Archive for July, 2014


Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Thank God she didn’t come along. (I’d asked Carrie to join me for the stone setting).

“I will if you want, but you’ll have to introduce me to everyone”.
“That’s OK,” said I. “I’ll be back in an hour”. (In and out, I figured it’d be).

Venue for the unveiling was Park’s Cemetery — a home game, if you will. In a drive-by, I could visit Grandma Cele, Grandpa Irv, Grandpa Maisey, Grandma Bogart…the whole mispachah laying in wait. (Ouch). Time permitting it would be a mitzvah. (“Mitvot”, to be exact. Indeed, I was but four stone throws away).

So I drove that beautiful morning, sun shining…blue shirt, camel pants, car top open, packing a yarmulke, down Richmond.

I didn’t have to go, I suppose. It was a friend’s father, but not a close friend. Had I not caught it in the Jewish News I’d never have known. Not like an inner circle thing. Still, back to the Bayard days this went, and once knowing, I couldn’t NOT.

Made my left at Chagrin and my right to the graveyard. (Inside it’s one-way now. Several years, I think. Conventional wisdom has it that, with the digging of additional plots, the pathways narrowed. The real story, I believe, is that this makes it harder for my Aunt Helen to stop by the office each YomTov and complain of the foliage by her mother).

Past the gates I turned right… then a left heading south –eyeing all the while, the landscape —seeking familiar faces that’d be huddling en masse. Had to find the right group.  Had to recognize, through my windshield, my friend.

There were no, (excuse the expression), bodies in sight. All the way down the western-most artery I drove…until … when I thought I could drive no further … in the distance I found even newer land…expanded acreage…and, indeed, the only people in the cemetery.

So I parked the car — single file on the right — so others could pass

And I walked toward the group — donning my skull cap in stride —and I noticed:


My friend wasn’t there; her sister wasn’t there. Our friends weren’t there!

Worse than that (in a way)— these were people I knew. Nice people.

Same last name. Same (somewhat roots). No relation.

This was someone I knew back in Hebrew School. Who had kids that knew my kids.

There was no turning back.

So I said my hellos…
And I stood toward the rear…
And intrinsically I took note of those that had to be thinking “What the F is Bogart doing here?”

There were some that I knew, of course:  a sprinkling not so much of friends as acquaintances. Warm acquaintances— treasures of a life in one town.

“It’s so nice of you to be here,” said one.
“I felt bad I missed the funeral.”

And then it began. First the rabbi, then the unveiling, then the son saying a few words.

Briefly he spoke, maybe three or four minutes. Sharing stories of his Dad, bits of wisdom he’d preached, his short talk was quite moving.

I stood there feeling enriched to have been there…to have seen a side of this classmate I’d never quite known…to have heard his remembrances.

And I cried, just a bit, for all sons that have lost fathers.


Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Eli’s eyes offer wisdom. Looking up smiling…taking it all in … watching… synthesizing…not missing a beat. He is all of one year old.

Strong argument may be made that life cycle events are termed such not so much for the marked rites of passage, but for the life they, even in the best of circumstances, can suck out of you. No reflection on my family, of course.  They are warm, gracious people. Still, there was  a different dynamic to past generations.  We not only married within the neighborhood but stayed within the neighborhood.   We walked to birthday parties (didn’t fly).  Best yet, bodily rhythms in tact, we slept in our own homes, in our own beds, and rose rested to sing “Happy Birthday”.

That stated, I love these events, rarely missing them. Indeed, they give me reason to leave Ohio and rhyme to my visits. So I do birthdays!

Max’s first? I picture Elmo. Lucy’s first?  I see a gym.

Eli’s first, though….this past weekend: AT A HOUSE.

No, that wasn’t a typo. Family and food IN A REAL HOME! Who needs more? Not this cowboy. Eli’s party? Best venue ever.

—Took me back, it did…to days when Hal and I’d romp, Cousin Gary’d join in, men would play cards and women’d clear tables—

Not that change is bad. (Aging, perhaps, but not change necessarily). I couldn’t help thinking though, as I watched on Saturday, that maybe Eli, in his quiet, infinite wisdom, saw things my way.

First birthdays, like milestone surprise parties, are more photo-ops for the masses than celebrations for the honored. And that’s OK.

