Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: December 2009

Red

Steve was waiting in baggage claim at SFO, wondering if he shouldn’t have taken a suitcase at all. He would have saved twenty dollars and not had to wait with the pushy, impatient crowds. He was sure that he had clothes still in the closet at the house on Russian Hill, his abode for so many years before the separation and his move back to Cleveland.

He was nervous to see her. They had a lot to discuss. He tried to calm himself by thinking of the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge and the joy of the cable cars, the ones he used to love listening to, as they rolled down the tracks in the distance, as he lay in bed with her at night.

She entered the terminal, walking through he revolving door. Steve’s head was spinning like the door. She had changed her hair… to red! While part of him was thrilled to see her, the other part was annoyed.

He thought to himself, “Red hair? Do we really need more excitement in our lives? Red is the color of fire and danger and communist governments.”

They kissed. On the cheeks.

“How do you like the hair?” she asked.

There was trouble brewing already. If Steve answered honestly, there was trouble with her. If Steve said he loved it, there was trouble within his soul for being dishonest.

Red.

The Story

Two weeks ago I went with Jen Lee to this Moth Storytelling Slam downtown. It took place at a small venue downtown, so audience members and storytellers were lined up for an hour before the show, in the freezing cold, just to get a seat. As Jen and I waited, she introduced me to her friends. She is a semi-regular. During my conversations with some of these storytellers, I was amused by the sub-culture that has grown up around these “slams.” As bloggers, we’ve become so used to chatting about WordPress and plugins, gibberish to outsiders. Well, every sub-group has their own insider lingo.

“You going into the hat tonight?” some hipster guy asked me.

“Huh?”

He explained to me that those who wanted to tell a story put their name into a hat, and ten storytellers are randomly chosen.

As he spoke, he gave me a aggressive look, ready to pounce on me if I said, “Yes,” as if this was the storyteller’s equivalent of a new blogger arrogantly thinking he was going to make as much money as Dooce in his first year of blogging. I assured him that I was just a visitor to this strange storytelling world, which eased the tension.

The line for the show was snaking around the block. There was a hodgepodge of social activity going on — networking, flirting, competitor bantering, cold stares, and camaraderie, while the intense loners stood apart, practicing their stories on a mini-recorder, praying to God that they be picked to present their story that night, catapulting them to literary success, allowing them to quit there job selling bathroom plumbing at Home Depot, and enabling them to give a big “f**k you” to all the less-talented wannabees on line next to them.

Sound familiar? Exactly! Like an invitation-only party at BlogHer.

Finally, the doors to theater opened and we were let in out of the cold. Jen and I found good seats. As the show began, I could feel a nervous tension in the air. The MC, a storyteller himself, pulled a name out of the hat and that individual was invited to come to the front and tell his story. Since no one knew who was going to be picked next, those waiting for their name to be called were always at the edge of their seats. The female storyteller in front of me, dressed in the 1970’s Annie Hall look, was tapping her foot the entire evening, waiting for her big moment, like a teenager waiting for the phone to ring to be asked to the prom. Sadly, the boy never called. At the end of the night, she was the first one out of the bar, on her way home to sulk.

Each night of storytelling revolves around a new theme. The subject is broadly defined, so the storyteller can almost mold any story into the current theme. The night’s theme was “cars.”

Smart writers know that there are two genres that always sell — sex and coming of age stories. Or both. It didn’t surprise me that the first five stories contained these elements, whether it was a story about a woman losing her virginity in the back of a 1970 Mustang or a man’s having a remembrance of the family trip to Disneyworld in the Chevy Nova.

The sixth reader to be picked from the hat was an Asian-American man of about forty, with black cropped hair. His story was different than the others. He began his story by telling the audience that when he was in his thirties, he worked in Silicon Valley, slaving away for twelve hour days. One night, as he was driving home, he had a heart attack. He then proceeded to tell us all the specific details of what it feels like to have a heart attack. He described the tightening of the chest, the discomfort, and the fear.

I found it extremely difficult to listen to his story. I could feel my own chest tightening. Suddenly, there was a cry for help. An audience member, just five rows ahead of us, a fiftyish man with his family, had slumped over in his chair.

