the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: New York (Page 2 of 5)

Fictional Characters of New York — #33


All summer, Josie observed the flitterings of romance between the library patrons.  While working behind the cold marble reception desk of the reading room,  Josie saw how the most unlikeliest of bespectacled readers and gaunt researchers succumbed to the power of love, the need for affection, and the pleasure of sex. It was summer, and nature had her ways. No one wanted to be stuck in the library reading.

Like a cross between Dr. Ruth and Sherlock Holmes, Josie became an expert in seeing the flirtations of others. She noticed the handiwork of Eros everywhere, even as she walked down the steps of the 42nd Street Library.  Shakespeare was right.  Life was a Play, and it was written just for her.

Today’s “Leaving Work And Walking Down the Stairs” production had an intriguing interesting cast of characters — the party-girl brunette pursued by the aggressive undergrad in shorts, the frustrated blonde who had failed to gain the attention of a young man hobbled with shyness, and the Asian girl and her puppydog-boyfriend, a compromise choice after her crush failed to reciprocate her feelings.

“Fall was approaching,” Josie thought, as she passed the two stone lions standing guard outside, named Patience and Fortitude. Josie was weary of observing love in others, and wanted to feel herself in the warm arms of a strong man.

She took out her phone to join an online dating site.

Fictional Characters of New York — #30


Lily felt depressed and didn’t know why. She avoided the news and the internet.  Her friends fought constantly on Facebook over the news of the day, and the tension made her body feel heavy, like a ship’s anchor falling deeper into the dark water.

At 6PM on Friday, Lily was on the bus, coming home from a long day as a cashier at Walgreen’s.  Her eyes stared down at the dirty floor of the Q64 bus and she thought about the laundry to do this weekend; she had no other plans.

The bus approached the stop directly across from Lily’s small house, the one she inherited from her parents.  Lily looked up, out the window.   The front lawn was brown and uneven. Lily thought about her late father, a gardening perfectionist, and how he would be disappointed in her. It’s no wonder she felt depressed. She would never be good enough.

But then, through the window, she noticed Eddie on the front porch, waiting for her.  He wore a newly-pressed uniform and his dufflebag was at his side.

He was back from Iraq.   And Lily was depressed no more.

Fictional Characters of New York — #29


Dimitri’s favorite story was about the size of his dick.  Here it goes —

“When God was handing out dicks, the Creator, being fair-minded, presented equal size penises to every man. But he made a mistake in the shipping process.  He hung the penises on a clothesline for the taking, but immediately noticed that the shorter men had trouble reaching so high.   God didn’t want to start creating man all over again, so instead, he went the easier route — he extended some of the penises to make it easier for the shorter men to grab from the clothesline.  And THAT is why many of the shortest men have the biggest cocks.”

Yan found this story ridiculous, as he did most of Dimitri’s  stories, and Yan didn’t shy away from telling him so.   Dimitri was Yan’s best friend of seventy years; they had known each other since their days in the red wooden grade school in Kiev.

Dimitri liked a good tale, but he wasn’t a liar.   He DID have the biggest dick that Yan had ever seen, noticing it first when they skipped school to go skinny-dipping in the watering hole by Vartan’s farm.   It hung from his friend’s small frame like one of those giant cucumbers his mother used to buy at the Odessa Privoz Market.

Perhaps it was that extra testosterone of having such a big dick that made Dimitri so combative.  Dimitri and Yan could argue about anything.   And Yan loved the joy of their daily debates.   The topic was irrelevant.   Which wife made the best borscht?   Is Obama a communist? Brooklyn or Queens? Best soccer team — Germany or Brazil? Who owned the more luxurious car? Who would have made more money if they remained back in the old Soviet Union? Most talented singer — Frank Sinatra or Anna Netrebko?

These debates could last for hours, sometimes into the night, and the spouses of Dimitri and Yan accepted their husbands as more married to each other, if not by law, then by time spent together.

On Sunday, Yan woke up early, and letting Lubov, his wife, sleep, he walked over to Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street.  He was hoping to find Dimitri waiting for him.  Their weekend arguments were a sacred tradition, like going to church.   He was ready to argue his dear friend about anything, anything at all.

It was Dae, the Korean owner of the store (and sometimes bookie) who told Yan the bad news.   Dimitiri had a heart attack in the street early that day.   His kind and argumentative best friend, the man of owned a thousand stories and the biggest dick that Yan had ever seen, was no more.  Yan cried for the first time in seventy years.

