Archive for January, 2010


Friday, January 29th, 2010

I’ve come to accept the fact that that the only person I can control is the proverbial “man in the mirror.” Further, those most effective in mentoring me have neither preached nor dictated; they’ve shared. Telling me their stories, relating experience, strength and hope—they’ve merely planted seeds…all the while knowing that the harvest was not theirs to schedule.

For whatever it is worth, what follows is gleaned from MY experience, strength…and hope.

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It was the ‘50s. The small black and white photo atop our dad’s dresser pictured two boys—youngsters. One carried the other on his back with a caption that read “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” (I had no idea what it meant).

Our mother was more verbal. “Just remember,” she’d admonish…..”When I’m gone it’ll just be the two of you.” (This was her mantra from her first husband (our father) to her third spouse, The Thief). Mom never understood, through ten presidential administrations, that her wishing it couldn’t make it so. Or, maybe, yes….she did).

There was a time, you see, when Hal and I didn’t speak. I remember; he remembers; our kids remember. Yes, there was a time.

There was a day I didn’t enter his home. It was an ugly bitter era of rancor our mother winced at, but let play out. (She had no choice). Seems so long ago, but it wasn’t.

We were exchanging emails—each of us documenting our positions in electronic, dogmatic confrontation. I can’t speak for him, but back then I could have passed a polygraph laying it all at his feet.

I was wrong. He may have been too. It mattered not, but, frankly, I hadn’t yet learned that it’s better to be happy than right. Precious time passed.

And more time.

Then, one day, maybe eight years ago:

“I need a brother…..Want to meet?….No questions about the past.”

An awkward Caribou coffee begat another meeting…We went from breaking hearts to breaking bread…and over time from disharmony to true family. Heck, we needed each other! Absent impossible reconstructions of the past, without pro forma reciprocal apologies–but with just a fervent resolve to reunite: indeed, Martin and Lewis were together again!

I rarely think of those days any more. And yet H referenced these Dark Ages just Tuesday. In a good way. We were sitting around the dinner table—as family. He voice spoke in gratitude for today.

Hal recognizes, as I do, that we’re closer now than ever. He sees, as I do, that when we are at peace everyone around us thrives. And he knows that there was never a time, good or bad, when we didn’t love each other.

I’ve learned in my own life that ‘tis true: Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

And I’ve learned that never is an awful long time.

And I’ve learned that there is never a wrong time to say:

“Want to meet? No questions about the past. I need you.”


Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Laughing at myself is healthy and cleansing. It can also be a full-time job.

Saturday Bob and I crossed the river to visit our aged pal Arthur. Recuperating at Lutheran Medical, he was salivating for companionship—and the opportunity to complain face-to-face. Who were we to deprive him of his life’s passion?

Bob drove his souped-up MItz; I rode shotgun. My job: recite three pages he’d secured from MapQuest. Easier said than done. Not only were the directions misleading, but me…well, I was sure I knew more. Secretly, I was improvising.

We missed a cutoff, though, and Bob noticed. Confidently I reassured him with further instructions, noting that “This feels right.” Wrong again.

So there we were: Snyder tooling around the innerbelt at 40MPH—his left eye on overhead signs, right eye on the map…all as we did Figure Eights on exit ramps!

“It feels right,” I repeated, savoring the challenge of finding the right route before sunset. I was only semi-obnoxious, somewhat giddy. It never occurred to me Bob was getting frustrated. Suddenly, a few loops later, like Jackie Gleason/ Ralph Kramden, my friend erupted:

“B, give me the dam papers already, would ya?”
“OK, fine.” (I was all in).

First light past the Lorain Avenue Bridge he needed me again:

“Left or right? I think right.”
“No, Bob, trust me—it’s left.”

We dreidled through side streets avoiding illegal turns, headed south down West 25th, and…the numbers were again going the wrong way. Only one of us found this amusing.

Kraut looked good, though; his spirits were up. And we had fun. Stumbling upon the one attractive nurse in the building, Bob asked her to take our picture. (We looked like Jan & Dean on a reunion tour, with Moses in the middle). I forwarded it on.

