the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: September 2011

My Week According to Me, 9/23/11

The week started on a positive note.   I exercised for three days in a row.  I realize that isn’t a big accomplishment for those of you who compete in triathlons, but it was a goal that I gave myself over the summer that I never could quite achieve.

On Thursday, I rested, and all of the endorphins in my body crashed.  I went into a dreary funk, which in the bizarro upside-down world of creativity, pushed me into doing some interesting Instagram photos.

Why is moody and dark so cool in photography, but if I said, “I feel depressed today” on Twitter, I would be ignored, especially by those too busy promoting their book titled “Helping Those with Depression.”

By Thursday, these dark thoughts were swept away by a change in life that required my total concentration and focus — the updates to the Facebook timeline.

Sure a meteor was head for Earth and I might be dead by the end of the week, but WTF is that scrolling thing on the right side of my page?!   Clearly, Mark Zuckerberg intends to control the World in a way Ian Fleming could never have conceived when he created those over-the-top Bond villains like Goldfinger.  Timeline, A Visual Representation Of Your Entire Life?

A single female blogging friend wrote this surprising status update after watching Mark Zuckerberg presentation:

“I don’t care what you say. I find Mark Zuckerberg super sexy.  Smart, cocky, and arrogant gets me every time!”

Very telling.   So, in preparation for success in my new dating life, I am working hard on becoming smart, cocky, arrogant, and a zillionaire by the end of Yom Kippur. Wish me luck.

On Thursday night, I went to see the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 musical “Follies.”

It is a story about former showgirls from the 1920s-1940’s who meet at a Times Square theater before it is torn down, and some unresolved relationship stories are played out against the ghosts of the past.   I love Sondheim, and Follies has a number of Broadway showstoppers that you probably know, even if you didn’t know you knew them.  If you ever go to a cabaret, you’ll frequently hear older women singing songs from this show, because the main characters in “Follies” are all age 60+. Commercial culture is so focused on teens and women in their twenties, and blogging is so concentrated on moms in their 30s, that it is rare to women in their 70s portrayed as having an interior life filled with as much love, regret, and passion as their younger counterparts.

Here is 84 year old Elaine Stritch, who is not in the current revival,  singing Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here,” at the White House for the Obamas.

The revival was near perfect. The weakest link in the current production is the star, Bernadette Peters.  While I love her as a musical theater actress, her personality is too bubbly for me to buy her as the somewhat bitter character, unhappy in love for so many years.

I attended the musical with two of my friends, both men.   They have been in a relationship for years.    Over dinner, they asked for my opinion on whether they should get married as a gay couple in New York State.   It lead to an interesting, and somewhat humorous discussion.  But I’ll save it for a later blog post.

As if this week wasn’t dramatic enough, Friday capped it all with the final episode of “All My Children.”

If you are a long time reader of this blog, you know that this ABC soap opera played an important role in my marriage with Sophia.   It was one of our special pastimes.  Before I met Sophia, she had already been watching the show for decades.  I grew to enjoy watching the show with her. It became a daily ritual. We would argue about the writing and laugh at the bad acting.   I also grew to respect the show and creator Agnes Nixon’s creativity.  You TRY writing a TV show that has to come out every single day, for DECADES, and keep it interesting.

I called Sophia tonight and she was taking the cancellation hard. But before you laugh at this, try to remember how emotional you became when your favorite show went off the air. Seinfeld? Lost? The Cosby Show? It feels like the passing of an era.

“This has been a year of loss,” said Sophia. “My parents died. Then divorce. And now All My Children.”

I can’t say that my reaction is as extreme. The writing on the show has been lousy for a years. And even Susan Lucci’s Erica Kane was getting on my nerves.

But we should embrace life lessons from wherever I can.   We all have dreams.   And we all have doubts about achieving those dreams.    But if Tad and Dixie can finally love with each other, despite divorce, murder, mayhem, switched babies, and the fact that Dixie had DIED TWICE on the show, anything in life is possible.

And thanks to this week’s Blog Crushes of the Day: Crib Chronicles, Deutschland uber Elvis, Irish Gumbo, and Wellington Road.

