the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: January 2007 (Page 1 of 4)




Cheesy spiral notebook with the Los Angeles Dodgers logo on the cover. On the first three pages of the notebook is an unintelligible (to anyone but me) hand-written blog post about “Neil” and “Sophia” meeting via email. This notebook was last seen sitting under a chicken burrito at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos on Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach. The notebook was bought for 99 cents at the 99 Cents Only Store. It has no value to anyone other than the owner, who HATES nothing more than writing something TWICE after he loses the original.

The blogosphere awaits the return of this important blog post, which is key to understanding the complicated and utterly confusing relationship between Neil and Sophia!

Dixie Martin: R.I.P.


The continuing saga of how Neil met Sophia on the internet has been canceled today for a special bulletin:

Dixie Martin, beloved wife of Tad Martin and mother of J.R. Chandler, died today, January 29, 2007, in Pine Valley, after eating a poisoned peanut butter pancake intended for her daughter-in-law, Babe Chandler.

This was a shock to All My Children soap opera fans across the country. Some fans are so upset they are refusing to watch the show anymore. In fact, Sophia and Neil couldn’t stop talking about it all day. Even tonight’s episode of “24” seemed to pale in comparison to the drama of AMC killing off one of the show’s most popular characters.

The producers of AMC made a big splash when they brought actress Cady McClain back to the show after a four year absence. They had spent an enormous amount of time and money to woo her back. The return of Dixie created a slew of new storylines, since her character was repeatedly said to be “the heart” of Pine Valley. Tad and Dixie seemed destined to reunite as a couple — and even find their missing baby girl that unbeknownst to them, was now LIVING in Pine Valley after her parents were killed in a car accident! But one year into her contract, it’s death by peanut butter for Dixie. What happened?

Insiders know the real story. AMC producers, desperate for more viewers, tried to use the internet to drum up interest. They gave Dixie (Cady McClain) a blog to discuss her life as a soap opera star, in much the same way as other bloggers talk about their work and families.

With their ratings low, AMC also let go many of their long-standing characters, such as Brooke English (played by Julia Barr), who was with the show since 1976 and Dr. David Hayward (wonderfully played by Vincent Irizarry for the last ten years.) While the older actors were thrown to the street, the show hired a whole new group of dopey teenage actors. “Dixie” made a statement on her blog, saying it wasn’t a good idea to fire the show’s beloved older actors. The producers apparently didn’t like “Dixie” giving her opinion on her ABC blog, so to punish her — they promptly killed her off, making mincemeat of the storyline.

When someone says they were Dooced, people understand it to mean that someone was fired because of their blog. From now on, when someone is “killed off” because of their blog, I will use the term “Dixied.”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Fact-Finding Mission

My First Online Chat


In some families, the father brings home the bacon. When I was child, my father brought home the mail. In our apartment building, each family was only given one key to their mailbox slot in the lobby, so my father would bring up the mail as he came home from work. It was always an exciting moment when we heard the jiggle of his key at the front door. We would gather around my father, not to greet him, but to see the mail he brought in.  My father would even play a game with us, hiding the mail behind his back, and sneaking into the bedroom, making us follow and beg.

I’m not sure why the mail was such a big deal in those days. It wasn’t like we were in the Army, waiting to hear from loved ones.  Perhaps mail was more special in the days before email and IM.  Now, having a “pen pal” in Belgium is as easy as emailing V-Grrrl.  Years ago, it was a thrill to get a letter from abroad.  Despite the internet, I still love getting “real” mail.  I was so excited when some bloggers sent me Christmas cards. You can’t hold an email in your hand, but with a greeting card – you know the other person once physically held the same piece of paper.

In my youth, the mail represented the outside world. My father was a bit of an “accidental tourist.” Although he didn’t travel that much, he subscribed to five travel magazines.  I loved to rifle through the pages of the travel magazines he would get in the mail, looking at all the exotic photos.  Once, for my birthday, he got me a subscription to National Geographic, but that magazine was dull compared to the glamorous travel photos in Conde Nast’s Traveler magazine.  I had little interest in seeing ferocious tigers in Africa.  I dreamed more of being in the exclusive African RESORT with the models and fine cuisine.  

Email is clearly today’s “mail.” I love getting emails! In fact, I’ve gotten to know some of you better through reading your emails than reading your blogs. Feel free to email me whenever you want to scold me for making fun of therapists and therapy!

