Archive for August, 2011


Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

As a Noun: A subdivision of a company of soldiers, usually forming a tactical unit that is commanded by a lieutenant and divided into several sections.
As a Verb: (in baseball and other sports) Have (an athlete) play in rotation with one or more teammates at the same position.

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I still daydream. Sometimes, knowing full well I’m delusional, I play with thoughts—push them to the limit—just for the sport of it. Not sure if it’s a healthy exercise, but it keeps my mind active. Problem is though, sometimes I believe my own nonsense.

I first heard the word “platoon” in the late fifties. Not only was Sgt. Bilko’s squad a staple on my father’s TV, but the term came into vogue through sports world as well. LSU’S national champs had a defensive squad— a platoon, if you will — known as The Chinese Bandits. Still, the word was just not part of my working vocabulary. Nor was it in the half century that followed.

In early August, though, I had an epiphany. Live music playing, I walked Legacy Village one Saturday, bored. Flying solo that night, the brainstorm came!

Why do I look, on dates, for “the one”? She may not exist. Why not, (I asked myself), just platoon? If pro baseball has a lefty-righty theory, why couldn’t I?

The concept had promise. Too often I’d missed events because they were matters you just didn’t take a first date to—like “Les Mis” last April, or a wedding, months later. (After all, receptions play only so many Horas).

It occurred to me, then, (in my idiocy): I should have one person for movies, another to walk with, and yet another for Jewish events.

A friend urged reality: How, he inquired, could finding three persons of interest be easier than finding one? I ignored him, though; there is nothing, but nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come.

What were the odds, I wondered, of finding a nice Jewish girl that likes movies, temple, and casinos…that would fit in Cleveland, New York and Chicago…?
10-1? Like making a hard eight? It could happen, but it hadn’t.

I thought further: Being honest about it, what were the odds, REALLY, that a nice Jewish girl would take to a guy with more charm than money?

Again, it could happen, but it hadn’t.

No, I’d concluded: at this stage in life, perhaps the skeptics were right. Perhaps, indeed, I should cease picturing some enchanted evening and stop waiting for that magic moment. Indeed, eighteen years post-divorce, I just wasn’t going to find someone across a crowded room. Maybe I should…platoon…and be done with it?

I shared this “brilliance” with a pal or two; they scoffed. “If nothing else“ claimed one, “You’re a dreamer.”

The very next night we were sitting on the couch, watching Michael’s wedding video. Tired, exhausted from the flight, I heard the Maid-Of-Honor’s toast.

“How great it is,” she told the couple, “To wake up each day with your best friend.”

It made me think—right there on the couch—to past relationships.

I’d found, when I really thought about it, that synchronicity before. I’d rolled, yes I had, that hard eight.

Moments later the movie ended. Retiring soon after, I lay my head down, ready to dream again…and yes, to pick up the dice.


Saturday, August 27th, 2011

The Little One is 29 today. Can it be? Heck, if my youngest is pushing thirty, then I myself could be 60. Say it ain’t so!

Called her first thing this morning—got voice mail. In Mexico with hubby—phone off. I’ll canvas, then, memories of my baby—good times and bad—savoring the nector of her ups and downs…and growth.

She was, is and always will be a most emotional lady. Tears, Smiles, laughter, being there…

I remember, for example, the birth by appointment. It would not be her last time late, though it may have been the last instance she’d be induced to do anything. I still hear, too, the comments from EVERYONE through her youth. “…Such beautiful hair…,” they’d say. It must have been. What did I know? To me, hair was hair.

Truth be known, her decades, all three of them, may be summed in mental photos from the shoebox of my mind.

Picture 1 (she’s less than ten):

It’s a video from August, a quarter century gone by. Pulling Michael from the backyard, Jamie from the basement and Rooney from the dog’s cage, we sat, the five of us on a bed.

“”You’re mother and I are taking a ‘time-out’,” I said.

Grim. Our eldest, understanding too well, began explaining to his sisters. A few words in though, Stacy rose silently and left the room, (only to reappear shortly).

“Here,” she whimpered, handing me her picture. “Don’t forget me.”

A low point in my life, to this day: Rooney sobbing, age four… sobbing.

