Archive for December, 2009


Thursday, December 31st, 2009

It used to be so automatic: The ball would drop; they’d do the countdown and Guy Lombardo would play. Then— call my Dad, my Mom, her parents, grandmothers, brothers, a sister…all as friends waited their turns. In the days before cell phones we’d borrow house phones, and as couples stood over us, we’d cringe at the sound of a busy signal. That’s just the way it was.

The parents are gone now / the wife, too (via court order). The children, alas, are grown and married. So these days I call different numbers in different area codes. That’s just the way it is.

I’m sitting in a quiet office watching snow fall outside. And thinking.
If nothing else, New Years Eve is the heartfelt intersection of Love and Time.

Funny thing about love, (I tell my kids). It is without bounds. Indeed, G/d gave us the ability to love endlessly, with unlimited inventory. Just because I love you more doesn’t mean I love others less.

Mom died last April, but she always “got” that. My special connection, that special closeness I had with my dad….she understood. Happy for me—even in days of animus toward her ex she encouraged my bond with him). Yes, she GOT it.

So when the clock strikes 12 I’ll make my calls…to loved ones. You see, no matter where I am at midnight, no matter what I’m doing, be it happy or sad, tired or awake, my first thoughts will flow that way. On autopilot.

‘ Sharing this ‘cause just as we love without limit, this cowboy “gets” that our time is, itself… finite. It’s a lesson learned yearly through sadness and loss. None of us, even the most life-like, is here forever. Heck, one day my Dad woke up dead, and on another, our mom just wasn’t our Mom anymore.

That is why they urge “Seize the moment”— why they beckon to live each day as our last. And clearly ‘tis why I feel fulfilled when at day’s end, and indeed at year’s end, I can look back and know I valued G/d’s gift to me, of time. That alone, makes mine a very good year.

Not sure where I’ll be tonight. Plans are, (as they say) “Up In The Air.” That having been said, at midnight, trust me, I’ll be on my BlackBerry…..dialing New York, Chicago, Lyndhurst, Columbus—and being duly grateful for love….and time.

                  “One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.”



Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

There we were, straddling cushioned seats on South Beach, maybe 50 feet from the shore: Snyder, Mandel and …. me! One of the trendiest spots on the eastern seaboard and three Rowland School alums sat solving the problems of the world. Sort of like the trailer for TNT’s new show “Men Of A Certain Age.”

Bob was in the midst of a soliloque when I leaned over to Bruce and pronounced: “Implants are not as important as friendships.”

(He begged me to explain).

A half hour earlier I’d been sitting ten feet away when a reasonably attractive, bikinied blonde perched herself adjacent our group. As my eyes caught Bob’s he exclaimed (across twenty feet of sand) “I’m WAY ahead of you, B….and they’re fake.”

I didn’t argue with him. I didn’t care. #1, Bob has always known more about women than me. #2, he was probably the only one in the State of Florida that could have thought that IF he was single this 30-something in sunglasses would give him the time of day. And 3, most importantly, I’m sick of the phony, the plastic…sick of…implants.

After six road days socializing with a panorama of persons stemming from true, life-long friends and others whose bond has come in adult years….to the plateful that feign friendship—well, it makes me appreciate the real. It compels me to embrace the true and nauseate from the ….bullshit.

Am I being too negative? I don’t think so.

We’re all born with certain antennae. Some people can smell money; others have gaydar. Me? Perhaps as a defense mechanism from my propensity to overtrust, I’m developing a profound appreciation for those that treat me without pretense. Really! I don’t care if you don’t like me. Just be real about it—I’ll survive.

And so it was in this week of travel that highs and lows were defined not so much by the activities but by the company. And interestingly, my two premier moments came from those not lucky enough to grow up on the Mean Streets Of South Euclid.

The front end of my journey was serene. Fun with Linda and Jeff.
Linda met me at the airport and the ensuing days were wonderful. Still, for me, the tone was set that first night when we caught up with Jeff at The Creek. The two of us hugged, as guys do—but it was more. We didn’t talk about it, but the hug was just a bit longer than the typical guy thing. There was that pregnant pause to it…that extra warmth of two FRIENDS truly glad to be together again. It was there for me…that unspoken communication that spoke volumes.