That night, Yan was in the mood to argue with someone.  He though of facing against Lubov, but she was too mild-mannered and would agree too easily.  With Dimitri gone, he lost his opponent.

So, Yan argued with God.   He told God that He had made another mistake much worse than building a clothesline too high for the shorter men to get their penises.

God had taken away Dimitri from his life.

Fictional Characters of New York — #28


When you’re childhood friends such as Bree and Kathy, roommates in college, keeper of secrets, nothing should come between you, especially a man.

But Tyler became that man.

In Bree’s opinion, Tyler was sexy as hell and great in bed, but an irresponsible child, not worthy of someone like herself, an up-and-coming new media executive with a Fortune 500 company.  Yes, there was chemistry, but she assumed it merely the result of a common background from similar families in the Bronx.   No, he was not Mr. Right.  It was a step backwards, not forward.

So, after Bree broke it off , she had no problem giving Kathy her approval, her blessing even, to see Tyler on a casual basis, knowing Kathy’s loneliness and lack of success in the dating world.

Bree never expected any real chemistry between the two, the athletic and intense Tyler and the pretty, but bookish Kathy, or that she would soon feel the jealousy and torment of imagining the pale and blushing Kathy riding the naked body of this awful and selfish man with wild abandon, and enjoying it tremendously.   This was not the Kathy that she knew.

“Do you want me to stop seeing him?” asked Kathy at Chipotle a few weeks later, sensing Bree’s frustration. She was good at reading the moods of people, something Bree lacked.

“No,” said Bree.

“Bree, your friendship is more important to me. I’ll ask you again. Do you want me to stop seeing him?”

“Yes.” she said.

Kathy paused, expecting the answer she didn’t want to hear.

“Fuck you, Bree. I’ll do it for you. But fuck you. I was happy.”

It was the first time Bree ever heard the proper-bred Kathy curse.

Kathy kept her promise, but didn’t return any of Bree’s phone calls.  Kathy also quit any activities that might bring the two in contact, such as their book club, or attending concerts at the Y. For three years, the two women — once best friends — cut off all contact.

In April, as spring arrived in the city, and the flowers bloomed in Central Park, Bree and Kathy crossed paths again, in the produce section of Whole Foods on 57th Street. They both started to cry, tears of happiness and guilt, and retreated to the upstairs coffee bar to reconnect and embrace. They had committed the worst sin possible — they had let a man break them apart.

“I love you, Bree. I’m sorry I cut things off. I thought about you every day. You’re my best friend. Forever.”

“It was my fault,” said Kathy, blowing her nose with a Whole Foods napkin. “I discussed it all with my therapist. I was too co-dependent. I’ve always been that way with men. The most important thing in life is friendship. The most important thing in life is… YOU.”

Bree put her hand on Kathy’s. The two women stood, and reaching over the table, they hugged strongly, as if the power of the hold could make up for three years lost time.

“I’ve moved to a new condo,” said Kathy, as they left Whole Foods. “I live around the corner on Third. Come walk with me. I’ll show you the place.”

“Of course,” said Bree. “I want to hear about everything that’s happened with you over the last three years, best friend.”

“Same here, best friend,” replied Kathy.

They two of them walked down 57th Street, together, into the sunset. And then, as they crossed the street, they saw him, wearing a blue and white checkered shirt and his hair combed neatly.  It was Tyler.  He looked better than ever.

Fictional Characters of New York — #27


It was eight months ago, on the way to work, during a unseasonably December morning in Soho, that Gretchen told me that she was pregnant.

“Pregnant.  But we’re gay,” I said.

“No, you’re a lesbian.  I’m bi-sexual.”

“Are we going to argue semantics again? I wish you never took that course at NYU.”

“I’m not talking about language. I’m talking about reality.”

“I know, I know.  Language is reality.”

“Laura, I’m pregnant.”

“How can you be pregnant?”

“It’s what happens sometimes when you fuck a guy.”

“You fucked a guy?”

“I’m in love with a guy.”

“You’re in love with a guy?”

“I’m bi-sexual.”

“What are you saying, Gretchen?”

“I’m moving out. I’m moving in with Ryan.  I’ve been seeing him for five months already.  I’m going to have a baby.”

We were crossing the street at the time. The snow from last week’s storm was melting, turning into mush.

“It’s betrayal,” I said, as we jumped over a puddle.

“I know this is hard to hear. It’s hard for me too.”

