Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: May 2010 (page 1 of 2)

5:40 AM

Sometimes I feel like I’m wounded, and the only doctor available is myself, and I never went to medical school.

5:40 Monday. IPhone. (sorry Mom for the depressing thought. It’s only a blog. Don’t worry.)

7:36 Monday. Now I feel fine. Do I delete this post or keep it as a record of 5:40? That’s the danger of a personal blog. You can say something that will become part of your online identity when it may just be a moment in time. Does everything said here have to be a statement of fact or a strongly held opinion? Can I be unsure? Or intentionally wrong and playful with my own words because I like it, or because a person might hit on the truth more easily with the throwing of the darts method?

7:47 That update made me melancholy again.

Find Your Red Dress, Uh… Wait a Minute

via Jenny, the very sexy Bloggess:

I want, just once, to wear a bright red, strapless ball gown with no apologies. I want to be shocking, and vivid and wear a dress as intensely amazing as the person I so want to be. And the more I thought about it the more I realized how often we deny ourselves that red dress and all the other capricious, ridiculous, overindulgent and silly things that we desperately want but never let ourselves have because they are simply “not sensible”. Things like flying lessons, and ballet shoes, and breaking into spontaneous song, and building a train set, and crawling onto the roof just to see the stars better. Things like cartwheels and learning how to box and painting encouraging words on your body to remind yourself that you’re worth it.

And I am worth it.

Jenny, you inspire me!

Get that novel out of your sock drawer and publish it yourself. Stand on a bus stop bench and belt out a song for the waiting strangers. Find a playground swing and remember how it felt to fly. Find your red dress. And wear the hell out of it.

Editor’s note:

After Sophia took the photo:

Neil: “My mother is gonna love this post!”

Sophia: “So will your future employer!”

Why Not?

I had a nice weekend with Sophia. Tonight we are sitting in separate rooms. She is in the bedroom, playing online poker on her laptop. I am in my office, writing this nonsense, in between stints on Twitter and Facebook.

There is no conflict between us, between man and woman. It is just a time for reflection, like Yom Kippur. We just want to be alone.

Last week, I vacuumed the house, and when I was done, I left the vacuum standing in the center of my office, still plugged into the wall. It was a passive-aggressive move against myself. I would finish the job, but not quite.

The vacuum is still standing there, in front of the bookcase, like a statue.

Figure-Skating Fans of Orange County

On Wednesday, I noticed in the newspaper that “Smuckers Stars on Ice” was playing at the Staples Center on Thursday, for one night.

“Hey, “Stars on Ice” is at Staples tomorrow,” I said to Sophia.

This comment was supposed to be a random piece of information, like “the weather is nice” or “Los Angeles has decided to ban the sale of Arizona brand iced-tea.”

But it was too late, and I was smacking myself in the head a second later.

“Oh yeah? We should go!”

Sophia is a big fan of figure-skating.  Over the years, we have attended two National Championships and one World Championship.  I immediately back-pedaled after mentioning the event.

“I didn’t mean we should actually go to it.  You know how these  Stars on Ice shows from TV.  They’re like the Ice Capades.   For kids.”

“But Shen and Zhao are there!”

Shen and Zhao are the Gold Medal -winning Pairs team from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.   In 2003,  we went to Washington D.C.  and we saw them win their second World Championship.  Although figure skating competitions can be very tedious,  their performance at the World Championship was the single most exciting live sporting event that I had ever seen.    While practicing their quadruple salchow,  Shen landed badly and injured her landing foot and ankle.  She required several treatments to numb the foot entirely so that she should compete.   The pair performed a brilliant long program that earned them several perfect 6.0’s for both technical merits and presentation.  The crowd was on their feet, giving a standing ovation for what seemed like two weeks.

Even with Shen and Zhao in attendance at Stars on Ice, I had no interest in going to see it.  I convinced Sophia that we were too busy to go.

I had dodged the bullet.

The next day and a half passed without any mention of axles or Sasha Cohen.  On Friday, At 4:30PM (and mind you, the show is at 7:30 in another county), Sophia came upstairs, as I was taking a shower, preparing for a quiet Twitter evening with my iPhone.

