Archive for March, 2010


Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

It wasn’t my grandfather’s Seder. Nor (for that matter), was it my father’s. Heck, it wasn’t even my brother’s…but it worked.

Unlike Passover with the Sharp side, Bogart Seders, for thirty years conducted by our dad, were typically austere, rarely fun, and but for one hour and twenty minutes of evening-ending songs, generally tedious. Indeed, for two nights each spring Al Bogart put down the cigarettes, laid down his Bicycles, and dealt the family hours of rigid liturgy. No laughing; no smiling; no English.

Things loosened a bit when Dad died. Time, change, and generations. Whereas he’d learned to doven at home daily with HIS father, (picture Judge Hardy), Hal and I were baby-boomers, groomed thrice weekly in Park Synagogue’s suburbia. Our Dad learned isolated from a pious rebbe…call it Orthodox Light. We knew more than our friends, but by all accounts, couldn’t shine our father’s tefillen.

So when they buried our patriarch in ’85 it was inevitable that the times would be a changin’. And so they did. I can’t quite remember how it was…the demise of my marriage expedited matters. In any event Hal and Margie wound up hosting the thrust of the holidays. Jersey Girl went south; I became the Wandering Jew—-and there we were at H’s.

The past few years, though, I’ve tried to carry my end. Aided by Chef Kurland, the second Seder’s been mine. The virgin effort two years ago was somewhat spotless. Having secured Betty as kitchen help, we even had comic relief with almost-cousin Stuart and almost mobile cousin Sheila. She slept through her pick up; he slept through the dinner.

Holiday last year was overshadowed by Mom’s passing. Michael, Meredith and Stacy were in so we all convened…once again….at Margie’s for a truly ecumenical evening. Brother Weiskopf debuted; Stuart The Semi-pedaphile (awake) returned; even the mother of my children joined in.

Last night I had home court advantage again. It was neither fluid nor traditional, but new generations forge new traditions. Time was you’d recognize Seder’s end by Grandma Bogart et. al. rising for “Hatikvah.” Monday my brother augmented the ritual adding “God Bless America” to the repertoire.

Tuesday, though, was my show. With kids scattered across the country, attendance fell to seven. As such, we 86’d Betty and Margie served. Moreover, through miscommunication we were one table short, occasioning us to sit around a surface no longer than Herschel. And so it was that Hal and I broke matzah with Caroline, Amy, Margie, Renee (Hal’s mother/in/law) and Aunt Helen (playing herself). The usual suspects.

It was a far cry from the seders our father ran…when crowd size mandated a leaf in the table…when Hal was compelled to say the Four Questions a capella/ when assistance by anyone would have brought glares from the Old Man…and when, yes…..….there were only ten plagues.

Which leads me to our NEWEST tradition: the eleventh plague. March 30 our family, in unison, dipped a collective middle finger in the wine for an additional affliction: Itzy…(Dr. Turner)…(Mr. Ed).

In that moment, amid the release of laughter, no one noticed how short the table was nor cared that water filled the wine glasses. We were one, and like our people that had fled Egypt years ago, we too had survived.

We survived Itzy.


Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Overlapping tablecloths hid a configuration that zigzagged the perimeter of the downstairs. From dining room to living room to…on some Seders, the Beechwood Road, Cleveland Heights foyer—it was Passover at Grandma Becky’s.

Nowadays it would take an act of Congress to get it done: jamming no less than two dozen descendants of Great Grandfather Sam Sharp under one roof for yet another interminable Seder. All present and accounted for— with or without sibling rivalries, with or without the nuances that pester most families …all of them, compelled to the Selective Service of our great- grandfather….

We’d arrived first: Albert and Elaine, with the kids. Universally known as “The boys” we were pre-Bar Mitzvah and dutifully flanked our father on the green couch, robotically rising to shake hands with each arrival, (as all the while the bald man beamed).

