the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Thanksgiving

iPhone Notes from Veronica and Di’s Visit

Wednesday, November 24

Veronica (V-Grrrl), one of my oldest and dearest blog friends, is coming to Queens this afternoon for Thanksgiving, along with her husband, her two teenage children, and Di Mackey (visiting from Belgium).

My mother and I are waiting for their arrival. Although they said the trip should take five hours coming up from the South, it is now seven hours since they left.   Not unexpected knowing pre-Holiday traffic.


I received a phone call from Veronica’s husband saying that they reached New Jersey.  They assume, based on what their GPS says, that they will reach Queens in forty-five minutes.   I just turned to my mother, who is watching “Judge Judy” on the television, and told her that they arrived in New Jersey.

“OK, it’s going to take them another three hours,” she said.

I agreed, and we laughed.


And we were right!  It took them ten hours to come to Queens.  Veronica’s husband parked the car down the block.   The others stumbled out, their bodies creaky and bent-over from hours in traffic.  Veronica was the last to exit.  I felt a sense of warmth seeing her again, despite her looking like she could use a serious nap.


I have met Veronica and her family in person before (I had visited them last Christmas), but this was my first time meeting Di Mackey. I forgot, that despite her living in Belgium as a photographer, that she was born a Kiwi.  I was surprised to hear her New Zealand accent, with its dusty, rough-and-ready timbre.

After we hugged, she asked me, “And where’s your mum?”

“What?!” I asked, not understanding her question.

“Your mum!”

Funny Kiwis.


Everyone was hungry after their arrival, so I called my mother down from the apartment building, and we walked over to Valentino’s Pizzeria, famous for its shrine to Fran Drescher (“The Nanny”), one of our block’s most famous former residents.


Still at Valentino’s.  Di is fascinated by the large portion of pasta at Valentino’s.   While Veronica and I mock American culture, Di seems to love our country.

“The people are so friendly,” she said.

“Maybe you’re the friendly one.” I said, already noticing how she had immediately started conversations with the waiter and a Chinese woman standing in the street, carrying an umbrella.

She was also “blown away” by her visit with Veronica and her daughter to… Marshall’s at the mall!   Apparently, in Belgium, there are two types of women’s clothing shops — ones that are very expensive and ones completely schlocky. There aren’t stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, where the average woman can buy designer clothes at a discount.

Di mentioned that her new-found enthusiasm for American life got her in trouble with some blog readers back home, who thought she was dissing Belgium with her glowing reviews of Marshall’s and Applebee’s.   After all, asked her friends, wasn’t it the Belgians who really invented the waffle?


We’re back home and I am falling asleep.  A few weeks ago, when I first told my mother that I invited guests over, she wasn’t THAT happy. She was traveling to Florida for the winter a few days after Thanksgiving, and didn’t want to deal with the cooking, etc.    But now she is enjoying herself with the guests.  She is chatting with Veronica and Di as they watch the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”


Knowing that my mother was leaving town in a few days, Veronica and Di presented me with a cool — and amusing — gift.    They wrote — by hand — a small cookbook for me, with easy to make recipes.  They also gave me twenty essential McCormick spices to have in the cabinet.  If you follow me on Facebook, you might remember that I once asked a question about the essential spices every cook should have, which caused a minor fight amongst other Facebookers debating the merits of such things as tarragon and cinnamon.


Thursday, November 25

We are in the subway. We woke up at 5AM so we can find a good place to stand at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Despite growing up in New York, I have never gone to the parade.  Maybe it is the idea of waking up at 5AM that had something to do with it.

When we entered the subway station, it was fun seeing everyone’s confusion over using the Metrocards.  For some reason, Di has compared the NYC subway to the train system in Istanbul!   She is now chatting with this grandmother who is sitting next to her.

Di talks to everyone.


We are on 50th Street.   We got a decent spot.  The parade is in progress.  But the waiting for the parade, and now the standing and watching the parade is tiring.  The event is fun, but it feels like my feet are falling off.

By chance, we picked a spot that couldn’t be more “American” in culture.  We are across the street from

1) an Applebee’s restaurant

2) a huge, building-length billboard for some ultra-violent video game where each game character is holding a shiny phallic gun.

