Fear

fear

In all my years of blogging, I have never written anything with the aim of inspiring you. It’s not my style.  I’m not a teacher or an advocate.  I don’t consider myself inspirational.

But that changes today.

The night started with my own search for inspiration. I’ve been feeling scared lately, fearful, unable to take steps that could improve my life.   I searched online for advice. Through Google, I found all sorts of gurus, wannabe gurus, psychologists, happiness experts, and thought leaders who were eager to help me.  These articles were written by two categories of authors — those who never faced fear, and those who learned to overcome it.   Whether written as  longform or Buzzfeed listicle, on an academic website or online women’s magazine, the advice was always remarkable similar, pretty much expanding on Nike’s advertising copy of  “Just Do It.”

“You can’t succeed without failure.

You will never know until you try.

Change your way of thinking.

Fight the fear and do it anyway.

Twelve Ways Successful Entrepreneurs Win at Business.

Get the Love You Deserve By Risking it All.”

All night I read articles that felt cold against my skin, clichés tossed at me to sell e-books or writers promoting themselves. I was not inspired by someone who once feared air travel and now jumps out of an airplane every day at lunch.  What if you’re still finding it hard to call up American Airlines to change a flight?

These articles just made me feel inept.

“Just do it,” they said.   That sells stuff.

“Fuck you.  I can’t do it yet,” I answered.   That will never sell anything.

So, I am here to talk to those who fear change, risk, or rejection. I cannot tell you to fight that fear, because I have not done so myself. I give you no tips on how to overcome obstacles because I frequently falter.

My only inspirational message is this — if you fear something, you should feel it. That’s it. Save fighting it for another day.  Just feel the fear.  And know that others feel it too.  That’s my inspirational message.  It’s the only way I can help you.

That is what I was searching for tonight. And since I could not find that inspirational article on any website, I wrote it myself.

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Fashion Blogger

As I mentioned on Facebook earlier,  I was walking home from my first ever check-up at the dermatologist (no problems, yay!), when I passed Lincoln Center and I noticed a group of people taking photos.  I had no idea that it was Fashion Week.

Some guy asks me, “Are you a fashion blogger?”

“Well, sort of,” I answered, figuring I needed a post for this week’s micro-blog Monday.  (I did recently blog about my new jeans, right?)

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Fictional Characters of New York — #34

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On the third day of my honeymoon, I knew my marriage was a mistake. Scott and I were in our hotel room, in bed after a long day sightseeing in Paris, when I looked over at my new husband.  He was reading from the Frommer’s Guide. It was at that very moment that I saw my future life, married to a respectable man who favored organization over spontaneity.  Scott was using the same guidebook as my parents.   Here we were — a young, vibrant couple in a five star hotel in the most romantic city in the world, and my husband was reading from the Frommer’s Guide. Why weren’t we fucking so hard that passerbys could hear us on the Champs-Élysées?

A few weeks after our return to New York, I met Victor on the elevator in my office building. He worked at the Cruise Company on the 38th Floor.  He was a few years younger than Scott, and not as financially stable.  He was not the type of man that I would usually be attracted to,  but he was funny and he liked me.

One afternoon, we played hooky from our jobs to sing Michael Jackson songs in that Korean karaoke place on 43rd. After a rousing duet of “Thriller, he kissed me and pressed me against the wall, and like an over-anxious schoolboy, I could feel his urgent need for me growing in his pants.

“Let’s take a walk,” I said.

It wasn’t as if I was indecisive about wanting an affair. I knew what was going to happen. That morning, I shaved my legs, painted my lips with the reddest shade I owned, and slipped on my dress like the shameless harlot I hoped to become for the day.

Victor and I took a walk to the Highline. He pointed down 23rd Street to an apartment building a few blocks away.

“That’s where I live. My roommate isn’t there.”

“Good.” I said.   It was time to break free from a mistaken marriage.  I closed my eyes and thought about the pleasure and pain I would feel as Victor pinned me to his bed.

Victor noticed the pause, and bit his lip. He was new to all this – dating a married woman. Victor was not a “player.”   He had only slept with one woman, an ex-girlfriend, and he still hoped to one day win her back.  He was deeply moral, born to a Christian family, and had mistakenly understood my pause for old-fashioned guilt.

“It’ll be our little secret,” he said, assuring me of his trustworthiness and sense of propriety.

And then, as happened when seeing Scott reading the Frommer’s Guide on that night in Paris, I knew Victor was the wrong man for me.  Scott was following the rules of marriage.  Victor was following the rules of infidelity.   And I did not want to be chained down by rules.

I wanted a man with such all-consuming passion for me, needing my body, mind, and spirit so completely that he would have no other choice but to shout it out to the entire city below.

