the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: birthday

The Start of Year Eight

Yesterday, I was the David against a villainous Goliath, and I lost. But sometimes you need to be pushed around a little so you can awaken you from your own passivity. And this is what happened today.

It all started when Time Warner, a company that controls my cable, internet, and phone service, didn’t show up for their service call after I waited around all morning yesterday. They said they had to reschedule their arrival until the next day.

“Tomorrow is my birthday.” I said. “I’m not sitting around all day waiting for Time Warner on my birthday!”

The duel had begun.

“OK, then we will come on Thursday.”

“At what time.”

“Between 9AM and noon.”

“Can you be any more specific?” I asked.



I hung up the phone dissatisfied. I lost the battle. This defeat felt symbolic, and it came at the wrong time. Today is my birthday. It is also the seventh anniversary of my blog. I had been waiting for this day for weeks, because I had hoped to write an inspiring blog post for you. I wanted to wow you with my confidence, to share with you my hopes and dreams that I was going to realize this year.

But based on my timid response yesterday to Time Warner, I lost my mojo. It seemed as if this new year of my life was going to be pretty much the same as the year before. I had been knocked down in the ring too many times, and my once youthful cockiness had faded.

I’d become superstitious, fearful, like my great-grandmother who grew up in a shtetl in Eastern Europe. I was looking at events as if the Universe was sending me messages about my life, and the world was saying that I was a speck of dust compared to the iron fist of Time Warner.

This made me sad. Once upon a time, I was the type of man that spit in the face of superstition. If there was a ladder on the street, I walked under it, gleefully, just to tempt the fates.

“Don’t open your umbrella inside the house,” my great-grandmother use to say, and I would open up my umbrella like an indoors Mary Poppins, just to be contrary.

I would chase the black cat, would say God’s name in vein, and would laugh when a mirror would crack during an earthquake. Sophia and I got married on October 13th. I was not afraid of lightening or thunder, tarot cards or palm readers.

“Come on, death,” I would yell at the guy in the robe with the sickle. “Challenge me to a game of chess, you bony loser.”

I believed in science and reason, not old wives’ tales.

But as the years passed by and I became older, I met the real enemy, and his name was Time.

Time is not a metaphor or a superstition. It is real, like a river that will never run dry, or a heavy grey cloud that descends, slowly, until the mist embraces you like a shroud, and you cannot see anymore.

You can not ignore Time. You hear the clock and see the scrolling numbers on the screen as the seconds tick away. You feel it in your bones as you try to run to catch the bus but your feet drag. Time deserves respect. Time flies. And it’s scary.

Naturally, when fear arises, so does a belief in superstition. My great-grandmother believed in “knocking on wood” and wearing amulets. The smart pray and follow the rules, and are rewarded. The foolish walk under the ladder, snubbing the Gods, and get what they deserve.

The flow of time makes us desperate to control it, even when we know that no amount of make-up or plastic surgery can stop it. I, too, embraced superstition. I folded up my umbrellas and said “God Bless You,” at every sneeze. I avoided ladders. I bowed in the synagogue, kneeled at the mosque, and crossed myself at church. I wondered if my marital problems were all based on our decision to get married on the 13th of October.

But after I lost to Time Warner, it was enough. It is not worth living at all if you are going to be fearful of your own shadow. I was done being a welcome mat to the Goliath. I would believe in myself, not superstition, or authority. That would be my birthday present to myself.

I decided to take a walk and announce this important piece of personal news to the world. My body was eager to move, my shoulders pulled back, my back stretched. I wanted to send my positive energy into the air, lighting up the city.

I left my house. It was a beautiful Southern California day, with temperatures in the upper 70s. I headed for the nearby dog park, taking a shortcut through the alleyway. I always enjoyed watching the energetic dogs running wild in the park, off their leashes, without a care in the world.

As I opened the back gate, I found my path blocked. A bunch of scavenger birds on the garbage bin, munching on the crumbs on some leftover pizza boxes. The birds were all black crows, and they were shrieking in some Devil’s language, staring at me with their glassy dead eyes.

