Archive for January, 2013


Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Ask what we did in New York last weekend and I might say “Nothing”. Truth is we did everything. It’s not what you do but whom you do it with.

Friday, 7:10 pm Dashboard voices interrupted the dreidle from LaGuardia to Chappaqua. “Who’s in the car with daddy?” asked Meredith. “Deedee (MaxSpeak for grandpa) Bruce and Carrie,” urged The Prince.

A second call came, featuring the requisite “Do you want to stop for food or bring it back debate. It was at once refreshing yet predictable.

“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t care. What do you want to do?”
“What do Bruce and Carrie want?”
“What do you guys want?”
“I don’t care. What do you want?”
“I don’t care. What do you want?”
“We don’t care.”

“We’re going to stop at a bodega,” he announced.
“What’s a bodega?” I wondered. “We don’t have them in Ohio.”
“Wanna bet? How much do you want to bet?”
“No bet. Just don’t know what they are.”
“Remember the Seinfeld?” he asked. (Michael, who forever chastises me for what he perceives as my constant analogies to episodic TV— Michael, halcyon of realism that he is, then cited the instance Jerry’s dishonored check was posted on the cash register at a bodega).

We hit the compound, hugged hellos, and were told that indeed Max P was sleeping.

“Do you want to see him?” Mer asked. “Of course. “May I touch him? I asked. “Of course.”

Saturday, 7 am He walked in tepidly, a twinkle in his eye— a smile as wide as his paternal grandfather.

“DeeDee Bruce…Carrie” he uttered excitedly. “Max!” we urged, “C’mon in!” “You can go back to bed,” she told Meredith. “We’ve got him.” And most surely we did. For an hour, give or take, she sprawled on the floor, he announced geometric shapes, and me?  I kvelled.

“Hexagon”! the kid exclaimed, placing a six-sided block through a slot. “Octagon”. “Trapezoid”—identifying shapes he could barely pronounce….

A family in stride:  catching up, hanging out, eating…. Just marveling in the ordinary—

Between playing with Max, we (of course), exercised not only our right to free speech, but the obligatory art of conversation.  Indeed, it is this logical yet serious discourse on the most trivial of subjects that has sustained us lo these many years.

“Tell me again, Dad…why is it you eat pepperoni pizza but won’t try a pork chop?” “It’s a South Euclid thing.” “And what about ham?” “We’ve HAD this conversation.” “Yeah, but haven’t you ever had wonton soup?”

There’s a warmth to the verbal jousting—a tenderness brewed through time. We each know the script and yes,  each of us could well recite the other’s lines. Michael, Meredith, myself…we’re fiddlers on the roof singing “Tradition”. Readily, too, Carrie’s joining the chorus….And we sing well, until Max wakes.

Make no mistake about it, though:  my boy Max is the show. The rest of us—we’re lounge acts. Two years old and the kid’s dialing up YouTube, singing “Hava Nagila”. As Ben Selzer would say: “Everything’s all right in America!”


How sweet is life’s nector when mundane moments are glued together by the dynamic of special relationships!

Lunch at Lange’s Deli— Not a bordega, mind you, but the eggplant wrap would make Letterman’s Top Ten and the owner, well when he greeted me with “You’ve got a great grandson”…

Dinner at Lexington Square Café— also not a bordega. More like Poppy’s, Still, Caryn’s rendezvous with the governor of her home state added spice to the evening. Quietly, moments pre-exit, my machatainista glided over to Cuomo’s table, introduced herself and thanked him for a job well done. Luxenberg, after all, DOES follow Kennedy in the alphabet.

And what better after-dinner treat than the exuberance of Max Parker, hand-in-hand with six adults, doing the Hora ‘round a coffee table. “One more time,” he worked us. “One more.”

Sunday, 9 am  Sunday the grandpa slept late. It was a lazy dawn replete with Johnny Knoxville, Ali G, and Max. We were winding down.

There’d be lunch in Mt. Kisko. “The Diner”, as Mer’dith dubbed it. I think not. Pleasant, perhaps, but ladies and gentlemen, trust me on this. The week of Max’s bris, when I stumbled on the Great Neck Diner, I hit the motherload. I know diners. This, my friends, was no Great Neck Diner.

And there’d be dinner at Aliada’s. Caryn and Stuart came, but Andy stayed home.

