Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: karma

Imaginary Paris on $5000 a Day

I love imaginary Paris. I love the cafes, the art, the fashion, but mostly I thrive here because this is the famed city of French existentialism and moral relativism. I am comfortable here using the $5000 that I found in that imaginary wallet yesterday. Sure, I COULD have returned the wallet to the owner, but what’s going to happen to me now that I didn’t? Will God strike me down? Of course not. Not in a city where God is dead.

Imaginary Paris is at its finest in the spring. The flowers are blooming and the scent of perfume is the air. And the women? Oh, the women. I was in an imaginary tiny bakery in the 18th arrondissement just below Montmartre when I met Juliette. She had just finishing doing a fashion shoot for Paris Vogue across the street and was now enjoying a quick espresso. I immediately knew my reason for coming to Paris. I had to know this woman.

“Bonjour.” I said flirtatiously, deciding to open the conversation with a sure-shot French ice-breaker. “Excuse-moi, j’ai perdu mon numero de telephone. Est-ce que je peux emprunter le tien?” (Excuse me, I seem to have lost my phone number. Could I borrow yours?)

She smiled, wooed by my charm and wit. We chatted, at times in English, at times in French. We had some Parisian friends in common, including Elisabeth of La Coquette, Lauren of Maitress, and Tara of Paris Parfait. I made some jokes at the expensive of American culture and she laughed, her eyes twinkling. I offered her one of my Gitanes Brunes, and we enjoyed a smoke together. There was something very sexy about the way she smoked a cigarette. Like only a French woman could do.

I love imaginary Paris. Of course, there were some changes since the last time I was here. American chain stores had moved in. There was Starbucks. And Kentucky Fried Chicken. I even found a CVS Pharmacy right in Paris! I’m not a superstitious man, but I was half-expecting something bad to happen to me for using that $5000 dollars on my trip. But not in Paris. Nothing could destroy the magic of the City of Lights. In Paris, I was able to sit across from a beautiful model wearing a strapless Dior dress while dining at Le Grand Véfour, a restaurant nestled under the arches of the Palais Royal, overlooking a beautiful little park, at a romantic table once occupied by Colette and Victor Hugo and Jean Cocteau.

After dinner, I brought Juliette to my hotel room. She stood in front of me as I sat in bed. She danced for me a bit, swaying to a Carla Bruni song, then let her dress gently fall off her body. I felt a tinge of anxiety. Always neurotic and pessimistic, I figured this was the moment of bad karma. Here I would be with the most beautiful woman I’d ever met and because of my guilt over the $5000, I wouldn’t be able to get it up. But clearly this doomsday scenario didn’t occur. She looked at me and smiled. She slid next to me, purring.

“Avez-vous un préservatif?” (Do you have a condom?) she asked.

“Oui, I do.” I answered.

Luckily, before dinner, I slipped into that Parisian CVS Pharmacy and bought les condoms!

Within moments, Juliette and I were making passionate love. All I could hear was her heavy breathing and the pounding of the bed against the wall.

Or at least I thought it was the pounding of the bed against the wall.

In reality, it was the Paris police breaking down the door to my hotel room and an Interpol SWAT team smashing through the window. Apparently, when I bought the condoms at CVS Pharmacy, I used the CVS ExtraCare frequent shopper card from my wallet – but it wasn’t my card! It was the CVS card of Mr. Craig Tellerson of Studio City, CA, who had lost his wallet and $5000 cash while riding his bicycle in Redondo Beach.

“Fraud is a federal offense in France,” said the Parisian police officer.

Today, I am blogging from Devil’s Island in French Guiana, the first day of my 300 year prison sentence. On arrival, we greeted by the warden who said, “Welcome to the penal colony at Devil’s Island, whose prisoners you are, and from which there is no escape.”

While I enjoyed my date with the French model, this certainly was one expensive bill to pay. Take it from me, if you find a lost wallet, return it to the rightful owner. God is alive… and vengeful. C’est la vie!

Two years ago on Citizen of the Month: Clock and Crow

What Did You Have For Lunch?

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“Your posts this week have been the WORST,” said my blog editor/separated wife, Sophia, speaking on the phone from New York. “And stop writing about blogging. It is SOOO boring!”

There were other words exchanged during this conversation, mostly about my fear of putting advertising on my blog, but I’m going to avoid retelling some of the more “colorful” expressions she used to describe my “artistic integrity.”

I agree with Sophia that my posts have been lousy this week. I blame it on that video where I’m dancing with the mop, which premiered on October 13th to critical acclaim.

You know how some authors write a masterpiece for their first novel, but their second one sucks? After that video, I figured that I could just lie back and take it easy, but I was wrong. Modern readers are fickle. One false move and they’re off to read the blog of the latest young hunk right off the bus with a Dell laptop under his arm.

