the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Canasta Group of Boca Raton

My first observation when I moved into the retirement community at Century Village was the lack of men at the clubhouse. The ratio was 2-1.

“Where are all the men?” I asked.

“They’re dead,” said Rita, my blunt neighbor, a former buyer at Macy’s.

That made sense, as the women lived, on the average, for another seven-eight years after their husbands had passed.

My name is Birdie. Two years after moving to Boca Raton from Queens, my husband, Sam, a shoemaker and amateur trumpeter, collapsed as he was in line waiting to buy a 12-Pack of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda at Publix. As his heart beat its last solo, Sam tightly gripped a can of his favorite soda in his wedding-ringed hand.

“Damn, and the soda was on sale!” he said as his soul floated to heaven.

Sam was a good man.

Today is my 76th birthday. In the morning, Rita drove me to the Bagel House on Glades Street. Rita always drove at 5 MPH, so it took us a half hour to go three blocks. Rita never learned to drive in Brooklyn, so after her husband, Donald, died of a stroke, she took driving lessons with an Israeli driving instructor named Tal, and after ten lessons, she knew how to navigate the roads, well… barely. Rita could drive to the Bagel House, to Publix, and to Walgreens, but she didn’t venture much further than one mile from the retirement village.

At the Bagel House, Rita and I met up with Eleanor and Sunny. We played canasta as the Century Village foursome known as the “Dorseters,” named that because we lived in the “Dorset section” of the complex. At the Bagel House, I ordered my favorite breakfast dish – pastrami and eggs, with an everything bagel and cream cheese. Normally, I would order the non-fat cream cheese, but since it was my birthday, I felt that I should treat myself special.

After breakfast, we all returned to Rita’s apartment for our Wednesday afternoon canasta game. We were mid-way into the game, with Eleanor in the lead, the Stella Dora cookies almost gone, when we heard the sound of running water. Rita gave me a knowing glance.

“Should we?” asked Rita.

“No,” said Birdie. I have been brought up to say “no,” even when I didn’t know the meaning of the question. I especially said “no” to Rita when she asked a question. I love Rita, but our personalities are quite different, and I know that a question from Rita, a firecracker despite her two hip replacements, always meant trouble. This time, I understood Rita’s question, and what it entailed.

“What are you ladies talking about?” asked Sunny.

Rita beckoned to us, and we all gathered at the window, stepping behind the yellow couch, a wedding present from Rita’s in-laws, that Donald insisted that they take with them to Florida from their old apartment in South Philadelphia. Rita never was sure whether his reasons for shipping the couch were romantic and sentimental about their marriage, or his perennial nature as a momma’s boy, wanting to keep the memory of his mother alive with the couch.

“Oh my,” said Eleanor, as we all looked through Rita’s living room window into the shower stall of the adjacent apartment, Apartment D. The bathroom window in the other apartment was ajar. A young man — 30ish? — was taking a shower, unaware that his entire body was visible to whoever was in Rita’s living room. The young man had a broad chest and strong legs.

“Who is he?” asked Sunny.

Rita explained that he was the son of the woman who had just moved in, a snowbird renter, like many of the tenants. The son was visiting for the week. He was recently divorced.

Rita had already mentioned to me, in private, about the young man’s daily showers.

“You should come over and take a peek.” she said.

I told Rita that I wasn’t a sleazy voyeur… like her.

“I’m a grandmother!” I said, tossing my white hair like an ancient supermodel.

Twice, during the last week, I ran into the young man while walking the Dorset corridor, as I made my way to the laundry room. When I passed him by, I felt a sadness surrounding him. He nodded, but never spoke.

“Every afternoon, like clockwork, he takes a shower.” Rita told the other women, sounding as if she was one of those retired women who become a docent at the Bronx Zoo, volunteering just to get out of the house. “A very interesting shower.”

It was a beautiful South Florida day. Rita, Eleanor, Sunny, and I peered through the slats of Rita’s blinds, gazing at the naked young man taking a shower, the steamy stream of water hitting his body as he pleasured himself.

“When a man strokes his c*ck with his right hand like that, does that mean he is right handed?” Eleanor asked.

The women laughed at Eleanor, a retired second grade teacher with a New York accent. They never expected her to say the word “c*ck.”

“Donald used his left hand.” said Rita. “Although, sometimes he used his right hand. He was ambidextrous.”

“Marvin used both hands at once.” said Sunny.

“Tiny Marvin used both hands?” asked Rita.

Sunny nodded.

“Tiny Marvin had a dick the size of a kosher salami. I just wish he had been a better kisser, God rest his soul. But he was blessed him with a penis to die for, so I guess you can’t have everything in life.”

I was very uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation. I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family, and my dear, but strict, mother always avoided talking to me about the birds and the bees. Sex was for procreation and was to remain hidden from sight and thought.

I wanted to say to my friends, “Maybe we should return to our canasta game…,” but my lips could not form the words and I was unable to move away from the window, as if a magnetic force was keeping me fixed in place.

