Archive for September, 2012

TRY TO REMEMBER (Where’s Haroldo?)

Monday, September 17th, 2012

It’s a funny thing having roots in South Euclid. So fond are we of our origins— so moist the reflections—that we just presume we hold memories intact. ‘Tain’t so.

Act I

Labor Day, 2012. Dickie B, my brother and I stood poolside, chatting. Once past the usual speak: health, children, etc., attentions turned, as they often do, to our halcyon days in Columbus. Focusing, as we did for at least an instant, on a particular night, we hit a wall.

“Remember the Association concert?” (We all did…at some level). “You took Debbie Denunzio, “ I told Dick, “And H took Shelly Kern.” Eyes rolled for a minute, and as my ego swelled to the tune of my memory, Baskin spoke:
“I don’t think so.”

Turning elsewhere, three matters struck me: 1), I was sure that was the girl’s name: Debbie Denunzio. I wouldn’t just imagine it, and 2) oddly, I couldn’t recall who I’d taken, and 3) it was, in fact, recorded in an old hand-written diary.

Act II

“This is a sure sign we’re getting old,” I said laughing, and Harold agreed. By phone we were drawing to conclusion the ping-pong of an internet dialogue.

He started it. He would say, of course, that I did.

“When were the three of you (Dad, Lomaz and you) (sic) living together?” Innocently this inquiry’d come through my email at Thursday, at 11:45 AM. He was referring—my brother was—to a recent blog

Holding my tongue, reluctant to wipe his face in so profound an error, at 11:46 I responded…softly.

“Dick Baskin.”

“Just the THREE of you?” he rejoined, that very minute. It was the intensity of his capitalization that by 11:47 had given me pause. If he was cocksure of himself…could the almighty me, with pride in my memory, be wrong? Gently, ego falling, I wondered: WHO could I have missed?

“I think so, “ I wrote back…showing weakness. “Do I remember it wrong?”

Moments later I learned. “What about moi?” he typed., stopping me in my tracks.

Could I have forgotten my brother? Was he there too? Really?

And so we spoke that day, laboring by phone recreating the past.

It was two bedrooms, the place. We pictured it well. There was Dad, and Dick…and me? But who slept where? And was H there?

We couldn’t remember. Either of us. Exactly. Oh, recalled his living there, but couldn’t picture it—couldn’t swear to it. And me? I imaged it: 20 East 14th—even the bedrooms. But I wasn’t sure. Not really.

Intellectually, we sensed, he had to be there. Why then, weren’t we sure?

So well we recalled the prefab hole in the wall separating bedrooms. I regaled, yet again—(it’s a story I love to tell)—‘bout the night I’d asked our father if he’d ever had pre-marital sex with our mother. Since the two’d been divorced, it struck me ‘twas a story that he’d somehow tell). The old man balked, (to his credit), turned red, and abstained. Dead silence for a bit—maybe more—and then…all of a sudden… from the other side of the wall Dick Baskin bellowed: “C’mon Uncle Al.”

Now, THAT I remember! But where was my brother? Could he have been at the library that night? Even in this epic of visuals, he was not to be found.

“Where’d we sleep?” we both wondered, playing ping-pong once more. “You sure there were only two bedrooms?” he asked, asserting, “I NEVER lived in a dorm!.”

It didn’t occur to us—even once—to phone a friend. Like maybe Baskin. As such, we hung up in tacit agreement. He had to be somewhere, we supposed. Probably there.


Lyndhurst, Ohio. Perturbed by struggles with Hal’s residence, puzzled (perhaps) by Dick’s protests of two weeks back, I went right to the archives: to the thick SBX spiral notebook, where all truths lay.

The news there was both good and bad.

First the good news: One entry read: “November 10, 1969: “…DB was fixed up with Linda Longert’s pal Debbie DeNunzio…” Then, in an apparent recap dated
November 14, I’d diagramed the post-concert dinner at Suburban Steakhouse. Sketched in at a table of eight, seated twixt “DB” and “AH”, was a “DD”. Case closed.

As to my brother, the news isn’t good. Scanning fall quarter I saw a myriad of names. There was Walt, Wied, Stuart, and Hal—all the usual suspects, mentioned time and again. Nowhere, though, NOWHERE, did it state where H lived. Not even a hint.

It matters not, I suppose. Not anymore. What matters is that four decades later Dick, Hal and I still stand…by a pool…talking, smiling, and usually laughing.

Oh, and one more thing. I tripped on, when re-reading my diary, the identity of the person I’D taken to that concert, all those years ago. Turns out I wound up marrying her.

(Who knew?)


Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

There’s a lot going on these days. No time to breathe in a world that, quite frankly, is leaving me breathless. From a coming trip west to my plans for the east, from the romance of direction to the direction of romance, it’s all been good.

Even better.

It is, then , a time to be grateful.

“Harriet’s remarkable,” I was told just this Sunday. (With that, floodgates opened, and memories of years gone by, stories of a distant but vivid past were shared):

…Of the night they’d met at a Columbus J.C.C. —he was living with Dick and me back then—of my middle-aged father, frustrated by the sight of teen-aged hosiery hanging from a kitchen sink, hurling his shoe through a wall…

A pivotal time in not only my Dad’s life, but mine as well, it was anchored not by one of the guys from his card game, not by one of my friends on campus, but by a woman that barely played gin yet always hung in.

I’ve been thinking. Not only of Harriet…but of others that’ve graced my life.  Women, all three, who through circumstance married my pals, acquiesced to my nonsense, buttressed my journey, and became true friends.

And hung in.