3) some tropical island tourist billboard, where a woman’s bikini is half-falling off.

Surprisingly, this inappropriate billboard is quickly becoming the highlight of the parade for Veronica and her kids.  They are each amusing themselves by trying to photograph each balloon character at the exact moment it floats by the billboard, making the character look like he is trying to grab the woman’s bikini, or just plain sleazy.

I like Veronica’s family!

Photos by V-grrrl —


It is now night. My mother cooked up quite a Thanksgiving dinner. To top it off, Veronica and her family brought three delicious pies from a bakery down South.


It is after dinner and we are now watching the parade on TV that we saw in person earlier in the day.  What a vastly different experience.

First of all, most people on the parade route never see any of the Broadway show routines that they perform for the cameras in front of Macy’s.  Also, the celebrities on the floats, such as Kanye West and Gladys Knight, mostly wave and yawn as they travel down the parade route, reserving their energy for when the camera lights go on.  Sometimes, the floats passed by so fast, you’re not sure who it was that was waving at you.   We just learned from the NBC broadcast that the five clean-cut guys on the Build-a-Bear float were some popular boy band on Nickelodeon!

Even though you see more of the parade on TV, the NBC broadcast has become very cloying and commercial.  Was it better years ago?   Now it seems that they break away from the parade every five minutes so Al Roker could interview — wait, is that a star from one of NBC’s new shows who just “happens” to be standing there on the parade route?!


Friday, November 26

We’re back in the subway this morning, this time to Battery Park to take the boat to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

My photo of Ellis Island (via iPhone)


Today, it is Di’s day to shine. I am watching how she takes her photos. She has such an eye for detail.

Here’s an example in one of her photos from Ellis Island.


We have returned to Queens.  Veronica’s husband just found out that he got a $70 parking ticket because he misread one of New York’s many confusing parking enforcement tickets. He is a little mad at himself for making the mistake.  I am telling him that rather than feeling upset, he should consider getting this overpriced parking ticket the most authentically New York experience that he will have this entire weekend.


We just ate dinner.  Why do leftovers always taste better?


After dinner, we were using my mother’s laptop to show each other various funny videos from YouTube.  I remembered that there was a parody version of the song, “Empire State of Mind,” titled “Forest Hills State of Mind,” which prominently showcases the Queens subway stop at 71st Street and Continental Avenue, which is where we caught the E train each day en route to Manhattan.  I thought I would amuse everyone by showing it.

OK, now remember, I don’t have kids.  So it didn’t even occur to me that this video, filled with references to motherf*ckers and other NSFW items, might not have been been the best Holiday video for the entire family.  From now on, I’ll remember to check the ratings before I show Veronica’s family any videos!  (Yeah, like photographing Thanksgiving Day balloon as sleazy characters is “normal” family behavior.)


Di wants to take some photos of me.   She tells me to stop mugging and “look natural.”

by Di Mackey


Saturday, November 27

My guests are going home later today in order to avoid the big traffic on Sunday.  We are at the Dominican Diner having breakfast.

A few moments ago, Di ordered a bagel, saying that she hadn’t yet tasted a “real New York bagel.” My mother and I exchanged glances.  Both of us know that the bagels at the diner are terrible, probably from the supermarket.  My mother gestured to me, as if to say, “Eh, don’t tell her, and she won’t know the difference. Why ruin the moment for her.”


She loved the crappy bagel.


I just said good-bye to everyone, hugging Veronica, Di, and Veronica’s daughter.   I have been feeling a little lonely since leaving LA.  Their visit was just what I needed.

The Free Turkey


My mother doesn’t like to waste money, and similar to many other Jewish mothers of her generation, she can sense a sale at Loehmann’s from miles away.

Which brings me to Thanksgiving.

Recently, a new supermarket took over in the space across the street.  At first, everyone in my apartment building loved the shiny new store because it was clean, had a brightly-lit produce section, and the check-out people said “Thank You,” something previously unheard of in a Queens supermarket.  The local customers froze in shock upon hearing these words, as if they had just entered an alternative universe.