“It’s not just betrayal of me. It’s a betrayal of all lesbians. Of the entire community. You can’t fuck a guy and have his baby. Unless we do it together.”

“Ryan’s a gentle man.   An illustrator of children’s books.  The heart doesn’t know gender. It just knows love.”

“And what about me? What am I going to do?”

“We’ll always be friends.   I love you, too.   I want you in my life.  I want you to be the baby’s godmother.”

“I’m not going to be that baby’s godmother. I don’t give a shit about your shitty baby.”

That was eight months ago.   Since then, I have gone on a few dates with women I met online, but nothing interesting. No chemistry. Not like I had with Gretchen.

Today, I received an email to the baptism of her baby, (a baptism!?) but I deleted it.

Fictional Characters of New York — #23


The following flash fiction was inspired by the people of New York, and the street photography that captures the diversity and excitement of the city. The story, names, and situations are all 100% fictional.   Photo and story by Neil Kramer.

I proposed to Molly today. We’re a good match. We both went to Yale and wrote well-received debut novels. When our  engagement is announced tomorrow, I have no doubt there will be column in the Observer touting us as the next young literary powerhouse couple.

I also respect Molly’s parents.  My Chinese parents have a lot in common with Molly’s  Jewish heritage.   Both families believe in education and high achievement.  Molly and I will create some smart children with our combined Chinese-Jewish DNA.    But it’s too soon to talk about children just yet.  We’ve both heavily committed to our careers, and Molly isn’t sure how long she can keep teaching creative writing at NYU.

I hope Jailyn doesn’t take it hard. I owe so much to her. She was my muse. There would be no novel titled “Main Street, Flushing,” without her.  The character of Evelyn WAS Jailyn.

From the moment I moved into Molly’s Upper East Side condo, I knew the space was too stuffy and quiet for my temperament.  Whenever I hit a blank page in the story, I took the 7 train down to Flushing, and let the culture of my youth bombard my senses — the red ribbons and exotic fruits, the old men playing mahjong and the young women with their cheap pastel umbrellas shielding their eyes from the hot sun.

On the side street, right off the way from the market and herbal store, was a small massage studio.  It was only $15 a hour for a decent massage.  A perfectly legit place.   No hanky panky.   And that’s how I met Jailyn.

I took her for dinner at Liang’s Noodle King. She loved niu rou mian, a beef noodle soup known as a Taiwanese comfort food noodles, and she slurped it up with abandon. She wasn’t refined; she came from Taipei in 2010 with only a high school education, but her spirit was as old as that of the Empress Xuanzong.

She became my muse. We would fuck all night in her tiny apartment, every chance I could, and her lips would taste sweet and salty. When she would fall asleep, spent, I would quietly go to her kitchen table and write for the rest of the night, my creativity endless.

I wrote about Evelyn, a young orphan girl who moved from Taiwan to start a new life in Flushing, Queens.  After the novel was finished, it reached #7 on Amazon’s best-selling fiction of 2013.

Jailyn was proud of my success, and wanted to attend one of my public book readings — the big one at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square — but all my Yale and Manhattan friends were coming that day, and I didn’t think she would feel comfortable.  I was trying to protect her.

She will always be my muse. I will forever remember my time with her, and the way she felt in my arms. But now I’m ready for my literary life with Molly.   My second novel will come out in October, about a young Chinese-American politician and his struggle to become mayor.

I hope that Jailyn understands why it is important for my career that I marry Molly.   I explained it all in the letter I sent to her in the mail.   I’m sure she will. She’s strong. Like all Chinese women.

Fictional Characters of New York — #22


If you want proof of the existence of ghosts, just look at logic. A person is more complex than a brick, but a building can last for thousands of years. This means that a human being, based on his innate superiority, must exist longer than a brick. And since we all know that death occurs for people, the only reasonable explanation is that the “person” or “entity” continues to live on as a ghost — at least for longer than the lifespan of a brick.

It just makes sense.

The traffic was bumper to bumper in lower Manhattan, so Hunter Horowitz stepped from his car to stretch his legs. It was his last year teaching Philosophy 101 at NYU to a bunch of undergraduates who couldn’t care less about the existence or non-existence of the world.

Hunter looked down the old city block, now traffic-snarled, and knew that, in another dimension, invisible behind the Subarus, Hondas, and trendy boutique store signs hanging in view, his great-grandfather, Mlotek was still pushing his cart along the cobblestone streets and yelling “Toys for Sale” in Yiddish.

