the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: January 2008 (Page 1 of 3)

California Politics


A woman with a display table was standing outside of Ralph’s Supermarket today, asking for signatures.  As Super Tuesday approaches, the wheels start turning for the next election’s California propositions.  Every year, there are a whole group of new propositions on the California ballot.  They are always as confusing as possible, and half of them get stuck in costly court battles.  The big proposition for this month has something to do with Indian Casinos and their right to add more slot machines to feed their tribes, or something like that, or at least giving the tribes better odds in blackjack.  Most of these propositions have to do with money and taxes, or where the money should go.  I have a feeling the money never goes anywhere other than into the advertising campaigns of new propositions.

As I passed the political display table outside of the supermarket, I was shocked to read the poster posted in front of it.  “Let’s Keep Marriage Between a Man and a Woman.”  Redondo Beach may not be West Hollywood, but it is still a “liberal” area.  There were at least four people adding their signatures to put this issue on the ballot.  I was dismayed and angry.  Redondo Beach?

I’m not extremely political.  Sophia is Republican.  I respect some of the Republican views on international relations, even taxes.   I have a “conservative” side to myself.  However, religious-tinged issues such as gay marriage, right to life, and putting “God” back into our culture JUST DRIVE me nuts!   Is this what we really want to spend all our time talking about?  It’s as if a married couple is living in a home where the toilet is flooding the entire house and their car is on fire, and they are arguing over who should do the dishes tonight?  

I think it is cool if gays want to get married or take up juggling.   What’s the big deal?

Anyway, that’s as political as I get, for now.

I went into the store and bought some tomatoes, Cheerios, turkey slices, tomato sauce, and green tea.  I paid for my items, then left through the “other” front door, hoping to avoid the woman with the political display and getting upset again.   But it didn’t work.  The minute she saw me, she ran over to me with her clipboard, asking me to sign it. 

“Would you like to… blah blah… about renewable energy?”

“Huh?” I wondered.

I looked over to her display.  Her poster had two sides.  One side said “Keep Marriage Between a Man and a Woman.”  The flip side contained something about renewable energy.  Everyone that I saw signing their names was adding their name to the renewable energy clipboard, and I just didn’t realize it.

Rather than being relieved, I just felt annoyed at the political system.  I didn’t add my name for this proposition either.  Sophia had once told me how it works.  This woman is paid to get signatures.  So, she was working on behalf of “Keep Marriage Between  Man and a Woman” AND “renewable energy.”  I’m sure she would be handing out Al-Queda propaganda videos if they paid her too.  It’s as if all the issues are interchangeable.  Just get them on the ballot, and it helps someone… someone who isn’t the California voter.

Now, that’s what modern American politics is all about.  

OK, now I’m off to watch the Democratic debate.  Snore.   Then, Lost.

Rambling Post to Scare Off New Readers

Sophia had a little “discussion” with me this morning about my constant pooh-poohing of advertising, calling it immature.  “We could always use another hundred dollars to help pay for something like our over-priced health insurance.  It’s not like we’re wealthy people who would refuse money.”  She made me feel a bit ashamed for being such a stickler, like I’m a pampered baby.   I should talk to my therapist about this.  I think this advertising issue reflects on other parts of my life where I fear “selling out,” — where I would rather feel good about my superiority than actually make good money for the family.

Does anyone really think less of Dooce for having ads?  Of course, adding ads to blogs undercuts the whole equality of the blogosphere in my mind.  But the box has already been open for a long time.  And who really cares?  Isn’t each of us here to grab as much as he can get for his family, so they can live the best possible life?  Maybe the whole premise of this Great Interview Experiment is a farce.  Maybe we’re not all somebodys.  If I can make more money than the next guy, I can be a “bigger” somebody!  Isn’t that how most of  people think, anyway?   There is always someone more of a somebody than me!  I shouldn’t be saying we are all somebodies.  Why create a myth?  I should be telling you that I am BETTER than you.  Then you will look towards me for advice, and maybe even pay me one day for the book I will write, giving you more advice.  I should ask people to vote for me as the Best Blogitizer!  I could promote myself and make more money on the blog.  Is that what all these Problogger websites advise us to do?  Isn’t Blogher partly about learning how to monetize your blog?  I’m wondering if other bloggers will actually LIKE me and RESPECT me MORE if I told them that I just bought a new car off of the earnings from my blog?  A hybrid, of course, just to impress the eco-babes.

Anyway, just rambling.

Thoughts on the Interviews


How do I feel about the response to the Great Interview Experiment? 

Overwhelmed!  I had no idea there would be so many people!  I think we’re up to 200 interviews going on already, and I’m sure there will be more.  Just add your name in the comments here.

It’s sort of ironic.  Here, I wrote a post about how everyone is all equal and interesting, and I get to win all the LINKS!   Suckers!

This morning, Sophia woke me up and said, “There are 200 comments.  Now is the best time for you to put up advertising!”

“Are you nuts?”  I asked.  “I’d look like a total asshole.  Like I’d set this whole up to profit from it.”

“That’s what you are SUPPOSED to do!”

She just doesn’t understand.  I’m an idealist.  Or a wimp that needs to bring this fear up in therapy.  So far, it has been cool meeting some new bloggers and getting to know old friends better, but in reality, it is more work on my part than fun.   It reminds me of the times you have a bunch of friends over for a dinner party, and everyone is having a great time, except you — because you’re serving the little hot dog appetizers on a platter and washing the dishes.   I’m trying my best to keep everything updated.

