Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Literary (page 2 of 17)

Fictional Characters of New York #43

fictional character

I’m a third generation New Yorker, but  I’ll be the last in my family to live here. My son has other plans.

“Lift me up so I can see the stars,” he said to me on Second Avenue at night, and I put him atop my shoulders like an Indian prince.

“It’s hard to see the stars here,” I told him. “Too many lights, too many tall buildings.”

He never took an interest in the Art Deco Chrysler Building or the majestic Brooklyn Bridge like I did at his age.  He is intrigued by loftier heights — space, the final frontier.

“One day, I’ll take you to Montana,” I said. “I went there with Grandma and Grandpa when I was your age.  When you look up, you won’t believe how many stars are in the sky.”

“But will you still lift me up so I can see the stars, even in Montana?”

“I’ll always lift you up to see the stars.”

“Even when you’re gone?” he asked.  The maturity of his question surprised me, as if he already understood the concept of death.

And I had no answer for him.  Luckily, he changed the subject at whim, as boys his age tend to do.”

“I don’t want to go to Montana,” he said.  “I’d rather go to Mars.”

“Mars, well, well! Daddy can’t lift you up all the way to Mars.   For that, you’ll need a super-duper rocket.  And you’ll probably have to go on your own because Daddy doesn’t like heights.”

“OK, I’m not afraid,” he said about his future journey in a rocket ship, a trip that he would someday take without me supporting him on my shoulders.

“Will you miss me up in space?” I asked.

“Nah, we can still Skype,” he said.

Fictional Characters of New York #41

light

It was not a good third date.

Sheryl had high hopes about him; he was a perfect gentleman on the first two outings. But he changed tonight, as if he had gotten some bad advice from an ex-fraternity friend on becoming a “player.” He bragged too much about his new job as a securities analyst, and pushed her to order the most expensive cocktail at this trendy restaurant that was “impossible to get a reservation except if you know someone.”

After dinner, she turned down his offer for him to come to her apartment, saying that she was old-fashioned, certainly not expecting his face to redden and words to spew such as “cocktease,” “bitch,” and “user.”

Sheryl never perceived herself in such a negative way before, wondering if she was indeed guilty of breaking the rules of dating.  She apologized to her date and said she was uncomfortable dating.   She’d rather just stay home and read, but her ultimate fantasy — of one day walking through Central Park with a special man, holding his sturdy hand — proved sufficient motivation for her to leave the house wearing the makeup she bought at Macy’s and her prettiest yellow dress.

Sheryl walked home alone. Weaker women would be crushed by the evening’s disappointment, but not Sheryl. As she passed by the abandoned church on Amsterdam Avenue, she saw that the church light, a former beacon of hope to those in need of spiritual guidance, now cracked in disrepair, was still lit, almost miraculously, much as her broken heart still beat strongly in a search for love.

Fictional Characters of New York #40

Eddie

The year was 1972.  Eddie was working at his father’s hardware store in Chinatown when the People’s Republic of China Peking Circus came to town as a cultural exchange arranged by President Nixon.

It was a busy in his father’s hardware store, named Yang’s Do-it-Yourself.  It was the first day of Spring, and all the hibernating weekend warriors suddenly awoken to the maintenance jobs left undone during the cold winter month, their wives pushing them to fix the broken doorknobs and misfitting window shades.

But Eddie’s mind was elsewhere.  The NYPD closed off part of Mott Street for a procession of the Chinese performers, a mini-parade, and Eddie was keen on seeing it.   At lunchtime, he left the shop, against his father’s wishes.

Eddie thrilled at the sight of the exotic acrobats and horses which paraded down the grimy, littered Lowe East side street.  The circus performers looked as Chinese as he did, same eyes and dark hair, but they stepped with a precision that made them seem distinctly unAmerican.   If only the Chinese people saw the chaos during a fire drill at an American school like P.S. 100.

“Form a straight line.” Mrs. Goldenberg, his teacher, would yell.  “One at a time.”  And, of course, no one listened.  Americans are like John Wayne.  They do it THEIR WAY.