Fictional Characters of New York — #21


Stefan hadn’t stepped foot in Coney Island since 1975. Too many bad memories. It was a cesspool back then, attracting the lowest of humanity. Today, the area attracts gentrified “weirdos,” those who stroll in after a fancy brunch to show off their store-bought tattoos and fake breasts in selfies on Instagram. Back then, were real weirdos, men and women who yawned at the one remaining freak show on Ocean Boulevard as being too tame. A sword swallower will never impress an ex-marine living off of food stamps who once sliced his leg off with a Japanese sword on a dare, just to win a bottle of scotch.

Stefan had hallucinatory nightmares about Coney Island; even now, he could still see the lights, swirling colors, and Satanic clown faces of the fading murals, marred by the urban graffiti.  Stefan would often wake up all sweaty and alone, the rancid smell of polluted salty sea air in his lungs.

Today, thirty-nine years later to the day he left, Stefan made the decision to return to Coney Island, his former home. It was time to forgive those who hurt him in the past.

He would forgive the three black teenagers and their junkie mother who beat the shit out of him behind the Flintstones pinball machine, kicking him in the groin and face, mugging him of the five dollars of allowance money.

He would forgive his parents, and that heated argument on the beach that day, when they were slapping each other and forgetting him in the ocean as he almost drowned in the rising waves.

He would forgive the elderly man who managed the rickety Wonder Wheel, and left him stranded in the car alone, on the top rung, swinging in the wind, for three hours until the fire department arrived and fixed the faulty electrical switcher.  This was the most horrifying experience of his life. He was a young boy at the time, and there he was, looking down at the smallness of the world and knowing the dread of death.

Stefan was sure the old man who ran the Wonder Wheel in 1975 was probably deceased himself, but Stefan would inquire about his final resting place so he could place a bouquet of flowers in remembrance on his grave, completing his mission.

Fictional Characters of New York — #20


Of all the 8,954 couples breaking up this afternoon in the five boroughs of New York, Bruce was the last to leave from his apartment alone and without a future, not stepping onto the hot pavement of East 23rd Street until 5:48PM.  

On his right shoulder, he balanced a linen camping bag with his everything he owned — three t-shirts, a heavy yellow beach towel, some J Crew underwear he recently ordered online, a pair of ripped jeans, his college French books, an old DVD box set of The Sopranos, and a dead cat.

The dead cat was an unexpected addition. As he packed, Bruce argued with his girlfriend, Judith, over the ownership of Fluffy, the black and white striped American short hair.   Judith caved in, as usual, but always the performance artist,  took the revolver from the hat box in the closet, shot Fluffy in the head, and with the blood dripping down her arm, she handed the cat over to Bruce as a final parting gift.

Fictional Characters of New York — #19


The following flash fiction was inspired by the people of New York, and the street photography that captures the diversity and excitement of the city. The story, names, and situations are all 100% fictional.   Photo and story by Neil Kramer.

Teddy was an oversharer. Last year, on his blog, he posted several personal stories about his bout with depression, rants about his ex-wife, and semi-nude photos of himself sitting in a hot tub during a business trip to Northern California. This cost him his job at Goldman Sachs, where managers frowned on such openness.

After six months unemployment, Teddy found a job with a NY technology firm that encouraged innovation and the use of social media. 

On June 21, after a long day’s work, he stood in the office lobby and adjusted his Google Glass strapped to the sides of his head.  As the company’s community liaison, he was assigned to do a live video broadcast of the moment of sunset of the Summer Solstice.

Teddy researched the significance of the event in preparation for the day.   He learned that “solstice” literally meaning the “stopping” of the sun.  He knew that the summer solstice was celebrated by thousands across the world who believed in the sun’s power, and who associated it with life and fertility.

As the sun started her descent and the entire city was bathed in the golden haze,  Teddy was surprised to find himself crying, as if all the disappointment in his life was released by the brightness, much as the Druids had once felt standing at Stonehenge in their spotless white robes.

Teddy immediately shut off his Google Glass and tossed it to the floor, like a piece of litter. This moment of sunset was too special, too personal, and too profound to be shared haphazardly to viewers on the the company’s website, just another viral video manufactured for the masses.    In one ray of light, everything changed.  Here was God was speaking to him, directly.

The video setting sun never made it to the live feed.   The next day, Teddy was fired from his job, and he was relieved.

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