I think they were crows. They could have also been ravens. I don’t know my birds very well. All I know is that my great-grandmother would not cross their black magic path. I’ve read enough books as an English Major in college to know the literary symbolism of crows and ravens. Evil. Death. Misery. Bad luck. Not the type of sign you want to see before your birthday.

A month ago, I might have turned and gone the other way. But I had already been screwed once today by a Goliath — by Time Warner — and it was not going to happen again. These were just birds. I was a man. Any meaning these birds had came from my weak, frightened human mind, not reality.

Edgar Allen Poe once wrote:

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Nevermore. Indeed.

“Get the fuck out of here, you fucking raven/crows,” I yelled at the group of filthy birds. “I don’t believe in your symbolism and I don’t want you eating any leftover pizza in my fucking alley.”

I bent down, grabbed some pebbles and tossed it at them. The leader of the birds, the one darkest and bulkiest, glared at me with his freaky eyes, saliva dripping down from his mouth, but I didn’t look away. Not for a second.

I put up my middle finger at showed the bird MY BIRD.

“Eat shit, you winged pussy” I said.

The Queen of the ravens/crows let out an ear-piercing yelp, then flitted away in shame. The bird had lost to a man.

And like the hunter who mounts the deer head over his fireplace, I took at instagram photo of the defeated raven/crow. It was my prize. My birthday card.

Today is my birthday. Today is the seventh anniversary of my blog. Today is a new day. Today I live without superstition or fear. Today I write with confidence. Today I have a voice. Watch out, Time Warner. I am not David to your Goliath anymore.

Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday…

(the rest of this song has been deleted due to a cease and desist letter).

This song, written by two sisters from Kentucky, Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill, was copyrighted for 75 years in 1935 by the Chicago music publisher Clayton F. Summy Company, which later became Summy-Birchard Music, which is now owned by TIME WARNER!!!

Fuck you, Time Warner! But this battle doesn’t end here. Your media empire is no match for one man’s voice. This blog continues now for an eighth year, longer than some of your TV shows. So, YOU better watch out.

Truth Quotient: 68%

Happy Birthday, Sophia!

One of the guilty pleasures of TV watching when I was with Sophia, besides All My Children, The Bachelor, and Professional Figure Skating, was “Poker After Dark,” a nightly show of high stakes No Limit Texas Hold ’em mini-tournaments, featuring a rotating cast of six top poker professionals.  While neither Sophia or I could name a single player on the Los Angeles Dodgers, we could easy chat about the playing styles of Gus Hansen or Phil “The Brat” Hellmuth at the breakfast table.  We didn’t actually play much poker, other than “Heads-Up” against each other, and I would usually win.   Sophia, always on the lookout for a new money-making scheme, had this idea that I would make a great professional poker player.

“You’re patient and you can keep a straight face.”

While this doesn’t make a good poker player, these qualities put me at an advantage over Sophia in our “Heads-Up” games.   She found it difficult to sit for long stretches of time, and her facial expressions and gestures were way too emotional.  When she would get a good hand, she could hardly contain herself.  When she was bluffing, I just KNEW IT.


Our splitting up, with she in LA and me currently in NY, has been good for us, but it has been lonely, too.  After so many years of having someone sleeping next you, being alone feels like driving a truck with only three wheels.

I have used the internet to connect with others, for better or for worse.  I tried to convince Sophia that she can get the same thrill from “social media.”

I remember the first day that Sophia joined Twitter.  I made a big joke about it, saying that my online life was “now ruined.”  Many online friends quickly “followed” her, thinking it would be fun to see us both chatting online together.    Sophia was on Twitter for about… two days.

“How come I never see you on Twitter?” I asked.

“What do you DO there?”

“You talk to people.”

“About what?”

“About anything.”

“Seems like a waste of time.”

“Because it takes a while.  You build up friendships.”

“Eh.  Boring.  I’d rather go out.”

