Archive for October, 2011


Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Tomorrow is exactly 18,000 days since my Bar Mitzvah. (You can look it up).

Google it: October 27, 1962. In the heat of the Cuban Missile Crisis, on a day where OSU beat Wisconsin in black and white, in the week after McCovey broke my heart (ending Game Seven with Mays and Alou on base)…at a time of neither Cavaliers in town nor divorces in my family….with JFK , RFK and EMK in Washington and four grandparents in Cleveland…I “became a man.”

Oh yeah, and there were, that day, Bobby and Stuart.

We met for breakfast today, in Chagrin Falls, the three of us. Back in the day we’d shlep to dances at the old Chagrin Armory—word was they had “fast” girls. Not that it would have mattered to me, of course; I wasn’t to lose virginity for another decade. (You can google that too).

It was a typical meal—three Boomer Boys, mixing past and present.

“I forgot the tapes,” Bob moaned. Custodian of our radio past, he’d promised to bring them. H is going to put them on a CD for us. (Note to Hal, in case you’re reading: I meant to tell you—I committed you to copy recordings for us. Thank you in advance. Love, Bruce).

“So, Fenton,” he continued, “Tell us about China.”
“It was great,” said Stuart, “But B doesn’t want to here about it.”
“What do you MEAN he doesn’t?” urged Bob.
“Ask him.”
“B,” Snyder pushed back, “What do you mean you don’t want to hear about China?”
Finally, I opened my mouth: “I never said that. I can’t see why anyone would go, but of course I want to hear.”
So Stuey shared his “trip of a lifetime” after which Bob admonished me. Gently smacking my right shoulder, lovingly he demanded: “See, why are you so narrow-minded. Don’t you want to see the world?”
“Not really,” I rebounded, “And actually, it’s me who’s open-minded. I’m able to come right out and say there’s enough to do here…AND…if it was FREE, if you gave me a blank check—all expenses paid for two—I still wouldn’t leave the country.”

Across the table, Stuart nodded knowingly. Bob knew me too, though, and found my Achilles. “How about Israel.”
“OK,” I muttered. “Even if it isn’t free.”

Yes, it was typical fare, our breakfast. We touched them all, friends to family: from my brother’s health to the Ermine-Wieder summit in Portland to the next Brush reunion….

I’d brought additional food for thought, as well. Brandishing a white album, I showed them photos from Sherwin’s Party Center, 49 years ago.

At one table were the guys: There were Herman, Krinsky and “Codgie”. There was veteran White Sox catcher Fischer, flanked by Ermine (in dark black glasses), then Auerbach, Cohn, Bobby, Will and even Billy Simkoff.

“‘Chronic’ was at your Bar MItzvah?” asked Bob, “…and where’s Fenton?”
“Lighting a candle,” I noted.

The girls, of course, sat separately: Two Shafrans and a names that read like a law firm: Rothenfeld, Madvid, Sumers and Davis.

“Why were the twins there? “They weren’t at mine….and who’s this? asked Snydo, handing Stuart the volume.

“Hey, B,” Stu interrupted, “Here’s Aunt Helen!” failing to realize our friend wouldn’t be denied.
“C’mon, you’ve GOT to know who this is!”

Ponderous conversation ensued until finally, Bob exulted:
“It IS Sandy !” he exclaimed, (just beginning). “Did I ever tell you about the time…” He regaled then, of way back when …a night he was with The Artist Formerly Known As Marvin:

“I had Sandy with me, “ Bob continued, “…And Marvin wanted to go somewhere and park with Mary Lou…so I thought this might be a good influence on Sandy…..and we drove out to God Knows Where, the four of us…and my battery died.”

“No,” I smiled, (I’d missed the story). Chances are I was playing basketball in Wieder’s garage that night, or perhaps it was the off-weekend and Hal and I were with our Dad.

The fact is, I enjoyed the tale more today than I might have then. It used to take an act of Congress to get a date; I couldn’t relate. Moreover, I sense now what I didn’t feel then: that not only am I OK, but clearly, THESE are the good old days.

