Archive for December, 2014


Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

       “…The sun goes down
       The stars come out
       And all that counts
       Is here and now…”

Like so many before it, this past year was fueled by family, friendship and fellowship. A series of ordinary moments to be sure, but as life unfolds, it’ll yield some extraordinary memories. As such: a quick glance back…

It was the year Eli turned one, and Aunt Helen one hundred.

—The year I got a Medicare card from my Uncle Sam and sixty-five birthday cards from the masses.

It was a year of learning…

My children taught me to eat and to dress. “Close your mouth when you chew,” one instructed. “And can you take smaller bites?” “No tee shirts with printing,” another prompted. “And who wears mock turtles anymore? You look like a gay man from the 90’s.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with it).

Ah, but the most teachable moment came from a two year-old last winter. There I was snowbound in Chicago — four days sans planes, trains or automobiles. Pleasant but purgatory, thought I, awaiting the thaw. Playing with Pappy, smiled a bubbling Lucy, with better priorities.

Ed.Note 1: For an avid non-traveller, ‘twas a geographically banner year. 365 days and but for the trifecta of New York, Chicago and Columbus, I slept each night at home.

It was a year for the arts.

—Letterman announced his retirement and, much as I tried to see a taping ‘ere his final “Good night everybody”, he just wasn’t filming during my week east last August.

—On a local level, I wasn’t cast as Oscar in “The Odd Couple”, but did get to sing and dance as a father in “The Fantastiks”. The only way I could rationalize all this was my deduction that the first director was dumb and latter was deaf and blind. (Nor was I cast in the movie they filmed about our breakfast club.  That really hurt.  Think about it — for years the Creative Director at Fine Arts has chided me that all I do on stage is play myself in a different costume each show…and here was this movie guy saying, in fact, that I wasn’t even good enough to play myself!).

And it was a year for concerts: three. Billy Joel was ageless and Jerry Lewis?  He is timeless. Hal’s brainstorm Hall & Oates? Let’s just say it was a night to count ceiling tiles. (Not for all of us, actually.  Just this curmudgeon).

It was a year too for baseball journalism: Bruce Bohrer wrote a book (“Best Seat In The House”) in Chicago while I read a book (“Baseball As A Road to God) in Cleveland.

And a year for play — from gin games with Carrie to a poker tourney with great nephew Ethan.

And  for music — from both the young and the less-young! I heard Max sing “Call Me Maybe” out east, watched Elyse play piano back home,  and captured each on my cellphone for later.

And television, from “Mom” to “Madam Secretary” to “Morning Joe”. You know: it’s still right to lean left in my world.

— And a year for comic irony. Emil, the landlord Aunt Helen hated for twenty years finally sold the house. Two decades she’d waited to hear such news.  “Evil”, she’d called him, (to his face).  Ed. Note 2: Her first disgust with the new owner was evidenced at the 36-hour mark, which actually made me money. The over/under, you see, was 48, and I bet the “under”.

Ah, and it was a year for acknowledgement. (We take it as we can). “I love my family,” said Leesa one evening.   After the most pregnant of pauses she looked up and added: “And you too Bruce.” Apparently finding it hard to characterize my nexus to it all, she finally endorsed my status as not part being part of her house, but an “attached garage”.  Ed. Note 3:  I took that as notch above “visitor”, but a plus in any event.

Speaking of visitors, though…Alan came in from Portland this year, and Julius from Israel.  (At different instants, of course).

There was time also, this year, for conversation — from the isolated ones like sharing “war stories” with Gary in Westchester to sharing different types of “war stories” with Brother Greg in Chicago — from periodic reminiscences with Harriet to weekly Wednesday laughter with the boys to nightly banter with Carrie — each regimen treasured in its own right.

Unfortunately though, it was also a year of loss. I knew Harriet Mandel for fifty-plus years. This was a special person.

Best of all however, 2014 was a time of merriment, nonsense and loving! I cradled Eli, danced with Max, bounced with Lucy and even got to walk my Adam. Ed. Note 4:  YES, all the while I was being told not to drop Eli, not to knock over the coffee table with Max, not to get on Lucy’s trampoline lest I break it, and … via remote text messaging: to “be sure to pick up after Adam when he’s done.”

Lucky I am that the soundtrack of my year features many voices, from family to friends to acquaintance. Blessed I am by children that still want to be with their “old man”, friends and family that still wish to break bread, and by gazing each morning into the warmest set of Ocean Eyes anyone could ever wish to wake up to.