At some point, though, we’d be told to move—make room for the adults—no, for one adult specifically: Grandpa Sam. Our great-grandfather was, when he died in the early ‘60’s, the biggest man I’d ever seen. (5’6” square). To this day, he still holds the title. Oh, and I don’t mean tall; I mean fat. How heavy was he? Let’s just say that each winter, when he vacationed on Collins Avenue, Miami, high tide was set by his walks in the ocean. The man had his own zipcode. He wanted the couch—he got the couch! This was his domain and the progeny that would infiltrate were all his.

And soon the parade would begin:

Grandma Cele and Grandpa Irv, (neither of whom read Hebrew). And Aunt Ruth with Uncle Irv. He, of course, would die young, but it was still many years before we learned she’d killed him (with aggravation). (“Why did Uncle Irv have a stroke Dad?….”Because he wanted to, Bruce.”)

Soon it would be Uncle Phil and Aunt Lil. Always late—big entrance— They said he looked like 50’s actor George Raft; in later years that became Howard Cosell. We never did confirm, though, if he died his hair.

And my favorite, Uncle Benny (with Aunt Charlotte). As a kid we didn’t know the caste system—didn’t know she’d only “married in” to the Sharp family—that she was only a sister-in law to some. We thought her to be a real aunt—imagine!

And the hits just kept on coming.

Uncle Bob, Aunt Etty and the Hoffmans. Cousins Barby and Sheila, Jackie and Pinky, and of course Karen Woldman and “the twins.” (Not once in my life was I ever able to tell Murray from Joel. Oddly, Hal once noted that you never saw them in the same room at the same time. Perhaps, he suggested, there was really only one Woldman boy).

I appreciate now what barely kept me awake back then. I recognize now how special it was: that everyone prioritized our heritage and respected elders enough to pack in like sardines and be together. Even though there were business disputes, even though there were family feuds…even though….

Little was I privy to the back/stories. That Uncle Benny and Uncle Phil co-owned a bar, but fought over money and weren’t speaking. That my Dad owed Uncle Bob some real money. That my mother was jealous of Bob because Grandma Cele liked him more and that Jackie never smiled and Pinky always smiled and Karen wanted a sister and everyone liked Irv Ungar even though he too “married in.” Who knew? Who cared?
On sundown, Erev Pesach, nothing mattered but family and faith. Those that dovened daily, those that spoke rarely—-they all knew their place.


This Monday night, in a world more mobile than the one I grew up in, we will recite “Next year in Jerusalem.” It is tradition, and I’ll say it. Truth be known, though, I’m not that greedy. Gladly would I settle for “Next year—under one roof—together.”


Sunday, March 21st, 2010

It was this time last year when, on a rare vacation, I made a friend.

We recognized each other from Cleveland, but this was Vegas. Still, familiar faces colliding miles away HAVE to say hello and so we did.
Mike was a poker dealer with one ear and a nice enough guy. I remembered him well. (How many one-eared dealers do YOU know?)

“Where are your friends?” he asked from his seat (two to my right). He was referring to other Clevelanders, the usual suspects I ran with.
“They’re here, “ I said, with a confirming motion across the card room. “To me it’s all the same but they love Mandalay Bay”.

Players came and went, but we stayed. Dealers rotated, but we remained— and as the automatic shufflers pumped, kinship developed.

I told him how my Dad would play gin tourneys at the Union Plaza downtown…about how I’d entered one year and got my butt kicked.

He opened up a bit more; he got real. Turned out his name wasn’t Mike, but Earl. Turned out he was due back in Ohio for a court date…”a support issue.”

“How long you here?” (I’m so naïve).
“Nah…not going…. Don’t have a lawyer.” (I smelled denial—his sense that if he didn’t think about it it would go away. I’d seen this movie before).
“We need to talk,” I urged him, and at a break we did.

Mike, I surmised, didn’t have a pot to piss in; he needed a break. Maybe I could help.

“You got to call the Court. They’ll issue a warrant.”
“I’m afraid.”

Well, you know where this is going. Courts were already closed back home, so I faxed in a letter. A call in the morning secured postponement, and over time and two court appearances, we worked out the issues with his “ex.”

