the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: the Berkshires

The Berkshires – A Wrap-Up

The Berkshires Have History —


Sophia, my mother, and I rented a house in Cheshire, MA for the week. It overlooked a lake with ducks and geese. We had a rowboat. In the middle of Cheshire is a monument to the town’s fame: The Cheshire Cheese Press.

In the 18th Century, a town had to have a Congregationalist church, in order to be officially incorporated in Massachusetts. Cheshire was founded by Baptists, so it had a problem becoming a town. Thomas Jefferson, the President at the time, was a strong advocate of religious liberty. The town of Cheshire honored Jefferson by creating an enormous wheel of cheese and shipping it off to the White House. The cheese was four feet in diameter, thirteen feet around, seventeen inches high, and weighed in at 1,235 pounds. Jefferson was quite pleased. Coincidentally, Wooly Mammoths had just been discovered, so the cheese was nicknamed, “The Mammoth Cheese,” popularizing the word “mammoth” as meaning “extra-large.”

Soon after receiving the cheese, Jefferson made his first mention of the term “separation of church and state,” in a letter, partly inspired by Cheshire’s problem as a town.

So on July 4th, remember the town of Cheshire and eat some American cheese!

The Berkshires Have Interesting Residents —


Sophia and I had the opportunity to meet the engaging blogger, Claire, who lived nearby. Keeping in the tradition of meeting in a blogger-appropriate spot, we met her in an unpretentious, but cool coffee shop on Main Street, North Adams. The three of us talked for nearly two hours about the beauty of Massachusetts and life in general. It was amusing that Sophia and I thought we were in “the country” while Claire felt we were still in a fairly “urban” environment.

As we left the coffee shop, Sophia hugged Claire goodbye. Suddenly, we heard some crazy old guy calling out, “And what about me? Can I get a hug, too?” Sophia, being Sophia, was happy to oblige, she went over and hugged the crazy guy. After saying that Sophia was just as nice and cute as his great-granddaughter, and how the hug made him all excited, he proudly showed us this framed photo of a little girl and a dolphin that he just bought at Goodwill for ninety-nine cents. He then proceeded to tell Sophia and Claire both dirty jokes and jokes about the Pope, such as, “The Pope has bird flu. He got it from the Cardinal.”

The owner of our vacation house ended up being a well-known professor of ethics. On our first day at the house, the place was pretty filthy from the last guests. We called Donald the “handyman in charge” who came by (a little drunk) to clean up. He fiddled around a bit, never letting go of the Pabst Blue Ribbon he was holding in his hand. He then proceeded to bad-mouth the owner, telling us that she hardly pays him anything for all the “work” he does. Not wanting professors everywhere to look bad, Sophia gave him a ten dollar “tip.”

The next day, Sophia, my mother, and I are relaxing on the back porch when, out of the shadows, Donald the handyman appears (another Pabst in his hand)! After we catch our breath, he asks us if he can help us in any way.

Could he show us how to fish? Would we like to know where to get good pizza?

Even after we said no, he stood around for a while, telling us how the ten dollar tip came in handy yesterday. Donald said that he didn’t really need the money or this job, but most of his finances was tied up in the stock market. When we didn’t give him another tip, we never saw him again.

The Berkshires are a Cultural Mecca —


Not only did we enjoy the beautiful scenery (when it wasn’t pouring), but we took in a tremendous amount of the Arts. We saw great exhibits at the Clark Museum in Williamstown and the Mass MOCA in North Adams. We heard music at Tanglewood in Lenox. We saw theater at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield. We saw an amazing dance performance at the gorgeous Jacob’s Pillow in Becket.

All this culture produced a surge of creativity in my soul. One night, as I sat on the back porch looking at the lake, a lightbulb lit up above my head. I had come up with the perfect creative solution for getting Sophia alone, away from mother.

It was as the Muses were whispering right into my ear, “Take Sophia out into the middle of the lake with the rowboat. Play some romantic music. She’ll be so excited seeing you rowing, that before you know it, she’ll be riding you in the boat until she screams out in pleasure like a wild loon.”

The next day, I set the plan in motion. I took the rowboat and rowed Sophia out into the middle of the lake. I fed her the strawberries we picked ourselves that morning on a farm.

“How about some music?” I asked.

“Music? How are we going to get music?”

“Modern technology.”

I took out my Sprint cellphone that I got through the Sprint Ambassador Program and clicked on “Music Download – Search.”

“How about if we download something appropriate — some music with ‘Lake’ in it?”

The first piece of music that popped up was an excerpt from “Swan Lake.”

“Sounds good. Classy and romantic,” I thought. “Perfect for sex in a rowboat.”

Five minutes passed. Downloading… Downloading… Downloading…

Sophia was getting bored.

“Forget about it,” she said.

“No, we need some mood music.”

“What for? Can’t we just listen to the quiet of the lake?”

It was time to tell her about my special plans for the afternoon. But I also had something else on my mind, because I’m a man who believes in protection before sex. I pulled out a lifejacket from under my seat.

“Sophia, I want you to wear this.”

“I’m not wearing that thing. It’s ugly and dirty.”

