Archive for September, 2013


Saturday, September 28th, 2013


AUDITION FOR A FATHER ROLE IN A FEATURE FILM” read the notice, and for some reason, just after Labor Day, it caught my eye.

Emailing a theatrical resume was easy; I could readily do it. They’d asked for headshots though, and I had none. What to do? Directing them to Facebook, I’d let them browse through both nonsense pics in stage character as well as tender images of Eli or Lucy or Max and me. They’d either like me or not and life would go on.

Then the unexpected happened: some woman wrote back…and invited me to read for the part!

Carrie was sitting there as the bid came in, but I shared it with few others. (Rarely do I talk theater with others; I just don’t. This feeling different, though, I emailed Michael, and Stacy too). The Little One shot back immediately: “Amazing!”, she wrote. My son, however, had other impulse. “It is porn,” he shot back back, adding this proviso: “You are not qualified”.

One Sunday my tryout came. The venue, off Route 8 toward Akron, was not only isolated but surrounded by what even a Christian would say was an inordinate amount of foliage. It made me suspicious.

Was this a set-up, I wondered. How could it be, I answered. Indeed, the website from whence the posting came was reputable and had I not spoken directly to the lady? Did she not sound normal? Taking no chances though, I seized all but ten dollars from my left pocket, grabbed the billfold from my right, and before leaving the auto, tucked things deep in the console.

Two steps later— not even in field goal range of the entrance — another thought occurred. I’d remembered an episode of NCIS where they were trying to rescue a kidnapped agent. The bad guys had violated the captive’s mobile phone and, as I recalled vividly, Gibbs was unable to locate the victim since his phone’s GPS was down. (Just in case…this was NOT going to happen to me).

Back to the car I went, for an instant, dumping my cell on my seat.

OK, I’ll cut to the chase:

The audition went well. Leaving, frankly, I knew I’d nailed it. Bubbling, driving back north, I called Harold first.

“It was intense,” I reported, about my scene with a young actress. “An adrenalin rush. I can see how people in Hollywood are always screwing around with other actors; there’s a tension”.

“Thank God,” H noted, “That it wasn’t a guy.”

By mid-week they cast me.  My jubilation within was more for the validation—that I could leave the friendly confines of my home turf and some unknown casting agent would think I had something to offer…

Now, what to do? I knew this was a compensated role, but no one mentioned money.

But one person did I know who would know what to do. So I called him. He knew me well, understood that it wasn’t about the money, but more about the experience. Still, Griff noted, “You don’t want to get beaten if the thing goes viral”. He likened it to the naïve singers that cut one song, it hits, and they get nickels while the moguls make millions. “Tell them your concern is ‘reimaging’ and residuals,” he counseled.

So I did. Nicely. Very nicely.

And for a few days I heard nothing. At all.

The story, in the meantime, I’d shared with a few. My brother, of course, was busy googling the crap out of the producer’s website. (That’s what he does). And then there was Keith, a program friend I’ve bonded with over not only recovery but mutual disdain for PC. “Is it appropriate for a Jew to have a Catholic as his business manager?” he asked me.

And all the while…from the producer…I heard nothing.

Five days in I texted Griff for advice. “Call her,” he urged, so I did. And making a long story short, I’d been worked. “You’re too expensive,” she said, at which I reminded her we hadn’t mentioned money. My concerns were the other stuff, if at all. “We can always get volunteers,” she then said, (beginning to piss me off). “Your notice said “Compensation”, I reminded. “What did you have in mind?”
“$10 per day” came her answer. (I couldn’t make this up).

I hung up the phone, immediately, and I haven’t looked back. Oh, Stace dropped a note. “I’m sorry,” it read. (That’s what daughters say). And I finally told Michael, but only when he asked. ‘Cause we’ve been there before.

He listened to this saga, my son did, from beginning to end. No gasping, no judgments, just patience, before he spoke:

“Don’t take offense Dad,” he said warm and tender, “But you’re a moron”.
(That’s what sons say, I suppose).

Still, I didn’t take offense—not at all. I just laughed.

We both did.


Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

How often as a youngster would I watch my father privately move tchotchkes from one side of our grandma’s mantelpiece to the other and say nothing. Infantile, perhaps, but he’d get such a kick out of it all, hours later when finally noticing, she’d ask “How did this get over here? Imagine.” Our dad never let on and it mattered not. He had his fun, you see—and I learned a lesson:

You don’t have to autograph every joke.

