the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Very Superstitious, Writing’s On the Wall


Despite my love for the arts, I have more respect for science.  It will be science that will eventually find a cure for cancer, not the latest novel by Nick Hornby.   Yesterday, I stepped into San Diego’s science museum in Balboa Park.  They had all these cool hands-on exhibits for kids.  Most interesting was a new exhibit about pendulums.  I really didn’t understand what was going on scientifically, although some smart-ass kid tried to explain it to me.  I ended up pushing him away so I could play with the pendulums myself.  Was I ever like this annoying kid? 

I hate when politicians get involved in science.  You rarely hear me talk about politics, mostly because I find both Democratic and Republican women sexy, so I like to play it safe (although I’ve never dated an Independent and I’ve always wanted to).  The only thing that really gets my goat is when religious nutcases want to teach "Creationism" in public schools.  Another insanity is not wanting to use stem cells for scientific research. 

In case I’m making my liberal pals too happy, I disagree with those PETA nuts who don’t want us to do science experiments on rats.  Yeah, I’ve seen Planet of the Apes.  I know what the future holds for us — the animals rule. But rats are rats!

Because I believe in science, I don’t believe in superstitions.  Sophia thinks our relationship may have had problems because I’m a Pisces and we’re supposedly not compatible in some book called "Love Signs."   I’m not afraid of black cats, broken mirrors, or staying on the 13th floor.  Sophia and I were married on October 13th (uh-oh).

Sophia’s Russian family introduced me to a whole new set of weird superstitions.  If anyone leaves the house, and then immediately goes back in because they forgot something — you have to go look in the mirror before you go out again.  Maybe Tatyana can explain this one to me.  In the beginning, I refused to get involved in this weird superstition, but then I realized that her family would not go out with me if I didn’t look at myself in the mirror.  So, I never forget things at home when I’m with them.

The only superstition that I seem to have an irrational fear of is walking under a ladder.  A couple of days ago I was in Borders bookstore and I was standing near one of those rolling ladders they use to climb up to get a book on a top shelf.  I wanted to go past it in order to grab a book.  I could have easily walked under it, but I caved in and slid the ladder all the way down to the other side.  Why tempt the fates and walk under the ladder.  Who knows?  Maybe just then, 1000 copies of James Joyce’s "Ulysses" would have fallen on my head, crushing me.

Hopefully, I’ll be back in Los Angeles on Saturday, knock on wood.


  1. M.A.

    Science generally holds a lot of answers, but you need the artists to explain things to the rest of us.

    I wish people would understand that science cannot live without art and vice versa.

    And I love the fact that you keep all of your options open (when it comes to women). Now why aren’t you dating someone yet?

  2. modigli

    Way to shove that snotty brainy kid aside at the pendulum display! LOL

    So if you’re a Pisces, then Sophia must be a Fire sign, huh? Or maybe an Air sign.

    supposedly, if you’re a water sign then you should look for another water sign or an earth sign. So, when you finally go shopping for a date on Match, Neil, look for these zodiac signs:

    Cancer, Pisces, Scorpio
    Taurus, Virgo, capricorn

    Who knows – it just might work! and talking about your sign keeps the conversation away from dem/rep talk – which is the REAL dealbreaker! LOL

  3. meme

    I can’t help myself.

    Pendulum: It’s attached to a universal joint at the top so that it may rotate freely around a fixed point. When it is set in motion it will rotate at a rate of about .2 degrees per minute but the pendulum itself is not actually rotating, it is only swinging back and forth. It’s actually the Earth that’s rotating beneath the pendulum, this makes the pendulum appear to be changing direction.

    And don’t feel bad, I have malocchi all over my house. A throwback from living in Italy, I guess.

  4. Lauren

    There are only three superstitions I live by: If you spill the salt, throw it over your right sholder – My mom taught me that as a kid, and Mamma ain’t ever wrong. Don’t open an umbrella indoors – I poked my eye out on an umbrella, once burned, twice shy. Don’t walk under a ladder – for the simple reason that it might fall on you, and that scares the bejezus out of me.

  5. amanda

    i throw the salt, too…my little jewish great-aunt (like a grandmother to me) used to tell us not to step over each other, like, if my brother was lying spralled out on the floor, she’d yell at my dad (her nephew) “Don’t step over him, he won’t grow!” She likely also said this when people would step over her own son, my dad’s cousin, and he’s kinda short, so i guess she can back that thing up with actual evidence.

  6. Jack

    I can’t leave a hat on a bed. It is an old superstition passed on by my grandfather.

