Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: New Year

Something Symbolic

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photo by Sophia

After we attended the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Sophia, my mother, and I went to a New Year’s Day get-together at the home of an acquaintance who lived in Rancho Palos Verdes.  This is a hilly and exclusive part of LA where people have houses that look over the Pacific Ocean.

I was standing on their patio, late afternoon, watching the sun begin to set over the water, when Jay, a friend of a friend, came onto the patio.

“It looks like it might be clear enough for a green flash.” he said.

He explained that as the sun set in the water, there was sometimes an optical light trick that looked like a green flash.

I was very excited to hear him talk about this. As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, one of my favorite movies is the French director Erich Rohmer’s “Le Rayon Vert.”  In the film, the main character’s waiting for this green “ray” during a sunset is central to the story.  I thought this “green flash” was a fictional invention, not a real happening that I could experience myself!

Jay wasn’t patient enough to wait, but I stood there, eager for the flash to occur. To see this green flash would surely be something, especially on January 1st.  It would be symbolic of a New Year that holds something special in store, maybe even mystical. And what could be more mystical than a spark of light seen only for a second during sunset.  Even that crazy Kabbalah can’t promise THAT!

Being a sentimental type, I’m always searching for something symbolic to happen on New Year’s Eve.  Unfortunately, it never comes.  Maybe that’s why I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s celebrations.  New Year’s parties are always a disappointment.  Everyone is always working so hard to be jovial.  And the next day, life is always the same as it was in the previous year, except now you have a hangover.  Even watching the “New Year’s ball” coming down in Times Square is a let-down.   I live in California.  Why am I cheering for an event that happened three hours earlier in another state?

So, you can imagine how excited I was to see this green flash.  This could be the New Year’s symbol I have been waiting for — something that will help push my 2007 in the right direction.

The Rose Parade was supposed to be the big event jump-starting my 2007, but it wasn’t.

I woke up on New Year’s Day at 5AM, full of energy.

As for the parade…

It was, well… interesting to attend, but it is one of those things you do once, and never do again.  What a pain in the ass!  It took us over two hours to drive from South Pasadena to our pre-paid parking in Pasadena.  A million people were crammed into Colorado Boulevard. We had great seats, right across from the Norton Simon Museum, but everyone was so tight-packed in the bleachers that you couldn’t even move your ams in order to take a photo.

A half hour into the parade, a stone-face couple, both around 65, forced their way into our row. Stone-Faced Husband demanded that I get up, because I was sitting in his seat. I told him that he might be mistaken, and I got up to check my ticket. As I stood, the Stone-Faced Husband grabbed his wife’s hand, and slid into my seat, almost pushing me over the edge.

“I paid 85 dollars for this seat and no one is taking it!” he yelled.

When I saw that Sophia was about to punch him in the nose, I stepped in. I looked at my ticket and told him that BOTH of us had seats side-by-side. They were just positioned impossibly tight together. I crammed my way in, purposely making the guy feel as uncomfortable as possible. I was pissed at the guy’s obnoxious attitude. He tried to explain away his rudeness.

“Parking was atrocious. They made me miss a half hour of the parade. And then I thought you took my seat –”

“Screw you, sir.” I said.

I don’t think I have ever said that to anyone in my life, certainly not someone of retirement age.

Some of the floats were fantastic, but once you’re at the parade, you realize the whole event is now catered to TV.  All the celebrities and singers perform in front of the camera, and then seem to take a coffee break for the rest of the route.  I half expected Grand Marshall George Lucas to wave for the cameras and then a few feet later, jump into a limo and head over to some sound-editing room in Burbank, letting the guy in the Darth Vader costume take over his duties for the rest of the parade.

Since we were sitting near the cameras, some “protesters” held a sign on the other side of Colorado Boulevard that read “IMPEACH.” I found this annoying, both because they were infringing on my enjoyment and because they were such lazy protesters. As they held their banner up for the cameras, they ate food and cheered for the floats. In today’s world, crazy Islamic radicals blow themselves up for Allah, but our protesters eat breakfast burritos while watching the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Anything to get on TV.

Another major distraction was a skywriter who started writing a mysterious message in the sky that became a major conversation in the stands. This was another infringement of my space. I would have paid good money to have the the Stealth bombers that started the parade, fly back and shoot him down.

The skywriter started his message with a “W.”

“What is he writing?” someone in the bleachers asked.

