Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Season Tickets

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So let’s see, the Pet Shop Boys, Vince Gill, and a chamber concert all in one week? Dude, my life is so boring. We’ve done Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Book Fair, and Drama Club this week. Sigh.

V-Grrrl, commenting on yesterday’s post

When I was a teenager, my father gave me two pieces of advice on how to deal with women:

1)  Never hurt a woman.

I still don’t really know if he meant physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

2)  Take your wife out on weekends.

This completely went over my head when he first told me this piece of wisdom.  Tickets for the weekend was a central concept to my father’s vision of marriage.  My father was always getting theater and concert tickets “for Elaine” (my mother).   Even though he always said he was getting it “for her,”  I think he got them equally for himself.  My  father was the type of person who could never admit doing anything for himself.  It always had to be for someone else. 

My father was also obsessive-compulsive, so he had a huge bulletin board in his bedroom where he would micro-organize all his tickets to concerts, shows, and events.  He believed that if you bought tickets ahead of time, this would force you to go out, even if you got lazy at the last moment.  He would sometimes subscribe to a theater season a year ahead of time, so he always knew he had something to go to every weekend, and didn’t have to worry about it.  Box offices throughout New York City would know his name when he called up, because he would send his check in the mail before the season actually began.  He subscribed to the Roundabout Theater, Circle in the Square, Lincoln Center, Queens College Concert Series, Theater in the Park, and several others, including discount Broadway show tickets from the Theater Development Fund. 

My parents would go out practically every weekend, frequently taking me along.  There were times when it was clear that no one wanted to go, but we went anyway because we “had the tickets.”   It was my family’s version of being forced to go to church on Sunday morning.  We would travel two hours into Manhattan during a snow storm to see a poorly-reviewed version of an Ibsen play (awkwardly updated to 1920’s Chicago) just because the tickets hung on the bulletin board and the date was penciled in on the large calendar my father kept next to the bulletin board.  My friends would be drinking beer outside on Saturday night while I would be dragged to hear Chopin with my parents.  I  frequently fell asleep during these concerts and my mother would elbow me so I wouldn’t snore.

I realize that when I described my parents on this blog in the past, I created a picture akin to the parents of Seinfeld — real Jewish outer borough types.  That IS an accurate description of them.  But there was one big difference,  My father had an obsession with high culture.  Where did it come from? — I have NO IDEA, but it was important that we immersed ourselves in it. If my mother didn’t have a sense of humor about some of the boring stuff we saw, I would have turned into a hopeless prig.

Years later, though, much of my father’s wisdom has started to make sense — especially about the importance of going out.  In the two weeks since she came back from New York, Sophia and I have gone to three concerts, a Broadway musical, and a movie.  Like my father, we bought the tickets early enough to force ourselves to go out.  We knew that if we waited until the last minute, one of us (usually me) would start copping out, wanting to watch “Dancing with the Stars” instead.  But to be honest, going out is pretty tiring, especially to someone like me, who is happy enough just sitting at the computer, blogging.   Tonight we didn’t go anywhere, which was pretty nice.   After we watched — what else? — “Dancing with the Stars” (dancer Cheryl Burke is so cute!), Sophia turned to me and said, “Remember, tomorrow we’re going to the Improv with Danny.”

“Do we have to?” I sighed.

“Yes,” she answered.  We already have the tickets.”

Some things never change.

50 Comments

  1. The fruit never falls very far from the tree, hmmm?

  2. Your parents sound like neato people, Neil. Thanks for sharing those memories!

  3. I think it is important to go out.

    I wrote on my blog about presenting a facade to people when we blog, but I think it applies to what we do when we’re out of the house too.

    And the more you are out of the house and doing the stuff to maintain your ‘facade’ – being nice, buying drinks, holding back chairs etc, the more the ‘at home you’ takes a backseat.

    I think I could go for forgetting slobbing out on the couch every weekend. Your dad was wise.

  4. You are so cultured and refined. I fell like I should wear a smoking jacket when I read this blog…

  5. I grew up with more than rare visits to classical music concerts, ballet and sometimes operettas.

    When I was older and single, I still attended concerts, and plays, and musicals, and lectures.

    Since I’ve married, I’m lucky if I see a play once a year for a birthday or anniversary–“Okay, Pearl, I’ll do it for you,” says hubby.

    Neil, can we make it a cultural menage a trois with Sophia so I can get out a bit more often to taste some culture?

  6. Today’s entertainment: parent-teacher conferences and housework.

    Today’s cultural high point: Bob Dylan’s Modern Times in the CD player.

    I am a home body, though pre-kids, E and I went out every weekend, even traveling to NYC from Virginia to see shows.

