Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: friendship

The Joy of Being Hated

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I knew this day would come. I’ve been dreading it all my life.

Not that I wasn’t prepared. From childhood, I readied the weaponry and armor. I built a protective and sturdy fort as high as a mountain. I became a soldier always on guard, and for decades, I kept the danger at a distance. But in my heart, I knew the door would one day break down, or like a river rapid racing to the precipice of the Great Falls, I would fall, helpless to the current.

Today, despite all my efforts to be as likable as possible, I discovered that someone didn’t like me.  How could this happen?   Every action and response was always so carefully balanced on the scale with my need to be liked.

Who cannot like me?

“Brian doesn’t like you.” said Roger on the phone.

“What?!”

“I think it’s better we go to the game without him.”

“How can he not like me?  I mean, I don’t really like him that much. But why would he not like me?”

“I don’t know. He told me once that he didn’t like you.”

“Then we should bring him to game, so I can have a chance to talk to him and win him over again.”

“There’s no again. He never liked you.”

“Never?  But he only met me twice!”

“And he didn’t like you the first time.”

“What if I called him and asked him out for a beer…”

“Give it up, Neil. I didn’t want to tell you this.  I know you are sensitive. But he didn’t just say he doesn’t like you.  He said he HATES you!”

“He HATES ME?!”

So, that’s how it ends.

hate – verb

feel intense or passionate dislike for (someone).

synonyms: loathe, detest, despise, dislike, abhor

I’m sure somewhere in my past, others have HATED me.   I’m sure some of  you hate me.   But this is the first time that I have found an eyewitness with legitimate PROOF that another human being on this planet… despises me.  It would even stand in court.

“Guilty as charged. Brian hates your guts.” the judge would say as he slammed the gavel, after hearing all the evidence.

Some people don’t believe in Bigfoot until they see him with their own eyes. I have now seen Bigfoot. I KNOW that someone hates me.

After the initial shock to the system, I took a walk, heading out to Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee. It was a beautiful, sunny day in New York City. An ice cream truck passed by, chiming away. I expected myself to be depressed, anxious, or even sobbing over the news of being a hated man.   Instead, I found myself walking briskly, almost with a rock and roll swagger, as if a burden had been lifted off my shoulders.

“Someone doesn’t like me,” I said to myself. “Worse. Someone hates me. Someone really hates me!”

I was like the anti-Sally Field, energized by this news of hate. I felt emboldened, empowered.

Why did Brian hate me? I don’t know.   Perhaps I will never know.   But he wasn’t bored with me, or didn’t remember my name.  No, he HATED ME!  Clearly,  I had made a strong impact on him, even if was complete revulsion.  I was SOMEBODY!

When I entered Dunkin Donuts, I  ordered my usual small coffee and plain donut.

“No, wait!” I yelled at cashier, a high school girl. “I’ll have a large coffee with a jelly donut. And I want REAL milk, none of that creamer!”

Sure, my special request could have pissed her off   She might even dislike me for being pushy. But then again,  I already know someone who HATES ME.  What’s the big deal having one more?  Bring it on!

My Friend in McDonald’s

She’s in her late thirties, a soft face, and a crooked smile.  She’s curvy in a feminine way, her cropped hair hidden under a utilitarian cap reminiscent of those hairnets worn by school lunch ladies from the 1970s.  I don’t know her name. She’s from Central or South America, but I’m not sure if its El Savador or Peru.   She has a strong accent and speaks quietly, meekly, although I have a feeling that underneath her obsequiousness is a woman of strength and dignity. I imagine a noble heritage somewhere in the past.  I see her every day.  She is the woman who cleans up in my local McDonald’s, sweeping, mopping, and cleaning the trays.  She has a crush on me.

I have had so many crushes on women through the years, from girls in high school to married bloggers online, that it’s surprising how blind I’ve been to it when the tables are turned.

My relationship with this woman started one morning when I was sitting at my usual table, my laptop in front of me, using McDonald’s free wi-fi.

“You working on school work?” she asked, as she swept up some salty french fries playing hide-and-seek under the brown and orange cheap plastic fast-food style table.

I looked up and saw her for the first time.

“No, just regular work,” I said, lying, of course. I was on Facebook.

