Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: March 2011 (page 1 of 2)

Blog Held Hostage: Second Update

On March 17th, I wrote down five simple goals.  Goal #1 was this:  “set up a date for when I am traveling to Los Angeles, and moving my stuff from Sophia’s place.”

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“I need a ten minute break from this conversation,” she said over the phone from Los Angeles.  I was in New York.

I tried to take a ten minute nap.  I put the alarm on my iPhone in order to wake me up, my current favorite alarm — the one that sounds like church bells.  But I didn’t fall asleep.  The room was too hot; management continues to blast heat up the radiator, no matter what the temperature outside, through mid-April, as if they knew better than Mother Nature.  My next door neighbor was cooking pungent Korean food.  My legs hung over the edge of the too-short couch like wet laundry on a clothesline in a 1950’s Bronx tenement.

After the brief intermission, I told Sophia that I wanted to move my things by June 15th.

“And where are you going to move everything?  There’s 25 boxes of books.”

“It doesn’t matter.  I’m going to move it somewhere.”

We took another ten minute break, which continued on for three painful days.

(no comments today)

The Evolution of Friendship on Social Media

Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?  I had a tuna sandwich for lunch.  What did you have?

Jane:  I had a yogurt.

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Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?  Did you see what Tom is doing?  All he does is put up links to his own blog posts!  How crude.

Jane:  I know!   What a self-absorbed loser.

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Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?  Did you see that Tom has hired six ghostwriters to put up links all day to his own blog posts, and now he has a million followers?!

Jane:  That’s crazy.  Most people are just sheep who can’t think for themselves.

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Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?  Did you learn anything from Tom at that seminar on social media?

Jane:  Read my post.

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Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?

Jane:  Read my post.  And buy Tom’s new book on social media.  And vote for me as one of the top ten most interesting conversationalists online.

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Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?

Jane:  [YOU HAVE BEEN UNFOLLOWED]

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Dick:  Read my post.  Buy Tom’s book.

Jane:  [STILL UNFOLLOWED]

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Dick:  Everyone, you MUST READ Jane’s brilliant new earth-shattering blog post right now!

Jane:  Thanks, dude!  RT @Dick “Everyone, you MUST READ Jane’s brilliant new earth-shattering blog post right now!”

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Dick:  Read my postRead Jane’s postBuy Tom’s book.

Jane:  Read my postRead Dick’s postBuy Tom’s book.

It’s Called a Prune

One of the changes in my life is to start to think big. For example, earlier this week was the Jewish holiday of Purim. While other Jews simply dressed as Queen Esther and ate prune hamentashen for the holiday, I decided to “step it up a notch” and dress as Queen Esther AND make a promotional video for the prune INDUSTRY!

Luckily, I erased that first video and made this one instead — an entry to go to the Mom 2.0 conference in New Orleans next month and be a representative of Sunsweet Growers, one of the sponsors. I wanted to give it a try, and do something new. You have to promise not to laugh.

I’ve seen some of the other entries — confident Moms serving Sunsweet D’Noir Prunes to their grateful families — so I am a long long shot in getting this gig. But like the Mets possibly winning the pennant this season, you gotta believe! I find out tomorrow.

Good luck to the other Queen Esthers vying for the spot!

Have you Heard about Hugo and Kim?!

My track record of getting into useless internet arguments this week exploded today when I was confronted with this sad link from the New York Times, via Kyran‘s Facebook page, which stated that people have stopped using the telephone.

In the last five years, full-fledged adults have seemingly given up the telephone — land line, mobile, voice mail and all. According to Nielsen Media, even on cellphones, voice spending has been trending downward, with text spending expected to surpass it within three years.

OK, fine. We all know the New York Times likes to publish false “controversial” facts just to get you to pay for their subscription. But surely my old blogging pal, Kyran, a fun-loving writer who appreciates old traditions, loves to chat on the phone with her friends and colleagues.

But then I saw her comment on the subject–

Ding-dong, the social phone call is dead. Count me among those who won’t miss it. My mother and sister are about the only people I want to visit with on the telephone.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, most of her friends AGREED with her. I immediately re-posted this on my Facebook page, hoping that my own friends still enjoyed a good one-on-one phone chat. After all, many of my Facebook friends are pals from the old days.

Remember, friends, when we used to talk on the phone for HOURS about our algebra homework? Or about the cute girls in the junior class? Or whether a “time warp” could really exist? Or whether the Mets can win a game this year?  Hey, Barry, remember the time we spend three hours on the phone, watching the same Mets game in our own homes at the same time?

Does anyone really think social media does a better job in creating real communication between individuals?

Would Bye, Bye Birdie really be BETTER using social media, rather than the brilliant invention of Alexander Graham Bell?

