is my go-to book. I could read that book fifty-seven times in a row without a break for food or a pee and not be remotely bored. In fact I’ve already done that but it wasn’t fifty-seven times.  It was sixty-four.

Everyone’s  read Kafka’s Metamorphosis in school, right?   That shit is WEIRD!   I love this story.  I remember reading this book in high school and feeling my brain on fire.  WTF kind of story is THIS?!  I’m not sure I even liked it at first, but WOW.  And each time I read it, is a different story.  The first time it is creepy, and the next time it is funny.  I’ve even found it romantic.  Gregor Samsa rocks!

5)  Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most enviable?

I’m going to have to cheat here a bit in order for my answer to be honest.  Of all “literary” characters, Bugs Bunny made the greatest impact on my life.  When I was a child, I dreamed of being like Bugs Bunny.  He could talk his way out of any situation, and always came out the winner.  My prized stuffed animal was a giant Bugs Bunny.  He is still my model of the ultimate hipster.

6)  Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most frightening?

One day, I will need to discuss this book with a therapist, but I never liked Pinocchio.  He is the grandfather to characters like “Chucky,” and other puppets and dolls that come to life.  I don’t want my freakin’ puppets to come to life!  That’s scary!  Carlo Collodi’s Pinnochio (not the sanitized Disney version) was filled with images that creeped me out, especially when our puppet-boy hero is led astray and ends up on this sinful Pleasure Island where the “bad” boys are turned into donkeys.  What deranged mother reads this sicko book to her child?  This book traumatized me for life.  I’ve never admitted this to anyone before, online or off, but when I became a teenager, there were times that I would get certain thoughts in my head, and a part of my body, not my nose — but another part — would grow large like Pinocchio’s nose, and I would have to rush into the shower and take a freezing shower, or throw ice cubes down my shirt.  This malady has ruined my life.  I don’t know why this physical reaction happens to me (it still does!), but I’m figuring that I am still having severe traumatic side effects from reading Pinocchio.  I HATE Pinocchio.

7)  Every time I read _________________, I see something in it that I haven’t seen before.

I’m a big fan of stories told with a framing device, like “The Arabian Nights” and “The Canterbury Tales.”  My favorite is Boccaccio’s The Decameron.  In this book, a group of travelers escaping the Bubonic Plague sit around and tell stories.  The reason I always see something new here is that the stories are fused with esoteric Medieval, Christian, and Greek symbolism, so you are never quite sure what the story is about!   Is there a moral lesson?  What is it?   This book has been a great influence on my writing.   The Decameron contains  some wonderful pornographic tales, where nuns are f**king, etc., but it is supposed to be religious in metaphor.  My guess is that Boccaccio was just a horny guy, and pulling the wool over the Pope’s eyes.  This is one of those books were you can read porn and still carry the book around freely on a college campus, impressing the brainy chicks.

8)  It is imperative that _________________ be made into a movie. Now. I am already picketing Hollywood for this—but if they cast _________________ as _________________, I will not be happy. I will, however, be appeased if they cast _________________.

“Boy: Tales of Childhood,” the autobiography of Roald Dahl would make a fantastic film.  I LOVE the stories of Roald Dahl.   The book recounts his school days, and you can definitely see the writer in the making as Dahl explores life in Britain in the 1930s.  Cast an unknown.

9)  _________________ is a book that should never be made (or should have never been made) into a film.

Some day they WILL make “Catcher in the Rye” into a movie, and yes, it will suck.

10)  After all these years, the _________________ scene in the book/movie _________________ still manages to give me the queebs.

I cannot watch “Silence of the Lambs” anymore, or read books about horrific serial killers.  Too much for me.

11)  After all these years, the _________________ scene in the book/movie _________________ still manages to give me a thrill.

I still cry at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” even thought I am making sarcastic comments in my head. What an effective manipulative piece of crap/artwork!  I have seen this movie a hundred times.  I love all of Frank Capra’s movies.   Another favorite is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”   I’m a sap.

12)  If I could corner the author _________________, here’s what I’d say to them one minute or less about their book, _________________:

If i were to corner newly published author Kate Inglis of The Dread Crew, I would say to her, “You look a little less glamorous in real life than you do on your book cover, where that wind machine is blowing your hair, but you are still a pretty hot babe.”

