Archive for October, 2014


Monday, October 27th, 2014

A movie based on our Wednesday breakfasts? When I’d first heard of it in July the thought intrigued me. Predicated on our bet? We swelled with pride!

“He’s making it with equity actors,” Bob cautioned. Still, within hours I’d made the call: “Any room for a non-union guy?”

The screen play’d been written by Jeff. A professional, he is — an acTOR, as they say: one of those sophisticated gents oft cast in upscale shows. The truth is, he’s a purist: a thespian that reads each script line then wondrously stares to the heavens searching meaning from each line. (Ed. Note 1: There’s a reason these guys are professionals; I not only respect it, but well know my place). (Ed. Note 2: Clowns like me are but “meat and potatoes”…content to do shtick, hoping to entertain, and happy if I can just squirt some seltzer in your face). It’s all good.

I don’t know Jeff well. He seems nice enough. A year ago I’d actually tried out for a show in which he’d been pre-cast as lead. I didn’t get cast. Sitting at auditions it occurred that they were seeking the strata of actor that never perspires. Me? I’m pure energy and … like I said: seltzer. We actually met, though, in the ‘90’s. Bob had brought him on as a guest for our radio show. ‘Don’t recall much of the program really…other than Bob talked, Jeff talked, and between their colloquy I added nonsense for laughs.

“We can put you in as the waiter,” he told me quite graciously in August. (I was thrilled, elated like a Brush kid invited to a dance at U.S.)!

(Ed. Note 3: Twice prior I’d travelled this road. Both times the ventures I’d committed to just never went forward, and, while I hadn’t been emotionally vested, they did disappoint. Reluctant it made me to share this latest episode with my kids. I could well envision Michael’s eye roll and hear too Stacy’s admonition against disappointment. Been there, done that).

Ah, but this deal was real.

Receiving a script via email, invited I was to an after-hours read-thru. “I know you’ve got your other rehearsal that night,” he told me. “It would be great if you could come by when you’re done and meet the cast.”

Filming had then been set for September, but I couldn’t wait. My ass dragging from a rough night in Chardon, I stopped by the set. Fascinated I was, to say the least. These guys were good—characters all. The project excited.

One guy was Bobby; another played Lester. Then there was the guy with no hair. Hello Arthur! And me. Another played me. They even named him Bruce— in the script that is. Not a bad me, I might add.

This must have been a Monday or Tuesday, because I can tell you I bounced into Corky’s that Wednesday…gleeful… waiting to share.

—- And then my phone rang again —-perhaps a week or so later—

“We’re not going to be able to use you. We’re going with a female server.”

(Ed. Note 4: Once again he’d been gracious. It was a valid choice, I knew. And as my father’d have said: the world wasn’t coming to an end).

Life went on. Truth is I’d mentioned the gig to my kids over summer. In the time that had passed they didn’t ask; I didn’t tell.

It was filmed just last Monday–this tale of our friendship. Invited to be extras, our feelings were mixed. Bob was all over it (Go figure), and Les was ambivalent. Kraut and I tend to go with the flow…so … Bobby still being Aleph Gadol …well, we all showed up.

—And for three hours we sat…watching…

Twenty feet away talented strangers were playing us. Twenty feet from them intimate friends, never breaking stride, were laughing, joking, and…. BEING us:

Bobby came toting a garment bag. Three wardrobes had he. He worked the room as I filmed him…and as the hours ticked by and we waited for our one backdrop scene, our end of the room had its own clear rhythm:

First, there was Snyder in perpetual motion. Then:

— Every twenty minutes Lester’d comment: “You do realize he’s never ever been to our breakfast!”

— And every ten minutes Arthur’d grimace asking “How many times are they going to run that line?”

— Then me: Every other minute I was thinking of Kramer. Cosmo Kramer. And I remembered how frustrated he was watching someone play him.

“Why can’t I be Kramer?” he’d asked in May, ‘94. (He was right way back then).

