the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: October 2009 (Page 2 of 3)

The Puzzle

There’s something connecting my current living in Queens, my need for writing online, my search for attention from my peers, my relationship with my mother, my father’s passing, my separation with Sophia, my discomfort with the superficial nature of Twitter, my relationships with female bloggers, my dick, my heart, my brain, the written word, the need for physical contact, my deep-seated belief in kindness, my education, my feelings of superiority, my feelings of inferiority, my ambition, my fear of success, my laziness, and my love for good bread, such as pumpernickel or challah. There is something connecting it all, but the pieces of the puzzle are scattered all over my work desk in an unorganized mess. I can see that they are related, but for now, I stare at the distorted grainy jagged slices of reality, hoping to one day fit it all together into a complete picture that I can hang on the wall.

Kick a Dog

I was nursing another heartbreak, walking the street and going nowhere, thinking of love and how it kills you, slowly and painful like a Chinese torture. And then I went and kicked a dog. A dog that was cute and cuddly. I kicked a dog that was on a sparkly leash. I kicked a dog of a very old woman. And man, that made me feel good.

Well, I know this may very well shock you. I know my rep as a peaceful loving fellow. But even Jesus had a bad day. Took it out on someone smaller. Even Jesus went and kicked a dog. A dog that was cute and cuddly. He kicked a dog that was on a sparkly leash. He kicked a dog of a very old woman. And man, that made Him feel good.

There is no moral to this story. Frankly I’m even ashamed to write it. But when love knocks you down, you need to get off the ground, and dust off the crap. And then you go outside and kick a dog. A dog that is cute and cuddly. You kick a dog that is on a sparkly leash. You kick a dog of a very old woman. And man, that makes you feel good.


They were beautiful. They were talented. They were some of the finest writers and photographers on the internet — strong, independent women, business-women, mothers — mommybloggers.

This weekend, twenty-five of these top mommybloggers met for a weekend summit in one of the most famous spas in Scottsdale, Arizona. The schedule called for pampering and catered meals, but also a serious discussion on important matters that deeply concerned the women of the blogosphere.

On Sunday morning, after a delightful breakfast buffet on the patio, Janet, the summit organizer, tapped her mimosa glass with her grapefruit spoon, calling for the attention of the others. It was time to bring up the main issue, the reason everyone was brought together, flown in from all points of North America.

“Something is tearing our community apart, like a plague,” said the organizer. “Or rather — someone. And we all know who it is.”

The others nodded.

“It is Neilochka. He mocks our mommyblogging networks, he chuckles at our fights over breast-feeding, he tells his friends that our kids are a bunch of spoiled brats, and then he has the chutzpah to want to f*ck us — happily-married women! This has got to stop!”

“But what can we do?” asked Rhonda, an extremely popular humor writer from Florida, who was as comfortable writing about sex as she was writing about the latest PTA meeting. “I’ve unfollowed him three times on Twitter, and he won’t shut up!”

“We need to ignore him.” said Brenda, a writer and mother of three, who recently got a gig as a guest lifestyle commenter on an Oxygen TV show about Moms. “We must never comment on his blog. EVER.”

“There’s only one way out of this,” spoke Eleanor, a brooding brunette with a booming voice. She was from a dark corner of Canada, and hardly spoke the entire weekend. Some wondered why she was even invited to this mommyblogging summit, because none considered her a close friend.

“Unfollowing him or ignoring him will never be enough. We need to do MORE.”

Eleanor reached next to her half-eaten vegetable egg-white omelet, grabbing her bread knife, and with a violent force, stabbed the knife into the oak patio table.    The knife remained, embedded in the wood, still vibrating, as if shaking in fear.

“We need to do a lot more,” she added.

The summit organizer, stunningly dressed in an attractive red sundress from Anthropologie, could hardly speak.

“Are you saying… uh… uh…”

“I’m saying we need to murder Neilochka.” said Eleanor. It won’t be easy. It won’t be clean. But we’re all mothers. We know how to clean up after a mess.”

“But how?” asked Rhonda, the Florida humor writer, not finding any of this funny at all. “And which of us would do it?”

