Archive for February, 2015


Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

When I first heard Jessica Andrews sing “Who I Am”, ( I impulsively jotted out a parody about Stacy.

If she lives to be a hundred
And never sees the seven wonders
That’ll be alright—
If she doesn’t make it to the big leagues
If she never wins an Addie,
She will be just fine—
Cause she knows exactly who she is:
She is Lilyan’s granddaughter
The spitting image of her mother,
But when the day is done her father’s still her biggest fan…”

In the decade since, nothing’s changed. My Little One is still the pause that refreshes, sometimes frustrates (but in a good way), and is always pure.  As such, what a wondrous weekend Chicago was! One day: Luce, Bones and Stacy; the second twenty-four just with my baby.


—She is Lilyan’s granddaughter.

Lil Selzer was loyal to a fault. Tough she could be, but always nurturing. Her strong suit: the priority she placed on family. (Ed. Note 1: Back in the 70’s I penned her too a parody. “God Bless The Nathans” was an homage to my mother-in-law’s ancestral clan).  Rooney’s no different. Alongside her husband, jointly they dote on their daughter, focusing (always) on family.

—The spitting image of her mother.

“Dad,” she said nicely last weekend, “The mat in the bathroom goes OUTSIDE the shower.”
“I know,” came my response, (well I recalled the last flood I’d caused).
“And Dad….The plastic shower curtain goes INSIDE the tub.”
“Thank you Daddy.”
(Ed. Note 2: Maybe it’s me. Well I recall the flooded tile after my first New Jersey shower. It was Passaic, 1970).

—And when the day is done her father’s still her biggest fan!

Friday meant playing/reading with Luce and traditional Shabbos sushi. Still, it only set the table:

Saturday meant ballet with Lucy, lunch as a foursome, and then: just me and Roon…

I had never been to Guthries (sic), but since Stace noted it was one of her favorite places, it was “Game On.” (Ed. Note 3: Pun specifically intended. This shot and a beer joint features a coterie of board games; patrons sit competing, and some even drinking).

Anyone watching our Scrabble match would have laughed, smiled and rolled his eyes. It didn’t matter who would win (though I was stunned when she did), and it didn’t matter the score (though the margin did shock me). What counted ONLY, was the joy shared through our joint mishigos!

I don’t want to say we were competitive, but JEEEEZ…did not her very first word mandate a challenge?

“Breasty is not a word,” I asserted.
“Yes it is.”
“Google it,” I demanded.
“I’ll call Jason.”
“Great, I urged, confidently doubling down: “Call anyone.”
“Jason doesn’t answer. Again.”
“Call ‘Sarah’,” I urged. (Ed. Note 4: Jamie Silverman Goodman was her staunch ally, yet I knew she’d shoot straight).
(And moments later, a verdict)
“It’s not a word,” confirmed Jamie.
“Go figure,” I noted, as our laughter began….

My lovely daughter would call her friend FOUR times the next hour. FOUR times she would dray her friend’s cup with nonsense, (perhaps sensing that if she threw enough against the wall, something might stick).

“Jamie says ‘Nah’ is a word,” beamed my daughter, at a pivotal point.
“She fell on her sword for you,” I thought, the three letters putting a nail in my coffin.

I’m not Stacy’s biggest fan, though, because she coaxes victories and smiles and love and friendship. Nor am I her biggest fan because I see so much of me in her. (That’d be ego). No, I am her biggest fan because —like a select few of friend and family in this world — it matters not what we do, so long as we do it together.

I marvel from afar as she balances business with pleasure; I beam brightly with pride watching her wife and mother; and I warm inside as she speaks of her brother.

I didn’t sleep on the flight back as I usually do. My heart and mind, you see, were consumed with gratitude. Living with the woman I love, tied to the business of Cleveland …still…twice in the past five weeks …I’ve been able to go 1 on 1 with one of my kids. Quality time. Together. No agenda but love.

(It makes the Cleveland weather even that more bearable).