Stuart too knew this—then and now…

—So many times in our late teens (and OK, our early twenties), I’d listen on the phone as he, disguising his voice, had parents of our friends sing the Campbell’s Soup jingle over what they thought was the radio. Not once, mind you, did he “break character” before hanging up and share his identity). The fun could be had…anonymously.

—No longer on radio, Fenton’s recent games have been in the field of education.  I hate to tell you how many sharp, intelligent people have taken French-by-Phone from Stuie..oops, I mean “Monsieur Buehner”.

“Say pupitre,” he tells gullible students.
“Pupitre”, they parrot.
“No!” he shouts back, “PuPEEEEtre…”
“Pupitre,” they try again—
“No! PuPEEEEEEEEEtre….Say pupeeeeeetra!”

They never catch on. Not even when he has them sing “Frere Jacques”. Not even when, just before hanging up he offers five additional lessons at ten bucks a week.

If you’re having fun, you really don’t have to autograph jokes.

I was driving back from Painesville just Tuesday and, with time on my hands, I called Meredith.

“Hello”, said a voice, (which didn’t sound like hers).
“Who is this?”
“Aunt Helen?”
“Bruce,” roared the 99 year-old, “Bruce, what do you want?”
“I was calling Meredith, but I got you.”
“Are you in your car? You can call me later if you are in your car.”
“Aunt Helen, I think when I called Meredith you must have been calling in and the lines crossed.”

“Please!” she shried back, “You are in your car! I will call you later if you will go to the Jerusalem Deli for me.”
“OK,” I said, “But later afternoon.”

It was just past four when my cell rang. I was still in the office and the screen read “Meredith”. Thrilled…my daughter-in-law must have seen she missed my call and was phoning back…I answered with gusto:

“Meredith!” I exclaimed.
“This is your Aunt Helen.”
(As my father would have said, I didn’t know whether to shit or go blind).
“Are you able to stop at the Jerusalem Grill?”

And it hit me…right then and there. The lady from Willard Scott’s green room still droning I was checking my cellphone. “Contacts”, to be exact.

It must have been Yom Tov; it was probably my brother —but someone ….someone wickedly funny, had changed a number—Meredith’s.

Aftershock: I called Harold that night, and I told him. “Margie,” he yelled, “Get on the phone”. And he couldn’t stop laughing. Nor could she. Nor could I. Especially when I thought even further. About the time, just recently, that I called Meredith and hung up after four rings, not waiting to leave a message. I figured it’s enough that she’d see I called. And then I realized—I remembered getting a later call from my aunt. “Bruce,” she asked me, “Did you call before? I heard the phone ringing but I couldn’t get there in time.”


Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Something inside called me back and last Saturday, after respite from the morning service, I headed down Cedar. ‘Twas gravity perhaps, or at least the innate sense that shul was where I belonged. “What do you have better to do?” my Dad would be asking.

So there I went, with tallis and machzor, but otherwise…alone.

In past years there were others. Grandma Bogart, perhaps. Or Aunt Helen… and some times —going back, back, back — the . Ah, and there was always Harold. And Margie. And their kids. Those days, alas, aren’t these days. Not this day.

Parking on Ivydale, I tiptoed the shrubs ‘cross a walkway through a backyard…to temple. Where is Ivydale? (you might ask). It’s one of those side streets that unless you went to Heights High or had Al Bogart as a father you might not know existed. For years though, it was where we’d park, autumn by autumn, with spots at premium.

Holding my mahzor and marching uphill—alone—passing the island of grass from where we’d stand, Hal and I, back in the 50’s, lurching forward, leaning out… just waiting for our dad’s bald head to emerge midst the exodus….

Up steps I trudged, returning to the present. Musaf had started, so after shaking hands with Jeff Schneider, (the Al Kaline of Park Synagogue), I found a home on the aisle, seats down from whence our family’d sat…back in the day. It was early still; the house was semi-empty. So was I.

Immobile I sat, alone…my memories adrift in diaspora.

The rabbi was leading the Question And Answer period, an annual killing of thirty minutes as the clock winds down. (Why don’t they just start things a half hour later, I wondered). Predictably, some putz stood and (in his best Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. air), prefaced inquiry with a commentary designed to impress the congregation yet have the great mentor Rashi turn in his grave.