I’m not as keen on IM.  I’m uncomfortable chatting with someone I can’t see or hear.   The pace of IM is always too fast, and I hate writing “u” for “you.”  I also have no skill in having two IM conversations at the same time.  Once, I sent the wrong message to the wrong person.  About a month ago, Charming but Single taught me that I can be “hidden” while on IM.    I’m just saying.   As a little hint.

The first time I chatted online was several years back, when I was still on dial-up. My dial-up service was a small (and cheap) local ISP called LA Freenet. They only covered the LA area. It had so few customers that they listed everyone who was on at the same time; it was usually about twenty people. There wasn’t much to do online in those days. I did nerdy things like read Usenet forums. LA Freenet had a primitive text-based chat system, but I never used it. I didn’t have much interest in interacting with anyone online. It seemed a little creepy to talk to a stranger.

One night, I was reading some boring forum about “movie gossip,” when I got a ping from some other LA Freenet user named ag704, inviting me to chat.

“Hello” said ag704.

“Hello.” I typed. I paused, unsure if I actually sent a message over the internet.

“Did you see what I just wrote?” I asked.


“OK.  Just checking. I never did this before.”

“You did fine. Just write in that little box and press enter. I just learned how to do it myself.”


Being an avoidant personality even back then, I felt nervous. Who the hell was this person?

“Are you also on LA Freenet?” I asked.

“Of course I am.  I was just chatting with some other members, but all they talked about was Star Trek.  Are you into Star Trek?”

I was a fan of “The Next Generation,” but decided not to say anything about it.

“I’m not a crazy fan or anything.” I wrote.  “I don’t go to conventions.”


Was this person a man or woman? I wanted to ask, but thought it was rude.

“How did you know I was on here?” I asked instead.

“They list everyone who is on LA Freenet. I was looking for someone who didn’t talk about Star Trek to try out this chat thing.”

“So, you found me.”

“It’s Passover tomorrow, so I figured I’ll talk to someone with a Jewish name.”

“Neil Kramer is not necessarily a Jewish name.”

“Are you Jewish?”

“Uh… yes…”

“I thought Neil Kramer sounded Jewish.”

Now I was getting nervous.

“And who are you? What is your name?”

“My name is Sophia. Sophia Lansky”

This was the start of my first online chat.  We never chatted again, but we sent emails to each other for the next two months.  So, maybe my fear of IM has something to do with the fact that I end up marrying the women I chat with.

A Year Ago On Citizen of the Month: Ms. Neilochka

Who Needs Therapy….

…when you have the internet.   Here’s a very simple screening for personality disorders from NYU Department of Psychiatry.  Just a little fun for you on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Apparently, after taking the test, I learned I have an “avoidant personality disorder.” 

I also had a very clever idea.  I think I’ve finally found a way to organize my blogroll — by personality disorders!

Also, please buy one of the t-shirts or coffee mugs I now sell on Cafepress — “I’m Proud to be Avoidant!.”

Now, I’m going back to sleep so I don’t have to deal with anything. 

Saturday Therapy #3

I always seem to get in trouble when I write about issues involving therapy. No one ever complains when I write about religion, but people always do about therapy topics (which tells me what America’s one true religion really is) . I once got angry emails when I wrote that “half of my readers seem to have bipolar disorder.” Today, after writing my second post, I received a not-very-happy email about my insincerity concerning my looking for a therapist.  I’m very glad I received this email.  I certainly don’t like to hurt anybody’s feelings, especially someone who seemed to care for my well-being.  I sometimes forget that you actually care about my life, which should be obvious to me, since I care about your lives all the time.  

The truth: the first post was 50% true. I did contact a therapist who already had her fill of patients with my insurance, and she wasn’t taking any new ones. The second tale was a complete fantasy.

It is also true that I have been “dragging my feet” about therapy. But I am taking it seriously. Maybe too seriously. That’s why I don’t want to do it, and I appreciate everyone’s advice.

I do find the idea of therapy funny. I’m not talking about mental health issues for drug addicts and abused wives. That is not funny. At least most of the time. I’m talking about typical existential issues. They can be funny. So, hopefully, I will continue to make fun of therapy and myself. However, I will be more aware of how important mental health issues are to many of you, particularly to all of my crazy readers that have bipolar disorder.

The Second Therapist


The second therapist was nice enough to sit down with me. She was a beautiful woman with a degree from Smith College. I sat on the couch and started telling her about my numerous anxieties. About fifteen minutes into the session she started yawning. I didn’t like that she suddenly sent a text message to someone, hiding her Blackberry under the desk, while I talked about some of my “performance problems.” A minute later, the therapist received a phone call. It was her “babysitter.” The therapist would have to cut short our first appointment because the sitter had to go home early.

