the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Russian Market


I feel a little guilty bringing up some marital issues yesterday with Sophia, but I guess it is not a “true blog” unless you get in trouble with a family member over something. The truth is, none of us are perfect, and in most things, I couldn’t ask for a more supportive woman for a wife or a friend. I haven’t been the best of husbands financially, and Sophia has always stood by me in whatever I do (or haven’t done).

Sophia has been especially encouraging in my writing. A few days ago, I called Sophia and told her that it might be time to start writing something creative BESIDES my blog — something where I can actually make some money.

“That’s great,” she said. “I was waiting for you to say that. What are you going to write?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Why don’t you call your agent and see what’s going on?”

“Are you kidding? I haven’t spoken to him in two years. He probably thinks I moved to Tibet and became a monk or moved to Encino and became an accountant.”

“Eh, he wasn’t good for you anyway. What about that meeting you once had with that young literary agent at CAA [Creative Artists Agency]?”

“That was over a year ago. And we never even talked about the script. All he talked about was HIM. About how he was a big shot with “Young Executives for the Environment” or something like that, and how we have to save the oceans from pollution.”

“Well, put him on your contact list anyway.”

“OK, I’ll sit down on Sunday and start thinking of some idea…”

“Oh, well, before you do that… I volunteered you to drive my mother and her friend Maya to the Russian market on Santa Monica Boulevard.”

This wasn’t too bad of a request. I like going to the Russian market in the Russian-part of West Hollywood. I like seeing all the cans of exotic foods and the different types of cheeses. Fruits and vegetables are usually half the price of the regular supermarket, although they frequently look like the “rejects.”

Neither Fanya (Sophia’s mother) or Maya can speak much English, so it is always an adventure going out with them alone. My Russian vocabulary consists of “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” and “this is tasty,” but the women get such a kick out of hearing me pronounce these incorrectly, that it is very easy to make them laugh.

The trip from their apartment building to the market usually takes ten minutes, but Sunday was different. Melrose Avenue was blocked off because of the annual AIDS walk. It took me forty-five minutes to get to our destination. Maya, a flamboyant woman, was sitting next to me in the passenger seat, chewing my ear off in Russian. I have a feeling she was once a real beauty back in Moscow, because she loves attention. She always dresses in flashy, zebra-striped outfits that are a size too small for her body. Even though it was a beautiful day on Sunday, she wore a small mink stole to protect her from the non-existent “Fall breeze.”

We finally made it to the Odessa Market. Fanya bought meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Maya bought vodka and a carton of Marlboros.

On the way home, I tried to take a shortcut, which was a terrible idea, and we got trapped in the middle of the AIDS walk. A police officer was blocking traffic, allowing the walkers to pass by. We were stuck there for what seemed like ten minutes, and I had a helluva time trying to explain to Maya what a AIDS march is all about.

The walkers were segmented into groups, each being from a different sponsoring company, and the first walker of each group carried a little sign signifying what company they worked for, much like they do with the national flags in the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics.

As we waited in the car — I saw the sign of CAA talent agency pass in front of me, and a huge contingent of employees following behind. I’m not sure — maybe it is because Maya looked so flamboyant — but it seemed as if every member of this group was looking directly at us as they passed by.

One walker even looked familiar.

Yes, it was that agent that I met with — the crazy one into environmentalist causes! The one I was just talking about with Sophia a few days earlier! The one who I was thinking of contacting and jumpstarting my career!

I smiled at him, but the look he returned was not a friendly one. It was more of a glare… almost of disgust.  Uh-oh.  Suddenly I realized why — I was there in Sophia’s gas-guzzling SUV rather than participating in the AIDS walk, while sitting next to a woman wearing a piece of FUR around her neck and holding a carton of CIGARETTES on her lap?

Why, why, why DIDN’T I take the Prius instead?!

