Archive for September, 2010


Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

4PM. Halftime of that eight-hour long day’s journey into Tech Sunday’s night.  Five days before “The Odd Couple” opens. It’s the Costume Parade. The cast, standing side-by-side, postures as the director studies stage presence. (Picture a middle-aged company of actors posing on a catwalk skewed wide for fat people).

That’s when it would have happened. Right there. Had he not done so years before, this was the very moment Al Bogart would have died and gone to heaven.

“Murray, “ the director shouted at me, “Get a marine cut for Friday.”
“You mean a flattop?”
“No, a MARINE cut.” (Is there a a difference between Roger Maris and Josh Mandel?)
“Can you get one in a Jewish neighborhood?” I wondered. (Later, off-stage, the guy playing Felix suggested a barber in Willoughby, Ohio—population 3 MOT).

Me…playing a cop….in a marine cut? Sorry you missed it, Dad.

He mirrored so many his age. Long hair was, by The Greatest Generation, sometimes condoned but rarely appreciated. My father pulled no punches:

“You look like an animal.” he’d say to me. “His parents must be so proud,” he’d say of others, with the sole exception of Dick Baskin. (If my father knew you, and if he liked you pre-Beatles, you were grandfathered in).

It was a passionate yet rational approach. Spring, 1971: Highlights had just entered a new market, Upper Arlington, Ohio. This lily-white, upper/crust suburb—one of those towns where you’re not allowed to perspire— was about to be invaded by Al’s marauder sales force: Stuart, Randy, Hal…and this cowboy.

We were college kids governed by our boss’s sensitivities.

“No one knocks on a door ‘til I see the haircut….No one.” And so it was that Stuart, (who budgets for such things), with the rest of our quartet had his wings clipped. To a man we smelled easy money in Upper Arlington. We questioned the narrow social view, but, make no mistake about it, none of us was about to get shut out. What, though, was the big deal about hair length?

“Rowland DeMott lives in Upper Arlington. I don’t want his neighbors complaining.” (When I think of it, ‘twas quite absurd. My dad managed traveling salespeople. Burying calls from irate husbands, deflecting complaints of vagabond direct sales hucksters—that’s what he did.  It was his strong suit!  One would think a grievance about long hair to be laughable. Our father saw nothing funny.

Brush High’s Mr. Kilfoyle, however, did. Years before we hit Columbus the teacher asserted: “I have no problem with hippies. They give ugly people a chance to be popular.” Wisdom perhaps—today it would mean a lawsuit.

My father, though, wasn’t the only kin with hair issues:

Our mom, primarily a redhead, changed colors by the spouse. We set chronology of family snapshots by her marital status. Conversely, we keep all Aunt Helen photos loose in a big bag. 96 years later she still shares a barber with Moe Howard.

Then there’s Uncle Phil who spent a lifetime with jet black hair. The guy died in his late 70’s always looking the gangster. Never quite had the kishkes to ask him about dye jobs. It’s a no-brainer, says H, but admits he didn’t know it at the time.

My light-bearded brother, by the way, had different priorities. Decades ago H revealed his favorite all-time quarterback to be Archie Manning. Why?…Because Mr. Manning never had to shave.

Everyone, it seems, has issues with hair. I remember Michael’s Bar Mitzvah. The then/wife had me get him his haircut three days in advance so “It wouldn’t look like he just got a haircut.” On the other hand, her hair was done The Day Of…so it looked like she’d come straight from the beauty shop. Am I missing something?

Perhaps I never understood hair…never quite  knew the rules. Stacy’s hair is beautiful, they’d tell me. I guess they knew. Heck, I didn’t even know Jamie’s was “colored” until Bush II took office. Is there a difference, by the way, between dying and coloring?

It’s all too confusing to me, but at some level, exciting. I call it progress being cast in a play requiring precisioned hair. Not everyone agrees.

“Don’t do it Dad,” urged Michael, “Unless you’re getting paid for the show.” (Would he prefer I play Daddy Warbucks?) I told him I’d think about it.

It’s Wednesday now—thought process over. My son, I’m sure, knows much about hair…but he doesn’t know theater. There is, in MY realm, nothing more valued than the Director’s cut.

