Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: friends

About Jennifer S.

I don’t remember how I first found her blog (I have a feeling it was through Kyran Pittman), but the first post of Jennifer’s that I read was about her love of the painted mountains of Arizona and her unrequited crush on the hunky cowboys of the rugged West. It was clear, right from that moment, that she and I had absolutely nothing in common, which as we all know from every story ever written, was a clear sign of impending friendship. I commented on her post, mocking her cowboys, and she commented on my post, handing it right back.  Before you know it, we were emailing each other, recommending books for the other to read.   We have been great blogging friends for years.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter recently, you might have seen me mention her present situation, and asking you for help.   The last two years have been tough on her.   When her life with the father of her children proved to be far different than she believed (the sort of man-lives-a-double-life story you would hear on the news), she moved with her two children to Maryland to start her life all over again, a new environment for the kids.

Last spring, I visited Jennifer and her kids.  She gave me a tour of the beautiful Maryland coast, and I annoyed her daughter by guessing the final puzzle of Wheel of Fortune before she had a chance.   Jennifer and the kids were happy in their new home.   She had traded in the desert for the sea and she liked it.   She was also starting to get freelance work for more clients, using her writing and calligraphy skills.

During the summer, her children’s father picked the two kids up to spend time with him in Arizona, promising it would be a two week visit.  What he did next was one of any parent’s worst fears:  he refused to bring them back to Maryland.   On the day they were to return home, he enrolled them in a local Arizona school without Jennifer’s knowledge or permission.  Before that, he hadn’t seen the children for a year.

The legal issues are complicated, but it comes down to this: In order to make it easier on her kids, who are now in school, Jennifer needs to move back to Arizona.  Her kids ask for her every day.

Jennifer is hurting for money, and not getting the support from the father of her kids, despite a court order.   In December, she and the kids had just settled into their home in Maryland. Now she needs to pack up again, pay for moving expenses to return to Arizona, obtain a lawyer, and fight for her rights.  She is heartbroken to be away from her children.

If you would like to know more about her situation, you can read Sarah’s beautiful post about Jennifer, or would like to donate, even a small amount — you can do it here.

The Next Action — the ATM Password

There was this girl who was a classmate of mine from first grade through senior year in high school. She had an unusual, but beautiful first name. We were friendly, but we didn’t anything socially outside of the classroom. Our relationship was based on the activities between the brick walls of the school building.

She was very important to me. She was my class competitor.

During math class, if I didn’t raise my hand up in time to answer a question, she would get there first. We competed for awards. We each won numerous “Citizen of the Month,” citations. We always compared test scores, secretly wishing the other to flounder. We tried to outdo the other in the number of books we read per year. When I was picked to make the commencement speech at graduation in elementary school, she became the class president in junior high. We were both the literary editors of the high school yearbook. At the end of the senior year of high school, the school “ranked” all the seniors according to their grade point average. I beat her by one point; it was a very satisfying victory.

My parents were never the pushy parents who told me to succeed at any cost. I just enjoyed school. It was this girl, ambitious and super-focused, who forced me to step up my game.

We lost touch the minute we attended college. I hadn’t heard from her for years, until, well, no surprise — Facebook. I was excited, and nervous, to reconnect with her. We had a polite exchange of messages, but nothing very intimate. I think we were both too shy to have any real conversation. For all I know, she may not have give me a second’s thought during all these years.

But I have a little secret about her. This girl has been a part of my life for decades, in a very unusual way. I wanted to tell her about it, but when I mentioned it to Sophia, she told me not to tell her. It would make me look weird.

I’ll let you decide.

So what is this mystery I keep on talking about? How has this girl (now a woman) been an integral part of my life since high school?

On my first day of college at Columbia in New York, I went with my mother to open a bank account at Citibank. There was a branch a few blocks on Broadway. After depositing some money, I received my very first ever personal ATM card. I needed a password. Using my street name or middle name was too obvious. I wanted something personal, but obscure enough for a thief to never figure it out. So, I chose the first name of this girl from school, this girl with the unusual, but beautiful name. My competitor.