“I need to buy one of these things if I ever go back to school.”

“Yeah, they’re pretty useful. And they are getting cheaper. Wait until November when the sales come out.” I said, giving her what seemed like solid practical advice.

A few days later, I was back at the table, drinking a cup of coffee, writing in a composition notebook.  It was my old school way of preventing myself from going on Facebook.

As I wrote some bad dialogue for a mediocre screenplay, the woman came over again, and looked over my shoulder.   She laughed at my penmanship.

“Yeah, I know. I have the worst handwriting.”

“Let me ask you. In English, which are the twelve months, in order of them happening.  I need to know this for planning something”

“January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, Novemeber, and ends in December, after Christmas.”

“Yes, yes.  Will I remember this?”

“You want me to write it down for you?”

“Please.”

I started to scribble down the months when I could feel her getting tense behind me.  She was gripping the top of the seat.   I looked up.  At the front counter, the franchise manager, a heavy-set Indian woman in a poor-fitting mud-brown jumpsuit, was giving my “friend” a dirty look.

“I must leave. They are looking at me. They’re animals.”

Weeks passed.   My friend was always there when I showed up for my coffee, sweeping up or cleaning with a mop.   On some days, when I was busy, I would try to ignore her, not looking up from my notebook, wanting my space.  But she always found her way to my table.

“I’m so glad to see you!” she would say.

I always had a brief conversation with her.   She seemed lonely, and her job was thankless. She hated her it, not the menial labor, but the way the others treated her.  I never asked for the details, but she always called the rest of the staff by the ominous sounding description — “animals.”   I knew nothing of her personal life — if she was married, had kids. Nothing.  She was just the woman who cleaned up at McDonald’s.    Still, I was impressed with her. She did her job with commitment and pride. She kept the McDonald’s spotless.   But I could tell that she thought that she was better, that there was something work out there more in line with her poise and self-respect.

In September, she approached my table with excitement, but with a strong sense of indecision.

“There’s a job as an assistant checker at Key Food in Howard Beach. Do you think I should apply? I hate being here. Such animals.”

“Sure. You should try. If that’s what you want.”

“What if I don’t get the job? What will I do?”

“Just try your best. I have confidence in you.”

“Please let God hear you.  And then you will come there to buy your food!”

“Sure. Maybe.” I said, knowing that Howard Beach is nowhere near where I live.

As many of you know, I recently took a trip to Paris.  Today was the first day I returned to my McDonald’s.  It’s been almost a month since I stepped inside.

As I passed under the familiar golden arches, I felt a wave of depression, remembering how just a week ago, I was sipping espressos in a quaint cafe on the Left Bank,  where Sartre and Hemingway once flirted with beautiful women. And now I was back in the land of the $1.00 sausage burrito.

“It’s you!” said my cleaning friend, waltzing over to me the second I walked in, as if she was waiting for me.  She smiled, a larger grin than usual, revealing a missing back tooth.

“I’ve missed you,” she said, cleaning off the dirty brown trays sitting on the trash receptacles. “I’m glad you’ve come back. I’ll be with you right after I finish!”

I ordered a cup of coffee, and sat in the corner.  There was a new Happy Meal being advertised on a poster to my right.   My friend approached, cheerful in an understated way.

“I got the job!” she said. “The job as the assistant checker.”

“Congratulations! That’s great!” I said, shaking her hand, authentically happy for her.

“This is my last day here. I can’t wait to leave these animals.”

“I’m so glad for you.”

“Yes, yes.   I start on Tuesday.   Everyone at Key Food is so nice.  I hope I don’t disappoint them.”

“You’ll be good.  I know it.   I see how hard you work here. They are LUCKY to have you there.”

“Thank you,” she said, leaning in closer. “And will I see you there?   Will you come to shop at the store?”

“I don’t know. I’ll try. It is far away.”

“Please come.”

At the front counter, a frazzled mother with two yapping kids, dropped her orange juice from her tray, and it splattered onto the floor in an orange-colored mess. The store manager snapped her fingers at my friend.

“I have to go,” said my friend.

“Good luck in your new job.” I said.  “You’re going to be terrific.”

“Thank you. I hope to see you there buying your food.  I really do.”

She paused for a second staring at me, as if she wanted to ask my name. But she never did.

