the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: October 2008 (Page 2 of 2)

Healthy Arrogance, Day 2 — Hire Me As a Speaker at Conferences

Are you a company looking to market to bloggers? A corporation excited about the potential of “social media?” A blogger wanting to increase his readership?

One of the best ways to educate yourself is to attend a web or blogging conference. Unfortunately, most attendees leave disappointed in the seminars. Six hundred dollars for THAT?!

Why are these conference such letdowns?

It is the speakers.

Most web conferences are led my marketers and and PR pundits. Have you ever actually read their blogs or Twitter messages? They are all about marketing, PR, and how to use Twitter. What can they teach you about engaging an audience? Absolutely NOTHING!

Hi, I’m Neil Kramer. I’m a writer. Ever since the time of Plato and Aristotle, it has been the writers and artists that have influenced the world. They know how to make a reader laugh and cry, sometimes with the same sentence. Why listen to someone who talks about market share when you can be learning from the person who shops in the market?

For the past three years, whenever companies think about bloggers, it has been all about the mommybloggers. Forget the mommybloggers. They have reached their saturation point. Another mommyblogger network? Yawn. It is time for a fresh face. Why not make your company or blog stand out in the crowd — and go for the SENSITIVE MALE — one who understands men AND WOMEN, parents and NON-PARENTS, married and NOT MARRIED?! My demographics include men, women, black, white, Latinos, Asians, gay and straight – and my mother. If I had my druthers, I could have 1000 people wheeling a new Bugaboo stroller or the new Diet Coke by tomorrow.

Besides, I KNOW more mommybloggers than the typical mommyblogger.

But I don’t want to be a salesperson or promoter on my blog. I enjoy being a writer. Selling stuff is not a challenge to me. In fact, it is so easy to me — it is almost boring. Writing is hard. Marketers want you to think that their job is hard. Ha! That’s why they always use such complicated words, like “branding.” I will explain branding to you within the first ten seconds of my session. I know your business depends on interaction with customers and clients. That’s why I want to teach YOU how to do it EFFECTIVELY, the “Neilochka” way.

“Where have you been all this time?” you might ask me. “I have never heard of you.” Well, that’s because I’ve been busy blogging, not promoting myself. I haven’t been wasting my time networking with other “influencers” who only know how to influence other “influencers.” I have been “in the field,” like a journalist at wartime. I know what it is like to blog on a personal level with others, the minor hurts, the major victories, the loneliness, the comraderie, the sexiness, and the anger. Ask around. My session on Male-Female Blog Friendships would be THE break-out hit at the BlogHer conference, if not for the discriminatory policy pooh-poohing male speakers at the conference.

What you will learn from me:

1) How to write engaging content.

Is your corporate blog as dull as a meal at the Olive Garden? That’s probably because your PR firm is developing the content while sipping lattes in the conference room. You need someone with actual EXPERIENCE in LIFE — someone who can chat about something other than the latest Firefox browser. I don’t need to come up with “tips” on “engaging readers.” My background as a reader of MAD magazine, the second-place winner of the Queens County spelling bee, and my four year sentence as an English major in college has prepared me for a life of writing words and coming up with literary puns stolen from the classics. I am also a film school graduate, completely adept at film, video and audio production, except for that one time I forgot to put the film in the camera. I am like a one man f**king multimedia company!

2) Community building.

There are NO other bloggers more knowledgeable about community building than I am. How many bloggers do you know who has actually had online sex with one of their readers? I bring that intimate experience with me when I work with my clients. Have you seen The Great Interview Experiment? The Annual Christmahanukwanzaakah Holiday concert (the third one this December!)? No sponsors. No badges. Just me caring about other people, with the hope of one day seeing one naked. Most people know SHIT compared to me in online community building.

3) Social Media.

Social Media is all the rage nowadays, but most marketers and PR gurus think that putting hashtags and live-tweeting from conferences is of interest to anyone other than themselves. The truth is that most social media mavens have NO INTEREST in interacting with the general public. They use social media completely to promote themselves. Are these the types of individuals or companies you want advising you on reaching the Joe and Jane Public? That’s like asking John McCain to name his favorite rap group. I am very active in the social media communty. I spend more time on Twitter and Facebook than I do watching porno movies on RedTube. That’s a lot. On Twitter and Facebook, I have gotten into arguments over politics. I’ve flirted. I’ve made lame jokes. I’ve discussed the worst rock song of the 1980’s. I am a social media DIVA! A Zen Master! One who actually uses social media for something SOCIAL!

Neil Kramer. writer. Multimedia Expert. Blogger. Community Builder. Social Media Maven. Dancer. Designer of “The Talking Penis” brand of outerwear.

I am now available for conferences, corporate meetings, and one-on-one sessions with prominent CEOs. Email me for fees. (I’m not cheap, but I am oh-so-worth-it).

The Best Blog of All Time

My site was nominated for Best Blog of All Time!

I am lucky to have Sophia in my life. She helps me “grow.” She teaches me confidence. By nature, I back away from distinguishing myself, about grabbing the most out of life. I have a therapy-sized sense of modesty, insecurity, and need to be liked. But I am 100x stronger than when I first got married.

