Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: March 2014

The Story of the Birthday Selfie

me

This morning, someone asked me how I took this “birthday” photo of myself that I posted on Facebook — not the baby one, but the one where I am on my bed, stretched out like a sexy male model in some underwear ad.

Here’s the story:

I woke up with the idea of taking a photo of myself “in my birthday suit,” in honor of my upcoming birthday. But how to do it? My arm is just not long enough to capture myself in full glory. But like they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

I found a roll of scotch tape and used it to tape my iPhone to the ceiling. I then set up a photo app on my phone to take a photo every ten seconds, giving me a chance to pose in various positions while I faked sleeping (forgetting – of course – to take off my glasses).

I let the photo shoot begin. I felt a sense of pride. I had moved from photographer to subject. It was my moment to shine in the ultimate selfie! I moved to the right, to the left, smiling, scowling, putting my arm up, putting my arm down, waiting for the next click of the phone. This was going to turn out great!  I was going to turn myself into an object of desire!

But, suddenly I heard a crunchy, tearing sound, a tone of danger. My eyes were closed, faking sleep, and when I opened them, I saw the clear imminent threat. It was my iPhone. The weight of the phone had loosened the scotch tape, and my trusty iPhone 4S had broken from it’s sticky prison, and it was heading straight towards my head, flying through the air like the H-bomb. I jolted to my right, and the iphone passed by my ear, the case whipping by the tips of my graying hair. If I had been a second slower, the iPhone would have slammed into my glasses, possibly cracking my lens, or worse — making me go blind in one eye.

But I survived. I had escaped from what could have been a tragedy. I would have had to post a birthday selfie of me wearing a black eye patch with cracked eyeglasses, like a nerdy Jewish pirate.

Which brings me to my birthday, and what lessons I learned from this experience. We all take chances in life. We make art. We do stupid things. We risk danger by taking selfies. But as long as a person embraces his goals, his dreams, no matter how ridiculous they may be, and is able to survive with minimum physical harm, he is leading a good life.

Writing About the Virtual Life

Imagine that I had a disagreement with a real-life friend this afternoon. It became heated, and we cursed each other out.  Later, my friend apologized, explaining that he was going through some tough times.   We hugged.  That night, I wrote a post about it, detailing my emotional state about the experience, and published it on my blog.

The next day, you read the post. What is your reaction? Well, it depends on how well it was written.  But you will probably understand it in the context of the age-old narrative tradition.  Incident. Conflict. Drama. Resolution.

Now imagine, this same disagreement occurred with a friend who I only know online.   I write a post about it, detailing my emotional state during the heated exchange.

How would you react to this?  I think you would be angry at me for acting unprofessional, for betraying the trust of the internet, even if I kept his identity as anonymous.  We do not write about each other.   That is the domain of trolls.   We only discuss our writing and our careerism.   Our feelings of anger, love, jealousy, frustration with each other are off-limits.  It is not our fear of writing about our children that caused us to run from our personal blogs.  It is our fear of writing honestly about each other.   We don’t know how.

Today I asked on Facebook the same question I’ve been asking for years, “Is all this virtual stuff — the connection, the emotions, the friendships — real? And the answer was a resounding, YES.

OK, so maybe it is.  Yes we are friends.  Yes, we have the same emotional and human reactions to each other than we would have with friends in the physical world.   Frequently, it is even MORE intense.   Yet, we should never mention it.    So we get no interesting stories from our virtual world, even if we are online ten hours a day.   And as writers, stories are our life blood.  So, until we figure out a way to tell stories about our virtual experiences, we will view it is as inferior to the physical world.   The real world is a place where stories are thrust onto us by just walking out the door.  No one wants to hear a story about the comment section of Facebook.  Maybe in the future.   But not yet.

Am I Enough?

i_am_enough

I don’t think I’m enough. You don’t think I’m enough. But you constantly say that I am enough.  Enough for what? Sure, I can photoshop myself into that Ellen’s selfie from the Oscars, but does that make me enough. 99% of us will never win an Oscar. Meryl Streep will never follow us on Twitter. How can we be enough?

oscars

But I’ll try it on for size. I am enough. Right now. I am worthy. It’s not going to change anyone’s opinion of me. So why bother?

I am enough. Will it change me? My own perception of who I am? Don’t I first have to accomplish something great to feel worthy? And what does feeling worthy change in me? That I deserve things like love, happiness, and non-fat milk in my coffee at McDonald’s? That I am as worthy as President Obama? Am I? If the ship was sinking and only one of us could escape in the lifeboat, do you want me to survive or President Obama?

I am enough. I am enough. Vulnerability. Authenticity. I don’t know what any of this means. Is it only talk for women about their body image?

enough?

I am enough. I know some of you are mocking this post. Because I am too. Even though I am being serious. Authentic. Even though no one really respects authentic.  No one wants vulnerable.

Categories of Writing Themes

blank slate

Today’s post is very short, but an important one to me, because it focuses in on something very unsettling about my writing style, and how my mind works when I face the blank page.

Most successful writing on the internet falls into two categories:

1) How I Can Teach You how to Live Better Based on What I Have Learned About Life.

Example: 40 Odd Things I’ve Learned in 40 Odd Years.

2) Friends, This is Why Those Who Disagree With Us Are Bad.

Example: How a Generation was Captured by Thrashing Hysteria

When I sit down to write a post, an action I intend to do every day for the entire month of March, the two categories of writing themes that immediately come to MY mind are —

1) I Do, Think, or Act WRONG, and That UPSETS ME

2) Friends, Despite Being My Friends and Generally Agreeing with Your Worldview, You Still Do, Think, or Act WRONG, and that UPSETS ME.