My African-American Friend

“Hello.”

“Derrick?  This is Neil.”

“Well, this is a surprise.”

“Listen, I know we haven’t spoken in a long time.”

“I’m not apologizing.”

“I know.  I know.  It was my fault.  It’s OK that you went to Jennifer’s party and didn’t tell me about it.  I don’t want to lose your friendship over something stupid.”

“Well, thank you.  I’m glad to hear that our friendship means something to you.”

“It does.  I’m a firm believer in diversity and whenever I have a heated conversation about race relations, I like to say that “some of my best friends are African-American.” And yesterday, I was online arguing with this woman about the lack of diversity in the parenting blogging community, and I was about to say, “Some of my best friends…” when I realized that YOU were my ONLY best friend who was black, and since we weren’t talking, I couldn’t honestly say that “some of my best friends are African-American” anymore because I am all about authenticity. And that hurt.  It also makes me look bad not have a black best friend.

“So, are you saying that you want to become friends again, so you can tell others that “some of your best friends are African-American?”

“Well, it’s not the only reason.  But the main one.  Is there a problem with that?”

“That is disgusting.  Is this what the entire civil rights movement means to you?  Just so you can prove your liberal credentials to your lily-white ass friends by trotting me out like… some… some… accordian playing monkey?”

“I would never call you a monkey.  That would be racist.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that your roots are in Africa.”

“So?”

“So, I mean you have some sort of psychic connection to the jungle.”

“I’m from Queens.  I’ve never been hiking.  Who wants to go to the f*cking jungle?  How would you like if I called you a kike?”

“Are you calling me a kike?”

“Yeah, maybe I am!”

“What exactly is a kike?”

“I have no idea.”

“When I first heard that word, I thought it was “kite.”  Which was odd.  Why would you call a Jew a kite?   You rarely see Jews flying kites.”

“That’s not true.  Remember we flew kites once at Jones Beach.”

“That’s true.”

“We were terrible.  We had to ask that old guy to show us how to fly a kite.”

“So, are we friends again?”

“I don’t know.”

“You need me.  As much as I need you.  Without me, you can’t say that “some of your best friends are Jewish.”

“That’s not true.  Half of my friends are Jewish.”

“They are?”

“I work at school in the Upper West Side!”

“I forgot.”

“Am I really your only black friend?”

“Well, right now you are.  No, wait.  There is this black guy in Redondo Beach.  But I don’t really like him that much.  He’s a little boring.  Always talking about his car.”

“What type of car?”

“1965 Mustang.”

“Nice.”

“You wouldn’t like him though.  He doesn’t like the Simpsons.”

“No?  Nah.  I probably wouldn’t like him.”

“Even though he’s black?”

“Even though he’s black.”

“OK.  So where do we stand…?”

“Uh…”

“I take that as a yes.”

“OK.  We’re friends again.  You can go tell your white friends that you have a black friend again.”

“Thank you, Derrick!  Nice to have you back, African-American friend!”

Note:  Sigh!  I hate saying this, but just to protect the innocent from overly-literal readers:   Truth Quotient:  4%

How to Make Friends Online

Considering that I don’t like most of you, it is amazing that anyone reads this blog.


How To Build Strong Online Friendships in the Blogging Community.

Can Men and Women (Bloggers) Just Be Friends?

I recently wrote a recent post titled, “How to Get Hot Chicks to Read Your Blog.”   It was a response to an email from a male blogger who was in awe of all my female readers.

But there’s a negative side to having a blog that women like to read.   I’m not a woman.  And they are.  And flirting can only go so far.  The big question is, “Can I actually be friends with any of these women?” 

Believe it or not, it can be lonely hanging around blogs that are so heavily geared for women.  Sometimes I wonder if I belong.  I’m even beginning to question my decision to go to BlogHer.  In what way does BlogHer represent anything about me? 

I think the only solution for me is to finally get my cojones — and interact with more men.  What am I afraid of?  I know I’ve mentioned this before in the past, but each time I took the journey into male blogging, I promptly ran back to the soft and ample bosoms of the female bloggers.  Believe me, I’m dragging myself kicking and screaming.  Most men are pretty dull.  I certainly don’t look at THEIR photos on Flickr, in amazement that such gorgeous individuals could actually care about me!  But it is time to expand my horizons. 