“So, when do I see you again?” I asked.

“I’ll call you.”

Now with added clarification:  0% true!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Nauseous and Nauseated

Baby Steps


A few of you emailed me recently asking me how my therapy was going.  I was embarrassed to reveal that I was still dragging my feet about the whole thing.  I’m not sure what was holding me back.   Fear?  Anxiety?  Talking about my marriage?  SPENDING MONEY to talk with someone, when I can just talk to you FOR FREE?

Today, I decided it was time to act.  It was time to contact a therapist.   A blogger/friend recommended someone in West LA.  I emailed this therapist.  I told her a bit about my issues, such as my fear of rejection.

Tonight, I received an email back from her, saying she was too busy to see me and was rejecting me as a client.

Now with added clarification:  50% true!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Be of Good Cheer

The Rabbi’s Film


As assistant rabbi at Bnai Shalom, Rabbi David Klein frequently received personal packages from his congregants, usually cookies or muffins sent to his home, kosher of course, as a thank you for him officiating at some bratty kid’s bar mitzvah.  This package was different.  The box was large and heavy.  After he ripped it open, Rabbi Klein saw that it was filled with 35mm film reels.  Attached to the top reel, was a letter:

Dear Rabbi,

If you are reading this, I have passed away to the better world.  I’m sure you did a terrific job at the memorial service and were able to drum up at least twenty mourners.  If you haven’t had the ceremony yet, please make sure that you order the expensive lox for the nosh afterwards, and not the inferior stuff they had for Max Feinstein’s funeral.  I lived a long and fruitful life.  Sadly, my work consumed me and I never married or started a family.  That is why I leave you my prized possessions — all the negatives and films that I have produced throughout the years.


“I didn’t know Morris was a filmmaker,” said Rachel, Rabbi Klein’s wife, who was looking over the rabbi’s shoulder.  “Let’s see one of his films.” 

The rabbi’s wife, a 1996 graduate of NYU Film School, took out an old projector from the closet and started screening the film on the wall by the living room couch.  As the title was emblazoned on the wall, Rabbi Klein took a loud gulp:  the film was called  “The Plumber Always Cums Twice.”   For several minutes, Rabbi Klein and his wife stared at the wall as if in shock, their eyes ablaze, the only sound in the room being the repetitive motion of the projector.

The film opens with a half-undressed housewife opening the front door for a hunky plumber with a hardbody and a glint in his eye, the type of plumber you would never actually see in real life.

“I need my sink unclogged,” purrs the housewife.

“Right away, Ma’am” he replies.

“Let me just put on something a little more comfortable.” 

Soon, they are making love on the kitchen table, in the bedroom, in the shower, and finally on the washing machine in the basement, where she almost faints from her orgasm.

The film ends with the housewife walking the plumber to the front door.  She is wearing a purple bathrobe and has a huge smile on her face.

“Thank you,” she tells the plumber.  “You did an excellent job.”

“I’m glad you’re pleased.” he laughs.  “Call me again if you ever need any more work done!”


“That was scandalous!” yelled Rabbi Klein, as the last frame went through the projector and the filmreel started flapping in the air.  He started dragging the box to the garbage.

“We should burn these!”

“No, wait!” said the rabbi’s wife, placing her hand on his.   “Maybe God had a reason for these films to come to you.”

“That’s meshuganah!  What possible reason can there be?  Every commandment is broken in this story.”

“Let me have a chance to edit the film.  Maybe together, we can transform what is sinful into something new, something even educational for the congregation.”

Rabbi Klein saw how eager his wife was to do this project.   He knew how much she missed her film-making  career, which she put on hold to play her role as rabbi’s wife.  Besides, he could never say no to his beautiful wife.

“Let’s give it a try!” said Rabbi Klein.

His wife dusted off her old editing machine, and they went to work re-cutting the film.  Rabbi Klein had a brainstorm and they re-named the film, “The Plumber’s Moral Choice.”  

The film opens with a half-undressed housewife opening the front door for a hunky plumber with a hardbody and a glint in his eye, the type of plumber you would never actually see in real life.

“I need my sink unclogged,” purrs the housewife.

“Right away, Ma’am” he replies.

“Let me just put on something a little more comfortable.” 