But these niceties came at a huge price. The supermarket was stingy on sales.  The previous supermarket had a cluttered appearance, like a desk covered in post-it notes.  Everywhere you looked, there were colorful, mismatched stickers and hanging banners screaming out a new promotion, such as “Canned Peas!  Buy One, Get One Free!”

These constant promotions served two purposes — they created excitement and they distracted the customers from focusing on the unorganized shelving and inept customer service.

There were few sales at this new, more upscale store, and never on anything that people really needed as a necessity.  Last week’s big promotion was for “Fresh Halibut at $8.99 a pound.”

The bomb dropped this week when rumors spread throughout the apartment building that the supermarket wasn’t even going to offer a free turkey for Thanksgiving (usually for spending $25 dollars in purchase, with one per customer, of course)!  This had been a Holiday tradition with the supermarkets in this spot for the last forty years.   It was a tradition held as sacred to Queens residents as nativity scenes are to those who live in the mid-West.

My mother was very upset at the supermarket.

Now I can hear some of you grumbling and snickering at home.

“How cheap are you people in Queens?  Why don’t you pay for your own freaking turkey?  That’s what is wrong with liberals — always looking for a hand-out!”

Before you pontificate, let me try to explain this in a language that you will understand.

Imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and go on Twitter, and you are greeted by a smiling cartoon Twitter bird with  the message, “We have finally figured out how to make money with Twitter.  Please pay $10 a month if you want access to your account.  Thanks.”   Are you going to say, “What a clever business model?”    Or are you going to be pissed, used to getting the milk from the cow for free?!

Think about that as you snicker!

You should also understand that my mother is a dangerous woman.  She is strong-willed AND retired, which means she is stubborn AND has too much time on her hands.

“I heard the supermarket on 164th Street is giving you a free turkey if you spend $25 dollars,” she said.

“You want to go all the way to 164th Street just for a turkey?  Is someone driving there?”

“No, I thought we’d walk over with the shopping wagon.”

“That supermarket is over a mile away!”


“Let’s just get it downstairs.  I’ll pay for the turkey.”

“No, it’s the principle of the thing.  Getting the free turkey is an essential part of Thanksgiving.  It’s like the Indians sharing their food with the Pilgrims.”

“And look what happened to the Indians.”

“If you don’t want to go, I’ll go myself and schlep the wagon up the hill, along with the heavy turkey, so everyone in the building will see me breathing heavy, walking two miles, and wondering if you’re sooooo “busy” at home writing one of your porno posts for your blog that you couldn’t help your mother carrying the turkey.”

“Nice,” complimenting her guilt shtick.

“Besides, you did say that you wanted to exercise more.”

I lost the battle.  Off we went to get our free turkey.

When we returned home, we were exhausted, and my back hurt from pushing the shopping wagon, filled with groceries and a 14 pound frozen turkey.

“So, honestly, Mom…” I asked.  “Was schlepping all this way just to get a free turkey really worth it?”

“Absolutely,” she replied, as she placed the frozen turkey in the bottom of the refrigerator to start its long thaw.

(note to Sarah Gilbert.   Next year,  I will try a Heritage turkey, which I never even heard of before until you mentioned it on Twitter!)

The Third Annual “Thank Your First Commenter Day”


Much like the Pilgrims thanked the Indians after they had their first decent meal in the New World, I like to use Thanksgiving, not only as an excuse to stuff myself with turkey, but as an opportunity to thank the first blogger who ever commented on this blog.  This individual is the one who transformed Citizen of the Month from a dopey journal where I write about nonsense to a… uh, dopey “blog” where I write about nonsense and others read it!

I can’t believe that I’ve been blogging for three years already, and I’m up to thanking my THIRD commenter. THREE YEARS?! Three years without getting a penny from blogging! Three years without feeling up one female blogger! What the hell am I doing this for?! But like those hardy Pilgrims, I continue on and face my demons, doing the hard work to build something worthwhile, never asking for thanks, just knowing that one day my ancestors will be in the Social Register, discriminating against YOU at the country clubs in Connecticut.

