Archive for November, 2011


Friday, November 25th, 2011

ED NOTE:  The following was written at the airport what seems like hours ago, and “saved”.  It is being published from the 8th floor waiting room at Northwestern University Hospital upon receiving word from Jason that a beautiful baby girl has arrived, and that all six and a half pounds of her are healthy and ready to be held by her grandfather.  Excuse me as I hit “Publish” and walk down the hall….

     “…I’m already there
     Take a look around
     I’m the sunshine in your hair
     I’m the shadow on the ground…”

Dear Shakespeare,

I write awaiting both my flight and your birth. Don’t worry about it though. You’ll have plenty of time to read this once you’re born.

First of all, this is the last time I’ll call you Shakespeare. It’s been a pseudonym since spring when your parents decided to keep your name a state secret. Ah, but you’ll have a real name soon enough.

Ask your father how he learned you were coming. (We were having breakfast downtown at Eggsperience when your Mom excused herself for a phone call. Bubbling over on her return to the table, she just couldn’t hold it in. Next thing we knew it was a group hug for three (plus).

Anyway, I can’t wait to see you and love you already! I’ve been thinking of this day for months now—but even more so recently—as you’ve made it clear you have your mother’s personality. God, you just can’t sit still! First you were due next Monday, which was fine. For nine months that date held, until…

A week or so ago you flipped over. You were fine (the doc said), but your mother—she was a cheleria. They set you up then for Special Delivery, (which was cool). You were about to learn the key to life: hurry up and wait.

Anticipating your birth, I booked passage to Midway for the Friday after Thanksgiving (today). This way, I figured, by my time of arrival, you’d not only be here, but you’d be home from the hospital.

You, of course, had other ideas. As such, last weekend you flipped again. “Right-side up,” they said, taking you off the waiting list. “Let nature take its course.”
“I’ll wait too,“ I told your parents. “I’ll come when Shakespeare does.”

Then Wednesday came—two days ago. I was sitting with the boys at Corky’s when the call came in.

“Guess what, Daddy?” asked MY baby. (I knew from her tone what was coming next)! “She flipped again.”

Truth is, Shakespeare, I never changed my flight. I’d kept it—just in case—and I’ll be on it moments from now. I saw Stace and Jace just weeks ago. I’m coming to see YOU.

I’ve been waiting too long to hold my baby’s baby…

I want to hand you a baseball, read you a book and watch you on the monitor. Did I mention your Cousin Max? I’ve watched him on the monitor. Wait ‘til you meet him! He lives in Great Neck, you see—and walks—but get this: he doesn’t have a New York accent.

I’m boarding soon, honey, so I’ll go for now. We’ll have plenty of time to talk later…when you arrive. As for me, Beautiful, I’m already there!  Love, Pa

     “…We may be a three hundred miles apart
     But I’ll be with you wherever you are—

     I’m the whisper in the wind
     And I’ll be there ’til the end
     Can you feel the love that we share?
     I’m already there….”

                  (Adapted, Myers, Baker, McDonald)


Monday, November 21st, 2011


Today is Mom’s birthday. If she were here, you know she’d be spending it by the mailbox, checking to see who did and did not send her a sugary, sentimental card. It was, (you agree?) the byproduct of her lifelong insecurity.

We really don’t speak of her much, do we? We had her longer than Dad—near a quarter century longer—and still, Elaine Delores Hoffman Bogart (86 Bogart) Lerner Turner (86 Turner, please) is rarely discussed.

It’s probably unfair.

I remember Mom from her good days. Do you? You know: before the divorce, when she had that swagger. She was active—vibrant in a way she never would be again. Say whatever you want about Sam being the “love of her life”, but divorcing—something rarely done in her day—-killed the spirit of the woman that bore us. She may have been a 50’s Mrs. Cleaver, but her every ounce of independence and identity evaporated when Dad did. (At least as I see it).

Yeah, I know: Sam was great to her. He loved her, made a life and honored her. But he also enabled Mom to a fault and by the time grandchildren arrived she was a shadow of her former self.

Do you agree?

I wish our kids could have seen her on the back porch playing board games. Remember…with the Gelfands and Fentons? I wish they’d have memories of a more active grandmother.

You know, H…when I close my eyes and picture her, I see either our first years or her last. I conjure Bayard Road and Menorah Park, but nothing in between.

Well, that’s not totally true. I’d almost forgotten, but …. It was, in many ways, her shining moment.

You wheeled her down the aisle at Michael’s wedding, five years ago. Remember?

How proud she looked, that night. How regal!

