Archive for July, 2013

I JUST WANT TO FEEL THIS MOMENT

Monday, July 29th, 2013

The first instances I held Eli shot me to a new dimension. Indeed, with family and friends on the perimeter, my eyes on the prize, kissing his warm flesh, no one could convince me it wasn’t he and me against the world. I was in love. 

Dear Mom,

No, there’s nothing wrong. That’s not why I’m writing. Hal’s OK, things with Carrie are great, and NO, nothing spilled. I just wanted to tell you about the weekend. And don’t tell me that you (of all people) heard.

First of all, from the moment I first saw him Thursday, one thing was clear: the baby looks just like Max. A bit bigger at birth, but that same peanut face, the same coloring, and —good news for the Jews — the same non-Bogart nose.

It was all good, Mom. Treasure trove to my chest, I’d sit on their couch, look down at Eli and marvel. Poised, head to my shoulder, he’d sleep and I’d kiss his right temple while around him his brother played. The older one: counts numbers now, in English and Spanish…recites the alphabet, in English and Hebrew. (Not that he wouldn’t prefer kicking soccer balls or blowing bubbles or dancing. Oh, and no longer does “Hava Nagila” end the days. It’s “Love Train” now. We circled the kitchen the other night, seven of us—-Max leading Meredith and Michael, three grandparents, and the baby’s nurse Brenda).

But let me tell you about Eli.

What’s that, Ma? I can’t understand you. Please put your teeth in!

Yeah, Mom, I know that MY father didn’t have much use for kids until they were old enough to play catch. You don’t have to remind me each grandchild. Yes, mother…I know he wasn’t right about everything. Will you let it go already!

May I please tell you about the bris?

It was elegant. I loved having it in the shul. The backdrop of the sanctuary perfected the tone.

Remember how two years ago an 8-day Max leaned toward Stuart and it just made sense for Stuey to hold him? Well as early as Thursday the Millers pulled me aside insisting that this turn was mine!

So I held him, Mom. On the bima. Tightly. As my father’s father held my Dad, and my father held me, and I, years ago, held a fledgling Michael….

L’dor va dor.

I clutched him, Mom…one hand under each knee…as the chazzan chanted and chipped and through Hebrew and English connected links of our family, finally drying tears on a beautiful Chaim Menachim Mendel Bogart, ben Moshe and Miriam….

Before handing him to Grandpa Stu
Then to Aunt Stacy
Then to Aunt Lindsay.

L’dor Va Dor.

I sat there, Mom: face glazed with emotion, heart pounding in gratitude for my healthy progeny. I held him, but I thought too, of you…

So here’s to Chaim, Mommy. In your name, in your memory…

May he be blessed with health, happiness, your sense of humor and your breadth of humility.

To Chaim. To Chaim. To life!

Love, Bruce

GROWNUPS 2

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

It began with an ending: a memorial service for Randy’s mother. It ended though, with a beginning—the birth of a child. Moreover, in the few days since, I’ve distilled the smiles, calibrated the camaraderie, and…and…

Here then, are the TOP TEN MOMENTS OF OUR 46TH HIGH SCHOOL REUNION WEEKEND.

NUMBER 10…

Sun blaring down, I was pacing the pavement outside Burntwood/Solon, awaiting the troops. Alan came first, and when the not-always-demonstrative Treinish greeted me with a warm bear hug, I knew it would be a special weekend.

NUMBER 9…

Rich Bandelow introduces me to his wife with a story of how our junior high homeroom won the intramural basketball title. Who remembers? (I wasn’t even sure if he knew who I was. All I recalled was that when hitting Greenview, for the first time ever, there were Christians galore. Rich was one of the first I met. I wondered, walking away, if he’d have known me sans my nametag).

NUMBER 8…

Saturday, just past 9: Steve Jurkovic walks by and even before he asks Stuey and me to reprise our rendition of “Telstar”, it occurs to me that he and my brother have much in common. Quietly, as the odd man out, I watch as the two rant ten minutes in dialogue, sharing stories of rock group reminiscence.

NUMBER 7…

Saturday night, 9pm (give or take): I bump into Cindy Guzzo, the girl Auerbach so expertly observed back in the seventh grade. “So, you have a girl friend?” she asked rhetorically. “For about a year now. I really got lucky.” Her response was warm, and immediate: “You deserve it Bruce”.

NUMBER 6…Saturday night, just past 11. Minutes after Ned Welc introduced the set-closer with “This may be the last one ever,” the crowd stood cheering. Then, bolting through the audience from somewhere stage right…came Snyder!

