the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: April 2007 (Page 2 of 3)

Lessons Learned

I noticed that quite a few of my blogging friends mentioned the Virginia Tech shootings in their posts. Most of the posts were eloquent and moving. I find I have very little to say during events like this. At a certain point, too many words become noise.

The news media doesn’t have the luxury of saying what’s on their mind in one blog post, then moving on. They love to milk tragic events… for days. It’s just what they do. Reporters go on Facebook, trying to get VT college students to speak to them, like vultures looking for prey. Some have criticized this action, but hey, news events move fast now, and searching online is the modern way. This bothers me less than the packaging of tragic events as pseudo-entertainment.

Diane Sawyer, on a special Primetime, “A Killer Revealed,” was particularly moronic in some of her statements.

After talking about Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, who blocked the door so his students could escape from the window:

“Of all the lessons that you can be taught at college, the lesson of this type of bravery is the best.”

Huh? What does that mean? What lesson did they exactly learn? And why did they have to learn a lesson at all? Is this the Cosby show?

It’s also not enough for the families and friends to grieve for their loved ones. WE have to participate.

Diane Sawyer again:

“For more than 30 of them, it was too late almost from the beginning. And for the families of those that died, tonight the pain, as the poem said, is pitched way past grief. Then by the minute those of us, the rest of us, look into the details of their young lives ,of those who were lost, and in a sense — we become family, too.”

We’re family now? Of course, the real families will have to live with this tragedy forever. For the TV “family,” we’ll be upset until… hmm… Sunday.

Behold the Power of the Blog

Sophia had minor surgery yesterday.   She’s doing OK.   But it was one stressful day.  Not only do I hate sitting in waiting rooms, not knowing what is going on, but the CNN coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings was on TV, and I felt faint.

And where was this surgery?   Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the same hospital I mocked on this blog LAST WEEK after Sophia’s mother spent some time there!

As Sophia was in pre-op, she was reading my blog on her cell phone.  One of the nurses asked her what she was reading. 

“Neil’s blog,” said Sophia.

“What’s a blog?”  asked the nurse.

“It’s a personal journal,” said another nurse.

“Not always,” said Sophia.   “Neil writes about different things.  He even wrote about Cedars Sinai.”

Sophia showed her the post where I criticized the hospital for poor signage on the Saperstein Tower.

Later, as Sophia was drifting off from general aenesthesia, the last thing she remembers hearing from underneath the mask was the aenesthesiologist telling the others that “We better do a good job or we’ll all end up on this guy’s blog tomorrow!”

You did good work, Cedars-Sinai.   Behold the Power of the Blog! 

Send regards to Sophia.

Five Questions

It’s so hard keeping up with everyone’s blogs!

Isn’t it?

I get so emotional over the lives of people I don’t know.

Don’t you!

It gets worse when I actually meet people, like everyone in Portland.

Why’s that?

Once you meet the person behind a blog, it gets difficult writing superficial little comments.  You want MORE.

Forget about everyone else.  Just concentrate on writing.  Look at Dooce.  She’s popular and she never comments anywhere.

Well, she’s a better writer.  I need to work harder or everyone will abandon me as fast as MSNBC did Don Imus.

More penis posts!

Eh…  how much stroking can it take?

You don’t want to look elitist.  Try to be part of the crowd.  Do what all the other kids are doing.

Do you mean…?

Yes, do one of those dumb memes.

This is for you, Whoorl.  

Five questions asked by Whoorl, according to some meme going around like the Hong Kong flu —

1.  What are two things about LA that you couldn’t live without?

a)  My favorite place in Los Angeles is the Farmer’s Market.  It’s one of the few places in town where I feel at home.  It’s touristy AND local.  I love the fact that it has been there since 1934.  I appreciate establishments with a bit of history.  There are much better “markets” in other cities, such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, but this corny market just feels so outdated here, that I like it even more.  I was afraid the Farmer’s Market would go downhill after they opened a massive mall next door, but the market seems to have survived, and Starbucks and the Coffee Bean haven’t killed the donut shop just yet.  Since moving to Redondo Beach, I go to the Farmer’s Market less than I used to, but I try to go there whenever I’m in the area for a cup of coffee.  It’s a great meeting place, too.  It’s where I first met Communicatrix in person.  One day, I want to go see Ellen and Laurie at their West Hollywood Stich n’ Bitch meeting on the second floor of the Farmer’s Market.  I haven’t done it yet because I’ve been too afraid of getting sucked into learning how to crochet.

b)  A car.

