Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: March 2012

Christine

Christine, I believe you have many of the characteristics of an empath.   You can feel the joy and sorrow of those around you.   This can be a dangerous trait, because the constant energy of life, the rollercoaster of emotions, can make anyone want to hide from the world.

But you don’t run from life. You run towards it, embarking on the greatest adventure known to man (and woman) — marriage.

I can offer no advice other than learn to compromise and don’t lose your own identity.

I believe that the love you and Clay have for each other can transform the dry Arizona desert into a garden filled with red, green, and yellow tropical flowers.

Congratulations.

Like the Hunger Games

Imagine a dystopian future. Society has split into two. The wealthy live in armed fortresses that are serviced by their own schools, hospitals, and shopping malls. The poor live in the chaotic, violent OUTSIDE, and have to fend for themselves. Those living in the elite private communities, which go by pretty names such as PARADISE GARDENS, hire unemployed, low-paid contractors to protect them from the so-called OUTSIDERS. These outsiders are feared as potential enemies, destroyers of the comfortable lifestyle that the wealthy have created for themselves.

This future already exists in high crime countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa. These armed fortresses are called gated communities. In Mexico, most of the middle class lives in gated communities to protect them from violent gangs. In Saudi Arabia, Western workers live in gated communities to protect themselves from terrorist attacks.

The one question that isn’t being raised in the Travyan Martin tragedy, is why are so many of us living in these heavily secured gated communities right here in the United States? Do we live in another Mexico? Are we so afraid of the OTHER? Is our country turning into one of haves and have nots?

It is the gated community which created neighborhood watch officer George Zimmerman. We want patrols to be on the lookout for suspicious individuals who might cause trouble. We want schools that keep our kids away from danger. And in many communities in America trouble is a code word for “young black men.” And after awhile, we get so scared, we forget that sometimes young black men just take walks to buy some candy.

Sure, we can take photos of us wearing hoodies. But shouldn’t the first step in creating a better society be to step out of our gated communities and rejoining society?

The Cardboard Box

When I was a child, I wore a cardboad box on my head. I was blind to the world.

It wasn’t until I attended an expensive college and read the great books of Western Civilization that my mind was opened, and I replaced my immature cardboad box on my head with a newer, fancier cardboard box, one with a ribbon on top.

When I got married, my beloved and I combined our cardboard boxes into one, and we shared our view of the darkness together.

For my recent birthday, a friend send me a gift card. I will be using it to shop for another cardboard box.

So many decisions! What color and size? It’s time to hide from the world in style!

The Start of Year Eight

Yesterday, I was the David against a villainous Goliath, and I lost. But sometimes you need to be pushed around a little so you can awaken you from your own passivity. And this is what happened today.

It all started when Time Warner, a company that controls my cable, internet, and phone service, didn’t show up for their service call after I waited around all morning yesterday. They said they had to reschedule their arrival until the next day.

“Tomorrow is my birthday.” I said. “I’m not sitting around all day waiting for Time Warner on my birthday!”

The duel had begun.

“OK, then we will come on Thursday.”

“At what time.”

“Between 9AM and noon.”

“Can you be any more specific?” I asked.

“No.”

“OK.”

I hung up the phone dissatisfied. I lost the battle. This defeat felt symbolic, and it came at the wrong time. Today is my birthday. It is also the seventh anniversary of my blog. I had been waiting for this day for weeks, because I had hoped to write an inspiring blog post for you. I wanted to wow you with my confidence, to share with you my hopes and dreams that I was going to realize this year.

But based on my timid response yesterday to Time Warner, I lost my mojo. It seemed as if this new year of my life was going to be pretty much the same as the year before. I had been knocked down in the ring too many times, and my once youthful cockiness had faded.

I’d become superstitious, fearful, like my great-grandmother who grew up in a shtetl in Eastern Europe. I was looking at events as if the Universe was sending me messages about my life, and the world was saying that I was a speck of dust compared to the iron fist of Time Warner.

This made me sad. Once upon a time, I was the type of man that spit in the face of superstition. If there was a ladder on the street, I walked under it, gleefully, just to tempt the fates.

“Don’t open your umbrella inside the house,” my great-grandmother use to say, and I would open up my umbrella like an indoors Mary Poppins, just to be contrary.