When I got home, I crossed CAA off my contact list.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: The Information Superhighway of Broken Dreams


  1. tiff

    Oh, Neil – you can always point to your PINK blog as a way to appease the gods of political correctness and volunteerism! Just, well, meet with the CAA guy before the end of the month.

  2. Churlita

    If that CAA guy was as self-absorbed as you say, he probably didn’t even recognize you out of context. You should still contact him.

    Of course, I can’t handle rejection either so who am I to tell you what you should do…

  3. nelumbo

    I’m guessing that he didn’t even recognize you out of context. Even if he can’t forgive you for driving a SUV, there’s plenty of agents out there. I subscribe to to keep updated the magazine markets, and I think they have a couple hundred listings for agents. Well good luck with your creative projects! Go for it!

  4. Rhea

    I’ve been wondering what it is you do for work. Your bio on the top of the page says you are a writer and web producer. You do seem to have an awful lot of time to blog…

  5. Tatyana

    Why don’t you go American way?
    Like starting your own business?
    A theater company? A screenwriters cooperative? A marital advice practice?

    You have all the credentials and humongous fan base who you can easily milk for funds. And what’s especially enticing, the LESS succesful you’ll become, the MORE donations you’ll get from your adoring audience.

    Try it.

  6. Neil

    You mean blogging isn’t a career?  I did try my hand at being a professional pole-dancer over the last year, but it just took too much time away from making comments on everyone’s blog…

    Although I do work freelance, I did just apply for a job at Disney for their “family” sector. I’m sure they’re going to love my talking penis posts when they google my name. Maybe I should send my resume to Penthouse.

  7. Jody

    Apparently it is a career – just ask your friend Dooce. 🙂

  8. 2nd Pearl Past the Post

    Better yet sell your pole dancing video to Penthouse.

    You are your own best agent
    change and work
    comes from within
    cash comes from
    those funny machines
    with screens in malls
    that sound like R2D2

    (too long for a fortune cookie right?)

  9. M.A.

    I think that you’re a really talented and funny man. I’d watch anything written by you. Write a screenplay! Get it out there!

  10. Roberta

    I was a little surprised at the harshness against Sophia in response to yesterday’s blog. 1) Umm… it was a blog. Funny. Slanted. 2) Even if it wasn’t a blog… we were only getting one side of the story, when there is a whole ‘nother side, as well as an entire marriage and relationship that we (your readers) are not necessarily privvy to.
    But then, I am often surprised by how quickly people judge a story. Haven’t we all been proven wrong more than once when we finally hear the other viewpoint? I always keep in mind that there are a whole world of truths I’m not being told. It’s just human nature.
    So Neil, sorry about your weird and awkward run-in, but thank you for speaking a bit to balance what was being unsympathetically misconstrued.

  11. wendy

    While dating actors in LA…Lesser actors, no celebs…They would speak of their agents at CAA and other such…in reverant tones of worship…a benovlant god…of future promise. When I met these ladies in person..(they were always ladies.. they struck me as way too short to be god…

    And after all it is LA right? You could always give scientology a whirl..If electrodes aren’t your thing..I bet you’de get some good networking done…

  12. Lou P.

    “I guess it is not a “true blog” unless you get in trouble with a family member over something”


  13. Neil

    I actually was quite flattered that readers would care enough about me to “want me to get what I deserve” from marriage. I really appreciated it. But, like Roberta said, Sophia’s blog might tell a different story. (of course, mine will be the one that will be in google forever — ha ha — the winner in history is always the one who writes it down)


    Is fur actually bad for the environment or does it cause AIDs? How effective can an agent be with no sense of humor? You’ll find someone better to represent you and your penis.

  15. Daisy Mae

    I instituted an “If you don’t like it don’t read it” policy with my family over a year ago. I let them know flat out that if they ticked me off I would probably write about it, so dont tick me off. For the most part they don’t.

