the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Bad News Neilochka


A few months ago, my family doctor told me that I had high cholesterol.  He prescribed Pravachol, the exact same medication both my parents take (is there too much Jewish deli food in my family’s genes?)  This disturbed me, mostly because who wants to take the same medication as his parents?  It also made me feel old.  Soon, I’ll be pulling out that that same medicine container with the twenty-five different pills they take each morning.  So far, I haven’t taken one pill.  I hate taking medications.

I went online to find alternatives to lowering your cholesterol.  I’m drinking grape juice every day. I tried taking Niacin, but it made me feel like I was having a "hot flash."  I’ve taken Metamucil because studies show that the fiber lowers cholesterol.   I eat pretty healthy, so I know that’s not it.  If there is a problem in my life, it’s a lack of consistent exercise.  

I belong to 24 hour Fitness, but I find going to the gym boring.  What I’d really like to do is play in some team sport.  I love playing sports.  Unfortunately, I’m a mediocre to poor player in almost every activity.  When I was younger, I played on all sorts of teams because when you’re a kid they have to let you play, no matter how awful you are.

I was in the Queens Athletic League (QAL) Little League for six years.  I played right field, of course.  My lifetime batting average was .100, which I thought was pretty good, since a 100 in school was like an A+.  I couldn’t hit, I couldn’t catch, I couldn’t run.  I loved it.

I was also on my temple’s basketball team (Israel Center of Hillcrest Manor or ICHM, as we called it).  I was a notch better in basketball mostly because I was tall.   Howie, the coach, always gave me the same advice, "Just stand with your hands up and pass the ball to someone who can shoot."  

One season, I accumulated 0 points.  I was so jealous of my best friend Tuck who managed to get off a total of 1 point during a lucky free throw.  Playing basketball was so much fun.

I played soccer, tennis, and volleyball.  I was terrible in everything and enjoyed it all.

Then something happened in high school.  Playing sports became a serious business.  Only the good players really played ball, while the brainy nerds avoided the gym like the plague.  Little by little, all the crappy players were weeded out of team sports.  By college, my sports days were over. 

Some critics have said that Title IX, which was passed into law in 1972, has had the unfortunate effect of hurting men’s sports programs.  Title IX required that there be equal opportunties for male and female athletic programs.   This has been great boon for women and sports, and women now participate in all sorts of college and intramural sports they hadn’t before.  But since men’s football and basketball eat up much of the men’s money, many of the intramural sports for men were dumped.  

Where can I find a game today?  The basketball players at Venice Beach seem like semi-pros.  The male volleyball players at Manhattan Beach have chests the size of my thighs.  All the soccer players grew up playing soccer in Mexico or Europe.   Who would want me?

A former literary agent once tried to convince me to join Gary Marshall’s popular Hollywood basketball league.  The league consists of top writers and young aggressive agents, and my agent thought it would be a great way to network.  I told him that if I played on one of these teams, it would surely mean that I would never work in Hollywood again.  This was a big shock to me — even to become a WRITER, of all things, you were expected to be a decent athlete.

Would anyone in Los Angeles like to start up a sports league consisting of really shitty players? 

Maybe I’ll just stick to the Pravachol.


  1. cruisin-mom

    You had a Jewish friend named “Tuck”?

  2. jenny

    there was a great boon? hmm.

    try craigslist. something is bound to be there.

  3. anonymous city girl

    I once posted on my blog about a guy I was seeing who was against all kinds of medications. One of the comments left on that post was this:

    Just browsing around and this post struck my interest. This guy sounded like a total nut. I don’t trust anyone tht isn’t popping at least one prescribed drug (Prozac under thirty, Lipitor over forty, Viagra over 60, etc.)

    Now if I could just remember who made that post. HHmmm, Neil, you remember?

  4. Neil

    Anonymous, you got me. I just didn’t want you dating that guy.

  5. anonymous city girl

    I’ll run my potential dates past you from now on. 🙂

  6. Anne

    I would if I were there, and you’d feel so much better about yourself, too.

  7. Lauren

    Neil, I have the perfect sport for you: Petanque. or “Boules” as it is often referred to in France. Not much excercise involved, just bending down to pick up your 3 pound metal balls. Plus, I think its mandatory that you drink alcohol while playing (usually pastis). I love it. will be having a Petanque tournament in my pub’s beer garden – you are more than welcome.