Today is the anniversary of our marriage. Not surprisingly, I had been depressed all day, lying on the couch, 3000 miles away from my separated wife, looking out the window, watching the cars pull in and out of the Pathmark supermarket parking lot.

I mentioned my blahs on Twitter, and got some heartfelt advice: Anymommy told me to eat something with chocolate and peanut butter. Several other women suggested ice cream (surprise!) TwentyFour and Antonia told me to start drinking. Mir was the most practical with her suggestion to rent some porn. (Rent porn?! Who rents porn anymore?)

The comment that most caught my eye was from Ricewenchie:

Do something nice for yourself today. Like create a new anniversary for this day…

At first, I thought that was a dumb idea, and somewhat delusional. If Sophia and I ever divorce, am I supposed to re-write history and forever think of October 13 as the day I bought a Hamilton Beach blender at the discount store for my mother in order to show her how to make a smoothie (that was the one big event of the day)?

But after thinking about it, I embraced the idea, with a little tweak. To celebrate our wedding anniversary in any traditional way makes me sad, while ignoring it is impossible. So, instead, I will combine the two — like chocolate and peanut butter — and focus on the positive — something good that marriage has brought to my life, and how it has changed me, despite the current status.

That’s why I put that badge on top. I can’t think of anything more arrogant than putting up a badge that announces your blog as “The Best Blog Of All Time.” Do I believe this? Sophia believes it. She was the one who nominated me. And I think that she will appreciate this unusual gesture of me posting it on my blog, knowing that she is the one who has always has been my strongest ally in anything I pursued. I would have never had the guts to put that up there if I had never met Sophia. Being married to her has given me strength in many areas of my life. Some cojones. And being a little arrogant every once in a while is good for a man. Even sexy. Why should I be afraid of saying that this is the best blog of all time?! Or that I you should hire me above all others because I am more talented. Or that you should date me because my singing will make you swoon?

Now I need to deal with some other issues in my life with the same confidence.

Happy Anniversary, Sophia, and thank you for helping to make me fearless. Well, maybe I shouldn’t get too arrogant. Let’s just say that I’m working on it.

Note: Just to show you how hard it is to change, Return to Rural called me out with the truth — I didn’t actually link to the award site because… well, that would be too arrogant. I wimped out. But I just changed that and added the link.

Lunch at Lenny’s Clam Bar

Commercial for Lenny’s Clam Bar from the late 1970’s

So, it was like my mudder’s birthday on Thursday and… that’s right, my muddah. What the f*ck is wrong with you? You don’t got no muddah? Just shuddup and listen to my story before I f**kin’ take a baseball bat to your head. Vaffanculo!

It was one of those Jewish holidays on Thursday, and you know how those friggin’ Jews are a pain in butt — non mi scazzare i coglioni — so we had to celebrate her birthday on Friday instead. So, we got a couple of her buddies and ding dang dong, before you know it, we are cruisin in Howard Beach, Queens to the famous Lenny’s Clam Bar. Now that is a f**kin’ place that knows how to treat a grosso calibro with dignity, not like that demeaning friggin stuff you get at the fake Goomba Olive Garden, where their manicotti is as hot and sticky as my balls and their garlic bread is as hard to bite as a .45 automatic.

Sure, when we first walked into Lenny’s, the lying maitre de told us they didn’t have no stinkin’ lunch menu when they really did, un bastardo, but whatcha expect? Times are fuckin’ tough. Even the Wall Street guys don’t want to pay a hooker two hundred bucks for un pompino! You want a lunch menu, take your big ass over to one of those places where that Chinaman puts who knows what merda into his chop suey. Vaffanculo a Lei, la sua moglie, e’ la sua madre. Lei e’ un cafone stronzo. Io non mangio in questo merdaio! Vada via in culo! (You, sir, go fuck yourself–and your wife and your mother. You are a common turd! I’m not going to eat in this shithouse. Fuck you!) from the book Merda! The REAL Italian You Were Never Taught in School by Roland Delicio © 1993 from Penguin Books.

But let me tell ya, the food at Lenny’s — la cena era deliziosa. Just like mamma used to make. And everyone’s been there. Frank, Frank Jr., Rocky Graziano, the “Family,” all the Sopranos — they love the shrimp and the clams!

Oh, by the way, the waitress at Lenny’s — una bella fica (very nice ass). It was a memorable birthday for my muddah, and for me.

Boys into Men

Back in August, Twenty Four at Heart published a post about male/female communication and sex. Most of those who commented were women, and they seemed to agree that men were crazed horndogs who thought about sex ALL the time. At the time, the comments bugged me. After all, most of these commenters were mothers of boys. How do these cute little boys become these sex maniacs? Is it genetics? Is it cultural? What is the mother’s role in all this?