“I bet there isn’t one Eddie in THIS circus,” Eddie thought to himself.

A few moments later, he saw a woman in the procession wearing a costume with golden wings.  She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  Her name was Howin, which means “loyal swallow” in Chinese.  He discovered that was her name because he followed her for a mile along the route uptown and waited for her for five hours in the lobby of the Pennsylvania Hotel until he could see her again, completely forgetting about his job back at the hardware store.  That night, his father beat him with a belt, calling him a shameful son who lacked ambition.

Today is the first of Spring, 2015, and Eddie has long forgotten the beating.  Eddie prides himself on remembering the good things in life and not the tragedies, such as his father’s death, his son’s suicide at seventeen, the closing of the shop, his wife’s cancer.  And he will always remember the day and especially the night with Howin, the Communist Chinese circus acrobat visiting on a cultural exchange arranged by then President Nixon, a woman he could barely communicate with in Cantonese or English.

He never again saw Howin, the loyal swallow, but as Eddie, now an old man, walks along Mott Street on this cold first day of Spring, he remembers her golden wings.

The Ghost of Christmahanukwanzaakah Past

ghost

Oh great, all weekend my Facebook feed was filled with your damn Chrismahanukwanzakah trees and decorations and menorahs, and your obnoxious kids singing in their school choirs, posing as clean-cut, as if we didn’t know they spend the rest of the year Snapchatting photos of themselves to the other kids in junior high.

I hate the holidays, and I don’t understand how any of you can express any joy and hope or celebrate life when we live in a world filled with sexism, racism, agism, genderism, fat shaming, and the death of the political magazine, The New Republic. What’s there to celebrate?

You want to know how I see Chrismahanukwanzakah? I see it as one big DOLLAR SIGN to sell you my overpriced New York City prints of Rockefeller Center that you could probably get on the street in Times Square for five bucks. It’s a time for profit for me, an excuse to build traffic, a drug to feed you so you will avoid worrying about the growing inequality between the salarys of CEOs and you.

But I don’t need to worry — As a straight white men I will one day be the 1%, as ordained by God, controlling the world while the rest of you eat Hot Pockets for dinner. Feminist ally, give me a break. Santa delivers the toys while Mrs. Santa stays at home, keeping the fire warm. That’s the way of the world.

Chrismahanukwanzakah, who needs it?!

I’d rather sit by myself on December, watching old sex tapes of Kim Kardashian than celebrate some fake holiday with some pretentious bloggers who aren’t talented enough to be REAL writers and photographers.

That’s what Chrismahanukwanzakah means to me on December 18, and nothing can ever change my mind. Nothing.

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I was restless last night. The rain and wind beat against the window as if they were my enemies. A ghost appeared. He had wiry white hair and was dragging a tail of clanging chains. He scared the shit out of me.

“Who are you?” I screamed.

“I am the Ghost of Christmahanukwanzaakah Past,” he said. “I hear that you hate all blogging concerts that celebrate the holiday.”

“F*ck blogging. Blogging is dead. It’s a waste of time. Why celebrate it? Better to write for the Huffington Post for exposure. I wish I never started blogging or doing any of this inane social media crap. What have I gained from it? Nothing.”

“I see. But have you thought about the others? Do you dare to see what type of world this would be if you never existed as Neilochka online? How much you would be missed?”

“I would love to see this world.”

“Then let it be so.”

The ghost raised his arm, and after what felt like a brief earthquake, he nodded towards me.

“It is now so. The world is now what it would be if you NEVER started blogging or went online.”

I jumped out of bed and looked out the window. It looked exactly the same as it did before. I grabbed my iPhone and went on Twitter. Everyone was joking and fighting with each other about racism and feminism as if I never existed, and no one seemed to care that I wasn’t putting in my two cents.

“So what exactly is different?” I asked.

Scarlett Johansson entered my bedroom, just wearing her underwear.

