Archive for October, 2010


Sunday, October 31st, 2010

A mile and a quarter from Bob’s house to Kraut’s: Wrenford to Stilmore, then down. Halfway you’d pass Stu and me on Bayard. We were young then, in the idyllic Baby Boomtown of South Euclid, Ohio.

Fifty years passed. Art remains in field goal range. Me too. Bobby‘s found Bainbridge though, and Stuart’s fled south. Boomers still— babies no more, we stand, arguably, in different seasons of life. Still, after all these years, we stand together.

The most conservative, Stuart, I sense, is also most balanced. Criminally predicable, he lives, at 61, on a precise biological clock: in the autumn of his years.

And then there’s Arthur. No one with such a big heart should complain as much as he does….but he does. Indeed, the man’s not happy if he’s not in the winter of his discontent.

Call me springtime…renaissance. I’m the pro ballplayer his first call to the majors. Took long enough but alas, I am excited by life and ready for primetime.

Enter Bob: perpetual primetime. Everything about the Jewish Archie Andrews, EVERYTHING says Summer. Cruisin’ top down through his sixties, same game as always, he is, with or without music….the best dancer on the floor. Ozzie Nelson-comfortable in his own skin, Bobby, (ask Stu or Art), is always worth the price of admission.

We dined this week: the Four Seasons together again. Bobby set it up.
There was a time we’d pack one car, tumble into Manners and eat Big Boys.
Half-century later we drive separately, make reservations, and eat salad.

Someone brought pictures—black ‘n whites from Rowland. Circling the table the photos played to a backbeat of “Who’s this?” Invariably, no one knew; just as predictably we each spoke with authority.

I’d worn new contacts for the occasion and couldn’t focus. It frustrated Bob.
“B, get your own reading glasses,” he urged. “Go get them out of your car!”
“My kid said not to wear them in public.”

There were four pictures and just three of us. It gave me time to observe…to think…..It wasn’t time that bonded our friendship, nor was it youth. There were, after all, sixteen of us at one point.

It was something more.

The glue, I sensed, was the same adhesive that connects Walt, Alan and me, the same paste that cements all true friendships: that innate understanding that everyone knows everyone and that no one is being judged.

We sat there, each knowing each other’s ins and outs, and loving each other as much for our lives’ errors as its hits.

Dinner ended—time to move on. Kraut’s sister, two years our senior, was in for a reunion. At a private house— hosted by a total stranger….Perfect.
Not unlike high school when we’d swarm to Vicki’s house and just move in for hours on end…we went. Like Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean…we went.

There weren’t, (go figure), many people to talk to.

The evening was about to end. Four men stood outside in the driveway of their unknown host. They were evaluating the talent pool still inside.

“I thought so and so was good looking,” one suggested.
“She was there?” asked another, clearly trying to agitate.
A third looked up: “You didn’t tell me she was there! We’ve GOT to go back in,” he demanded.

We did.

He flagged her down and suddenly it was “deja vu all over again.”

“Hey,” he asked her…”Do you remember me?”
(We laughed– not shyly).
“I used to hang out with the Kirchenbaums,” he added, seeking credibility.
(She stared—still blank).
“We made out once under their ping-pong table. You were two years older than me and let me tell you lady, you kissed a lot better than the girls our age…”
(Three of us each took an immediate two steps back; we’d seen this movie before).
“You know,” he told her…”I still get the feeling there’s a connection between us!”

(Two more steps each).

The film finally ended minutes later as it always does: with Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring bidding each other well, smiling goodbyes, and driving off in separate cars.

Stuart was flying south in the morning with Marilyn to follow. Fifteen hundred miles would separate the four seasons for another half year. None of them, however, would feel it.

Don’t tell me—DON’T TELL THEM…they’re not in Kansas anymore. We are, each of us…blessed in a web of friendship and, at least when together, living in an idyllic world.


Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Closing weekend, backstage.

“Favor?” asked James who never seeks favors. “My wife’s doing a paper on the Holocaust and has to go to the Maltz Museum. “Would you be tour guide?”

“Sure,” I said, “But to do it right we need a pre-game at Corky’s. It’s an Olympic sponsor and the designated delicatessen of the Jewish community.

“Our kids are coming,” he added.
“Great, I love kids. I used to be one.”
Plans were made.

