the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: travel (Page 2 of 2)

There Are More Black People on American Idol than in the Entire City of Portland


1)  There are more black people on American Idol than in the entire city of Portland.  

I like Portland.  It looks like an Edward Hopper painting, a little dark and depressed.  The city is chock full of old neon signs and from the outside, the city seems like it hasn’t changed in fifty years (although the old tannery is now a trendy bistro)…. but maybe the city has TOO much of a 1950’s feel.   I’ve never seen so many white faces in my life.  On Thursday night, we went to a jazz club that Ellen Bloom recommended called Jimmy Mak’s and saw one black guy, the sax player in a fifteen piece band.  That’s ONE black guy in a Jazz Band, in a Jazz Club, in an entire city, in four days!

2)  We’ve met Portland’s finest bloggers.

Lani and Patry (photo stolen from Lani because mine was too dark)

After meeting the charming Chantel at Tequilacon, we made it a mission to meet other Portland bloggers.  We had dinner with blogging friend Alexandra (who baked us some delicious cake) and then attended a literary salon at the home of the uber-talented writer/illustrator Lani.   The meeting was in honor of Cape Cod-based blogger Patry, who is on tour promoting her first novel, The Liar’s Club.   It was inspirational hearing Patry talk about her book, which I can’t wait to read.  Laini also talked about her forthcoming book, Faeries of Dreamdark.   It was wonderful hearing about the successes of fellow bloggers!  (Yeah, right.  I hate them!)

3)  It is official.  Sophia has the “X” factor.

I drive as slow as an old woman.  Sophia drives like a Nascar racer.  She was stopped TWICE by the Oregon highway patrol, but both times she was let go WITH just a WARNING!   Why does that never happen to me?

4)  Sophia and I are punching each other.

Danny’s daughter, Leah, taught us a driving game that is more current than “Geography.”  I forget what it is called, but you basically can punch the other person whenever you see a Volkswagen Beetle.  The score so far:  Sophia – 7, Neil – 3.

5)  High culture — feh!


We’re currently staying in Ashland, Oregon, which is a cute little town in the Southern part of the state.  We’re staying at this offbeat hundred-year old hotel that looks like something out of “The Shining.”  The main excitement in town is that it is the home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.    So, what did we see at the Shakespeare festival?  A bad Tom Stoppard farce.  However, tonight, there is Shakespeare playing at the Shakespeare festival , but we are choosing to go to the Oregon Cabaret Theater to see some dumb little musical called “Men on Ice,” about a fishing hole in Milwaukee.

6)  Water.

We’ve seen a lot of water — the ocean, lakes,rivers and creeks.  Being a Pisces, I should like water, but Sophia is the one who’s always dragging me to drive an hour and a half to see some creek.  We had a long discussion today, and decided that rivers and creeks are the coolest of all bodies of water.

7)  Soap Opera to Go.


Sophia and I keep up with “All My Children” via our nifty “Hava” machine plugged into our DVR at home.

8)  We’re not done yet.

Tomorrow, we are off to San Francisco — and meeting more bloggers.

Postcard from the Road

(from our hotel room in Fort Bragg)

Travelling can be stressful at times, so I’m glad Sophia and I decided ahead of time to enjoy ourselves, and to laugh off any bumps in the road. Napa is pretty, but not our glass of wine. How many wineries can a person visit? How many wineries can one visit and still safely drive those windy country roads? And how many restaurants can serve fifteen dollar organic chicken sandwiches?

Our favorite wine country town was Healdsburg. It is quaint, but not sickingly touristy. Santa Rosa is cool also, mostly because Charles Schultz lived there, and there are sculptures of Charlie Brown and Snoopy all over the place.

Safari West in Santa Rosa was as overpriced as our arugula salad in Sonoma. They advertised themselves as an “African safari” experience, but for safety reasons, they don’t have any animals that could actually eat you. So, you travel around on a crowded jeep watching giraffes and antelopes sleeping, eating, shitting, and ignoring you. At least at Universal Studios, the Jaws shark comes out to attack you at least once!

The tour guide at Safari West recently wrote a children’s book about animals, and he seemed more interested in promoting it than giving us a tour, always saying that we could “pick up a copy in the gift shop.” This is embarrassing to admit, but I fell asleep on Sophia’s shoulder while riding a bumpy jeep on a “African” safari. Still, it was an entertaining and different experience, but not worth the sixty bucks a person.

We liked this zebra the best. These electric zapcars are all over the place.

We had hoped to take a mud bath and massage in Calistoga. I was especially excited about posting a photo of myself with mud up to my neck, but we changed our mind when we actually saw the spa that we chose from some brochure we got at the hotel. Rather than it looking like an “Oasis,” it looked like a trailer behind a motel. When we went inside, Sophia asked the owner if we could see the mud bath before we paid, but the owner said we couldn’t — they were still “getting it ready.” Sophia asked to use the restroom, and like Nancy Drew, sneaked into the mud bath room. She immediately came out and told me that we should leave.

