Author: Neil Kramer

Hygge and Kisses: Even the Danes Couldn’t Save My Relationship from Trump

During the last few months, there has been a lot of anger shown toward the Trump Administration, coming from both sides of the political spectrum. Whether it has been a deep frustration with his attacks on the mainstream media and the court system, a true hatred of his immigration and healthcare bills or outright shock at his administration’s too-close relationship with Putin, 80 percent of America seems to have a gripe with the president. I’d like to add another complaint to the list: I blame Donald Trump for ruining my romance this past winter. His election — and the chaos that it has wrought — has caused so much stress and anxiety that, during the first three months of his presidency, it was just too difficult to find love. My relationship with Debbie started out promising. We met at a dinner party a few days before Trump was inaugurated. Our hostess was worried about the night being successful and fun, so she warned her guests that “no one can talk about politics.” After dinner, Debbie …

7 Steps to Making a Successful Toast

It is an American tragedy, a weakness of our education system. We teach our children multiplication and division, a smattering of reading skills and how to use a condom, but never the ancient skill of the proper toast. Americans become tongue-tied when raising their glass at a colleague’s retirement dinner, a nephew’s graduation or a friend’s wedding. So let’s make 2017 the year we learn to make a toast. Of all the toasts in the toasting genre, the wedding toast is the most dangerous. It requires a bard’s wit and a magician’s sleight of hand. A wedding toast must be humorous and serious, spontaneous and heartfelt. It must celebrate our culture’s most sacred bond, marriage, with the most ephemeral of human emotions, love. Here is a handy guide to the steps of making a proper toast, using my own wedding from fifteen years ago as an example. Step 1: Establish the premise. As in any good story, from a dirty joke to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, there is always a basic “hook.” It is same …

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My Very Public Online Fling

After my divorce, I was as broken as a tree branch after a storm. Luckily, I found a female comrade — on Twitter of all places — who was healing from her own divorce. Our digital friendship blossomed into a long-distance digital romance. We sent corny notes to each other on instant messenger and kisses over Skype. After a few months of online communication, Cate (not her real name) suggested that we meet in real life. One caveat — she lived in New Zealand. After much thought, I decided to seize the day and off I went to catch my Air New Zealand flight. The exterior of the plane was decorated with characters from The Lord of the Rings movie, which was filmed in New Zealand. Like Frodo Baggins, I was off on an adventure. My trip to New Zealand has all the elements of a Harlequin romance: Cate was beautiful. New Zealand was stunning. The clouds were as white and fluffy as cotton; you wanted to grab a piece from the sky and feel …

The Birthday Incident: Turning 40 in a Parking Garage

My friend, Andrew, an artist in Los Angeles, was grouchy on the night he turned 40. He did not like the aging process. To cheer him up, I made reservations for a small birthday dinner at his favorite restaurant and invited three of his closest friends. Andrew, being a control freak, insisted that we all meet outside his apartment complex at precisely 7 p.m. and then he would drive us to the restaurant. He was proud of his driving mojo and only trusted himself to get us to the restaurant in time. Getting together for dinner in Los Angeles can require as much precision as a military operation. Friends live far apart, and traffic is always bad. Sandra drove from Pasadena, picking up Hiroshi downtown, while I drove from Redondo Beach, picking up Brian in West Hollywood. We all converged on Andrew’s block in Silverlake, parking our cars near his apartment complex. Part One of the mission was accomplished. The metal security gate to Andrew’s garage creaked open and Andrew appeared, driving his 1996 Honda …

The Movie That Changed My Perspective on Race Forever

In July 1989, my friend Gregory and I went to the movies. This was not an unusual event. As childhood friends growing up in Queens, we often went to our local movie houses. Cinema, for us, was about fantasy. The movies transported us to other worlds, other times, to exotic countries, to outer space, to rousing adventures with a Fedora-wearing Indiana Jones, and to cutesy romantic comedies where good-looking couples rode horse and buggy carriages through Central Park. When “Do The Right Thing” was released in July 1989, it made quite a splash in the media. This powerful independent film, written, directed, and starring Spike Lee, a young black filmmaker from NYU, was a no-holds-barred story about race.   The film’s opening title sequence, in which Rosie Perez danced to Public Enemy’s defiant “Fight the Power,” immediately signaled the director’s intention not to sugarcoat his anger and frustration over the state of race relations in the city. Although the film was marketed as comedic, some theater owners were afraid of showing it, thinking the realism of …

The Young & The Cordless: The Story of Our Robot Maid

  The dawn of the internet, the mobile phone, the widescreen TV, and the Apple watch are just a few of the technological advances I’ve seen in my lifetime, but nothing has stirred my futuristic soul quite as much as the release of the iRobot Roomba in 2002. As a child, my favorite cartoon was “The Jetsons,” and for decades I dreamed of owning my own domestic droid like Rosie, the family’s Jane-of-all-trades metallic maid. The real-life Roomba was simplistic compared to Rosie, resembling a large Frisbee on wheels, but despite its humble appearance, the Roomba’s introduction sparked the world’s love affair with autonomous robotic vacuum cleaners. My wife, Sophia, and I were two of the inaugural owners of a Roomba due to a chance encounter with an iRobot salesman at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2001. It took just one look at this new wheeled wonder-product, and we were hooked. Cleaning the house had been causing tension in our marriage, and one of our least favorite tasks was vacuuming. The cord …

Hey, it’s Juice! How My Camp Nickname Gave Me Confidence

When I was eight years old, I attended my first year of Camp Kinder-Ring, a sleepaway camp in upstate New York. Our first breakfast of the summer was served in a wood-framed dining room, where bunkmates sat together at large oval tables. The waiters, 16-year-old campers, served us soggy scrabbled eggs and individual boxes of Kellogg’s cereals, my favorite being Sugar Pops. In the center of each table was an aqua blue plastic pitcher which held the watered-down orange juice. “Can you pass the juith?” I asked another bunk member. “The juith?” he asked, and the rest of the table laughed at my slight lisp. “Do you mean the JUICE?” [pullquote]For many, an alias allows someone who is normally a Clark Kent to find their Superman.[/pullquote] Now I know some of you are already gripping your easy chair, preparing for an unsettling Lord of the Flies-type essay about mean boys and the bullying of the weak, but that is not the story here. I was lucky that the story veered off course into one of …

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4 Lessons from My Month On Tinder

On New Year’s Day, after two years of being divorced from my ex-wife, I decided to rejoin the dating world. The last time I went on a date, Mark Zuckerberg was a pimply faced kid who hadn’t yet stolen Facebook. While online dating existed at the time, no one had yet sent a nude photo because the bandwidth was too slow. On New Year’s Day, I made the resolution to start dating again, so I did what any other red-blooded American does in 2015 — I joined Tinder. When I told my friends that I was joining Tinder, I received severe warnings of danger, as if I wasn’t just joining a harmless little dating site based on the “Hot or Not” concept, but joining Al Qaeda. Friends told me that I would get emotionally hurt (actually, it was my ex-wife!), that I didn’t have the temperament for cheap hookups, and that I would inevitably “fall for a ruthless Russian escort who will steal my money, my heart, and then have me killed.” Luckily, none of …