Archive for October, 2012


Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Some days, hallmarks that they are, just live on. Like the 27th of October, ’62.  And it’s been a half century.

‘Twas special day in a simpler time. The Beatles still in England, my Dad still at home, on this wondrous fall morning I had my Bar Mitzvah. In a world then young, surrounded by kin then alive, I, first born son of a first born son, had my fifteen minutes…plus.

This was the zenith of the The Baby Boom. Indeed, my shul alone had multiple B’nai Mitzvoh each Shabbos. As such, readings were shared with two others: David Skolnik and Sheridan Shur. Clutching 33 rpm vinyl we’d been meeting with Rev Levy all summer, (‘though I never, please note, missed a Little League game). Ultimately, one of the trio, (NO NAMES PLEASE), couldn’t learn his part and yes, just weeks before, they’d thrown me more lines.

The day was great! There I was on the bima, flanked by not only The Family Von Bogart in its last public appearance, but Rabbi Cohen on his game. I recall well how the cleric, voice crackling like thunder as he raised his monstrous hands above us, eyes piercing like daggers, provided an endless blessing. I recall too, my fear sensing that God/forbid I not keep looking at him— lightning would strike me down right then and there…and how, petrified, I locked in a stare, never taking eyes off that Jewish Charlton Heston, nodding ever-knowingly with each and every phrase he spoke: of this and that, from my obligations “as a man” to how he’d presided over the marriage of not only my parents but my aunt and uncle, and how he’d known my grandfather, (Park’s b’al koreh ‘til his death in ’54)….

And I remember well my pride at noon. Service over, two grandmothers—nice ladies with little in common—in tandem stood smiling.  Their grandson, clearly, had knocked it out of the park!

Even the post-game was special. That afternoon, like many Saturdays, was spent with Al Bogart. OSU on tv, no weekly event back then, we watched Woody’s boys beat Wisconsin in black and white. I think, but couldn’t swear, that Ohio State covered.  My Dad was smiling.

The day culminated, of course, with a reception at night. (I shouldn’t say “of course”. A year-and-one-half later, Hal too was Bar Mitzvahed. Our parents by now split, his party was down-sized from 200 plus with band to 20 plus and a middle- aged Harry Kliot spinning records).

My gala, though, was at Sherwin’s. Eastside Cleveland’s caterer de jour, it was chosen ‘cause the owners were…you guessed it: Al Bogart’s lodge brothers.  All, as we say, in the family.

The hall, somewhere about 105th and Carnegie, was full that night. Every sect, from Dad’s card players to Mom’s mahj ladies, from the myriad of Hoffmans, Sharps and offspring to—on the other side of the ball—the residue of Grandma Bogart’s litter, (some sixteen siblings and progeny).

And my friends. Two tables of guys, two tables of girls. The men were my age. Ladies, though, came in two flavors. There was the old guard—Linda, Maddy, Arlene…from my grade. They’d been around a while; I knew them, could talk to them. Still raw (for me) were the ones a just younger. Shy, insecure, I’d stumble dealing one-on-one with Edrea, Rochelle, or Cathy.

(For guys like me, moreover, dancing was but jitterbug or box step—no in between. The British, recall, had not yet invaded, and dance floor rhythm just wasn’t my strong suit. Arthur, Bobby—they could cha-cha, maybe more. Wieder, Bogart? When it came to movement, the buffet line was our wheelhouse. Whatever Tony & Yolanda taught in their studio, it didn’t sink in. Even on a one, two count I’d be three steps off. I was one of those that, when slow dancing, would feel the girl’s hand leave my back shoulder and instinctively know she was waiving Snyder or Kraut to cut in).

But not that night. Not on October 27, 1962.

It was my Day Of Days and my Time of Times: an evening emceed by Lodge Brother Bernie Ginsberg, where feeling no pain an impromptu Estelle Lomaz grabbed the mic crooning “Bei Mir Bis Du Schoen”, where best-pal Stuart lit a candle for all friends and even Aunt Helen, (then only 68), took a bow, (Candle Number 6).