“”Stars on Ice” is in ANAHEIM tonight, and I found a ticket broker that can get us tenth row seats!”

I tried to come up with every excuse in the book, from it being too late to appealing to her snobbery:

“Do you really want to see Shen and Zhao in ORANGE COUNTY?”

It didn’t work.  Soon, we were on our way to the Honda Arena on Katella Blvd. in Anaheim.  Sophia was driving her Prius.

An hour later, we found ourselves parked outside a retirement home on Katella Blvd. in the city of Orange.  The location had the exact same address as the Honda Arena, but it was in Orange, not Anaheim.

“Where are we?” asked Sophia.

“Not the Honda Arena. It’s not my fault.  You must have put it in the GPS wrong.”

“Don’t be so defensive. The Prius GPS always goes crazy in Orange County.”

“You must have put it in the GPS wrong.”

“OK then. Let’s do it right this time.”

Sophia put the correct address in her GPS again, and it told us we were seventeen miles away from the Honda Arena. Rush hour traffic, very little time left, but Sophia can drive fast, believe you me.

Seventeen miles later, we ended up exactly where we started.

“Well, maybe it’s listed as the Arrowhead Pond, the old name.”

“I’m not running around Orange County anymore.  Call the Honda Arena.”

“The Honda Arena?”

“Yes, and ask them for directions.”

“It’s an ARENA.  It’s not a Chinese restaurant.  No one is ever going to answer and give us directions.”

“Sure they will.  Call the box office.”

Stubborn Sophia. I took out my iPhone and instead of calling, found the Honda Arena in the Maps app.

“OK, I found it.”

“No.  I don’t want to just go without knowing the exact intersection.  I WANT you to call the Honda Arena.”

You see where this discussion was going?  It was like 1995 all over again, in the era before Onstar and GPS, when men and women fought over asking directions.   I once wrote a post saying that GPS should win the Nobel Prize for creating peace with married couples driving in their cars all over the world.

Snickering, I called the Honda Arena.  They answered immediately and gave me perfect directions. We were three miles away. Humble pie… We finally figured out our way to the arena.  Sophia mumbled something about writing a nasty letter to Toyota about their crappy navigation in Orange County.

Because of our navigation mishap, we arrived at the Honda Arena with only ten minutes to spare.

(Three Orange County babes in front of the scary Anaheim Ducks sculpture)

Parking was twenty-five dollars.   I hate paying full price for anything, but not in this case. BUT, Sophia likes a challenge.

“Let’s drive around to see if we can find something cheaper.”

I didn’t want Sophia to miss the beginning of the show, because I knew that would upset her, and I like to play it safe, so I suggested we just park the car for twenty-five dollars.

“Just give me five minutes,” said Sophia.

I was about to call her stubborn, again, but within ten seconds, she came across an ATT installation plant parking lot. An attendant was standing near a huge sign reading “Arena Parking — $10.”  We paid the attendant and laughed at our good luck.

Sophia shook her head, as if saying, “That’s exactly your problem.  Always playing it safe.”   Or at least I interpreted it that way.  

Stars on Ice was… above average.  Not great, but not as terrible as how it was reviewed by my blogging friend Vicki when she saw it in Washington D.C.    Some of the stars  performed at a competition level — Sasha Cohen, Michael Weiss, and Shen and Zhao — while others, most notably Evan Lysecek, seemed to phone it in, waving a lot to his new fans from “Dancing with the Stars.”

And where was Johnny Weir?  I heard rumors that he might have been deemed too “different” for mainstream America.  Is that true?  (If I had known this about Johnny Weir, I wouldn’t have gone at all!)

The weirdest part of the evening was when Sophia convinced me to take a promotional photo in front of a cardboard cut-out of the figure-skaters, because she thought it would be hilarious.

As the crowds left the arena and headed to the overpriced parking lots, Sophia and I whistled happily and crossed the street, reveling in our fifteen dollars saved by smartly parking in the back of the ATT plant.    Upon our arrival at the lot, we were surprised at its relative emptiness.  We were the only passenger car in the parking lot, now filled with huge ATT trucks. The attendant who took our money was nowhere to be seen, and the “Arena Parking – $10” sign was gone, revealing the message that was hidden on the sign behind it —

We figured it out.  This was just some guy who covered the ATT parking lot sign with his — not related to the lot at all —  and then disappeared after he made a few bucks from suckers like us.

