the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: May 2009 (Page 2 of 2)

Hi, Mom

This morning, I was awoken by the voice of God.

“Neil, it is Mother’s Day.  Did you call your mother?”

“Nah.  What for?  It’s a dumb holiday.  I’ll call her tomorrow.”

“But Neil, you must congratulate her.  It is your duty.  After all, you have the best mother that I have ever created.”

“C’mon, God.  Let’s not go overboard.  Sure, she’s nice and funny, but there are billions of mothers out there.  How can you really say that she is the “best?”  Her cooking is pretty bad.  And she  refuses to watch the last ten minutes of the American Idol elimination night because it makes her “too nervous.”  That’s just weird.”

“I am the God of your Forefathers.  Of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  When I say that she is the best mother, I mean it.  I do not lie or do punk’d pranks like that crazy Kabbalah guy, Ashton Kutcher.  I speak the truth.”

“OK, bigshot.  Give me a sign.  A miracle.  Something that proves that you truly are all powerful.  Like a burning bush.”

“What are you crazy?  In Southern California.  One burning bush will cause a whole forest fire!  Can’t you come up with something a little bit less drama-queenish?”

“Hmmm… Ok, here’s  a challenge that is pretty impossible, even for you — let me see Julie Andrews, the biggest shiksa in the world, sing a song in Yiddish.  Only that will prove to me YOUR TRUE POWER!”

“I am the Lord, the One, and I shall produce this miracle!  Get ready to call your mother.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Anxiety Friday: Confrontation


Last Sunday was a perfect California day.  Sophia and I walked to the pier.   There was an all-day jazz festival going on.   The stage was set up right in front of the Pacific.   Nearby was a small crafts fair, where vendors sold paintings, incense, and jewelry.  Sophia and I settled in and enjoyed the music.


While I was in New York, I had bad-mouthed Los Angeles.   New York seemed so much “real.”    Now that I was grooving to the music, performed by a good-looking, ethnically diverse group of jazz players, the blue sky and blue ocean as a backdrop, the weather perfect, I remembered what I loved about California.    Why deal with the grit and grime and bad manners of New Yorkers, when I can just hang out with the mellow dudes by the beach?

I always say that I feel more at home in New York, but in many ways, I am not a true New Yorker.   I’m not brash or in your face.  I don’t honk my horn or yell “Yo!”   One of my favorite bands is… The Eagles.  I don’t look for confrontation.  I avoid it, wanting to sit back and  watch the Tequila Sunrise.

I was listening to the third band of the afternoon, a terrific Latin Jazz quartet, when Sophia saw him marching through the crowd, holding his hand-written sign.   He was a Holocaust denier.   I had never seen one in all my life.    At the beach?   I certainly had never encountered one in New York.

Were there no other Jews on the pier on a Sunday?  This guy was walking around with this sign saying the Holocaust never happened, and everyone kept on with their business, drinking sodas, listening to the music, and shopping for jewelry.


“I’m going to say something to that moron,” said Sophia.

“No.  Forget it,” I said.

“I’m not going to forget it,” she said angrily.

Sophia is NOT afraid of confrontation, and I wasn’t keen on her going over there and making a scene.

“I’ll go over there,” I said.

“And take a photo of him.   Post it on your blog so then you can show everyone online what a jerk he is.”

I stood up and headed in the direction of the Holocaust denier.   I had no idea what I was going to say or do.   I had conflicting thoughts.   As a proud member of the ACLU, I knew that he had a fundamental American right to freedom of speech, even if his ideas are idiotic.   He wasn’t posing a danger to anyone, only annoying the shit out of me, and ruining the relaxing afternoon.

I slowly crept up behind up, and took out my iphone.   I wanted a photo of him and his sign.   As I neared, the anxiety took hold.    What would he say to me?   Did I really want to get into a heated argument with a crazy person?   What is the point?   What if this is his intention — to get people, especially Jews, all riled up?   Would it be better to just ignore him?   Why was no one else saying anything?   Did no one else give a shit?

I lifted the iphone to take a photo, my hand shaky, when I thought I saw him looking my way.   I wimped out.   I turned to my right hand side and made believe I was taking a photo of some artwork that was for sale at a vendor’s booth.

The vendor, an attractive, but heavily Botoxed blonde of about forty-five, immediately stepped in front of my iphone.   It surprised me, because I wasn’t even aware she was there, my focus was so heavily on the Holocaust denier.

“Did you just take a photo of this painting?”


“I saw you take it.”

“I didn’t take a photo.”

“I saw you!”

My brain was working too slow to explain the whole situation — how I got nervous trying to take a photo of the Holocaust denier, so I faked taking a photo of her artwork as a distraction before I got my nerve again.     I showed her the iPhone screen to prove that the camera wasn’t on.

“Let me see the photos,”  she insisted.