2.  Do you have a secret talent (not relating to your penis)?

Empathy.

3.  Have you ever visited a State Fair? What is your favorite fair/amusement park food? (I prefer funnel cakes, just in case you are interested.)

I had never gone to a State Fair until I’ve moved to California, but now I love them.  I’ve been to the Los Angeles County Fair, the Orange County Fair, and the Ventura County Fair.   I never go on any of the rides or play any of the games of chance.  I like eating corn on the cob.  It tastes better when eaten outside.  I get a kick out of seeing the farm animals.  I’m a big fan of goat cheese, so I like to say hello to the goats.  Goats are ugly, but make beautiful cheese.   The highlight of any country fair may be surprising to you — the tablesetting competition.  I had never heard of this until my first fair, and I was immediately hooked.  What a weird concept!  Some competitors go all out, serving their Mexican-style dinners in bowls shaped like sombreros.  I especially enjoy the theme settings — the Oscar parties with movie reel centerpieces or the children’s birthday table “decorated” like Mars.  I enjoy the theatrics of it all.  Of course, it isn’t all just style.  Each competitor has to follow the correct table setting rules, with the silverware and glasses all in the right positions.   It’s way cool.   Hopefully, one day when I am asked again, “Do you have a secret talent?” I will answer, “I’m a competitive table setter.”

4. Red or black licorice?

Definitely red licorice.  I grew up on Twizzlers, but have grown to like the Red Vines they sell in Los Angeles.  I don’t eat them much anymore, because I want my teeth.

Al Sharpton:  “And what do you have against “black” licorice?”

Neil:  “Uh, I change my mind.  I like black licorice, too.”

5. You must move to either Tokyo or Helsinki.  Which one and why?

From Miss Universe Pageant

Evening Gown Competition

JP.jpg
Miss Japan

FI.jpg
Miss Finland

Tokyo +1

Swimsuit Competition

JP2.jpg
Miss Japan

F2.jpg
Miss Finland

Helsinki +1

National Costume Competition

JP3.jpg
Miss Japan

F3.jpg
Miss Finland

Helsinki +1

National Food

sushi2.jpg
Sushi in Japan

finmeat.jpg
Grilled Reindeer in Finland

Tokyo +12

I would move to Tokyo.

(the first person who asks will get my five questions)

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthPassive-Aggressive

Sunday Morning at the Russian Market

I went with Vartan to the Russian store on Santa Monica Boulevard.  An old man was eating sunflower seeds like he once did in old Odessa, from a newspaper shaped like a cone.  He was like a child again, hearing the man with the mustache yelling “Sunflower seeds, Sunflower seeds,” by the Potemkin Steps.

“I also come from a faraway land,” I told the elderly man.  “I’d hear the bell on summer days and run outside for ice cream.” 

He didn’t answer.  He was watching a beautiful Indian woman standing on the street, draped in a sari of crepe-de-chine. 

Vartan ordered blini.  The old man ate his seeds.  I caught a glimpse of the naked shoulder of the the woman in the sari, and then she disappeared.

Guys and Doll

Today I received a phone call from Danny.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said, “but you just got ONE more birthday gift in the mail!”

This was very surprising.  Surely, someone felt very guilty for not sending me a gift for my birthday.   When I arrived at Danny’s, he handed me the package, saying, “This person must have felt VERY guilty.”  The colorfully-wrapped gift was enormous.  I brought the box home, placed it on my bed, and ripped it open.  Inside was a female blow-up doll, ready to use. 

“Whoa!  Who sent me this gift?” I wondered.  “Crazy Aunt Purl?  Charming but Single?  The gals at Poetry Thursday?”  But there was no return address or card.

“It was me!” said my Penis.

“You sent me a birthday gift?”

“Sure.  I felt bad that everyone gave you a gift except for me.”

“How did you buy this?”

“I bought it online while you were sleeping.”

“And what did you use for money?”

“Oh, they’ll give a American Express card to ANYONE nowadays”

“What name did you us?”

“Kramer.  Penis Kramer.”

“They gave a credit card to someone named Penis Kramer?”