Semper Fidelis!


Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Didn’t “need” to get away—Cleveland’s rhythm has been nice. Still, the tone of this week’s trip was easier and softer than last time through. Two Vegas trips, two sets of pals conjoined only by Kraut: a totally different feel. Last year was romaine lettuce; this year…more that soft, leafy bib stuff.

Succot on The Strip: a reunion with five friends (heading north from Cedar, circa 1959): Walt, Arthur, Alan, Fred and Harold. It was a different mix and a weekend replete with observations.

Hadn’t seen Fischer since ’96- Paradise Island. Strikes me again that I wish we’d been closer. He’s kept the infectious, semi-demonic laugh although fact is, the hair’s gone. It’s been a long time since “Red” caught for the White Sox. Curiously, (I might add), his memory’s going too. Did he really forget his Ellison house had a flagpole?

“Was there a flag too?” he asked at breakfast.
“Of course not,” we all remembered.

And then there was Fred. He doesn’t say much, but Arthur swears Fred knows everything about everyone at all times. Good analysis. The man sits silently and takes it all in. Avoids the gunfire. Looking younger than us, he is also more elegant. Always liked Fred although within our group we’ve traveled concentric circles. I see him more in Nevada than Ohio. Go figure.

Core friends present were Arthur, Alan and Marc. An eminent author, Wido has interesting habits. He not only sleeps with the TV off, but prefers no lights as well. I’m easy though, and adapt readily. Rooming with him was a joy. There has never been a time (in all these years), we haven’t “gotten” each other. Thoughtful too, he voluntarily watched Telemundo with me.

I see Kraut and Walt in Cleveland. Each anchors Wednesday’s Breakfast Of Champions. Vegas is the only venue I’ve seen Art relax in. Ever. People think he’s naturally bald; those who know him best have watched him pull each and every hair from his head. He is, by the way, another one of those seemingly intelligent people that actually enjoys playing slots. (I just can’t understand the fascination with that mindless activity).

Marc captained our ship. The genesis of the trip was ten years ago—Beachwood grads. (Remember: Tooth crossed Green Road for fifth grade and evaporated ‘til OSU. Wied and Walt were Sammys; I caught up with him in Math 117, second quarter freshman year).

So there we were in friendship and trust. On that cornerstone, Wednesday…early…my weekend pivoted.

The guys met, each day, for breakfast and dinner. I joined them on Tuesday’s arrival, but wasn’t inclined to do it daily. It wasn’t about them at all. It was, frankly, all about the Benjamins.

What to do? Dwelling on it was unproductive. If I couldn’t be straight with these guys…with whom? Outside the poker room, pulling Walt aside, it spat out: I needed to eat, not dine. ‘Nuff said.

How often in the past, (Shame on me), would I have silently overspent the weekend. (Editor’s Note: See the Susan Springer painting purchased in San Francisco. Jacobson said “Buy it Bogie!—When the artist dies you’ll cash in.” That was 1982; I still read the death notices, Ms. Springer still lives, and yes, the work still hangs in the home of my ex. Thank you, Michael).

Why did it take me a half-life to learn honesty truly is the best policy? Then again…Why do I still forget my seatbelt?

We sat ‘round the pool Thursday. We spoke candidly, not so much of past but of past lessons learned. No masks here: half in the water, half out— we were, as far as friends go, all in. From relationships won to relationships lost, from psychotherapy to sexual healing, we shared. The common denominators were laughter, friendship and nary a judgment.

It came time to get up, and we did. The time came for goodbyes, and we said them. Harold left Thursday, as did Al. I’m leaving today. Timeless friends never really say goodbye, though. It’s more like “’Til next time.”

I’m flying home now. Touch down at six, then on to my meeting…then a drive-by at Hal’s Rowland reunion…then sleep…then Sunday’s double-tech rehearsal… then a week of nightly run-throughs in Willoughby…then we open….and then, one week from Monday, I rest.

As said at the top, my Cleveland rhythm is good. I like it. I love it. Clearly, though, the grind is more fluid knowing I’m blessed with family, friends, and, (like this past week), five easy pieces.