I embrace this past year, then, as memories in gestation — gifts wrapped with gratitude — to be reopened later. I am walking a path of faith, family, friendship and fellowship, where even the bad days are good, and …

(As long as I do so, I figure, it will be a happy new year).

       “…My universe will never be the same
       I’m glad you came….”

(Mac, Hector, Drewett)


Saturday, December 27th, 2014

There we were: first row, forty-yard line at the NFL Championship! It was Dark Ages, mind you. Before there were playoffs, before there was a Super Bowl, this title tilt was not only the ultimate game of the season, but for the World Championship! It was December 27, 1964 — 50 years ago today — and at old Lakefront Stadium, Alan and I, two budding teenagers from a middle-class suburb with barely more than bus fare in our pockets, had hit the motherload!

I wonder if we knew it at the time.

Let’s draw some perspective:

We haled from Cleveland, then the eighth largest city in the U.S.. While glittery L.A. had only been home to the Dodgers five years at that time, the Indians had a solid history and had, in fact, been to the World Series but a decade earlier. Moreover, in times where baseball too had no playoffs — just two leagues with winners taking all — even then, the Tribe, as recently as ’59 had fought to a tense September in a thrilling pennant chase.

We lived in Ohio, with its bumper crop of football talent — home to the Woody Hayes Buckeyes and three national championships in the recent decade alone, not to mention the already legendary coach.

We lived in Cleveland and had the Browns, the CLEVELAND Browns. Still in the afterglow of its dynasty years, the team smelled more like Renaissance than Last Hurrah.

Yes, we were winners in a town that was winning! We were fifteen years old and had it all!

I’ve been to some signal games since then. (No championship games, of course, but some major matches). There was the Purdue game in’68, and the Michigan game that year. In fact, that three year run in Columbus — especially the year Wied, Walt and I sat on the 50 in C-Deck — we had the world by the balls. Oh, and there was the Clarett game with my first/born, the set-up for the title win over Miami. Stacy was there in the crowd, and it was the only time I’d ever had a cell phone fail due to crowd volume.

But that was it — for a half century. The Injuns — oh, they had their run in the ‘90’s, but no gold. And Yes, the Brownies had The Drive and The Fumble and God, how I froze through Red Right 88. And the Cavs? Even before Lebron there was the Miracle Of Richfield…

But no champagne.

Who knew? Who knew that the Browns, 11 point dogs facing the league’s premier offense AND premier defense, would provide our town the trophy to last a half century?

(And counting).

Certainly not Alan Vernon Wieder and his buddy Bruce.

Certainly not the two upstarts that scored tickets days before the game through a radio contest…

The two clowns so semi-cool that they’d once bussed downtown to sit in the audience at the locally produced “Mike Douglas Show”… so sophomoric that, indeed, at the same Douglas taping, one of them rose from the audience, went on camera,  and danced “The Elephant Twist”.

No, it’s a good bet that ‘though we’d treasured that day, from the pre-game hoopla in the stands through the post-game press conference at the old Sheraton Hotel ballroom — it’s a good bet neither of us knew how unique the day was…

How unique it would be.

Dan Marino, quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, went to the Super Bowl in his second season. They lost that game to the 49ers, but I read years later that Marino, years later toward the end of his great career, had regretfully mused that it hadn’t occurred to him early on that he’d never get back to the Super Bowl. The team was good, and he’d just assumed they’d be back.

But they never returned – not in the FIFTEEN more seasons he played   Alas, the Hall Of Famer holds that January 1985 day close to his heart, even now.

Like we do with Sunday, December 27, 1964.

Fifty years ago today.


Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Stuart had a notion last summer and brought it up at Red as we dined with the guys. “Let’s go around the table,” he proposed, “And everybody tell something which, as long as we’ve known each other, we never shared about ourselves…you know: something nobody knows.”

His idea died.

“I didn’t come here to be psychoanalyzed,” one remarked; no others pushed back. Pure nonsense then ensued, of course. With fluff and friendship we were right in our wheelhouse.

Still, it would have been nice…

I’ve said it before: when my Dad died there were no stories untold between us nor were there feelings left on mute. Same (for that matter), when my Mom passed. Indeed, through her last rusting years not only did we laugh all the laughs and cry all our tears, but in the most lucid of her moments this product of her times felt compelled yet again to justify her 1963 divorce.

