Archive for February, 2014


Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Dear Hal,

I spoke to our parents last weekend and of course your birthday came up. Dad told me he had a card for you on the visor of his Plymouth. It was the last, apparently, of the Jai Lai Restaurant postcards with Woody Hayes on the backside. Mom, on the other hand, said she’d been depressed. She requested I pick one up and mail it to you. I asked her if I should buy a gift from the money that Ed took, but she gave me a dirty look. At that very moment Sam entered and plaintively asked  “Bruce, please leave your mother alone.” Struck me it wasn’t the right time to announce that I’d just this week made the final payment on Mom’s funeral — you know: the one her third husband pre-paid.

In any event, Happy Birthday. (Oh, and Dad says he’s not offended that you never liked the name “Harold”. He’s green-lighted me honoring your request to be “Hal”, specifically noting that the Harold was from your mother’s side of the family).

So Happy Birthday HAL,

I was sitting on the plane the other day…thinking about how old you are…how old we are…and smiling—

More than that, I’ve was thinking of how lucky I am…we are…to be brothers.

To be friends.

I know for me that even as I back out the life cycle events, as I close my eyes and picture the so-called unimportant events that were most important to my life—-when I replay my immaterial but significant memories—you’re always there.

Like the ’63 AllStar game, when we sat with our father…first row of the left field upper deck—just above the Pesta Pickles sign.

Or ’64—the NFL champion game…when the Browns blanked the 11-point favorite Unitas-led Colts. How we pulled the all-nighter…Wieder, you and me…winning primo seats from the radio station. How great was it on that 40 yard line? Oh–wait… Sorry. I forgot. WHK only gave us two tickets. I forgot. My bad. You watched it, as I recall, with Dad, in black and white, from a motel in New Philadelphia.

Well…we shared “The Drive” in the Dogpound, didn’t we?

You were always there, H — the Zelig of my life. You were my teammate in the White Sox infield and the Boobus Bowl backfield. You were my comfort and cushion in both laughter and tears—

—from the tumult of being with me when 45 to the torture of sharing our aunt at 90.

—from the laughter with Stuart watching, as Dad’s station wagon spilled Highlights on High Street to the spill from our eyes, watched by Margie  (eyes rolling), as we —bookends sitting on your couch— studied “The Notebook”.

Don’t think, Little Brother, that I don’t remember. Don’t think, “Little Herb”, that I still don’t cherish…

—May 12, 1972 when after 5+ months I got out of the army. Braniff Airlines scratched me in Chicago and flew me to Cincy. You drove down, that Friday night, and retrieved me near midnight. (And for what it’s worth, I refuse to believe it was your residual guilt from the upset you caused your father by not enlisting with me).

—October 6, 2006 when you sat in at Halcyon & Cedar, in a church as I spoke. (Yours were not the only tears, Butchie Boy).

—August 1, 2012 when (with Margie) you served as a buffer on the best non-date of my life.

So here’s to you, Hal, or H, or whatever you wish to be called. To paraphrase Aunt Helen’s classmate, Bill Shakespeare:

 “…What’s in a name? that which we call a Harold
       By any other name would smell as sweet…”

I love you,



Thursday, February 20th, 2014

When I was a kid I was a nail biter. My father hated it and whenever he saw me do it he’d snarl. “Fingers!” he’d shout, giving me a look like —how could I hurt him so bad. (I knew what he was thinking: that he asked so little of me…. Still, sometimes, when he was close enough, he’d physically pull my hand from my mouth, giving me looks Boston never gave Buckner).

The good man didn’t live long enough to see me stop, which I ultimately did. It was the ‘90s and someone told me if I had my nails done the biting would end.

I did and it did. (Not that there wasn’t some irony to it. Indeed, if my Dad was alive to see me get manicures, that alone would have killed him).

Every few weeks though, I sit for ten minutes. It’s quick stuff. No appointment; it’s just down the hall from my office. I just stick my head in and if they haven’t got time I come back.

No big deal.

It never matters to me who they give me. I’m not there to talk; I’m not on the make; I just want it done. No polish…no buff…no massage. And for God’s sake, “No sauce.” “Just cut my f’ing nails,” I’m thinking—and then let me leave.

By far the best place I’ve ever been cut was in Great Neck. And this for three reasons.

First, the shop was right across from the Great Neck Diner. ‘Nuff said.’

Secondly, it cost seven bucks. (I’d hand ‘em a ten and everyone smiled).