The conclave ended as it always does, with smiles. A cupcake emerged from the kitchen, with candle lit for my birthday. I shrugged and waved it off, but they sang.

I don’t like those things—I really don’t. My fifteen minutes have long bee gone. And I don’t eat cake.

It occurred to me though—they weren’t singing for me—they were singing for US…for our holy trinity. And that, by the way, is something you don’t google…you just know.


Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Twenty-five years ago this fall, with the trickle of one ball into right field, they threw Bill Buckner to the curb. Dismissing the former Cub’s stellar career, fans discarded a batting champ and ignored history, showing neither loyalty nor sense of family. But not Jason. Not my son-in-law. Born and bred in Chitown, his values ran deeper.

Chicago was great this weekend. Stace, Jace and Adam were just as I’d left them, and yet…they weren’t.

This is a time of transition for the Bohrers—nine months of movement, expansion and growth. It is a year that sees them rhythmically transposing from newlyweds to young marrieds. Indeed, their union, like the flow of a pennant-winning season, has built on spring excitement with all eyes on the fall. Accordingly, in some ways, this trip specifically, I felt like a “middle reliever.” (Sure, everyone was glad to see me, but still, it was like the seventh inning, with everyone watching the scoreboard).

Stacy’s my baby. Capricious, funny, nurturing, she fits well in The Windy City. Thank God. There’s a better chance I’ll get pregnant than there is Jason would move. And that is fine.

Arriving Friday I saw her new office. In The Loop, it sits adjacent to a TV station, and is big and clean. What’s noteworthy is that at day’s end, as I stood waiting in the lobby, not ONE of the maybe eighty-five people preceding her was my senior. Chicago isn’t just a young town—it’s pre-pubescent.

The beauty of family weekends is that only the company matters; activities, as fun as they are, are but side dishes. An hour in Target (with Stacy) trumps sixty minutes at any poker tourney. (Well…almost any….or, most…or, at least this Saturday, when after months of searching I found a treasure trove of my favorite gum: Trident Peppermint Splash!

It was a thrill, though, just watching them shop;

“What do you think of this?” asked Jason.
“Whichever one you want,” said Stacy.
“I’ll get this one,” he confirmed.
“Well—are you sure you don’t like this one better?”
“You’re right,” said JS.

(Ah…I too once wore his shoes)…

One thing that had changed was Adam. There was a time he knew me—a time, even years post-kidnapping, he’d pick up my scent. I mentioned this to Stacy, in passing, but she ignored me, (intent rather to point out Jason— in the other room— putting furniture together).

“Can you go see if he needs your help?”
“OK,” I said, and like Pavlov’s dog, then uttered: “Jason, do you need my help?”
The Little One rolled her eyes (as if perhaps I should get up off the couch and actually go in the other room to ask).
“What you need is a Dick Lomaz.” I grumbled. (How many times must I tell her?)
She just doesn’t get it.
“I’m helping Jason more by staying out here.” I pointed out.
She didn’t laugh, but she did give up.

It was a weekend of anticipation, all eyes forward.

“Don’t leave,” she urged plaintively on Sunday. “Go tomorrow.” (There was as much chance of that happening as there was Jason WANTING my help).

We were hanging out…waiting before I left. From the rear came Jason, brandishing a picture, framed in wood.

“Look,” he beamed, “Buckner autographed it himself. It may go in the living room—above the television.” There was a vacant wall just above the set that begged for attention. Nodding approval I saw Stacy cringe.

“You aren’t serious!” she shried.

I WAS serious, you know…but kept my mouth shut.  I, you see, understood.  The Little One: she viewed it as a ball player. No more, no less. That’s her right.

Everyone, though, sees art differently, (including me).

I saw more than Buckner on that cloth, I swear. There was love and history on the canvas.  I felt it. And a sense of loyalty too, and family…

It struck me that indeed, if I was building a home, that wouldn’t be a bad start.  Especially this November.

***** ***** ***** ******                             I first heard of the Ex-Cub Factor at the Maisonette Restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was 1990 and David and I were there for the opening of the World Series. It will be two years next month that we lost David. I think of him all the time. He was a man of love, of family, and of steadfast loyalty.


Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Some telephone numbers just have an aura. Seven numerals in unique sequence, they exude good (and sometimes bad) karma. Digits on my phone light up and instantly, before saying hello I feel better or worse.

Meteorologists had already promised “Heavy rain Wednesday” before the Tuesday evening call.

9 3 2 1 4 1 0 it read — a number that’s paralyzed Clevelanders for three quarters of a century.

“Hi Aunt Helen.”
“Would you like to take me shopping tomorrow?”
“It’s supposed to pour….can it wait”? (I asked).
“Would you prefer I go without food?”

I picked her up at 4 today, in the midst of a tsunami.
“You’re not wearing a coat,” she said (entering the passenger side). Circling the car, getting behind the wheel, I felt HER storm:
“Would you like to stop at the library?”
“Why?” I asked, “Look at it outside. What do you need?”
“I am sending Danny something and it would be nice if he received it sooner…and why are you ignoring me—I said you are not wearing a coat.”
“I’m not ignoring you—you didn’t ask a question.”
“Well I’m asking you now: why aren’t you wearing a coat?…and please, if I want to make one stop at the library, why is it so important to you that we not go?”
“Please, Aunt—“
“You never have time for me. Always in a hurry.”
“It’s a MONSOON outside—that’s all I’m saying.”
“Then why aren’t you wearing a jacket?”

Cease-fire in place, I walked her ‘cross the threshold of the library. Once on dry land she removed papers from the protective binder she’d made from a Cheerios box, tendered two dimes, and announced: “You know, I called earlier today to remind them they needed toner.” (Suddenly I pictured a myriad of my cousins fleeing west in the 60’s—all her cousins—they were smiling).

Splashing ahead, we drove to Marc’s where oranges, in see-through sacks, were $2.99 for the four pounds.
“Count them,” she urged. “Some have ten, some but nine….”
For six minutes I juggled bags of Valencias, palm to palm, counting and releasing, counting and releasing…until triumphantly I assured her that YES, we’d scored that precious tenth! (This, in case you’re wondering, reduced the unit cost from 3.3 cents per orange to 3).

We were indoors, of course, but her reign kept coming:

“Should I ask the manager why they’re out of broccoli florets?”… “Do you agree with me that the bananas are too yellow?”…”Why are the ‘aerated’ Hershey’s Kisses priced the same as solid ones?”

Next came the post office. (An easy gig, one would think).

Approaching the drive-by chute, I slowed to the box.

“Let’s wait for the rain to stop,” she suggested. “The letters will get wet.”
“In three seconds?” I asked.
“Why must you be so difficult?”

Soon my brilliance emerged. Brandishing a blank envelope from my visor, I used it as protective cover to escort her mail safely.

“Always in a hurry,” she moaned, “And did you see the letter to Friends of Akim?”
“No, Aunt Helen, I don’t look to see who you’re writing to.”
“It’s Michael Jacobson’s fund,” she continued. “Honestly, I don’t know how he does it! He works so hard; he does his charity; he’s always out-of-town. I don’t know where he finds the time!”
“He doesn’t have an Aunt Helen,” I thought.

Minutes later we were done. Heading back up Cedar, my phone was flashing. Evidently I’d forgotten to put the ring back on, (silence being mandated when on duty). A call was missed.

I was afraid to look! Was something forgotten? Would I have to go back?

Peeking, of course — I knew the number. And No, it wasn’t my Aunt Helen.  It was, however, my ex-wife.

            “Instant karma’s gonna get you…”

                                       John Lennon


Saturday, October 15th, 2011

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
                  – Jerry, to George, in “The Opposite”

Only those who know…know, but yesterday was special. Slowly, making a wide, wide turn, life began changing on October 14, 1997. That night, in a conference room in Beachwood, Ohio, I got real. That night, in a room of solid strangers, I committed to a program of recovery that would not only keep me sober, but improve every aspect of my life. That moment—that very moment—-I began to grow up.