“I loved you boys,” she asserted, “And you should know these things.”

It wasn’t so much that WE needed to know, of course. It was, clearly, that SHE wanted to tell, to share, to complete. She needed to leave nothing left unsaid.

(As my father had with me. As Stu’d suggested with the guys).

And so it was that, driving from Chardon the other day, lyrics from the radio triggered my thoughts. Stuey’s suggestion (I surmised) was an inadvertent yet enlightened head start on what indeed my mother had spent her last five years trying to accomplish. He was trying to achieve completeness — allness, if you will. Stuart yearned, (I sensed), whether he realized it or not, to give our quality friendships an even greater integrity. He wanted to up the game.

Laying in bed next to a snoozing Carrie — it was 10 pm — I found myself revisiting Fenton’s suggestion. Ruminating, some hours after a song in the car had jarred my thoughts, I wondered:

Was this a teachable moment?

Just a few months ago this lifelong friend — someone who for fifty-nine years I’d shared every level of win and loss with — had filled a card to me with comments codifying sentiments we’ve both long shared. This, from a man of few words! With pen in hand he had detailed things one-on-one that he might well have said at Red, (perhaps in a corner).

Was this his way?

That whole thing about sharing the heretofore unshared got to me. Is there more that I want to say to those the points of light in my life? Is there more that I need to say?

I resolved that there was.

This morning I wrote a letter — perhaps the first of many. Hard copy, (not email). 

I shared a smile and a frown, and a feeling or two.

Then I mailed it…

And smiled.


Friday, December 19th, 2014

It’s been hectic this past week, what with people trying to cram four weeks work into the first two weeks of this holiday-laden month. Throw in some Chardon rehearsals, a Beachwood audition, the lunch runs for Helen and meetings, and—

Which is why laughter — even nonsense — is still the best medicine!

Last Saturday we hit the 11:50 AM screening of Chris Rock’s new movie. Let it be known that if ever you want privacy at the cinema, catch a morning show.

Sharing a tub of popcorn, we entered the auditorium. (Ed. Note 1: I clearly prefer that we each get our own snack. It’s not about being stingy; it’s just that I’m territorial about food, and at any given moment I like to know what’s left in my inventory. Still, they suck you in at the theater: the cost of the large is but a buck more than the medium. It doesn’t make sense, then, to buy two mediums when one mammoth vat is so cost-efficient).

(Ed. Note 2: Carrie rarely sees this side of me, although Stacy knows it well. How often have I been with my Little One at a restaurant when, once our food’s been served she wants to try mine. “If you want it, order your own,” I admonish. “But I only want a bite, Daddy”.).

Anyway, there we were, a solid ten minutes before even the previews would begin. Moreover, this being the day’s first showing, the lights were still on and the seats were still empty.  Indeed, those first several minutes it was just the two of us…in an empty theater…with opportunity.

“Take a picture of me,” I urged, sprinting to the front of the house. She grabbed her phone as I urged her forward. “Stand over here, so you can get the empty seats. Put it on ‘video’”.

And then, to the sheer delight of only me as it turned out, Carrie filmed me addressing no one. “We’re here,” I announced on film, “To honor our friend Bob.”

She rolled her eyes while laughing, I sent it to Stuart.   In the meantime we sat. Just the two of us. Eating popcorn.

“You know,” I marveled (in an “Ah ha!” moment), “The guy said free refills with the Large.”
(She nodded).
“Let’s refill now,” I proclaimed, our vat barely dented.

I reached in my left jacket pocket and, whipping out my hand, brandished a clear plastic bag that had once carried Aunt Helen’s mail. In one fell swoop we emptied the bucket to the bag and before you could say “We’re here to honor our friend Bob”, Carrie was hustling to the lobby to refill our order.

(It takes so little to make us happy).

(Ed. Note 3: Another couple showed up, finally. They passed by our aisle and sat near the back. Neither was toting food).

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Good as it is to make our own fun, great as it is to just play, the best laughs still come when I look at myself.

Monday evening— we’d just gone upstairs. Traditional ritual was on tap: the first two segments of “Olbermann”, a repeat of “Seinfeld”, “The Daily Show”, Letterman’s monologue….