I wrote this comment:

I think a few of your readers were confusing thinking and acting. I think you can be the most loving and loyal husband, a man who finds his wife the sexiest woman alive, and still thing about sex with the waitress serving the burger at the diner. This doesn’t mean that the man would have sex, or even WANT to if she actually came onto him. It just is. And frankly, if I think men were given as much freedom as women to express their emotions — cry, hug, say I love you to their friends — without seeming unmanly, they wouldn’t have to fall back on sexing up every encounter with a woman. Many men have no other way of expressing themselves.

Months later, I still remember this post. I used to think that I was different than other men, but I’m not. I also find it hard connecting with a woman without thinking of her naked at least once during the conversation.

Yom Kippur 2008

I take Yom Kippur seriously. Well, somewhat. I’m not going to synagogue this year, but I will fast most of the day. Am I religious? Not really. But unlike the other Jewish holidays, which revolve around food and family, this one is serious and solemn, and that makes me a little scared and anxious.

I kinda like that. You can feel the AWE.

On Yom Kippur, it’s as if the entire world is on your shoulders. The way I see it, on Christmas, Santa Claus may not give you a good toy if you were a bad boy. On Yom Kippur, God might just stick you with a really crappy year for the same reason.

From Wikipedia:

Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר‎, IPA: [ˈjɔm kiˈpur]), also known in English as the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn and important of the Jewish holidays. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

Yom Kippur is the tenth and final day of the Ten Days of Repentance which begin with Rosh Hashanah. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a “book” on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Ten Days of Repentance, a Jew tries to amend his behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against his fellow man (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one considers himself absolved by God.

There has been debates FOREVER about the real meaning of this “book of life” and how God seals your verdict. Does God really decide who will live and who will die? What about free will? And during the service, why does every ask for repetenace for sins they didn’t even do – like murder and robbery? Are we responsible for everyone’s sins? And the biggest question of them all — why do bad things happen to good people?

Recently, I chatted with a blogger who is very into “the Secret.” She believes that we attract good things through positive thought. So, I asked her what the Secret said about bad things.

“What if you get hit by a bus?” I asked. “Are you attracting the bus to hit you?”

“In a way you are.”

“Why would you WANT to be hit by a bus?”

“Maybe there is some larger reason you don’t know about.”

I find that nonsense.

Last year, Kyran from “Notes to Self” wrote an interesting post about The Secret after she viewed the DVD. Even though she saw some merit in positive thinking, she came away with the same conclusion about using The Secret on a day to day basis:

What does The Secret have to say about all the bright and hope-filled children in the world who suffer?

Judaism is not The Secret, as much as Madonna might think so. The Secret is mostly about achieving personal success. Judasim is a covenant with God. But both have the same problem that all religions do –explaining the randomness of life, and all the bad stuff that happens in it.

That said, I am too afraid of ignoring Yom Kippur completely. Just in case.

May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

The following song about Elijah the Prophet by the Moshav Band is probably more suitable for Passover than Yom Kippur, but even on this holiest of days, it is still my blog, and I can do what I want.

Chat with a New Blogger

One day, you wake up and you realize that you have been blogging for a long time.    When that happens, there is nothing as invigorating as chatting with a new blogger,  a new mommyblogger with youthful energy and that special glint in her eye.   Was I once that innocent, so full of hope about the blogosphere?    It is a wonderful moment like this that bring me back to when I was “green” and searching for my place in this exciting virtual world we call the internet.   Once I was the student.  Now I have become the teacher!

Wednesday night on Yahoo Messenger:

She:   Hey,  Neilochka!   How’s New York?

Me:    OK. Pretty good.

She:   Having fun?

Me:    Sometimes.

She:   Are you hanging out with xxx-Dad and xxx-Mom now that you’re staying in New York?

Me:    No.  I don’t know them.

She:   You don’t know xxx-Dad and xxx-Mom?  Everyone knows them.

Me:    I’ve seen their names.   I just never read them.

She:   You’ve never read them?  Everyone reads them.

Me:    Well, here’s one who hasn’t.   Maybe I’m waiting for them to read me first.

She:   Ha Ha, I think they’re too busy for that.

Me:   Thanks.

She:   But, wow.  I thought you were one of those guys.

Me:    What do you mean?

She:   Like you knew the big bloggers.

Me:    I know some.

She:   Like who?

Me:    Like personally?

She:   Like who’s the biggest blogger you talk with?

Me:    Hmmm… sometimes I IM with Schmutzie.

She:   Yeah, but she’s not THAT big.

Me:    She’s very talented.  But it’s all relative.  What makes someone big?

She:   Well, you have a 314 authority in Technorati.

Me:    That’s not so big.  It’s also deceptive.  Every time someone posts their Interview on their blog, I get a   link.  It has nothing to do with my blog or my writing or me.  90% of the people who do the interview never even read any of my posts.

She:   But you get the links!  That’s great.  I wouldn’t mind having those links.

Me:    What are you going to do with those links?

She:   That’s how you get on people’s blogrolls and you get even bigger.

Me:    I’m looking at your blog right now.  Look at your blogroll.  All you have on it — are the same five blogs as everyone else.  They’re never going to put you on their blogrolls.  Hey, I don’t see me on YOUR blogroll.

She:   I only put a select few.  The ones I read every day.