“Scarlett Johansson? What are you doing here?!”

“I’m you wife, Neil. You are more famous than I am. You wrote ten bestselling novels because you never wasted all your time on your stupid blog or flirting with married women on Facebook.”

“Oh my God! This is awful to learn how much time I wasted online with my blog! But how is this supposed to make me love blogging more or care about some lame Christmahanukwanzaakah concert? If anything, I hate it all MORE. What type of ghost are you? I want to stay here and live THIS live, where I am writing the novels and bonking Scarlett Johansson at night! Give me ONE good reason for going back in time or participating in some Christmahanukwanzaakah concert, now knowing that blogging totally f*cked up my life!”

+++

“Let’s make love again,” said Scarlett Johansson. I looked at her. We were in bed. She was naked. She was perfection.

“I want you now,” she said, and climbed on top of me. It was a fantasy come true. I was living the life I would have had if only I had never started my useless blog or wasted time on social media. A poster hung on the wall of last week’s New York Times book section, where all ten of the bestselling books were written by me.

“You know, Scarl,” I said, “I need to get new eyeglasses. What type of glasses should I get?”

“Whatever you want,” she said purring and biting my neck.

“Do you think I should the squarish ones from Warby Parker, or can you see me in round glasses, like Harry Potter?”

“I don’t know. It’s up to you.”

“I’m also thinking of buying new jeans. Do you think I should buy the 501s or the 514s? Have you ever heard of Joe’s Jeans? Are they worth $150?”

“Are we making love or not?”

“I’m just making small talk. You know, like foreplay.”

“It’s not foreplay talking about your glasses and your pants. It’s boring and annoying. Shut up,” she said, as she put her hand over my mouth and shut off the light on the night table.

I should have been happy. I was a best-selling novelist, and Scarlett Johansson couldn’t take her hands off me. But I felt unsettled, as if my life wasn’t complete.

After our amazing lovemaking, with my gorgeous movie star wife sleeping at my side, I tiptoed into the living room and sat in front of my laptop. This was an alternative universe given to me by the Ghost of Christmahanukwanzaakah Past, so I knew that when I logged into Facebook that I would not be a user. I quickly signed up for Facebook.

I proceeded to write my first update.

“Hi there! I’m new here, but I was wondering if you can help me out deciding what type of glasses and jeans I should buy?”

And within seconds, despite me being a completely new user, the answers started rolling in, from strangers, good Samaritans far and near, people who didn’t know me from a bug on the wall but had so much free time that they bothered to care about my glasses and jeans. It was amazing, even thrilling.

“Get the round glasses!”

“Buy the glasses online!”

“I LOVE Joe’s Jeans”

“I wrote a post last week about the best jeans. Here is the link!”

“If you buy the jeans and glasses both at the same time from Amazon, you can save shipping!”

Even those who were somehow bothered by my question, still offered useful bits of advice.

“First World White Dude’s Problem! Get a F**king Life.”

Tears started running down my cheek. So many people caring about me, even in anger, wanting to help me find the important answers to life, or educate me on how I was wrong. Sure, being a bestselling novelist and bonking Scarlet Johansson was nice, but could it ever replace the intimacy and care of the community I could find online?

“Bring me back, Ghost of Christmahanukwanzaakah Past! Bring me back to my old life when I was blogging and on Twitter and Facebook all the time with people who answered my stupid questions. It’s wasn’t as if online friends couldn’t live without me; I can’t life without them! What’s the fun of being a bestselling novelist and bonking Scarlett Johansson every night without bragging about it to my loser online friends, or at least posting a few photos on Instagram? Bring me back, Ghost of Christmahanukwanzaakah Past! I now understand the importance of Christmahanukwanzaakah and all my blogging and social media friends! Bring me back, and I will help make this year’s Ninth Annual Online Christmahanukwanzaakah Concert the best one yet!