“Have you seen all the weird names out there?  LaKisha?  Apple?   Why not Penis?”

“Well.. uh, thanks for the gift, I think.    But I’m not really sure what to do with it.”

“What are you — a moron?  What do you think you do with it?  It was my birthday, too.  Think of  it as a birthday gift for both of us.”

“It just seems a little… unsanitary.”

“And REAL SEX is clean?  Don’t worry, the plastic is hypo-allergenic.”

“I don’t know.  I’m really not into having sex with a plastic doll.  Can’t we exchange if for something else?”

“Think about it, Neilochka.  No more waiting for Sophia.  No more worrying about women again.  Whenever you want a woman — there she is.  She is the Perfect Woman!”

“Well, I could definitely save money not having to buy flowers on Valentine’s Day.”

“Exactly.  Come on, let’s give a try!”

“I’m not really in the mood now.  I was hoping to watch “Dancing with the Stars” on Tivo.”

Neil’s Penis presses the TV remote control.  MTV comes on the TV.   On the screen, Shakira is shaking her hips in a music video.

“Oh look,” said my Penis, as sly as a snake, “Shakira!  You loooove Shakira!”

Shakira bellydances for the camera.

“OK, I’m ready.” I said.

I quickly undressed.  My Penis and I jumped into bed, next to the blow-up doll.  I politely propped the blow-up doll’s head against a pillow, making her comfortable.

“Hi there.  It’s very nice to meet you, maam,” I said, and then started caressing her and whispering things in her ear.

“What are you doing?” asked my Penis.

“Sophia taught me to always do foreplay first.”

“You don’t need to do foreplay on a blow-up doll, you dummy!  That’s the whole point.”

“Good.  Because she pretty much tastes like a Hefty trash bag.”

“Just stick me in already!  I’m getting bored.”

I climbed on top of the blow-up doll, feeling my way to the cut-out hole under the midsection of the doll.

“Jesus.  I don’t even need to see the tag to know that this was made in Hong Kong for the Asian market.”

“Quit kvetching and just push in!” my Penis yelled.

“Will you be patient?!  The last thing I want is to puncture her.   You want half of a blow-up doll permanently melted on you, Penis Kramer?”

After some maneuvering, the blow-up doll and I started “making love.”   I was thrusting and my penis was loving every minute of it… but I was unsatisfied. 

I stopped.

“What?! What?!  What’s going on?” screamed my desperate Penis.  “Keep it going, Neilochka!”

“It all just seems so… cold.” I replied.  “It’s like she’s not even human.”

“We’re f***ing a blow-up doll, Neilochka.  What do you think?  Just enjoy it!”

“It just doesn’t feel like a real woman.”

“Look, I’m happy.  Can’t you be happy for me?   You still get the in and out.”

“I’m not just talking about in and out.  There’s more to sex.  There’s the smell of the woman.  The heat of the woman.  The voice of the woman.”

“Oy!  What a nudnik!”

“I’m sorry, Penis.  I just need to feel some sort of connection.”

“I have an idea.  What if I make believe that I’m the voice of the woman you’re having sex with? 

“And how are you going to do that?”

“I can “throw my voice” like a woman, so it sounds like it is coming from her.    This way the “sex” can feel more “real” to you, and I can finally have some fun here.”

“You can do this?”

“Sure.  I once took a “ventriloquism” course at the Learning Annex.”

“OK, Let’s give it a try.”

I started my thrusting again.  My penis did his ventriloquism act, and it really worked.  He really made it sound so authentic.  It seemed as if feminine orgasmic moanings and groanings were coming straight from the blow-up doll’s bright red open mouth. 

“Oh, OH, you are so good!” cried the “woman.”  “I love how big and hard you are.  You are the most amazing Penis in the world.  You are like a Ninja sword of pleasure, you apple-headed monster, you bald-headed battering ram.  Do me, you Captain Howdy, you Cock-a-saurus Rex, you Danger the one-eyed Ranger.  You fill me completely with your Fire breathing Dragon, your Incredible Bulk, your King Kielbasa.  Take me to math class with your Perpendicular bisector.  I kneel before you, mighty Longrod Von Hugenstein, Erectus Nebuchadnezzar.  Show me “the Wall” with your Pink Floyd, you upright citizen of the month!   Forever bless you, oh, proud member, Navajo nightstick of Neilochka…”

“Hold on… Hold on!” I said, stopping again.  “This is not working for me at all.”