Eyeing the Cellmates, working the crowd, he exploded “Every great band has an encore!”

NUMBER 5…

Friday nite, nearing 10. We’d just left Ellen and Errol’s and I’m driving Masseria back to his car. Fifty-five years we’ve known each other, maybe more. From Bayard through schooling to today. From parties in his South Euclid basement through dinners with the guys through today. Neither of us is the physical specimen we once were; both of us, we know from our talks, have found peace. “I love you,” he said. “Me too.”

NUMBER 4…

Friday night at the restaurant. It wasn’t just that Snyder took charge; it wasn’t so much that he spearheaded, directed and emceed the night. We expect that of Bob — par for the course. What made the night special, what made the moments glow wasn’t even the “special poll” he conducted or the walk-on guests he procured. No, it was watching Bobby’s face—watching BOBBY glow. My fun increased geometrically just watching him happy, watching this most unique, most heartfelt of my friends, not only smiling, but truly on his game.

NUMBER 3…

Saturday night, almost 9. Hal Bogart joined our table “where everybody knows your name”. From Fenton to Ermine to CJ to Kraut, “Little Herb” was treated like a member of the class. What a treasure it is when your brother’s your friend.

NUMBER 2…

Saturday night, not yet 8. I’m standing up front, checking folks in when Ermine approaches. “Turn around,” he says, guiding my body. Tenderly, he grabs my head and kissing me square in the middle of the cheek. “Carrie’s adorable,” he remarks. “I’m so happy for both of you. Bring her to Columbus.”
How great it is, I thought, that he really cares about me, and truly gets it.

AND—THE NUMBER ONE MOMENT OF MY 46TH HIGH SCHOOL REUNION WEEKEND…..Saturday night, just past 10. Meredith called, but I missed it. “My water broke,” says her voice mail. “We’re on the way to the hospital.” I tell Carrie and I tell Sandy and I tell Bobby and I tell George. And when the music’s over we go home…and to sleep…with the phone, volume LOUD, an elbow away.

It is 5, maybe 6 AM when the phone rings.  It’s the father of Eli Matthew Bogart.

And everyone’s healthy!

ONE ENCHANTED EVENING

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

On the schoolyards of his youth, my brother displayed above-average athletic prowess. As a consistent singles hitter with Hollywood and a solid receiver in Boobus Bowls past, he more than left his mark.  Consider:  when Greenview Junior High closed its doors years back, none other than H. Dale Bogart held the varsity basketball record for career scoring percentage. As such, it came as no surprise to the amalgam of family, friends and former teammates packing Mac’s Backs Bookstore — that in one shining hour last Saturday, he knocked it out of the park.

Go H!

First of all, to understand my brother you must understand the understated. Indeed, when he opened his talk stating “Everyone has nonsense and this is my nonsense”, those of us who get him, got it.

My brother loves music. Primarily 60’s music.

He spoke, at the start of his PowerPoint presentation, of humble beginnings working for a then-young Aunt Helen at Recordland. Chuckles threaded the room as from corners of their eyes, the Fentons, Herzogs and Newmans subtly eyed his old boss. She sat there, mind you, between Carrie and me.  ‘Not  certain she heard. (I know this though:  I wasn’t going to ask. Her balls are bigger than mine).

He spoke too, of his wife: a support, he claimed, through all of this “nonsense”.

Then his story he told.

Of a trip to California some years back (to visit Jack Benny’s gravesite), and how while dining at the famed Hillcrest Country Club he’d not only met the late comic’s family, but moguls from the music industry as well….

Of his recent fascination with The Wrecking Crew, (a cadre of elite studio musicians that backed up songs from Harry Kliot to Terry Macklin.  How he’d friended them on Facebook…and how Lo And Behold, real friendship brewed.

And of his travels – - – then solo to Indiana, soon “with” to Rochester. “Imagine,” he exclaimed, “Me, having dinner with them!” (The crowd laughed, moments later, when he referred to himself as a latter-day Harry MacAfee).

“Me, Harry MacAfee…appearing with Ed Sullivan?”

It was a beautiful evening, all told. Almost idyllic. Heck, even Aunt Helen behaved.  In an hour —not more— my brother had nailed it. Through audio and visual, he touched memories, brought smiles, evoked laughter and even informed.

Right out of the park.

