Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Life in General (page 1 of 2)

Life with Mother

The best lesson that I can teach you, after eight successful years in blogging and social media, is the supreme importance of communicating the positive message of your personal brand. Unfortunately, today is not the day for this lesson.

Today I want to remind you that I live with my mother.

Last night, I wrote this status update on Facebook —

“In October, my mother is having a big birthday and she was thinking of celebrating by going with her friend, another woman in her 70s, on some dull cruise, something they already did twice before.

“Forget the cruise,” I said. “Why don’t you go somewhere that you always wanted to go but never had a chance, and go there NOW, while you’re still healthy enough to travel?”

So, for ten days in October, I’ll be accompanying my mother and her friend — to — yes, Paris.

My mother is so excited. But she’s worried now that I won’t find us a place to stay and we’ll be wandering the streets. So, if anyone knows of a good apartment to rent in October for three adults, maybe two bedrooms, please tell me.”

People were very generous, sending me all sorts of links to apartment rental agencies and friends with apartments in France. But later that night, I thought to myself —

“I must be perceived as a very weird guy. I’m always talking about my mother. I am going to Paris with my mother. I am living with my mother in New York. When I think of men who live with their mothers, even on a temporary basis, I immediately think of Norman Bates in Psycho. I must really appear f*cked up. You know, maybe I am f*cked up.”

Now, some of you I have successfully fooled, especially those who follow me on Instagram. I post so many glamorous photos of New Yorkers on Fifth Avenue, that you’d think I spend my nights at parties with Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting.

No, I’m in Queens, with my mother.

If you met me, you would think I was fairly normal. Not completely normal, but mostly normal. At least, I don’t think I would scare you.

Here’s how it goes. I come and go from my mother’s apartment when I want. My mother has her life. I have mine. We treat each other like two adults. We’ve even watched R-rated movies on HBO together, and no one blinked an eye!

Of course, both my mother and I know that this arrangement is not healthy in the long run. She can’t wait until I leave and start a normal life again. And I can’t wait until I have a place of my own, living a normal life again. As much as we try to be “roommates” over the last few months, a mother and son will always be a mother and son.

If I am in Manhattan at midnight, I still call her up to say that I am not dead on the 14th Street subway platform, the same thing I would do at age thirteen, except back then, it was on a pay phone, not an iPhone. There are also some mornings where I wake up to discover an umbrella hanging on my doorknob, a reminder from my mother that Al Roker said it was going to rain today.

I know it’s all a little weird. I’m here to own it. I can’t be a personal blogger if I don’t talk about my personal life.

I’m an only son, and I’ve always been close to my mother, particularly after my father passed away. But I’ve never considered myself a typical momma’s boy, or my mother the type of overbearing Jewish mother you would see in sitcoms (even if I sometimes portray her that way on my blog).

The instability of my marriage with Sophia took a toll on me. Like a ping-pong ball, I went back and forth from Los Angeles to New York for the last two years, depending on the current state of our marital relationship. All this turmoil also had me wasting a lot of money, flying back and forth, and putting stuff into storage. And since I couldn’t afford two apartments in two cities, I stayed in my mother’s place, my childhood home, when I was in New York. It worked out well because during the winter, the apartment was empty while my mother rented a place in Boca Raton, Florida. She went to Florida. I stayed here.

In many ways, the experience of spending more time with my mother in New York has been an enriching one. Not many of you get to experience a truly honest and adult relationship with the woman who brought you into the world.

But there is also a darker side to this. I have been plagued with doubt and anxiety over the last few years, which makes it difficult for me to make a decision of where I want to go next. It’s not as if I don’t have confidence in what I do. I have strong writing and work experience, but most of my contacts are in Los Angeles, not New York. And I just feel happier in New York. But my bank account is getting in trouble, and it time to take action.

And then — the biggest question of them all — what about the beautiful, intelligent woman that I met in — of all places — New Zealand?

I am at a crossroads between divorce, starting over, career change, and the need for more money. I’m not even sure freelance writing is a sustainable job for me anymore. My health insurance alone is costing me $800 a month, and I’m thinking of taking on a paying job, with health insurance, just another one of my poorly timed decisions — looking for work during a terrible economy, while thousands of younger and cheaper recent graduates hit the streets. So, I sit here and think. And worry. Less about how you perceive me, than how I perceive myself.

I have a vague feeling that someone is going to hold me in disdain after reading this post. Or one of my old trolls will return, the one who usually reappears only when I seem vulnerable.

“Talk about first world problems,” she will say. “Who cares about your petty life when Turkish students are fighting for their democratic rights?!”

We tend to have sympathy for underdogs, except for when the villain is the main character’s own brain. And almost all of my issues are based on my own decision, action, or inaction.

Why did I move to Los Angeles and pursue the entertainment business if I didn’t intend to stick it out living in Los Angeles?

Why did I stay in such a a unsatisfying marriage for so long?

Why don’t I just shut up, get a normal paying job and move into your own apartment like a normal person?

Don’t you realize how much privilege you are squandering as a straight white male who has the world at his feet?

Why don’t I just get off Facebook and write a novel and sell it rather than talking about writing so much?

Why did I connect with Juli in New Zealand to only leave her stranded with your indecision?

Who goes to Paris with their mother?

