the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: June 2006 (Page 2 of 3)

Encounter in IHOP


I was hungry last night, but there was nothing in the fridge.  So, I walked over to the finest establishment in my neighborhood, IHOP, and ordered French toast (I was feeling wild).

I suddenly realized that I never showered after going to the gym, so I must have looked sweaty and grimy. 

As I waited for my meal, a mother and daughter passed by as they went to pay their bill.   The daughter, a cute twelve-year old girl, shyly looked my way.  A few seconds passed after they passed me, and then they reappeared — standing right next to my table!

“Excuse me,” said the mother.  “I really hope I’m not bothering you.  But my daughter wants to ask you something.” 

The little girl was nervous.  The mother held the girl’s hand to calm her. 

What was going on?

The only scenario I could come up with was that they were a rich Beverly Hills family, they thought I looked homeless, and they wanted to pay for my French toast.

“Go ahead, Jen,” said the mother.  “Ask him.”

But the girl was frozen in fear.  The mother decided to help her daughter out.

“My daughter wants to know if you’re an actor?”

“An actor?” I asked.

“Are you Kirk?” the girl blurted out, finally finding her voice.

“Kirk?” I said, confused.  “No, I’m sorry.  I’m not Kirk.”

“My daughter wants to know if you “play” Kirk,” the mother explained.  “On “Gilmore Girls?”

“No, I’m sorry…”

I had no idea who “Kirk” was.  I’ve never seen “Gilmore Girls,” although it just happens to be my mother’s favorite show and she’s always telling me to watch it.

The girl looked crushed.  I was not “Kirk.”

If I had more time to think, or if I was just a little more quick-witted, I would have lied to the girl.  It would have been worth it.  I would have given her a story she would have remembered for the rest of her life. 

“Imagine!” she would tell her grandchildren.  ” I met Kirk at the IHOP on Wilshire Boulevard!  He even signed a menu!  Look — “Kirk.”

Hey, if I had met Lisa Bonet in a Chili’s Restaurant in 1980, I’d still be writing about it on my blog.

I tried to come up with something positive to say to the girl.  I felt guilty about getting her all excited about meeting “Kirk,” then snapping her dream like a twig.

“You know…” I said with a gentle smile, “‘Gilmore Girls’ is my mother’s favorite show.  She’ll appreciate that you thought I was Kirk.”

“You hear that, Jen?” said the mother.  “His mother loves “Gilmore Girls” too!”

The girl shrugged, like she gave a rat’s ass.   

I got home and decided to call my mother just to tell her the story.  She laughed.

“That’s so cute,” she said.

But there was one unresolved matter.

“So, tell me, Mom, who the hell is ‘Kirk’?”

“Oh, he’s the town weirdo.”

The Ballad of Seth Blackwell


The Ballad of Seth Blackwell

When I was younger,
So much younger than today,
I had long hair and oval specs,
“Like John Lennon,” they would say.

When I got much older,
And started having dates,
“Hey, look at you, said women,
“You look just like Bill Gates.”

Now I’m old and grizzled,
I’m only known as Seth,
When people choose to see me,
They see a man near death.

(written in IHOP after this)

Poetry Thursday

From Television City in Hollywood


Some of you have noticed that I’ve been a bit jittery on this blog lately — putting posts on, taking them off, and changing titles every half hour. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with me. Maybe I’m nervous about spending two weeks in Flushing with both Sophia and my mother. Did I mention that we’re also spending five days in a lakefront cabin in the Berkshires together?

But I think the real reason for my nervous energy is because I recently went to a meet-up with a few old friends from grad school, and I’m doing the inevitable comparisons of our lives. We were all in the MFA program at USC Film School. We lost touch for a while, but one found me through “Citizen of the Month.” During the weekend, we had a reunion. One is them is a major movie director. One is a editor for TV. One is a ICM talent agent. And then there’s me, the freelance writer known as Neilochka. So, I hope this explains my recent ranting on about syndication and bloggers making money.