The MC ran to the microphone.

“Call 911! Call 911! We need a doctor,” he shouted.

Everybody fumbled with their phones, because the MC had made us shut them off when the show began. There were no doctors in the house, since the audience was mostly thirty-ish writers with soul patches, but someone ran up to the slumped man and relaxed his shirt.

I should remind you that the venue was jammed. Audience members were sitting in the center aisle. If the fire department had seen the way storytellers had to climb over people to reach the front stage, the entire venue would have been fined, or closed down.

“Everyone in the center aisle has to leave,” said the MC. “We need room for emergency.”

“I’m calling an ambulance!” cried someone in the first row, his phone dialing.

The audience in the center dispersed. Since Jen and I had our seats, we remained seated. The Asian storyteller hid in the corner, horror on his face, wondering if his Moth Slam story had just killed a man.

After ten minutes of chaos, the slumped man sat upright, like a zombie awakening from sleep. As the emergency workers entered the theater, the newly-awake man stood up and said that he was OK. The audience sighed with relief. The formerly-slumped man was now red-faced, not from illness, but from embarrassment. He walked over to the stage and asked the MC if he could say a few words to the audience, including those who were re-entering from outside. The audience was confused, wondering if this was some sort of stunt. But it wasn’t.

“I’m sorry to scare you,” said the man. “I fainted. This was not the first time this has ever happened to me. Whenever I hear stories of people in pain, I become so sensitive to their pain, that I begin to feel the sensations themselves and stop breathing. I once fainted in the middle of church. When this storyteller started telling his story about his heart attack, I had a feeling that this was going to happen, and I tried not to listen, to think about something else, but I could hear his words, and I felt compelled to listen, and as he described the pain in his heart, I felt a pain in my heart and — I’m sorry. Maybe I should go home.”

The audience clapped, and the fainting man left. The Asian storyteller returned to the stage and continued with his heart attack story, but the magic was gone. None of the remaining storytellers could match the real life drama. The fainting man both proved the power of storytelling — his intense reaction to another’s intense story — and WAS the best story of the night, because it happened in front of our eyes.

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This little true life tale encapsulates — for me — blogging during 2009. We all put our blog posts into the hat, hoping that they get noticed by others. We listen to each others stories. Some tell funny stories. Some tell sad stories. Some stories are more popular than others. Some of us are not community-oriented at all. Some of us just tap our feet, waiting for OUR chance to be on stage so we can tell our story. At times, we are confronted by real drama — like having someone collapse right in front of us — right in the middle of our story. It is times like these, that we put aside our competitiveness and bickering, and offer support to those who need it. And then, there are those moments that overwhelm us, when we get so involved in the lives of others that we feel dizzy and faint.

The only solution for that is to apologize to everyone, take a breather, and come back refreshed.

Writing, Reading, Laughing, Caring, Overwhelmed. That was Blogging in 2009.

See you in 2010.

The 2009 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert

Welcome to the Fourth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

Happy Holidays. May the power of music bring joy and healing, especially to those who need it.

Let’s hope that 2010 brings us all health, happiness, and the ability to write better than average blog posts.


Little Drummer Boy, sung by Danny from Jew Eat Yet (with family, including Charlie!)

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Joy to The World played by Angela from Fluid Pudding

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The Twelve Days of Christmas? sung? by Jenny from The Bloggess
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Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas” sung by Amy of The Bitchin’ Wives Club

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Winter Wonderland sung by Yvonne from Joy Unexpected (in Christmas sweater!)

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Light Up The World by Mark from Psychotoddler with The Moshe Skier Band (available at iTunes and Amazon)

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Twas the Night Before Christmas (New Jersey style, a bit NSFW) recited by Ellie from Buggin World

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The Whoo Song sung by Loralee from Loralee’s Looneytunes and Carolers

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Grandmother Got Run Over By a Reindeer sung by Tanis from The Redneck Mommy

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You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
sung by Michael from Badass Dad Blog

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The Christmas List presented by Kate from Sweet l Salty and her sons.