Buttressing discourse with audio and visual, touching all bases, he left minions smiling, laughing, and better informed.  From Gary’s mother up front to Gary’s kids in the back, from his west-side pals to daughter Caroline, everyone kvelled.

Well, almost everyone.

“I’m terribly hurt,” said Aunt Helen, as we entered her driveway.
“Why?” I then mumbled, my face in full cringe. (Good, this couldn’t be).
“When did you last speak with Etty?”
“A month ago,” I said. “Maybe more”. (Ed. Note: As truthful as I was, I knew well at that moment that this dialogue would not be good for the Jews).
“That’s what I thought!” she pronounced, at her bottom step.

Silence, just silence, as she toyed with her key. Then… as finally the door opened, she finished her thought:

“Your brother never invited me to come tonight. He left it to you. Surely he invited Etty. I’m very offended”.

(I poopoohed it, as you might imagine.  I covered my brother.  I didn’t if he did, if he didn’t…and who in his right mind would care? Why? I asked myself. We were SOOOOO close! Why is there always an issue?)

We spoke a bit later, Hal and me. Twenty minutes we spent, on Helen’s implosion…and should he call …and what should he say…or should  he wait?

We laughed, as we do. And shared, as we do. Even this.

We know the drill:  this is her  “nonsense”.

BOYZ IN THE HOOD

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Distance, be it time or space, yields not only perspective, but understanding.

My sight line in high school was skewed. The only kid on the block attending Hebrew School thrice weekly, I was also the product of what was then termed a “broken home”. Evaporating every other weekend for time with my dad, I was a part-time player in the social world, a cut below.

Perhaps it’s the upcoming reunion, but I’m thinking today not just of my core friends from grade school, but of the expanse of pals —the larger circle—that pushed me through adolescence.

We grew up a cocoon of “nice Jewish boys”. There were sixteen of us in the day—sometimes more. (Final count depended on whether Myers was in or out that minute). We were buddies all, at some level, and in an era no one spoke of “diversity”, we were its poster child.

There were the guys with whom I easily bonded, like Alan and Stuart and Bobby—- and the polar opposites: those whom in varying degrees I was never quite sure liked me. Adhesive though different, bonded by roots sowed at Rowland, each of us, not just the Bobby’s and Stuart’s and Alan’s, trudged parallel roads of happy destiny. Running in teams, laughing as groups, we wore madras and smiles sharing interchangeable friendships.

So here’s to the rest of the best!

Whether they know it or not…indeed—whether they care or not, each is a pixel on the canvas of my past, and, ensemble, these boys of my summer left an indelible image.

I saw them as risk-takers, the other guys.  Clean-cut rogues, in a way. Heck, they blazed trails I feared to tread: from basement steps down Wally’s Cleveland Heights pool hall to hitchhiking Lee Road to wasted nights at the Chagrin Armory.

To this day, each of the morsels in my memory, leave a great taste in my mouth.  Anecdotal, of course, but I remember so much:

Like seventh grade: Auerbach, hearing I liked this girl Cindy, pointed out her nice body. Naive me?  I hadn’t noticed.  (Stuart confirmed it though; Ricky was right).

And years later, when Ermine was first to fix me up on a date. ‘ Can’t recall her name but Mark said I should “try something”. (We were in her Stilmore basement when I leaned in, only to have her recoil with words that still ring in my ears. “Get off of me,” she said. “I’ve got asthma.” Between that and seeing Aunt Helen naked at 12, is it any wonder I was virginal at twenty?

Just as fondly I recall the nonsense…

Like that I had Adam and Joel had Patches, but Gaffin had a monkey.

And speaking of Dennis, why was it his parents had two cars and no garage on Harwood yet streets away on Stonehaven, Julius had no wheels, but a beautiful two-car garage?

And why, for that matter did Fischer’s Ellison home have a flag pole on the front lawn?

Why was Herman’s pool table tan? (I never did win on that surface, faring much better in tackle football played one-on-one with Codgie at Bexley. Bobby used to say he’d look out the window from across the street, see us beating the crap out of each other and never quite get it. Perhaps he was right. With one on a side there was no passing; it was just “Hike” and tackle).

Euphoric hindsight?  Perhaps.

There were vicious mockfights–no feelings spared –and car chases often ending with a group of us sitting at a house on Elmdale.There were timeless nicknames. Some were short, (think Erv), others long (Chico Santa Anna Guadelahari Gomez, Jr.). Most, however, just were. Like Kraut, Blackie, Desert Flower and Goddam Will—not to mention Randy.  Ah Randy. Only with love could we name him: “Raisin”, “Raisinbrain”. “Fool”.