The Titanic Birthday Card

The downward spiral started in the “Peter Pan” bus returning home from the Berkshires in the beginning of March.  It was snowing outside, flakes five times bigger than I had ever seen before.  I had just said good-bye to Jenn Mattern from the blog, Breed ‘Em and Weep, her mother, Elaine, and Jenn’s two daughters, after a weekend visit.  We were at their favorite local diner, where I had eaten eggs, sausages, and huge country-fresh buttermilk pancakes.

I had a great weekend; it was also a glimpse into the life of another person who I had only known through her words.  I knew from the blog that Jenn had split with her husband three years back, and she had some rough spots during that time.    But while I was there, I didn’t focus on the words on the page, but the person, and the reality surrounding her.  I heard about the early stages of a relationship she was having with a man.  I could sense the anxiety and the excitement when she mentioned it.  And there was a lot of love twirling around her all the time, from her mother, who lived nearby, her two daughters, her friends, her two dogs, and her two cats.

It was this love and companionship in her life that was on my mind as the bus slowly made its way through the quaint towns of New England, en route back to the grit of The Port Authority Bus Terminal of New York.  I was returning to the apartment in Queens, my mother’s apartment while she was in Florida for the winter.  I had been alone for four months.

Before the weekend in Massachusetts, I was feeling pretty good, or at least I thought so.  Sure, the place was a mess, like a cliched bachelor pad, with my underwear hanging from the chandelier, and Chinese take-out cartons littering the carpet, but I was managing.  My main problem was that the apartment was too quiet at times, forcing me to go on Twitter for conversation.  I still talked with Sophia on the phone, but it always turned into a frustrating mis-communication about something.   Now, after a weekend seeing all the energy in another person’s life, I noticed the glaring absence in my own, as if the curtain was ripped aside to reveal the empty theatrical set.

I tried to return to my usual life of writing, blogging, and Twittering, but it seemed stale.  Even worse, a waste of time.  While others were talking about conferences, marketing, and book promotion, I felt like I was just getting in the way of others.   The more I responded emotionally to someone’s blog post, the more I wanted pick the words off the page and stomp on them with my bare feet, like a bratty child, crushing them into jibberish.  I told Bon that one of her social media posts was “bullshit.”  In one week, I argued with bloggers such as Tanis, Marinka, Kate, and Karen Maezen Miller.

A few days later, my birthday arrived.  While I was honored to have so many nice people wish me a happy birthday on Facebook, it was also overwhelming.  There was no way I could personally reply to all the kind messages.  I felt a sense of anxiety.  I was on edge.

I went to my friend’s house for my birthday — my friend, Rob, who I have known since nursery school.  It was great hanging with him and his family.  Both of his young sons made me homemade birthday cards.  His older son, who had become obsessed with the Titanic after reading a picture book at school, drew a picture of the Titanic on the front of my birthday card.  If found this cute, but I was also sensed the symbolism.

For the next few days, I goofed off in my apartment, playing on my iPhone.  I decided to download the free version of “Angry Birds,” just to know why this game was so popular.

At first, the “game” seemed idiotic.  How many times can you slingshot a bird into a structure of wood and glass, just to make some mocking pigs explode?  It seemed inane.

I ended up playing it for several hours.  After I reached “Level 11,” I deleted the app forever.  It was also having a bad effect on my nerves, and my brain.  I was feeling in a vulnerable state, and the angry bird were — making me angry.  I wasn’t sleep well.  I wrote these surreal blog posts with images of destruction, a type of writing that is unusual for me.

From “Flying Nude Over the 59th Street Bridge

My sixth year of blogging started with a bang. I’m not sure what caused the massive explosion in my bedroom at 3AM. but I was awoken suddenly, my flannel sheets from Target on fire.

From “Angry Birds.”

I glanced at my iPhone sitting on the other end of the table, and I immediately understood the reason behind the mysterious appearance of this tiny female bird in the crevices of my brain. I had played Angry Birds earlier that day for at least an hour, and the repetitive nature of the birds smashing into glass must have made an impact on my soul. All that death and destruction!

The next night, Sophia called me at 2AM from Los Angeles.  She told me to turn on the TV and told me about the massive earthquake in Japan.  She suggested that I wake up my friend Rob.  His wife was born in Japan, and might want to know what is going on back home.

I was half-asleep, so I said OK, but didn’t make the call.  Sophia called again.  I told her that I didn’t want to wake them up.   They could find out in the morning.   She insisted that I do it, or she would.