I get jealous of the comaraderie of female bloggers.  You act like sisters.   You write blogs for each other.  Mommybloggers, in particular, seem to consider themselves to be born in the image of Good Housekeeping magazine, and even address their readers as “fellow mothers.”  More power to you.  This is about me…. and my identity.  For better or worse, I’m not a parent, so it makes sense that I’m not on the same page as the mommybloggers, or even the daddybloggers, of the world, who clearly have specific interests that are important to them, like celebrity strollers.

I know several female bloggers here in California. It would be cool to be their “friends.”  These female bloggers fall into two groups — those in a steady relationship or married and those who are not.  Both types have built-in obstacles for any real friendship.

Let’s take the married mommyblogger, for example.  How the hell am I ever going to be friends with her?   Let’s use the imaginary BloggerMama, for example.

Imagine I email BloggerMama right now and say, “Hey, BloggerMama, leave the husband and child at home, and let’s go check out the new Keanu Reeves flick together?” 

It’s just not going to work. 

First of all, she would probably want to bring the baby, and I just don’t deal well with babies at the movie theater.  And despite me being the perfect gentleman, sooner or later, if I email her every week, asking her to go to the movies, Mr. BloggerMama is gonna hate my guts.  The only way we could make this work is if we went out as married couples.  And that means, we have two non-bloggers in the group  — Mr. BloggerMama and Ms. Neilochka, which means we have to talk about real life, and BloggerMama and I only know and care about blogging crap.

The situation is even more dangerous with the unattached female blogger.  Right from the beginning, she is going to wonder about my intentions:

“Hmmm… I know things are rocky with Sophia.   Is he really asking me to see that Keanu Reeves film or does he… Hmmm… he’s always writing about his penis.  I wonder if he is a sex-crazed nutcase who just wants to…  Hmmm… I actually like sex-crazed nutcases, but what if we do something, and he blogs about it?  He’s the type of jerk who blogs about anything on his stupid blog.  Hmmm…  he does write about his mother a lot.  He must be a real mama’s boy.  Hmmm… I wonder if he just wants to sleep with a shiksa and then say he can only marry someone Jewish.  Hmmm… I bet you he is!  What an asshole!  What type of slut does he think I am.  F**k him!  I think it is safer that we never meet…”

Ok, make believe we DO go to see this Keanu Reeves movie together.  Just as friends.  We split the bill.  We each buy our own popcorn.   We have a great time.   But trouble is looming.  We’ve all seen “When Harry Meets Sally.”  How long is it going to be before one of us is checking out the other’s ass? 

Let me rephrase that.  How long before I’m checking out her ass? 

Let me rephrase AND answer that.  At what point during our first meeting will I be thinking about her naked?  Answer:  Probably during the first ten minutes.

What can I do?  I’m a man.  I’m sorry.  It’s horrible, I know. 

Can you see how it actually sucks to have so many female readers and so few male readers?  It’s like some bizarre Twilight Zone episode where I am surrounded by hundreds of desirable and intelligent women, but when I reach out to them, they fade into nothingness, and the only place to go for companionship is into the smoky room in the back with the men, along with their smelly cigars, Beer Nuts, and poker chips.

 

Money

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Sophia and I went to a party in Malibu, where we met this woman who was telling us how her husband had just bought his seventh car. Sophia asked if he traded in his car every year, thinking that he was on his seventh car since moving to Los Angeles. No — this was his SEVENTH CAR.   I felt a little uncomfortable the rest of the night as they talked about real estate and their trip to Norway.  You didn’t have to be a psychic to know that the four of us probably wouldn’t be hanging out too much together, simply because of the differences in wealth.

We’re not poor, but we’re not rich, and for some reason, I’ve always noticed that it is difficult to hang out in social circles where others are very richer or poorer than you, just because your lifestyles tend to be different. This is something none of us dare talk about — that money can separate us more than color or religion or age.

Yesterday, I made fun of the categories that the blogosphere puts us in — mommybloggers, etc. But if all the mommybloggers met in a room together, they would less separate into groups of color or age than groups based on income, where the wealthy group would chat about the hippest new stroller and getting their child into the “right” pre-school while the middle-class group would complain about health care.