“None of US will do it,” said Eleanor. “The cops will suspect one of us.”

“Then who?” demanded Brenda, intrigued by the suggestion, but also concerned about the possibility of losing her gig with Oxygen.

Eleanor threw her wallet onto the table. The billfold opened, revealing a photo of her Sarah, her lovely five year old daughter, dressed in a cute pink dress from American Girl, with a bow in her reddish hair.

The others looked at each other confused. Sarah? Her five year old daughter?

Eleanor grabbed her neighbor’s mimosa and chugged it down. She wiped her brow with the linen napkin, then stood up, ready to tell her story.

“If you all remember, I started blogging when I was pregnant with Sarah. Blogging was a way to connect with other women, other mothers. Blogging helped me get through some difficult times. Even though I wasn’t married at the time, you accepted me into your community. Today I am happy, but back then, I was lonely. My job was not fulfilling. I was working the night shift at the funeral parlor’s embalming office. While it gave me a good amount of time to blog and write my poetry, it added to my isolation. One night, a young man was brought in, a rugged, handsome man, who was killed in a motorcycle accident. As happens sometimes, the impact of the accident jolted his body, and since men react to anything — even death — the same way, he died with a hard-on. As he sat on the slab, naked, ready for the next day’s embalming, my lust took over. And yes… I made love to this dead man. Soon, I was pregnant, impregnated by this gorgeous man who just happened to be partly decapitated. Nine months later, Sarah was born. All of you congratulated me and created a virtual party for me on your blogs. You were such good friends. But I never told you the full story. I never told you that when I brought Sarah into church to be baptised, Father Brian gasped at the sight of my beautiful daughter, calling her a baby from hell, a half demon baby who would one day create havoc on the world, and just as Father Brian tried to exorcise the baby with holy water, a Toyota Corolla smashed in through the stained glass window, escaping from the Feds during a drug bust gone bad and a police chase through downtown Los Angeles, and pinned the priest against the wall, instantly killing him, his red blood staining the newly washed floor. I only tell you this because now that Sarah is five years old, it is time to unleash this demon child onto the world, and since we have no choice or way to stop her, we might as well use her for our own purposes. To use her as a tool of the mommybloggers. I know what you are thinking. What kind of mother am I to allow my daughter to kill Neilochka? Well, I would hope that you would not be critical of me because I raise my daughter in a way differently than you do. We’re all one community of mothers, even if one mother sometimes disagrees with some aspect of another mothers’ child-rearing methods. We can only mold our children so much. Some are just born with a certain disposition. Some are shy. Some are criers. Some are just plain demonic. And despite Sarah being the spawn of the Devil and a evil child from hell, I am still her mother, and I love her. I read her ethnically-diverse children’s stories, dress her in organic clothes, and teach her to be respectful when she plays with other children, sharing her toys. I love to take photos of her at the beach and upload them on Flickr, especially when we go on trips together, like that wonderful cruise that was sponsored by Disney. We had a great time, didn’t we Brenda?”

“Yes, it was a lot of fun,” replied Brenda. “But… but… what exactly will Sarah DO to Neilochka?”

“You will see.” said Eleanor, rather ominously. “You will see. Very soon.”

THE MOMMYBLOGGER’S DEMON CHILD, a Halloween Tale, coming to this blog on October 31st.

From the writer of such horrific tales as Giving Head (2008), The Werewolf (2007), and The Joy of 666 (2006)

A Master Class

Today is my mother’s birthday. This is her birthday card.

It was a windy and lonely October evening. I was in my bedroom, the overhead lamp flickering, as I IM-ed with Allison, a New Hampshire woman who wrote a knitting blog.

“Do you really want to do this?” I asked.


“What do you want me to do?”

“Go down on me. That really turns me on.”


I took a deep breathe. I was nervous. Although this wasn’t real sex, I felt the same sense of performance anxiety. I tried to visualize Allison in her bedroom. I wish I had bought a web-cam so I could at least see her face.

“Are you undressed already?” I inquired.

