Archive for January, 2012


Friday, January 27th, 2012

I read this week that the N.F.L. was permitting players to tweet during its Pro Bowl Game. Aside from that specific idiocy (designed, I presume, to further devalue the game), it gave me reason to ponder what might have happened if, indeed, Twitter existed throughout my life.

Excepting the birth of my children, was there an event more pivotal to me than my marriage? As such, it was with a rare twist of fate that I just uncovered the transcript of what might have posted on line lo those many years ago. It proves, yet again, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

                               Saturday, December 23, 1972

@alanvwieder (15:54) Can’t believe the catch by Franco Harris! Browns’ playoff’s tomorrow. Wonder what time B wants us there for pictures.

@fentonsw (16:44) Arrived at the Howard Johnson’s. Rehearsal dinner in a bit. B getting married means he won’t bug Marilyn to fix him up anymore.
@murraybgalan (17:30) My daughter Harriet loves Bruce—we all do—but how could he not pack a sport jacket for his own rehearsal dinner? Lent him mine!

@jackieselzer (20:50) Party room at HJ’s. Met Bruce’s Ohio people. Wondering if his friend Dick has girlfriend. Wish his law school friend would stop bugging me.

@benselzer (23:00) Nice night. Kids seem happy. Just wish Jackie would settle down and stop seeing George from Third Street.
@lilselzer (23:20) Just home from dinner…exhausted. Can you believe the minute we walked in the house Jackie got a call from that Jessica Fuhrman!
@brucefromcleve (23:45) Just left my Dad’s room. Told him how much I loved SRS. Meant it.

                               Sunday, December 24, 1972

@alanvwieder (12:15) Goddam Fenton woke me five minutes ago. Says pictures are at 4. Oh well—with Miami undefeated the game should be boring.
@RFatherInHeaven (14:15) Meeting Bruce in coffee shop at half. Will offer him my station wagon in case he wants to change mind.
@brucefromcleve (14:55) Had “last supper” with Dad. Told me to bail if I had doubts. I said I didn’t. He said “just as well—you’d disappoint a lot of people that drove across the country.”
@alanvwieder (15:45) Browns leading undefeated Dolphins in playoffs. Cannot believe I have to leave for Bogart’s wedding! This is absolute bullshit.
@marcwalter (16:05) Browns lost. Some guy with transistor radio told Wieder and he threw his yarmulke. Mr. Selzer saw.
@groovyone (17:30) Checkin’ out the chicks in north Jersey. Can’t believe the B’s getting married. The hot one from the rehearsal dinner is giving me the eye.
@brucefromcleve (18:21) Am under chuppah. Why aren’t her friends smiling?
@RFatherInHeaven (18:55) Can’t believe my son let that schmuck Sam Levinson do the Motzi!
@elainelerner (19:20)  Reception beautiful. I wonder if people think Harriet looks better than me.
@harrietbogart (19:21)  Reception beautiful. Why is Albert’s ex staring at me?
@benselzer   (20:10)  Party over. Bruce’s usher Wieder wanted to talk sports with me. I told him to put his shoes and socks back on.  @joelselzer  (20:15)  In car on way home.  Bruce must be happy.  Didn’t call me “Harry” once.  

@erniefanwick (20:20)  Niece just married kid in law school. Told him to think about tax law—the wave of the future. I don’t think he’ll listen.
@YourAuntHelen (11:13) Lovely evening ended. Ma is exhausted. I told her not to do the Hora. Driving back in AM with Albert &Harriet. Hope Harold remembers we have shopping Monday.

@TheJerseyGirl (23:58) In the bathroom at our room at the Marriott. OMG—OMG—he really was a virgin!


Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Cleveland is gray. Always. Walking alone, even in these best of times, is dreary.  Day or night it feels like 4 PM.

It occurred to me just yesterday that what I need is a buddy. On a gray January weekend, with nothing to do and plenty time to do it in, I needed a “go-to” pal—someone to just hang with.