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Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off sung by Miss Sizzle of Sizzle Says and Neil of Citizen of the Month

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Deck the Halls sung by Alejna from Collecting Tokens

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His Eye is On The Sparrow sung by Jenny from MommyMae

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Le Miracle de Saint Nicolas (in French) sung by Otir from Un Jour a La Fois

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Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer sung by Nancy from Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas and her daughter

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Silent Night played by Not Fainthearted from This Journey

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Good King Wenceslas sung by Lauren from Merry Mishaps

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Winter Solstice spoken thoughts by Jen from Jen Lee

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Oh, Holy Night, sung by M from This New Place

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River sung by Rahre from Rahre

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Jingle Bells sung by Jess from Drowning in Kids and her son.

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Noel-Christmas Eve sung by Jenipurr from A Cat By Any Other Name

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Jingle Bells sung by Mamikaze and family

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Santa, I’m Your Girl sung by Marie and The Snake Charmers.

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The Man with the Bag sung by Amy from Selfish Mom

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Angels Are Smiling words, music, and sung by Fawn of Fawnahareo’s Place

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I’m Happiest at Christmas by Noel Katz and sung by A Stage Kindly

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sung by Heath of Homo sarcasmus (and friends)

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DSC07948
photo by Kyran from Notes to Self

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Solstice
photo by Jen from Jen Lee

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crib
photo by Bon from Crib Chronicles

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lindawoods
photo by Linda Woods from Visual Chronicle

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peace
photo by Yvonne from Joy Unexpected

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ornament
Photo by Lotus of Sarcastic Mom

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denise1
photo by Denise of Eat, Play, Love

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angella
photo by Angella from Dutch Blitz

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greeblemokey
photo by Aimee from Greeblemonkey

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huckdoll
photo by Huckdoll from Eternally Huckdoll

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jenny2
photo by Jenny from MommyMae

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maggie
photo by Maggie from Maggie Dammit

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Tara
photo by Tara from Paris Parfait

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otir
photo by Otir from Un Jour a La Fois

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vgrrrl2
photo by V-Grrrl from Compost Studios

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laura
photo by Laura from Blog Con Queso

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taraR
photo by Tara from If Mom Says OK

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denise2
photo by Denise of Eat, Play, Love

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We Wish You a Happy Holiday by ZoeyJane from Mommy is Moody and her daughter

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noteAnd a special message of hope and love to Anissa, a fellow blogger.

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My Favorite Citizen of the Month Blog Posts, 2009

I have a feeling my December is going to be chaotic, so I wanted to thank everyone who came by to read my writing during 2009 NOW.   I read through my archives today, and picked out a few of my favorites.   Do you read through your archives at the end of the year?  I strongly suggest you do it, because it gives you a good idea of where your head was for the last twelve months.

Most of my posts in 2009 were decent enough, but I looked for posts that still “spoke to me” or made me laugh.  I tried to write more for myself this year, and I enjoyed it.    Surprisingly, I feel good about my writing this year.  One troubling aspect of my blog in 2009 posts is how internal the themes became, as if my mind was collapsing onto itself.  My blog theme for 2009 could be titled “Avoiding Real Life.”   For the first time in years, most of my posts had nothing to do with Sophia, at least openly.   Most of my favorite posts were fictional, silly, poetic, or without any connection to my day to day life.  I’m not sure how healthy this is in the long run.  It is something I am thinking about right now.

I split my favorites into three categories, even with five posts.

1)  Stories with 0% Truth Quotient

2)  True (Or Mostly True) Stories

and

3)  Poetic (or Pretentious, Depending on Your Taste)

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Stories with 0% Truth Quotient

Last, part 1 (part 2)

Written on New Year’s Day, it is the story of a man’s passion to stop always being “last.”

The Easy Chair
An unloved boy turns into an easy chair.

The Canasta Group of Boca Raton
A group of senior citizens in Boca Raton watch a naked man taking a shower.

The Wealthiest Man in Town

The wealthiest man in a small pre-war shtetl has a question for his rabbi.

A Master Class

My mother gives sex advice to a female blogger on IM.

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True (Or Mostly True) Stories

Very Vague Dispatch from LA, #7

I brazenly share the armrest with a woman on a flight to New York.