  8. Neil

    Lauren, is it something like bocce?

  9. Anne

    Yup, but the balls are much bigger in bocce.
    And Lauren’s right, it’s a great game. And it’s good for the arms, too.
    (no, I’m not Lauren in disguise, but you know French people…)

  10. M.A.

    You should start up a kickball league. They have them here in D.C. I loved kickball because you don’t have to have perfect hand-eye coordination. Plus you get to run around base and act like a 10 year old.

  11. ekramer

    If you belong to a health club, why don’t you go there? And every day, get up, put on your sneakers, and walk a mile one way and a mile back.

  12. JJ MacMillan

    Neil… no look at me when I’m talking to you. You can flirt later. Are you paying attention? Racquetball. It’s the perfect sport. You’re running all the time and you can’t lose the ball. You’re playin’ in a freakin’ closet for God’s sake. You’ll thank me.

  13. Neil

    Mom, if you walk 2 miles every day, so will I. Deal? (it’s your fault I got the high cholesterol anyway — just salads next Passover)

    J.J. — Racquetball, excellent. How do I protect my 500 dollar glasses from getting broken? And isn’t flirting considered a cardio-vascular activity?

    French girls — I think I might prefer bocce over Boules. I always go for the game with the bigger balls. Kickball, hmm…

  14. jamy

    I play on a kickball team and there IS kickball in LA. Check it out here.

    I’m also play on a softball team run by the DCJCC. No skill or membership required! Surely there is a JCC nearby and perhaps they have sports leagues?

  15. a.m. griff

    I might just move to LA to join that kickball team. Kickball rocks. I’m jealous Jamy.

    And medications make me a little squeamish too. Until the pharmaceuticals really get some balls and just go ahead and tell us they got a pill that’ll make you younger, stronger, and better looking while living till two hundred, not sure why they haven’t yet, I’ll stick with exercise, though I dislike all the work.

  16. Neil

    A.M. — Who would have thought they have a world kickball league? I just hope they don’t make me play right field again.

  17. ashbloem

    As a shitty sports player who enjoys playing, I try to find equally shitty squash players.

    Even better is a whole TEAM of shitty volleyball players. Though that’s a bit more tricky, since you really need TWO teams of shitty players.

    But when it happens? Magic.

  18. kate

    Neil: Starting your own sports team sounds great. I’d love to belong to a tennis or volleyball (or even bowling) team. Those are the only sports I don’t suck at. LOL. Too bad you live all the way across the country. I’d be on your team. 🙂

  19. anonymous city girl

    I was always the kid (happily) in right field… the one that would hang out there picking flowers and tying the stems together to make those floral wreaths for all my friends to wear.
    Or if I was in right field with a friend, we’d pick buttercups to do the “butter test”.

    And what is it with you people who don’t trust pharmaceuticals… I am all about better living thru chemistry. I proposed to the nurse in the ER once who supplying me with the most wonderful pain meds ever!

  20. Heather

    You have got to be kidding me…
    I have to learn how to play basketball to survive the writing game out there?

    Perhaps that screenplay I was writing needs to get pitched…(pun intended)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, Neil!

  21. danielle

    your temple had sports teams? my boyfriend still resents the fact that he had to go to hebrew school when he was a kid instead of playing baseball. i did both. pitched at softball… thought i was great, but later realized i was painfully lacking as a pitcher. i think i’ll stick to games like petanque, which really is quite fun.

  22. Tatyana

    oh my shattered dreams. And this is the country of individualists?

    My ideal athletic man: a chess player.

  23. psychotoddler

    You’re not going to get any free medical advice out of me, but you mentioned the “Israel Center of Hillcrest Manor”…was that on 168th and 73rd ave?

    I used to live a few blocks from there.

  24. Lauren

    Neil, you have a bunch of boys telling you to play games with big bouncy balls and three girls that say play you want your sport to be surrounded by women and pastis, or sweaty men with big balls… I think the choice is obvious.

