Archive for November, 2012


Monday, November 26th, 2012

  “World’s are colliding! Ah you have no idea of the magnitude of this thing….”

                                           George Costanza

The first time I’d any conception of worlds colliding was ’75. The confluence of events: a once-per-decade Saturday night OSU telecast falling exactly on Al Bogart’s 50th birthday, creating a scheduling conflict of epic proportion. Indeed, as Harriet chose to not only schedule a surprise party for precisely that evening, but also opted to include family, friends and business associates, she was playing with dynamite. Putting his shtetl-born mother in the same room with both the card players AND his blue-blood employers could in no way be “…good for the Jews…”. No good was going to come from it.

—Which leads me to this past weekend and the cosmic challenge of Aunt Helen’s Thanksgiving debut at Carrie’s—

“Take notes,” laughed Wieder when we’d spoken on Wednesday. I didn’t need them. Truth be known, the lessons of Alan, learned decades ago, still yield dividend. It’s all, as he preached back then, about having a game plan.

In the mid-60’s Wido gathered five hoopsters and booked us in a tourney off Detroit Avenue. (Other than the Blanton Collier era of Jim Brown, it was the first time I’d heard of “game plans”). There we were, wandering Jews ‘cross the river, and there was Wieder, with gentle arrogance crafting a “game plan”. Insecure as I was (product of a broken home and all), I was convinced that my roster presence related directly to his need for five bodies. Alan was nice enough but I distinctly picture him pulling me aside before tipoff, growling, demanding “Don’t shoot and don’t foul.” THAT was how I figured in his plan.

Holiday weekend, heeding his teachings, we knew well it was still about preparation. We were ready.

Aunt Helen’s a veteran, we figured. The lady’s forgotten more about “growl control” than the half-dozen others at Thanksgiving combined. (Has she not, for nine years running, led the league in passive aggression?) No surprise then that she nearly took me out of my game when, ascending the front door steps…moments before the Hellos , she smiled, remarking “You know, if you’d have told me there was no railing I would never have agreed to come.”

Her weakness, we surmised, was her mobility. She has none! Can’t go left, can’t go right without help. We had, then, to isolate her.

Going to a strict man-to-man defense, needing a volunteer, Carrie’s mom stepped up. The thought was that if Sue could only neutralize her ‘til dinner, I could cover her second half. (I knew my limitations; I no longer have the strength to watch her a whole game; she’d just wear me down).

It worked like a charm. Entering from the open end we spotted Jan at mid-field. (Coincidentally, my aunt and I’d bumped into her at Marc’s just one day earlier).

“You remember Jan,” I said, ushering Helen right past her. (It was the classic pick ‘n roll. Eyeing Sue by the couch I head to the closed end). It happened so fast: before she could shout “Do you know my son Harold?” there she was: Aunt Helen on the couch: blanketed!

Yes, I sat down for a bit (before pivoting upfield). And No, talking with Tommy and Kyle was not being rude. My aunt—don’t forget— she just wasn’t my coverage.

Sans surprise then, the evening went well. Dinner came and, picking up “my man”, I directed her to the southeast corner of the table. No one to her left, I sat on her right. Sue helped out a bit, to be sure. (Her placement across from us, I suppose, made it a partial zone).

Time flew.

Dessert over, table being cleared…

“Would you take me home?” my aunt whispered, choosing to pass on Left-Right-Center. “You’d like it,” I urged, gently reminding her that we’d played it at Harold’s. It wasn’t her “thing” though…so…dutifully… I obliged.

We drove home silently, soon after. She broke the silence near Warrensville.

“They’re nice people,” she said. I just nodded. I was thinking, already, about hurrying back for the dice game.” “I hope your brother’s feeling better,” she added.  “I worry so about him!”

We said goodbye.  I waited downstairs ‘til she flickered the lights (before driving off).  It had been a wonderful Thanksgiving after all…as usual.

I had much to be grateful for that night, as always. From vital matters like life and health to the valued treasures of family and friends…to…Aunt Helen.   She stands, still: a unique living link to our family’s heritage.

For this too I am grateful.


Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

At intermission it hit me. Glad-handing actors, urging them on a final time, emotion evolved. This next hour was it: the last card game in the last act of the last show…and I’d miss it.

By ten it was done. Fartik.

“Could you take a picture of me on stage?” I asked.