Arriving first, standing in the anticipated Sunday line, my phone rang.
“Running late.”
“No problem. I’ll get the table. By the way, how many?”
“Party of five—We’ll need one highchair and a booster seat.”

Minutes later they appeared: Amy, James, and two girls (only one of whom could speak). “This is Lucy!” they announced, placing a four year-old on the red, plastic throne to my left. She had a sparkle, a smile, and marble curly hair— Shirley Temple minus the tap dance. Let the banter begin.

“How old are you?” she spit out.
“Seven,” I said.
“Are you joking me?”
“Of course not! Don’t I look older than you?”
She thought for a minute then continued: “I’m four.”
“When are you gong to be three?” I asked.
Confused, thriving on the attention, her smile was interrupted:

“I go to nursery school.”
“I don’t.”
“Did you ever go to my school?”
”A long time ago,” I told her. “There wasn’t even a roof on the building then. We had to go to school in the summer only because it was too cold in the winter.”

She stared.

Dinner was served. Amy fed the baby and, James being landlocked, I got to cut up her grilled cheese.

“Daddy says you’re Jewish,” Lucy declared. “You’re the first Jewish I know” (sic), she announced as she continued:
“Do you eat here a lot?”
“I have to,” I said. “Jewish houses don’t have kitchens.”

She eyed her mom and dad, then sighed, not quite believing, yet totally comfortable. Meanwhile on my end of the table I picked olives off a salad.

“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Jews don’t eat olives or white bread or lime jell-o.”

By the time we cleaned our plates I was smitten—my time to ask a favor. “Can I show Lucy the dessert case?”

We walked to the front. “See,” I pointed out, “No lime jell-o.”

Lunch done, we drove to Maltz. Caravan style. For an hour/plus, Amy took notes, James wheeled the infant, and me? I strolled with my new girlfriend … hand-in-hand.

Tour over, it was time to part. Amy packed the girls in their car as the men did what men do best—we stood. Within moments an arm came from the back window.

“Here,” beamed a voice through fingers brandishing a crayoned picture. “This is for you.”
“I’m going to put this up in my office!” I promised, (and did within the hour).

“Had a ball,” said James, as we parted. “You really know how to talk to kids.”
“Of course,” I reminded….”I used to be one.”


Sunday, October 24th, 2010

                “A million tomorrows shall all pass away
                ‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine…today.”

                                          The New Christy Minstrels

When I was younger the concern was years: In a year I’ll drive… two years to OSU…and then, before I knew it, it was 1970: one year “then the real world.”

College framed the best times—but they, being years….blurred. It was one continuum of special events (beating Purdue, contacts, the marina blue Mustang convertible, falling in love) set against the canvas of my first independence. No parents, no curfews, no budget. How could they NOT be primo years?

Older now, sightline adjusted through the lens of time, I focus on things more compelling than years: days. Years connect moments but days—single days— keep me connected. And days don’t have to be special to be special. They just have to be….Like yesterday:

There was nothing unique about it: just two brothers, each sixtyish, joking and relating more like they were six (or, in a strong moment, sixteen).

7:30 and our cars met at Corky’s. Pointing to my seat belt, Hal’s next request was to hear segments of a live Turtles concert. Barely on the highway he’d shed four decades.

Fast forward: His ipod stores 5,000 songs and two circuits through the car. As such, H could move to the next tract from his steering wheel as I sat, finger poised on the dash. Most songs went two bars and out. (Question: How is it two kids from South Euclid, raised on a monaural victrola are so picky in the new millennium)?

“That’s the difference between men and women,” opined Hal. “Do you think if our wives were in the car we’d be allowed to change songs every three seconds?” We laughed and I turned around looking for my wife. The last time I had one of those I was turning off Michael Jackson who was singing “You Are Not Alone.” (I was).

Approaching Columbus in record time H questioned the street to exit.

“Should I get off at Hudson…or go to 17th?”
“Hudson, “ I replied.
“Are you sure?” he shot back. We were heading, yet again, into our typical overanalysis. Never let it be said Bogarts don’t think things through.
“Well, we can’t make a left turn at Indianola.”
“OK, then 17th,” he smiled, still half-asking.
“No, absolutely not.” came my assertion. “All the idiots get off at 17th or 11th because they think that’s where campus is. We’re better than that!”
(I don’t know about Hal, but at least on this end more thought poured into choosing that ramp than in choosing my spouse).