    I am SO JEALOUS over the Russian market. The one we have here is such a joke. It’s a combo deli/market They have a larger Russian section at the Kroger than they do at Babushkas. And don’t even get me going on Kosher. I’m not kosher (far from it) but my sister in law and her hubby are so when they come we have to beat the bushes trying to find kosher meats here in the barren Midwest.

  16. brooke

    Never ever ever cross anyone off your list from CAA.

    Words to live by.

  17. Mo

    I have to say, I’m surprised you don’t have ads on your blog. Your pal Laurie has a ton. Isn’t that how ppl become “employed” bloggers? I think you could explore that- you have a big enough following. And, sorry for being harsh with the words yesterday, I was just feeling all protective of Neilochka (who I’m glad saw the intent behind my words).

  18. Hilly

    First of all, I keep a separate private blog when I need to go off about my husband, because I think it is disrespectful to write about him all over the net BUT that is only when I am extremely mad; were it me, I would have made the same blog post but about men. I am NOT Sophia but I did not feel like you were disrespecting her as much as you were trying to amuse the crowd.

    Anyway, I was thinking that it was KARMA that put that agency in front of you so uncross them. Like someone else said, the guy was self-absorbef and probably was pissed that he was walking and you were chillaxing. Call that agency but see if you can work with someone else; your writing is quite terrific and I think you could do freelance work or whatever ;).

  19. Dagny

    First of all, I think that Tatyana may be on to something there.

    Secondly, Maya sounds like just the kind of woman with whom I’d love to hang out.

  20. Violet

    At least you now know how pc you’ll have to be to get on the agent’s good side.

  21. ms. sizzle

    eh, he’s too into himself anyhow. next!

  22. justrun

    I am sure you have no reason to worry about that guy. There are plenty of agents, no?

  23. Edgy Mama

    Laughing here!

    Total paranoid writer moment. I’m driving the wrong car so he won’t sign me. I’m wearing the wrong shirt. I forget my lucky penny. Even if I wrote the next fricking Gone With the Wind, it won’t matter because I’ve screwed up. I’m not worthy.

    Been there. Done that. Do it regularly.

  24. better safe than sorry

    don’t you have an english degree? maybe try and teach, night school, supply teach. my niece has an english degree and got into editing. maybe get in with a magazine or publishing company, work on your book, maybe get it published? don’t think you can’t do something because of a look, or glare.

  25. Neil

    Wow, I didn’t expect everyone to be so somber about this. When I told Sophia the story, we laughed it up. This guy was an idiot anyway. I’ll survive. Believe me, if he liked something I wrote, I could be a serial killer and it wouldn’t bother him.

    Like in yesterday’s post, I write things in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner. I appreciate and am flattered that people care, though I usually like to find the humor in it. So, you should, too. I think we all should find humor in our lives.

    Or maybe I do need therapy to help me with my nervousness about people taking me too seriously.

    But this adds to my theory that people are more comfortable talking about their sex lives than how much money they make.

    Why is the fact that I haven’t had sex in months funny, but some incident with a literary agent reads as such a downer? If anything, you should be crying over things in reverse. Where are your priorities? I know I have mine.

    And remember, Bloglaughs is reviewing this site this week, so MAKE BELIEVE YOU ARE A SITCOM AUDIENCE and fake the laughter so it seems funnier than it is.


  26. Kyla

    Ditto, Roberta!
    Frankly, I felt really bad for Sophia and was quite surprised by how many people were so happy to jump on the “I’ll be happy to be on Sophia’s shitlist” bandwagon. The piece was a funny humorous post, that was really exploring the Mars-Venus conundrum, not an indictment of Sophia, and her “passive-aggressive behavior.” Sheesh!…

  27. elle

    Don’t sweat it. You are super talented!!

  28. Nancy

    Neil! You SHOULD be focusing on a novel or a book or something!

    (but you can’t quit this blog.)

  29. Non-Highlighted Heather

    I thought the story was pretty funny. I loved Maya’s purchases.

