Archive for April, 2009


Thursday, April 30th, 2009

My family tends not to die in order. As a result, milestone birthdays can be a bit more memorable. Our dad’s sister will turn 95 in June, and consensus is that no matter what we do it will be wrong. The only thing more certain is that should we do nothing at all, this too will be wrong.
Interaction with Aunt Helen is difficult at best. She is an old-world blend of austere, rigid, authoritarian and ungrateful, all complicated by her undoubtedly good intentions and warm heart.
Twenty years ago her mom, (our grandmother) turned 95. With Dad already gone it fell upon the Brothers Bogart to pick up the gauntlet and acknowledge the occasion.
Grandma B had never owned a color television. Perfect, we thought. Early one Saturday afternoon Hal and I shot over to Snow Brothers Appliance and purchased a $400 set (expensive for those days), intent on surprising Grandma and “hitting a homerun.”
Gingerly we placed the large cardboard box in Hal’s trunk. I guarded it through the rear-view mirror as H carefully navigated Richmond Road south to the home shared by the mother and daughter.
The driveway to their duplex was blocked so we carried the TV across the snowy lawn, rang the doorbell, and finally heard the buzzer ushering us in.
Opening the door we saw Helen at the top of the stairs. “What’s in the box?” she asked.
“It’s for Grandma,” Hal answered. (Younger brother was lead man, walking backwards).
We took a few steps up, but again it came:
“What’s in the box?”
My brother and I kept climbing. Reaching the summit we placed the covered appliance on the carpet just inside the door.
We exhaled, smiled and looked valiantly for our grandmother; she was not in view.
“Who’s here?” called a voice from the kitchen.
Aunt Helen’s eyebrows were now in military formation.
“Boys, I am asking you what’s in the box!”
Hal’s smile had diminished but before he could answer a now bitter aunt interrupted herself:
“Ma, they brought a television! How could you boys? Take it back!” Helen was, get this, angry!
“But it’s for Grandma,“ we urged, revealing the contents for all to see. “For her birthday!”
Truth be known: Al Bogart’s kids knew even then how to read a hand of cards. Gently, we placed the TV back in the box, folded it closed, and bid our adieu. Down the stairs, back through the snow, back in the car trunk, and back to Snow Brothers.
And credit back the charge.
A few days later we each mailed cards.
This, however, is 2009. We are not only older, but we are wiser.
Our game plan this June is simple, and will make everyone happy. By agreement, (Margie included), we will merely stop over one Saturday afternoon with a huge, EMPTY cardboard box.
We will grunt and grimace and then set it down in the precise spot the first box sat two decades ago.
Our aunt will stop us in our tracks and demand that we return the gift. She may even ask us if we remember…
Ah, but we do.
The brothers will then, faces forlorn, schlep the vacuous box down the stairs, (pausing momentarily to wipe a brow), proceed across the lawn, to the car’s trunk where we will carefully deposit the gift.
And we will drive away as we did in 1989.
We will not be out-of-pocket, and we will have saved two trips to Snow Brothers.
And, most importantly, we will have acknowledged yet another milestone birthday.
Sort of gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.

