Archive for June, 2010


Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

The marriage ended fifteen years ago.

Typical Beachwood: out of the bed in ’91, out of the house in ’93, final decree in ’95. There was a symmetry to it—what had begun on a blind date and was often a one-sided relationship ended in blind rage and a quite lopsided settlement. So be it. That was then; this is now. It was just not (shall we say?), in the stars.

She was born in Jersey under the same sign as Hitler; I was from Cleveland and, like Robert Kennedy, a Scorpio. She shared a birthday with Saddam Hussein—I with John Keats. And yet somehow, astrology aside, we fell in love, marrying straight out of college …”For a lifetime, “ said Rabbi Gerstein. (I should have bet the “under.”)

The immediate post-marriage was stormy. Not just rainy, stormy. OK, it was a monsoon. We both had to adjust, regroup. In time I determined she would NOT move back east; likewise, at some point she learned it was only a figure of speech when her friends said “Cut his balls off.”

Time is a gift. In coverture, with great derision, she’d call me “Mr. Fun;” it’s heard less these days. By the same token, only on rare occasions do I now utter “Ice Queen” and mean it. A decade and a half later we’re not unlike other couples that fell in love and wed in the ‘70’s: we rarely talk, rarely fight, and never have sex.

Ah, but as Grandma Bogart would say, “the “kinder…”. The kids—our perpetual nexus.

We get along these days. The cease-fire, Stacy says, made her wedding year much easier. Give the ex credit here. Whereas just like Khrushchev of the ‘50’s, she used to slam her shoe down with “We will bury you!”, today there’s true peaceful co-existence. Historians mark the progress.

And so, in the spirit of détente, when she advised a few weeks back of her June 26 flight to New York, I immediately offered a ride to the airport.

“Bruce, that’s so nice of you. Thank you,” she said. (I only wish she’d have finished the sentence; that came a day later):
“Oh, by the way…I’m flying out of Akron.”

And so…at 3:25 PM this past Saturday, my car idled around the corner, a block from her house. After five minutes, like a Berkowitz limo, I approached the driveway, tenderly pulling in at the appointed hour…and I honked.

And honked. And honked.

Blasting away, all the while, was the lawn mower of her gardener. So loud was it that clearly she’d not heard my horn, or my horn, or my horn.

What to do! God forbid I get off my ass and go to the door— Grabbing my cell I noticed she, in fact, had been dialing me. Evidently I didn’t hear the patient lass at 3:30, or 3:31, or 3:32.

A bit later, though, she emerged—the East coast chic, Ann Taylor-bred woman that used to choose MY clothes. Yes, she appeared …on this hot summer day, in a black winter coat.

“Did you forget your skis?”
”I thought it might rain.”
(Game on).

Luggage loaded, seatbelts secure, pulling out, I tendered her money. A clear pre-emptive strike! Before she hinted, before she asked….cash with (as always), a receipt.

“Don’t you trust me?” she asked, when the pen wouldn’t write.
“Of course I do….this is for your protection.”

We drove on—ex-spouses, ex-enemies, BUT in a not-uncomfortable way, the same familiar dynamic: teacher and student.

“You drive too fast!” (she said at 4:00).
“Your music’s old.” (at 4:15 ).
“You drive too slow.” (at 4:30).

Fair is fair, though; she was also willing to learn:

“Bruce,” I heard, as we neared our destination, “Why does the sign still say ‘Airport 11 miles?’”
“Because that’s where it is.”

And so it went: ex-lovers, ex-warriors, with only kids and history in common. For today, though, that’s enough.

And it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, in a Let’s Do This Again But Not Necessarily Tomorrow sort of way, it was fun. It’s better now, since I’ve grown up and she (to her credit), has dropped her scissors. Not quite like the days I’d marvel at the scent of her Estee Laudered blouse, but still… better.

I parked by Departing Passengers, helped her with her suitcase and…attended to unfinished business. There, in the Drop Off lane at Akron-Canton Airport….on better footing…the pen wrote and she finally signed the receipt.

And who doesn’t believe in happy endings?


Saturday, June 26th, 2010

                      If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there
                      to hear it does it still make a sound?