The ark still closed, I was getting itchy. Perhaps I would leave. (But I couldn’t). Indeed, as bodies still filtered in, the last thing I wanted to do was bump into someone coming as I was going. On Yom Kippur? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate Walk Of Shame! And then he said it! Rabbi Skoff! As if speaking to me…

While The Book’s been written, he noted it had yet to be closed. As such, there’s a tension to the last service, and time remaining before God seals our fates.

That was all I need hear. Are you kidding me? I loved my mother, but trust me, when we played gin I cut the deck. You think I’m walking out after hearing that? Not this cowboy. One hour to go? I’m ain’t leaving. God’s getting my A game.

—So I didn’t leave, but my heart wandered. I thought of my Dad… and my kids. Michael took Hebrew seriously and excelled. Jamie took everything seriously; more than the others (perhaps), she accompanied me for minyan when the old man died. And Stacy, the Little One: well I remembered how she’d brandished her flashlight walking the darkened aisle at Havdalah.

They blended, they did—these etchings of past— as we rose for Neilah.

“Psach Lanu” came the sounds, at once both flat and checkered. The place was full now, with welcomed faces of the usual suspects: Rob Epstein (a great line drive hitter), and Howard and Tammy and Cheryl, the smartest girl in my Hebrew class. But there was no Rev Lev and there was no Uncle Bob, (and I noticed that too).

“Ki Anu Amecha” sang the house. Six years post his death, it’s still Rabbi Cohen’s voice I hear. “Ashamnu” sang the cantor as in unison we pounded our hearts. It never gets old.

Sunset had come yet I didn’t want to leave. Not now. Lifted from isolation to a new dimension… no longer alone….in my zone now..and they dimmed the lights!

—In marched the children…down the aisles…holding flashlights…as Stacy did, and I think Jamie, and perhaps Michael…I JUST can’t remember.

—It occurred to me then, that instant, that in a house of worship founded on faith and embodied with sensations of my memories past, I could find my peace.  Always.

Moments later they blew the Shofar. Loudly. And wishes of Happy New Year echoed. Loudly. And I walked out of shul alone.  (But not lonely).


Saturday, September 14th, 2013

There could have been no better way to end the weeklong terrain of all work, no play. Jason and my Little One were in town—with their Little One.

I came home last night to what could only be described as a Jewish Norman Rockwell landscape. Carrie stood aproned, and, traipsing through the chicken-fragranced kitchen I noticed a table set wondrously for Shabbos. ‘Twould be a night to remember.

Stace walked in first, about 5:30. Then Bones and the baby.

Truth is, I hadn’t quite unwound from a week of tension. Not that I was the only one worn. Jason sat resting, having driven all day. And Lucy? She’d risen early, missed her nap, and the only thing keeping her up was (perhaps) the tacit fear of Carrie’s mutt Rusty.  Good news, though—Leesa kept Luce busy…and awake.

But then we ate. And we talked. And we caught up. And we played.

I love the way my kids just fit. In some ways Stace and Jace are so alike and in others they just…fit.

“Let’s pretend,” Rooney said after dinner. “Let’s pretend that Jason and I just met today and I’m bringing him home to meet you for the first time”.
“OK”, said I, not losing stride.
(My sense is that never for a second did my Chicago Pride think we wouldn’t play along. Fantasy? Make believe? Even at 63 I consider this my strong suit!)

So we engaged. She spoke of picking him up in an airport; I asked where they would sleep (and told her it would be in bad taste to stay on East Groveland— that I barely knew the Leimsieders), and all-the-while as Jason smiled Carrie sat rolling her eyes, riveted, loving it.

Not that the entire night was nonsense. Hardly. For the first time, frankly, I was able to actually understand what my daughter does for a living.

“Dad,” do you even ‘get’ what I do?” (She knew the answer: It’s not that I don’t care. It’s my mindset. Just give me headlines and let me know all’s OK).
“I’m a concept person,” I reminded. “Not a detail guy”.

But we sat down, we did. The four of us, (Lucy having gone to sleep post-dinner). And she told me…slowly…about her “space”, and how she was in the middle of an industry-wide revolution…

—And vibrantly, the spill of confidence all over, my daughter shined.

“For the first time, Dad”, she told me, “I don’t have to be full of shit to do my job”.
“But you’re good at being full of shit,” I reminded.
“I know,” she nodded, “But this is better”.

(I could see that).

I saw my baby, a woman in motion, breaking into the stride of her life.