“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”
Rose Kennedy


Sunday, April 26th, 2009

The last time I traveled with my boyhood friends it was 1996. Paradise Island. I was a hundred pounds heavier and in the throes of my downward spiral through alcoholism. We had fun, the eight of us, but I can only remember the headlines.
Thirteen years have passed and the boys are the same, but the angle has changed.
I try now to see things (and myself) as they are, and not as I pretend they be. This includes the guys. That having been said, even in today’s focus, I would take a bullet for any of them. I know they feel the same.
Arthur has a heart of gold, and still talks to himself. With love he complains about non-issues of life without commercial interruption. (My father would say he is “Crying with a loaf of bread under each arm”). Bob is always “on.” Perpetual motion. If they ever produce a reality show called “Bring Back The Sixties” Bob will host it.
Stuart, alas, is Stuart. He continues to stir the pot, trying to aggravate Snyder.
“What’s wrong with you?” exclaimed The Nazi at dinner Thursday. “I thought you guys were best friends!” Arthur just doesn’t “get” Stuart. His game is “agitate and aggravate” …and when Bob gets mad enough to lose it, then Stuart laughs.
With Stuart, it’s all about keeping the ball in the air.
Mark missed the Club Med Trip. He added a special blend to the weekend. A Columbus resident, his life may have been lengthened by sustained absence from Cleveland. I don’t think he appreciates the warmth behind the constant bickering of some of the guys. Mark may be too reality-based. The trip featured several heated discussions between Snyder and Erv about matters that have already been settled, like where we should be staying in Vegas, or whether Arthur should be on Facebook. He is the voice of reason in debates where reason is a handicap. By the way, Stuart chimed in for ten minutes demanding that Arthur stay off the social network.
“It can’t help you. It can only hurt you, “Fenton railed. On and on.
Twenty minutes later the argument came to a screeching halt when we noted that Stuart himself was on Facebook. (Agitate and aggravate).
We convened in glorious AutumnOfOurYears splendor, talking more about family than ambition, and (unfortunately), more about ailments than women.
Editor’s note: Arthur’s legs always cramp. Mark “prays for a colonoscopy.” Stuart avoids doctors, advising us that if you look for something, you will find it.
So there we were…. Bob, at least, remained on course, ever providing his guru mentality at the pool. It was he that noted that just sixty feet away some young thing was spraying tanning lotion on the same leg twice because “she definitely wants to put on a show for us!” And it was Bob that insisted we wear sunglasses at the pool, lest people think we are staring.
Who knew? Certainly not me…not in ’67. Not now. Am I still a fat Opie?
I love Bob to death, but each of us got down on our knees and thanked The Lord that he has finally hung up his Speedos. Bob around the Mirage pool looked like Gene Wilder doing a remake of Miami Vice. Still Sonny Crockett. My favorite moments with Bob, though, remain when we are one-on-one. Here he opens up, shares, and is one of the most sensitive men I have ever met. Truth be known, he was the glue to the weekend, and the straw that stirred the drink.

Arthur has become more philosophical and apparently is now a vociferous reader. More than once I caught him looking up from his book, deep in thought. He is trying to carve out more time to see his east coast sisters, and seems to fret as he pictures the sands of life’s hourglass. I must add that he was also the perfect roommate, and a quick-study. Fact is I taught him how to fall asleep with both the lights and the TV on.
Stuart, though, was my constant. Like the wondrous, methodical repetition of a beating heart. The same rhythm after all these years. Early to bed, early to rise. Steady.
I am in flight now, returning to the real world. I am enriched by a still deeper perception of the boys that turned into men. None of us is much different, but the good news is that none of us is quite the same
Growth is a double-edged sword. I love my friends.



Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I sit on the right aisle near the front of the cabin. A middle-age couple, (neither of whom is necessarily attractive) holds hands to my left. Arthur is five rows back.
There will be six of us out west. Lifelong friends. Rowland Elementary School. Greenview to Brush to OSU to……pushing sixty. Since puberty we have shared blood, sweat and tears. So we will laugh, and some of us may even cry. It will be good. I can’t help but wonder though, what it would be like to travel with a woman. One on one. Sharing not the past, but the present.
It occurred to me recently that I may indeed choose women the way Aunt Helen shops for tomatoes. A scary thought.
Roma tomatoes—98 cents/pound. Every other Friday it plays like this:.
“Not too hard. Not too soft.” she insists.
She’s not done.
“Not too big, not too small.” And, still:
“Not too round. Check for marks…did you really look?”
“NOT TOO ROUND?!!!!!” Give me a break!
Aunt Helen’s vision, however, is marginal. Over time my brother and I have learned that after feigning scrutiny of the legumes we should just dump seven random tomatoes in a bag and she’ll be satisfied.
I had a coffee date recently. Someone I met on JDate. She was 51, brunette, intelligent and smiled. Ed did a drive-by and confirmed that she was better looking for a woman than I am for a man.
But she missed. I passed. No magic.
What is wrong with me? Really!
As my father would remind me, I am “…No Tyrone Power.”” Still, it seems like I am trying to thread a needle when it comes to the ladies.
I love women with an “edge,” but frankly, nice would be nice (for a change).
Recently I dated a girl that was too nice. I got bored.
The question remains: what is wrong with me?
I hope I find the answer soon. Until then I will travel with the boys while Archie and Edith to my left hold hands.
And when I return I will be a bit more patient when my aunt buys her tomatoes.