Monday, September 20th, 2010

Mincha was beginning. Sitting up close—seats from our past—I was alone. No Grandma, no Dad, no Hal, Margie, Helen or kids. Yom Kippur’s denouement and in the still-empty sanctuary I gazed through paned glass at trees, playfully reviewing the past 24 hours.

FRIDAY, 5:15 PM: Stace and Jace were in, staying with the Mother Ship. The Jersey Girl had invited me a pre-Kol Nidre meal. Nice gesture. Clearly gracious. Still, (I thought), F the dinner. Why not just wipe out some of the alimony you shook me down for? This is, after all, Yom Kippur.

5:20 She greeted me warmly, urging me to sit down, watch tv. Time was needed in the kitchen and the Bohrers would be down soon.

“Do NOT touch anything, ” she admonished with a smile, referring perhaps to my penchant for quietly rearranging furnishings.
“Don’t worry. I’ve matured.”

5:30 We sat for dinner. Jason got my matzah ball; I took his carrots. Tried to pass on salad but caved to two white Shirelles singing “It’s good for you.”

5:40 The ex was in the kitchen. Spreading half my untouched lettuce on Jason’s plate I rose, returning both dishes to the sink.

5:41 There was a bowl of green apples in the kitchen. I put one in her freezer.

6:20 Dinner downed, children aboard, we left for shul. Next stop: Aunt Helen’s.

6:35 Deposited Jason and his aunt outside Kangesser as we parked the car. He wasn’t mad, but his face hadn’t looked like that since Sosa tested positive.

6:40 Stacy was looking for Rochelle. “See her hat?” I said, pointing up front. “Oh,” my daughter replied, “I thought that was The Liberty Bell.”

6:45 In the mass of confusion just prior to service, a Mahzor went missing.
“How could I lose it in the walk from the car?” asked Hal
“I beg you children to write your names in them,” said Helen.

6:55 Service had begun. It was hot, humid and crowded. I heard my father, incredulous, complaining to Harriet: “They’re begging us to leave!”

It occurred to me just then that somehow I’d picked up Hal’s prayer book. Must be his, I surmised; I’d placed a program in mine.

7:20 Three rounds of “Kol Nidre” concluded, I embarked on a scavenger hunt for the missing mahzor. Didn’t find it but the trip wasn’t a total loss; I saw the janitor and suggested air-conditioning. (He smiled politely just as I had an hour earlier when offered salad).

8:25: My brother pointed to Larry three rows ahead. “Gefilte fish,” he nods. We laugh for the umpteenth time, also referencing our cousin “Baked Potato.”

8:45 Stacy smiled at me and noting Hal and I play together like ten-year olds.

9:45: Service ended, I looked again for the book. Oddly, I now found it right there on the lobby’s table. The three of us walked old halls and even bumped into the rabbi. Finally leaving, ours was the last car in the lot.

9:46 Opening the door, I found my Mahzor on the back seat. I guess I’d picked up someone else’s book; we now have inventory.


10:00 AM Helen on board, I backed out onto packed Cedar Road. I deliver her; Hal takes her home: a Cleveland tradition.

10:20 Yizkor was particularly difficult. Hal pointed to young adults appropriately leaving for the short service. I thought back to the days when I had all my relatives. I’ve been touched by so many truly wonderful people. I couldn’t NOT cry.

10:50 H brought me back to reality: Larry was seated in front of him, and, perhaps noting the now-pale hair, my brother announced a name change: Larry will no longer be known as “Gefilte Fish.” Henceforth, Hal whispered the new name will be “Whitefish.”

12:45 PM The service had but an hour to go, but I was dead. Leaning to my left I told Hal and Margie I was leaving. “Don’t go,” came the voice from between us. It was the moral indignation of Aunt Helen, not unlike Moses atop Mt. Sinai.
“Can I go to the bathroom then?”

1:10 PM Chatted with Gary Levey in the mens’ room. The john was occupied and it was clear to both of us that at least one congregant had failed to fast.