“‘I thought you wanted to hear a turned-on woman.”

“Yeah, but all she talks about is… YOU!”

“So?  Aren’t I the one doing all the work?”

“It makes me feel like an object.  I’m not an attachment to you, Penis.”

“You’re not?” my Penis asks, surprised.

“A woman is not with us for YOU.  She’s with us for ME.  For being a good person.  For holding the door for a woman.  For helping the old woman across the street.”

My Penis laughs.

“Yeah, right.  And my name isn’t Penis Kramer…  Can we get back to “doing” the blow-up doll?”

“It feels empty.”

“Not every sexual encounter has to have harps and violins playing in the background.”

“Remember when Sophia and I were honeymooning in Spain, and we were in that small town, and there was this man outside playing the violin…”

“OH NO, not that story!”

“It was so beautiful… there was a full moon… and then he sang that Spanish song, “Me Amor…”

“No… no… you’re not going to start crying again…”

“What went wrong, Penis?” I sobbed.  “What went wrong?!”

“Stop it.  Stop it!  I’m getting soft.  The walls are crumbling!  I’m melting.  I’m melting!  I can’t believe it, Neilochka.  You’re so ungrateful.  Especially after I got you this gift.”

“Are you sure this gift was really for me?”

“What are you saying?” asked my Penis, his voice rising in anger.

“I’m saying you’ve always wanted a blow-up doll, and you used my birthday as an excuse to get yourself one.”

“You know, it was my birthday too!   And where was your birthday gift to ME?”

“Who buys a birthday gift for his Penis?”

“You’re a hypocrite.   To all your blogging friends you go, “Buy me stuff!  Buy me stuff!”  But when you have to buy a gift for someone else, it’s always, “Oh, I forgot,” or “Who buys a gift for his Penis?””

“Now you’re acting like a woman.”  I said mockingly.  “A high maintenance woman!”

“No, you’re the woman!” yelled my Penis.   “You can’t even have sex with a blow-up doll without crying about “the violins in Spain.””

“No, you’re the woman!  Look, who is the one throwing his voice so perfectly?!  “Oh, you’re so good.  Do me!  Do me again!”

My Penis turned red in anger.

“You’re a dick, Neilochka!”

“Hah, look who’s talking!”

“You lousy son of a…”

“Stop it!   Stop it!  Stopi it!”  cried the blow-up doll, stepping out of the bed and walking away.  “How hard is it for a blow-up doll to get laid around here?!”

She headed for the front door.

“Where are you going?” asked my Penis and I simultaneously.

“I’m going out to a nightclub in Chinatown.  I have needs too, you know.  Call me when you two grow up and straighten things out.”

After the blow-up doll slammed the door behind her, my Penis and I looked at each other, daggers in our eyes. 

“You want to masturbate?”  I asked.

“Sure.” he replied.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthYou Decide

Giving Thanks #2

gifts2.jpg

Today, I attended an amazing seminar at the Anaheim Hilton, titled “People Pleaser No More!” led by the brilliant Dr. Schmoozeno Schmutz. It was as if I had three years of intense therapy in one day (with free pasta bar included for lunch). I learned that I feel “smaller” than other people, when I should feel “bigger.” I shouldn’t worry about speaking my mind or telling others the truth. Others will still like me, and if they don’t — to hell with them and good riddance!

This new attitude is going to trickle down into my blogging style. No more self-deprecating humor or putting myself down in posts. There now will be a new regime at Citizen of the Month. I’m not going to be a “cheerleader” in your comments anymore. If your husband divorces you, I’m not going to be all cutesy and nicey-nice by saying, “It’s his loss! You can do better.” I’m going to tell you what I really think — “It was all your fault. Maybe if you would have given him head every once in a while, he would have stayed!”

