People are strange.
I saw this guy on the T the other day...
For a full year, I wrote a column in college that started that way. Well, the first sentence, anyway. It was also, not coincidentally, called "People Are Strange." And I'm not even that big a Doors fan.
Yet every Tuesday, you could open a copy of the Tufts Daily and see my musings on everything from e-mail (a new pre-phenomenon) to fashion (an old phenomenon) to romance (phenomenal) to gambling to drinking, etc. And every Monday, you could see me in Archeology class an hour before my deadline hurriedly jotting down my column while my friend Trevor took notes that he eventually consented to share with me.
Not that my process has changed much. I'm still running about five minutes past deadline (in the cosmic sense), as my editors can attest.
No, Jael, it's okay. You can attest. I give you permission to attest. Thanks. [Editor's Note: Word. And you're welcome.]
That column, though, was, for anyone lucky enough to have read it, an obvious direct precursor to this column you're lucky enough to be reading right now. In fact, on more than one occasion in the last eight years, I've stolen parts of the old ones when I was feeling noticeably stuck for something to say. (I always say, “If you’re going to plagiarize, plagiarize from the best”.)
Before I head further down memory lane, I feel I should enlighten you as to why I'm retrospecting (a word worthy of use, I'm sure). Well, if you haven't gleaned it from the title of this thing, it's officially my 100th column for Intrepid Media. One per month. 100 months. It's pretty easy math, even for writer-types.
So, since it was my first triple-digit column, I started thinking about how I found myself on this pithy path.
Yeah. Bring your pith helmet.
Anyway, I think the genesis for this writing thing was two-fold. First, and I should so get points for admitting this, I have to thank my parents, and especially my mom, for making me and my brother, while down the shore in the summer, spend a half-hour every day writing when we were younger.
That said: Sun's out and it's 75 degrees? Sorry, not until you write something. Your friend Josh is riding his bike to the General Store? Not until you write something. There's a hurricane and everyone's supposed to evacuate the island? Give me ten more minutes of solid writing and we'll talk about it.
The other piece of the puzzle actually came from the fact that when I first joined my temple youth group, I was the only member. As such, the position of TYG president pretty much fell to me. I'd actually run for vice-president on the "Better Than Spiro Agnew" ticket, and won with about 100% of the votes, but when it turned out the president was unable to fulfill the responsibilities of his position, in large part because he was a figment of my imagination, the job was mine, too. I also won the positions of secretary, treasurer, historian, and Shabbes Goy.
(There are benefits, of course, to being a one-man youth group. For starters, anything I did, by definition, was a youth group activity: "The youth group took its daily shower this morning...")
One upshot of being the president was that I was actually obligated, especially after the synagogue hired a pair of youth group advisers (Dena Klein and Jen Marlowe; if anyone's still in touch with them, tell them I said hi), to write a monthly state-of-the-youth update, along with an open invitation for anyone of high-school age to come to our next meeting. We even had free pizza. Which is to say I had a lot of free pizza.
The letters I sent out, as much as the 14-year-old me and the 33-year-old me have similar senses of humor, pretty much read in the same voice I use today. It was definitely my first entre into writing for an audience, and I loved it. Admittedly, the responses were usually, "Funny letter. I'm not going to your stupid meeting." So I'd say it was 50-50.
Regardless, by the time I got to college, I'd been bitten by the writing bug, but I was too timid, at first, to try to get on the staff of the newspaper. Then I saw The Zamboni. This was Tufts' humor publication. I happened upon a copy of their fall '92 issue, the one with the poorly drawn vending machine on the front page.
It wasn't very funny, though, especially for a humor publication, and I thought, "Hey, I can definitely do that." Heck, I could have written funnier obituaries. I have.
In fact, I'd say that's pretty much the single determining factor throughout my entire writing career: seeing what someone else has done and thinking, "Well, that sets the bar pretty low. I think I can probably reach it."
Outside of Intrepid Media, of course. There I thought, "Damn. I'll get all the chicks."
To make a short story shorter, the Zamboni started turning itself around with the help of a few dedicated staff members, not least of which was Intrepid Media's own Jael McHenry (who at the time was known by her alter ego, JL. It's a subtle difference in pronunciation that I'm told only the Chinese can truly appreciate).