And the airport, and goodbyes…

We stood at Security with time to spare. The next time I’d see Max, I was thinking… perhaps, it would be June: Lindsey’s wedding. He changes geometrically, I knew…each stretch…each time….each growth….

Heart filled with treasure, I walked to the gate.  Grateful.

       “Here comes the saddest part
       The seasons are passing one by one
       So gather moments while you may
       Collect the dreams you dream today…”

And yes, I remember the times of my life.

(italicized:  Paul Anka)


Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

I was honored weeks back when Lana asked me to speak at Michael’s 70th. “It’s a surprise party. Roast him—say whatever you want—you know him as well as anyone,” she urged. When the bell rang, though, I didn’t roast him. I couldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong—there was plenty to say. No sooner had I hung up the phone that day than ideas swarmed.

I could rail on the fact that our friend Michael has an answer for everything. Not in a rude or upstart way, mind you—but he always answers, nonetheless. And not that his proffers are correct necessarily—but answers they are—and one thing is certain: you can never quite say he’s wrong. Like…ask him how many gallons of water in Lake Erie? Trust me, he cites you a finite number. No approximations. Go ahead then: say it ain’t so!

How many times have I watched him in action? “Michael,” they ask, “You’re president of our shul. What was Moses’s astrological sign? Did Lot, the shepherd in Genesis, hold the staff in his left or right hand?” “Michael, how many bricks ARE in the dome at Park Synagogue? “Michael…did Oswald act alone?”

And yes, I could mention how Michael has to sit facing out at restaurants. Ever gregarious, he’s always sticking his hand out greeting people… strangers. (Never do I have the angle, but I’d love to know how many times people pass our table after just shaking Michael’s hand, and walking on by utter “Who the F was that?”

“That,” I’d advise them, “Was Michael, and No, you don’t know him– but try to prove it.”

Just sayin’

And yes, I might chide him further, regaling at the party of his overwhelming thrill—NO, his voyeuristic passion for watching others overeat. “Save room,” he warned me, way back in ’81 as I lay in Hillcrest Hospital. “I’ll be there after lunch and bring food.” And that he did: Two triples with cheese from Wendy’s. (Not to mention the fries and Frosty). “Bogey,” I’m sure he said, “You know I know Dave Thomas?”

Yeah, I had the material, had the stories, and ‘though I took no notes, it mattered not. When the night would come I figured I’d just rise and shine and leave them laughing.

But I didn’t—by choice.

NO, when they called me last weekend—before a string of family—as Lana handed me the mic—and I studied my larger-than-life friend….

I didn’t want to share laughs. I wanted, rather, to share smiles and warmth and the sense of family that Michael’s transmitted in so many ways from so many angles for so many years to so many people.

So I told them there was never a time he wasn’t there for me, from the births of my children through the deaths of my parents …and that yes, although we met as adults, he’d seen me too grow up! And I mentioned Lana, the wind beneath his wings. (It had to be said).

Then I sat down.

Others followed, of course. A sister, brother and grandchild spoke, each with oral snapshots of the guest of honor. In truth, though, his youngest said it best. “The reason my father knows so many people,” asserted Brian, “Is because he’s touched so many lives.”

It was a simple statement, an honest statement, a profound tribute.

Not only has my pal Michael touched more lives than any person I know, but seven decades in, he shows no signs of slowing down. He remains, alas, A Man For All Seasons.

I love him.


Saturday, January 19th, 2013

There’s this old Dennis The Menace cartoon. Punished, he stands in the corner with a caption underneath reading “Yeah, that’s what I should have said.”

Hours after learning yet again that not everybody has a sense of humor—still steaming—I went to Facebook.

“…Miss my friends at Fine Arts Association,” I posted, ‘though that was only half the story. What I really longed for was the free-range chastising and no holds barred humor that bonds their casts (and most companies, for that matter), making each role a joy. Ah, but I digress.

Just one eve earlier we’d been hanging around on stage, at a different venue, the lot of us, making small talk.

“I don’t know how you know all these people!” exclaimed Allen. “I’ll never get everyone’s name.” “Let me teach you,” came my response. “You just need a system.”

