Archive for December, 2013


Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

       “…Just one last look, before you go
       So I’ll have memories wherever I go
       One last look before you’re gone
       So in my heart you’ll live on and on…”

The Temptations

’13 winds down and I wink back fondly. It was a time of gain, loss, smiles, laughter—intangible moments of friendship and love enveloped in music.

Second row for “Jersey Boys”, March in Vegas. I had seen it before, but the tears still rolled.

It was a year of aging: Jacobson 70, Arthur 65, and me now with dentures.

It was a year, too, of one big Hello—to Eli Matthew, (first name for my Mom).

And two tough Goodbyes: Uncle Bob and Cousin Norm. Each had been there, always; each touching my life, sustaining me, and in his own pure way, pushing me forward. I loved them…I love …them … both.

The Cellmates, playing our class reunion.  I danced ’til the call came…and heard the message.  Water had broken out east!  Eli was coming!  

It was a year still, of remembrance: Fifty years after JFK’s assassination….a hundred post Aunt Helen’s conception.

It was the year that Lindsay got married and Saree got married — that Hal/Margie and Bruce/Rita hit 40.
A year Helen and Harriet didn’t speak, but Bob and Marvin did.

It was a time too for standing one’s ground. Julius vs. Alan on Facebook…and me, in my own way. (Like that Wednesday night at Champps. No sooner we touched down in the booth than my line of sight caught some putz arrogantly wearing a bright maize and blue sweater. No way could I watch that clown eat! Up I stood, immediately, even politely, and switching seats with Carrie. I’m a liberal, not a radical; I wouldn’t leave—just turn away.).

And high fashion: My Dad’s ‘70’s black/yellow plaid jacket did two more shows, Harold gave Maynard a shirt from my 2006 diet give-away collection, and alas, my beloved black and white spats/like sneakers lived on. (Ed. Note: How ugly do some consider those shoes? In April a less-than-PC child queried “What homeless person did you steal those from?”).

It was a year of firsts! A hundred years after Morris Bogartsky traversed Ellis Island—indeed a hundred days after Eli Bogart burst upon us—the Bogart family welcomed its first fishing rod. Really, Brother Klein? Really?

And food: from my best meal—the eggplant wrap at Lange’s in Westchester County, New York, to the worst— at the Chinese restaurant by Richmond Mall, (Ed. Note: On a Saturday afternoon last summer I saw a bug —and I mean a BUG—crawling up the wall, ten inches above our booth. I called the guy over and nodding quietly, he removed it. No comment, no apology, no apparent surprise. Carrie laughed, as did Leesa, but trust me, the balance of the lunch I spent standing).

Often, of course, the menu mattered not—like Wednesdays, in the back booth at Corky’s— where the boys met at 8:30, rain or shine. Oh, Himmel missed for tax season, Walt missed for Vegas, and Bobby missed when it was someone’s birthday. And of Kanter we never know. Still, some guy named Gruber came by and Fred D got regular, and…. Speaking often of nonsense, we dodged not small issues. Les’s suggestion (that guns be banned but that citizens be issued bows and arrows) remains unadopted. Still our wisdom flows every midweek, over breakfast.

We were happy together again at Cain Park this summer. Gary Puckett was there, and he asked me to stand. From a distance I saw fellow veteran Stuart also rise. Gary Lewis, though, stole my heart. From “This Diamond Ring” to “Sure Gonna Miss Her” he captured the last years of innocence—mine, at least.

2013, when all tolled, featured days well-spent and days pissed away; moreover, it honored friendships sustained and friendships renewed. It began and now ends though—more than anything, with family.
—Max barging in our room, Lucy hiding in her tent, Eli’s smile illuminating!
—Pictures (just now posting), of Lucy sitting on a potty, of Max standing at a urinal.
—Near weekly trips with Helen, a link to the past
—Near daily talks with my brother, a bond that is timeless.
—And the heartbeat of Carrie, 500 days on….