I saw the video just months ago…for the first time. Confined in chrome she nonetheless sat front row at her grandson’s wedding. Kvelling.

For the first time in years her eyes weren’t tired—in fact they glowed…may I say…like they had on Bayard.  I need to show you that video some time, H.  I really do.

 And then we need to talk about Mom some more.




Friday, November 18th, 2011

I’ve been trudging these days. It’s been two weeks but an end’s in sight. From the moment the plane touched down in Akron a week ago Sunday, it’s been work-theater, work-theater—non-stop. (Not only is it futher to Painesville than I thought, but it’s much less fun).

Here’s the math:

Twelve days back MINUS ten days on stage leaves two days free. Subtract from that the number of shopping trips to Marc’s with Helen (3), and we’ve a better reflection of true “down time.”

I’m not complaining, just venting. Considering that for the most part the only human contact I’ve had’s been with Whistler’s Aunt…

I need what Rodney Dangerfield would want. He used to make the “okay” sign with his fingers and plead: “Just give me one of these.”

That’s what I need: “one of these”.

It’s been a thankless run recently—-both life and the show. Shopping today, though, put it all in perspective. The lady is certifiable.

I used to think it was just that she liked Hal more. We’d laugh about it, of course, but it was more of a Tommy and Dickie Smothers kind of thing. Until it wasn’t.

A few years back, through the magic of extended families, we were heading to Columbus. “Twas The Reunion Tour: Hal, Margie, Helen, The Jersey Girl, and moi—all one car—en route to a funeral. Never dreaming I’d get an answer, just stirring the pot, I asked:

“Aunt Helen, since we’re all together today, would you finally admit for once and for all that you like Harold more than me?”
“Of course I do,” she confirmed.
From the backseat, incredulous in tone spoke the ex: “You’ve GOT to be kidding me! Did she really say that?”
“Aunt Helen,” I urged calmly, “We’re all adults here. I just want to make sure I heard you right. You prefer Harold to me?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”

FAST FORWARD. It’s November 17, 2011. Two years post-Reunion Tour, what with all the truly vital issues surrounding our family, one would think things might change.

(One would think—but not everyONE.)

Leaving the grocery we were discussing options for Thanksgiving weekend. Harriet, turning 80, is being called to The Torah.

“Do you think your brother will go to Columbus?” she inquired.
“I don’t know.”
“You must have an idea.”
“An idea, yes—but I don’t know.”
“What would you guess?”
“Aunt Helen, I don’t like to guess.”
“Please, Bruce! I must know your brother’s plans.”
“Well, honestly…you should ask him. I really don’t know what he’s doing.”
“Why would I call him,” she asserted, “If he hasn’t decided?”
“Why would I guess if he hasn’t decided?”
“Surely you know which way he is leaning.”

(It was time to end the colloquy).

“Aunt Helen, the good news is that I may not fly to Chicago Friday. If that’s the case you’ll come with me to Columbus.”

There was a silence even my mother could hear…and then:

“I’m not certain I would go.”
“What do you mean?” I erupted (more amused than angered).
“Well,” she uttered, (not unlike Jack Benny), “If your brother doesn’t go, why should I?”

I dropped her off shortly thereafter and couldn’t wait to call Dick Smothers. The more things changed, of course, the more they stayed the same.

Four hours separated me from another schlep east. Three shows in the next forty-eight hours and alas, that party would be over. The timing couldn’t be better.

I am tired. I am hungry, and I am lonely. Really, though, I’m not complaining.

It’s just that right now—at this very moment—I just wish someone would give me “one of these”.


Saturday, November 12th, 2011

The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.

The phone rang.
“Are you there?” my friend asked?
“No, I’m five minutes away,”
“OK,” he said, “I’ll wait in the car.”

It was not the first time we’d had the dialogue. Indeed, he’d been avoiding this woman for several months. Well, not avoiding her so much as demanding a buffer.

And it was all too predicable….

On paper, they should never have dated. Still, with nothing in common, smoke, mirrors and timing only delayed the inevitable. (“Smart” money, by the way, had the under). It was though, an ending that had to be. Moreover, it was proof again that life indeed imitates art.

If there is any wisdom to be gleaned from shallow television, then “How I Met Your Mother” sets the standard. In a favorite episode, Ted Moseby wants to ask out his doctor. Friends try to dissuade him—it being too close to home—- citing The Platinum Rule. Unlike The Golden Rule of “Love Thy Neighbor” (sic), The Platinum Rule, they urge, states to “Never, EVER love thy neighbor”.