She is on her back, smiling. Perfect coloring–sort of pink—and no blemishes. Five tiny fingers jut from her hands, each flapping gently in the air.

“How’s Haley?” my friends ask. They can read my mind.

“Eight weeks…and beautiful!”

“How do you know, since you’ve yet to see her?” (Inquiring minds HAVE TO KNOW). “Cannot the blind value art?” I respond, and continue…

“She cries a lot, and whimpers ‘til she’s held. Rocking helps…singing too—“

“How do you know?” they cut me short. “She is miles away.”

This time I interrupt: “Please!!!…I still hear an infant Michael on Wrenford!” (My mother, without the hearing aid, dead a year, still hears Michael on Wrenford)…

”And she has that baby smell— a bit of talc, a bit of diaper…the bittersweet, yet pleasing “Scent Of A (Newborn) Woman.”

By now the throng quiets, but NOT ME.

“You know,” I point out, “Her skin is soft and smooth—firm yet agile, like a nice jell-o mold on YomTov. And her eyes—sometimes they’re that blue my Dad had, and then sometimes…”

My audience is dwindling….rapidly.

“You’re a nice guy Bruce, and all that….but the kid’s in a Long Island crib and you’re sitting here at a Starbucks in Cleveland. How could you possibly know?”

I put down my coffee cup, lean forward and smile.

“Because I’m her grandfather.”


Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

She is thirty today—Meredith—the girl that stopped my boy’s world on a dime!

It was eight years ago: the third night of Passover…some bar in The City. She may have said hello first (I can’t recall), but it became quite clear quite fast: Michael was interested…very interested.

My son had always been a popular kid, but, (at least through a father’s eye), few individual women ever secured his sustained interest. The ensuing announcement, then, that he was bringing a certain lady to Ohio,…well…

Her Cleveland debut was at Zin. There, in a downstairs bistro, we dined en masse. Rolo was there; a few others, I think…when Michael strode in with his once and future queen.

I remember noting she was good looking, and on the shy side. In retrospect, I was half right. As Rochelle pointed out later, “She’s not shy!—How would you feel in a strange place with strange people if you knew everyone was studying you?” (Frankly, I told her, I don’t go to strange places).

That was 2002—in many ways a lifetime ago. No longer a pretty college girl, she is a beautiful woman. No longer just a “person of interest,” she is my son’s life partner.

Get this: I don’t have to write this blog. There’s no gun at my head. As such, I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t mean it: I really like Meredith. I mean I really like her. Not just with the love engendered from her entering our family, but with the knowledge resultant from getting to know her, AND WATCHING HER…all these years. More now than ever.

She has a zest for life, a healthy sense of competition. I say that NOT because I’ve watched her win a Hold-Em tournament (which I have), but because of the way she blends an upwardly mobile fervor with a genuine concern that Michael be the best that he can be—that THEY, as a team, be the best that they can be.

The kid gets it.

She is a team player. If she’s with you, who better to have your back? And she’s with MY son. I’ve seen it with my own eyes: don’t dare f!#! with Michael when Mer’s around. Don’t even try!

And yet, that’s not why I love her; that’s an “add on.” Truth is, it’s the whole package: Her honesty, her family, her values…(Family values? Oh God…does that sound too Republican?)

I love her candor. Even when we disagree. I like the way she stands up for what she believes in, but sits down when apropos. She just doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

I love the fact that firmly, yet warmly, she’s not afraid to be blunt with me.
A year or so ago they told me I needed a new jacket, (which we found at Bloomingdale’s).
“I’ll wear it home,” I told the cashier. “Put my old one in the bag.”
‘BRUCE!” cried Meredith: “Your old one is NOT LEAVING THIS STORE.”

She gets me too.

Dare I say, though, that she’s been a good influence on all of us? Michael and I are closer than ever and yes, I believe the Meredith factor is in there somewhere. Has to be.

More than anything else, then, she gets FAMILY.

The former Meredith Miller hails from a traditional Jewish home; they light candles on the holidays, sing off-tune on Chanukah, and rally around each other year ‘round.

They get it.