Four nights at Chez Yankow in Boca: We caught up a bit; Linda and I even bickered. But it was all good. I got to sleep on their couch with the lights and TV on; no one stood on ceremony. Heck, even her dogs preferred me to the other house guest (showing impeccable taste).

There was no babysitting each other as we sometimes went separate ways. Jeff gave me his car and I even got to run down to Lauderdale to see nephew Marc. There was extraordinary honesty to our talk at the Hard Rock; he’s a good kid.

And there was something special…something so pure…about the weekend itself.

Imagine! Sixty years after Morris Feinstein of Mt. Clemons, Michigan wed Shirley Zane a hundred family and friends crossed the continent in celebration of their grandchild’s marriage. Nothing phony about that. (It’s one thing to hop in a car, drive five minutes to Landerhaven and smile for an hour or two). No one, but no one, was at the wedding by mistake. We all wanted to be there—and that too was real.

Oh, I saw some people I could have lived without… (and I’m sure they me)…available in two delicious flavors:

First there were the Clevelanders, some of whom (back home) would absolutely cross the street to avoid acknowledging me.

”Bruce Bogart!” I was greeted on Friday, (a clear indication that they didn’t know what else to say).

Then there were some former Clevelanders. Of that crowd, those compelled to interact with me seemed to have the same opening line:

“You still in Cleveland?”
(Like they didn’t know the answer. These are college graduates; couldn’t they come up with something better?)
“No, asshole, I’m in D.C. now.”  (I wanted to say).

Don’t get me wrong. I can be superficial if I have to…but I’m not good at it. And at this point…Why? I know it’s been said that once you learn to fake sincerity everything else is easy…but I’d like to think my game is different.  I’m capable of just saying “Hello.” How difficult is that?

No greater example of authenticity’s beauty could be found than at the reception. They were trying to quiet the room for the Motzi, but no one at our table could tone down The World’s Oldest Teenager. After all our travail, Brother Ermine stepped up to the plate:

“Bobby,” he reprimanded, “Use your ‘inside voice’!”

Only a true friends could have GIVEN and RECEIVED the message.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Sitting in Miami International Airport, awaiting return to my home turf I am grateful for the week of sun, and, more importantly, grateful for the chance to spend quality time with those that honor me with not only their friendships, but the purity of their behaviors.

Bradley pulled me aside at the rehearsal dinner, asking that I witness his Ketubah. The gesture resonates as my favorite piece of the trip. In one fell swoop he gave honor not only to me, but to the bond between our parents, siblings, spouses and children. He showed appreciation for the sustained friendship that was borne a half century earlier between Stuart and Bruce—
—two guys with a lot of similarities and G/d knows a lot of differences. Two guys, though, that always kept it real.


Friday, December 25th, 2009

When I stumbled into recovery in late ’97 it was to a fifteen-week regimen at Jewish Family Service.  With no intention of getting sober or changing my behavior my goal was merely to get people to like me again.


Signing a contract I committed to attend three three-hour group sessions per week, three outside meetings, and get a sponsor.   I stumbled through it, and, eighteen weeks later (there had been a slip), I graduated. 


As it was, the meetings were easy.  I had no life; I had no other place to go.  My family loved me but didn’t respect me.  Doors had slammed shut in frustration.  My friends?  They were there, but what more could they do, give or take?  I needed help.  Isolating, listening only to my voice…


I didn’t want to get a sponsor.  G/d, I didn’t want to open up and receive tough love.  I wanted to remain a victim, (even if I was a victim of myself).

But I got one anyway…because they told me to…and because something made me listen.


Twelve plus years later I’ve never been without a mentor.  Never been without someone to run my innermost thoughts through—a guy that “gets” my thinking disease, but will tell me what I don’t want to hear or show me what I don’t want to see—someone with the “ism,” who himself is proving that indeed there are second acts in life.


My niece Liz calls it a “social filter.”  If anyone needed one back then, it was me.  And to this day I have friends, a support group, and…a sponsor.


My first was Preston.  Sixteen years my junior, he was nine years sober when I arrived.  We’d met years earlier when I borrowed his cell phone at Coffee & Creations, a local coffeehouse.


I’d been two years without a drink by ’99 when, frustrated over my delay in working the steps, he cornered me:


“Bruce, does your family know you’re still full of shit?”