As she has each December since the 80’s, Darlene Love sang “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on Letterman. The blend of time and voice and hope and music made me look back and look forward and melt.

My year ends yet again with loving friends and cherished family. It’s been another good run—from Harriet’s Matt in “Fiddler” last winter to Ermine’s kiss on the cheek last summer to M & M and Stace & Jace in the midwest….to the brunch just Sunday (with Biff, CJ, Caroline, Denise, Hal,Harriet, Helenia, Leesa, and Margie).

It’s all good.


Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

I remain comforted, even in this time of diversity, confirming that NO, I don’t celebrate Christmas. (Offense unintended, of course, to the myriad of well-wishing friends who, knowing full well I’m Jewish, still feel compelled to ask “What are you doing for Christmas? A few have even asked over the years “Does that mean you don’t have a tree?”).

Ah…Yuletide memories…

At Rowland our fifth grade choir learned carols. Moreover, they had us sing them in concert at Brush High’s cafeteria. I found it exciting, actually—being in the big school, and all. It remains, however, my earliest notice of our Dad’s lip puffing in anger. Indeed, it would have hit another zip code if they’d had them then.

Christmas then meant vacation—no more, no less. Oh, we might go to May’s-On-The-Heights, (nka Macy’s), where in the basement, adjacent to the Toy Department, sat Santa. (Our cousin Gary met him once—I saw the picture—but Hal and I: never!) No, but for the perch also abutting the cafeteria, I’d have never seen St. Nick.

A few years later, another memory: with Wido, identifying three Browns singing “Jingle Bells”. Still, our prize, 40-yard line seats for the NFL title game, stands more as a football story than as holiday lore.

Come to think of it, it’s always been football. Like in ‘71, the day of the Dolphins-Chief’s overtime playoff game. We were in Stamford, Connecticut…me, with a bunch my soon-to-be relatives … for a cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. They’d housed me with Cousin Howard (then “golden boy” to the clan), which I’d figured meant they liked me. Most will recall that as the day they played the longest game in history. Me? I think back, rather, to locking my future sister-in-law out on a landing, in only her bra and panties.

The best non-Christmas Christmas flashback perhaps, came one year later. The 25th was a Monday, and for the first time ever this cowboy woke up a non-virgin. It was the morning after my Passaic wedding to The Jersey Girl, (and…I don’t want to speak to the karma, but as Walt was witnessing the k’tuba room in the back, my ushers were up front in a coatroom watching the Browns blow a playoff game to the Dolphins). Was I excited that night? Well…let’s just there’s more than one meaning to the phrase “two minute drill”.

And that is it. Forty years later, twenty years (19) past the Browns last serious playoff run, the day’s just an off-day. The weather gets cold and the restaurants close. My kids, gone, may call, ‘cause we all have cells.

I left work early Tueday, the world closing down. Home I went, to Carrie—and the next day off.

I’m lucky, frankly. Very lucky.  I’ve learned, after all these years.  I’ve learned that if nothing else:  each day we wake is a holiday.

So I celebrate.


Saturday, December 21st, 2013

I wasn’t “cool” growing up, but comforted knowing I was in the cool group. The luster of the Bobbys and Joels and Julius’s and Ermines inured to my benefit, rubbing off on me to the extent that as I walked Brush halls, I figured others knew if I was friends with them, I must be OK. (At least that was my perception. It didn’t quite generate the “street cred” playing swift pitching with Fromin and Simmerson had years earlier, but it worked wonders on this insecure product of a broken home).

Nor did I date back then, (except for Homecoming or proms— events that might render me conspicuous by my absence). So I never saw a Bond movie—ever—‘though my friends did. Indeed, the closest I came was my Dad taking me to see Dean Martin in a Matt Helm movie. At least I wasn’t home watching Star Trek, still years from catching on. I shot hoops indoors with Alan, played one-on-one tackle outdoors with Codgie, spent every other weekend with our father… and smiled. No, I wasn’t Bobby Snyder, but I wasn’t Sheldon Cooper either.