“Yes. I’m on my bed with my laptop next to me.”

I started typing, touching the keys gently, fearful of what my lustful emotion might bring forth, bursting from me like water from a broken dam.

“I’m kissing your thighs. I’m kissing you around. I’m uh…”

“Are you kissing my sweet spot?”

“Yes. I love your sweet spot. Can you feel me?”

“I can feel your tongue. It feels so good.”

Wow. Wow. Wow. This was more intense than I could ever imagine.

“I love doing this to you. I love feeling you move to my touch.” I quickly typed.

There was a long pause on the other side.

“I don’t know if I can type and take care of myself at the same time.”

“So don’t type,” I replied, always the gentleman. “Let me do all the work.”

“You’re amazing, Neil. Really.”

Just as I was about to dive back into this virtual reality, my mother knocked on my door.

“Neil, there’s a phone call for you in the kitchen.”

“Not now!” I shouted.

“It’s that producer from Los Angeles!”

“Oh, shit!”

I had been waiting all week for the call from this producer. Had he liked the first 30 pages? Is this a good sign that he is calling so late in the day? Or a bad one? I had to make a quick decision between business and pleasure. Art and commerce won out. I ran into the kitchen, where my mother was making dinner.

“Ed, how are you doing?” I said to the producer on the phone, trying to sound as confident and polished as possibly without letting on that I am in the middle of giving virtual oral sex to a blogger/knitter in New Hampshire. “Oh, you mean you DIDN’T like the first act?”

I could see frustration on the face of my eavesdropping mother.

“What didn’t he like about it?” she asked. “What does HE know?”

“SHHH…” I said to my mother. The last thing I needed was getting my mother involved in any drama. Besides, the producer didn’t know my mother was here. I had told him that I moved to New York to shack up with this hot Asian NY model I had met in a Santa Monica bar, not to live with my mother in Queens.

I continued to listen to the producer’s notes, most of them making very little sense.

“Well, I can rewrite that first act if you want?” I said, pasting on a fake smile. ” Uh, I don’t know. Do you really see Jake as a Ben Stiller-type? Oh, you do? I think it is a, uh, great idea. I love Ben Stiller!”

“I don’t like Ben Stiller at all,” said my mother, shaking her head. “Jerry Stiller, yes. But I saw Ben Stiller in that “museum” movie on HBO. That was terrible.”

“Ma!” I said, scolding my mother, before I realized I was still on the phone. “My God, Ed, I meant — that is a exceptionally good idea,” I continued on, stumbling with my tongue. “I’ll get to work on it right away. What? Notes? From Evelyn? Now?”

The producer wanted me to talk to his brainy development assistant for more notes. She was not very fond of me. Our relationship turned sour when she caught me looking down her blouse during a “story” meeting at the Polo Lounge. Now I had to endure her nasty, passive-aggressive notes. This could take another twenty minutes.

“OK, put her on. I’ll be back in a second.”

I rushed back into my bedroom. Allison was still online, texting furiously.

“Oh, Neil, I never felt like this before. You are F*CKING AMAZING! I feel so bad, so dirty, but so good. You know exactly how to reach me with your tongue, with your hands. I want to feel you inside of me.”

Apparently, I was quite a stud while I was away.

“Uh, I’m not sure I can type anymore either.” I wrote back. “I need to take care of something.”

“Yes, yes. Take care of yourself.” said Allison, the friendly knitting blogger from New Hampshire. “I know your big, hard man-thing needs care. Stop typing and take care of it. Make me feel like a woman. Oh yeah, that’s it. I feel it. Oh, I love it. I LOVE IT!!”

While this was doing wonders for my ego, I didn’t have the time. Hollywood was calling. My career was on the line, and Evelyn was on the phone. I made a mental note to myself have more virtual sex in the future, because, as evidenced by Allison’s reaction, I was much better at it than real sex.

I ran back into the kitchen. My mother was nearby, chopping up vegetables for a chicken soup.

“Do you know where I put the extra aluminum foil?” asked my mother.

I shrugged and my mother disappeared down the hallway. I picked up the phone.