Soon after that, actually, the light bulb went on.  Preston guided me through the difficult process of getting rigorously honest with my past; he pushed me out the comfort zone professional victims enjoy; he was a gift, and although he moved out east, he remains a friend.


My next sponsor was Kevin.  A doctor at the Clinic, he looked and sounded like Barney Rubble with a Brooklyn accent on bowling night.  But he took no prisoners.


I was struggling then in an ill-fated relationship with Jodi.  Everyone in the program was, one way or another, telling me to end it.  Kevin had a different angle.


“You need to take a look at ALL your past relationships,” he suggested.

“Maybe we can find a pattern.  Maybe, if and when this one fails, the next one can be healthy.” 


I didn’t want to rehash the past.  Not again.  Why couldn’t he just tell me the relationship should end, give me an exit strategy, and be a friend?  I wanted it to be his decision.  Kevin, however, told me to “Grow up.”


Sponsors, you see, can be about friendship, but they must be about growth.


So I did it.  We did it.  I inventoried each past interaction, (not that there were that many), Together we reviewed the ups, downs, resentments, beginnings, endings, and reasons.  We talked about companionship levels, intimacy levels, satisfaction levels.  Every once and a while I would cry, and each time Kevin would laugh and tell me I was “…on the verge of a breakthrough…”  (  I didn’t want a breakthrough!  Heck, all I could think of telling him was my father’s expression:  “Monkeys should jump out of your ass.”  But I said nothing).


And through the pain came gain.  He helped me see things about myself and my relationships that may help me avoid the avoidable.  I felt good about myself again, and good about the future.


Then the mumser moved to Baltimore.


My sponsor now is David.  He’s been guiding me for three years or so.


I was in a good place when I’d asked him.  There were no ongoing issues…until there were.  Still, he’s helped me keep focus through the family politics of the past years.  More often than not he assures me that I’m seeing things as I should; sometimes he “suggests” I give things a second look.


I mention these guys today because David moved west a few months ago.   We’ve tried to meet midway each week, but it’s easier said than done.  And I want the regular contact.  And yes, I need it.


There’s a joke in the program that a typical alcoholic will find something that works and then immediately stop doing it.  I don’t want that to be me.

I’m thinking of getting a new sponsor, and have shared the thought with David.  It’s best for me…and we both want what’s best for me.


These days I am better at making decisions.


And hopefully…breaking through.


Sunday, December 20th, 2009

A lazy Saturday. Wintry Cleveland…

The vibrating phone read UNKNOWN NUMBER. (Welcome to the new home edition of Russian Roulette. Trust me—when my Caller ID is private, it can only be one of three callers: A bill collector, my ex, or, (if the G/d’s are with me), my son.

So I gambled…and it came up sevens!

“Hey” said the voice (and I knew I was safe).

That’s how the next generation starts every conversation. It’s the ultimate in multi-tasking: one word, heck—one syllable that combines hello, how are you, that he’s fine, and what am I doing…).

“Michael! Is everything OK?” I asked. (My people’s knee-jerk response).

Opening ceremonies concluded, we shared current events and concerns —typical stuff. I mentioned the upcoming trip to Florida and anticipation of good times with good friends.

“Maybe when you’re down there you can find a job,” he interjected.
“You’d live longer in good weather.”

We’ve been down this road before (father and son), and so my response was no surprise to him:

“I can’t make a living down there. If I could afford to go I’d think about it.”

Michael’s rejoinder, though, took a left turn:
“Get off it Dad. You talk like a big shot, but whom (sic) are you kidding?”


“Unless Uncle Harold moves with you you’d never go. You two have something you may never have had before. You’re not leaving him. You guys have a ball together.”

The kid was right. Fact is, even Michael couldn’t have known how timely his assertion was.

I have an old black-and-white picture of us—two brothers sitting on the steps of the inner-city Hopkins house. It was taken before the move to the burbs, so figure about 1954. We are smiling and we are hugging. Tightly.

Somewhere along the way, though, (perhaps in our teens, maybe later), we lost a grip on each other—not to reconnect until early this decade.
And now, Michael is right— I don’t want to let go.

It’s the comfort level—of knowing that at this moment in time, (and maybe, truly, always), there is an unlimited connection between brothers, and, yes, an unconditional love.

If Michael can see it from the coast, other must see it up close.