As she exits the room, the image FREEZES on the face of the plumber, as we hear his thoughts in VOICEOVER (recorded by the rabbi himself):

The Plumber:  Hmmm… while she’s away I could probably use less expensive parts, then charge her the full price.  And then, she might need to call me again for more work, and I can charge her some more.  I could make a bundle off of this client, even charging extra for labor while I’m just moving things back and forth under the sink, wasting time.  But WAIT a minute!  What am I thinking?  I can’t do that.  This is wrong.  This is immoral.  Wasn’t it Rabbi Hillel who said, “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others!”    I should be a role model for other plumbers.  That’s right.  I’m going to do the best job possible as her plumber!”

The film ends with the housewife walking the plumber to the front door.  She is wearing a purple bathrobe and has a huge smile on her face.

“Thank you,” she tells the plumber.  “You did an excellent job.”

“I’m glad you’re pleased.” he laughs.  “Call me again if you ever need any more work done!”


Rabbi Klein was very happy with the final result.   He and his wife had turned something seedy into something uplifting. 

That Saturday night, Rabbi Klein convened his congregation for a special “movie night” and had the world premiere of “The Plumber’s Moral Choice” right in the temple sanctuary.  After the screening, the congregants applauded the film with enthusiasm.   One after another, people came up to Rabbi Klein and complimented him on making “religion come alive” for them.

After all the accolades, Rabbi Klein saw that he was being beckoned by an elderly man with a beard, who was sitting in the last row.  This was Rabbi Josephson, the Rabbi Emeritus AND the founder of the synagogue.   Rabbi Klein fidgeted nervously.

“Go on,” said Rabbi Klein’s wife, trying to encourage him to not be afraid of his mentor.

Rabbi Klein dragged himself down the center aisle, looking as sheepish as he did the first time he blew the shofar at the Rosh Hashanah service.  He was afraid of Rabbi Josephson’s opinion of his unorthodox teaching methods.  Rabbi Klein sighed with relief when he saw the elder rabbi smiling and nodding in approval.

“I’m very impressed” says Rabbi Josephson.

“I’m so glad you liked it.   I think it is important to find new ways to reach our congregants about moral issues.”

“Absolutely!” said Rabbi Josephson, patting the younger rabbi’s arm.  “The only question I have is — those actors certainly seem familiar to me.  Weren’t they also in “The Plumber Always Cums Twice?”

How Jack Bauer Has Ruined My Life


7AM – Los Angeles

After using the bathroom, Jack Bauer hears screams from his separated wife, Sophia.

“Jack, Jack! The toilet is overflowing!”

Within a second, Jack has pushed Sophia aside and jumped into the bathroom. Jack shoves his bare foot directly into the toilet, stopping the flow.

“I thought you called the plumber,” says his upset separated wife.

“He didn’t show up yet?!  Dammit, I’ll be right back, Sophia.”

Jack jumps out of the bathroom window and runs down the San Diego Freeway, against traffic, until he reaches the plumber’s house.  Jack breaks in and tortures the plumber with the plumber’s “snake,” forcing the plumber to immediately come over to his home to fix the toilet, then clean the bathroom until it is spotless.

7AM – Los Angeles

After using the bathroom, Neil hears screams from his separated wife, Sophia.

“Neil, Neil! The toilet is overflowing!”

Neil nervously approaches, not wanting to get involved.

“Come here!!! Do something!” yells Sophia.

Neil meekly looks into the bathroom, fear in his eyes.

“What do you want me to do?” Neil screams.

“We have to stop it before the water is all over the f**king house!”

Neil walks on tiptoes into the bathroom so as not to touch any of the water coming over the top of the toilet onto the linoleum floor.

“Yuch…yuch… yuch…” he says, wishing he wasn’t wearing his favorite Keds.

Neil jiggles the handle and the toilet stops overflowing.

“It’s the floor!  It’s going to leak down to the living room.  We need some towels!” cries Sophia.

Neil grabs the two towels hanging on the bathroom rack.

“Not those towels!” she adds.  “Those are 100-percent combed cotton towels.  Use the polyester towels YOUR MOTHER gave us! 

Neil goes into the “towel” closet to search for those towels Sophia always hated, but told his mother otherwise.

“I thought you called the plumber,” says his upset separated wife.

“I did. He can’t come until Thursday!” (Neil really didn’t)

“Call him again. Tell him it is an emergency!”

After reluctantly cleaning the bathroom with Sophia  (his excuse for the mediocre blog post yesterday) and taking two showers afterwards because he felt disgusting, Neil calls the plumber on the phone, who tells him that he can’t come until Thursday.

Damn Jack Bauer. 

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Call Me

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