Me:    So, you don’t read mine every day.

She:   I read it every three days.

Me:    So, there you go.  You’re on my blogroll.  And you treat the ones who are ignoring you better than the one who isn’t.

She:   You have a point there.

Me:    It makes me think that if I didn’t put you on my blogroll, I would actually be MORE interesting to you.

She:   Maybe.

Me:    And that’s crazy.

She:   I know.  Did you get to see Bossy during her road trip?

Me:    Huh?  I don’t know Bossy.

She:   You don’t know Bossy?  Oh, well, it was great finally chatting with you.

Me:    Yeah, it was fun.  Don’t get so caught up in these things. It will drive you crazy.

She:   I know.  I’m too sensitive.

Me:    It happens to all of us.  Like today, I have this new application for Twitter that tells you when someone unfollows you.  And today, I got a message that X unfollowed me.

She:   Wow, and she’s big. I would be devastated.

Me:    Maybe I was rambling too much on Twitter.

She:   Yeah, I can definitely see that happening.


There has been a lot of talk lately about CHANGE.  Voting for Obama is for Change.   Yom Kippur is this week — a time for change.   Fall is about change.   The leaves have already started to change colors in New England.   Overnight, the dress code went from t-shirts to sweaters.
I need to embrace change.  My fear of change is one of my biggest faults.  Sophia and I cannot live in limbo-land forever.  It is frustrating for both of us.  Man cannot live without woman for long.  It is one of the few Biblical statements based on fact.  Look at Adam.  He had the wondrous Garden of Eden and the first human Penis – the prototype – and still it wasn’t enough for him.

“WHAT do I do with it, brainiac?” Adam asked God in a sarcastic tone.
God did not like Adam’s pissy attitude.
“No problem,” said the Big Prankster, ” I will give you a Wo-man!  Good luck, sucker!”

Within days of Eve’s arrival, Adam was so pussywhipped that he was doing her bidding.

“Eat this Apple,” said Eve.

“What for?” asked Adam.

Eve removed the fig leaf covering her nakedness.
“F*ck!” said the dumb-as-shit Adam, as he bit the apple.  “You always win.”

It is hard being alone.  OK, I did tell you about that one sexy email experience that I had a few weeks ago.   We did have another encounter after that, but I need her approval before I write about it.  But it was more depressing than fun.   What’s the point of virtual sex?  More frustration?
“Seriously…” I said to nice girl who I don’t really know, “Why would we want to send sexy emails to each other.  We live thousands of miles apart.  We’re not going to hook up in real life.  We don’t even know each other.  It’s just going to make us feel lonelier!”

“I love it!” she said.  “There is something so sexy about frustration, a fantasy that can never be fulfilled.”

WTF?  I could hear God laughing at me, just as he once did with Adam.  You wanted Wo-man, you are stuck with her, sucker!  

Last night, I watched Now, Voyager, starring Bette Davis, on the Turner Classics channel.  This is the famous film where Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes in his mouth and hands over.  He does this not once, but about fifteen times in the course of the story.   I’ve seen this film many times and always found it a corny, melodramatic girl-flick.    But have I officially changed?  Have I become an adult who enjoys crap like this?  I was completely taken in with the story about marriage, commitment, secret love, and lust.   For the first time, I UNDERSTOOD THE STORY!   No wonder I am having such a hard time writing a script about two single guys trying to get laid.  I’m not that person anymore.  I have joined the ranks of  adult “complications” where the getting “laid” is not the goal anymore.  I’ve already gotten laid, and I know what happens afterwards.   It is Wo-man!  The apple is never free.  They are trouble.  Thanks a lot, God! 

What was I talking about in this post anyway?  Oh right, change.  You see, I can’t even stay focused on talking about “change.”  I avoid it by chatting about Adam and Eve and Adam’s penis.  Let’s get back to the point. 

I need to embrace change. 

I came to New York to embrace change.  But so far, I have failed.   All that happened was that I got into another rut, another routine.  

For example, every day I take a walk, but it is always the same path, always encountering the exact same individuals. 

My Daily Walk by Neil Kramer

I leave my mother’s apartment building.   As I step out, I run into Juan, the building’s effective but hated super.  Juan works hard for the building and takes great pride in his work, but so much so, that he thinks he owns the place.   He treats the tenants — his employers — like shit.   He yells at them for walking in the lobby after he washes the floor.  God help you if you take a short-cut across the lawn.  He sees you with his third eye.

“Get off the grass, you jerk.  I just cut it!” he bellows.

In August, I got stuck in the elevator for fifteen minutes.  It was an unsettling experience.  When he finally “rescued” me, he blamed ME for taking the elevator.

“Kramer, didn’t you know this elevator had a problem?  You’re wasting my time!  I have work to do.”

“How was I supposed to know that?” I answered, still dizzy.  “There’s no sign on the wall.”

“I’ve been telling people all week.   You need to listen!  Don’t they listen in California, or are you too busy drinking margaritas by the pool with Tom Cruise?”