(Ed. Note 5: Hours after our match at Guthries I texted Michael. “In Scrabble, is ‘nah’ a word”? I asked. Moments later his answer came:  “No”


Thursday, February 19th, 2015

They were the pre-Harriet days and my father, life not quite turned around, would be driving with me as Glen Campbell’s “Try A Little Kindness” blared on The New WCOL. How the old man would scoff.!

“Write him and ask him to send you twenty dollars!” he snarled, still adjusting to his first born with sideburns.

It was 1970, and with the releases of such films as “Midnight Cowboy”, “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid”, “Z” and the like —-I looked it up—- I had seen all five films and eight of the ten nominated best actors and actresses.


The Oscars are Sunday. Should I care?

Eight films are up for Best Picture. I caught not one. Nearly a score of others vie for acting and supporting acting awards — not one in a performance that I’ve viewed. Does it matter?

Ed. Note 1: Yes, I’ll keep an eye on Michael Keaton. (He’s from around here, you know. Allegheny Valley. I’m partial too, toward Robert Duvall. Was he not the original Frank Burns?).

But do I care? Hardly. Suffice it to say the only result I’m really eager to hear is for Best Original Song.


It is a Saturday afternoon and Hal has assembled some of the best and the brightest of his world. Convened at my brother’s, we’ve gathered to watch “I’ll Be Me”, the film of Glen Campbell’s bout with Alzheimer’s.

With the TV occupying the closed end of the family room, the north sideline was mine as Maynard The Elder sat south. A third couch in the open end held old friends Howard and Hal (rocket scientist and musicologist), as well as Brother Jeff. (Ed. Note 2: I really didn’t know him that well growing up. A contemporary of Hal’s, I think he lived near Bexley — different world — and besides, I’m not certain he played Little League. All I know is that he showed up years later with a banjo on his knee).

We sat there just more than an hour. We sat, somewhat glued to the screen. I’m not sure… if in those seventy-some minutes, I spoke.

Ed. Note 3: It’s hard to speak, oh so hard to speak, with a lump in your throat.

The film itself was a well-done, somewhat documentary look at the singer’s farewell tour. Maudlin it wasn’t; straightforward it was, until…

Ten minutes before the thing ended the song came on: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” It was then that my tear ducts unleashed.

From the moment the lyrics played — clear message being that as his mind faded he wouldn’t remember or consciously miss what he would soon be forgetting — that he wouldn’t know, compute, or perceive the pain and loss that his friends and family would…

I sobbed.

It’s been four decades since my father wryly urged me to write Glen Campbell.
I’ve lost — in that time: two parents, four grandparents, two in-laws, a brother-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

— And I hold memories of each.

I have laugh-filled anecdotes in my heart, wistful remembrances in my head; images they are: un-faded by time.

Lucky I am, to miss them to this day.


Sunday will be busy:

Wake up in Chitown, brunch with Stacy, get dumped at O’Hare, kiss Carrie at Hopkins, perhaps catch a meeting…and the Oscars.

(At least one award).


Sunday, February 15th, 2015

There is no substitute for life-long friends. Not only do they understand us best, but they respect the nuances — even the idiocies — of our behaviors. As such, still, from time to time Walt may sense my upset and utter “Now, now B”. Or Kraut, exasperated at incessant teasing, will lovingly growl “Are you going to let it go already?”

Alan, of course, has long since fled Cleveland, spending the guts of his life in South Africa, Carolina, and even now Portland…you know: places Jews fear to tread. Ermine as well has evaporated. Splitting his time ‘tween Columbus and Florida … well…he’s never quite been the same since he started with the hockey. (Talk about places Jews fear to tread)!

— Which makes the gift of Bobby (and even a half/year Stuart) so special.

I should preface my comments by asserting that as much as anyone perhaps, I hesitate not in sharing personal experiences others may well deem unconventional. The anecdotes of my life make me who I am — which is someone quite comfortable in his own skin. Moreover, if the Bobbies and Stuarts and Marcs and Mark’s and Arthurs can accept me — if Carrie and my family can embrace me…then why the hell should I care if others roll their eyes, chuckle, or shake their heads?

