Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: April 2013

The Last Call

phone

I haven’t spoken to Sophia in three months.

I have been reluctant to mention this to you, fearing you think I am hopelessly pining for us to get back together, which is not the case at all.  But I’m a sentimental fool, and I was still hoping for a different sort of ending to our long journey together, one where we could joke with each other about our new lives post-divorce, like two ex-lovers in a romantic comedy. Instead, we burned bridges.

I was depressed about this for a month, as if the past dozen years were a waste of my time, but as time crept on, I acknowledged that sometimes you need to learn, love, grow, and move on. By month three, I found myself spending more time worrying about a faraway woman in New Zealand than making peace with the past.

The first week after the blowout was intense. She blocked my phone number. She blocked my landline and my cell phone.  She blocked my mother’s cell phone.  My last attempt to fix things was one of pure desperation — walking down the block to the public phone outside the liquor store, a spot usually reserved for lonely late night phone card calls to foreign countries.

I placed four quarters into the slot. I wiped the receiver with my t-shirt, concerned about exotic germs. I dialed Sophia’s home number. And nothing. I lost all of my money. The phone was rigged the phone so the coins became stuck in the slot. I battered the phone with my fist, like a bully.  The phone laughed at me.

“Fuck it,” I said, taking it as a sign not to call her again.

Not everything has to be tied up together neatly like a fictional story.  Sometimes the tale just ends, without a moral.

Write What You Know

write

for the Absence of Alternatives

Sherry called me about the blog post that I emailed her earlier that day.  I had asked her to read it before I published it.

“You cannot publish this,” she said.

“Why not?”

She read me the last paragraph of my piece over the phone.  Her voice had a tone of shrill mockery.

“Jason walked up to the plate, the baseball bat in his tiny outstretched hand. It was at that moment, the fifth inning of second game of the Queens County Peewee Little League season,  that I saw my son become a man, confident and assured, a true athlete, a mirror image of his old man. “That’s my son,” I wanted to shout. “That’s my beautiful son!”

I was so proud of myself when I wrote that passage, sharing a touching moment with my readers, that I was shocked when I heard Sherry’s disapproval.

“You didn’t like it?” I asked, confused. “I thought you would be moved to tears!”

“What the fuck are you talking about?  It doesn’t matter WHAT I feel. It’s not true. You are not a father. You do not have a son. You were never an athlete.”

“It’s fiction.”

“And how do I know it’s fiction.”

“Look at the very end of the piece. In the tiny print, it says — “this is pure fiction.””

“No, no, no. That doesn’t change a thing.  A blog post has to be true. It cannot be fiction.  Look, I know you are jealous of all of the mommy and daddy bloggers out there and all the attention they from the brands, but you can’t write a story about being a father.”

“Why not?”

“Because it opens up a Pandora’s box that will allow white people to steal the stories of African-Americans, and men to write like they understand women, until eventually no one will know what is true and what is fake, and society will simply collapse. We must write what we know.”

“But it’s fiction! Tolkien didn’t know any Hobbits.”

“There are no real Hobbits. But there are real fathers. And you will never know what it means to be a father going to a Little League game. You can never write about it honestly. Even in fiction.  Write about your own life. Sophia, Juli, your mother.”

“But it can be frustrating just writing about my own life.   When I become too honest about my life, people become all judgmental about my life choices, and unfollow me on Facebook.”

“Stop worrying so much  about other people. If you are honest and authentic, we accept you for who you really are.  We WANT to know the REAL you and the REAL events in your life!”

“Is that true or is that just a platitude?” I asked, chuckling. “Do you really and honestly want me to write a blog post about the time you and Martha gave me those blowjobs inside the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland during that Disney Social Media weekend?”

“Stop it!  You promised me!  You can never ever tell that story. Especially since Disney is one of my biggest clients.”

“But it’s a true story, right?”

“Of course it’s a true story. But you have to maintain some confidentiality. You have to act like a professional and not just blurt everything out.”

“So, do you see the bind I’m in?  I can’t make up stories about being a father because it isn’t true.   And I can’t tell true life stories about getting blowjobs by mommybloggers during Disney Social Media weekends because it is TOO true.   So, what else am I left with?”

“You can write a post for my “Campaign to Stop Bullying Blogathon.”

“I’m never writing an anti-bullying post. I like bullying. In fact, bullying was one of my favorite pastimes when I was a teenager. I bullied other kids. And that’s the God Honest Truth.”

“Neil, I don’t believe a word you’re saying. You’re a liar.”

“I’m a writer.”

“No, you’re not. A writer writes honestly and authentically, but without malice, and betters the world.  You’re a fool. The world never improves from your writing.  It just grows worse.”

****

Later that night, there was a knock on my door. It was Sergeant Anthony Rodriguez of the NYPD, 107th Police Precinct. He was a short balding man with a bodybuilder’s body that fit too snugly in his blue uniform.