I recently wrote a few thank you emails that I sent to some of you about the birthday gifts and cards that I received. When I re-read my notes today, having graduated Dr. Schmutz’s seminar, I got sick to my stomach. Each note is peppered with “loser” phrases like “you are so generous,” “you are so sweet,” and “I’m so glad to be your friend.” Tie me with an apron and gag me with a spoon. Why do I have to make believe that I’m not worthy? LOSER! Dr. Schmutz has taught me that I AM worthy. In fact, rather than being all grateful and crying with joy over you “caring” about me, I should be wondering why didn’t I get MORE GIFTS and from more of you?! Where were you, Mrs. Mogul and Brooke, for example?! After all, YOU all should be grateful that I still hang around with you when I could be blogging with my peeps — Dooce, Amalah, and the other A-listers.

On Sunday, I received the last bunch of cards and gifts from Danny. Sure, I could say “thank you” and how much I appreciate it, but let’s cut the crap, should we? I think you’ll respect me more if I am more honest with you and tell you how I really feel about what you sent me. Otherwise, I’d be doing a disservice to Dr. Schmoozeno Schmutz’s teachings and to myself.

Heather B, Fatma, Evil Eye Cafe, Mist 1, Karlababble, Whoorl, Miriam, and Otir

Yeah, it’s nice that you sent me some cute birthday cards, but WTF, where are the GIFTS? Couldn’t you have at least included a few dollars tucked inside?

Elisabeth

I enjoy you as a blogger, but I never want to meet you in person. You seem completely inconsiderate. Who in their right mind sends someone the entire collection of Proust — six books?! I couldn’t get through Volume One in college and you want me to read the whole series? Are you a freaking SADIST? Are you doing this because I once called the French a bunch of anti-Semites and this is your payback?

Paris Parfait

I’m convinced that you and Elisabeth are working in cahoots. It must be the French connection. You sent me “Reflections on Exile” by Edward W. Said, knowing that I once took a college course with the late Professor Said. You knew that I only got a B in that class, and clearly you wanted to “rub it in” that you are smarter than me. And now I have to explain to Sophia why I’m reading a book by a Palestinian activist! Thanks for the “gift.”

Ariel

You sent me a copy of “Out of the Ordinary” by John Ronson. Pretentious! I never read British novelists. When are you guys going to accept that your literary heyday ended with George Bernard Shaw? I’ve already exchanged the book at Amazon for Paula Abdul’s new autobiography. She is an American.

Sputnik

You sent me “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. I wish you did some thinking yourself before you bought me this insulting gift. The book is all about bad website design. What are you trying to tell me about my blog? That it is ugly and user-unfriendly? Why don’t you just stab me in the back and give it a good twist?

Churlita

An Iowa lottery ticket? Like Iowa actually pays off anything worthwhile in their lottery. Are the winnings in corn cobs?

Michele V

Yet another losing lottery ticket… I won nothing, bupkes, AGAIN! How about sending me another one, or two, or three?

Ali

Multi-colored sea glass from the beach near La Rochelle, France? How do I know these are really from France? How do I know you just didn’t break a bottle of Budweiser and put the pieces into an envelope? If I cut myself on one of these, I’m suing you before you can say “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”.

TherapyDoc

You’ll have to explain to everyone what you sent me, because just thinking about this mirror paper/”self-help toolkit” makes me dizzy and nauseated!

McKay

Certificates for a dinner entree and a movie? At California Pizza Kitchen? I’ve been there already. Couldn’t you have at least found me a new place to eat? I like sushi.

Wendy

While I’m sure you enjoyed these two romantic comedy DVDs you sent me, did it occur to you that I am a man, and I would much prefer a movie with some tits and trucks blowing up? “Love Actually?” Do you think I’m gay? The $25 gift certificate for IHOP was a nice gesture, but what the hell do I need that for? Do you know how many coupons I have to IHOP already?

Bre

A Penn State t-shirt? If you actually read this blog, you know I went to college at an IVY LEAGUE school! Do you think I’m going to allow a Penn State t-shirt to touch my ivy-covered chest?

Jen

An Alabama t-shirt? It may be “Sweet Home Alabama” to you, but have you ever seen anyone Jewish wearing an Alabama t-shirt?

Paperback Writer

A book on how to speak like a Pittsburgher? I’m married to Sophia and I still haven’t learned any Russian, for Pete’s sake! Now you want me to learn YOUR language?

Suburban and Jason

Silly Putty and a whoopee cushion? What do you think I am — a five years old?

Expat Jane

The Korean tea set you sent from Seoul is very pretty, in a cutesy Asian kind of way, but I already sold it on E-bay. You may have missed some of my earlier posts, but most of my regular readers know that I DON’T LIKE KOREANS.