No, I didn’t want Michael to evaporate to New York. And yes, I do fear he’ll develop an accent. Still, 500 miles away he met and fell in love with someone who works daily to bring us all closer. And for this, may she have the happiest of birthdays. As the song goes, “Oh Meredith, oh Meredith, God shed his grace on thee…”


Sunday, June 20th, 2010

                The leader of the band is gone—
                His eyes never grew old,
                But his blood runs through our family
                And his music’s in our soul….

My Dad died unexpectedly. (Well, as unexpected as any heavy-set 59-year old smoking three packs per day—whose primary physical exercise was pulling out a card table). At any rate, on Friday, August 9, 1985, in Columbus, Ohio, Al Bogart woke up dead. My father, the straw that stirred my drink—gone.

I recall the moment I heard, the day that unfolded, the weekend vigil…but most of all, I remember him. And better yet, I hold on to the one compelling sense I had then and have now: that when my dad died, there were no words unspoken, no thoughts unshared, no feelings unfelt between us…

                “I thank you for your music
                And your stories of the road…”

We’d talk about everything—his past, our fears, the future. We’d often laugh and sometimes cry. Countless times I’d reveal an exploit yet his eyes would well up:
“What’s the matter?” I’d ask.
“Just don’t want you making the same mistakes as me.”

A black & white man in a world turning grayer by the minute, he’d temper frustration with loyalty to those he held dear. And he WAS loyal, steadfast. Not only couldn’t he stay mad at me, but he couldn’t stay mad at my friends.

Like the time Stuart’s UHaul brainstorm found us retrieving 5,000 magazines rush hour at Pacemont & High, or the more than one Saturday a less-than-industrious Alan would let leads “get stale” by not knocking on doors.
“How is it,” he’d ask, “That the only part of Columbus where it rained today is where your friend was?”

                “I thank you for the freedom
                When it came my time to go…”

He was, to be sure, the least judgmental person I’ve ever known. Well, not always. Once, while driving up High Street we caught the light at 16th. Jimmy Ross, sporting shoulder-length hair, rushed out of Varsity Drug, saw us, and asked for a ride. Indeed, moments after dropping him at the Sammy House my dad mused: “His parents must be so proud.”

There was never a time, though, that I didn’t feel loved, or that I didn’t know that every part of my world was welcomed in his.

                “I thank you for your kindness
                And the times when you got tough….”

He was not a perfect man, but beautiful man, a best friend. Still, he was never too busy being my friend to be my father—

He would correct my grammar, reject my nail-biting (“Fingers!”), or, just as often, puff his lip offering a unique blend of caustic and love:

“I don’t care what your buddies are doing—I’m not their father.”
“I tell you these things so you’ll learn.”
“Why do you insist on doing things you know you’ll regret?”
(All of which was usually followed by his arm around my shoulder and his promise that “Someday you’ll laugh at all this.”

                And Papa I could never say
                I thank you near enough….

I was lucky. Very lucky. Knew it then; know it now. Always. Through
sixty years I’ve tripped, stumbled and fallen on most of the Commandments—but not the Fifth. Ever.

I know, in my heart of hearts, that there was never a time I didn’t honor my father…That our words, thoughts and feelings endure…that every day with him was like opening a greeting card, and that, a quarter century later, everyday without him is still Father’s Day.

                My life has been my own attempt
                To imitate the man…
                “I’m just a living legacy
                To the leader of the band…..”

                                                                    D. Fogelberg


Thursday, June 17th, 2010

           “How many times can a man turn his head
           And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
           The answer, my friend…is blowin’ in the wind.
           The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

                                                     R. Dylan

It was spring, five years ago. Ambling into the recovery meeting, seeing a familiar Jewish face, he sat by me. Michael was disheveled, pushing forty….clearly unhappy. He had a book under his arm and the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“Going to lunch…You’re coming.” And at 1PM, he did.

We went to Moxie—six of us. He was the New Kid On The Block, fresh from rehab, and, What A Shock!—he wouldn’t shut up. “His life sucked…his wife overreacted, (he) missed his daughter…..AND, (he pointed out), it’s not so bad!” To our table it was the same tune, different singer. We’d heard it before. “Yeah, it is,” we told him.

A few days later the man called me. Would I sponsor him? Demurring, I suggested we first sit down. “I don’t think I need you,” he affirmed, pointing out that indeed, he’d “read the book already…”

That night at Starbucks he spoke of his law practice, his clients, his big house and his bad luck. I listened. That night at Starbucks I told my story, (in less words). How I’d bottomed, how I was rebounding, and how he could too.