“It looks filthy.” she said. “They’re cleaning it up with dirty rags”

We were a little disappointed. I owe Sophia a mud bath.

Today, we drove from Napa to Mendocino. It was very interesting to see how the landscape changed from lush wineries to massive redwoods. Sophia was fascinated at her first look at these amazing trees. She even started to cry.


“It’s like a fairy tale forest,” she said.

I didn’t have much time to be emotional, since the darkness of the tree cover and the curvy roads made driving a little scary.

Eventually, we made it to Mendocino. While Napa had an upscale wine lover/foodie vibe, the Northern California coast has maintained much of the hippy vibe of the 1960’s (although wealthier hippies). We stopped to buy some fruits at a food co-op. If Sophia was ever in political enemy territory, it was here. There were anti-war petitions hanging over the dairy aisle, and photos of Bush with X’s marking out his face. We especially enjoyed this sign posted by the front door, telling customers to shut off their cell phones.


The views of the ocean are beautiful here. The oceanfront is rugged and… manly. In comparison, the beaches of Los Angeles are, as Ann Coulter might say, for faggots.


We’re staying the night in Fort Bragg, which is one town over from Mendocino, and is known as the place where visitors who can’t afford Mendocino stay for the night. As I’m writing this, we’re in a small coffeehouse that serves organic coffee and we’re listening to a talent hippyish-looking singer doing a Joni Mitchell song. What could be more Northern Californian?


Travelling is fun, but you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next, especially when you’re travelling on a budget. We were concerned about our hotel in Fort Bragg because it looked a little Bates Motel-ish when we pulled in at night.

“I’m not staying here.” said Sophia. “There’s a homeless man standing right outside!”

Luckily, as we got closer, we saw it was just the sea captain.


Thursday is Blog Appreciation Day

local newspaper on Mount Everest

Summer is coming to an end, and fall brings in new emotions.  I just had a wonderful weekend meeting some bloggers in San Diego.  So, I’m feeling all sentimental about blogging – 

Isn’t it amazing that you can interact with others — and in such an intimate way — even when that other person lives half the country away in Pittsburgh?  Or half the world away in Mauritus?

That’s why Thursday is Blog Appreciation Day!

What is Blog Appreciation Day?

The idea formed as I drove home from San Diego.  As I was on the 5 Freeway, I started getting sleepy.  Maybe it was all that champagne at brunch!  I got off the freeway to grab a cup of coffee.  I ended up in some small beach town between San Diego and Orange County.  

As I drank my coffee in a small coffee shop, I perused through the local “free” newspaper.  In it, was a feature titled “Around the World.”  The column was all about local residents who submitted pictures of themselves while travelling.  In the photos, they were holding up their rinky-dink local paper in some faraway location, whether it be Chicago or China.   I started laughing, not because I was making fun of the concept, but because they do the EXACT SAME THING in the Redondo Beach local paper.   And I thought this was just a Redondo Beach gimmick!   How naive of me.  Do they do this in all small town newspapers? 

local newspaper in Morocco

This small town gesture is easy to make fun of.  After all, you don’t see people showing off their copies of The New York Times in exotic places:

 “Look at me!  The New York Times actually went to China!”

But, in reality, I found the gesture rather heartwarming.  By taking a photo of yourself holding the HOMETOWN paper in front of the Eiffel Tower, you’re sending a strong message to those back at home:  “Hey look, we are part of the world community.  You can actually read this rinky-dink Redondo Beach newspaper in Paris!”

I’ll admit it –  I get a real kick knowing that someone actually reads my stupid blog in places like Fort Lauderdale, Florida  and Sydney, Australia!  How cool is that?  And I’m sure you feel the same way about your blog. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to actually SEE you home page in one of these places, just like you enjoy seeing someone holding up your local newspaper in Bombay?

That is where Blog Appreciation Day comes in.  Anyone who asks for it in today’s comments, will get a digital photograph emailed to them on Thursday.  The photo will be of HIS or HER blog taken from my actual MONITOR in LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.   Show your friends and family!  Amaze your children!  Feel good about what you do.   Look how you’ve made an impact thousands of miles away.

That is what Blog Appreciation Day is all about.  You can finally say, “Hey, someone actually reads my dumb blog all the way in California.  And, look — I have photographic PROOF!”

The only thing I ask in return is that if you ask for a digital photo, you pass the gesture on to the next blogger.  You need to make a photograph of another blogger’s blog and email it to them — perhaps some blogger who has done something meaningful for you, even if you have never met. 

Show a friendly blogger how their blog is appreciated, even in a faraway land.

Remember, Blog Appreciation Day is this Thursday, August 24th. 

Would you like a photo of your blog?

Fitena’s blog (written in Mauritius) on my monitor in Los Angeles

Another example:  Sophia sent me this for Kapgar in Chicago.  Notice Sophia ultra-chic New York highlights in her hair.


