the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Blurry Photo of J

Call me old-fashioned, but I was convinced that she would be the first to crack. Blokes like myself believe women are the sentimental creatures, so I was surprised that, on my arrival at LAX, the first text I received from her read simply, “Going camping with my son for two days.”

Camping in NZ also means “non internet access,” so this also meant that our communication channels were down. So, on this historic day when President Obama was sworn in as President, barriers fell throughout the land. We now have our first two-term African-American President. Gay rights were mentioned in an inaugural speech. And — for the first time ever, smashing centuries of gender roles — a man cracked first, turning to his blog, sentimentality in his heart, while the woman went camping in the wild, a pocketknife in her purse. Who’s the weaker sex? My heart sinks faster than that US Navy landing craft that was swamped by a wave near Paekakariki, NZ ’s during that infamous tragedy in June 1943.

J and I first went camping after Christmas. Her son stayed with his father. I had not gone camping since I was twelve years old. As an adult, I found it fun, but exhausting. One of my Facebook friends touted camping as “sexy.” Uh, no. But if you get your kicks sleeping in cramped tents without bathrooms, who am I to question your alternative lifestyle?

I’m surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. The scenery certainly helped. It was amazing to wake up in the morning and look at greenery so lush you felt like you just rented a room in the Hobbit’s Shire.

Still, after a week sleeping on an air mattress, I suggested (well, insisted) that we spend two nights in a motel in Napier, a Hawkes’ Bay town famous for its art deco architecture.

Our room in Napier — at the appropriately named Art Deco Motel — was nothing fancy; it was a motel room that looked out into a parking lot. But after a week camping, it felt like the Four Seasons. We each took a long hot shower. It was the best shower of my life. J prepared lunch in the motel kitchenette, using leftovers in the cooler or the “chilly bin” as called by the Kiwis. J was wearing a towel from the bathroom, but as she fried up some eggs, the white cotton towel slipped off, sliding to the carpeted floor.

I took a photo of her with my iPhone.

In the photo, J was in the shadows, the light in the background flowing in from the large window leading to the patio. I fiddled around with some apps on my iphone until the subject was anonymous. I created a blurry photo of a naked, curvy, beautiful woman standing in front of a burst of light.

“Can I put this on Instagram?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. “It’s your artwork.”

Wow. My artwork?! How can you not fall for a woman who considers your dopey and salacious photo of her losing her towel while frying some eggs as “artwork?”

The next day, she changed my mind.

“I forgot about my mother.” she said. She’s looking at your instagram feed.”

It’s a fine line between sharing and keeping things private.

“Can you take it down before she sees it?” she asked.

I deleted it from Instagram. And Flickr. And Facebook.

I’m in Los Angeles now. For now. It’s too bad that I can’t reach J. I want to tell her about my night in Melbourne, Australia. I met two Aussie bloggers and we went to a famous local restaurant.

Melbourne is a world-class city with culture and excitement. There are hipsters drinking coffee in converted warehouse districts. The Kapiti Coast of New Zealand — where J lives — is sleepyville. Bars close early. Local excitement is a sheep shearing and bringing home some fish and chips. But never have I seen so much greenery. And as a Pisces, I am drawn to the oceans and rivers and lakes. And then, there is J herself. She is in New Zealand.

I slide my finger along the screen of my iphone, touching the blurred photo of J. The one from the motel. The one that I deleted. It is a tame photo. J is shadowy and heavily filtered. But I understand why she asked me to delete it from public view. I know and adore every curve of her body, even in the dark. And that is very obvious to anyone looking at this blurry photo, despite my attempts to hide it.


  1. Alison

    Ahhhh, Neil, that was lovely.

  2. Jen

    That was lovely. I have been thinking a lot recently about what I want out there in the world through technology. It’s so easy to let those lines blur between public and private to the point where you wake up one morning and realize you’ve shared a piece of yourself that you weren’t sure you even wanted to see yourself.

  3. Momo

    Photo, or not, we see her beauty through your eyes.

  4. Josette Plank

    Beautiful, Neil.

  5. Bon

    it IS obvious. and intimate. and a privilege to see.

  6. Dana

    Nice. Very, very nice.

  7. kenju

    I hope that somewhere, sometime in my life, a man felt that way about me.

  8. Jana

    I’m out of words to explain my love of your story. All I can do is heave a heavy sigh and send out my message to the universe/god/etc that y’all need to be together.