“What do you want me to do?” he inquired, and I told him: Go to ninety meetings in ninety days, call me every day, and get phone numbers.
“Why?” he asked, and I shared: Because that’s what they told me to do and it worked for me.
“What if I don’t?” he posed, (perhaps wondering if I would “fire” him).
“Well, I’ll be here if and when you make it back.”

Mike called a lot at first. Went to meetings, shared, listened.
Still, when the bleeding slowed, when his life got a little better, our friend evaporated. Six meetings a week became five became three became one….maybe. I guess he thought he was cured.

“Too busy” he’d say. “Things to do.”
We sat him down. “Mike,” we urged, “Anything you put in front of your sobriety will be lost if you pick up again…Keep with the program.”

Months later he called again. “You’re a good guy, Bruce, but…” Then, interrupting his own commentary, reminding me that he was married with a wife and kid—-that I was older, single, living alone…he spit it out: ”I’m getting a new sponsor—one I can relate to.”
“Anything you want say?” he added, (like a guy breaking up with a girlfriend still wanting to hear she’s not mad).
“You’re a good guy too, Michael. See you soon.”
A bunch of guys wound up sponsoring Mike. Good guys, sober guys. A few months here…a half year there. None of us ever quit on him; too bad he quit on himself.

Years passed. Too many. From time to time I’d hear of him. He’d been in and out of treatments…bouncing a bit. Occasionally I’d trip on him in
in the rooms. He’d be sitting in the back, maybe at The Club. Alone.

“Hey, Mike good to see you.”
“You too—still going to a lot of meetings, calling your sponsor?
He’d have that look that said “I don’t know how you do it,” and I’d feel that sense of “I don’t know why he won’t.”

We’d shake hands and part…until the next time.

There won’t be a next time, though. My friend Michael died this week and was buried yesterday. He left behind him a wife, a twelve-year old, and a big house.


Monday, June 14th, 2010

       “…If I did not laugh, I should die.”

                                   Abraham Lincoln

“Whenever I’m done having coffee with you I’m exhausted.”
And with those words, Ed shook his head, rose from the table and left the patio. He, like me, was worn from hilarity.

(My mother used to chide: “Bruce, not everything is funny!” Ed, like I, would disagree. Together we not only find EVERYTHING funny, but everything fun).

To the outside world my friend is tough-nosed, hard-charging, angry… I’m lucky, though, having seen the man behind the curtain. Brother Ed, alas, is but a pussycat (afraid to show it).

Perhaps destined to be pals, we met though our daughters in the late 80’s. Little league. My marriage was running out of gas; his looked just as happy. Kismet.

“Hey,” I asked him—the game over…walking to the cars….”You want to go to Scooter’s? We need to have a roster meeting.” Sadly, he too was in no hurry to get home.

And so it was that our friendship melded. One part escape, two parts laughter (his and mine). With humor we’ve shared blood, sweat and tears. Through humor we’ve sidestepped deaths, divorce, economics…and together, in humor, we’ve gone from mailing in life to living it, Indeed, I’m convinced that if not separately, at least TOGETHER, we could make light of anything. I was reminded of this again just recently.

Thursday our friend Barry resurfaced. For forty-five minutes, maybe more, we had fun at his expense. Don’t get me wrong—our bud loved it—it’s just that throughout it Ed and I shared eye contact, telegraphing each next aimed insult.

Then, Friday I lost my keys. Had to be driven in from Willoughby— to sleep at Hal’s. The inconvenience, of course, was short-lived. By Saturday we were holding court at the coffeehouse: Bruce regaling of the misadventure, Ed sitting shaking his head …like he’d heard it all before.
(And he had).

“Remember the last time?” I opened.
“Don’t get me started!” he urged….already laughing.
Ignoring him (of course), I continued.

90’s…”Damn Yankees”—a Friday night. The cops pulled me over for expired tags. Those were the radio days but calls to Ed and Bob went unanswered. I stood in Hudson, Ohio…stranded…in a blizzard. A friend drove me some thirty miles to the real world: Mayfield Heights.