I was very anxious about seeing these guys, but once I was there, it wasn’t bad at all. After you hit the age of 30, everyone’s life is such a confusing mess that it’s difficult to make comparisons based solely on career choices. And in Hollywood, everyone has had his ups and down, including the most successful of the bunch.

At some point during our meet-up, we went around the table, and each told a tale of his WORST Hollywood experience. This was not an easy task. Everyone had stories of crazed agents and meglomaniacal producers, sometimes even with the same characters.

When it was my time to tell a story, I filed through my storehouse of unpleasant Hollywood moments. Should I tell the one about the agent that was arrested while I was in his office? How about the pitch meeting at Fox? Sophia and I had written a romantic comedy script together. But when we pitched it to a young executive, he stood in the corner of his office and played this miniature hole-in-one golf game by himself.

I decided to tell the story of the sitcom taping that I attended with my former writing partner. It was the taping of some brand new show for the Fall Season. The show had a lot of “buzz.” They were filming their first episode at Warner Brothers.

After the show, my partner and I went to Dalt’s Grill in Burbank (which sadly closed last year). Even though Dalt’s was nothing more than a fancy coffee shop, it was close to Warner Brothers and Disney Studios, so everyone went there. You saw more celebrities at Dalt’s than in Beverly Hills.

As we ate our burgers, we saw the cast and crew of the sitcom taping we had just attended — sitting a few tables away. The producers, the writers, and the cast were there, all celebrating the success of the taping.

My partner dragged me over there to say hello and kiss some ass. We tried to look confident as we introduced ourselves. We told them how brilliant they were and that their show was the best thing on TV since “All in the Family.” They invited us to sit down with them. My writing partner and I looked at each other. We were in!

For the next hour, we poured on the B.S. I told my best stories. We did some shtick. I talked with the lead actor about some obscure movie he was in, and scored some major brownie points. The executive producer treated me like I was an old buddy. We both were from Queens. He said my partner and I would be perfect as writers for the show.

The executive producer’s phone rang, supposedly about some party we were all going to attend in West Hollywood. But it wasn’t about the party. It was the network. They were cancelling the show — after the taping of the first episode.

The executive producer started to cry. The lead actor threw a container of coffee against the wall. The others got drunk.

My writing partner and I never heard back from any of them again.

LA Coffee


I went to my local coffee “bar” for a cup of coffee.  As I was about to order, a rude woman burst in and stepped in.  She said she was in a rush and needed to order her coffee NOW, so I let her go first. 

She ordered a cup of coffee, but insisted that her coffee must be made at 114 degrees.

“What an asshole,” I thought to myself. 

But the “barista” didn’t bat an eye.

I just got home and did a Google search.  I was surprised to read this on a “coffee FAQ” about getting rid of the caffeine:

“Heating the water to 114 degrees Fahrenheit (45.5 degrees Celsius) destroys the methlylene chloride compound, which takes the caffeine with it. The beans reabsorb their flavor when reintroduced to the bath. This is called the indirect method, as the coffee beans never directly come in contact with the methlylene chloride.”

Have you ever seen anyone ask for their coffee at 114 degrees?

Even if it is legit, the woman was still an asshole.

Perfect Post to Be Syndicated by the Washington Post


Sophia called me up and said she was hungry. I suggested our usual lunch place in Redono Beach.

“Not that place again,” she said. “Can’t we ever do anything different?”

I’ve heard this said to me many times in the bedroom, but never about my choices of where to eat lunch.

But then inspiration hit me.

“Oh, I know where I’ll take you. I found a place where they have really good gyros!”

“Great” said Sophia, turned-on by my surprising show of spontaneity. 

But things quickly changed as we pulled into the parking lot of Dave’s Burgers. I could see Sophia was incredulous.

“We’re going here?” she said, emphasis on HERE.