“Do you know a woman named Sherry Koningsberg,” he asked. His eyes squinted, as if trying to read my face before I even answered.

“Yes,” I do. “She’s an online friend.”

“She’s dead.”

“OMG,” I said.

“What?”

“OMG. That means Oh My God in Internet talk.”

“Whatever. Your friend was murdered!”

“OMG”

He reached into his side pocket and presented me with a crumpled piece of paper. I unfolded it, as slowly as unraveling an origami bird. It was a printout of the blog post that I emailed to Sherry the previous night. And it was splattered with her dark red blood, the same color that was staining my t-shirt that read “Write What You Know,” the one I bought at the Strand Bookstore in December on that same day I was caught masturbating to that Thai Noodle cookbook in the Culinary Adventures aisle of the bookstore.

“You’re under arrest,” uttered Officer Rodriguez, and read me my Miranda rights. My eyes fluttered left and right, looking for an escape.  And then I did it.  I charged forward, pushing the officer aside, and sped down the corridor, like a gazelle running from a tiger, but before I could reach the staircase, I felt the hard cold knock of a wooden club smack me in the back of my head, and I fell to the freshly washed tile floor with a loud thud, and I was out cold.

tiny print — this is pure fiction.

News Cycle

First, we were horrified at the Boston bombing.

Then, progressives hoped he was a white nut job so Fox news couldn’t blame it on Islam.  Then conservatives hoped he was Muslim, so liberals would accept the importance of the “war on terror.”

Then we became sentimental about running, marathons,  and the great city of Boston.  Then we debated whether we should even call them terrorists.

Then we all insisted that we hold judgement until the suspects were proven guilty.  Then we talked about them anyway.

Then we laughed at how stupid the media looked in handling the entire story.  Then the media laughed at the internet for fingering the wrong person.

Then we wondered whether this bombing proves a need for more gun control, since it is so easy to buy weapons, or less gun control, so we can protect ourselves.  Then we got caught up in the excitement of the chase and the shootouts.  Then we thanked the police.

Then we felt sympathetic to  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev because he was brainwashed by his brother.  Then we hated him again when we read his racist tweets.

Then we wondered if it was our own colonial policies that caused the radicalization of the world, and the West is to blame.  Then we decided that religion is actually good, but it is the people who distort it who are bad.  Then we wondered if maybe ALL religion is bad.

Then we blamed Russia for their policies in Chechnya.  Then we mocked ourselves for not knowing where Chechnya is on a map.

Then, Neil Diamond sang “Sweet Caroline” at a baseball game, and we decided that Boston has bounced back.

Then there was a thwarted plot in Canada, but since there was no bomb, we shrugged it off.   Then we moved on.

A week later, we hardly remember the victims’ names.

The Sequence That They Edited Out From the Dove Video

The Title of this article from Hollywood.com says it all, “Dove Video PROVES women are more beautiful than they think!”

But was it truly proven? Citizen of the Month was able to obtain certain material that was edited out of the final video, such as this interview with LAURA, a thirty-five year old accountant and mother of two from North Hollywood, California.

Dove: “A forensic artist wants to draw a sketch of you. He is hidden in another room. Please describe yourself to him.”

Laura: “Well, let’s see. I am decent enough for someone my age. But I never really liked my chin. My friends used to call me “Jay Leno.” I’ve also gained some weight since college. I’ve never liked my big nose, and my hair is too curly and unmanageable. On a scale from 1-10, I would rate myself a 5. I wish I were prettier. My mother never thought I was pretty. She always told me to stop slouching. I slouch too much. I’m disappointed in myself and the way I look.”

Dove: “Interesting. Now, while you were in the waiting room, you were sitting next to another woman. Her name is Cheryl. The forensic artist now wants to make a sketch of her based on your description. Please give him your honest description of Cheryl.”

Laura: “Cheryl? That woman in the waiting room? Wow! That woman looks like she’s really let herself go. She was dressed in clothes off the rack from Walmart. Girl, at least go to Marshall’s and find something half-decent! She was — I can only describe her as fat, like she hasn’t walked a block in years. She needs to go to the gym. I would never let myself go like that. I mean my chin is bad, but at least I exercise. And what’s with her eyes? Is she cross-eyed? Her thick glasses certainly don’t help. Contacts, baby, contacts! She needs a fashion makeover ASAP, and cosmetic surgery or at least some Botox. She’s probably only around forty, but looks more like sixty-five. I feel bad for her husband. All in all, she made me feel more way prettier in contrast. I guess I’m not so bad.”

Dove: Uh, thank you.

[sequence deleted from film]

Moral of the story: Some people see the best in you. And others are just assholes. Don’t let others define who you are. Nothing proves nothing. Especially in edited marketing videos. Define yourself.

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