“OK, Hi, Evelyn.” I said to the young Harvard grad, the type of woman who at college would walk right past me with her nose held high. “Sure, I want to hear you notes. Will it take long? I was busy uh, writing, and I don’t want to lose the momentum when the blood is flowing. Ten pages of notes? Oh, sure. Go ahead. Yes, yes, I heard. The main character. More Ben Stiller-like, right right….

I faked like I was jotting down notes.

Meanwhile, my mother discovered the aluminum foil on top of the drawer in my bedroom, where we stored various bulky and duplicate items, like the 24 rolls of toilet paper that I had recently bought at Walgreen’s.

As my mother was about to leave the room, the foil in her hand, she heard a beep from the laptop. Allison, the knitting blogger, was busy sending messages on IM. My mother walked over, as curious as Yenta the Matchmaker.

“I love the way you take me.” wrote Allison. “You are like an animal. You make me so wet and horny, Neil. I’m such a bad bad bad girl when I feel you inside me like this. Make me come like a wild beast. Do it, Neil. Do it!!!”

My mother wasn’t sure what to do. Her maternal instinct was to help her son. At least he was coming out of his shell and interacting with nice women other than Sophia.

“Perhaps I should take a message while he is out,” she thought.

She sat down and typed a message.

“Hi there, Allison. I just wanted to tell you that Neil had to take an important phone call from a movie producer in LA. He’ll be back with you in a few minutes. OK?”

After a brief pause, came her response.

“Who is this?” asked Allison.

“This is Neil’s mother. I was passing by when I saw your messages.”

“Jesus Christ! Neil’s mother! My god, this is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me. I promise, I never did this before. This is my first time ever. Oh my god!”

“Don’t worry about it? Are you and Neil going to date? Are you Jewish?”

“No, we’re not going to date. I’m married. I have a a year old baby.”

“So, why are you fooling around with Neil on the computer? What about your husband?”

“It’s a long story.”

“What’s the problem?”

“It’s just after the baby, things changed. With Russell”

“Yeah, that happens. That happened with me and Artie, too, after Neil was born. Neil was such a demanding baby!”

“Maybe it was my fault. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with sex. I don’t know, it’s hard for me to have an orgasm.”

“Is Neil really exciting you THAT much?”

“Not really. He’s OK. But I was faking it a bit cause he seems so insecure on Twitter. He does seem very nice and funny, but not really my type. A little too insecure. Why are nice guys always so insecure?”

“Have you tried exploring your own sexuality with a vibrator?”

“I bought one online, but I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t know what to do with it.”

“Which one do you have.”

“The RabbitX.”

“Oh, that is a good one. I hope you didn’t pay full price for it. I know where to get them on sale.”

“Oh yeah?”

“You have your vibrator nearby?

“It’s in the drawer.”

“Get it. I’ll give you some tips on how to use it! I think this will really help you with some of your problems. Then you can show your husband what to do.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Kramer. You’re really cool!”

A half hour later, back in the kitchen, I finished my conversation with Evelyn. I had a migraine and my head was spinning. Now I was going to change the sidekick into a black woman to make the screenplay “different.”

“Thanks for the notes…” I said, but Evelyn had hung up on me before I had the chance. I love Hollywood.

My mother had just returned to the kitchen, and was back working on her chicken soup. Living for a year, as an adult, with my mother, has been a difficult experience. I frequently feel ashamed when I tell people about it, and I wonder if they are laughing behind my back. But one positive outcome about living with your mother is — her chicken soup! She may not be hip or trendy or know anything about Twitter, but you can always depend on a mother to cook her son some soup! But I need to get out of here. Once I build my confidence again, off I go — back into the real world!

I returned to my bedroom. I immediately noticed that Allison was online, waiting for me. She was in a ecstatic mood, as if she had just seen the sun shining after years of darkness.

“You just gave me the best orgasm I ever had in my life” she wrote. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“I did?” I asked, a little surprised.

“That was like a master class in having an orgasm. How did you get so good?”

I sat up a little taller in my chair. I felt like a King. Maybe I SHOULD feel more confident about myself.

