Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Board Meeting in Queens

On Friday, I learned that one of my blog posts has been chosen to be part of the keynote Voices of the Year reading at BlogHer ’12 in New York.  I am delighted to be included with so many talented writers.

The announcement couldn’t happen at a better time.  After all my fretting over my lack of niche and tribe, the choice has been made for me.  My category is humor, and my tribe is… women.

I take all ceremony with a grain of salt.  It is part of being a humor writer.  I know that in August, a whole bunch of new people will discover my blog for the first time, read it once, then say to themselves, “Jesus, this guy isn’t that funny,” and never come return.

I look forward to the experience.

The honor is most meaningful in that it is nice to feel accepted, especially by a group where I don’t quite fit in for a number or reasons.   I’m not a woman or even a daddy blogger.   I’m just a guy , a straight man, who — for various reasons that need to be discussed in therapy some day — has a sensibility that connects him with female writers.

I know for a fact that some women don’t appreciate the presence of men (the marketers excepted) at the BlogHer conference.  I’m sorry for that.   If you can’t see the feminism of men befriending women, learning from women, and discussing writing with women, with no clear business agenda other than friendship and creative inspiration, than it is YOUR problem.

For better or worse, the annual Blogher conference has collided with real events in my life, connecting with me on a personal level, like a secular Yom Kippur.

In 2009, in Chicago, I met so many bloggers for the first time.  I cried with joy when I finally met Schmutzie.  I introduced myself to Kate Inglis.   Amy Turn Sharp and I did a session on writing, which went on to influence a whole writing track.  A woman hit on me at bar, which was both flattering and scary.

In 2010, I attended BlogHer ’10 in New York.  It was a traumatic time for me.  Sophia’s parents had just passed away, one after another.  On Saturday night, I walked around the city all night, by myself, in a daze.

In 2011, Sophia and I handed in our divorce papers and then I drove to San Diego to attend BlogHer ’11.

It’s now 2012.  Time for some positive energy.

Being honored by BlogHer has had another unexpected result — a brand new writing gig!  Yesterday, my mother called me with the news.   Here’s the story —

One of the apartments in my mother’s apartment building in Queens was vandalized recently.  After much hand-wringing, a “Board of Directors” meeting was called, to be held in the board room (the former laundry room).   All residents were invited to discuss the matter.  The topic at hand:  too many strangers were coming in and out of the building.

The residents of my mother’s building are a polite group, and therein lies the problem.   They hold the door open for everyone approaching the front door.  There is no doorman, so the tenants are the only security system.

The meeting started with a stern announcement from the Board of Directors:  tenants shouldn’t hold the front door open for strangers.  If a person doesn’t have a key to the front door in the lobby,  the visitor should be required to ring the tenant on the intercom system.

Simple enough, right?  But if you know anything about the residents of a Queens apartment building, you know that they LOVE to argue, the more mundane the subject the better.

Two camps formed that at the meeting.  One was the “law and order” group.  They were gung-ho about protecting the tenants from the outsiders.  The progressives, including my mother, were more concerned about hurting the feelings of the strangers.

“How can we just close the door on people?” she asked. “We will look so impolite.”

David Feingold, the President of the Board, rubbed his beard like a Talmudic rabbi.  He was the building’s King Solomon and came up with a compromise.   The Board of Directors would tape a note to the front door, informing outsiders that the residents of the building were not trying to be impolite by closing the door on them.  The residents were just trying to be safe.

Betty Langer, a retired school teacher, and former civil rights advocate, brought up the elephant in the room, the racial overtones of the problem.

“I don’t believe that this will be treated fairly!” she said.  “Wouldn’t you all pick and choose who you let in?  Wouldn’t you refuse entry to the black boy in the hoodie, but hold the door open for the elderly white woman with a walker?”

The progressive tenants held their head down in shame.  No one likes to be confronted by their own racism.   But the members of the Board of Directors were adamant about taking action.   Something had to be done.

“Let’s get a doorman!” yelled Lillian Vanelli from the back row, who always felt inferior to her sister, who married well and now lives in an exclusive building on the Upper East Side, with a doorman.

“Oh yeah? And who’s going to pay for it?” said Russell Ross, the cheapskate tax attorney on the third floor, who was once caught stealing the Sunday New York Times from the front door of a neighbor, rather than paying for it himself.

A vote was taken and it was agreed that a note would be placed on the door.   But who would write it?   Who dare undertake such a dangerous task?

Most of the residents of my mother’s building are hard-working men and women, but inexperienced in the creative art of persuasion.

“I know who can write it for us!” said my mother. “My son is a writer!”

“What kind of writer is he?” sneared Lillian Vanelli.  “He’s been in Los Angeles for years? When is THAT movie coming out anyway?”

“Hey, Charles Dickens was rejected a 100 times before they published “A Tale of Two Cities.”

My mother, who worked in publishing for forty years, knew this wasn’t true, but is quick-witted, and knew that Lillian was clueless about literature.

There had been tension between my mother and Lillian for years, ever since Lillian was booted out of my mother’s mah jongg group for playing too slow.

“And besides,” added my mother.  “Neil  is going to one of the keynote speakers at BlogHer this year, along with other talented women.”

“Ha, ha.  I always knew Neil was gay,” replied Lillian, chuckling.

“He may be gay, but I love him no matter WHAT he is!” said my mother.

(note: my mother didn’t really say that, but I wanted to add a positive pro-gay message to this post in case I want to submit this post to BlogHer next year.  They LOVE THAT STUFF!)

After the Board of Directors meeting concluded, my mother called me up on the iPhone I bought her that she still doesn’t know how to use.