“Send me a bill.” he urged, but we both knew he didn’t have it. The guy was on empty and I could relate. Been there; done that.

I told him about my bottom, in the 90’s…when I was afraid…when I didn’t have that proverbial pot…

I told him about another kid from the streets of South Euclid, another lawyer named Bruce…how he and his partner rallied me and represented me, knowing full well the money wasn’t there.

They knew then, and showed me by example, that you can’t be too busy making a living to help another make a life.

“Mike” and I are friends today because of Mandel’s largess to me. It goes to show you just never know. My guess is that when my friend picked me up by the bootstraps back then he never dreamed he’d touch a one-eared poker deal out west.

Kindness is like a shooting star…you never know where it lands.


Tuesday, March 16th, 2010


Grasping for the ringing phone, eyes wide shut, I fumbled. “Morning Joe” aired and it was time to rise but the lids wouldn’t open.


“How’s my big boy?” asked my mother.
“What’s the matter?” said I …not quite awake.
“Nothing. Just checking on my boy.”

“Everything’s fine Mom…. “We miss you.” (I added, gaining strength).

“Didn’t I always tell you you would?—remember?”

“Yes Mom.”

“And the kids?” she posed.

“That’s an essay question…” I began, but fortunately she interrupted.

“Are you keeping your weight down? “Sorry I missed the wedding. You know I planned to be there. I’ll bet it was nice.”

“Mom, why are you calling? Really.”

“Bruce, Bruce—still asking questions! Was Harriet there? What did she wear?” (She said— still asking questions). “Did she walk down the aisle?”

“Really Mom, why the call?”

”I hope you remembered to invite Laura. You know Stacy was named for Laura’s father Sam. Please say you remembered.”

“Yes Mom. On my list.”

“You know Bruce—I can’t be there to remind you anymore.”

“Yes Mom. Is that really why you called?”

“And Rocky—did you ever get him back? Are you dating? You shouldn’t be alone—“

“That’s Adam…and No Mom.”

“Is the back seat of your car clean?“


“Do you REALLY want to know why I called? It’s almost a year, you know.”

(Was she kidding? My mother calling long distance? Had to be a reason).

“To talk about Hal?”

“No.” For the first time her voice was calming:
“He’ll be fine. I promise.”

“Then what Mom? I mean you didn’t even reverse the charges? We were just JOKING about suing Ed. Why the call?”

There was a long pause before she spoke.

“You know me Bruce— insecure. Promise you’ll go to Park on my yahrtzeit—it’s not a lodge night. I checked.”

“Mom, you don’t have to ask. C’mon.”

“And not Sunday morning, either. At night. Friday night…when they read my name.”

“Yes Mom,” I assured, knowing full well that meant two services. (A Friday Maariv reading of ALL her names would carry well into Saturday morning).

“And stand next to your brother.”
“Yes Mom.”

There was more silence and then she told me she loved me.

“Me too,” I said, but she was gone. Again.

Rethinking the call I turned on the shower. Mothers know their kids inside and out; ours was no different. Her yahrtzeit? Hal and I together?
The call wasn’t necessary….for her. What else?

I thought some more.

“He’ll be fine. I promise.” “He’ll be fine. I promise.” Her words echoed…and sunk in. Then, knowing full well my mother never lied to me I stepped in the shower.

And I sang.


Saturday, March 13th, 2010

I signed the security sheet and went up to the sixth floor. The elevator opened to a massive plate glass window fronting a sign with the corporate name. I was in the right place.

“Is Mr. Bogart in?”
“Yes, whom should I say is calling?”
“Mr. Bogart.” (I smiled).

Waiting patiently, my memory scanned a canvas of the past:

Michael atop home plate: hoisting a trophy. All of ten in his grape/white uniform—Madison, Ohio. Jamie, clad in white/gold, is cheerleading and eyeing the stands where the Little One, Stacy, is multi-tasking—doing gymnastics in black tights and also sleeping aside Rocky in the cage.
(Don’t ask me how—it’s MY mosaic).