— So I tell the stories, await the musings, let them call me “Costanza”, and smile.

Like last Wednesday. We were having breakfast when I shared how, over time, I’d gotten Carrie to relax her decades-old house rule that no food went upstairs. “Compromise”, I called it — having myself eaten dinner on my stomach in bed for the better part of nineteen years.

“No one eats in bed,” glared Himmel.
“I wouldn’t say no one,” I shot back.

The upshot of my story, however, was that Carrie would bring up bowls of fruit for each of us, and that we’d nosh on them watching TV ‘ere nodding off. (And that one night last week I fell asleep before eating…and that when I woke in the morning I took my bowl and hid it in my dresser for future use). Carrie, of course, was mystified a day or so later — it was a Saturday — when in the afternoon, after napping I casually rose, took two steps toward the bureau and returned with fruit cocktail.

“Why would you that?” gnarled Himmel.
“What do you mean? That’s the ‘B’” defended Snyder.
Himmel shook his head: “There’s something wrong with you,” he uttered.
“Why do you hate women?” I asked him.

You see, my core friends get me. They know that if I really thought there’d be insects, or if I really felt Carrie minded, that I wouldn’t have done it. This, to my mind, was but a logical convenience, and, clearly: no harm, no foul.

(Not that Carrie always buys in). As I was telling the boys that same morning:

Recently I’d mentioned to her that en route to the Chardon Theater I’d be stopping at the wake for a friend’s mother.

“You never mentioned him”, she exclaimed. “How do you know him?”
“We won the World Championship together on the White Sox in 1960.”
“And nothing since?” she asked.
“I may have messaged him on Facebook.”

Only then did this stunning lady, this woman who would indeed take a bullet for me, push back.

“Don’t you think he’ll wonder why you’re there?”
“Did you ever play Little League?
“Why go?”
“It’s never wrong to do the right thing” I threw at her. (When in doubt, go with an aphorism).
“Do what you want,” she conceded. “I can’t tell you what to do.”

Short-lived silence ensued. Had there been no blizzard out, I sensed she’d be acquiescing.

“If you’re really going, drive carefully.”
“Maybe what I’ll do is tell them I’m there on behalf of Stuart Fenton. He had a thing for the sister, and I could say that since he was living down south, he’d asked that I stop by on his behalf.”
—This new concept didn’t play well—
“Really?” she said. (Sweetly, with a sense of tart. Thank God she loves me).

I was torn. No one — clearly no one — cares as much about me yet gives me the latitude CJ does. It was not an important thing, of course, but… but:

For the second time in two days —since I first saw the death notice –– I called Fenton. When again he didn’t answer I wondered if he was on one of his cruises.

…So I didn’t go. I looked at Carrie and knew she was more right than wrong. I didn’t hear from Stuart, the one person who would sure egg me on. And I changed my mind. More than once. More than twice.

Until I thought of my father. And I heard his voice.

“Surely you must have something better to do with your time,” he would say.

“I’m not going to the wake,” I told Carrie, proud of my growth.
“Whatever,” she nodded (perhaps surprised at my growth).

I told that story as well last Wednesday. Les and Arthur ignored it while Himmel glared through it. Snyder though: he smiled warmly, and beamed acceptance at me, his lifelong friend.


Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Growing up Bogart brought the birthright of spending time with family. How lucky we were to live chip shots from grandparents; how blessed we were with the opportunity to really get to know them. Sustained, repetitive quality time with Grandmas Bogart and Cele and Grandpa Irv enriched us in a manner that still yields dividends. Hanging out with them, learning from each, we knew not only the clothes on their backs but the content of their characters.

My grandkids are not so lucky…and there’s little to be done. ‘Just the way it is. I do what I can — travel east, travel west — but it’s not the same. To them I’m but a cartoon character, a caricature. (No more). It hurts me a bit and I struggle at times.  It’s all of our losses.  Still, at their tender ages….

They don’t know what they don’t know.