Believe me, I ask these questions of myself. I’m hard on myself. But I’m OK with living in a world where my mind is in flux. I’ve been living with myself for a long time, so I know how I work. I’m living this life as best as I can. Eventually, I’ll figure it out. Even if it makes me seem a little weird. I am a little weird. I can’t change that. Better you know the real me than a fake one. I know, I know. Fake it Until you Make It. But not on my blog.

As I started saying in the beginning, I understand how “branding” works. I am suppose to appeal to your aspirations. To be influential. My aim is to make you want to “be” me — to inspire you! “Look at me. I’m having lunch with some popular person at a fancy restaurant!”

The internet is all about promoting success. I look forward to the day that I can write the tweet announcing the million dollar screenplay sale. I hope to wow you with more sexy stories about my adventures with Juli in New Zealand. I can’t wait to make you jealous with my Instagram photos of the party I attended at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Gwenyth Paltrow and Sting. I know you want that for me. But right now, I can’t. This is how it is, right now, in June 2013.

Hang on while I try to figure out the next step. I’m sorry I can’t give you any more “added value” than I currently have.

But one thing I do know — and I say this with more pride than shame — in October, I will have photos of Paris with my mother.

Blog Held Hostage: Second Update

On March 17th, I wrote down five simple goals.  Goal #1 was this:  “set up a date for when I am traveling to Los Angeles, and moving my stuff from Sophia’s place.”

++++

“I need a ten minute break from this conversation,” she said over the phone from Los Angeles.  I was in New York.

I tried to take a ten minute nap.  I put the alarm on my iPhone in order to wake me up, my current favorite alarm — the one that sounds like church bells.  But I didn’t fall asleep.  The room was too hot; management continues to blast heat up the radiator, no matter what the temperature outside, through mid-April, as if they knew better than Mother Nature.  My next door neighbor was cooking pungent Korean food.  My legs hung over the edge of the too-short couch like wet laundry on a clothesline in a 1950’s Bronx tenement.

After the brief intermission, I told Sophia that I wanted to move my things by June 15th.

“And where are you going to move everything?  There’s 25 boxes of books.”

“It doesn’t matter.  I’m going to move it somewhere.”

We took another ten minute break, which continued on for three painful days.

(no comments today)

Confidence

If you read the truly popular and influential blogs, you will notice a distinctive voice coming from each blogger and a confidence in their words.  These writers never mention the names of run-of-the-mill bloggers as friends, only other important bloggers — and usually by their first names, as if everyone in the world should know their first name, like Oprah.  These bloggers have a hundred projects going on, just to remind you of their busy schedule.    I eat that stuff up.   I learn from it.  In the competitive field of blogging, where there are hundreds of thousands of writers each competing for attention, it is important to present an image of strength.  If you announce yourself as important, even if you’re a scrawny guy who usually gets sand kicked in his face, then the world starts following.  No one wants to see the emperor without his clothes.  People respect leadership.  We all want President-Elect Obama to stand in front of America and say to the American public that he will solve all of our domestic and international problems.  No one wants him to step in front of the podium at the press conference and say, “Uh, I’m not really sure what the f**k we’re going to do about Pakistan.  Why do you think I’m sending Hillary there?”  That would not be presidential.

I like blogging and I enjoy writing, so I feel the need to make believe that I know what I am doing here on “Citizen of the Month,” partly to fool you into coming back, and also to make you feel safe getting involved in blog activities like the Holiday Concert.  I am not a born impresario.   The trick is to ACT confident, or else you would be too afraid to trust me with your squeaky singing of “Jingle Bells.”

I try to be open with you, but I’m afraid of getting down and dirty with “emotional stuff” here on this blog.  I’m not sure you want it.  I see all the other blogs that you love and admire.  You seem to want a blogger with a sense of confidence.  Maybe it gives you something to shoot for.  Am I wrong?  Sometimes, a new blogger will make a comment on my blog, and I will immediately email her back.   And then something odd happens.  I seem to lose this person’s respect for me, as if I showed my cards too early in the game.

“Jeez… and I thought he was an important blogger.” I can hear the person saying.  “Dooce would never email me.  If he is emailing me, that must mean that he isn’t… that important… shit… why I am reading his stupid blog anyway!”

OK, enough… let’s get to the point of this post.  There’s something about this online life that is depressing to me.   I wish I could say it was because you were a bunch of assholes, cause then it would be easier.   The truth is — most of you seem like really cool people.  It is just these tiny little moments of interaction that I have with some of you each day makes me sad.  Recently, I have NOT been READING my favorite blogs because I get this “what’s the point” feeling the minute I click on the link.

“I’m never going to know this person in real life.” I think.  “It’s just frustrating.”

I guess I am feeling a little lonely here in New York. And who wants to admit that?  That’s like showing your cards.

Blogging is easier when you have a significant other, or a demanding family life, because they bring you back to reality by demanding you take out the garbage.  The trouble begins when you forget that blogging is really just about WRITING and not an alternative, equally-satisfying way to connect to other people.  You cannot touch a computer byte.

New York City is a special place, especially on the busy streets of Manhattan.  I love to walk down the crowded avenues, people-watching, letting all the energy wash over my body.  That is how the Internet should be.  It is a vibrant virtual city, with unlimited neighborhoods of information, stories, and drama.  But to enjoy it, you need to have a strong sense of self, to separate yourself from the information overload of the masses, to walk with a sense of belonging.   If you think too much about the others all around you, and your place among the mob, you lose your sense of self.  You start to judge yourself, wondering if you are good as the businessman in the tailored suit.  You begin to see yourself as small, as one of the other twelve million other suckers with the same unfulfilled dreams.  What do I have special to say?  Why should anyone give a shit?  HE is the important one… the one everyone knows.  The one on Page Six of the New York Post.  The one who who knows the other important people by their FIRST names.