Darting from seats through curtain we found darkness. Lighting booth empty, it wasn’t to be. Wistfully I scooped up the large framed photo of MIchael (my personal autograph to the set), seizing it not unlike J.R. grabbed his daddy’s picture from the wall of Ewing OIl. It was 10:15 and bittersweet.

And over.

The first person seen at the cast party was Griff. How poetic. Ten-plus years my junior, he is senior of my theater friends, having played Von Trapp to my Max at Chagrin way back when. A macher out east, Griff was pivotal in my hire as director.

“Well, pal,” he leaned in, “What have you learned from it all?”
“Too soon,” I told him. “We’ll talk.”

Truth was I’d been sifting, synthesizing, and digesting my thoughts. For months.

Directing was, in so many was, a lonely process. Actors in companies share. Esprit de corps governs joy in their craft. Directors, regardless of staffs, walk alone. As such, Mango’s August admonition that I’d make mistakes, lose friends, and learn—had not been forgotten. Indeed, for all the right reasons, I chose to embrace it.

I sensed going in that the gig was a challenge. Laughter? That I could handle. If nothing else, shallow me that I am, I know what is funny. Still, what, oh what did I know of directing. I knew, dare I say, to hear opportunity’s knock:

So in August, unintimidated by his experience, I cast an area director as Felix. (Quietly, sans ego, he proved to be an invaluable resource). And in September, I ignored scathing email from a lead; he was frustrated, he shried, by the way things were going. (Apology came later, with remorse). And in October, I tweaked yet again the design of the set, adding schmatas here and there, rehanging pictures here and there —crooked—making it Oscar (Madison)-worthy. Heck! Who (if not me), knows what sloppy-chic is? Ask Fred Kanter! Do I not raise “mess” to an art form?

In November, when the final curtain fell, I looked on stage with pride. It had gone well, I sensed. Maybe better. Then I looked at me, in the mirror.DId I make mistakes? Of course. Did I lose some friends. We’ll find out. Ah…but did I learn? I’m not sure. Perhaps, as I told Griffin, it’s too soon.

I grew, though. This was certain. So much so, may I add, that I’d do it again.



Sunday, November 18th, 2012

       “Somethin’ in her eyes makes me wanna lose myself
       Makes me wanna lose myself, in her arms…
       There’s somethin’ in her voice makes my heart beat fast
       Hope this feeling lasts…the rest of my life…”

On Day One I handed her a ticket for a concert. It felt uneasy

Roth/Schorr wedding in Westchester, and on a hot August night came a moment of clarity. Standing, eyeing newlyweds dance, my mind paced between Brittany and Matthew, and the lady in Cleveland. Indeed, lyrics speaking directly to me I lost focus. We hadn’t spoken all day…and the clock was teasing 11.

“ ’Can’t call now—she may be busy or with someone,” urged my head.
“Fuck it,” said my soul, “If she is, she is,”
“Yeah, but you can’t interrupt her on a Saturday night—it’s invasive,” my brain reminded (to a mind made up).

She was, by then, in my system. Defying “conventional wisdom”, moments later I led with my heart and reached out by text. It was only as she wrote right back that I felt relief. All was right in the world, and it felt like home.

Day One had come through the rear-view mirror. (If you don’t believe me, ask H). So assured I was of the “friend” thing that the night at Cain Park we used what accountants refer to as the LIFO method: last in, first out. Scooping her up last, dropping her off first, with priorities in order I returned home pre-Letterman. No harm, no foul, thought I, but what did I know? (We’d have dinner Day Four).

Some things you just feel. No kiss that next “date”. Not even in field goal range. In fact, her push back mattered not. I was, even then, in with both feet; thinking back, so was she. Even then. Some things you just KNOW. Hitting the wall didn’t deter me. and the very next Wednesday we shared Paladar’s patio. It was Erev my cross-country drive and a still-unnumbered Day Eight.

(It’s a funny thing about life: how it gets in the way of plans. As she’s reminded me often, “Who’d have thunk it?” Certainly not I. As such, on the sojourn cross 80 I called her not. Who knew (not I) that the ensuing week we’d speak daily, or text…. Who (she STILL says) would have thunk it?

Feelings grew. At week’s end I rose early, by-passed the morning-after brunch, and sped west and right to her doorstep. She was, alas, making dinner. (This too was a first! Imagine ME, weaned on Al Bogart’s reverence for restaurants, hustling back for…home cooking)!