I woke up their family at 2:30AM to tell them about the earthquake.  At first, Rob didn’t seem happy that I called so early and woke up the kids, but I think we all quickly saw that this was not a regular earthquake, but something bigger, especially when the tsunami arrived.  Luckily, the family in Japan was OK, and Sophia was right about calling them.

I spent the next few days glued to the TV and the internet, like most others, feeling scared and shocked, and a little unsure what to do.  I donated some money to the Red Cross.  The trouble at the nuclear power plant only added more to the tension.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened to me during March.  It was a combination of events — visiting Jenn in the Berkshires and meeting her family, arguing with other bloggers online, my birthday, a Titanic birthday card, Angry Birds, and the devastating earthquake in Japan.

I had to change things about the way I was living my life, and I needed to start to do it NOW.

And that’s why I started with these five relatively easy goals.

Blog Held Hostage: First Update

I’m allowed to change my mind.  Rather than stop writing on my blog, as I mentioned on my last post, I can USE my writing space as a public record of how I am dealing with these five seemingly simple, but actually extremely difficult, tasks that I placed at the tip of my own feet.

I’m not sure how often I will update this, or whether the ongoing plot will be of interest to anyone other than myself.  Be prepared for a very slowly-paced story.  Most of the drama is internal.  I will not veer from the subject at hand until the dragon is slayed, and the fair maiden trapped in the tower cleverly ties together several of her bras to form a sturdy rope in which I can use to climb to the window and rescue her.

1) I have set up a date for when I am traveling to Los Angeles, and moving my stuff from Sophia’s place.

I have taken no action in this at all. But I expect a phone call FROM Sophia, once she reads my blog, very very soon.

2) Decided in which city I’m going to live.

This is a tough one.   Nothing.

3)  Sat across from an available woman — for at least an hour — in real life, and flirted with her.

Jason Mayo invited me to his office St. Patrick’s Day Party today on Facebook. When I looked at the guest list on his Facebook page, I noticed MANY available women had RSVPed.  Unfortunately, I had to be home to get an important phone call from someone in Los Angeles at the same time as the party during Pacific Standard Time.  Now I know — and you know — that if I really wanted to go to this party to flirt with a woman for at least an hour, I could have devised a plan.   Did I wimp out, fearful of going to a party where I hardly know a person?  That’s your call.

4) Made a decision on my next writing project.

No.

5) Exercised for at least three days in a row.

Not yet.  BUT, I spend an hour going through the Exercise TV programs they broadcast ON DEMAND with Time Warner Cable.  I am going to attempt to do Cardioke (or Kardioke?) with Billy Blanks son, Billy Blanks Jr., a “high energy” exercise which combines dance moves while singing up-tempo Karaoke songs, like those from the Black Eyed Peas.  I know it sounds rather ridiculous, and I would off myself if a video of me doing this exercise ever made it onto YouTube, but it looks EXTREMELY exhausting, but not as crazy as that Shredding military dictatorship routine.

The Not Impossible Dreams

I’m not blogging again until —

1)  I have set up a date for when I am traveling to Los Angeles, and moving my stuff from Sophia’s place.

2)  Decided in which city I’m going to live.

3)  Sat across from an available woman — for at least an hour — in real life, and flirted with her.

4).  Made a decision on my next writing project.

5).  Exercised for at least three days in a row.

These are not impossible dreams.  If I focus, I can be back to this blog by next week.

Sent from my iPhone

Finding Nirvana

Editor’s Note: Dear Reader, I know there is no need for me to ask your permission or apologize for what I do on my own blog, but I am who I am, so sue me. I have NO IDEA what I am doing on my blog this month, ever since my birthday. Mid-life crisis maybe? I’m just writing, with little editing or thought. I’m in a bit of a state at the moment. So, instead of falling apart in real life, I am trying to manage my life while going a little bonkers on my blog. If you are a troll, fuck you, but if you are a friend who feels the urge to make fun of the pretentious nature of my posts, feel free to mock away in a friendly way. I always make fun of you on your blogs. Fair is fair. I am enjoying playing with “earnest” writing, something that is not my usual cup of tea. Unlike some of you wimps, I am not afraid of failing on my blog. I am quite proud of that, actually. And besides, there is something personal that I am trying to express here. I’m just not sure what it is as of yet. I really appreciate you reading this, knowing that it isn’t particularly entertaining, or even good, and might be as painful for you to read as my eighth grade poetry. But it is therapeutic.

