Archive for July, 2012


Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Goodbyes said to Ermine, Kraut and I pivoted, stepped to the plane, and sat down. Ten minutes passed—maybe less—before I slept. Thoughts rummaged the weekend: Bobby, Stuart, Skippy, the stories…. and not once would it occur to me I might never return.


The sight of so much respite over the years, the only place I’ve vacationed with Albert, Harriet, H, Margie, Michael, Meredith, Stace, Jace, and yes, even The Jersey Girl, (not to mention the guys from grade school…and law school… and lodge and such).

Memories stay animate, vivid. Indeed, like the umpteenth viewing of a Seinfeld episode, looks back yield renewed affection, and yes, renewed laughter.

Like the first time…with my father. How he’d scheduled it all and couldn’t wait to get west— to show his son that mecca.

He would fly from Columbus that June—it was ’77—and I from Cleveland. We’d connect in Chicago, then travel together.

He left early, of course, grabbing the first flight out.

“When you land I’ll already be at the departing gate,” he’d counseled. “Meet me there.” (I planned to). Touching down though, nature called. I still picture sitting in the john stall just ten minutes on ground and hearing the loud speaker page: “Arriving passenger Bruce Bogart—Please pick up the white courtesy phone.”

‘Twas a memorable trip: four days, three nights. He played the World Gin Rummy Tournament, (cashing at 13), and me? I had quality time with the old man.

“You don’t know how wonderful it is that you would want to spend time with your old man, as a grownup,” he told me. (I didn’t grasp it then; years later I do).

We saw Rickles that week: not once or twice, mind you, but three times. After catching his show that first night my Dad insisted we return night two. Fine with me. Morning of our last day, it went like this:

“Let’s do something different tonight,” said the man with his twinkle.
“After Rickles, let’s go to the Aladdin and see Redd Foxx. It’s a midnight show.”


Untraveled as I am, still, fondly I point to that desert town as home to so many unimportant IMPORTANT events. It’s the place where Block introduced me to pineapple hold-em and Jacobson introduced me to Lawrence Welk. (We were in a front line booth at the opening of Donna Summer when our pal leaned over and brashly said “Larry, I want you to meet my friend Bruce.” The celebrity’s posse gave Michael a collective glare as my then-wife and I looked away and YES, I thought they were going to beat us up).


Where the morning of Super Bowl XXI, two weeks to the day post The Drive, Linick stuck his head in my face uttering his immortal words: “May God judge the quality of your life by the way you play these cards.”

Where the afternoon I’d arrived with Walt, as we waited for rooms to be cleaned, we headed to lunch. “Wait a minute,” Marc urged, pausing at a black jack table. Two steps behind, I watched him place a ten dollar bill on green felt, smile as the dealer busted, and pick up his bounty—all in what seemed like seconds.

“Why pay for lunch?’ he remarked…as we ambled on. He never broke stride.

And Vegas.

Do Ermine and Snyder know how funny they were debating all weekend where our group should lodge. Give it up, guys! We checked in yesterday! Or how amazing it was (to all of us) that Fenton stayed at a different hotel just to save a buck.

For that matter:

Do Michael and Jason have any idea how warm and fuzzy it was to sit, the three of us at the same table, in a “sit ‘n go” tourney that day? (Probably not, of course—but they will at my age).

I question things as I sit in Cleveland. I think…and I wonder.

The boys are heading west in a few weeks. Is it really funds that hold me back? Perhaps.

Perhaps not. Time, I’ve found, is more precious than cash. And Vegas, I’ve learned, is only Vegas.

There’s a boy in New York, and he’s walking.  And a girl in Chicago, straining to crawl.  Others?  


Six decades in, I’ve found the best game in town.


Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Eyes opened early last Friday—considering the day before it’d taken nine hours for a sixty minute flight to Chicago. Still, staring up to a silky Lucy, I couldn’t complain.

“Could you take her?” asked my Little One. “I’m getting ready for work.” It wasn’t meant to be. For whatever reason—perhaps a slight bug—HER baby needed MY baby (who wound up “working from home”).

Not that I didn’t go one-on-one with the bambina. Quality time would come.

“You want to take her for a walk? I heard late morning.

Baby in buggy, destination unknown, we head out. “Make a right at the very first street,” the kid said. She’d swore it was safe, yet focusing east I saw nothing but houses ahead: streets, alleys and houses. Where, I wondered, was the asylum of an air-conditioned Starbucks?

Three blocks we strode—Luce and me. Blissful, azure eyes up, she acted like it was business as usual. Moreover, sun blazing, in an intuitive moment I even thought to pull the hood down a bit. Indeed, we were both on our games!

It only got better. The corner of Byron and Southport was infested with moms strolling infants. Time for the charming grandfather thing.

