As of last week, I'm writing a book. I've shared the first chapter with a couple of people (mostly family and a couple friends who love me for me), and it's been met with excellent reviews. My grandmother had a couple edits.
This is not the first time I've been inspired to write something (I have to tell you, it's gonna be semi-autobiographical and in second person! I'm so clever!), however. Obviously, judging by the fact that I'm not exactly a household name - even in my own household, and I live alone - my previous projects have never really taken flight, as was envisioned when they were begun. The reasons, as it turns out, are completely obvious.
Because one benefit or cost (you decide) of living in the digital age is that it's possible to save these things for eternity. I still have every paper I ever wrote in high school, if you can believe that. Given, they're all saved on 5 1/4 inch disks and readable only by a Commodore 64, but they exist is my point.
As do my failed ideas. Which, if you haven't guessed, I'm going to share with you. Some were partly written; others never made it past the outline stage. They're all pretty funny, in their own way; sometimes on purpose, mostly not so much. Regardless, they're all copyright me, in case you get any big ideas.
I'd also like to offer sincere thanks to Bill Copeland, with whom a couple of the best parts of these were written. The funny stuff is likely his.
1) A book, apparently, about walking in New York City. I actually don't remember having this idea, but I found it on my computer during the search I made for content for this column. It made me grin.
Why Are All of These People Walking so *!%$#@! Slow? A Pedestrian's Guide New York City
Chapter 1: Get the Hell Out of My Way
Chapter 2: No, I Don't Want Another Damn Flyer
Chapter 3: Traffic Lights and Crosswalks: The Silent Killers
Chapter 4: Avoiding Tourists, Gawkers, The Homeless, Street Vendors, and Basically Everyone
Chapter 5: When You Can't Avoid a Crowd: How to Have Fun With Sidewalk Congestion
Chapter 6: Don't Step In That
Chapter 7: Walking in Staten Island - What Are You Doing In Staten Island?
Chapter 8: After All That, Was It Really Worth It? Getting Friendly With The Delivery Guy
2) An excerpt from a story I tried to get published in a very short-lived magazine aimed at college students, produced by a bunch of guys from Harvard. I don't actually remember the name of the publication, but I do remember that they rated my alma mater (Tufts University) 292 out of 300 best party schools. We were not pleased.
For the record, it's mostly fictional. Mostly.
Beth had been trying to get on me throughout high school, without any luck. I first noticed this interest in me when, while watching a movie at her house, she took the time to indicate on just which spot of the living room floor she'd lost her virginity.
I was not interested in her by any means. She was just not attractive to me. She was somewhat overweight, always looked tired, and I was never sure what diseases she might have been carrying on any given day. The thought of spending a night in her (single) room was not particularly appealing, but being the nice guy that I am, I agreed to be her date that Friday night.
With one condition. I asked if it would be alright to bring Andy, a friend who was starting school there the next fall, and wanted to visit again. I told her that he would be keeping me company on the way up and the way back, but in reality I wanted him there to make sure that even if I started goggling, nothing would happen. Nothing wrong with a little added protection.
On the way up he was ragging on me about my "gettin' some" that night. He knew that I was hoping nothing would happen, but he also knew how much she wanted me. Most of our conversations went something like this:
Andy: So you gonna do Beth?
Andy: Why not?
Andy: (laughing) No.
He understood what I was talking about. I kept promising myself that I wouldn't give in. I just knew I'd never be able to live with myself again (or, at least, I'd feel really cheesy the next morning).
Beth, however, had other ideas.
When we got there, she informed us that she had found a room that my friend could stay in because hers was "too small" for three people. Right.
They did not publish this story.
3) Also from college, an attempt at writing a play. In high school, I'd written something that had won the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival, and I guess I wanted to try my hand at another one. The term "abortive" comes to mind.
There are two 19-20 year-old boys (young men) arranging the room, trying to make it look both comfortable and masculine at the same time. Marc looks back and surveys the room.
Marc: Okay. Everything's perfect. Now Steve just has to get back with the wine and drinks before the girls get here.
Brendan: (checks his watch) He's got 15 minutes. (pause) It's pretty cool that your parents left you alone for the weekend.
M: Yeah, now that I'm a college student, for some reason they trust me.