The “Board of Directors” of the co-op has tried to fire Juan from his job, but he is PART OF THE UNION, which means they have to come up with some legitimate reason to dump him.   Unfortunately, he does an excellent job and is a great super.  What can they say to the union – that they want to fire him because he is rude and obnoxious?   This is New York!   The supers have more power than the tenants!

OK, back to my daily walk.

My next encounter is with Eleanor, a retired woman who sits on the benches in the courtyard between the “A” and “B” buildings of the co-op.   We live in the “A” building.  Eleanor lives in the “B” building.  Her husband has been in a wheelchair since his stroke, so the best they can do for getting out of the house is sitting outside, watching everyone walk by.    My mother also plays Mah Jongg with her on Tuesday night.

Now my regular readers have read a lot about my mother.  You all seem to “love” her.   You think she is fun.    She is fun.  She is also cool enough to read my blog every day.    But she is private.   She would never keep a blog.  When I asked her if everyone at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux had seen the pictures of her retirement party that I had posted, she said no.  She revealed to me – for the first time ever — that she never told most of her co-workers about my blog.    

“Why not?”  I asked.  “Because of the cursing?  The sex talk?”

“Nah,” she said.

“So, what’s the problem?”

“It is none of their business to know about you and Sophia.”

I learned something new.  My mother has not been forthcoming with her some of her friends about our separation.

“Are you ashamed?” I asked.

“No, of course not.   You should hear about some of their screwed up kids?  Divorced, in rehab, Scientologists… you’re pretty normal in comparison.”

But it bothered me that my mother was hiding the truth, especially with those in the apartment building.   But then, I realized – so was I!   My mother was right… why does everyone need to know your business?!    There are a lot of yentas in my building, always prying for personal information.  Whenever I meet one of these yentas in the elevator, I freeze up, knowing  that she is going to grill me like an attorney questioning a witness on “Law and Order?”

“How’s your beautiful wife — Sophia?”  one yenta asked recently.

“She’s doing fine.”

“Is she in New York with you?”

“No, she’s in LA, working.”

“You’ve been in New York a few months now, haven’t you?”


“You must miss each other.”


“Will she be coming here soon?”

Luckily, I live on the first floor, so my elevator ride is a short one.

“That’s my floor!” I shouted as I jump off.

“Send my regards to your beautiful wife, Sophia!’ 

There are some days that I take the stairs, just to avoid meeting these yentas.

I eventually convinced my mother to tell her friends at her weekly Mah Jongg game.    After all, if they are truly her “friends,” they are not going to mock her or think she did a crappy job as a mother.    I am separated.  I didn’t rob a bank.

Eleanor, the woman who sits in the back with her husband in the wheel chair, is one of those who knows the real story about why I am in New York.   After all, how long can I really be “visiting” for?  But good intentions have bad results.  Since then,  I cannot walk past Eleanor without her calling me over for one of her “helpful” lectures about marriage and relationships.

“I have been married for fifty one years,” she told me a few weeks ago, her husband nodding in the background.  “And let me tell you, it hasn’t always been easy.    But it wasn’t until about five years ago that I truly understood what marriage is all about… what makes a marriage work.  It was all because I read a book.  You must read this book.    This book changed my life.  I don’t know if you ever heard of it, but it is called… “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”  Have you read this book?”

I have read this book and thought it was hogwash, so I lied.

“I haven’t read it.   But I have heard of it.  It is about how men and women are different.”

“Exactly.   After reading this book, everything about men and women became clear to me.  This book is as important as the Old Testament.  Let me give you an example of why.    A husband and wife are getting dressed to go to a Temple function.  Everyone who’s anyone is going to be there.  The husband says, “Let’s get going.  We’re going to be late.”  The wife is busy putting on her make-up, wanting to look her best.   The wife asks, “How do I look?”  The husband says, “Fine.  Now, let’s go.”  And then the wife is upset at her husband for the rest of the night because he said she was looking “fine” and not “beautiful.”  “What did I say?” asks the husband.    He doesn’t get it.   That’s because he is from Mars and she is from Venus.  You are from Mars.  Your wife is from Venus.  Always remember that.”

Frankly, I think a big problem with my marriage is that I’m from Venus and she’s from Mars, but I kept that to myself.

Every day, every time I take my walk, she is sitting on the bench with her husband, waiting for me.

“Did you read the book yet?” she asks.

“I’ll get it this weekend at the library.”

“You must.  You are from Mars.   She is from Venus.  Remember that.”

Only once she did try to be a matchmaker.    She has a granddaughter who is interested in television production, a “beautiful redhead” who is having trouble finding a “Jewish man with a good soul.” 

“But she’s just 22, so you are too old.” she added at the end. 

“No, she’s not,” screamed my Penis, but the muffled sound from inside my pants never reached Eleanor and her hearing aide.  Eh, her granddaughter is probably a Wo-man from Venus anyway, which does not bode well for our relationship.

Onward, with my walk.