New York is especially horrendous when you have a lonely heart.  The crowds lose their romance.  It is not like a movie at all, with the horse-drawn carriages, Central Park, and Gershwin.  When you are yearning for love in a large city, each passer-by becomes a possibility for human contact, but it rarely happens.  The pace of the city is too fast.  You take a quick glance at a fashionable woman, and all you can see is her face, her clothes, and the posture of her walk.  Sure, sometimes you can catch the title of the book that she is gripping.  Or the brand of purse.  But what does this tell you about her?  Not much.  Is she even reading the book in reality or just carrying the latest non-fiction best-seller for show?   Is the purse from Bloomingdale’s or is it a knock-off that she bought in Chinatown?   You have to be satisfied with your limited amount of superficial contact with this individual, because she’s already passed.  And there’s no time to fret.  Every second there is another potentially interesting person walking by, and then whoosh, she is never to be seen again.

The Internet can be like that.  Thousands walking by.  I guess the only solution is to start tripping people.

Change

There has been a lot of talk lately about CHANGE.  Voting for Obama is for Change.   Yom Kippur is this week — a time for change.   Fall is about change.   The leaves have already started to change colors in New England.   Overnight, the dress code went from t-shirts to sweaters.
 
I need to embrace change.  My fear of change is one of my biggest faults.  Sophia and I cannot live in limbo-land forever.  It is frustrating for both of us.  Man cannot live without woman for long.  It is one of the few Biblical statements based on fact.  Look at Adam.  He had the wondrous Garden of Eden and the first human Penis – the prototype – and still it wasn’t enough for him.

“WHAT do I do with it, brainiac?” Adam asked God in a sarcastic tone.
  
God did not like Adam’s pissy attitude.
 
“No problem,” said the Big Prankster, ” I will give you a Wo-man!  Good luck, sucker!”

Within days of Eve’s arrival, Adam was so pussywhipped that he was doing her bidding.

“Eat this Apple,” said Eve.

“What for?” asked Adam.

Eve removed the fig leaf covering her nakedness.
 
“F*ck!” said the dumb-as-shit Adam, as he bit the apple.  “You always win.”

It is hard being alone.  OK, I did tell you about that one sexy email experience that I had a few weeks ago.   We did have another encounter after that, but I need her approval before I write about it.  But it was more depressing than fun.   What’s the point of virtual sex?  More frustration?
 
“Seriously…” I said to nice girl who I don’t really know, “Why would we want to send sexy emails to each other.  We live thousands of miles apart.  We’re not going to hook up in real life.  We don’t even know each other.  It’s just going to make us feel lonelier!”

“I love it!” she said.  “There is something so sexy about frustration, a fantasy that can never be fulfilled.”

WTF?  I could hear God laughing at me, just as he once did with Adam.  You wanted Wo-man, you are stuck with her, sucker!  

Last night, I watched Now, Voyager, starring Bette Davis, on the Turner Classics channel.  This is the famous film where Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes in his mouth and hands over.  He does this not once, but about fifteen times in the course of the story.   I’ve seen this film many times and always found it a corny, melodramatic girl-flick.    But have I officially changed?  Have I become an adult who enjoys crap like this?  I was completely taken in with the story about marriage, commitment, secret love, and lust.   For the first time, I UNDERSTOOD THE STORY!   No wonder I am having such a hard time writing a script about two single guys trying to get laid.  I’m not that person anymore.  I have joined the ranks of  adult “complications” where the getting “laid” is not the goal anymore.  I’ve already gotten laid, and I know what happens afterwards.   It is Wo-man!  The apple is never free.  They are trouble.  Thanks a lot, God! 

What was I talking about in this post anyway?  Oh right, change.  You see, I can’t even stay focused on talking about “change.”  I avoid it by chatting about Adam and Eve and Adam’s penis.  Let’s get back to the point. 

I need to embrace change. 

I came to New York to embrace change.  But so far, I have failed.   All that happened was that I got into another rut, another routine.  

For example, every day I take a walk, but it is always the same path, always encountering the exact same individuals. 

My Daily Walk by Neil Kramer

I leave my mother’s apartment building.   As I step out, I run into Juan, the building’s effective but hated super.  Juan works hard for the building and takes great pride in his work, but so much so, that he thinks he owns the place.   He treats the tenants — his employers — like shit.   He yells at them for walking in the lobby after he washes the floor.  God help you if you take a short-cut across the lawn.  He sees you with his third eye.

“Get off the grass, you jerk.  I just cut it!” he bellows.

In August, I got stuck in the elevator for fifteen minutes.  It was an unsettling experience.  When he finally “rescued” me, he blamed ME for taking the elevator.

“Kramer, didn’t you know this elevator had a problem?  You’re wasting my time!  I have work to do.”

“How was I supposed to know that?” I answered, still dizzy.  “There’s no sign on the wall.”

“I’ve been telling people all week.   You need to listen!  Don’t they listen in California, or are you too busy drinking margaritas by the pool with Tom Cruise?”

