Archive for January, 2015


Friday, January 30th, 2015

Once again the glass was half-full…

Sitting in a courtroom Monday, cellphone on the chair to my left to muffle vibration, the damn thing kept buzzing. Moreover, a casual peek (so as not to offend the Court) revealed multiple calls from sources unknown. Only at a recess did I learn just why.

I’d been hacked! An email generated under my name had claimed I’d been mugged in the Philippines.

No wonder Brother Dan had called, later texting “Are you ok?”.

Me in the Philippines? Get real. The closest I ever was to those islands (and I had to google this to confirm), was the trip to Frisco in ’82. (Ed. Note 1: I didn’t want to go there, of course, but ensconced still in marriage, we spent a few days there).

Me in the Phillipines? C’mon. Jamaica, for a daughter Yes. Aruba with a woman, Yeah.  But ME? IN THE PHILIPPINES?

Those who knew me best knew me better. So I didn’t hear, of course, from the Fentons and Wieders. (Nor did I expect to, or think perhaps that they didn’t care). There was a better chance I was pregnant, they well understood, than in the Philippines.

—Still, touched I was as from canyons of my past old voices were heard. Moved I was when more recent contacts, perhaps not privy to my relish for Ohio, also reached out.

It’s nice to know people care.

I got a call from a high-powered attorney I’d dealt with but once. (Years ago it was…a nasty divorce…only counsel got along). And another lawyer phoned too— a politician at that. So right wing is this one that (as the saying goes), he doesn’t even turn left.

And another, from the undertaker. Kirk, in a message at my office, left word he’d send three bucks for the cause.

Word kept dribbling in.

I heard from the Corky’s cashier: “Were you really mugged?” From a Park Synagogue vet: “That’ll teach you to travel.” And I heard too from a slew of old clients. (Ed. Note 2: Interestingly, a text came from a lady that’d stiffed me. Three grand she owes to this day; she didn’t offer money but she still checked in. What was she: hoping it was true?).

And still, the hits kept on coming!

—A text from a girl I’d dated for a year and another from one who’d denied dating me for two…

—And the following cellular colloquy with the lady who bore me three children…

“Got an email from you saying you were in the Philippines, depressed and asking for money.”
“You can do it!!!!” she texted next, and then:
“Very comical.”

(Ed. Note 3: We never did think the same things were funny. Two decades post-decree she thinks I’m stranded in some third-world country and THAT she thinks is humorous?).

The more calls I got though, the more I found it amusing. Heart-warming, even… to think even those perhaps ancillary to my being still cared.

—Until the music was over.

Kenny, (family and former government agent), phoned. Assuming I’d been hacked and mensch that he is, he was just making sure.

“Should I change my password?” I asked him. (‘Twas the kind of thing he’d know).
“Yes, and your name and server.”
Dead silence on my part.
“Just sayin’”, he added.
I didn’t even know what a server was. Still I thanked him, bid adieu, and in a moment of clarity did the “next right thing”.

“I need to change my email,” I said to my kid, in a call that I didn’t want to make. For years he’s been telling me to escape the “dark ages”; for just as long I have balked, resisting change. (Ed. Note 4: My relationship with AOL was nearly as long as my marriage to his mother. Go figure).

Yet the boy came through, as I knew he would.

Painstakingly he worked with me, both that day and the next. Did he know ahead of time how computer-illiterate I was? It mattered not. When all was said and done my friends had answered the bell, my son had answered the call, and I emerged from this week of disarray with a new password, new name, and new server.

(Not that I know what that means).


Saturday, January 24th, 2015

—A week ago Friday and a night in a lighting booth (watching people push buttons) awaited. Moreover, with the eight-hour Tech Sunday vigil approaching (and our opening in a week), well…

What was I doing here? Really! I mean: me directing a musical? Sure I had guided some comedies, but those came easy. Laughing’s in my wheelhouse — but song and dance? I had to get cute, didn’t I? Had to let my ego run wild! What was I doing at the helm of a cast of forty teens, citing my vision for lights and action, tweaking choreography and costume?

