the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: October 2006 (Page 2 of 4)

Today I Talk About Breakfast


One of the reasons I didn’t visit Sophia in New York is that her mother, who lives in LA, hasn’t been feeling too well.  Since she can’t speak English, she wanted one of us around in case of emergency.

This morning, I was woken up early by a phone call from Sophia.  Her mother was having a lot of pain in her back and wanted me to drive her to the emergency room.  I threw on my clothes and rushed over.

When I arrived, Fanya, her mother, was writhing in pain on the couch, but her step-father, Alex, was setting the table for breakfast. 

“Hospital?” I asked.

“Breakfast first.” he said in broken English.

I sat down, and Fanya joined us at the table.  Alex brought out plates of eggs, bread, cheese, meats, caviar, cream cheese, tomatoes, and mixed salad.  I thought this was a little odd, considering I flew over there in a rush, not even putting on any socks. 

Fanya immediately started yelling at him, not because he was wasting time, but because there wasn’t enough food on the table.  From what I understood, she was upset that he was being too “stingy,” so he went back to fridge and brought out some cabbage and fish.

Sophia’s parents aren’t rich people, but this is how Russians treat “guests.”  I talked about this yesterday when I had coffee with the lovely Kristen, who was visiting Los Angeles from the East Coast.   We discussed the different ways Americans “entertain at home” vs. the way of Europeans.  

I know for certain that Sophia’s parents would be insulted if someone served them cheese and crackers.  They always put out their best dishes, even for a stranger.   In my experience, I’ve noticed that the wealthier a couple is, the more likely it will be that they serve take-out chicken to a guest, particularly one deemed of “lower status.”

A meal is a special event for her parents.  I doubt they have ever gone into a Burger King.  Even Sophia never ate fast food until I corrupted her!  But she still does fast-food in her own style.  Sophia once called for the manager because the girl at the register wouldn’t allow her to get BBQ sauce put on her grilled chicken sandwich.

After the feast at Sophia’s parents’ apartment, I helped wash the dishes.  Fanya and Alex fought a little more (I know this because I recognized some of the same curse words that Sophia uses).  Then, after all this eating and fighting, Fanya suddenly decided that her back pain had mysteriously disappeared.  

Who knows?  Maybe, deep down, she just wanted a guest for breakfast…

So I said goodbye and went home.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   Cheap Thrills

What Did You Have For Lunch?


“Your posts this week have been the WORST,” said my blog editor/separated wife, Sophia, speaking on the phone from New York. “And stop writing about blogging. It is SOOO boring!”

There were other words exchanged during this conversation, mostly about my fear of putting advertising on my blog, but I’m going to avoid retelling some of the more “colorful” expressions she used to describe my “artistic integrity.”

I agree with Sophia that my posts have been lousy this week. I blame it on that video where I’m dancing with the mop, which premiered on October 13th to critical acclaim.

You know how some authors write a masterpiece for their first novel, but their second one sucks? After that video, I figured that I could just lie back and take it easy, but I was wrong. Modern readers are fickle. One false move and they’re off to read the blog of the latest young hunk right off the bus with a Dell laptop under his arm.

Looking for inspiration, I was intrigued by this new book titled “No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog,” written by Maggie Mason, who also has a popular blog titled Mighty Girl. (via Fussy)

A reviewer on Amazon described the book like this:

“Mason is thrilled at the opportunities that blogs have given the average person for self-expression, but laments that too many blogs are obsessive navel-gazing exercises that hold little to no interest over time. She wrote No One Cares as a way to help you come up with creative and new ideas for blog material that can lead to unusual material and interesting insights to the life and world of the writer.”

The book sounded interesting, but I took strong exception to the title, No One Cares What You Had for Lunch, even if the author is being tongue-in-cheek.

Think about the gullible young blogger out there who might read this book and accept this notion as a blogging “rule.”

In my opinion, blogging about your lunch is EXACTLY what you should be doing. This was what Sophia was trying to tell me on the phone. Is there anything more human, more sexy, more filled with human drama… than lunch?

Remember those cool lunch-boxes in elementary school? Remember grandma’s tuna fish sandwich? Remember having a romantic picnic lunch with your beau? Isn’t it true that the minute you get to work at 9AM, you watch the clock for three hours, waiting for what…? LUNCH!