And so, employing my version of the Jerry Lucas Memory System, I took an eager buddy under my wing. “You just need a reason to remember names. For example,” I went on, “See the one on the end. Her name is Lane. She plays the slut in a lot of shows out here. Good actress.”

My friend nodded.

“And Mary,” I said of the seventyish woman next to me, clearly in earshot. “She IS a slut.”

My pal laughed, I smiled, and the evening went on. Or so I thought.

Fast-forward twenty-four hours. We were seated awaiting the director— the entire cast at contiguous conference tables with more free time.

“Well,” I greeted Allen, “Are you ready for tonight’s lesson?”

Beaming, first, dutifully, he pointed to Lane and Mary reciting each of their names.

“Great,” I proclaimed. “Now, this is Diane,” I said, pointing to the lady on his left. “She has red hair…. And this is Jen,” I continued. “The important thing to know about Jen is that she was dance captain last year even though she has a wooden leg.”

My end of the table laughed, of course—Jen the loudest—until—

“Bruce…” came a voice from the far end of the tables.

The room stilled.

“Bruce,” said Mary, (rising like the Queen Mother), “I want you to know you were very inappropriate last night.”

The room stilled even more. It was so quiet even my mother could hear.

“Are you kidding me?” I thought, in that instant ‘tween stimulus and response. “Are you f’ing kidding me?”

Twenty eyes stared right at me…waiting.

You know how multiple thoughts swirl in minimal seconds? That’s where I was. I wanted to say “You know I was joking”. And I wanted to say “Why don’t you take the stick out of your ass?” And OK, let’s face it: I wanted to use the C word.

But I didn’t.

“Are you serious?” I said warmly.
“Yes I am,” she responded.
“Well, then I’m sorry”.

And rehearsal went on…. Comforted that in the instant I’d thought of my father’s urgings—“You don’t have to stoop to their level”, he would say—I was fine on the outside. And yes, I even got laughs on stage. On the inside however, I was seething. Don’t get me wrong. If I offend you, call me on it. Pull me aside, put it to me, I’ll own it.

But in public? What’s that about? THAT is what pissed me off.

(The good news is, of course, that this wasn’t my first rodeo. Allen knew the story; he knew the nonsense it was; gladly the meeskite had my back, spreading the word).

I’d like to say I let it go right away, that I let it slide right off me, but I didn’t. I’m not that pure. Between running lines, anxiety ruled and I thought of all the people in all the casts in all of the years…of the Jew jokes and Jap jokes and the gay jokes and the straight jokes and this joke and that joke and how the only issue ever was whether it was funny. Thin skin in the theater? I don’t think so.

So I went home. To Carrie. And I shared.

Then I went to Facebook. To say I missed Fine Arts.

Later that night, totally unrelated to anything else that occurred, a friend posted something on line. “I’d rather be morally right than politically correct,” she wrote.  And I felt like Dennis, freed from the corner.

Yeah, that’s what I should have said.


Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Friday was David’s birthday. I think of him often (in general), and always in January. He would have been 63.

       “Look around me
       I can see my life before me
       Running rings around the way
       It used to be…”

He was a runner—I’d see him jogging through downtown. And a gardener. How I’d kvetch as he made me walk his garden. And a friend. An invaluable friend.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We’d sit at The Theatrical, young studs in mid-20s, living every day, never dreaming there could be no tomorrow.

       “I am older now
       I have more than what I wanted
       But I wish that I had started
       Long before I did…”

For years in recovery I heard it: “There are no guarantees. All we have is today.”

Never did I get it …really. No, ‘ didn’t sink in ‘til the last few years—maybe after David died, or perhaps weeks later when brother-in-law Benny dropped dead…neither of them quite sixty.

So that’s why it hurts. That’s why as they preach “Be patient” and as I pray for answers…… it stings.

And stinks.

There’s a grandson I’ve never seen and his sister I’ve never held—

What are they doing? What are they learning? How is their health?

When my dust settles, will they be told I didn’t love them? Or will they be told the truth. And by whom?

Ah, but if my dad was alive!

“This too will pass,” he’d assure, and I’d feel better. My father—after all— had all the answers. And my father (I well knew), would live forever.

Forever came August 9, 1985 with Michael 7, Jamie 5, and little Stacy but 2. Al Bogart, a man larger than life, a man who would live forever, woke up dead.

He was 59.