And then, the earth shook, and the lights flickered, and the thunder screamed, and suddenly I was back in my bed. Instead of Scarlett Johansson next to me, it was my iPhone. The Ghost of Christmahanukwanzaakah Past had granted me my wish and returned me to my old life. I quickly opened my Facebook app, and praised the Lord that my old account was back, along with my 1000 fake friends.

I noticed that there was a new comment on my last post, an update asking for advice on a new vaccum cleaner.

“First World White Dude’s Problem! Get a F**king Life.” wrote the commenter — G.C.P.

And I laughed, as hearty and joyful as Santa’s ho ho ho. I immediately knew who G.C.P was – the Ghost of Christmahanukwanzaakah Past himself and I thought I heard some thunder in the distance.

“Everyone is on Facebook nowadays,” I thought.

Thank you G.C.P. Thank you for everything you did. I had learned the true meaning of Christmahanukwanzaakah — You can bonk Scarlett Johansson several times a day, but without “community,” no one will ever know.

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The Ninth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. December 18th.

Fictional Characters of New York #39

wedding

My name is Eduardo Ruzman.   I am a professional wedding photographer, with a studio in Chelsea.  I shoot weddings of the most prominent members of New York society.   I make a very good living.

But my real vocation is that of fortune-teller. When I perform my duties at the church, temple, restaurant, or private mansion, I do not simply look through the viewfinder, and shoot images. I observe, and I listen. And based on the way a marrying couple interacts, their choice of words and gestures, the roll of an eye, a rise of tension in the voice, I can predict, to the exact month, how long their marriage will last.

“Maybe if you didn’t stay out so late last night, you wouldn’t be so tired today,” complained the new bride to her groom.  She was wearing a $10,000 Vera Wang dress.  He was the pampered son of a Wall Street icon.   His father hired me, knowing that I would make the couple look good for the New York Times wedding notice.

In fourteen months, and four days, she will file for divorce.

I was not born with this skill. I nurtured my talent during childhood in the Bronx. My father and mother, Rolando and Estella, argued all the time, about work, about the dishes, about how my mother made the “biggest mistake of her life” by not marrying Frederick, my father’s brother.  My father hated when she said that, especially how it was spoken with venom, and he would slap her in the face. Sometimes, while locked in my bedroom, I would hear the beatings.  It was my first correct forecast.   I knew that my parents would be married forever. Or until 1989, when my father had his mysterious accident, breaking his neck on the bottom of the steps.

Fictional Characters of New York — #38

The statues stood silent, dusty and broken in a lonely storage room.

“I told you this was the wrong place,” she said. “Robert’s gallery is on the fourth floor.”

I never liked Robert Altbrook, her pretentious artist friend, the type of guy who talked about books he never read.  But Andrea didn’t want to be late for his opening, so we got here early, but apparently on the wrong floor.

She had planned on this outing for a week, buying a new dress at Bloomingdale’s and making sure the kids were staying with friends.   I even cancelled my tennis game.

“After Robert’s show. After Robert’s show.”  That was my mantra to Lydia, as I kissed her breasts in her bed on Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t want to ruin Robert’s show for my wife.  I think she is love with him.”

Lydia managed the PR department of the firm. She was ten years older than I was, but younger at heart, and what had started out as a weekly Tuesday afternoon lunchtime fuck had turned into love.  Lydia was pressing me to ask Andrea for a divorce, and I was using Robert’s show as the deadline.

“And why would Andrea care?” I thought to myself.   We haven’t had sex in six years.  We had wasted fifteen years that went nowhere.  I was even convinced that Andrea was having an affair with Robert, but I never brought it up, feeling nausea at the idea.

“I want a divorce,” I will say to her, and we will both be free to follow our hearts.

But I knew that I would not ask her for a divorce. Not before Robert’s show. Not after Robert’s show.  I would not have the courage.  This was my life, and there was no turning back.

“Can we go?” asked Andrea, looking over at the dead stone figures.

“These statues scare me,” she said. “Imagine if they became alive.”

I felt the statues looking right back at us.

