the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: heaven

If I Could Only Bring One Carry-On Luggage to Heaven – What Will Be Inside?

The motto of the “Great Interview Experiment” is “everyone is interesting.”  But let’s be honest.  Half of my readership lives in the suburbs and works in online marketing.  How often do I get to meet a female blogger who drives an OTR truck!  Charming Bitch writes an honest and emotional blog about her life.  She will also chew your ear off in e-mail messages explaining how an OTR truck is different than other trucks.  Did you know truck stops now have wireless?   Since Shannon of Charming Bitch likes to travel, and travel lightly, I was curious about what she would bring to her final destination.    Talk about a difficult question.   But I knew she could handle  it– she’s tough enough to drive a freaking truck!

If I Could Only Bring One Carry-On Luggage to Heaven — What Will Be Inside?  by Charming Bitch

Man, I had exactly no idea what putting myself in Neil’s (capable, firm yet caressing) hands would entail. I initially thought, yes, how exciting! I only recently guest posted for the first time at someone else’s blog and it was a thrill to be asked. This though, this I signed up and volunteered for, nay begged for the opportunity and here I sit trying to post about what would be in my one carry-on to the alleged Heaven. Heavy stuff, for a not-quite-convinced-yet-not-unconvinced believer of anything but the reality of luck and the heavier weight that it is given over good, solid decisions in this life.

So many things to consider, so many things to look over in making a decision as final as packing for this place called Heaven. I am, by nature, a light traveler and I am far too neurotic to ever check a bag so a single carry-on for this last ascent (…or descent) seems appropriate yet still too much somehow. Heaven, it seems to be implied, is like Sandals Resorts and more all-inclusive than ala-carte. What from this world could I bring that would somehow add to the ambiance?  Fart jokes and porn are ruled out just on principle.

Furniture obviously wouldn’t fit in a carry on, even that annoying Swedish build-it-yourself non-sense. Clothes too seem frivolous as from what every movie has ever told me, all in attendance in Heaven adhere to a strict dress code of wings and things much like Star Trek but with less form fitting attire. Make-up too would be unseemly as again, the movies have given me the green light to believe that a rosy glow is included in the package. Electronics wouldn’t be welcome. Somehow I think God would take umbrage at the very idea of me showing up all, ”I am so totally blogging the after-life!”. I mean, I would think that with the Bible being a frillion years old they would welcome some new reading material but even I am not so emboldened as to make that call. I mean, it’s Heaven not the waiting room at Urgent Care, for Christ’s sake. FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. Oh, I kill me. I kill me dead until I die from it and go right to Heaven, it seems.

Having eliminated material possessions, I am forced to evaluate the non-tangibles. But how to pack that which you cannot see or fold into neat stacks or cram into little plastic bags. Where would I pack the love I have been fortunate enough to receive in this life? What is the proper compartment to store the lessons learned at the feet of my parents? How will I ever measure for eternal travel the feel of my husband’s hands cupping my face to kiss my forehead? How difficult, exactly, is security to get through the illustrious Pearly Gates?  Will there be a cavity search  for pocket knives and nail-clippers?  Are those Gates  manned by the same TSA  personnel as on this Earth? Will there be additional charges for bringing a surplus of joy or satisfaction? And hope! What of hope? For a good life, for security, for a safer, kinder society? May I bring that with or shall I expect it to be supplied upon registration? So many questions unanswered for a trip that must not be put off any longer.

Finally a decision is made to leave with the bag all the things people forget to put in their pockets daily. Love, passion, compassion, joy, kindness, satisfaction and hope I will abandon in the terminal with wishes that those who need it will find it, like a soul buffing kiosk right in the airport. I won’t need to bring those things where I am going because if you believe the hype and right now I really need to, I will soon be reunited with Jackson and I will have all those things in excess. Plus a really, really cool costume.

Catcha on the flip-side. Maybe.

My Father vs. Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

Today is Father’s Day. This is the first Father’s Day since my father passed away in September.

Tomorrow is also my father’s birthday.

I’m hoping he’s celebrating Father’s Day and his birthday up in heaven. In fact, this is what I imagine is happening up there:

My father is in a Jewish deli in heaven, having a corned beef sandwich and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda. He is at a table talking with four of his new friends — Cary Grant, Victor Mclaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, and Sam Jaffe — the cast of his favorite movie, Gunga Din (1939). My father loves hearing the inside stories about the film’s production.

“Arthur, my dear friend,” says Cary Grant., dressed in the same casual white suit he would have worn to the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in 1940. “Did you know that Howard Hawks was the original director until he worked with me on “Bringing Up Baby.” It was such a box-office disaster, that RKO brought in poor Georgie Stevens!”

“RKO back then was run by a bunch of pussies!” insists Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

“F**k ’em all!” screams the drunk Victor Mclaglen.

“Hey, Vic, didn’t you say the same thing when we brought back those hot-to-trot “Wizard of Oz” Munchkins to our hotel that night?” jokes Sam Jaffe, the former Yiddish child actor who played Gunga Din, and was later blacklisted. “We certainly f**ked them all!”

Victor Mclaglen lets out a hearty laugh, and offers my father a beer — but my father is not much of a drinker. My father sticks with his Cel-Ray soda.

Douglas Fairbanks looks in the Arts section of the Heaven Times.

“Hey, Arthur, look at this. Citizen of the Month happens to be the new #1 blog in Heaven, having just knocked “Dooce” down to #2.”

“That’s my boy,” says my father.