I reminded Sophia that some of the best hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, even GYROS are created like masterpieces in the dumpiest of take-out joints.

Inside Dave’s Burgers, it was like Formica Heaven. The Menu board was as long as “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” (pretentious literary reference to impress). There was Mexican food, Italian food, Greek food, and an assortment of burgers, with or without chili on top.

“This Gyro is like a sandwich with shaved meat in a pita, right” asked Sophia.


“You know I don’t like sandwiches too much.”

Before I could spell “high maintenance,” I found a solution.

“Look,” I said, pointing towards the vast menu board, “They have a gyro platter for two dollars more. And it comes with a salad and a drink.”

Ten minutes later, we were sitting at at an uncomfortable plastic table while Sophia stared down at her plate glistening with fat, reconstituted meat slices.

“Aren’t they supposed to use real meat?” she asked.

Maybe I was so deluded by WANTING to find a good gyro sandwich in Redondo Beach, that I imagined it as tasty the first time. Or maybe when you order a sandwich rather than the platter, and you get it wrapped up in paper, you just don’t see what the meat actually looks like (or see it dripping with oil).

The “salad” was 1/6 lettuce, 1/6 french fries, and 2/3 greasy onion rings. We ended up tossing our food away.

“I hope the guys who work here don’t eat this crap every day,” said Sophia. “They’re gonna drop dead.”

Note to Editors of the Washington Post:

OK, let me take a little pause in this story for some literary self-criticism.

I understand that if I want my posts to be picked up by your illustrious newspaper, I must start telling “true” stories. That means no fudging the facts or using exaggeration. After all, imagine what would happen to my budding career if I start making up the story like Jayson Blair did with the Times.

The problem I have with most true life stories is that the endings are usually lame. Most real-life incidents don’t come with a ready punch-line. That said — THIS true-life “gyro” story does have a good ending. But the final twist is so forced and obvious that you are not going to believe that this really happened. It just seems like hack work. But it did happen. I swear. I swear on the names of your gods, Woodward and Bernstein.


Quick recap:

Sophia says, “I hope the guys who work here don’t eat this crap every day. They’re gonna drop dead.”

As we leave Dave’s Burgers, three fire engines, an ambulance, and two paramedics zoom into the parking lot. One of the chefs collapsed in the kitchen after eating his own lunch, and is carried out on a stretcher.

Expert’s Seal of Approval: Part 2


I received quite a number of emails after yesterday’s post about traditional standards vs. “open” blogging.   Many of you applaud the growing democratization of the media through blogging.  But others respect the editorial and quality control of the traditional media.   Even though I read blogs every day that are as interesting as anything I see in newspapers and magazines, it would be hypocritical of me to dismiss the traditional media because, well, THEY PAY.  

Some bloggers ONLY BLOG as a way to get INTO the traditional media.   I love blogging for blogging’s sake, but if someone offered me an interesting writing job, I would not say, “Oh, I’m sorry.  I’m too busy writing my blog.”

Countless online “experts” want to tell you how you can make money through blogging.  I’m here to tell you that I know as little as they do.  Some bloggers use advertising to cover some costs, but blog ads can’t pay the bills, except maybe for a few bloggers, one whose name I will not mention.  So, despite my ranting post yesterday, the truth is that the “Expert’s Seal of Approval” is important after all — especially if you’re a blogger who wants to be noticed.  I know I got into blogging just for the hot women, but I realize that some of you have higher ambitions.


A few weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to join Blogburst:

BlogBurst is a syndication service that places your blog content on top-tier online destinations. You get visibility, audience reach and increased traffic, while publishers get a wide range of new coverage to broaden their reach and increase page views.

How does it work?

Once you’re accepted into the BlogBurst network, just keep blogging as usual. Then, each time one of our publishers picks up your content, you’ll reach a whole new audience — and your byline link will drive traffic to your blog.