“Well, I’ve always been good doing research, from school. I’ve read a lot of pornographic books. Online videos. I learned. But who knows? Maybe it just comes naturally. Maybe being a great lover is all about genetics.”

“That I believe. Genetics. From now on, every time I have an orgasm, I will thank God for the Kramer family. See you, Neil. Gotta go. My husband just got home and I want to show him something!”

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Who is My Audience?

I know this is a dumb post, but something has been bugging me all morning about the way I approach my blogging and online life, and I will continue to procrastinate all day unless I just type this out. I am seriously going to make a conscious decision not to blog about blogging, since it is so tedious. But if I am really going to be honest about my life, this is now a big part of it, so I write about it.


There are moments in human history where there is a fundamental change of paradigm. First, some guy believes that the world is flat, then he gets on a boat, grasping a compass in his hand, and all of a sudden, he goes, “Holy crap, the world is round! WTF!” and his life is never the same. I had a blogging moment like that two days ago when I read this comment on Twitter —

“Your audience is not just your peers. It’s anyone able to google whatever it is you’re writing about.”

The comment came during a online comparison of blogging with other forms of media, such as magazines, movies, and television. We were talking about the FTC decision to fine bloggers if they weren’t transparent about the freebies they received for review.

“Don’t they do this sort of deceptive product placement in magazines and TV shows too?” someone asked.

I made the observation that blogging is different than movies and magazines because I considered my audience to be my peers. If I direct a movie and it plays in your local theater, I assume the audience is there for entertainment and to eat popcorn. I don’t view my audience as fellow filmmakers, unless this event is an industry screening on the Warner Brothers lot.

But maybe I was wrong? If blogging is nothing more than a writing group or a hobby for me, and industry screening, schmoozing with my peers, than what makes it any different than any hobby, like golf or tennis? I would never waste my time playing golf for hours EACH DAY! Should I start viewing my “audience” in a broader sense, so I can feel that all this “work” has some practical value?

I can honestly say that up until now, I have considered my audience to be a very small group of people. These include old friends, commenters, and those who stop by once in a while from Google Reader or their blogroll. I’m sure there are many who come here who I don’t know personally, but for the most part, I figure that I am already following you on Twitter or Facebook. Why else would you come here? Do you even understand what I am talking about when I mention Sophia’s name? Why would you want to read about this guy living in his mother’s home? I operate under the assumption that 4/5 of my hits each day — the bulk of my “readers” — are porn-seekers, Russian marketers, or those who arrived at my site by mistake and will never come back again. I don’t imagine big-shot tech writers or the editors of The New Yorker are secretly reading my blog. My daily views, according to WordPress stats — in the 1000-1200 range, have remained consistent for at least three and a half years. Perhaps this is the reason I have always been such a stick in the mud over advertising. Who am I trying to advertise to — Schmutzie and Ms. Sizzle and V-Grrrl and Danny from Jew Eat Yet? This is my audience. Other bloggers. Nice bloggers who sometimes leave comments more interesting than my post. Perhaps I should view my blog differently — as a product, like a magazine, in competition with YOUR magazine, battling it out in the marketplace. Maybe a paradigm shift is good for me, as well as all of us. Why believe in Adam and Eve when the facts support evolution? Why not just see blogging as the same as magazine writing, book writing, TV show writing — where the aim is to capture an audience and succeed. Why do so many of us see our blogs as so “small” and personal, even if they are small and personal? When people ask me what my blog is about, I usually mumble, “It’s just a personal blog where I ramble on about stuff.”

I know I am not being very clear here, and I am too lazy today to fully explain the wheels spinning in my brain. I have real work to do, and can’t spend too much time playing golf. I probably just think too much, because whichever paradigm I try to align myself with, I have more questions. If blogging is really about self-expression, why is so much attention given to “the best blogs” or “the best blog posts?” If that is the standard, then blogging is a writing competition.

