the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: July 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

The Passive-Aggressive Dentist

Several weeks ago, I had a dentist’s appointment.  Sophia’s mother passed away that week, so I had to cancel.  The dentist was not happy because he said “he was waiting for me.”  I rescheduled for the middle of July.

In the middle of July, my FIL went to the hospital, and I had to cancel again.  They were not pleased.   Maureen, the dentist’s receptionist said so on the answering machine.  Sophia called up the dentist’s office and explained the situation.

I rescheduled for yesterday.  Every day for the last week, leading up to yesterday, I would get a phone call at 3PM from Maureen “reminding” me about the appointment to “make sure” that I was coming to it.

Yesterday, two hours before my dentist’s appointment, I received another phone call from Maureen.

“Dr. Fine has to cancel your appointment today.  He has an emergency procedure he has to perform.”

“Uh, OK…”

“Is this payback?” I wanted to ask her.

“Yes,” I assume would be Maureen’s answer.

Sophia was able to get me an appointment for tomorrow.  This morning I woke up, feeling under the weather.  I told Sophia that I have a cold and I’m not sure how I will feel tomorrow.

“You’re going to the dentist if you have leprosy,” she said.

Holy Holy Elevator

It’s a little difficult publishing real-life posts lately, but I do enjoy fooling around with writing, mostly because it is relaxing, and I feel like a schoolkid doodling in a notebook.   So consider this a doodle.

Holy, Holy Elevator

Oh Lord, if these my final days
Of gray and cloudy weather
Take me to your Heaven’s Door
Aboard your Elevator.

I climb aboard; there is no fear
My hair has long been graying
I think I hear the Beatles
Ah yes, Muzak is a-playing.

I feel the gears are shifting
I tense to feel more steady
I hear the carriage lifting!
Oh, King, I am so ready!

Rising, Rising, Rising
We ride upwards so so high
I cannot tell you how or what
Or who or when or why.

Holy Holy Elevator
One button, one address.
I yearn to see my final home
And feel my wife’s caress.

Flying Non-Stop

Vartan, my father-in-law, was taken to the hospital last week. The Cedars-Sinai Hospital emergency room was too busy at the time, so he was taken to a nearby hospital which is nowhere near the caliber of Cedars Sinai. Sophia was nursing a cold, so I drove down by myself to the hospital to see what was going on. It was 1AM.

By 3Am, Vartan had a room, but the nurses wanted to move him to ICU. The hospital was understaffed and lethargic. I excused it to the early hours. The patients seemed to come from lower income backgrounds. Was this my first taste of socialized medicine? I made a sarcastic joke on Twitter, saying that I was learning the health care hierarchy of LA: Cedars-Sinai for the movie stars, UCLA for the movie producers, and THIS hospital for the grips. (I was later told that the grips are unionized and have excellent health care) Maybe I should have said this hospital is for entertainment bloggers.

Two slight nurses came into the room to wheel Vartan to ICU. It took them ten minutes to unhook all the tubes and prepare his bed to be wheeled out. One of the nurses was having trouble managing the bed and the attached IV, so she asked me to help wheel the IV to the other wing. I was beginning to wonder if this woman was a nurse, or a receptionist doing double duty. It was an obstacle course to ICU, with wheelchairs in the hallway and humps that we had to maneuver over.

We finally reached the locked door of the ICU and pressed the intercom. A male nurse, the head of the ICU came to the door.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“We’re bringing that patient.”

“We don’t have a room ready. Or an available nurse.”

“Oops. So, what are we going to do?” asked the nurse standing to my side.

The ICU nurse started to laugh, spurring the others to crack up as well. I’m sure they were all tired, and the situation was absurd. Vartan was lying there, equipment sitting on top of him.

There was only one big problem with this funny scenario. I was there, helping with the move. And I wasn’t laughing, despite my reputation as a “humor writer.” I was wearing a blue sweatshirt, so perhaps the ICU nurse figured I was some orderly helping, and not the son-in-law of the patient.