  25. a.m. griff

    They stuck me in right field too and the coach told me I had the weakest arm of anyone he’s ever seen, but I could spank the ball at the plate. Couldn’t really judge a fly ball either, some damn embarrassing moments there. I’d be a good DH though.

  26. anonymous city girl

    I don’t think I ever caught or hit a ball in school sports.
    Poor hand eye coordination.
    And I had the habit of always closing my eyes whenever balls came at me.
    Um. That doesn’t sound right.

  27. Nicole

    Neil – I find gyms boring too – swimming was what did it for me. There are swim clubs all over LA, and they are coached workouts, so it feels like a team sport – and they put everyone who sucks at the same end of the pool so you all get to suck together, and not bother the olympic swimmers at the far end. 🙂 Anyway, check out

  28. Jack

    I play basketball three times a week. There are always pickup games that you can get into that do not require great skill.

  29. Charlie

    I feel your pain, Neil. I was the same way when it came to competitive sports as a kid. As an adult, I go the gym, but that’s god awful boring. I would echo a lot of the suggestions here. Swimming is great exercise and very refreshing this time of year. Raquetball and tennis are also a lot of fun, although you need to find someone else to play with and a court. I’d also recommend looking into softball. There are tons of leagues organized through the city department of parks and recreation. I know my company team is always in need of extra players, they’re starting up again in the fall Tuesday nights in Sherman Oaks. Let me know if you want me to put you in touch. Finally, you might want to look into training for a marathon with the National AIDS Marathon Training Program. It’s designed for all ages and levels and an amazing experience. You’ll meet plenty of people and certainly get in shape.

  30. modigli

    Ok, Neil… here’s my solution:
    The cardio machines and weights at the gym can be quite boring. But the group classes are FUN!!! Spinning has more men than the classic aerobic flavored classes, but all are fun. And exercising with a room full of mostly women will help with getting dates, too!!! … You could try Yoga, Pilates, Aerobics, Kick boxing, Spinning, Step aerobics, blah, blah, etc, etc ….

    So, what do ya say? I think it’s a ton of fun to exercise in a group! And no sports skills are needed, except maybe some coordination for step aerobics. 🙂

  31. Claven

    Go find the surfing rabbi at Malibu. He will have the answers to all of your questions. What else did you expect me to say?

  32. Edgy Mama

    I love that your MOM is commenting on your blog. How cute is that?

    The most fun sports team I got to be a part of was in graduate school–there was a graduate school volleyball league. I played for, of course, the English Department. It was the first, and only, time in my life that I’ve been a star–and I suck at volleyball.

  33. JasonW.

    But if we formed our own team where none of us are that good, we’d at least not make each other look bad, and next you thing you know we’d be a whole team of Shane Blacks!

  34. Neil

    Thanks, everyone. I promise all of you (and my mother) that I will start to do something more active to lower my cholesterol.

    And excuse me for a second for a private conversation with psychotoddler — that’s the temple! We’re almost like family. I grew up by Parsons Blvd. and Kissena Blvd. (next what used to be Waldbaum’s Supermarket).

  35. amanda

    how about the cage on west 4th street? you could play there, no? just kidding, i can just imagine it. and, as the commercial tells us, and we all know commercials tell the truth, sometimes high cholesterol is just hereditary…it could have just be bequest to you by aunt ida or uncle saul.

  36. The Moviequill

    I have been healthy as a horse my whole life, but when I went in for a complete physical (first time ever) the Doc has me on Lipitor to reduce cholesterol now. I am not used to taking pills for anything…ugh

  37. nanette

    Neil, you should try a supplement called Cholest-Off. My friend tried it for a few weeks, it worked, and she doesn’t have to take the meds her doc was threatening to perscribe.

  38. Neil

    Thanks, Nanette. I saw that in Rite-Aid. I’ll try it.

  39. psychotoddler

    Small Blogosphere: You should head over to Rabbi Neil Fleishman’s blog, where he waxes nostalgic about the Meadows Cinema by Bloomingdales.

    I used to hang out in the lobby of the Israel Center as I awaited the bus to take me to YU.

    Ah yes, I remember the Waldbaum’s well. Remember Wainrights? Did your mom put money in the little rides there or just let you sit on them and pretend they were moving?

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    Yours, i could say as you. Slowly begin my little sisters pussy sliding my.

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