I’m also finally feeling sympathy for bigshot blogger like Dooce.   How the hell do you read so many blogs coming your way at one time?  And how many “Heather”s and “Kathy”s are there in this world?!    Please don’t think of me as rude if I don’t come to read your interview immediately.  Besides, most of you new people, particularly the mommybloggers, will abandon me soon anyway — after they read some of my NSFW posts.  That’s why you always have to be loyal to your real blog friends, the ones who don’t leave even when they you write about shtupping your female therapist.  They’re your real friends. 

And shtupping is Yiddish.  Look it up.

Back to the Great Interview Experiment.  I’m constantly updating the lists of those who want to be interviewed/interview AND the final interviews.   If I screw up in some way, just email me.  I’m not perfect.  Remember, I’m just a guy sitting at home in my underwear.  (by the way, it’s been two years since I’ve asked — are tighty-whiteys still “out?”)  I still have my blog posts to write.  And I still need time to flirt with some of my regular blog friends on Facebook and Twitter.  And to write this brilliant screenplay that is stalled.  And  to watch American Idol with Sophia.  I’m a busy man!

I know some of your interviewers/interviewees are going to wimp out and never ask your questions, etc.   If you have been stuck with one of these lazy-ass motherf***ers, I say, give him five days to redeem himself and respond to you email, and if he doesn’t, just send me an email, and I’ll move you between a prettier pair of bloggers.  I’m also thinking of deleting any blog from the list that has no other purpose other than to sell things.  Those blogs are so boring to me, I start to fall asleep just thinking about them.  If you are one of these bloggers, please do the entire community a service and intersperse some fun stuff in between selling those humidifiers!  A blog should be interesting!

Again, if anyone has any suggestions, please tell me.  I think it is important to give a message to the Old Media that personal bloggers have a role to play in society — and culture.  Elitists will always want to make “real” published writers sound superior (rather than different) to those online, as evidenced by this snarky attack on bloggers in this week’s New York Review of Books (via Time Goes By). 

Fight the power!

Next Week in Therapy


I’m sitting across from Brenda, my therapist. 

Therapist:  So, how did you feel about i?

Neil:  I was a little upset at her.

Therapist:  So what did you do?

Neil:  I withdrew.  I went into my room and wrote.  That made me feel better.  I think I do that too much.  I did that as a kid a lot.  I was an only child.  I always felt most comfortable just sitting around writing something.

Therapist:  What did you write last night?

Neil:  I wrote a silly blog post titled “If I Was Married to Hellga of American Gladiators.”

Therapist:  Hmm…

Neil:  Although no one reading it would know, I was probably venting about Sophia…

Therapist:  So, writing this blog is an important outlet for you.

Neil:  I suppose so.

Therapist:  Maybe it is a form of therapy for you.  A way for you to think about things.  What do you mostly write about?

Neil:  All different things.  Mostly funny things.  About Sophia.  I’ve even written about you. I mean not real stuff.  Well, sort of real.  I use different names for you, and your image has changed as time has gone on.  In the beginning, I made you into a hot babe therapist.  Once I wrote about being distracted because your legs were showing. 

Therapist:  Really?

Neil:  Yeah.  Silly stuff.  But you do have nice legs.  Jesus, I can’t believe I’m telling my therapist that she has nice legs.  Sorry.

Therapist:  It’s OK.

Neil:  But I’ve also written more serious stuff about therapy, like that I’m not an “adult” yet.

Therapist:  I’ve never done this with another client, but your blog seems a large part of your life.  Your fantasy life.  Do you think it would be a good idea if I read your blog?

Neil:  Oh, I was under the assumption that you had been reading it.  I even wrote about that.

Therapist:  No, I wouldn’t read it unless you asked me too.  Do you want me to?

Neil:  Sure.  Why not?

Therapist:  I don’t know too much about blogs?  How do people find you? 

Neil:  It’s sort of complicated.

Therapist:  Do a lot of people come to the blog?

Neil:  Well, it depends.  Right now I have a lot of people coming because I’m hosting this interview thing where people interview each other, but I have no idea how many of them are actually READING aything I write.

Therapist:  Let’s make next week a special one.  We’ll sit by the computer together and you’ll show me some of what you write on your blog.  I want you to show me things that can best help me understand you better.  Let’s make your blog part of therapy, since it seems to already be like that.  Or print out five posts that you want me to read.

Neil:  OK, but you DO realize I’m going to write about this on my blog tonight?

Therapist:  I have no doubt.

If I Was Married to Hellga from American Gladiators

I’m waiting… for that apology…

Does this joust go with my shoes?

You know I don’t like green peppers in my kung pao chicken!

Why must you always flirt with Fury in my presence?

I thought your mother was staying at a hotel this time?!

I don’t care what you got from Netflix.  Tonight we’re watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Stop fooling yourself, Neilochka.  It’s not even close to Titan’s.   That one time we… it was… it was… like this…

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   How Jack Bauer Has Ruined My Life

The Great Interview Experiment — My Interview with V-Grrrl

photo by Di Mackey 

I’ve so impressed with all the interviews.  I’ve read all of them.  Some of you have a harder time than others.  It must be difficult to ask the right questions of someone you only met online that day!  I was very lucky to get V-Grrrl as my person to interview.   I’ve been reading her blog for quite a while.  I knew I could ask her anything.  My only regret was that I couldn’t ask her the questions face-to-face.  Someday!