The “Board of Directors” of the co-op has tried to fire Juan from his job, but he is PART OF THE UNION, which means they have to come up with some legitimate reason to dump him.   Unfortunately, he does an excellent job and is a great super.  What can they say to the union – that they want to fire him because he is rude and obnoxious?   This is New York!   The supers have more power than the tenants!

OK, back to my daily walk.

My next encounter is with Eleanor, a retired woman who sits on the benches in the courtyard between the “A” and “B” buildings of the co-op.   We live in the “A” building.  Eleanor lives in the “B” building.  Her husband has been in a wheelchair since his stroke, so the best they can do for getting out of the house is sitting outside, watching everyone walk by.    My mother also plays Mah Jongg with her on Tuesday night.

Now my regular readers have read a lot about my mother.  You all seem to “love” her.   You think she is fun.    She is fun.  She is also cool enough to read my blog every day.    But she is private.   She would never keep a blog.  When I asked her if everyone at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux had seen the pictures of her retirement party that I had posted, she said no.  She revealed to me – for the first time ever — that she never told most of her co-workers about my blog.    

“Why not?”  I asked.  “Because of the cursing?  The sex talk?”

“Nah,” she said.

“So, what’s the problem?”

“It is none of their business to know about you and Sophia.”

I learned something new.  My mother has not been forthcoming with her some of her friends about our separation.

“Are you ashamed?” I asked.

“No, of course not.   You should hear about some of their screwed up kids?  Divorced, in rehab, Scientologists… you’re pretty normal in comparison.”

But it bothered me that my mother was hiding the truth, especially with those in the apartment building.   But then, I realized – so was I!   My mother was right… why does everyone need to know your business?!    There are a lot of yentas in my building, always prying for personal information.  Whenever I meet one of these yentas in the elevator, I freeze up, knowing  that she is going to grill me like an attorney questioning a witness on “Law and Order?”

“How’s your beautiful wife — Sophia?”  one yenta asked recently.

“She’s doing fine.”

“Is she in New York with you?”

“No, she’s in LA, working.”

“You’ve been in New York a few months now, haven’t you?”

“Yes.”

“You must miss each other.”

“Yes.”

“Will she be coming here soon?”

Luckily, I live on the first floor, so my elevator ride is a short one.

“That’s my floor!” I shouted as I jump off.

“Send my regards to your beautiful wife, Sophia!’ 

There are some days that I take the stairs, just to avoid meeting these yentas.

I eventually convinced my mother to tell her friends at her weekly Mah Jongg game.    After all, if they are truly her “friends,” they are not going to mock her or think she did a crappy job as a mother.    I am separated.  I didn’t rob a bank.

Eleanor, the woman who sits in the back with her husband in the wheel chair, is one of those who knows the real story about why I am in New York.   After all, how long can I really be “visiting” for?  But good intentions have bad results.  Since then,  I cannot walk past Eleanor without her calling me over for one of her “helpful” lectures about marriage and relationships.

“I have been married for fifty one years,” she told me a few weeks ago, her husband nodding in the background.  “And let me tell you, it hasn’t always been easy.    But it wasn’t until about five years ago that I truly understood what marriage is all about… what makes a marriage work.  It was all because I read a book.  You must read this book.    This book changed my life.  I don’t know if you ever heard of it, but it is called… “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”  Have you read this book?”

I have read this book and thought it was hogwash, so I lied.

“I haven’t read it.   But I have heard of it.  It is about how men and women are different.”

“Exactly.   After reading this book, everything about men and women became clear to me.  This book is as important as the Old Testament.  Let me give you an example of why.    A husband and wife are getting dressed to go to a Temple function.  Everyone who’s anyone is going to be there.  The husband says, “Let’s get going.  We’re going to be late.”  The wife is busy putting on her make-up, wanting to look her best.   The wife asks, “How do I look?”  The husband says, “Fine.  Now, let’s go.”  And then the wife is upset at her husband for the rest of the night because he said she was looking “fine” and not “beautiful.”  “What did I say?” asks the husband.    He doesn’t get it.   That’s because he is from Mars and she is from Venus.  You are from Mars.  Your wife is from Venus.  Always remember that.”

Frankly, I think a big problem with my marriage is that I’m from Venus and she’s from Mars, but I kept that to myself.

Every day, every time I take my walk, she is sitting on the bench with her husband, waiting for me.

“Did you read the book yet?” she asks.

“I’ll get it this weekend at the library.”

“You must.  You are from Mars.   She is from Venus.  Remember that.”

Only once she did try to be a matchmaker.    She has a granddaughter who is interested in television production, a “beautiful redhead” who is having trouble finding a “Jewish man with a good soul.” 

“But she’s just 22, so you are too old.” she added at the end. 

“No, she’s not,” screamed my Penis, but the muffled sound from inside my pants never reached Eleanor and her hearing aide.  Eh, her granddaughter is probably a Wo-man from Venus anyway, which does not bode well for our relationship.

Onward, with my walk.

A few blocks after meeting Eleanor, I pass another apartment complex, one for lower-income tenants.   The complex has many buildings, and looks like a typical urban housing project.   In front of one of the buildings, I always encounter Charles, a friendly tenant, working on his garden.  Charles takes great pride in caring for his flowers.   He can be interesting to talk to, but he is also mentally-challenged, so he tends to be long-winded and repetitive, going into the same details about his flowers.