Oh, right. And for the comments. I love my commenters!

My first commenter with Terry Finley. It was a short relationship. After his one comment, we lost touch, and he abandoned his blog. Still, we always remember our first, don’t we?… unless it was really, really bad. But Terry was pretty nice. Here was his comment:

Nice blog. Thank you.

Our health is really important.

Check out my blog.

Terry Finley

My blogging career was underway.

My SECOND commenter was The Reluctant Optimist (well, actually he was called something else at the time, but then he changed his name, worrying that his frequent posts about big-breasted women might sabatoge his work with the United States Military. He is very special to me, especially since he is a MALE reader who still reads this blog.

This is what I wrote about him last year:

At first glance, TRO and I have little in common. He is a Southerner, a former Air Force Officer who served with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. But blogging can make strange bedfellows, and despite our differences in political views at times, we immediately bonded over our love for buxom brunettes. Now, THAT is what the true meaning of the blogosphere is all about. So, thank you TRO!

(TRO — Loved that recent photo of Selma Hayek (you’re never gonna get a date if you spell her name as Hyack. What an actress!)

Surprisingly, his first comment shows no evidence of our future friendship (or does it?):

Two problems with your post.

One, this was not hard news. It wasn’t news at all. Evidently it was fiction.

Secondly, an inflammatory story like this can cause violence — especially in the middle-east where violence is inflamed quite easily. Comparing it to the questionable effects of a video game is faulty logic at best and disingenuous at worst.

And the Arab “street” believes it because they keep hearing it from the liberal anti-American media as well as their own anti-American outlets.

That’s why blogging is so great. It always surprises you!

This year, I will thank my THIRD COMMENTER – Richard Heft.  This is a unique situation, because Richard is actually a “real life” person, someone who knew me B.B. –“before blogging.”   He was good friends with Sophia before she met me, and then we became friends.  I only  have a few real-life friends who ever come to my blog.   Although Richard doesn’t have a blog himself, he comes by every once in a while, showing off his brains and wit. Naturally, his first comment was about some esoteric foreign movies.

One of the problems with concepts like the YMDB is that you really need two lists: my list of “Favorite” films (which always starts with ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN) bears no resemblance to my list of “Best” films ever made (which starts with TOKYO STORY, SUNRISE, OR CHILDREN OF PARADISE, depending on the phases of the moon).

I’ve never seen THE GREEN RAY (I assume it’s a French adaptation of the Green Lantern comic book; what else COULD it be?), but I’ve always filed LIFE & DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP under “mammoth but minor.” It’s basically a long (long!) propaganda film, with memorable performances by Livesey and Walbrook, but I’ve never felt the urge to watch it a second time. For WWII-era Michael Powell movies, I much prefer A CANTERBURY TALE and THE 49TH PARALLEL.

And for you and Dinah to hook up, Neal, you’re going to have to brush up your Mizoguchi and hone your Ozu.

Thank you, Richard, for being my third commenter and a good friend, even if no one understood what we were talking about during that post! And “Dinah” ended up being Communicatrix, but that’s another story.

Who was your first commenter? Or second? If you want to thank your first commenter for Thanksgiving, it’s easy. Just go all the way back into your archives and there he or she is — waiting for you!

Other thankful bloggers:  Kapgar, Danny, Ascender, Elisabeth, Otir (thankful in French, which is sexy), 180/360, Nance, and Not Fainthearted.

P.S. —

My father loved watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. At the end, he would call me over, yelling all excitedly, “It’s Santa Claus!” I don’t understand why this middle-aged Jewish man loved Santa Claus so much. At the hospital he worked in, he dressed up as Santa Claus during every Christmas and went to the children’s ward to give gifts. He was the scrawniest Santa Claus ever, in his thick Woody Allen-type glasses.

Thanksgiving means the start of the Holiday Season, not only because Macy’s wants to sells me stuff, but because that’s how I remember it. I remember the enthusiasm of my father… and we didn’t even celebrate Christmas!