Since that time, years passed, and I have moved and changed banks numerous times. Citibank, Marine Midland, HSBC, Pacific Security, Wells Fargo, Bank of America — each receiving an ATM card with the exact same password — my classmate’s first name. As you can tell, I don’t change things easily.

This girl is now a woman, but I still can picture her raising her hand a second before mine in the fourth grade, and reciting the correct equation in math. She has become an iconic image in my mind. Her name, because of her association with my ATM card, has been forever connected to matters such as ambition, success… and my bank account. Has it worked out for me? Well…

Of course, by telling this story, it is also the end of an era. Once she finds out (if I choose to tell her) , I will need to change the password to my bank ATM for the first time in decades.

First, my blog template changes, now my ATM password will have to change. Again, it might seem like very small changes, but these items have symbolism, and symbolism is the most powerful God of all.

But maybe it is time to change the password on my ATM card. It is 2010, and my hair is graying. It is time to move beyond a life revolving around a competition with a girl from elementary school. This was never an effective and mature way to deal with existence beyond the 12th grade. Time to finally graduate from school — psychologically — and find my inspiration in the present.

Time for a new ATM password.

Is Male Personal Blogging Still a Radical Act? (BlogHim 08′ Recap)

BlogHim 08′ in New York City was a phenomenal success.  Although we had no sponsors like Blogher, no swag (Dockers had promised to supply us with some free giveaways, but never came through), and received no attention from the media or kindly General Motors, we all had a great time meeting up with old blogging friends.  And isn’t that what blogging is all about?

Two male bloggers discussing ways to increase their readership.

BlogHim had no money to pay for a hotel conference room, so most of the sessions took place at Neil’s Coffee Shop on Lexington.  Participants really enjoyed the free coffee refills and the way the waiteress said “Be right with you, Hon.”

One of the most popular BlogHim sessions was about new ways for Daddybloggers to monetize their children.  There was a good deal of heated discussion.  Many men were angry that the Mommybloggers received all the free Wiis. 

“We just get the viagra ads” said one Daddyblogger.  “Why do marketers think that because we have children we can’t get it up anymore?”

Barry, a male “Alpha” blogger from Tennessee asked the one question that was on every Daddyblogger’s mind.  “What was the point of having children if you can’t make money off of them on your blog?”

But it was Andrew “TexasDad” who came up with the answer, inspiring the crowd with his keynote speech, “Why Daddyblogging is a Still a Radical. Act”

“We are men.  We must use our logical male minds and think out of the box!  Why go the same route as the the women?  Are we men or a bunch of pussies?  If we are unable to monetize our children with our daddyblogs, let’s follow another path.  Let’s force our children to run a marathon in Central Park when it is a 100 degrees outside and BET ON THEM like a horse race!”

It was just then that the Guy Kawasaki Challenge was born!

The daughters did us especially proud!  Some of us made a ton of money from the betting pool.

The highlight of the day was when the sons raced.   These young men are the underappreciated male personal bloggers of the future, so we pushed them extra hard.  Some of the more clever Daddybloggers even told their sons that they were going to abandon them and leave them in New York if they didn’t win!

It was hilarious to see how much pressure was put on the wimpier boys and to watch them fall in frustration!

The weekend consisted of one fabulous session after another, all catered to the male blogger.  On this weekend, we were ALL Alpha Male Bloggers:

Session One:  “Why You Should Never Share Anything with a Woman”

Session 2:  “Dog Pee is bad for the Environment, But Even Al Gore Pees in the Shower.”

Session 3:  “Question Authority”

Session 4:  “Why a Really Nice Piece of Ass is Better than a Good Humor Bar”

Thanks all!  See you Next Year at BlogHim 09!  Remember — Keep your chins up and your c*cks hard.   We are MEN!

Friends and Bloggers

(not a photo of anyone I know!)