       “And there’s so much time to make up
       Everywhere you turn
       Time we have wasted on the way
       So much water moving
       Underneath the bridge
       Let the water come and carry us away

       Let the water come and carry us away.”                                                                                                                                            

Graham Nash



Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Open packets of butter—five—formed a semi-circle at the crest of his breakfast plate. It was a week ago today, and in our back booth at Corky’s, only Lester noticed.

“Are you going to use all that?” he asked Bobby.
“Not necessarily.”
“Do you always put out the same number?” Les wondered.
“Yes,” assured Bob, calmly.
“This,” I chimed in, “Is what I grew up with!”

       “…You’re still damn good
       No one’s gotten to you yet
       Every time they were sure they had you caught
       You were quicker than they thought
       You’d just turn your back and walk…”

He’s been called rambunctious and a party animal. Not so, not really. One who’s known him a half-century plus, with tongue tucked in cheek dubs him Groovy and yes, we all—especially those there “in the day”, get it. We see, though, that he’s so much more. He is Robert George, our friend— and we love him dearly.

How can you not love someone that in fifty years, PLUS, has never let you down? Never NOT made you smile? Only been loyal? Still, as the lyric goes, it’s the laughter we will remember…

Ermine does. From China last week, he readily shared. It was in junior high that with Snyder and Wieder they took out Mark’s father’s car. Apprehensive at first—(Erv was then but 14)—it was Bobby’s “fueling the fire” that urged them on. Bob was, even then, the straw that stirred the drink.

Stu too recalls. From his rocker down south he recounted how right after college the two of them rented the upstairs of a duplex in Bayside; they were temporary New Yorkers selling Highlights. According to Fenton they never quite called on leads before noon. The pair preferred, rather, to sit home watching game shows. “We had “Three On A Match”, “Concentration”, and “Jeopardy”, Stu said. “But don’t tell your father.”

       “…You always said
       The cards would never do you wrong
       The trick you said
       Was never play the game too long…”

The afterglow of Ermine’s tale and the twinkle in Stuart’s eye still shine as their memories from the 60’s and 70’s live on. Me? I recall too the 80’s. Joke as we do, tease as we must, our friend Bob was a local pioneer, blazing a path with his weekly televised play-by-play of major league softball in Cleveland. (We were in different worlds back then—you know how it is when you get married and the wives direct social traffic).

And the ‘90’s…. Bobby, of course, was the catalyst for our short-lived radio show. Stoked by his true passion, broadcasting, his smile lit up the studio. Stu and I had our share of fun—don’t get me wrong. So did Ed. No one though, enjoyed it like Bob, (and that includes, clearly, our listening audience). “I’ll bring us in,” he would urge during breaks, ALWAYS…like a kid asking “Can I bat first?” It mattered not. He was the radio man—not us. Heck, we had as much fun watching Bob have fun as we did doing the show itself. I submit to this day that the booth at ‘HK, whether down at Tower City, officiating mudwrestling with “The Riz” on Brookpark, or even afloat in Vermilion’s Wooly Bear Festival, was truly Brother Bob in his natural habitat. Indeed, he had a charge so electric, a current so strong, that it took me some two decades to realize, (listening to old tapes only he’d maintained), that we really weren’t good.

Bobby was. Bobby is.

Good times only make lasting memories when founded on more. It is the quality of Bob’s friendship and constancy of his loyalty that enriches every link in our chain. His sometimes unnerving, but ever-undeniable charm… his self-comfort, his affable ability to look the world in the eye, say “Take me as I am”… his remaining steadfast to beliefs and devout in his brotherhoods…

To this day Bob has never lied to me. To this day he holds a mirror to my face and tells me the truth as only a lifelong friend can. Through all the laughter, and yes, some times tears, I, among others, hold him dear and wish him today, the happiest of birthdays. Moreover, we’re thrilled that our freckle-faced friend is…still the same.

       “…I caught up with you yesterday
       Moving game to game
       No one standing in your way
       Turning on the charm
       Long enough to get you by
       You’re still the same, You still aim high…”

Bob Seger

We were still there at Corky’s solving the world’s problems. I started to sneeze. Six times, maybe seven I roared. When it stopped, someone, Himmel perhaps, said “God bless you.”

“See, Bob proclaimed, “ This is what I grew up with!”