Eli’s simcha offered everything, from a son slaving over a patio larger than my Bayard bedroom to HIS son, all of three, showing how quickly time flies.

Time flies for adults too.

‘Round the table we sat, the many of us-  East Coast Gary and I regaling ourselves (if not the crowd) with stories of days at Fort Sam Houston. Medics we were in San Antonio, and through the safety of stateside anecdotes we fought the war. (Did  I mention the Military discount from our motel?).

But the day stood for Eli. A shining star. Turning 1.

This gentlest of souls was named for my mother. Never do I look in his eyes and not see her there. What higher honor than to perpetuate one’s neshamah through generations. “Eli”, (Hebrew for ascended), heightens my spirit by his existence and lofts each of us by his presence. All babies sparkle, plain and simple. Babies named for one’s mother, however, glisten!  As such, while New York cousins surrounded his face, I sat there quietly, consumed by his heart.

My eyes were on the prize. He was the reason d’etre, the quiet straw who, even napping, stirred the drink.

Not that there weren’t a few off-key moments….comic relief, let us say. No names please, but even with an AARP card in hand, Grace Slick provided me etiquette lessons, parenting lessons and (at a restaurant), a chapter on the “New Math”.

It mattered not. At all.

The weekend came and then we went.  Twenty-four hours after we sang “Happy Birthday” we boarded a plane.  Going home.

I would wait for the pictures, access my Facebook, recapture the moments.

On Monday a foil-covered weight that’d anchored Eli’s balloons sat flush on my desk…

Next to a like one from Max’s balloons…next to a drawing by Lucy—

In front of me — inches from my phone — always…

I see it and smile and take it all in…
I  synthesize Eli…

Sitting in Ohio.

Not missing a beat.


Friday, July 18th, 2014

Dear Dad,

The other night they asked us to answer the following question: “What makes you tick”? Instantly came my response, and with confidence. “Acceptance, ” I wrote.  My level of acceptance”.

I am in such a great place these days. Have been for a while.

Remember back in the day…those time I’d complain to you about, let’s say, the heat? We’d be in the room with a bunch of  perspiring people  and I’d be grimacing, giving looks. “It’s hot for everybody,” you’d have to remind me.

Or how when I’d knock after just a few cards in a gin hand, but pick up only a few points, and I’d be pissed?  Invariably you’d remark “If you take two or three points each hand you’ll win every game”.

Or, for that matter, WHENEVER things didn’t go exactly as I’d planned, and I’d greps, how you’d neutralize me with “It’s still better than a kick in the ass!” or “Little Boy, you’re crying with a loaf of bread under each arm”.

(God I HATED when you chided me that “Life isn’t fair”. Really!  That of itself didn’t seem fair).

You were right though, Dad, as you usually were. My hindsight is 20/20. (Not that I was really a malcontent…I wasn’t. Still it took me near half my lifetime to just let things slide).

“This too will pass,” you would tell me, when spit would happen. “Someday”, you would promise, “We’ll look back on this and laugh.”

My friends too had their mantras.

Stuart would say “Don’t have any expectations, B”. Alan, muted growl and all would wince “What’d you expect”? With Bobby it was typically “Get over it” and with Walt: it was a matter-of-fact “Go figure.”

So I’ve learned Dad…and I don’t waste time these days, fretting or riling over things I can’t change, things I can’t control.

Like other people…or the past.

That call Jon Scott’s father blew in the 60’s? The play the Bucks couldn’t get off up in East Lansing in the 70’s? The bullshit field goal they gave Karlis in The Drive game? (80’s)? Heck, even that crippling divorce of the 90’s! They’re in the book, Dad—and I know it.

Even God, (as they say), can’t undo the past.

—So I’m breezing a bit. Life is but my loose garment. At peace with most anyone….usually.

Work is fair, play is better, and family is best.  And…

We’re flying to New York; I’m doing a show; even Carrie, on a nightly basis, is improving at gin.

I mention this, Dad, because I reached out to Jamie again this week.  And was rebuffed. Again.

I shook it off, you should know, Dad.  Again.

Shook it off…

—Because if you were here you’d be telling me that this too will pass…and that you’d point to Eli turning 1 and Lucy via FaceTime and Max singing Hebrew—and you’d remind me yet again in that half/full spin of yours that I’m crying with a loaf of bread under each arm… and that three out of five grandchildren know and love me, and that as shitty as that sounds that’s still batting .600, and even Williams never did that!