“I’m not from here,” I offered. “…Visiting my kid. Is there any place to go to get my granddaughter out of the sun?”

They pointed to Lulu Belle’s, a few blocks down. Bypassing the patio, heading inside, as the buggy broke the plane of the door it all seemed familiar.

“I’ve been here before,” I told the server, ordering the “healthy omelette”.
Lucy stared, enjoying the show.
“How do you come to this baby?” asked the waitress politely, (clearly deducing I wasn’t the father).
“I just met her at the playground,” I noted, pointing outside.
(She didn’t laugh right away).

I have confidence with babies. Always have. As such, when they asked me if I’d sit the next night—so they could “have a date”—I was thrilled. Couldn’t wait, in fact, for the parents to leave.

“Don’t order your food until she’s asleep”, urged the mother. (I tried to obey).

A great night was had. Lucy fed, the only challenge, I sensed, would be the window period pre-bedtime. How could I fill it?

She has a favorite song, my Lucy. It’s the thing by from Sesame Street—her mantra. How many times have I watched Rooney calm her playing the upbeat video on a cell phone?

I had no IPhone…but I did have memory. Holed up in a motel last summer, had I not young Max on my lap? …And a clock to run out? With him it was Bert and Ernie; with Luce it was Will.i am.

On my lap she went: Lucy Hannah Bohrer. Or…that’s where she started. The darn sprite just wouldn’t sit still. Destined, she was, to climb the computer. It must be babies: like her cousin before her, she felt compelled to pick keys from the keyboard. It was, to be sure, Hilton Rye Brook revisited.

In any event, we did forty-five minutes of a two minute song, she and I. (The players change, of course, but the game goes on).

And so it went: two days and it all came naturally. For both of us.

Oh, I DID see the adults. Swear. A Three Stooges movie was sandwiched between dining on Friday and errands on Sunday. Good stuff, family stuff, but the undercard.

Time winding down yesterday, my daughter posed a standard question:

“What was your favorite part of the weekend, Daddy?’

Hesitate I didn’t. Pulling bags from their car, I repeated what I’d told her just hours earlier. It was the fact that THAT morning, they’d let me set my alarm, wait on the baby, feed her, and—while the house was still sleeping—go out for a walk.

Just the two of us. Before 7. Chicago time.

It occurred to me, yet again as I rode back toward Cleveland, that warmed by one’s family, the best things in life ARE free.


Friday, July 20th, 2012

“You didn’t tell me you had a houseguest!” my friend declared. (I hadn’t).  It tends to slip my mind.

‘Twas early May—maybe the first week—when Fred, between homes, took my second bedroom. (Sort of). The room’d been empty (but for boxes) and those we could readily move. The space was there.

It’s almost like he isn’t there. Our schedules run parallel, rarely intersecting. Indeed, when we’re both running hard, we go days without speaking.

I have noticed a few things, however. Our habits, to be sure, differ.

For one, he was surprised to learn I sleep with TV on. Every once in a while, even now, he’ll urge from the next room to turn it down just a bit. I do.

And he cooks. Swear! I saw him in June, I think— using a frying pan.

“Fred,” I mused, “Ask me how many times in nineteen years I’ve turned an oven on.”

And he cleans. The cowboy–get this—put a plastic bag liner inside the bathroom waste basket. I didn’t even know we HAD a bathroom waste basket.

But we get along. Famously. (Again, not that our paths cross much).

My alarm rings at 6:37. Daily. Gone by 7, maybe 7:15, I never see his room door open. The man sleeps in.

It’s the same the other end of the day. I’ve theater at night, or meetings. An occasional away game, even. Fred? Don’t know where he goes. The track, I’d guess—but I never ask. The way it plays out is that sometime between 11 and 11:30 (“Big Bang” is on), I’m laying in bed, TV and lights on, and Fred floats in. We chit-chat a bit and, moments later, I return to Sheldon Cooper as my pal disappears behind close doors, presumably to study his Racing Form.

Not that we never convene. Just Sunday, in fact, we played a poker tournament at St. Gregory’s. (I went deep, but didn’t cash; Fred was knocked out early. Memo to Fred: Stick with the ponies).

And then there are Wednesdays. A recent admission to our weekly breakfast, Fred was present just this week for Brother Les’s announcement.

“I can solve the Social Security problem and the war in less than five minutes,” he proclaimed.
“Needing little coaxing to continue, our friend readily described some declining scale for retirement that I couldn’t quite follow. (Walt and Himmel, the financial guys at the table, did).

Not totally impressed, I pushed back.

“What about the war?”

“That’s easy,” he said. “Just hold a press conference, declare victory, and bring everyone home!”

And Fred, our brother from Rowland and Greenview and Brush—the Sammy at Ohio State…took it all in.