A few blocks after meeting Eleanor, I pass another apartment complex, one for lower-income tenants.   The complex has many buildings, and looks like a typical urban housing project.   In front of one of the buildings, I always encounter Charles, a friendly tenant, working on his garden.  Charles takes great pride in caring for his flowers.   He can be interesting to talk to, but he is also mentally-challenged, so he tends to be long-winded and repetitive, going into the same details about his flowers.

“These are gladiolas,” he would say.


“I water them a lot.”

“Do they need a lot of water?”

“Yes, that’s why I water them a lot.   I use the hose, but I have to be careful not to put it too high because then the flowers don’t like it… and the manger says I use too much water… but the flowers like the water… but not too much water…”

Sometimes I speed up as I pass, giving a quick “hello,” making believe I’m in a hurry to catch the bus.   I feel like a jerk, but so what… proof that I’m not THAT nice.

As I turn the corner, I enter an area of look-alike garden apartments, townhouses, each with two families.    All summer, at the third garden apartment from the corner, sat a little Puerto Rican girl on the lawn,  who had set up a table and was selling lemonade for five cents.   On the porch, was her grandmother, watching closely.   I found this scene very quaint.  I don’t remember anyone selling lemonade when I was a child.  It seemed very middle-American, like in a Dennis the Menace comic book, not an activity you would see in New York.

For some reason, I always said hello, but never stopped for a drink.  I think the main reason was because the grandmother gave me an evil eye whenever I approached.  It sucks being a guy nowadays.  You can’t even say hello to a little girl without being thought of as a predator.    I feared  buying a cup of lemonade, thinking the grandmother would send her German Shepherd, who was waiting inside with his black eyes, to attack.

On Friday afternoon, I took my usual walk in the neighborhood.    It was the same as every day.   I met Juan, the cranky super, Eleanor, the Men are from Mars Yenta, and Charles, the retarded gardener.      The sun had come out, giving New York one last gasp of summer before Fall took permanent residence.    As I rounded the corner, I noticed that the Puerto Rican girl was still in business.    I figured that today would be her last hurrah as the colder weather crept in, and the lemonade lovers went into hibernation.

I thought about my daily walks all summer.  Always the same.   Same path.  Same actions. 

“Whatever happened to my commitment to change?” I asked myself.   

I decided to break the pattern.  No more procrastinating.  I was going to start my change NOW.  I was going to fight my fears and have myself a lemonade before it was too late.  After a summer of passing by the little girl with just a smile, I was going to act.  This would have a domino effect on my life, creating changes everywhere as one tile fell, creating a chain reaction in my brain and in my heart.

I stepped onto the lawn and approached the little girl.

“I’ll have a cup of lemonade.” I said.

The grandmother, who was sitting on a rattan chair reading the National Enquirer, put down the paper, and leaned forward, her neck stretching outwards like that of a Bald Eagle.

As the girl poured me some of her lemonade from a plastic Tupperware pitcher into a Dixie cup, I realized that I had been reading the price wrong since day one.  It was 50 cents a cup.  The cardboard sign was folded, making me think it was just 5 cents .   50 cents for a Dixie cup of lemonade?  I thought it was a bit of a rip-off, but maybe I was living in the past.   After all, Lucy from the Peanuts used to give Psychiatric Advice for 5 cents.   Now, I bet she is $200 an hour!

But I didn’t protest.  This cup of lemonade was not to quench my thirst.  It was a symbol of change.

The little girl handed me my drink.  I handed her two quarters.  I had a tremendous urge to make some sort of traditional toast before I drank the elixir from my holy grail, the way I might before drinking wine at a wedding or at a Passover seder.    I lifted my glass to the young girl, making sure I kept my distance for the sake of the staring grandmother.

“Thank you sincerely for this fine lemonade.”  I said, speaking in a pompous tone, as if I was performing in a Shakespeare play at the Old Globe.  “My I just say that this lemonade is extremely important to me today.  It is more than a cool drink on a hot day.  It is about CHANGE.”

“No change,” the little girl said, angrily.  “It is FIFTY cents.”

“I didn’t mean that.”  I muttered.

The grandmother stood up, her National Enquirer falling to the ground, her hungry dog appearing behind the screen door of her garden apartment.

“Is there anything wrong, Lizzie?” she asked.

“He paid fifty cents.   Now he wants CHANGE!”

“NO CHANGE.  NO CHANGE!” yelled the grandmother.

I wanted to explain more, but it was hopeless, and I could already see the dog salivating. I drank my lemonade, and quickly left.

Any adventure requires an obstacle, and here was mine.    Just when I made the choice to change, the forces of the status quo were striking back, telling me “NO CHANGE.  NO CHANGE!”

Well, screw you, forces of the status quo.  Just you wait!

The Barber of Flushing

I hate the first of the month because that means it is time for the “first of the month” morning chat with the other several hundred members of the MPBG (Male Personal Bloggers Group).  Every month, it is the same thing — bickering over who is using an unfair advantage in gaining attention from the female bloggers.  After all, aren’t tits and ass the reason we male bloggers blog? 

Tensions were strong this month.  The summer months are gone and women are wearing more clothing while walking in the streets, so the frustration levels were super-high.    As expected, the men split into two camps, the Daddybloggers and the non-Daddybloggers.  Kapgar, a talented male blogger without children, immediately went into attack mode. 

