the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Titanic Birthday Card

The downward spiral started in the “Peter Pan” bus returning home from the Berkshires in the beginning of March.  It was snowing outside, flakes five times bigger than I had ever seen before.  I had just said good-bye to Jenn Mattern from the blog, Breed ‘Em and Weep, her mother, Elaine, and Jenn’s two daughters, after a weekend visit.  We were at their favorite local diner, where I had eaten eggs, sausages, and huge country-fresh buttermilk pancakes.

I had a great weekend; it was also a glimpse into the life of another person who I had only known through her words.  I knew from the blog that Jenn had split with her husband three years back, and she had some rough spots during that time.    But while I was there, I didn’t focus on the words on the page, but the person, and the reality surrounding her.  I heard about the early stages of a relationship she was having with a man.  I could sense the anxiety and the excitement when she mentioned it.  And there was a lot of love twirling around her all the time, from her mother, who lived nearby, her two daughters, her friends, her two dogs, and her two cats.

It was this love and companionship in her life that was on my mind as the bus slowly made its way through the quaint towns of New England, en route back to the grit of The Port Authority Bus Terminal of New York.  I was returning to the apartment in Queens, my mother’s apartment while she was in Florida for the winter.  I had been alone for four months.

Before the weekend in Massachusetts, I was feeling pretty good, or at least I thought so.  Sure, the place was a mess, like a cliched bachelor pad, with my underwear hanging from the chandelier, and Chinese take-out cartons littering the carpet, but I was managing.  My main problem was that the apartment was too quiet at times, forcing me to go on Twitter for conversation.  I still talked with Sophia on the phone, but it always turned into a frustrating mis-communication about something.   Now, after a weekend seeing all the energy in another person’s life, I noticed the glaring absence in my own, as if the curtain was ripped aside to reveal the empty theatrical set.

I tried to return to my usual life of writing, blogging, and Twittering, but it seemed stale.  Even worse, a waste of time.  While others were talking about conferences, marketing, and book promotion, I felt like I was just getting in the way of others.   The more I responded emotionally to someone’s blog post, the more I wanted pick the words off the page and stomp on them with my bare feet, like a bratty child, crushing them into jibberish.  I told Bon that one of her social media posts was “bullshit.”  In one week, I argued with bloggers such as Tanis, Marinka, Kate, and Karen Maezen Miller.

A few days later, my birthday arrived.  While I was honored to have so many nice people wish me a happy birthday on Facebook, it was also overwhelming.  There was no way I could personally reply to all the kind messages.  I felt a sense of anxiety.  I was on edge.

I went to my friend’s house for my birthday — my friend, Rob, who I have known since nursery school.  It was great hanging with him and his family.  Both of his young sons made me homemade birthday cards.  His older son, who had become obsessed with the Titanic after reading a picture book at school, drew a picture of the Titanic on the front of my birthday card.  If found this cute, but I was also sensed the symbolism.

For the next few days, I goofed off in my apartment, playing on my iPhone.  I decided to download the free version of “Angry Birds,” just to know why this game was so popular.

At first, the “game” seemed idiotic.  How many times can you slingshot a bird into a structure of wood and glass, just to make some mocking pigs explode?  It seemed inane.

I ended up playing it for several hours.  After I reached “Level 11,” I deleted the app forever.  It was also having a bad effect on my nerves, and my brain.  I was feeling in a vulnerable state, and the angry bird were — making me angry.  I wasn’t sleep well.  I wrote these surreal blog posts with images of destruction, a type of writing that is unusual for me.

From “Flying Nude Over the 59th Street Bridge

My sixth year of blogging started with a bang. I’m not sure what caused the massive explosion in my bedroom at 3AM. but I was awoken suddenly, my flannel sheets from Target on fire.

From “Angry Birds.”

I glanced at my iPhone sitting on the other end of the table, and I immediately understood the reason behind the mysterious appearance of this tiny female bird in the crevices of my brain. I had played Angry Birds earlier that day for at least an hour, and the repetitive nature of the birds smashing into glass must have made an impact on my soul. All that death and destruction!

The next night, Sophia called me at 2AM from Los Angeles.  She told me to turn on the TV and told me about the massive earthquake in Japan.  She suggested that I wake up my friend Rob.  His wife was born in Japan, and might want to know what is going on back home.

I was half-asleep, so I said OK, but didn’t make the call.  Sophia called again.  I told her that I didn’t want to wake them up.   They could find out in the morning.   She insisted that I do it, or she would.

I woke up their family at 2:30AM to tell them about the earthquake.  At first, Rob didn’t seem happy that I called so early and woke up the kids, but I think we all quickly saw that this was not a regular earthquake, but something bigger, especially when the tsunami arrived.  Luckily, the family in Japan was OK, and Sophia was right about calling them.

I spent the next few days glued to the TV and the internet, like most others, feeling scared and shocked, and a little unsure what to do.  I donated some money to the Red Cross.  The trouble at the nuclear power plant only added more to the tension.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened to me during March.  It was a combination of events — visiting Jenn in the Berkshires and meeting her family, arguing with other bloggers online, my birthday, a Titanic birthday card, Angry Birds, and the devastating earthquake in Japan.

I had to change things about the way I was living my life, and I needed to start to do it NOW.

And that’s why I started with these five relatively easy goals.


  1. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    March has been hard for me too. Just feel all my emotions are right under my skin, and I’ve been anxious.

  2. Erika

    the century is raging and so are we. i think it is a divine lesson teaching us to be kind to ourselves and others.

  3. Faiqa

    I’m excited to see how this unfolds. I have a feeling it’s going to be beautiful.

  4. Tuck

    Blame it all on the Super Moon!

  5. slouchy

    I, too, have found the past few weeks unsettling, and not only a little bit sad.

    But Neil, this sounds good. I like this.

  6. Mel

    This may just be my favourite post of yours. I can only go by what I have on the screen, but this post — to me — felt quieter, bare. It felt as if you had turned all the noise off around you and focused on putting down these particular words. I wonder if it felt different for you to write this post vs. other ones?

  7. Clearwater

    March is a bitch. Something to do with getting stabbed repeatedly by each of your buds, still hanging in the wind torn air. Such a bummer, that one. Suppose to get past the past, but March hangs a lot of us up, all these years later. Et tu, as well, it seems. Well, you’re not alone.

    So are you going to wait until you check each 1 of the 5 “relatively easy goals” off the list, before you start blogging again? Hope not.

  8. Slow Panic

    i’ve been struggling. i’m so glad others are willing to write about it, to be vulnerable out here in the blogosphere.

  9. Karen Maezen Miller

    You argued with me? Surely you don’t confuse arguing with the not arguing, but I’m not one to argue the point.

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