You send out mixed-messages. Write for yourself. But don’t write too much for yourself, and no one will read it. Write well and you will receive love by others. But try to be popular because that is the only way anyone is going to know you exist. Your audience is your peers. Your audience is the general public and you are in competition with your peers for their attention.

Do you see your blog as a personal journal which you write in public, sharing it with your peers, other talented writers, OR something more akin to product placed on the market, in competition with others?

Rock Around The Clock

I miss my father, who passed away four years ago, only a few months after I started blogging. Today, I took the Long Island Railroad today to visit the cemetery where my father is buried.

It is a Jewish tradition for a visitor to place a rock on the headstone.






One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock, rock,
Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock, rock,
Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, rock,
We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight.


Hate, Love, Interviews

Writer/Blogger Jane Devin had a good idea for today:  One Day, No Hate (#1Day0Hate hashtag on Twitter).  This is from her post —

I was speaking with a new friend on the phone today, and the discussion briefly turned to Twitter and politics. I don’t know whether she’s a Republican, a Democrat, or something else, but it doesn’t matter. The thing that was bothering both of us equally was how divisive and hostile political speech has become.

The social media that draws us together to converse and share has become something of a battleground for left/right politics. Sometimes, these arguments are intriguing. Sometimes — okay, a lot of the time — they are not arguments at all, but angry rants that leave little room for real discussion.

Later in the day, I made the comment on Twitter that I wish we could have a one-day moratorium on angry, hostile speech. I know that probably means little or nothing to those who engage in such language as a habit, but it seemed to strike a chord among those who would like to see people come together as people first, political party members second.

I liked the idea, but since I’m not as political as Jane, I asked her how I could participate as a writer on my blog.

Badge by Down to Earth Mama

“I’d like to see people begin to speak with people they normally wouldn’t, even to say hello,” she wrote back.

The first thing that came to my mind was an idea I had in January 2008 called The Great Interview Experiment.   Many of you participated.   The gimmick seemed simple at the time, requiring (at least I thought!) very little work on my part.    People would comment on my post, and the first commenter would interview the second commenter, who would interview the third commenter.   The RANDOM nature of the selection process was key, because you couldn’t choose your partners.    That was the fun part, and since we are one big happy blogging community, it shouldn’t matter, right?


Liberals didn’t want to be interviewed by Conservatives.   A-listers didn’t want to be interviewed by C-listers.   Serious bloggers didn’t want to be interviewed by crazy bloggers.  Others just blew off their partners for one reason or another.   While the experiment was immensely successful in many ways, with hundreds participating, the most surprising result of the experiment was the effect it had on me –  it turned ME cynical!   At a certain point, I pushed the whole idea aside, not because of a lack of interest on your part, but because I stopped believing in my own central concept:  everyone is somebody.   “Clearly this is not true,” I thought.  “And no one really believes it, even those who say it.”

What does this have to do with politics?  I think hate grows out of seeing the other as The Other, and forgetting that the other is basically the same as you and me.

We all talk about community, but what community are we usually discussing?  The ones in our group?  The ones who agree with our ideas?  The ones who look and act just like us?  I think what Jane is talking about on HER blog is for Americans of disparate views to set aside their differences, just for a little while, and focus on what they have in common.   People don’t have to love each other, but they should respect each other.  Every American lives in the same country.  Every American is part of the human family.

In my search to try to do something useful online, I turn again to this interview experiment.   Should I start it up again, from scratch?   My interest is less in the interviews, than the matching of unlikely individuals together, and seeing what happens.

Is there truly any strands that connect  the great writer, the crappy writer, the blogger who is friends with a popular blogger, and the blogger with no friends?   Does asking questions help our tiny community of personal bloggers in better seeing the humanity of an adversary, for the traditional Christian mommyblogger to better understand the gay male dating blogger?  Does anyone really believe that we are all in the same boat floating on the waves of the blogosphere?

I’m just thinking about what Jane said.

“I’d like to see people begin to speak with people they normally wouldn’t, even to say hello,” Jane said.

I’m trying to inspire myself to get it going again, unless I hear otherwise from you.   Like they said on Curb Your Enthusiasm last night when Larry David tried to get the Seinfeld gang together again — no one likes those reunion shows.