Sophia and social media — bad match.  But she did find a new hobby — Texas Hold ‘Em.    Or rather she started playing what she used to only watch on TV.

She discovered some weekly game on, and started attending the beginners’ games in Los Angeles.  Gradually, she started winning the weekly games, and joined another group as well.  In the last couple of weeks she won $700.   Her secret weapon — she has balls.  She is not afraid to “go all in” with a pair of deuces.   One semi-professional player got angry at her for pushing him out of the tournament with such a “sh*tty hand.”

So far, Sophia’s playing is more for fun than “gambling.”   And she has met some new friends.

Today is Sophia’s birthday.  She is travelling to Las Vegas with two women she plays poker with, to have fun and play in some poker tournaments.  It is her birthday gift to herself. Good luck!

The last year has not been a good one for Sophia.  She lost both of her parents in 2010.  In poker terms, she was handed a very bad hand last year, and no amount of bluffing could change that.

As you enter this new year, I wish you only aces!

UPDATE SATURDAY:  Sophia took down a tournament at Caesars and won $1000!

The Luckiest Blogger in the World


Can someone have his best birthday ever — four days before his actual birthday? 

Knowing that Sophia and I we were heading off on our road trip to Portland, Danny invited us over for some pre-birthday birthday cake (which he baked himself!  Coconut!) 

First surprise:  Communicatrix and her boyfriend, Brenton, showed up to wish me an early happy birthday.  

Second surprise:  Sophia revealed that she has been secretly working behind the scenes to make my birthday extra special.   She has been emailing YOU for several weeks, telling you of my upcoming birthday, and asking you to mail me a card or a gift to Danny’s address. 

Third surprise:  A whole bunch of gifts and cards were piled high in Danny’s living room, the gifts and cards as varied as there are bloggers:

Chocolates from Belgium.   Art work.  Photographs.  T-shirts from various cities across the country.  Baseball caps.  Soap shaped like a woman’s breast.  A tool kit.  Books.  Movies.  CDs.  Fancy notebooks.  Buttons.  Chewing gum.  Handmade candy.  A beautiful purple bathrobe!   A hand-knitted scarf.  Magazine subscriptions.  Special beer from Chicago.  An emergency phone charger.  Poems.    And tons of birthday cards.  

And more is coming.

I was in shock for the rest of the night.  I had no idea of any of this.  I feel like George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” 

I am still speechless.  I can’t think of anything clever to say, other than, “Wow, I’m truly touched.”  

I’m also drunk, so I’ll need to write more about this tomorrow.

Thanks, everyone.  Thanks, Danny.   

And Sophia, you really ARE the best!

P.S. — Does this mean I have to start reading your blogs again?

Two Birthdays and Blogiversary


Neil is asleep in bed. 

Neil’s Penis:  Neil, Neil, get up already.

Neil:  I’m sleeping.

Neil’s Penis:  Time to get up.  Don’t you know what today is?  It’s our birthday!

Neil:  Happy birthday, Penis.

Neil’s Penis:   You too, Neilochka.  We’ve certainly been together a long time.  I even consider you a friend.

Neil:  Wow, Penis, I didn’t figure you to be the sentimental type.

Neil’s Penis:   Sentimental?   Bullshit.  I sometimes wish I was attached to someone else.  Someone who actually fucked a woman a little more often.

Neil:  I love you, too.

Neil’s Penis:   Aw, shit.  You see right through me, don’t you?  You’ll always be my best friend. 

Neil:  Thanks, pal.

Neil’s Penis:  Just try to work with me more, like a partnership.

Neil:  What do you mean?

Neil’s Penis:   Are you a numskull, Neil? 

Neil:  You don’t have to get nasty.

Neil’s Penis:  Let me see if I can explain this to you so you can understand.  Imagine all you ever eat is pizza.    All you want every minute of the day is pizza.  And everywhere, 51% of the population is walking around with pizza.  Beautiful pizzas. some with mushrooms, some with anchovies, some with green peppers.  And all you can think about is all that pizza, with all that cheese and spicy tomato sauce, and the pizza dough that’s cooked to perfection.  You getting it now?