1:20 PM Bumped into David Steiger with his new bride and stepson. The kid has my ex as a teacher. “Does she still carry a gun?” I said straight-faced. David laughed but the mother didn’t.

1:35 Rabbi Marcus signaled the afternoon’s recess and for the first time since Rosh HaShana I left synagogue with the same amount of books as I brought.

Neilah was ending and soon the Shofar would sound. Darkness camouflaged outside trees while smiles marked renewal on the faces of those indoors.

Folding my Tallis I stared at bricks in the ceiling. The Book was being sealed right then. I wondered …was God giving me another year to count the tiles?


Thursday, September 16th, 2010

He sat at Legacy’s patio. Spotting my approach, he stood like the Coast Guard waving me in. I wasn’t late; Norman was, as usual…early.

“I like to face out, watch the women,” he said.
“No problem,” I obliged the 82 year-old.

His voice is softer now, a far cry from the fire and brimstone that used to greet me. His gait is slower too. Still, though I surpassed his height years ago, there hasn’t been a moment I haven’t looked up to him. To this day.

A half century of business and pleasure: I’ve seen him brash and self-assured. I’ve heard his laugh, watched his anger and oh how I’ve cringed as he’s yelled. Still, in sixty years, there’s never been one moment his heart hasn’t shown through it all. The man, to this day, is all heart and no bite.

“Bruce,” he once shried, “ I hate my relatives. Each and every one of them.” It was an odd statement to hear from a cousin.
“Norm, I’m a relative.”
“Oh, I forgot.”
(That was ten years ago, maybe more. He was just beginning to mellow).

I first met Stormin’ Norman in the 60’s. At least I think it was him—he was moving so fast— I couldn’t tell. My Dad’s cousin, he found me summer work at his Mentor store. Down in Akron then, Norm was opening Summit Mall in a chain growing geometrically.

Too young to handle money, my job was to straighten piles. Pick up, restock, and straighten. I loved it. Donnie Eisner, Joe Lemmo, Richard Kaufman: they’d play word games and tell adult stories of intrigue. I was a batboy sitting in the dugout with Mays and McCovey…content to listen, observe.

One day Norman barged in unannounced. Blowing by me, he stopped at the register, but within minutes turned to leave. And then it happened.

“Who stacked these pants?” he demanded, SCREAMING.
I was mortified. His arms flailing, his face beet red, he was incensed.
“Who’s responsible for this mess?” he shrieked and in one fluid motion picked up a pile of 36-30 Haggar slacks, thrusting them in the air!

Dead silence. No one was moving. I was scared.

“Now,” he implored, “Someone pick these up and stack them the way Norm Diamond stacks pants.” And with that he was gone with his wind.

Fast forward to the mid-70’s. No longer store-bound, Norman operated from corporate offices adjacent Corky’s. I had just passed the bar.

“Al’s boy? Send him back.” I heard from a room.

Ushered in, I found my Dad’s cousin standing, eyes closed, holding a sunlamp
inches from his face. Our session took five minutes—maybe less. He never opened his eyes.
“Your Dad says you’re a good lawyer…that I should throw you some work.”
“That’d be great.” I said.
“How much should I charge you?”
(Did I hear him wrong?) “It will be good for you, “ he pointed out “If people know you represent Norm Diamond.” And then he laughed….(but I don’t think he was quite joking).

Years would pass. Some good, some not so good. Our paths would cross for a while, and then they wouldn’t. He was always there though…at some level. And I was always aware of him. Always. I thought then, as I do now: it’s a shame everyone can’t see him as I do.

As No Nonsense as he was in with business, Norman always buttressed family. Then and now. Over time he found homes and sustained jobs for more people than he’d care to remember. I, however, remember.

When our dad bottomed, Norm got him a line selling ties; (to this day I can spot Shantung samples). Decades later he paid our mom to answer his phone. (Who but Norman would, looking the other way, hire a one-eared receptionist)? Indeed, history will record that brother Hal too once had the distinct pleasure of stacking pants.

Have you sensed yet that I love this man?

He runs hot and cold, but always with warmth. Like in the 90’s when I was leasing from him and had fallen behind. One day, without warning, I found my files in the hall.
“Norm,” how could you do that? I asked (still minus rent). Within moments he calmed down.
“I’ll help you move back in,” he offered…and the two of us carried boxes.