“Why is it OK for Daddybloggers to exploit their cute children to win favor with the hot women.  This gives you a major advantage!”

Kapgar was especially angry because LAST MONTH, many of the same Daddybloggers voted down his own proposal of posting photos all of our private parts on a group post for all the women to judge.

“What are you all afraid of?”  he cried. “When is it time for ME to get the big advantage?” 

Buddha on the Road and Cog backed Kapgar and broke ranks with the others in the “We Love Women With Big Butts” sub-committe.  The arguing became so heated, that at one point, they even threatened to expose “daddyblogger” Black Hockey Jesus‘s real identity — a single, unmarried male librarian in Wichita, who just uses stock footage for his “children” so women will feel safe showing him their breast-feeding photos.  He was not the only recipient of the fury of the mob.  Dave at Blogography was accused by Kevin of Always Home and Uncool of unfairly meeting too many females in person, giving him unearned “privileges.”  Brandon and Backpacking Dad had their usual argument over who was “the best-looking Dad.”   Bookfraud insisted that that he was the most literate male blogger becaue he read Proust in French and The Gentleman Savant said, “Bullocks!” which is odd since he isn’t British.    Slightly Mordant accused Karl of being a male blogwhore and a sell-out for attending BlogHer.   NYC Watchdog and Avitable had heated words because only one of them made it into “The Hottest Blogger Calender.”  Caveat Emptor mocked Jon over at Ransom Note Typography for his recent “attempt” to write “sensitive blog posts” as a lame attempt to win over the NPR babes.  Shiny and Palinode argued over the virtues of the breasts belonging to American vs. Canadian women, with Palinode touting scientific research at the University of Toronto that said by drinking Canadian beer,  the nipples of Canadian women gained a far greater perkiness.  Be the Boy, always a strong defender of our country, disagreed, saying that he has felt up women from four different countries, including one from Europe, and that the nipples of American women always stand the proudest.  Conservative blogger TRO received boos from male Obama supporters when he claimed that Republican women gave better oral sex.  However, after he told Whit some amazing stories about his time at the Republican convention, Redacted immediately decided to switch sides and vote for McCain.  I accused Rattling the Kettle, Arjewtino, and Dad Gone Mad of selfishly trying to woo Jewish women and shiksas who like Jewish men away from my blog.   Cynical Dad, Dad Talk, Mitch McDad and Sci-Fi Dad all insisted that they had the “Dad” in their name trademarked first.  Billy Mernit from Living the Romantic Comedy wondered why Headbang8 and OkayCity were even blogging.   Others chimed in.

“You’re both gay,” said Michael Blowhard of 2 Blowhards.  “If you’re not out to see a woman naked, what’s the point of wasting your time blogging.  Go to the movies instead?”

Perhaps the most anger was directed at me, trying to “Jon Stewart” my blog.  Clearly, most men have noticed what women have written about the popular political-oriented comedian/talk show host. 

“I want to marry him.”

“I heart Jon Stewart.”

“I would sleep with him anytime… anywhere.”

Those are inspiring words, so much so that last week, I dumped my usual nonsense blog posts to change my blog into one of “political humor.”

“How dare you try to go Jon Stewart on us?” cried Danny from Jew Eat Yet, wanting to keep the political Jewish blogger label for himself.  “Don’t you have enough women reading your blog?”

As we all know, there are never enough. 

“But don’t worry, Danny.  Or the rest of you.” I replied.  “Sure, I am guilty of trying to go Jon Stewart and steal female readers from your lame blogs.   But is it my fault that I know exactly what a woman wants?   But alas, my political humor fell flat.  Sometimes, a man has to live within his limitations.”

The mood changed, as the others saw that I was hurting.  While male bloggers can be competitive, when one of us in need — the others join forces, like Marines in ‘Nam — protecting each other.

“Talk to us,” said Jon at Ransom Note Typography, continuing with his “sensitive shtick.”

The other men gathered around the flickering lights of their monitors as I told my story.

“My first attempt this week was with this post about the first 08′ Presidential election debate.  The aim of the humor was to mock McCain for not showing up at the University of Mississippi.   For days earlier, I had seen that many hotties had shown outrage at this and hated McCain, so I figured, what better way to show that I am as sexy as Jon Stewart than writing a funny, anti-McCain political post?

And what happened?  Right after I published it, McCain SHOWED UP for the debate — making the post irrelevant.

Irrelevant Political Humor Posts – 1
Hot Babes – 0

The second piece of political humor was written just yesterday.  For this post, I made up an imaginary online “luxury products” company, the point being to poke fun at the failing economy, especially all the evil Wall Street “fatcats.”  If figured I would get a few bras from this one.  Unfortunately, the post didn’t win over many people, and worse, I got two emails asking me if this company was REAL, proving that the writing was just plain confusing.  I’m sure it would have been funny if it were on The Daily Show.

Irrelevant Political Humor Posts – 2
Hot Babes – 0

My biggest failure at political humor happened last Thursday night.  It was such a non-event, that I never even published the actual post.