All of my previous gift givers, just count your blessings that I thanked you before I attended this seminar by Dr. Schmoozeno Schmutz.  That means you —Two Roads, Alexandra, Question Girl, Becky, Noel, Lefty, Nelumbo, Leezer, Rhea, Eileen, Jocelyn, Irina, Michele, Bella, Don’t Call Me Sir, Zoely, Claire, Postmodern Sass, Colorful Prose, Communicatrix, Everyday Goddess, Karl, Old Lady of the Hills, Lynnster, Nancy French, Richard, Mr. Fabulous, NSC, Buzzgirl, Leesa, Jurgen Nation, Hilly , Deezee, PocketCT, Blundering American), Ash, Kapgar, Albert, V-Grrrl, Javacurls, Fresh New Hell, Spinning Girl), EEK, Ellen, Alissa and Evan, Orieyenta and little Orieyenta, Psychotoddler, Pearl, Deanna, Katie, Mo, Margaret, Stepping Over Junk, Caron, Finn, Nance, Lauren, A Take on the World, Blitz Kreig, Tamar, Doris, Daisy, Better Safe than Sorry, Jules, Roberta, Ascender, Introspectre, Ms. Sizzle, Dave, and Danny.

OK, my birthday 2007 is now officially over!   Much love from Sophia as well!

Married Couples

marriage2.jpg 

The plan this afternoon was to bring some Chinese food over to Sophia’s mother, now back from the hospital,  then head over to Danny’s house to pick up those birthday cards and gifts that I haven’t yet seen.  There’s a whole range of reasons that Danny and I couldn’t connect during the last two weeks, but I told Danny that I had to pick it up today.  I was beginning to be terrified that I would be the most hated man in the blogosphere for not saying thank you within the allotted period mandated by Emily Post. 

While in Portland, we bought Danny two “Pacific Northwest” cooking books as a thank-you for all his help with my virtual birthday party.   One little problem.  As Sophia and I got ready to leave the house, neither of us could remember where we put the books.

“How can you lose Danny’s gifts?”  asked Sophia.

“How do you know I lost it?”

“You unpacked the luggage!”

“I don’t remember seeing it.   In fact, didn’t you tell me NOT to put it in the luggage so it wouldn’t get crushed?”

“So, where DID you put it?”

“Maybe you left it in the hotel.”

“I would never do that.” 

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I am.  I handed it to you when we got into the car.  It was in that Powell’s Books bag.”

“Yes, and then I handed it back to you when we stopped in Carmel.”

After ten minutes of back and forth, we slid into name-calling and eventually stopped talking with each other completely.   We grabbed a twelve-pack of Portland-brewed beer (that we bought as a gift for someone else), and took it as a substitute gift for Danny.

The car ride from Redondo Beach was an unfriendly one.  The air was as cold as a twelve-pack of Portland-brewed beer fresh from the freezer.  As we came closer to Sophia’s mother, we stopped at the reliable, but simple King Fu Mandarin for take-out.  Because it was Easter and Passover, the restaurant was empty other than the husband and wife who run the place.  The wife was behind the counter.  The husband was the cook.  Sophia ordered chicken wonton soup, eggrolls, and two dishes, one beef and one chicken.  The wife wrote down the order, then headed behind a back curtain to give it to her husband/cook in the kitchen.

Sophia decided to speak to me for the first time in an hour.

“Do you think two entrees are enough for us?”

“Well, we ordered soup and egg rolls.  And there’s rice.  Your parents don’t eat much.”

“Well, maybe they’d like more of a selection.”

“So, get another dish.”

“What should I get?”

“Get what you want.  I don’t care.  Get what your mother likes.”

“I’m asking YOU.”

It was clear that the air between us was still ten degrees below zero.

“Get a noodle dish.” I said.

Sophia grumbled and walked into the back, calling out to the owner/wife.

“Excuse me.   Do you think we ordered enough for four people?”

“It depends how hungry you are.”  said the owner/wife.

“Are your portions big?” asked Sophia.

“Yes.”

“So maybe we don’t need another dish?”

“No.  I think you have enough.” said the owner/wife.

Sophia returned and sat next to me.

“So, are we talking now?” I asked. testing the waters.

“No.” she said.

