the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: June 2014 (Page 2 of 3)

Fictional Characters of New York — #13


He sat in the back of the van for the rest of the morning, not to avoid traffic, but to be seen. By his neighbors. By the suckers off to their jobs at the banks and brokerage firms, slaving for hours and always dying at fifty. By their snooty kids off to their private schools with the French names. By the too-thin wives stuck at home, bored, giving off that ‘please, fuck me” vibe whenever he’d be over fixing their sink. He was out of this town, and he wanted everyone to know. Goodbye, New York City.

“I don’t care about “making” it here.  That’s fool’s gold,” he yelled at a passing neighbor, the depressing guy who lived in apartment 3D.   “I’m off to Nebraska.”

Fictional Characters of New York — #12


Mahmood never turned his back towards Love.   His intention was to send for Husna when he felt settled in his adopted city.   It was Husna who betrayed him, marrying the next available suitor, a young teacher in Rawalpindi.  Allah saw the truth, if no one else did.  It was Love that turned her back towards Mahmood.  As he sat with the apples, pears, and pineapples, refreshments for the tourists, he knew that he would never again taste a fruit as delicious as Husna’s kiss.

The Joy of Being Hated


I knew this day would come. I’ve been dreading it all my life.

Not that I wasn’t prepared. From childhood, I readied the weaponry and armor. I built a protective and sturdy fort as high as a mountain. I became a soldier always on guard, and for decades, I kept the danger at a distance. But in my heart, I knew the door would one day break down, or like a river rapid racing to the precipice of the Great Falls, I would fall, helpless to the current.

Today, despite all my efforts to be as likable as possible, I discovered that someone didn’t like me.  How could this happen?   Every action and response was always so carefully balanced on the scale with my need to be liked.

Who cannot like me?

“Brian doesn’t like you.” said Roger on the phone.


“I think it’s better we go to the game without him.”

“How can he not like me?  I mean, I don’t really like him that much. But why would he not like me?”

“I don’t know. He told me once that he didn’t like you.”

“Then we should bring him to game, so I can have a chance to talk to him and win him over again.”

“There’s no again. He never liked you.”

“Never?  But he only met me twice!”

“And he didn’t like you the first time.”

“What if I called him and asked him out for a beer…”

“Give it up, Neil. I didn’t want to tell you this.  I know you are sensitive. But he didn’t just say he doesn’t like you.  He said he HATES you!”


So, that’s how it ends.

hate - verb

feel intense or passionate dislike for (someone).

synonyms: loathe, detest, despise, dislike, abhor

I’m sure somewhere in my past, others have HATED me.   I’m sure some of  you hate me.   But this is the first time that I have found an eyewitness with legitimate PROOF that another human being on this planet… despises me.  It would even stand in court.

“Guilty as charged. Brian hates your guts.” the judge would say as he slammed the gavel, after hearing all the evidence.

Some people don’t believe in Bigfoot until they see him with their own eyes. I have now seen Bigfoot. I KNOW that someone hates me.

After the initial shock to the system, I took a walk, heading out to Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee. It was a beautiful, sunny day in New York City. An ice cream truck passed by, chiming away. I expected myself to be depressed, anxious, or even sobbing over the news of being a hated man.   Instead, I found myself walking briskly, almost with a rock and roll swagger, as if a burden had been lifted off my shoulders.

“Someone doesn’t like me,” I said to myself. “Worse. Someone hates me. Someone really hates me!”

I was like the anti-Sally Field, energized by this news of hate. I felt emboldened, empowered.

Why did Brian hate me? I don’t know.   Perhaps I will never know.   But he wasn’t bored with me, or didn’t remember my name.  No, he HATED ME!  Clearly,  I had made a strong impact on him, even if was complete revulsion.  I was SOMEBODY!

When I entered Dunkin Donuts, I  ordered my usual small coffee and plain donut.

“No, wait!” I yelled at cashier, a high school girl. “I’ll have a large coffee with a jelly donut. And I want REAL milk, none of that creamer!”

Sure, my special request could have pissed her off   She might even dislike me for being pushy. But then again,  I already know someone who HATES ME.  What’s the big deal having one more?  Bring it on!

Fictional Characters of New York — #10


“He had money. He had a classic car and an apartment in an art deco building overlooking Central Park. But he was weird. Now I have no problem with weird. I once dated a guy who liked to be spanked. But Scott’s obsession with the Jazz Age grew tiresome. Always immaculately dressed in a blue paisley ascot, herringbone vest, and a brown fedora, even in bed, he took the role too seriously. “Don’t call me Scott. Call me Daddy-O,” he would say when he would drag me to these endless lawn parties in the Hamptons, where accountants and lawyers would listen to long-dead crooners on the gramophone and make believe they lived in the world of Jay Gatsby. “And don’t use your iPhone,” talking to me like I was a child. “There were no iphones in 1927.” I know Scott’s a good catch, especially in New York, but I hate being controlled. Why do men like to control women? Why do I have to sneak behind a tree, like a criminal, just to go onto Facebook?  It’s not 1927.  It’s 2014.”