Picture 2 (she’s less than twenty):

Another video. We’re in Mentor—four of us—after karaoke. I’m driving; Rolo’s shotgun and Rooney’s in back with Hannah Duber’s mother. And they’re singing. And singing. And making up words as they go on…and on…and on. Rochelle thinks it’s funny, of course, but she’d been drinking. Did she HEAR Stacy’s voice?

But they’re laughing…and laughing…and laughing. As incidental as it sounds, it is an image I replay…often.

Picture 3 (she’s less than thirty…in fact, I can be more specific: it is September 13, 2009. She was, then, 27 years and 17 days…and she is getting married).

It’s a snapshot, by the way!

We’ll never forget her smile that day. Perhaps that’s ‘cause it hasn’t left.
I’ve known for long that what we truly owe our kids is unconditional love, and wings.
Sensing full well that they’d flee Ohio, flex their muscles and live their lives, I’d only prayed that each, with comfort, would leave the door open. Lord knows their mother and I, each in our own way, have left the light on….

Careening through turnpike turns just weeks ago, I was not only heading to Jackie’s wedding, but tiptoeing through the fabric of MY life. A lot of thoughts float through in seven hours behind the wheel—especially heading east, solo. Memories: of Michael, Jamie, Stacy…The Jersey Girl. Of youth, of time…what was…what is.

Somewhere between Breezewood and Frederick a tune came on my recently-reprogrammed ipod. A song I swear I’d never heard before, it reminded me of Stacy. One line—one line in particular—made me think of her:

“…Cause somewhere in the crowd there’s you…”

Perhaps it was a function of the day’s melancholy, but all I think of right then and there was The Little One in the audience at each of my plays. Always. Some of it’s been timing of course, and some of it proximity—but the fact is that the kid prioritizes my flirtation with theater, and somehow, even from Chicago, finds her way to my shows. She knows full well the disconnect: I discourage friends to come as all the while I thrill performing for loved ones.

That’s her way, though. Not just with me, but with everyone. Her friends span the states but they don’t feel distance. Somehow, some way, she’s there…

To laugh, to cry, to smile and to live life being all she can be.

That’s what her mother and I wanted for her twenty-nine years ago, and our prayers have been answered.

She is, to this day, a Super Trouper.


Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

“Dad,” my son said warmly, “No one enjoys life cycle events more than you.” I smiled as Michael continued. “I mean it,’ he chuckled, “It doesn’t matter if it’s a birth, a bar mitzvah, a wedding, or for sure a funeral.”

I didn’t disagree. I wondered, though, did he realize what a compliment he’d given me? Was he not proclaiming that his Old Man valued, APPRECIATED life?

Truth be known, I like weddings most. I love everything about them: the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony—even the morning/after’s brunch. Stuart Miller, this weekend, called me “a good people watcher.” He has NO idea. Not only do I revel observing families swarm hotel lobbies, but I joy even more just listening as clans fill in details of Facebook headlines. Wrap the package in three days of The Prince, and my friends, I’ve got the world by the you-know-what!

The recent Roth/Klein affair was a perfect example. Touching down Thursday evening I sensed the night’s Max time was limited. By the time we’d picked up the tuck and hit Great Neck, the lad was sound asleep. “Can I take a peek?” I asked Michael while parking the car. Moments later, entering Chez Bogart, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. Turning back toward my son I saw the protective father direct our traffic pattern 180 degrees from the baby’s crib. “He’s sleeping, Dad”, he whispered. “You can watch the monitor.”

So I did.

Friday was a new day. Booked to a hotel not far from the wedding, my room stared across the hall to the kids. It would be, therefore, max time with Max …and of course, a beautiful wedding.

“What was YOUR favorite part of the weekend?” I was asked Sunday night. The answer, (reminiscent of my brother’s forty-five minute analysis of coffee options for his mother’s 2007 birthday party) was layered.

“If you’re talking about the wedding itself, the setting was majestic,” I noted. Indeed, the minyan following me on Twitter was advised of such a day earlier. The weather’d held up—Long Island Sound was the backdrop—we walked in to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Number 3….

“And I liked the rabbi….and the ceremony. It choked me up. Especially his story about what makes a good wedding.”