Give me a few days.   Try not to hate anyone today.

Hello Kitty

There is nothing as sad as seeing an old lover who has been hit by hard times.    Wasn’t it just yesterday when we first met, both of us young and naive, two individuals from different cultures, but with so much in common?

It was the summer of 1986.  You told me stories about your childhood in Tokyo.  I took you to my mother’s home for your first Passover seder.   We made love in Central Park.  You murmured like a cat as a stroked you, laughing and saying, “Hello Kitty.  Hello Kitty.”

Then, you moved back to the land of the Rising Sun, where success was waiting for you.  We knew this was your destiny.

You became a superstar, and stopped returning my calls.  I tried to forget you, but wherever I went, I saw your loving, trusting face — on lunchboxes, keychains, pencils.  Everyone loved you, but only I truly knew HOW to love you.


A few weeks ago, a blogger went on Twitter and asked what would happen if she stopped blogging.   Most begged her not to stop.   I tried to be helpful and gave another view.  “If you quit blogging, people will be sad, but within two weeks, everyone will have moved on.  Better to focus on those who really love you — your family and friends — because they will not abandon you.  Audiences are fickle.”   Others on Twitter called me cruel and hateful towards this fellow blogger, when I was just trying to speak the truth.

The truth IS that audiences are fickle.  Every few months there is a new superstar, a new flavor of the month, and then — like Meg Ryan — you stop getting the good movie roles.  Do we all have ADHD?  Are we bored so easily with each other?   How else to explain the constant look-out for something new?  Is there any other reason for a Kim Dardashian to be talked about other than a need to have some new useless celebrity around  for a few months?



I was in Manhattan yesterday when I saw her again.  At first, I didn’t recognize her.  Could this have been the same lover that I had once held so closely in 1986?  The same international icon, beloved by millions, but none more than me  — now wondering the streets of midtown Manhattan, alone and unrecognized?

But I recognized her.  I recognized the look in her eyes.   She asked me to join her for lunch.   She brought me to this unpretentious fast-food “soup cafe,” so completely unlike the five star restaurants that she had once visited as she traveled the world as a good-will ambassador, dining with rock stars and diplomats.


We talked about old times, the mistakes, the heartbreaks, the ups and the downs.  It was nice to catch up with my old friend, my passionate lover, but time becomes a wall, a barrier without a door, and after we finished our soup, it was time to go our separate ways again.

“Goodbye, Kitty,” I said.


The Two Amys

To understand the following story better, I need to break the #1 rule of any good comedic story — I have to ruin the punchline right from the beginning.

I know two Amys.  Well… I know MORE than two Amys.  Half of my online acquaintances are either Heather or Amy.   But for the purpose of this story, I know two Amys.

Amy is the writer of Doobleh-vay.  I had a lot of fun with her in Chicago during BlogHer.   She lives in Columbus.

The other Amy is a blogging friend I have had since 2005.  She is the only blogger I know who has both slept in my apartment and met my mother!   She lives in Philadelphia.

Let’s call them Amy Columbus (the one from BlogHer) and Amy Philadelphia (the one who met my mother).

Amy Columbus is not Jewish.  Amy Philadelphia is Jewish.  This fact is essential to the plot.

Oh, yeah, a few weeks ago, when Amy Philadelphia gave me her mobile number, I made a mistake and inserted it into the wrong contact, that of Amy Columbus.

Last night, unaware of this fact, I received a text message last night from “Amy Columbus” (when in reality, it was “Amy Philadelphia”), but the iPhone is rather stupid when you give it the wrong instructions, like putting the wrong phone number with the wrong person.  Since my iPhone said that this message was from Amy Columbus, I assumed it was from Amy Columbus.   Would an Apple product ever lie?

Amy:  “Hey, Neil, I’ll be in New York on October 11.  I’m going to this big Succoth party.”