I knew my place in the system.

I clung, frankly, to the reality of it all. So did Wido, I think. Never discussed it with Alan, but I’m guessing he too had a sense of the food chain…and, like me, thrived on his insecurities. For contrast, think God Damn Will, our buddy found at the 40th reunion throwing shoes in the center of the crowd of frontline girls. Really Will? Really? (We had no choice but to hide his loafers). Give it up Will. You’re not Snyder either—or even Fenton.

Semi-nebbish that I was, I not only knew the drill, but got it. Though not on the A-list, I knew how to read it. Embracing then, my place in this realm, I was…in my own way…in touch.

I loved the Beatles, sang Motown, and accepted the Stones. Played decent ball, did the AZA thing, evaporated with my father every other weekend, was a eunich through high school, but thought I knew what I’d do if I ever did date…

(I was wrong).

So what happened? Forty years on—somewhat self-assure —I’m (for lack of better words….……..out of touch.

The list or Rock Hall Of Fame inductees emerged this week. Not one artist conjured memories for me. Can’t name a Peter Gabriel song, to start. And the rest? One’s known for his tongue, one for his suicide—-yet another for his ban from our country. And Linda Ronstadt? Don’t get me started. The Cellmates were a better cover band than she was.

I’m either old or out of touch or both. Do I care?

I used to read TMZ, peruse Perez and scour the Enquirer. No longer. Don’t know the names; don’t watch the shows; don’t share the piercings.

I AM out of touch. I …

Watch Letterman nightly, never switching to Kimmel. I like Jimmy and often his guests are better. But it’s 2013 and somehow after all these years I’ve morphed into Grandma Bogart clinging to Ed Sullivan. (Or as she called him: Ed Solomon).

Love movies, but rarely go. Sci-fi ain’t me. Nor The Hobbit, nor vampires…nor Rocky X (God forbid). Where have you gone old Woody Allen comedies? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

And yet I try—try to relate…to stay in touch.

I’m on Pandora, (due to Stacy’s “head’s up”). Quibble if you must about my stations, but for every Fogelberg, Denver or Dylan you’ll Daugherty, Adele, Maroon Five….

And I Facetime, don’t skype…

And I tweet—here and there.

I’m not in touch, and I know it. In field goal range, though—and I’m in the game. Content not to be PC; proud to be anti-DH.

SECURE…after all these years….being a semi-nebbish.


Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Looking out the office window Saturday I cringed. Rough winds and heavily falling snow presaged only one thing: it would be “rough sledding” shopping with Helen that day.

“Aunt Helen,” I queried, “You sure you want to schlep in this weather?”
“I must get to the bank.”
(WHY? I wondered. If she doesn’t go out she doesn’t need cash). Gales whistled  outside as I mumbled “Pick you up at 1”. 64 years and 6 weeks old and… emasculated once more.

I was wrong, though. Very wrong. It was a wondrous day.

Something happened, I swear: a paradigm shift our first moments together. Yes, I’d arrived minutes early. Yes, I’d poached, idling in my car but houses away…until 12:58. And yes, at the appropriate moment I’d pulled in her driveway—the final approach.

It was 1PM—precisely—as I rang her bell.

Yet something was different. Gingerly we traversed her  steps. My left hand in her right, my right hand in her left…dancing like Von Trapp and Maria…slowly navigating unshoveled snow. And Yes, she reminded me–even as we walked— that her landlord “is evil”.

Yet something was different. Call it karma. It was in the air—the fresh air we both needed.

“We must go to the bank first,” she told me at Mayfield and Green.
(Already ten holiday shopping Saturday afternoon driving minutes from her home, the traffic was stubborn like her).
“There’s a PNC at Richmond,” I noted.
“I must use my branch.”
“Why?” I asked half-heartedly, already laughing, accepting, and turning around.