The Poet at the Genius Bar

Dear Evanline,

Let me drink from your sacred glass
My mouth filled with your wine
The taste of ambrosia on my tongue, so sweet
I am your servant of love
Your messenger of desire

And that’s when it happened. My iPhone ran out of juice.

“Crap,” I said.

It was 2AM. I was drunk, in bed, writing my love poem to Evanline on my iPhone. You see, like many of you, i do everything on my phone. And I mean everything, from making movie reservations, to Instagram, to trying to get Siri to talk dirty to me. I even sleep with my iPhone on my pillow.

I plugged my iPhone into the charger, but it wouldn’t charge. This was serious. My IPhone was dead.

And for the life of me, I could not remember one word of my poem.

The next day, I woke up early, took the subway to the Apple Store and waited on line at the Genius Bar, my iPhone in hand. I was assigned Ed, a friendly hipster dude in his early thirties with curly hair, thick tortoise shell glasses, and a goatee.

“How can I help you?” asked Ed.

I told him that my iPhone had died at the most inopportune time, and I was desperate.

“I’ll see what I can do.” he said, but added a warning — “I might have to reboot everything and you’ll lose your data. Is that OK?”

My heart stopped.

I pleaded with him, “You need to recover my poem!”

I told him about Evanline, and how this was my only chance to woo her.

I told him how I met her, oh so accidentally, in the bookstore at Grand Central Station. She had just stepped off the Amtrak train. It was her first time in New York. I was on my lunch break. We talked about books, about our common admiration for Charles Dickens, John Irving, and Curious George, or George Et le Camion, as she said in her cute French-Canadian accent.

Man, I love Canadians.

I lied to my office and said that my grandmother had died, an excuse I’ve been using since grade school, and spent the rest of the day with Evanline. It was a day I’ll never forget.

We did uptown, downtown, and then, right on 6th Avenue and 52nd Street, not far from the halal meat cart in front of the Hilton, we kissed.

But, alas, as in many lover’s stories, there’s the moment when the star-crossed lovers must separate. She had to return to Montreal, where she had a promising career as a neurosurgeon.

I waved to her as her train left the station, knowing that this might be the end. But maybe… maybe with a poem, I could change the course of history.

“Dude, ” said Ed. “That is the most romantic story I ever heard. I’m going to recover that poem, and after you win her over, I want to be invited to the wedding.”

“Deal, Dude!” I said.

As Ed went to work on my phone, I fantasized about the future. Evanline and I were in bed together, and I was reading her my poem.

“Read me your poem again!” she would say.

“Again?” i would ask.

“Yes, I never tire of it. It’s why I moved to New York to be with you. Read it to me over and over again.”

Ten minutes later, Ed returned, my iPhone in his hand. His expression was difficult to read.

“I have some good news and some bad news,” he said. “First the good news. I fixed your iPhone and was able to recover your poem.”

“That’s great!” I shouted. “So, what’s the bad news?”

“Well, I read the poem.”

Ed said he was a graduate student in the Columbia University Writing Program.

“This poem is awful!” he said, shaking his head in dismay.

“The taste of ambrosia on my tongue”

“Do you even know what IS the taste of ambrosia?” he asked.

“Uh. Is it like licorice?”

“Rule number one of writing — write from experience. Better you describe her taste as a Raspberry Pop-Tart. At least then you have some authenticity. You’re lucky your phone closed down when it did.”

“I see,” I said, wondering if Siri had become so powerful that she could not only find me a restaurant with tomato soup, but close down the phone to prevent me from sending a woman a bad piece of poetry.

“Listen,” said Ed. “Just be YOURSELF. Do what comes naturally.”

“I already tried that with another woman. I did what came naturally. I emailed her a photo of my penis, and she didn’t appreciate it. And it was a very good quality photo!”

“Jesus! Why do men think women want to see a photo of their dicks? To women, our penises look like overgrown one-eyed rats! They’d rather hear language that melts them into putty. Men are visual. But only a woman can have an orgasm from the rhythm of an iambic pentameter.”

“Wow, women are complicated,” I said. “I’m never going to understand them.”

I felt hopeless of every winning the heart of Evanline. And Ed saw the pain in my eyes.