V-Grrrl’s profile:  An American expatriate in Belgium (although not for long!), I’m caught between two kids, two continents, two cultures, and my opening and closing acts.  Here I am stuck in the middle with you. 

My interview with V-Grrrl of V-Grrrl in the Middle:  

Neil:  I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and I recently went back to read you first posts.  Your blog started out more an exploration of being an expat — an American in Belgium.  More recently, your writing has become personal, even emotional, and less focused on your surroundings.  Was this a creative choice form or has something happened in your life during this past year to change something in you?
V-Grrrl:  It wasn’t a creative choice as much as it was an evolution. When I first became an expat, the changes in my life were all encompassing, and I was focused on dissecting and analyzing everything that was different. After a while, Belgium became home and life felt more ordinary. Being an expat became a smaller part of my identity and less a topic of my writing.
Another reason my writing has become more personal is that over time, I’ve become more comfortable in sharing my emotions and my life on my blog. It makes for more powerful writing. I try to keep my posts authentic, even if it means revealing things I’m not proud of. That takes courage and was stressful at first, but then as the gap between my “public persona” and my private self narrowed, I felt better. It’s been liberating to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with my readers, to share my humanity with them.
Finally, I think midlife is an introspective time. So much is going on in my life right now as my marriage matures, my kids grow up, and I take stock of my choices and the relationships I have. For me, it’s a time of reckoning, and the emotion of that comes through in my writing.
Neil:  You are moving as I write this.  Are you moving back to America for good?  Why are you moving?  What will you miss most about Belgium?  The pissing boy fountain?  What will you miss the least?  Are you nervous about the move?  Or happy about the change?
V-Grrrl:  Our plan was always to stay in Belgium for three years, though we did consider staying longer. There are practical considerations driving our decision to return now, things related to my husband’s career and also the children’s education. I love Europe but want my children to launch into the world from America. As a “trailing spouse,” I haven’t had a work visa or permit or an opportunity to get one here. I’m not ready to retire yet–another reason to head home to America.
Will we stay in America for good? I hope not. My husband and I talk about coming back to Europe as soon as we launch the kids into the world, and I definitely plan to come back and visit friends and family.
What will I miss most about Belgium? My friends, E’s Belgian family, the beautiful architecure, the way it’s green year round, the enormous number of parks, and the Belgian sky, which is moody and dramatic. Believe it or not, despite the prevalence of gray skies and horizontal rain, I like the climate here. I have fantasies about moving to the Pacific Northwest now that I’ve lived in Belgium.
What will I miss least? The howling wind and the crazy drivers.

As for being nervous about the move, yes I am. When you become an expat, you dwell in a space between your native country and your new country. Expats call that “the third culture.” I know I’ll never feel fully at home in America again, even though it’s “home.” The surface of my life looks unchanged but I feel profoundly different. How do I settle this “new person” into my old life? Where does she fit?

Neil:  How has living in Europe changed you?

V-Grrrl:  When you leave your country behind, you truly start over. Life is stripped of its social infrastructure, family ties, community and cultural touchpoints, EVERYTHING. I shed all my “labels” and everyone’s expectations. It was terrifying and liberating at the same time. Disconcerting and grounding. For the first time ever, I devoted significant portions of my time to my personal writing and creative pursuits, including art. Living and traveling in Europe, surrounded by people from different cultures and backgrounds, has been amazing and wonderful and so enriching. Living in a country where I don’t speak the language, where “new” experiences are a daily occurrence, has given me confidence in my ability to handle myself.

Neil:  I didn’t know much about your artistic talent until all of a sudden, you started posting your artwork more frequently.  Were you always creating artwork and just being shy about showing it, or is this scrapbooking, etc. a new endeavor?  Where would you like to take it?
V-Grrrl:  I never took art in high school, but in my last year of university, I took studio art, art history, photography, and a beginning graphic design class. I absolutely loved all four classes and regretted that I was graduating and couldn’t pursue more art studies.  My dilemma since then has been that I’ve felt like an artist without a medium. I have a good eye for art and a creative sensibility but lack traditional art skills like painting and sketching.  I’ve always gone to galleries and museums and bought art, and I enrolled my children in private art lessons, but I never did anything artistic or crafty until I moved to Belgium. My friend Sherry introduced me to rubber stamping and cardmaking, crafts I never thought I’d like but came to love. I had a growing interest in mixed media art, in collage.  Last August, one of my readers sent me a book on art journaling, and that inspired me to claim myself as a mixed media artist and head in a new direction. I began an art journal and started posting my pages. As for where I want to head with it–well I want to advance my skills and use of media. I want to continue to art journal and maybe grow into making pieces for display.

Neil:  Can I get personal for a second.  I’ve always pictured you as a classy woman, interested in raising her children with strong morals.  So, I was surprised at first that, of all my readers, you seemed to always enjoy my sex gags.  After a while I began to notice that your writing is very sensual itself, not overtly sexual, but filled with sights and sounds.  Are you aware of these two parts of your personality — the upscale expat Christian mother AND the lusty sensualist?  Do these two distinct personalities ever get you in trouble, like checking out the Reverend’s butt?
V-Grrrl:  Ah Neil, you know me so well!  I am VERY aware of these two parts of my personality; the dichotomy keeps life interesting. My closest friends appreciate “V the Christian Mum”  and “V the Lusty Sensualist” in equal measure. I can’t say the same for everyone else.
Does it create problems for me? ALL the time. I have to watch how I present myself because not everyone is accepting of my “warped” sensibilities. My husband doesn’t appreciate sexual humor, innuendo, or comments AT ALL, and it’s a rough spot between us. Must.Bite.My.Tongue.
Once someone accusingly said, “Doesn’t the fact that you’re a wife and mother mean anything to you?” The question was meant as a reproach for the “inappropriate” nature of some of my comments. All I could think was, “Hmmm, being a wife involves a lot of sex and I became a mother as a result of that. So where are the great chasms separating marriage, motherhood, and sex?”