“What the fuck is going on?” I said.

If you know me, that is not something I usually say.

“I don’t see this as particularly funny,” I continued.

“Who is he?” the ICU nurse asked the others, pointing at me.

“I’m HIS fucking SON!” I said. I know I lied a bit, but sue me.

The nurses suddenly became very serious.

“And is this the usual procedure –” I said, my voice getting louder, “– to have family members helping move the patient to the new room? Does anyone know what they are doing here?”

“Perhaps you would like to wait in the visitor waiting room.” said the male nurse, pointing at a room down the hall.

“I’ll wait in the visitor waiting room, after my father gets a fucking room and I see that you know what the hell you are doing.”

Within two minutes, they found a room, a nurse, and Vartan was hooked up.

Of course, the next day at the hospital, Sophia and I noticed that Vartan’s feeding tube wasn’t turned on. We went to look for the nurse, who was apparently busy absorbed in watching the finals of the World Cup… in the visitor waiting room.

I don’t enjoy being pushy. In fact I hate when circumstances force me to do that. It makes me reflect on other parts of my life, as if you are alone in this world, and no one really gives a shit, so you have to force your way into getting what you want. I don’t want to live my life that way.

On the way home, Sophia and I stopped at Ralph’s Supermarket to pick up some groceries. One of the items we bought was a package of cabbage. Sophia likes to make stuffed cabbage. After we paid, and before we wheeled the groceries out of the store, Sophia checked over the receipt. She always does this, and I never do. She is not as trusting as I am. I even get a little irritated at times in supermarkets, waiting for her to go down the list, making sure all the prices match.

“Aha,” she said. “She charged us twice for the same package of cabbage.”

Sophia showed the recipt to the checkout woman.

“I’ll fix it in a second,” she replied.

There were three more customers on the line for this checkout woman, waiting to be helped. The checkout woman helped the first customer and then started taking care of the next customer, a burly Samoan guy.

“Hey, what about our refund?” asked Sophia.

“After I finish with everyone on line. They were here first.”

“What do you mean? We were here first. You charged us for an extra cabbage!”

“I’ll be with you in a minute.”

“Who’s the manager?” asked Sophia, getting angry.

“Calm down, lady!” said the Samoan guy. “And don’t be so impatient.”

Now, normally, I’m not the type of protective husband who defends his wife no matter what, especially when the opposition has broad shoulders. Usually, I am the one calling Sophia impatient. But this time, she was right. I’m sure the Samoan thought he was right, too, and I realize that people can see the same situation in different, Rashomon-like ways. But, the hospital experience hardened my heart. I didn’t care about the other guy’s rightness. We were right. We were tired. We bought a package of cabbage. The checkout woman made a mistake. She should fix it FIRST.

I told this to the Samoan guy.

“Ralph’s Supermarket made a mistake,” I said. “They should fix it.”

“Big deal,” said the deep-voiced Samoan. “Haven’t you ever made a mistake?”

“I’ve made many mistakes. And when I make a mistake, I take care of it. Immediately. Especially if it is a business situation.”

“And why should I get punished. I’m the next on line.”

“This is not about you. This is between us and Ralph’s. Ralph’s is not my friend. They fucked up. They need to fix it. You should be siding with us, so when this happens to you, you will get prompt service.”

“You’re just being selfish.”

“No, sir, YOU’RE the selfish one.”

Whatever. Not exactly fighting words. I said a lot more nonsense, even quoting the Constitution. At the end, they returned our money, and the Samoan called us assholes under his breathe.

When we stepped outside, Sophia was so in shock at my bravado that she was speechless. If she wasn’t so tired from the hospital, and we didn’t have ice cream that could melt, I bet I could have gotten laid in the backseat of the car.

Later, that night, I decided to book my ticket to New York for BlogHer. I had been going back and forth, thinking about taking two different flights. One was on Virgin America, and was a non-stop. The other was on American Airlines, with an hour stop-over in Salt Lake City. The second flight would save me $70. Normally, I would go for the savings. But I hate stopping over on a flight. Was it really worth the savings of $70.