48 Rolls

I am embarrassed to carry two giant packages of toilet paper back home from Walgreens.

Aligning the Planets

I am included in a Jewish prayer service during a shiva call in my apartment building.

The Shower Curtain

I frantically try to find a new shower curtain before my mother returns home from Florida.

Family History

I learn the truth about my grandparents.

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Poetic (or Pretentious, Depending on Your Taste)

Words Cannot

Words cannot capture the energy I feel around me, all the time…

Color

My life was forever changed when I met you…

Owning My Words

One day I would like to own my words…

The Sacrifice

I walked outside and it was pouring cold rain…

Wood-Grained Turntable

I was reading your writing, listening to the pain in your voices, and then, finally, I heard mine…

The Christmas Parade

December has been a social month.  I met up with Doobleh-vay at her New York hotel, Jen Lee at the Moth Storytelling Slam, attended the BlogHer NY Holiday party, and lived it up at the NY book launch party of Kirtsy Takes a Bow: A Celebration of Women’s Online Favorites.

kirtsy2

The Kirtsy book contains great writing and photography from female bloggers, many who you might know from being online.   For some reason, one of my tweets is included,in this woman’s book, bringing me one step closer to that sex change operation.

kirtsy

At the party, someone asked me if I write a sex blog, or if I am just obsessed about breasts.  I didn’t get too many phone numbers that night.

After all the festivities, I woke up early on Friday morning for the big topper event — I was taking a train for a weekend in Virginia, visiting V-grrrl and her family.

vgrrrl
(photo of V-grrrl by Di Mackey)

V-grrrl is one of my long-time blogging friends, although I have never met her in real life, mostly because, until last year, she lived in Belgium.

She also send me the most important piece of European art work that I own, back in 2006, after she read one of my ground-breaking posts about boys peeing in Norway.

mannekin1

V-grrrl is also the very first person to be interviewed — by me — in the first Great Interview Experiment.

V-grrrl and her husband live in a beautiful home practically sitting in a forest (with a lot of Revolutionary and Civil War history).  In her backyard, all sorts of exotic birds fly to her feeder.

“That’s a real oriole!” I screamed, looking on my “Birdwatching” iphone app that I downloaded when it was on sale at $2.99!  I pressed a button on the iphone and showed off the bird sounds to V-grrrl’s kids.  They were not impressed, since they had iphones themselves.  In fact, a good part of the afternoon was spend sharing iPhone apps with V-grrrl’s twelve year old son.  I have a feeling modern technology makes us all the same age — teenagers.

V-grrrl’s kids are super-brainy.  Have you ever heard of this school competition program called O.P.?    O.P. kids compete against each other building miniature airplanes, and then devise the flight plans, as if they were air traffic controllers.  They explained it to me, but I didn’t really understand.  I’m more about the peeing in Norway than engineering feats.

The big event of the weekend was the town’s 40th annual Christmas Parade.  I was excited to see the charm of this small-town tradition. And then it SNOWED.  And SNOWED.  A nearby town, which was also having a parade that day, cancelled their event, but V-grrrl’s town, wanting to prove that they were not a bunch of Yankee wimps, said “The Show Must Go On.”

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V-grrrl’s family and I dressed in our long underwear and overcoats, and headed out to the parade route, V-grrrl’s husband carefully driving on the icy road.  The crowd on Main Street was surprisingly large for the inclement weather, but some youth group was selling hot cocoa, keeping us warm.

v_parade
The first half hour, waiting for the parade to start, was magical.  The lights, the snow, the old fashioned bookstores and ice cream parlors on Main Street, the church steeple in the background, the pub where George Washington once slept, and the gentle small town faces made this scene as American as any Norman Rockwell painting.

Then, the parade started, and no offense to V-grrrl, her family, or her town, but that was the WORST parade I have ever seen.

Parents were smartly wary about sending their children marching in the snow, so half of the marching bands never showed up.  One determined high school band consisted of three people — one tuba, one drum, and a cheerleader dressed in a wool coat that prevented her from doing any of the dance moves.