“I’ll wear one, too. Besides, my mother says it’s the law.”

“I thought only kids wear that.”

“No, everyone should wear one. Especially you. You’re not much of a swimmer. What if the boat shakes and tips over?”

“Why would the boat shake? The lake is so calm.”

“Just wear it.”

“No, it’s gonna make me hot.”

“I was hoping you were going to get “hot” about something else.”

“What are you talking about?”

‘Swan Lake’ started chirping on my cellphone.

“Romantic, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Holy shit, Neil. Did you really think we were going to have sex on a rowboat in the middle of a lake?”

“No good?”

“There are houses on the lake. People can see us”

“We’ll be doing them a favor. What else is there to do in Cheshire?”

“Neil, we’re separated. Even if no one could see us, I don’t think we should confuse things. Let’s just row around the beautiful lake and relax.”

I rowed, rowed, rowed the boat, completely frustrated. Suddenly the clouds darkened and it started to drizzle.

“We better get out of here now,” I said, as I turned the boat around and started to row faster.

“It’s only a tiny drizzle,” protested Sophia. “It’s still so nice out here.”

“We should go.”

“I actually like the rain. It’s romantic.” Sophia said, smiling. “And it makes it much more difficult for anyone to see us.”

“What are you saying?”

“You know what I’m saying.” she purred seductively.

Sophia looked over at me with a mischievious grin. I knew the look.

“Now?!” I cried. “NOW you want to do it?!”

It thundered, which freaked the hell out of me.

“What if lightning hits us?” I continued. “We’re sitting ducks in here. We’re in the middle of water, in a metal contraption. We can be dead!”

“I thought lightning just hits the trees.”

“No. With my luck, it’s gonna hit us! ”

Lightning brightened the dark sky. Sophia looked up in awe.

“Wow, it’s like we’re seeing Mother Nature at work. It’s so beautiful…”

Sophia reached over to touch me.

“Are you crazy, Sophia?! We have to get out of the water NOW.”

I started rowing back at record speed.

“So, are you saying “no” to me now?” she asked.

“I’m saying NO to being in the middle of a lake in the middle of a thunderstorm!”

“This is just like you. Always such a scaredy-cat. You and your lifejackets. .”

“There’s lightning going on!”

“It’s 10 miles away. You’re always so overly cautious.”

“Everyone leaves the water when it rains!”

“How do you know?”

“Wanna bet? I bet you that every local here leaves the water when it starts to rain and thunder.”

“You have yourself a bet!”

Later, after we safely made it back to the house, I spoke to Claire and she agreed with me about leaving the water.

“Ha Ha. Claire said I was right!” I said to Sophia, mocking her. “I won the bet!”

That night, I slept in the third bedroom, with only my Penis as company.

“You’re such a schmuck,” my Penis said to me.

A Year Ago in Citizen of the Month: Flushing, Queens

The Boy Who Cried Goose


Sophia, my mother, and I are sitting on the porch in Cheshire, MA, looking at the lake and the “geese” on the lawn.

Sophia: “You know, Neil, you might need to write a retraction on your blog. You told them all that you chased away these geese, but, um, I think they are ducks.”

Neil: “Ducks? You think so?”

Mom: “What’s the difference?”

Sophia: “Geese and ducks are as different as wolves and dogs.”

Mom: “Yeah, but wolves eat dogs. Geese don’t eat ducks.”

Sophia: “What does that have to do with anything?”

Mom: “I don’t know, but it’s true.”

Neil: “What do ducks eat anyway?”

Sophia: “I think they eat fish.”

Neil: “So, why are they always here on the lawn, looking for food?”

Sophia: “They must also eat grass.”

Mom: “Maybe these ducks are vegetarian.”

Neil: “I thought the reason ducks came out of the water was to clean themselves off.”

Sophia: “What do you think, ducks are like cats?”

Mom: “Wouldn’t it make more sense if they just cleaned themselves off while they swim? They’re in the water already, for God’s sake!”

Neil: “I wonder if ducks and geese even get along?”

In other news, my relationship with Emily Dickinson has spiraled out of control. After our one night stand at her New England home, she’s called me on my phone ten times. When I stopped answering, she sent me a text message saying that she’s thinking about me constantly . She even wrote a poem about me for this week’s Poetry Thursday.

Wild nights! Wild nights! by Emily Dickinson

Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in Thee!

I send her an IM telling her that I’m really not in a position to start a serious relationship.

She IM-ed back:

“And what exactly did you think we WERE HAVING when you pushed me against the Italianate style armoire in my drawing room and took pleasure in the ‘rhythm of delight’?”

“Huh? I answered.

“We f***ed, you asshole!” she wrote back.

I immediately blocked this crazy Emily chick and made myself “invisible” on Yahoo messenger.

This morning, I woke up early hoping to look at the lake outside my window. Instead, I found a dead, bloody duck (or was it a goose?) hanging from my window sill, “Fatal Attraction”-style. Attached was a handwritten note from Emily Dickinson:

“Nathaniel Hawthorne was a better lay.”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Marketers, Over Here!

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