13)  The coolest non-fiction book I’ve ever read is _________________. Every time I flip through it, it makes me want to _________________.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn blew me away.  The book is primarily about how changes of paradigms occur in science.  For example, how scientists slowly moved to a Copernican way of looking at the world, seeing the sun as center.   The book sounds dull, but it is so much more.   It is a classic.   It is about how our minds work and how we restructure our perspectives and thoughts.   Whenever I flip through the book, I want to get a PhD in experimental psychology.

Exciting World Series Publicity Stunt

(IM conversation)

Neil:  I have this fun idea we can do for our blogs.  You realize the Phillies and the Yankees are in the World Series.  You live in Philadelphia.  I live in New York. So, we can do one of those publicity stunts like the mayors of the competing cities do — where if the Yankees win, you are forced to eat a bagel and lox, and if the Phillies win, I will have to eat a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.  And the loser has to post a photo on the blog as punishment.

Philly Girl:  Doesn’t seem like much of a punishment.  I like bagels and lox.

Neil:  That’s true.  And I like a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.

Philly Girl:  If anything, I don’t like Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches.

Neil:  OK, so maybe YOU should eat one if you lose… wait, that doesn’t make much sense.   Besides, I like both of bagels and lox and Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches.  What would I eat?

Philly Girl:  Isn’t there some sort of New York food that you don’t like?  Hot dogs?

Neil:  Like them.

Philly Girl:  What else is there?

Neil:  I can’t think of one right now.

Philly Girl:  I don’t really hate Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches.  I just don’t eat them.  They are high in fat.

Neil:  But you eat bagels and lox?  That is high in fat with the cream cheese, no?.

Philly Girl:  I use low-fat cream cheese.

Neil:  Philadelphia brand cream cheese!  Isn’t that ironic?  Everyone in New York also uses Philadelphia brand cream cheese!

Philly Girl:  Never thought about it.   Do they make Philadelphia brand cream cheese in Philadelphia?

Neil:   I have no idea.   I think we are striking out with the food gimmick.  Maybe the loser should be forced to sing a song on his blog.  Like you would have to sing “New York, New York.”

Philly Girl:  And you?

Neil:  I got it.  Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom.”

Philly Girl:  My microphone on my laptop is broken.

Neil:  Damn.  I’m not sure mine works either.

Philly Girl:  Are you really into this baseball game?

Neil:  I don’t even like the Yankees.

Philly Girl:  I can’t even name one player on the Phillies.  Until you mentioned it, I didn’t know that they were in the World Series.

Neil:  I think they are.  I think they beat the Dodgers in the National League.  Let me go on Google and check.  (after checking) Yes.

Philly Girl:  So?

Neil:  You ever been to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia?

Philly Girl:  I have been!

Neil:  That is such a cool museum!  You should come to New York some day.   We can go to the Met.

Philly Girl:  I think I’ll be there at Christmas time.

Neil:  Cool.  We should get together.

Philly Girl:  Sure.  OK, gotta go.  Good luck with the Yankees.

Neil:  Good luck with the Phillies!  May the best team win!

The Lamborghini

You’re going to have to get used to me being self-centered here on this blog for a little while longer.  Or not.  Or maybe this is something for me to think about — the best way to use this blog.  Maybe I should start another blog.  Make one blog about story-telling and writing.  And the other about kvetching and self-journaling.  I am going completely against the grain of blogging history here.   Most of you started out as “personal journals” writing for yourself and then your blogs turned into a business.  I started out as a place to make fun of pop culture, and now I just write about neurotic thoughts like bloggers from 2004.

Forget my last post.  It was bullshit and inauthentic.  I was using blogging as an excuse to really talk about myself, but I was too afraid to deal with those issues directly.

As you can tell, I am in a deep-thinking mode as I try to focus on my goals and get my life back on track.  One of the issues I am dealing with is that old villain — fear of success.

In my last post, I brought up the example of driving a Lamborghini to church.   This was probably the most important — and personal – part of the last post.  Since most of the comments were about blogging, and not fancy cars, I had the urge to re-write my last post in a new way, this time focusing on the Lamborghini.