Standing there, eyeing this stranger (talented as he may be) playing me just didn’t feel right. Why can’t I be Bogart? I mean…after all, when you come right down to it, I am me. And I don’t have to act to be so.

(And furthermore, lest anyone forget: I won the bet).


Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

       “…Now time turns the pages
       And oh, life goes so fast.
       The years turn the black hair all grey…”

When I was eighteen my friends were the center of my life, my Dad moved to Columbus to be near me, and no one made me laugh like Jerry Lewis.

Perusing the paper…it was early September…an ad caught my eye.
“Carrie,” I exclaimed, “Look who’s appearing at Mershon Auditorium!”

I’ve a warm spot to this day for central Ohio. The Karen Holbrooks of the world (surrounded by suits) have muted my feelings, but  differentiate I do between the rancor of the campus and the repose in my memories of the city proper. Columbus is one thing: warm and fuzzy; and yet, notwithstanding my collegiate times, The Corporate College (to my family) was toxic.

“You’re going to see Jerry Lewis?” “Is he still alive?” “Wow, Mershon!” Everyone reacted to our planned mini-trip. Surprised, they seemed…somewhat tacitly pleased.

In ensuing weeks we heard it all, planned it all, and waited. “The Fantasticks” opened and closed; the Holidays came and went; then so did we.

“Whose car do you want to take?” she asked (thinking of me).
“Yours,” I shot back (thinking of Howard Stern). Carrie, after all, has SeriusXM!

Max Burstyn was our point man with Marriott. “You know it’s Homecoming?” he admonished. (Did he not want our business?)  Yet he found us a room…and we hopped in her car … and we drove.

—- And for thirty-six hours, almost to the minute, we felt the comfort of an old sweater.

The Hollywood Casino was everything I’d heard Cleveland’s Horseshoe isn’t. Eighteen months it had been since I’d last played poker. “What would Walt do?” I internalized, quietly replaying Linick’s admonition from late 80’s Vegas: “May God judge the quality of your life,” he had urged me, “By the way you play today”. A wondrous mantra it is, and, playing tighter than Fenton at a flea market, I cashed.

A perfect start it was.  Scooping up Carrie from blackjack, heading to Courtyards, and Chinese food, and….

We met Lisa and Mark for breakfast. Old friends. Steadfast.

It was an interesting venue Mark chose. What with the marathon running downtown (I passed this year), we were dining all the way up High Street, just south of Granville Road, at the Worthington Inn. Recall it I did — from the Highlights days.

Staying out in Dublin we were, and my memory kicked in. Rather than take I-270 around, Route 161 was in order. Traveling straight across, the scenic route (if you will) …even losing ten minutes as a train passed ….I reveled in the landmarks. Poor Carrie, she sat there nodding and nodding at my running commentary. “This is where… and this is where …” I was saying, referring to absolutely nothing that had happened in the past forty years. Pronounced was her sigh of relief when I pointed out the restaurant ahead. Pronounced too was her silent groan when I bypassed the turn.

“This is where I student taught,” I beamed.  (Ed. Note: For some unknown reason an abandoned office chair graced the middle school lot. This I could not pass up! Leaping out of the car I bid one more request: “Please take my picture”, I asked. (The snapshot is available on line for the asking).

The Ermines were fun. We caught up a bit, spoke of Florida and Snyder…and parted. On a roll we were —

“Look at all the stones on my father,” I noted. (We had parked along side). “They can’t all be from Harriet”. (Poor Carrie, she was in for the long haul). “And these are Harriet’s parents,” I said, pointing at graves marked “GALAN”. Then, Kaddish said thrice I couldn’t help reminisce: “I called them ‘Galanma and Galanpa’”.

We broke bread with Harriet, of course. (Ed. Note 2: It’s a funny thing. You would think that when I speak with her it would be about the past — what with her burying my father 29 years ago, and all. Not so. We talk, rather, of our todays — what she’s up to…what we’re doing… my brother.).

—- Rounding third, we were .… on this, our Long Day’s Journey into Past. Next stop: “Hey Laaaaaaaaaaaaaady!!!”