Or at least I think he did.

You see, it’s Friday now; two days have passed. I haven’t seen him much.


Friday, July 13th, 2012

            “…You have had a dramatic effect on many people, educating them on reality…”

    Email from a university employee to former student  (12/30/03)

*****          *****          *****          *****          *****

The first time they handed me a trophy it was in a Kiwanis Center. The year was 1960 and while my White Sox had run the table, it was, frankly, IN SPITE of me. Still, how I cherished that plastic!

There’d be others. Batting titles fourteen years apart, coaching prizes in softball and soccer. (Not to mention Sol’s Boys. Indeed, with Wieder And Company it almost got boring. Sure, we reveled at winning—always—but mementos got old. Mine found a cardboard home in my mother’s basement, (then my wife’s basement, then the Lomaz garage, and on and on).

Who cares? I earned medal, but others showed mettle.

2002: A beautiful student was victimized in her college dorm. Life interrupted, she had two choices: deny the event or “remember the night”.

I can’t imagine how she felt, that freshman—alone, out-of-town, so young.

Her school, fearing headlines, buried it. With her assailant still on campus, she wouldn’t.

We watched as she pushed through the system. The police, the prosecutor…sharing her story again and again, reliving the torment again and again.

We listened when her goings got tough and we marveled as she just kept going.

And we heard, as so many did, her voice:

At the disciplinary hearing she’d finally secured to boot the prick off campus. (Alone stood the coed, before a panel of five. The assailant had counsel but she wasn’t permitted).

In open Court, the clown having plead guilty, as she urged the judge “Don’t just wink at what he did…”

And on NBC’s Dateline, nationwide, where she put a public face on assault, showing other brave women it was OK to come forward….

Real victories, I’ve learned, come not on the diamond facing pitchers, but in the world facing life. There’s a Winners’ Circle, a special one, for those who, through incredible courage seek justice for all.

— Which is why it stands there, atop of my desk—shining.

I speak not of the year old lime bought the week Lucy (in embryo) was lime-size. I refer not to the giant Hershey’s kiss which, nine months ago anchored a centerpiece at Max’s “first”.

I speak rather, of a trophy. Another trophy.

Center stage in my office, you see, sits the Jean Clery Campus Safety Award…
given to my Little One …by a national organization…for “incredible courage and leadership”.

It gives me pause to think…about priorities.

They’ve made material changes at her old school since she left. Fueled by a public awareness, the place is safer for Haileys and Lucys and Hannahs.

That thing in the middle of my desk— the one engraved with my baby’s name—with the clock in the middle— now THAT is a trophy. The stuff in the boxes: those remnants of hits and runs? They, my friends, are just hardware.


Monday, July 9th, 2012

When I sleep alone, (which is usually), personal preference controls. Lights stay bright, “The Boys” have the floor, and—without fail— the TV’s on. So little, yet so much.

When I rise alone it’s much the same. Peaceful, predictable…the same. Except for weekends.

I waken weekends, not to pictures but to sound. Saturdays, Sundays, I roll from the bed, ears swelling with Muppets or Yabba Yabba…or is it Gabba Gabba? (This morning, for example, there was a big, white smiley face in the sky singing down on puppets, assuring each they’d been safe all night. I think it was NBC).

Eyes open weekends to nursery rhymes and cartoons….and

Sitting in Cleveland, looking east I see Max. On the floor, Indian style, his eyes fixed ahead. (Are we still allowed to call it “Indian style”?) Three feet from the tube, he stares, mesmerized by the pageantry at a distance our parents would have said was too close to sit. It’s idyllic.

To the west I see Lucy. One hour off, she’s not quite awake. Facebook pictures, though, don’t lie. She’s soon to join Max on the floor. Distance may separate them, but not heart. Cousins are cousins.

My eyes open wider on weekends. Much wider. On Saturdays—even Sundays– I’ll see those that I don’t and hug jewels I can ‘t hold. On weekends, you see, midst the backdrop of cartoons and Wiggles, I see Hailey and Matthew.

He turned one this week. Is she driving yet? (Is her TV on too?)

On weekends I anger. And I resent. Like yesterday.

We’ve got tools in recovery: devices for coping, for facing the unfaceable.

When resentments hit, we ask God to remove them. If we’re on our games, we share feelings with friends, make amends when we can and, when all else fails, we go out and help another. We “get out of ourselves”.

I did that yesterday. On a day when the angst wouldn’t yield, I did it right.

“Aunt Helen,” I said, “Do you want to get out of the house?”
Like Kramer on Seinfeld, she didn’t ask where. “Of course,” she exclaimed.

(My aunt, by her own choice, has no air-conditioning. God knows why—it’s not about the money. Still, she opts to sweat. Indeed, in a world of simple pleasures, she lives with out sex AND air-conditioning. Go figure).