1)  Make believe I go to church (let’s make it a nice Presbyterian church as an example).  I pull up in my Honda Civic.  My friend roars his way into his spot in his new Lamborghini.  Will I feel ashamed by my measly car?  What can I do so I don’t feel ashamed?  Can I reframe my thinking so that his Lamborghini will help motivate me to achieve more?  Should I not even give one thought to our differences in car brands?

2)  Why is my friend pulling up in this Lamborghini?   What is he saying to me?  Is he saying anything at all?  Does he really enjoy the ride or is he sending me a message?  Can I feel comfortable with my friend in his Lamborghini?  Can he feel comfortable with me?  Will I have to buy a Lamborghini for him to consider me a friend again?

3)  This is the biggest issue of them all for me.   Will I ever be able to buy myself a Lamborghini?  I don’t mean financially, but mentally.  Can I ever feel comfortable driving a Lamborghini to church without worrying about the others?  Can I ever just enjoy the ride?  Can I feel that I deserve it?  How will I react to my friend in his Honda Civic?  Will I still consider him my equal?   Can I change my way of thinking so that I see my Lamborghini not as something ostentatious but as a way to motivate others?  Is my brain holding me back because I feel more comfortable driving a Honda Civic than a Lamborghini?

Insecurity and The Online Community

Note, 10PM,  Sunday Night:  I was going to take this post down because… I’m not really sure why.  At first, I thought I would take it down because it was a boring post about blogging, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t write about blogging so much.  I’m no sure I even care that much about the subjects I bring up.  Am I trying to get attention from other bloggers by bringing up dramas in our community?  Not really.   I’m more embarrassed by the post than proud of it.  Even the thesis of the post is a little forced — I don’t feel  very insecure in the online community.   I have made great friends here  and I have wonderful readers.  People seem to like me.

So what the hell is this blog post about?

I’m not sure yet.   But as I am reading your comments, I am realizing that no one is addressing whatever is in my mind.   So, this post seems odd to me now.   It is something deeper that blogging.   Maybe it is about my place in the world, and I am just using blogging as a way to explore this theme.    Maybe it is safer to write about blogging than other issues in my life.

I leave this up, not because it makes any interesting statement about blogging, but because it gives you some insight into how my mind operates on a Sunday night in October.

The Post —

I was going to write a post about my insecurity and self-esteem issues today, but the thoughts of putting that to paper made me feel like throwing up, so I decided it wasn’t a good day to write that post.   Hey, but at least I started exercising!  (#2 on my To-Do List)

Then I was decided to write a post about how we all use the term “community” online.  Whenever I want to avoid writing about my life, I turn to the blogosphere for blog fodder.  Clever, huh?

I asked myself these questions:   What exactly is this community online?  How does it work?  What is it doing for me?

Then I decided to combine these two topics — insecurity and community.  Two for the price of one.  What a bargain!

OK, let’s begin.  Insecurity.   I think most of us are insecure.  Some more than others, right?  If you a person with no insecurities, then you are probably a… psychopath.  As humans, we want to overcome these insecurities.  We NEED to overcome them if we want to accomplish anything or become successful in life.  One effective way to combat this is to search for support — a family, or a community.

Make sense so far?

This begs the question — how healthy are our communities online if it breeds so much insecurity, jealousy, and trolling?  While it is natural to point the finger at the idiots who are out there poisoning everything, I am an Obama-voting liberal who looks inward.  I believe we should throw criminals into prison, but at the same time, we should look at our society as a whole, perhaps even finding ways for rehabilitation.

Every single one of us can give a million examples of how online life can breed insecurity.

I can already hear your response:  So what?  Life breeds insecurity.  It is part of human nature.

That is true.  That is why we tend to look for communities in the real world that work for us, where we feel comfortable and secure.

Is your community online doing this for you?  How about for others in the community?  Is there such a thing as a real online community?

Let me first mention this Broad Summit that occurred last week.  Thirty popular female bloggers met for a sponsored retreat at some hotel in the wine country.   Some women were upset by the appearance of elitism at this invite only event.   I’m not going to try to be controversial as Anna was in her post, but I find it hard to leave a good controversy alone, even if I tap around the issue!    But don’t worry, one day, I will write about male bloggers and some drama — I promise!