This woman was getting on my nerves.   I looked over at the typical beach artwork that was displayed — the sailboat on the ocean — and wondered what was up her ass.

I opened the “camera roll” on the iphone and turned it towards the woman.

“You see?  Nothing,”  I announced.

That’s when she crossed the boundary of civilized society.   She reached out with her index finger and touched the screen of my iphone to scroll to the next photo.

“What are you doing?”  I asked.

“I want to see the other photos.”

“I already told you I didn’t take any photos.”

“I want to see.  I have a right.”

“A right?  A right to what?  To touch my phone?”

“This is my artwork.   It is copyrighted.  No one is allowed to photograph it.”

“That’s bullshit.   You’re a vendor on a public pier.   I’m free to  walk here and take a photo of whatever I want.”

“I don’t want you to take a photo of my artwork.”

“Fuck you!” I said.

I never say “Fuck you,” in public, but there was a nut holding a sign denying the Holocaust three feet away from her, and she was upset because some guy might have taken a photo with his iphone of her shitty painting!

I became confrontational, not with the Holocaust denier, but the art vendor.  I picked up my iphone and took a photo of her artwork.

“NOW I took a photo of your artwork,” I said, aggressively


“I just did.   And there is nothing you can do about it.   This is a free country.  This is a public pier.   I pay for it with my taxes.    In fact, I don’t know who YOU are or if you live here.  I could go to the Redondo Beach mayor’s office and make sure YOU don’t come here again.   As long as I’m not selling the photos I just took for profit, I can take as many as I want.   This isn’t a museum.  Sell them in your house, then you can make the rule.   Right now, you are on public property!”

By now, my voice was loud and obnoxious, just like a stereotypical New Yorker’s, and was attracting attention from all the mellow jazz lovers.   The Holocaust denier turned my way.   Oddly, by yelling at the art vendor, I had just made an argument for him.   This was a public space.   I could take photographs of amateurish paintings of boats, and he could legally walk around with a sign denying the Holocaust.

“Asshole,” I said to him, and took a photo.


Bathroom Humor

Sophia went to her new therapist tonight.   I waiting for her at a Coffee Bean near the office.

After he session, she came and said, “I talked about YOU to the therapist.  He thinks you may have OCD.”

I have self-diagnosed myself many times, but OCD was never on the list.  I’m sure my father, who flossed twice a day, had OCD, but not me.  I consider myself more “generalized neurotic anxiety.”

“I do not have OCD,” I told Sophia.  “Your therapist is wrong.  I have no idea how he can make this statement without ever meeting me.  What is he basing this on  — What YOU tell him?”

“It makes sense to me.”

“No, it doesn’t.  I don’t wash my hands all the time.  That’s OCD.  In fact, I haven’t washed my hands at ALL today!  So, there!”

“That washing the hands thing is sixty year old Freudian analysis.  That is so out of date.  OCD is much more complex nowadays.”

“I’m not OCD.  He’s wrong.”

“Didn’t you tell me that your first girlfriend dumped you because she nicknamed you “Repetitive Motion” in the bedroom.”

“I was new to the sport.  I thought that’s how it was done.”

“And frankly, I always your “Five Second Rule” a very annoying method of oral sex.”

“It’s a scientific fact.  Just like quickly picking up the cookie off the floor.  If you take the tongue off the clitoris within five seconds, you avoid the germs.”

Is Sophia’s therapist correct?    Out of pure coincidence, I wrote the following post two days ago.   The theme was “bathrooms.”    I never published, thinking it dumb and not worthy of your attention.  Now, I’m wondering if it wasn’t a cry for help —
Part of the creative process is seeing connections between random events. Sometimes the artist is not even aware of how he is connecting the dots of his daily life.   It takes a wise friend or a therapist to expose the patterns.   Why don’t YOU try to be my therapist for the day and see if you can FIND THE PATTERN of my existence?   Who am I?   Why am I constantly focusing on this one mysterious subject?   What does this say about me?

It all started at the walk n New York for the March of Dimes.   I was walking next to two lovely bloggers — Isabel Kallman and Mihow — and discussing the question of the day — “What happens if one of us has to use the bathroom as we are walking?”  I admitted that I would rather pee in the subway than be stuck inside one of those claustrophobic Port-o-Potties.   Isabel, being a true New Yorker, was a connoisseur of finding the classiest bathrooms in the city, and told us how in high school, she used to sneak into the Plaza Hotel.

“I tend to avoid five-star hotel restrooms,” I replied, “because they have attendants, and then I feel obligated to give the guy a dollar for handing me a towel, and I feel the same away about peeing that I do about using Twitter — it shouldn’t cost me anything.”

Always an entrepreneur, I immediately came up with a proposal for a best-selling travel book, “The Best Rest-Rooms to Sneak Into When You Have to Pee in America.”  My hopes were dashed when Mihow said that someone already had written that book.