But that was years ago and for both of us….tears ago. My mom’s gone. His Charlotte’s gone. Even some of the stores are gone. Norman and I, though, still stand.

We had a nice dinner on that patio Monday. All pleasure—no business. Leaving, he mentioned meeting Paul from Toledo every now and then…somewhere on the west side…would I be interested?
“I’d love to,” I said. “Anytime after this month—I’m in rehearsal ‘til then.”
That was three days ago.

Walking through Heinen’s today my phone rang.
“Bruce,” the voice came, “It’s Cousin Norm….Can you have dinner with Paul Stark next Wednesday?”
“Norm, it’s still September!” I noted.
The more things change, of course… the more they stay the same.
The man is always early.


Monday, September 13th, 2010

          “Five hundred twenty-five thousand
         Six hundred minutes
         Five hundred twenty-five thousand
         Moments so clear….

         Five hundred twenty-five thousand
         Six hundred minutes
         How do you measure, measure a year?”

Can it be a year since the wedding? THAT long since the baby we’d passed around at gin games and first house-trained with a miniature collie said “I do?” Twelve months already?

         “In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
         In cups of coffee
         In inches, in miles, in laughter in strife
         In five hundred twenty-five thousand
         Six hundred minutes

         How do you measure a year in a life?”

I picture the first meeting with Jason. It was a weekend sojourn—H, Caroline and me…The Windy City. They’d been “going” for a while and Stacy’d talked him up a lot; clearly she liked him. ‘Til that trip, though, I paid little attention. Oh, I listened—don’t get me wrong; it’s just that I’m a concept person—not a detail man. She said he was nice to her, was old-fashioned and liked Seinfeld. What more need a father hear? Do I really care where he went to high school?

         “Five hundred twenty-five thousand
         Six hundred minutes
         Five hundred twenty-five thousand
         Journeys to plan.”

We broke ice breaking bread. Rooney, knowing everyone, dominated. As the young talked Chicago, Hal set a pick freeing me up. I was a quarterback looking off his primary receiver. Appearances aside, Jason was at all times on a closed/circuit feed. This was The Baby we were talking about—had to be sure!

It was a long day—one I’d never plan. They made us tour the city—on a boat, of all things! Still, the guy was “meat and potatoes,” oozing quiet confidence. He liked baseball, revered his home town, and although no one used the word that day, I could see he loved both the Cubs and Stacy. (I just wasn’t sure the order).

“Do you like him?” she asked, walking briskly aside me. (We spoke freely—he was twelve steps ahead).
“What I think doesn’t matter—It’s what you think.”
“Why doesn’t he walk with us?” I wondered aloud.

By then Stacy got it: I liked him. Fact is, I liked him, but I loved them. That day, just as the day they wed, it seemed right. Then, as now, it wasn’t so much that they matched as that they fit.

         “Five hundred twenty-five thousand
         Six hundred minutes
         How do you measure the life
         Of a woman or a man.”

It’s old news: Dad taught me to read a hand. By day’s end I’d caught up with Jason (at a red light). Got him one-on-one.

“Listen, “ I said somewhat hushed, “Let me save you a trip to Cleveland. If you ever want her hand in marriage you have my blessing.” (Looking back, it was a pretty ballsy move on my part).

It mattered not. Can’t recall his response, or if he gave one. The light had changed and he was off again…twelve steps ahead.

         “How about love….Measure in love…..”

                                                                      Jonathan Larson


Friday, September 10th, 2010

9:35—a beautiful autumn morning: Turning left to her drive, ten minutes ahead of schedule, I waited. No good could come from being early; this was history’s great lesson. Then…three hundred seconds later, resigned to the inevitable, I knocked.

“You’re early. Why are you early?”

(Rosh Hashana has predictable rhythm. A wondrous holiday, it enfolds (at
least in our clan), as a time of familial interaction set against the Shakespearian tragedy that is Aunt Helen. She is Lady MacBogart, a steely presence in an otherwise melodic family.)