I have a great sense of humor; I laugh often and laugh loudly. Sex is a very funny business–I can’t stop myself from being a bit “naughty” (as Di likes to say).
For the record though: I never check out clergy butts, OK? My clergy read this blog, and I just want to make it clear, I’m NOT that kind of grrrl. I am, however, the kind of grrrl who hears the Christmas carol Silent Night and thinks, “This will be the LAST silent night of Mary’s life. She’s got a boy child now. She and Jesus will both be crying in the morning. Wah! Wah! Wah!”

Neil:  Is there something that you brought in Europe that is very precious to you that you are shipping very carefully home?
V-Grrrl:  I bought fifteen pieces of framed art and some pottery from Italy, Holland, and Poland.  My favorite? A small piece of Modigliani pottery I bought in Rome. I wanted to hand carry it in my suitcase because I didn’t want to ship it and be separated from it for eight weeks. I practically kissed it goodbye.

Neil:  Did you stop working full time when you had your kids?  I know you worked as a journalist.  What are your plans now as the kids get older?  Are you secretly writing a steamy novel?
V-Grrrl:  I have worked as a news reporter, but right before I had children, I was working as an editor for a small publishing firm. After my son was born, I began working part-time from home as a public relations writer and strategist.  It was an ideal situation. I worked for an agency on a project-by-project basis for various corporate clients. I wrote Web copy, marketing materials, advertising sections, white papers, and articles. I did a lot of ghostwriting for executives.
I have a mass communications degree,  and I think I’m well suited for PR work. I plan to return to it in the U.S. I’m also considering pursuing some freelance writing gigs. Not a fiction grrrl. No steamy novels in me, but I do like to write poetry and essays.

Neil:  You met your husband at 17?  Did you get married early?
V-Grrrl:  I had one serious boyfriend before I met my husband the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. He was a college senior, five years older than me–attentive, romantic, warm, sexy, considerate. He just kept getting better the longer we dated. I was engaged at 18, and I married E when I was barely 20, during spring break of my second year of college.
I have regrets about some of the choices I made in my 20s, but I don’t regret marrying him. We’ve made a good life together for almost 26 years now. Sure, there are times when we question whether we’re meant to stay together; we have different temperaments and sensibilities but we’ve persevered.

Neil:  Through your blog, I met Di (at least virtually).  She takes such wonderful photos of you.  How do you know her?
V-Grrrl:  Di is from New Zealand and lives in Belgium. I began blogging about the same time she did and we read each other casually for about a year. In the fall of 2006, she sent me an e-mail and told me she was going to launch a photography business and was trying to build a portfolio–would my family mind being photographed? I’d seen her work on her blog and jumped at the opportunity to “model” for her.
I met Di for the first time during that photography session, and I offered to use my PR experience to create a marketing plan and help her with her Web site. Our friendship grew out of that collaboration, and we’re very close now. There’s an intensity to our bond that I cherish. Our affection for each other shows in her photographs of me–I’m always smiling and have a certain radiance. She brings out the best in me while accepting the wobbly bits. : )

Neil:  Where does most of your family live — like aunts, uncles, etc.?  Have you missed having a close extended family while out of the country?
V-Grrrl:  Most of my extended family is based in NY but my siblings are scattered down the East Coast from Maine to Georgia. I rarely see my extended family, and even when I lived in the States, I often went years without seeing some of my siblings. My parents died 16 years ago, so we don’t have a central place to gather or parents holding us together anymore. Most of my nieces and nephews are grown now, and I have more than a dozen great nieces and nephews. Even though we all get along fine, my family is not that close, so living overseas hasn’t been that big an issue for us.

Neil:  Who are your kids like the most?  You?  Your husband?  No one?
V-Grrrl:  My children bear little physical resemblance to me. I have brown eyes and curly dark hair and my kids are very fair, blue-eyed blondes with straight hair like their dad. Thankfully, neither of them got my nose! My son’s hands are exactly my hands, and he has some of my temperament–a bit of melancholy with a sly sense of humor. He has his father’s mechanical intuition and shares my love of science. My daughter got the best of both me and my husband in both her aptitudes and character. She’s got the prime DNA in the family.

Neil:  I notice you like poetry.  Is there one poet that really speaks to you?
V-Grrrl:  It changes based on where I am in life and in spirit. I used to be devoted to Emily Dickinson, but lately Mark Strand and Billy Collins have been speaking to me.

Neil:  Next week is your birthday.  You recently wrote a beautiful post about the passing time.  Your son even shaved for the first time.  I know that time seems to be speeding up for me as I get older.  Do you feel the same?
V-Grrrl:  My sister was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 and she died young. I’ve always been very aware of the transient quality of my life. I live with a clock ticking in the background, and it gives me a certain intensity and point of view. I have to be sure that the things I spend time on matter to me and that the people I love know that I love them. I have low tolerance for BS. I like to savor my experiences. I’m all about process and less about product. I can’t stand to rush around or stuff my schedule full of activities. I don’t confuse being busy with living a meaningful life.  I refuse to sacrifice my time to the American idea of productivity.  

