the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: cold

The Five Day Man Cold: The Final Chapter

Let’s recap. This month has centered around my health. On May 1st, I switched health insurances from one in California to one in New York, a process way more complicated that I ever expected. I found a new primary doctor, and I went to him for a physical. His nurse took my blood for a lab test, and I almost fainted when I noticed the needle entering my arm. A week later, when the results came back from the lab, the doctor told me that I had high cholesterol and high sugar. He made me promise that I would stop eating too many “everything” bagels shmeared with cream cheese.

I listened to the doctor, trusting in his authority. But on the sixth day of my bagel fast, I found my body grow weak and my mind cloudy. Like an addict without a fix, my system went haywire. I collapsed onto my bed. Diagnosis: a man cold.

But this wasn’t a typical man cold. This was one that kept me in bed throughout the entire Memorial Day Weekend. Friday I was “under the weather.” Saturday, I had a sore throat and a runny nose. Sunday, I was coughing and crying for help. Monday, I could hardly move. Tuesday, I was crawling on the floor, like an wounded animal.

“Wait a minute,” you might wonder. “Can you really get a man cold from not eating a bagel for six days?”

I asked my new family doctor the same question, and he said, “no, that’s utter nonsense.” But let’s face it — even the most famous of medical scholars cannot honestly that science knows all the answers. Sometimes we need to go on simple faith. So I will continue to believe that the lack of bagels caused the man cold.

During my five day cold, I spend much of my time pondering the everyday importance of good health. One of my mother’s favorite aphorisms is, “If you have your health, you have everything,” and is there any wiser statement? Why doesn’t anyone ever post that in some fancy typography on Pinterest rather than another boring take on “Stay Calm and Carry On.”


Whether you are white or black, man or woman, gay or straight, there is one privilege that trumps them all — having good health.

I left the house today for the first time in five days. The outside world beckoned to me, filed with life and vibrancy. No one should stay inside for too long and miss all that it offered.


Even though I was still sneezing, I knew it was time to rejoin civilization. The sun warmed my body, and my soul. I felt the urge to celebrate. Why not treat myself with a bit of the forbidden fruit? — yes, an everything bagel shmeared with cream cheese.

I walked over to my local bagel shop and ordered an everything bagel with cream cheese and a small coffee.


“Regular coffee?” asked the guy behind the counter, the New York shorthand meaning sweet and with cream.”

“No. No sugar at all,” I replied. I wasn’t going to go hedonistically crazy and return to the unhealthy habits of the past. Even I had boundaries.

I crossed the street to the courtyard by the decrepit playground in the center of the hunched-over brown apartment buildings of the 1960s-era housing project, and sat down on one of the faded green wood benches, placing my cup of coffee and the paper bag containing my aromatic bagel on the bench, to my side.

I took a sip of my coffee. It needed sugar. But I would get used to it. I turned to my brown paper bag. The bagel inside was calling my name. But just then, there was a surprising distraction. A tiny squirrel jumped onto the adjacent bench a few feet away, and he stared at me with a bemused smile. I love New York. Even the squirrels are fearless in this town.


I reached into my pocket for my iPhone, hoping to get a photo for my new Tumblr blog, “Squirrels of New York,” a sure-shot concept for an inevitable book deal. The iPhone’s zooming capacity is weak, so I waited for the squirrel to take a step closer. And that’s when it happened. The squirrel pierced the quiet, jumped over my lap, grabbed my brown paper bag containing the everything bagel and started to run.

But my furry-tailed adversary was no match for a human being, even one handicapped with a five day man cold. I sped into action, and as I pursued him, the squirrel slid under the bench and ran towards a nearby tree, dragging the paper bag on the ground. But the excessive weight of the bagel, heavy with the fat-laden cream cheese, turned out to be a burden for the hapless creature. As I closed in, he had no choice but to climb up the tree to safety, leaving the booty behind to the rightful owner. This was one time in human history when right and might were on the same side.

I returned to the bench with my bagel bag and sat next to my unsugared cup of coffee. And my thoughts turned to God.

Was this squirrel attack a random act of nature, or was it a higher power sending me a message? Isn’t it possible that the squirrel stole my brown paper bag as a spiritual warning to me that I keep my promise to eat better and to care for my health?

As a man of faith, I don’t discount that a message can come from above.

But today was a special day, and I had no time for lofty idealism. I pushed past my man-cold and even defeated a wily enemy who stole my property. I was a hero.