At Kangesser by 10, we sat on the visitors’ 49 (away from the pulpit). Clearly outside the hash marks, close to the door, it was a great view of all who’d arrive late, leave early, or merely evaporate for the sermon.

“Where’s Harold?” she asked. “Why do you suppose he’s late?”

In a setting of peace and reflection, some of us were more spiritual than others:

“Rabbi Skoff’s in the other room,” she proclaimed (as if Balboa discovering the Pacific). Disconsolate, staring at a watch she couldn’t see, the lady listened to her second-string rabbi flanked by her second-string nephew.

“Do you see Harold?” came the reprise.

I tuned her out; it was too beautiful a morning. After all these years, High Holidays at Park remain special. Same prayers, same seats, same peace.

Comfort. Consistency. HOME.

“They’re here—let them in!” she urged. (I had already risen). .And so they were: Three Newmans, Amy, Renee, Margie and my brother. Yes, my brother—her “Moshiach,” had arrived.

Calm set; thoughts wandered…everywhere. To the ushers, the same ushers I’d seen for lo these many years: Jeff Schneider’s been standing there since puberty. He must own his tuxedo. Does he ever go home?

Same faces, same smiles, same hand-shakes.

Rochelle’s up front in the red zone…or at least her hat is. Can’t see the kids, but they’re probably under the hat. Fondly I recall the year Matthew told me my suit was wrinkled. Those were rough times for me, but he cared enough to be honest). Ah, but her chapeau—the year the roof leaked it kept the entire choir dry.

“See Larry?” asked Hal, pointing just past midfield. .”Do you think he looks like a piece of gefilte fish?” “Yeah,” I agreed, and “Cousin Sam looked like a baked potato”. Game on! Margie, (ever the voice of reason), abstained.

“Next time you go to the bathroom, let me know—I’ll go with you.” (said my aunt on my return).
“That would be inappropriate,” I replied.

The sermon came later—(both the rabbi’s and the aunt’s). In each case my body stayed but thoughts strayed…and strayed…By benediction I’d made three profound observations:

1. Park Synagogue was the only assemblage I attend where people don’t
consistently get younger than me.

2. Every reasonably attractive, age-appropriate female congregant was
wearing a wedding ring, and

3. Aunt Helen’s breath would be good for cleaning my bathtub.

“Should I drive Aunt Helen?” my brother offered as we rose to leave. I agreed, (this being his holiday too).

Freed up, I shot to the other end zone—saw my people, said my hellos. I was heavier this year and most of them seemed older. All of us, though, were still standing.

Walking out the front door I saw Cutler. He was under the canopy right where we greeted last year. And the year before. And probably the year before that.

“L’Shana Tova,” he smiled.
“A good year,” said I.

Bouncing down the hill to my car, I cherished the constancy of it all, reveled in the moment, and wondered just briefly if Cutler ever went home.


Monday, September 6th, 2010

It was a month ago. My cousin’s kid, a published author, was coming through. Book signing, publicity….nice stuff.

The family would be there, eagerly supporting its own. Including me. You may recall I’d phoned the author a week prior, suggesting lunch or dinner. Hadn’t heard back—no biggie—(just assumed she was busy). It was, as they say: “all good.”

I’ll tell you what wasn’t good though: the book signing itself.

Busted my ass to get there. Used mirrors! Arriving late I saw her propped up front autographing: my cousin the author.

Said the hellos, congratulated the mother… and…,(violating a life-long No Novel rule), bought the book.

There were, by then, few patrons separating me from my kin. Approaching her table, kissing the kvelling mother, I waited on deck.

“Do you remember Al Bogart?” Sheila asked her. There was silence as the book was signed. No hello, no nothing. And I was last!
“This is one of his sons, Bruce.”
Dead air.
Not that she was preoccupied…or hurried. There was, at that moment, more traffic in the men’s room at Starbucks.

It was weird. No one stood behind me, no one aside me. Not one reason not to…but she never looked up. I’ve had more eye contact with a blind man.

“She’s glad you’re here,” said her mom, half-heartedly. Translation: “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Me too,” I responded, (meaning “See you next Tuesday.”)
Then, after smiling the requisite ten minutes, I left—bad taste drenching my mouth.