We got off at Hudson then headed to Summit. Summit to Lane, then into campus. Eyeing a parking lot near High, Hal entered. Vacation-giddy, we bounded from the car like immigrants at Ellis Island.

“How do you get out of here after the game?” H asked the kid taking our money. “We don’t want to be boxed in.”
“Talk to the guy in charge—he’ll help you,”
“Who’s that?”
“Over there…that guy….his name’s Parker.”
I couldn’t resist: “You’re kidding me!”
“No,” he said with that stupid freshman look.
“You don’t think there’s anything funny, “ I asked, “…About the fact that the guy in charge here’s name is Parker?” The kid just stared at me.

I was that kind of day. Simple stuff: two brothers, all laughs, no boundaries.

“What percentage of people here have Ohio State on their clothes?”
“75%” I answered to the other Man In Black.
“I’d say 95,” he regaled, and pointed to an old man in a wheel chair.
“OK,” I shot back: “If there are 100,000 people at the game today, how many will not be wearing underwear?
He didn’t even hesitate: “500. Exactly.”

The game was no game at all: a blowout. Midway through the first quarter H noticed an inch thread on the back/right shoulder of the fan in front of him. Pointing it out, he vowed to remove it from the guy’s jacket, without letting him know. Problem was, every time Hal leaned in to flick it the man moved. My brother, though, could not be denied. He captured the thread at 6:22 of the third quarter.

I, too, had my mishigos. We had seats 3 and 4 of our row; our host was in the 1 hole on the aisle. At a pre-game meeting, Hal and I agreed to always be standing when the host did, and always sit down as he did. Kickoff, time-out, whatever. Monkeys see, monkeys would do.

Midway through the first period there was a TV timeout. Standing for a bit, (our host was), I was interrupted by the putz sitting behind me.
“You make a better door than a window!” he shouted. (Mind you, NO ONE was on the field). I vowed then and there never to stand up again. The balance of my game time was spent—ALL OF IT—sitting down. Kickoffs, touchdowns, times-out….100,000 people stood—I sat. They scored six times the first half. Hal stood for each, cheered for each. Me? I sat and clapped from my seat.

At 49-0 our host left. The Bogart boys followed suit. It was nearly 3PM and time to head home.

Bolting from the stadium we head to our car. Haskell Hall. Denny.
Arps Hall up ahead. We were marching through our past.

“Should we take Indianola to Hudson?” asked Hal.
“No, let’s keep going to Weber.”
“Yeah, but we got a good jump leaving early. Maybe Hudson will be OK”

It was a dialogue lasting from just outside the vehicle to just across Hudson. It was a conversation about nothing but a day about everything.


Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The gold ring slid from my fourth finger with my mind gripped the melancholy. No, it wasn’t ’93 and the demise of a marriage. Hardly. It was, rather, Sunday afternoon—a final bow as Murray The Cop.

“Mind if I keep this?” I asked the stage manager. There was a poignancy to it all— would I ever wear one again? My first wedding band, (circa 1972) is housed in Chicago—the little one’s souvenir of a marriage gone south.

“What do I care?” she offered, oblivious to my moment. It went in my pocket.

Not that I look to remarry. Or live with someone. Strikes me first I should date, or maybe have a girlfriend. Still, what once was perceived as eventual, then viewed as possible, now appears to be just another activity others do, but not me. Like archery.

Whodda thunk it?

“You run from relationships,” said a lady that knows me well. “You’re afraid.” She was wrong. Are you kidding me? Afraid of what—being hurt? I think not. Not only was my first cut the deepest but the second and third grew scabs.

“You’re too particular,” says another. I think not. This kid would settle. In ’10 alone I ignored the ponytail-in-the-back-of-the-baseball cap look, waived the blonde rule, and still missed the flop.

Seventeen years after the second great Exodus…Where HAVE all the flowers gone?

I question this on but limited occasions—like right after a play (flat mood, open schedule), or sitting in Starbucks as good-looking women—all seemingly married— parade by, or, frankly, when I see ugly people holding hands. How is it THEY find mates, and I don’t?