I would chase the black cat, would say God’s name in vein, and would laugh when a mirror would crack during an earthquake. Sophia and I got married on October 13th. I was not afraid of lightening or thunder, tarot cards or palm readers.

“Come on, death,” I would yell at the guy in the robe with the sickle. “Challenge me to a game of chess, you bony loser.”

I believed in science and reason, not old wives’ tales.

But as the years passed by and I became older, I met the real enemy, and his name was Time.

Time is not a metaphor or a superstition. It is real, like a river that will never run dry, or a heavy grey cloud that descends, slowly, until the mist embraces you like a shroud, and you cannot see anymore.

You can not ignore Time. You hear the clock and see the scrolling numbers on the screen as the seconds tick away. You feel it in your bones as you try to run to catch the bus but your feet drag. Time deserves respect. Time flies. And it’s scary.

Naturally, when fear arises, so does a belief in superstition. My great-grandmother believed in “knocking on wood” and wearing amulets. The smart pray and follow the rules, and are rewarded. The foolish walk under the ladder, snubbing the Gods, and get what they deserve.

The flow of time makes us desperate to control it, even when we know that no amount of make-up or plastic surgery can stop it. I, too, embraced superstition. I folded up my umbrellas and said “God Bless You,” at every sneeze. I avoided ladders. I bowed in the synagogue, kneeled at the mosque, and crossed myself at church. I wondered if my marital problems were all based on our decision to get married on the 13th of October.

But after I lost to Time Warner, it was enough. It is not worth living at all if you are going to be fearful of your own shadow. I was done being a welcome mat to the Goliath. I would believe in myself, not superstition, or authority. That would be my birthday present to myself.

I decided to take a walk and announce this important piece of personal news to the world. My body was eager to move, my shoulders pulled back, my back stretched. I wanted to send my positive energy into the air, lighting up the city.

I left my house. It was a beautiful Southern California day, with temperatures in the upper 70s. I headed for the nearby dog park, taking a shortcut through the alleyway. I always enjoyed watching the energetic dogs running wild in the park, off their leashes, without a care in the world.

As I opened the back gate, I found my path blocked. A bunch of scavenger birds on the garbage bin, munching on the crumbs on some leftover pizza boxes. The birds were all black crows, and they were shrieking in some Devil’s language, staring at me with their glassy dead eyes.

I think they were crows. They could have also been ravens. I don’t know my birds very well. All I know is that my great-grandmother would not cross their black magic path. I’ve read enough books as an English Major in college to know the literary symbolism of crows and ravens. Evil. Death. Misery. Bad luck. Not the type of sign you want to see before your birthday.

A month ago, I might have turned and gone the other way. But I had already been screwed once today by a Goliath — by Time Warner — and it was not going to happen again. These were just birds. I was a man. Any meaning these birds had came from my weak, frightened human mind, not reality.

Edgar Allen Poe once wrote:

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Nevermore. Indeed.

“Get the fuck out of here, you fucking raven/crows,” I yelled at the group of filthy birds. “I don’t believe in your symbolism and I don’t want you eating any leftover pizza in my fucking alley.”

I bent down, grabbed some pebbles and tossed it at them. The leader of the birds, the one darkest and bulkiest, glared at me with his freaky eyes, saliva dripping down from his mouth, but I didn’t look away. Not for a second.

I put up my middle finger at showed the bird MY BIRD.

“Eat shit, you winged pussy” I said.

The Queen of the ravens/crows let out an ear-piercing yelp, then flitted away in shame. The bird had lost to a man.

And like the hunter who mounts the deer head over his fireplace, I took at instagram photo of the defeated raven/crow. It was my prize. My birthday card.

Today is my birthday. Today is the seventh anniversary of my blog. Today is a new day. Today I live without superstition or fear. Today I write with confidence. Today I have a voice. Watch out, Time Warner. I am not David to your Goliath anymore.

Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday…

(the rest of this song has been deleted due to a cease and desist letter).

This song, written by two sisters from Kentucky, Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill, was copyrighted for 75 years in 1935 by the Chicago music publisher Clayton F. Summy Company, which later became Summy-Birchard Music, which is now owned by TIME WARNER!!!

Fuck you, Time Warner! But this battle doesn’t end here. Your media empire is no match for one man’s voice. This blog continues now for an eighth year, longer than some of your TV shows. So, YOU better watch out.

Truth Quotient: 68%