If you don’t speak up, you get lousy service in the hospital. If you don’t speak your mind, you wait in line in the supermarket, charged for an extra package of cabbage.

I’m flying non-stop.

The Temptation in the Hollywood Bar

I sat on the aged wood barstool of the classic Hollywood bar. The elderly bartender wore a red sports jacket. The only other patron was an attractive blond, mid-thirties, in a aqua green dress with spaghetti straps and fashionable sandals, her iphone sitting on the bar next to her vodka glass. After a few sips of my drink, I built up enough nerve to move to the seat next to her, and talk with her.

She was a visitor from Dublin, Ireland. Twelve months ago, she took off a year from her teaching job at a middle school in order to tour America. She had traveled across the country, from New York, to the South, to the Midwest — and now knew America, our customs and quirks, better than the average American. She was at the last stage of her trip — the Golden State, California — San Francisco, Yosemite, the Central Coast, and now Los Angeles, her last stop. I was impressed with her sense of adventure. She was gorgeous, with a lovely Irish accent. I told her that I hadn’t met too many people who were secure enough in themselves to travel a whole country on their own, without getting lonely.

She said she loved America.

“Sounds like you’ve seen and done everything our country has to offer,” I said.

“No. Not everything. I haven’t f*cked an American citizen.”

I did a double take. Was my martini clouding my mind? Did she say what I though she just said? Her hand rubbed against mine. Now I was SURE that I heard it correctly.

“I love sex.” she purred. “And I’ve been without it all year during my journey. Before I fly back to Ireland on Monday, I want to f*ck someone from this great land of yours, this land of the free, of the brave. I want to f*ck this American hard. I want to f*ck this American soft. I want to f*ck this American until he turns red, white, and blue.”

Was God finally answering my prayers? I could swear that I once had this exact same DREAM, with this exact over-the-top dialogue, when I was in college, back in the days when I was scared of the opposite sex, with their batting eyelashes and their mysteries untold. Was this some sort of good karma coming my way for all my tough times over the last six months? If it was, I as a convert to Zen Buddhism.

“Hi, I’m Cara,” she said, extending her soft, sexy Irish hand.

“I’m Neilochk… I mean Neil,” I replied.

I was sweating. I remembered that old commercial — “never let them see you sweat.” I excused myself, so I could go to the restroom. I need a moment to breathe. Once behind the closed doors, a man-only haven, I washed my face with brisk water.

“I would be a fool not to seize the day.” I told my image in the mirror. “Or the night. Or however long she wants to do it.”

I dried my face, and returned to the bar.

She was gone.

The bartender beckoned, a smile on his face. He was old enough to have seen it all.

“You, my son, are gonna get f*cked like you never have before. She wants you, bad. She left you this…”

The old bartender handed me a folded piece of paper. On it, in a gentle flowing handwriting, it said —

“I’ll be waiting for you in my hotel room, with nothing on. Contact me. @caralovesfcking on Twitter.”

Whoa! Was this my lucky day or what?!

But then, I could feel the energy dissipate, like a dying light bulb. She only had left me her Twitter address! No hotel name? No phone number? Of course, she assumed someone as hip as me would be on Twitter as well, but… BUT… she didn’t know that I made a promise to myself NOT TO GO onto Twitter or Facebook for a week as a test of restraint!! And she was leaving on Monday! (sorry, you have to read the previous posts or you will have no idea what I am talking about)

Oh my God. What was I to do?

I called up a few friends, thinking they would tell me to stick to my plan, but surprising, everyone said I was crazy if I didn’t seize this unique opportunity. I even contacted some usually conservative-minded Christian bloggers, who pushed me to “go for it” as well.

“What about the fact that I’m still married?” I asked. “More importantly, what about breaking a promise to myself not to go on Twitter despite it being the only way to contact her?Doesn’t breaking a vow show poor character under God?”