That’s just life.

I don’t begrudge the guy from Malibu for having his seven cars. It’s actually pretty cool, and I’m sure he worked hard to get where he is. Even though I felt a little insecure talking with him, I can’t say that he was “better” than me. After all, I run a successful blog and he doesn’t. Still, it made me sad to think that our friendship had barriers to it based on money. Growing up, I understood the importance of money in enjoying life, but I never quite realized how much of a role it has in determining your social interactions. Is this just a Los Angeles/New York thing?

As I read your blogs, I notice that some of you go on exotic vacations seemingly every week. Some of you are working two jobs, although I suspect most bloggers are doing well enough to waste their time… uh, blogging.. I find it all interesting. I love that ONLINE there is freedom to walk in different social circles. I’m hoping that race, religion, etc. is never a factor in online friendship.

But, let’s be honest, do you think differences in MONEY would hinder many of us from becoming friends in real life?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Blogger’s Fashion Emergency

The Ladies Who Lunch

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Dear Megan,

As you know, Sophia and I had tentative plans to meet you — my long-time blogging pal — for lunch today as we passed through Riverside on the way back from Sophia’s interpreting job in San Bernardino.  I apologize for getting a cold this morning and not being able to make it out of apartment.  But even with my sore throat and my Dayquil-induced stupor, I had a bigger concern on my mind — it seems that you and Sophia STILL AGREED to meet for lunch.

WITHOUT ME.  

And you even showed her YOUR HOME.  

And from what I hear, you both GOT ALONG GREAT.  

Now, I am not a jealous person.  This is not the first time that someone has met Sophia and LIKED HER MORE THAN ME.   But this is a special case and it MUST STOP NOW. 

You and Sophia must NOT befriend each other.  If you do, it will be a disaster, not only for me, but for the ENTIRE BLOGOSPHERE.

Let’s put this in perspective.  You and I are BOTH bloggers, so I know you’ll understand of what I speak.  When I write a blog post about my relationship with Sophia, it is always told from my point of view.  This means I am always the innocent victim and Sophia is always the villain.  I’m the cute, lovable one, the guy every female blogger dreams about at night.  Readers from as far away as Malaysia have asked me, "What is wrong with that crazy wife of yours?  Can’t she see that you are the best thing since Hostess Sno-Balls?  If I were there, I would be "taking you" right now on top of the Hollywood sign!"

Can’t you see?  Blogging is the best thing to happen to me since… since… well, the introduction of Hostess Sno-Balls.

Luckily, Sophia does not have a blog to present her side of the story.  Thank God.

But you have a blog.  And we have many of the same readers.   Now imagine Sophia and you become buddy-buddy.  And I write something disparaging about Sophia in some angry blog post.   You read this post, because you never miss a post in your favorite blog, Citizen of the Month, since it is the best thing you’ve ever read since the label of a Hostess… well, you get the point…

But today, you are not happy with my post.  In fact, it outrages you, especially since you just happened to talk to Sophia about this "private issue" during one of your "Sex in the City" type lunches with the girls.  You know, one of those get-together where women reveal EVERY SINGLE THING to each other, something MEN WOULD NEVER DO.

So, now you’re upset and want to protect your "sister" because you feel obligated after taking that "feminism" class in college.   Slowly, I become your enemy.  You start writing gossipy stuff on your blog about me, at first in a subtle way like "I hear from a certain separated wife that a certain citizen’s little "soldier" is having trouble "saluting the troops."  Then, as your sisterhood strengthens, it’s "Good-bye Subtlety!"  All of a sudden, it’s "Newsflash:  Neil at Citizen of the Month Rejected from another Job.  Wife says,"Still Can’t Get it Up!"

Can you imagine the damage that would do to my credibility?  Readers would start doubting everything I write.  And like a set of dominos falling over on a kitchen table, bloggers everywhere would become skeptical of every single blog in the world.   No one would believe what anyone said.  The most frequent blog comments would become "That’s bullshit," "Prove it," and "Let’s hear what the wife has to say!"