“And what EXACTLY are we fighting about?”

“You’re irresponsible when you lose Danny’s gift like that.  I look bad because I told him we got the books.”

“You know, there’s no actual proof that I misplaced the books.  If this was in court, it would be dismissed.  You could have lost it.”

“I didn’t.  I haven’t seen them since we came home.”

I bit my lip, frustrated.   We started repeating the same conversation that we had earlier, blaming each other, acting like guinea pigs going round and round on a wheel.

I started “reading” some Chinese-language newspaper that was under my chair.  Sophia started reading the menu like it was a novel.  Neither of us wanted to talk, afraid of what would happen if we opened our mouths. 

It was then that we heard the voices from the kitchen.  It was the husband and wife owners.  They were arguing, speaking in Mandarin.  Their voices got louder and angrier.   It was uncomfortable sitting in an empty restaurant as the owners were fighting at the top of their lungs.

“Maybe we should go,”  said Sophia.

“We can’t go,” I answered.  “We already paid for the food.”

Sophia nodded.

“So, what do you think they are arguing about?” I asked.

“I think he’s mad at her because the wife told me not to order another dish.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Look, they have no customers today.  He’s probably saying to her, “What’s the matter with you?  We could have made another $7.95.  Why did you tell her she ordered enough?  What kind of businesswoman are you?””

We listened to them argue some more in Mandarin.

“Maybe you’re right,” I told Sophia.  “It sounds like she’s fighting back.  It sounds like she’s saying, “We didn’t go into business to be greedy.  Better we get them to come back as repeat customers than pull every penny out of them!  Look what happened to your brother’s Chinese restaurant when he started counting pennies.  No one went there anymore.  We never went there!””

“Now he’s really getting pissed,” said Sophia.  “Now he’s saying, “Why do you always bring up my family in a negative way?  Do I bring up that your Uncle Chang is a drunk and cheats in Mah Jongg?!””

Sophia and I started to laugh, thinking about the ridiculous things that married couples fight about.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthI Love You, Sun-Maid Raisin Girl

Easter Sunday for Jews

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Have a wonderful Easter Sunday, you crazy Gentiles!  Passover is still better, but those Peeps are darn tasty!  Are they kosher for Passover?  Is anyone wearing a cool Easter bonnet?  Why do you always have “ham” at Easter?  Isn’t that a little bit pushing things in our face?  How about having brisket one Easter and inviting me over?   You think Jesus would want to have ham for dinner?  I love the painting of the eggs!  Genius!  Danny, Canter’s Deli tonight?

Reading Scripts

I have a cold and don’t feel like writing anything, but since I know many readers, mostly women, purposely stay home on Saturday night in order to read my latest post, much preferring my urbane, albeit virtual, charm, to facing another dull Saturday evening with some “date” set up by their relatives and friends. 

“Why does every single man always plan the same date night out?” a reader might ask herself, and rightfully so.  “It’s always the same — we share one chicken entree at Applebee’s, and then go back to the apartment he shares with his mother for ten minutes of doggie-style sex while he grunts the theme from “The Lord of the Rings.”  When did men become so unoriginal? Where’s the romance?”

I will not disappoint you, dear reader.  Despite me coughing and sneezing, I am there for you.  OK, maybe it is true that I already wrote the following post when I was guest posting last month at Heather’s blog, No Pasa Nada.   But what are you gonna do — fire me?!   Ha Ha, I get the last laugh!

Re-posted from Heather’s site.  If you already read it there, make believe that you haven’t.  It reads better on this blog, anyway.

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I moved to Los Angeles to go to film school and become a screenwriter. I was surprised by how quickly I got a job involving screenwriting at a major Hollywood studio. Unfortunately, it was not a job writing scripts. It was a job READING scripts.

Yes, I was a low-paid, low-on-the-totem-pole script reader (or script “analyst” as we liked to call ourselves). It was the worst job I ever had.

“What’s so bad about getting paid to read?” you might ask. It sounds like the ideal job for an English major and someone who loves to read. First of all, a true “reader” reads for enjoyment or enlightenment. A Hollywood script reader reads and reads and reads and reads endless piles of CRAP. Serial killer movies. Vampire movies. Retreads of whatever comedy was successful the year before. If a dumb movie like “A Night in the Museum” is successful, be assured that within three months, there will be a hundred similar scripts about “A Night at the Zoo” or “A Night in the Art Gallery.”