“These humans scare me,” they said. “Imagine if they became alive.”

statue1

statue2

statue3

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Fictional Characters of New York — #37

move

After we spent all afternoon moving his equipment across the street, Gideon took a wad of money from his pocket and handed $100 bucks to each of the other guys in the crew. They promptly headed to the Fiddler to blow their money on liquor, leaving Gideon and I alone in the new studio with the boxes, furniture, and music equipment.

Gideon licked his thumb and swiped $300 from his still substantial ball of dough.

“And these three bills are for you, Danny.” he said.

“No, Gideon. I can’t take money from you.”

“Sure you can. You worked hard. You spent all Sunday doing this for me.”

“You know me. I didn’t have anything better to do today.”

“Listen, I wouldn’t have asked you if I thought you wouldn’t take the money.”

“I was just helping you… as a friend.”

“Did you see any other friends here?”

“So, I’m just like these other guys you hired.  Are you saying I’m not a friend?”

“Of course you are a friend. And that’s why I asked you.  I know you’ve been out of work. So when Jill suggested…”

“So, Jill told you to call me to give me a job.  Like a charity case.”

“She’s worried about you.”

“I would have rather you just called me as a friend.”

“Just take the money,” he said, as he tried to shove the $300 into my shirt pocket. “I know you need it.”

I slapped his hand away.

“Just take the fucking money,” he yelled.

“I don’t want your fucking money.”

Gideon grew red-faced.  He was not the type of man who liked no for an answer.  He grabbed me in a stranglehold, tightening his arm against my throat.

“You’re going to take the money,” he said, as he pushed the money down the front of my pants, into my underwear.   I pulled away, removed the bills, and ripped them into shreds, spilling it on the floor like confetti.

“No wonder you can’t find a job,” said Gideon.  “You’re an idiot.”

“I should have been the one who married Jill, not you.”

“Well she chose me. That’s life in New York City. Winners win, loser lose.”

“Good. Well, tell her I’m not fucking her anymore when you’re in LA for months on end.”

Gideon jumped me like a hungry lion smelling meat, and I elbowed him in the face, breaking his nose. Gideon tripped me and I fell, my head slamming against the edge of a synthesizer.  My vision grew dark and I needed to vomit.   I grabbed Gideon’s leg and he fell on a pile of framed photos stacked on his desk.  Portraits of rock icons destined to decorate the studio walls.  Crash!  The glass pieces flew through the air like tiny knives.

For the next twenty minutes we beat the shit out of each other, until we were too bloody and exhausted to continue. Using my last ounce of strength, I rallied myself to stand, and limped over to the front door.

“I have to go,” I said as I entered the gray day outside. “I have to look for a job tomorrow.”

TED Talk on Confidence

confidence

Hello, there! I’m so glad to be here with you for this afternoon’s TED session. Haven’t the other speakers been amazing? Just outstanding!

Today, I want to talk to you about confidence.

True confidence has become the cornerstone in a growing movement, one that has become international, emphasizing self-respect and personal attainment in our daily lives. In today’s world, we have a feast of opportunities that were unheard of a hundred years ago, but we still feel powerless and unworthy to sit at our rightful table. A thriving industry has been developed to help others attain this confidence — books, courses, even lectures like this one, but most of the teachers involved in these enterprises don’t speak from hard-earned personal experience. They were either born with this confidence, or were privileged as children to have mentors and family members guide them towards the path of self-actualization.  What could they ever teach us, when confidence seems like an unattainable goal, like winning a gold medal at the Winter Olympics?   How can they they speak to those who still struggle with inner demons, the voices in our heads that are judgmental and critical.

I speak to you from a different place.   I have been plagued by these same naysayers in my brain, gone through the same battles, and only through hard work and introspection have I learned to root my feet into the soil of life, like a strong tree. I stand here as someone who was once like you, fearful and uncertain.  Now I share my vulnerability with you, the wisdom I have gained in my travels, so we can walk together towards our dreams.