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If There Were “Links” in Real Conversations

Tom’s Coffee Shop, near Columbia University. This morning. I am sitting with my two old college buddies, Barry and Rob. Just like we used to do in the past.

Neil: It’s so great to sit down with you both in a real coffee shop, and just talk. I’ve missed our talks together, like back in college. Now all we do is talk to each other on Facebook, never face to face.

Barry: It’s great to hang out with you again, Neil.

Rob: You said that you wanted to talk to us about something, Neil?

Neil: Yeah. Well, it’s more like sharing something.

Barry: Sure.

Rob: We’re here for you.

Neil: I just feel a little sad lately. Like it’s finally hitting me, I’m alone. Like I’ve finally moved on from Sophia or Juli, but yet I really haven’t moved on at all.

Barry: So, are you depressed?

Neil: I don’t know if it is depression. I don’t know, maybe.

Barry: Have you ever read the Bloggess? She writes about depression.

Rob: Yeah, depression lies.

Neil: Yeah, yeah. I’ve read her. But that’s a different type of depression.

Rob: Here’s a link to one of her posts.

Neil: Yeah, yeah. I’m just not really in the mood to read the Bloggess right now.

Rob: She’s so funny. I love her last post. It’s not about depression. It’s about ten words that sound like vagina. It’s just so funny. Here’s the link.

Neil: Not in the mood for funny today.

Barry: You know, the best thing ever written on depression is by Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and A Half. Here’s the link.

Neil: Again, I’m not sure it’s depression. And I don’t want to read anything. Just hang out with you guys. Have a real connection. I already spend too much time online.

Barry: I hear you. Everyone only shows a façade on social media, avoiding real interaction. Here’s the link to an op-ed in Slate Magazine suggesting that Facebook makes all of us jealous and unhappy.

Rob: I read that op-ed. She’s a Luddite. You need to check out this link on Wired magazine to learn that there are no fundamental differences between friendships online or offline. There’s a pop-up in the link, but just ignore it.

Neil: Maybe I’ll never find love again. I mean I know it’s not true, but I feel it in my gut.

Barry: Your story would Juli would make an excellent memoir or Modern Romance piece in the New York Times.  Have you seen the Modern Romance submission page?  Here’s the link.

Rob: Actually, I read that romance stories are not selling that well in the Publishers Weekly, unless it is YA or a sci-fi twist. Here’s the link.

Some guy at the next booth turns around.

Guy: I don’t want to interrupt, but since I am overhearing your conversation, but I’m not listening very closely, I just wanted to tell you that I’m on a date right now, my fifth date since breaking up with my wife of 15 years, and here’s a link to my article in the Huffington Post “How I Got Back Into My Groove After 15 Years of Marriage.” Let me give you that link again, in case it was wrong the first time.

Barry: I never go to the Huffington Post after I read how they treat their writers. Here’s a link to an article in Gawker from one of their former writers.

Rob: Oh, I love that writer. He’s also an excellent photographer. Here’s a link to his Instagram account.

Neil: I know you guys are trying to help. But I just want to hear what you think. I just miss our talks at Columbia. The way we used to share thing with each other.

Barry: I miss our days in college, too.

Neil: Did you see the story from Columbia about that student who is carrying around a mattress as an art project to shame her rapist? Shocking how irresponsible the administration has become making the campus safe for women. Here’s the link.

Rob: The world has gone mad. And no one expresses it better than Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds.com. Here’s the link.

Neil: Do you ever have this feeling, that your heart is breaking? That love is slipping away, like time…

The waiter approaches.

Waiter: I’m Joseph, your waiter, but before I take your order, I’d like to tell that your heart breaking is inconsequential when compared to the broken rubble of the victims of the Israeli genocide in Gaza, or the broken spirits of colored people in this country who face police brutality every day. You can educate yourself on my blog at this link. Now, would anyone like to hear about our specials of the day?

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#Microblog Mondays 1 — Trying it Out

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I’m terrible at joining communities online, unless I start them myself.  (Ha ha, what does that say about me?)

But Melissa of Stirrup Queens always has new ideas to build community, and this one had special appeal to me.  The idea of #Microblog Mondays is to post something once a week on our blogs that we would normally do on social media.  And theoretically this will inspire us to all come back to blogging.   Melissa’s idea is so idealistic, crazy, and ultimately hopeless, that I just knew I had to join up.

Take anything you would have thrown up on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and place it on your blog.  A passing thought.  What you did over the weekend.  What you’re looking forward to during the week.  What you’re worried about.  The strangest thing you observed on your way to work.  The funny thing your kid said.  A great picture you took during a hike.  A funny picture you forgot about until you found it while looking for something else.