Their clients includes such big-wigs as the Washington Post and the Houston Chronicle.

I never actually applied to join, thinking that my conversations with my penis wasn’t really appropriate for the Style section of the Washington Post.  But I frequently read YOUR POSTS and say to myself, “This could be published.” 

Not always — let’s be honest. 

You’re not always at the top of your game, especially when you went out drinking the night before.  But sometimes.  Maybe it was a night of good sex or good pasta or good sleep, but whatever it was — it cleared your head and made you write a post that was incredibly insightful.

So, I throw this out to you if anyone wants to apply to this Blogburst.  I’m not exactly sure what their criteria is for approval or rejection.  This service is probably best for the blogger who writes about “issues,” and not the blogger who writes about her experience with her vibrator last night.

Two caveats: 

1)  I know very little about any of this.  Maybe, as she did with coComment last week, Supafine will try it first and report back.

2)  “BlogBurst charges publishers for this service. They do not share revenue with bloggers, although each post has a byline and attribution/link back to the blog. For most bloggers, this extra traffic and attention will be very welcome.” 

This means that you’re basically slave labor for Blogburst.  But at least you can tell your friends at your high school reunion that you “write” for the Washington Post.  Or it can help you make contacts.

What do you think?

There’s also another service called ScooptWords. 


 According to

ScooptWords is a new service that aims to sell your blog content to print media. Scottish startup Scoopt was one of the first agencies to sell cellphone photos to media companies (along with SpyMedia), so the expansion to blog content makes sense. The move puts them in competition with BlogBurst, Pluck’s blog syndication service. But while Blogburst doesn’t currently compensate users (they will eventually), ScooptWords is paying contributors 50% of the first sale and 75% of subsequent sales.

Anyone smarter than me willing to read the fine print?

There are other ways that bloggers are trying to get the attention of the mainstream media.  Many are now acting like “real” writers (poets and novelists) and reading their work to the public.  I’m not sure how often I want to hear a blogger reading about “what she had for breakfast,” but these blogger shows are becoming popular.  There is already a show in New York City where bloggers read their work.  I’m sure someone will soon start something similar in blog-popular cities such as Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. 


On Friday night, I’m going to see one of these shows in a Los Angeles theater – eight Los Angeles bloggers reading their favorite entries as a benefit for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.

• Paul Davidson
• AJ Gentile
• Carly Milne
• Shane Nickerson (who organized it)
• Annie Sertich
• Jessica Mae Stover
• Colleen Wainwright
• Wil Wheaton

I consider myself blogging-pals of the talented Pauly, Carly, and Colleen — and I’m excited to learn more about the others.    (note to Colleen:  please don’t talk about David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” the entire time!)

Friday, June 16th
7:30 PM
Improv Olympic
6366 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028

While reading your work to an audience sounds fun, there’s really only ONE sureshot way to make money from blogging.  Yes, I’m talking about World Blogger Championship of Online Poker.   (also via Nickerblog)


Because of Sophia’s obsession with Texas Hold-em, I’ve now watched countless hours of the pros playing on TV.   I expect to kick some serious blogger ass. 

A Year Ago in Citizen of the Month:  More Kids: Part 2

Bloggers With Biceps – Week Three


I know… you were hoping that I forgot.

That I got so involved with my rant against experts and getting Dooce to comment on my blog that I would forget OUR AGREEMENT.

I know some of you are hiding.

You are hiding because you didn’t exercise this week. You are hiding because you do not want to give twenty dollars to charity EVEN THOUGH your signed your name IN BLOOD in front of the ENTIRE BLOGOSPHERE.

I wasn’t lazy last week.


I went to the gym THREE TIMES this week. Let me say that again: THREE TIMES!

(OK, the truth:  Sophia had to drag me there each time against my will)

But my abs are getting so tight that I have been inspired by Angelina Jolie to give myself the kosher-version of her latest tattoo:



How did you do this week…?