Meredith’s comment about the bride dancing with her mother had my mind drifting. Recalling the video of Michael’s wedding, (just recently viewed), I pictured the warmth on MY mother’s face… shining up from her wheel chair that October night.

“And I loved the Italian ice for dessert…especially the vanilla chip…” Michael, of course, sounding the allegiance of a life-long New Yorker, advised I never really had Italian ice back in Cleveland. (Had he not heard of Lawson’s)?

“What, though, was your ONE FAVORITE part?” (I was glad they asked again,—quite poised to respond)!

“It was my forty-five minutes alone with Max!” I exclaimed. Regaling then how I’d followed him around that one square hotel room, placing suitcases in front of electrical outlets, hiding cords, and playing with him in the mirrors, I glowed. We’d sung the Max Parker Bogart song (to the tune of “Old Time Religion”), we’d rolled on the bed, and we’d watched Disney, all the while building a foundation to let him better know his out/town grandfather. It was, this one-on-one set, this quality time, the wedding of grandfather and grandson.

And so the weekend, set across the canvas of family nuptials, drew to a close. Heading to LaGuardia Monday, I could attest clearly that Jillian was a beautiful bride. I could confirm flatly that Matt Klein was her perfect fit. But I knew, definitely, that once again that little bundle of joy…the one with the Yankee Blue eyes, had stolen my heart.


Friday, August 19th, 2011

Had Hal and I been more astute, we would have posed the following question in grade school:

“Why do we have a “cleaning lady”?
(And the Buellerish follow-up: “Anybody?….Anybody”?).

As a prototypical 50’s housewife, our mother didn’t work. It was neither expected nor requested. Even with money short, her sole job was homemaker and its description succinct: guard the house, feed the kids and wait for her husband to come home. With Tuesday afternoons off for bowling, (teamed with Florrie Bucklan, Shirley Fenton, Elise Kirchenbaum), it was an easy gig.

Aunt Ruth found Katie. She, in course, gave her name to Grandma Cele…all of which made sense. The sisters, to be sure, weren’t young. Our mom, though, was barely thirty. Whatever… it’s funny how these things play out. Came a time when not only did we see Katie (dressed in work clothes) at lunchtime, but with every Seder, every Shivah, there she was, serving in white. This is, by the way, not just euphoric recall; there’s actual proof. My brother’s epic film “The Bogart Chronicles,” (available by request on DVD), memorializes her smile in a way blogging never could.

She was a beautiful woman. Street-wise, a bit younger than our mom, the lady integrated our clan with warmth, candor and wit. She left, moreover, an indelible print.

When it was time to teach “the facts of life,” my just Dad couldn’t. At our Mom’s behest, one night he dragged me with him on a sales call. Intermittently in the car he broached the subject, never quite completing his thoughts. The man kept laughing. Returning home from the west side, pulling in the driveway he finally proclaimed “Tomorrow’s another day,”

Katie taught me the facts of life. And more.

Our mother had never been accused of being a good cook. Katie, however, was. Indeed, she elevated the making of a grilled cheese sandwich to art form. “Toasted cheese,” we called it then, but no one used a toaster. Katie would cover the frying pan with butter, ply down bread, cheese and bread, and then, draping the sandwich with tin foil, pull out the iron and press the sandwich. What resulted was a wafer-thin delicacy still smacking from our lips.

She saw it all in our crew, her tenure spanning divorce, death, and even remarriage. It was “Miss Ruth” and “Miss Cele” and “Miss Elaine” that she worked for, but she loved kids the most. In time, we’d meet hers.

Katie Holly’s death, at too young an age, severed not the cord between us. A friendship cultivated with her husband sustained for years. Indeed, when Horace himself ultimately passed, I was honored to give the eulogy at The House Of Wills. It was my way of saying Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen to a lady who was never The Help, but always family.


Saturday, August 13th, 2011

         “It’s my life—
         It’s now or never.
         I ain’t gonna live forever
         I just wanna live while I’m alive…”

                                      Bon Jovi

I’ve been accused of many things over the years, but having boundary issues is not one of them. Rarely, if ever, have I had to be told something was none of my business. I just don’t tend to go there. If anything, it’s the opposite.