I hadn’t been in Mershon Auditorium in over forty years. (It took the Jews less time leaving Egypt). Last memory of the place had me seeing “Carmen” with Linda Weisberg. A requirement for Theater 165 it was, the course itself being mandated for all theater majors. How bad was it? Suffice it to say that as stunning as Linda’s looks were, the opera was just awful.  I not only bailed mid-first act, but within days I had changed my major.

Ah, but the hall looked great these four decades later…..

—Median age in attendance: maybe 60.
—Median impulse of the crowd: love.
—And he nailed it!   Jerry Lewis: still The King Of Comedy.

Blending story-telling and video, with a twinkle in his eye he made time fly by…

Until it ended.
And the legend bid adieu….

I’m not eighteen anymore — yet I see it well through my rear view mirror.  

Driving upstate … nearing midnight…  I couldn’t help but think: my friends have remained and my Dad’s never gone. Oh, and Jerry Lewis: he still makes me laugh…

(Only these days…with perhaps a lump in my throat).

“…I wish I was eighteen again,
And going where I’ve never been.
Some old folks and old oaks
Standing tall, just pretend.
Me? I wish I was eighteen again….”

George Burns


Friday, October 17th, 2014

Tuesday was seventeen years.

By fall of ’97 it was ugly. Greased by alcohol, my world had spiraled inexorably downward, shrinking in isolation. My father was gone; my brother didn’t speak to me. My son was at school and of the girls–while Jamie was older/driving/steadfast, The Jersey GIrl’s bear hug on Stacy was making things rough. Alone I was — playing the victim —not yet seeing what I couldn’t yet see. Blaming others for my every wrong turn, little did I know I was actually the luckiest man in the world. I’d hit a bottom; all I had to do was stop digging. Indeed, I had been given the gift of desperation.

The last drink? Seventeen years ago this Monday. Exactly. Which makes October 14 (in recovery parlance) my “sobriety date”. And yes, while we still take things one day at a time, some twenty-four hours remain special. Like October 14. Anniversaries remind me of what was, what lays out there if I take my eye off the ball, and best yet: how grateful I am.

There was a time I’d waken each morning groaning “Oh God, another day.” That was then. These days — and for some time now — I open the same eyes and with the same words exclaim “Oh God, another day!”

6:30 AM Carrie woke me, and as she rewrapped her covers to watch “Morning Joe” I jumped in the shower, downed her brewed coffee then checked online mail. The world awaited.

7:13 A text from Bruce H, whom I met in The Rooms. (He was the one that taught me how honesty without compassion is just brutality).

8:13 I heard from Dan K. A relatively young “old-timer”, he now shares
what he’s learned operating a rehab facility . A few years back
Dan’d spend a week or two per month here. Now he pretty much splits time between his home in West Virginia and his work in D.C. I’m guessing he was in our nation’s capital this week, (as I’m not so
certain The Mountain State has internet yet).

9:34 Alice emailed. Never misses. Residing now somewhere in Florida, her contribution here lives on. For years the “point person” at a local temple, she more than anyone else is responsible for that shul’s opening its doors to multiple meetings per week.

As usual I ‘d hit the office running. There was mail to be read, calls to be made, and oh yes — at the appropriate hour — Aunt Helen to call. Why she wanted to drive to the bank that day I didn’t get. She didn’t want to go shopping, mind you; she just wanted to withdraw money for the NEXT time she goes shopping. (Ah, but I don’t “got to take her” as my sponsor reminds. Rather: I “get to take her”).

“Aunt Helen, I have to be in Chardon at 1. Can we go tomorrow instead?”
(I wasn’t groveling, but I was Eddie Haskelling).
“Please call me on your way back,” she said warmly. “We shall see.”
(Gracious, she was. ‘Must be something about turning 100 that slows one down).