Response came quickly—
“What are you wearing over your shirt?” read Meredith’s text.
“Pale pink T.” (Miami Vice/Retro, or so I thought).
Wrong again, Fabio! (as the ensuing cellular colloquy affirmed):

“Tshirt over buttondown is Nish Nish…
“I thought it was a good look.”
“It’s NOT a good look!”
(OK, I get it).

Six hours later the games continued. Although somewhat inaudible, Michael’s voice mail was clear compliment:

“Dad, it’s a fantastic outfit…You should wear it more often…”

Unfortunately, as I replayed it, and replayed it….well, he was laughing. Throughout. Indeed, his tongue was so far into his cheek he may have poked his sister in Chicago. By bedtime the truth was clear: I not only need a GPS, but a subscription to GQ as well. So be it.

It didn’t however, end there. The Bob stuff was fun; the clothing issue—harmless. Neither, however, compared to the frustration in what should have been my strong suit: reading a book.

You see…it struck me a few weeks back that rather than wait for the movie to come out, I should just read Wieder’s latest tome. And so it was that Friday’s mail brought a softbound copy of “Teacher And Comrade: Richard Dudley And The Fight For Democracy In South Africa.”
(Not my normal fare, but the author is OUR Alan Wieder)!

I remember the excitement in college when I bought my first condoms at 16th & High. Huddling at Starbucks with that same Lewis & Clark sense of adventure, I opened Wied’s book. One small problem, though. I’d never read a book by a professor before…and I brought neither a laptop nor a dictionary…nor (for that matter) Cliff’sNotes.

Highlighting words, .thinking perhaps to call MovieFone…(maybe it was at an art theater?).., I sensed the disconnect. Wasn’t I, in the day, an English major…who ghost-wrote papers? And didn’t Mrs. Pelander tell me I had a “remarkable vocabulary?”

I emailed Alan (who offered to help). By telephone Aunt Helen defined words like “pedagogy.” And I persevered. And I learned…like I had all day.

About my ego… and Cleveland streets…and wardrobe malfunctions….and (ultimately), about myself.


Friday, January 22nd, 2010

“I gotta tell ya Dad…” Stacy looked up – twinkle in her eye, sh#!-eating grin, and affirmed: “Your friend Bob (pause)…Ya just gotta love him!”

(True, but her comment came somewhat out of nowhere. Moreover, I well knew that Bob is so OUT THERE, so up front in his image, that my daughter didn’t know how right she was. Heck, Bob is so BOB that many of his life-long compatriots, me included, sometimes forget how soft he is on the inside).

But I bit… “OK, why?”

“Because he knows exactly who he is. And he’s always confident, always comfortable…..Ya just gotta love him!”

Robert G. Snyder, part of my life since grade school, is everything the little one thinks, and more. I not only love him, but better yet, I like him.

Have we had our issues? Sure. In fifty years, who wouldn’t? Still, with all his mishigos, AND mine, we are two friends gracefully growing older, and maybe even growing up, together. I can still screw with him here and there, but I’ve come to realize that Brother Bob is more important to me than ever. I would, as I told his wife just recently, take a bullet for him.

You see you have to know Bob to really know Bob.

My daughter’s right. He’s so comfortable in his own skin, so reassured, so NOT AFRAID to stumble from time to time….that, again, if you didn’t really know him, you wouldn’t truly “get” the man behind the curtain. And while there’s probably not been one time I’ve labeled him my “best friend,” there’s been no time we weren’t the best of friends.

My first memory is sixth grade—about the time we discovered girls. He was cooler than me, full of confidence, even back then. To all…Bob was
the straw that stirred the drink.

Our first club, the Excels, was involuntarily disbanded. Bruce Schwartz’s mother complained when we excluded her son. Calling our parents, the school warned them that cliques created “juvenile delinquents.” We were summarily shut down.

Bob, Stuart, Joel, Alan, Rais…the guys…we resurfaced as R.E.N., a slightly larger group. Donning red and white banlon shirts we ruled. Me, I always thought Bob was the ruler.

He could dance; he could talk to women—the first kid on the block with a girl friend.