But I need you, Dad. Down here. Now. Odd as it sounds, Impossible Dreamer that you were, you always saw things better than they were, yet you were right.

Things always are better than they are!

—And I know you’d be telling me even now, with my rejection in Plainview—that someday we’re going to look back at today and laugh.

I’m counting on it, Dad.

You never lied to me.

Love, Bruce


Monday, July 14th, 2014

Friday night

“When I see you I think of my brother”, he winced. It was Hal’s Rowland reunion, with siblings included. Shaking Marty’s hand (as I refilled Carrie’s soft drink), I embraced memories of his brother –my classmate – who’d died young. Three years ago, next month, I remembered…as well as how I’d found out…on Facebook.

“My brother got cheated,” he lamented (the surround/sound of contemporaries underscoring his comment).

It was an evening of turned back time – from Davis Bakery coconut bars to Geraci’s pizza. Our classmates they weren’t, but our people they were.
Ms. Leimsieder too, you see, has lived the gift of South Euclid.

So there we shared hugs, hellos, embraces and clasps and renewals in a party room flooded with six Boobus Bowl veterans, five lodge brothers, four members of the early ‘60’s White Sox, three OSU roomies, two sisters of sisters from my Bar Mitzvah—and one Pear. (Not to mention H’s first girlfriend).

It would have been nice, though, to have seen Bobby Wishnek.

Saturday morning

Six tenths of a mile, that’s all: the distance from Bob’s house, past Stu’s and mine– to Alan’s. Not that I needed to, but to assure accuracy, I map-quested it. South on Wrenford, of course; then left at Bayard and across Belvoir. They were simpler times of boyhood intimacies.

Bobby was coolest back then. But from days of bicycles through years we were too proud to ride them…until the ultimate manhood of driver’s licenses—we grew from pals…to friends… to The Big Four.

Some things never change. Would Wieder’s pit stop in town afford us time to convene? Would digital analysis be needed to sync our schedules? Most importantly, would Bobby pass on golf? Mindful agendas they were: Alan had family to see; Snyder had a foursome to honor; Stuart never leaves his house. What to do!

(Me? I’m easy, readily relishing my self-pronounced latter-day status as a Man For All Seasons. Never leaving town I’m ALWAYS available. I mean, really: Al lives in Portland, Stu down in Naples, Bobby in Bainbridge…and me…me: just 1.44 miles past Wido’s old house. (And YES, I map-quested that too).

But coffee we did. La Place’s patio. Over smiles.

And catch up we did: Alan’s book. My brother. Bonnie’s father (Grover’s project).

And laugh we did: reliving last year’s Erev Brush Reunion dinner —from the jousting over who’d be included to the special poll taken that night (and Ermine’s refusal to vote) to the conversation between Marvin and Stuart the very next night….(not to mention the mandatory two minutes on Jackie Levine).

Reveling, smiles eclipsing even laughter, four core friends sat with a bond much like the postman’s creed. Indeed, after all the years, tears and (sometimes) fears we’d shared, STILL, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can stay our harmony.

How close are we…still? No Mapquest required.

Sunday afternoon

It was sunny in Cleveland, and lazy.

Al and Joanie had left. Dick stopped by on his out. Across the globe the world awaited an all-Nazi soccer final and here, a local star was coming home.

Hal looked good Friday night. Lucy shone bright in a pic on Facebook. Eli’s birthday’s a week away.

And I woke up this morning, after a weekend with friends, next to the best of them all.

Al Bogart’d have said “You’ve got the world “by the balls”; Ben Selzer’d have chimed “By the kalooms, my boy”. How right on they’d be.

Buttressed by the past, but not living in it, I cherish my wonder years, but know these are the glory days.


Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Adam left on an April Sunday in ’66. Mom was at UH, Hal wasn’t home, and walking into an upstairs bedroom I’d found him motionless.

“Wrap your dog in a towel and take him to the hospital,” I was told, (when I’d called the vet’s house).

I did so dutifully. In white terrycloth I cloaked him, gingerly placing him in the green Chevy II before heading down Cedar.

To Dr. Elsner’s.

I was met at the side-door by Lefty. Bypassing the office, the aide guided me right to what appeared to be an operation room. And… and… even though I was 16 ½, even though my cherished sheltie felt heavier than ever, even though the “hoont” hadn’t moved in an hour…it hadn’t hit me he’d died. The dots didn’t connect.