“He’s in a conference,” came the voice. “Would you like to wait? It’ll be a while.” (Was she kidding? Of course I would. Took long enough to get here). “Give him a half hour,” she offered.

Scouring the streets for a newspaper I came up empty. As my legs were about to fall off, settling for a salad at Moonstruck but two doors away, my mind wandered again…..

Michael was the eldest, but his was the last office of my kids to be seen. The final picture of their embryonic careers to be colored in. Just the way it fell.

Jamie’s was first. ‘Twas a few years back, and I don’t quite recall the circumstance. Law office, tall building, Manhattan. We hung out the whole day—as adults. She gave me a room with a view and a computer—then left to go about her business.

Stacy was next. We were there maybe five minutes, but there was her desk… in a loft…in Chicago. The better stuff came later as Rooney strut Savvy Avenue. How grateful am I that she works some in Cleveland? That she’ll use my office? What a kick to watch her work, focus….to walk in when she’s on the phone and have her waive me off! Good stuff.

And now I was about to see Michael Robert Bogart in his daytime habitat.
Complete the trifecta! ,,,,,and I sat there, wondering if the kids grasped, if they got how proud I was.

On my office bookshelf sits a tome entitled “Reverse Mergers.” It covers corporate stuff (and NOT, as the title suggests, my 1972 marriage). I don’t understand one word of it, nor care to. Jamie, though, is mentioned on page 230-line 8, so there it sits, forever….aside a built-in slot for papers bearing the following bold red signage: “BOHRER Savvy Avenue, where Stacy banks her work-in-progress. From the side, atop the cabinet (3 o’clock on your watch as you sit at my desk), angled to look down on his sisters…is a picture of my son. It’s twelve years old, and he’s kneeling on the grass of Ohio Stadium, helmet by his side….Adjacent to the photo is a faded tabloid, dated March 16, 2000: The Commercial Property News, residue of Michael’s first job.

I wonder if they knew.

The server brought the check and I paid. Crossing the street I reminded myself that Michael’s office would have pictures of Meredith, not me. Just like Jamie’s had Eric, and Stacy’s had Jason. That, indeed, the baton had passed to the next generation.

Minutes later the elevator door opened again to the sixth floor. I bounded out, re-entered through glass, and with pride announced:

“I’m here to see Mr. Bogart.”


Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Fenton and I knew him— Roy Hobbs, that is. Went to school together. Would like to say we ran with him, but the fact is no one could catch him. Not that (on paper) he was better…it’s just he had that swagger. I never dated in high school and Stuart did, but our friend cruised through Brush top down, full speed ahead, like a Mustang in heat.

Roy Hobbs was The Natural.

We’re on the back nine now. Each, in our own way, has had a good run. Roy, of course, is still running. Roy, of course, is still playing, (or feigning it). He is in many ways the Brett Favre of gamesmanship.


Forty years ago Hobbs played an exhibition game (let’s call her Karla). He circled the bases then, but the stats have long been lost in life’s shuffle. Still, Roy being Roy, it came as no real surprise when at the century’s turn he exclaimed:

“I wonder where Karla is. How can we find her?” “Let it go,” said Stuart as I laughed and asked “Why?”

“Because I want to find her. That’s why!”

He craved that one last at bat, he did. He was on a mission. Roy Hobbs, aging, but not necessarily grown up, ached to enter the batter’s box again.

“B, you can find her. I know you can!” (He wasn’t done: “Fenton, tell the B to find her.” Stuart, eager to agitate and aggravate, would respond: “You know, Roy, if B really wanted to, he could find her in a minute.” It was a dialogue repeated ad nauseum.

For years I demurred. No, make that decades. Then, somewhere in the days of Bush (or was that daze of Bush?), I caved.

Our friend was elated. He had no current name, no current address–but he did know she was married and in Chicago.

“B, ya gotta find her,” he cajoled. Fenton egged on: “If you can do this, B, it’ll be a big one.” (He KNEW my soft spot).
“I’d do it myself, you know, but I can’t,” urged Hobbs.
“OK,” I said. “I’ll do it for the story.”
Stuart roared his concluding needle: ”He’ll find her in a week, you watch.”