It is a function of time and circumstance, but most of the guys I know are in relationships. For some it’s a first marriage–perhaps it’s a second. Others, (so they confide), trudge in  less-than-passionate partnerships, content with “companionship”.  As such, the pool of would-be sidekicks is limited.

What I need is a Cosmo Kramer…you know: that always accessible pal across the hall whom if you need a wingman, whatever the activity…he’s down with it. Was there ever a time in nine seasons that Kramer rejected an invitation?

“Kramer, you want to go to the airport?”

“Kramer, you want to go steal a dog?”
“I’m in.”

“Hey Kramer, you want to—”

No, I don’t need someone to talk to. I’ve plenty of friends—good friends—and always an ear if required. They’ve got wives though; they’re busy.

Andy Taylor had Barney and even Chandler had Joey. I need a buddy.

Max, of course, would be perfect. (Note to Lucy: You’re still too young). A sports fan, albeit Yankee, he’s easy to get along with and never complains. Indeed, his regular naptimes would allow me to slot him in for either mornings or afternoons and still leave my evenings open for activity. It would be win-win. If only he lived in town…or could drive.

Come to think of it, the last time I had a real “buddy” it was Michael. Those were the days when he was still the only child and we’d go—just the two of us—to Bagel Nosh on Mayfield. He’d sit there in a wooden highchair and gum a giant bagel overflowing with creamed cheese as I’d sit face buried in the morning’s sports section. Years later the restaurant’s gone, my son’s left town, and the paper: it’s not worth reading.

Yeah, I need a buddy. Not one of my encumbered friends that calls sporadically, when he can sneak out of the house. No, I need someone I can count on…someone that can maybe play cards, enjoys nonsense, and likes sports. Is that so much to ask?

It’ll be a temporary job, at best. I’ve got Max, you see, and Lucy in the pipeline. Neither, though, will drive ‘til sixteen. That’s a lot of weekends from now.

In the meantime I’ll wait. The days are getting longer now and in the distance I hear spring.



Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
                                                         Maya Angelou

They buried Abraham Monday. He was 86.

It was the fall of ’75, and with my father down-state, Fenton and Ermine sponsored me into the Knights Of Pythias. Excited, elated, feeling I’d finally arrived, I joined not only the fraternal order so revered by our dad, but an assembly founded on the principle of friendship. It was there that I first met “Al”.

Certain people you notice right away. He had a warmth, a twinkle in his eye, and always wearing black, he walked—No he strode— with a quiet confidence that made his friends feel safe. How lucky was I to be among them!

We had a special bond. Twice my age when our paths first crossed, he was not only a friend, but a father figure. I loved him. Like my Dad, his was a world of black and white; there was no gray. If Al liked you, he LIKED you; if he was your friend, he was not only your friend, but he’d fall on his sword for you.

As life went on—three dozen years, to be exact—-our dynamic never changed. He was a friend, a father figure, and quite often, a confidant. He’d say in but few words what others couldn’t convey in a paragraph.

It was always the same—

Bumping into each other, perhaps at Jack’s, his face would light up, he’d thrust out his arm…and just when I’d think the hand-shake was over, he’d pull me in and kiss me on the cheek.

If my weight was down, if my tie was straight, it would be “It’s good to see you…your Dad would be proud ….” Then, turning to his wife, he’d proclaim the obvious: “Nayome! Did you see who’s here?” “Yes, Al…I see,” she’d reply. Always.

If my weight was up, it’d be different. Glaring, he’d take the back of his hand, tap me twice on the stomach, and muse: “Uh huh…Uh huh.”

He was a man of passion, whether beaming as he watched me win, or staring as I dropped the ball. He’d look at me—sometimes with pride, sometimes with his “You’re better than that” wince—but always with love. Above all else, though, he was a man of incredible loyalty, asking only honesty in return.

“Don’t give me no booshit now,” he’d admonish. (I never did).