“Listen, I have a solution. There is another way to win the affection of a woman, specifically created for men who can’t write poetry. It’s not as creative, but it is a truly time-honored solution that has been proven to work.”

He slid a $100 iTunes card under my nose and a bejeweled iPhone case.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s called “buying her stuff!”

My Week According to Me, 9/16/11

As sure as a Republican candidate saying something stupid during a nationwide debate, summer changes to fall, and I just took out out a sweater stored in the back of my closet.  I am currently in New York until — I think — November 1st, when — I think — I will return to Los Angeles.  Maybe.  It depends on work.  And money.

As a quick recap, just in case you missed a few episodes of the soap opera,  Sophia and I filed for divorce.  There are still some loose ends to figure out, like moving out of the house, and joint auto and medical insurance.   Maybe California is smart to have a six month waiting period before it is all final because it takes six months just to unravel the ties that bind.  Sophia and I are on good terms, except for the times that we discuss subjects like moving out of the house, and joint auto and medical insurance.   For now, it is healthier that we are 3000 miles away from each other.

On Monday, I attended my once-yearly game of the New York Mets with my friend Rob.  The Mets lost, even though they played the Washington Nationals, a team that is worse than the Mets.

But it was fun to just sit in a half-empty stadium, drinking overpriced beer and eating hot dogs, watching a game where the only importance was to see who which team was going to be eliminated from the pennant race first.

It was Taiwanese Heritage Night at Citifield.   Fans came waving Taiwan’s flag, director Ang Lee threw out the first pitch, and a terrible Taiwanese rock band performed during the seventh inning stretch.

I was proud to see another new immigrant group disappointed by the New York team that is not the Yankees.  Bring your huddled masses to our shores, oh Miss Liberty, where the Jews, the Italians, the Greeks, the Germans, the Cubans, the Taiwanese, can all have Heritage Nights at Citifield and watch a crappy baseball team lose another game.

I love this old Pepsi sign at Citifield.

When I posted it on Twitter, I was immediately followed by @pepsico.   Today, as I was walking in the Village, I noticed this:

I think I might also send this to @pepsico on Twitter, so we become buddies.  Don’t tell me that I don’t have any kickass networking skills?  If I keep up this pandering, I might be a Pepsi Blogger Ambassador any day, annoying you with Pepsi tweets all day.   Note:  please don’t tell @pepsico that I still ask for a “Coke” at ALL fast food joints, forcing the cashier to say for the 100th time that day, “We only have Pepsi,” with my inevitable reply being, “OK, fine. Pepsi. Whatever.”

On Tuesday, I met an old friend visiting from Montreal, and we ended up making out in a parked car at a Holiday Inn near JFK.   It was an eye-opening experience, since I had never made out in a car before, not owning one until I moved to Los Angeles and bought an old Toyota Corona.   Alas, things are too complicated.   Life is complicated.

One friend told me that I should wait six months before dating.  Another said to have as much sex as possible as soon as possible.  Can I compromise and go for three months waiting period with just a little sex?

On Wednesday, I met Marinka at her favorite bar/restaurant in the village.  While she insists that she loves this restaurant because the food is good, I have a feeling she is fond of it because they refill her wine glass with her having to ask.  We were joined by the delightful Margaret from Nanny Goat in Panties, who regaled us with stories of her glamorous life now that she is officially CBS Sacramento’s Most Valuable Blogger of 2011!

You also might notice that after a two and half year hiatus, I have reemployed my Blog Crush of the Day into action.  You can see it both on my sidebar and my links page.

My intention is simple:  to remind myself about all the special people in blogosphere, and how they have enhanced my life through their writing, friendship, or kindness.

My first three “Blog Crushes” are Schmutzie, V-Grrrl, and Slouchy.

The Blue Thumbtack

A cardboard reproduction of this picture, Portrait of the Artist’s Son, Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos, by El Greco, is on the bulletin board over my desk, stuck to the brown cork background by a bright blue thumbtack.   I bought this reproduction at a museum gift shop during college.  I was intrigued by the subject’s sly expression.

Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos has travelled a lot with me, between several tiny apartments in New York and Los Angeles, far far away from the grandeur of his former home in Toledo, Spain.   Right now, he is living in Flushing, Queens.