You can read more at her blog.

OK, here’s my one paragraph post that I would normally put on Facebook.  Be glad that I am not boring you with it over there.

While I enjoy writing these Fictional Characters of New York that are flooding my blog lately, I am fully aware that I am hiding behind them. It’s as if I don’t know how to write a blog anymore.  A personal blog is not a memoir. And I don’t want to create some sort of two-dimensional character that is a stand-in for the authentic self. I just don’t feel safe being myself with you, because I don’t know who you are.

Posted in Life in General | Tagged | 9 Comments

Fictional Characters of New York — #33

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All summer, Josie observed the flitterings of romance between the library patrons.  While working behind the cold marble reception desk of the reading room,  Josie saw how the most unlikeliest of bespectacled readers and gaunt researchers succumbed to the power of love, the need for affection, and the pleasure of sex. It was summer, and nature had her ways. No one wanted to be stuck in the library reading.

Like a cross between Dr. Ruth and Sherlock Holmes, Josie became an expert in seeing the flirtations of others. She noticed the handiwork of Eros everywhere, even as she walked down the steps of the 42nd Street Library.  Shakespeare was right.  Life was a Play, and it was written just for her.

Today’s “Leaving Work And Walking Down the Stairs” production had an intriguing interesting cast of characters — the party-girl brunette pursued by the aggressive undergrad in shorts, the frustrated blonde who had failed to gain the attention of a young man hobbled with shyness, and the Asian girl and her puppydog-boyfriend, a compromise choice after her crush failed to reciprocate her feelings.

“Fall was approaching,” Josie thought, as she passed the two stone lions standing guard outside, named Patience and Fortitude. Josie was weary of observing love in others, and wanted to feel herself in the warm arms of a strong man.

She took out her phone to join an online dating site.

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Fictional Characters of New York — #32

jealousy

It’s common knowledge in the Bronx that you don’t remain friends with your ex, but Xavier ached to prove the others wrong.  His ideas always ran contrary to common wisdom.  During his childhood, he prided himself on doing the opposite –he smoked pot to diss his parents, but went to St. Nick’s for Sunday Mass, just to annoy his friends.

“How’s your new guy?” Xavier asked Pammie.

They were sitting across from each other  for their weekly early morning Wednesday breakfast at the Pop and Son Diner, where they always split the Pancake and Bacon Special.

“He’s good,” she answered.

“You sleeping with him?”

“You really want me to answer that?”

“Sure. We’re friends now. Platonic friends. Like Chandler and Ross’s sister, what’s her name.”

“Yeah, I’m sleeping with him?”

“Any good?”

“Yeah.”

“OK.”

They both sipped from their now lukewarm coffee.

“Is this getting serious?” he asked.  “You’ve been seeing him for a couple of months now, right?”

“Nah. He’s married. He has two kids.”

Xavier coughed and gulped.

“You’re screwing around with a married guy?!”

“He’s my boss.”

“But…”

“He takes me places. We do things. Places I couldn’t go with you. Expensive places.”

“Oh…”

Xavier’s face soured.

“Don’t ruin this, Xavier. You said you could handle this.”

“Yes. Yes. We’re friends.”

And that’s when they changed the conversation to the Yankees.

+++

It was a few days before a holiday weekend, and Home Depot was crowded with customers filled with illusions of finishing some half-baked renovations in the kitchen.

Xavier found it hard to concentrate on helping the customers. His mind was on Pammie.

Xavier had no anger at Pammie. He cared about her. Loved her. He was impressed with her commitment to success, of getting ahead in life.  She was the only girl he ever knew who carried about a “Goal Notebook” in which she outlined each day’s intended achievements.

If he was furious at anyone, it was her boss.   Some rich Manhattan guy, who inherited his real estate business from his father, and never had a hardship in all his life. And now he’s fucking some girl in the office for fun.  Some chick from the Bronx.

Xavier wondered what this dude would think about him if he walked into the Home Depot right now. Would he even look into his eyes? Could he imagine that someone as inconsequential as himself once shared a bed with Pammie? Does he even know Pammie’s full name?  Or is she just some little whore from the Bronx for him to use when his wife is too busy doing her charity work?

The rage spread to Xavier’s fist. He grabbed a hammer from Aisle 5 and with full force, smashed it against the wall, cracking it.

“What the fuck…?” asked Johnson, the floor supervisor, on seeing Xavier with the hammer in his hand.

“I’m taking an early lunch,” said Xavier, and left the store to take the nearest subway into midtown Manhattan.