“These are gladiolas,” he would say.

“Beautiful.”

“I water them a lot.”

“Do they need a lot of water?”

“Yes, that’s why I water them a lot.   I use the hose, but I have to be careful not to put it too high because then the flowers don’t like it… and the manger says I use too much water… but the flowers like the water… but not too much water…”

Sometimes I speed up as I pass, giving a quick “hello,” making believe I’m in a hurry to catch the bus.   I feel like a jerk, but so what… proof that I’m not THAT nice.

As I turn the corner, I enter an area of look-alike garden apartments, townhouses, each with two families.    All summer, at the third garden apartment from the corner, sat a little Puerto Rican girl on the lawn,  who had set up a table and was selling lemonade for five cents.   On the porch, was her grandmother, watching closely.   I found this scene very quaint.  I don’t remember anyone selling lemonade when I was a child.  It seemed very middle-American, like in a Dennis the Menace comic book, not an activity you would see in New York.

For some reason, I always said hello, but never stopped for a drink.  I think the main reason was because the grandmother gave me an evil eye whenever I approached.  It sucks being a guy nowadays.  You can’t even say hello to a little girl without being thought of as a predator.    I feared  buying a cup of lemonade, thinking the grandmother would send her German Shepherd, who was waiting inside with his black eyes, to attack.

On Friday afternoon, I took my usual walk in the neighborhood.    It was the same as every day.   I met Juan, the cranky super, Eleanor, the Men are from Mars Yenta, and Charles, the retarded gardener.      The sun had come out, giving New York one last gasp of summer before Fall took permanent residence.    As I rounded the corner, I noticed that the Puerto Rican girl was still in business.    I figured that today would be her last hurrah as the colder weather crept in, and the lemonade lovers went into hibernation.

I thought about my daily walks all summer.  Always the same.   Same path.  Same actions. 

“Whatever happened to my commitment to change?” I asked myself.   

I decided to break the pattern.  No more procrastinating.  I was going to start my change NOW.  I was going to fight my fears and have myself a lemonade before it was too late.  After a summer of passing by the little girl with just a smile, I was going to act.  This would have a domino effect on my life, creating changes everywhere as one tile fell, creating a chain reaction in my brain and in my heart.

I stepped onto the lawn and approached the little girl.

“I’ll have a cup of lemonade.” I said.

The grandmother, who was sitting on a rattan chair reading the National Enquirer, put down the paper, and leaned forward, her neck stretching outwards like that of a Bald Eagle.

As the girl poured me some of her lemonade from a plastic Tupperware pitcher into a Dixie cup, I realized that I had been reading the price wrong since day one.  It was 50 cents a cup.  The cardboard sign was folded, making me think it was just 5 cents .   50 cents for a Dixie cup of lemonade?  I thought it was a bit of a rip-off, but maybe I was living in the past.   After all, Lucy from the Peanuts used to give Psychiatric Advice for 5 cents.   Now, I bet she is $200 an hour!

But I didn’t protest.  This cup of lemonade was not to quench my thirst.  It was a symbol of change.

The little girl handed me my drink.  I handed her two quarters.  I had a tremendous urge to make some sort of traditional toast before I drank the elixir from my holy grail, the way I might before drinking wine at a wedding or at a Passover seder.    I lifted my glass to the young girl, making sure I kept my distance for the sake of the staring grandmother.

“Thank you sincerely for this fine lemonade.”  I said, speaking in a pompous tone, as if I was performing in a Shakespeare play at the Old Globe.  “My I just say that this lemonade is extremely important to me today.  It is more than a cool drink on a hot day.  It is about CHANGE.”

“No change,” the little girl said, angrily.  “It is FIFTY cents.”

“I didn’t mean that.”  I muttered.

The grandmother stood up, her National Enquirer falling to the ground, her hungry dog appearing behind the screen door of her garden apartment.

“Is there anything wrong, Lizzie?” she asked.

“He paid fifty cents.   Now he wants CHANGE!”

“NO CHANGE.  NO CHANGE!” yelled the grandmother.

I wanted to explain more, but it was hopeless, and I could already see the dog salivating. I drank my lemonade, and quickly left.

Any adventure requires an obstacle, and here was mine.    Just when I made the choice to change, the forces of the status quo were striking back, telling me “NO CHANGE.  NO CHANGE!”

Well, screw you, forces of the status quo.  Just you wait!

Say Hello to Brenda, My Therapist

therapist2.jpg

Hi, Brenda.   If it is Tuesday afternoon, this means that we are just sitting down at your computer and looking at my blog together for the first time.   This was the idea, right?  That you, as my therapist, might better understand me by exploring the world of my writing online. 

(Say hello to Brenda)

Subjects to discuss:  the ups and downs of my relationship with Sophia, being passive/being assertive, being co-dependent, my insecurity and fear of success, and my neurotic need to be people-pleasing.

I have plenty of posts on all of these subjects.

And if you start reading my archives, I want to apologize for the one post a few months ago where I said that an hour therapy session being only fifty minutes was a major rip-off.   I understand that you use those extra ten minutes to write notes (or catch the end of Oprah). 

That was a joke.   I wasn’t being passive-aggressive.   Really.   You’re great.  

Next Week in Therapy

legs.jpg 

I’m sitting across from Brenda, my therapist. 

Therapist:  So, how did you feel about i?