In the past, the highlight of the parade was the tradition of those on the floats throwing candy out at the crowd.  V-grrrl’s kids told me of how they would come home with more booty than Halloween.   Sadly, fear of Johnny Cochran-type legal action has now taken hold in small town America.  The city banned the candy throwing — just in case some child was hit in the head with a poorly-aimed Smarties package, and the city was sued!   What a downer.   You could see it on the kids’ faces.   There was no joy in Whoville that evening.   Thank you, legal Grinches.

But that’s not all!

After the last float passed by (something about Jesus, sponsored by a hardware chain), everyone waited for the real meaning of Christmas — the ho ho ho man himself.  The crowd stood there, shivering in both the freezing cold and anticipation, waiting for the grand entrance.

Santa Claus never showed.

It was too cold and snowy, so Santa decided to just STAY HOME and watch videos!

It was truly a bad parade, and we all knew it.   Of course, that is when the fun began.  On the way home, we all devised funny editorials to the local newspaper decrying the “Santa” outrage, the best title to the editorial being, “No, Virginia, There is No Santa.”

Luckily, V-grrrl’s daughter baked a cheesecake for us to eat when we got home.

The next day, when the newspaper came out, there was a glowing review of the parade (I think they were one of the sponsors).   At the end of the article, the journalist wrote, “And lastly, Santa entertained the children, although he showed up late.”

Bullsh*t, I say!  We were there.  Santa did not show up at all.

As I took the Amtrak back to New York the next day, I thought about small towns and big cities.  Was there really that much of a difference?  We both watch the same TV shows.  We both own iphones with bird-watching apps.  And most importantly, we both have media operations that LIE TO US ABOUT SANTA!

Thanks for the great weekend, V-grrrl!

Note: The Fourth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert is THIS THURSDAY.   Please email me files or links by Wednesday at the latest!

The Dread Crew and Skype Calls

dread

On Wednesday, I wrote about meeting Ms. Kate Inglis in Chicago during BlogHer.

Recently, I received her first novel, The Dread Crew:  Pirates of the Backwoods, in the mail.  I was quite surprised by the book’s appearance.   As you may recall, I had described Kate as one of those angelic-looking women surrounded by a constant glow.   So why was she writing about a band of dirty, smelly, and belching pirates?   Was this smudge-lover the same sweet woman I met in Chicago?

The Dread Crew is a “rollicking” pirate story for smart kids and adventurous adults about a very unusual band of hooligans in the Nova Scotia area of Canada.  These rowdy and rude pirates travel in a giant crumbling woodship that rumbles through the forest, destroying everything in sight as the group searches for junk.  Their lives are turned upside down when this mean-spirited bunch meet their most formidable nemesis yet — Grampa Joe, another junk collector, albeit a more successfully one, who wins clients over with his sunny disposition.   Before you know it, Grampa Joe becomes the teacher, showing the “pirates of the backwoods” a new approach to piracy, a “nicer” one.

The humor and sarcasm of Kate’s writing would have made this book a favorite of mine when I was a boy.   The tone reminded me of those oddball adventure books written by Roald Dahl.    “The Dread Crew” turns piracy on its head in unexpected ways.  Pirate unions?   Pirate junk-collectors?   Pirates roaming in the forest?!

This novel has a strong sense of place, that of the Maritime Canadian woods, and at first, it seems like a strange place for a “pirate story.”  On further research, I discovered that there is a whole tradition of Atlantic Canada pirate adventures, and clearly Kate is playing with — and against — this long tradition, even presenting her readers with a very modern environmental message underneath all of the “heap o’ splinters” and maggots in beards.

Some younger kids might need a bit of guidance with this book because the pirates are nontraditional.   Don’t expect the Pirates of Penzance/Pirates of the Carribbean type of pirates.   These are Canadian Pirates of the Backwoods!  Our friends up North do things differently.

After I finished the book, I gave it to my mother to read, hoping to share my enjoyment.   After she read a few pages, she came into my room, asking, “What kind of pirates are these?  They don’t go on the water?”  Luckily, the beautiful illustrations by Sydney Smith help clarify what the pirate “ship” looks like on land, and how it travels through the forest.   Once my mother “got it,” orienting herself to the time and location, she loved the novel as much as I did.

