Rejected by the L.A. Times Opinion Poetry Contest: Train to Nowhere

I submitted a poem to the L.A. Times Opinion Poetry Contest. It was rejected. Here it is. It’s called Train to Nowhere.

gold-line

I entered the Los Angeles Times opinion poetry contest, and my poem was not selected.

I went local, but even if you don’t live in Los Angeles, you should get the gist.

TRAIN TO NOWHERE
We took the Green Line to LAX
It dropped us off in Gardena
Next stop: Subway to the Sea
Can’t wait to see Pasadena

Granted, it’s not the greatest poem ever written, but I like it. The Times said it received over 1,000 submissions, and I am sure some hard decisions had to be made. Maybe the editors rejected it because it clashed with the Times’ stance on public transportation, which is: build trains no matter where they go or what they cost, and then make people feel bad for not using them, even though they do not go to the airport or the water, which are the two places we’d all really like to go.

Photo by Paul Kimo McGregor

(Joe Donatelli publishes The Humor Columnist. Follow him on G+, @joedonatelli or Facebook.)

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The Humor Columnist Interview with Jeff Kramer

An interview with former Orange County Register and current Syracuse New Times humor columnist Jeff Kramer.

jeff-kramer

Back when newspapers had humor columnists, the Orange County Register had a good one. From 1994-2003 Jeff Kramer covered life behind the Orange Curtain, first as a military reporter then as a humor columnist for seven years.

Kramer carved a niche for himself as a local humor columnist, one of the small band of brothers and sisters who entertain and inform regional audiences across the country. They deal with all of the same aggravations as nationally-renowned humor writers, and they reap a fraction of the financial rewards. If they were baseball players, you’d say local humor columnists do it for the love of the game. Kramer’s one of those guys—one of the ones with stories to tell. (In fact, he told me a good one that involves a steamroller that’s not included in this interview. You can read it here.)

Originally from Seattle, Kramer graduated from Western Washington University where he wrote a humor column for his college paper. After graduation he worked at the Middlesex News in the western suburbs of Boston and wrote a humor column for three years under editor Ken Hartnett. Kramer moved to Los Angeles and was a full-time freelancer in the Los Angeles Times’ west-side office in Santa Monica. He was also the Boston Globe’s Los Angeles correspondent. It was while working for the Globe that Kramer briefly gained national attention. He was the reporter who was shot three times during the L.A. riots in 1992. He wrote about the experience for People.

Not long after that the Register hired him full-time, and Kramer wrote his humor column under editor Michael Hewitt. To any OCR folks reading this, Kramer said he’s happy that the Register is doing so well and hiring so aggressively.

The Register lost its resident funny man when Kramer and his family moved to upstate New York, where his wife was raised. Jeff and his wife Leigh Neumann have two daughters, Miranda, 13 and Lily, 10, and they have three dogs. Everyone in the family has appeared in print at one time or another, some rather infamously.

In Syracuse Kramer wrote a freelance column for the Post-Standard for seven years before he and the paper parted ways. In the summer of 2013 he began writing his column again for the alternative Syracuse New Times. In addition to columns and articles, Kramer has written two stage plays, “Reaching for Marsby” and “Lowdown Lies,” and he produces a local sketch comedy show called “Sketchy Mall People.”

Continue reading “The Humor Columnist Interview with Jeff Kramer”

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Jeff Kramer’s Steamroller Story That Never Saw the Light of Day

Jeff Kramer shares the story of a drunk guy who stole a steamroller, passed out and forgot about it.

steamroller

While I was interviewing humor columnist Jeff Kramer he told a story about a guy in rural New York who got drunk and stole a steamroller. It was too long to include in the article, but too good not to include somewhere. Kramer’s story never ran in the paper, and the world is a lesser place for it.

The Humor Columnist: Did you have any stories killed?

Jeff Kramer: Some kid was going to court because he had turned himself in for stealing a steamroller, like a road grader, a thing for flattening asphalt. I drive out to the boonies, and I find this kid, and he’s in his early 20s. He’s in a crumbling apartment building in the middle of a pasture. There’s Bee Gees music blaring. The stairs are crumbling. I walk up the stairs. I pound on the door. He can’t hear me. I pound louder.

He comes down. He’s wearing nothing but a bathing suit. He’s drinking beer.

I tell him who I am and why I want to talk to him, and he says, ‘I’m kind of busy.’ I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘I’m drinking beer.’ I go, ‘I drink beer.’ He goes, ‘You want one?’ So he brings down three Buds, two for him, one for me.

We sit on these crumbling concrete stairs, and he spills out this whole story. He had been at this bar and was too drunk to drive. He starts walking home to his mother’s house, seven miles on a rural road. He cuts through a cornfield. There’s a creek in the cornfield he didn’t see. He falls into that. He’s in his waste in muddy water. He climbs out. He gets back on the road. He’s tired. He’s wet. He’s no longer buzzed.

He sees a construction site. He’d worked construction before, and he knew that keys get left in these things. He has four miles to go. These things have a top speed of seven miles per hour. He gets home, and he hides it in the woods. He gets up in the morning, and he’s forgotten all about it. He sees the sun glint off something in the backyard. He says, ‘Holy crap.’ It comes back what he’s done. He puts the thing deeper in the woods and covers it.

It’s a small town. Cops are going back and forth in front of the house. He’s looking for an opportunity to take it back, but he doesn’t want to get any friends involved because he doesn’t want to get them in trouble. He finally realizes he’s going to get arrested and turns himself in.

That’s where I picked up the story. This wasn’t one of those things where you have to be Dave Barry. You just let the thing tell itself. I wrote it up. It should have been front page 4th of July newspaper, the little thing at the bottom of page one everyone talks about at the barbecue. They would not run it. Guess why.

THC: It glorifies drinking and driving.

JK: You may be the only one who has ever gotten that.

THC: I’ve worked at newspapers.

JK: They said it glorifies drinking and driving. If you use that as a standard, you could never write about anyone who has done anything stupid.
Read the whole interview with Kramer here.

Photo by Curran Kelleher

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