Educated in an eastern European “gymnasium” (soft g) and speaking six languages fluently, my Grandma Bogart not only looked like Molly Picon but had the accent to boot. Light-hearted, a terrible cook—an even worse Scrabble player—she, nonetheless was a doting grandma. That noted, she never once asked about Little League and never DIDN’T ask about Sabbath School.  Indeed, the only time she ever raised her voice at me was when, as a joke, I took scissors to a book she had, and cut out the pictures). It’s not that she loved my father more than his sister, but groomed in a patriarchal world, she just treated him better.  The lady was staunch, conservative, warm and fuzzy.

Grandma Cele was different. Born here, Celia Hoffman struggled with her grocer/husband through The Great Depression. (Ed. Note 1: This was a Wall Street thing, not to be confused with our mother’s ten years on the couch). We shared a room my first three years and yet again a decade later. (Ed. Note 2: It was a cabana at the Riviera Swim Club. She used to have me turn around so she could put her swim suit on…but of course, I peeked. (Ed. Note 3: rough estimate- double D’s). She loved her children equally–Uncle Bob and our Mom — but never quite accepted our mother’s hearing loss. Ah, but she could cook, and did.  Shoe boxes of her chocolate chip cookies arrived weekly at Fort Polk.  “Fort Sam” too.

Grandma Bogart played piano; Grandma Cele played gin. Grandma Bogart listened to opera; Grandma Cele: The Barry Sisters. Grandma Bogart lost her husband and stayed widowed forty years. Grandpa Cele was mid-forties when Grandpa Harry passed and re-wed before fifty. As such, I had a Grandpa Irv until fourteen.

He died too young.

Irv Porter was blunt and quite stubborn — yet had a heart of gold. A divorcee from Reading, he treated my mother’s issues, from her health to her husband, with the sensitivity of a lifelong father. As a Grandpa he didn’t miss a beat. The image of him is clear: white short sleeve dress shirt over a “wife-beater” undershirt on top, Bermuda shorts below, ever-present cigar in his mouth. And always, always, standing down the foul line as The Boys played ball!

I knew these people because they were not only giving, but they were present.  They were there to be seen, touched, felt …studied.

The pastor at Coach Hayes’ funeral noted how one must wait until evening to see how beautiful the day has been. Profound.

My Grandma Bogart was ever respectful of her heritage, inculcating the tradition, liturgy and beauty of our people. Grandma Cele, through lifetime behavior, personified the old adage that if you’re knocked down ten times you get up eleven. And my Grandpa Irv? This man of gruff exterior (probably playing Act Two of his life)? He demonstrated daily that family can mean much more than blood.

What then, may my grandkids learn from me (if anything)? How then, can this cartoon contribute? The answer is clear. The Max, Eli, Lucy, Hailey and Matthew of my world should hang on to the Stuart and Caryn, Sandy and Bruce,  Yael and David in theirs. Firmly, they should grapple these people to their souls for as long as they can.

—So that someday, Max, Eli, Lucy, Hailey and Matthew can hit 60, and look back in splendor…enriched.



Friday, February 6th, 2015

It’s not that I can’t distinguish fact from fantasy. It’s just that in the world we live in there’s often overlap.

Perhaps that’s why I get such a kick out of Richard Castle. Mystery writer by trade, the man tags along with police detectives and assists in their daily grinds. It’s not how he puts “the bread on the table”, but it sure feeds his spirit.

Is that why I love doing theater?

The FACT is that while we’re taught not to lie and not to “live a lie” — and as experience confirms: in the long run the truth is best… well, still…. sometimes life (as we know it) mandates a blur.

This tenet— as it often does— brings me to Aunt Helen.

Whatever she was or she wasn’t, in her first four score years she’d gripped well her reality. It may have been coincidental then that only as her landlord Mrs. Stein sold the house in the 90’s and new landlords appeared, did she become disgruntled with her tenancy.