No one, I’ve noticed in fourteen years, comes to “the rooms” on a winning streak. I was no different. There wasn’t a piece of my life going well. Friends sustained, but business was hollow. I feared the phone, feared opening mail, and slowly, like the dripping faucet, I’d made my world smaller and smaller. Only the kids remained and, frankly, though they loved me, they really didn’t respect me. It was ugly.

I used to sit in the meetings—those early years. I’d be the last one in, first one out, and I’d see everyone smiling. All these recovering alcoholics…smiling! I couldn’t figure it out. What the f#$% were they so happy about? I didn’t get it.

I still picture those days. It was a time when, whether I deserved it or not, God kept putting the right people in front of me at all times; it was a time where I always seemed to be hearing what needed to be heard.

“Is all this really necessary?” I‘d ask my sponsor.
“Bruce, you’ve been doing things your way for a while now. How’s that working out?”

Better yet, there was the unsolicited advice:

“If you had time to drink each night and you’re not drinking, then look at all the extra time you have to work on yourself.”…
“Aren’t you tired of being a ‘three inning player’”?
“Bruce, the problem is YOU. Isn’t that great! That means you can solve the problem!”
“Do things our way for a month and if you don’t like it, we’ll refund your misery“.

And so it was. I was like Spanky in The Little Rascals thinking “I’ll eat it but I won’t like it.” And…truth be known, it remained that way for a year or so…until one night, in ’99 when the light bulb went on. It was my Costanza moment. Indeed, it DID occur to me that if every impulse I’d had the past years had been bad, then contrary action might well succeed.

It was at that point—two years post/drink—-that I truly bought in. Bought in? I jumped in! Listening like I never had before, sharing as I never did before, I took suggestions—heck, I FOLLOWED suggestions—from the same people whose smiles didn’t compute when I came.

Get out of yourself, they told me. Find your God and pray to Him. Help someone else.

I did.

Time passed and I continued to listen. Building on the foundation our parents provided at Park, I jumpstarted my Judaism. Riveted by faith, I found comfort in prayer and solace in meditation. It became, indeed, a daily thing.

More time passed. Days. Months. Years. Life was happening (and not all of it good). Still I kept paddling.

There was the Jodi debacle and The Thief and our Mom’s death. Tempering anger with acceptance, I moved right through it, buoyed by a faith things would be OK. OK (I’ve learned), is OK.

A few weeks ago the topic at a meeting was our spiritual condition. My comment drew chuckles, but I was dead serious:

“I have a great relationship with my God,” I said. “I speak to him daily, and find peace. If I had put that much effort into the relationship with my ex we might still be married.” (As the laughter subsided it DID occur to me that a few more decimal points wouldn’t have hurt).

And life continues to go on.

My aunt asks, from time to time why I still go to meetings….why I still have a sponsor. She just scoffs. I could tell her what I tell the guys I work with: that no matter how long a player’s been in the league he still takes batting practice every day. That we either grow or we go. She won’t get it. So what! (I’ve learned). What matters is if I do.


Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Schlepping through a maize of taxis I saw what appeared to be the Millers’ car.  “So glad you’re here,” called Caryn. I placed my suitcase in the trunk and had taken a seat in back when Stuart got more to the point: “Wait ‘til you see that boy of ours! You’re not going to believe it!”

(We were still a half hour from Max).

I couldn’t wait Wednesday. Couldn’t wait to see that smile…those shiny slate eyes …that eleven month, debonair prince…couldn’t wait. And so, thirty minutes post-airplane, I bounded from the elevator as Meredith’s mom announced words I hadn’t heard in two months: “We’re here!”

Infrequent visits, (as frequent as they are), yield a special dynamic. Not having the luxury, as others do, of seeing my grandson on a daily basis, I watch him grow geometrically. He’s never a day older; it’s usually a month…or more. I marvel at his growth, in spurts.

And so it was that I walked through the door and found not the crawling Prince of this past summer, but a little boy sitting peacefully, playing with toys, looking up…and waving hello. Max Parker Bogart—waving hello—to me. I melted.

My mind, of course, took many pictures last weekend.

There was the one from the downtown park (the day we met Lev and Judah). So convinced was Meredith that I’d not fit down the slide, she made me do a dry run first. And there was the shot from the other park, (where we met Kay and Ilya). Another slide, another look, another laugh.