Then, in my senior year, I hit on the idea of becoming a columnist for the Tufts Daily. No, I'd never written a column before, but my letters from high school seemed sort of similar in concept and, well, all the cool kids were doing it.
The requirements for having a features column in the Daily were threefold: 1) write three regular features so as to be considered a staff member; 2) submit three sample columns; 3) slay a dragon. After completing 1 and 3, I submitted my columns (two of which have actually seen - with updates and rewrites - the light of day on these virtual pages). They were voted down.
No, really, they were. I found this out later from a friend of mine on the editorial staff. In the interest of confidentiality, I can't reveal whom, but his last name rhymes with "gropeland." Anyway, luckily one of the more level-headed members of the staff suggested a re-vote, but this time among only people who had actually read my submissions. I think his name was Jay something, and he's probably the reason you're reading this right now. No, I don't have his address so you can go to his place and "thank" him. Put the bat down.
So, in a nutshell, there you have it. Of course, there's more to the story than that. I skipped the part where I had the job in Cambridge that I liked so much my hair started falling out. I skipped the getting sick in the men's room at 30th Street Station. I skipped both laughter and tears. And an inordinate amount of Diet Coke.
But, dear reader, you now know at least the humble beginnings of how I got here, to my 100th column. I'll let you fill in the blanks with your own imagination. Don't forget to imagine me at 5'-10".
Or the money. Don't forget to imagine the insane amount of money I make from doing this. Imagine it. That's right. Now imagine a unicorn. Wow, you're good at this.
That said, I know I've rambled, but I really do appreciate your support. The comments, the critiques, the calumny. You're the reason I do this month after month. Well, that and it quiets the voices in my head. For now.
A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.
ABOUT ADAM KRAEMER
more about adam kraemer
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
1.9.08 @ 3:37a
Congrats on reaching the centennial column. That is quite an accomplishment.
1.9.08 @ 7:39a
I think I've read 79 of your 100 columns. :D
1.9.08 @ 9:45a
Man, we made the Zamboni awesome.
I think I still have the "How Much Spring Could a Spring Fling Fling If a Spring Fling Could Fling Spring" issue around the house somewhere.
1.9.08 @ 9:55a
I think I actually have at least one copy of all of the issues I worked on, including the one with that now ubiquitous "What men say vs. what they mean/What women say vs. what they mean" article that I still get e-mailed every now and then.
dr. jay gross
1.9.08 @ 5:15p
It's hard to put bits and pieces from 100 columns into one reminiscence of rambling memories.
I think I have an essay or poem from the very beginning of my ability to scribe language. Many volumes later, only the names have changed and the intensities of each experience have made their own memories. I add to them every day!
I look forward to reading your 200th!
1.9.08 @ 8:26p
Adam, you actually WERE on The Zamboni at the time of the god-awful vending machine issue. Don't pretend you weren't. Let's see... (flipping to the staff box on page two)... there you are. Your staff title is "Having Verbal Sex with Oral Roberts". I seem to remember you being upset by that (the title, not the sex).
BTW - congrats on your 100th column. So you get a raise now, right?
1.9.08 @ 8:48p
I'll bet you I wrote one canned article and then never showed up to layout.
Does that mean the issue that inspired me was worse than the vending machine one? No wonder we were able to make it better.
And, yeah. Jael and Joe have promised me double what I'm making now.
1.9.08 @ 11:44p
Adam, I get emailed that "what men say" thing about once a year, and each time it is slightly different, and each time I dig up your original and send it to the sender with a note that says "I KNOW this guy! Really! I sent him jellybeans once!"
No one ever believes me, though.
1.10.08 @ 1:47p
I'm still amazed you could read my notes.... Even my typing is messy.
1.10.08 @ 2:36p
Yeah. I never figured out how you managed to smudge a computer.
Chicks dig napkins.
2.21.08 @ 6:43p
I hear that beautiful voice in your head and I say from experience, that those that also hear voices, can relate. Those without a voice can certainly enjoy yours. You're a sharp shooter. Cheers, Mr. Kraemer. 100 more. And more.