‘Met Marilyn first, or so it seems. Stopping Stuart’s world on a dime, she put an immediate dent on what had been a standing dinner with Fenton, Longert and myself. Dorm kitchens closed on Sundays, we were munching pizza at Roma’s in the alley behind SBX or doing Chinese at Jong Mea down on Broad Street until…

And a friend she’s been. From the time she survived the scare of me taking out her sister to the times I’d go to Stuey for counsel. Like they used to say about the Super Bowl and Pittsburgh, the road to my buddy Stuart goes through Marilyn. And always—always—she’s had my back.

Rita Lena? Can’t quite recall the start. What I do remember is that all of a sudden Brother Bruce was in Columbus and she was there. Then, when it came to law school, he was there, and she was there. Still yet, as we had our children, we were all there. Always.

I see snapshots. There’s a brutal snowstorm. It’s January, ’78, and Rita’s mom’s working at 9th and Euclid. Me? I’m driving her home, two miles per hour…safely.  We were young then. Alive. Then a Saturday night, years later. Many years later: Bruce, Rita, some kids, me…and her father walking out of “Schindler’s List”. You could hear a pin drop. And my favorite picture—not a snapshot so much as an audio…a recording.

“When you going to stop over?” she’s asked…endlessly…for nineteen years.

No one, male or female, has so often made it clear to me I was welcome. Always.

And Lana. As I rode her husband’s coattails up our lodge’s ladder, she, the Pride of Philadelphia, inherited me. The dynamics of my kinship with her Michael being what they were, ‘tis safe to say that no one saw my mishigos closer, or from a better angle than she. And she hung in; she always had my back.

I am thinking of these ladies today NOT with reverie for times gone by, but with gratitude for times so good.

Like today.

To one I am “B” and another I’m Bruce. (Heck! To Lana, it’s… simply …“Bogart”). Matters not! How well I know that had they each in their own way not been there for me all these years, I might well not be standing today.

And I am standing today…on the threshold to a future…smiling.


Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Gates Mills’ production of “The Odd Couple” begins rehearsal Thursday and, healthy as it may be for my soul, I am out of my comfort zone.

Eagerly accepting this directing gig, it readily occurred that the this new task smacked of “The Peter Principle”. Was I not, as the saying goes, rising to the level of my incompetence?

They were doing a comedy, this theater. For that reason I sensed, the powers-that-be figured I knew what I was doing. Candidly I told them I’d never done it before. I shared, in my letter (which may I state was Pulitzer-worthy), a plan to surround myself with a cadre of off-stage help assuring success.

And they hired me.

July sped by. I hit the library, called friends, and listened hard. There I was: the book-smart kid that never studied going to class on-the-fly. Afraid I was not, but clearly, this wasn’t Kansas anymore.

Reaching out I called Mango. Eight times he had cast me. From “The Fantasticks” a decade ago in Solon through “Hairspray” this June at Fine Arts—for big parts and small— he’s called my number. Who other than he to know what I don’t know? Who other than he to hold a mirror to my face?

“Two things, maybe three are guaranteed,” said my friend. “You’ll make mistakes. That’s part of the job— and you’ll lose friends. Guaranteed.” I was smiling knowingly when he spoke again. “Directing will make you a better actor,” he said, pausing a bit…”Not that you’ve ever acted”.

August came. And went. Twixt that month full of magic, I read…and read…and read the script. No Cliff’s Notes this rodeo. I was in it to win it.

I formulated, anticipated, perfected. Didn’t know what I was doing but I kept on reading, continued thinking, planning, conjuring. Nothing though— NOTHING I read, wrote or even heard from Mango prepared me for the toughest thing since reffing basketball:

Last Tuesday I cast the show.

Looks easy, perhaps: just sitting there, watching auditions. Science it’s not; there is, within reason, no right or wrong. As Lil Selzer would muse, “That’s why God made blondes and brunettes”. No, the hard part of casting is not saying Thank You, granting roles. It is, rather, saying No Thank You to friends.

Few female parts in the show. Two, to be exact. As such, from a field of eight, all KNOWN to me, one pair’d be picked…by me! (I felt, to be sure, like Bobby Snyder at the Heights Temple dances, circa 1961).

Then in strode Natalie.

Talented, half my age, we’d done three shows together. She reminds me—always has—of Jamie. I’ve broken bread with her dad, she trusts me, confides…
She is “good people”. And I wanted to cast her…almost did…but I couldn’t.

She just missed.

When it came time to call her, to tell her “No go”, I just couldn’t. Could not pick up the heavy phone to tell my friend it wasn’t going to work.

It was Tuesday, mid-day, and all other calls made, I had business in Painesville. Natalie, I knew, worked in Euclid, still somewhat en route. Better, I deduced, to share bad news in person. (Not around the problem, as we say, but through it). Eyeball to eyeball.

Speeding I-90, rounding the spur toward a ‘hood unknown…it would be the first and last time I would drive East 200. Sighting her storefront, pulling right up, and eyeing a darkened window, with my best George Costanza resolve, I thought “I’m going in, baby!”

But I couldn’t.

There was a sign in the window, which once close up, I read. “CLOSED MONDAYS/TUESDAYS”

Some things aren’t meant to be, I figured. Snapping a pic of her signage, texting it to her, I waited. She called at once.

“Listen,” I uttered, “I can’t cast you.” (Guilt, for no reason, consumed me– not unlike when Aunt Helen makes demands and H and I struggling, decline).

“I know,” she said at once. “I would love to help you backstage.”

I knew then and there that a lesson’d been had: a lesson of confidence. Couldn’t learn it from books, couldn’t hear it from Mango. Had to feel it.

And I knew then and there not to fret mistakes nor worry ‘bout friends. If my heart is pure and my motives right, all would be ok…I would be ok.

Oh, and Natalie? We spoke again just Thursday. She’s found a home, my friend has…this fall…in Gates Mills.

She’s in charge of props.