the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: sadness

The Closing of the Eyes

This is what I was doing when Sophia’s mother passed away a few weeks ago.

I was waiting for my yearly exam at the eye doctor on Robertson Blvd.  I was hoping I didn’t need another prescription, because my last pair of “progressive lenses” cost me something like $600 bucks.   My eyesight is THAT bad.  Nearsighted and Farsighted.

I was reading an old Vanity Fair in Doctor Ko’s waiting room when the phone rang.  It was Sophia, hysterical, saying that “something is going wrong” at her mother’s house.  The ambulance was there.  I needed to go there immediately.  I was closer than Sophia, who was still in Redondo Beach.

Just then, the receptionist called me for my appointment.  I told her that I had to leave.  A family emergency.  She grumbled unsympathetically, as if she had heard this excuse a hundred times before.

“I will have to charge you a $35 co-payment because you need to cancel three days before blah blah.”

“Fine,” I said.

The next hurdle was the underground parking garage.  I handed my parking stub to the attendant in her cubicle.

“Eight dollars,” she announced.  A Spanish soap opera was playing on a 13″ TV next to the cash register.

I handed her my Visa.

“Cash only,” she said, unimpressed.  I looked inside my wallet.  I only had three dollars cash.

“Can I come back later?”

“No.  There’s an ATM machine in the lobby.”

“I need to go.   It’s an emergency.”

I was getting desperate.

“Sure.  Sure.  Emergency.  I hear that ALL the time.”

It was like the story of the boy who cried wolf, but I was stuck paying for the sins of others.  I never lie about emergencies.

“It IS an emergency.  My mother-in-law is sick.”

The phone rang.  Sophia was sobbing.  The attendant let me go.

It was surreal when I arrived at the home of Sophia’s parents.  My FIL was sick in the bedroom, unaware of what was going on.   My MIL was in the living room, a white sheet covering her body.  The aide was running back and forth between the two rooms, screaming.  Emergency workers and the police were on walkie-talkies.  Noisy Russian neighbors were pacing in the hallway of the apartment building.

Sophia arrived, lifted the sheet, and broke down.  Her mother’s eyes were still open.

I closed Fanya’s eyes.  There was nothing else for her to see in this world.  She had gone to another place.

I was scared of touching her eyes, of the gaze of someone who had just passed, as if it was dangerous to me in some ancient superstitious manner, even though I was just sitting at the kitchen table with this exact same person the day earlier, eating borscht, and taking the finished bowl from her warm hands.

Today I received the bill for the eye exam that I never had.  But I don’t need an optometrist to tell me that, since that tragic day, I somehow see things differently.


The more people we know online, the more heart-breaking tragedies we will be sharing with our friends on the blogosphere.  I question whether all of this twittering, blogging, asking for donations, changing the color of our avatars, and begging for celebrity tweets is the right response to the learning of the passing of a child, or a blogger friend fighting cancer, or someone on Facebook having their home destroyed by a hurricane.

Maybe there isn’t an adequate response.   Everyone is just trying to find their way.  None of us know exactly what to do during these sad events, or whether we should be doing it in such a public manner.  I hope the families of Thalon and Maddie accept our sincere condolences from this virtual online family.

Gorillabuns is the name of the blog of my good blogging friend, Shana.   You can help Shana and her family by donating.  (thank you, Whoorl)


The Spohr’s Remember Maddie site.  I will be walking in the March of Dimes march for babies with other New Yorkers.  Come join us or sponsor us.



In my general circle of blogging friends, Lisa is the first one to face a serious illness and not win her battle. Lisa of Clusterfook passed away last night. I was not as close a friend with her as many of you – I never met her in person – but we read each other’s blogs and IM-ed several times.

Lisa was brave enough to share her experiences with us on her blog, particularly her fears and anger. At times, her strong opinions even caused some infighting amongst her friends. No one knew exactly what to do, or the best way to deal with a blogging friend in need. It was all a new chapter in our blogging lives, and for many of us, the online world is better equipped for promoting consumer products than healing.