  7. anonymous city girl

    I would like to point out that the number 2 woman at PETA (forgot her name) only lives and breaths each and everyday because she uses insulin daily. A treatment for her chronic and fatal if not treated condition which was discover thru animal testing and the medication actual partially derived from animals.

  8. susan

    I hate when politicians get involved in science.

    Amen to that! I’m all for science and art co-existing, but politicians should just let scientists do their thing.

  9. Charlie

    Maybe we could have the artists use stem cells in their art projects and the scientists use paint brushes for their science experiments. Consider it a bipartisan cultural exchange.

  10. Megan

    Scientist create technological advances, but it is the artists who help us deal with the consequences. I’ve always felt they go hand in hand; one cannot exist without the other.

    I’m not a superstitious person generally, but there are two things I do that would make me seem otherwise. 1: my Polish great grandmother used to always say that they way your surroundings (like your house and car) look at the beginning of the year is the condition they will maintain throughout the year, so I go on a major cleaning spree right before New Years every year. 2: I always knock on wood (or knock on anything and pretend it is wood). I guess too many bad things have happened and I just don’t want to tempt the fates any further.

    BTW, guys who talk politics are hot (especially when I agree with them!).

  11. Leesa

    I don’t think I’m very superstitious, but I do stay away from the ladders and open umbrellas inside.

  12. Melliferous Pants

    My grandma carries a pendulum in her pocket and consults it before doing anything. She believes it holds all the answers. At first it drove me crazy. Now I prefer to hear her ask it where her misplaced toenail clippers, rather than if I’ll ever marry.

  13. kristine

    i’m only superstitious if it’s fun. like the “knock on wood thing”–that’s not fun. it’s just annoying. especially when there’s no wood around and the person knocks on his or her head.

    but friday the 13ths are fun. oh, and lifting your feet when you drive over RR tracks. or holding your breath when driving by a cemetary. flailing your limbs about the car or depriving your body of oxygen when you’re driving is ALWAYS a good time.

  14. leesepea

    You mean the mirror thing is not just to check if you’ve messed up your ‘do with all of the running about?


    I check myself in the mirror before I leave the house, even if I haven’t run back inside for something.

    But then, I am incredibly vain.

    And the mirror lines the wall adjacent to the door I exit from. The whole wall is mirrored, but I didn’t put it there; it was like that when we moved in.


  15. jenny

    under ladder=death. i don’t get the mirror thing, but i better get with the program. i always say it’s better to be safe than sorry.
    and you’re a Pisces. WATCH OUT! i hope your rising sign is something more stable :).

  16. Brooke

    I’m a Virgo. When a Pisces and Virgo get together they are supposed to have scorching sex lives. But I know you don’t believe in any of that silly superstitious nonsense.

  17. Neil

    You know, now that I read more about astrology, I think it makes a lot of sense that these ‘signs” determine who we are and who we are best compatible with. I also found it interesting that when I was consulting my OUIJA board this morning, which I do every day, it started spelling B-R-O-O-K-E. Can anyone help me understand what this might mean?

  18. ubermilf

    A Kansas science teacher summed it up: “I am a practicing Catholic. But as a science teacher, I should be teaching what can be PROVEN. That is what science is all about.” He made that statement to oppose the teaching of creationism, and to disprove the notion that anyone opposed to creationism is an atheist. Amen to that. ONLY fundamentalists believe that the earth was created in 7 days; why do we care about that small minority? They have WAAY too much power around here.

    Virgos are very sexy. And they clean up afterwards. I am a virgo; Uberdilf is on the cusp of Aries and Pisces.

  19. Tatyana

    I think we have to start a collection to fund a scientific experiment: meeting of Neil and Brooke, minute details recorded. if there anything left in the jar afterwords, we can hire an artist (or composer?) to express (in medium to be voted on) resulted scorching sex [I assume; I’m all for astrology], in historic harmony between art and science.

  20. maribeth

    Back in the day you didn’t have to pick one or the other. You were just independently wealthy and spent your time looking distinguished, drinking brandy and screwing around with Leyden jars in between painting tigers and writing books about your African safaris, like Francis Galton. He once spent two years on a parametric study of what conditions produce the best-tasting cup of tea. He stopped because he was distracted by the problem of how much gold there was in the world and whether or not it would all fit in his house. Then he invented eugenics. Those were the days, I tell you.

    Nowadays if you do that kind of stuff, you’re usually an eccentric supervillain wannabe.