Dating Dummy
Edgy Mama
The Yearning Heart
Anonymous City Girl
Plain Jane

You have one more week in the program. Get out there and exercise!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: The Ultimate Status Symbol: More Kids

Expert’s Seal of Approval


Today I had lunch with Miriam, an old college friend from my undergrad days at Columbia. She now has a PhD in Art History and is a curator at a major New York museum. She’s a great person, but she can also be a little snooty. But that’s OK. I like snooty. We haven’t seen each other in a few years, so we spent the meal catching up with each other.

Towards the middle of the meal, I suddenly blurted out, “Oh, I almost forgot one of the most interesting things going on in my life. I started a blog last year! And now I have all these people who come and read it every day!”

Her response was, “Why in the world would anyone want to read YOU?”

Now I know this sounds insulting. But I didn’t take it like that at all.  I knew exactly where she was coming from — academia. She has been taught the importance of cultural standards — the “great books” and the “great works of art.” In her world, only someone canonized by an authority is worthy of someone’s time. That’s why the paintings of August Renoir are studied in art history classes. The paintings of Tony Curtis are not.

This is a pretty common way of seeing things. I know many people who will not read a book unless it was already well-reviewed in the New York Times. Otherwise, what’s the point of reading it?

“I don’t get blogging at all, Miriam said. “If I wanted to read something interesting, why not read “War and Peace” instead of your blog?”

For a second, I sat there and thought, “You know, that’s not a stupid question. Why should I read Retropolitan‘s latest blog post when I could be reading “War and Peace?”

Of course, in my case, blogging hasn’t replaced my time reading “War and Peace.” It has replaced my time watching “The Apprentice” and socializing with real live human beings. But, I could be reading me some Tolstoy! Maybe Sophia could even read it to me in the original Russian!

Yeah, but then I would have to take Sophia away from watching her “24.”

But I do get where Miriam is coming from. I studied “the liberal arts” in college and grad school. But despite the years you put in, you’re never treated with the same authority as a doctor or a lawyer. Miriam told me that being a museum curator can be frustrating, because everyone thinks her job is mostly about placing the frames on the wall. I’ve heard similar complaints from web designers, where clients think they can just have their daughter do the job for free because she knows a little HTML.”

So, unless you go to law or business school, the only real pleasure you can get out of your expensive liberal arts degree is lording it over everyone about how smart you are.

Now that I’ve finally read half of one book by David Sedaris, I bring him up all the time in conversation.

“You mean you haven’t read David Sedaris?” I say, snickering.

It feels good to be part of the cultured class. I remember coming home during my freshman year in college and scolding my mother, “How can you read these trashy novels when you should be reading Plato’s Symposium instead!”

Almost all my friends from college now work as members of this cultured class –publishing, media, television, etc… the arbiters and critics of what we should watch, see, buy, and read.

But the internet is screwing things up.

The academic world does not prepare you to think of a housewife in Ohio as a “writer” or a blogger/fireman as having anything interesting to say. No one expect two teenagers from Taiwan to make a compelling video and put it on YouTube. Hey, they didn’t even go to NYU Film School!

I actually love this democratization of the media.  And I get something from blogging that I can’t get from a novel.  I can’t interact with Tolstoy.  And as long as I wait, he’s never going to write a snarky comment back on my blog, acknowledging my existence  — although he will probably do it before Dooce does. 

But many find the growth of the individual blogger as scary, especially those who already work in the media. Is a newspaper columnist really that much more interesting than some political blogger — other than the fact that one gets paid and the other doesn’t?  Should we depend on cultural arbiters to decide what is considered “worthy” of our time, or should we let the “American Idol” spirit of “Hey, let’s vote on the next superstar!” be the new ideal? And if everyone considers themselves a creative writer, videographer, cultural critic, etc. – what happens to the experts? Does what they say still count?  Or could a housewife’s blog be as worthy reading material as something published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux?