The fete ended, as they all did then, with the playing of “The Party’s Over”.  And it was. Within months our Dad moved out…forever. I remember just how he told me. It was a Saturday. Awaking for Sabbath School my Mom said he’d had a business meeting out-of-town the night before. It wasn’t so.  He showed up at Park that day, poaching by the old building as school let out.  He drove us home.

“Your mother and I are in a fight, but it will be over soon. I’ll be gone a few days—no more.”

The man knew better, I sense, ‘though I believed him then.  I needed to.  It was the only time, to my knowledge, that my father lied to me.  He needed to.

10/27/62 had passed and indeed, the party was over.


Friday, October 26th, 2012

   “…The long and winding road that leads to your door…”


‘Tis said that moving is one of life’s stressful events. (Is that why my crown’s turned gray?) Still, it’s that time again. Ten years after settling in Georgetown I’m heading off campus. A decade enveloping many of the best years of my life is ending. It’s time.

I’m NOT stressed, by the way. Something in the waters of our youth made us resilient. Look no further than that self-proclaimed Big Four of Brush High’s Class Of ’67. Varying degrees of nomads, each has paddled through the years, never breaking stride…thriving to this day. Consider:

Our leader hit Dalebridge then Orange, back to Bayard then Lyndhurst before nesting off/county. And Stuart? The conservative one? Let’s look at the record! Yanking roots mid-adulthood, he went east to West Hartford before coming home—just to leave again and dodge gators down south. (He swears, by the way, that his jogging beats stress. I ask: wouldn’t it just be easier to stay put?).

And then Wieder: South Africa…South Carolina….Really? A new country? The Deep South? The former (I might guess) lacked justice as the latter lacked electricity. Yet he loved both homes! Go figure.

Which leaves only me…and my odyssey.

A few years ago I breakfasted in Vegas with a lifelong friend, a man I revere. My world, he suggested, was both narrow and evolved. (Six decades, I’d submit—six decades within two square miles—can do that to you). Still, he had no idea the backstory. Having been away so long he had no idea the details or bounce of my road less travelled.

…Beachwood to Mayfield to University Heights to Shaker to Lyndhurst…No stress truly, just street signs and growth…

Which brings back a memory…The last years of high school, Michael lived with me in an upstairs on Cedar. Walking distance from Jack’s it appended (but not in) Beachwood, and to the naked eye the geography fit.

“I really don’t want to rent to a bachelor,” the old lady’d said. Hesitating at first, she was ultimately receptive to my “Nice Jewish boy, single parent raising a kid alone” approach and gave me a lease.

“Just promise me that your son won’t block my driveway with his car and that he’ll remember to close the side door. I get a draft when it’s open and terrible back aches.”
“No problem,” I swore.
(Need I tell you how the saga ended? Michael, heads and tails over most of his peers, was still but sixteen. Hello??? A year later she asked us to leave. “No renewal for you!’ shried the SoupNazi.

Just about then…

“Your landlord’s running an ad,” said Aunt Helen, brandishing her Jewish News.
Alas, she was wrong. Scanning the ad, noting that the description was right but the phone number wrong, I called. It was, indeed, the same upstairs unit— RIGHT NEXT DOOR! Same layout…one house down.  Different owner!

It would be my favorite move of the ’90s! Enlisting a cadre of high school buddies, Michael and crew, in but a few hours, schlepped things down one set of stairs, defiantly across the front lawn and up to a brave new world. (All this as the old landlord stared). A dinner at The Swamp Club capped off the night.

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

I told my sponsor—just yesterday—that I was moving…that my lease was up and the landlord was selling…that Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show was again moving on. “Are you bothered?” he asked. “No,” I said, “I can’t wait!”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
It’s been a nice run at Georgetown. A long one…. Friend Jay, (a South Euclid boy) offered help with the move. (How many Jews do I really know that sport both tattoo and truck?)