“You need to tell him this,” one says. “You need to say this,” remarks another.

Answering these beckonings with consistent No’s has caused me as often as not to receive looks of profound disappointment—even despair. “I don’t have a dog in that fight,” I think; “WIMP” they sulk back. (It matters not. What people think of me just isn’t my business).

I’m amazed, though, how others opine so passionately of my doings—it blows me away! I’m not talking, mind you, about matters for which I seek opinion. When it comes to wardrobe, (let’s say), I know I’m challenged. As such, I love it when Stacy, Meredith or Tammy chime in. Indeed, I seek it out. Nor did I resent Michael’s recent veto of my new black shirt: (“You’re not Maverick, Dad.”)

Unsolicited admonition, on the other hand, defies logic. This summer, for example, I’ve opted to take three mini-trips. None were necessary and I could have passed on all. Each, though, has been eagerly anticipated.

“Why would you go to Jackie’s wedding?” they asked me. After all, urged naysayers, she was your wife’s sister, and it’s in Baltimore. A best friend is going to China this fall. If you ask me the better question is why is HE going? Wouldn’t the take-out at Ho Wah be closer? Strikes me I’ve more in common with my family out east than he will out there. (But what do I know?…I’m not a traveler….so I keep my mouth shut).

“Who’s getting married in New York?” they’ve asked this week.
“You don’t know them.”
“Try me.”
“Meredith’s cousin.”
“Why are you going?”

Must I respond? I could, you know. First, though, let Arthur explain why a nice Jewish boy goes salmon fishing in Alaska. Wouldn’t Heinen’s be closer? Portions of a Wednesday breakfast were devoted to just this issue. Lester was ready, willing and able to meet Kraut in the parking lot at Cedar & Green and bring him a fishing pole. We figured he might just stand by the seafood counter and wait to hook something—like kids do with those big boxes of worthless toys at Chuck-E-Cheese. He’d save thousands annually!

And…most recently:

“Why are you going to Connecticut?” they inquire.
“It’s Aunt Lee’s and Uncle Ernie’s anniversary.”

Silence…that pregnant pause…. more silence. By now they know the “family tree” argument fails. Perhaps they figure I’m going to see Max. Does it really matter?

I could tell them that the Fanwicks were celebrating sixty years of marriage…and that they hadn’t missed a life cycle event in all those years…and I could marvel that not only did Uncle Ernie raise his glass in ‘72 at my Jersey rehearsal dinner, but that he’d toasted again, just this summer in Maryland? All of that, of course, would be true.

Or I could tell them that I’m one of those simple folk who when he hears at weddings that families are merging truly buys in. Also true.

Or better yet, I might boast of how Cousin Eric stroked my ego last month proclaiming “It wouldn’t be a Nathan Family event… “ if I wasn’t there.

Passing, though, I just smile at clowns with no dog in the fight—while inside I chuckle.  Wait ‘til they hear about the Walk For Pancreatic Cancer, I think. It’s in October at Jones Beach and I’m on Team Pearl. Perhaps, I’ll ask them to make a contribution.

Maybe that’ll shut them up.


Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

“It’s knowing that your door was always open and your path was free to walk
That made me tend to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch…”

Dear Dad,

Ears ringing? At a meeting last weekend your name arose. (Well, not so much your name as you. It related, I guess, to this week being 26 years and all—subliminal, perhaps.)

“My father,” I shared from the lectern, “Taught me everything there was to know about life except how to live without him.”

An offhand comment, it was mired in twenty minutes of my unscripted speech. No more/no less. I went on then, to speak of the post-Albert descent and my spiritual tools in recovery.

I told them how growing up YOU were my Higher Power—that I had complete and utter faith in you. I mentioned the time Chuck Picuta was pitching for the Orioles and had hit the two batters in a row. How you assured me to just step in the box and not worry—that I’d listened, fearing no more. I mentioned how we lived across the street, diagonal from the ball yard…and how if you urged me to cross the street (“It’s OK”), and I’d feared cars no more. How I had faith in everything that came out of your mouth—and that rightly or wrongly, you were my God.