But today it was Cleveland…and I wasn’t smiling…at the shop.

I got in right away, of course. Had I not I’d have booked. But they gave me to someone I’d never seen before, and she didn’t know my game, and she didn’t seem to get it. Not even after she asked me what I wanted. Not even after I told her. Not even as Natalia (a regular) kept giving her looks.

Note: I never care whom I get. Nor do I care, for that matter, what they look like. Oh, I’d prefer there be no tattoos. And I’d prefer not to see those specks of crystal masquerading as jewelry stapled to their faces. But do I really care? I think not.

—As long as they don’t talk to me.

So today—from 4:30 to 4:40 at least—was a day from hell.

“Buff or shine?” she asked first.
I nodded, eyeing Natalia. “And no sauce either,” I added.
“No massage?”
“No thank you.”
“What about your cuticles?”
“Not today.”

The next half minute was great. It was silent.

“Why don’t you want a massage?”
“It’s not my thing.”

More silence.

“Did you get a chance to enjoy yesterday’s weather?”

More silence.

“Did you spend Valentine’s Day with someone special?”

More silence.

“You don’t talk much, do you?”
“I gave it up for Lent.”
She then turned to Natalia: “Is he joking?”

Even more silence as finally I thought she got it. I was wrong though. Seems she was just setting up for her grand finale.

“Do you have children?…Are they in town…Grandchildren yet?…”

She got nods.

“What do you think of the new coffeehouse?”
“Why don’t you want polish?
“Are you tired?”

I wasn’t rude, but I had nothing to say…to her.

(Well, that’s not true, totally. What I wanted to say was “Listen whatever your name is, the tip is three dollars, but five if you shut up).

—But like I said, I wasn’t rude. Moreover, true to form, I left four bucks).

Oh yeah—-seems I got sidetracked. There’s a third reason to get manicures in New York. It’s the manicurists themselves!

(They’re all Asian, you see. They can’t speak English).


Friday, February 14th, 2014

  “…Do you hear me?  I’m talking to you….”

You are my best friend, you know.

—Not because you ever played ball with me at Rowland, or laughed with me at Greenview— or even rolled your eyes at me through Brush.

—And not because you were part of my first series of “best years” in Columbus or ‘cause we ever interacted in our first adult lives.

But because you are you.

Did you sense it first? Heck, you texted me back on Day Two. Was I “in or out”, you wanted to know. Our repartee? I remember it as though it was yesterday! I recall too heading for New York a week later neither sensing the soon-to-be-rising tide of emotion nor suspecting that just one week hence, on my first best friend’s 63rd birthday, I’d be plotzing at the Roth-Schorr wedding, trying to reach you by phone.

Plotz I did.  And drive I did, the next day…across the country…consumed by the healthy compulsion of infatuation and convinced in my heart of hearts that this—YOU—would be something special.

I was right, C.J. Nailed it! Should have bet the “over”.

Never had I dreamed of a friendship like ours: mental, physical, spiritual.

Never could I suspect I’d be so open or so candid with someone who never owned a baseball card.

Never would I imagine I caring so much,so deeply or so quickly. Stacy? Jason? “Slow down,” they urged…all at the time you were telling me you loved that I was taking things “slow and steady”. It was all about the angle, lady—and from my angle there was nothing as powerful as an idea whose time had come.

        “…They don’t know how long it takes
       Waiting for a love like this
       Every time we say goodbye
       I wish we had one more kiss….”

I never dreamed someone could be so open, so caring, and so naturally nice…

I never dreamed I could have a best friend that never owned a baseball card…

I never dreamed there was a you.

Timing is everything, of course. Our lives intersected at a time and a place where our values intersected. Our loves intersected because—it’s clear—our priorities intersected.

Plus, there were your eyes.

Blessed, I am, with a myriad of life-long and less tenured friends. I’m  very lucky.

—And then there’s you: the yin to my yang.

I thrill like I never have before and play like I never have before and trust like I never have before, frankly, because we were friends first, good friends second, and then fell in love.

Whodda thunk it?

It’s been quoted before: people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Lady, please take note:  you’ve come by for eternity.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

     “…Lucky I’m in love with my best friend
       Lucky to have been where I have been
       Lucky to be coming home again….”

B. Mars


Monday, February 10th, 2014

 “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”

Just past the turn of the century a confluence of people, two men and two women that had never before met, forged a life-chapter cemented in both my mind and heart.