Bloggers will stop blogging in fear of ridicule.  Readers will stop lurking in disgust.  The Technorati 100 will drop to the Technorati 1, with only Blogebrity left blogging about itself.  The internet economy will crash… again.  China will invade America and since our ports will be then run by China, the Chinese government will quickly take over our country.   We will all be forced to listen to the awful Chinese disco music they play at that Chinese-owned donut shop on Olympic Boulevard.  The world as we know it will cease to exist…

And this would all be BECAUSE of YOU, MEGAN!

Stop this DISASTER before it becomes a REALITY!

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Friends and Bloggers

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(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! 

Neilochka Leaves His Apartment

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Now that I’ve written for Blogebrity for a full three days, I think I’ve earned the right to call myself a “blogging expert.”  (media outlets – please contact my agent, Sophia Lansky, for more information). 

As a blogging expert, let me share with you one of my astute professional observations about the blogosphere:

Most bloggers are just plain weird.  Social outcasts.  Losers.  Anti-social nutcases.  I mean, who else sits all day in front of a computer at work, then comes home to sit at their computer all night to blog?   What other morons reveal the intimate details of their lives to strangers who are crazier than they are?  What other perverts post semi-naked photos of themselves on a weekly basis for HNT?  On the last survey of my readership, I counted 1/3 as alcoholics, 1/3 on anti-depressants, and 1/3 as having bi-polar disorder. 

Listen, I’m not that normal myself.  Despite my friendly personality online, I’m actually pretty shy.   I’m much more comfortable making virtual friends than real ones.   In fact, I’ve lived in my apartment building for a year and a half, and haven’t made one friend here.

One possible reason is that I’m subletting from my friend, Phil.   After I separated from Sophia, he let me use his apartment after he moved into his mother’s old place.  The management here was not very happy with the arrangement.  To “punish me,” they told Phil that I can never use the gym, the patio, or the swimming pool.   Several times, I’ve wanted to march into the manager’s office and say that this is unfair, but you guessed it – I’m too shy to do it. 

Last Saturday, there was a big party down the hall.  It seemed as everyone on my floor was invited, except for me.  I didn’t get angry at them.  I scolded myself:

“Enough of these unreal blogging friends.  It’s time for you to make some REAL friends.  Right here in the apartment building!”

But how?  Where would be the best place to meet the other tenants and show them how charming Neilochka can be? 

Of course.  The elevator.

I decided that on Tuesday, I would keep on taking the elevator up all day, meeting and befriending my neighbors.  I would take the elevator up with one neighbor, then walk down the stairs, wait for new tenants to show up, and take the elevator up again.

Here is a log of my day’s activities:

7 AM – 8 AM

No tenants come into the elevator.  The newspaper boy shows up, but he doesn’t really count.  Besides, he didn’t talk to me because he is still pissed that I canceled my Los Angeles Times subscription two months ago.

8 AM – 10AM

Return to the apartment, and take a little nap. 

10 AM – 10:30 AM

Do a little blogging.  IM with Pauly D, who promptly cuts me off when he gets a call from someone more important person than me.

11: 08 AM– 11:12 AM

My first tenant enters the elevator with me.  He is a Korean-American in a nice suit, around 40.

Neil:  “Hi.”

Silence.

Neil:  “Did you have a nice Thanksgiving?”

Korean Man:  “Yes.”

I look up at the fluorescent lighting.  One of the grilles has been missing for over a year.

Neil:  “When are they ever going to fix that?  What would it cost them – five bucks?”

Silence.  The Korean man moves slightly farther away from me.  The elevator opens and he exits.

11:27 AM – 11:30 AM

I’m on the elevator with an elderly man.

Neil:  “Hello.”

Elderly Man:  “What?!”

He’s clearly hard of hearing.

Neil:  “Hello!”

Elderly Man:  “What?!”

I give up trying.

11:47 AM – 11:53 AM

I’m in the elevator with an attractive, yuppyish married couple in their mid-thirties.

Neil:  (pointing at the lighting grille)  When are they ever going to fix that?

Yuppie Guy:  You’re right.  It shouldn’t cost them more than five dollars.

Neil:  Right!  Right!  Five dollars!  Hey, I’m Neil Kramer, apartment 314!

Yuppie Guy:  Jack and Susan Neveroff.  Apartment 322..

Neil:  Nice to meet you.  How long have you been living here? 

Yuppie Guy:  A while.  But we’re moving next week.