The relationships you begin to develop with fellow bloggers reminds me a lot of those you have with "real" friends.  With some people, you grow closer.  With others, you lose touch completely or simply grow apart.

I’ve always considered my friendships important.  When I got married, I lost a few friends.  This was very upsetting to me, although I understand that it is a normal occurence when a couple falls in love.   Suddenly, there’s a new person mixing it up with your buddies.  And this person is not just a "another buddy."  This person gets a lot more of your time than a usual friend.   Think of Yoko Ono and the Beatles. 

Is there an equivalent to this in blogging relationships?  Recently, my blogging-friend Modigli moved from Cleveland to San Diego to be with her new boyfriend, another blogger named Dating Dummy.  This posed a problem for me.   Do I need to become the blog-friend of her boyfriend?  Should I say hello in his comments so he knows I exist — or does that make me look like I’m butting in?  What if her boyfriend hates my blog?  Will Modigli abandon me as well?  What is the proper online etiquette, Emily Blogpost?

(Look, I know this sounds a bit neurotic.  But give me some slack.  I’m an emotional Pisces).

I consider myself "sort of" friends with some of you.   But lately, I’ve been wondering if becoming too friendly is bad for your blogging. 

One of my first blog crushes was with Brooke.  Every day, I would write a flirtatious, sexy comment on her blog.  Then, a month ago, she invited me to IM with her.  You can imagine how excited I was to do this.  But you know what? … something terrible happened — we became friends, which completely de-fanged me as a sexy stud.  We talked about family and work and blogging.   After all that, talking about her boobs just seemed sleazy, even for me.   She’s a really nice woman — and a dedicated teacher.  Getting to know her turned me from guy in heat to the "gay friend" who she feels comfortable with to gossip and talk about her new shoes. 

So much for friendship! 

Now when I write a comment on her blog, I’m as dull as dishwater.  Since I now respect her as an individual, my comments are pretty much, "Great, Brooke!   Keep at it, my new friend… and I mean, a friend in a non-sexual way, of course."  Boring.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I soon find myself erased from her blogroll.

While I love my online acquaintances, I sometimes have to remind myself that you’re NOT my friends, despite all the time we spend together.  

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that two of my real-life friends from New York, Rob and Barry, read my blog every day.  That’s exciting to know, and a little scary.  I hope they don’t think I turned too crazy out here in California.  I haven’t  become a Scientologist… yet.

I know both Rob and Barry pretty much since birth.  We all grew up in the same Flushing neighborhood, and attended the same schools until college.

I’ve written about Rob a couple of times (here, here, and here).  Of the three of us in school, he was the least studious in his classes — which means, naturally, that he is now the one who makes the most money and works for a prestigious company in Manhattan.   Which only goes to show that school isn’t everything.  I’m sure Rob learned more about ambition and work skills from being a paper boy and a hot dog vendor at Shea Stadium than I did studying algebra night after night.  Rob has a beautiful wife, a son, and another child on the way.

Barry is married with two children, and just got a new sales job that is going to take him around the country.  He lives on Long Island.  His two sons are turning into little athletes, taking karate, soccer, and every sport in the book.  This amuses us to no end, since Barry and I were awful athletes.  We used to sneak out of gym just to avoid "climbing the rope."  I think the myth of the non-athletic Jewish man is ending with his kids.  Barry is also the funniest person I know.   Seriously.  I can sit in a diner for hours with him and listen to his bullshit.  There is a bit of Barry’s personality in my "penis" character, something I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear.

You know how you get nervous when you introduce different groups of friends?  Will they like each other?

Regular readers, may I introduce you to Rob and Barry, who I know are lurking.  Whatever I learned about friendship, I learned through them.

Rob and Barry, may I introduce you to this weird assortment of people, most who I don’t know, who come to visit here.  They are the reason I haven’t called you as often lately.   I’ve been too busy "blogging."  I know you understand why I’m doing this  (Yes, I do think some of the women are really hot in real life). 

See you soon on my next trip to New York!