My poor friends. Had they only watched more TV! Indeed, in twenty some minutes of tube time, they could have learned as Barney Stinson (catch the name. Does anybody really think it’s not our Bobby?) recited the 8 steps mandated when you love they neighbor.
1. Attraction
2. Bargaining
3. Submission
4. Perks
5. The Tipping Point
6. Purgatory
7. Confrontation
8. Fallout

In hindsight…it was all there….

I remember their first attraction. He’d seen her at the coffee house (where they both hung out). She’d been dating an extremely nice guy for a while, but it didn’t pan out. As such, when that matter fizzled, my friend sought my thoughts on his calling her.

“You’re too tough for her,” I said. “She wants a relationship.”
“You’re crazy,” he responded. “With you everything’s about magic! No one else thinks that way. We’ll just take things for what they are.”
“Just saying…” I continued. He tried to cut me off, but I finished:
“You’ll never agree on ‘what things are’.”
“You’re crazy!” he affirmed. “As long everyone knows the rules it’s all fine.”

He was, (looking back), in the bargaining stage. Forget the “magic” thing—men and women don’t go by rules; they never work. Jerry and Elaine had “rules” before hooking up. How’d that turn out?

So they dated.. The period of submission went well of course—until it didn’t. In fact, there were perks. I’d meet him for coffee and he’d share how nice it was to be with someone without scheduling baggage or family baggage. They could just be together.

The tipping point came on a Saturday in May. We were sitting on the patio, sun shining, and I remember it vividly. Approaching our table, much like anyone dating a guy would, she, without hesitating sat down with us.

His eyes met mine as the temperature dropped. Worlds were colliding, but only two of us knew it.  He stared at me stoicly in silence until finally I spoke.

“How about that Tribe?” (Apparently I was the only one at the table that thought I was funny). Moments later, he left. “I’ll call you,” he said, never acknowledging her.

Purgatory followed. For twelve months—that’s NO exaggeration—he’d complain to me, kvetch to me, and dated her.  Religiously.

“I’ve got to end it,” he’d proclaim, “She’s getting too close.”
“_____, her saying hello to you at the coffeehouse is normal. It’s you.  You like her more than you know.”

“That wasn’t our deal,” he’d say. “Why should I have to go to Golden Gate to get privacy. We’re not in a relationship. I was doing my crossword puzzle here before I met her.”

(I’d explain to him that mixed signals were unproductive…that he couldn’t bifurcate intimacy).

“You can’t see her one day and not talk to her the next!”
“Why not?”

Truth is, I’d sit and laugh at his nonsense. Over coffee I’d hear his same illogic, week in, week out. Predictable as it was—as he was—it never got old. He was going to end it; then he wasn’t. He wanted to see her; then he didn’t. Through it all, of course, he continued to bemoan her patronage of “his” coffee house.

“Why can’t she go to Starbucks?” I’d hear.

The confrontation came when only it could. Another woman surfaced. “Do NOT contact me,” he growled in no uncertain terms. It took a while, but she got it.

“He’s mean,” she’d tell me.
“What kind of answer is that?” she’d rejoin.
“What do you want me to say?”

That was months ago (it seems). The fallout continues. I still get texts—sometimes calls—from a man afraid to park his car. I laugh now, as I did then, knowing it’s him, not her.

Acceptance, of course, comes in time. It will for each of them. This summer perhaps, they’ll share a table on the patio, as friends. Maybe not.  For now, though, they’ll have to content themselves knowing that indeed their “interaction” was doomed from the start. They had, after all, violated The Platinum Rule.


Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

       “…If I could save time in a bottle
       The first thing that I’d like to do
       Is to save every day ’til eternity passes away
       Just to spend them with you…”

My grandson will only have one first birthday. Just one. The event, held just last weekend, gave rise to laughter, tears, and (of course), gratitude. It was a day of celebration, a time for “nachos”, and moment to remember.

It didn’t feel like a year. A check to the calendar though, confirmed 365 days had passed since I’d first uttered the hallowed phrase “Max Parker Bogart”. As such, 51 weeks post-bris, 11 months after the Pidyan Ha-ben, there we were in Greenvale, New York.

A sense of optimism consumes first birthday parties—more so, I suppose, when the child is the first born of first borns. Family and friends gather and, each, marveling at the mustard seed of a new generation, is anointed—at least for two hours—with child/like innocence.

I remember the ‘70s. There used to be an expression in football. “The road to the Super Bowl,” they professed, “Goes through Pittsburgh.” Quite simply, it meant that any team aspiring to “win it all” had to beat the Steelers. It was true.