He had, of course — and within moments, they did.

“Just leave him on the table. We’ll take care of it from here.”
“When’s Dr. Elsner going to be here?” I asked.
“He’s golfing.”

I drove home alone–in tears. The ride was short, but the day stayed long. Indeed. Adam had been my brother’s ninth birthday present and our mother’s “second set of ears”. But he had been my running buddy, and I cherished him.

There would be another Adam years later—a “rescue dog”, of sorts. It was early Y2K that I’d found posted a notice. One bichon…being given away… in Parma.

So I rescued him from the west side. (It could have been worse).

How I remember our drive back ‘cross town! There he sat, on the passenger’s seat, shaking. And there I sat: left hand on the wheel, right hand on the dog, comforting.

Bonding on 480, we two fell in love.

Adam left in due time… for a better world:  Chicago. In the early days of Stace and Jace he’d run the hall at their condo— jubilantly barking. Happy was Adam, joyous and free.

Oh, I’d see him on visits. When I’d sleep on their couch my old friend would lay near me. He remembered, as did I.

Then more years passed and gently I morphed from middle-age to (shall we say?) more than middle age….

And I met Carrie—
And Leesa—
And Rusty.

Rusty Leimsieder wasn’t like any dog I’d friended before. A Shetland sheepdog he wasn’t. Not even a bichon. No, this thing was IMMENSE! On good days, standing, he’d tower over Aunt Helen. On bad days, growling, the two shared a smile. With it all though, I grew accustomed to his face.

By our sides he would sit, as we dined. (I would sneak him my mushrooms). By our sides he would bark, as we snuggled. (I would curse him). What I remember most, though, is that by MY side he did lay, the night of my surgery. Protective, caring, guarding….

Carrie texted me Tuesday. Rusty’d gone to a better place.

Saree was with her; Arthur’d been nice. The dog was at peace.

I was cuing up “Seinfeld” that night, readying for laughter.

“Leesa’s crying,” she said. (I didn’t have to ask why).

My thoughts turned to Adam, and to Lucy, and to Chicago—

And I hoped against hope that when the bichon’s number is called, my little two-year old will be away at college


Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

“…Turning back the pages to the times I love best…”

It didn’t hurt as much as Wieder’s pulling me off third base. Being relegated to catcher bruised my ego–but at least I stayed in the game. Regardless, I winced Sunday, even sensing my son was as right now as Alan was then. (Their bedside manners were different, to be sure. Wido glared, waving his glove with “Just get behind the plate”. Michael was marginally calmer). Only marginally.

“Don’t be an idiot Dad! You’re 65 years old.” (sic)

We’d been emailing back and forth that morning. Me? I was trying to coordinate travel to both Westchester County and Edison, New Jersey. Ah but as George told Jerry when pondering “The Switch”, it just couldn’t be done.

Finally picked up the phone. “Maybe I’ll drive,” was my thought. “I can leave Saturday morning, go right to Jersey, and come up on Sunday.”

— And that’s when he said it; that’s when, in (pardon the expression) a New York minute, I had to get real.


(Quibble, I didn’t. Gross exaggeration of my age aside, it was game, set, match to the kid. The bat was out of my hand. Curtains for cross-country travel.

— Not that I ever did much. Hal and Howard Ross once drove west. Oh, and Bobby and the boys trekked to the Rose Bowl. (Wasn’t that the year the car broke down in Albuquerque, and they left God Damn Will in New Mexico?).

No, I stayed local. By design. But for the jaunts to the coast in the days that I had in-laws, my travel was limited. (To Columbus).

….And so it was that on this past Sunday, when my son (for the lack of a better analogy) urged me to come to New York, but to bring my play book)…that I thought back on the Top Ten Road Trips of my life:

10. Cleveland to Baltimore. 2011ish Jackie weds Alan. Driving through Breezewood…anticipating the honor of standing under Jackie and Alan’s chupah. Does she know that her sister divorced me?

9. Cleveland to Indianapolis. A decade ago, and another marriage. Alan Galan and Holly. Midst my low-fat diet someone had told me there was no fat in McDonald’s ice cream. Stopping and stopping, downing cone after cone, I hit Indy by midnight. Just in time. Nature wasn’t calling; it was screaming.