Neil:  Are you taking cholesterol medicine yet?  For me, getting old is when you have to think before you eat a slice of pizza.
V-Grrrl:  I was a vegetarian, distance runner, and vitamin popper in my 20s, and health conscious through my 30s. I always exercised and did the right thing. Around the time I turned 40, I developed an idiopathic cardiac problem. God has such a sense of humor. Last time it was checked, my cholesterol was only 155, my blood pressure was that of a 14-year-old, and yet my life includes regular visits to a cardiologist and daily medication. Sometimes my heart fatigues me, and I have to plop on the sofa. It’s humbling.

Neil:  Are you a good cook?  What does everyone ooh and aah over when you make it?

V-Grrrl:  I wouldn’t call myself a “good cook” because I reserve that label for people who put far more time and effort into cooking than I do. When I bake, I bake from scratch, and I like to make soups. Di thinks everything I cook for her is fabulous. My husband always thanks for me for preparing meals. My kids? They’re not so impressed and complain a lot. I hate preparing food for my family. I guess that makes me a bad mother.

Neil:  You say that you sometimes get prone to depression.  I notice a lot of bloggers have this problem.  Do you think writers/artists are more prone to depression than more “normal” folk?  What snaps you out of your moods?
V-Grrrl:  I’ve dealt with episodes of depression since I was a teenager. As I aged, the episodes got longer, the remission shorter, and the recovery from them was less than complete. I was losing ground.  I was encouraged by a friend to get medical treatment about five years ago and it changed my life. Really, it saved my life.
While I do think artists/writers are more sensitive to life than others, I don’t think they’re necessarily more prone to depression; they just express their angst more openly.
What snaps me out of it? Well at this stage in my life, I need medication keep my depression under control. Music helps me shift moods, and getting outdoors and taking long walks lift my spirits. The love of family and friends keeps me plugging along through the dark moments, and anyone who makes me laugh out loud is part of my depression cure.

Neil:  and lastly… I just had to ask this — If I asked for a photo of you in a bathing suit, would you send it to me? 

V-Grrrl:  If Di took the photo, I just might, not because I look great in a bathing suit but because I accept the body I have now better than the one that used to rock a bikini. Watch the mail, Neil. You never know what it will bring. : )

Not Saving the Rainforests


I might as well end the week with another tale of assertiveness gone wild. 

Sophia has a cold, so I went to Whole Foods to buy some chicken soup.  It must be “Green” month at Whole Foods because at the check-out stand, there were numerous displays and posters about energy-saving and the environment.  Instead of the organic chocolate bars lined up as impulse buys as you wait, they had  energy-saving lightbulbs in green packages.   Gift cards were displayed that bought you “wind-powered” energy.   I’ll have to go back a second time to read how these cards work.  Do you fan yourself with them in the summer?

After serving myself the soup from their self-help soup vats in the deli department, I stood on line to pay.  There was a bearded man in front of me buying organic garbanzo beans.  The very pretty check-out girl rang him up, and then asked him, “Would you like to donate a dollar to the Whole Foods Rainforest Campaign?” (or something like that)

“Of course,” he answered.

His answer bugged me.  Why did he answer so quickly?  Does he even know what this campaign is about?  Is he assuming that just because Whole Foods is doing it, that it is worthy?  Shouldn’t he ask to see the literature first?  How much of the dollar actually goes to the rainforest?  Would he be so eager to give money if the girl wasn’t so pretty? 

“Thank you for you donation,” said the girl.  “Your dollar will save 230 acres of the Amazonian rainforest.” (or something like that)

S**t!  Why did she have to say that?  How can anyone — after hearing that — say no?  If I dare no, it is like I am personally destroying 230 acres of the essential rainforest. 

It was now my turn.  She rang up my chicken soup, then looked at me with her large green eyes.

“Would you like to… blah blah…” 

I didn’t need to hear the rest because I knew what she was saying.  I knew what she was thinking.

She was thinking, “Oh, here is a smart-looking man with glasses who surely knows about the problems with the rainforests of the world and must be pretty well-off if he is shopping at Whole Foods, so he would look like a real loser if he didn’t give a measly dollar as a donation.”

I was about to say, “Of course,” when my new assertiveness training took hold.  Why am I giving a dollar to this charity right now?  Do I really WANT to or am I being a pushover?  You know what?… I can be my own man.   Screw the rainforest.   Why not be a little selfish today?  I’m going to take that dollar and… buy myself a lottery ticket!

“I’m sorry.  Not today,” I told the check-out girl, referring to the donation.

“That’s fine,” she replied, her green eyes squinting at me with disappointment and seething hate.

Now, I realize that many of my readers are environmentally-conscious and believe that the rainforests are very important.  The world’s rainforests are currently disappearing at a rate of 6000 acres every hour (this is about 4000 football fields per hour).

Well, screw you too!  I’m gonna be a mega-millionaire on Saturday!

(editor’s note:  the author does love the rainforests and will donate 10% 8% of his mega-millions to charity)

Sucking Candy


I already told this story on Twitter, but I don’t think anyone believed me, so I’ll tell it again.

Sophia’s mother asked me to pick up two things from her supermarket:  mayonnaise and these sugar-free Werther’s candies that she likes to have while watching TV.  I drove over and stopped at the supermarket near her home.  I was unfamiliar with the layout of the store and I was in a rush.  I had an appointment later that day.  I approached a supermarket employee who was stocking boxes.  He was a young, friendly-faced, college-aged kid.