“It must be about the parade!” answered the girl behind me who kept on kicking my back.

The next letter looked like “I.”

“W — I –”

“It must be “Will you marry me?!” screamed some geeky guy in a Michigan sweater.

“Ooh! That is so romantic.” said the kicking girl.

“Can we all just focus on the parade?” I wanted to scream, but didn’t.

But the “I” was not an “I.” The skywriter continued until it became an “H.”

“W — H –??” asked the visitor from Michigan.

After two bands and two floats passed by, the mysterious message was revealed. It was “Who will she choose?”

“Who will she choose?”  What does that mean?” asked the Stone-Faced Senior who tried to steal my seat earlier. I decided to forgive and forget, and talk with him.

“I think this a promotion for “Desperate Housewives,” I said. “ABC’s booth is right next to us, and someone from Desperate Housewives is doing the announcing. I think it means WHICH GUY will the Teri Hatcher character pick?”

“I love that show!” said the kicking girl.

All in all, the Rose Parade is much, much better in your underwear, while sitting in bed.  At least there, you can Tivo past the commercials.

Clearly, the parade was not the symbolic moment I was looking for.  If something was going to prove to me that 2007 was going to be a special year, it was going to be the magical green flash over the Pacific Ocean.

I was alone on the patio as the sun set. Everyone else was in the house, listening to the host tell tales of his boating adventures.  He owned a small boat and loved to go fishing. He even owned several spear guns that he used to catch fish. When Sophia learned that he kept the spear guns in the house, she asked if she could see them. The host took out the spear guns and was showing it off to all the guests.

Sophia came out onto the patio.

“Neil, you need to come inside and see this. He has all this fancy fishing equipment.”

“In a minute,” I answered. The sun was getting lower and lower. I was trying to concentrate. Supposedly, this green flash only occurs for a brief moment.

My mother came onto the patio and said I should come inside with everyone else.

“I will. In a little bit.” I said.

Sophia came out again. She thought I might appear rude to the hosts by ignoring them.

“I’ll be there. I promise.”

I went back, focusing on the sunset. The sun sunk as low as it could, and then… there was a pause, as if time stood still, and then the sun… disappeared. There was no green ray or flash or anything.

So much for my symbolic New Year’s event.

I looked inside through patio window and saw everyone talking to the host about his boating and fishing, subjects that have little interest for me.  My mother was even taking a photo of Sophia holding a spear gun.

I never did see any green flash, but when I thought about it, I was glad I didn’t cave into the peer pressure of going inside. Sophia called for me. My mother called for me. The hosts were looking for me.  Normally, I would have stopped whatever I was doing, but this time I kept to my guns.  I waited for the green flash, like the character in a favorite movie, just because it was important to me.

And that was symbolic.

Turning Over a New Leaf

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I fasted today, but I didn’t go to temple for Yom Kippur.  I just didn’t feel like going.  On Yom Kippur, there is an important memorial service, and it would have been the first time going to the service for my father, and I just didn’t want to do it.  So, instead, I just broke all the rules.  I went to CVS pharmacy, bought myself a $3.99 disposable camera and walked to Hermosa Beach.  It felt very spiritual walking around the beach looking for photos to take.  Or then again, it could have just been hunger.

If you have any interest, you can see the photos here.  One warning:  the photos are not THAT interesting, and I’m not in any of them, so don’t get too pissed at making you do an extra click of the mouse for nothing.   If you’re never been this this part of the country, maybe you can get a sense of the “sleepy” beach community I’m living in right now. 

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I’ve grown to like Southern California, but I find October depressing in the dry West.  I love FALL.  I love what it represents — a new beginning.  I think the time of the Jewish New Year makes a lot more sense than January 1st.   I love the change of the weather and the leaves and the new school year and the new TV season, and everything new that goes with Fall.  As I was taking my walk today, I realized that today’s weather in Los Angeles was not that much different than it was on July 4th!  Where’s the change? 

Most of my blogging friends do NOT live in California.  I know you sometimes laugh at us for being weird and electing actors to be governor, uh — TWICE.   But try to remember that the State of California has enhanced your life in many ways:  the birth of the internet, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, California Pizza Kitchen, and the word “gnarly.” 

Now it is your turn to pay us back —

Could someone help a Southern Californian who is homesick for Fall and email him a photo of a leaf or tree changing colors?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthMan in the Mirror

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