Neil:  Not really.

Neil’s Penis:   Get me some fucking pizza!

The doorbell RINGS.

Neil’s Penis:   That better be Domino’s!

Neil:  Do you really want pizza?

Neil’s Penis:  It’s a euphemism, moron!  A euphemism for some pussy! 

Neil:  Oh!

Neil opens the door.  It is Sophia and Neil’s mother.

Neil:  Mom?  Sophia?  What are you doing here?

Neil’s Penis:   Aw, jeez, your mother is here.   Talk about a mood-killer…

Sophia:  We wouldn’t miss your birthday, Neilochka. 

Neil’s Mother:  Look at you.  All grown up.  A real mensch. 

Sophia:  And we brought you a birthday cake.  It’s giant pink Hostess Sno Ball.

Neil’s Penis:   Oh great.  How about giving him a hostess with real giant pink Sno balls….

Neil:  Huh?

Neil’s Penis:  Tits, you imbecile!  It’s another euphemism… for a woman with a nice pair of tits that you can just…

Neil’s Mother:  Neil, are you still talking to that "thing" on your blodge?

Neil’s Penis:   Penis, Elaine!  Penis!  I have a name!

Neil’s Mother:  Who’s that talking?  Do I hear someone else talking?

Neil:  Uh, it’s the TV.  "American Idol."

Sophia:  No more TV watching today.  We’re taking you out for you birthday.

Neil:  I’m not in a very celebratory mood. 

Sophia:  C’mon, it’s your birthday!

Neil:  It just hasn’t been a great year.  Things are still unresolved with us.  I’m still looking for a good job.  I just found out I may be kicked out of my apartment for illegally subletting it.  And the saddest thing, of course — Dad passing away in September. 

Sophia:  Yeah, we all miss him.

Neil’s Mother:  Especially me.

Neil:  This is my first ever birthday without him around.  When I moved to Los Angeles, he was always the first one to call me up — always seven in the morning LA time because he couldn’t wait any longer to sing "Happy Birthday."  He always made such a big deal over my birthday.

Neil’s Mother:  It certainly hasn’t been a good year for any of us.  

Sophia:  But you’re forgetting one good thing about this year. 

Neil:  What’s that?

The doorbell RINGS again.   Ther are a few hundred bloggers standing outside.  It’s every single blogger Neil has interacted with this year, from Akaky to Xtessa.   

Sophia:  It was exactly one year ago — on your birthday, that you set up your WordPress template.  And you published your first post on March 8th.    Here’s what you wrote:

"What’s on my mind this evening — the night of my first post?   It’s the future.   My future. 

I see it so clearly.

I’m a very spry 100 year old man, thanks to medical advances and the ability of the medical establishment to take chances with modern patient care.  Who knew that the diet supplement Trimspa would end up eradicating most illnesses from the world?  

I’m in my home of the future.  My grandson, Bar Code #466408736664, sits at my side, browsing the internet in eye-scan mode  (using the latest upgraded Intel mini-chip in his brain — the PC having disappeared decades earlier)..  Suddenly, he tells me that he’s at the Coca-Cola digi-Archives site (formerly the Library of Congress) and viewing this very first post that you are currently reading.

At that moment, I will be an old man remembering the early days of the Internet.  The 56K modem.  Netscape.  Those AOL disks falling out of every magazine.  That first illegal MP3.  That first post on the blog.

"Grandpa," #466 says with a twinkle in his eye.  "Man, grandpa, this post really sucks."

And just then, I realize that it isn’t a twinkle in his eye, but a reaction to one of those synthetic drugs he’s been taking at school.   I laugh, remembering how I was drunk while writing that first post.  

"He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.""

Neil:  Wow.  I did forget that. 

Neil’s Mother:  I think your blodge really helped you going all year.  I know it helped me, except when you write about that "thing."  I can do without that.

Neil’s Penis:  (Robert De Niro voice)   You talkin’ to me? 