Bob Snyder’s been the Zelig in my life. You know: the Woody Allen character that always pops up…always there, be it front and center or the face in every crowd.

…A Saturday morning exhibition game—White Sox v. Tigers (circa 1961). I hit two over the fence at Nigrelli; Bob was at short for the second one and put his hand out as I rounded—just like on TV.

…The sixth grade football team he organized. The Bar Mitzvah circuit.
Club 222. Aleph Gadol in AZA. The night he got his driver’s license.

Truth is I never quite felt I belonged in Bob’s league. And maybe I didn’t. Somehow, though, through the years, we’ve always intertwined.

Playing ball, selling magazines, even divorcing…

For a short period we did drift. It was during our first lives and Bob was living in the high rent district. That chasm of a few years evaporated in August, ’82 when my step-dad died. There stood Bob, solo on a Monday afternoon, at my Mom’s door for Shivah.

In the eighties we all moved along—Stuart even to Connecticut. By the 90’s, though, Fenton was back. And so was Bob—with a vengeance.
Even then Snyder was Leader Of The Pack. He was driving force behind what he never understood could have been the worst show ever produced for Cleveland’s drive-time radio, “The Fabulous Boomer Boys.” (Fortunately, after two years of public appearances, mud-wrestling, sleeping in-studio, we were cancelled. Don’t tell Bob, though. He still thinks we’re on hiatus).

He’s been a true, lasting friend. And a caring one. I recall his concern in my first years of sobriety. And I remember, about that time, how upset he and Stuart were with one of my dalliances. Good friends don’t take your bullshit—they call you on it.

“Now, B, don’t tell me it’s over if it’s not! Don’t give me your BS.” (How many times did he say that?)

In all these years Bob’s never lied to me. (OK, once….the first Friday night with his ’66 Mustang). But on balance I can’t say the same. What I can swear to though is that as life ebbs and flows we’ve been there for each other. No questions asked. To this day.

It’s a funny thing—I know at times we frustrate each other. But we share an unconditional friendship, the flame of which no adversity can extinguish.

It’s special…knowing someone in and out—sensing they know you as well, and— words unspoken…having each other’s back. Win, lose or draw. It’s likewise special sharing a past with a pal, and also a present.

I spend a lot of time here in gratitude for friends, family and life. Bob’s loyalty goes back to my days of innocence. Like me, he can be a challenge. Like Alan, Stuart, Walt, etc. he remains steadfast.

With apologies to Terence Mann (James Earl Jones in “Field Of Dreams):

               “The one constant through all the years has been Snyder.

                 America has rolled by  like an army of steamrollers. It has

                 been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again.

                 But Snyder has marked the time.”

I tease him a bit—even have fun at his expense on this cite. Truth be known, though, time and change have surely shown we are the best of friends.

And ya gotta love him!


Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

In recovery we’re urged to remain teachable. It’s a quality that facilitates growth; as they say, “Grow or go.” Frankly, spiritually, emotionally and financially flat as I was—it was a relief to admit what had become evident: that I had no answers. What a pleasure to heed others and secure some life skills.

In retrospect, the best years of my life have always been the one’s where I asked for help and sought counsel in others. Most of my stumbling came when my ego said I was “handling” things, or when I was to proud to admit I’d dropped the ball. Other than perhaps sliding into a base, the fact is I’ve never learned anything on my own.

In grade school days we’d cross the street to Rowland where the older guys taught us to hold a bat (against the grain). They said it reduced cracked bats. (Now I have no idea if they were right, but to the novice, it made sense). Moreover, while our Dad readily taught us to score Hollywood/Oklahoma gin rummy, he’d never thrown a breaking ball. It took the steadfast guidance of Steve Fromin to teach that. There’s no ego at age nine and, as such, no difficulty in accepting the wisdom of others. Frankly, a half-century later I still don’t know why…when I held my finger on the red stitching of the hardball just so……it broke.

One area where I rarely took advice was with women. Fact is you could count my high school dates on the fingers of Mordecai Brown’s right hand. (Junior Prom, Senior Prom, and one homecoming).

