Archive for July, 2009


Saturday, July 4th, 2009

3:30 on a Friday afternoon and I sat in the office minding my own business as the holiday weekend approached. Clock winding down…garbage time of the day…and then the phone rang.

“Are you OK?’ Stuart had just returned from South Carolina and was checking in.

“Of course.” But I didn’t understand his inquiry: “Why?”
“Because I’ve been reading your blog. You’ve been thinking a lot lately.”
“Well it’s not like you…what’s the problem?”

Stuart knows me as long and as well as anyone. Do all my old friends think I’m shallow? Whatever…..

I apologized. “I’ll try not to think again. I’m just bored, that’s all.”
“Are you sure that’s it? You can tell me, you know…C’mon B,” he coaxed.
“Don’t be an ass. I’m OK– just flat.”
“I know what your problem is…we got to get you a woman.”

He made the pronouncement triumphantly, like he had just discovered the world was round instead of flat.

(NOTE: Fenton thinks that being coupled is the solution to each of life’s issues. The man’s been married since the Nixon administration. Applying Stuart’s logic to Stuart himself, should I deduce that he has not in fact “been thinking” since the early ‘70’s?)

Right, wrong or indifferent, old friendships are sustained by purity of heart; Stuart truly believes he knows what ails me…even when I’m not ailing. So after my apology, over the phone and as one voice we sang Todd Rundgren together:

“We gotta get you a woman!” (And we laughed).

Truth be known, the people closest to me have never taken to the women I’ve chosen to associate with. Oh, they’ve liked each individually, but they just never liked them FOR ME.

Fresh out of college I reported to Ft. Polk, Louisiana for Basic Training. Leaving–even temporarily– the only girlfriend I’d ever had was rough— but we were in love. Indeed, my ring was on her finger and we were to be married that September 3! Unfortunately, she forgot to write it down and in my absence developed a new friend, thus terminating the engagement.

Upon my return from the service we ultimately reunited. I still have Stuart’s three-page letter (written on the back of old Highlights For Children weekly report forms) counseling me to be careful about my love life choices. He urged me to look for three things in a partner: spiritual, intellectual and physical connection. I filed the letter but ultimately read it in the ‘90’s.

Years later he saw me through other interactions.

There was the one he thought was psycho—that he called “Fatal Attraction.” She was normal on the outside but not playing with a full deck within. Stuart sensed it immediately but I was too fresh out of marriage to want to listen.

Then, down the road, there was my three year relationship in sobriety. He would nod and say “If you’re happy, I’m happy for you.” Still, he must have been distraught that I would get involved with someone sixteen years my junior that chain-smoked and had never read a book.

Dr. Kevin was my sponsor in the mid-00’s. I was embarking on a new relationship and he insisted that I inventory my past romances.
“List them all…even if you only went out once,” he insisted.
Little did he know how easy that would be.

But I listened, and put it all down on paper …subject to Kevin’s scrutiny.

We sat in his office at Cleveland Clinic and he asked questions that made even me blush. He made tough comments that were softened by care.
And he made sense.

“First,” he said, “You have terrible self-esteem issues.”

“Who doesn’t?”, I interrupted.
“Healthy people.” he continued. “And stop trying to be funny.”

There was silence. Loud silence. It was one of those moments when I knew I had to shut up and listen because the person I was talking to might care more about me than me.

“Secondly,” he continued,” Whether you know it or not you set yourself up for failure. You make bad choices doomed to fail, so that when things don’t work out, AND THEY WON’T, you can walk with your head high and say it was bound to happen and it didn’t matter anyway.”


Kevin told me a lot of other things that I didn’t want to hear. But I did.

So now it’s five years later. Stuart jokes, but thinks he has the answer. I say there isn’t a problem. And Kevin’s on the east coast.

The bad news for Stuart is that I continue to think… The good news is that my thoughts are clearer.

And, as I’ve been taught, the answers WILL come when my own house is in order.

And we’re getting there.


Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Heading into a long weekend I am alone with my thoughts. That, my friends, is a dangerous neighborhood to be in….Alone.

But for the glory years at Ohio State, I have lived my entire life in Cleveland, Ohio—-better yet, within two square miles.

Urban flight of the ‘50’s deposited the Bogart clan on the “mean streets” of South Euclid where we lived in a cookie-cutter home built by one of my Dad’s lodge brothers. The house was small, but I had no idea until my college girlfriend came to town and told me so. (I was shocked and asked my brother if he knew we’d grown up in a small home. “Of course,“ he said, shook his head, and walked away).

