Archive for August, 2013


Saturday, August 31st, 2013

“…I took a little trip to my hometown.  I only stopped to look around…”

Leaving East Cleveland Court, my path to the office was both circuitous and fortuitous. Roadwork, coupled by a hatred of driving that suburb (they ticket car phones), had me heading out Euclid— past Lee, past Taylor— past Noble and Belvoir — until I finally hit Green. It was in the twenty more minutes of travel… dreidling through paths not travelled in decades…that I realized once again, how buried treasures lay everywhere. We just have to look.

—And so it was that this morning, ‘tween breakfast and Helen, I re-ran the route in search of more bounty. Disappointed I wasn’t, finding rapture in replay.

8:45 AM

Southbound from Carrie’s, my consciousness was being piqued by the landmarks of past. First up: Notre Dame College (to the right). Took my ACT’s there under protest.
“It’s a waste of time,” I told my mother. (Michigan State needed SAT’s).
“Don’t be such a big shot,” she said. “You’re not there yet.”

I drove by Golfway, Judy Martin’s street. Must have been sixth grade or so that Holly Lawrence, Michael Agin and I stared out the backside, watching dirt move as Greenview was built.

Ah…the Post Office (on my left). How many times have I stood in line at Helen’s request, just to find out if it an envelope was one ounce or two?

Then the medical building, on the right. Thoughts rained: Jamie being pushed in a wall for CAT-Scans and such, circa ’84…

Just teasing Mayfield, the memories poured.

There was St. Gregory’s, (again on the right). The name’s been changed, but this storied venue’s housed signal moments in successive centuries. Midway through the 20th, I threw three straight footballs through a swinging tire at the carnival. Savoring the big blue ‘n white bear I’d won, steadfastly I safeguarded it… until the 90’s… when it evaporated in a box in the Lomaz garage. Moreover, just years ago I won the annual poker tournament, knocking Linsker’s father out at the Final Table. Outdoors or in, it’s my favorite parish.

8:55. Still driving.

It used to be Jay’s Drug on the corner by Franklin’s. If you played for the Red Sox and you won, it was ice cream for all. Alas, my hose were white so I got one trophy (1960) and three years of Creem-O-Freeze—then again, only if our father drove home.

Crossing the intersection, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YEARS, I saw the parking area not as a Marc’s lot, but as the gathering place before the annual Little League parade. “In the day”, spruced up in clean, pressed uniforms, we would strut our stuff on the Sunday before season openers. Smiles lined the streets as we swaggered…all of us…undefeated.

9:00 I drove past the courthouse. Judge Klein was a lodge brother and when he first ran for office, back in our Rowland days, we had his sign on our lawn. Two decades later he was still on the bench and he still remembered.

9:03 Passing Anderson I angled left. All those years as a kid— how I marveled that the road’s sharp turn didn’t change the name. It was still Green Road.

By 9:08 I was crossing Monticello and edging toward final memories. There used to be a Lawson’s store (“bodega”, as my son would say). And a Crown Pharmacy (owned by Gelfand’s father). You could cut through the bushes right next to it and beat a fifty foot path to the diamonds. Learning the route was a rite of passage reserved for those in “the majors”. Minor leaguers played on a field far less proximate. (Ah, the subtlety of caste systems).

It was ten past nine when my eyes caught the dashboard time and I saw the unseeable: Aunt Helen, sitting on her couch…watching the clock.

And still I pressed on.
On a mission I felt.
To see Negrelli Field…
One more time.

I turned east on Greenmont. Familiar it looked, where was the drive? Industrial now–where was that turn? It know it was there in ’62!

And then I gave up. I had to. I was “on the clock”. My field of dreams would wait lest my morning turn to nightmare.

So I turned back north, letting go of the past. 35 in a 25 now; I would be on time.

I had re-crossed Mayfield when approaching Greenview it looked like rain. Like lightning I recalled the junior high dance and how the guys, in a downpour, ran south in the street toward Cedar to Geraci’s. (Yeah, they were there back then).

Still pleasuring in past, my phone rang loud. “Morris Bogart” read the screen. (I figure when she takes the listing out of my grandpa’s name—I mean he only died in 1954—then so will I).

“Bruce,” she opened, “There are two bags on the steps. The white one is garbage and the blue one is for recycling.”
“Yes, Aunt Helen. I know.”
“I tell you this,” she shot back, ”Because you don’t remember anything.”
“Yes, Aunt Helen.”

“And as I stopped along the thoroughfare…there was music playing everywhere….”