    But hey, when I do decide to go out, I go WAY out. Heading to Rome this weekend…

  7. Oh, man. I come from a household in which we never went out to movies, plays, sports events, or anything. They were always “too expensive.” I can’t even use every finger of my two hands when I count the total number of concerts (classical music, not rock), operas, and Broadway shows (on Broadway) that I have seen in my life. This is totally pathetic (note: I am not counting performances that I have seen on TV or on DVD.)

    Why am I waffling about going to a production of Macbeth tonight at the school where I teach? Sometimes going out is too much of an effort, but Neil, I think that you have given me the incentive to get my ass off the couch tonight and to go see the students do Shakespeare with fake English accents.

  8. though tiring, i do understand your father’s concept. how lucky to have lived and live in such a culturally rich place.

  9. I’m with Gorillabuns on this one.

  10. it’s very important to go out, even if it means a my son’s hockey game. it’s the social aspect, you don’t get that when you stay home and watch tv, too easy to fall into that rut.
    hope you’ve already booked your tickets for the nutcracker!

  11. Dad had the right idea. He went a bit overboard, but he had the right idea. Why waste the privilege of living near NYC? If I did, I’d have tickets too.

  12. Sounds like your dad was very cool. You might have griped about it as a kid, but you have had cultural experiences that a lot of people would have killed for. I personally am very social and love theater, art, film, etc. But as much as I do, I can get lazy. So, I think I have to make myself go out sometimes. It comes with the 40s, I guess. So, Neil, what’s your excuse?

  13. Ditto on Rhea’s comment. The exposure you received as a kid to all that culture is phenomenal. I crave that kind of culture everyday in a city that just can’t seem to get it’s “arts” together. Besides making dates with your wife is a good thing too! Keep up the good work.

  14. I need to start buying tickets.

  15. Maybe for Christmas you could get Sophia a big bulletin board with a bunch of tickets on it! That’d be awesome. 🙂

  16. Neil,

    Your father is a genius! I don’t think it is at all a bad thing to immerse yourself into high culture, and it is a genius idea to eliminate excuses by getting those tickets. I’d never waste money like that. Truly a great man. (at least in that aspect)

    Jacob

  17. Wow. I’ve never dated anyone with this approach, but I think it’s such a good one, because otherwise you do wind up just watching a lot of TV and feeling like you never get out and do anything. I have a feeling that my dad’s reasons season tickets are similiar to your father’s. There are lots of times I know my mom doesn’t really want to go, or my dad has seen the play before and so he asks me to go with her – “so we don’t waste the tickets.”

  18. I should add that my mother loves to watch crap on television, and that influence was probably more important to my growing up.

    I’ve seen the Nutcracker so many times, just hearing the opening music makes me ill. I always found it really creepy – especially the whole concept of a nutcracker.

  19. I love your posts about your parents. And just to clarify, being dragged to the theatre every weekend is SO not like being dragged to church. Unless the play happened to contain messages designed to make the audience feel guilty for everything it had done the night before and required therapeutic undoing decades later?

  20. we used to go see live theater when i was growing up and actually i miss it. i think your parents sound like awesome parents. 🙂

  21. Cover Your Mouth — My father worked at a city hospital and he would sometimes get discount tickets for off-broadway shows “on preview” — so we saw some of the worst shows ever made, including a few that closed before opening night. Church would have been better.

  22. You were lucky, my parents would have never done that.

    I do have to make plans ahead of time so that I will make myself go to an event. Otherwise I would be sitting on the couch or at the local pub.

  23. I read somewhere about relationships this line… “you seek what you know”. This is an obvious mark on the side of this argument!

    I, of course, have had to unlearn what I know to find a decent relationship. I am still waging a war against that one.

    I love high culture, and would love to meet someone of this attitude, IRL.

    enjoy the shows!

  24. Hi Neil:
    This is one of my all time favorite posts. It sure beats hearing you talk about your penis.

    I know you are thankful for your early experiences now even though you may not have been to keen on them at the time. Those beer-driking friends you refer to are probably in jail or still living with their parents, while you are a culturally-minded high-falutin blogger!

  25. I love when you blog about your dad 🙂

  26. Viscountess – I wish life was like the movies, but one of those uncultured beer-drinkers is now a very successful corporate guy. But he doesn’t have a blog!

  27. My mom and I do the same. And I actually really appreciate it this year, because if we didn’t get the tickets (ironically, for the Met this coming Saturday!), I’d be stuck at home procrastinating over my assignments. Which I would eventually finish anyway, but after wasting the whole weekend. In fact, if I hadn’t gotten some tickets ahead of time, I wouldn’t have gone ANYWHERE this term. We didn’t have to buy so many tickets ahead of time when I was dating, because as, a student, I could always grab something spontaneous out of the student rush ticket pile, but being single makes it much more difficult to be spontaneous. So yes, it’s an excuse for me to add some variety to life; otherwise I would turn into a boring old couch potato of a law student. Which I don’t want to be. (the couch potato, not the law student).