Neil

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I re-write over and over again, trying to strip away the excess fat, in the misguided attempt to reach some point of pure honesty, to catch a glimpse of my soul, or the face of God, thinking it the ultimate goal of writing, not the mere use of words, pedestrian tools found in any magician’s bag, used for manipulation. So I was completely shocked that, while writing in a black and white notebook, I reached that point of complete emptiness that few every see. It was a 7:45PM EST. It was as if I walked through a golden light that went from paper to pen to soul, and transported me into a zen retreat on a silent moutaintop. But rather than feeling ecstasy or a sense of wholeness, I felt alone, even with the bright colors of the rainbow sky surrounding me. This is not who I am, where I belong, born to a Jewish family from New York who love the hearty stories told that fill the thick air, like letters emanating from the Torah. I turned back. I love the earth, the senses, and the illogic of everything real. I respect the solitude of nirvana. I am impressed that I came this close to knowing it. I feel older now, more experienced with life. But I would be crushed under the weight of NOTHING. I returned to immediately make a joke about the food in nirvana’s cafeteria, just to comfort me like a goose-down blanket. Back to writing.

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(for BHJ)

Tuesday Writing Challenge

Today’s Challenge: Write a post that is honest and authentic, but at the same time appeals to every single sector of your completely incompatible readership —

1) socially minded, highly educated, overly neurotic mothers whom you can safely flirt with without having to do anything in real life

2) trailer park denizens who loved your numerous dick jokes from 2007-2008, when you were funnier

3) social-climbing “friends” from Ivy League colleges who now live in Manhattan, work in “media,” think personal blogging is a waste of time, read The New Yorker magazine, and love to name drop pretentious shit like a bunch of pampered assholes.

— in an effort to please everyone, like the pussy writer you are, making yourself sound likable and approachable, but ultimately destroying any sense of authority.

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“What kind of ridiculous writing challenge is this?” I asked.

“It is an ideal one for you.” answered my Penis.

“Penis, what are you doing here. I haven’t talked to you on this blog for ages!”

“Exactly. And why? Because Veronica said she didn’t like the posts.”

“So, I trust her opinion. Maybe she was right…”

“No… no… no… Fuck Veronica. The reader is never right. You are the writer. You need to listen to THE VOICE.”

“Who’s voice? Yours?”

“No. Yours.”

“I don’t want to do this prompt,” I cried. “Overly-neurotic mothers? Trailer park denizens? Social climbing “friends?” These are my dear readers. The ones who pay the bills”

“Fuck your readers.”

“But everyone is going to hate me.”

“Do it!” demanded my Penis. “Show them who has the cojones!”

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Tuesday Writing Challenge

Melissa
by Neil Kramer

I couldn’t believe my eyes as she stepped into the bedroom. It was my first time seeing her without a stitch of clothing. I admired her full breasts and her long, strong legs.

How lucky was I to have met Melissa at their reading Saturday night at the 92nd Street Y by Russian-American novelist Gary Shteyngart! Not only was Melissa gorgeous, with flowing golden brown hair the color of the finest wheat, but she had a PhD in Molecular Biology, was a noted feminist writer and speaker, a Fellow at the Nieman Lab, an animal rescuer, and the mother of three beautiful, brilliant, well-behaved, healthy young children, all who attended top private schools and could read and write in English, Mandarin, Hebrew, and Portuguese.

When I looked into her eyes, the sensation was so intense. This was the perfect woman.

Here is where I reveal something to you, dear reader. Despite my bravado in print, I am really quite shy and modest. While I was brazen in my gaze at her nakedness, I felt vulnerable and uncovered in my own, and grabbed a magazine from the night stand, spreading it open to cover manly arousal.

As she walked closer and closer to me, her eyes grew hungry as she stared at me. Or rather the issue of The New Yorker which I used as my shield of honor, opened to pages 42-43 of the latest issue. “Oh, a Roz Chast cartoon! I love her,” she cried, as she swiped the magazine off of me and went to read it on the easy chair.

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“How was it?” I asked my Penis.

“Eh.” he answered.

“Fuck you!” I finally screamed at my Penis.

“Finally! Eureka! You did it.” he said, laughing with glee. “You passed the test. You fought back against your own Penis! And when a man can finally fight back against the will of his own Penis, the world is his oyster!”

“You know that expression is from Shakespeare.”

“The Merry Wives Of Windsor Act 2, scene 2, 2–5”

“Fuck Shakespeare!”

“Keep it going! Now you got the mojo!”

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(for Kate’s amusement)

Operation

A medical degree is not essential.  Just a steady hand and nerves stronger than a mighty oak tree.  Mentally fit as as a steel plank.  But gentle as a whispering dandelion.

Hello, my name is Neil, and these are my ailments —

A butterfly in my stomach, water on the knees, a broken heart, a Charlie horse, and a very funny bone.

Will you be my Specialist?   Pick a card and heal me.   If you can avoid the shock of the electricity, I will kiss you forever.

Sent from my iPhone

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