I love stories that go against the clichés, and this novel does just that.   These unique pirate characters make this young adult novel a special one.   Each character is quirky in his or her own way, and the illustrations are beautiful.  I read it in one sitting, admiring the clever dialogue between Grampa Joe and the pirates.

Kate is an amazing writer, particularly in her descriptive powers.  You can smell the lousy odor of the pirates in her words, and hear the burps of Captain, Hector the Wrecker Gristle, in the sentences.

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SPECIAL TREAT JUST FOR READERS OF CITIZEN OF THE MONTH!

Last night, I was able to get Kate to do an impromptu “interview” with me about her book.   One caveat — even though she is now a professional novelist now, I am NOT a professional interviewer.  This is less of an interview than a recording of our Skype conversation as some handyman was fixing the roof in her home.  The interview is fairly long.  I promised her that I would cut it down, but well… I lied.   Maybe next week when I have a chance.

(jeez, just listened to the recording.  I talk WAYYYY too much for an “interviewer.”  As usual, she sounds like an calm inspirational angel and I sound like an overbearing New York cab driver from 1940.  Try to skip me and just listen to her.  Also, the nonsense in the beginning was because I was confused over Kate’s last name.  Even though it is spelled Inglis, it is pronounced “Ingels.”)

Here is the unedited version of the conversation —

Part 1

Part 2

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If you want to learn more about “The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods” — or how to order it online, you can go to the book’s website.   Check it out.   It is gorgeous.

Meeting Kate

Tomorrow, I will writing a review of The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods, written by Kate Inglis, who blogs at Sweet l Salty. I wanted to use today’s post as a disclaimer, explaining to you how I got to be reading this book about Canadian pirates, as well as to assure you that that I did not receive any money or sexual favors in return for giving this blogger any special attention.

Basically, it is the story of how I met Kate.

But this is more than a story about one blogger. It is a tale about online relationships. I could write a post like this about so many of you. I’m the one always complaining about the lack of real contact online, and you are the ones always scolding me, insisting that relationships online are as valid as those in real life. So, if we are going to consider these virtual friendships as “real,” no matter how limited they are because of the great distances between us, what is wrong with retelling our stories of first encounters in the same way that we do those cherished stories of meeting a IRL buddy in that sixth grade gym class?

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Last spring, Sophia and I took a trip to Las Vegas. One night, we had dinner with BHJ, the talented writer/blogger, and his cool wife, Jenna. At the time, I was a little testy at this blogger because even though he had only been blogging for six months, he seemed to know every big-shot writer in the blogosphere. I noticed that my readers were attracted to his writing. There was a meme going around where you were supposed to list “the five bloggers you most want to have dinner with at a private party.” Let’s just say that I noticed that he received a lot of dinner offers while I wasn’t even invited to share a foot-long sandwich at Subway.

At dinner, we talked about blogging, much to the boredom of Jenna and Sophia.

“Do you know X,” he asked.

“No,” I answered.

“Have you ever chatted with Y?”

“Uh, no.”

“Have you read Kate at Sweet l Salty? Isn’t she great?”

“Who?” I asked.

“She’s Canadian.”

“Bleh.”

I had absolutely no interest in reading another Canadian. I already had plenty of Canadians on my blogroll, and I promised myself to only “Read American” from now on.

A week later, I caved in and read Kate’s blog. It was very well-written I particularly liked that she separated her ideas with “+++,” something I blatantly stole from her blog without her permission.

I left a comment on her blog. Days passed and there was no response.

“Bitch,” I muttered to myself.

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I knew this “type” of literary snob who never returned a comment. I was an English major. She was clearly the type of snooty priss who only dated the guys in the berets who wrote about “inner pain,” and wouldn’t be caught dead interacting with a guy who talks to his Penis.

I hated her.

I secretly read her blog a few more times, without commenting. I thought of becoming a troll, but I was afraid that she could follow my IP address back to Queens.