“We’ll go to the library. I can work there”
“Giddyap!” (she all but shouted).

It was 2:30 when we finally got going. Truth be known, I was already better. It mattered not. As the mercury hit mid-90’s, 260 years of Bogart found, at the corner of Richmond and Shaker, not only air-conditioning, but respite.

For two hours, even more, she sat at the table. Tenaciously, with a magnifying glass as her ally, this frail, smiling fossil studied the Jewish News. Aside her, on computer sat I: working and playing, at peace with the world.

We hit Jack’s later as she wanted cole slaw. And Walgreen’s too, where she bought some briefs. Then home we went, our time well-spent.

Hal called today.

“You got a compliment, “he noted, “…From a woman.”
“Was it someone I went out with?”
“Well,” he rejoined, “You’ve seen her topless.”

I groaned a bit, as my brother laughed.
“Oh,” (I now knew), “So you talked to Aunt Helen.”
“You made her happy.”
“It was good for both of us,” I said. “Even painless.”

We lead such disparate lives, my aunt and I. She chooses solitude and a bordered realm of lights and TV off—no sound to wake up to. I’m the lucky one. My world fills with light day or night; my TV still plays day and night. I rise to a world full of sound with no fury.

Still, on a day she didn’t NEED to shop, and a day I didn’t HAVE to work, our needs intersected. Aunt Helen, brittle…worn, got out of her house. Me? Smiling once more, I left Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.


Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Hanging up the phone I peered over Max’s monitor, and exclaimed to the room:

“They want me to direct a show!”
“So”, said my oldest, “Do they pay you?”

He didn’t seem to grasp it—the enormity of it all! This theater was asking ME to direct. This wasn’t just another part, another chance to play myself. This, I recognized, was a major step….uncharted waters.

It began, to be sure, two months ago. Until that night I’d never really thought of directing. Not really. (Oh, there were times when I’d be offstage and hear someone say something and think “No, schmuck, deliver it THIS way and you’ll get the laugh”, but I kept my mouth shut. It wasn’t, I well knew, my job to speak up. Still…once in a while, I wanted that right).

“Twas the middle of May when this lark began. Word filtered that a theater group—one I’d performed at—was seeking a director for its fall play. New directors would be considered.

“New directors?” I thought. “I could be one of those!”
“What do YOU know about directing?” said my mirror.

A few weeks passed. I’d decided to leave it alone. It would be a November play, I’d learned, and frankly, there were better things to do. Max’s birthday’s that month. Would not New York be calling? And there was Lucy, later on—

It was tech week for “Hairspray”, and with loads of downtime I sat with our director, watching, kibitzing…just picking his brain. I shared with him of the opening…my insecurity…and how it was probably just as well the kids had birthdays anyway….

“I think you should send the letter,” he urged. “Let ‘em know you’re out there.”
“I won’t miss the birthdays.”
“Just be honest with them,” he shot back.

And then I did what I’ve learned to do: I listened.

Like I said, I had all kinds of downtime that show. Indeed, my sole job second act was to zip up Edna Turnblad. (No small task, FYI. Tom is bigger than me).

With laptop backstage, I penned the letter. And not just any letter, I might add. My note, dare I say, was Pulitzer-worthy.

I laid out true feelings.

Sharing my history on stage, I spoke to a willingness to work with others, and that if they were doing a comedy, I wanted the job. I told them too—quite candidly— that if they thinking a musical, they ought to look elsewhere. That wasn’t, I confirmed, what I do best.

I wrote one more thing that day. I told them that I knew they were doing their show the middle weeks of November and that for that reason alone it might not work. I stated, specifically, that I would be out-of-town that month—one weekend for sure—that I wouldn’t miss a grandchild’s birthday…that they needed to know.

Hitting the “Send” button the afternoon of our last show, I just let it fly. What would be, would be. Perhaps Mango was right—that I should just let them know I was out there…for the future. Maybe it was like working a ref in basketball—knowing you’ll get the next call.

It was only a week later that I got that call, while chilling in Great Neck. It would be two weeks more before the die would cast.

Last night we convened: me, yes ME…and the president of the theater company. We spoke of stage managers, lighting, soundboards, staffing—-what they would do, what I would do.  Over coffee at Starbucks we crossed the Rubican. 

I leaped in my car excited with challenge. They would work around the birthdays; they were doing a comedy. They wanted me!

Calling my youngest, I thrilled just to share:

“I’m gonna be a director!” I cried.
“I’m so proud,” she exclaimed—then she stopped. On a dime. This little girl, my baby…the one we cradled longest and hardest…this flower of a princess now residing out west….she stopped on a dime. And laughed…loudly.

“But Daddy,” she roared, “What do YOU know about directing?”