It was cool to hear from Amy Columbus, but I was surprised that she was going to a party for Succoth, a Jewish Fall festival holiday.  I’m not saying that every time a member of an ethnic or religious group meet each other there is a secret handshake, but I spent a good amount of time with her at BlogHer, and she never once mentioned that she was Jewish.  Not that it was important for her to tell me.  It just seemed odd that there wasn’t a misplaced Yiddish word or even an “Oy.”  Perhaps — she is not Jewish, or half-Jewish, and just going with a friend to a Succoth party.  Or a convert.

I texted her back.

Neil:  “Cool.  I hope I get to see you when you are in town.  Are you Jewish?”

Amy:  “Of course I’m Jewish.”

Of course she’s Jewish?  Was I supposed to just KNOW that?  Now, remember — I still have no clue that this is Amy Philadelphia texting me, who I know is Jewish.

Neil:  “I didn’t know that you were Jewish.  Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

Amy:  “Dude, when people look at me there is a like a sign pointing at me saying, “I am Jewish.””

Huh?  Now I know plenty of people — and you cannot tell a person’s religion or even color from looking at them.  Sometimes you can, but not always.  Amy Columbus could be Jewish, but with her blonde hair and blue eyes, she looked more like the granddaughter of Norwegian farmers.  Talking about religion and stereotypes is an iffy topic, but I felt comfortable enough with Amy to further the discussion.

Neil:  “Really?  I had no idea.  You don’t particularly look Jewish.  Or not Jewish.”

Amy:  “I’m as Jewish as they come.  I think you’ve spend so much time hitting on the non-Jewish mommybloggers, that you forget what a Jewish girl looks like.  We talked about going to temple once, remember?”

We did?  I did not remember talking about this with Amy Columbus AT ALL.  But I wasn’t going to tell her that.  I am experienced enough as a man to know that women get angry with you if you don’t LISTEN to them, and I certainly wasn’t going to tell Amy Columbus that I was having a complete blank about having this conversation.   Going to temple with Amy Columbus?   At BlogHer,  we mostly talked about going to some bar and drinking margaritas.  Maybe we were both drunk that night, and the conversation became all spiritual and religious, like “Let’s go to temple right now and talk to God!”  And then we passed out.

So, I did what any man does in a situation with a woman where he doesn’t remember the conversation.  He lies.

Neil:  “Oh, yeah, yeah.  I remember us talking about temple.”

It was definitely time to wrap up this conversation.

Neil:   “Speak to you later.  Gotta go!”

After that last exchange, I sat by my laptop for a few minutes, staring at the wall.  Something was really WEIRD about that conversation with Amy Columbus.  It was as if we talking past each other and not connecting.  I don’t text message very often, so maybe I wasn’t doing it correctly.  I became worried that I insulted Amy, even questioning her religious faith!

I decided to use a platform that I was more comfortable for my online conversations — email.  I composed an email and sent it to Amy Columbus.

Neil:  “Hey, Amy.  Nice talking to you.   Can’t wait to see you in New York.”

And then, just to make sure that I acknowledged her as a fellow member of the Jewish faith, I wished her a Happy New Year.

Neil:  “And Shana Tovah to you and your family!”

Are you following the story so far?  I had texted back and forth with the Jewish Amy Philadelphia the entire time, thinking it was Amy Columbus, and then I emailed Amy Columbus a New Year’s greeting, and she was going to get this email in her inbox, completely unaware of anything.

This morning, I received a email back from Amy Columbus.

Amy:  “Hey, darling (which in itself is a very non-Jewish expression), were you trying to reach me last night?  And WHAT were you TALKING ABOUT?!

Help Cure Juvenile Myositis

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Kevin of Always Home and Uncool has asked me to post this as part of his effort to raise awareness in the blogosphere of juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease his daughter was diagnosed with on this day seven years ago. The day also happens to be his wife’s birthday.


Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter’s cheeks, joints and legs was something he’d never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn’t admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions — none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner — then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn’t know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter’s knee showed signs of an “allergic reaction” even though we had ruled out every allergy source — obvious and otherwise — that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift — a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago — Oct. 2, 2002 — the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter’s first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn’t tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together?  I don’t know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter’s condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to or

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