(I should have stuck to slipping on banana peels).

Nine months ago it had been. Submission of my resume to the theater had generated an invitation to interview and I’d jumped at it. Five shows were scheduled for their season, and they wanted to know (in our meeting) which productions I’d favor.

(Ed. Note 1: Thrice in my life I’ve had job interviews: once in law school (third year, after my then-wife aptly pointed out “Bruce, don’t you think it’s time?”, again the summer of the bar exam (with the guys that did hire me), and yet again a decade later, with Mandel’s firm).

—And so it was all that months ago I’d walked up to the second floor of the Arts Center, sat before a quintet of foreign faces, and sold sizzle, not steak. There, in period of twenty minutes (not much more), channeling an inner confidence generated by a high school Snyder in heat, I gave them my candor and enthusiasm…and more than that: my truth.

I told them my first choice was “The Music Man”. My father, I pointed out, had been my Harold Hill. My Dad, I asserted, had the twinkle in his eye that always told me — whether I saw it or not — that there was a band.

I acknowledged too that this would be my first musical, but that I was a “people person” and “team player”, and that I knew how to delegate, was excited for the challenge, and ready (quite frankly) to go to the hoop.

They bought it!

For whatever reason…perhaps it was my enthusiasm…perhaps I was just a breath of fresh air….but they offered me “Bye Bye Birdie”.

And again I jumped! Indeed, perhaps this was a better fit.

How I’d loved the old movie — the first one…with Dick Van Dyke — having seen it at the old Center-Mayfield Theater in the 60’s. Better yet though, I’d thrice done the stage play. In Bay Village and Beachwood, and most recently out in Willoughby had I not been Harry McAfee? Yes, this made sense. I knew the show; I could coax the laughs from cast. THIS, I could handle.

—So I jumped right in.

The “book” says that if you’re going to direct a play you should see it as much as possible, research as much as possible … and so I did. From the teen production in Akron to the excerpts on Youtube, to the emails with directors both here and in Jersey…

— And I knew the show…

But what I DIDN’T know is what I didn’t know…which was a lot. (There were lighting issues and sound issues that I’d never had to deal with! Better yet, there was the chaos endemic to a company of 30-some teens). It would be a learning curve, I soon sensed…

—Yet I was blessed.

There was the musical director with whom I’d worked twice before. John was a fortress, a support, and above all a friend. There was the choreographer, Lisa-Marie. She’d forced smiles as I danced in a recent show and, frankly, I’d always had the feeling she liked me if for no other reason than that lumbersome me wasn’t embarrassed to dance on stage. A veteran like John, she brought her craft to the equation, always having my back. And there was the producer, Greg: always with an ear…

Still, production was rocky. From auditions last fall through the onset of Tech Week there’d been issues with — well, let me see: There was the problem getting funding for the pit musicians. Then there was the staff member that quit for a day. Then there was the set being delayed. Oh, and then the Stage Manager quit to leave town with her boyfriend…

But it mattered not. Not at the end. You see, we opened last night.

And the cast: they knocked it out of the park!

The teens had fun; the audience loved it. And the director? He kvelled!

Midst the post-curtain hoopla cast members dragged parents over to meet me. Mid the mob in the lobby Conrad Birdie greeted me with a bear hug and Albert Peterson pushed through to thank me (as did others).

It was after 11 that I drove home last night. For a half hour I drove….home.

I thought about the nine month journey, all the bumps in the road, and I smiled.

—And the song still ran through my head: “Everything Is Rosie”.


Sunday, January 18th, 2015

“Dad, do you have a minute?”
“Did you think I was easy to live with?”
“We had our moments, but by and large you were a saint.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Well, what is it, Little Boy? What’s bothering you?”

I wasn’t calling my father to complain so much as to confirm I wasn’t missing something. Indeed, in sixty-plus years I’d roomed with Grandma Cele (Hopkins Avenue), my brother (Bayard Road), three anti-semites (in East Lansing), and even the trio of Fenton, Fischer and Wieder (Drackett Tower). I’d stayed with Harriet’s mom, my father’s sister, and Meredith’s parents (with nary an issue, mind you). Easy, I am….going with the flow…never making demands.  Hell, the ex herself liked living with me; it was the marriage she hated.