Ah, but there’s little to move. Boxes, of course. Loads of pictures and programs—trinkets of past. And my books, and the stuff from Grandma Cele, and my Dad, and the kids’ old report cards, and, and, and….the limited three-volume edition co-written by my progeny including Michael’s autobiography “It’s Not Easy Being A Bogart”, Jamie’s B.U. treatise “Totally Tote” and Rooney’s gut-wrenching narrative of OSU.

Hard goods can stay (I’ve been urged). All well and good. My true bounty, you see, rests safely in cardboard, secured for my heart. My real assets, the ones assuring my peace, are the memories and feelings and loving friends that cemented the steps on my journey, the turns on my long and winding road.

Each street sign’s found me more at peace with the world—more excited to live. As such, ‘though again on the move, I remain “in a good place”.


Monday, October 22nd, 2012

     “…Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!…Hell is murky…”

                    Lady MacBeth (Shakespeare)

She was my first love and I was introduced to her by my Dad in the late 50’s.

Long before “air guitars” he’d direct the fight song—my father would—with his air baton. Long before there was Tatum or Griffin there were others: like Frank Kremblas and Bob Ferguson and Tom Matte. Laying on his bed he’d cradle a pre-printed list of college football games, checking off schools with names so foreign: VMI, The Citadel…Lehigh, allthewhile listening intently to Ohio State.

My first love.

Havlicek and Lucas and Knight, the horror of ’62 (when the faculty rejected a Rose Bowl bid), the majesty of Coach Hayes (who my Dad would point out, ALWAYS), wore but a baseball cap and shortsleeves…

“Look,” he’d announce, ALWAYS, pointing down to the sideline.
“Yeah, Dad, we know.”

Cementing our love was ritual. We’d get down there each fall, to a game. Once—I remember it well—he woke us on Saturday—and we travelled by train. Tickets? Not an issue. Ever. Outside the closed end we’d wait, marvelling as our father worked the closed end of the stadium.  How we’d worry that we wouldn’t get in!  “Relax,” he would caution. “Right after the kickoff there’ll be all kinds of seats available!”  There always were.  

They were special years molding special memories and a special love. Indeed, not even tougher times could kill the regimen. Weekend stays at The Neil House downtown turned into one-night stands at a Nationwide Inn on Olentangy, but always hit The Jai Lai, always valet parked, and each and every meal there our reverie grew.

“Look, boys,” he’d remark, pointing to a large, framed black and white photo by the hat check; “That’s Woody. He eats here.”
“Yeah, Dad, we know.”

Al Bogart died suddenly in ’85. He was survived by Harriet, kids, and a legacy of love for God, family, and Ohio State. It is precisely because he would put them in that order that he could now understand what I’m about to say:

It will never be the same again…ever.

My Dad’s eyes closed long ago. He never saw, thank God, the way his grandchild was treated. He never knew, thank God, how the institution he prioritized for life so reckless threw his baby to the curb.

(Editor’s Note: I separated from active duty in May, 1972. Just days before we’d learned that, contrary to its prior promise, OSU would not admit me to grad school. Incensed over what in context is so trivial a matter—my Dad went wild! “They can’t do that to us,’ he proclaimed, calling Governor Gilligan. But they did. Even after a face-to-face meeting at the Statehouse with Ohio’s Chief Executive, even as the governor shook our hands telling us “Sorry, but the folks uptown don’t like me butting in,”, even then he pushed back. Face turning red, puffing his lip he shot back: “With all due respect, Governor,” he told Gilligan, “Jim Rhodes wouldn’t have let this happen.”)

It’s a living thing: history. What my Dad didn’t know, I just can’t forget. What my Dad didn’t see, I just won’t erase.  It WILL never be the same.

The heroes of my past had nothing to do with the bottom-feeders on campus in ’01. And still…

I revere my past:  those halcyon years as a Buckeye. But I can’t let go. Not really. ‘Can’t hear a score without thinking; can’t watch a game free of conscience…no matter how exciting it may be.  Truly.

We can’t forget.