By now weather had pushed Ed’s return call to voice mail. The boys were at Chammps—grand opening of a new restaurant. Standing at the bus stop I saw the sign. High, up.., neon-bright:


The light bulb lit up! Stumbling in from the cold, inquiring:

“Do you delivery to Landerbrook?” (The street, back then, was somewhat new. The clerk had to check).

“Yes,” she concluded.
“Fine, then I’ll have a large pepperoni, and go for the ride.”

Triumphantly some thirty minutes later I strode into Chammps, bringing pizza for the boys. (Free delivery— but I tipped).

That was years ago, of course. It’s no longer Coffee Creations—it’s Caribou now. And each of us is older, maybe even wiser. Still, if you close your eyes, it is the same laughter that sustains us.

Rich Lichau was a regular on Chagrin then, at Richmond now. He’s a good man and has watched our show as long as anyone.

“They should give you guys a mic,” he mused just Sunday…”And charge admission.”

Rich is prejudiced; he just likes our humor and he likes us. My guess is not everyone agrees. And it matters not.

We’re still standing—me and Ed. And smiling. And…Mr. Lichau aside, we’re our best audience.

Laughter IS the best medicine.


Thursday, June 10th, 2010

It came first thing Wednesday morning—wrapped tightly, protected.
Gingerly opening the box, rushing for that first look…there it was— just as I’d pictured it! Nestled within a sea of plastic bubbles, sleek, beautiful….aching to be held in the palm of my hand: it was my new cell phone!

Four days I went without. Four long, silent days. No texting. No emails. No calls—My kids live out of town—it’s always on…24/7/365 with rings, bells, whistles and notices and now——Notta.

“Went missing” Saturday—late. Oh, sure, friends helped me search, but clearly I was destroyed. She was gone.

The call to my I.T. guy, Michael, was placed Sunday.
“You better call Verizon, Dad.”
“OK, but I don’t want to lose my number.”
“Don’t worry Dad. I’ll call.” (And as we Skyped, he did). (And as he did, they pulled the plug). Fartik!

My phone,—my first beautiful Blackberry….the one with Rooney’s wedding on the cover—with Haley, Harold and Helen in the memory…the bank to a myriad of phone numbers and email addresses…Gone.

It wasn’t the end of the world, of course. Indeed, a part of me enjoyed the respite, reveled in the peace. As such, Sunday was wondrous. Serene.
No calls meant no interruptions. Alas, a day of rest.

Close friends, of course, have counseled me over time: they think I’m too close to my phone. The bond, (they accuse), is unbalanced. Further, they cite nature, not nurture.

My brother Hal, for example, who grew up in the same home as me, has a totally different relationship with his cell, (and they’re not even “exclusive”)—indeed, he has a ground line as well. Many a dinner on Aldersgate I’ve heard the phone ring and watched him totally ignore it.
So go figure—we’re from the same family.

Growing up there was one of three adults in the house: Dad, Sam, and Mom.

It’s well-chronicled that our father hated the phone. H and I still have, cemented in our psyches, memories of dinnertime calls:

“They don’t let you live!’ Al would glare, angered by the ring of a probable bill collector. (Indeed, even after debt-dodging days, rejecting Call Waiting, he’d assert: “If it’s important, they’ll call back.” Too bad, though, that he didn’t live long enough for Caller ID—he would have dubbed it “the greatest thing since sliced bread”).

After Dad, our Mom wed Sam. He was gentle and easy and we—we were teenaged boys. He didn’t have a chance.

“Let it go boys, we’re eating now.” (He’d ASK).
We’d keep moving, and our Mom would chime in:
“Sam, tell the boys NOT NOW—we’re eating.”
The poor guy just wasn’t equipped for teenage boys…. We always picked it up.

Yeah, the phone would ring and Al would bark, Sam would submit, and our Mother? Truth is…she couldn’t hear it.

No one, of course, has demonstrated more sustained respect for this invention than Helen Bogart. She did and does worship at its shrine.

