the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: aging

Call to Mom

Sophia has been away all week on a job, so I have been here in LA, holding down the fort, like they used to say in the days when we lived in forts.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with Sophia’s step-father and mother at the hospital, which is stressful because they can only speak Russian, and my knowledge of the language is limited to food related statements like “Please pass me the blini” and exotic curses such as “Fuck you, your mother, every relative in their grave, and your two favorite horses.”

I’ve been spending a lot of time playing on my iphone, ignoring reality.  I do know what is going on in Haiti, and I am purposely keeping my head in the sand.  I just can’t deal with the news of the scope of the disaster.  Even the Leno-Conan O’Brien drama was too intense for me right now.

Speaking of iphones — did you know that the latest Facebook update transfers profile photos of your friends into your contacts, so if one of your virtual friends actually called you up, a large photo of your friend would appear on the bright screen as the Justin Timberlake ringtone played on your phone?

Why can’t real life run as smoothly as modern technology?

Playing with my iphone has helped release some tension (video apps!  Scrabble!),  but I have been quite cranky lately.  I would love to take it out on my readers, because I enjoy that, but since I am in the middle of a PR rehabilitaion, I have decided to take it out on my mother instead.  And I have good reason to.  Sophia’s parents are a little older than my mother, and I am seeing first hand how age can slow you down to the point where the child is caring for the parent.  This is when you wake up and realize that you are OLD.  My mother is in her seventies, but — knock on wood — KNOCK KNOCK — in great health.  She traveled through a million European cities last summer.   She is more energetic than I am.   But… old age comes fast.  I see it.

Usually, my mother calls me, bugging me like a stereotypical Jewish mother, reminding me to take my cholesterol medicine, or wondering why I still haven’t made a dentist appointment.   Today, I called her up to nag her.  It was MY TURN!

“How are you feeling today?” I asked, ready to pounce.


“Didn’t you say your foot was bothering you?”

“It’s nothing.”

“I noticed in Queens that you sometimes had trouble standing up from the couch.”

“That’s because the stupid couch is too low.”

“It might be arthritis.”

“I have a little arthritis.”

“So, why don’t you see a doctor?”

“What is a doctor going to do?”

Normally, I would have given up with the questioning, but I felt as distrustful as an El Al security guard.

“Aren’t you taking yoga there?”

“Yes, every day.”

“But I know you.  You just do whatever the instructor tells everyone to do.  Speak to her.   Personally.  Tell her you want a special exercise suited for YOU.”

“Leave me alone.  I’m fine.  Did you make an appointment to your doctor yet while you are in LA?  And what’s going on with you and Sophia anyway?  Have you talked about it yet?  You can’t live like this forever…?”

“We’re not talking about me.  We are talking about you.”

“Me?  I’m enjoying life!  You’re the one who’s screwed up.  And besides, my cholesterol is lower than yours.”

“Do you know where I am going every day to visit Vartan?  This rehab clinic?  Do you know what it is LIKE in here?  It is awful.  You don’t FUCKING want to be in here.  I don’t want to FUCKING visit you in one of these places!”

“I know.  I’ve been there with my parents.  My mother was in a nursing home.  Half of Century Village ends up in assisted living.   Never put me in a nursing home.  I’d rather be dead.”

“Stop talking nonsense.  Go exercise your legs.”

“Right now?  I’m eating lunch.”

“You don’t want to EVER fall and break a hip.  Because that is BAD NEWS at your age.”

“I’m fine.  YOU need to exercise.”

“Stop being an idiot, Mom!  You’re getting old.”

“I am old.”

“You’re not old.”

“I am old.  So, if I fall, you’re not coming to visit me?”

“You’re acting a real jerk today.  Just don’t fall, OK?  And don’t eat too much deli food.  It’s not healthy.”

“I’m eating a chicken salad sandwich.  You’re the one who goes to McDonald’s.”

“We’re talking about YOU.  Sheesh!  You’re impossible!!”

Later that day, my mother called up, probably wanting to remind me AGAIN to make my doctor’s appointment.  At first, I didn’t know it was my mother because this Facebook photo appeared full screen in my iphone behind my mother’s name  —

Either this Facebook “contact” information app has a serious bug in it, or my mother really HAS been taking good care of herself in Florida!

I have no idea who this girl is in the photo.   Obviously technology is as fucked up as real life.

Been There, Done That


I recently went with Danny and his wife, Kendall, to a Academy screening of Bob Fosse’s “Cabaret.”  It is a great film and would have won the Oscar in the 1972 if a little film titled “The Godfather” didn’t win instead.

My favorite scene takes place in a German beer garden.  An Aryan boy in his Hitler Youth outfit stands up and sings “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” a beautiful nationalistic song about the Fatherland. One by one, all of the customers get up and chant along, mesmerized by the boy’s voice and the Nazi vision.  The only one who remains sitting is an old man.  He is shaking his head.  He’s old enough to have seen this shit before.  He knows better. 

Do people really get wiser with age?  Who knows.  I have some really dumb older relatives.  But I think you do gain experience as you age.  I’m surprised that our culture doesn’t draw more on the experience of those who have “been there, done that.”  We might think that an older person — someone over 65 — is “out of it” because they don’t use a Tivo.  But the last generation has adapted to changes in society and technology that are more dramatic than anything we have seen.   We’ve watched a 56k modem evolve into an iPod.  But they’ve seen a 56′ Ford become a space shuttle.  And isn’t the latest rock star really a different packaging of the last rock star who was a different packaging of Elvis, who was a different packaging of Frank Sinatra?