The next day, I went with my mother to Target, where we bought a new toilet seat.  I told her that I was an experienced toilet-seat switcher, having done this task for Sophia, but when I attempted to remove the seat, it wouldn’t budge.   One of the screws in the toilet seat was so rusty, I could not remove it.   I sat on the bathroom floor for an hour, struggling with the toilet seat, not one of my favorite activities.   Eventually, my mother had to call the super to help me change the toilet seat.  I felt like a failure in my mother’s eyes.   My mother gave the super a five dollar tip.    I sulked.

Are you noticing a theme developing?  Let’s recap.  At the March of Dimes march, I spoke to fellow bloggers about peeing in hotels.  The next day, I spent an hour in the bathroom trying to switch the toilet seat.  I also disappointed my mother, something a therapist would probably write down in his notebook.

On Friday, I had a flight to Los Angeles.  My mother woke me up five hours before the flight!  She gets nervous about flying and is obsessed with “getting there early.”  She was making me so anxious in the apartment, as she paced back and forth, that I took her advice, and went to the airport two and half hours before my flight.   At the airport, I drank two cups of overpriced coffee, and then decided to use the bathroom in the JFK terminal.   I knew I had a window seat on the flight, and I am always reluctant to ask the passengers to let me out in the middle of the flight if I had to go to the bathroom.  Besides, I hate those tiny restrooms on the plane!

The men’s bathroom at the Virgin America terminal at JFK was nice and clean, newly remodeled.  I went to the urinal, and unzipped, when — OH SHIT, there was a giant cockroach or spider or some winged insect right inside the urinal, ready to jump out and bite me!


I flushed the toilet to down the monster, but it didn’t budge.  I was relieved to learn that it was only an emblem engraved into the porcelain of the urinal.  I sneaked a look at the other urinals, and each one had the same weird insect emblem.  It was the logo of the urinal manufacturer!  What freakin’ weirdo company uses an insect as their company logo and puts it on the inside of public urinals for men to look as they pee, their dicks in their hand?

It was my first time on Virgin America to LA, as I usually go with American Airlines.  My father, who was a bit anal and hated change, only flew ONE airline.   Virgin was fairly pleasant.  The flight attendants were young and pretty, and the atmosphere was a lot “hipper” than staid American Airlines.  It seemed as if every passenger had a blackberry or iphone or their own personal DVD player.  At first, I thought this was cool, but this trendy, geeky, technology-obsessed crowd grew tiresome within the first half hour of the flight.  Everyone was lost in their own worlds.  The girl sitting next to me was writing a screenplay on her Mac.  Before take-off, she spoke LOUDLY on her phone to her lesbian lover in Los Angeles, who was apparently very upset about her taking a job in New York, and worried about her seeing some other woman working on a Woody Allen movie.  Within five minutes, I knew this entire woman’s life.  I actually missed having one of those old-fashioned annoying passengers, who sit next to you who TALKED TO YOU for the entire trip!

Virgin America had online internet for $12.95.  I splurged, intrigued by sending emails from thirty thousand feet.  .  Unfortunately, the passenger in front of me leaned his seat back, making it virtually impossible for me to open my laptop fully.  I had to rotate my laptop at a 45 degree angle just to be able to see the monitor. With not much to do, I spent a good amount of my trip writing nonsensical message on Twitter, mocking the woman sitting next to me.  On the back of the chair there was a animated map showing the plane’s route.  My other idea of fun was to messenger bloggers from around the country as I flew over their state.

@Gorillabuns — Hey, Shana, I am flying over Oklahoma.  Waving at you!

I must have seemed very lonely.  I was.

At some point, I started kvetching to my online friends about how uncomfortable it was to be crammed in like a a sardine.

“Soon, the airlines are going to start charging extra if you have a rib cage and arms.”

I then asked a question on Twitter that has puzzled me for years.

“I have always heard of joining the Mile High Club?  But how does anyone find any room to have sex in an airplane?!”

Others explained to me that this activity usually takes place in the restroom.

“Yuch!”  I replied.  “It’s so disgusting… and tiny in there!”

I would think the airplane cockpit would be the best spot.

Editor’s note:  Have you noticed another mention of bathrooms?

Sophia picked me up at LAX.  It was nice to see her.

“I just want to stop at Target on the way home,” she said.  “The toilet seat cracked downstairs and I want to get another one.”

I couldn’t believe me ears.  I had just been to Target a week earlier, buying a toilet seat in New York with my mother?  Why were there so many toilet seats in my life?

“The toilet seat with the dolphins?”  I asked Sophia.   Didn’t we just buy that?!”

“No, we didn’t.  We’ve had that for four or five years.”

“That’s not true.  We bought it last year.”

“You’re wrong.”

“No, I’m right.  And I’ll prove it to you.”

I took out my iPhone, went on the internet, and found the blog post from April 2008, where I discuss us buying this new toilet seat for the bathroom.”

I had won!

“You have OCD,” she said.

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