To this day if you tell her you’ll be calling her on (let’s say) a Thursday…she’ll abstain from bathing or even going down for the mail, lest she miss it. To be sure, if our aunt awaits an INCOMING call, she won’t make an OUTGOING call. God forbid, (she points out), someone is trying to reach her that very moment. More than once I’ve been admonished for failing to call her as promised, and thus, for ruining her day:

“Bruce, you said you’d call this morning. It’s now afternoon. Why do you do this to me?”

My father ducked calls in his simpler world; our aunt stalks them in hers. Me? I’m a work-in-progress, afraid to miss the call, the text, the…WAIT a second! I’m beginning to sound more like my aunt than my Dad!

This is not a good sign. This cannot be good for the Jews.

Time to look in the mirror, I guess. Take a step back, if I can.
Time to call my I.T. man again….(“Michael, it’s your Dad. I got the new phone….How do you turn it off?”)

Time for perhaps another four days of….silence?


Monday, June 7th, 2010

A great lesson of recovery has been the value I place on the present: my today. The men in the rooms have, over time, guided me to a place where truly each day, each moment is special. It’s called marveling in the ordinary…and I do. I tend to have a good time, and often a great time…in the ordinary. I tend to…sing a happy song.

Life, of course, gets in the way of plans. As such, and with the above in mind, it’s no wonder that two recent weekends were so memorable.

First, there was Mothers Day Weekend 2010, (otherwise known as “The Weekend About Nothing.”)

The sun shined that Friday afternoon as I dropped the Shafrans off. It was early yet, and staring at a self-imposed 48-hour Columbus respite, I had no plans. I was, in fact, to fill two days to the brim…extemporaneously.

Coffee in Bexley: Sunshine, Starbucks, and Ermine. That evening: Mark Bradford’s exhibit at the Wexner Center For The Performing Arts. It was my first time at the museum and not only my first exposure to Bradford, but also to abstract art.

Nine-ish—we were walking through a narrow hall of black rectangles (I think it was, as a whole called “Mickey Mouse.”) Noticing a rip in the fabric, I pointed it out: “Look!” I exclaimed, (thinking it was flawed). “That’s the artwork!” she replied. (I kept my mouth shut for the next hour).

A bit later, still walking the museum, but for the moment…alone…I saw a stack of old record albums. There were four, perhaps five… on a table. Intrigued, I was reaching to peruse the old titles when a uniformed lady interrupted.

“Please don’t touch the exhibit,” she coaxed. (Who knew?) This was a place for Harriet Grail—not me. I was a fish out of water…but a happy fish. It was, however, all good.

Like this past weekend: Stacy was in town at her mother’s…here to support  The Gathering Place’s Sunday 5K.  The little one had plans the front end Saturday night and wanted to convene after ten.

“I’m busy, Rooney.”
“Do you want me to break a commitment? If you really want me to I will.”
“No……then will you come to the race tomorrow instead?”
“Sure…will your mother be there?”
“You bet—why do you care?”

(It wasn’t that I cared…it’s just that…)
“It’s not appropriate, Stacy. We are no longer married.” (I said in fun, to a degree).

And so it was that bright and early Sunday I drove to Beachwood Place for The Race For The Place. (Again, nothing I had remotely planned on).

After ten minutes Stacy approached frantically; she’d forgotten something. Having just traipsed a quarter mile from my parking spot I was less-than-thrilled when she urged me to go WITH HER MOTHER to retrieve the items left behind on Woodway.

The Old Bruce would have balked. “Doesn’t she drive? Can’t she go alone?” Yesterday, though, smiling, I accompanied the bearer of my children.

The ignition turned…and the symphony began:

“Bruce, “ she said,” you need to learn how to drive. “Bruce,…your car!”
Ah, the familiar backbeat!

She meant well, I’m sure…but still: “Bruce, make a right at the next street.”
(Really. Like I’d forget! Hadn’t I dropped off a check every Friday since the Truman administration?)

Oddly, though, I was having fun. No war; no throwing in her face that she shared a birthday with Saddam Hussein (April 28)—none of that! Moreover, noting it was Sunday, I merely laughed off her shrie to slow for the school zone. When she followed with yet another request that I slow down anyway, I did what any self-respecting ex-husband would have done: poker-faced, I accelerated.

Pulling into her drive, parking the car, I sat singing outside as she rummaged inside for Stacy’s goods.