“Where can I find mayonnaise?” I asked him.

“Aisle four!  I’ll show you.”  he replied, in that cheerful California “have a nice day” supermarket voice that you would never hear in New York. 

He guided me over to the condiment section, where I found my “Best Foods” Mayonnaise.  (side note:  In New York, it is Hellman’s Mayonnaise.  In California, it is Best Foods Mayonnaise.  In New York, it is Arnold’s Bread.  In California, it is Orowheat.  In New York, it is Edy’s Ice Cream.  In California, it is Dreyer’s ice cream.  I have this personal conspiracy theory that the names were changed for the West Coast so they seem less “Jewish.” — but that’s another post)

After grabbing the mayonnaise, I thanked the stock boy.

“One more thing,” I asked.  “Do you know where I can find “sucking candies?”

He giggled nervously.  We were alone in the condiment aisle.

“What do you mean?”  He asked.

“Sucking candies!”

“Uh… the candies are in front by the register.”

“No, I don’t mean like the M&Ms.  I mean the candies you suck on.  The… HARD candies.”

He turned red faced.  At the same time, he seemed VERY intrigued.  I’m not exactly sure what was going on, but it seemed as if I had hit upon some new “code” that has replaced the hitting of feet in the bathroom stall.   He looked up and smiled, shyly.

“I’ll find it myself.”  I quickly said, stumbling over a shopping cart as I went searching for the hard candies.

A few minutes later, I was in line, ready to check out with my mayonnaise and sucking candies.  I saw the stock boy looking my way.  I held up the package of Werthers that I bought, hoping that he got the message.  He GOT the message alright, but I’m not sure WHAT that message was.  He waved good-bye to me, a wisp of hopefulness in his eyes.

When I got back home, I logged onto Twitter.

“Does anyone use the term “sucking candies?”

I was surprised that nobody had ever used the term before.  My entire family calls them “sucking candies.”  “Good and Plenty” is candy.  A Hershey’s Bar is  chocolate.  A Werther’s is “sucking candy.”  Where did this term come from and why was I the only one using it?

Last night, Ninja Poodles sent me a message.  She noticed this on Margalit‘s Twitter. 


Yeah!  I’m not alone.

Since both Margalit and I are Jewish, I wonder if “sucking candy” is a Jewish term that was changed for the West Coast.

Man vs. Boy


Later today, I’ll be walking into therapy with my head held high.   Yesterday, I took an important step towards being assertive.   I spoke up for myself.  I stood my ground, despite the aggressiveness of my opponent.

It all started when I entered my local coffee shop, a business named Hawaii Coffee or Aloha Coffee — I’m not entirely sure, because although the coffee shop has been opened for a year and a half, they still haven’t placed a sign outside.  Inside, the walls are brightly decorated with photos of surfers and real ukuleles, all there to remind you that the shop is Hawaiian-themed.  It is a decent-looking place, but they should have saved some of the money they spent on the kitschy ukuleles, and bought a sign instead.

The “Hawaiian” coffee shop have several different types of coffee, including their “famous” Hawaiian Kona coffee which, ironically, is their worst-tasting coffee.  But there are free re-fills and free wi-fi, so I can’t complain too much.

Usually the shop is empty when I come in, but today it was packed — with mothers and kids.  It was Martin Luther King Day, so the schools were closed, and all the mothers were schlepping their kids around as they did their shopping.  All the tables were already taken.  The only available seating was in the corner — two cushioned chairs with a large table in front.  An eleven year old boy was kneeling in front of the table, playing with a toy construction set, similar to the Erector Set I had when I was a boy.   There were dozens of metal pieces strewn all over the table.  His mother was seated elsewhere, gossiping with her friends.

I bought a cup of coffee and headed over to the chairs.

“Are you using this chair?” I asked the Kid, smiling at him.

“Yes,” he quickly answered.

I made note that he was kneeling on the floor.

“How about this other chair?”  I asked.

“I need that chair, too.”

“Why’s that?”

“I need a lot of SPACE!” he announced.  He went back to playing with his metal, a Donald Trump in the making.  He smashed the pieces together as if he was building a Transformer.

“Screw it,” I said to myself, and decided to go outside.  I would drink my coffee while sitting on top of my car.  Then I stopped.  What the hell was I doing?  This was an eleven year old kid!  I retraced my steps back to the Kid.  I leaned down to face him.

“You’re not using these chairs right now, and you can’t use both of them, so I’m going to take one of them, OK?”

I probably shouldn’t have asked his permission because it just made him more adamant.

“I need the space!”

Let me remind you that during this entire exchange, his mother didn’t even look over once.

“You can have your space,” I told the annoying Kid.  “But I’m going to take this empty chair and move it over HERE, so I can sit.”


I slid the chair several feet away from the kid.   I sat and enjoyed my coffee.  The Kid went back to destroying his metallic city.  The mother kept on gabbing.

I was proud of myself.  I didn’t back down against my young, but worthy, nemesis.

It was a moment to remember.

Now, who’s going to take me on next?!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   Why I Write

The Blogger Interviews (The Great Interview Experiment)

Here are the links to most of the interviews done in 2008 for the Great Interview Experiment.

To join up in 2009, add your name to this list.