“Nothing really, but…”
“Spit it out!”
“It’s just that the people who I know love me most pick at me over nonsense.”
“Maybe it’s not nonsense to them.”

(Really? Was my father really going to push back?)

“It can’t be me, Dad.”
“Let’s hear.”
“When we lived together did I ever criticize your banana sandwiches?”
“This is not about me, Sonny Boy. What’s going on?”

So I shared with him how one of my kids had questioned my use of Pepsodent toothpaste…

“Was it because you left it on bathroom tile? Are they still hocking you about brushing in the shower?”
“No—it was the brand itself. ‘Who uses this?’ I was asked.”
“Did you sing ‘em the jingle ‘You’ll wonder where the yellow went when —“
“Of course, but all I got was a reference to the Dark Ages…I mean why would anyone care what toothpaste I use?”
“Well, it’s their issue.  Is that all?”

So I spoke too of how when I visit my daughter I get lectures about sleeping with TV and lights on…

“Does she know that you eat in bed?” he asked.
“I try not to these days — and besides, she doesn’t know.”
“What about the popcorn she found your last trip?”
“She TOLD you?”
“Don’t worry,” he comforted. “I reminded her that you are her only father and that for the few times you’re out there each year—“  “Thanks.”

“Puhleeeze.  She laughed and told me how YOU tell her YOU wish I was still alive to blow smoke in your face.”                                                   “So she’s ok with the popcorn, then?” (I asked him).                                                                                                                                                           “I wouldn’t try it again, hotshot.”

One thing about the old man: he always got it. Why should anyone care what toothpaste I use or if I sleep with the lights on?

“What about Dick Baskin’s sister? he asked —and before my response: “Did I know her?”
“DAD! Even I didn’t know her.”
“Does she bother you with nickel-dime stuff?”

So I thrilled my Dad explaining how when Carrie and I moved in we’d compromised. Television (she’d agreed) could play all night; lights, on the hand, would be off.

“Wonderful,” he mused, “that she never complains.”
“Well I wouldn’t say never, but she’s pretty easy.”
“Does she tell you to eat over the table?”
“To take smaller bites?”
“Not really.”
“Then what is it? Maybe it’s you?”

Mulling it over a bit, I determined he should know Carrie with all her frailties….

“She’s always telling me to aim.”
“Yeah, you know— in the bathroom.”

My father quieted. I could see he was thinking.

He must have had an epiphany — I mean he put out his cigarette, and all— and there was this gleam in his eye…

“Did you suggest to her you might buy a urinal?”


Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Pete’s a middle-aged guy in the program. Don’t know much of his past — he’s bounced around for a while — but Jews sort of know other Jews, and while he’s been sober a bit, rarely does he open up. He’s a sweet man; there’s a gentle sadness to him and I like him. We speak now and then, so it wasn’t really a shock when he called me last Thursday.

“Hey, I’ve got a few bucks together and I might need you to represent me.”
“Can it wait?” I asked. I’m going away for a few days with my son.”
“Just call when you get back.”
“Tuesday,” I was saying as my friend interrupted:
“Good for you buddy,” he said wistfully, and as his voice trailed off: “Boy, I’ve missed a lot.”

My Dad mentioned more than once how grateful he was his adult child liked spending time with him. It was a sentiment I accepted yet didn’t totally “get”. Ah, but how could I? My eyes then were but thirty-something.

Cautiously I’d approached him last year. “What do you think about going out of town for a weekend? Just me and you.” (Look: I knew he loved me and all that, but with two boys under five, a wife and a career…would his upward mobility be stunted?). Perhaps it was a timing thing — I don’t know. For whatever reason, though, my boy jumped! Without taking a beat he was in.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked, but I cared not. “Whatever makes sense,” I responded. (I mean, really! What am I— a traveller? Give me food and air-conditioning and I’m happy). “You decide.”