B: Well, it's not like you're throwing a big party.
M: Not tonight, anyway. (checks watch again) Where is that tool? We still need time to chill the stuff.
B: Why'd we send him out in the first place?
M: He's the only one with a good fake. Most liquor stores kinda frown on selling to 20 year-olds, ya know.
B: Sorry, forgot.
(Doorbell rings. Marc goes to get it - off stage left)
B: Hope that's him. (re-fluffs pillows)
M: (coming in, talking to Steve, both carrying full paper bags) ...but even if you like it, were not gonna serve the girls Manischewitz. Might as well have bought them Mad Dog, ya moron.
B: He bought that sweet stuff? (to Steve) What were you thinking?
S: Well, you said we were trying to get the girls kinda buzzed. This stuff always works for me on Passover.
M: (lecturing) You forgot something - in order for them to get buzzed, they have to actually drink the wine. No one but you likes Manischewitz.
S: I'll drink it, then.
B: No shit, you will. (to Marc) So with the exception of Moses over here, what'll the rest of us drink?
M: Well, you and I can drink beer, and the girls all said they like Zima.
"The girls all said they like Zima." That pretty much sums it up.
4) This one was, apparently, a second attempt at writing a play. I literally don't remember why. It has its moments, I'll say that.
on three rooms. The first room, stage right, is a kitchen, with all of the basic amenities - stove (set into a full-length counter), microwave, fridge, breakfast table, and cabinets. There is a big pot of soup on the stove, and at least one casserole dish waiting to be microwaved. The second room, in the center, is a dining room. The table is set for 9 people and it's obvious that this is a fairly fancy dinner. There is a white tablecloth and two candles and some sort of flowery centerpiece in the middle of the table. The third room, stage left, is a front hall with a door to the outside stair (also visible), a coat closet, room to socialize, and an overhead light. There are doorways from the middle room to each of the other two. There is also a doorway off stage from the kitchen.
Allan, a man, mid-late 40's, dressed in a sharp grey suit, enters the kitchen from off stage.
A: (calling) Ellen? Are you ready yet? You know how early my parents always arrive.
E: (from off stage) Well, so you can entertain them.
A: How? They've already heard all of my good jokes.
E: Well, maybe they'll be late.
A: That's a laugh.
E: Better than most of your jokes, too. Don't worry - I'll be down in a minute to make sure dinner's all ready to go. Do you know how hard it is to cook for x people? (calling) David! Are you ready to go?
D: (also off stage) Almost, mom. Just gotta tie my tie.
E: Well, hurry up; and when you get downstairs, can you just stir the soup once for me?
D: Sure mom.
A: I got it, honey.
E: (alarmed) No! Don't touch it. You know how you jinx my cooking. (running in, zipping up the back of her fashionable black dress) I got it, now, don't worry. (stirs the soup about half a turn)
A: (a little hurt) I could have done that, you know.
E: Sorry, dear, it's just a big night, and I don't want anything to go wrong. You know how much I want to impress the Rosenrosens. Bunny and her snide comments, and that annoyingly pompous husband of hers - what's his name - Charles? If this isn't perfect, they'll never stop reminding us about it. And now that our Sara is marying their Eliot, you know we're going to have to see them at least three or four times a year.
A: Are you done now? You know that, among everything else, Charles Rosenrosen is on the board of one of my biggest clients. In fact, you did remember to set an extra place for their new investor, didn't you? (Ellen nods and throws Allan a look; she's tired of his reminding her about the new investor)
E: Yes, Mr. Surlaplage has a seat.
A: Good. And your father's going to the bar with his (makes a quote symbol with his hands) "friends" tonight, right?
E: Of course. He's my father, and I love him, but ever since he's cultivated the other personalities, he is not good company. It's a shame that he's not moving into Sleepy Acres Home until next week. We'll have to decide what to do with his old room.
There's actually more, but I like you guys too much to share it. And I have no idea where this was going. In my first play, the award-winner, everyone winds up dead. Might have been a good idea for this one, too.
5) Last, but certainly not least (the one above might take that category), an excerpt from a guide to college that never materialized. I considered editing this first, but that would be cheating.