It’s more than driving to Jersey for breakfast and more than sharing our aunt, (although those make the highlight film).

It’s better than that. Hal and I, you see, share the ordinary. (Some might say we revel in it)!

Jamie and Eric still joke about the discussion H and I had about coffee options for Mom’s 80th birthday party. It took 20 solid minutes.
We sat there, the night before the party….two grown adults, and analyzed issues on boxes, cups, decaf, regular, Giant Eagle, Caribou, sugar, fake sugar, times of delivery, pickup, potential for breakage, potential for getting cold, do we then need tea (decaf or regular, flavored, etc)…Sounds stupid now, but we sat there at the Shabbos dinner, with solemnity in our focus, and with the family watching…having this major conversation…like we were planning the Raid On Entebbe…until finally Margie reentered from the kitchen startling us with “Are you two REALLY still talking about the coffee?”

My brother was nonplussed. Rolling his hands to the sky, passionately, dramatically he pronounced to the assembled:

“The art of conversation! It’s the art of conversation.”

These days we have a lot of that. Almost daily.

My brother makes me laugh and he makes me feel safe. I hope I am reciprocating. There is an innocence to our connection today that is not unlike the care-free times on Hopkins. We each have our problems, but together they need not be troubles.

We share our pasts as we conquer our todays.

Twelve hours before Michael’s comment Hal and I had exchanged Chanukah cards. His included a picture of us from the pontoon last summer. Two Jews on a f’ing canoe in Wisconsin…but…together…we were OK with it.
My note to H was less visceral but more direct. “No one makes me smile the way you do,” I wrote.

Michael was right.


Thursday, December 17th, 2009

A week ago today— It was freezing cold, late afternoon and I made a pit-stop at the condo. My plan was to shower quickly then shoot down to Macedonia by 7. Surprise! No heat and even worse— no water.

I called my friend Jeff, (the property manager), and…

“Your pipes may be frozen; they could burst.” he offered in his thickest Brooklyn accent. “Did you check the hot water tank?”
“Check it, and call me back.”
”Where is it?”

He directed me to a separate storage unit I didn’t know I had, disclosing that it contained both a heater and hot water tank. I found it, immediately and instinctively identifying the water tank as the white cylinder.

“OK, now what?” (after redialing)
“Well, was there water all over the place?”
“OK, turn off the water.” he counseled.
There was that pregnant pause.
“Call Chris, have him come out. He’ll do it…Stay away. Call me later.”
”Is it safe to leave?”
“Call Chris.” ————— Click

Returning home that night I found only lukewarm water, minimal heat and Chris’s written promise for a better tomorrow. The weekend passed without incident. Mild weather coupled with minimal home time — Was
the heat on, off, or just weak?

Monday I woke up in a frozen tundra, and vowed to address it by day’s end. And then I got busy.

Mid-morning, moving too fast through the office, I misplaced my keys. (They were to turn up at day’s end on the lobby mailbox).

With places to go and people to see I got lucky. One of the other guys was office-bound all day and offered his vehicle. It was to be my first fling at a Lexus. (Even this was a challenge).

First of all, there is no key. You put your foot on the BRAKE, push a button and go. Who knew? Then, get this—I’m seconds on the freeway and have to change lanes. Driving another’s car, and needing to be cautious, I used the directional. (Or tried to).

I hit the wrong rod. All I knew is that somehow I placed a phone call; I heard it ringing. Frantically, I pushed buttons until the noise stopped.

Using my cell phone I called the condo, as the maintenance guys would meet me at the unit. Couldn’t figure out how to turn off the car, so I left the motor running and entered.

“Your heater’s not kicking on,” said the first one.
“Nothing out of the fan,” came his partner…and with that he turned the thermostat down before cautioning:
“No sense having this up here—nothing coming out. It hasn’t been serviced in a while. Get your guy out here.”

It had been so long since I’d been exposed to a foreign language. There were questions to ask—answers to get.

“Can I use the hot water?” (I had none)….“Could the thermostat being down cause a fire?” (No)….“Does the thermostat effect the water temperature? (No)….”Are you sure?” (Yes). “Should I sleep in a hotel?” (No).

Here were two guys with a combined IQ of 79 and they had me by the you-know-what.