Neil:  I was a little upset at her.

Therapist:  So what did you do?

Neil:  I withdrew.  I went into my room and wrote.  That made me feel better.  I think I do that too much.  I did that as a kid a lot.  I was an only child.  I always felt most comfortable just sitting around writing something.

Therapist:  What did you write last night?

Neil:  I wrote a silly blog post titled “If I Was Married to Hellga of American Gladiators.”

Therapist:  Hmm…

Neil:  Although no one reading it would know, I was probably venting about Sophia…

Therapist:  So, writing this blog is an important outlet for you.

Neil:  I suppose so.

Therapist:  Maybe it is a form of therapy for you.  A way for you to think about things.  What do you mostly write about?

Neil:  All different things.  Mostly funny things.  About Sophia.  I’ve even written about you. I mean not real stuff.  Well, sort of real.  I use different names for you, and your image has changed as time has gone on.  In the beginning, I made you into a hot babe therapist.  Once I wrote about being distracted because your legs were showing. 

Therapist:  Really?

Neil:  Yeah.  Silly stuff.  But you do have nice legs.  Jesus, I can’t believe I’m telling my therapist that she has nice legs.  Sorry.

Therapist:  It’s OK.

Neil:  But I’ve also written more serious stuff about therapy, like that I’m not an “adult” yet.

Therapist:  I’ve never done this with another client, but your blog seems a large part of your life.  Your fantasy life.  Do you think it would be a good idea if I read your blog?

Neil:  Oh, I was under the assumption that you had been reading it.  I even wrote about that.

Therapist:  No, I wouldn’t read it unless you asked me too.  Do you want me to?

Neil:  Sure.  Why not?

Therapist:  I don’t know too much about blogs?  How do people find you? 

Neil:  It’s sort of complicated.

Therapist:  Do a lot of people come to the blog?

Neil:  Well, it depends.  Right now I have a lot of people coming because I’m hosting this interview thing where people interview each other, but I have no idea how many of them are actually READING aything I write.

Therapist:  Let’s make next week a special one.  We’ll sit by the computer together and you’ll show me some of what you write on your blog.  I want you to show me things that can best help me understand you better.  Let’s make your blog part of therapy, since it seems to already be like that.  Or print out five posts that you want me to read.

Neil:  OK, but you DO realize I’m going to write about this on my blog tonight?

Therapist:  I have no doubt.

Sucking Candy

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I already told this story on Twitter, but I don’t think anyone believed me, so I’ll tell it again.

Sophia’s mother asked me to pick up two things from her supermarket:  mayonnaise and these sugar-free Werther’s candies that she likes to have while watching TV.  I drove over and stopped at the supermarket near her home.  I was unfamiliar with the layout of the store and I was in a rush.  I had an appointment later that day.  I approached a supermarket employee who was stocking boxes.  He was a young, friendly-faced, college-aged kid.

“Where can I find mayonnaise?” I asked him.

“Aisle four!  I’ll show you.”  he replied, in that cheerful California “have a nice day” supermarket voice that you would never hear in New York. 

He guided me over to the condiment section, where I found my “Best Foods” Mayonnaise.  (side note:  In New York, it is Hellman’s Mayonnaise.  In California, it is Best Foods Mayonnaise.  In New York, it is Arnold’s Bread.  In California, it is Orowheat.  In New York, it is Edy’s Ice Cream.  In California, it is Dreyer’s ice cream.  I have this personal conspiracy theory that the names were changed for the West Coast so they seem less “Jewish.” — but that’s another post)

After grabbing the mayonnaise, I thanked the stock boy.

“One more thing,” I asked.  “Do you know where I can find “sucking candies?”

He giggled nervously.  We were alone in the condiment aisle.

“What do you mean?”  He asked.

“Sucking candies!”

“Uh… the candies are in front by the register.”

“No, I don’t mean like the M&Ms.  I mean the candies you suck on.  The… HARD candies.”

He turned red faced.  At the same time, he seemed VERY intrigued.  I’m not exactly sure what was going on, but it seemed as if I had hit upon some new “code” that has replaced the hitting of feet in the bathroom stall.   He looked up and smiled, shyly.

“I’ll find it myself.”  I quickly said, stumbling over a shopping cart as I went searching for the hard candies.

A few minutes later, I was in line, ready to check out with my mayonnaise and sucking candies.  I saw the stock boy looking my way.  I held up the package of Werthers that I bought, hoping that he got the message.  He GOT the message alright, but I’m not sure WHAT that message was.  He waved good-bye to me, a wisp of hopefulness in his eyes.

When I got back home, I logged onto Twitter.

“Does anyone use the term “sucking candies?”

I was surprised that nobody had ever used the term before.  My entire family calls them “sucking candies.”  “Good and Plenty” is candy.  A Hershey’s Bar is  chocolate.  A Werther’s is “sucking candy.”  Where did this term come from and why was I the only one using it?

Last night, Ninja Poodles sent me a message.  She noticed this on Margalit‘s Twitter. 

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Yeah!  I’m not alone.

Since both Margalit and I are Jewish, I wonder if “sucking candy” is a Jewish term that was changed for the West Coast.