When I finish my blogging primer, I’m going to title it “Write About Your Lunch.”

Of course, by the time I get around to writing it, no one will be blogging anymore because the fad will be dead. I’m always behind the times. (but please remember to buy my new book coming out in January, “The Dummy’s Guide to Making Money with Enron Stock.”

Sophia — today’s post will be about MY LUNCH. I want to prove to others that eating your lunch can bring about as many philosophical insights as reading the greatest philosophers.

Here we go —

Around noon today, I had a hankering for a hamburger. I felt like I deserved a treat because my cholesterol levels had fallen dramatically recently, thanks to my pills. I jumped into my car and headed for In-N-Out Burgers, but half-way there, I felt a nagging guilt. I suddenly remembered that I had eaten two slices of pizza for lunch the day before. I already had my “unhealthy” treat for the week.

What should I do? Go with desire or reason? I thought about the ancient Greeks. In his theory of anamnesis, Plato preached mastery over the body through reason. Did I really need this hamburger?

Thomas Aquinas, the medieval theologian, once said of Gluttony: “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists?”

I decided to find a balance between the two extremes — hunger and hamburger, much as in Hermetic Philosophy.

The solution: A Gardenburger!

I once had a pretty good veggie burger at Burger King, so off I went to see the King.

At my local Burger King, I was greeted by a slightly frazzled teenage girl, who took my order for a veggie burger, a side salad, and a cup of coffee. The bill came to $3.50. I looked at the receipt, puzzled. The Gardenburger alone was supposed to be $3.50. The girl had clearly charged me $2.00 less than what she was supposed to!

I went into a silent panic, mixed with glee. I enjoyed saving the two bucks, but I felt guilty about my moral stance. After all, I was stealing! I knew she had made a mistake, but I was intentionally remaining silent. What would the Talmud say about this? I certainly know that Immanuel Kant, the 18th Century writer of “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals,” would be shaking his head in shame.

Clearly it was my moral duty to speak up and say, “Young lady, I think you’ve made a mistake.” Think about it: What if I knew that her boss was going to dock her the two dollars that she lost — would I speak up then? What if she was fired? What if she quit school because of my action? What if, because of me, I knew she would eventually BECOME A PROSTITUTE?!

But, I wanted that two dollars. I kept my mouth shut. I pocketed the extra money, waited for my food, then headed for my table without ever saying a word.

There was no thunder. No lightening struck me down. As I sat down, holding my tray, I rationalized my action. I was a Robin Hood fighting an evil fast-food corporation. Even Michael Moore would be proud of me!

But I knew this was a lie. I knew I was never going to give any of my two dollars to charity. I was going to keep it. I was going to blow it on an ice cream cone on the way home, my cholesterol be damned.

And I was enjoying acting like a selfish criminal.

I was like motherf***ing Samuel L. Neilochka!

I ripped open the paper wrapper and took a determined bite of my sandwich. All I received was a mouth full of soggy lettuce and wet bread.

I looked down at my sandwich and opened up the bun. Inside was lettuce, a tomato slice and a piece of pickle. There was no Gardenburger! No meat! Nothing!

Soon, it became clear to me. At Burger King, if you ask for a “Veggieburger” rather than a “Gardenburger,” you get this ridiculous “veggie” sandwich with nothing on it except soggy lettuce, a sliver of tomato, and a tasteless pickle slice for $1.50!  There wasn’t any two dollar mistake. I was the idiot who made the mistake. I ordered a sandwich with NOTHING on it.

Have it Your Way! Right-O.

Do I even need to bring up the Eastern concept of karma?

So, what do you have for lunch?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: A New Hobby

Arm in Arm


Imagine a world where liberals and conservatives stand side by side. Where gays and right-wing reactionaries work for the same cause. Where snobby New Yorker and small town Southerners live as equals. Where foul-mouthed frat boys and stern-faced feminists wish each other well.

Is this utopia? No, this world does exist.


This world is called Blogads.

Since I started blogging, I’ve complained about how segmented the blogosphere is — differerent “communities” that rarely interact. In reality, a unifying force brings the most popular blogs together — one God you might say — yes, it is money from advertising.