Yes, I ate that everything bagel spread with cream cheese. Yes, I finished my cup of coffee. And I went home, with my head held high. But next time, I will order a whole wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese.

Blaming Others for My Cold

I am sick with a cold.  And it sucks.  And I feel miserable.  And I feel like lashing out at whoever or whatever made me sick.  Cause I am a big baby and I am a mean-spirited person.  So, here is my short list of the most logical culprits.  I curse you all!

1)  That red-haired kid near the dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History on Saturday who kept on coughing in my face, and the mother who was too busy with her Blackberry to notice or care.  Children should not be allowed in museums.

2)  New York City.  That’s right, the whole damn city.  I never got a cold in Los Angeles.  I’m in New York a few months, and BAM!

3)  That empanada place in Jackson Heights that I went with Astrogirl.  They didn’t have a restroom.  Did the cooks even wash their hands?

4)  Too much porn watching lowers the immune system, making you more susceptible to catching a cold.

5)  My mother.  Yes, I am including dear ol’ Mom on the list.  She is the one who told me that it was time to wear “my winter coat already,” and I was so hot outside wearing this behemoth jacket built for Eskimos in Antarctica that I took it off and went around coat-less on Friday in the cool Fall weather.

6)  The blogging community.  You made fun of me for owning and wearing a jean jacket, saying it was too 80’s, so I didn’t wear it, out of shame, and ended up listening to my mother and wearing that hot, oversized parka.   If you would have kept your mouths shut, I might have avoided the whole situation.

7)  The motley crew of passengers who travel on the F train from Manhattan to Queens at 1AM.  I mean MOTLEY.

8)  The recent Chinese immigrants in downtown Flushing.  I hate to point my finger at any one ethnic group, but who else can we blame for the Hong Kong flu?  It isn’t called the Swedish flu, right?

9)  The four women who play mahjong with my mother. This week my mother hosted the game in her apartment.  Who knows what type of kinky lifestyles these strange women in their sixties and seventies lead on the outside?  Also, mahjong — Hong Kong Flu again?

10)  French kissing that sexy Hungarian supermodel at the nightclub.  (Oh right, that was just in my dream.  Skip that one)

11)  McDonald’s.  Just walking in there is enough to make anyone sick.  And this Flushing franchise across the street is so cheap, they only give you one napkin.

Cold Medicine


My mother flew back to New York today.  Thanks, Mom, nice having you.  We’ll make the Getty Center next time!

But, to be honest, it was nice to have her go.  I looked forward to some quiet time.   Of course, the gods had other plans for my life.  Sophia woke up today with a cold (second time in two months, poor thing!).   She had to work this morning, which only made her worse.  In the afternoon, I was about to go out and buy her some cold medicine when she told me to wait.   Sophia is a born researcher and didn’t just want any old cold medicine.  She researched online to learn what others think is the BEST cold medicine du jour.  So, here’s the lowdown — in 2007, Tylenol Cold and Benedryl are as “out” as Michael Richards once-flourishing television career.  The new headliners are Tavist D and Drixoral. 

OK, good enough.  Off I went to Vons, my local supermarket.    How do people ever choose a cold medicine?  There are literally a 100 different brands in different packaging — 12 hour, 24 hour, caplets, liquids, maximum strength, cold and allergy, cold alone, etc…  Strangely, Vons had every cold medicine under the sun, except for the two brands I wanted. 

I drove over to CVS Pharmacy.  They had an even bigger selection of products, but NOT Tavist D or Drixoral.   It seemed as if these medicines were selling out as fast as that Elmo toy at Christmas.

I went to Walgreen’s.  I could not believe it.  They DIDN’T have it either.  Surely, something was amiss.  I waited in line to “consult” with the pharmacist.  In Walgreen’s commercials, the pharmacist is always a friendly older man who looks like he would come to your house and make you some chicken soup you if he had the chance.   This pharmacist was a mean-looking young Filipino woman.

“I’ve been looking all over for Tavist D or Drixoral, but I can’t seem to find it.” I said.  “Is there a substitute I can use?”

“We do have them.”


“At the counter.” she snarled.


“No, BEHIND THE FRONT COUNTER!  California law!”

I called Sophia, who made fun of me.  Apparently it was a big news story last year.  Tavist D, Drixoral, and several other cold remedies contain Pseudoephedrine, and drug users were using these pills to get high.  Now pharmacies keep them behind the front counter.

“I don’t remember this news story.” I said to Sophia.

“You were probably too busy blogging at the time.” she answered.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   At Least She Got an Umbrella 

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