We laughed and loved and toyed last night. The four of us. Speaking little of the past and some of the future, we eyed mostly the present. It was special.

On a night that could have curtailed, the action sustained. At a time when they might have gone home, they stayed. With a second wind, Jace programmed podcasts. Absent pressures of time, Stace spoke with Carrie. We melded, as always…as family.

Oh, there was the typical talk about a weekend out west. Autumn’s slate nearly full, we’d be threading a needle, AND WOULD, to hit Chitown. Still, what with one wedding, two weeks of play performance and three grandkids’ birthdays all in the next four months—not to mention the Bone Marrow Foundation Walk for Team Stuie (Long Island), bi-monthly schleps with Aunt Helen….and…and…

But we’ll get it done, we said.

It was teasing ten when we went upstairs for the night. I’d kissed the kids, hugged them goodbye, but was still holding on to the moment.

“You know,” I told Carrie, as we readied for bed, “Stacy really does right by me. We need to get out there.”

“We will,” she smiled.

“It’s more than you It’s more than me
Whatever dreams we have they’re for the family”

(Krieger, Eyen from “Dreamgirls”)


Friday, September 6th, 2013

I love the rhythm of the holidays. For example, Michael phoned Wednesday, mid-afternoon. Often weekdays he’s busy and I get that. His calls come, typically, Saturday mornings from the car. With Max in tow, the men catch up.

New Years’ tempo is different.

The game has changed of course. What in the 50’s were two days of children’s services for the Brothers Bogart sandwiched ‘tween meals at our grandmothers’ became (in the 80’s) one day of children’s services for progeny bracketed by dining with our mom and her husband de jour. Then, as Clinton flew west and my marriage went south, for two decades it all fell on Margie. My kids were pretty much gone at that point, so in Cleveland (as the old Lobo song went), it was Helen B and her dog named Boo.

The times, they are a changin’…

Gone are the days of a grandma’s brisket and the other’s chopped liver. And the days of our mother’s jello mold— or even The Thief’s sweet potato/marshmallow pie. (How goyish—really). These are different times with, unless someone can travel, different players.

Silent but swift came The Changing Of The Guard.  Seemingly overnight, guaranteed instances of bygone years have been replaced by different redundancies.

—Like me picking up Aunt Helen en route to Carrie’s and Fenwick-to-Lyndway being compelled to recite the roster of her new-found tablemates. (The entire ride, I swear, she’s got me either naming names or attesting under oath that Harold will be there).

—Like mid-way through dinner, hearing an F-bomb or two flow from Tommy, (followed immediately by the gentle hush-hush of Mrs. Tommy).

— Like eyeing my brother entrenched comfortably in the gut of the table…and for that matter, seeing Margie beside him, sitting.

I miss my kids. I wish they were here but they’re not. Ah, but if Eli and Lucy and Max were but older…but they’re not. And I miss Harriet too.

If only New Year were on a weekend! Let’s see!  How ’bout next year?

Rosh Hashana 2014 starts on Wednesday. Again. 2015’s a Sunday night and ’16—another Sunday. Then a Wednesday, then a Sunday, then another Sunday…which would bring us to 2020. No, that doesn’t work, nor does ’21 or ’22.

—So it is clear that the next time the New Year falls on a weekend is 2013—precisely the annum we’re  heading east come November for Max’s Bar Mitzvah!

Memo to Stacy Celia: Add three to your table.

Ah, but more good news!

It appears, GET THIS, that the next year, 2024, Holiday starts Thursday night! We can do that! (Well, maybe not. I’ve read through this twice and although YES, Yom Tov starts on that Thursday the third….alas, but unless I’m mistaken, that’s my weekend to take Aunt Helen shopping).

Oh well, it’s in God’s hands, I suppose (and I can live with that).

In the meantime I’ve got Carrie and H and M right here, coupled with the warmth of the new cast of characters.  For that matter,  Wednesday Mrs. Baskin made a nice jello mold and Carrie: we know she can cook. Then Thursday we shifted: luncheon on Aldersgate— Margie’s cooking with “The Boys”, (eyes on the Ten Days), splitting Helen.

I am happy, profoundly, even as I miss the “kinder”. They are where they’re supposed to be—all of them— raising their families, making their memories, and living their lives.

I will lay my head down tonite healthy and happy and grateful for the New Year.  (But I won’t sleep in).

Tomorrow is Saturday, you see, and Michael is calling.