I sat in the front row, reflecting…grief tempered by gratitude. Memories flooded my mind, memories of a most beautiful man. I smiled, though. Tears hit my cheek but I smiled, and remembered:

He’d pulled me aside oh so often over the years.…

Like the time of my first lodge dinner dance: “Do you have a place to sit?” he asked. Or when I became an officer, and needed a tuxedo. “I want you to go to my friend,” he insisted. Or the question he’d shoot me in salad days and beyond: “How’s things with you?” All of them—each of the inquiries—was always followed by his same disclaimer: “And don’t give me no booshit now!”

The chapel emptied slowly Monday. Family and friends said goodbye not only to a man they loved, but to a true, chivalric knight— a man whose armor truly would always shine.


Friday, January 13th, 2012

Sisyphus, according to Greek mythology, was condemned to an eternity rolling a rock toward the top of the mountain. Each time he’d approach the apex, it would roll back down.

Three men spoke in the deep end of Beachwood’s Pool. It was 1990. Standing (both literally and figuratively)stationary,  they solved all problems of the world but theirs. Each, whether he knew it or not, was the elephant in the living room. Each, whether he knew it or not, was in a crisis of self-worth. Surrounded by the privacy of water, they’d found the one safe place to talk.

Those were halcyon days…wasted. Consumed by the angst of declining marriages, we stood in five feet of mutual sainthood, decrying the voids in our lives. One of us longed for love, another … money. Me? I craved acceptance. We laughed at others and pitied ourselves.

The marriages, of course, flat-lined. As such, in time our paths divided. Barry became a serial monogamist and discovered that the more he chased, the less love he found. He’s somewhat evaporated, calling usually for favors.

Ed’s run finally ended, yet he survives. Mellowed by time, he is more the man today than he ever was in his days of limousines and bar tabs. Indeed, my friend opens up now, sharing life’s vulnerabilities with a candor he never could “in the day”.

I, perhaps, was the luckiest. First to stumble (to the outside world), I may have been the first to stand up. Somewhere along the way the blame game ceased. Somewhere along the way I became accountable. Somewhere along the way I found acceptance…with myself.

Haven’t been to the pool since marriage—Beachwood’s, that is. A part of my past, though, for better or worse, the lesson remains: if you don’t want to be stationary in life, if you don’t want to be the elephant in the living room….you have to get out of the water.

There’s a bottle cap in the console of my car—a gift from my friend Bill. The underside, which I keep facing up, reads “I am looking at the problem”.


Monday, January 9th, 2012

Our father used to tell us how he loved when his boys played together. I never quite understood what the big deal was.

Al Bogart was a first-generation American. Living in one house from birth through high school, he attended and married a girl from Glenville. She too saw life through one neighborhood. It was a simpler world then— less mobile, but surrounded by family.

By the 50’s our parents moved. Post-war’s boom saw whites flee east. As a result of a handshake deal made at the corner of Ninth and “Short” Vincent, the Italians head up Mayfield while the Jews took Cedar. (This created, of course, a temporary problem. Moneyed MOT, already “in the Heights”, were being displaced. As such, they fled even further, making right turns at every conceivable intersection).

This sounds like a joke, but it’s not. It was the beginning of the end of small neighborhoods and to my Dad, not necessarily progress. “It used to be I could ride the streetcar to see all my relatives,” he rued. Would he ever have imagined in June of ’55 that his grandchildren would live airfare away? Crossing Warrensville was one thing, but state lines quite another.

The apple fell not far from the tree. It never occurred to me, that fateful day I said YES to The Jersey Girl, that our kids would leave town. Ever.

Even as they did.

In an ironic twist proving once again that God indeed has a sense of humor, two of my Ohio-bred kids went east, one went west…and the EX, (with family all over the eastern seaboard), stayed put. (Are you kidding me?)

I was comforted then, when just this weekend, cousins met in Chicago. Just this weekend, for the first time ever: under one roof: Max and Lucy. Resting in Cleveland, I’d missed it for health concerns. As such, I thrilled as pictures went viral and yet, REALLY, it shouldn’t have to be this way.

“How’s everyone getting along?” I inquired by phone.
“It’s great, Dad,” said Stacy.
“Wish I was there.”
“I know, Dad.”