So we talked, smiled, and as we drove past Rowland School for the second time that day, we shared.

“Why is Harold so close with Harriet?” asked Helen. I gave her MY answer, placing the genesis in the early 60’s.
“We didn’t know her then,” my aunt noted. I tendered then, a Cliffs Notes version of our parents’ divorce, the interaction between our father and Grandpa Irv, and how the latter’d pushed the ball down the hill. I theorized how H’s closeness to Irv played out over many years and kept him closer to Harriet. (It was utter nonsense of course, and in some ways I was telling it just so I could repeat it to Hal. Still, with just enough fact thrown in ‘twas 20% plausible…and she grasped it).

“There was no reason for the divorce,” she asserted.
“I know,” I lamented. “And poor Harold was the ‘child of divorce’,” I bemoaned. Nodding in agreement, she’d apparently forgotten that I’d also been hurt. On this beautiful day that was Saturday though, her priorities bothered me not. Myopic she was; and he was Raymond, me Robert. Ah, but all was good.

We finally hit Marc’s, her home court: that favorite grocery she loved to hate….

“Do you have any more good stories?” she asked after shopping. (We were heading to Jack’s, her home deli. You know— that deli she loves to hate).

So we shared yet some more—

About last week in Chicago. And Lucy. And how on Saturday night we got lost in the city. How Stacy put some idiot from the restaurant on the phone to guide us in, but that the person spoke “broken English” and I couldn’t understand. And how the clown asked me where I was and I told her the intersection and she told me to just make a left turn and I’d be there and how, exasperated I kept saying “If you don’t know which way I am facing how do you know which way I should turn? And how ultimately Jason had to leave the restaurant and come and get us.

She devoured the story!

And she loved it too as I told of the mathematics involved figuring the appropriate way to split the check. There were, after all, three of us (Carrie, Leesa et moi), and Stace and Jace, and then Jason’s Dad and Stacy’s Mom. What was appropriate? How I’d gone to the bathroom to Google it but couldn’t get help. And I’d phoned a friend. And I’d even asked the audience (in part)….

Yes, she savored the tale, my aunt did. And moreover, the lady stayed true to form.

“What did you do?” she asked, (and I told her).
“You were wrong!” she pronounced.

The good news is that I too stayed true to form. Grimacing a bit, I laughed and accepted.

Flurries were falling as I dropped her off. It was darker and colder, but we danced…

Up the walk…to her steps…oh so slowly—Von Trapp and Maria.

—And then I drove back… up Cedar—through the wind and the cold— glowing. Why would anyone, I wondered, complain about weather? Indeed! Not if on a day like today—where even in snow, it was 99 and warm.


Friday, December 13th, 2013

They call it The Recovery Room and it meets Wednesdays, rain or shine.

A private conclave back then, it was truly more like a caucus. A dozen guys, maybe…pensively reading from selected material, each sharing his experience, strength and hope. I could smell the wisdom.

Oh—and I stumbled on it, in a way. (Well, maybe not). I just don’t believe in coincidence. (Ask me ‘bout it sometime and be prepared to roll your eyes).

2010, give or take: My friend, a regular attendee, needed papers signed. “Why not,” he suggested, “Come by the meeting?”

Entering the parking lot that night my sight focused immediately on the two men smoking outside the church. I’d found the place! Why is it that after all these years it still didn’t matter where the meeting was…somehow there’d always be one or more guys flanking the doors, flicking cigarettes)?

It was a sultry night in autumn. I shook some hands, walked downstairs, and on that autumn eve I found a home. (Oh, I’d had a “home group” already—a decade or so—but this assembly, as I’d come to say, I would love like a home group).

This, I determined, Murderer’s Row, decades later. (Or at least Sobriety’s answer). Rather than the Ruth, Gehrig and Lazzeri of the ’27 Yankees, this roster featured a half dozen chiseled veterans of The Steps. Sitting there that night, eyeing faces both familiar and not, I listened.