Some backstory:

Last week, I noticed on the news that some women were asking for Sarah Palin’s eyeglasses in stores and her hairstyle at salons.  Women were bringing in a photo of Sarah Palin into their salon and asking for “the Sarah Palin.”  I found this amusing and wrote a couple of messages on Twitter about what it would be like to choose our President based on his hairstyle.  At some point in the conversation, I went to a Presidential Portrait website to look at past presidents, and decided that the president with the best hair EVAH was Andrew Jackson.  I made this comment on Twitter, adding a link to the Presidential portrait:

“Imagine if you went into Supercuts with this portrait and asked for the Andrew Jackson.  What would happen?”

I immediately received messages from several female bloggers telling me that I should do this.

“That is hilarious!”

“That is so Jon Stewart.”

“I would sleep with you anytime… anywhere — if you did that.”

Actually, no one made that last comment, but I imagined that someone was thinking it.

The truth is, I needed a haircut.  The next day was my mother’s retirement, and my mother refused to be seen with me and my mop hair.  I was also meeting Finn and PoppyCede for lunch later that day, and I wanted to look sharp.

But did I have enough guts to actually do this hilarious stunt? 

Why do men always have to go on great adventures, like Jason and the Argonauts, just to win favor from beautiful women?  It’s not fair!  I procrastinated until five o’clock. 

“Be a man,” said my Penis.

I obeyed. I had to.  I printed out a color scan of Andrew Jackson on the Brother All-in-One that I bought for my mother (and which she still has no idea how to use) and left the house, my wild hair blowing in the Flushing wind.

I did not have enough time to take the bus to the nearest Supercuts.  This gave me only two options in my neighborhood — the salon where my mother goes, run by two Russian women, or the old-fashioned Tony’s Barber Shop down the block, a local institution, one of those macho places with the old Italian barber, the twirling barber shop pole, and the combs inside floating in that mysterious blue liquid.

I have memories of bad haircuts at Tony’s as a child, so I took the choice of going to the salon.  At least I could say hello and goodbye in Russian.

This “salon” used to be across the street from their current location, but they were forced to move recently by their evil landlord.  The salon took over a failing newstand/card store.  However, the newstand had one profitable side business — they sold Lotto tickets.  The salon owners made a deal with the former owners, who had a permit to sell the tickets.  The salon would give them a space for selling Lotto tickets in the front, and they would split the profits.

Clever, huh?  Except, this arrangement created and atmosphere of being in a salon located in a subway station.  As I sat there, waiting for my turn with the stylist, two drunk old men stood in front of me scratching off their “Win Five” tickets with their keys.  The door opened and closed every other second, as some new loser came in to buy his ticket.  I felt claustrophobic by my surroundings and ran out of the salon.  I decided to visit Tony before he closed for the night.  I walked the block to the shop and saw the familiar sign and twirling pole.

Unfortunately, Tony died years ago.  The barber shop was now run by three Russian guys (perhaps the husbands of the Russian women at the salon?)

The minute I walked in, Yan jumped up.  There were no customers at the time.  The three guys were just sitting around, chatting.

“Sit.  Sit.”  he said.

“Thank you.  Spasiba (thank you in Russian).”  I answered.

“You Russian?!”

“No, my zhena.  She’s from Odessa.”

He looked at his friends and they laughed.  I have no idea why they laughed.  Was he saying something about women from Odessa?  Was this something I should have learned years ago?

“How you want hair?”

OK, the moment had arrived.  I held the scan of Andrew Jackson in a large folder on my lap.  Was I a Man or Scared Mouse.

“Do it.  Do it,” said my Penis.  “Show those Russians what real American men are made of!”

I wish I had some vodka to drink to calm my nerves.

“I’d like to keep my hair long.”

“Just a little off?”

“Yes, make it something like this…”

I took out the scan from the envelope and showed him the photo of our 7th President.”

“OK!  Will do.”

“That’s it?  “OK!  Will do”?”  I said to myself.  “Shit!  This is not funny or interesting.  He didn’t even ask me a question.  Jon Stewart would have made this funny.  This is going to be one crappy post.   Maybe I am not the first to show him this portrait of Andrew Jackson?”

I showed him the scan again.

“This is Andrew Jackson.”

Yan laughed.  He showed the portrait to the others.

“Andrew Jackson,” he said.  “A white Andrew Jackson.”

They all chuckled.

“I don’t like Andrew Jackson.  I am Jew.  He doesn’t like Jews.  He calls us “Hymietown.”

“No, no, no.  That’s Jesse Jackson.  This is Andrew Jackson.  The President.”


There was silence for a second.  Yan shrugged.

“I like Michael Jackson,” said on of Yan’s friends.  “Beat it!  B-E-A-T I-T!”

Yan gave me my haircut, which ended up looking exactly like every other haircut I ever got at Tony’s Barber Shop when I was a child.   He cut it shorter than I asked.   It looked nothing like the “Andrew Jackson.”

Irrelevant Political Humor Posts – 3
Hot Babes – 0

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