  “Well, if she knew how much these moments mean to me
       And how long I’ve waited for her touch
       And if she knew how happy she is making me
       (I never thought that I’d love anyone so much)…”

It was the end of the beginning. Sans planning or purpose we found ways, daily, to interact. Oddly, she once told me she liked the fact that I approached life “slow and steady.” An interesting comment, in light of our nexus, but she truly meant it.

“What’d you do last night?” Stacy’d ask daily. (I’m not an idiot; she wouldn’t come out and say it, but I knew what she was asking).
“Went over Carrie’s”.
“That’s what I like about you, Dad,” she’d tease, “Slow and steady.”

It was becoming a habit and…with some pause…an expectation. How well I recall the night after play rehearsal, sitting at Giant Eagle…in the parking lot…waiting to see if she’d call. She hadn’t asked me to come over—it was pushing 10 pm—- yet…I didn’t want to pack it in, to head back home. Staring at the clock, waiting a bit…finally, like in the movies, my cell phone chirped, signaling a message.

“Romney speaks in ten minutes. Interested?” The flag was up! Crossing party lines was easy.

The rest blurs. (Well, not really). From Labor Day to Holidays to Columbus to Plantation to Harriet to Cousin Bobby through Max we’ve shared smiles, friends, family and, most of all: time.

Talking the past (just a bit), living the present (over all!), we’ve pictured the future.


Sometime this fall, almost like it had eyes, it kicked in. Sometime this autumn, through glances shared and words unspoken, we struck that rainbow connection. Days blended as our lives melded. It was not so much “slow and steady” as just right….

Which leads me to Day One Hundred, not long ago.

On Day One Hundred, you see, three months-plus after I’d tendered the ticket…on Day One Hundred she handed me a garage door opener.

The concert was coming from within.

And it felt like home.

       …It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
       It feels like I’m all the way the back where I come from….”

Randy Newman (adapted)


Monday, November 12th, 2012

There were few empty seats at Cain Park last August. My guess is that of the three thousand or so that heard Gary Puckett encourage military veterans to rise, only sixty stood up. I was one of them.

Veterans Day:

Except for the few who did serve, my friends never mention it. Except for, well…NO ONE…my family just scoffs. It matters not. I know, as Ermine does…and Fenton, and Himmel…that we went. Not to a war, perhaps, but we went. Not ‘cause we wanted to, of course, but we went. 

And it counted.

My son thinks it’s funny. “You’re not a veteran, Dad,” he notes perjoratively.  “Michael,’ I remind, “There’s a difference between eligibility for V.A. benefits and being a ‘veteran’.”  “Wanna bet?”

Gary knows. He gets it. He was there. We sat, just a few years back, at a Long Island Chanukah party, bonding over latkes: “When were you at Fort Sam? he inquired.  “First week of March, ’72 ‘til I separated May 12.” “Oh,” he surmised, “I was gone by then.”

“Did you get to Boystown?”

My kids don’t care. None of them! Why should they? Theirs is a world devoid of conscription.  Only zealots enlist. No one, lest he cares to, ever dons uniform. As such, with sheepskins in hand, two of mine fled east and the other west—each, without interruption, pursuing dreams…

(Not that I actually had dreams back then. Or desires. Not really. What I DIDN’T want, though, was to extract a half-year out of my life and head for parts unknown to be with people unknown). Do you know what it’s like being the only Jew in Louisiana? To be there fresh out of college at the precise moment your friends are moving upward and onward? Some things you hate to miss, from times you never get back. Like tasting life’s freedoms those first days off campus. Fair it wasn’t: there I was sleeping in a barracks in the Pelican State while there they were, Bobby and Stuart: selling Highlights, laughing and sharing a duplex off Northern Boulevard in The Empire State.

I lost six months and a fiancé for our country and the only one who noticed was a time-worn rock star? Heck, even the lady by my side that evening…even she, (I’d learn later), thought I’d stood for the joke.

We didn’t joke back then—by a long shot. These were, alas, days of protests (none of which, I’ll admit, I even considered attending but for the time word spread that Woody was on “The Oval”).  We worried, wondering what we’d do if we got a bad number.

This was the Nixon era. (Picture Romney minus smile, Hawaiian tropic and Brylcreem). Packing a Lane Ave apartment, guys huddled, eyeing in black and white the televised lottery sealing our fates. Birthday by birthday dates were recited. At #79, I stood sure to go. For others—almost all of them—they never looked back. Even then, ducking in the Reserves was no certainty. One had to hop in, quickly…before your letter in your mailbox read “Greetings…”

I jumped.