8. Columbus to Atlanta. 1971. Caravan/style we drove, Harriet’s father and me. Ricky Fenton and my Dad were in Greensboro and the game plan was for Murray and me to share a room in Jonesboro, Georgia, knock down those leads, and then meet the others in High Point (N.C.). Murray B. Galan, affectionately called “Galanpa”, was a wonderful man (Picture a Jewish Ted Baxter), but a stubborn roommate who insisted we sleep with the TV off. The memory that lingers however is the visage of this gent changing MY TIRE on 85North one sweltering Sunday. “What do you mean you don’t know how?” he asked twice.

7. Indianapolis to Passaic, N.J. (1970). I was an idiot even then; I was run by fear, even then. Lonely week in the Hoosier state ending, I called The Jersey Girl, but no one answered. To me, there was but one plausible explanation: she was cheating on me. (She wasn’t). Or even worse (in my mind), getting high. Jumping in my car I proceeded to drive across I-70, through Columbus, to New Stanton and across the state, pausing only for gas. No warning calls for her from the road—nothing. Driving with a focus as strong as a Bruce Mandel handshake, I never stopped. No, I wanted to catch her red-handed –wanted to end it dramatically! ‘Can’t imagine what I figured to do when I got there really, but I arrived after 10. Her Dad, puzzled to see me, came to the door. “I just wanted to surprise her,” I said in my best Opie Taylor. “She’s at Roberta’s house,” I was told. Back in the car I went, and right to her friend’s……where I found them sitting calmly on a couch. Just the two of them. Doing nothing. (Picture Grace Slick and Janis Joplin). It was a wasted trip, I well knew; I was a schmuck, I well knew. Still, when your girl friend’s a lot cooler than you, you run on anxiety.

6 & 5. Passaic, N.J. to Cooperstown, N.Y. (1981); Cleveland to Cooperstown (1982). The first jaunt, with Michael in tow, came weeks after Barker’s perfect game. We’d watched it on a Wrenford bed, and it only seemed right that we shoot up from a stay with his grandparents. The majesty of the place was overwhelming, and I recall too the simulated carpet field on the third floor, where kids ran the bases. Whenever someone crossed the plate canned cheers filled the room and, Lord knows how many times my boy slid into home. Or how many times he’d dust him self off, and bow to the crowd. The next year’s ride was much longer. Jamie joined too, and treasured still are my pictures of them, by a mailbox on Main Street. Those were idyllic trips, unbeknownst to me, at the beginning of less-than-idyllic times.

4. Passaic, N.J. to Nicholson, Pa. (1971). The Jersey Girl’d kicked me to the curb while I was staying with her folks. From a payphone I called information, got the number where Linda was camp counselor. (Picture Laura Nyro). It was somewhere in PA. Hurriedly, (I’m guessing quietly), plans were made. Those were days of road maps — my Dad had me keep one in the glove compartment — and to the sounds of songs like “Solitary Man”, dreidling through the hills of the Keystone state, I found her camp – and peace.

3. Queens, N.Y. to Cape May, New Jersey. (1972). Someone had to visit Fenton in the Coast Guard, so I hit the Garden State Parkway. (Until that trip I was certain the entire state was Jewish). How skinny he looked up in the second floor mess area! How proud I was of him, the first of us to serve.

2. Cleveland to East Lansing, Michigan. (1994). Primetime with The Little One. There and back we sang in the car and rehearsed for a show, all as I regaled her with stories of my days at MSU…tales that were, even then, a quarter century old. Quality time with my baby for the first time post-separation. Cherished!

1. Rye Brook, NY to Cleveland. (2012). How was I to know that Sunday that this would be my final solo? Really—whodda thunk it? Soothed by the week’s sojourn of two weddings and All Max All The Time, cruising home to have dinner with Carrie, daydreaming to the repeating “Catch The Wind” on my ipod…. How do I not give this finale the gold? I wasn’t just driving to Cleveland, I was driving home.

Anyway, that’s my list—for what it’s worth. Nothing exciting, except the memories they stir. Each, I might add, came in the summer time. Each, I must note, came in good weather:

— Sunny and warm…like the day Wieder moved me to third…and like just last Sunday, when a loving Michael took the bat from my hand.

“…Carefree highway, let me slip away on you….”

G. Lightfoot