Ascender interviews Pam of Nerd’s Eye View

Pam of Nerd’s Eye View interviews McKay

V-Grrrl interviews Finn of A Life Less Ordinary (also here)

Madame Diva interviews Penelope

Jennifer of Open Book interviews Tiddlywink

Gorillabuns interviews Sizzle (also here)

Kathleen interviews Nathan

Nathan interviews Margalit

Chantel interviews the Watkins Lady

Watkins Lady interviews LvGurl

Geeky Tai-Tai interviews Tatiana

Cookiebitch interviews Melanie of “Not Just Nouns and Verbs”

Whoorl interviews ByJane

Abigail interviews Mrs. Mogul

Sizzle interviews Madame Diva

Walking Punchline interviews Marriage-101 (also here)

Rosa interviews Julia from “Not Graceful Enough”

Natalie interviews Fringes (also here)

Karen Sugarpants interviews Karl

Fringes interviews Helena

Jill of “Glossyveneer” interviews Gorillabuns (also here)

Neilochka interviews V-Grrrl (and here)

Dave of “Dave’s Beer” interviews Black Belt Mama

Julia interviews Bec of “Out of My Tree”

Seven interviews Schmutzie

Otir interviews Cookiebitch

Kerflop interviews Merry Mishaps

Caron interviews Glossyveneer

Sarah interviews Chantel

Elisabeth interviews Otir

Marriage 101 interviews Seven

Helena interviews Ali of Cheaper Than Therapy

Penelope interviews Lisa

Finn interviews Caron

Karl interviews Sarah

Ingrid interviews Blackbird (also here)

Joe interviews Red Red Whine

Margalit interviews Melanie of Artful Kisser

Schmutzie interviews Karen Sugarpants (also here)

Merry Mishaps interviews Katie of The Dilettante Debutante

Blackbird interviews Witchypoo (also here)

Nat interviews Bev

Not Faint Hearted interviews Ash

Lara of Red Red Whine interviews Will

Kirida interviews Ashley

Wendy interviews Walking Punchline

Victoria of The Prophesaur interviews SparkleSunShine (also here)

Tatiana interviews Di of Woman Wandering

Q interviews Samuel

Palinode interviews NotFainthearted

Tiddlewink interviews Sarah of Doodah!

Sarah of Doodah! interviews Kerflop

Witchypoo interviews Miguelina

Will interviews Natalie of Tell Me About It

Miss Britt interviews Kelly (also here)

Noir Betty interviews DaveX of Startling Moniker

Miriam interviews Elisabeth (also here)

Whit interviews Annika

Black Belt Mama interviews Shelley (also here)

Claire interviews Kelly of Ordinary Art

Sarah from In the Rouge interviews The Prophesaur (also here)

Not Fainthearted interviews Ash in Amsterdam

Emily interviews Miss Britt

Ashley of Splendid Sustenance interviews Oleoptene

Robin of Montanamoonshine interviews GB

Kristen interviews Fatboyfat (also here)

FatboyFat interviews Robin from MontanaMoonshine

Janie interviews Kristen

LvGurl interviews Abigail Road

Johnna interviews Michelle of Fabricated Goddess

Kyran interviews Ree of Hotfessional

Commis Chef interviews James from the Ink (also here)

DaveX interviews Maitresse

Shash interviews Whoorl

Rilla interviews Commis Chef (also here)

Andrea inteviews Jenny of Absolute Bananas (also here)

Oleoptene interviews Actorgirl

Kelly interviews Kim of Parachuting with a Net

Melanie interviews HeyJoe

Fabricated Goddess interviews Amber at Crazy Bloggin’ Canuck

Nichole of Esmon interviews Rodger Jacobs of Carver’s Dog

Bryna interviews Shash (and here)

Cog interviews Leahpeah (also here)

Loralle of Looney Tunes interviews Ascender Rises Above

Kristy of She Just Walks Around With It interviews AKA Monty

GB of Tidings of Comfort and Joy interviews Zookeeper

Woman with No Regrets interviews ChildsPlayX2

Curiosity Killer interviews Geeky Tai-Tai

Julie Scott interviews Emily of Something Shiny (also here)

Linsey of Uncouth Heathen interviews Tex in the City

-R- interviews Little Miss Mel (also here)

Talina interviews Janelle of Junk food for the Soul

Mary Pat of My Second Journal interviews Lisa (also here)

Lisa interviews Jeni

Maitresse inteviews PocketCT

Dry Ink interviews Gunfighter

Feral Mom interviews Will

Jen interviews Cog (also here)

Nancypearlwannabe interviews Nichole

Candy interviews herself

Peeved Michelle interviews Fivetoedsloth

Emily interviews Feet Firmly Planted

Di interviews August

Chris in Oxford interviews Courtney of Malfeasance

Danny interviews Arjewtino

Pocket Aces interviews Mary Pat

Hotfessional interviews Barbetti (also here)

Theresa of My Fairbanks Life interviews Jessica Mae Stover

Jenny from Absolutely Bananas interviews Rhi in Pink

Fitena interviews Sarah

Monica interviews Elaine of Just a Reed (also here)

Elaine of Just a Reed interviews Kathleen

Frank interviews Ally

Zookeeper interviews Frank

Red Lotus Mom interviews Frogdancer

Lesley interviews Val

TimeCzar interviews Janie

Nadine interviews Ingrid

Jennifer interviews Fitena

Kristabella interviews S.K. Waller

Leigh Anne interviews Erika of Dry Ink (also here)

Donna interviews Time Czar

Bri interviews Red Lotus Mama

Angela from Sparklie Sunshine interviews Emily

James from The Ink interviews Rachael from Antithete

Theresa from My Fairbanks Life interviews Fringes

Becky interviews Sarah

Artful Kisser interviews Miriam

Kate interviews Robyn from Pocket Aces

Miguelina interviews Jenny of She Likes Purple (also here)