Jorge’s eyes remain mischievous, although the cardboard stock has yellowed over the years.   A dozen thumbtack holes pepper the edges.  Jorge has been shuffled around the perimeter of the bulletin board, depending on the priorities of the day and year, and his standing in our relationship.

During grad school, he was pushed to the bottom, denigrated to the bottom right, the 8×10 of a smiling brunette music student taking the starring role.   Six months later, after the photo of the woman has been retired, Jorge would be back in his former glory, like an old buddy always ready to take you out for a beer after a heartbreak, not expecting an apology.

Jorge has travelled in planes and suitcases and buses and cars.  He has faced towards Beijing and Jerusalem, depending on the feng shui of each apartment layout.  But wherever we made our home, he was fastened to the bulletin board by the same blue thumbtack that secured him on the day we first met.   Jorge is that special to me.

But this is not a story about Jorge.  It is a story about this —

I’m staying the month with my mother in New York. She is a big fan of Antiques Roadshow, the long-running show on PBS, which is ironic, considering that we have an even longer-running inside joke that we have NOTHING of value in Queens.  Guests on Antiques Roadshow are hand-picked, so the ones who make the cut tend to have a wood desk that Paul Revere’s brother carved with his own hands, or a Van Gogh hidden behind the a framed poster of a Pepsi ad from 1969.

I was in my room, on Twitter, when my mother screamed out from the living room.

“Neil, come here!”

I ran into the living room, expecting an emergency, like a mouse climbing the walls.

It was Antiques Roadshow on the TV, coming from San Antonio, Texas.  My mother was in her favorite chair.   On the show, they were talking about a local photographer, E.O. Goldbeck (Eugene Omar Goldbeck, 1891-1986) who was known for doing panoramic photos in the 1920s and 1930s.

Goldbeck worked as a “kidnapper.”  Similar to the annoying photographer who takes photos of you as you enter a cruise ship or a hotel in Disneyland, Goldbeck took free pictures of large groups of people, then sold prints to the individuals in the photographs.  He was also the “unofficial photographer of America’s military” because he was adept at shooting large groups, which at times numbered up to 23,000 people arranged in intricate designs. Goldbeck used a Cirkut Camera that held film that was up to 10” wide by 48” long, and the camera revolved on a tripod while the film advanced at the same speed.  Imagine what he could do with an iPhone.

Goldbeck was particularly fond of taking photos each year at the Galveston Beauty Contest.  As Goldbeck’s 1922 Galveston “Bathing Girl Review” appear on the screen, I immediately knew why my mother was excited. This exact photo, framed and signed, was hanging over my bed, given to my mother years ago as a gift.  I immediately went online to search for information, and discovered that the framed photo in my room was worth, at auction, from $1200 – $3500.

My mother was happy.  Yes, we DID have something of value in the house.  Maybe she couldn’t buy an apartment in Manhattan with the money she could make, but at least she could impress the neighbors.

The funny part of the story is that I never gave this photograph much thought.  I glanced at it through the years, and liked the retro-flavor of the Texan beauty contestants, but I never took the time to read the photographer’s name.   I’m not big on panoramas.  They seem too gimmicky.

I appreciate the photo after reading more about Goldbeck and his technique, but I can’t say that I like it any more of less now than I did before I knew it had any value.

Is it ridiculous for me to veer off and connect this story with matters of the heart?

Soon, I’m going to be dating again, which brings up the issue of “Who is Right for Me?”  On paper, it is easy to plan for a woman with certain attributes, or let the views of others color my views on who would be “good for me,” as if a stint on Antiques Roadshow makes you more worthy, like a Goldbeck photo.  But love never follows a plan, and Goldbeck’s Bathing Girls, while attractive, mean little to me other than eye candy hanging over my bed.

Does it make sense to be in love with an El Greco cardboard reproduction of Portrait of the-Artist’s Son, Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos when a valued Goldbeck sits nearby, on the opposite wall?   It is all mysterious and oh so personal.   I can’t explain how love works.  Or why one attracts us more than another.   Or why I still keep Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos safely secured with a blue thumbtack.

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