So, coming up LATER THIS WEEK — two announcements about upcoming events:

1) The First Blogger Holiday Arts and Crafts Sale (bloggers — sell your artwork, doo-dads, and knitted hats AS GIFTS — at the biggest promotional blog post ever! Right here on Citizen of the Month!)


And, of course… The 2007 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert (can we make it even more fabulous than last year?!) I’ll try to improve on last year’s lame Hanukkah “Latkes song.” Take out those instruments and get ready to sing!

(Sign up will begin shortly. Kyran is already practicing her Jingle Bells)

Jamelah, 2006 Christmahanukwanzaakah Concert Poster Girl

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: A Charlie Brown Blog Post (for Ninja Poodles)

Can Jews Have Sex During Hanukkah?


Help!  Today is Thanksgiving!  That means, that Sophia and I are going over to Beth and Roger’s home for dinner.  They are lovely people and I’m sure everything will be terrific.  It’s just that their family is so… not Jewish. 

I hate to bring this up, but you know that scene in Annie Hall when Annie Hall’s family looks at Woody Allen like he is a Hasid.  It’s not the ham that bothers me.  They also serve turkey.   I’ve gotten used to all the pumpkin-colored sweaters that everyone wears.  I can even deal with everyone holding hands before the meal and thanking Jesus, our Savior.  And it’s not even the drunken woman who actually asked me last year “Can Jews can have sex during Hanukkah?” 

For me, the big problem is… the football. 

After the Thanksgiving meal, the women hang out in the kitchen while the men go into the living room to watch sports.   Bleh!  Call me a metrosexual if you want, but from my point of view, shouldn’t men WANT to hang around with the gender that smells good and has tits?

Last year, Sophia pushed me into the living room, hoping I’d do some male bonding.  I did get one good laugh out of the guys, when I mistakenly called NASCAR as NASDAQ. 

This year, I want to be prepared for the inevitable male-bonding:

Who is playing in the big game today and what are the names of the top players of each team?   Women are not the only ones who know how to fake things.

P.S. — If you haven’t had a chance to “Thank Your First Commenter,” feel free to do so today!

The Second Annual Thanksgiving “Thank Your First Commenter” Day


Tommy the Turkey hated that Americans ate turkey on Thanksgiving Day. It really pissed him off. He wrote letters to conservative blogs like Michelle Malkin, but they just ignored him. He ranted and raved to the liberals on The Huffington Post until the editors blocked him from their site.

At last, Tommy the Turkey decided to start his OWN BLOG, The Daily Cackle. For weeks, he clucked his heart out daily for an audience of one — himself. Then, one morning, Tommy the Turkey logged on to his blog and saw that he had a comment:

“Tough luck, you stupid turkey! I can’t wait until Thanksgiving to stuff you with stuffing and eat you with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce!”

Cranky Blogster

“Oh my god,” Tommy the Turkey gobbled happily, “I have my FIRST COMMENT!”

This proves that it doesn’t really matter who your first commenter is — someone friendly or an absolute idiot. It’s still a comment! It is what you’ve been waiting for as a newbie blogger. Getting a comment means that you have been accepted into the community. You are officially a BLOGGER.

Thanksgiving is a day of thanks, so why not thank other bloggers? If you spend as much time as me online, you know more about other bloggers than some of your co-workers. I’ve met so many great people online. I want to thank all of you for making blogging such a wonderful experience.

I thank everyone who has found his or her way to Citizen of the Month.

And since this is “Thank Your First Commenter Day,” I thank you, Terry Finley for the very first comment on my blog:

Nice blog. Thank you.

Our health is really important.

Check out my blog.

Terry Finley

Simple, but direct.

Sadly, we lost touch after that first comment, so I’d like to also thank the first commenter that still reads me and that I consider a blogging friend — the former TWM, now at Not So Confidential.

At first glance, NSC and I have little in common. He is a Southerner, a former Air Force Officer who served with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. But blogging can make strange bedfellows, and despite our differences in political views at times, we immediately bonded over our love for buxom brunettes. Now, THAT is what the true meaning of the blogosphere is all about. So, thank you NSC!

And a Happy Thanksgiving to all my blogging friends!

(other Thanskgiving blogging fun)

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