“We were lucky we didn’t get towed. But then again, that would have been some blog post.” said Sophia.

Still, with fifteen dollars saved in parking, despite being scammed, it was time to spend our extra dough.

“Frozen yogurt!” said Sophia.

“We can go to Yogurtland when we get near home.”

But Sophia seemed disappointed.  She wanted adventure.  She wanted me to take out my iPhone and find an “interesting” frozen yogurt store on Yelp as we drove down the 405.

A few minutes later, it was Mission Accomplished.  We found a unique frozen yogurt store.   Not only did the frozen yogurt store have nightly karaoke, they also sold CLAM CHOWDER!

“Why do you sell clam chowder?” the ever-friendly Sophia asked the Korean woman behind the counter.

“In the winter, frozen yogurt was selling poorly because it was too cold outside, so we decided to also sell bowls of clam chowder.”

Not everything needs to make sense.

Would I Have Blogged With Integrity?

About a month ago, I attended the TCM Classic Film Festival with Sophia.   We received VIP passes (which cost about $1000 each), and had access to a Buick LaCrosse for the week.

For years, I have been making fun of your sponsored posts and blogging with integrity badges, so I was expecting someone to make a joke at my expense.  But no one did.  I guess you get more people unfollowing you on Twitter for making a breast-feeding joke than pimping Buick all week with those annoying hashtags.  Apparently, no one even blinks, or cares.

I contacted my snarkiest blogging friend and asked, “What’s up?!  I expected YOU to make a sarcastic comment.”

But no.  Even mean bloggers are nice when it comes to blogging opportunities.

“I didn’t want to screw anything up for you,” said Mr. Not Nice Blogger.  “This was General Motors!  Big time!”

Before I accepted the tickets, I knew I was going to have to act professional during the event, so I promised myself to wait a month, and then reveal “the true story” to my dear readers, exposing the conflicts that I had with the PR bullies out to steal my soul.

The month is now up, but sadly, I have no gossip.   It was all a positive experience.  I was really lucky to get the gig.  I even befriended one of the GM people on Twitter.

I was lucky in another way.  The product was a luxury car.    What could I say bad about it?   It had leather seats and top of the line accessories, and it drove perfectly.  I certainly wasn’t equipped to put it through a barrage of road tests, or test it on icy roads.   I spend most of my time in the car sitting in slow Los Angeles traffic listening playing with the XM satellite radio stations, and trying to convince Sophia that we should “do it” in the back seat so I could blog about it.   And my neighbor was jealous of my “new car.”  What could be better than that?

The big question remains — what if the car sucked?   Would I have had the “integrity” to say so on my blog?   Wouldn’t you see me as an asshole to accept free tickets and a free car, and then stab GM in the back?  What would be the point?  Wouldn’t I just be blacklisting myself from ever working with them again?

I’m no shining beacon of truth.  I would have probably said the ride was  comfortable if I was given a rickshaw for the week.  I was lucky that I was able to be honest with my  statements about the car.   I don’t know if I would have the balls to say anything bad about any product if I was first wined and dined by the company.

And would my readers really care what I said?  Probably not.  They all know that it is one big game.  I think many of us are beginning to see corporate sponsorship as a sign of success.   Would I work with GM again?  Absolutely!    Hey, why not have Sony sponsor next year’s Christmahanukwanzaakah Holiday concert?   Would you want that?   Would they be OK with that one blogger who sings a X-rated Christmas song?  Or a song titled F-U, Sony Christmas?

And what does this have to do with writing?  Not much.

And that is the big issue.  Can all these bloggers monetizing their blogs by becoming brand ambassadors keep their position with these corporations if they honestly say something critical about that company’s product or policy?  Or is it all just a game?

Good Year

The year, 2010, started out promising, like the Goodyear blimp rising over the city, a whirring airship ascending slowly and elegantly, graceful in appearance, like a modern dancer.

