the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: March 2011 (Page 2 of 2)

Angry Birds

I was sitting at the kitchen table after dinner, which consisted of a tuna fish salad and hummus on wheat bread. It was a somewhat dark in the room because I turned off the overhead “chandelier,” as my mother call the light fixture; the apartment tends to get hot, and the eight teardrop-shaped bulbs add extra heat.

As I finished my diet Snapple, I let my mind wander, and a specific image came to my mind. There was a small bird sitting in the palm of my hand. It was more a newly hatched chick than an adult bird with the ability to fly. I think the bird was bright yellow, like an Easter Peep, but I’m not sure. The bird felt so light, almost weightless. I kept my hand perfectly still, to be gentle with her. And it was a “her.” I don’t know how I knew, but I knew.

The bird chirped. She was hungry. I didn’t want to walk all the way to the fridge to look for food. I worried about accidentally dropping her onto the floor. I was incredibly anxious about holding this bird in my palm of my hand, something I had never done before. I wanted to be very careful. I grabbed a container of Italian bread crumbs that was nearby, on the kitchen counter, and poured the grains into my hand. The bird munched and savored her meal, eating voraciously.

And then the bird died.

I don’t know why this happened. I started to cry. It was my fault. I fretted over what to do with this dead bird in my head. Should I wrap her in a paper towel? Should I bury her? And where?

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!

I laughed at the ridiculousness of my own stupid irrational thoughts. From tears to laughter over imaginary birds. How powerful you are, dear Almighty Brain. You rule us all.

For that brief moment, I understood the feeling of a nervous breakdown.

Truth Quotient: 90% True!  Except for the nervous breakdown part.  That is there for melodrama.

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. There was no time to save anything from my bedroom, not even my undeserved Little League Trophies for randomly being chosen to be on the winning teams. The hot orange flames were blocking me from the door, so my only choice was to crash through the pane of glass and fly out the window, like Peter Pan. And fly I did, over the Chinese restaurants and the kosher butchers of Kissena Boulevard in Flushing into the cold dark air above, naked as when I was first brought into this world.

Yeah, I sleep in the nude. Just a little something for you to think about on a lonely night, my dear Maria. But tonight I was too busy for thoughts of romance. As if you even cared.

But tonight I was flying high, and never felt such exhilaration in all my life. I had goosebumps and my hair was twirling in the wind. I flew over 59th Street Bridge and into Manhattan. And then, as I soared over the mighty skyscrapers, I did what any man would do. I pissed in the wind. Over New York City. I pissed on the Empire State Building. I pissed on Rockefeller Center. I pissed on Donald Trump’s head. I placed my mark on the urban jungle, as if I owned the city. It was mine. The piss was the contract. Any dog can tell you that.

And then I flew back home, to my local pizzeria, still open for the night. I was naked and shivering from flying outside in early March, still winter. The owner, Angelo, offered me an apron, and a cup of coffee to warm myself.

“What would you like to eat?” asked Angelo, in his New York accent stronger than my own. “Tonight everything is on the house. You own the city!”

Apparently, word gets around fast.

And so begins another year of blogging. I take my words very seriously here. I slice my leg for you, and let it bleed, and then tell you about it for your enjoyment. I blow up my apartment, piss in the wind, and then tell my tale. I fall in love. I hate. I kvetch. I hope. I wonder. I send secret messages to Maria. I’m curious about who the fuck you are and why you come here. Everything I say here is true. Every word.

The Sixth Year of Blogging Begins

Today is my birthday.  It is also the sixth anniversary of Citizen of the Month, which I began writing on March 7, 2005.

Even thought I have republished this before, I will do it again.  My first post from 2005–

What’s on my mind this evening — the night of my first post?   It’s the future.   My future.

I see it so clearly.

I’m a very spry 100 year old man, thanks to medical advances and the ability of the medical establishment to take chances with modern patient care.  Who knew that the diet supplement Trimspa would end up eradicating most illnesses from the world?

I’m in my home of the future.  My grandson, Bar Code #466408736664, sits at my side, browsing the internet in eye-scan mode  (using the latest upgraded Intel mini-chip in his brain — the PC having disappeared decades earlier)..  Suddenly, he tells me that he’s at the Coca-Cola digi-Archives site (formerly the Library of Congress) and viewing this very first post that you are currently reading.

At that moment, I will be an old man remembering the early days of the Internet.  The 56K modem.  Netscape.  Those AOL disks falling out of every magazine.  That first illegal MP3.  That first post on the blog.

“Grandpa,” #466 says with a twinkle in his eye.  “Man, grandpa, this post really sucks.”

And just then, I realize that it isn’t a twinkle in his eye, but a reaction to one of those synthetic drugs he’s been taking at school.   I laugh, remembering how I was drunk while writing that first post.

“He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.”

What a weird hobby — this blogging thing.   In some ways, my writing hasn’t changed much over the years; it is still a combination of honesty and bullshit.

The truth:  I was not drunk writing my first post.  I should delete that now.  Why did I write that for?  I must have thought it was funny at the time.