  30. Annie D.


    [Laughing for the benefit of the Bloglaughs reviewers…]

    Neil, honey, you are naturally funny and a wonderful writer. And I promise not to take you too seriously if you promise not to take me too seriously.

    But I am concerned that you have not been picturing your reading audience in their monkey underwear, as I suggested.

    Monkey underwear. Think about it. Then write.

  31. Cover Your Mouth

    Listen Neil, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t give a shit about your financial stability or whether or not you’re “getting what you deserve from your marriage.” I come to this site everyday because your posts make me laugh. As long as you’ve got the 6 bucks a month it takes to keep a blog going and your relationship with Sophia continues to provide humorous post material, then I’m happy. I hope my callousness has lifted your spirits.

  32. Jules

    Neil – a great story! I’m sure the CAA guy has millions of pairs of leather shoes and wears clothes manufactured by little children in India…

    oh yeah…HA HA HA HA HA!

  33. Dagny

    First of all, I did chuckle. Especially when I thoght that Maya was perhaps an older version of me.

    Secondly, I chuckled once more when I realized for the first time ever, I actually agreed with Tatyana.

  34. patry

    A trip to the Russian market with a woman named Maya who wears leopard stripes and mink, and subsists on vodka and cigarettes? I’m willing to bet those agents weren’t looking at you with disdain. It was ENVY. They were thinking, damn, how did that guy end up with so much great material?

  35. Neil

    Now I feel like an idiot for writing that last comment.

  36. littlepurplecow

    Neil, were you wearing the monkey underwear at the AIDS Walk?

  37. Mist 1

    I keep rereading that “why don’t you call your agent” part over and over. Each time, your voice mocks me. I don’t have an agent okay? You don’t have to rub it in.

    No, I don’t want a hug. Just let me work through my envy in my own way.

  38. Pearl

    Neil, I think you should organize a local BLOGWALK. Call it the BIN Walk (Bloggers in Need) Write the PR kit, design the flyers, put together the media campaign and bring together bloggers like yourself…bloggers whose onscreen writing has taken over their everyday lives. So much so, that they can’t make a living.
    Charge bloggers to sign up and walk, have them get sponsors and you get a big chunk of the funds and share the rest with Bloggers in Need.

  39. communicatrix

    To hell with the rest of this blog soap opera–I want to party with Maya! She sounds like my kinda gal…

  40. V-Grrrl

    I gotta love a woman who goes to a vegetable market and comes home with vodka and cigarettes.

    And I totally died at the image of you bug-eyed and squeamish as the CAA guy marches past your SUV and your flamboyant passenger.

    In return for the laugh, I give you three (lame) lines to break the ice when you contact the CAA guy:

    1. “Saw you at the AIDS Walk! Sorry I couldn’t join you but I had to take my cross-dressing, chain-smoking, Grandpa to a support meeting. He’s trying to give up fur and cigarettes…Now wouldn’t that make a great opening scene in a sitcom. Speaking of which, check out this proposal….”

    2. “I saw you at the AIDS Walk! My Prius battery died, and I had to borrow my grandmother’s SUV to get there. I was so bummed when I arrived too late to walk with the Sierra Club.”

    3. “Saw you at the AIDS Walk! Yeah, that was me in the SUV–belongs to the caterers. I had to go along with them to pick up VODKA and CIGARETTES for the after walk party. I really need to get on the food committee next year and get them all straightened out.”

  41. kristen

    I love how the world works like this, that you’d see that agent just when you were talking about him. I’ve got my own opinions about CAA (shark tank) but they do have an amazing client list, feh.

  42. NuggetMaven

    Just as an aside…

    I just finished reading your post, “How much is that dildo in the window,” and upon landing on THIS post, seeing the Russian nesting dolls, my first thought is how “conveniently shaped” those dolls are, and how one might or could use them for “otherwise connubial purposes.”

    I’m just sayin’…

  43. rdl

    funny post!

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