Lately, I’ve been feeling “older.”  When I say that, I don’t necessarily mean in body or spirit, but more in my interests in life.  When I started this blog, I was going to write about “pop culture.”  I still love movies, TV, and music, but recently, less so.  Lindsay Lohan – should I really care about her life?   After all, I’m not a 15 year old girl.   I’m not even a gay editor of a gossip blog that caters to 15 year old girls.   I skipped the Emmys this year.  And the MTV Video Music Awards.  And you certainly didn’t see me waiting in line for the first night’s showing of “Snakes on a Plane.” 

I know for many of you, admitting this lack of interest of popular culture is the greatest sin possible.  I know how essential it is to be on top of everything.   To be a hipster.  To be in the know.   To be seen at the right places.  To know the cool bands.   I’ve been there.   And now Neilochka is saying he doesn’t even care about “Snakes on a Plane” — a movie with Samuel L. Jackson of all people!  How DORKY is this guy?  Does all he do is IM single women and read blogs?

Which brings me to my next topic of conversation — the website Gawker, the hip New York media blog.

If I don’t stand in line for the opening of a movie, or a nightclub, I’m certainly not going to stand in line to write a comment on a website.  Did you see the rigmarole you have to go through to comment there?  My friend told me about an interesting article today on Gawker.  But when I went to comment, I saw this:

If you’d like an invitation to become a Gawker commenter, you can apply by leaving a comment. Try to make your first one particularly witty. The comment will only appear once (or if) you’re put on the list.

1. Who can leave comments on Gawker?

Anyone who has been invited, either by us or by a friend. The invite system works like Gmail’s invite system. We’ve invited a bunch of our favorite media mavens, bloggers, and frequent tipsters to comment, then given them invitations to share with their friends and colleagues. That way, the burden of inclusion, and exclusion, is shared.

2. Why are comments by invitation only?

Most online communities, like hip bars, are quickly overrun. Not that we’ll be any exception. But we’re going to try to put off that moment for as long as possible.

3. How can I become a commenter?

A) Find a friend with an invitation to share. Many of the people who we’ve invited to comment have also received invitations to share with friends. We’ll continue to seed selected inboxes with invitations to share so the supply doesn’t die out.

B) Tip us. We’ve invited some of our most frequent tipsters to comment, as a thanks for all the help they’ve given us. If you’re looking to comment, raise your chances by sending useful tips to us.

C) Convince us. If you’re lurking inside a major media company, with dirt to dish, we might be interested in having you as a commenter. For instance, we’ll send an invite to anyone with a or email address who asks for one.

D) Blog. If you’re a blogger, you’ve got a stake in what you’re saying. Many Gawker comments invitations have gone out to fellow bloggers whose work we admire.

Jesus.  It’s like I have to learn to juggle just to write some dumb comment.  I’m surprised that they didn’t want me to bring them the head of Medusa.

Now in the past, this type of thing would make me upset.  I would be desperate to be included with the cool folk or bitter that I was such a loser.  I would feel insecure that I am not good enough (which is the point) and probably one of the reasons thousands of need-to-be-connected bloggers link to this commercial site.  

But, instead, I just shrugged.  I was too lazy to write a witty comment.   I had a good comment, but I wasn’t sure how witty it really was.  Besides, from my own experiences in real life — the people at these type of parties are never too exciting.  So, that’s it.  No huffing and puffing.  If Gawker wants my comment, they know where to find me.  I can always get my gossip at Entertainment Tonight.

I had a similar “shrug it off” experience at Saturday’s Los Angeles Blogger’s Garage Sale.  I stopped by and it was great seeing Carly and Communicatrix.  And the rumor was true.  Half of the participants were drag queens.  As I was leaving, I encountered two guys who were friends of friends.  One guy had on heels and the other was carrying colored wigs. I made some passing comment about the cool wigs, but they ignored me and started acting very “draq queenish.”   I figured they were trying to shock me.  I was wearing khaki pants and a button down Oxford shirt, despite the 100 degree weather (I need to do a laundry again!), so I must have looked like John Cheever walking into the wrong suburban cocktail party.  These guys perceived me as the white-bread Redondo Beach guy and they were going to do a little extra prancing to shock me and make me feel as uncomfortable as they would be in a redneck bar.   

Now, in the past, this might have bothered me.  What if these with-it guys actually thought I am a  — my god — a Republican — in this preppy Ivy League dress shirt?  I would have desperately felt the urge to tell these guys that I am as “hip” as they are.  That I’m OK with their outlandish lifestyle.  That it isn’t shocking to me to see men wearing women’s clothes.  In fact, I would have told them to run home and do a search on Google for the #1 link to “Husbands who wear women’s panties” — Yes, I’ve seen it all, done it all. 

But, it wasn’t worth my time.  I didn’t need to prove to them that I am a hipster or trendy — or anything.  I really didn’t care what they thought.  And that was a good feeling. 

And that made me feel “older.”  Or maybe, more “mature” is a better way of saying that.

Before I headed off, one of the drag queens dropped a wig, and bent down to pick it up.  I caught a glimpse of the back of his underwear.  They were Fruit of the Loom tighty-whiteys.

“Faker,” I mumbled to myself, as I headed down Melrose Blvd.


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   When I Grow Up to Be a Man


A Year Later, Older and Wiser

The years teach much which the days never knew.  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m sure you’re noticed that at the end of each post, I now link to the post written “a year ago today.”  I do it more for myself than for you, because it amuses me to see where my mind was at this time last year. 

A year ago, I was thinking about Changing Goals Throughout the Years.  In honor of my growth and maturity throughout the year, I’ve updated the post for 2006.  (link)

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