10:15 Frank H! Younger than me (he is), but was there when I showed up, and he’s kept on pedaling. ‘Though we’d met in The Rooms,
our friendship flourished, really, as I studied his gentlemanly manner playing Hold “Em on Sundays. ‘Haven’t seen him much these past years. We’re just running different routes. But he remembered… somehow… and reached out.

Burnside phoned as I drove out east. Frankly, it’s amazing we bonded. Politically speaking he makes Fenton look like Wieder… and Pittsburgh bred, he raised his kids Detroit. As such, his blood runs either black and yellow or maize and blue, depending on the day of the weekend. Oh, and no one really thought he’d stay. Seven years he hit, just this month. Smart money was on the “under”.

I called my aunt as I head back west. It rang from Route 44 to Route 306.

“Bruce,” she opened with, “We can go tomorrow.”
“Great, I said. “I will call you middle of the day.”
(There was a pregnant pause).
“One more thing…can you just stop for soup?”

Between the pickup at Issi’s Kosher Restaurant and the drop off at The House On The Rue Bogart, I called my sponsor. A talk was needed… nothing earth-shattering …. needed share. (That’s what we do in the rooms: share). A problem SHARED, they taught me, is a problem cut in half.

Approaching Chez Leimsieder my phone rang once more: Joe K. He whose anniversary date is Halloween. It was Brother Joe that once personally ushered me through the administrative chambers of the major hospital in town. It had demanded serious cash to look at my heart, but he pushed back. Without warning he took a check from his pocket and called their bluff. “Here’s $1,000.00” he said. “That ought to get him an appointment.” (They didn’t take his money, but hesitated, then booked my procedure. It mattered not. I will never forget it). Joe, by the way, has a colorful side. Not only is he more anal retentive than say… my Aunt Helen… but his middle initials are O.C.D.

6:50 PM Nearly twelve hours after he started my day, Brother Bruce rose to greet me at our 7PM Men’s Discussion. (Program guys hug more than Mandels kiss).

8:00 Home again. Home to Carrie and dinner and bed.

We watched NCIS, Olbermann and Pardon The Interruption (all on tape), ultimately falling asleep in sync after Letterman’s monologue …wrapped in the same blanket from whence she’d watch “Morning Joe” the next morning….and together we’d be thinking “OH GOD, ANOTHER DAY!!!”


Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Decades it had been since we’d seen each other. Still, as the pal from my adolescence rose to greet me he lied through his teeth:

“You look the same as always!”
“You’re full of shit,” I shot back, (as we hugged).

I hadn’t planned to be at Corky’s that evening. Arthur’s matter-of-fact proclamation at breakfast had changed things.

“Julius and I are having dinner here at 6,” he announced. “…If you want to come by.”

Of course I did. And could. Indeed, this year (as much as ever), I must.

“I’ve got a meeting at 7,” I told him. “I’ll stop in and have coffee.”

The day flew by. Work and Aunt Helen kept my motion perpetual. Never stopping, I was full speed ahead pulling into Village Square, rushing into the deli — and it never occurred to me NOT to look for a 35-year old face!

—So at first I didn’t see him…but soon I saw Bobby (in a booth toward the back, facing the door—go figure).

There they were:  Snyder flanked by The Kraut  with yet another that had hit for the cycle (Rowland, Greenview, Brush and OSU):  The Pride Of Stonehaven, Julie Stockfish.

He looked older than the last time. Didn’t we all? He was wearing glasses. Weren’t we all? He looked peaceful, at ease. Didn’t we all?

We sat there re-bonding, not that we had to. Had not that nexus between us transcended time.  Indeed, blending topics of now with remembrance of then we shared…

Of business: Some kind of grip for tennis rackets. Snyder was following; Art and I didn’t quite get it.

Of the Boys Of Summer: From Auerbach and Cohn through the alphabet to Wieder, and the Girls Gone Wild: From Bookatz to Phillips to Rosen through Shafran.

And of our lives.

Old friends touching all bases: From “What’s up with Randy?” to “”Where’s Phyllis Rosenberg?” to “What about Codgie?” We spoke to Shaker girls of yore, Heights girls of a not-so-distant past, and the ones MIA.