Like the thieves from my old cellphone service. Like the geeks that fix my computer. Like…….the clowns that make televisions these days. I still have separate machines for the TV and the DVD because I can’t figure out how to go from one to the other. (Life was easier when it was just 3, 5 and 8…even livable with UHF).

Perhaps I’m not cut out for this century.

My kid called the other day asking that I pull something off the “desktop.” I needed help. Later Stace asked me to order a drink from the “barrista” at Starbucks. She used five words (none English) which I repeated by rote.
Turns out the barrista was a waitress who handed me no-cal coffee with bubbles. Me? I ordered a plain coffee and they asked me “Room?”

Another pregnant pause.


Sunday, December 13th, 2009

My adolescence was a time of divorcing parents and a loving, but absentee Dad. The genesis, therefore, of all my insight to women came from the only two relationship experts available: Bobby Snyder and Stuart Fenton. Four decades later I still seek their guidance. (That may explain a lot).

The pair is different as night and day, yet always agree on advice for me. What does that say? (Not that the men are themselves balanced: Bob’s on his second marriage and Stuart’s on his first dollar). Still, they know my insides, “get” me, and can urge when to hold them or when to fold them…with love. Oh yeah, and they usually nail it.

I, of course, had to be convinced.

It was in the 90’s. The ugly post-divorce/pre-sobriety period. There was drama in my dating…and I shared.

“She’s not for you, B,” said Stuart. “She’s nuts.”
“I don’t know if she’s nuts, but you’re wasting your time, “ Bob chimed. “Besides, you can do better. Just listen to Fenton.”
“But I like women with an edge, “
”Your wife had an edge,” laughed Bob. “Look what that got you!”

Stuart was neutralized…briefly. “Yeah, forget that…” (He always thought there’d be a reunion). Then Fenton went on a rant.

“I’m telling you she’s like Fatal Attraction. I’m telling you!”
“Did you ever see the movie? No! You’re afraid to see the movie. Go see Fatal Attraction.  Baby! I’m telling you she’s Glenn Close and you need to stay away. She stalks you, B. She’s nuts!”
“Maybe the B likes being stalked?” Bob laughed. But Stuart, as impassioned as ever was worn out.
”Do what you want,” he shrugged, signaling an end to the discourse.

And of course they were right.

I stopped seeing her…eventually…but not before I’d been hit by both a fist and a frying pan. And not before I walked in on her with another guy. She was only wearing a towel—I didn’t see a frying pan.

This warm memory is noted because just this week I sought counsel with the boys again.

Last Saturday— bumping into someone that, (long ago), headed my short list….well, the call went to Stuart.

“I’m not sure,” he cautioned long-distance. “Let me think about it.”

Me being me, I demanded an immediate answer—instant gratification. Never mind that I hadn’t thought of her in years, but having just seen her— now I needed to know. (Still, Stuart wasn’t sure).
“What about _________?” I asked. “He’d know her story. Should I call him?”
”NO, NO, NO….You can’t trust him,” cautioned Stuart, like we were guarding atomic secrets. “Just wait. I’ll talk to you during the week.”

Well, we didn’t talk during the week, but yesterday, at 11 AM, Stuart phoned with insight.

“You can do better. She’s got some issues.”
(That, of course, was not what I wanted to hear).
“Maybe I should ask Bob?”
“Go ahead. But I just think that if someone is attractive and they’re alone there’s a reason….”

Stuart is Stuart; I am me. I met Bob for lunch.

Robert George did not hesitate: “Yeah, Fenton’s probably right…I’d let it go.”
I persisted: “But what if I bump into her…couldn’t I just sort of say ‘We should have dinner,’ and see what she does with it?”
“You could do that, but……………”

And then it hit me. It was ’96 and I was doing it again—ignoring the experts! Haven’t I learned anything?

Here I am, a young Bobby Bonds sitting in the Giants’ dugout with Mays and McCovey…and I’m telling them how to hit?

I don’t think so.

I’m not calling her this week, and if I bump into her, (which I won’t), I’ll just smile.

It’s nice to have smart friends.


Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

People will forget what you said and forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel

                              Maya Angelou

Dear Amy, Jeff, Liz and Marc,

A lot of people can make me smile, and I’m blessed for that.
I can count on one hand though, those that would ALWAYS, yes ALWAYS make laugh. And although our paths hadn’t crossed in years, Ben Erlich was one of them. Yesterday’s news meant I lost a finger.
We were brothers-in-law married to distinctly different sisters.
From different parts of the world, different upbringings, but, in so many ways…the same. (Perhaps that’s why we always clicked).
Your Dad was irreverent, old-fashioned and loyal. He was a passionate host, always opening his home to Ohio’s wandering Jews.
He was not only a good man, but a man that made you feel good.
Fact is I don’t have one memory of Benny that doesn’t bring a smile with it. Not one.
With all his “streets,” with all his tough-guy bravado…those who knew him…knew him for what he was… A“Gutte neshumah,” (good soul).
We lived parallel lives, Ben and I. Our times together were limited to family retreats to the east coast. Even so, in those intermittent visits, we found a common ground. Always.
Your Dad knew I was his foil and LOVED to egg me on.
Your aunt would give me dirty looks and your Dad would go further.
At the movies, or in a restaurant: when people turned away…from out of nowhere we’d hear a dog bark. Or yelp!
It was always your dad; I always laughed. It never got old.
“Why do you laugh at him?” my wife would chide.
“Not at him,” I’d correct. (It was always WITH him).
And we shared a special warmth for Grandpa Ben. Your dad was lucky and saw much more of him than I. He made his father-in-law a home at the luncheonette—a safe haven where your grandfather could read his sports page and overeat in a way he was never allowed to at home.
“Have some more!” your Dad would urge. “Quick, before Lil sees!”
Our bond was borne as much from our differences as from our similarities. One Passover he dared me to work the trailer outside the restaurant. From 7AM on I passed out Pesach food to the patrons, and even sweat. The corner of my eye watched your Dad WATCH me…waiting for the college kid to bail on him…and getting a kick out of the fact I didn’t.

We had that thing going on.

They say people come into your life for either a reason, a
season, or a lifetime. Your Dad was in my life for a season.

A championship season.

He will be missed.

                                       Love, Uncle Bruce


Saturday, December 5th, 2009

We were headed down Chagrin like Kermit and Fozzie Bear. Approaching Richmond the traffic slowed and Burnside posited:

”You know what you need, Rabbi….you need to start dating again.”
“I’m in the zone, my friend. Don’t worry about me.”

He laughed. Loudly. “What the f#% are you talking about— what zone? You haven’t gone out in months.”

“Yeah, but I’m on a roll…I could…there’s just no one out there!”

Unrelenting, the man pushed forward. “What do you mean you’re on a ROLL? Are you dreaming?”

“No, seriously, “I shot back elaborating. “…Dated three ladies this year—with varying degrees of magic. Just not (at least for me), “keepers.”

And further… “But I could go out if I wanted.”

“What’s with those online things you do?” (referring to and JDate). “You telling me there’s NO ONE worth meeting?”

So I explained. Match sends you five suggestions daily, each of which I scrutinize, but to no avail. Maybe, I suggest, I’m just not cut out for a non-Jew. My thinking is to cancel the membership this month.

“You’d be eliminating 80% of the world, Rab…you know that?
“80% of YOUR world, perhaps. Not mine.” (I thought back to my father-in-law. He could have accepted the divorce, but, even today, he’d be accusing me of just “flouncin’ around with a shiksah.”)

Dennis, however, made me think. That night, while vetoing the day’s “Matches,” I took personal inventory.

Between work, play, family…do I really want…do I really have time for a relationship? Is there any time AT ALL, to cultivate one out of town?

(A familiar refrain).

A “friend” with potential recently invited me to New York for New Year’s Eve. Not certain where it could go—might like to find out…then reality set in.

“Best case scenario, Dad,” my child asked, “What do you see happening?”
“REALLY, I mean it…best case —what happens New Year’s Eve?”
“Well, best case we fall madly in love and I move to NY or we both move to Florida in a year—absolute best case scenario.”
“Dad, do you really see that happening?”
“Then why even bother?”

I’m not.

Instead, I am doing some math. House odds on a relationship.

First I take the set of all women and eliminate 80% due to religion. Then I cross off another 60% on age. Eyeing reality, I “86” all those outside northeast Ohio, (putting back in, against child’s wishes, ladies living within the Detroit-Pittsburgh-Cincinnati triangle).

