the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: road trip

Call Box


I brought along a pile of old CDs to play in the car as we drove to Las Vegas.  I had planned on us leaving Friday morning, but Sophia had the idea of leaving Thursday night instead.  I was wary of the idea, not liking the idea of driving for five hours after a long day working.  Sophia argued that if we followed her plan, we would get another day of vacation by waking up in Las Vegas on Friday.
She won the argument, as usual.

I was driving Sophia’s Prius.  We had just left Los Angeles County.  Cake was playing in the CD player.  Sophia liked a song, and tried to sing along, but couldn’t figure out lyrics.

“What is he saying?” she asked. “I have no pants?”  “I have to pant?”  “I have an aunt?””

Sophia played the song over an over again, trying to decipher the lyrics.

And she calls me obsessive.

A collective lightbulb popped up over our heads.  We have iphones.  We have an app in which you can lift the iphone up to a speaker, and it will figure out the title and artist of any song, as well as give you links to YouTube videos and lyrics to the song.

Sophia was now free to sing songs, knowing the lyrics.  This made her very happy.  We listened to ten songs, using the iphone to bring us the correct lyrics.  Sophia’s energy was infectious.  I sang along.  The Prius was filled with our voices.  This is what life SHOULD be.  Away from the chaos of urban life, on the open desert road, the dust and darkness surrounding us, a primitive landscape as seen from the modern comfort of our musically-filled cocoon.

Because we were singing so loudly, it took us a moment to realize that the car was started to stall.  We were out of gas.  The battery of the Prius had also run out of juice.  I was assuming that Sophia was watching the dashboard, since it was HER CAR.  Sophia assumed that since I was driving, I would be smart enough to have seen the blinking empty gas light.

This is exactly what has happened over and over again in our marriage.  We would be having fun, and then realizing that no one had done the taxes, or paid the bills.  And then the fun stopped.

I slid the car to the right shoulder.  I had never run out of gas before.  We started blaming each other, but quickly stopped.  It was more important RIGHT NOW to come up with a plan.   It was midnight.  We were in some deserted stretch of the 15 Freeway in San Bernadino Country, 40 miles from the next town.

Earlier that night, our iphones saved us by deciphering the lyrics to songs.  Now, we need them to save our lives again.  But just our luck.  There was NO SERVICE!  Thanks a lot, ATT.   I stepped out of the car, carefully avoiding the trucks whizzing by, hoping to catch a signal, but nothing.  Sophia did the same on the passenger side.

“I think something bit me!” she said, as the dust made my eyes itchy.

Now we were getting a little scared.  I once saw this movie about two strangers stuck in the desert, when a sleazy looking trucker stopped, offering his help, and then —

I wanted to tell Sophia about this movie, but decided that it was not the appropriate time.  Instead, I did what any male does in a situation like this, when there is a helpless woman at his side — I worried and bit my nail.

“What do we do now?” I asked.

“You need to go find a call box.”

I walked through the darkness of the freeway shoulder until I found the call box.  I had a sudden urge to pee, but was afraid of a rattlesnake jumping up and biting my dick off.

I reached the call box.  The instructions were written in a font so small that I had to take off my glasses and use the iphone for a flashlight.  I called someone — some gruff sounding woman, I’m not sure who — highway patrol?  — who connected me to AAA.

The rest of the story is not that interesting.  It took the AAA an hour to show up.  The driver only had two gallons of gas on the truck, so we crossed our fingers, hoping we could make it to some nearby truck stop.  We luckily made it to the truck stop, where I quickly filled up the tank.  I didn’t want to hang around too long.  Everyone at the station looked EXACTLY like the trucker I remembered from the movie I didn’t want to tell Sophia.

Marital report card:

We cursed at each other, blamed each other, and exploited this experience as proof to why we shouldn’t be married, but we made it through with most of our dignity.  We made it to Las Vegas at 3AM.  We were cranky, but semi-amused by the adventure.

We didn’t freak out THAT MUCH.  We handled it.  And it made us proud.

Planning Our Road Trip


Sophia’s list of exciting things to do on our road trip to Portland:

Dune buggies in Florence, Oregon
Driving through Giant Redwoods
Jet boating on Rouge River
Mud Bath in Calistoga
“Safari West” in Santa Rosa
Hiking Near Pacific

Neil’s list of exciting things to do on our road trip to Portland:

Stopping at Los Bagels in the tiny town of Arcata, California, voted the best bagels outside of New York City.

Tentative plans:

Day 1 and 2 (next Saturday) — Santa Rosa/Napa

Day 3 – Mendocino

Day 4 – Eureka/Redwoods

Day 5 – More Redwoods, Gold Beach, Oregon

Day 6 – Florence/Yachats, Oregon

Day 7 – Portland

Any suggestions, like what do we do if it rains all the time?

The Noble Savage


I’m a long time admirer of 18th Century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, even though his beliefs are a bit nutty. 

Rousseau contended that man is essentially good, a “noble savage” when in the state of nature (the state of all the “other animals”, and the condition man was in before the creation of civilization and society), and that good people are made unhappy and corrupted by their experiences in society. He viewed society as “artificial” and “corrupt” and that the furthering of society results in the continuing unhappiness of man.

“Man is born free but everywhere is in chains,” said Rousseau.  His solution:  “Let us return to nature.”

Last week, I returned to nature.   I became a different person.  I didn’t shave.  I let my hair grow wild.  I did physical labor, I took my shirt off, I tried to f**k a woman in a rowboat.  Eventually, I just gave up wearing clothes completely.  I became a wild man.  At night, I would sit by the lake and talk with the ducks, as if they were my long-time friends.

But, soon it was time to go home.   The four hours back to New York City were the longest in my life.  As Sophia and my mother played “20 Questions,” I had a harder task — to slowly return to civilized society.  When we hit Poughkeepsie, NY, we stopped at a Mobil station.  I went into the restroom and shaved my beard off.   When we made it to Yonkers, we stopped at a McDonald’s.  I carried my clothes into the men’s room and covered my nakedness for the first time in three days.  It made me feel “civilized” again, but it also felt restrictive, as if I were wearing a mask.   By the time we crossed over the Throng’s Neck Bridge into the Bronx, I was beginning to speak words again, although I thought I was communicating fine with just my grunts and scratching of my chest hairs.  After all, if you think about it, words, like clothes, are facades we hide behind as we manipulate and abuse each another.

As we drove into Queens, my Berkshires vacation became nothing more than a memory.  I couldn’t visualize the lake anymore or hear the sound of the water. I forgot the names of the ducks and how I befriended them.

By the time we drove into Flushing, we were starved.  I remember that Mrs. Mogul wrote a comment a few days ago insisting I try East on Kissena Boulevard, saying it was one the best Chinese restaurants she’d ever eaten in.  We quickly headed to the restaurant to have some dinner.  Mrs. Mogul was right.  The food was absolutely delicious, especially the duck.

Yes, we were back to urban life.

Confucius says, “A wise man lives with ducks in nature, and eats them in the city.”


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  The Body Woman

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