In college, buoyed by the confidence of contact lenses and a Mustang convertible, things improved. Evolving from total nerd to semi-neb, I was now being fixed up by Stuart and even Longert. No matter, I quickly forgot where I’d come from. Somehow, I thought I knew the game.

I was wrong.

Post-OSU, summer of ’72, Stuart not only knew what I didn’t know, he knew THAT I didn’t know. On the back of a Highlights Magazine sales report form, in a three-page letter, he suggested prerequisites for a life partner.

I ignored him.

Fast forward to this millennium and of course the more things change the more they stay the same. This is both good news and bad news. The good, clearly, is that today I eagerly take advice; the bad news is that every one I know now believes, based on his life experiences, that he is an expert. Solicited and unsolicited opinions pour in. As my Dad would say, “I don’t know whether to s___ or go blind.”

This all came to light again recently when I told my child I’d not follow up a December coffee date.

“What’s the matter Dad— no magic?” (came the sarcasm).

I was then instructed that at this “point” in my life I should look merely for someone to go to movies with… or out to eat with—that this should suffice.

“And besides, Dad, how can you tell in one hour?”
“I can tell, please…I always have.”
“What do you mean you always have,” came the inquiry.
“Because my entire life… everyone I’ve ever ‘liked’…I’ve sensed potential immediately…in seconds, ” I proclaimed.
There was a pregnant pause over the phone before the response:

“Well, Dad, maybe that’s why you’ve been so successful!”


Game. Set. Match.

I don’t always agree with my kid, but I am open-minded. Should I be
content with a dinner/movie companion? Should I 86 chemistry?
As I grappled with this so un-Brucelike concept the phone rang. It was
Dick calling from Chicago…about Hal. After bringing him up to speed on
my brother, we got down to small talk.

“So how are you, B?” He asked.
“Good enough.”
“Are you in love these days? You’re always in love.”

Well, Brother Baskin was wrong, but his joke brought a reality check. Why
short-change myself? I’m entitled to more; we all are.

Open-minded me…I needed reassurance. Who better then to contact than the self-proclaimed Jewish Dr. Phil, the paragon of propriety, the pride of South Euclid, Ohio….Robert George Snyder? How in the world could I consider this personal paradigm shift without his input?

And the Yoda delivered.

“You’re kid’s wrong!” he proclaimed. “You have to remember they think we’re old people. They think we’re done.”

I’d likened it my own perception of my father when, mid-40’s, he was dating. Bob went even further. “We’re younger now than they were then,” he pointed out. “It’s a different world.”

“But tell me, Bob…do you think I’m too old to look for magic?”

“No! Bullshit!” he shot back.

I took that to mean, in fact, that I’m too old NOT to look for it.


Friday, January 15th, 2010

7:25 AM yesterday: Margie and I left him laying prone in PreOp, turned and headed out. He was valiant, but looked vulnerable. Clearly, my little brother was going to have a long day.

I haven’t addressed his ordeal here because, quite frankly, he reads this. Moreover, he logs on for escape. To expound would have been no less than selfish and, I would say…unbrotherly.

A full half-day later as sun shone through the massive windows at UH his surgeon emerged….

The operation went well.

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‘Twas the night before Christmas, or thereabouts when they confirmed a tumor.

“Yes, Bruce,” Hal told me. “That’s the word they used.” The biopsy had been taken and would dictate the next step. As two long holiday weekends book-ended the wait for results, my brother smiled. Still, even in keeping things light, it was there…and we all thought about it. At times you could cut it with a knife.

Then, shortly after New Year, it was what it was. Surgery was scheduled for the 21st. Then the 15th. Then Thursday, January 14.

Hal and Margie were troupers. Each was candid, positive and hopeful, and with their lead we kept it real… Me? I was caught between an unquestioned faith that G/d would take care of H and my angst in seeing his uneasiness, sensing his fear, and knowing he was in both emotional and physical pain,

But he kept peddling—my brother did. Sharing feelings more than his custom, remaining focused—for not one second did he lose his sense of humor. Heck, it was a tool that moved him forward.

Like his intermittent prefacing of comments with “I should only live so long.” Or his reminding of the ongoing family premise that Aunt Helen would outlive us all.