First, let me say that it is impossible for me to share everything with you today.  That would take several days.   Hey, I’m willing.  We can bring in Chinese food in here on our breaks!  Yes, I think this topic is THAT important.    But there are other speakers who need to come up here, so my time is limited.    So, let’s focus on the the core point, the one tool that is most effective in building confidence.  Let’s examine it, as if under a microscope.   What has worked for me.  And what, I am convinced, will work for you.

So, let’s begin.  Let’s examine the thought process that I use during a fearful or anxious moment, one that snaps the brain into working for me, and not against me.

First, let’s imagine a giant stone, or rock. It could be a square slab of stone, of granite or marble, or a circular boulder. It doesn’t matter. What is important is that the object is hard, intimidating, and seemingly impenetrable.  And embedded inside this stone, in the center,  sight unseen, is your “confidence.”  Since you cannot see this confidence, you might doubt its existence, but it IS there.

Now, see yourself standing next to this stone, this fortress, the prison of your confidence. You want to get to break it out, but it seems out of reach.   Then you notice a chisel on the floor. You pick it up.

You are not an artist. You are not a Michelangelo or Rodin.  But you understand how a chisel works.  You pound into the rock, picking at it.  Harder and harder. Faster and faster. The air is filled with dust, and the stone looks hideous, but you are not here to create beauty. You are on a journey to the center of the rock, where the confidence you seek is waiting.

In the novel, “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” Michelangelo was described as “a master, the fierceness of his joy sending the chisel through the block like lightning through cumulus clouds.” I do not want you to see yourself that way. I want you to be a frenzied attacker, a drug addict needing his fix.  Even though this whole process is happening in your mind, in only a few seconds, it should feel like a month of sweat-filled work, your biceps sore, your arm muscles throbbing.  The stone, the boulder, the marble, whatever it is that you have imagined, disintegrates further with each blow, until you reach the very center of your nemesis, and then with one more brutal swing, you reach the heart of the stone… and it is empty.  There is nothing there.

Wait a minute.  There’s something wrong with this story.  I can’t put my finger on it.

How many people are in this audience?  Can we turn on the lights please?

Jesus, there are a lot of you. I didn’t realize that I am speaking to so many people today.

Why am I doing this talk anyway? Is doing this TED thing really going to help me get readers to my blog?

And did I forget to dress today?  Why am I standing in front of all of you completely naked?  God, this is awkward.  How could I do this?  Do I leave the house so infrequently that I’m now leaving the house without clothes?

Can we dim the lights please?  I’m naked.

No, not on the audience.  On me.

Thank you.

You can still see me, can’t you?  I was afraid of that.

I know what you are looking at.

You are looking at the scar on my left leg. I hate having to explain that.

OK, it happened in North Shore Day camp in Queens. I was seven. Rob and I were playing tag near the pool, and I slipped and cut my leg on a metal chair. And there was blood all over the place. And I had to get stitches.

But don’t worry, Rob and I are still friends.

In fact, I just saw him last week. He is married and has two kids. And they just got a cute little dog that they named Hatchi.

You should see Hatchi. He is so friendly and cute. He runs up to everyone. He pees wherever he wants. He’s so confident. He should be giving this talk.

Oh.  Well, I see that I am getting a cue that my time is up.  Let me wrap up by saying this —

“Confidence is standing naked in front of a group of strangers to give a talk on confidence, and winging it.”

Pin that on Pinterest.

Thank you.

Fictional Characters of New York — #36

bench

My name is Joseph. I’m a novelist living in Manhattan. My latest novel, “Upper West Side” was skewered in this month’s New York magazine by a young, feminist book critic. She called my female characters “cardboard cutouts” and “male fantasies” who only spoke about love, sex, and romance.

“Has this male author ever listened to real New York women talking with each other?” she wrote.   “I suggest that he leave his apartment one day and stop wanking off onto his page.  When I am with my BFFs we rarely talk about love, sex, and romance.  We discuss feminism, racism, literary criticism, pop culture, and the best new places to get Indian food. This is a book that should die a slow death. Shame on you Random House for publishing such tripe!”