I sighed, accepting the fact that I was enjoying the young man. He seemed lost in his own world, his masculine hand moving up and down over his hardness. Who was he thinking about? Was he making love to a stranger or his wife? A childhood sweetheart? A movie star? A chance encounter on the beach? Was he making love to the woman the way she liked it — first entering her slowly, then faster, than slower again, as their bodies became one? Could his lover taste his sweaty salty lips as their tongues intertwined in a passionate dance? Was the woman as wet and eager as I had been herself in my younger days, when I used to make love with Sam after Shabbat dinner, riding him on the easy chair in the living room until he came inside of me, and I muffled my own cry so as not to wake up the two sleeping kids.

The young man in the shower had long brown hair, was tanned, and his penis stood proudly, at full attention, reminding me of that old photo of my husband when he was dressed in his captain’s uniform on that Navy ship, saluting the American flag. Captain Sam Horowitz. So handsome.

“What a good-looking young man,” said Sunny about the naked man in the shower, as she fanned herself with a take-out menu of the local Chinese restaurant. She was diabetic and always hot, but now she was hot for another reason. I could see Sunny’s nipples harden. I was always jealous of Sunny’s full breasts, still womanly despite her age, not sagging like mine.

I was feeling dizzy and tried to pull herself away from the window for a second time.

“C’mon, ladies, we have a game to play. We’re too old to be…”

“Nonsense,” said Rita. “Last week, I went out with Seymour Miller to Ben’s Deli for dinner. We’re not too old to be enjoying men.”

“There’s a big difference about having a deli sandwich with Seymour and THIS!” I said, always the moral center of any group, always the party pooper.

“The deli sandwich was the appetizer.” replied Rita. “He spent the rest of the night eating out my p*ssy in his apartment.”

“Oy!” said Eleanor. “I mean… WOW!”

“Randall was always reluctant to do that because he thought my vagina smelled like fish,” said Sunny.

“Donald said the same thing!” said Rita. “Stupid men. When I told Seymour what Donald used to say, he laughed. “I just had herring for dinner at Ben’s, true? I love the taste of fish!”

“What’s Seymour’s phone number again?” joked Sunny.

“Eventually, the darling man exhausted himself with all his work and fell asleep right between my legs.” continued Rita. “All night, as he snored, I could feel his breath against me, like a warm ocean breeze against my most sensitive spot. It was such a tender and warm feeling.”

I had to hand it to Rita. She had a young spirit. I wondered what Sam would be thinking, watching from his Laz-e-boy chair in heaven — as four old women in their seventies transformed into peeping Tom-isinas, and acted like shameless hussies. Sam would probably be laughing. Drinking a Dr. Brown’s soda and laughing.

A month ago, I bought myself a vibrator online. When I received the vibrator in a plain brown wrap envelope, I was surprised at the shape. The large purple object seemed more like a sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art than a human penis. I never owned a vibrator before, although I had friends who swore by them. I decided to try this model after I read about it on my daughter’s “mommy blog.”

Lisa, my daughter, became upset when I once commented on her blog, so now I make believe that I never read it. The whole concept is foreign to me. Isn’t there privacy anymore? Do others really care about her baby’s poo?

“Who reads this anyway?” I once asked Lisa.

“A lot of people, Mom. You just won’t understand. I’m very very popular. I’m considered one of the top 10 influential mothers of 2008, according to Online Advertising Magazine. Mothers come to me for advice. I’m my own brand!”

“You’ve only been a mother for three years. What do you know about being a mother?”

“That is soooo typical of you. You can’t appreciate my accomplishments. Being a mother nowadays is a lot different than when YOU WERE A MOTHER. It’s much more complicated. It’s a juggling act — being a mother, being a businesswoman, being a role model for other women.”

I didn’t tell her daughter about the vibrator. Lisa would have said, “That’s gross.” I was also hurt when Lisa made the comment, “When YOU WERE A MOTHER,” as if I wasn’t a mother anymore. This was further proof that Lisa knows very little about being a mother. A mother is always a mother. She has so much to learn.

The young man in the shower groaned in a deep animalistic manner. His body flew back as he had his orgasm and the bottles of shampoo and conditioner, sitting on an unsteady shelf, fell on top of him, as if the bottles were pissed at him for coming too soon, before they had their own orgasms.

The women of the canasta group laughed at the comedy of the attack of the bottles, as the man covered his head for protection and his dick rocked side to side. The young man turned towards the window, hearing the giggles, and the four women — Birdie, Rita, Eleanor, and Sunny — jumped back like little girls, the blinds quickly closing in a click. The retirees ran back to the table, their hearts beating from all the excitement and drama.

“OK, whose turn is it?” asked Eleanor, the sensible school teacher, hoping to return everyone back to the canasta game. She picked up a pencil, out of instinct, as if she was about to take attendance.

But the class was not ready to go back to their studies.

“He’s certainly a good-looking young man.” said Sunny. “We should introduce him to one of the yoga instructors at the clubhouse.”

“Nice body,” said Rita, as she munched on a Stella Dora cookie.

I stood up, feeling nervous, as if I were about to make an important announcement, or a toast, or a commencement speech.