Lisa’s illness was messy, which made it uniquely honest — the anger, the frustration, the confusion, all mixed into the stew with the concern and love. And we all know the truth — the longer we stay online and blog, the more personal tragedies we will have to face in the lives of our friends. I’m proud of Lisa for not showing us illness in a Hollywood movie manner, with glowing lights surrounding her and the John Tesh music playing. Illness is difficult, and there is always the unanswerable question, “Why me?”

My prayers go to Lisa’s family. And a special thanks to all of Lisa’s special blogging friends, like Karl, who kept her comforted and entertained.

Rest in peace, Lisa. Thank you for being a part of my blogging experience. I am currently reading every single comment you ever wrote on my blog, thinking of you smiling as you typed them on your keyboard.

The Power of One Reader

On Sunday night, I was feeling sad.  I was thinking about my marriage situation, why I was taking so long to move out, whether I should get a roommate, if I should go to New York for a few weeks, how that would affect my writing, and other issues that I would rather not have bouncing about in my head.  These nagging questions took time and energy from important things, like keeping up with your blogs, or poking people on Facebook.

Don’t worry, Mom.  I wasn’t depressed, just sad.   

So, what does a blogger do when he’s feeling sad?   He writes a blog post. 

I wrote a blog post about… feeling sad.  When it was done, I read it over, and it just seemed pointless.  What was I  expressing? 

I… am… feeling… sad… period.    Bleh. 

There wasn’t much artistic merit here.  I didn’t describe the sadness in any poetic manner,  like saying my sadness was like a black cloud hovering over Redondo Beach or compare my life to the crumbling facade of an ancient pyramid in the Egyptian desert.  I’m not that melodramatic.  Life goes on.  My sadness was more a pedestrian sadness… a blah sadness.  The type a sadness where a friend might call you on the phone and say, “Hey, let’s go to see that new movie where Jessica Alba walks around in a bikini,” and I might answer, “Eh.”

So, I wrote the sadness post.  It was done, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to publish it.  I noticed that a blogger friend was on Yahoo IM.  I contacted her.

“Could you do me a favor?” I asked. “I wrote this post about being sad, but I haven’t published it yet.  Could you read it and tell me if you think it is something I should publish?”

“Sure,” she said.

I sent the post over and waited for her response.  After a few minutes of me nervously pulling the hairs out of my arm —

“It’s good.  You should publish it.”

“Isn’t it… about nothing?”

“Well, you’re sad.  That’s what it is about.”

The moment she said this, I suddenly felt very different… calmer.  I felt relieved, as if my stress had drifted off.  What had happened?

Someone had read my post about being sad.  Someone knew I was feeling sad on this Sunday in April.

Oddly, I didn’t have the need to publish it anymore.  She knew I was sad.  It was enough.  It wasn’t important to have readers from the four corners of the world reading my post.  I wasn’t trying to promote my blog.  I just wanted to to tell someone that I was feeling sad.  And now I did.  Mission accomplished.   I said thanks to the blogger, and that was it.  I deleted the post and wrote another post where I have sex with various women in my old bedroom in New York.  Did I think this new post was a bit stupid and perverse?  You bet.  But it made me laugh, and I wasn’t sad anymore. 

Bloggers always talk about how many “comments” we get, as if getting 300 strangers giving you feedback is the ultimate validation.   Sure, it is amazingly cool and satisfying.  Yesterday, I just wanted to connect… to say that I was feeling sad.   And one reader was all that I needed to make me feel better.

Happiness: A Photoshop Tutorial

My mother was a little worried about me today, so I decided to take some action to make her feel better. Luckily, I’ve gotten pretty proficient in Adobe Photoshop over the years. Here’s a handy little tutorial in using Photoshop to change your emotional state from sad to happy. Try it yourself!

original emotion — SAD

Now, open up Photoshop, and follow these specific directions:




As a final step, SAVE AS Happiness. You’re successfully used Photoshop to enhance your life!

new emotion — Happy

Come back for more FREE Photoshop Tutorials!

P.S. — By the way,  Communicatrix deals with the issue of happiness in a slightly more mature way.

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