They handed me my B.S. in December, ’71. Dragging feet, I’d orchestrated an extra quarter, but finally the bell had rung. Within weeks I was in Fort Polk. Didn’t stop; didn’t pass Go; didn’t even, for that matter, read my enlistment papers. It never occurred to me.

Until January 27, 1991….at Stuart’s house…at a Super Bowl party.

“Is your wife upset?” he asked me in the midst of his bash.                                                                                                                                                            “Why?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   “Marilyn’s concerned,” he said. “They can call me ‘til fall.”

(Who knew? Who knew that the document executed with glee on Hauserman Road some decades before held a twenty year commitment? Surely not I).

“I thought it was six years and out, “ I implored, quite aghast, what with The Gulf War raging .                                                                                      “B!”, he exclaimed, face beet red and laughing. “B!”

He wasn’t joking that day, nor did we laugh much that year, even as pals urged “…Not to worry…they don’t want you….”

A quarter-century passed…well, just less.

I was sitting with Baskin, just recently, reminiscing. We’d been close at school, not only having roomed together with H on West Maynard, but indeed Dick had ushered my wedding. In those years, so precious and few, he was integral to my life.

“Can you imagine?” I petitioned him, “I stood up before all those people at Cain Park and she actually thought I was joking…that I’d never been in the army?”
“Wait a minute, B,” he shot back, “YOU were in the Army?”

HE wasn’t joking.

“I was lived with you, dammit… then I disappeared. Didn’t you wonder?”

Pausing in silence, he offered no answer.  To this day I’m not sure he believed.

There’s a lesson here, succinct and clear.  If my kids aren’t impressed, why should Dick be? Perhaps my son’s right: perhaps I’m not really a veteran.   I can live with that—if need be—. I truly can.  

But please don’t tell Gary.


Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Stopping in Mansfield at MickeyD’s, we brandished ice creams and seized a photo-op. All three of us. “You drive,” urged Carrie. “You know Columbus.” Obliging was easy. I well remembered downtown arteries of the town my dad called home. Just an hour to Broad Street.

Right on Fourth, left on Long, back down Third and swish: into the hotel’s lot. Even the Renaissance, our home for the night, had history. Across the street from Harriet’s old office (88 East Broad), it once —“in the day”—housed an upscale Sheraton.

“Your parents stayed here in ‘69” I announced to her apathy. (It didn’t slow me down). “They were there for Dickie’s orientation. It was the day I got my Mustang.” (Her silence ensued. Forty-three years after the fact it was now official: with my Dad gone, I was the only one who cared for that trivia).

Upstairs unpacking, a text came from Rachel. It was 4:19. “I hear you’re already in…” it read. Earth-shattering news it wasn’t, but clearly her reaching out. And why not? We were all there, or would be: voices that cared, placing friendship over politics and family over everything. Indeed, among the closest of friends, the feeling IS family.

“In another time,” I shrugged, ”I’d call my father. He’d be flying down here to join us for dinner.” (It was then I made a judgment call. If she wasn’t blown away by a decades-old memory of her parents, ‘twas no sense relating how back in the ‘50’s Marzetti’s Restaurant had a menu listing OSU’s football schedule five years in advance. No, I’d deduced, that dog wouldn’t hunt).

Thirty people filled the room Tuesday night– maybe more. And they came in two flavors. There were the yuppie-looking wonderkind politicos who, regardless of age, appeared 30. (None of them, I sensed, had ever perspired). And there were the rest of us, Clevelanders…voices that cared. From Mimi to Marshall, from Elda to F to Brother Craig, we mingled, munched, and oh so tacitly peered back at the tube.
It was an evening of pause, of anticipation, until…

Clock teasing ten, word diffused. It was going the other way. Networks had spoken; it was over. Done.

I couldn’t hear the hush, but I saw it. I couldn’t make out words; it didn’t matter.

He was standing at the door, my friend was. Gracefully, with a soft-spoken elegance he was accepting well-wishes, bidding friends adieu. Always the gentleman.

I know him well, this product of South Euclid. Our parallel existences have often travelled concentric circles, but in five-plus decades we’ve never failed to intersect: first through parents, then our own lives, then our children.

From triumph with Hollywood to frustration as White Sox…from the thrill as young marrieds to the challenge as young lawyers. Some things never change. My friend is always the gentleman.