P. Anka


Saturday, August 24th, 2013

I was standing in the shower the other morning, still laughing at Letterman clip. The video — an exploding car filmed over the iconic Dick Van Dyke theme song — had me, after eight hours of sleep, still chuckling.

“Da, da, dada da da da da, da da da, da da da…..” How many years had that simple tune, punctuated at the end as Rob Petrie tripped (later by-stepped) over the ottoman—how long has that peppered my life?

For that matter, how many years have I replayed classics from my life, fulfilling myself time and time again with remembrance of moments and antics past? (It matters not).

These are indeed, the dog days of summer. Eli’s now here; Lucy’s out there. The reunion’s come and gone, I’m not doing a show…and even the thought Carrie and I had about a long weekend in Gettysburg —well it just didn’t happen. So I sit…this lazy morning…smiling again at the canvas of my past, at the quintessential memories …

How’s this for a Top Ten?

Number 10— The Big Boy Eating Contest with Bruce Cutler. It was the late ‘60s at Fairmount Circle Manners. I beat him 6-5 and when it was over, sitting downstairs in adjacent stalls, a contrite Cut shared that when I ate the first one in three or four bites he knew it psyched him out. After that, he said, he knew I was just keeping paced –that he never would catch me. (FYI: but for the thick sauce I may have hit double figures).

Number 9 — Sitting in the ‘HK conference room in ’93—Stuart, Bobby and me. Invariably Snyder’d be sitting at the table’s apex, door always open, eyeing the traffic. “Hey,” he’d announce, to whomever walked buy, “I’m Bob—one of the Boomer Boys”.

Number 8— Taking Michael to the Smokey Mountain Softball Classic was a special time. As travelling secretary in ’86 for Non Ferrous, I was permitted to bring him on one trip that season. We hit Tennessee. Well I
remember my son staring eyes-wide-open as, after the Friday night games ended past midnight, the more “active” players competitively drove golf balls through the narrow confines of the Holiday Inn’s second floor.

Number 7 — A Friday in the 80’s. Slammed at work I’d lost a contact and called the eye doctor seeking replacement. No stranger it his office, I was one of five in the family then under his care. He refused. I needed an appointment, I was told. Enraged, taking the “first available” appointment, I drove right over. Ten minutes it took; ten minutes to just smile at me, write on my chart, and hand me a lens. Ten minutes (thought I) for nonsense.

“I want my chart,” I declared, quite civilly. “I’m not coming back.”
“We can’t give it to you,” I was told. “We only release records to a doctor.” So I gave them Arthur’s address. Fuck ‘em.

Number 6 – Softball field by Morrill and Lincoln Towers, OSU. Wieder appeals the runner after they carry him out on a stretcher. It’s a story told often, but for those who eye-witnessed, never too often. (Note to my children and my children’s children: NEVER stop telling this story. I saw it– from the break in the runner’s leg to Wido’s step back off the rubber to the ump’s reluctant thumb up. May the word go forth that in that singular instant our friend Alan bought a ticket to both heaven and hell.

Number 5 — For a warm, fuzzy feeling, nothing beat that Saturday afternoon ‘round the pool at Paradise Island. Core friends we were: Fenton, Snyder, Treinish, Codgie, Kraut, Fischer, Grafchek et moi. There in two glorious hours we opened up with a candor we’d seldom shared en masse. It was a confluence of time and treasure that would never come again. (Ed. Note: only seven hit the pool that day. One of us “must have been sleeping”, or so he said).

Number 4 — Menorah Park, circa 2004: a moment cemented in Hal’s
memory, Margie’s and mine. It was the day I threw Ed Turner out of the
room. Let me set the stage: These were the days when governments
were just beginning to put things on line. And so it was that in the months
prior, H had discovered that our ailing Mom’s husband had deeded the
property out of his name, (where it stood by the handshake agreement with
Elaine’s heirs), and into his son’s. The discussion, needless to say, got
heated. How heated you ask? Well, picture me in the Jackie Gleason
role as Ralph Kramden and that putz Turner as Art Carney’s Ed Norton. “GET OUT”, I roared, waving at the door. “GET OUT!” I repeated. (Hal, who has nothing nice to say about Turner, later said I was out of control. Margie herself slid to the hallway. Me? I was rather proud of my outburst and…frankly…let’s face it: so was H).

Number 3 — University Heights, Ohio, 1987. Hal and I had just
purchased a $400 television from Snow Brothers (a lot of gelt for the day) and schlepped it 5 miles southwest and up one flight of stairs to surprise our grandmother on her 95th birthday. This would be her first color tv.

“Take it back” said Aunt Helen. “We don’t need your charity.”
“What’s in the box?” asked our grandma.