Neil:  You know — originally I was going to wrte about movies and TV, but then I saw how Hilary wrote about her dating life.  So, I started writing about Sophia.    And I saw how Pauly would write every single day, so I was inspired to do the same.   I was encouraged by the support of 2 Blowhards and Nick Douglas at Blogebrity, now at Valleyrag.  And I began to look forward to blogging every day.  Especially when I had the help of Sophia, editing me and telling me when a post was too shitty to post.  And when I needed comfort, like when my father passed away, I got it not only from Sophia, but from bloggers themselves — strangers who weren’t really strangers anymore.   And during this year, I’ve made some great friends.

Neil’s Penis:  If you had some balls, you could have had some action, too. 

Neil:  And what about now?

Neil’s Penis:  Now it’s too late.  Six months ago, female bloggers might have slept with you .  Now you’re like the gay cousin who they talk about shoes with.  

Neil:  Damn it.  I knew I should have made the move on ****** when I had the chance.

Neil’s Mother:  I think you and Sophia need to sit down, discuss things about your marriage, like two adults, and get back together.

Sophia:  I think you need to stop writing about me without asking my permission first.   Or if you do, at least start giving me some good lines.

Neil’s Penis:   I think you need to get laid.  And soon.  And your best shot right now is with —  Tatyana.  She seems to get turned on by liberals.  I think she’s married, but I think if you buy her some expensive flowers, not the cheap ones you usually get for Sophia —

Man’s Voice:  I think your blog is just fine!

Everyone turns around towards the open window.  It is the Spirit of Neil’s Father — Arthur Kramer himself.

Neil:  Dad?  You’re here!

Neil’s Father:  Of course I am.  I wouldn’t miss your birthday.  Even if I am in heaven.

Neil:  This makes me so happy.  Hey, everyone.  This is my father.

All the bloggers greet my father.

Neil’s Father:  Taking care of my boy, Sophia?

Sophia:  I promised, didn’t I?

Neil’s Father:  Hello, Elaine.

Neil’s Mother:  Hi, Artie.

Neil’s Father:  I hear you’re going to put "Be of Good Cheer" on the stone.

Neil’s Mother:  You like it?

Neil’s Father:  Very much.  Is it possible to have it play the theme from "Gunga Din" every time someone approaches the plot?

Neil’s Mother:  That’s just ridiculous.

Neil’s Father:  I think it would be funny.

Neil’s Mother:  No.

Neil’s Father:  Just like a woman.  Even when I’m dead, I still can’t get what I want.

Neil:  So, Dad, how’s it going up there?

Neil’s Father:  Eh… surviving.  It’s comfortable.  Relaxing.   Good entertainment at night.  It’s a little bit like how Grossinger’s used to be in the Catskills.  The food is good.  But I don’t like the way they cut the corn beef.  It’s too thick —

Neil:  Yeah, you never liked it like that —

Neil’s Father:  You’d think in heaven they can do better, but frankly Pastrami King on Queens Boulevard made a better corned beef sandwich than they do in heaven —

Sophia:  So, Dad, can you explain to us how heaven works?   I’ve always been curious.

Neil:  Yeah, do you watch me all the time from above?

Neil’s Father:  No, no, no.  That’s only in the movies.  But don’t worry, Neil.  I follow everything about your life.

Neil:  How?

Neil’s Father:  I read your blog.  Everyone reads "Citizen of the Month" up here in heaven.

Neil:  They do?

Neil’s Father:  Oh, we love it.  A few days ago, we were all laughing so hard!

Neil:  You mean people in heaven really appreciate my sense of humor?

Neil’s Father:  Not really.  We were laughing at you because you still wear those tighty-whiteys.   Even in heaven, no one would be caught dead wearing those.  In heaven, we all wear boxer-briefs with microfiber material.   C’mon, son, get with it!   Stop embarrassing me in heaven with this mama’s boy underwear!

Thank you all for one year of great blogging.  

Be of good cheer… until tomorrow…










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