When the meeting ended a guy named Jerry approached.

“I was struck by the comment about your father,” he said. Then he asked “What did you do when you got mad at him? Did you feel guilty being angry at God?”

A little esoteric for me, but I responded. We rarely fought, I advised, recalling that once you told me you weren’t yelling at me but screaming at “the situation.”

I told him too that you never hit me—never came close. Once, I shared, in the basement on Hopkins, when I’d done something wrong, you asked me if I’d done it on purpose. I thought (at five), that meant a good thing. “Yes!”, I exulted, and you exploded. And then I told him how as you calmed down you told me it was only because you “expected better” of me.

I hadn’t seen Jerry before that night, nor have I since. His comment, though, lingers.

We never really fought, did we Dad? Remember how when truly upset you would puff your lip? Muttering a bit you’d look me dead in the eye and say one of three things. It was either: “If this is your idea of a joke, it’s not funny!” or “Why would you do something you know will antagonize me?” or, if I’d really screwed up, it was that global “Why would you do something you know has to antagonize any adult?”

I knew then, Dad, as I know now, that all you ever wanted was the best for me, and that win, lose or draw Hal and I were always the straws that stirred your drink.

I know now as I should have known then that when you forbade my playing tackle or busing in from East Lansing to play softball…when you criticized my driving or my spending…it truly did hurt you more than it hurt me.

You were not God, Dad. I know that. Truth is, though, like my Higher Power, you loved me unconditionally.

That is why…to this day, whether I’m with friends or family, or with a bunch of anonymous people listening to my story…memories surface.

You were then, and are now, oh so gentle on my mind.

Love, Bruce

“…Cupped hands ‘round a tin can I pretend I hold you to my breast and find That you’re waving from the back roads by the river of my memory—-
Ever smiling, ever gentle on my mind…”

                                     (John Hartford, adapted)


Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Dear Max,

I hadn’t written this week, (for a variety of reasons), but figured interaction with your youth, innocence, and perfection might jumpstart my day. So get up Prince! Jump out of that crib—I know you can…and read this. (And don’t play that possum with me. I know you’re not sleeping and sense too that even at nine months you can read. It’s in the genes— your four grandparents, after all, were educators.

First off, I miss you. ‘ Can’t wait to see you! Your Dad says you follow him around the house now. To think, a month ago we begged you to crawl!

As you know, Uncle Hal’s operation was Tuesday. If all goes well he’ll come home tomorrow. They’ve got him in a luxury room at UH, complete with computer in the TV and a fold-out couch. How excited was I Wednesday as he invited me to sleep over? I figured on sock basketball and just hanging out (with maid service). Thursday though, he changed his mind. May sound like nothing to you, but wait ‘til you have a brother. Anyway, we pray he busts out soon. You should see him traipse around that hospital bent over. To use HIS words, he looks like Arte Johnson from the old “Laugh In” show.

My brother has so many friends that love him and care about him. Aunt Margie updates the many by email; I phone Grandma Harriet and hold daily press conferences with your (excuse the expression) Great Great Aunt Helen. Your grandmother, of course, says Thanks for each call; your aunt, no doubt, complains. Go figure.

It’s been that kind of week. Work, Uncle H by day; “Lost” or “Dan Patrick” by night…and a bit, I suppose, of writer’s block.

I had a great conversation with your parents, though. Just last night. Hysterical. Concern gripped your Mom as we spoke of my getting a tuxedo for Cousin Jillian’s wedding. I guess she’s afraid I’ll show up in a paisley jacket with a vertical-striped cummerbund or something.

“This is going to be a disaster!” she proclaimed as your Dad all the while searched on line for an outfit to email me that I might order it in Cleveland today. What’s that they say that the child is father to the man?

Oh well, I feel better now…having shared with you. I’m connected again— full of, (as Grandpa Al would say), “piss and vinegar.”

Say hi to your parents and the whole mishpecha. See you all soon.

And mark your calendar, by the way, for November 6, 2026. It’s the first Friday after you turn sixteen and I figure you can take Aunt Helen shopping. After all, you’ll have your license then. It’s in the genes, you know. Your four grandparents, after all, were also drivers.

Love, Grandpa B