“When’s he going to do another talking penis post?” asks Cary Grant. “Those are hilarious.”

“Do you think he and Sophia will ever get back together?” asks Sam Jaffe, using his Gunga Din voice for effect.

My father sighs.

“I remember telling him that he should marry an easy-going woman like Elaine, but did he listen?”

“Children never listen. I know mine never did,” adds Douglas Fairbanks.

“But I love that Sophia,” my father adds.  “She always takes care of my boy.”

Yes, this is what I imagine.

My father having a great time — celebrating with his new friends. But as a big movie fan, my father knows that every story needs a good villain… and some action…

So, into the deli walks the villain —

— British poet Rudyard Kipling, the original writer of Gunga Din. Everyone in Heaven hates Rudyard Kipling. He is the town grouch.

He ambles over to my father’s table and laughs at the sight of the actors.

“So, if it isn’t the four stooges of Hollywood, still talking about that inane Hollywood misinterpretation of my masterpiece.”

“Mr. Kipling, I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave us alone,” says Cary Grant. “We don’t need any of your negativity.”

“What is the matter with you bloody degenerates?” asks Kipling. “Don’t you realize we are all DEAD? Who care about we did on Earth? It was all one big waste of our energy.”

“Rudyard, you’re a real shmuck,” says Sam Jaffe. “You used to be such an inspirational writer. Now all you do is kvetch.”

“Shut up Sam.” seethes Kipling. “Or isn’t your real name Shalom? How in the world did they pick a Yid like you to play the 19th Century Indian Gunga Din?”

“Mr. Kipling, I’m a big fan of your work, but could you please watch your language,” says my father, a bit meekly.

“And who are you?!”

“My name is Arthur Kramer.”

“And why should I care about the opinion of you?”

Cary Grant taps Kipling’s shoulder.

“Arthur’s son, Neil, writes the blog “Citizen of the Month.”

“Am I supposed to be impressed? I’ve read that nonsense.” says Kipling. “The talking penis guy.”

Victor Mclaglen stands, angry at Kipling.

“Rudyard, don’t be a jerk.”

“I’m very proud of him.” says my father.

“Proud of him for what?” asks Kipling. “He’s a talentless piece of shit. The Jungle Book, Kim — what I wrote is pure genius. Your son is a lowly blogger who doesn’t deserve to kiss my shoes.”

“Oh, yeah?” says my father, furious. “Maybe you can kiss my shoes, Mr. Kipling, when you’re lying flat on the floor!”

My father gives Rudyard Kipling a wallop that sends him flying into a passing waiter carrying a tray of food. A bowl of matzoh ball soup falls on Kipling’s head and he is OUT COLD.

The entire deli stands up and cheers for my father. Not only did Rudyard Kipling get what he deserved, but my father showed everyone how much he loves his son.

Of course in real life, my father would never do that. I don’t think he ever hit anyone in his life. But he always loves his son. And I love him.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Heaven or Hell

(artwork by Rob Stinogle)

I’m sitting in my local coffee shop and I see that they have some Halloween decorations up already, including a paper cut-out ghost.   

It makes me think of my father, who passed away a few weeks ago.

Not in a scary or eerie way.  If he were to become a ghost, he wouldn’t be a scary one.  He might be a nagging ghost, but not a scary one.   


The paper ghost makes me think about the spirit world and whether it really exists.

I should start out by saying that I don’t really believe in ghosts or spirits or even souls.  I have a pretty scientific outlook on life.  It’s very nice when people say to me that "your father is looking down on you."  I smile and appreciate their kind words.  But I don’t buy it.  To me, believing that is akin to teaching Creationism in school.


One thing I realize is that most of my images of heaven and hell are colored by Christian thought.  You know, Angels with Wings vs. Dante’s Inferno.  

I think Judaism cleverly plays it dumb by not offering a very clear picture of the afterlife.   Maybe that’s why it’s traditional to rush the body into burial:  so nobody asks the rabbi any tough questions.  
Are there any knowledgeable Jews out there who can paint a clear picture of the Jewish afterlife?  What is a Jewish heaven?  Is there a Jewish hell?  Or is the Jewish hell being stuck in heaven for eternity with all of your relatives?

The traditional heaven/hell split is completely unappealing to me.  In Hell, there is suffering and pain — so there must be some sort of sensory feeling.  So, why not some sensory feeling in heaven?   Angels just seem to fly back and forth like Jet Blue flights between JFK and Long Beach.  Without the body, there’s no food, dancing, or sex — all the good stuff.


Who the hell wants to go to heaven?  It sounds more dull than a vacation in Albuquerque.

Sure, your soul is still there.  You can think and ponder great thoughts.   Oh great, it sounds just like being in fucking grad school again.  Who wants that?  And do you at least  get weekends off to go to some keg parties in Hell?  That’s probably where all the hot girls end up anyway.


OK, back to my father.  I guess I’m just like other Jews throughout history — avoiding the afterlife issue by talking about all sorts of other things.  How do you think Jews became such good lawyers?

Hi, Dad.  (that is, if they let you read blogs up there.  But wait a minute, you don’t know how to use a computer.  Mom always printed it out for you at work.   And I’m assuming they all have Macs in heaven, right?)  

C’mon, God.  Loosen up a bit.  Don’t make heaven such a drag.  Give the deceased some fun.  I know I’m going to be depressed when I go  — no more pizza, naked women, or reruns of "The Jeffersons." 

And those heavenly robes — I do not look good in white.

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