Deborah was a counselor at one of our country’s strongest universities. Her office was small—tucked (as I recall) on the second floor of the old Student Union. From its friendly confines she would bolster, comfort and guide the student.

Stacy was a young, beautiful freshman. Sprite-like, insouciant and smiling, she was not yet twenty when Ohio State —that venerable institution that had theretofore educated a half dozen of her blood relatives— failed to protect her.   As Buckeyes passed the buck, she turned to Deborah.

Daniel was from, (of all places), Tennessee. A campus-safety advocate working with The Clery Center For Security On Campus, his omnipresence strengthened and fostered valor in victims.  Steadfast support from his national organization bolstered women to speak out so that others …some day… need not have to.

David was a downtown lawyer. Campus cops shrugged it off and campus brass disowned it.  Not this man.  Even as uptown administrators winked at what they termed “date rape”, even as these same suits closed eyes in fear of bad press, this county prosecutor not only got it, but embraced it.

—Separately, yet together, this impromptu quartet played their roles.  Separately but together they guided the message from our daughter’s head to our daughter’s heart:  She wasn’t alone!  Stacy, our Stacy: before the grand jury, before the college bureaucrats, on Dateline— letting America’s daughters know they too were not alone.

That was years ago—more than ten. Deborah?  David?  They’re still in central Ohio, plugging away, doing what they do best: helping others.  Dan’s moved on and now directs 32 National Campus Safety Initiative, squarely in the mix crafting legislation for campus safety. At some level, we remain in touch.

And Stacy? Our baby Stacy? Now a vibrant asset to the Chicago business community, she’s clearly so much more.

She’s a wife, and a daughter, and a sister, and a friend…and….a mother to a wonderful 2-year old who too is beautiful and sprite-like.  Her name is Lucy and she is lucky.  Because of the Deborahs and Daniels and Davids and Stacy’s of the world, you see, she’ll grow up in a much safer place.


Thursday, February 6th, 2014

“…You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by….”                                                                                                      Graham Nash

I learned early on there are certain things you do and certain things you simply don’t. Not to a friend. Not to another guy. Never. Abetted by a seasoned father, facilitated certainly by my cast of friends, I’ve (if nothing else) grasped the unwritten rules that only in recent years have been dubbed The Bro Code. It’s a system that not only  works but makes sense—and if you think about it, honors an ethic of brotherly love.

I had little use for it early on. Never dating in high school, wedding my first girlfriend, I was never really out there. Like in high school: Bobby was Wally Cleaver; Stuart was Eddie Haskell-Lite  Me? I was just Lumpy Rutherford.  Rules mattered not as I mattered not.

Fast forward some decades. I’d married, divorced. The world had changed and my world had changed, but the rules had not.

I remember Bob’s call—  mid-90’s perhaps.  One of his friends wanted to ask out my ex. So the call came in: “Did you have a problem with it?” he asked.  (Actually I didn’t, and Bobby well knew it).  Still, it was the RIGHT thing to do…to give me the courtesy of the call.

Contrast this with what happened on Ed’s divorce. “Would you go out with his wife?” We were sitting at Caribou—Ed, me, and this guy.  Always willing to stir the pot, I turned to the third:  “Would you go out with Ed’s ex? I asked him, (never dreaming he’d answer). “Of course,” said our friend, (turning to Ed), “ Would you mind?”

The silence was deafening that moment, and I knew from Ed’s glare he would never forget it. (That was years ago, maybe four, and the guy called her). Hold the thought….

Sometimes, of course, even the best make mistakes.

Like…..   I’d been spending time with someone in a short-lived, nice but specifically uncommitted series of interactions when mitten drinnen I met someone else and all bets were off. Within days I’d cut cords decently and predictably, no one seemed to care.

OK. One person did.

“Aunt Helen’s concerned I may run into so-and-so,” I told a buddy at breakfast.
“What’s the difference?” said my pal, “She was seeing another guy all the time she was seeing you.”
“I beg your pardon?” (It wasn’t jealousy that took me aback. I was blown away, however, by the fact that my good, good friend never told me).

“How long have you known?” I asked                                                                                                                                         “A while—but I knew you didn’t care.”                                                                                                                                        “I DON’ T care. That’s not the point. You had an obligation to tell me.”

And still he pushed back: “It wasn’t important.”                                                                                                                   “Are you kidding me? The fact that you didn’t tell me is important. I’ve been violated!”                                          “You two weren’t exclusive,” he defended.                                                                                                                             “Not by her—by YOU!”