“You know,” surmised H as we took the box back—unopened, “Next year we should spend more. It’s going to go back anyway, and we’ll get credit for a nicer gift.”

Number 2 — Sometime in my junior year, West Maynard Ave, Columbus, Ohio. My father, so angry that I’d left the phone off the hook, had travelled from his home near Hamilton and Main all the way down to campus, AND after the twenty-some minute ride was so upset…still…that he yanked the phone right out of the wall. I wasn’t there; H was. It still plays.

Number 1 — Undetermined? Not quite. These are my salad days. Even the bad ones. The best, I’m convinced, is yet to come.


Monday, August 19th, 2013

       “…I look at you: all of the love there that’s sleeping
       While my old heart gently weeps…”

“A problem shared,” they’ve told me, “Is a problem cut in half.” I open up to my sponsor here and there—yet less to my loved ones. It’s hard, since we all, through our own prisms, feel pain.

Some predicted it, but not me.

One warned “You’ll be next”. I didn’t buy it. Another said “You keep moving the goal posts. I didn’t see it.

Not even the Saturday they abruptly dropped me off after lunch. I was sitting in the backseat, a difficult but civil conversation being had, when all of a sudden from north of my face wagged the driver’s finger.

“You call yourself a father?” he demanded derisively. (“Who speaks that way—even to a quasi-parent?” was my impulse). “You really should go” urged the blonde…softly… tearing.

—Still shaking as the car pulled away.

I walked a lap around the condo…even sat in the lobby a bit-…before going up.

Then I let time pass. Quietly. Don’t like me? OK. Don’t respect me? Your issue.

“What happened?” people wondered.
(To this day no one knows).
“What did you do?” others asked.
(Told the truth, I suppose).
“What are you going to do about it?”
(What CAN I do about it?)

“Give time time”, I’d respond. “Pray”. “Wait”. “Reach out.”

       …I don’t know why nobody told you
       How to unfold your love…”

It all blends together these days:

Sitting in the Justice Center cafeteria, lunchtime the Friday before CInco de Mayo:

“ ’Don’t want you to come out when the baby’s born.”
“It’s my grandchild,” I said.
“It’s not that simple,” she replied.

       “…I don’t know how someone controlled you…”

I’m good at acceptance, except when I’m not. Weeks I can go without dwelling upon it. Life, indeed my life is so bountiful that internally I let God handle it—

Until I can’t.
Until I see a picture or hear a song or just think….

       “…I don’t know how you were diverted…”

It was two years ago, the night before Kol Nidre. I couldn’t not share it.

“You’re not calling first?”
“No,” I asserted, “Just showing up.”
“What if she’s not home?” asked one.
“What if?”
“You’ll never get in,” said another.

—Yet I borrowed a car and I drove.
And I got to the door.
But not through it.

“You’re not going to let me in?” I inquired, (still not believing).
“It’s not that simple,” she said.

       “…I don’t know how you were inverted…”

I did kiss the elder that day. Draped on her mother’s right shoulder were her big blue eyes. (At least I think they were—blue that is). Leaning forward —Godforbid I brake the plane of the entrance—I gently kissed my granddaughter’s forehead.

“May I at least come look at the crib?” I wondered, (since her brother was sleeping).
“I’m sorry,” I heard. “You just can’t.”
“What do you mean?” I shot back, a major key change to my voice.
“It’s not that simple.”

Actually, I told myself driving off—it really is. That simple. I pulled in the parking lot of a store nearby and just sat. Didn’t cry, just sat….

My phone rang, but I abstained. Then my phone rang, and I abstained again.

Two years ago, this Yom Tov.  Two years.

       “…I look at you, see the love there that’s sleeping
       While all our hearts gently weep…”

Naïve I was not when my calls fell to voice mail. Return messages? Usually.  Live voice? Never.

Sometimes I wish I were angrier. Sometimes I wish I had fire in my belly to lash out in outrage with a passion commensurate to the love I still feel.

But I can’t. On a good day, as most are, I still leave it to God, and I’m OK.

(That’s just most days. On others, like today, I bog down).

A problem shared may well be a problem cut in half. It is NOT, though, a problem solved.

       …”I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
       While my old heart gently weeps
       With every mistake we must surely be learning
       Still my old heart gently weeps….”

(Adapted from G. Harrison)


Friday, August 16th, 2013

“Family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”

Barbara Bush

Westchester County, New York. A Jersey-bred Maryland resident stood on the bima not only in prayer, but in a role he was born for.

My brother-in-law is a soft-spoken man. A gent he is, and one whose actions have spoken volumes through years, from state to state and generation to generation. How fitting it is that time and circumstance have made him patriarch of the family founded on Ben and Lil.

Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I was sitting at Berkowitz listening as a life-long buddy eulogized his dad. “He was always there,” the old quarterback noted. “That’s what I’ll remember.” How true it was, thought I. Indeed, some fathers were always there; some just weren’t. Closing my eyes, still I saw the Mr. Mandels and the Mr. Caprettas and Mr. Filipowicz’s…always…at the little league games…present…

Being there. Always there. A part of.

Joel Selzer is always there. Present. A mensch like his father.

Let me take a step back. I’ve got —you’ve must admit —the unique angle on this.  Through family or just periphery, over 4+ decades I’ve had eyes on his life. (Ed. Note: Talk about “unique angle”—I’ve participated in three of his siblings’ marital proceedings: one as a spouse, one as an usher, and one as defendant). Through it all, though, I’ve watched Joel grow and felt the dignity of his still water continue to run deep.

Back in Westchester, sitting around at the bris:

“You know,” I told him, “In this family you’re the ‘Designated Motzi’”.

They laughed, of course, but only at the truth.

Joel deserves it. Like his Uncle Ernie did…like his father did….

When the bell rings, you see, this man, this son of an All-American, is himself all over America—answering the ring. Be it a simcha up north or his family out west, he’s there.
Some people do the right thing when convenient; others do things right when they should. In a busy world where most find excuses, Joel (with life-mate Fran) finds the way.

I think of him now, what with talk turning to the upcoming Yom Tov. Stacy’s in Chicago; Michael— New York. Me? I’ll be in Ohio driving Aunt Helen somewhere, I’m sure. Oh, and Joel Harry? He’ll be down in Baltimore, no doubt—

Clan all around him, he’ll probably be chanting the Motzi.


Saturday, August 10th, 2013

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

It wasn’t even 7AM, but my strut from the shower’d came to a sudden halt. Three years we’d been living on Maidstone, but ‘til that morning, I could count on one hand the times the Jersey Girl’d been sitting up in bed as I’d walked from the bathroom. That’s not a slight—at all; her clock was in sync with the kids, and this day, this summer day, school was out.

There she was though: stoic…alert…focused on me.

“I have bad news,” she said — preface to a pregnant pause.
“Did someone die?” I pried.
She nodded Yes, grimacing, so I pushed right on.
“Grandma Bogart?”
“Aunt Helen?”

I can’t remember whom else I guessed, or if I even did, but well I recall when finally I spoke.

“My Dad?”

She nodded again — vertically.

August 9, 1985: it was a Friday, like today. My personal December 7, my private November 22:   like 9/11, it was a day that not only live in infamy, but that I’d replay yearly.

What’d YOU do the day YOUR father died?

My brother knew already, said the wife. He had spoken to Harriet. Michael? Jamie?  Stacy?  The kids slept peacefully.

Call my brother I asked and she did.  I was getting dressed.

We had to tell Grandma and we ought tell our Mom,(we reasoned). Wrong would it be, were she to hear this on the street. And we had to, after spreading the news, sprint down to Columbus.

“Our father died,” I blurted out to our aunt. At the stair top she stood, looking down to her nephews.
“What do you mean?”
Ambling on up we continued our task.
“Why are the boys here?” asked Grandma. (Yes, we stood inches away.  No, she was not asking us).
“My father died,” said H. “Harriet called.” (Ed. Note: It was a curious choice—his pronoun. Hal Bogart is anything but selfish, anything but self-centered…but I can tell you that vividly I heard his “my” and immediately I took notice. Curious choice, thought I.  He truly loved the man).
“WHY DO YOU TALK THIS WAY?” cried the Mom who would bury her son.

And we drove down the hill…to Case…to our mother…to our father’s ex-wife.

(Ed. Note 2: There were a lot of people back then convinced that Elaine Hoffman never stopped loving Al Bogart. Euphoric recall? Perhaps. Her own family, though, said it. It should be specifically noted, however, that no one ever accused Albert of retaining his feelings. Of course he regretted. Still, as for feelings toward our mother—she was a hand he had folded. For so many years Harriet had been the fresh deck,  the new karma…his life).

“IS THIS YOUR IDEA OF A JOKE?” our mother demanded… of ME! (Hal stood there, accomplice to the mission, yet at me she screamed).

Little things. Minor details that mattered not. I remember each one.

We drove straight to through that day. Didn’t stop for food—not even at the LK Restaurant our father loved.

Straight through…

To Schoedinger Funeral Home, downtown Columbus, where we saw our father prone on a slab. A wooden slab.