Here it goes —

Perhaps it is a good idea to create a mini-community within the larger community as a whole.  We all have friends that we feel  closer to than others.  We all want to be considered important in some way, if not as bloggers, than writing books, or being the best fireman in the city.  But, we all know how jealousy can rear his head.   If you read the comments on Anna’s posts, it is textbook drama.  There are accusations of jealousy.  There are angry denials.   Let’s face it, jealousy and envy are human emotions.   Great books have been written about envy and jealousy.   We need to be somewhat aware of the potential for jealousy and envy, in the way that we don’t put our hand in the lion’s cage at the zoo, and then be act shocked when we have  one less finger.

Now I am friends with a couple of those women who went to this exclusive blogging retreat.  I am proud of  their success.   I almost didn’t write this post, worrying that one of them would hate me.   These women have all worked hard for their success, and are talented bloggers.  But I’m not really talking about this retreat.   I am talking about all of us and what we want “blogging” to be about.  Are we just going to imitate the model of old media, or are we going to celebrate the fact that everyone and his mother can start a blog in five minutes?

It didn’t take a Sigmund Freud to figure out that this retreat idea was going to create uneasy feelings in a certain sector of the online community.  No one wants to feel that others consider themselves “elite,” even if it is true.  Or at least when it is done in a public manner. It just draws too much attention to status.   It is like showing up to church driving a Lamborghini.  And clearly that wasn’t the intention of this blogging summit.

Enough about that.   I have much of the same feeling for all many of our online activities that we probably could do without — those bullshit blogging awards, for instance , which are mostly popularity contests.  Or live tweeting who you are eating lunch with at a conference.  (why doesn’t anyone ever eat lunch with anyone boring or “not awesome” at these conferences?)

I have insecurities, so I am assuming you do too.  Yours may not be about blogging, but for some, it is.   Boo-hoo.   Who cares, right?   But, If we are going to consider ourselves a community, and TALK about it all the time like it really exists, then we should try harder to think about the others in our neighborhood.  All of us.

Think — What would Mr. Rogers do?

This is not to say we shouldn’t self-promote.  I can’t wait to tell you how wonderful I am.  I’m going to pimp Kate Inglis’ book next week, and I haven’t even READ it yet!  We help our talented friends.  We all know how this works.

BUT — back to the community.  Are we a community or not?  I join a community because it serves a common interest.  Every time I read about a conference, half the sessions are about promoting oneself and getting more readers.  Of course that is important.  I am not stupid.  But this is primarily a model for the business world.  If that is the type of online world we want, then let’s openly admit it.  Coke and Pepsi don’t hang out at the same bar, trading stories.  We are competitors.

Example:  A friend of mine was trying to create a blogging event and asked another blogger for advice on how to get a sponsor for a car.  The other blogger, who was lucky enough to get hooked up with GM during some BlogHer promotion, didn’t want to give her any names or contact numbers, concerned that the new blogger might hone in on her territory.

OK, I understand that… in the context of the business world.   I might have had the same concerns.  Again, I am not an angel.  But if we are going to pose as if this is a “community,” we should act more community oriented — whatever that means.

On the other hand, I am also having thoughts that go in the completely opposite direction.   Perhaps, I should just start thinking of myself as a writer and you as my audience, without considering myself as part of something bigger online.   My self-esteem would have nothing to do with others, and my main priority would be to keep myself in business.   Maybe that is more professional… and “successful” thinking.   I’m no angel.

My Current To Do List, October 2009

(in order of immediate importance)

  1. Write This Script and Send to LA
  2. Exercise More
  3. Read Kate Inglis’ Book
  4. Make A Lot More Money
  5. Visit My Friends
  6. Move in, Resolve Things, or Get a Divorce From My Wife
  7. Make Better Choices
  8. Put Up The New Masthead that Schmutzie Made For Me Two Months Ago
  9. Touch a Naked Woman
  10. Buy a Rice Cooker To Make Better Rice
  11. Floss Every Night
  12. Look for a Therapist
  13. Submit a Story to a Publication
  14. Decide To Live in NY or Los Angeles
  15. Get My Own Apartment in New York or Los Angeles
  16. Get An Agent in NY
  17. See More Theater
  18. Get Netflix
  19. Learn to Make A Really Good Noodle Kugel
  20. Visit the South
  21. Blog Better
  22. Learn How to Use All the Buttons On My Camera
  23. Attend BlogHer 2010
  24. Catch Up on Mad Men
  25. Add More Apps to My Iphone



105.  Spend More Time On Twitter

Meditation

I’ve been feeling anxious this week.  Shaky.  Overly-emotional.  Pissed at Sophia.  Unable to work.  Frustrated at everyone on Twitter. Insulting people.