When he first scheduled surgery Hal asked that we sing kareoke one night. We did so, just last Friday. It seems so long ago. Margie, Hal, Caroline, Amy, me. Oh, yeah….and a special guest appearance through the snow by seventy year old Cousin Sheila with her walker.

Not unlike others, Hal has a “go-to” song— the tune he’s mastered and sings with unabashed confidence. His is the semi-hillbilly Johnny Rivers/Charley Pride “Mountain Of Love.”

“Standing on the mountain looking down on the city…”

I know….I know….. I love my brother, but THAT song?

Anyway, last Shabbos was no different and Hal went with it. Again. But not until he’d first brought a stool center stage and held the mic as Sheila crooned “My Man.” (Editor’s Note: if Fanny Brice was not dead, our cousin’s rendition would have killed her.) In all, each of us, fortified for Hal’s upcoming fight, took turns in solos, duets, groups. We WERE family.

The night was pure fun and my brother not only had a drink, but later urged his daughters: “Do you want to do shots?” We were one.

It was not family alone that flanked H this week. Little Herb, (his nickname post-Robin Beckerman), was inundated with love from not only his myriad of friends, but co-workers as well. By phone, by email, by osmosis. From boyhood friends The Nemos, to adult pals. There were prayers in Jewish temples and prayers at Catholic masses. It was a full court press for this sweet man. From the rabbinate at Park to the throngs assembled by Doug Mandel in Israel. (By the way, what IS the plural of “mishaberach?”)

In a world where all we have is today, my brother honored today. He thrived this week not only because he always answers the bell, and not only because G/d protects him, but because, as hokey as it sounds, my brother Hal lives high on a Mountain Of Love.


Monday, January 11th, 2010

Today is his birthday.

When his time came I noted David was man of integrity, loyalty and honor. He WAS all that, and more. He was a mensch, a straight-shooter. Moreover, if he was your friend he was with you rain or shine, no questions asked. And how lucky was I that he befriended me?

David was a man of unparalleled discipline with a spot in his heart for a guy as undisciplined as me. It was a very soft spot.

Although we met at OSU, our friendship melded years later as we prepared for the Ohio Bar Exam. We convened with a handful of nice Jewish boys who, (after years of academic success), were each, for perhaps the first time, academically insecure. Young and married, we jointly shared our first fears of failure.

Reading by day, taking classes at night, our group pushed through with minimal fellowship. Study groups were taken seriously and there was no small talk or true camaraderie. Frankly, I was restless, yet for some reason even I sensed that this was, indeed, no dress rehearsal.

It was a June, 1975 and Tigers were in town with Mickey Lolich pitching. We had not yet cut a bar review class but clearly, with that left-hander on the mound, it was an idea whose time had come. Although we’d never really talked one-on-one, I’d already sensed that David and I “got” each other. So I asked him to join me. After initially declining, he melted, agreeing to leave the Sheraton ONLY if I promised we’d be back by the start of the second hour’s lecture. We shook hands on it—picture Roosevelt and Churchill at Yalta—and were off!

Time being of the essence, like big shots—we took a cab from Public Square to the Lakefront and caught a couple innings. Then, before he had to nag me, I honored my commitment (leaving voluntarily) and we taxied back—never breaking stride.

That night, in words unspoken, our friendship rocketed to a new dimension—and through the years, the bond remained. Further,
although we never played much ball together, many vivid memories have sports as their backdrop.

He was so happy when I joined him, traveling to his hometown Cincinnati for the opening of the 1990 World Series! We broke the trip in half, sleeping the first night at his niece Lisa’s in Columbus. Arriving in The Queen City, we had pre-game drinks at The Maisonnette, where one of those magic moments occurred.

The Reds were a prohibitive dog for both the opener (Dave Stewart was pitching for Oakland), and also the Series. At the bar all kinds of people picketing with “Free Pete Rose” signs. We spoke to one who, defiantly assured us “Cincinnati will win. It’s science.”

Looking at each other, we egged him on (all the while believing the guy was a schmuck). Turns out, however, we were the fools.