“Did you ever…”
“I would have thought you did.”
“B, Wouldn’t you have figured he did?”
“Of course, and I still do.”

With reverence to what was we told tales that live on….

—Of the guy who fleeing and eluding cops to win favor at work.
—Of the one guy who “fell asleep” at Club Med.
—Of the guy that urged us to “Take me out of your Rolodex”.

And with smiles on our faces and warmth in our hearts we kept talking….

— Of Masseria and Siegler and YES, that “special poll” taken at Burntwood Tavern the night pre-reunion. You know…the one where Ermine (among others) refused to take part.

“I kept all the ballots,” one of us beamed.
“I golfed with the runner-up”, another noted.

(At times though our memories conflicted).

“I broke up with her in eighth grade,” one said.
“Can’t be,” I reminded. “She moved out west that February 1st.”
(Did they forget? I had no life back then. No shock, really, that I recalled minutiae of others?)

It wasn’t all fluff, of course. We spoke, ‘ere we parted of Randy’s daughter and Kenny’s son … and Susie K. Susie and Gail, to be exact. (To this day they are missed).

And we spoke too of Israel. How could we not? Julie made Aliyah when (I think he said) he was 40. The world speaks vicariously of what our friend lives in real time.

… And then … within moments…it was 8 PM…
… And then … within moments…we bid farewells…

We hugged again, by the booth —-

“It was so good to see you,” he told me.
“Be safe,” I said.
“I’m in the safest place in the world,” he told me.

… And the four of us— hand in hand without touching — walked out as a unit.


Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Rarely do my two adulthoods (one married/one not), overlap. When they do, as they did just Monday, well … to place it in poker parlance: I’m on “tilt”.

It is a curious paradox knowing you are welcomed yet not feeling at home. No one’s fault, really–certainly not the hosts. Still…

“Bobby would get it”, I told myself after minutes at the bris. Mingling pre-slice, smiling the smiles, shaking the hands I well knew: Bobby would get it. If my buddy was there he’d pat my shoulder, ask me “Why do you care?”, and understand.

Ed. Note 1: Only marginally is it an overstatement to say I’d take a bullet for the Mandels. The fibers of our friendship rooted with Harriet and Elaine back at Glenville, strengthened with Booey, Dooey, H & B at Brush, and nurture still through our Fab Five raised in Beachwood. The fidelity of fellowship has been undeterred by changes in time, temperament, divorce or geography. Indeed, it is a beautiful beat that goes on.

Still there I was Monday, mixing in a sea of faces from days of my matrimony. Many, in the two decades since The Great Divide, have considered me traif. I know that. And yet, do I not relish happenstance when we’re in the same place and some of these folks shift their angles geometrically to avoid sharing greetings?

Ed. Note 2: Being the ex-husband in a Beachwood divorce, even if you’ve previously held favor, is like being losing candidate in a run for the presidency. Anybody invite Mike Dukakis to dinner lately?  How about Robert Dole?

Yes, there I was, alone in a crowd of nice people, some of whom, frankly, have feigned knowing me since Clinton first “didn’t have sexual relations with that woman”….”.

I saw one mumser. From temple, Beachwood, and even JNF I’d known him. We’d socialized, in fact, as couples. Back then.

“He doesn’t like you,” Linick told me (late 90’s).
“Why not?” I’d asked.
“Nothing major. He just thinks you’re a jerk”.

So there he was in the vestibule of the shul, working the room. “Fuck it,” I figured. “I’ll say hello.” (Not that I was trying to be polite, not that I was trying to do the right thing. Au contraire! I wanted to see the worm squirm. No more, no less).

Barely concealing my spit-eating grin I walked ‘cross the room.

And then. And then…two things happened, contemporaneously, that have since led me to believe it just wasn’t meant to be:

1. Fenton cut in, sidetracking me with a query only Stuart could muster:

“B,” he asked, “How many people have you ever known named Horace?” (This was his subtle homage to the recent death of the widow of a Brush teacher, one Horace Ebersole).