I’ve always been fascinated with advertising, ever since Mr. Molnia, my eigth grade Social Studies teacher, taught us about “propaganda techniques.” He always told us to study the advertising on TV and newspapers because you could learn a lot about what is — and what is NOT said — in the world.

Despite my hatred for advertisements on blogs — and I HATE THEM — there is a strong possibility that I might end up with them some day. So, today, I hit the online road to explore what is out there. And here is what I found: No surprise. There is a lot of advertising going on.

Before we all get all excited, you should know that to make any sort of money, you need a lot of readers and “hits.” In the scheme of “blog celebrity,” if Dooce is George Clooney, I’m Pauly Shore’s unknown brother, Herman.

Dooce and the big mommy and daddy blogs like Amalah, Finslippy, and Dad Gone Mad, all seem to be part of the Federated Media Publishing network and get advertisements from Adbrite. I quickly left these two sites, realizing I was on hallowed ground.

I headed over to BlogAds (for opinion makers!), mostly because I’ve seen them on all types of blogs, and they seemed to “represent” a broader ranger of “categories.”

We’re the blog advertising specialists. Launched in 2002, is where you place ads on America’s most influential blogs.

We represent the blogs you read — sure they’ve got stellar demographics (see our surveys of 56,000 blog readers), but blog readers aren’t just another random crowd of affluent consumers. Bloggers and their readers are mavens, influencers and insiders. Densely networked and brainstorming together at the speed of light, they are the new epicenter of American opinion.

Brainstorming together at the speed of light? Is that what we do every morning in our underwear? And… speed of light — are you kidding? Have any of these people actually commented on a Blogger site? It takes five minutes just to fill out the name, the email, the url, and that stupid jumbled word? Speed of light? Maybe big-time bloggers never actually comment anywhere, sort of like how former President Bush didn’t know how to buy groceries in a modern supermarket.

Still, I knew Blogads was the place for me. How did I know that? Because there were testimonials. Testimonials that I didn’t understand, and I’m always impressed with things that make me feel stupid.

“Blogads is the ‘Intel-inside’ of the blog revolution.”
– John Hlinko,

Ok, great!

“My favorite ‘buzz seeding’ tool currently is the amazing network over at…”
– Brian Clark, GMDstudios

I like the buzz seeding stuff because it sounds like sex.

“The best part is being able to share space (mind-space, virtual-space, screen-space) with the bloggers who — if they embrace our books and authors — make all the difference”
– Farah Miller, Knopf Publishing Group

The three dimensions of space. Cool!

But clearly my favorite was:

“…we’ve gotten very good CPM and CPC rates this way…”
– Elias Israel, Messagefire

Now, this is why I started blogging!

As in other “ad networks,” Blogads separates their blogs into convenient “hives” to attract the appropriately affluent demographic.


Curious to know “What’s My Hive?”, I went through each hive one by one, trying to find the best “fit” for Citizen of the Month.

Here’s the bulk of the list:

Hollywood Blogads
Liberal Blo Advertising Network
Humor Network
Conservative Blog Advertising Network
Beltway Bloggers
The Philly Ad Network
Hip Hop
Baseball Blogosphere
Gay Blogads
Environment and Sustainability
Los Angeles Blogs
Women Bloggers Network
Blue Country
International BlogAds
Government Relations Blog Network
Programming and Technology Blogs
Riveting Reviews
The Liberal Prose
Foodblog Ad Network
Military Blogs
Hip Hop and R&B
AltWeeklies Blog Network
Southern BlogAds
North Carolina
Fashion Blogads
Indie Film Blogs
Indie Music
Law Blog Ad Network
Texas Progressive Alliance
Design Network
Science Blogs
The Anti-Terrorism Coalition
Red State Network
Progressive Parenting
Baby and Parenting Blogads
UK Blogads
Economic Blogads
Chicago Blogs
Oregon Progressives
Football Blogosphere
Gun Blogs
Raging Center-Right Bloggers
Stock Market Investing Network
Jewish Blogs
Product Niche Network
Blogads Gaming
Evangelical Bloggers
Japan Blog Ad Network
Colored Left
Physician Blogging
Jersey Ad Network
Travel Blog
Michigan Ad Network
Wine Blogger Ad Network
Libertarian Ad Network
Christian Moms
Homeschool Blog Network
Art Network
Twin Cities MN Blogs
Lesbian Blog Ad Network
Colorado Progressive Bloggers
Iowa Blogad Network
Weight Loss, Fitness, and Diet
Boston Blogs
Craft Blogads
Feminist Blogger Network
Music Blog Network
Blogads Gadget Network
Gossip Blogs

Whew! That took forever to type out.