Tonight, I went on YouTube to watch some meditation videos.  I tried my best, but let’s be honest, meditation is just not me. I also found the teacher in the video rather attractive, which was distracting me.

During one of the videos, my mother walked in.  She told me about this winter hat that she saw a vendor selling on the street for five dollars.  I was not interested.

“I’m meditating!” I yelled.

She looked over my shoulder as the meditation video turned red to match the “color of the pelvic chakra.”  An Indian sitar played on the soundtrack.

“What’s going on?” she asked about the video.

“I’m not sure.  I’m trying to meditate!”

“How can you meditate if you don’t know what you’re doing?” she asked, rather logically, but still annoying

“Just leave me alone, please.  I’m trying to be peaceful.”

“Do you want me to buy you that winter hat I saw that guy selling on the street? I noticed that you don’t have a winter hat”

“Don’t buy me a winter hat. Please.”

“It’s only five dollars.  If you don’t like it, don’t wear it.”

“Can I meditate please?!”

“Go look at the hat yourself.  He has all different colors.  Scarves, too.”

After she left the room, I decided to research “meditation” on Google, to learn more about the methods of the ancient art before I watched any more useless videos.   I typed in the word, and pressed enter, and the results were all about pharmaceuticals, which is more of a modern art than ancient art.

I had accidentally typed “medication” instead of “meditation.”

I found that so amusing, that I laughed and laughed, and immediately stopped feeling anxious.

The Therapist of the Blogosphere

If you’ve ever been to a therapist’s office, you’ve probably had a similar experience.   You sit on the comfortable chair or couch, and tell the therapist that you have a problem.

“What is the problem?” the therapist asks.

“My problem is THIS,” you answer.

The therapist writes something in his notebook.  Since you have openly and eagerly said that your problem is THIS, he knows that there is a 99% chance that your real problem is not THIS, but THAT, and his job is to help you see THAT.

Remember THAT.

+++

Paul O’Flaherty writes a sarcastic blog about the internet.  He recently wrote a post titled “You’re An Attention Whore and You Know It.”

His basic thesis is this:

“The real reason we blog, twitter, podcast and vidcast is because we are all narcissistic egomaniacs / attention whores / desperately seeking recognition.”

OK, fair enough.  But I disagreed with his thesis, and he challenged me to write a response.

At first glance, his thesis makes sense, especially after last week’s dramas.  First, in the “real” world, there was that ridiculous, overblown balloon boy scam, a desperate attempt at attention.  Closer to home, there was a blogger friend who apparently made up a controversial story to “get attention” from the competitive mommyblogging community, angering many others.   Clearly, we are all attention whores, right?

I was close to agreeing with Paul, when I read the comments on his “Attention Whore” post.

“Guilty as charged. I just want the fifteen minutes that Andy Warhol promised me. No more, no less.  OK, I might want more,” wrote the first commenter.

“Hey, I like attention as much as the next girl and I flat out admit that. And if somewhere along the line someone wants to give me some decent free crap, you can bet I’m grabbing that up too.   Attention and free crap rocks my world,” said another.

Even Paul himself jumped in.

“No irony – I’m as big an attention whore as the next blogger :) LOL,”  he said.

That’s when the red flag went up.  Why is everyone so freely saying that they are an attention whore?   Isn’t anyone ashamed of saying so?    That’s when it became clear to me, that in our current day, attention whoring is not so bad.   We see it as a positive trait, until someone gets caught lying, and then we all jump on them for ruining the party.    We live in a society where loud voices and controversy sells.   Most of our leaders are attention whores.  Successful bloggers are attention whores, and end up at conferences teaching others how to be effective attention whores.  Attention whoring is a skill set that most of us would be proud to put on our resume, under “Knowing Photoshop.”  We are proud of saying we are attention whores.