+++

Langstein Realty was located at 350 Park Avenue.   It was noon.  Outside the office building, Pammie was chatting with Bruce Langstein, the CEO, and Edgar Wiseman, the top realtor of the firm.  They were waiting for Marvin.  They had reservations for four at Matisse on Madison.

Pammie didn’t notice Xavier walking towards them, his veins popping in his forehead.  Xavier was heading straight for Bruce, Pammie’s boss.

A second later would become the destruction of the long friendship between Xavier and Pammie, once again proving that common wisdom in the Bronx is always right.

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Fictional Characters of New York — #31

family

It was a hot summer day, when lazy minds drift off into the humidity. A family sat on the bench, waiting for the bus, after a morning of shopping at the Chinese supermarket.

“How come Jen won’t let me play poker tonight?” wondered the Dad. “I married a control freak.”

“When is school starting?” wondered the first Son. “I hate my family.”

“What’s wrong with playing Minecraft all day?” wondered the second Son. “I never get to do anything I want.”

“Why did we stop using birth control?” wondered the Mom. “I don’t want another kid.”

Scottie watched the family from the steps of the library, imagining the thoughts of each person appearing over their heads, as if they were characters in a cartoon strip.  He was eating his lunch — a plastic bowl of cold noodles from the dumpling place next to Starbucks.

“What suckers!” he thought, mocking the family as the Q41 bus pulled in, and they left the scene.

Scottie tossed the plastic blue bowl, and headed into the library.  It was time for work. He promised himself to write a certain  number of words a  day and was stuck on page twelve of his novel.

The library stank with children on summer vacation.  Scottie didn’t the library at all.  He disliked the shuffling of nervous students, the clicks of the keyboards, and the bad breath of the sweaty men reading the Chinese newspapers. But Scottie’s apartment wasn’t air-conditioned, and the library kept things a cool sixty-nine degrees. He even checked that with the woman at the circulation desk.  Sixty-nine degrees, exactly.

Scottie liked saying hello to this librarian at the circulation desk.   Her name was Margaret, a plain-looking librarian who wore the same blue nylon dress every day. She was even homely, with bags under her eyes and thinning hair, but he would ask her out for a date, that is if he could build up the nerve.   He had lost all confidence in himself and his work.   Ever since the divorce, the losing of custody of his two children, Max and Ellie, and Cheryl’s move to Austin, Scottie felt alone and needing of family.

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Fictional Characters of New York — #30

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Lily felt depressed and didn’t know why. She avoided the news and the internet.  Her friends fought constantly on Facebook over the news of the day, and the tension made her body feel heavy, like a ship’s anchor falling deeper into the dark water.

At 6PM on Friday, Lily was on the bus, coming home from a long day as a cashier at Walgreen’s.  Her eyes stared down at the dirty floor of the Q64 bus and she thought about the laundry to do this weekend; she had no other plans.

The bus approached the stop directly across from Lily’s small house, the one she inherited from her parents.  Lily looked up, out the window.   The front lawn was brown and uneven. Lily thought about her late father, a gardening perfectionist, and how he would be disappointed in her. It’s no wonder she felt depressed. She would never be good enough.

But then, through the window, she noticed Eddie on the front porch, waiting for her.  He wore a newly-pressed uniform and his dufflebag was at his side.

He was back from Iraq.   And Lily was depressed no more.

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Internet Thoughts #1 — How to Respond to Stupidity

We all are apt to say stupid or contentious things at some part of our internet lives. What should be the best policy for dealing with it? What makes the internet a better place?

Let’s come up an example.

I come home from a bad date, drunk and angry, and I write some insulting message on Facebook, “All women care about is money. Especially Canadian women. They’re the worst.”

Don’t worry. I didn’t really say that. Whether I believe it or not about our friends to the North — you will never know. But pretend I DID write this on Facebook. And this pisses you off. A lot. How would you respond, and which method makes for a better internet?

1) You immediately unfriend me.

2) You make the public comment, “Neil, are you drunk?”

3) You make the public comment, “Neil, as a Canadian woman I can assure you that this is false, and I am insulted by your comment.”

4) You DM me and ask, “Neil, are you drunk?”

5) You DM me and ask, “”Neil, as a Canadian woman I can assure you that this is false, and I am insulted by your comment.”

6) You write a public vaguebooking message of you own, some “The hatred of all things Canadian is alive and well tonight on the airwaves. I wish I could shove some poutine up this guy’s scrawny ass!”

7) You write a public blogpost, calling the person out, “Neil Kramer is a blogger in New York. He has a small brain and a small dick. He also knows nothing about women. Or Canada. Here’s why and here is his blog…”

8) You ignore it.

Which would be your approach? Which approach is best for the internet?   Does it all depend on our level of friendship with the writer?

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