“Do you want to go to a funeral tomorrow?” I inquired.
“No. Who died?”
(So I named the lady and that I might hit it on my way uptown).
“Do you even know her?” asked Carrie.
“No, but Stuart does and he suggested I go.”

And then…it all happened at once: her slapping my shoulder…her raucous laughter … her admonition:

“How OLD are you?” she mused. “You’re 65!”
(By now I was laughing too).
“You mean to tell me,” she continued incredulously, “That you’re willing to go to the funeral of a stranger because your friend Stuart said to?”
“He’s never given me a ‘bum steer’” I was trying to say…but I just couldn’t stop laughing.

She was giving me the look Cheryl Hines always gave Larry David on “Curb”, but… but… she was laughing too.

We both were.

We had so much fun with our own nonsense, I might add…that we never quite caught “The Daily Show”.


Monday, December 15th, 2014

       “…Well, I don’t want to visit the moon
       On a rocket ship high in the air.
       No, I don’t want to visit the moon,
       And I don’t think I’d like to live there.
       I don’t want to look down at earth from above
       And miss all the places and people I love.
       So although I might like it for one afternoon,
       I don’t want to visit the moon…”

For only a short period of time did I ever consider living outside of Northeast Ohio. It was ’72 and on return from the Army, Ohio State having rejected my law school bid, content I was to reside in Columbus near my Dad and brother. Only when The Jersey Girl proposed marriage (East coast Jewish women LOVE a man out of uniform) proclaiming she refused to live “in a hick town with you for the rest of my life” that I came back to Cleveland. (Ed. Note 1: “With you for the rest of my life” was later defined as 22 ½ years). Dwelling in central Ohio would be the best move I never made.

There were a bunch of us in high school. Friends we were, in one big circle, yet even with our subsets, so often we walked as one. After college, in time, the men left town. Slowly but surely our village leaked. (Not totally, however. Al T remained. As did Fred and Art. And Bobby, in a way. I mean: Summit County? Really?)

Myers went south, and Fenton too. Ermine: mildly south.

Grafchik, of course, went south in more ways than one (reportedly telling Stuart we should each take him out of our rolodexes). Then there were Gaffin and Cohn heading east, Herman and Auerbach moving west, and the most interesting hopscotch of all: Wieder. Southwest first, then east, Wido left his tenured position at the University Of South Carolina not to wed Joanie as rumored, but only when he learned that Portland was an additional 2,500 miles from Israel.

— And then there was moi: first on our block to be the product of a “broken home”, social underachiever of the group —me.

I stayed.

Four decades later, forty some years after my friends’ Exodus, I can’t imagine having lived elsewhere. Old friends have prevailed in my heart even as new faces have joined the circus. Indeed, this town, specifically the four square miles of suburbia I’ve clung to … these metes and bounds remain not only an intangible anchor, but a sustained source of comfort.

I love it here.

This is where we raised our kids. This is where I spread my wings. This is where, even within my emotional diaspora, I have claimed some growth.

So I don’t want to live on the moon. (Or, for that matter…New York or Chicago.)

My kids would love it of course. There was a time a few years back when Michael was urging me east. Sensing my minimal material demands, he’d suggested I get a job as a doorman at a high rise apartment in Manhattan. Truth is, I would have enjoyed the gig — just talking to people all day. Heck, even the physicality of opening the door was something I could handle.
But it wasn’t Cleveland. And my heart wasn’t in it. And that was that.

Stacy too, has urged I relocate. And Yes, Chicago’s nice, truly nice. There’s even a group of guys at Max & Benny’s in Northbrook that breakfast at the same table each morning. Just eavesdropping the last time through I connected. There was a Kraut at their table, and a Walt, and a Les…

But it wouldn’t be Cleveland. And my heart wouldn’t be in it. Not really.

I breathe Cleveland no less than Jason Bohrer breathes Chitown or Matt Klein Queens.

Carrie speaks (at times) of warmer weather. Three kids here, she has —and grandkids. Who’s she kidding?

So, No, I don’t want to move. Stu Fentons of my world can post on Facebook from the Sunbelt all they want, but I’ll stay here…
Where my feet are… and where my pulse is.

(And besides, it will just be easier. After all, on Thursdays I take Helen shopping).

      “So if I should visit the moon —
       Well, I’ll dance on a moonbeam and then
       I will make a wish on a star
       And I’ll wish I was home once again.
       Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
       I would miss all the places and people I love.
       So although I may go I’ll be coming home soon
       ‘Cause I don’t want to live on the moon.
       No, I don’t want to live on the moon….”