It didn’t take him long. Within weeks (I think sooner) he’d suggested the venue and earmarked the weekend. “How ‘bout January 10th?” he asked. “We could watch the NFL playoffs and if you can fly back on Tuesday that Monday’s the college game”.

As quickly as he’d called when I’d opened, I too was all in! That was months ago.

I’m on the plane now, coming home. Yes, our weekend is done.

We met, hugged, roomed, ate, watched TV, skirmished (once) and even walked. We mused, laughed, learned (he taught me to use chopsticks), and shared. Mostly though we sat, side-by-side in a Vegas sports book—conjuring bets, rolling eyes, tearing up tickets but not tearing time…


He’s at JFK by now, I figure. Carrie (quite likely) is driving toward Hopkins. He’ll be working at this time tomorrow. Me too.

This, for me, was a weekend to cherish. Hold it close, I will, as will he.

(If not now…in about thirty years).


Friday, January 9th, 2015

I hadn’t thought of it in years. Suppressed in my memory it was, until…

Watching “I’ll Be Me”, the story of Glen Campbell’s final tour and his fight through Alzheimer’s Disease — an hour in, perhaps, and surrounded by H and pals —  a lump filled my throat. It was a scene where the singer, in paranoid rage, screamed at his wife and stormed out of the room only to reenter minutes later, smile on his face…as if nothing had happened.

“Repentance without reconciliation” she dubbed in the voice/over. The phrase—it clung to me as my mind’s video rolled.

‘Must have been the late 90’s —I’m not quite certain. Maybe H recalls, but what I can confirm is we weren’t talking. Brothers, yes– but only on paper. I was persona non grata at his house yet it was a two-way street. Indeed, he’d have been shunned from my home if only I’d had one.

I somewhat remember the beginnings. Oh, there were emails back and forth, each of us crafting Pulitzer Prize worthy missives with our positions. (I wonder if he retained his; mine are in Carrie’s basement — sealed). And I could tell you it was ugly, but — after our first run of skirmishes, it was just…a vacuum. He went his way; I went mine— and with Our Father (Albert) In Heaven and our mother impotent to intervene — it just was. (Note to self: Ask Aunt Helen if she remembers those days. I wonder what her take was.).

Days became months became years. I don’t know if it was one year or four. Truly, I just don’t know. Max Alvis last played for the Tribe in the sixties and I can tell you he was from Jasper, Texas. Len Barker threw a perfect game when Michael was a kid. I can tell you not only that it was a Friday night and that we watched it together on a Wrenford bed, but I can state unequivocally and without looking that it was on May 15 against Toronto, that my son’s mother was elsewhere playing mahj and that, thrilled she wasn’t when she called mid-evening and heard her three year old awake in the background.

THIS I can remember, but in the haze from the worst of my times I cannot, for the life of me, tell you how long Hal and I fought, what precipitated it, what his claims were, what mine were…or even what my children felt about it all.

I can tell you, though, how it ended: with a phone call, in matter of seconds.

“I need a brother” said the voice. “I don’t want to talk about the past — not at all—can we just get together?”

Sitting at the now-defunct Caribou, perhaps a few days later, we moved straight ahead.

Repentance it was, mutual at that, and God knows how long ago — without reconciliation.

Tshuvah, (if I grasp it correctly), is my religion’s mandate to identify wrongs as a requisite for repentance. That goes (I’m thinking), to cleansing one’s soul. As for relationships — cleansing them — I’m not sure that matters.

Not once in the decade plus have I ever looked back. I’m guessing, in fact, that neither has H. Never has it come up, that schism. Indeed, friends eyeing our 2015 bond might well not believe it. In today’s world it doesn’t compute. It would be like, say, trying to convince my grandchild that once there were only three TV stations.

Sometimes time needs time. Sometimes, like with my brother and me, it’s both time and change.

I live in a world where I’d rather be happy than right, and I’m all the better for it.

There was a half hour left, last Saturday, when that scene was shown. In the bittersweet of the final segments, I watched the screen but I kept thinking back.