My friend never got it. Ever. Here was a guy that had taken bullets for me yet I could see in his eyes he just didn’t grasp the gravity of the situation! And I could sense right on that continuing the discussion would be fruitless…that I could never legislate this morality.

This sequence, fortunately, was the exception underscoring the rule. Indeed most of my friends, from Rowland to adulthood through recovery honor the code.

—-Like mid Y2K’s, when Ed wanted to ask out someone I’d dated. I got the call…from him…as a courtesy. Not that I’d ever say No; it mattered not. If he really chose to go that route, though, he owed me the call. Squatter’s rights? Perhaps.

—-Or like the lifelong friend that had a chance to spend time with a girl I never dated, but had had a junior high crush on. I got the call.

…Which leads me back to the thought we’ve been holding. You know: the dufus at the now-defunct Caribou Coffeehouse that wanted to date Ed’s ex. I bumped into the guy last week—after many months.

“Hey,” I asked him (as if it had just occurred to me), “How come you never called Ed’s ex? The window was open.” After a slight pause I continued: “You need to follow up on that.”

“I don’t have her number,” he pointed out in naivete.                                                                                                        (This was too good to pass on). “She’s on Facebook,” I noted.                                                                                     “Good idea!” he exclaimed.

For a moment I thought to tell him I’d been screwing with him. For a moment I had a conscience. But only for a moment. Instead I did the next best thing, calling Ed, warning him.

“I can’t believe you did that!” he roared (His is a deep, deep growling laugh).
“Oh, please. I had to.”

He too then had a conscience…and called his ex.


Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Olbermann did a bit the other night citing 10 reasons not to watch the Super Bowl. Once again he nailed it, underscoring further his position as the only sports show that is Must See TV.

We remember the commercials, he noted. But not the game. He was right. There’s just nothing super, frankly, ‘bout the NFL title tilt. Games are rarely compelling and pre-game hype is so shallow—indeed, with rare exception memories of SBP’s (Super Bowls Past) center more off-the-field than on…

Take Super Bowl I: First, that’s a true misnomer. Nobody called it that then. It was just the championship game between two leagues soon to merge.

Game memory: Bobby, Art and I were driving back from a skiing weekend in Mt. Summit, Pennsylvania, trying to get back for the kickoff. Bobby got a speeding ticket and was hauled into a small town as Kraut and I stayed roadside in his Mustang.

Or Super Bowl III: Watched it with my Dad in Columbus. We were “old school” fans, our hearts with the Colts and an aging Unitas.

Game memory: Modell had yet to take the money and run to the AFL. Johnny U would come off the bench, but couldn’t pull it off.  My father went to his grave resenting Namath.

Or for that matter Super Bowl VI: I had been in Ft. Polk, Louisiana less than two weeks.

Game memory: Watching the game with a couple hundred southerners —Cowboy fans all—and rooting quietly for Miami. It was the Ohio thing: Shula and Warfield, and I felt like a prisoner in a Confederate prison.
And then…no memories….for years! That’s what happens, I guess, when you don’t bet and your home team never gets to the dance. Games matter not.

Oh, I recall the year of “The Drive”—how after Denver broke Brownie hearts with an overtime field goal by Rich Karlis that I swear wasn’t good. Sat with H in the dogpound; Michael taped it at home; the kick was wide left.

Game memory: Linick and I were in Vegas…watched the game from the sportsbook at Caesar’s. Won a “prop bet” when they caught Elway for a safety.

And I recall too the year Fenton had a party…with the Gulf War beginning…and me finding out right there in his house that I was still eligible to be called. THAT I remember.

But my greatest memory—my hallmark Super Bowl memory, goes back to the 2008 game. Ask me—go ahead and ask me how I found out that the undefeated Patriots had been knocked off by the NY Giants? OK, let me tell you where I was!

I’d been asked to lead a 12-Step meeting in Cleveland Heights. My share having ended, the meeting was opened for post-talk comments. Some guy stood up…some guy with a wire and a plug in his ear.

“In case anyone’s interested, New England just lost,” he announced.

And that—for me— is a memory. Not only a Super Bowl memory, but a just super memory. In a half century of Brown-less games that just blend together, this is the moment — for me at least — that tops them all.

It was February 3, 2008. (I looked it up).

On that cold winter night in the upstairs of an old building at Mayfield and Lee in Cleveland Heights, Ohio…not that many years ago … everyone in the house was a winner.