I’m not alone. Some have it worse. Indeed, friends have children overseas or across the Mississippi—(“Third World” to me). I don’t complain. I’ve accepted, rather, that it’s their world, not mine. I get it.

Mid-weekend, another photo hit Facebook. Captioned “Sophia and Max’s 1st Date”, it caught my eye and my heart.

…And thoughts: I know Sophia’s parents, AND grandparents. Indeed, her paternal great-grandmother was my leader in Cub Scouts. All of us, yes ALL of us: within walking distance…”in the day”.

I would give up my cell phone, my internet and even the thought of ever having another pepperoni pizza at Geraci’s if my kids lived here. I’d agree to wear my seat belt, smile at Aunt Helen and even let the ex keep my dog if it would help.

It won’t.

Streetcars are no more; the offspring—they’re all gone…and Adam: his tail wags elsewhere.

The toothpaste is out of the tube. Forever.

I went to my brother’s house Sunday. Together we sat, watching old reruns of “Sgt. Bilko,”…laughing. High above us, between hands of his gin game, our father looked down smiling. His boys were playing together, and nothing made him happier.


Friday, January 6th, 2012

Remember doing jigsaw puzzles? They’d tell you to form the borders first and work from the outside, in. A mosaic of my life would be the same. There’d be four sides: birth, family, friends, and rebirth. There’d be a boatload of oddly shaped pieces to fit; and there’d be Bobby, the synapse to it all. Sixty-three this week, he remains, to this day, a link to my every yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I close my eyes.

It is 1962: In the breakthrough year of junior high and a world outside Rowland, no one had Bob’s game. As young and innocent as we were, Bobby feigned street smarts. Wied and I shot hoops in the cocoon of his garage; Snyder, meanwhile, was the shooting star, and talked to girls.

It is ’72: There’s Bob, with Stuart in New York. Sharing a half-house in Queens, they’re selling magazines for my Dad, banking money for impending marriages. The transition from frat boy couldn’t have been easy. Bobby thrived.

And ’82. It’s the doorstep of my mother’s home. There he stood. We’d had an issue in the years just past; he could have opted out. Still, there stood Bob; in the middle of the day, middle of the week he’d come alone…to pay respects.

I picture yet the bowling days on Cedar and trophy days of Sol’s Boys. He was there. I’ll admit now, for the first time ever, that my first new car was due to Bob. As much as Al Bogart revered Chrysler products, in summer ’69 I pushed back. If Snyder had a Mustang, I’d drive one too. ‘Couldn’t tell my Dad, though—not that. Nothing against Bob, but the old man would have shot right back “If your friend Bobby would jump off a bridge, would you do it too?” (after which he’d have purchased a Plymouth).

The pieces of my life wouldn’t quite fit without my friend. 

It’s 1992, the fall. Clinton has just been elected and late one Saturday afternoon we’ve convened in Fenton’s basement.

“Get over here,” Stuart had called me. “Snyder has an idea.”
(This was seen, no doubt, as a seminal event).

“The baby boomers are taking over the world,” Bob announced.
(This was his idea?)
“We can do a radio show!”

And then he got it done. Within weeks he’d marched us into meetings with decision-makers at Cleveland’s three talk stations, guiding us to broadcast. “The Fabulous Boomer Boys” would debut Tuesdays at 7 and run two-plus years. When kicked to the curb in ’95 it was airing drive-time, five mornings per week. (Note: Historians point to our longevity as further proof that AM radio has died).

These were by now my ugly days. Isolating in a world growing smaller, I feared the phone and, but for calls from Stuart, rarely answered.

“Bob’s worried about you,” he’d say, time and again. “Bob’s worried about you.”

Time passed. By the century’s turn I’d been sober a few years. Bobby, who like others, had seen me at my worst, championed my recovery. His concern, though, remained.

Answering calls now, I’d hear his voice:

“You OK, B? Don’t bullshit me now.” Over time he noticed the BS was gone. Indeed, I heard the difference in his voice as he saw a difference in me. Maybe it was 2002—I don’t know. Somewhere along the way he stopped asking; he knew.