Not all photos were still, of course. Mental video remains of the debate about Max’s college.

“Michael wouldn’t have a problem with it if Max went to Michigan,” claimed Mer. Squirming, I rejoined “If he wants to go that route, what about Stanford?”

In a conversation arguably premature we then ruled out Virginia, Colgate and our friends in Happy Valley. (Some sixteen years pre-decision, FYI, I’m leanin’ to Princeton).

It was a trip replete with the promise of activities and the observance of holiday…of both old family and new friends. And Max.

(It strikes me, I might add, that the joy engendered by this bundle of boy might seem overstated; it’s not. There is a vitality to grandparenting that survives distance and outlives lack of contact. It’s called love).

He’s eleven months—that’s all. Cameo appearances, to be sure go only so far. Still, while for him they are hints of relationship to follow, for me they are anchors I cling to.

And images…

Of a family, surrounding a dinner table, clapping in unison to a shining boy…and of the lad, clapping back with a transcontinental smile. Everyone’s cheering.

And of breaking the fast, a day later. It is the same crowd, only bigger, and Max is showing off:

“Open, shut them; open, shut them,” we direct as the bambino, arms erect as if to signal a successful field goal, opens and shuts his fists. (Funny how if your kid does this it’s nice but when your grandchild does, it’s Olympic!)

And of watching intently as the little one, eyes wide open, tries his first blueberry.

‘Tis an unwritten law of Max’s being that major steps ensue the moment I leave town. Was it only last June I begged him to crawl (and he did as I touched down in Cleveland)? Perhaps.

It matters not. I know only that each trip east adds a brick to the mortar of family we all treasure. I know further that today’s cameos are tomorrow’s diamonds.

And for this I am grateful.

         “I spent a week away from you last night.”



Saturday, October 8th, 2011

        No longer forward nor behind
        I look in hope or fear;
        But, grateful, take the good I find,
        The best of now and here.”

                                         John Greenleaf Whittier

It was the mid-seventies and my father called, incredulous. “You want to vomit?” he asked. Without waiting for response, he noted that a good friend’s child, fresh from college, had passed on a home purchase since the house had but one bath. “Can you imagine,” he opined, “It wasn’t good enough.”

Decades later the words echo, as does a picture…quite different:

December ‘69, and I was showing a girl my home town.

“This is where I grew up,” I said, pointing to the bungalow at Bayard and Wrenford, and this is where we played ball. “
“Wait a minute,” she interrupted, ignoring the swift-pitching wall,
“You lived in THAT house?”
“Yeah!” I answered, still unaware that to women, size matters.

(I had no idea our house was small. It never occurred to me. Intellectually, I suppose, had I thought about it, YES, Wieder’s split level was larger and SURE, Fenton and Cohn, over on Temblethurst and Langerdale—they had bigger spreads. Heck, and come to think of it, everyone else lived in colonials, up and down. I just had NEVER noticed it).

Not that it mattered. We thrived on simple things—my brother and I. We’d play wiffle ball out back and football up front in a yard bordered only by love. It was a time of innocence, bliss and vigor.

I’ve turned recently, to those days…to the era when health was expected and life a clear given.

No longer innocent, I’ve watched my brother lay in a hospital, hit every pitch thrown at him and still slide head-first into life. I’ve heard him speak gratefully of a chance, after six days, just to eat breakfast. I’ve marveled, yet I’ve understood.

Life was simpler when omnipotent, but it was no better.

In a world bordered only by love, the future’s bright, and even cream-of-wheat tastes good. Especially, Hal points out, when you eat it at home.


Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Dear Dad,

Happy 86th! Boy, that’s a lot of years. I still see you as 59.

I was reading an article in Friday’s paper and thought of you. It was a story on the fiftieth anniversary of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. Remember how you’d complain that Van Dyke was trying to steal Morey Amsterdam’s show?

Anyway, they quoted him as saying “The wonderful thing is we knew at the time it was special.”

I was trying to think (since then): which experiences have I had that I knew at thetime were special?