Have you ever seen a more motley crew? On the blogosphere, they all hate each other, but on Blogads, they all work for the same cause. In fact, the better the Christian Moms do as a network, the more money in the pot for the lesbians! It’s a small world after all!

Of course, it is difficult to “typecast” yourself. Of all the categories, the ones that seemed most appropriate for myself were the Humor Network, Los Angeles Blogs, and Jewish Blogs.


1) My blog really isn’t that funny anymore. Humor Network.

2) My most popular post on Los Angeles was: “Why is Los Angeles So Ugly?” Los Angeles Blogs.

3) Jewish Blogs? Uh… uh… well…


UPDATE: On request, Jay at the Zero Boss offers readers of this blog a very special BLOG ADVERTISING PRIMER — an insider’s look at how it works and why it is important to clutter up your blog with ads.

UPDATE #2 — 10/20/06: My little post on advertising yesterday received more email than anything I’ve written lately, so it must have touched some nerve. There’s probably a lot of different anxieties at work here — art, snobbishness, money, envy, etc.

I think many of us were initially attracted to blogging because of how democratic it seemed. Any grandmother with a mouse could start a blog and join the conversation.
But, all of a sudden, everyone is talking about bloggers paying their mortgage with their blog.  I understand t would be be nice to get something back something in reurn for all our blogging “work” — other than spam. Oh, right, we’re supposed to be doing this to find our writing voice and make online friends? Hah!

Today’s society is clearly a world of marketing and publicity. We should know. Half of us work in that field.

Everywhere around me, I see the melding together of art and commerce — not that it is new, just that there are fewer and fewer places to hide from it. Just today in the LA Times, I read about how a new PBS children’s show is being sponsored by Arby’s. There are already cross-promotions in the works. Why exactly does PBS exist if it is becoming as commercial as network television? But really — who can blame them? With less government funding, PBS needs to get money from somewhere.

It is sad to me that you can’t even hide in the Blogosphere.

At The Zero Boss, I learned about how blogs are using clever methods to sell you products. Wal-Mart’s PR firm created two blogs that were POSING as grass-roots support for the giant retailer.

I had never heard of this new company called PayPerPost, where you can sign up and make money by promoting products on your blog. So, in the future, if I tell you how much I loved my Burger King Veggie Burger, you won’t be able to know whether I really enjoyed it or I am GETTING PAID to say I enjoyed it.

I’m surprised that so many of you actually said that I should “go for advertising.” To be honest, I’m not sure it is even worth it. Someone who works in the biz emailed me and said that when all is said and done, the most I could expect is forty bucks a month — and that’s only if I completely covered my sidebar. God knows what type of ads would go here.

I think I would be better off with a job with better health benefits.

Maybe I am behind the times. Maybe I’m a sucker for the laid-back, old-school Los Angeles vibe of years ago, a world I fantasized about even as a child in Queens — where everyone just hung out at the beach, not worrying about marketing, but only the sun and the surf, listening to the Eagles on the radio —

What did you say? The Eagles just made an deal today to sell their next album where?  Excusively at … WAL-MART?!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: How Much is that Dildo in the Window?

(is this old post kosher?)

Georgia (and Bloggers) on My Mind


I was very upset yesterday when I got an email from Lynn at Sprigs that she was closing her blog.  

I met Lynn (Dana) online last December when I was writing some posts for Blogebrity.  Before meeting her, I interacted mostly with bloggers who were like me in writing style.   Lynn introduced me to a new group of bloggers  — those who wrote poetry and “Sunday Scribblings” and made jewelry and talked about creativity and did yoga and were into stuff that I would have made fun of a year ago.  Bloggers like Blue Poppy, Be Present, Be Here, Ink on My Fingers, and so many others I now read all the time.  