+++

Remember the therapist’s office?  Imagine I am the Therapist of the Blogosphere. You have just walked into my office.

“What is the problem?” I ask.

“I am an attention whore,” you answer, feeling confident that you know yourself well, and will only need a few sessions to clear up any of your issues.”

That is the moment when I start writing in my notebook.

“The issue is NOT attention-whoring.”

+++

As a trained blog therapist, I have an acute sensibility to others.  When I read through my daily blogs, tweets, and Facebook updates, I do not feel attention-whoring jumping out at me from the other side of the screen.  That is a word without any emotional content.  I sense loneliness, fear, uncertainty, anxiety, the need for comfort and hope, and the yearning for love.  I see this deeply-felt energy of loss and wanting everywhere I go, on every blog, in V-grrrl, Dooce, Perez Hilton, and Guy Kawasaki.   No one will admit this because these are not traits we want to put on our resumes, or write on a blog comments.  We are ashamed of our weaknesses.   We are afraid of being taken advantage of by others.

But these are the key components of blogging.

+++

When anyone comes into my blogger’s therapy office and says that they are an “attention whore,” I immediately open my notebook and write “fearful.”

Advice for My Neighbor, the Terror Suspect

news story about this guy across the street

There’s a terrorist on my block
Wants a bomb that goes tick tock!

Saw him eating at “Chili Thai”
Now he’s wanted by the FBI!

Says he hates the U.S.A.
Gonna destroy the NY subway!

La La La La La La La
There’s a terrorist on my block
La La La La La La La
Wants a bomb that goes tick tock!

Terror Dude, I know you’re pissed
Dating must suck for a terrorist

Your work requires “me, me, me”
And women want “stability”

But acting like a stupid prick
Will not impress an American chick.

La La La La La La La
There’s a terrorist on my block
La La La La La La La
Wants a bomb that goes tick tock!

If you learn to treat a girl well
Then your life will turn out swell

American culture can make anyone mad
But with some hottie, it ain’t half bad!

Cause wouldn’t you rather slap her sexy ass
Then play all night with poison gas?

La La La La La La La
There’s a terrorist on my block
La La La La La La La
Wants a bomb that goes tick tock!

The Sacrifice

I walked outside and it was pouring cold rain.   My sneakers from the West Coast, white, clean and virginal, were no match for the harsh New York City downpour, and within minutes of my first step from the safety of my home, my shoes were stained and my mismatched socks were soaking wet.    A car honked.   An old man in a yarmulke almost fell over from the force of the wind.   A black girl screamed motherfucker.   A broken umbrella sat on the curb, discarded like a drunken one night stand.   There was a cacophony of voices and alarms and traffic, like a symphony orchestra from a mental ward.    A woman wearing a burka and a raincoat stood outside the new bank, like a statue.   Only her eyes were visible, but they told an unhappy story.   Water fell down, steam floated up, thunder cracked, the subway rumbled.    It was as God above and the Devil below were having a fist fight and New York was frightfully and violently alive from the energy, like a living breathing animal.   All I could think about was entering the Colombian Diner and ordering a strong cup of their darkest coffee, then taking the tall, skinny waitress on the table, and fucking her hard, not caring about the other customers or the cheap coffee mug crashing to the floor, breaking into fine pieces.   And she would love it.   And then I would cry — a cry of happy and sad.   But of course, this was in my mind.   This was not real.    To actualize my thoughts, I would need to follow my ancestors, so I prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, asking Him for a full life.   Why couldn’t every day be as powerful, as full of mystery and passion, as today?    The rain stopped and He replied.   He said Yes.   Yes, yes, yes!   BUT — he warned, and I knew there was going to be a “but”– BUT, he said, I would be forever blind to the magic and power of the world around me unless I showed him a sign, made a covenant with Him, to appreciate all that He has given me.   And that is when I deleted Twitter and Facebook from my iPhone.   I placed my phone in my coat pocket, pulled the zipper closed, and continued on, my five senses at my side.

Older posts