In 2011, let it be said that the road to our family runs through Max. At this point in time he is not just the only baby on both sides of the family, but he is precious, flawless, and our standard bearer.

I tried remembering MY first born at one. So many years ago…until the ex reminded me…and the picture cleared. Whish! For an instant— there he stood: little Michael Bogart (in technicolor)! Beaming from a navy blue and white sailor suit, he had me telling friends “My son should be a model.” Then, again…WHISH! It was today again, and Ben’s Delicatessen. And there, cradled by a mass of Yankee fans, was Max.

       “…If I could make days last forever
       If words could make wishes come true
       I’d save every day like a treasure and then
       Again, I would spend them with you…”

I’ve a different angle now. At a party beyond perfection, I milled not as a married father, but a single granddad. With time’s perspective and a better lens, I opted not just to cherish the day, but to celebrate its moments.

Like seeing Max, serene as he was, refuse anyone’s arms but Lindsay’s…or joining as the family (with two notable exceptions), danced the Hora. (NO NAMES, PLEASE).

Like, too, the trivial, anecdotal “stuff”. Come Bar Mitzvah time, how I’ll impress attendants with:

…”Hey, Joe…remember how at Max’s party, when you first found out your wife put you on Facebook?”


“Mackenzie, remember how you and Danny ‘Fleisch’ were the first people at Max’s party?”

THE moment to remember, though…the image most ingrained, is one of Meredith and Michael together, holding Max. The candle’s lit; the crowd is singing, and four grandparents are watching. Each– Caryn, Sherry, Stuart and Bruce, was eyeing not the past, but the future.

(And one of them—again, NO NAMES, PLEASE—is thinking…maybe Max should be a model).

       “…If I had a box just for wishes
       And dreams that had never come true
       The box would be empty except for the memory
       Of how they were answered by you…”

                                                                Jim Croce


Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

It caught me by surprise. There I was, at an all-day seminar in Boardman, Ohio…barely holding back tears. It’s a good thing Michael isn’t here, (I thought). He doesn’t get the crying.

Perhaps, it comes with age. We reach a point, somewhere in our lives when triggers change and inhibitions evaporate.

Growing up I’d see my Dad cry, but only on Fridays. It’d be Shabbos dinner at Grandma’s and I’d watch his eyes well as he said Kiddush in his father’s stead. No one talked about it; it just was. Other than that, though, he never cried—not even when “Maverick” was cancelled.

The first time I remember crying myself—I mean really crying— was watching ‘The Babe Ruth Story”. William Bendix died at the end of the film, and watching it from my Bayard bedroom, a river flowed.

That, of course, was the extent of my human experience. Two major sensors existed: my father (and what prompted his emotion), and baseball. Not once was I, for example, moved by either my mother (who cried on demand), or by watching “Knute Rockne-All American”. (Pat O’Brien died too).

Our Dad taught us, (long before Tom Hanks said it), that ‘There’s no crying in baseball.” I remember the upset at Nigrelli as Jon Scott’s father blew the call behind the home plate. Assuaging and neutering moods, our manager took a bunch of us…Fenton, Fischer, Racila…to the Victory Park carnival. Jeers were fine, but not tears.

Over time, however, my Mom’s DNA prevailed. Evidence—decades of data, confirm this:

I’ve sat alone crying at television, from Gloria Stivic’s miscarriage to the last Ted Mosby breakup. The stuff just gets me. I’ve sat in movies too, and teared with “Rocky” and “Rudy” and (frankly), every Adam Sandler movie. “Bang The Drum Slowly?” Don’t get me started!

And then there’s Hal.

My brother too, (go figure), has our mother’s genes. Together we’ve sat, conjoined and crying…to “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “The Notebook” and, of course…”Field Of Dreams”.

Don’t tell my kid, though—he’ll give me sh&# ! He’ll say I do too much theater and between guffaws, he’ll announce, for my benefit only, the date of the next scheduled TONY awards.

And laugh some more.

But there I was, as I started to say…in a seminar…misty. The topic, (did I mention?), was Child Development.

I was reading a list of benchmarks for children, 0 to 18 months…and I was thinking of Max, who would be one year old the next day:

“‘Attaches to caregiver”. CHECK
“Crawling, climbing” CHECK
“Imitates what he sees” CHECK
“Consistency in routines and caregivers” CHECK CHECK

I thought of that beautiful, happy, boy—surrounded by family—healthy!

And I struggled, unsuccessfully I might add, to hold back tears—tears of joy, tears of manifest gratitude—-and tears of love.

(But don’t tell my son!)