That question (of course) is rhetorical. Still, year in/ year out I watch other nice guys without money fall in love, couple up. Me? I’m still playing home-and-away series, looking for Ms. Goodbar.

“You think too much,” says one child— hearing my self-assessment. Love her optimism. “Why even go out with her, Dad?” cries another. “There’s no future in it.” Hear his realism. Then, of course, there’s Jacobson: “Go out with her, Bogie!”—his advice of anyone anywhere anytime, “…And just take things as they come. You never know….” Experts all, but when were any of these mavens last out there?

Once it was simple…looking for a smile, a fragrance, an edge.

“You don’t want women with an ‘edge’, Dad!” Michael warns. “They’re all whack jobs.”

Governor Al Smith used to say: “Let’s look at the record.” I say Let’s do it! What’s on the back, then, of my baseball card?

             Married his first girlfriend right out of college.
             Bright promise—had the “over.” Went 22 and
             out. A decade later found himself engaged for
             six weeks; it didn’t take. (His kids bet the

So maybe it’s just not meant to be.

An aunt out east dreams and periodically urges reconnection with the ex. I love Aunt Lee…dearly…. but she’s seen too many movies. Aunt Helen, of course, not only lives here, but is fodder for her own movies. Fridays she’ll push me (again) to comb the Jewish News for “socials.” What, may I ask, does she know? Her last date was to a fundraiser for the League Of Nations.

And so it goes. There’s JDate, Match, and all that nonsense. Better I should put my money on a hard eight. There’s Cousin Norm and his pick of the week: Pasadena. And there’s me.

Maybe I SHOULD take up archery. Perhaps then I’ll find Cupid’s bow. In the meantime, though, I’ll ship Murray’s ring to Illinois—let Stacy have it…. a souvenir of yet another “Odd Couple.”


Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

I’m dealing when the phone rings. “It’s my boy,” he tells us, bubbling over, motioning “Shush.” We, of course, get louder. The game, you know, must go on.

Moments later it’s different. Grimacing, tortured, he’s talking to his ex. We hear shrying through the phone so we quiet.

Our pal hangs up, returns to the table. “I’m $800 behind in alimony,” he announces. “Let’s raise the stakes!” We laugh again. All of us.

It is “The Odd Couple,” the first scene, and the audience sees me on stage: Murray The Cop, laughing at Oscar. (They should only know I’m not acting—just remembering. They should only know I used to be that Oscar).

It was our first rehearsal, weeks ago: Introducing the troupe, the director declares “Bruce doesn’t have much talent. I call him when he can play himself.” The company roared. Me? I was thinking. The guy’s cast me as young Mel Brooks (“Laughter On The 23rd Floor”), Harry MacAfee (“Bye Bye Birdie”) and now Murray. Does he really think I’m just a neurotic, frantic card player?

I’m in the green room… nightly…for weeks. Six men, two women. We run lines, play euchre, share, and, in time…bond. The cast is, by my standards, young. (They don’t know). A few perhaps may remember JFK. Every once in a while I say something—something truly ordinary. They gaze at me (especially the 30 year-old with the C-cup) as if I’m Yoda. (They should only know I’m not brilliant—just sixty).

It was the night before opening: “final dress.” We were in a Willoughby watering hole a block from the theater. I usually don’t join in, but after a long week of tech, the director wanted his team to unwind. Notes, he advised, would be over beers. I sat politely with my club soda/lime. “Bruce, he said to us all, “I’ve never enjoyed watching you more. You seem to be relaxing, really enjoying yourself.” It felt like a compliment…at least I thought so……time zone’s being what they were,. though, I called Stacy from the car to confirm.

We’re at the card game again and the phone rings. It’s his ex again, play halts, we listen.

He’s calm, maybe warm—she’s not calling for money. They talk a bit…about the kids. He’s not in pain this time, just neutered. It is “The Odd Couple,” the last scene and the audience is still laughing. Not AT him now, but WITH him. The crowd sees me, Murray, smiling on stage at my friend Oscar. (They should only know I’m not acting—just remembering. They should only know what I’m really thinking each night—the bittersweet: that I grew up later than necessary, like Oscar Madison….and that I too wound up holding a winning hand).


Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Channel surfing the other night (unsuccessfully), I hit CNN. Larry
King, but the show’s guest-driven and for sport it’s fun to guess what
obvious questions he’ll fail to ask.

And so it was that mid-way through the 9PM hour I was reminded yet again that if you set your sights low enough, you’ll not be disappointed. It was a moment so compelling, so bothersome and yet, so ridiculous that it must, even days later…be shared. There, bannered across the bottom of my TV screen—all caps—it read:

Legendary? Are you f’ing kidding me? Famous yes, award-winning—sure, but legendary? Judy Garland would roll over in her grave.

The whole thing amazed me. (Too much time on my hands). The next day I called H for his “take.” (Note that ’til recently Hal had been the most normal person I know. Time and exposure to me has ended that. Today’s
short list for his replacement is headed by Herzog, Walter and Meredith’s father).

“Is everything OK?” he substituted for hello. (This is usually my opening).
“Yeah—let me ask you….Do you think Liza Minnelli is legendary?”
“Absolutely not.”
“Well Larry King…blah blah blah (I filled him in).
“Larry King’s an idiot. Look I have work to do.”

I started thinking. Babe Ruth—that man is legendary! Twenty four hotdogs between games of a doubleheader! And how ‘bout the World Series when he called his shot against Charlie Root?

I thought of events…like the death of Wild Bill Hickok. LEGEND has it he was holding Aces and Eights when gunned down in Deadwood. (Queen of clubs kicker). We still don’t know for sure, but walk into any poker game anywhere—a century plus later—they still refer to the “Dead Man’s Hand.”

Liza Minnelli?

Haven’t we learned that scrolling something across a TV screen doesn’t make it so? Fool Middle America Mr. King, but some of us grew up on the Mean Streets of South Euclid. We’ve known real legends; we sense the truly legendary.

Like Will’s father wrestling alligators. Or Milt Fenton. As youngsters Hal and I bore witness to the scar on his stomach—the exact spot the elephant stood on him.

Or our lifelong friend, alumnus of all the Bar Mitzvahs—born with two peeholes. You want to talk legendary? Standing in Brush’s john, six feet away from the row of urinals, he’d hit the far left and far right porcelain in one shot. Rumor has it the year Cockroft went down our buddy got a tryout with the Browns. (Could have had a great career as a fire-fighter).

Stuart Fenton bears witness to a truly epic moment. It was study hall in Greenview’s cafeteria and he was sitting at a table with Joe Cerito and Ken Gambo.

“There I was,” he told me just yesterday, “In the eighth grade sitting with
two guys that were each about 25 years old.” Gambo fell asleep, says
Stuart. And then, his eyes tearing, Fenton continues: “So Cerito picks up
my World History book, the thickest, heaviest book there was, winds up and smacks
Gambo’s head into the desk to wake him up.


Legends are nurtured through effort or even circumstance. They are built over time or born of event. As such, when it comes to true, living legends, Liza Minnelli can’t shine our friend Alan’s shoes.

Other than Coach Hayes, there was no more known person on campus in late sixties than Wieder. He owned High Street. Fact is though, likable, popular kids recycle through college towns. As he graduated, another would appear. That baton passes. Alas, Alan…until that LEGENDARY moment, was no more than famous.

It was on the fields south of Morrill and Lincoln—intramurals. Softball.  We were winning big, late in the game when their runner tagged from third.  Sliding at home, he drew the mercy call: Safe.”

Our lead (perhaps) was cut to eight. The runner lay writhing at the plate, immobile. Sirens blew; a stretcher came….and for ten minutes or so play was stopped until, ultimately, the ump said Play Ball.  And it was then—right there and then—that the name “Alan Wieder” was written into history books in the most indelible of inks.

“The runner left early,” he declared, stepping back off the mound.
“OUT” called the ump, (clearly disgusted with our buddy). (Across the
field, of course, at least ten new anti-Semites were born).

We didn’t need the self-aggrandizing scroll of a TV screen. Baby Boomers have seen a lot. If you don’t think so, really listen to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”

We know “legendary” when we see it.

He’s going off the air soon, I hear. Larry King that is. Too bad. I thought of writing him, suggesting he interview Wido for the hour.  They do, after all, have much in common. Each, (among other things), achieved a degree of fame tossing softballs.