Our new pal explained to us that there was, in baseball, such a thing as “The Ex-Cub Factor.” Only once in the last 45 years, he pointed out, had a team with three ex-Chicago Cubs won a World Series. Whatever!

He who laughs last, however, laughs best. The Reds won that night, (and went on to sweep the A’s). I remember exiting up the ramp after the final out; we were shaking our heads…and David had that twinkle in his eye.

“It’s science,” he kept repeating.

David had an uncanny ability to frame his thoughts with an economy of words and yet, succinctly communicate. He was a man of precision, even in the most imprecise times.

As the ‘86 pro football season was drawing to a close Cleveland was poised for its first Super Bowl. I was separated from my wife, going through rough times, and David agreed to join me in Pasadena. We made reservations for one night in Vegas with plans to head to the Rose Bowl from there. The Browns season, of course, ended one game short with The Drive, (oddly enough, on David’s birthday); changing plans, we spent both nights in Nevada.

There was a cloud over the weekend, though. My life was heading south; neither of us really cared about the ballgame. By suppertime Saturday we were both regretting that our flight back was Sunday night’s red-eye.

That evening, in the pre-cell phone era, we lost contact. Not only that, but I got sick. Indeed, my chest pains were overwhelming. About 8 PM I took a cab to the hospital where I lay on a gurney for what seemed endless hours. They kept calling the MGM, but David was not to be found. I remember thinking—what if I died? Who would know? Hours later I was released, and taxied back to the strip. David was sound asleep.

We awoke the next morning shaken. My friend was still sleeping when, holding my last hundred dollars, I headed down to the poker room. There were a lot of loose players that day, or so it seemed. People were hanging around, killing time before kickoff. For me it was 7 Card Stud. I didn’t speak; I didn’t smile. I have to tell you, though…I was playing the tightest poker of my life.

David came down and found me about 9 AM. Perhaps feeling remorse over the past night’s hospital absence, he sat dutifully, watching me play for nearly three hours. We didn’t talk much, but he sat intently.

When done playing, just before noon I was $230 to the good—not bad for the small stakes game. For the first time that morning I relaxed. I exhaled. (It’s not easy playing with your last dollar).

I got up. David got up. We had taken maybe five steps when he turned to me, looked me dead in the eye, and with a stony cold solemnity broke the silence:

“May G/d judge the quality of your life by the way you played cards today.”

(No kinder words had ever been spoken. Indeed, I use that line every once in a while to this day…especially at unimportant moments).

David was my friend in good times and bad, and never judged me when I stumbled. He was a barometer for dignity. I miss him.

Our paths last crossed at his grandson’s Bris. He was surrounded by Diane, his kids, family and friends. Walking down his driveway I knew what we all knew…

And I knew that I would always look back at this special, special man, think of him…and smile.


Friday, January 8th, 2010

Heading north from Mayfield, I gingerly drove through dark—both hands gripping a still-cold wheel. The speaker phone was on and I spoke with one of my favorite people.

“You know, Bruce, “ she sighed…”I’m at the age where if there’s something I want to do I’m going to try and do it!”

I kept listening….

“And why not? My kids will always be my kids—I’m there for them.”

“Yeah, ”I shot profoundly, (not so much at a loss for words as ensconced in thought—the thought that I too should take time, as appropriate, to do what I want).

“OK, “ I asked, “What DO you want to do?”

Silence. Perhaps she was ignoring the question; I couldn’t hear if she was thinking. Then more silence. Finally, the lady answered (as Jews usually do)…with a question:

“What do YOU want to do?”

My response came swiftly, but, (as Weiskopf would say, perhaps it was too lawyer-like):

“Excluding things I can’t control—like peace in the family, health. Just talking about things I can get done. There’s no place I want to go…Nothing I HAVE to do.”

Now she listened. And I continued…on a roll—–

“I just want to be with people I want to be with. Maybe warm weather. That’s enough.”

(There. I was done. THAT’S what I wanted to do. Good people-good weather).

Her thoughts by now were ready for prime time:
“Me? I want to be near the water.”