(Ernie and Fozzie Bear, adapted)


Thursday, December 11th, 2014

       “…I have a place where dreams were born
       Where time somehow begun.
       That town where we got starts–
       We hold it in our hearts.
       It’s 44121…”

It was our Never Never Land, and there was treasure in it. Lifelong bounty.

Cedar on one side …north of Mayfield on the other. Warrensville Center if we were heading to the stadium … somewhere past Green if pedaling to the nine hole Lyndhurst Golf Course. Gentle geography it was, framed by our youth.

The roots of my hometown have legs. Bonds forged in that hallowed town and special time remain. Ties even mildly made on those golden (yet in the case of Wrenford and Verona partially-unpaved) streets to this day offer kinship and connection.

       “…It lives behind our every moon
       With memories of such fun.
       We keep an open mind
       It’s never far behind:
       Our 44121…”

We swam at Bexley Park and not Purvis (which was for “Wiley Snobs”). We put air in our bike tires at Eddie’s Pure Oil, from wherever we lived (even though Mr Codeluppi’s garage was much closer).

The best athletes hung at Rowland. On any given day you’d find Feldman or Fromin and sometimes even a Simmerson or Levine. Younger guys like me would sit, wait, and hope to be noticed. They never needed us for Swift Pitching against the wall, but sometimes in REAL games…perhaps there’d be an odd number of players and they’d want to even teams. Groupies we were — content to chase fouls. So we’d sit there, we would: Bogarts, Fentons, Masseria, Rosenberg, and the like. Content we were watching the icons, just wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and playin’ and plannin’ and dreamin’…

UNIMPORTANT IMPORTANT MEMORY: I was by the green utility box behind Rowland the night Les Levine, (world renown for making the majors at nine), was up there, having slid into home head first for the Red Sox, getting lime in his eye, and being rushed to the hospital. (Long before The Drive, The Fumble and The Shot — decades before the world knew of Elway, Byner or Jordan — there was The Slide). And it happened in South Euclid, Ohio.

       “…We have a treasure
       If we stay there.
       (More precious far than gold).
       For once you’ve played there
       Friends remain there…

I’m not talking about core friends, mind you. That goes without saying. Heck, even the misfortunate of Cleveland’s Jewish Baby Boomers — the Shaker or Heights kids — or even the ones whose parents made a few bucks and fled to Beachwood… even they had BEST FRIENDS.

I’m thinking ‘bout the entire town: from best friends to good friends to acquaintances. From classmates to siblings of classmates to people you really hadn’t known but knew they grew up near someone you knew.

We were and we are all in it together. We shared and still share a magical past. Indeed, the faces, memories and images are to this day embraced! Even chance meetings decades later conjure six degrees or more of separation:

I saw Susie Gottesman at Heinen’s. (She married in). Husband Michael was one of three Michael’s in my class first four grades. Agin was cooler than me, by the way — Letsky skinnier. The former was also in my Hebrew School; the latter had a sister that my brother once took to see The Temptations at the Versaille Motor Inn.

Bumped into Arnie Cohn at Marc’s. Had to introduce him to Aunt Helen. “How do you know him?” she asked aisles later. Gingerly I shared how I’d met him on Hinsdale but more importantly he’d married the sister of Robin Beckerman, the third-grader that broke Harold’s heart.

The hits, if you still live within a nine iron of SE, keep on coming! With neither a yearbook in your lap nor Facebook on a screen, sooner or later, on the street, in a store, at a simcha…somewhere under the rainbow that’s Cleveland you’ll be lucky enough to see someone from our past and realize the thrill isn’t gone…

Ronnie Rivchun at Bialy’s. Ronnie Pollack at Costco. Pollack was a Stilmore lad. So many thoughts: Alan Herzog, Leslie Zilbert, The Cohen girls, Les Rosenberg (nee Leslie). No relation was he, of course, to Marvin Rosenberg of Beaconwood.

Beaconwood: a halcyon street. Masseria had restaurant booths in his basement. Maddy lived nearby, and Susie Bucklan across the street.
These were the first girls I wasn’t afraid to talk to (although I warmed to Lynne Phillips in early years). And Susie Golden…and Arlene Rothenfeld (when they weren’t dancing with Arthur). And Linda Shafran, perhaps the most. She was a Bayard girl, you see…and I knew her brother Sidney…and her sister Leslie was in my brother’s grade…and her cousins lived next door and there was green vine on the house just like Wrigley Field in Chicago—-

And do you remember DD Davis on the other side of Miramar? Or Bernie Pleskoff? Or Mad Man Muntz?