Janelle interviews Talina

Nat interviews The Lost Albatross

Elaine interviews Kathleen of Unsettled

Sara interviews NancyPearlWannabe

Jen of Quarter Life Crisis interviews Sara

RA interviews Jen of Quarter Life Crisis

Whitney Barbetti interviews Laura of What a Life (also here)

Heels interviews Stacy of La Boudoir

Simon interviews Tiffany (also here)

Red Pen Mama interviews Uncouth Heathen

Katherine interviews the Muse

Rob interviews Michelle

Smtwngrl interviews Jacob (also here)

Matthew of Child’s Play x2 interviews Jake

Jessica Stover interviews Turnbaby

Theresa interviews Danny of Jew Eat Yet

Frogdancer interviews Alunfoto

Fabrcated Goddess interviews Johnna

Deep Muck interviews Alisa

Widget interviews Nancy

Ally interviews Torrie (also here)

Tiffany interviews Beck of Deep Muck Big Rake

Shelley interviews Jane Poe

Five Toed Sloth interviews Heather

Jake Jakob interviews Chris

Jeannette interviews Becca

Jenn interviews Nat

Nat interviews Jenn

Lori interviews Suebob of Red Stapler

Jane interviews Akaky (also here)

Smtwngrl interviews NoRegrets

Jen interviews Claire of TTAT

Carolyn interviews Kerrianne (also here)

The Muse inteviews Angela (also here)

Alisa of A Juicy Life interviews Lesley

Vanessa interviews Widget

Leah interviews Wendy of Of Boys and Books (also here)

Avitable interviews Feral Mom

Shannon interviews Marge of Marge in Real Life (also here)

Marge interviews Molly

Sarah interviews smtwngrl

Erin interviews Clyde

Turnbaby interviews Chris in Oxford (also here)

Mocha Momma interviews Fairly Odd Mother

Jacob interviews Brittany (also here)

Jen from Semantically Driven interviews Kristabella

Sheila interviews Sleepynita

Angela interviews Erin (also here)

Kelly of Ordinary Art interviews Callie (also here)

Molly interviews Sue Katz (also here)

Julie interviews Anno

Theresa interviews Savia

Savia interviews Theresa

MILife interviews Sarah of Pink Cereal and Raspberries

Witchypoo interviews ciboulette

Jeanette interviews Indecisive Peach

Egghead Jr. interviews Dana of MILF in Progress

Dana interviews Jen of Semantically Driven

Michelle interviews Carolyn

Fabricated Goddess interviews CuriosityKiller

Toni interviews Mountainmama

August interviews Christine (also here)

Erin interviews Juliezilla

Sleepynita interviews Mocha Mommy

Fairly Odd Mother interviews Going Like Sixty

Arjewtino interviews Sassy

Michelle interviews Carolyn

Dan interviews Mark Roberts

D interviews Rob

Liz R interviews Toni

Headbang8 interviews Liz R (also here)

Sarah interviews Melina

Tricia interviews Sarah

Wendy interviews Ciboulette

Sarcomical interviews Loralee (also here)

Pam of Nerd’s Eye View interviews Indecisive Peach (also here)

Melina interviews Ragtop Day (also here)

Karen interviews Squeaky Wheel

Butterfly interviews Sappy Chick

Mr. Fabulous interviews himself

Hamster_Grrl interviews Dingo

Sappy Chick interviews The Roaming Southerner

Jackc interviews Z

Jennifer/The Word Cellar interviews Laurel of Sass Attack

Chris interviews the Unreliable Narrator (more here)

Hamster_grrl interviews Sensibly Sassy

Nancy Pearl Wannabe interviews Definitely RA

PMJG interviews Bzzzzgrrrl (also here)

Sassy interviews Kristy (also here)

Rachel interviews Jenny of Zesty Enterprises

Jack interviews Marinka

Backpacking Daddy interviews Redneck Mommy

Fear and Parenting interviews Anissa

Mandy interviews Average Jane

My Mumbling Thoughts interviews Miss Grace

Oh, the Joys interviews Backpacking Dad

Mary Beth interviews San Diego Momma

San Diego Momma interviews Amelia Sprout

Amy interviews Ry of Arts and Dafts

Ry of Arts and Dafts interviews Elisa of Diary of an Unlikely Housewife

A.C. of Thunder and Windchimes interviews Mary Beth

Elisa interviews Sam of My Mumbling Thoughts

Winter interviews Kevin of Always Home and Uncool

Overflowing Brain interviews Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas

Vodkamom interviews Winter

Sherendipity interviews Gin

Forever in School interviews Merie

Mama Ginger Tree interviews Katie from Overflowing Brain

Sheilamia interviews Ali

Ali-Rn Mom interviews T of Send Chocolate

Pretzel interviews Papa of PapaTV

Carmen interviews Charming Bitch

Marinka interviews Shiny

Katy interviews Heather

Heather interviews J

Headless Mom interviews Mary P. Jones

Meg interviews Pretzel

Suzanne interviews Meg of Mad Woman and here

Meg of Mad Woman interviews Katy

Charming Bitch interviews Renee of But Why Mommy

Kerri interviews Carmen

John interviews Manager Mom

Jen interviews Alix

MamaMPJ interviews Maia

Sophie in the Moonlight interviews Jen at 12 Steps Closer

Katy interviews Heather

Sisyphesse interviews Debbie at Real World Martha

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