Sunday, April 19th, 2009

It was 10:30 on a silent Monday night. Our mother had been gone near a half hour as Hal, Margie and I stood waiting in the hall to see her. The Thief was in her room, presumably checking under the mattress one last time.
“You know, “ my brother said with love, “This means you’re next.”
Truth be known, he reminded me that should we all go in order I am now kneeling, swinging a bat in the on deck circle. (Aunt Helen, rumored to have voted for Lincoln in both elections, will clearly outlive us all).
Being next is not what it used to be. I’d settle for the middle of the pack. Gladly.
Ironically, the very last movie I took my mother to see was “The Bucket List.” We shared happy tears together as
Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson knocked down their final “To do:” list.
Exiting the theater, my melodramatic mother asked me what would be on my list. She was eighty; living in an old folk’s home. I wasn’t ready for that conversation.
But I am today.
So here it is Mom. MY list.

1 Drive around Lander Circle clockwise against traffic.
2 Give a college commencement address.
3 Be a greeter at “Corky & Lenny’s.
4 Rejoin Park Synagogue.
5 Get an apology from Dick.
6 Hang out with a blonde that wears one of those baseball caps where her ponytail sticks out through the hole in the back. (Soft pink, if possible).
7 Hold a grandchild.
8 Sing along at a Bar Mitzvah, arms around each other,
with my three kids and their spouses, as the music blares out “That’s What Friends Are For.”

Truth be known, my mother had a list too. It had but
one item.
Ever since the mid 70’s, when she first announced her impending mortality, she would admonish her boys “When I’m gone you’ll only have each other.” She yearned for her kids to cement their checkered relationship.
By anyone’s account, our mother lived long enough to see her wish fulfilled. Hal and I, (with Margie I might add), do have each other. And we don’t need a movie to laugh and cry together.
Thanks Mom.


Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Sometimes we measure our growth by our different reactions to like events.
Thirty-nine years ago at OSU I developed a girlfriend. The watershed event came when she actually introduced me to her friends back home; it gave me (I thought), credibility.
One of them, however, was quite vocal in her opinion.
“She doesn’t think you’re for me,” The Jersey Girl whispered, as I slunk into my Plymouth Duster.
My feelings hurt, I angrily sped west on I-80, sing-shouting to Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man,” my anthem for the summer.
Homeward bound.
(Not for one solitary (?) moment did it occur to me that Gayle was right. A high school majorette from the metropolitan New York area and a naïve “nice Jewish boy” from the mean streets of Ohio: Grace Slick in the same picture with Bobby Vinton?)
The more things change, however, the more they stay the same.
As the first Seder wound down just last Wednesday the kids got to the C material. Stacy, who’s been in Cleveland recently had met one of my dates.
“She is very, I mean VERY pretty,” said Stacy. Then, with a twinkle in her eye she continued: “I kept thinking ‘What is she doing with Dad?’”
Ouch. Was it really such a juxtaposition? If you prick me, do I not bleed?
It took the Jews 40 years to get from Egypt to Israel; in that same time I have moved maybe two miles. Still, today there is no anger, no hurt.  I am OK with myself—at least this week. What others think of me, at some level, is none of my business. 

When dinner was over I hopped in my Toyota and drove home sing-shouting to The Killers and “Mr. Brightside.”


Monday, April 13th, 2009

Thirty years after Begin and Sadat convened at Camp David, a smaller segment of another generation is amazed that my ex-wife and I have achieved a degree of accord.
Some are fascinated; some are disappointed. Balanced people, I would submit, should not care.
Rewind the tape to last September.  We both found ourselves in Chicago for Stacy’s engagement. Due to the 11th hour nature of the surprise announcement it made sense to share a two-bedded hotel room. I laughed and she had a mild stroke when upon arrival the room had but one bed..
So there we were, together again. She took the king-sized bed; I slept on the loveseat and ottoman. No regrets, though. For the first time ever under the same roof with this woman, I held the remote control.
Peace comes in all flavors.
Fast forward to Passover 2009. My mother’s death within hours of the first Seder created a “domino effect.” As my children converged upon Cleveland for a funeral, the ex had her plans for an east coast observance cancelled. She stayed in town and comforted her offspring at their grandmothers’ funeral. (Her EX-mother-in-law’s, no less!). Then, to the surprise of absolutely no one, Margie and Hal extended the dinner table several more notches and the past was present again…for at least one more observance.
Life has a funny habit of getting in the way of plans.


Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Remember the movie “Zelig?” This omnipresent character from the Woody Allen film was one of those persons that showed up everywhere….Good moments, bad times….always there…Right in the middle.
Permit me to introduce my friend Michael. Friends from the shining star days of the 70’s, through my abyss of the 90’s, to today. On and off the court—before, after, and in between life cycle events. Through decades of noxious Saturday morning breakfasts at a stale deli. When I wanted to smile, and when I wanted to hide. Always.
I used to joke that he only called me with bad news. Fact is he has been so wired to the Jewish community and the world at large that some still think he gets news alerts texted from G/d. (Flashback to his middle child’s Landerhaven wedding when across the dinner table David and I, with straight faces, advised his new machatonim that MJ served on the Warren Commission. Further, we asserted, if Michael chose to violate confidences he could indeed reveal who’d conspired with Lee Harvey Oswald that November Friday in 1963).
Truth be known, it has just been that Michael always cared about me enough to assure that even in my darkest times….even when my own mistakes had forced me from the world I’d lived in —even then he knew I needed to “be a part of.”
For years he was my primary link to the life I had left. Michael and Lana loved me when I was unlovable.
In the mid-80’s as my world was invisibly shrinking, my dad died in Columbus. There was Michael up in Cleveland directing traffic in Franklin County.
A quarter of a century later my Mom has passed.
There front and center are Michael and Lana—coordinating, comforting.
(“Bogie, you have to wear a winter coat to the funeral!”)
(“Bruce, your friends will send food in; please call Margie, please!”)
(“Bogie, do your kids need rides from the airport?”)
I have been blessed with a myriad of loyal, lifetime friends. Bobby, Stuart, Alan, Walt,  Arthur, Randy, Mark and more have been there from the Glory Days at Bayard and Wrenford. To this day. These childhood friends that remain throughout a lifetime, are priceless.
Making friends as adults is not always as special.
Unless G/d puts Michael in your path.
In the next month I will have plenty time to look through the old photos of my Mom …from the 50’s and 60’s….from my childhood. It strikes me now that as I wipe the dust from the black and whites I should look a little closer at the pictures. Somewhere in the backgrounds, smile lurking, I may just see Michael.
Thank you, Zelig.

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.’

Mark Twain


Sunday, April 5th, 2009

My mother is dying. Not because she said so—truth be known, she first made that announcement in the mid-70’s.
But because the hospice nurse said so.
Ten minutes after my brother called saying things were bad but stable, my phone rang again.
“You’d better come home.”
The projection is an unofficial one day to two weeks. It’s no longer something that will ultimately happen; it is happening.
As the morphine drips and the oxygen pumps, she sleeps.
Peacefully, presumably unaware of our presence in the darkened room, she sleeps.
As a lifetime montage of events cruises through my mind, she sleeps.
Hal and I were there this morning with Caroline. We watched her doze; we reminisced; we sat.
There was a rhythm to the visit. There was a peace to it. We exited together as we have for years….me kissing her forehead, and he enthusiastically saying “OK, Mom, we’ll see you later!”
But this time her eyes were closed and she didn’t hear.
This time we lingered invisibly.
And all the while the oxygen pumped.
And the morphine dripped.


Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Is my not being in a relationship a function of unrealistic expectations, commitment issues, age, or merely that I haven’t met the right person yet. I’m on the back nine now, and isn’t it time?
This summer will be a sweet sixteen years since the demise of my marriage. Not withstanding the baggage of my past, it seems unfathomable that I continue to ride solo. As busy and as full as my life is, am I not wired to share?
Some people “know” the minute they meet someone.
Stuart walked into Ohio State’s Taylor Tower forty years ago this spring and spotted Marilyn talking to Cheryl, another Heights girl.
“Who is this enchanting lady?” he interrupted, forcing an introduction.
(They got married right out of school and are still together).
I used to think I’d know the “look” if I met it: Dirty blonde hair, suburban blue eyes, nice fragrance.
Blue jeans and a smile.
I’m really not a high-maintenance guy. So what’s my problem?
This week I made a written inventory of my past relationships. I listed each person I’d had even a passing interest in regardless of the duration of the encounter.
I am trying to find a common thread.
In 1971 Stuart did his Marine Reserve stint in Cape May, New Jersey. At the time I was debating getting engaged. His three-page letter, (off the backs of Highlights For Children magazine sales report forms), remains in my personal archives. In long-hand, he counseled me find someone that could fulfill me mentally, physically and spiritually. He urged me to look for all three.
It was 1971 and we weren’t quite 22; I thought he was full of shit.
Who thinks that way at that age?
Stuart did.
Maybe that’s why he’s still with Marilyn.