Friday, January 4th, 2013

I got Darryl four years ago, give or take. With Adam being held hostage in Chicago, between hands at Sunday poker friends, convinced me to try a cat. There was (I couldn’t make this up) an ex-nun in the game. Pat, living in the high end of Hudson, had two cats and was giving away both or neither. Tommy, part-time to our game, met me at her house and was willing to take one, but only if he had first choice. Fine, Tommy.

And then there were two: Weeks later, a pal, therapist at an area rehab, mentioned that a kitten had been found in the trash bin. “Why don’t you take it?” she suggested, “As a companion for Darryl.”

I had “rescued” the second Darryl, said the staff when we showed up on Arthur’s doorstep. Not necessarily amused by my new clan, still, dutifully my veterinarian buddy examined the thing, medicated it, then sent him with me for safe harbor.

Time passed and our trio melded. I fed them mornings, fed them evenings, and even changed litter. They weren’t Adam, I knew, and yet, they were family.

Ensuing years though brought Max and then Lucy. Priorities were shifting as I became a frequent flyer. As such, someone (in my absences), someone had to feed the boys. Color him Burnside, a cat-lover of long standing.

“Play with them more,” he’d advise.
(Easy for him to say. Dennis went home to a wife each night. Me? I had meetings and plays and coffee and cards and Letterman).
“And you need more litter,” he’d groan, ALWAYS.
(What the F was he talking about? Those bags of sand I toted from PetSmart were heavier than my late Grandpa Sam. And I don’t want to say he was heavy but the Coast Guard used to use my grandfather to measure the tide).

Time passed. Darryl The First: he’d follow me all over the condo even though, truth be known, I found it hard to talk to him. Try as he might, he just wasn’t a dog. As for Darryl II, the poor thing never got over the fact that early on I’d stepped on him, puncturing his eardrum. Even though Kraut had saved his life and nursed him to health, to the end the “rescue” spent days hiding under the mattress. Indeed, his middle-of-the-night leaps to my bed weren’t so much acts of trust as evidence of The Stockholm Syndrome.

Still…it was their home…until it wasn’t.

When it became clear —last fall or so—that I was moving, it also became clear there’d be no room at the inn. Not that it was like breaking up the ’27 Yankees, but the handwriting was on the wall: Bruce, Fred, Darryl and Darryl would be heading separate ways.

“You’ve got to keep them together, “ urged Stacy, (long-distance I might add, as all-the-while I heard my beautiful bichon whine in the background).

And I wanted those brothers together—truly. Let’s face it, though: my primary contacts were and are Jews and Jews don’t like cats. Alien to our heritage, not once, in fact, are they mentioned in the Torah. For that matter, does anyone recall even one reference to felines on Passover? Over 600,000 Israelites fled Egypt yet nowhere in the Haggadah is there mention of a cat! Or Noah and the Ark? Ever view the artists’ renderings? Ever once see two cats strutting the plank? Or Mel Brooks? His comprehensive “History Of The World Part I”? Notta.

So where…really, was I going to find a home for the boys? (Ed. Note: Further proof that mainstream Jews have no affinity for cats is demonstrated by cursory review of the roster of Shiloh AZA, circa 1965. Did Wieder, Fenton, Snyder or Cohn have a cat? How ‘bout Ermine or Herman or Davis or Raisin? What about Codgie or Kraut? Or Blackie? Or Goddam Will? What about Auerbach or Gaffin or Stockfish or Treinish?).

No, keeping Darryl and Darryl together would require almost divine intervention—something extraordinary.

Enter Liz Wyman: Ben and Jackie’s kid, my niece. Heeding the call out east, this steadfast supporter of BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter),
posted flyers, hit Facebook and networked until finally, eight days before MoveDay, she found them a home.

In Baltimore! Both boys! The Darryls! Together!

One week ago today, at the crack of dawn, we said goodbye. Darryl The First went easy. But not his brother. Smarting still from the trauma of his infancy, he didn’t make it easy. Finally…finally, we contained him.

“You start driving,” I told Larry, who’d be driving out east. I locked up the condo. It was empty now. A few boxes, still—but empty.

Liz emailed some eight hours later. And sent pictures…of Darryl and Darryl at their newfound home, surrounded by smiling children—

They were in a better place.