I’m not going to lie and say I don’t roll my eyes at times when some poem gets all “new agey” or emotional, but I’m not intimidated anymore by these creative writers.  These are EXACTLY the type of women that I would be afraid of talking to in my college English classes, thinking I was too lowbrow.  But I was an idiot.  There is no single TYPE of person.   And just because you’re artsy doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of humor — even if you do spend a lot of time meditating in the nude under the night moon.  Sometimes, an artsy woman can even surprise you (like finding out one participates in roller derby). 

Lynn helped me “class up” my blog up.  I wrote a few bad poems.  Without her, I would be writing about my penis in every post.  Instead, I’m now writing weepy, unfunny posts like this which are only going to get me a lower rating with Bloglaughs. 

Thanks a lot, Lynn!   Keep in touch.

Over lunch today, I told a friend of mine about being upset over Lynn and her blog. 

“Over some blogger?” he asked.  “What’s the big deal?  You don’t even KNOW this person!”

That’s true.  I don’t really know most of you. 

But that didn’t stop someone as cool as Jody from Lindbergh’s Crossing from sending me some Fall leaves. 

No, I don’t mean photos of Fall leaves.  I mean real live GEORGIA FALL LEAVES in the mail!

(a little Georgia Fall in Los Angeles)

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Second Base With Sophia

Strong, Silent Type


Cover Your Mouth wrote this comment on my last post after I worried that my post was being taken too seriously:

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.

Why did I actually enjoy this comment?  Why am I actually more comfortable with a comment like this than a caring one?

Men usually write comments like that.   I usually write comments like that. 

MY father was not a strong man physically.  I never saw him get into a fight.  He wore Woody Allen type glasses, but you couldn’t pay him to actually watch a Woody Allen movie.  He loved movies about men.  Real men.  John Wayne.  Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti westerns.  James Bond.  Men who never complained, but always got things accomplished.  In reality, he was nothing like these characters at all, but I think he felt like he was the man in charge and the moral compass of everyone.  He never complained about his health or let anyone pick up a bill.  That’s what Gary Cooper would have done.  He would go bonkers to learn that when I had dinner with Sarah last week — SHE picked up the check.   Now that’s a shonda.  (Yiddish: disgrace)

Sophia’s step-father, Vartan, is an elderly man.   He walks with a cane.  He has trouble lifting one of his arms.  He never lets his wife carry the grocery bag.   Even I need to fight with him to do something for him.   It would hurt his pride to be seen by others as needing anything.

Every day I watch All My Children, along with Sophia, and countless other viewers.  Every man on that show is like a rock, always there to rescue Erica or Kendall or Babe from some traumatic event or emotional breakdown.  The man’s main role in life seems to be “a rock” for their woman.

I don’t consider myself a stereotypical male.   I love Broadway musicals.  I’m more than happy to let Sophia use all the tools in the house.  I do not touch a hammer or a nail.  I’ve never opened the hood of my car without the presence of the guy from AAA.  But during the last two posts, I heard my male ego scolding me: 

Neil’s Male Ego:  “Why are you setting yourself up on your blog for people to care?  And women, especially.  You don’t want anyone to worry about you.  That’s unmanly.  A man doesn’t take advice.  A man manages on his own.  A man takes care of his own marriage.  His own career.  He doesn’t ask for help or show any concern.   Does Clint Eastwood ask for help?”

Neil:  “You got a point there.  Like a quarterback.  He can’t have any doubt.  Win one for the Gipper!”

Neil’s Male Ego:  That’s right.  Just laugh away everything.  You spend way too much time with the girls.  Stop reading those knitting blogs and those poetry blogs.  Join a fantasy football league.  You need more male readers.  They write the comments you are comfortable with — the sarcastic, uncaring ones, you know — like the ones you write.   Write less about Sophia and more about your “dinner date” with Sarah of “The Delicious Life.”  So, why exactly is her life so delicious?” 

Neil’s Penis jumps up in protest.

Neil’s Penis:  “F**k your male ego, Neilochka.  Don’t listen to him.  You just keep on doing what you’re doing.  Anything that gets their panties off.”

Neil:  “But, Penis, I thought women like the strong, silent, manly type.”

Neil’s Male Ego:  “You see.  You’re doing it again.  You’re setting yourself up for female bloggers to say, “Oh, Neil, that’s not true!  We love sensitive men like you.  We are modern women.  We don’t like those boring manly types. We feel bad for you…”

Neil’s Penis:  “Good, Neilochka!  Let them say that.  Maybe one of them will finally f**k you!”