And before you entered Greenview, did you buy an Elevator Pass?

       “…And that’s my home
       Where roots were sewn
       On diamonds in the sun.
       From Rowland, Greenview
       Then at Brush
       ‘Twas 44121….”

(With apologies to Peter Pan)


Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Facing north from a booth at Corky’s I had the distinct misfortune of hearing the woman at the next table. Sitting adjacent to me, lamentably within earshot, she was, in a methodical gravelly voice, chastising the pour soul across from her. At least twice in her lecture she’d called him “loser”. The first time I focused; it caught my ear. The second time (and maybe the third) I just winced…quietly praying that for his sake he was deaf.

Words hurt. Words hurt. Words hurt. There’s a right way and a wrong way to say things. I was once called “a loser” a lot, and to this day it plays on me.

The best teacher I ever had (bar none) was Virginia Pelander. It wasn’t so much THAT she taught us, it was HOW she taught us. She encouraged students always, win or lose. Never would she embarrass us; never did she proclaim “You are wrong.” Mrs. Pelander’s was a kinder, gentler correction:

“That’s not what I was looking for.”

(Somewhat like the football coach at the sideline greeting a player that’s just fumbled with a pat on the back and a “We’ll get ‘em next time”….rather than barking in his face as a stadium watches).

There’s a right way and a wrong way to express displeasure and my teacher knew it. “I was looking for something else,” she might say.

My Dad knew it too, (perhaps even without knowing it). He raised it, I should note, to an art form. For thirty-five years we shared wins, losses, strengths, faults — everything. Through it all though, he was father first and friend second, and as father first he’d direct me toward right.

—Never would he flinch…but never would he call me names.
—Always would he point out … but never would he demean.

Al Bogart was a black and white person. To him, people, places and things were either good or bad…to be done or not to be done. Bobby, Stuart, Alan, Columbus, always cutting the deck of cards? These were good. Boys with shoulder length hair, Yankee or Wolverine fans or (for God knows what reason) Regis Philbin? Bad. Very bad.

So he had his rules of conduct; he sensed what was best for his boys; he never waivered at guiding us.

— But he never called names, never (even with a smile) groaned “Loser!”, and (but for when I bit my nails), never harped “Don’t”. Speaking often in passion, but always with heart, my imperfect perfect father found loving ways to express even displeasure.

Take my behavior, for example. Sometimes I wouldn’t be doing anything that was technically wrong. “Stupid” would be a more accurate. You know– joking around…perhaps saying something inappropriate in front of my grandmother or aunt.  Boundary stuff.

“You’re not half as funny as you think you are,” he’d remind.

Or like when it came to normal things that most kids did, but that he didn’t think best for me: like playing tackle or hitchhiking down Lee Road to meet the Shaker girls….

“I don’t care if Bobby Snyder’s parents and Alan Wieder’s parents all say it’s OK. You’re not their child.”

Or perhaps it would be a card game. We’d be playing hearts or gin and he’d see me misplay. “Why did you throw that card? he might ask. Or: “Didn’t you figure me for clubs? (Simple questions that would send a lesson).

Our Dad had an uncanny ability to criticize with compassion — to direct his sons with the sternness of Captain Von Trapp and yet the sensitivity of a Jewish Andy Taylor.

“Why do you INSIST on (fill in the blank)?” he might ask. “Where did YOU go to medical school?” he’d inquire.

— Or, when truly exasperated, two of his favorite words: “Must you?”

“I would prefer that you didn’t,” he’d point out. “There must be a better way,” he would say.

— Or, if I’d really upset him, perhaps by repeating the same mistake or wrong behavior…he’d go into a medley of his greatest hits:

“You can’t possibly think what you did would make either your mother or me happy.”….often followed by “Why must you do the things you know will antagonize me?”…punctuated by “Why must you do those things you know are bound to upset most adults?”

(When I got the “most adults” bit I knew he was dotting the I).

I would get the message and accept the message…
With love.

Never was I a loser to my father, though mistakes were made.  Never did he disrespect me, for a single second.