  21. Edgy Mama

    But have you read the latest Nick Hornsby novel yet?

  22. Brooke

    Tatyana, have Neil consult his ouija board about this. Or better yet, maybe he should consult his mother. She does read his bolo after all.

  23. kris

    Ah, superstition. Does it qualify as superstition when one is afraid that having cats will make her end up old, single and alone with cats? Maybe that’s just foreshadowing . . .

  24. Rachel

    My own personal superstition, from no tradition of superstitions that I know of, is I don’t like to get into bed with my shoes or slippers facing the bed. I just have this feeling, I’ll leave them that way and wake up dead. You know, my last step. A friend of mine told me her mother would never allow her to wear a new outfit on Fridays because it brought bad luck. I often wear new clothes on Friday, but I always think of her when I do.

  25. Helena

    All of my best friends have been Pisces. They’re special people. And a little crazy. Seem to be the only people patient and benevolent enough to put up with a Leo.

    I try not to “jinx” things by talking about them. I also believe that lies people tell about misfortune befalling them (Oh, sorry I flaked out…I was really sick) often come true. Sometimes I read into events as omens, including dreams.

  26. Tatyana

    Helena, I see that we, Leos, are really alike!
    I’ll not tell you my own superestitions (or things’ll come alive, heh) – but here’s someone else’s one nobody mentioned yet.

    My ex’s family legend: when his greatuncle has been putting clothes on in the morning and accidentally put it on the wrong side, he’d quickly take all off, throw it on the floor and stamp on it, to avoid “bad side of the day”…

  27. Sophia

    Neil is mistaken, it wasn’t a “Love Signs” book I mentioned to him. Once, after eating at a Chinese Restaurant that had a Chinese Astrology placemat, I decided to look it up on the Internet and found that I could do a Chinese Astrology compatability chart.

    Here’s some of the results:

    This is one of the two or three worst unions known to Chinese astrologers. It may prove even more hazardous than that between a Tiger man and a Snake woman, given the Goat’s more frivolous, fickle and irresponsible – albeit more charming – character.

    It would be preferable that such a match never exist. In the contrary case, the partners would be well-advised to part company as soon as possible in order to avoid a possible tragedy.… and then it said that no self-respecting Chinese astrologer would ever dare recommend this union… 🙂

    Now, Neil is wrong again about superstitions. I don’t believe in superstitions, for one simple reason – it’s really bad luck to be superstitious.

    Here are a few Russian superstitions for your enjoyment (or intimidation):

    If a bird comes into the house through an open window, you’ll have bad news.

    Do not greet anyone or say goodbye to anyone over the threshold. If you do, you will have an argument.

    Never collect bread crumbs with your hand – you will be without money for a long time.

    Do not celebrate your birthday in advance of the actual date. (You might not make it!)

    Single people should never sit at the corner of the table – if they do, they will not get married for 7 years.

    If you sneeze while saying something, it means you are telling the truth.

    If the right eye is itching, you’ll be laughing, the left one – you’ll be crying.

    If your nose is itching, you’ll soon be drinking.

    If your right palm is itching, you’ll get some money, and if the left one is itching, you’ll have to give money away.

    If your lips are itching, you’ll soon be kissing.

    If you do not recognize someone when you see them or call them on the phone, this person will get rich.

    Before embarking on a long journey, you should sit for a minute in silence. Otherwise you’ll have bad luck on the way.

    Do not whistle in your own house. If you do, you won’t have any money.

    If you have an attack of hiccups, somebody is gossiping about you or cursing you.

    And last but not least:

    If a fly gets into your soup, you’ll get a gift or a treat.

  28. Neil

    Thanks, Sofochka. Great list of Russian superstitions. You even got me to stop putting my keys on the dinner table (bad luck, or was it no money?)

    And you’re right. We found that Chinese astrology placemat at that restaurant on Wilshire, the one where the waitress lectured us about feng shui. Remember — we went home and re-arranged our bedroom according to what she said, and we ended up with the sun shining in our eyes every morning. Those were the days!

  29. introspectre

    I think Stevie Wonder had it right when he sang, “Superstition ain’t the way…”

    That being said I do have to confess to superstitious moment. Someone told me a bird flying in your house means your pregnant. One day I had a bird land on my screenless windowsill and I jumped up screaming, “Out! Out! Out! Don’t you dare fly here, you bastard!” as if the poor traumatized bird could knock me up.

    The stupid thing? I don’t believe it for a second. But I wasn’t about to tempt fate on that one.

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