Somewhere along the line, further, Stuey moved south. Perhaps it was then—I don’t know—but my bond with Bob grew stronger.

Perhaps it was then—I don’t know—that I realized another common thread between us. We’re both, in our own ways, dreamers. Bobby’s passion was radio. He left it professionally in the 80’s and I sense he still breathes it. Me? I love the arts. Once a Theater major in Columbus, sometimes I too look back…and wonder.

This week I had health issues, all of which resolved. Bobby called, like others. Suddenly, though, it was déjà vue all over again, (only without the middle man).

“B, I’m worried about you. You gotta lose weight.”
“I know.”
“Don’t just tell me that. You have to do it.”

It wasn’t long ago, perhaps a year: Alan and I were talking ‘bout Bob.
“You like him,” mused Wied, “You really like him.” Speaking to the apparent depth of my feelings, perhaps he understated.

I love my friend Robert George. Truly…and with good reason:

He is one of my core friends, a part of my yesterday, today, and tomorrow


Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Didn’t have a date this New Years. Didn’t need one. As the ball dropped at Times Square I sat 13 1/2 miles away, alone on a bed  watching Jerry Lewis on TV and a beautiful one-year old on a monitor.

There was a calm within me as I sat on the plane last night. Waiting to lift off toward Cleveland, eyes out the window, I thought not just of the weekend past, but the last twelve months as well.

I was at peace.

There’s this thing about my eyesight lately: I only see good. 2011 then, will be remembered as the year Matthew and Lucy showed up and Max crawled then walked but was never NOT smiling.

It will be the year of The Handshake (with Jason after a marathon golf match), and the year I kissed Hailey (on her forehead, just above those blue eyes).

It will be remembered as a time of medical progress for my brother H and machatin Stuart and a wake-up call to me.

It was the year Hal turned 60 and Harriet turned 80 and Liz and Lindsay got engaged.

It was the year priorities cemented. Didn’t see Vegas once, or Mountaineer for that matter. Chicago, though? Got there thrice, and New York: I’m out of fingers.

(And out of love, for that matter). In a year whose codeword was “grandchild” I found little time for magic, yet survived. For twelve months, anyway, I escrowed my life-long dream of falling in love like Kermit did for Miss Piggy in the first Muppet Movie, and for twelve months, as well, I overcame a two-year poker weakness for nut flush draws.

More importantly, it was a time of unending love from unbelievable friends. From Saturday breakfast with Jacobson to Wednesday mornings with the boys in the back corner at Corky’s. From John who sponsors me in recovery to the trio I get to sponsor.

It was the year my brother got the Lifetime Achievement Award at AG and the year I carried leaves from Max and a little pink bonnet from Lucy.

And it was a year of athletics, from a second straight appearance at The Jack Roth Run in Columbus (where Leslie Shafran Topus DIDN’T slow me down) to my return to the track of Team Pearl on the shores of Jones Beach.

The year that passed brought personal growth.  Sensing my strengths, studying my defects, I saw myself even clearer than before.  Inner weaknesses die slowly and crevices of insecurity doubtless remain.  On balance though, I like myself and treasure my comrades.  Enveloped by family and friends willing to hold a mirror to my face, I keep paddling in a realm that only gets better.

In 2012 I’m the best father I know how to be, whatever that is.  Watching others though, I hope to improve.

Mine is a simple world.  I march with responsibility to my effort but not for my outcome.  I can look the world in the eye.  In a cosmos of bittersweet, it all tastes good to me.  Even the bad.  Tucked in the womb of acceptance, I taste serenity.  Laughing at myself, comforted by all the runs, hits AND errors, I live a climate where regardless the weather, I feel sunshine.

Just past midnight last January First I was navigating I-71 North after wasting five hours on a non-date. Staring at snow on the windshield I  strained to see the road ahead. I was exhausted.  This January 1—just 365 days later—it was again  just past 12.  Staring at the monitor, I wasn’t straining, but glowing.  Wide awake, I saw a bundle of joy on the screen, sleeping blissfully.

And in him, I saw the road ahead.