She bolted out a bit later, and we returned to the race. Passing on the first parking spots, looking to upgrade, I sensed her mood was souring. So be it—Exiting the car, quietly reveling in my (infantile) fun, I urged her to “Take the red bag—it’s Stacy’s.” “Not needed,” she replied, now exuding the warmth of an Army WAC; (she was being nice, but was clearly feeling the hour’s stress).

The lot was filling—bodies all over. Navigating the grassy knoll, we found our daughter. Evaporating for a bit—off to work the crowd—I was soon approached by a laughing ex (NEVER a good sign).

“Stacy needs the red bag.”

I was off again…solo. Back to the car to get the bag that SHE didn’t take after SHE didn’t drive. Clearly, I had already done my 5K.

Returning once more I gave Rooney the bag. By now throngs of multi-aged, T-shirted walkers were lined ten-abreast, ready to march the perimeter of the mall. Bodies and bodies and bodies of women, men and infants with no makeup and minimal posture…(Picture the Exodus from Egypt).

Shortly thereafter I left…walked a mile and left…smiling from ear to ear.
It was a beautiful time. All the nonsense….all the ordinary. Pulling away I remembered an old Melanie song. Yearning for escape she’d once crooned “Wish I could find a good book to live in—wish I could find a good book…”

Melanie, it seemed, had missed the boat. What’s wrong, I wondered, with the book of Life?


Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

There used to be symmetry to Wednesday’s breakfast.

There were Opening Ceremonies: our rendition of “Where’s Waldo?” (“Where’s Siegal?”) plus a sprinkle of the week’s news.

Then, the main event, the guts of our meetings—dual entrees: Les complaining of Cleveland sports and Arthur then trumping him, railing about every other aspect of mankind here and across the globe.

Yesterday Jerry was still busy not working, yet it was clear the world was upside down. We opened with a brief update on a bet with Art (one month of breakfasts on the Indians’ 2010 win total—I’ve got the over at 55). And, oh, the men asked about the mini-marathon in Columbus. But the topic soon shifted to an embarrassing low: fishing, soccer, NASCAR, hockey, and, (as I slithered away), Arthur spoke of hiking. Hiking!

The Kraut, alas, is going to Alaska next week. He’ll be staying in a cabin, sans TV and perhaps, heat). Spending his days parked on a boat trying to hook fish. Sitting.

“What do you do if you catch something? we asked.
“Throw it back.”

None of us could quite grasp the concept. Our friend, an educated man…a doctor, no less, pissing away all sums of money, flying to some God-forsaken lake—just to sit in moisture and mosquitoes, hoping to catch something he can then toss away.

We all laughed. And laughed. Bob, Walt, Lester, me.

“Have you ever been on the Chagrin River?”

The table offered better ideas.

I thought we’d meet at Heinen’s. We could walk the seafood aisle, pick up some packages, then place them back on the shelves. Would that not be less time-consuming? Cheaper? (No mosquitoes).

My friend had an even better idea. Les suggested we take fishing rods to the grocery, stand over the tanks, and just wait for creatures to bite. We could then, of course, drop them back—all at no charge.

Clearly none of us understood Art’s passion. Sometimes, he’d admitted, there were no fish to catch. Sometimes there WERE other animals in the area. What were we missing? Did we laugh too hard to hear the good stuff?

As the commercial used to go: This was not our father’s oldsmobile (or breakfast). No talk of Browns, no Cavs, LeBron…not even the customary inquiry of Snyder.

Arthur’s frustration growing, the discourse descended inexorably. Inquiring minds had to know:

“Kraut, do you watch hockey/” (He can’t see the puck).
“NASCAR?” (Never)

The rest of us admitted we MIGHT watch soccer. (But only the World Cup Final and only if the U.S. was in it…and again, ONLY the second half).

“You guys don’t know what you’re missing!” Art exclaimed.

Enjoying the fun, not wanting to leave, I noticed the time. It was 9:30 and the real world awaited. Still, I didn’t want to go. As the check arrived, Art sighed:

“I’ve got to buy some lures for the trip—can’t get them at Dick’s.”

There was a lull in the conversation. Kraut’s comment was my cue—time to go. I didn’t know, nor did I care what a “lure” was.

Our friend clearly had jumped the shark.