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  TV is for Babies

Six Pieces of Luggage


Sophia was so nervous,
As we took our daily walk.

“I need to pack for Tuesday,
Cause I’m flying to New York.”

“Just grab something together .
It’s really no big deal.”

“Are you crazy?  I’m a woman!”
She turned upon her heel.

“I need a gown (for Broadway shows),
I need a coat (for August snows).
I need a bra (with the right cup),
I need a bra (that lifts me up).
I need cosmetics  (for sexy lips),
I need some hose (without the rips).
I need a dress (that’s girly and mod),
I need my laptop (and my iPod).
I need my shoes (my Kenneth Cole!)
I need my panties (the ones you haven’t stole!)
I need six bags to bring everything I ought.”
And I need YOU…


“…to drive to the airport!”


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  What’s the Matter with Kids Today?

A Question, not a Post


Sophia and I are going to be in NYC in about two weeks, so I look forward to meeting some of you in the NY area.  Seeing that staying in Flushing all that time may get claustrophobic after a while, I’d like to also get away for three-four days to a cabin or rental on a lake or river somewhere on the East Coast.  Any suggestions — maybe in upstate New York or the Berkshires?”

Diplomatic Mission


Today, eight months after the passing of my father, my mother takes on the important diplomatic mission of improving American relations with the European Union by taking a two-week bus tour of Spain and Portugal with another woman from Queens.

I bet you didn’t expect that, Dad?

And Mom, it’s a Tapas Bar, not a Topless Bar.

A mi madre, have fun!   I’m off to the gym!  (bloggers, there’s still time to sign the contract below)

A Year Ago in Citizen of the Month:  Handy Guide for Man Shopping

Citizen of the Month World Tour


Let’s be honest with ourselves.  None of us are getting rich off of blogging.  In fact we’re probably losing money by not doing something more productive with our time.  Yeah, we all deep-down believe that blabbing about the man/woman we shtupped last night is going to get us a book deal.  But the chances are pretty slim, even if we’re shtupping them a lot.

There is only one way sure way to make money blogging —  getting SPONSORS.  Hey, if Tiger Woods is OK walking around with a Nike cap on 24/7, why wouldn’t I?

I know what you’re thinking.  "Who the hell would want to sponsor me?"   But I know the answer. 

Companies involved in the travel industry. 

As Chris writes in Brainfuel

Have you noticed an increase in the number of people who decide to travel the world and at the same time write it off? Take a look at The Traveling Guys web site for a brief moment. Ok? Did you see the sponsors section? No? Well, they have more than a hundred individual sponsors and a good dozen companies sponsoring their trip.

They are not alone.  Chris also mentions 10mph, the story of three guys riding across America on a Segway.  And then there’s Fat Man Walking, some nut who’s walking from San Diego to New York.

All of these guys are travelling for FREE, simply by blogging about their stupid experiences.  As a cheap person, this is very attractive to me.

I thought long and hard to come up with my own gimmick.  I love to travel and I don’t like to pay for myself.  So far, so good. 

What else do I love to do?  I love to blog!  And I love all my blogging friends! 

That’s it!  The answer.

Today, September 7, 2005, I officially announce the availability of sponsorship for the "Citizen of the Month" World Tour.


What is the World Tour?  It means that  I will take a year off and travel the world, visiting each person on my blogroll.  All travelling expenses will be paid for by my sponsors.   However, to save money, each person on my blogroll must put me up in their home, feed me, and take me on a 3-hour tour of their city.  

Estee, you will have to put me up for two weeks because I really want to see Australia.  Josia, we will have plenty of time to talk about Kabbalah when I stay with you for the entire Hebrew month of Adar.   Modigli, you know I love you, but do I really want spend more than two days in Cleveland?   Maybe you can come with me to Australia.  Estee has plenty of room.  JJ, I’ve always wanted to see Texas.  I even own a cowboy hat that I wore once at a country dance club.  Brooke, I will be visiting you in Florida for… well, let’s see how it goes…

I will be spending at least two months in New York, since there are so many bloggers there.  Please argue among yourselves over who has the best apartment for me to stay in.  I would prefer Manhattan over Brooklyn.  Please, no Queens.  If I have to live in Queens, I might as well stay with my parents.

London, Paris, Hong Kong — here I come!

Don’t worry, Californians.  I won’t forget you.  I will be giving up my apartment next month so I can live with each of you for two weeks.    I should warn you, I do snore.

In case any of my women readers are concerned, I am a perfect gentleman.  But if you do catch me trying to take a peek at you while you’re taking a shower — be advised that it is all for art — my next blog post and nothing else.


Sponsors, do you hear me?  I mean you — American Airlines, Samsonite Luggage, Hertz Rent-a-Car, AOL, Australian Board of Tourism, Diet Coke, Bloglines, Gawker Media, NBC/Universal, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Hanes Underwear (the best!), the Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, the Jewish Federation, iPod, Taco Bell, and readers like YOU.

See you all soon!

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