  9. Marinka

    This is the best thing you’ve ever written, Neil. Not that I read a lot of your stuff, but still.

  10. Miss Britt

    Its just as obvious in the photos of her face. Beautiful.

  11. Shannon akaMonty


  12. mp

    I love you being in love. Your writing and photos shine brighter and your happiness is contagious.

    • Sara

      I was just about to say the same thing. And it reminds me of when I was first in love…and who doesn’t like to be reminded of such a thing? I love that you are sharing your love on your blog 🙂

  13. marty

    You said so much with your pictures. Juli is right. It is art. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing it and sharing yourself.

  14. gorillabuns

    The photo is beautiful. Just like your expression of your love.

  15. Father Muskrat

    Whenever I see blurry pictures, I want to call the Ghostbusters!

  16. Pearl

    Neil, your trip abroad was a discovery of sorts for you, for Juli, and for your readers. Thank you for sharing all of it (or lots of it, at least) with us. You could have kept it all under wraps, but you didn’t. We admired the photos, took interest in the stories, and sighed at the thought of two people discovering one another.
    Wherever this ride ultimately takes you is perhaps yet unknown, but in the meantime, thanks for letting us sit in the passenger seat.

  17. Always Home and Uncool

    Looks like your adventure may well turn into your life.

  18. Mariya


  19. Alexandra

    Waaah. Eyes blurry with the loveliness of this.

    What a gift to Juli, to have her feeling so loved and cherished and beautiful.

    What a gift.

    You are a gem, Neil.

  20. Redneck Mommy

    I hope with all my hopes, you get to see those curves again soon, in person. Such a beautiful story Neil. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  21. Allison Zapata

    Love this so much.

  22. Megan

    I am squeeing for you, darling. She is lovely, and this is lovely. Would have loved to have seen the photo because the others you took of her were amazing. Nevertheless, I’m glad you have it for you.

  23. sizzle

    It must be hard to be back in LA after all that beauty. Thinking of you, my friend.

  24. Shannon

    *sniffle* I admire your courage, Neil. This is the real deal, raw and unfiltered. No matter what happens, no one can take this experience away from you. It’s yours forever–a blessing of light and love.

  25. Shauna

    You are an amazing story teller. And quite the romantic. So happy you’re happy, Neil.

  26. 180360

    I’ve missed your writing, Neil! I am sorry that I didn’t see the photo when it was posted but I can totally imagine it.

  27. Ann

    Your last line made me tear-up. I’m thankful for the happiness and hopefulness you’re shining on Internetlandia.

  28. sarah gilbert

    Lovely story with such a bittersweet ending. I’m glad you have someone who honors your art in so many ways. Good luck on the re-entry. I know what *that* is like and I don’t envy you the next few weeks.

  29. summer

    I love this. That there will be a photographic record of this love affair is so great. You’ll be so happy to have this record, and she will too. Seeing someone’s love for another person in photos- so gratifying.

  30. Lisa

    So lovely, Neil.

  31. Rachel (sesame ellis)

    It was an amazing photo…made even better by this writing.

  32. Angie McCullagh

    I have loved following along on this journey…more please.

  33. Kim

    I shivered reading that last paragraph. I am grateful that you shared so much of this–and yes, yes, it is absolutely art.

  34. annieh

    You’re a good man, Neilochka.

  35. Deb @ Bright and Precious

    Neil, you write so beautifully. Your sentimental heart is your greatest asset.

  36. Marcy

    I will say this– people have different ways of “cracking.” Is her camping in the wild her personal equivalent to a man turning to his blog?

    (hooked to how this story unfolds, just as everyone else)

  37. Issa

    This reached into my cold, long-abandoned heart and made it quicken. That you were able to find something so beautiful again… That I should one day, perhaps, again be loved like this… Thank you for sharing this, Neil.

  38. Lily from It's A Dome Life

    This is beautiful writing.

  39. suzy

    I can’t add anything original because I agree with every single comment made here. Oh wait, here’s something no one’s mentioned: CAMPING FOR A WEEK ARE YOU INSANE?

  40. Roxanna (miguelina)

    This is lovely.

  41. Emma

    Lovely. Sigh.

  42. Liz

    I love this post, Neil. Your words are like being wrapped by a warm and fuzzy blanket, on a bone-chillingly frigid night. Thank you.

  43. Nanna

    Ahhhhh. that’s the most eloquent response I have.

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