But I couldn’t. And the more I couldn’t the more Roy pushed. He just never let up.

“I think her parents are alive…
“I think they live in the apartment behind Eastgate… Have you looked at court records?…If you go to the apartment building I’ll wait in the car…”
“If you really wanted to you would….I know you, B.”

But I couldn’t. Probate Court brought a marriage license—worthless. Google was a waste and even Regina High’s alumni list dead-ended. I loved Roy, but, I could read a hand. It was 2008 and I was all in.

The past years were peaceful. Roy mentioned her here and there and Stuart stirred the pot, (but with little enthusiasm). Perhaps, we concluded, she was another Fromin: happy to be unfound.

This spring, again, Stuart put the ball in play:

“I know where B could find her,” he pronounced. “Facebook!” It was enough to send Hobbs to the on deck circle. Still when the plea on my “Wall” came up empty, we were down to our last outs.

It was a few Saturdays ago when the break came. The tip came from a friend, anonymously: a new last name! Sensing the runner in scoring position, I called only Stuart. Quietly, discreetly, he waited.

Ten days ago we found her on Facebook, Another name, another state; same face.

Hobbs got the news by conference call and was elated.

“What else did you learn?” he asked us.
“Nothing. I’ve written her though…The flag is up!”

This morning she wrote back. Married with children, said. Thrilled to be remembered. No more, no less.

We called Roy to break the news.

“She’s married!
“I figured.” he noted. “Why wouldn’t she be? I just wanted to find her.”
And with that, Roy Hobbs trekked back to the dugout.

Favre went out on a turnover. Not our friend. Roy Hobbs went out a winner.

It’s not whether you win or lose, you know…it’s how you play the game. Roy Hobbs played it like the man he was: The Natural.


Friday, March 5th, 2010

Remember the powdered orange juice Tang? Healthy, fruity with a tease of sour. My world today is one abundant packet of Tang: on balance quite sweet, but (if I choose to sense it), a bit of aftertaste. I opt instead to rinse often with prayer.

‘Tis true what they say: Prayer doesn’t change things around you—it changes you. Good enough for this cowboy. Contently I tend to glide through the turmoil to focus on the tranquil. The things beyond my control? I’m trying to give time…time.

And so, boarding yet another plane to LaGuardia, knowing I’ll see but half the NY contingent, staring at a weekend of two different worlds… I’m upbeat—anticipating friendship, family and life. It’s not what it could be, not what it will be, but good, nonetheless.

Staying in the city this evening— dinner with an old friend of The Jersey Girl. Graduation (among other things) divided them. My ex, of course, anchored in Cleveland. Linda ran the faster track of New York and L.A, returning east to raise kids.

Three Decembers ago, putzing around on the computer…bored, maybe even lonely—Pre-Facebook….I googled her. What’s 35 years among friends?

Mitten derinnen (as Grandma Bogart would say)….low and behold, I found two! Separately emailing each, my note read only: “Are you the Linda that went to OSU in the late 60’s?” “Yes, but who are you?” came the lone response, taking me aback.

Was not my surname in the email address?

Boredom trumped ego and I wrote back. Friendship rekindled, weeks later the kids dropped me in Manhattan for a reunion lunch. (This was right after the Great Weight Loss of ’06; clad in a white Polo shirt from Eric I had that swagger)!

I’ve seen her thrice since. No more. Family takes priority, by far. The last I looked there were only so many hours per weekend. It might be different if the kids ever came home—but they don’t. It might be different if we were physical, but we’re not. Time and circumstance shape everything, including chemistry.

Tonight it’s just the comfort of two friends— masks undone years ago. We’ll share past, present and future, trading laughter for smiles. Sometime late (or maybe early?) she’ll recoil to the health and welfare issues of her family. I’ll follow suit, heading to Long Island.

Both of us will return to our lives.

And so it is….