I have to admit, I was hurt by this review.  And the comments were even worse, especially the ugly one where someone suggested women should get together in book clubs and discuss fun ways to cut off my dick.

But I’m not the type of guy to lash out. I believe that criticism is important, and I always try to learn and grow.  Criticism of your work is part of the job.

And maybe the book critic was right.   I do live a solitary life.   Writing is a lonely profession, and I spend countless hours by myself.   Maybe I need to understand women better.

Wasn’t it just last Saturday that my daughter, Julia, suggested I go on a date with someone, maybe one of my editors?

“I’m too busy for dating,” I told her. “I need to write.”

Besides, Saturday exists for my daughter.   Saturday is my happiest day.  Julia lives in Connecticut with her mother and step-father, and I live for our one day a week to see a Broadway show or new foreign film.

But how can I be a good father if I don’t understand women?   Is this why my marriage failed?  Did I not understand Kathy?   Do I only see women under the filter of  love, sex, and romance, but not living with the same worldly dreams, ambitions, and goals of men?

I decided to take the book reviewer’s advice to heart.   After lunch, I closed my laptop, and I took a walk down Broadway, something I never do in the middle of the week.   I continued downtown until I noticed three women sitting on a bench, chatting together. They were of different ages; I assumed they were related. I took my position on a bench across from them and closed my eyes to focus on their voices and conversation. I wanted to learn, “What DO women really talk about?”

And I listened.   One woman, I think the younger one, had a higher-pitched voice. The older woman was tentative in her speech, but the others responded with respect for her life experience.  The third woman was the most educated.   She mentioned her advanced degree from Columbia at least three times.

The feminist book critic from New York magazine was correct. I listened with my eyes closed for forty minutes, and NONE of these women mentioned the subjects of love, sex, and romance.

What did they talk about?    They discussed a job opening at a publishing house, an acquaintance who was recently unfriended on Facebook,  a vacation rental apartment in Prague, a sale on fall jackets at Burlington Coat Factory, a recipe for challah for Rosh Hashanah, whether Hillary Clinton would be a good president, and where to find a good math tutor for the middle woman’s struggling son.

I had finally learned what women discuss with each other.

“Basically, love, sex, and romance,” I said to myself.

I chuckled, then returned home to write a new book.

Fictional Characters of New York — #35

street

“What’s that ring tone?” asked the customer, a young black man with dreadlocks.

“It’s an old song. From the 60’s. When I was young.”

Milt sold shady, refurbished, jail-broken cell phones from a corner in Astoria, Queens. Everyone from the local high school knew where they could find him — the strange old man slumped over in his torn windbreaker, and kept his “merchandise” in the back of a broken down Ford van.   Today was a busy day for Milt.   With the introduction of the iPhone 6 the day earlier, students of Benjamin Franklin High School knew that he was getting rid of the iPhone 5s for cheap.

Milt never dreamed that he would be spending his Golden Years selling contraband iPhones and Androids to selfie-addicted high school students.  He was not a techie.  He attended Brooklyn law school back in the day. That’s where he met Renee.  It was also the start of his drinking, first one glass, and then as winter approached, a whole bottle of Dewar’s at night.  Milt always said that he didn’t hit Renee across the face that Christmas night.  The liquor did. But it was the start of the end. Renee moved to California and never returned his calls, back when telephones were still attached to the walls.

Milt had no interest in cell phone technology.  He saw a business opportunity. He knew the kids loved the phones, and it was better than selling them drugs.

“What that ring tone?” every young customer would ask him, boy or girl, black or white.

“It’s an old song. From the 60’s. When I was young.”

It was his signature.   The way Rolex put their name on a watch.   He personalized every ring tone before he sold it on the street.   And every phone had the same song.

Just walk away, Renee
You won’t see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You’re not to blame

From deep inside the tears that I’m forced to cry
From deep inside the pain that I chose to hide.

For Microblogging Monday

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