2. The clown I was approaching … in one clear motion, pivoted dramatically and went the other way. (Did he see me coming? I’m not sure. But I do know they should have called “Travelling”).

Ed. Note 3: I really didn’t care. The guy turned so fast .. I think I saw him limping later. I’m thinking he may have pulled a

The ritual of the Bris, of course, was beautiful. Passing the infant from the loving hands of one generation to the tender mitts of another, my friends honored the sacred covenant entered into years ago sustaining our faith to yet a next generation.

I sat there as the baby passed. Watching the blanketed beauty I thought to Max and Eli, and to their beginnings.

The rabbi spoke (or was it the mohel?). His hochme, his Bible tale as you will, was moving and right on point.

I thought again of my grandchildren. Sitting in the chapel…listening… I thought of their being out of town….and how beautiful their Bris’s had been… how we’d passed each boy from generation to generation.

I thought again of steadfast Bobby… and his grandkids, (some of whom are out of town).

I welled up a bit as the prayers continued.

And all the while I was thinking: Bobby would get this too.


Saturday, October 4th, 2014

It was not Punky Brewster standing at that trial table ten years ago today. Self-righteous denials by the perp coupled with sustained, calculated and frankly immoral neglect from their mutual university had left my baby older and wiser. And yet it played out as expected. Scrubbed for the occasion, the suit-wearing, tie-bearing, sober-staring toxin had just uttered “GUILTY”.

She had seen it, heard it, and lived it. So as the prosecuting attorney methodically recited the facts,  as defense counsel assented “…for purposes of the plea, your Honor….”, it was no surprise.

“Does the victim wish to speak?” asked the judge.

Bravely she rose–nervous but not unnerved – elegant and honest. No longer the teen kicked away by her school, she was twenty-two, tried and true to her being.  Purposefully she spoke, not just for herself, but for the far too many woman like her. Not just of the defendant, but of the far too many men like him.

“He is guilty,” she said. “He is,” she asserted, “A cancer that has struck not only me but others….”

“The law limits what you can do but the facts demand you do everything you can,” she urged the Court.

“Your Honor” she continued, “If you don’t want to do it just for me, do it for the girl who testified before you about three weeks ago about her own identical victimization which also occurred in Franklin County, also perpetrated by _____; if not for her, do it for the four females who made statements regarding _____’s verbal and physical sexual harassment which also occurred in Franklin county; if not for them, do it for his ex-girlfriend whose testimony you have been exposed to from a previous transcript — she described the detrimental effect that _____ has had on her health and safety also; if not for her, do it for the female who was documented to have been punched in the face by _____ and resulting in (sic) much needed dental work — this too occurred in Franklin County — or, God forbid, the innocent person that _____ has not yet had the opportunity to spread his cancer upon….”

This she said in open court, moments after the defendant had pleaded guilty to negotiated justice, with no hint of remorse.

This she said before listening to a defense attorney ask that his client be allowed to get on with his life and “… put this bad experience behind him…”.

This she said before the defendant too was asked if he had “anything” to say. His refusal spoke volumes.

I sat in the courtroom that October 4, 2004. On a day previously known as my father’s birthday, I knew well he’d be proud of her. And my mind ran … ‘cross the canvas of our child’s last thirty months: her tears…her trials … her triumph.

I sensed then that it was not so much the end of a process but a renewed beginning to her life.

My prayers…our prayers…were answered.

Ten years on defense counsel’s dead. Some time now.  Ten years on the prosecutor steadfastly supports the Rooney’s of the world with skill, compassion, understanding and zeal. God bless him.  Ten years on the victimized freshman resides in Chicago. An empowered citizen, wife, mother, friend, daughter, aunt— she thrives.

OH, and ten years on, the defendant is not readily found—not even on Facebook. He’s out there somewhere– mired in his dragnet of truth.

And YES, the silence he spoke in that courtroom — ten years ago today — still speaks volumes.