— To the day H and I reunited in heart without reconciling the facts.

It was a poignant movie and tears rolled down my face. From both eyes they fell, (but only one was for Glen).

* And in a related story, the weather forecast for Plainview, NewYork this weekend calls for temperature in the forties.


Monday, January 5th, 2015

Courtyard by Marriott, Dublin, Ohio, 10PM December 31…

“Are you falling asleep?” asked the scantily clothed beauty.
“Not at all,” I lied. “Do you want to play gin?”

A photomontage of the day passed before me: the early “study hall” at Starbucks, breakfast with the boys and a half day in the office had all proceeded our trip down south. Still, even ‘though Carrie did the driving, didn’t I have a right to be tired? I mean, c’mon…physical specimen that I am, I’m just not a kid anymore. And besides, since hitting Columbus hadn’t we spent time together, then hours at the casino …. not to mention the Chinese food in bed? So what if it’s New Year’s Eve?

“You can go to sleep if you want,” she offered.

I really didn’t want to sleep, but God, the clock wasn’t moving! And besides —what more did we have to accomplish? It had been a day of passion and poker and frankly, if it wasn’t the last day of the year, we’d be down to Seinfeld and snooze.

“Not a chance!” I proclaimed, rising (if you’ll excuse the expression) to the occasion.

11 PM, at the same motel…

One thing about Carrie: she’s always willing to engage in me in conversations others might roll eyes at — ‘though she often rejects my suggestions.

“Don’t you think the television’s in the wrong spot…based on the way our bed’s facing?”

(Her silence deterred me not).

“I think we should move the bed and turn it ninety degrees,” I continued. “Either that or we should sleep with our heads the other way.”

“We can’t do that!” she objected, giving me somewhat the same look she’d shot when I’d suggested putting a urinal in one of the bathrooms at her new house. (I mean, really: if she truly wants separate restrooms in the condo…so she can have her “powder room” or whatever … why might I not install a wall unit, as such, which would not only be a convenience, but also serve to preclude receipt of the frequent “Please aim” admonitions?).

Our conversation, needless to say moved on. Indeed, the ensuing half hour brought the best of our banter. Never in our near thirty months have we suffered dead air; this time was no different. From her kids to mine … her mom to my aunt, her shtick or mine, the next minutes brought love, laughter, and finally repose…

“You know,” I pointed out, “If we’re not staying up until 1AM our time then it really doesn’t matter when I call Stacy. It still won’t be New Years where she is.”

— So called her, at 11:35, told her I loved her, and hung up.

“And I’ll text H and Margie,” I reasoned. “They might be sleeping.”

“And I’ll call Helen now. ‘Might as well knock her down.”

My aunt (of course) didn’t answer. Half the time she doesn’t hear the phone before ten or so rings, but this night I figured she’d either be perched by the phone or just plain asleep. Twenty times I counted, before hanging up.

We were sitting on the bed now, feet hanging over the right side…actually facing the screen. Ten minutes we had, and a bag of popcorn to be shared.

“What does it mean ‘sea salt’”, I complained.
“Just eat it. It’s not as strong as Kosher salt.”

So we snacked and we watched … all the crap on TV.

I wasn’t in the mood for Kathy Griffin and can’t stand Anderson Cooper. Carrie likes everybody, but I had to break it to her (at 11:55) that Dick Clark was dead.

12:00 AM. Still facing the TV…

I kissed her for the first time this year and then called New York. Michael was in the car; our talk was short.  (I told him I loved him and hung up).

Within moments we had found the covers.

“We can sleep in tomorrow,” she observed as I ceded the remote control. The lights were off; I was already fading.

“Good night.”
“Good night.”

In the pitch dark of the room … o’er the backdrop of a “Friends” rerun … a few moments passed when from the sweet spot of semi-conscious, I felt Carrie’s nudge:

“Your aunt’s on my phone” she said, handing it over.                                                                                                                                                 “Hello, Aunt Helen,” I greeted.                                                                                                                                                                                           “Why would you not call me, Bruce.  You always call me!”