And I learned.

And… as good as I’d felt when I’d entered, I felt that much better on exit.

With permission, I came back. Invited. One of….

That was years ago, maybe three. A weekly excursion since then, I’ve made friendships in that room (while cementing old ones). Only family matters or commitment to a show has held me back…kept me away.

And that’s what happened recently…what with production of “Don’t Drink The Water—and why I feel revived, now that curtain’s down, and I’m back on track.

I walked the steps last week, once again. Circling the conference table— it was just before 7 and reasonably full — I shook all the hands and said all the hellos, and even got some spit for having been gone.

And then, game on;  Sitting, listening, sharing …  learning.

I never tire of those guys—ever—even though I’ve heard what they’ve said before I’ll hear it yet again. And again.  These guys: they’re never off message… a message I need to hear.

It’s a special group.

I’ve witnessed real men opening up, not hiding vulnerability. I’ve heard them speak to their good and their bad and their ugly. I’ve shared my own “stuff” in my journey toward growth. In a room bound by windows we each look in mirrors.

And the wisdom—the “hochmehs” n’er found just anywhere….still radiates—

Like I’m sitting in Miller Huggins’ dugout, swapping tales with the Bronx Bombers…

Gerry talks of taking his moral inventory. “There was nothing moral about it!” he says. “If all you do is go to meetings,” claims Steve, “You’re just pissing up a rope.” (I still think he looks like Bernie Madoff).  And Dan. And Tom. And my sponsor, John.

All the usual suspects—

It’s a great mix, I say. Add in Keith, who before he “got serious about the program” once brandished a knife at another meeting creating a stir. (Had he pulled that stunt at THIS meeting they’d have had a Shivah call for him). And Paul. And Tommy and Mike, both of whom have been sober four decades.   Not to mention Tim The Tattooed Half-Jew who always comes late…and the always present “new guys” that keep us new.

Like I say: it’s a great mix. I love it…like a home.

They call it The Recovery Room and it meets Wednesdays, rain or shine.


Friday, December 6th, 2013

Frail but feisty, Aunt Helen stands stubbornly at the plate. Standard Bearer for Team Bogart, methodically she fouls off the pitches of time with no less defiance than Wieder swatted balls foul (ere the “two strike rule”). The march of time for her— for all of us— is inexorable.

We said goodbye to Norm this week. Tucked in the back of the chapel, it was (next to my parents’), as difficult a service as I’d been to. My father’s cousin and contemporary, he’d been for a lifetime…a friend.

And yet I sat there thinking…not in a morbid way… (after all, he was 86)… ’bout how they just keep dropping.

Invariably on Wednesdays Art reminds us: “I’m next in my family.” His meaning is clear.

I want to discuss it with my kids, but they won’t. Won’t even joke. “Don’t talk that way”, says one. “You sound like an idiot” says another. But they’re wrong. I can be happy and reasonably healthy and still feel mortality. It’s human.

— Somewhat like Ermine’s approach to the past. Look at it he will—he just won’t stare at it.

Hal Bogart: now there’s a gent with dimension. Wasn’t long ago I reached out to him relating matters I’d want if and when came Strike Three. Understanding it, maintaining perspective, he emailed back and addressed my funeral:

“…Aunt Helen will need a ride,” he wrote. “Is it OK if she rides in the limo? Would it be OK if the limo stops at Marc’s on the way?…”

Ah, how truth is often spoken in jest! Closing my eyes (excuse the expression), do I not picture The Ice Queen directing an entire procession through the parking lot of the Mayfield/Green post office — the black-suited limo driver casually dropping her rent check in the mail slot?

Not that dear Harold was finished. No, his missive included a list of several proposed pall bearers—-almost like he was filling out a fantasy football roster!

So we laugh at Kraut’s weekly announcement and recall Simon and Garfunkle singing “…Time is tapping on my forehead…”.