Neil:  (disappointed)   Moving?

Yuppie Guy:  It’s like that grille up there.  This apartment building is a mess.   We bought our own house.  We’re tired of living like losers.

Yuppie Wife:  (elbowing her husband)   Jack…shh…

Yuppie Guy:  Oh, I’m sorry, pal.  I mean it is fine living here if you’re a student…

Neil:  I’m not a student.

Yuppie Guy:  Well, it’s different when you get married…

Neil:  I am married.  I’m separated.

Yuppie Guy:  Oh…

Uncomfortable silence.  The elevator opens and they quickly exit.

NOON – 1:00 PM

Lunch break.  Leftover Chinese food for lunch while watching “All My Children.”  I try to IM Pauly D again, but he makes believe he’s not there.

1:46 PM – 1:53 PM

A perky redhead enters the elevator carrying an “E! Entertainment” shoulder bag.

Neil:  “Do you work for E!?”

Redhead:  “Yes, I do!”

Neil:  “That’s great.  You can walk to work.”

Redhead:  “That’s why I moved in here.   I miss walking everywhere, like in New York.”

Neil:  “I’m from Queens!”

Redhead:  “Me too!”

Neil:  “He, do you know Jay at “E!”?

Redhead:  “Jay… hmmm…no…”

Neil:  “You know, maybe that’s not his real name.  I only know him from blogging.  He’s a blogger.  Sometimes bloggers don’t use their real names.”

Redhead:  “I know.  I have a blog.”

Neil:  “Yeah?  Me too!  Mine’s called “Citizen of the Month.”  It’s just nonsense and stuff.”

Redhead:  “Mine is a knitting blog.”

Neil:  “What’s it called?”

Redhead:  “I’d rather not.”

Neil:  “Why not?  I’ll check it out.

Redhead:  “I really like to stay anonymous.”

Neil:  “What am I going to do?  I just want to look at it?”

Redhead:  “I said no!”

Neil:  “You don’t have to go all crazy over it.”

Redhead:  “Look, I don’t want to talk about my blog with you anymore, OK?”

Neil:  “You know, I write for Blogebrity now.   I’m sure you’ve heard of it.”

Redhead:  “No.”

Neil:  “Well, I single-handedly could have made your blog the top knitting blog in the country… just like that!  But because you’re so stubborn and won’t tell me the stupid name of your blog…

Redhead:  “Fuck you, you stalker!”

The elevator opens.  As she exits:

Neil:  “You’re never gonna work in this blogosphere again!”

2:30 PM – 4:30 PM

I order a mojito at Nick’s Bar.  I’ve never had a drink in a bar during the afternoon in my life, but I decided to try one today.  Two drunks sit next to me.

5:03 PM – 5: 08 PM

I enter the elevator with a fiftyish, gruff-faced woman in a business suit.

Neil:  (a little tipsy)  “Hello.”

Gruff Face:  “Hello.  I don’t recall meeting you.”

Neil:  “Neil Kramer.”

Gruff Face:  “Neil Kramer…. Neil Kramer… what apartment are you in?”

Neil:  “Apartment 314”

Gruff Face:  "In Phil’s old place?"

Neil:  "Yes."

Gruff Face:  "So, you’re the one who’s in Phil’s place?!  I’m the manager here.  I think you know that I’m totally against you being here." 

Neil:  "Well…"

Gruff Face:  "Let me speak.  I don’t know who you are.  I don’t know if you are going to disturb the other tenants."

Neil:  "I’ve already been here a while."

Gruff Face:  "Then let me repeat the rules.  Since you are not a tenant, you cannot use the tenants’ patio, the tenants’ gym, or the tenants’ pool…"

Neil:  "I understand, but I wanted to talk…"

Gruff Face:   "There’s nothing to talk about."

The elevator opens.  I point to the grille on top.

Neil:  "You know, a lot of the tenants are complaining about this grille not being fixed."

Gruff Face:  "Who?  You?"

Neil:  "No…no…"

Gruff Face:  "Then who?  The married couple who’s moving?"

Neil:   "Uh, yes…"

Gruff Face:  "Well, they’re moving.  So, they can go to hell."

The manager exits the elevator.

5:30 PM – 9:00 PM

I return home and go back to blogging.  I make a vow never to leave my apartment again.