Fun With the Telephone
The telephone can be a real pain in the ass at school. Ever had someone wake you up at 3:30 in the morning asking for Gladys? Neither have we - that type of thing only happens in movies or books, but the idea that it might happen scares us a little. As a result, neither of us goes to sleep before 3:30 just in case. (Hint: the next time someone calls you at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning asking, "Did I wake you?" the correct answer is, "No, I had to get up to answer the phone anyway.")
It is our opinion that people without call waiting should be strung up by their ears and forced to listen to busy signals for at least the half-life of Uranium. These are people who refuse to spend two dollars per month to keep their friends from constantly badgering them with, "Why don't you spend the #@*#! two dollars and get call waiting?" It's such a simple concept: spend two bucks a month = keep your friends happy. If you were to walk up to someone on the street and ask them if two bucks a month was worth it to bring a little joy into the lives of their loved ones, the answer would probably be yes (unless you're in New York).
But these people who refuse to get call waiting just suck. They have decided that putting the effort in to say, "Hold on - that's my call waiting," and click the receiver is just too difficult. While they're discussing the pros and cons of shelf paper with Ed, the nice, but slightly effeminate guy down the hall, their grandmothers could be trying to get through to them from the phone in the police station, where they're being held on three charges of raccoon molestation. Hey - it could happen. The bottom line is that call waiting is not only considerate, it could be important, too.
The only people worse than those without call waiting are those who, whether or not they have call waiting, decide that whatever they're doing cannot be interrupted by mundane things such as other people, so they leave the phone completely off the hook. Is watching "Reality Bites" so important that their friends must suffer through two hours of busy signals? Or, worse, it could be Grandma again, this time having decided that scoring that pound of heroin is the answer to all of her problems.
Other people who don't care enough about their callers are those whose answering machine messages are about as interesting as Miracle Whip. These people feel that "Hi, we can't come to the phone right now. Leave a message and we'll get back as soon as we can," just simply do not care about your listening enjoyment. You should stop being friends with them now. Yes, now.
Some people simply have bad answering machine messages. Among these are people who think a bad song with bad sound quality is a good way to greet people. These often happen to be the longest answering machine messages anywhere as well, so all chances of you eating dinner that evening are shot. Well, not that bad, but one does not have to hear 30 seconds of "Walkin' On Sunshine" before one gets a chance to leave a message. If you want to hear music over the phone call the IRS or Prudential - Muzak is a 24hr/day thing, you know.
Then there are those who know that the dissappointment of not being able to speak with them can only be alleviated with a good, funny meassage, designed to put a smile on the face of the listener. "Hi, Im down at the police station bailing Grandma out, but if you leave a message, Ill get back to you," tends to do the trick.
Of course, the worst is people without answering machines at all. This is tantamount to having a message which says, "I'm not here right now, but don't bother to leave your name because I just don't care." Not exactly, but close. These people must have very low self-esteem if they think that no one would call them while they were out. Or their lives are so mundane that no one could be calling about something important. Or they're just dicks.
One last thing about the phone: there's a commercial for 1-800-COLLECT which says that if you want to save the people you're calling money, you shouldn't call the operator. The thing is, if you really want to save the people you call money, you should pay for the damned thing yourself. Case closed.
So there was that. In some ways, a harbinger of what I do monthly. In other ways, dated and obviously written by 20-year-olds.
Regardless, I do hope you enjoyed my own personal walk down "why certain things should live only on hard drives." I swear my book is already better than anything printed here. But not necessarily as good as the 15 pages I wrote for a Fletch movie that never happened. If you ask nicely, maybe I'll share that one with you.
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.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
8.13.09 @ 7:59a
I've always appreciated your columns, Adam, however, now I appreciate them even more. Much more. Much, much more.
8.13.09 @ 9:56a
Actually, I was thinking that people could use this as inspiration, in a way. It takes a lot of bad ideas, and getting them down on "paper," to really find the gems. I'm sure everyone has ideas that never came to fruition, but that were useful exercises, which these definitely were.
dr. jay gross
8.15.09 @ 12:08a
An outline might help....try reading Dylan Thomas 'as a young man'. He was a little obtuse, but made a point when everything was put together. Now all you have to do is fill in the blanks; "Once upon a time.............she/he lived happily ever after." At least I've noticed a modicum of potential. Good luck on your first great American (?) novel.