Looking for inspiration, I was intrigued by this new book titled “No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog,” written by Maggie Mason, who also has a popular blog titled Mighty Girl. (via Fussy)

A reviewer on Amazon described the book like this:

“Mason is thrilled at the opportunities that blogs have given the average person for self-expression, but laments that too many blogs are obsessive navel-gazing exercises that hold little to no interest over time. She wrote No One Cares as a way to help you come up with creative and new ideas for blog material that can lead to unusual material and interesting insights to the life and world of the writer.”

The book sounded interesting, but I took strong exception to the title, No One Cares What You Had for Lunch, even if the author is being tongue-in-cheek.

Think about the gullible young blogger out there who might read this book and accept this notion as a blogging “rule.”

In my opinion, blogging about your lunch is EXACTLY what you should be doing. This was what Sophia was trying to tell me on the phone. Is there anything more human, more sexy, more filled with human drama… than lunch?

Remember those cool lunch-boxes in elementary school? Remember grandma’s tuna fish sandwich? Remember having a romantic picnic lunch with your beau? Isn’t it true that the minute you get to work at 9AM, you watch the clock for three hours, waiting for what…? LUNCH!

When I finish my blogging primer, I’m going to title it “Write About Your Lunch.”

Of course, by the time I get around to writing it, no one will be blogging anymore because the fad will be dead. I’m always behind the times. (but please remember to buy my new book coming out in January, “The Dummy’s Guide to Making Money with Enron Stock.”

Sophia — today’s post will be about MY LUNCH. I want to prove to others that eating your lunch can bring about as many philosophical insights as reading the greatest philosophers.

Here we go —

Around noon today, I had a hankering for a hamburger. I felt like I deserved a treat because my cholesterol levels had fallen dramatically recently, thanks to my pills. I jumped into my car and headed for In-N-Out Burgers, but half-way there, I felt a nagging guilt. I suddenly remembered that I had eaten two slices of pizza for lunch the day before. I already had my “unhealthy” treat for the week.

What should I do? Go with desire or reason? I thought about the ancient Greeks. In his theory of anamnesis, Plato preached mastery over the body through reason. Did I really need this hamburger?

Thomas Aquinas, the medieval theologian, once said of Gluttony: “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists?”

I decided to find a balance between the two extremes — hunger and hamburger, much as in Hermetic Philosophy.

The solution: A Gardenburger!

I once had a pretty good veggie burger at Burger King, so off I went to see the King.

At my local Burger King, I was greeted by a slightly frazzled teenage girl, who took my order for a veggie burger, a side salad, and a cup of coffee. The bill came to $3.50. I looked at the receipt, puzzled. The Gardenburger alone was supposed to be $3.50. The girl had clearly charged me $2.00 less than what she was supposed to!

I went into a silent panic, mixed with glee. I enjoyed saving the two bucks, but I felt guilty about my moral stance. After all, I was stealing! I knew she had made a mistake, but I was intentionally remaining silent. What would the Talmud say about this? I certainly know that Immanuel Kant, the 18th Century writer of “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals,” would be shaking his head in shame.

Clearly it was my moral duty to speak up and say, “Young lady, I think you’ve made a mistake.” Think about it: What if I knew that her boss was going to dock her the two dollars that she lost — would I speak up then? What if she was fired? What if she quit school because of my action? What if, because of me, I knew she would eventually BECOME A PROSTITUTE?!

But, I wanted that two dollars. I kept my mouth shut. I pocketed the extra money, waited for my food, then headed for my table without ever saying a word.

There was no thunder. No lightening struck me down. As I sat down, holding my tray, I rationalized my action. I was a Robin Hood fighting an evil fast-food corporation. Even Michael Moore would be proud of me!

But I knew this was a lie. I knew I was never going to give any of my two dollars to charity. I was going to keep it. I was going to blow it on an ice cream cone on the way home, my cholesterol be damned.

And I was enjoying acting like a selfish criminal.

I was like motherf***ing Samuel L. Neilochka!

I ripped open the paper wrapper and took a determined bite of my sandwich. All I received was a mouth full of soggy lettuce and wet bread.

I looked down at my sandwich and opened up the bun. Inside was lettuce, a tomato slice and a piece of pickle. There was no Gardenburger! No meat! Nothing!

Soon, it became clear to me. At Burger King, if you ask for a “Veggieburger” rather than a “Gardenburger,” you get this ridiculous “veggie” sandwich with nothing on it except soggy lettuce, a sliver of tomato, and a tasteless pickle slice for $1.50!  There wasn’t any two dollar mistake. I was the idiot who made the mistake. I ordered a sandwich with NOTHING on it.

Have it Your Way! Right-O.

Do I even need to bring up the Eastern concept of karma?

So, what do you have for lunch?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: A New Hobby

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