“Happy New Year,” I screamed at midnight on December 31, drunk on champagne at the party at Joyce’s apartment on the Upper East Side.  It would be a good year!

It is now May.  Hmm… what happened?

I’ve always loved the Goodyear blimp.  “The Spirit of America” is stationed near my home in Redondo Beach, and on weekends, it flies over our home as it heads for the beach or some sports event in Pasadena.   If you are in the bedroom at the right moment, and glance out the bedroom window, you can see the shadow of the blimp covering the outside patio, like a huge umbrella giving shade.

What a joy it must be to pilot such a majestic blimp!   What an aerial view it must be from inside — not cold and distant like the view from a run-of-the-mill commercial airliner, miles above the ground — but close and intimate, only a few helium bursts away,  looking down at the houses below, like toys for the playing.

I started 2010 like a pilot in command of a Goodyear Blimp.   It was going to be a very good year.

But even a good year can be darkened by murky clouds, few pinpoints of light cutting through the gray mist.

It’s been five months since I returned to Los Angeles.  A broken hip of my father-in-law, Vartan, has morphed into one problem after another.  Despite the advice his doctors, his wife, Fanya, refused to put Vartan into an assisted living home.   And who can blame her?  She loves her husband.  But it hasn’t been easy.  Caring is a full time job.

Vartan is in the hospital again, with pneumonia and an infection.   Sophia and her mother are fighting with each other after Fanya fired the full-time aide.   Caring for my FIL has opened old wounds that can’t be fixed at a hospital.

And I’m… well, I’m still around.

Everyone is exhausted.

Today I took Sophia into bed.  Actually, I grabbed her and told her to GET INTO BED.   I told her we both needed to shut up — not talk about anything — and hug.  We hugged and slept for seven hours.

It was nice.  But I could hear the Goodyear blimp flying overhead, still hidden in the clouds.

Tuchus

Neil: “Maybe I should kill off the “Neilochka” name.”

Sophia: “Why would you do that? Everyone knows you by that name.”

Neil: “That’s the problem. It would be better branding if eveyone knew me as “Citizen of the Month.” I notice that real bloggers are known by the same name as their blog. Like Redneck Mommy or The Bloggess. It is confusing that I call myself Neilochka, but the blog Citizen of the Month.”

Sophia: “You can call yourself Tuchus (*Yiddish for rear end) and it wouldn’t matter. Your blog still doesn’t make any money.”

Posted on iPhone, one minute after conversation, from passenger seat in Sophia’s Prius, on the 405

Lake Pleshcheyevo

You’re old, with not much life, attached to long plastic tubes.   How many years has it been since you unbuttoned Fanya’s blouse by Lake Pleshcheyevo?    Remember how the freckles on her chest were as numerous as the stars in the Russian sky.  Re-live it, old man.   Re-live the passion as the Filipino nurse stabs you in the arm with another antibiotic.

via iphone

In Support of Lack of Privacy

Younger users online are increasingly becoming worried about their privacy.   We saw this coming, right?

From the NY Times:

Sam Jackson, a junior at Yale who started a blog when he was 15 and who has been an intern at Google, said he had learned not to trust any social network to keep his information private. “If I go back and look, there are things four years ago I would not say today,” he said. “I am much more self-censoring. I’ll try to be honest and forthright, but I am conscious now who I am talking to.”

Many are applauding this movement of younger people embracing privacy.  Parents certainly don’t want their children failing to get into Harvard because of photos of them doing jello shots on Facebook.

Ms. Liu is not just policing her own behavior, but her sister’s, too. Ms. Liu sent a text message to her 17-year-old sibling warning her to take down a photo of a guy sitting on her sister’s lap. Why? Her sister wants to audition for “Glee” and Ms. Liu didn’t want the show’s producers to see it. Besides, what if her sister became a celebrity? “It conjures up an image where if you became famous anyone could pull up a picture and send it to TMZ,” Ms. Liu said.

Makes sense right?  We went a little overboard online during the past few years, didn’t we?