  28. I’m reminded of the quote, the more things change, the more they stay the same… I think it’s good to find whatever brings you together as a couple & enjoy being in each other’s presence be it a night out on the town or one cuddled up on the couch. great post, Neil! much peace, JP

  29. It’s important to get out. My parents thought so too. Twice a year with no excuses or exceptions. The corn roast and the fireman’s ball, plus twice or 3 times a month to funerals. That was the major social dress up to do.

  30. Hey, Neil, try to contain your enthusiasm about seeing me tonight (“Do we have to?” I sighed.)!

    I also like taking advantage of the cultural opportunities available in a city like L.A. even if it includes the occasional stinker. This week I saw two movies and one musical play and tonight comedy. But my wife is more in the “wouldn’t it be more fun to stay home?” school. As a kid we went to see every kid-friendly event that breezed through Chicago (and several non-kid-friendly ones like driving to Grant Park to witness the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Convention and seeing naked people for the first time in “Hair” when I was 11).

  31. That sounds completely charming, I must say. Probably because I so rarely get a chance to do anyting cultural on the weekends. Unless of course you count block shoots and going to the bar as cultural, in which case, I’m a guru.

  32. (Neil, sorry to use your blog to respond)Irina, re. this comment “being single makes it much more difficult to be spontaneous” — I beg to differ. Or as we say in Hebrew “L’havdil.”

    When I was single, I could be much more spontaneous and get those rush theater tickets; of course, it’s nicer to have company to attend these cultural events with, and it wasn’t always easy to dredge up a friend to go. But being married and having children, I find makes it much more difficult. Time is always of the essence, and homework, and extracurricular activities, and if you have no nanny or full-time cleaning lady, you have to round up a babysitter and work around the kids’ schedules just to have an evening out. Sometimes it is just easier and cheaper to stay home and watch a rented video…or BLOG!

  33. Since I don’t have kids, I’m not an expert in child-rearing, so I don’t know what is a better method — doing a lot of kid-centric stuff or dragging you child to more adult things. But then again, I was an only child.

    Danny — Oops. Of course my complaint wasn’t about seeing you, just sitting through five terrible comedians until we get the headliner.

  34. VOF – Neil did talk about his penis – he said he hates nutcrackers. ROFLMAO

  35. Neil, if you don’t want to sit through the other comedians waiting for Danny the headliner then just arrive fashionably late but on time for Danny.

  36. I SOOOO set up that nutcracker gag for some clever writer.

  37. Neil, I don’t miss much!

  38. Ha, does Two Roads really think that I’m headlining at the Improv? I would be booed off that stage faster than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a Jewish Defense League fundraiser! But I just spoke with Sophia and we both agree that there is no headliner tonight, the five terrible comedians are the show! But since they’re all Jews, they have to be funny, right?

  39. Those are good rules. Next time I get married, I’m going to enforce those rules.

  40. I’m not one much for experimental theater either. I was married to an actor and live in a town with a big playwriting MFA program. I’ve seen more unbearable, either too stark or “hey, let’s mythologize my life on stage” theater than anyone should have to. I do love most of the other stuff, though. I actually leave my house in the winter to go to concerts, readings or art openings.

    I ditto anyone else who says they love your posts about your dad. They’re always so sweet and respectful.

  41. That’s prety terrfiic of your dad. My dad was too cheap to take us to concerts, and I grew up playing classical music but never hearing it live. That is, until I moved near Lincoln Center. Now I go to see/hear something at least once a week.

  42. When did your talking penis get its own cetagory?

  43. I’m jealous! Nice post!!

  44. Going out is so important.. good for you for making the effort.

    For the record, once you have kids, it does give a homebody an excuse to *not* go out… OR, to only go out once in awhile…

    but it’s good to practice now..

  45. Man, isn’t that the truth? The last time this happened to me we had a hike with friends. We’d RSVP’d and were roped into going. When I emailed my RSVP, I was excited; but when that alarm went off at 6:15a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I felt the cold pressing in on our window, I rolled over and said, “but do you *really* want to go?” As always, I was glad we went – after the fact.
    I found your blog through someone (can’t remember who now) and have enjoyed your posts. They are good schtuff, thanks for writing!

  46. Neil, I agree… nutcrackers are creepy. And seemingly useless when it comes to the actual act of cracking a nut. Has anyone ever actually used one?

  47. Neil, I’d have loved to meet your father. Most of my childhood, my father was away, so its with my mum that we went out a lot though not for the same reasons you and you family did. Thank you for sharing this.

    Fitèna

  48. my first opera was the marriage of figero, performance row seat 24, with mom to my right in 22 and dad to my left in 26

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