“Neil, I have a writing assigment for you,” she said. “There is no pay, but it will be seen by a lot of people.  In fact, everyone who walks into our apartment building.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“We need a note that says something like this, but written in your own unique style  — “I am sorry that I am slamming the door in your face, whether you are a black boy with a hoodie or an old white lady with a cane.  It doesn’t matter.  I slam the door on everyone who is a stranger.   This does not mean I am impolite.  I like you.   Maybe one day, you will live here, and I will hold the door for you.  But right now, I am closing the door on you, for your own protection.  But have a nice day.”

Yes!  Thank you BlogHer.   Can’t wait for the conference.  I feel this is going to be MY YEAR!

31 Comments

  1. this post was a balm for me.
    thanks.

  2. I went to the BlogHer site to see who else was honored or reading after you told me your good news. An entire page of single-spaced names and I only had heard of you and Annissa Mayhew. I had no clue who the rest of the people/blogs were.

    What does that say about you? What does that say about me?

  3. well i think you are a very funny man, and after hearing you on red ice and now reading this blog, i think you are someone who has been around, as u say, for a very long time, so glad to have found you , your perspective and example, god bless people like yourself.

  4. I love your stories. This is your niche. Storytelling. Congrats on keynote.

  5. Sounds like good things are happening for you.

  6. That’s the most adorable story ever. Yay for writing gigs, though no pay? I’d at least get a few meals out of your mom for it.

    I’m humbled to be on a list with you and so many other wonderful writers. I hope to meet you at BlogHer. I wasn’t planning to go, but my husband forced me (seriously) to buy a pass when I got VOTY. So, I’ll see you there 🙂

  7. Lol, congrats its a well deserved honor.

    I can’t wait to hear about how exactly you excuse door slamming in a polite but firm way. Had an email like that go around from our Ex-Navy Seal Security Director at work about holding the door for people if we can’t see their badge. It was not polite.

  8. I loved this post. the board meeting reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books, ‘Spaghetti Park.’ they have a neighborhood meeting that goes something like that. just shows how versimilitudinous (I’m sure that’s a word) picture books are.

    I’ll be there!

  9. “I slam the door on everyone who is a stranger.” Your mom’s got style. Is she the one who penned “I’m not a racist, I hate everybody”? You’re an apple. And you fell very close to the tree. I just hope you didn’t bump your head when you fell. It could put a tamper on your BlogHer presentation.

    p.s. I’ve never been to BlogHer, it was in my hometown in August and I didn’t go. Now I feel like it was a mistake to not go.

  10. So happy for you; can’t wait to see you there!

  11. Awesome post Neil! Great news too! I hope BlogHer is wonderful for you this year 🙂

  12. CONGRATS!

    It’s most definitely your year.

    I can never afford to go to Blogher. Isn’t that sad? I belong to the website though. And I’m a mommy. And a blogger. Damn, I am truly of the demographic. But I definitely consider myself part of your tribe. In fact, you need to vouch for me you are so ‘of’ the tribe in spite of my ovaries, my procreation and lo–a minivan!

    I hope your mom won’t be annoyed with me but I think the note should say something like ‘Older people care a lot about safety. Do not be offended. It’s an old people thing. You’ll understand someday.’

  13. Mazel tov, that is SO cool! I admire your attendance at BlogHer. Even though I’ve spent 3/4 of my life around mostly women, have abundant access to my “feminine side,” and feel perfectly fine being the only male in groups of women, I still think I would be painfully uncomfortable attending that conference. I’m surprised there aren’t several sessions there just about the presence of men. I should face my fears some day–is there a BlogGoy conference somewhere?

  14. First of all, congrats!
    Second, I didn’t realize that you and I met at the beginning of the first BlogHer for both of us. Everyone seemed to know you already. Now I realize it’s because you’ve always shown your face on your blog and twitter.

  15. Excellent post and great blog. I am being honored as well, though I can’t hold on to the joy for very long… I mean, I am not getting to read (like you are) and I wasn’t the fan favorite….so what’s the point. Where’s my therapist? Great time for a vacation, Doc. Anyway, this post is awesome. I didn’t know about the rigorous ups and downs of blogging and how my self-esteem would hinge on number of comments and shit like that. I hope to meet you and shake your hand in NYC in August. I am sending you positive energy.

  16. I’m very excited about your gig. Perhaps you could write a note for both our toilets as well. xxoo

  17. I “stumbled” upon your works Neil becoming an immediate fan. As a fellow Queens kid from the same neighborhood with a background in property management this post tickled my funny bone. As such I offer this FYI to increase building security. Stop allowing the stranger who palms the entire intercom access. Inevitably one of these impolite residents will buzz in the stranger who when asked, Who’s there? responds: It’s me!! Entry guaranteed every time. Also, Mazel tov on your Blog-Her honor.

  18. “If you can’t see the feminism of men befriending women, learning from women, and discussing writing with women, with no clear business agenda other than friendship and creative inspiration, than it is YOUR problem.”

    I love it!

    Congratulations on VOTY. It’s about time!

  19. Pfft non-paying writing gigs are nonsense. I always get paid for writing. (of course I’m self-employed, so I pay myself in chocolates and tv breaks.)

  20. Neil! I am so happy for you getting the VOTY recognition. I love that you have a sensibility that connects with female writers. I, for one, am embracing your presence. Yes this is YOUR year! Enjoy every second of it. I only wish I could be there to say hi. Next year I hope. x

    PS Congrats on your door note gig!

  21. I’d love to meet you at BlogHer.

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