There were the days in the 70’s… Thanksgiving mornings…no-equipment tackle… we played to 10 touchdowns…every year. I’d wear scarlet and gray; he’d don white. Boring white. The same blank jersey every year: souvenir perhaps, of his Brush career.
Yet we never teamed together. Ever. All those years. There’d be H, Alan, Dickie on my side. He had Cut, Doug, often Pear. And that white jersey. Always the white jersey.

(They were simpler times, those mornings, so black and white. When we’d won, he’d lost; when he’d won we’d lost. And it ended, always, with handshakes.  These are simple times, too, in a way. Maybe not).

We readied to leave  just past ten. Things hadn’t gone as we’d planned…as we’d hoped.  I saw my friend at that door and approached. Our eyes met, and I don’t know what he was thinking but I knew this wasn’t some stupid Boobus Bowl. This wasn’t about us, but our kids…

I guess he felt it too.  So it seems.  We didn’t speak at the door, nor shake hands. 

We hugged.


Sunday, November 4th, 2012

“…But Daddy, what do YOU know about directing?”

                     Stacy Bohrer (July 3, 2012)

We go up next week—finally. Ten weeks will have passed, audition to opening, and Friday the curtain rises on “The Odd Couple.” I can’t wait!
My daughter’s query, of course, had been spot on. Not only had I naively applied for the task, not only did I not know what I’d be getting into, but to be sure, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
‘ Just thought, I suppose, that the “light people’ would do lighting, “sound people” would do sound, and the set designers would nail. ‘Just assumed, thinking back, that everyone would do what they were supposed to do (mine solely the stuff on stage), and that we’d all meet up in November, smiling and happy.
I was an idiot. No, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
First indication—first evidence I was out of my league—came early.
“Chuck needs to meet with you,” urged the theater’s head. “He wants to know how you want it to look.”
(Silly me. I’d seen the diagram in the back of the script. Couldn’t those guys just hammer and clop away until it looked like it was supposed to)?
“Would you like the door here?” he inquired, when finally he’d cornered me. “The window here?” (Seemed fine to me). “Or here? Should some just be hallways?”
What did I know? Am I supposed to know?
“Whatever’s easier for you,” I replied, not quite to his satisfaction. “No,” he insisted, “It’s all the same to us. We can do it any way you’d like. How did you envision it?’
(I “envisioned” nothing. I HEARD laughter…but I “envisioned” nothing).
I wanted to tell him I pictured it like it was when I played Murray on stage—to just call Mango ask him how we did it then—but I couldn’t. Better yet, I wanted to shout “Hey, I didn’t have an erector set growing—leave me the F alone!”—but I didn’t.
“Put it there,” I suggested, assuaging the moment. (Two weeks passed, maybe more, ‘til the set was complete. Only then, for the first time, did I know what I’d ordered).
All the while, though, thrice weekly, the cast rehearsed. This, I well knew, was my rightful domain. Night by night, they’d pound out their lines; night by night I’d implore them:
“Loud is good; faster is better.” (Not my wisdom, of course, but a mantra first heard from a guy named Scott Pop who directed me in “Lovers And Other Strangers” way back when). He only did comedy.
“Loud is good, fast is better”.
There were other rough moments—times I travailed so not to look like a deer in headlights. Like when they asked me of sight lines or when they asked about show times. I learned soon enough all they wanted were answers. Any answers. Lesson learned, I obliged…always, responding more than once with all sizzle, no steak.
“What about this?” the sound guy wondered, with a question of mics. “Yes.”
“Do you like this layout for the program?” asked the business manager. “Yes.”
“How’s everything going?” texted the president of the theater last week. “Fine”.
I think it is.
There’s a tempo to theater, a rhythm. From tryout to opening there’s a pulse each production. I’ve never directed, but know well the blood pressure.
We’ll be OK.
The actors, for the most part, know all their lines. Cast bickering’s been minimal. That having been said, one star—so pissed at himself for an off night last week, shot ME a scathing email. “The reason I’m so screwed up on my lines,” he disclosed, “…is because the blocking is scattered…” (I didn’t take offense, by the way, ‘though he shot straight at me. Nor did I respond. I kept paddling. I’m his director, I figure—not his conscience).
It’s part of the rhythm—no more, no less. Comes a time each play cycle when players get serious, when the ego-boost of getting the role fades and responsibility for doing the role flashes. Things fall into place, always, if actors take their roles seriously, but not themselves.

…Which is how I’m treating this, my gig as director. I’m having fun—not aiming the ball…just rearing back and throwing it. Learning a bit, laughing (at myself) a lot, I’m having some fun.
By this time next week, we’ll know if the audience did.