Thursday, October 7th, 2010

It is nature’s law: we come and go in order. This principle, generally honored— usually expected— is too often violated. Fairly or unfairly we count on it, rely on it—all the while knowing that nothing in this life is guaranteed…especially life— and that those arriving later sometimes leave sooner. It’s crap and it’s unfair—but it’s life.

Our friend’s daughter passed—way too soon and way too young. In her forties, but young. She left a husband, two parents, a grandmother and a future.

It’s crap and it’s unfair—but it’s life.

Hard not to think of him today…of our youth…our paths. And how he hurts.

We grew up in a Fool’s Paradise: laughing, loving, hurting absolutely no one. Times were, in the truest sense, innocent. He’d ride me down Bayard, peddling blindly as I perched on a handlebar. Always crash—never burn. We’d play “touch” in his backyard, spin records in his basement, park cars with his dad, Eddie Haskell his mom and —through it all— face foibles together. We were—all of the guys—perfectly happy in our imperfect world.

“B,” he’d brag: “My father has a bigger hearing aid than your mother! HA HA!” And he’d laugh his signature roar.

Hard not to think of him today…of our lives… our paths…

He moved away, came back; I stayed, resurfaced. Miles and years never really disconnect childhood friends. Bob and Fred remain, Erv’s in Columbus. Kraut’s here, WIeder’s out west, Treinish—in the office and Stuart—well he’s somewhere faking retirement. We are branches from the same tree with—to a man—roots that bend but never break.

There were sixteen of us in “the day.” We’ve buried fathers, said goodbye to mothers, married, divorced, prospered with money, pissed away opportunities and lived.

We’re trading voice mails this week, and Emails, and memories.

Hard not to feel for him today.

He’s watching old movies: her first birthday. It was ’69, Columbus. Bobby and Stuart were there…me too. Married housing off Olentangy. We were all so young…naïve.

Hard today, not to wish that just one more time we could all cram into his dad’s old green Studebaker, that we could all be California Dreamin’ of our lives ahead….

Our friend’s a trouper. He’ll rise today and go to work. He’ll stay busy. His smile will flicker a bit and in time shine again. Bet on it; bet on him.

At this moment though, he hurts, he feels. And all the blithe spirit of his past. all the love and well-wishers surrounding him can’t change the simple fact that it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

It’s crap; it’s unfair…but it’s life.


Monday, October 4th, 2010

For so long I thought baseball was a metaphor for life. You know…all about having more runs and hits than errors. Wrong. Our journey’s not played on a diamond so much as paddled ‘cross a river. It is, as I’ve learned from people like my sister-in-law, about canoeing.

If you don’t know Margie, let me introduce you. She is the subtle straw stirring our drink. Sitting three to my left (or three to my right) at Kangesser, she’s the quiet rock buttressing our clan from life’s calamities. In my ugly days of the 90’s she was there; through Hal’s nightmare, she was there. Shabbos dinners, family matters…BINGO.

She is the conduit assuring that as we each express family values our actions truly value family.

High Holidays—-just a few weeks back. “Who is the strongest member of your family?” the rabbi asked. He was urging congregants to rise, to share. I was, for the moment, prepared to stand.

Quietly reviewing the roster, thinking….. Hal was out, as was I. How strong could either of us be still holding meetings to prepare for our aunt? Should we really require pre-emptive strikes to interact with a ninety-six year old?

The answer crystallized: clearly the valiant one in our clan was the steady one. Margie. A stoic with heart, she thinks straight but sees wide. She is steadfast.

Who would have known it? Not me. As a younger man I didn’t get it—didn’t appreciate constancy. Having grown up I know better now.

“Put your hand over your heart,” reminds my friend David. “Is there any greater strength than that methodical, constant, reliable thumping?” He is right. So right. Margie’s consistency remains the heartbeat of our family—to this day. Our family’s pulse is as strong in rain, strong in sunshine. Is there a better test?

No, I didn’t stand in temple that day. Didn’t rise to tell the congregation about my wonderful sister-in-law. It was neither necessary nor her thing.

In my day, you see, I played baseball. Loved to slide into a base and, standing, call time, dust myself off, let others cheer. Margie’s different, though. She likes canoeing. No time for cheers or dusting off….not for her. She’s busy, still, holding our family with one hand and, yes, paddling with the other