Neil:  “That’s not why I’m blogging, Penis.  I just don’t want readers to lose their respect for me.  I don’t want to appear needy!”

Neil’s Male Ego:  “That’s right, Neil.  Be a man.  Be strong.  Remember the Alamo!”

Neil’s Penis:  “Your male ego is so old school it ain’t even funny.  He’s never going to get you f**king again.  Listen to me!  Be a puppy dog if it will work!  Women like vulnerable.”

Neil’s Male Ego:  “Shut your mouth, Penis. No woman wants a man who makes LESS than she does…”

Neil’s Penis:  “Bite me!  He’s an “artist.”  Let her pay the bills while he does the shagging…”

Neil:  “Help!  Someone help!”

Arthur Kramer, Neil’s father, comes down from heaven.

Neil:  “Dad?!”

Arthur Kramer:  “What is it, Neil?  I’m in the middle of watching “The Guns of Navarone” on DVD.”

Neil:  “I’m having an internal conflict over being a man.  I need you… as my father… and as my main male role model.  Can you help me?”

Arthur Kramer:  “Well, I’ll tell you one important thing.”

Neil:  “Please do, Dad.”

Arthur Kramer:   “And I want you to forever remember these words of wisdom that are coming from the afterlife itself –”

Neil:  “Yes…”

Arthur Kramer:  “No man lets a cute food blogger pay her own restaurant bill!  And pay for you too?  What a shonda!”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Heaven or Hell

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

I Don’t Understand Women

(Three Women by Fernand Leger)

Thank you for all the nice things you said about my dancing debut on Citizen of the Month. I was frankly surprised by the positive reaction, especially from female bloggers. In fact, I’d like to talk about this response by the women… just with the men.


Women — would you be kind enough to shut off you monitors for a few minutes so I can talk to the men alone. Thanks.

Men — did you see that response to me dancing? The babes were practically throwing themselves at my feet! Who knew that putting on an old suit has that effect? But isn’t it a little ironic that women are doing this at the EXACT moment when I’m making a romantic gesture to my wife? Where were they a month and a half ago? Why didn’t they do this when I was so horny I was writing pornographic children’s stories? Do you remember when Sophia first left town, I actually asked female bloggers to ease my pain by sending me photos of themselves topless.

Do you know how many tits I got to see? NONE!

Here I was back then — alone, and no one even swung their bra in the air for my amusement. But I do a little dance step FOR SOPHIA, and all of a sudden they’re throwing me their panties? Are they crazy? Or do women just like to torture us?

I don’t understand women. Do you?

Female bloggers — you can turn on your monitors now!

Back to the post —

Thank you again, ladies. Here’s a story I think you’ll enjoy. There’s food in the story, and I know you women LOOOOVE to eat.

One of my favorite local bloggers is Sarah from The Delicious Life and Slashfood. She’s one of the best food bloggers out there. I’ve been bugging her for weeks to let me come along and see her in action. On Thursday, she relented. She invited me to join her in checking out Mao’s Kitchen in Venice. We decided that I would pick her up and we’d drive together to the restaurant.

Although this wasn’t a date in a romantic sense, I was still having some pre-“date” jitters. After all, I was picking up a cute woman at her apartment and going to dinner with her, and I haven’t gone on ANY type of date since…. well, since… Sophia.

You know that cliched romantic comedy movie scene where a woman puts on five different outfits before she goes on her date?

On Thursday, that woman was me.

I changed shirts three times, then stared in the mirror at the awfulness of my hair. As much as I tried to brush it, it seemed as if the ghost of Donald Trump’s hair had decided to move in. I used some of Sophia’s mousse, and since I never use this gooey junk, it just made my hair look like a helmet. I ended up taking a second shower just to shampoo it out.

I decided to take Sophia’s SUV, thinking it was the most comfortable ride. I jumped in and was about to drive off, when I noticed that the windows were filthy. This was not acceptable for me to pick up some glamorous food blogger in a muddy car.

I stepped out of the car and decided to do a quick washing with the garden hose. I’m sure my face registered pleasure as the grime and dirt slid off the car, that is until I noticed that the passenger window was half open and I was spraying water from the hose INTO the car!