That is one way my writing has changed; I’m not as funny as I used to be in 2005.   Three family deaths and the ups and downs of marital life can do that to you. Maybe I was never that funny.  But luckily, I have had good friends, both online and offline keeping me in good spirits, a loving mother, and the continued friendship of Sophia, so I’m pretty optimistic about the future. And all this angst, rather than getting me down, has only made me more sexy in the eyes of women, because they seem to love the dark, brooding type of guy! So, there is that.

What will happen on this blog during this sixth year of production?  Rather than tell you in words, I made a little video trailer of an upcoming blog post that I will be writing in July.  So, please stick around for another year of laughter, pathos, and drama!  Enjoy.

Dill Pickles

4500 years ago
in Mesopotamia
the lowly cucumber
was pickled for flavor.

And life has never been the same.

Thousands of pickles
from cornichons to gherkins
are served today
in Germany and Jacksonville

I despise sweet pickles
because they taste like children’s candy.
and I’m a man.

Half-sour pickles are for fools
who lack commitment
and enjoy half-baked bread.

I don’t care about the pickle’s crispness.
or the snap of the crunch.
I just want my pickle so sour
that it turns my hair green.

I want my pickle soaked in the brine for years.
I want every moment of dill, mustard, garlic, and pepper
flooding my tongue until my eyes are tearing from the pleasure and pain.

Behind the Scenes in the Berkshires

This past weekend I took a bus in the heavy snow to the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

I had two special theatrical events to attend.

One was to attend a performance/theater/artsy/German/avantgarde thingamagig at Mass MOCA, in which actors lived in a theatrical set all day, and the audience could walk around the perimeter, peering in through the curtains as the “play” was performed in real time.

The other performance piece involved me visiting the home of Jenn Mattern, one of my all-time favorite bloggers.  She writes at Breed ‘Em and Weep, as well as Parentdish and Work it, Mom!  During this visit, I would be allowed to walk around and observe this “Jenn Mattern” in her daily life, as well as interact with other “actors” in her natural habitat.  This would offer me a unique glimpse behind the “writing” curtain to understand the woman behind the fancy words.


Two environments, two curtains to pull back, two sets of actors.  But two vastly different theatrical experiences.


The art performance at the museum, while well-packaged as an event, was quite cold and “Germanic” in ambiance.  The set was mostly a clumsily-constructed wooden box, with few comforts of home.  The audience members walked aimlessly around the set waiting for some activity, and the pace of the drama was quite slow.

One of the lead characters, THE SLEEPY GUY, slept for most of the time I was on the set.

The other two characters, THE ANGRY WOMAN and the NEBBISH DUDE, walked back and forth from the other rooms, like bored roommates with no social life other than having Twitter on their phones.

There was some sort of conversation going on between Angry and Nebbish, but it was difficult to follow, and annoying to have to schlep with them from room to room.  I think the angry woman was a stripper.  At some point she yelled at the Nebbish Dude that “It is my vagina and I will do what I want with it!”  This was pretty much the highlight of the play, or at least the part I saw.  After this outburst, the Nebbish Dude sat around on the couch and played some Led Zeppelin on his boombox.

I can’t truly “review” this performance, because it takes place over four days, eight hours a day in a box in a museum, so it is quite possible that something exciting happened after I left the room.  My segment consisted mostly of the actors sleeping or kvetching about their vaginas.

After fifteen minutes, I went to have a turkey sandwich in the cafe.


In contrast, the Jenn Mattern theater piece was nothing at all like the dark, sterile, dystopian vision of the German director.  Her house was warm and inviting, and Jenn herself was a delightful, attractive, fully three-dimensional lead character, a charismatic brunette with a warm heart and a sharp wit.

The pace of her theater piece, while completely improvised, was chaotic, funny, unexpected, and filled with the old-fashioned “realism” of a well-made play.  You could feel the “life” exploding in her environment, and there are more subplots going on in her story than in an episode of Mad Men.  Jenn has two cats.  And two dogs.  And two daughters.  And a mother, Elaine, who lives nearby, a terrific blogger herself, who sometimes just drops in unannounced, like Kramer in Seinfeld, just to play her accordion.

The Mattern house is an endearingly eccentric mix of books, Fruit Loops, children, music, writing, dogs and cats, and a bit of refreshingly open neuroticism. And Jenn is as beautiful a person as she is a talented writer. Anyone who is lucky enough to visit will have an unforgettable experience.

Oh, yeah. The experience was also interactive, like “Tony and Tina’s Wedding.”  Here I am, walking the family dog, Eli.  This was the very first time I ever walked a dog.  I picked up the poop — all by myself! Try doing THAT when you are seeing “Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway!

So, the reviews are in —

1)  The German avant garde performance piece at the museum — one star.  a snore-fest, or as one of Jenn’s elder daughter put it, “That sounds REALLY BORING.”

2)  The Mattern home — five stars!  Rave reviews.  The highlight of the 2011 season.

Thanks, Mattern family!

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