Only with love.

And it’s only with love that I look back—to the backroom of Himmel’s Boarding House, Mayfield and Euclid—decades ago. We were all there, some years out of high school…smiling.

Let’s get real.  Clear it’s not whether we’d have friended had we not met young. But we’re “grandfathered in”. All of us.  Time may have distanced our lives, but if we’re lucky, it hasn’t distilled our hearts.  Lucky ones, and I think I’m one, accept.  From Ermine’s volume to Arthur’s neurosis to YES, my mishigos (fill in the blank) to even the way Fenton’s passionate clutch the 19th century. We accept.

More importantly, though, we love each other today not for people we are, but for paths that we’ve shared.  And that’s enough.

HELLO, I MUST BE GOING

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

     “…Hello, I must be going.
        I cannot stay,
       I came to say
       I must be going
       I’m glad I came
       But just the same
       I must be going…”

The cabin door shut and true to form, within moments I slept. My eyes would open only with the captain’s announcement that Chitown was near. I would spend two days mentally filming my family, and the star, Go Figure, would be a nineteen-month old.

“I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” Stacy announced, moments after I’d texted her of landing. “Is the baby with you?” “Yes”. “OK, I’m at Terminal One—call back when close.”

“I’ll be there in a half hour,” Stacy whimpered, moments after her aging father’d schlepped bags to the curb”. “I’m going inside; it’s an oven out here.”

She finally pulled up, that wondrous one, and I hopped in the back. Hand-holding with Lucy, reuniting with Adam, I kvelled for my daughter, but stared at the baby. All eyes on The Prize.

(Better I should have watched the road).

“Jason, I don’t know where I am,” Stace proclaimed as we entered the freeway. On paper their home is ten from O’Hare, and yet: “Where are you?” he asked. (“Where’s the GPS?” I wondered). “Are you mad?” then asked Stacy. “Of course not,” said I… “But would you turn up the air-conditioning!”

In weekends of family, there is nuance to normalcy. Interactions, even standard ones, breed fun and moments, the precious ones, make memories.

Luce, of course, was the headliner. Three months older, her words sometimes flowed. Not “Pappy” yet, but “Mommy” and “Adam” and “Berries”.

There was quick lunch on Thursday, what with the Bohrer Family picnic and all.  And this, I should note, was not my first rodeo.  Held in a nearby park, it is filled annually with happy people catching up, sharing memories and swatting bugs. Actually, it’s much like Bonesey’s bachelor party, except there’s no boat.

Lucy held court.  Bounding around, stumbling—not falling—she grabbed everyone’s eye and most of the attention. Better yet, though, she knew exactly when to get off stage, making what for a scratching me was the perfect exit.

“We’re leaving now”, said Stacy by 2. “She needs a nap!” Within minutes there was AC again!

We hung out at night—the four of us. Tired we were, (and I, myself was in a sliding funk until I heard from Carrie), but playing with Lucy against the backdrop of a Jason-picked Gilbert Gottfried video, we soon hit bed in contented state.

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

“What’s the best part so far?” Stace asked after breakfast.

Wading through a pool with Lucy, I thought this was it. Like the magic of Max watering in Great Neck, this too waxed special, timeless. There she was, the fledgling tyke, splashing water for near the first time. All new, said her eyes; all good, said her smile.

“Look at her. You’re here for this!” urged Jason. Yes!  The look on the face of one Lucy Hannah Bohrer said there were not only no yesterdays but life was full of tomorrows!

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

“Call us if there’s a problem”, said my Little One hours later.“And do you know how to diaper her?”
“Yes, Stacy. I’ve done it before. Second base to home plate, first base to third.”

‘Twas six when they left: for their dinner and movie.  Eight when Stace called, yet again.

“Is she asleep?”
“Not yet,” I responded.  Proudly, mind you, knowing full well that license was given to put Luce down at 7:30.
“What’s she doing?” asked my kid, more in wonder than concern.
“Well,” I told her: “ ‘Seinfeld’ ended and she’s sitting here  and we’re watching the last half of ‘Moneyball’. Can I get off the phone?”
“Take a picture,” laughed Stacy, hanging up.

She was late—my daughter was—two hours too late.  The picture’d been taken…already…in my heart.

       “…I’ll stay a day or two,
       I’ll babysit for Lu,
       But I am telling you,
       I must be going….”.

Groucho Marx (Adapted)