the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Student of Arabic

It was a snowy night in the city. I traveled on the F-train, coming home from a literary reading in Brooklyn. A dark-skinned man with Mediterranean features sat across from me, reading from a book written in a foreign language. A strap-hanger, a college-age young man enclosed in a puffy blue parka, stood over the reading man, peering down at his book.

“I’m taking Arabic in college,” said the college guy to the foreign-born reader.

“Cool. But…”

“It’s hard. Arabic is. I could have taken French, but I decided to take Arabic. It’s more useful.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Today, the teaching assistant in my Arabic class — he’s a cool guy from Saudi Arabia — took me aside, and said, “Trevor, you want me to teach you something new?” So, I said, “Sure.” And he taught me how to say ننظر في ذلك ضيق الحمار. Ha ha. You know what that means right?”


“It’s “Look at that tight ass.” ننظر في ذلك ضيق الحمار.”


“How come you didn’t known that? You’re reading Arabic.”

“Actually, I’m not. I don’t know Arabic. I’m Pakistani.”

“Oh, well. Arabic is hard.”


“ننظر في ذلك ضيق الحمار. Look at that tight ass. I’m never going to remember that.”

The Pakistani guy looked my way, hoping to somehow end this uncomfortable conversation.

The college guy sighed sadly, as if he had always made the wrong choices in his life.

“Maybe I should have taken French.”

Truth Quotient:  90%


In three days it’s going to be the 10th anniversary of Citizen of the Month.  For a week, I’ve been debating what I should say in my big “10th Anniversary Post.”  Blogging has been such a big part of my life.   Citizen of the Month never got any big awards or made me any money.   But I’m proud of the way I pretty kept to the same philosophy of writing throughout these years — write whatever the fuck interested me at the moment.   Sometimes funny, sometimes not.  In the real world, I’m a bit of a people-pleaser.   On my blog, I’ve wrote whatever.

Last night, I overheard a completely inane conversation on the subway, so I scribbled notes on my iPhone, and said to myself, “this should be one of the posts celebrating my ten years of blogging.”

Why?  Because no one else will like it.  That to me — is blogging, old school.

I’ll be back on March 7th to thank you for being such good readers and friends.


  1. Ms. Moon

    Well, quite frankly, I liked it. So there.
    Happy Blogoversary, dear Neil!

  2. hello haha narf

    you rock. always have, always will.
    happy 10!

  3. Maggie May

    Hah! Happy Anniversary Neil, I’m so glad you’re here.

  4. Kathy @ SMART Living

    Hi Neil, I haven’t been following you that long but I’m counting on you to continue to write EXACTLY whatever you want. There are becoming less and less of us so please don’t give up.

    And oh, “happy 10th anniversary!”


  5. Roxanne

    I enjoyed it too!

    Happy anniversary, Neil.

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