In August, I attended BlogHer. Kate was involved in a session with Kelly about “writing passionately.” Kate was an amazing speaker, and as she talked about the tragedy of losing a child, the entire audience was in tears. There was something different about this too-pretty, too-educated literary snob bitch. There was a white glow surrounding her, protecting her from evil, and she seemed to spread a message of goodness, reminiscent of the heavenly aura around the virginal Lady of the Lake as she rose from the deep to protect the young King Arthur. During this one hour session at BlogHer, I went from intense hate to wanting to be her BFF!

The next day, Amy and I were slated to do our own session on Storytelling. Unlike Kate’s heart-felt dialogue, our talk was filled with comic shtick and “story structure.” I wanted to scrap the entire script and rewrite it. I wanted to be as inspirational and honest as Kate was that morning.

During lunch, I saw Kate on the other side of banquet room, and decided to approach her. I was nervous. The lunch that day was sponsored by Ragu. The entrees were lasagna and spaghetti. The tables were decorated in the colors of the Italian flag. I had spilled some tomato sauce on my faux bowling shirt, so I walked with my hand to my heart, like Napoleon, trying to hide the stain.

“Hello,” I said to Kate, my voice wavering in fear, much as it did on the infamous afternoon when I tried to talk to Tammy Weingold in high school about pairing up for the math team together.

Kate and I stood directly under a huge plastic sculpture of a Ragu tomato sauce jar that was propped up on the lasagna table, next to a stack of coupons offering a free sample of Ragu’s new “Spicy and Hearty” sauce. I will never forget this giant Ragu jar for the rest of my life. This is where I had my first real conversation with Kate Inglis. The setting was as dramatic as when Humphrey Bogart said goodbye to Ingrid Bergman at the airport in Casablanca.

“I loved your session,” I said.

I told her how I was going to change my session, because it was “a superficial pile of shit compared to what you did.”

Kate sat me down in front of the giant tomato sauce jar and told me NOT to change the session. She said that in writing, structure is as important as passion.

“You can’t write a story without a beginning, middle, and end. I’m looking forward to being there!”

I could not believe that she was coming to our session!

She told me about this book she had just finished. She was about to enter the “promotion” part of getting a book out and self-promotion did not come easy to her. She had barely mentioned the book to anyone at BlogHer.

I related to this writer. I have a huge fear of self-promotion. On the other hand, pushing other shy folk into promotion mode is a great joy for me, as long as they are the ones suffering, not me. For the next two days, whenever I passed Kate in the hotel, I bugged the hell out of her.

“Tell people about your book!” I would say.

I grabbed strangers to tell them about Kate’s book, even though I wasn’t quite sure what the book was even about, or when it was coming out.

I grilled Kate with questions.

“Do you have a website for the book?” “Can I read it?” “Can I review it on my blog?”

I saw myself as her Mister Miyagi and she as my Karate Kid, even though in the real movie — Mister Miyagi actually had some KNOWLEDGE. I knew nothing about book promotion, but I knew Kate had to step up to the plate. She was an amazing, passionate writer – and I wanted this woman standing next to the Ragu jar with the halo around her head, this blogger who I once thought was a snooty bitch, to succeed.

Tomorrow: The Book Review

Morning, December 1st

Last night, I had a little trouble falling asleep because I was laughing to myself so much over my last post. I know it probably wasn’t that funny to you, but the absurdity of the premise struck a nerve in me, and I could not stop giggling. That was a post I might have written as a twelve year old, if I had my adult brain.

At 5AM, I walked my mother down to her cab. She is going to the airport, en route to Florida for the winter. Even though the flight is not until 7:30AM. This is the craziness I have dealt with my entire life. Always show up two hours EARLY — just in case.

The house is now quiet. Sophia and I have NOT been getting along in our phone conversations. I feel mildly depressed. But also excited about new possibilities. But also worried, which probably doesn’t surprise you. While it is great to have my own space, events are forcing me back into reality, having to ponder my life again, rather than avoiding it.

Reality Television

After three days of searching to buy something online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I ended up with nothing. Everything I truly wanted, like a HD Camcorder with a built in GPS and electric shaver, was just too expensive.