Today on Blogebrity:  ‘Tis the Season to Feel Anxious Over Your Blog (Brooke, Schuey, Dan, SAC)

A Wimpy Post About Friendship

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I always found it interesting that there are some things you can ask in polite company, such as “What do you do for a living?” and some things you can’t, such as “How much do you make?”

If I said, “I really need to get laid,” every one of you would chime in yelling, “Go for it!”  But imagine I said, “I’m looking to make new friends.”   Wouldn’t that make me sound desperate?

For several years now, Sophia has been my best friend.  She still is.  But I feel like expanding my horizons.

Finding good friends has been a difficult job post-college.  When I need to discuss something important, I usually turn to old friends back in New York.  I would be completely miserable without these important friends that I’ve had since grade school.  They’re more important to me than most of my relatives.

I’ve made several good friends since coming to Los Angeles, but most of them are in the entertainment business — and these people don’t always make the most reliable of friends.  When every newbie writer/director/comedian/musician gets off the plane at LAX for the first time, they should be given a t-shirt that reads “Self-absorbed,” much like they hand out leis in Hawaii.  I love my friends from film school, but sometimes I wonder if we can talk about anything other than screenwriting.

Getting married created a lot of upheaval of friendships for both Sophia and I.  Some of my friends didn’t like Sophia’s politics.  Some of Sophia’s friends didn’t think I was good marriage material.  These friends became casualties of our nuptials.  It’s easy to say that you will remain friends with someone despite his feelings about your spouse, but it is very difficult to make this into a reality.

Sophia and I started hanging out with other married couples.  But there were problems here, too.  Sophia is the type of woman who likes to hang out with the guys.  I’m a guy who likes to hang out with the women.  Unfortunately, after dinner, many couples still split up gender-wise, just like they did in our parents’ era.  The women gossip in the kitchen, the men talk about sports and the stock market in the living room.  And Sophia and I both hated being stuck with our gender.  Yeah, I tried to play golf with a group of husbands, but it really wasn’t me.

To make it worse, it was almost impossible to become a close friend with another married woman.  I really hit it off with Joy, who was one of the wives – just as friends.  We both were English majors and met a couple of times at a coffee shop to talk about books.  Sophia had no problem with this, but it still felt like we were cheating on our spouses.  Sophia and I went out frequently with Joy and Mark, but Sophia would usually end up talking with Joy, while I was stuck with her Mark, whose main interest was tax software.

Marriage also affects your relationships with old friends.  Suddenly, you’re not as “there” for your friends as you used to be.  I can only imagine how much more complicated it gets when you have children. It’s not that I haven’t complained about other friends once they got married.  I have a friend whose wife always answers the phone when I call.   I like his wife, but I don’t always want to talk to her for twenty minutes about the kids’ potty training before I get to speak to my friend.  Sometimes, I’m so talked out after my conversation with her that I don’t want to speak to my friend anymore.

My separation with Sophia has caused even more problems with some friends.  Whose side do our friends take?  Fortunately, Sophia and I get along well enough to still go out with our couple friends.  But I can imagine how the divorces of other couples can destroy friendships as well as a family.

So, where can I find new friends?  Bloggers, perhaps?

The biggest problem with becoming friends with other bloggers is that you’re already in an awkward position.  You know too much about each other, even before you even meet.  Recently I went to a LA blogger meet-up, where I finally got to meet some fellow bloggers. But, over the last few months, I’ve exchanged personal details with my blogging pals through our writing, and our face-to-face meeting could never match that intensity.  In writing, we can write about whatever we want.  In person, there are social constraints. Maybe if I actually brought my laptop with me and we just sent emails back and forth across the bar — I would have been more comfortable.

How do you online daters do it?  Isn’t it weird writing back and forth to each other, impressing each other, flirting with each other, learning about each other (sometimes even having phone sex) — and then, after all that, actually meeting in person.  What’s left to talk about – the weather?

So, I’m officially in the market for new friends.  Some of you might make good friends, but the concept is a little scary.  I don’t mind my mother reading my blog.  But do I really want a close friend who reads my blog every day?

So, be forewarned.  If I do become your real friend, I’m immediately blocking your IP address from my blog.

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