He looked at peace, I thought. I lingered.  Staring at his stillness I cried a bit, but really not much. “Overcome” is the word I’d use—overcome right there, with a sense that his fight was over— his glorious, victorious run was done.

And that he’d gone out a winner.

Little things? Maybe not. It’s a day I recall now in smile. He didn’t want to die, my Dad—but in his own way…considering where he’d been and where he was — it was like he left with a walk-off homer.

A winner.

We buried him Sunday — in a plot and in sunshine and in a town that he loved. Put a gun to my head, though,  and I can’t tell you one minute of the day between. Saturday? There was no Saturday, August 10th that year. Not in my world.

But Friday? Friday, August 9th, 1985?  I remember it in peace.


Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

An iconic rock star recently followed up his 2012 pullout from a concert in support of Israeli soldiers with a call to boycott the whole state of Florida. So be it. Sometimes I too disagree with things that go down. What if I were to thrust value judgments on the world, without walking its shoes. Where then would that leave us.

Let’s get the easy ones out of the way. I’d boycott these venues:

Hawaii and Alaska: First of all, they’re only states on paper. I mean, really! Not that I couldn’t justify Alaska on Palin alone, but let’s stay real: they’re just not states.

Not that some of the “real” ones are worth travelling….

Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky: Need you ask why?

And it’s not just ‘cause they’re south. The Carolinas? I’d go there. North gave us Cosell and Griffith? S.C. hosted Wieder’s beach wedding…which means, I suppose, that I give Oregon a pass. Not that I plan on going, mind you—it’s just that I take this thing seriously. If I’m being intellectually honest, any state housing Joanie and Alan just ain’t boycott-worthy.

Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont: They are out. First of all, I think they’re the same. Second of all, I don’t care. Bottom line—I don’t fish.

And West Virginia: (I don’t go to book burnings).
And Idaho: Mandatory ultrasound
And Mississippi: I don’t hunt. (Ed. Note: Yes, I know it’s listed above. This state’s so backward, though, it deserves mention twice). Why isn’t Mississippi burning?

Here’s more to avoid:

Virginia: Jerry Falwell (blamed 9/11 on abortionists)
Texas: Rick Perry
Missouri: Two words: Rush Limbaugh

Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, both Dakotas: Why travel places you can’t find a minyan?

Don’t think, by the way, I always smile on the Midwest. Wisconsin’s out, and Minnesota too (due to weather). Moreover, I don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan!

On religious principles.

Nor, for that matter, will my feet hit Pennsylvania. I mean, really: why’s Penn State in the Big Ten? Or Nebraska? This is what one gets, I suppose, from adding counterfeit states to the union. (See above).

And speaking of counterfeit, Lord knows I felt guilty slipping into Maryland for weddings these years. With all due respect to portions of my clan transplanted there, have you seen any more two-faced a city than Baltimore? Recall how they cried when the Colts slunk away to Indy? They crucified Irsay. All bets were off, though, when they ripped off our Browns. So eat spit on the Chesapeake. You guys were phony. Find a mirror and look real hard.

…Which means, I suppose, that Indiana’s out too. And not just for canning Coach Knight. They started the whole NFL mess by stealing the Colts that stole the Browns that bit the cat that ate the dog, which father bought for two zuzim. Had Gadya. Had Gadya.

Some places, of course, are worse than others:

Florida: Lifetime ban! Think: Anita Bryant’s slam against gays…Gore v. Bush slam against due process. Sorry, Bradley Fenton, but I will never again take my talents to South Beach.

And OMG—

California. Not just for the ego—“left coast” and all. It goes further back…to something I’ve been holding on to a long time…just waiting for bush acts like boycotting celebrities to set stupid precedent. I’m thinking mid-70’s here (not that I can’t let go). Ohio State was in the process of losing five Rose Bowls in a decade — perhaps payback for upsetting USC and a knifeless OJ in ’69. Merciless, LA scribes, particularly one, pounded Woody. Indeed, an acidic writer noted he was surprised hearing the coach had a heart attack—he didn’t think Woody had one.

And it’s not that I’m petty—not that I’m that judgmental. Willing I am to look at the big picture. So New York gets a pass, as does Massachusetts. I’ll forgive one for its Yankees and the other for Belichick. After all, one breeds Eli and Max and the other breathes Boston. (Please, though: no more screwing with Fenway).

So where, after all is said and done, does that leave me? Not far, really, from where I was pre-boycott.

It’s the Land Of Lincoln, The Empire State, and my home in Ohio. And…truth be known, it’s not so much for where I won’t go, but oh so much for where I want to be:

With family, and friends, in my little corner of the world.