“I enjoyed giving Sam blowjobs in the morning,” I told the other members of the canasta group. “Last night, I used my new vibrator for the first time, and as it hummed inside of me, I thought about my husband. And the humming reminded me of his trumpet playing. And a little bit of his pacemaker. I miss him.”

“I’m sure he was in heaven, playing his trumpet, and missing you too. Probably playing with himself, if I know men,” said Rita.

“I hope so,” I replied. “Or at least having a good time up there with someone else. He deserves it. As long as he’s not f**king my late sister, Miriam. She was always stealing my boyfriends. What a bitch.”

The other women laughed again. It was turning into a memorable day. My phone rang. It was Lisa, making her obligatory Wednesday afternoon phone call/birthday call. I shut off the phone.

“I’ll speak to my daughter later.” she told the others. “Right now, I’m enjoying my birthday with my girlfriends.”


  1. sizzle

    Where are all the men?

    They’re dead.

    I probably should not have laughed. BUT I DID.

  2. Lucy

    Once I figured out where this was going, I stopped reading. I fly to Florida tomorrow. This will be a delightful in-flight read. I’m headed to Wilton Manors for a night out with my gays. Then Grandma’s house, golf and Publix. Would you like to go dancing with me and my gays? One or two of us will be wearing pink wigs. [Not expecting you to take me up on this, but it could be a hoot!]

  3. AnnieH

    Was wondering where you’ve been and if all’s well in The Sunshine State. Should have known…:>)

  4. 3boys1mommy

    Whoo! I need a cigarette… and a kosher salami.

  5. SciFi Dad

    Insightful and oddly disturbing at the same time.

    (And please, for the love of all that is kosher, let it be fiction. A boy should never rub one out in front of his mother’s friends… unless it gets you laid by a contortionist yoga instructor. What? Like everyone else doesn’t think contortionist when they think yoga instructor!)

  6. margalit

    Good lord, what has Century Village done to you, Neil? I’m worried. Very worried.

  7. Michele

    I’m sure the ladies loved it. What a fun story! Send it out!

  8. Avitable

    Neil, you have managed to disturb me on many levels. Me!

    Well done.

  9. teahouseblossom

    What a wonderful post. I can tell you’ve been spending time with your mother and her friends, yes? And are you the hot young man?

  10. Finn

    This is a little disturbing, but funny.

    P.S. Glades ROAD, not street.

  11. Ashley

    lol that was very entertaining – I’m just wondering where you came up with the idea for this one?

  12. always home and uncool

    I will never look at salami the same way again. My arteries and I thank you, Neil.

  13. Danny

    Wow! Is this pure speculation or did you actually hear some of your mother’s friends in Boca Raton talking about sex? Great title! I can already imagine the film…starring Olympia Dukakis, Judi Dench, Shirley Maclaine, and others.

  14. Janna

    I’m deeply disturbed and yet I really enjoyed it. A mark of a great story. I love the stories you write.

  15. Caron

    “And a little bit of his pacemaker.” Such texture and insight – who were you in your former life?

  16. Venus

    Cool. Extremely disturbing because of the details but cool. Why do we have to treat older people like they can’t have a life?

  17. foolery

    Not disturbed at all; delighted, in fact. But relating more to the speaker than to anyone else, as I don’t have a circle of girlfriends that I talk with this way at all, even now. Huh. Does this make me more like the uptight Mommy blogger daughter? Rats.

    Thanks Neil!

    — Laurie @ Foolery

  18. headbang8

    I sense this is the first chapter in a much longer story.

  19. Shelli

    I LOVED it!

  20. Amy Sue Nathan

    Great story, Neil. Keep ’em coming…so to speak.

  21. flutter

    I am all out of sorts over this. DAMN YOU! ;p. this was fabulous

  22. kimberlee

    THIS was worth the visit.

  23. apathy lounge

    Although it’s gratifying to know that people living on the brink of death don’t consider themselves to be giving up on living (sex included), it’s still strange to think of people who are…um…unsexy to us as being sexually active. Or even enjoying it and then talking about it later. I guess I’m just thinking about my own grandparents. People who thought a c*ck was just another word for rooster.

  24. 180/360

    You need to change your name to Senior Citizen of the Month.

  25. Stacey

    Well written, Neil. I’ve been away from your blog for too long.

  26. better safe than sorry

    lol, those women are obviously keeping you entertained and your mind “stimulated”.

  27. Rachael

    A couple of years ago, at 29, I lived in a retirement home. During those three months, I learned to vary the time I showered. Otherwise the men in the place(all four of them) would be “visiting” with my grandmother as I walked the three feet from bathroom to bedroom. I learned that my grandmother would be happy to get laid and that she wanted to buy a vibrator. She wouldn’t let me purchase one on-line for her. That–it turns out–would be dirty.

  28. Michele

    I love your Boca blog. I am within 2 days of going there to visit my mom, Guildford. I wish she was friends with the ladies in Dorset. Does anyone happen to to if there is WiFi in century village, or am I just dreaming.

  29. ali

    i would probably die if i ever heard that my bubbie even KNEW the word cock.

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