So, the answer to Miriam’s question to me, “Why in the world would anyone want to read YOU?” is obvious.

It’s shorter than “War and Peace.”

P.S. —

Immediately after writing this, Sophia tore apart my entire argument. She said that it’s human nature for people to want an “expert” to show them what to read, watch, and “what NOT to wear.” Look at the home design “experts” on TV. Look at all the “expert” advice given in magazines.  Look at all the blogging sites telling you what blog to read. 

Sophia even told me about this new ABC show, How to Get the Guy, where “love coaches,” will help single women meet men.

Teresa Strasser is one of love coaches,” she said, knowing that she is on my short list of cute Jewish brunettes who appear on television.

“Oh, yeah?” I said, my eyes widening.  “Didn’t she used to be a home design expert on another show?  And a fashion expert on another show?”

“She must be very educated,” Sophia joked.  “But what makes this single woman a love coach? If anyone should be a love coach, it should be my mother. She’s been married for forty years!”

Sophia gave me one example after another of how Americans love to take advice from experts — even if these experts don’t know any more than anyone else.   Look how one word from Oprah can make a book an instant bestseller.  Or how people wait in line to hear advice from “experts” at seminars.

“Hmmm…..,” I thought to myself as Sophia spoke…

P.P.S. —

Announcing:  (from the producers of BlogHim)

Meeting Hot Women Through Blogging

A Three Day Seminar by blogging and relationship expert Neil Kramer

July 14-15-16

The Valley Inn
Ventura Boulevard (adjacent to Burbank Bowling Alley)
Burbank, CA

Cost: $4000

Special for readers of “Citizen of the Month”: $4500

Single women and previous “blog crushes of the day”: Free!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Online Dating Works for Some

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?”

Comedy and Modern Science


Last Friday, Sophia and I went with blogger-pal Danny and his wife, Kendall, to the Hermosa Beach Comedy and Magic Club.  It is one of the best comedy clubs in Los Angeles, well-known as the club Jay Leno performs every Sunday night, trying out his monologues.  It is a great place to visit when you come to Los Angeles  Afterwards, remember to drop by Sophia’s house in Redondo Beach for some tea and cookies.

At Friday’s performance, we were sitting next to a rowdy table of ten.  They all seemed drunk.  In the center of the bunch were two twins, both blond Pamela Anderson types, both wearing skimpy halter tops.   It was their birthdays.   (Danny later discovered that these “twins” were the Costello Twins and they are known for something in C-level Hollywood.    Look it up yourself.   It’s not that interesting.)

The show consisted for four acts.  During each act, Blond Twin #1 would stand up, talking to the comedian on the stage — wanting to bring the attention to herself.   Even though the comedians seemed annoyed, they tried to keep it light, realizing she was drunk and it was her birthday.

But the audience was getting increasingly pissy.

The headliner for the evening was the very funny Ralph Harris.  Towards the middle of his routine, Blond Twin #1 stood up for the fourth time.

“I like you.  You’re funny.” she slurred.

“Uh, yeah, thanks,” Ralph Harris said.  “Could you sit down now?”

But Blond Twin #1 did not sit down.   Instead, she pulled down her halter top and flashed her breasts to the comedian — and the rest of the audience.

Now, I know what you’re thinking while you’re reading this at home or in the office.

“Why is Neil telling me this story?” 

I tell this true-life tale for an important reason.  I think it’s time to prove to my female readers that not all men are horndogs.  As this blond beauty turned my way, her breasts bare to the world, my eyes didn’t pop out of their sockets like a cartoon character.  I didn’t drool all over myself.   The table didn’t miraculously lift a foot off the ground.

No, I sat there and pondered modern science.    I thought:

“When are they ever going to make fake boobs that don’t look like large bocce balls?”

A Year Ago On Citizen of the Month:  The Blog is Mightier Than the Sword

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