The early years of the blogosphere can be considered either the “Golden Age” or the “Wild West” of social media, depending on your view of this privacy issue.  Right now, there seems to be a backlash against our openness, with “The Wild West” winning out.   In this scenario, we will soon be shaking our heads in disgust at our behavior, as if we fornicating in front of the Golden Calf as Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

“Who did we think we were — real writers and celebrities?”  we will ask ourselves.  “Did we actually think we were interesting and that we were supposed to EXPOSE OURSELVES to others, body and soul?”

Even in my circle of friends, I hear talk of mommybloggers pulling back and not posting photos of their kids.   There is a growing number of moms who see this as exploitation.

Bloggers have been nasty lately, fighting over what is appropriate to say to each other in public discourse.  Is it any wonder that bloggers are moving out of the public arena and shutting down their personal blogs, like urban folk running away to the suburbs.   Who needs the trouble?

The Wild West Blogosphere of the past few years has been chaotic and dangerous, a virtual Tombstone filled with dead bodies piled in the OK Corral, but it has also been lively, complete with big personalities and human drama.  Blogging would be boring without it.  If you look at today’s list of the “most influential bloggers, mom bloggers, or twitterers,” 99% of them are marketers, social media gurus or bloggers selling a Martha Stewart-style image.  What fun is that?

I see things differently.  The last few years have been the blogosphere’s “Golden Age.”   No one really thought about the ramifications of what they were doing.   And that was pretty radical.  Once privacy becomes central to blogging, what the hell is there to blog about in a personal blog other than the superficial?   Will bloggers now be afraid of “opening up?” knowing that every word will be embedded into Google search forever.

That would be a sad event.   The blogosphere will just be another professional arena.  In the last few years, I learned so much from direct contact with other bloggers — for instance, how rampant sexual abuse is in our society.   I met friends who are alcoholics.  I talked with bloggers with all sorts of illnesses that were once only whispered about only at home, such as cancer.  This sharing online came about for one reason — an agreed-upon  LACK OF PRIVACY.   We would be honest, and expected it in return.   Sometimes we would get judgmental, but mostly the whole point of blogging was to connect.  If the 1960s was all about letting it all hang out in a physical sense, the blogosphere of 2003-2010 was about letting it hang out emotionally.  Bloggers felt comfortable revealing their mental illnesses, their bad marriages, and their bad mothering techniques.  They were not worrying about how this information could be used AGAINST THEM.  Once that happened, it was over.  It becomes too dangerous.  And when even COLLEGE KIDS are afraid of looking stupid on Facebook, you know that corporate, sensible, puritanical America has won.  Oh, sure the drinking, sex, and drugs will continue on campuses across America, but it will always be someone ELSE who was doing it, not us.  The blogosphere will be like “Desperate Housewives” Wisteria Lane, suburban and glossy on the outside, but behind closed doors…

Remember when President Clinton said he smoked pot but didn’t inhale?  Doesn’t that seem silly now?  I thought the blogosphere was creating a new world.  I was already forseeing a future where that type of shit didn’t matter anymore.

Presidential Candidate 2020 Judith Grossman:  “As you can see from my Facebook photos, yes, I smoked pot… alot.  I’m a little embarrassed about that video of that threesome I had in graduate school, but since it is on YouTube already, what can I do?  At least I had a good time.  I know I bitched a lot about my mother on my blog, “I Hate My Mother,” but eventually we reconciled, and now my dear mother is in the audience with me today, my biggest supporter.  Hello, Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day.  My opponent has been playing dirty in his campaign, revealing those tweets I made on the evening of my abortion in 2016, but as you can see this NSFW photo my opponent put up on Match.com in 2012, he has plenty of shortcomings, if you know what I mean.  Does America really want this man fighting terrorism at home and overseas?”

I was hoping that people would just laugh at that speech.  Facebook would make all of us equal.  Someone had a gay experience in college?  Yawn.  Who hasn’t?  Your daughter showed her tits at Mardi Gras?  Like YOU didn’t?!

People would be judged by important things, such as kindness and commitment to justice.  I would hate to think because someone writes the word “fuck” on their blog that they might be unable to get a job with a law firm.  In my world, I would ONLY give a job to the person who had the balls to be real.

