the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Start of Year Eight

Yesterday, I was the David against a villainous Goliath, and I lost. But sometimes you need to be pushed around a little so you can awaken you from your own passivity. And this is what happened today.

It all started when Time Warner, a company that controls my cable, internet, and phone service, didn’t show up for their service call after I waited around all morning yesterday. They said they had to reschedule their arrival until the next day.

“Tomorrow is my birthday.” I said. “I’m not sitting around all day waiting for Time Warner on my birthday!”

The duel had begun.

“OK, then we will come on Thursday.”

“At what time.”

“Between 9AM and noon.”

“Can you be any more specific?” I asked.



I hung up the phone dissatisfied. I lost the battle. This defeat felt symbolic, and it came at the wrong time. Today is my birthday. It is also the seventh anniversary of my blog. I had been waiting for this day for weeks, because I had hoped to write an inspiring blog post for you. I wanted to wow you with my confidence, to share with you my hopes and dreams that I was going to realize this year.

But based on my timid response yesterday to Time Warner, I lost my mojo. It seemed as if this new year of my life was going to be pretty much the same as the year before. I had been knocked down in the ring too many times, and my once youthful cockiness had faded.

I’d become superstitious, fearful, like my great-grandmother who grew up in a shtetl in Eastern Europe. I was looking at events as if the Universe was sending me messages about my life, and the world was saying that I was a speck of dust compared to the iron fist of Time Warner.

This made me sad. Once upon a time, I was the type of man that spit in the face of superstition. If there was a ladder on the street, I walked under it, gleefully, just to tempt the fates.

“Don’t open your umbrella inside the house,” my great-grandmother use to say, and I would open up my umbrella like an indoors Mary Poppins, just to be contrary.

I would chase the black cat, would say God’s name in vein, and would laugh when a mirror would crack during an earthquake. Sophia and I got married on October 13th. I was not afraid of lightening or thunder, tarot cards or palm readers.

“Come on, death,” I would yell at the guy in the robe with the sickle. “Challenge me to a game of chess, you bony loser.”

I believed in science and reason, not old wives’ tales.

But as the years passed by and I became older, I met the real enemy, and his name was Time.

Time is not a metaphor or a superstition. It is real, like a river that will never run dry, or a heavy grey cloud that descends, slowly, until the mist embraces you like a shroud, and you cannot see anymore.

You can not ignore Time. You hear the clock and see the scrolling numbers on the screen as the seconds tick away. You feel it in your bones as you try to run to catch the bus but your feet drag. Time deserves respect. Time flies. And it’s scary.

Naturally, when fear arises, so does a belief in superstition. My great-grandmother believed in “knocking on wood” and wearing amulets. The smart pray and follow the rules, and are rewarded. The foolish walk under the ladder, snubbing the Gods, and get what they deserve.

The flow of time makes us desperate to control it, even when we know that no amount of make-up or plastic surgery can stop it. I, too, embraced superstition. I folded up my umbrellas and said “God Bless You,” at every sneeze. I avoided ladders. I bowed in the synagogue, kneeled at the mosque, and crossed myself at church. I wondered if my marital problems were all based on our decision to get married on the 13th of October.

But after I lost to Time Warner, it was enough. It is not worth living at all if you are going to be fearful of your own shadow. I was done being a welcome mat to the Goliath. I would believe in myself, not superstition, or authority. That would be my birthday present to myself.

I decided to take a walk and announce this important piece of personal news to the world. My body was eager to move, my shoulders pulled back, my back stretched. I wanted to send my positive energy into the air, lighting up the city.

I left my house. It was a beautiful Southern California day, with temperatures in the upper 70s. I headed for the nearby dog park, taking a shortcut through the alleyway. I always enjoyed watching the energetic dogs running wild in the park, off their leashes, without a care in the world.

As I opened the back gate, I found my path blocked. A bunch of scavenger birds on the garbage bin, munching on the crumbs on some leftover pizza boxes. The birds were all black crows, and they were shrieking in some Devil’s language, staring at me with their glassy dead eyes.

I think they were crows. They could have also been ravens. I don’t know my birds very well. All I know is that my great-grandmother would not cross their black magic path. I’ve read enough books as an English Major in college to know the literary symbolism of crows and ravens. Evil. Death. Misery. Bad luck. Not the type of sign you want to see before your birthday.

A month ago, I might have turned and gone the other way. But I had already been screwed once today by a Goliath — by Time Warner — and it was not going to happen again. These were just birds. I was a man. Any meaning these birds had came from my weak, frightened human mind, not reality.

Edgar Allen Poe once wrote:

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Nevermore. Indeed.

“Get the fuck out of here, you fucking raven/crows,” I yelled at the group of filthy birds. “I don’t believe in your symbolism and I don’t want you eating any leftover pizza in my fucking alley.”

I bent down, grabbed some pebbles and tossed it at them. The leader of the birds, the one darkest and bulkiest, glared at me with his freaky eyes, saliva dripping down from his mouth, but I didn’t look away. Not for a second.

I put up my middle finger at showed the bird MY BIRD.

“Eat shit, you winged pussy” I said.

The Queen of the ravens/crows let out an ear-piercing yelp, then flitted away in shame. The bird had lost to a man.

And like the hunter who mounts the deer head over his fireplace, I took at instagram photo of the defeated raven/crow. It was my prize. My birthday card.

Today is my birthday. Today is the seventh anniversary of my blog. Today is a new day. Today I live without superstition or fear. Today I write with confidence. Today I have a voice. Watch out, Time Warner. I am not David to your Goliath anymore.

Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday…

(the rest of this song has been deleted due to a cease and desist letter).

This song, written by two sisters from Kentucky, Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill, was copyrighted for 75 years in 1935 by the Chicago music publisher Clayton F. Summy Company, which later became Summy-Birchard Music, which is now owned by TIME WARNER!!!

Fuck you, Time Warner! But this battle doesn’t end here. Your media empire is no match for one man’s voice. This blog continues now for an eighth year, longer than some of your TV shows. So, YOU better watch out.

Truth Quotient: 68%


  1. Juli

    Happy birthday! Happy Blogoversary!


    Screw Time Warner, sing Happy Birthday loud and proud bro !! I’ll honk along outside the Time Warner building as you croon them into submission !!!
    This IS BLOGGING !! (you scream in the best Spartan voice) heheheh
    Cheers Neil, enjoy your special day bro !! ~ Edward

  3. The Honourable Husband

    This is the best post I’ve read in a long while.

    You know what superstition is? It’s fear. You’re raised in an environment of fear, you don’t feel right unless you’re afraid of something. Fear seems natural, comforting, normal. I was raised in that kind of environment.

    Well, fuck that.

    There’s plenty enough to be afraid of in the real world, without ravens, black cats, ladders…or at my house, the number 4. It’s sick to believe in a malicious and judgmental higher power who chooses to curse you by sending a goddamn crow eating pizza as some kind of mysterious goddamn test.

    It’s like god is waiting to flunk you on some sort of technicality you barely understand. Don’t surrender that power to a god, even if only in your head.

    Unfortunately, you have to surrender to Time Warner. But god, Him you can resist.


    And I might need to surrender to CommentLuv, too. It appears not to be working. Pity.

  4. The Honourable Husband

    Oh, and Happy Birthdayâ„¢.

  5. Hannah

    I love this post, Neil. Happy birthday, and happy blogoversary, and fuck Time Warner right their fucking ears.

  6. Irish Gumbo

    Fuckin’ crows, man, always hanging around like that.

    Boo-yahh, Neil! Happy Natal Emergence Day and kudos on the blogaversary!

  7. Sarah Piazza

    happy birthday, dear neil. it’s good to know you.

  8. Misty

    Happy Birthday Neil.
    Despite the sound of my last name and the name of our farm, I am not affiliated with crows. I count them. Like the superstition. One crow sorrow, two crows joy….. This also played a part in the naming of the farm (Two Crows Farm) because who wouldn’t want joy? The other option was Farm of the Rising Sun, but that was known to be the ruin of many poor boy…so we thought better of it. I’ll stick to counting crows.

  9. unmitigated me

    One of your sentences reads, “And it scary.” I believe is should read, “And it be scary.”

    Happy birthday, Neil. And watch out, Time Warner.

  10. Erica M

    Happy birthday, Neil! Happy blogoversary. Next time, perhaps, get your talking penis to handle Time Warner? I’ve hired it as my life coach, and it’s quite the motivator.

  11. heather

    May the year ahead be full of unexpected and awesome things. Happy Birthday, Neil.

  12. Schmutzie

    Happy birthday!

  13. sweetney

    Happy Birthday, Neil! Don’t let those turkey Crows of Death get you down! 🙂 xoxo

  14. Megan

    Stand strong against the man!

    Happy Birthday!

  15. sizzle

    Happy birthday and blogiversary to one of my oldest, dearest blog friends.


  16. Nance

    Neil–and this has a 100% Truth Quotient–the tech from Time Warner just left my house about thirty minutes ago. He was the THIRD ONE, and our cable/interwebs problem is still unresolved. What say we of Seven-Year Blogs fame start a new one together and call it Fuck You Time Warner?

  17. Twenty Four At Heart

    I love you, Neil!
    Happy birthday and happy blog-versery??

    P.S. I don’t think crows (crows not ravens) are capable of saliva, but it was a fine point in your story anyway! : )

  18. Ingrid

    You are so very very very talented.

    Happy Birthday.

    Here’s to unexpected joy!

  19. erykah

    I had always thought crows & ravens were bad sign or evil. Then someone at church said it was the opposite. It meant God was with me. Perception -> projection. Happy birthday & congrats on the 8th year of blogging! I really enjoy your writing.

  20. Kim

    Happy Birthday my friend ! Way to stick it to that bird ! : )


  21. Alison

    Happy Birthday/Blogversary Neil. I am having a similar battle with Richard Branson and Virgin who own everything here (at least everything that Rupert Murdoch doesn’t own). Down with virgin!

  22. Jack@TheJackB

    Happy Birthday and blogiversary Neil. Keep fighting the good fight.

  23. Kim

    Happy birthday to you and your blog, and many more to both.

    Also: That’s one hell of a birthday card.

  24. Marta

    This is my favorite “I put up my middle finger at showed the bird MY BIRD.”

    Also. Time Warner or my equivalent — Comcast suck.

    Happy Birthday and Blog Anniversary (I refuse to combine it into one word).

    Today is my son’s birthday. Clearly, a great day.

  25. Stasha

    Many complain about crows and cable guy but only a few flipped them. Happy Birthday Neil!

  26. anna

    happy birthday.

    happy blogoversary.

    happy bloggers-united-in-hate-against-time-warner.

  27. snozma

    Happy blogoversary, blogday, blogbirth or some combination thereof.

    In the movies it’s always one man who brings them down but you really need a movement, man. And Time Warner is just the beginning. REVOLUTION! ATTICA!

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