I Love You

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This afternoon, Sophia and I watched some reality/food TV show called “Take Home Chef” on TLC. In the show, hunky Australian-British chef, Curtis Stone, accosts clueless women shopping in a Los Angeles supermarket and invites himself over to their home to cook an elegant meal. In the episode we saw, Curtis finds a pretty brunette in the cereal aisle, a stay-at-home mommyblogger in the making, who finds it impossible to say no to Curtis’s offer of a “surprise” dinner for her vegetarian husband (or be on TV).

As Angelenos, Sophia and I recognized the supermarket as the upscale “Gelson’s Market” which must have assured the producers that the “victim” would be in the right upscale demographic. As Curtis and the wife drive home (from now on I will refer to her as FM — future mommyblogger), Curtis asks FM to call her husband to make sure he won’t be home until five o’clock, plenty of time to prepare the surprise meal.

FM calls her husband on the phone. They blab a bit. Before FM hangs up, the husband says, “I love you,” and FM answers, “I love you, too.” How cute!

Later, in the show, as Curtis prepares his eggplant and risotto, FM calls her husband again, to double check his arrival time. Just like before, the conversation ends with mutual “I love you”‘s.

As Sophia and I sat on the couch, watching this nonsense:

Neil: “Did you see how they always said “I love you” to each other? Every single time. Maybe that was our problem. Maybe we didn’t say “I love you” enough.”

Sophia: “We always said, “I love you.”

Neil: “But not after every phone call.”

Sophia: “That was not our problem.”

Neil: “Maybe we should try their technique. Always saying “I love you” at the end of every phone call.”

Sophia: “Now?”

Neil: “Why not?”

Sophia: “We’re separated. Just because you’re here doesn’t change our status.”

Neil: “We still love each other, right?”

Sophia: “Sure… but…”

Neil: “Maybe this will just help us to relate better…”

Sophia: “It’s cute, but…”

Neil: “But don’t you love me, regardless of…”

Eventually, I wore Sophia down and she agreed to try my experiment.

The rest of the TV show sucked. The dopey husband came home to his big surprise, tried to look happy while really looking pissed, and the couple ate their vegetarian meal while Curtis said goodbye and left their lives forever.

Later, I went to Starbucks for a cup of coffee. As I tried to do the crossword puzzle, Sophia called me up and asked me to pick up some groceries at the supermarket (not Gelson’s).

Neil: “Sure.”

Sophia: “Thanks.”

Neil: “I love you, Sophia.”

Sophia: “Oh, right. I love you, too.”

As I drove to the supermarket, Sophia called me again.

Sophia: “You know, I’m actually pretty hungry now. Rather than going to the supermarket, could you go to the Thai restaurant and bring back some soup and a noodle dish?”

Neil: “OK.”

Sophia: “I’ll see you soon.”

Neil: “Wait… wait…”

Sophia: “Yes… yes, I love you.”

Neil: “I love you, too.”

I made it to our favorite Thai restaurant, which we think is run by three Thai teenagers, who take turns cooking, serving, and singing Thai karaoke.

I ordered some spicy noodles.

“What type of meat?” asked Thai Teenager #1.

I called Sophia on the phone and asked her the same question. She wanted “beef.”

“Beef,” I told the Thai Teenager, then sat down to wait for my order. As I listened to Thai Teenager #2 singing some Thai disco song, I realized that something was wrong with the world. I quickly dialed up Sophia on the phone.

Neil: “You forgot to say “I love you.” at the end of the last conversation.”

Sophia: “No, I did say it. But you hung up too quickly to hear it.”

Neil: “No, you didn’t. I said “I love you,” and then I was waiting for your response.”

Sophia: “You never said ‘I love you!” You asked me “What type of meat?” I said “Beef.” And then you hung up.”

Neil: “No, you said, “Beef.” I said, “I love you.” And then nothing.”

Sophia: “You’re crazy. You didn’t say anything after I said “Beef.””

Neil: “Maybe you didn’t hear me. Maybe it was the reception. Or you thought I said “Beef” when I said “I love you.””

Sophia: “I’m not going to mistake “Beef” for “I love you.””

Despite wanting to continue with my experiment, I knew this was not for us.

Neil: “You know what? I think if we continue saying ‘I love you” after every phone call, we’re not only going to get divorced, we won’t even want to talk to each other.”

Sophia: “Thank God you realize that!”

Neil: “Do you want white rice or brown rice?”

Sophia: “Brown rice.”

Neil: “OK, see you soon.”

Sophia: “Bye.”

Later, I went home and we enjoyed our Thai food lovingly prepared by Thai Teenager #3. The rest of the night was very nice and we didn’t say “I love you” even once.

Sometimes, love is never having to say “I love you.”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Dating for Liberals

Pee Like a Man!

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(Manneken Pis in Brussels)

Men, let’s be honest.  Women online are selfish. We  care about their issues — body image, fashion, mommyblogging, etc., but when it comes to OUR issues, they are strangely silent. How else do you explain the lack of outcry on this story from Norway?

The head of The Democrats Party, a splinter group of former Progress Party hardliners, Vidar Kleppe, is outraged that boys at Dvergsnes School in Kristiansand have to sit and pee.

Kleppe accuses the school of fiddling with God’s work, and wants the matter discussed at the executive committee level of the local council, newspaper Dagbladet reports.

“When boys are not allowed to pee in the natural way, the way boys have done for generations, it is meddling with God’s work,” Kleppe told the newspaper.

… [School Principal Anne Lise] Gjul told NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) that the young boys are simply not good enough at aiming, and the point was to have a pleasant toilet that could be used by both boys and girls.