That’s not a healthy way to live.   Or write   Or see the world.

You see — this post is Topic #1 — I Do, Think, or Act WRONG, and That Upsets Me.

I’m stuck in a vicious cycle!

The Password Again

Was doing a little reading online this afternoon, until it started to feel like I was falling down a hole. So many choices of material, so many people, so many voices. Maybe that’s why people do zen meditation using one word. It’s enough. It says it all. But then you have to pick that one word. And which word? Omm? Life? Love? Sex? Her name? That name I say to myself over and over when I dream and feel her against my skin. We’re back to the password again. Asking for the password. Getting up and asking for the password.

Will Meryl Streep Ever Follow Me On Twitter?

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Tonight is Oscar night, which brings up the same question I have asked myself again and again over the last seven years — “Will Meryl Streep ever follow me back on Twitter?” Or let me ask this in another way — “If I go my entire life without Meryl Streep following me back on Twitter, will I view my existence on earth as somewhat of a failure?”

I rarely dream about being followed back on Twitter. I know you care a lot about this.   I see you.  I see how you ass-kiss celebrities in the hope that they will validate your life.  I’m not impressed with that many people online.  OK, once I stalked someone. Yes, it was you Bon Stewart. I read one of your blog posts back when you wrote normal posts not about your crazy dissertation, and I went onto Twitter and asked, “Does anyone know this person? Because I want to know her.” And within an hour we were following each other on Twitter.

I don’t think this approach will work with Meryl Streep.  Meryl Streep is not as “easy” as you.

Celebrities tend to only follow back OTHER celebrities. Sometimes I see that they follow some journalist or author so they can appear intelligent to their fans, the online equivalent of Jessica Alba going to the gym wearing librarian glasses. Of course, celebrities only follow  other famous people when they are at a career high.  If a celebrity, journalist, or author gets in trouble for a inappropriate tweet or has a nervous breakdown on TMZ, then Goodbye Charlie.  As a CAA agent once told me during an interview, “Winners ONLY associate with winners.  That’s what Hollywood is about.  Period.”

Imagine the stress celebrites must feel not following us all back. We find it hard juggling 300 friends on Facebook. Imagine having people wanting your autograph and photo every time you walk into an Arby’s. I can understand why Meryl Streep might want to hide from her fans.

But me too, Meryl?

I like to look over the following lists of celebrities.   I’m always wondering, “Don’t celebrities have any friends outside of other celebrities? Don’t they have any annoying friends left over from grade school, or an Aunt Tilly in Tulsa that they are forced to follow on Twitter because their mother told them it was polite.”

It’s as if once you reach celebrity status, you can’t use social media for anything other than being a celebrity. I’m sure Meryl Streep would love to engage with me and talk about my instagram filters, but she just CAN’T — “says her business manager.”

Meryl, is that true?

Here is some article on “How to Make a Celebrity Follow You on Twitter.”

But honestly, do you really think any type of “engagement” or mere gimmick is going to win over Meryl Streep.   She’s not an idiot.   She went to Yale.   My movie buff friend Danny Miller interviewed Meryl Streep, AND could quote lines from Sophie’s Choice to her all night long, and Meryl Streep still doesn’t even him!

Perhaps this is my motivation to finish this dumb screenplay I’ve been working on forever. If I can change the stoned twenty-something character to a beautiful and sophisticated fifty year old artisan bakery owner, perfect for Meryl, and we can get her to agree to the part, maybe…. just maybe… but then again, I don’t think actresses even follow the screenwriters of their films. It’s a step down in the hierarchy. Way down.

I need to accept that Meryl Streep will never follow me back on Twitter. And what do I need her for anyway? I love all the friends that DO follow me back, and I would never trade any of you in for the greatest living actress.

OK, I would.

The Password

I sat in an upscale coffee bar on Fifth Avenue, drinking a cup of coffee, killing some time before my therapy appointment. I noticed on my iPhone that the establishment had wi-fi, but it required a password. I looked up towards the front counter, where the bearded barista was creating a little foam heart in a latte, and saw a little sign tacked onto the front counter that read “password on receipt.” Ten minutes earlier, when I went to add some milk to my coffee, I tossed my receipt into the swinging door of the metallic garbage receptacle.

The hipster barista had a friendly face, even a nicely-trimmed beard, and he was only a few feet away. The cafe wasn’t crowded, with only two giggly private school girls on line, probably playing hooky during the afternoon. All I had to do was stand up from my plastic chair, go over to the barista at the front counter, smile at him, and say, “Oh, I threw away my receipt. Can I have the password?”

But my mind started playing tricks on me. In quick succession, these are my actual thoughts, “Oh, he seems busy. Nah, why bother. I can just use data rather than wi-fi. I have unlimited data so it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to bother him. Maybe he will have to print out another receipt, and then everyone will have to wait longer for their orders. Maybe the password WASN’T on my receipt, and only given to those who order a pastry or a sandwich, and the barista will have to say — in front of everyone — “I’m sorry, Sir. You only had a cup of coffee. And not even a fancy cup of coffee, just a regular American cup of coffee. You don’t DESERVE the password to the wi-fi.”

I never asked for the password, and I got so pissed at myself for how my thoughts took something incredibly unimportant and escalated it into a battle of wills.

I will be posting something on this blog each day, for the entire month of March.

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