If I was ever going to be a decent consumer, I needed more money. And fast. But how? Blogging was a dead end street. Writing? Only complete idiots go into writing to make money. I took a long, hard, cold look at myself in the bathroom mirror and accepted that I had no marketable skills other than being a “social media expert” (code for being on Twitter a lot, telling silly jokes)

When times are tough, and they are in America in 2009, there is only one option available for someone unskilled like myself — getting onto reality television. From faking balloon dramas to crashing White House parties, the best and brightest of our country know the route to success is not hard work, but landing a reality show on Bravo.

I sat down with my mother during breakfast this morning to discuss my options. I assumed she wanted “in” on the deal.

“We need to come up with a stunt that will get us attention.” I said. “Something that will knock any mention of health care reform off the news. We want America talking about us.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I could smash your car window with a golf club.”

“Eh. That’s old.”

“You would have better luck getting a reality show with Sophia,” said my mother. “Maybe you can get a show called “The Weirdest Marriage Ever.”

“No. I think the two of us have a better on-air dynamic. Besides, she isn’t talking to me.”

We took a few moments to brainstorm as we ate our Cheerios. I suggested that we try to come up with an idea that said “New York,” to give our gimmick some local flavor.

My mother had an idea.

“I saw on eyewitness news that they are lighting the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center on Wednesday.”

“Perfect. The cameras will already be there for our stunt.”

But what would be our stunt?

“I got it!” I shouted. “How about — right before they light the tree — we CLIMB up the tree — shocking everything with our daring ways! We would definitely get a reality show from that. Can’t you see the promotion? — “Mother and son who’ll do anything! Every week, a different stunt!”

My mother was not impressed.

“I’m too old to climb the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree anymore. And seriously, are you going to be able to climb the tree?”

“I can try.”

“Have you ever climbed a tree?”

“No, but I am sure there are branches that you can hold on to.”

My mother continued to express her doubt.

“Besides, it is too dangerous. Some NYPD cop might just shoot you off the tree, and you would fall flat on your face, like King Kong. And then, there will be no reality show at all.”

“That’s true.”

I went back into thinking mode, or “put on my thinking cap,” as they used to say.

“Eureka!” I said, knowing that people are suppose to say “Eureka” at moments like this, even though I’m not sure why. “We can both streak naked across Rockefeller Center during the tree lighting — right in front of the tree — right in front of the cameras.”

“It’s going to be freezing outside.”

“We’ll just be outside for a second. Then we’d run into 30 Rock to get dressed. I know a soup place around the corner where we can warm up with some hot chicken soup.”

Then my mother said something that completely changed the tone of the conversation.

“I just realized I can’t do this with you on Wednesday!”

“Why not?” I asked, already disappointed.

“I’m flying back to Boca Raton tomorrow. Time for me to be a snowbird again!”

“Back to Florida? Tomorrow? Already? For how long?”

“Until April. Back when the birds and flowers return.”

“So, you mean — I’m back to living on my own?”

I bowed my head, acting like a drama queen.

“Don’t look so sad. You should be happy. The place is yours now. Your own little bachelor pad. Don’t you have those BlogHer and Kirtsy parties this week? Why don’t you bring a few of those blogging babes over here for a little partying and “getting it on!” I know you have been having dreams about ****ing ***** and ****** and ******* and especially ****** in the ******!”

“Mom, that’s disgusting!” I said, in total shock. “I’ve never heard you talk like that before!”

But when I looked up at my mother, she was drinking her orange juice, looking as if she never made that outburst at all.

“Huh? What are you talking about?” she asked, confused. “I said I am going to Florida tomorrow.”

“You didn’t mention anything about having wild parties in the apartment?”

“I said I HOPE you keep the apartment clean.”

“So, who…”

“Yoo-hoo!”

I felt a tapping on my thigh. I looked down under the table.

“Penis, is that you?!” I asked. It had been ages since I had heard him talking to me. I totally gave up on this crass literary gimmick hoping to never see him again as I made my blog into something more “classy,” hoping to appeal to a more educated demographic.

“Surprised to see me pop up like this?” he joked.

“I thought we were done with the cheap sex gags on this blog.”

“Sorry about that, sucker! You can’t keep a good Penis down.”

“But why? Why this sudden reappearance?”

“Reappearance?” he chuckled. “Oh, Neil, I never left. I NEVER LEFT.”