I only wish he had been with me at Corky’s this week. He’d have bristled as the lady spoke; he’d have felt for the guy.  Across our table, moreover, he’d have been whispering:  “Monkeys should fly out of her ass”.


Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Family and friends tend to chide me a bit. “You should have said this to her” I’ve been told. “Why do you let her push you around?” I’ve been asked. And then there’s the one about Aunt Helen directed to both H and me: “You and your brother need to grow balls.”

Bothered I’m not. As I’ve noted before: I’d rather be happy than right. And yet…

Sometimes I do stand up. Some days I flex my muscle. This week in particular, perhaps with an eye toward Festivus, I aired a few grievances.

Wednesday morning, for example:

I was standing in the courthouse Men’s Room — far left of four urinals — the three to my right distinctly unoccupied. Mid-process another suit ambles in, and in violation of every unwritten rule of mankind stands just to my right.

“Really?” I thought — before staring, glaring, and turning to wash.  (He seemed puzzled).                                                                                                                                                                                                                “Is something wrong?” he asked.                                                                                                                                                                                    Shaking my head in disgust, giving him Al Bogart’s “Why don’t you get a haircut?” grimace (circa 1970), I just dried hands and left.

—Or take the incident at the Cedar/Green Heinen’s:

There I was, heading left from the salad bar area, toward the cashier. From the far side with another cart came a guy about my age. It had to be clear to this schmuck (as it was to me) that if no one broke stride we’d hit the check out line at the very same time. Moreover, a quick read told me that the volumes of our respective groceries were pretty much equal…

So I kept my pace…not quickening, not slowing….

But this putz accelerated perceptibly, and grabbing the angle, cut in before me.

“What are you doing?” I shot incredulously.    “We both got here at the same time,” he smiled meekly. “What’s the big deal?”

(That mumser knew he’d sped up).                                                                                                                                                                                   “Are you kidding me?” I asserted. “You’re supposed to yield to the right!”

Turning his back, the man ignored me. Still, though signally aware I was that A) the world wasn’t coming to an end and B) a lot of staff members there knew I was with Carrie … so I shouldn’t make waves — EVEN SO …

Well –- as the saying goes “I was born at night, but not last night”…

Intently I watched as my “friend” checked out. About that time I’d noticed too that a prior customer had abandoned a large bag of Reese’s Pieces, leaving it at the point-of-purchase gum rack.

THIS was an idea whose time had come.

With a nuanced movement direct from The Bolshoi, I deftly slid the candy to the conveyor. Shortly, (as I thrilled), it was rung up, paid for, bagged and yes, exiting with my friend.

I was to remain in the zone…

Saturday afternoon I took Helen shopping. As I do these days I double-parked, walked her into the store, and then went to park the car.

Drivers in the Marc’s lot, you should know, are notorious for their propensities to go the wrong way.   So there I was… appropriately heading down a one-way aisle — when another car appeared, approaching me head-on at about mid-field. Pointing through the windshield, I gestured he was going the wrong way. Yet the clown wouldn’t move.

(Nor did this clown).

A few minutes passed … and I’m telling you that two minutes in that situation was a long time. He still wasn’t moving, and me? I dug in. (Fact was I relished this clear-cut opportunity to be 100% right.   Aunt Helen could wait, I figured. Heck: she was safe, warm and sitting inside…and besides: she was happy just getting out).

So there we were: two schmucks in a parking lot. I was right; we were stubborn; no one was moving!

Putting the gear in neutral, I popped the trunk. In the rear of the car, somewhere in that mess (I knew), were old books from our aunt.  Culling contents which may also have come from Fred Sanford’s truck, I uncovered (after a while), one large Hebrew picture book. Perfect! Seizing the volume I hopped back behind the wheel and, cover facing out, pretended to read.

From behind the pages I heard a car honk. (I can only guess it was him). A half-hearted toot it was — you know, the kind given when someone in front of you doesn’t realize the light has changed. Ignoring the horn a bit, I peaked out. Alas!  His car was moving. Backward.

Game. Set. Match.

I rejoined my aunt of course. And she scolded me, of course.

“What took you so long?  And why don’t you wear a hat in this weather?” she demanded. Apparently back on her game, she was about to volley again when the emotional carriage I’d been driving turned back into a pumpkin.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ll wear a hat next time.”

(Then quietly the two of us — only one of us bearing balls — went searching for produce).