Intellectually I know, the players have changed. I wonder though:  does the game go on? How many besides my daughter were compelled to move on while the bureaucrats danced on? (I read about the golden parachute the then-president of OSU got and I wanted to vomit. We hear the name of my daughter’s perp and we still get nautious).

I accept and I let go, but I can’t forget.  Not really.

They won a game last weekend, the Bucks did. I’m glad, of course.  And yet…as a national alumni rejoiced, my shout was muted. How couldn’t it be? 

My father’s gone but his memory lives. The tapestry though, the one he weaved so well of God and family all framed in scarlet and gray, has a stain on it. On its border. Right at the corner of 15th and High, (shall we say?)

I will cherish always my memories of youth and revere warmly the “best years of my life” on campus. 

They’ve soiled it though, indelibly. I can’t help it.

Godless pretenders feigning to be educators callously hurt our Little One.  The thrill of an overtime victory can never eradicate the way my school, my First Love, dropped the ball in regulation—nor can new jobs for the old regime ever cleanse their grimy hands.

And this, time and change will surely show.


Thursday, October 18th, 2012

                ACT I

Scene One—a temple in Stamford, Connecticut, Labor Day Weekend, 2011. A montage of congenial middle-aged people, each speaking louder than the next, has collected to celebrate Aunt Lee and Uncle Ernie’s 60th anniversary.

“How’s Aunt Helen?” she greeted me. (Odd question, thought I).

(I’d forgotten their lives’ intersection. It was 1990—Michael’s Bar Mitzvah. Cousin Hindy had stayed at Chez Fossil, walking distance from shul).

“You know…she still has my coat!”

(I didn’t know. In fact, I was blown away learning that for two decades Hindy’s rainwear hung quietly in our aunt’s closet).

“I’ll get if for you,” I pledged. “Not a problem. “I shall return!”


Scene Two—A few weeks later: The upstairs of a duplex in University Heights, Ohio.

“Aunt Helen, “I exclaimed, “Remember Hindy, who stayed here when Michael was Bar Mitzvahed?”
“Ah, Hindy.’ (The thought of this observant Jewess had clearly warmed the cockles of my tante’s soul. Turning east, she looked wistfully to the sky).
“I saw her in Connecticut. She says her coat’s in your closet. I’m going to send it to her.”
“You may NOT go in my closet!”
“Are you kidding?” I asked, wreaking incredulity.
“Don’t make me cry!”

Scene Three — a banquet hall in Westchester County, New York–summer, 2012. The Stamford clan, one voice softer, have gathered for the wedding of Ernie’s granddaughter.

“Where’s my coat?” Hindy urged, somewhat playfully.

Lamenting my failure, recounting the episode of months ago, I found new resolve. I could not—I would not—let Hindy down.

“I shall return!” I re-vowed.

Fadeout (to the theme song from ‘Rocky’)

                ACT TWO

Scene One — in a car…at dusk…somewhere on 422 East in Ohio. A man is driving, lady by his side, and the talk is animated.

“I need your help”, he explains. “You need to keep her busy while I go through the closet. She looks at him, somewhat amused. “And you’ll have to meet her,” he adds tentatively, (tepidly fearful of placing her in harm’s way). From the tone of their talk, it is clear neither has sensed the enormity of the task.

“I’m in!” she proclaims, whereupon, in a flourish— ebulliently— like Jason seeking the Golden Fleece, he honks the horn.

Scene Two — Weeks later…same car…in darkness…on Washington Boulevard approaching Cedar. The duo has been joined by another.

“Aunt Helen, can Carrie and I come up for a few minutes.”

Scene Three — Even more weeks later. It is morning and the same car heads west on 480. The old lady is gone, replaced by an enthusiastic young adult.

“My aunt called this week. Says she needs a light bulb changed, and with Harold not feeling well, she’d like me to do it.”
“So?” said the lady.
“Well, she’s says I have to stand on her bed and that I should have someone to hold me up—that I can’t do it by myself…I suggested you.”
“Perfect,” she responds. “Let’s do it today. We’ll take Leesa. The two of us can keep her busy while you’re in the closet.”