I am all for privacy.  I hate the data that Facebook collects on us because the purpose is to SELL US STUFF.  And I do believe we need to be careful with our privacy, especially with our families.  But I am not as afraid of the future.  Your kids are already growing up with a world with less “privacy.”  Live with it.  And maybe there is some good to this.  Is it possible that society has kept some issues out of sight and out of mind for two long, under the guise of privacy.  Would we rather live in the 1950s, where we feared sharing our dirty laundry — racism, sexism, rape, mental illness, etc?

As much as I hate the nastiness, trolls, fighting, and lack of privacy of today’s blogosphere, it is much better than a white-washed image of ourselves, filled with glossy filtered photos, constructed to attract PR firms and employees, each of us nothing more than an avatar in a multi-media resumes.

I have a dream.  One day, a proud Jewish mother will be playing mah jonng with her friends, and will go on Facebook to show her friends some recent photos of her daughter in college.

“Here’s Lisa as president of the student body at Harvard.  She has a perfect GPA.  Here’s Lisa with her Jewish boyfriend; he’s pre-Med.  And here’s Lisa showing her tits at the Mardi Gras last year.  She loved New Orleans!”

A Proof of the Existence of God

Many of you ask me about my religion, wondering if I truly adhere to the belief in an all powerful, all-knowing God.

Here’s what I think: None of us can truly know if God exists, but anyone who admires nature, must see that there is a Grand Organizer serving as the CEO of the Universe. Season come and go, babies are born; life is a perfect cycle, the ultimate musical symphony. Even the parts of life that make no rational sense at first do HAVE MEANING, once we devote ourselves to examining the mysteries. All you need to do is OPEN YOUR EYES.

Let’s take the idea behind aging. We get old and die. It is rather dumb idea. If you were going to create a MAN in your image, would you really go out of the way to make him start out as young and strong, and then, as then as he gets older and wiser, have his body and mind fall apart until he is just plain dead, lying in a hospital bed.

Makes no sense, right? This God should be fired, or at sued, like Toyota is being sued with their faulty accelerators on the Prius.

But hold on. Let’s approach it from another angle — a philosophical method — one operating under the assumption that God carefully and methodically plans life out with an organizer on his heavenly iPad.

This morning I took a walk outside. Summer is approaching in Los Angeles. The flowers are blooming. Women are walking around in tight t-shirts and shorts. I found myself attracted to several of these women. Some were young, some were older.

And what type of thoughts were flying through my head? Yes, the existence of God.

Here’s why —

When you are a man in your early twenties, you spend most of your time trying to get into the pants of a woman your age. All other women seem too old, unless you are a Mrs. Robinson type perv.

As you move into your latter twenties, you notice that your female friends are ALSO in their late twenties. It shocks you to realize that they are actually SEXIER now than women in their early twenties. What happened? They have more confidence, more life experience. Of course, you wouldn’t refuse to hop in the sack with a twenty-two year old, but your age range has expanded, creating more opportunities.

I know every man remembers the moment he turned thirty and opened his eyes, and said, “Holy shit, women in their thirties are f**king hot!” Ten years ago, these would seem like old women. Now they are in their prime. These women have lose their shyness, and it is not uncommon to hear a thirty-five year old woman telling a man on a first date, “How about after dinner we go back to my place, watch the last episode of Lost, and I’ll give you a blowjob you will never forget.” No woman in her twenties would ever say that. Of course, as a man, you are still attracted to women in their twenties. But now, in most cases, you are attracted to women in their twenties AND THIRTIES.

You see where this is going. This natural selection continues as the man ages, so by the time a man is in his eighties, he is interested in fucking every woman from 21-89. Without God lower his libido, can you imagine how difficult it would be for a 90 year old man to go outside without tripping over his erection and breaking his hip?

Luckily, God is merciful. Even with the lessening of the libido, there is a point in a man’s life when he is attracted to women his own age, his daughter’s age, his granddaughter’s age, AND HIS great-granddaughter’s age. The pain is just too much for anyone, and God, in his wisdom, allows him to die.

God exists.

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