Why was I the last to know?

But I loved Cleveland, and was destined to live my life there.

Actually, when I graduated OSU I did want to sell Highlights Magazine and stay in Columbus. My Great Enabler and comfort zone were there. I had, however, developed a fiancé from New Jersey. Clearly, she advised me, central Ohio would never do. She would have been thrilled to, and in fact lobbied to move back east. Not a chance! My father pointed out to HER that SHE was the one who’d moved west from New Jersey…none of us had left. In resignation, she “compromised,” but under her breath we did hear mumbling about what a “small city” Cleveland was. (Somehow she survived).

And so it was.

My inner circle of friends also returned. All of them. It mattered not to any of us that Cleveland was in a great business and social depression; we could care less that downtown was dying or that we were a national punch line. Like sheep we came back, (even though it should be noted that Alan left for good a few years later– apparently as soon as he could).

There is a striking similarity in the thought process between our return to Cleveland and my brother’s application to Ohio State.

At my mother’s Shivah the discussion of college arose:

“H, other than Ohio State, what colleges did you apply to?”
“None,“ he replied.
“Why not?” his daughter asked.
“Because it was just assumed that I would go there. No one gave me a choice”

He made it clear that he was not unhappy about it, but it just was what it was.

And so it was that through law school, career, divorce, death, and life, I have always assumed, NO…understood, that my place on this earth was, is and will always be on the shores of Lake Erie.

Until now I not only assumed, accepted and embraced this fact. Today, however, I wonder.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Cleveland. I’m not one of those ingrates that complains about the sports teams. It hasn’t been so bad.

I’ve been to the NFL Championship Game, the Final Four, 2 Baseball Allstar games….all in God’s country—Ohio. I’ve been educated by religious scholars par excellence at Cleveland Heights’ Park Synagogue, and re-educated by spiritual leaders in an international recovery movement with roots in Akron, Ohio.

What have I missed….a suntan?

Still, my thoughts this Holiday weekend are not about the last few decades, but about the next few. My children have fled; their children will have out-of-state license plates.

Maybe it’s time to load the wagon.

I have a good life, but even my “normal” friends that have thrived here think about moving out. Not for money; not for sun…but for life.

Generally, whenever I leave for a weekend I miss this town. That’s still the case, but not as much. Maybe it’s a sign of growth…maybe it’s a sign of age…maybe it is just a sense that I can be more productive elsewhere.

Life is good, but recent malaise compels me to reexamine much.

My sponsor insisted just today that I inventory my career choices. It will be hurtful but I am beginning the process. In concert with this, it is hard not to rethink life choices. From friends, to women, to lifestyles.

And besides, wishful thinking….(dare I use the word “fantasy?)…is not always a bad thing.

If time and funding were not an issue….where would I go?

Logic dictates one of four places: New York, Chicago, Southern Florida or Vegas.

Let’s get rid of Vegas. First off, I can’t afford it. Secondly, if I could, and I did, AND my Mom was still alive….it would kill her.

Then, I guess Chicago is not feasible. Don’t be offended Rooney, but Chicago is still not New York. And although I hate most New Yorkers, I do love New York. Chicago lost its magic when they lighted Wrigley Field, and I swear….I have never had a bad meal in New York.

But what about Florida? It doesn’t take that much to make me happy. A little sun, a little fellowship…I may not make money, but I make friends wherever I go.

This is all so confusing. My kids have their lives. I certainly respect that.
And how would I make a living? And what about my friends here…and even more so, what about my brother?

He’s my “go to” guy.

And besides that, he needs me! If he has to take Aunt Helen every week he’ll jump out a F’ing window!

And that’ll mean Margie will have to drive her. (No, she’s stronger than us…she has caller ID; Helen’s screwed).

I’m so confused. Life would have been a lot simpler if my kids still lived here…But they don’t, and I know it’s true that we only owe our children two things: Love and Wings.

So be it.

My home remains where my heart is…in Cleveland. But wait, maybe that’s the problem: my heart isn’t only in Cleveland—it’s 6 hours to the west…and 8 hours to the east…

Wait! Maybe I just miss my kids. No more; no less. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

(Glad I got that off my chest). I’m  still with my thoughts, but no longer alone.