The lights flicker a bit, and we see this same trio upstairs at the creaky old duplex. They are wearing the morning’s garb, and it is clear that this it is the same day. Carrie stands on a bed, feigning to screw in the fixture. Feet away is Leesa, gently hugging…occupying Aunt Helen. It is a strict man-to-man defense.

No one is talking.

Me? I was in the other room, going closet to closet. Front closet? Empty. Side closet? Stark empty! Where was Hindy’s coat? I slid into Grandma’s room. Two decades after her death it remains a museum. Alas, her cupboard too was bare.  Where was Hindy’s coat?

Re-entering the fray, dejected, I signaled Carrie’s descent from the bed. Leesa was still hugging my aunt and a new bulb shined but our venture’d failed.

I knew that.

The curtain closed as we trudged down steps, three of the world’s greatest minds having been beaten by one 98-year old. Two questions remained—just two.  Where WAS that coat? (I wondered), and WHAT, oh WHAT, would I tell Hindy?


Monday, October 1st, 2012

I used to joke, some years ago, as they accused my favorite football coach of slugging a kid. “It’s the angle,” I would say.

They sat in the stadium—three of them—each integral to my world, each with her own set of eyes.

In the open end was Lucy. Perched in her highchair, staring into a life ahead, she savored every movement and yes, every moment!

I watched in Chicago. She was “not herself” said the parents (of their girl’s malaise). I studied her eyes—the little one’s—as Stacy fed her and Jason held her…and she healed. Tender, looming orbits, they filled with the love that surrounded.

There’s an innocence in babies. Undeterred by pasts, theirs is a realm where seeing truly is believing. As such, when a mother coddles or a father sings, they not only learn love, but believe in it. It’s a warm world (when you’re ten months old), and I couldn’t help but thinking that my little one’s Little One is in a good place, evolving a good world view.

She was, in fact, not herself last Friday. Keeping her in (per doctor’s orders), tweaking our schedule, we did what strong families do best: we made do.

It was a great weekend! Lucy, from her spot near the one, was embraced by images of parents laughing, a grandfather playing, and the threesome both laughing with Seinfeld and crying to “The Descendants”.

Lucy Hannah Bohrer, her whole life before her, had a much better angle than did her aunt. (Or should I say great aunt?) (Or should I say great, great aunt)?

Way on the other side of the field…down at the closed end of the stadium, was Aunt Helen.

In the bad seats….with the bad world view.

She’s seen it all, I suppose…this 98-year-old. (Perhaps too much). I wonder how I’d view life if I too had witnessed two world wars, a Holocaust, and the death not only a much younger brother, but of all her contemporaries. Would my vision not narrow looking only through a rear-view mirror? Would I too not see things “half-empty”? Would my eyes not also be closed?

We were driving home—just this Kol Nidre—three of us:

“What did you think of the rabbi’s sermon?” she asked.
“I liked it,” said I, (speaking both in truth and safety).
“Really,” she surmised….
I just waited.
“The rabbi should listen to his own worlds,” she continued. “He had no business telling that story. You know he still has not returned my call”.

“Get over it,” I wanted to say, but didn’t. It was, after all, a new year. (Again, though, who am I to judge? Did I not, in fact, sit in the closed end of Municipal Stadium the day of The Drive? Do I not, TO THIS DAY, still contend that Karlis’ game-ending field goal was wide to his left?)

The best seats, of course, are near midfield…

Which is where she sits: Carrie.

Eyes wide open…like the ocean…ever the fan of life.

She’s seen good plays, plays gone bad, and even called some audibles. She gets it.

We spoke of family, (the other day), and there was laughter. We spoke of Helen as well that night, (and there was not).

It mattered not, sitting there next to her by the fifty.  Not at all.

I wasn’t getting out of my seat, you see.  I liked the balance, liked the view, and more than anything else, I loved the fan by my side.

It is, to this day, about the angle.