Four towels and a quick drying later, I was off to my “date.”

Once Sarah and I met, we clicked instantly. We fought our way through traffic to make it to Mao’s Kitchen, buying a bottle of incredibly cheap wine on the way (it was BYOB). While Sarah liked the atmosphere of the restaurant, I thought it was pretentious. There was a “Mao’s Communist China” theme to the menu and all the dishes were creatively named after something from the period. For instance, the egg rolls were called “peasant rolls.” There was a “Gang of Four” fried rice. Call me overly-sensitive, but should you make Disneyland kitsch out of a regime where so many people were murdered?

But what do I know? The place was packed with trendy people. Maybe I should open up a trendy shish-kabob stand and sell young Hollywood types the Saddam Hussein Pita Sandwich.

As Sarah and I got drunk (actually, it was mostly me), the mood changed between the two of us. We stopped our joking and our gossiping about blogging. Our conversation became intimate, as it frequently does when a man and woman sit across from each other in a dimly-lit restaurant. Yes, you guessed it. I blabbed on and on about Sophia and she talked about her ex-boyfriend.

When I told Sarah that my wedding anniversary was the next day, she couldn’t understand why I didn’t go to New York to spend it together with Sophia. I explained that I asked Sophia SEVERAL TIMES if she wanted me to come to New York, and each time she said, “No.” Sophia told me that she was working long hours and didn’t want to get distracted by me, so I listened to her.

Sarah didn’t buy the story. She insisted that I SHOULD have gone anyway, despite what Sophia said.

“That makes no sense.” I said.

“To a woman it does,” she answered.

The next morning, I told Sophia about my conversation with Sarah.

“Sarah was right,” said Sophia. “You should have come to New York. We could have gone out for our anniversary.”

“But you told me explicitly NOT to come!” I cried. “I would think you would be pissed off at me if I just showed up.”

“I would be pissed off. Very pissed,” she answered. “But if I opened my door and you were there, holding flowers, I would be very impressed that you were there, despite what I said.”

“That makes no sense.” I said.

“To a woman it does,” Sophia answered.

Women — would you be kind enough to shut off you monitors for a second time so I can speak freely with the men? Thanks so much for you patience.

Men — WTF?! Do you hear that craziness?

I don’t understand women. Do you?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: My Class Action Suit

I Still Remember the Wedding Dance

If you’ve ever watched “Dancing with the Stars,” you’ve seen the couples rehearse their routines in a second floor dance studio somewhere in Los Angeles. The first time Sophia and I saw the TV show, we instantly recognized the dance studio as the one on 3rd St. near the Beverly Center. Back when it was fashionable to do swing dancing, we had studied swing dancing at this dance studio. We enjoyed it so much we ended up hiring a swing band for our wedding.

The Andrew Sisters’ “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” was the song we used for our first dance at the wedding.

Sophia doesn’t think I’m sentimental enough to remember our first dance, but I do. And to prove it to her, I will now redo my wedding dance in honor of our anniversary. I hope Sophia will do her dance steps in New York.

The Trees Are Indian Princes

Bright yellow, red, and orange,
The leaves come down in hosts;
The trees are Indian princes,
But soon they’ll turn to ghosts.

— William Allingham (1824-1889), Irish poet


Green how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.

Federico García Lorca (1898-1936), Spanish poet, playwright





her swung breasts
Sway like full-blown yellow
Gloire de Dijon roses.

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), British poet and author





the great orange bed where we lie
like two frozen paintings in a field of poppies.

Anne Sexton (1928-1974), American poet and writer







clusters of red, the hedges are full of them,
red-currant red, a graceful
ornament or a merry smile.

Denise Levertov (b. 1923), Anglo-American poet





Thanks for bringing a little Fall to Southern California.

The photographers are:


Pam, Austria

Sweet, Washington D.C.

Boutros, Virginia

Dagny, Berkeley

Rhea, Boston


Dana, Connecticut

Tara, Iowa City

Joan, Winnipeg

Caitlin, New York


Jessica, St. Louis

Jenny, Chicago

Alison, Kentucky

Chantel, Portland

Sarah, Pennsylvania

Elizabeth, New Hampshire


Cynical Girl, New York

Elisabeth, Pennsylvania

Pearl, Ottawa

Marianne, Massachusetts

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