There’s more. Out come the druggers and smokers. Nischt nischt to the twice-divorced or anyone whose Facebook relationship status is “Complicated.” And I knock out anyone looking to do major travel (unless of course it’s limited to New York, Chicago or Vegas).

That doesn’t leave a whole lot…and we haven’t even gotten to looks.

But wait! Switching gears for a moment I recall my Dad’s lament…that neither he nor I “…was a Tyrone Power.” I am, to be sure, a smiling face-in-the-crowd. Charming maybe, but….

Groucho Marx refused to join any club that would have him as a member. What does this cowboy truly offer the balanced, age-appropriate Jewess? Companionship, yes. Commitment, yes. But neither money nor Europe.
And my sense of humor? Good, sure, but laughs are on DVD’s this holiday season…and come January I can’t be Tivo’d.

Fact is I know what I do and do not bring to the table. I’m personable, maybe even evolved, but a semi-neb at heart; open-minded yet old-fashioned, and at the end of the day, pretty set in my ways. So set, that indeed I may be I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

On a roll.


Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

I can picture it like it was yesterday, but it was a Thursday, light years ago—

Noonish …The phone rang in my office; “we” were in labor. Uptown to Wrenford, down to the hospital…and then …the wait. With all that LaMaze I still pictured the doc standing over my wife, barking signals like a quarterback… and then she’d snap the baby to him on “Hike.”

Not so.

My Dad showed up late afternoon, and we advised him of the delay. He asked about timing, not dilations. At our urging, (it didn’t take much), he excused himself, drove up the hill, and went to Lodge meeting. The baby wasn’t even in field goal range.

Finally, at 12:37 AM, Prince Michael arrived. According to no less an expert than Al Bogart, the newborn was the most beautiful baby he’d ever seen. No muss, no pimples. Perfect. Moreover, my Dad pointed out: Michael’s eyes were wide open.

And guess what? This first born of two first borns is still beautiful!

When you bat first your job is to get on base. Any way. A hit, a walk, an error. Just get on. For three decades our son has been a great leadoff hitter—always getting on, always succeeding.

Beachwood soccer, regional softball, Greater Cleveland all-star in hardball. Daytime academics to evenings of 2-Mic Productions…. Political campaign manager…From Hebrew School to Chupah,… He’s always reached base, always made us proud.

So here I am asking the question my dad used to mumble: “Where did all the time go?” Wasn’t he just….

The boy…sleeping beside me for Barker’s perfect game, shooting hoops with Grandpa Ben…And starried-eyed, schlepping to Cooperstown, and to Woody’s memorial service, and to the Smokey Mountain Softball Classic in Tennessee.

But wait! In the next picture he’s getting out of Dodge! Heading east. From boy to man in what seemed like moments. It was Saturday, June 10, 2000 and OSU diploma in hand, it was on to New York— A job, a life, and ultimately, a soul mate.

I was the chauffeur. We drove cross country and at dawn headed into Aunt Rosie and Uncle Fred’s. Like a landing at Ellis Island…and yes, the immigrant was just as eager to see his new world!

Five minutes of hellos and then it came:

“Could you drop me off in the city on your way back, please.” (What? No down time?)

But I did and it was bitter-sweet. The Puerto Rican Pride parade had jammed Manhattan so we laughed aloud when I couldn’t access Lincoln Tunnel.

Then he pointed to a corner. “Let me off here Dad. I love you.”

Driving away, watching him through the side-view mirror I cried. Inside.
Not only because my little boy had grown up, but because, as I left this young, confident adult on the streets of his new home, I knew I hadn’t always been the father I could have been. And I knew he knew.

But I also sensed that he’d done OK in spite of it. And I prayed he got that too. The fact is that I’m a better dad now than I was back then. And the truth is that children are resilient, regardless.

No longer a young adult, my little boy’s a real New Yorker now. So be it.
Hard working, fiercely loyal and respected, he thrives with Meredith, (the perfect complement to a sometimes complex son), and Michael’s blessed to have found her. And although HE would dub me gay for saying it, I’ll state it anyway: She completes him. Together they are carving their future as a team.

He’s 32 today, my little boy. And he’s still the leadoff hitter, adding spark to extended family, friends on the coast, and to all he touches. I hope he knows that.

Yes, there is something special about being first born.

And something very special about Michael.

Happy Birthday.