Step one of being a reader is reading the material. Step two is doing the “coverage.” Coverage is the equivalent of writing a little book report for each script or book submitted to the company. It is never-ending homework. You summarize the written material. You write a one sentence “log line.” You give your opinion of the story, the characters, and the writing. You decide whether the material deserves a “pass,” “consider,” or “approve.”

Within the first week, I was called into the producer’s office and told that I was being TOO honest in reviewing the terrible scripts. As a newbie, I didn’t realize that Hollywood is mostly based on relationships. My job was not so much to review the script, like a critic might review a book in the New York Times. My main goal was to read the script so the producer didn’t have to, but still enable him to LOOK like he read it. Part of my job description was to help the producer be like Paula Abdul on “American Idol” — finding something positive to say while still rejecting the person. Since you never know who a script may come from, it is always important for the producer to be able to say SOMETHING positive. For instance, if Tom Cruise’s aunt wrote a really bad screenplay about a League of Superheroes, the producer should be able to say “the script had some fine moments of dramatic action, but we aren’t going in that direction right now.” This way, the producer can look like a cool guy — and blame someone else for the script’s rejection.

During the second week, I was called into the producer’s office again because I “approved” a script about women’s wrestling during the Depression. I thought it was a moving story with great characters, exactly the type of oddball movie I would want to see. No one else agreed with me. Even worse, by “approving” a script as noteworthy, the producer actually READ the script, and HE doesn’t like to have his time wasted. That’s why he is paying YOU. So, out of fear of losing their jobs, most script readers rarely approve a script unless box-office gold is dripping off the pages (which is rare). In four years of reading scripts, I think I “approved” four projects, all of them vehicles for popular actors.

During the first month, I was called into the producer’s office a third time — this time to learn about a new wrinkle to my job. The producer had taken on a partner and they disagreed over some projects. “My” producer said he would appreciate it if I “liked” certain materials more than I did, in order to convince his partner that a script was not as bad as it seemed. For example, he handed me a script that “he knew had major rewrite problems” but wanted his partner’s approval because he thought he could get Eddie Murphy to be involved. So, surprise, surprise — my coverage of the material contained only mild criticism, with expressions like “flawed, but with a little work, this can be a rollicking comedy, maybe for someone from SNL.”

For four years, I never read a book for pleasure. Writing became a chore for me. I saw how difficult for any screenplay to get past a reader. There was always going to be a jerk like ME, some frustrated writer, dismissing my script after reading it in a coffee shop at three o’clock in the morning. I lost my ability to distinguish between good and bad. When everyone said a movie sucked, I would just be impressed that the project actually got made!

Eventually, I quit this job and my mind got a needed rest.

In the scheme of things, being a Hollywood script reader isn’t the worst job in the world. You can do a good portion of your job sitting in Starbucks. You don’t have to shovel horse manure. You don’t have to wear a suit.

But for me, it was the worst job I ever had, because it was soul-destroying.

Two Live Reports from JFK

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From Wired:

DANGER ROOM Editor Noah Shachtman is at JFK airport in New York where there’s been a security breach that’s thrown terminal three into chaos. Gotta love the wild ‘n crazy world of TSA, where security breaches mean you trap all the passengers in an enclosed area, leaving them completely vulnerable.

Anyhow, as Noah reports:

I’m at New York’s JFK airport, waiting to catch a flight to Los Angeles. And there’s been a major security breach here at the Delta terminal, number three.

According to TSA workers, someone ran through the security checkpoint, maybe an hour ago. No one has been allowed to pass through, since. There must be a thousand people here who can’t get on their flights.

The TSA workers have no idea what’s going on — “We know as much as you,” one told me.

Passengers are generally calm. But that could change, quick. Passengers in the “sterile areas” were just told to “evacuate the building.”

From Citizen of the Month:

Elaine Kramer, mother of blogger Neil, is at JFK airport, stuck on a Delta Airlines plane, sitting somewhere between the runway and the terminal, having just returned to NY after Passover. Since no planes can leave, no passengers can deplane.

Anyhow, as Neil’s mother reports:

“We had to fly around for an extra hour, but everyone was very nice and brought us an extra round of soda and potato chips.”

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