A Better Facebook Targeted Ad


 “Facebook will now use personal information gathered from your activities elsewhere on the Web to more precisely target advertisements on the social network” —

— said the news today, and everyone I know went into panic mode, rushing to opt out of this annoying development, which is precisely what I did.   I certainly don’t want Facebook following me everywhere online, making the incorrect assumptions that because I am looking at some online photos of Brazilian women in bikinis that it means I am planning an upcoming trip to São Paulo.

Facebook is a sneaky motherf*cker.   They presented these new “targeted ads” as a service to the user, as if they are doing us a big favor.

Hey, you — you use Facebook for free and get value from it, right?   And you realize that nothing is for free, so I’m sure you understand why we need to have advertising.  We’re all in this together, right?   We have to pay for all the servers to hold all your cat videos.   And what about the heat in Mark Zuckerberg’s apartment?  You don’t want him to freeze, do you?  Exactly.   So, since we both agree that advertising is required, wouldn’t it be better if you actually received targeted ads for products that you want?

In theory, the argument about targeted ads makes sense.   There is so much noise and junk online, and it is a constant struggle to create an online world that fits the individual user.   And advertising does pay the bills.   Facebook is not the only company that uses our data for targeted advertisement. There is a whole industry of personalized advertisement. Google has been doing this for years.

But the truth is — it doesn’t work. The data is always wrong because, despite what we see in the movies, computers are still pretty stupid. My favorite example of bad advertising personalization is when my friend Rob sent me — via Gmail — a video of his son in Central Park, playing on the swings, and up popped a Google ad for me to join some “Swingers Club” in Orange County, CA.

Facebook trying to figure out your needs as a consumer is similar to you buying a gift for a co-worker that you don’t know very well.  You want to buy a gift that he will like, because you are a nice person, and you don’t want to look like a jerk in front of the others.  So you decide to be a detective and find clues that will help you decide on the ideal gift.  You sneak into his desk drawer at work, looking at his personal paperwork. You google him online, hoping to learn of any special hobbies.  Does he go boating or bowling?  You scan his Instagram stream.   You even follow him home, rifling through his garbage can for clues.

Would all this detective work payoff at the end? Perhaps. Maybe you do discover that he is an avid bowler, and you end up buying him a bowling ball.   What if he already has ten bowling balls, or he only bowls with his “lucky ball.”

We frown on the obvious, because it is unromantic, but the best approach here would be to ASK the co-worker what he wants.

I know.   This concept would forever ruin the joy of surprise at birthday parties, but let’s switch from gift-giving to advertising on Facebook.   Why do companies and marketers waste so much time trying to guess our wants when they could just ASK us?

Imagine that each of us had  an ADVERTISING PERSONALIZATION PAGE on Facebook, run by a conglomerate of marketing and advertising companies.  Each individual user can opt-in or opt-out of the service at will, but those who opt-in will truly get a useful service.  Rather than Facebook following our data like a creepy old guy in a raincoat, we will be honestly tell Facebook about our interests for products and services. So if I am looking to buy a tablet for father’s day or take a trip to Brazil, I would click on these entries on my personalized advertising page, and I will be matched by those companies looking for customers interested in those products.   Once I buy the tablet or take my Brazilian trip, I will unclick these items, and ask for new advertisements — restaurants in New York City perhaps, or bestselling books.

This would be a better method of targeted ads because there would be less guesswork involved.   I would be telling Facebook exactly what I want.   This is the type of advertising engine that I would JOIN.

Fictional Characters of New York — #9


“New York is the type of place where you need make your own life.  If you get divorced, you go to the park and chat it up with lonely women eating their store-bought salads.  If you are unemployed, you put on a nice jacket from the Men’s Warehouse and hit the pavement.  You have to act like a winner in this town, because the city despises losers more than rats or Republicans.”

Fictional Characters of New York — #8


Dear Mary,

How are you? How are things back in Kansas City? How is your mother? I’m writing you to tell you that I finally did it. I made my mark on the city and I got that penthouse apartment overlooking the city, just like I always dreamed about. My windows are so big and so high, it’s like God is my only neighbor. I know it’s been 35 years since I left town, and we haven’t kept in touch, but I’ve waited for you. I’ve never married or had any serious relationships. Have you waited for me too? I dream about you every night. Everything I’ve done in New York has been for you. Every deal. Every fight in the boardroom. Every climbing another inch to become the master of this metropolis has been a test to prove my worth to you. Will you marry me? Nothing has changed in 35 years. Has it changed for you?

Love, Milton

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