Not all authors, of course, have attitude. Take Wieder. He writes of places I’ve never been with words I’ve never heard; he hasn’t changed. Warm, humble, I wonder if Al knows Walt and I need Wikipedia to read his work. Or that I have calluses from constant thumbing through the index?

My cousin’s slight, in the scheme of things, meant nothing. Were I a better housekeeper it might well be forgotten. But I’m not, so it isn’t. Returning home that night I’d placed her book on the TV. For weeks it hadn’t moved.

Until yesterday.

Enough, finally, was enough.

Sunday, shortly past noon, I strode back to the bookstore. Bag in hand, book in bag and receipt in book I approached the counter.

No one stood behind me, no one aside me.

“Need to return this.” I said.

And then, lo and behold, the salesperson looked up.


Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Adjusting my collar it hit me: the tie—I’d worn it last week. Still, it was a different place, different people. The cravat, I figured, selected from my limited Great Neck collection, could stay.

When was it our roles reversed? Didn’t HE used to wear MY ties?

“Bruce, would you make Michael’s tie?” she would urge.

We’d stand facing the mirror… father behind son… tying and retying. Too high, too law—and finally, (per his mother), “too sloppy.” Each week we tried. Stubbornly. Success though, came only from doing it ‘round my neck then transferring it over. The wife knew she’d married a nebbish. Should I remind her I was also the product of a broken home and that with Dad gone we had clip-ons, etc. It wasn’t going to play well. “You’re a father now—act like one!” (I could hear it soar from her mouth).

When did our roles reverse?

My boy was 9 when Woody died. There was a memorial in Columbus, (so of course we went). School? Work? They’d wait—we had priorities. Sitting in the closed end of what was not yet “The Shoe, ” I pointed to mid-field, citing Archie, Rex, Bo, Earle….sentimental father to wide-eyed son.
It was the last time I remember knowing more about sports than Michael.

By high school the worm had turned. The Tribe’s opener was at the old stadium. Michael and friends would be there—parents and batteries not included. (To a point).

It was an afternoon contest. Could I, my kid wondered, pick them up after the game. (Of course I would).

A plan was set. Eighth inning or so I’d head downtown; we’d meet up on Lakeside just west of 9th. Not a problem.

Ah …but the best laid plans….

As advertised, I did my part. Second-last frame—in my car. Top of the ninth—sitting, double-parked—waiting in place for the final out.

And waiting.

And listening to the radio….when the one thing we never counted on happened: the game went extra innings. Eight extra, to be exact.
Poached like a schmuck, held hostage by the crack of a bat, I kept leering through the growing crowd of people trickling out. Everybody, it seemed, had at some point had enough and was heading home. Everyone, of course, except Michael’s boys of summer. No different than I had been, they stayed to the bitter end.

We drove uptown—exuberant boys, exhausted father (just happy to be needed). I wonder if I realized that my chauffeuring days were numbered.

Once a tour guide, now a driver—soon I would be an add-on:

It was November, 2002 and the phone rang.
“Dad,” said an excited Michael, “Block and I are flying in for Michigan. You can stay with us if you want.” Years had passed, but my answer was a constant: Of course I would.

We stayed downtown-Brian, Michael and his old man. In the morning we hit campus: Brian, Michael and the old man. Pomp and circumstance on High Street; everyone looked so young. (Stacy was somewhere—couldn’t find her). Tried to tell them of my first game —with Hal and Dad. The Dispatch ran a special Stadium edition back then, I said to absolutely no one listening.

This was their world I’d entered. The torch had indeed passed to a new generation.

Michael pointed to the ESPN booth, Kirk Herbstreit, and some others. He said to stand there for a while, that they’d be back.

“Don’t wander off,” he cautioned. “Don’t get lost.”

I stood there, dutifully, awaiting his return. I stood there in a sea of scarlet and gray—watching time, sensing change, but more than anything else, feeling comfort.

Roles change, I surmised, but people don’t. There we were again, at Ohio Stadium: sentimental father and wide-eyed son.

The child is father to the man.