the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: lunch

Ozymandias and PB&J


I’m not a particular religious or spiritual person, but I do notice connections between events, people, and ideas that lead me to believe that there is some unifying force, sort of a Six Degrees of Life.   I usually have no idea what the connections mean, if anything, but I get a calming sense in my body when things make sense in the world, and God isn’t just randomly throwing dice onto the Yahtzee board.

Like many of us, I have reconnected with some old schoolmates on Facebook.  Yesterday morning, I had a brief chat with a girl from elementary school.  Well, when I say “girl,” I still visualize her as one, still with pigtails, when she is really a married attorney with two children.  We joked about this poem we forced to memorize in sixth grade – Ozymandias by Percy Shelley.

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

At the time, it seemed a completely useless exercise in rote learning.  None of us, at that age, had any idea what this boring poem meant, but we were required to stand, one at a time, like in one of those movies about some prep school in England, and recite it out loud.  I remember practicing this stupid poem in front of my mother for hours.

My schoolmate and I were surprised that we still remembered some of the lines, particularly the opening.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

In high school, I encountered this famous poem again in Mrs. Waters’ class.  Now I could better understood the meaning, even if I still didn’t care — about how even the mighty eventually fade into dust, with Ozymandias being another name for Ramesses the Great, Pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt.

Yesterday, during lunch, I took a walk, still laughing about my early morning conversation with an old friend.   When I say “old friend,” I think I liked her a lot more than she liked me, and I used to doodle her name on the back of my notebook and she probably never thought about me, but that’s all in the past now.  I think.

Anyway, as I’m walking along Kissena Boulevard, I passed a parked car.  An couple in their late sixties were putting shopping bags into their trunk from the supermarket.   Hey — the woman was my former kindergarten teacher, now retired!  We chatted, and I told her that I had just spoken to another classmate who was in her class.  We talked about Facebook and email.  My former kindergarten teacher is learning more about the internet herself.

Here’s a photo I took (I know you see more of her chest than her face.  You can read WHATEVER you want into that)


After my falafel lunch, I encountered some kids returning from private school.   I forgot!  It is mid-August.  It is time for school again for some kids!  I know different schools start earlier and later, depending on the state and whether it is public or private.    But here they were — friendly looking kids with their new notebooks and pencils.

Since I had just eaten lunch, I suddenly had memories of school lunches — of metal lunch boxes promoting  the hottest TV shows (the first example of branding — are there American Idol lunch boxes?  Top Chef?) and the atrocious hot lunches we were served in the school cafeteria, filled with mystery meat and served by what seemed like angry prison guards.  School lunch was a blast, because we were always making fun about the awful nutritional level of the meals, but enjoyed it anyway.

Like many of you, my mother packed a PB&J sandwich almost every day in my lunchbox.  It was the STANDARD.


When I returned to my computer after lunch, I went on Twitter, with school lunches dancing in my head.  I asked all the mothers online if they still are mostly giving their kids peanut and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  I was surprised by the response — a unanimous cry of “no” — showing how out of it I am regarding children.  While I certainly knew about peanut allergies in kids, I didn’t realize how rampant it is today in the states.  I thought it was McDonald’s just trying not to get sued by separating the peanuts from the ice cream sundae, as told to by their smart lawyers.  But apparently, peanut butter is banned from most schools, like an obscene book.  At first I joked about the extremism of “peanut haters,” but then a few parents told me of the horror stories of their kids just touching a peanut butter jar and getting dangerously sick.

I had no idea this was such a serious matter.  I wonder why peanut allergies have become so rampant nowadays?

But this post is not really about peanut allergies.  It is about connections.  I started the day talking with a classmate about the poem Ozymandias.  We joked about it, much like we did when we learned geometry.  Why do we need to learn this?  What relevance will it ever have in our lives?

Yesterday, it finally had some relevance.   Yesterday, I learned that the KING of school lunches, the PB&J, had fallen from his throne.  Like Ozymandias, Pharoahs, Presidents, Actors, Singers — all of us — never stay King forever…

Yesterday, was a day to connect random events to my school days.  I talked to an old classmate.  I met my old teacher.   And I remembered that school — or something more mysterious — had taught me to connect poetry to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

(This post is dedicated to Dana in honor of her birthday because she loves poetry. She writes at Read Write Poem and My Gorgeous Somewhere)

What Did You Have For Lunch?


“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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