Can you imagine the humiliation that boys in Norway are going through? Why do we send troops to Iraq and not Norway? Is there anything more central to being a man than the joy of standing there, taking aim, and peeing? What boy wants to sit like a girl?

No wonder why Europeans are turning into a bunch of wusses.

I believe this is another step towards world domination by feminists. Does it surprise you that it it is School Principal ANNE Lise Gjul who is destroying the manliness of Norwegian men, a country once so famous for it’s virile men that a song was written about them — Norwegian Wood?

Pretty soon, I fear that men will be put into metal cages and President Hillary Clinton will sign a bill enabling women to marry their vibrators.

“Do you, Susan, take this pink vibrator…”

Things are especially bad in Europe.   Did you notice the statue of Manniken Pis (little boy peeing) that I showed at the top of the post?   Apparently, he isn’t good enough being Brussel’s long-time city’s trademark.

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In 1987 this statue of a girl urinating (Jeanneke Pis) was erected on the east side of the Impasse de la Fidélité / Getrouwheidsgang (Faith Alley), a narrow dead-end street some 100 metres long leading northwards off the restaurant-packed Rue des Bouchers / Beenhouwersstraat (Butchers’ Street). Now parents tell little boys that they have a “choice” over which method is more appropriate, but usually add that only “Americans” and “bad men” pee standing up and “peace-lovers” sit like a woman.”

I say, enough is enough.  It isn’t our fault that we can’t aim very well.

Years ago, when men were really men, we used to shoot animals with bows and arrows and guns. We achieved our aiming skills through ACTION. Now “feminists” have decided that “hunting” and “killing” are bad for society. Is it any wonder we piss on the seat? Mothers teach their daughters about having their first period.  Fathers DO NOT teach their sons how to pee.

Men, I say it is time to turn back the clock against the feminizing of society. I want you, whether you or at home or at work, to STAND UP — Yes, right NOW, stand up, proudly walk to the bathroom, pull down your zipper with a sense of purpose, and take a PISS! Take that PISS standing up! Feel the cool Fall air. Listen to the sound the water, so much like the mighty Colorado River. Feel a bond with men throughout history — Abraham Lincoln, Alexander the Great, Douglas MacArthur — all men who urinated standing up. Yes, even Adam peed standing up in the Garden of Eden. Shout it out loud, “I am a man and I take a PISS standing up!”

You’re a man, for god sakes. Pee like one!

Popeye Attacked by Anti-Spinach Mob

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The title of this post is misleading.  I was going to write a humor piece about Popeye, but as I sat down to watch an old Popeye cartoon on YouTube, a long-repressed memory was awoken, much as the memories of childhood of Proust’s narrator in “Remembrance of Things Past” was awakened by the aroma and taste of a madeleine dipped in tea.”

As i listened to the final “boop boop” of the Popeye closing credits, I went back to my childhood, when I used to watch reruns of Popeye on a local New York TV channel.  I must have been very young at the time and I was fascinated by the triangle of Popeye, Olive Oyl and the villainous Bluto.

The plot lines in the animated cartoons tended to be simple.

A villain, usually Bluto (later renamed Brutus for a time), makes a move on Popeye’s “sweetie”, Olive Oyl. The bad guy then clobbers Popeye until Popeye eats spinach, which gives him superhuman strength.

I especially liked it when Olive Oyl melted in Popeye’s arms at the end, after he defeated Bluto.

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As an only child, I was competitive with my father for my mother’s attention.  I think Freud would have loved to analyze my childhood obsession with Popeye.

I would ask my mother to cook some frozen spinach.  After they were cooked, I would have her  put the cooked spinach into a used can of Spaghetti-Os so I could make believe that I had a can of spinach like Popeye.  I have no idea why we just didn’t use a can of spinach!   Once I had my can of spinach as my acting prop, I became Popeye — in the same way Sir Laurence Olivier became Hamlet.  My mother was Olive Oyl.  She would go into her bedroom or the kitchen and cry for help.  I would eat some spinach out of the can with a fork, flex my bicep, and rush in to save her from whatever danger she was in.

Jeez, no wonder I repressed this.  How embarrassing!

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I called up my mother tonight.

Neil: Guess what I’m going to write about in my blog tomorrow?  “Popeye and spinach!”

Mom: Really?  Be careful with spinach.  There’s all that bad bagged spinach coming out of California.  Remember to wash it first.

Neil: I’m not calling you about spinach.  Do you remember watching Popeye?

Mom: I never watched Popeye as a child.  I never liked him.   He had this one eye.  And creepy voice.  And weird body.

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Neil: But you watched him with me.  Remember?

Mom: Did we?

Mom: Mom, it was a big deal for me back then.  I would be Popeye and you would be Olive Oyl — and I would rescue you?

Mom: We did that?

Neil: Yes!  Don’t you remember you would cook frozen spinach and put it in a Spaghetti-Os can?

Mom: Wouldn’t it make more sense to just buy a can of spinach?

Neil: I was going to ask you that!  Why did we do that?

Mom: I don’t remember this at all.  Maybe you played it with your friend Robert.

Neil: I played it with YOU.

Mom: I remember playing Scrabble with you.

Neil: Oh my god!  You’ve repressed the memory — just like I did!

Mom: And well… maybe it’s better that way.

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