How quickly she forgot her upset when Mr. Kay (living below her on East Overlook) told her it was normal for the TV antenna to cause a fluttering picture. “It’s the weather,” he’d pronounce and she’d moan.   How swiftly too she let go of her angst for the nice Mrs. Stein. “Why does she insist on bringing our newspaper inside?” she would shry.  “It is not hers to move.”

No— when the Poras showed up on her doorstep— our aunt did three things. First, she lost hold on realty. Second, she sainted Mila Stein. And third: she began an eighteen-year tirade.

“Evil”, she called them. (For why— I don’t know).
When I’d point out the always-present other side to the story, she’d rail then at me:
“Why must you always defend the indefensible?”
“They are EVIL, I tell you.”

— And so it was that over time I learned and it would then go like this:

“Mr. Pora didn’t return my call today,” she might say.
“He is EVIL, Aunt Helen.”

Ours was a reality cleansed in (shall we say) preventive fantasy?  I’d arrive there mid-day after no more than one hour of snow fall:

Why isn’t the driveway shoveled?” she’d lash out.
“Because the Poras are evil,” I’d tell her.

“Why do they block the driveway? They know you come visit.”
“Because the Poras are evil,” I reassure her.

“Why did they tell you they are selling the house? Why not tell me?”
“Aunt Helen,” I just happened to bump into them in the driveway.”
“Yes, but I am the tenant, not you. You don’t pay rent.”
“Because the Poras are evil,” I reaffirm.

Nonsense I thought, but well-played, I knew. (Just like the bi-weekly chalk talks with Hal. “Now did we discuss this or not?” we’d review with each other. “Do I know this or not? And if I do, when did I learn it? And if I did, did you tell me?”

Banded as brothers, H and I deftly pressed forward for years. On the whole, I found it somewhat fascinating, rarely tiring of it. Harold: not so much. Indeed, naysayers surrounding each of us have rolled their eyes but long applauded the serenity of our shenanigans.

Enter Carmen.

I met the new landlord a month ago. He’s a nice guy, a breath of fresh air, and genuinely friendly. I was delivering food last December and there he was — with his Dad — carrying boxes outside. (He can’t be thirty).

“I’m one of Helen Bogart’s nephews,” I offered.
He put out his hand.
“Sometimes she doesn’t hear the phone. Let me give you my number if there’s an emergency.”
That was it. Less than a minute. We spoke not again — ‘til last Monday.

“Bruce, this is Carmen,” the message said. “Can you call me about your aunt?”
(I’d just dropped off food … maybe two hours hence; I knew she was fine).
“Your aunt doesn’t want to pay the water bill,” he explained when I called him right back. “I told her I would call you.”
(Our aunt’s lease, as she well knows, requires that she pay her pro/rata share of the water bill based on how many people live in the total duplex. A few years back there were 6: 5 downstairs and he upstairs. As such, she paid one sixth.
Now, there are only 2, and she owes ½. But she doesn’t get it).
“She won’t talk to me,” he continued.
“Wait a few days,” I urged, but he interrupted:
“It’s not the money—only $48 dollars, but she won’t talk to me.
“Give me a few days. It’s not you.”
“No problem,” he advised. “Like I said: she just won’t talk to me.”

Within moments my phone rang. It was her.

“How well do you know my landlord?” she asked me.
“Not at all. I met him last month.”
“In the driveway” I uttered, voice now stumbling.
“He told me this afternoon he would call you.
“I can’t imagine why.”
“I miss Emil Pora,” she whined.
“The new guy seemed nice enough.”
“He is EVIL, I tell you.”
“You’re right. I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Quick as the call ended I was dialing again:

“Hello Carmen, this is Bruce Bogart. Sorry to bother you….Listen, you can call me whenever you want, but if my aunt asks you haven’t spoken to me, don’t recall what I look like, and — in fact — you can deny we ever met.”
(He was quiet, and I sensed it was sinking in).
“It’s easier this way,” I concluded. “Trust me.”

We hung up the phone with camaraderie — indeed with serenity. Carrie was laughing; she’d heard the whole thing.

“Let’s go upstairs,” I urged her. “We taped last night’s ‘Castle’”.