“Screw character,” emailed Sarah from Tennessee, who writes under the name “Jesus-Loving Mommy.” “God works in mysteries ways. And clearly God wants you to get laid!”

Maggie Dammit. Jenny the Bloggess. Black Hockey Jesus. V-Grrrl. They all said the same thing. Go for it.

Kate, the exquisite writer at Sweet Salty, and who has a birthday tomorrow (Happy Birthday, Kate), surprised me the most when she said in a voice rarely heard on her soft-spoken blog, “If you’re not man enough to know the right choice, I’ll fly out there and f*ck this woman from Dublin myself!”

I decided that my friends were right. Happiness is more important than being a stubborn, moralistic twit intend on keeping to his promise to stay off Twitter and Facebook. And what’s the point, anyway? Who the hell cares? Already, my stats were down and writers were forgetting my name. The “new kids on the block” were taking over, eager and fresh-faced. This whole episode was turning into a self-defeating mess.

“Social media is a necessity nowadays.” I said to myself. “Only Luddites and fools turn their gazes from the future.”

I turned on my laptop ( I had already deleted my Twitter and Facebook apps from my iphone) and was about to log onto to twitter to contact Cara, the hottest woman I had ever met, when a suspicion arose.

“How did Kate know that this woman was from Dublin? I never mentioned it to her!”

This was very confusing to me. I went home and immediately discussed this with Sophia, who became my voice of reason. We came to the conclusion that there was a conspiracy afoot to bring me back into the fold.

“Don’t you see it? You have become a danger.” asked Sophia. “Once you start taking a week off from Twitter, others will start doing the same. Soon DMs will not be answered immediately, hashtags will be left unhashed, and Bachelorettes jokes will be a day late. The system needs to operate like a Borg. If not, it will collapse.”

I called a blogging friend who apparently has the inside scoop on all the behind-the-scenes shenanigan of “mommybloggers.” Through her, I learned that a group of prominent personal bloggers had used their blog advertising money from June to hire a high-priced hooker — this “Cara” — to entrap me into using Twitter this week. A webcam was hidden in her hotel room, and once I showed up and climbed into the bed next to Cara, I would have been exposed to the world as a “fraud,” and as weak as the next Twitter addict. I would have been dragged down to their level of the common obsessive Internet user.

Clearly, social media was now akin to the Mafia, or Scientology, where once a member, you can NEVER LEAVE!

Nice try, my so-called “online friends.” I didn’t fall for your ruse. And good “acting” job, “Cara,” if that is your real name. Your Irish accent could use some work.

I know you are angry at me, all of you addicted to social media, but in reality, you are angry with yourselves. You are still in a 140 character prison while I am living free. Born Free. Like Elsa the lion cub.

Five more days to go off Twitter and Facebook, and then I will be able to return, a new man. You’re going to have to come up with something more clever than sex with hot Irish woman to break my resolve.

Master of My Internet Domain

This is truly pathetic. I had a dream last night about… being on Twitter. Not about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Not about walking with dinosaurs. Not about an orgy in a Parisian hotel room. No, typing dumb updates for strangers, limited by 140 characters.

You realize the only reason I am writing this is because I know this will update on Twitter and Facebook, so this is my way of cheating and communicating to others, to make sure I am not forgotten, like a child star from an old sitcom. This post has no literary value.

I deleted Twitter and Facebook from my iPhone, and it helped. I wrote with paper and pen to avoid the Internet. I talked on the phone. I emailed.

Ok. I cheated. I just went on Twitter and Facebook… to look if anyone mentioned me. Now I have to start the whole week all over again. Sad.

Remember that Seinfeld episode where they tested who was “master of their domain?” This is just as difficult.

Why are you so important to me? Or am I trying to run away from here?

News Flash: Facebook is as Addictive as Twitter

Day One off Twitter was going pretty well. Why? Because there was still… Facebook.