“Sol’s Boys,” for one. There wasn’t a moment, through years of wins and trophies, that I didn’t feel like a champion. (We all did). It wasn’t just the titles—it was more than that. There was a swagger, a glow about us that said “We’re it!” Cocky? Perhaps…but not conceited. We just played better in rags than all the other teams did in uniforms, and WE KNEW IT.

Looking back, I see why Wieder’d growl from time to time. It wasn’t that he feared a loss. No, he held this firm belief that with our talent and our mechanics, bad things should just never happen. Alan thought—and made us feel—-that ball diamonds were our sanctuary. He demanded purity in his play and ours and if, for example, someone (Godforbid) missed a cutoff man, his slam of the glove to the mound proclaimed “We’re BETTER than that!”  Once, actually, I remember he grooved a pitch—had just released it from his hand—and before it got to the batter he had already shouted “Oh F _ _ _!”  

Yeah, Sol’s was the right collection at the right time with the right karma. We knew we were special.

I had the same feeling a few years back on stage. “Laughter On The 23rd Floor” was set in the writers’ room of the old Sid Caesar show. Cast as young Mel Brooks, I spent eight weeks with some true characters. Even the rehearsals were fun—madcap clinics—and we knew early on something special was baking. The first play in oh so long where I actually urged friends attend, it really was that good. For two months I rushed to the theater (think: airport), then lingered over coffee as other actors drank, night after night, joke after joke. Indeed, when the final curtain fell, I knew well how unique the experience had been. We all, I suppose, sensed we might never pass that way again.

And then there’s us, Dad. Me and you. Special.

Don’t know when first I felt it. Perhaps the mid-60’s, when you lived out-of-town. I recall writing you, often, and your notes right back. To this day my closet’s cluttered with letters addressed to “Bruce and Hal” that begin “Dear Hal and Bruce”…on hotel stationery (Imperial 400), or the backs of sales reports (Academy Of Home Study, in green….Highlights For Children, in white)…

Or maybe it was the college years. One minute I was a freshman in East Lansing and you, a teacher near Detroit. Then, as quick as one might say “Did you really buy your tickets from Tody Smith?” there I was in Columbus, and there you were, transferred to central Ohio. It always felt right.

I knew it was special, Dad, when you lived on campus and it didn’t bother me. When my friends, selling for you, even agreed to get haircuts for Upper Arlington.

And I knew it was special when we’d play cards with Walt, and you’d weight the payoffs. (3 cents/point for you, 2 for Marc…1 for me). Or when you played too, with The Jersey Girl.

For that matter, I knew it was special when I called you from the army in Texas and told you my engagement was off. It was a Tuesday, Dad—April of ’72…and on Friday you showed up on my doorstep in San Antonio. Arm around me, you spent the weekend espousing words you’d preach a thousand times more in the course of my lifetime: “Some day, Little Boy, we’re going to look back at this and laugh.”

And, Dad, I remember so well those next few months. Harriet has shared that when The Jersey Girl and I parted, you acted like she’d broken up with you…that you couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want your son. But you know, Dad, in all the time, before, during and after those days, I never once heard you utter a negative word about her …me…anything. Indeed, phoning you, announcing our re-engagement, your response was immediate.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“We’re elated,” you averred, and then, to confirm your support: “And besides, we need her for the card game.”

It was amazing, Dad, how much you loved my friends. From Stuart and Bobby and Alan to Raisin and Mark, from Glassman and Fischer to the guys in Harold’s grade…to David, to the lodge brothers you knew to the one’s you met through me…from how you accepted every ounce of me: smiled when I smiled, hurt when I hurt, and cared when I cared…and …all of it, on a two-way street.

I knew in every conversation we had about everything nuance we shared, that not only did you love me unconditionally, but that you knew I LOVED YOU unconditionally. And I sensed, too, that you knew how special it was.

Ermine says it’s OK to think about the past but we shouldn’t stare at it. I buy that. This letter, though, is not about our past; it’s about us. There isn’t a day, even now, that I don’t sense you with me…that I don’t feel your presence.

A quarter century later, that’s pretty special.