“I don’t want to travel,” I countered, (quietly thinking: Why is it everyone wants to see the world but no one wants to be called “tourist”? I live with no burning desire to see any one thing! Wieder can hit Cambodia and Fenton can safari Africa. Treinish? Let him scale the Andes. Give me Florida sun, Michael and Jason at another Vegas Sit N Go, call me shallow, and just let me be!)

She interrupted my internal soliloquy with more sharing: “I’m not a traveler either, but I do like water.” (Like water? The woman must love it. She told me the same thing twice in five minutes).

The subject slid to the verities of our existences: her kids, my kids,
life…and then, a good talk had, we hung up.

I’m singing Kareoke tonight. In Cleveland, Ohio. Not because it’s new and exciting, but because Hal, Margie and the girls will be there. It’s called being with people you want to be with.

And that’s all I really want to do.


Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Another layer of the onion has peeled away and (gulp), I owe Snyder an apology. It seems he did NOT cost me my basketball career—it was something entirely different.

Conventional wisdom (ok, my wisdom) has always been that when Bobby didn’t pass the ball back in 8th grade tryouts it gave Coach Lautenschlager pause. I never survived that final cut. Turns out it had nothing to do with my friend. It was, rather, the fact that I didn’t carry a gun.

Who’d have thunk it?

It all came to light just this week with the revelation that pistols were brandished in Washington’s NBA locker room. Indeed, the New York Post headlined an article “3 out of 4 players pack heat.” (January 2, 2010).

What chance did I have? Heck, the only self-defense my father knew was to, when playing hearts, pass the queen of spades “with protection.” ( two other spades).

So…I’m sorry, Bob. And…I understand now why neither my brother (who, to this day holds Greenview Junior High School’s career scoring mark), nor I played pro hoops. Consider:

We didn’t grow up with guns. Not even cap guns. ‘Twas no part of our family’s culture. Heck, in an era when westerns dominated network TV, the only cowboy show on our lone home screen was “Maverick;” our dad thought it was about poker.

I suppose this presaged my checkered career in the army. It was the first week of January, 1972 when, (you talk about a fish out of water), I entered Basic Training. You think a Jew on a pontoon is unique? Picture this innocent picking the pork off his plate, watching the road for snakes, and marching rhythmically in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Being a “B,” I drew KP (Kitchen Police) that first day and was not with the unit as M-16 rifles were distributed; I had to wait.

My first mistake was when, following directions, I went to pick it up. I’d asked for my “gun” and, before they gave it to me, some redneck with the IQ of an ashtray screamed at me, admonishing that “It’s not a gun, troup, it’s a weapon!” (On her best day my ultimate wife never got that loud). When I stopped trembling the guy made me do twenty push-ups, the last several of which were performed only through divine intervention.

I had that weapon eight weeks. During this time we were taught to properly care, clean and protect our rifles like we would a newborn child. I wasn’t ready, however, to have children.

The Super Bowl that year featured somewhat of a hometown Dallas team against the Don Shula’s still-blossoming Dolphins. The day after was a Monday, and a scheduled “white glove inspection.” This meant the powers-that-be would be wearing white gloves and massaging the insides of our guns. If visible grease or oil surfaced….well, there were all kinds of threats, the biggest being we wouldn’t go home.

The drill instructor came by during the first half, screaming that we’d better be sure our weapons could pass the next day’s scrutiny. This Jewish Steve Urkel was intimidated. With a few others, I got my weapon and spent the next hour scrubbing like Lady Macbeth.

The next morning, bright and early, they had the inspection. You should have seen the goyim show off their rifles. Strutting, beaming, they were not unlike proud parents at a child’s Bar Mitzvah. Me? I just wanted to slide through, which I did.

By the end of February I was putting down my gun for good. It was off to Texas to be a medic. Dad urged my brother to enlist and join me, but Father didn’t always know best; there was a war going on and Hal stayed home.

And so it is that H never once picked up a rifle. As such, his basketball career ended early. The record, however, stands. My brother made every shot he ever took from the floor—both of them. His lifetime shooting percentage, 1.000 says it all:

With or without a gun, Hal Bogart never misfired.