When I decided to test my resolve with Twitter, I wasn’t worried about Facebook because, unlike many of you, I’m not addicted to Facebook. I can take it or leave it. I go days without going on Facebook. Sometimes, I can’t even think of a good status update.

(Mom, I’m sorry this post is going to sound like Chinese to you, but try to follow along. Think of Twitter and Facebook as the digital equivalent of cigarettes and hard liquor).

Facebook is not a “conversation,” and I am mostly addicted to talking in real time. The comments on Facebook come to you in familiar form, like in a blog post. You don’t have to rush to be there every minute or feel like you are missing out on important cultural information or the latest trend. I’m also comfortable being a “broadcaster” on Facebook, which means acting like one of those self-important jerks who sends out links and updates about myself, without caring much about any of you or what you have to say. I can separate myself from the mob.

This is impossible for me on Twitter. I care about complete strangers on Twitter. The interplay of words and emotions is so personal; it feels as if we are in bed together whispering secrets to each other. No wonder I am always making sexual innuendos! Despite Twitter’s reputation for being business and PR friendly, it is a place of intimacy, much more personal in content and concept than Facebook. The conversations seem “real,” and I always forget that 1000 other people are reading my words as I chat with someone about their marriage. You see this happen in real life, in crowded cafes in Manhattan, where the couple seated next to you speaks openly about personal matters, ignoring the fact that you are sitting five inches away, overhearing every word.

Facebook updates tend to be cheery, like “I rocked that new job interview.” Twitter tends to get more of the S.O.S. type of messages, such as, “My grandmother just collapsed! For heaven’s sake, send prayers from the almighty!” You have to be one f*cking cold person to not get involved with others on Twitter, unless your only role in life is to tell snarky one-liners. It is overwhelming, especially for neurotic, codependent types like myself. You need me. And I need you.

(Mom, I know this sound a little batty, but you know what I’m talking about. You’re always making fun of those people on the bus who constantly have their face in their phone, texting. This is what is happening to me!)

So Day One off Twitter was going well. I avoided Twitter. I updated my Facebook status instead… three times. I published a funny photo of Jesus dishes from the 99 cent store. I re-shared and mocked a link about bloggers and brands. I looked at Kyran’s new profile photo. I read about Kathy’s surgery. And then, holy shit, I understood what was going on — I was losing my status as a broadcaster and CARING ABOUT YOU FREAKING LOSERS on FACEBOOK. Am I that lonely? Am I that afraid of being alone?

PLEASE! Leave me alone. I have work to do.

New plan. Start over again. A week without Twitter AND FACEBOOK.

A Week Off Twitter

I decided last night to test myself by staying off Twitter for a week. I tried this experiment a few months ago and lasted two days. Am I really such a weak person?

This morning, I was awoken at six AM by the sweetest voices floating in the air. But they were dangerous too; Sirens were trying to distract me. They were the cries of distant women needing me, naked women only wearing the reddest of lipsticks, whispering things i cannot repeat, virtual seductresses luring digital sailors with their 140 character music to shipwreck on the rocky coast of social media.

As it started to drizzle outside my window, I watched the wetness softly hitting the glass, and wondered, “Did they really need me, or did i need them? And was this all in my mind, delusions splashing around my head like the noisy wet waves of the ocean?”

I bit my lip to cause myself pain, and I repeated to myself, “Be strong. I can do this.”

Pressing the Keys

Do you feel the energy as I peck with my finger.
I know you are there. But does my voice linger?

How do my words sound? What am I saying?
Why do I do this? Is anyone paying? $$$

This summer, remember to refresh with a Coke.
Ha Ha, a dumb monetization joke.

Let’s get to the point of why I am here.
I’m turning to you because no one is near.

And with a little sadness in my heart tonight.
I decided to just get up and and write.

And writing bad poems gives me a full-fledged chuckle.
Even if true poets think I’m a major schmuck-le.

(Listen to the sound of the pressing of the keys. Not the words.)

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