We are 60-something.

My brother called Wednesday. Fifteen minutes, give or take, we spent planning our Shivah call.

“Let’s go Thursday, late afternoon.”
“We have to take Helen.”
“OK, Want to go in one car?”
“Why should we both have to pick her up and drop her off?”
“Pick her up and we’ll meet at Randy’s.”
“I don’t want to go in without you.”
“Maybe we should meet along the way.”
“4:30 Thursday?”
“OK, the parking lot of Heinen’s at Cedar and Green.”
“OK, the parking lot of Heinen’s at Cedar and Green.”
“Is that 4:30 in the parking lot or I should pick her up at 4:30 and meet you right after? I don’t want to have to sit and talk to her.”
“No, 4:30 in the parking lot.”
“OK, so just to be clear—I’ll tell her I am picking her up at 4:15.”
“OK, the parking lot of Heinen’s at Cedar and Green.”
“…And you’ll take her home.”
“Yes, I’ll take her home, but you’ll leave when I do, won’t you?”
“I guess so, but if I want to stay longer I can. You shouldn’t care.”
“I won’t care, but she will. If you stay, she’ll want to go home with you.”
“I’ll leave when you do.”

So we laughed a bit, the two of us, soft chuckles muffling the sound.

And still we heard:

The sound of our family’s clock ticking,
Of our clan marching…


And me? I hear an extra sound, and hear it louder—

It is the crack of the bat, our Aunt Helen still fouling off pitches.

I hear them, you see, in a way Harold can’t. I am, after all, in the on-deck circle.


Monday, December 2nd, 2013

They make it sound so simple and they take it in stride: this bit about children not staying in Cleveland these days—how they move out…to Chicago, and New York, and greener pastures.

The papers— they speak to jobs, and economy,  and to providing kids a reason to stay.

Hey!  How’s this for a reason:  your parents!

Lucy came and went again. Spritelike, boasting bounce and beauty, my two-year old arrived, showed her stuff, and rode home.

To Chicago.

Three hundred miles away.


They stay with the Birthmother while here. It makes sense, I suppose. I mean they bring the dog, and while I offered him a home for the weekend, perhaps they think I’ll steal him back. (I wouldn’t, you know. Dogs too move away).

So I stopped there Wednesday, for a bit. Saw Jace, kissed Stace, and held Luce (as long as she’d let me).

PAPPY!” she’d greeted, causing melt. With her father upstairs showering, Lucy clung to my arms. “Daddy’s Girl” though, at his reemergence just later, she threw me right to the curb.

“Pappy…” she noticed on Friday. The novelty of my presence had waned overnight and we were heading to Lyndhurst. It was en route to my brother’s that I discovered the following geometric equation:

               Aunt Margie is to Lucy as Aunt Helen is to Stacy

Could it really be? There’s a nexus with Margie and Lucy ne’er evident ‘tween my kids and Helen. It was easy on Friday, and we lingered before bidding adieu. Carrie, Leesa and dinner were next, though.  Time to go.

So we dined at La Place.  Calamari and kale — you know: your traditional Shabbos fare…

And then she was off to bed—The Little One—for the night.  Stacy’d call in the morning… I’d come say Goodbye… and they’d go.


“pappy” she nodded…barely…as I took off my hat. It was Saturday, and she’d had a rough night. “She can sleep in the car,” comforted Jason.

I studied her, all peaches and cream—

Watching her smile
Hearing her vocabulary
Feeling her warmth.
And knowing, all too well, that soon they’d be gone.

I count the blessings.  A superb mother is Stacy; a doting father is Jason. A good life they share.

Out west…

Where jobs flow and an economy thrives—                                                                                                                     Where the grass is (presumably) greener.

Not to me.

Yes, I “get” their great lives and I see Lucy thrive.  Good—if that’s what they want.

Forgive me for not doing handstands.  The kids have gone home, you see. And Lucy’s out west, you see.