Archive for July, 2015


Thursday, July 30th, 2015

We’re in the final countdown. Two days to go. The clock’s not ticking — it’s pulsating. As Linick would say: “The flag is up!” I’m ready!

Transportation booked? Check.
Hotel booked? Check.
Concert tickets secured? Check.

Carrie and I have blazed through these past hundred days with carefree confidence. Empowered by the pureness of what we share we’ve swatted away the few pests in our paths. Moreover, warmed by well-wishers, we’ve continued our journey…

—A journey that from Day One… has truly known One Direction.

Clothes from the cleaner? Check.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Rings picked up?  Check.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Shoes shined? Pending.

The when and where came easy. August 1st marks three years to the day from our first date (if Carrie’s counting). How could we not?
Her condo made sense. The late tip-off after Shabbos made sense. Keeping it small? No children or brothers or mothers or one hundred and one year-old aunts? A rough call, but the right call for us. The whole thing will be short, to the point, and moving in One Direction.

Haircut? Check.
Manicure? Check
Shoes shined? (Still pending).

Spoke to Bobby yesterday. And Stuart. To remind them. Lifelong friends since the 50’s, why they’re ushers in all my weddings. I called Linda too, who we’ll see down in Florida.  And our rabbi?  I phoned him last week.

“B,” he said, “I’ve got some notes, and I’m ready.”
“Listen,” I reminded, “You’re a great speaker and all, but we have to be in Pittsburgh by Sunday night.”

Ready we are, by the way. Carrie and I. Right on course.

I won’t see her on Saturday. You’re not supposed to see the bride the day of the wedding … I seem to remember that. So I’ll pack up tonight and evaporate tomorrow.  And anticipate.

As David would say: “The flag is up!”


Monday, July 27th, 2015

“You’re going to get a call from Stuart Miller,” Michael told me. It was the mid-Y2K’s, and my son, recently engaged to the beautiful Meredith, I suppose was warning me.

(Ed. Note 1: Meredith Vale Miller, nka Bogart, was from Great Neck, New York — hometown of Wendy, the AEPhi I went out with in 1970 — the one Walt said back then was “perfect” for me. I would be lying if I told you that 3+ decades later it didn’t occur to me to look her up).

(Ed. Note 2: It would be a further lie to tell you I hadn’t.).

Anyway: The phone rang on a Sunday night … just past 8 … as I was driving from a meeting … and I remember it well.

First it was Caryn, with small talk. (Ed. Note 3: We’d met once before. There was this dinner, a “Meet The Parents” kind of thing in Manhattan. There were smiles, shared tales of our kids, and fluff. Nothing, to be sure, of major consequence.).

Then, table having been set: “Stuey wants to speak to you.” —

It was less than five minutes, our whole conversation. Straight talk, candid talk, man-to-man talk — candor, if you will; we treaded on sensitive matters.

— And when the phone call concluded, it felt right. When our dialogue ended I sensed right then and there that this was a man to be trusted, a guy not unlike the New Yorkers I met through the Sammy House:  Liff, Appel, Franklin, Safran … that this was a man to befriend.

Ten years ago that was, give or take, and let the word go forth: the man I took an immediate liking to a decade ago I’ve come to love and respect, and admire.

—Not because he’s a sports fan, which he is.
—Not because he’s good to my son, which he is.
—Not even because he went with me to “The Three Stooges’ movie in 2012, which he did… or that he sat with me for hours on end watching the entire first season of “Veep” (which he’d seen before).

…But because Stuart Miller, with his tough New York accent, hard shell breeding and all is a true mensch, a gutte neshuma, a valued friend.

The jury was out at first, of course. Those first years of the marriage, there was nothing on the table. Then came Max… and Eli… and the nurture of family.

Me being geographically-impaired as a grandfather, Stuart’s done everything imaginable to minimize distance. (With Caryn), from opening their home ALWAYS, to keeping me “in the loop”, to ever-gracious rides to and from LaGuardia…to again ALWAYS maximizing my time with the boys—

And yet it’s so much more. Stuart Miller is, I’d suggest (and I hope the Knicks fan in him doesn’t mind the analogy), a latter-day John Havlicek. Indeed, as prolific as the Celtic great was with the ball in his hands, his greatness stemmed from how he moved without it.

As John Wooden put it: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Stuart Miller has true character.

For a decade now I’ve observed him. Steadfast he’s been, through sickness and health — ever there for his daughters, ever there for his nieces, ever there for my boy. Hard-pressed am I in fact, to recall this hard-core New Yorker saying an untoward word about anyone. ‘Bout the best you can get out of him on a tough subject is his knowing look, his nod of his head. “Switzerland,” Carrie dubbed him.

I’m acutely aware that over time not all my actions have been perfect. Indeed, some of my most poignant moments are spent wishing Michael could live in Cleveland and see me now — in my prime. The upside, however, is that he has Stuart to study— a paramount role model.

We saw Gary Puckett together, just a few weeks back. It was Carrie and Caryn and Stuart and Aunt Robin. We sat there on lawn chairs … as the sun went down…in Great Neck.

The ladies kibitzed, I roamed the crowd looking for my cousin Perry, and Stuart somewhat slept. Quietly.

Earlier that day we’d sung with the boys, laughed in the car, and even had a serious conversation with gut-level honesty.

It was the perfect blend of family and friendship, enriched by the youngest seventy-year old I know:  this truly good man.


Friday, July 24th, 2015

Remember the Raid On Aunt Helen? You know: that gallant but ultimately unsuccessful 2012 mission to retrieve Hindy’s coat. Time for an update.

Carrie, (the decoy three years ago) and I–we’d been dating ten weeks at the time — are now engaged. Aunt Helen, still holding the coat hostage, is now 101 and going down swinging. Still, as the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

My brother and I got into a debate a few weeks back. Just how much money, we wondered, if any, does our aunt still have? Oh, there’d been rumors way back that Grandma Bogart had been getting a pension from the Polish government or the Russian army, or something or other. But still, our aunt, even in her hay day, was merely glorified clerical.

Ed. Note 1: Yes, she’d managed a record store… but clearly those were times when women were grossly overworked, underpaid, and accepted whatever was offered. Arthur Newman Records? Recordland? Walking distance from her home…on a bus line — how much could she really have garnered?

The more we chirped about it, the more intriguing the subject. The more our interests were piqued, the more of a game it became.

“She’s been after me to bring Carrie to change her overhead light bulb,” I advised him.
“You’re there every day!”
“Yeah, but she’s afraid to have me stand on her bed. She says Carrie’s better suited for that.”
(Wheels were turning)
“What if you came with me”, I offered, “And while you’re on her bed screwing in the new bulb I can be in the other room rummaging through papers?”
“You’re an idiot,” he deadpanned.
“Does that mean you won’t do it?” “No, of course I’ll do it. I just said you’re an idiot.”

The operation proceeded last week. Interestingly enough, while I, perhaps instigated, my little bro called some shots:

Driving down Cedar, but minutes from her house…

“I’ll be on the bed with both of you standing by,” he directed. “After a minute or two I’ll tell you you’re in the way—that you should just go in the other room.”

(He was on a roll).

“You go through the buffet drawers and see what you can find,” he continued, “She’ll stay with me to make sure I don’t fall!”

Like a lady that’s seen 944 Chanukah candles could catch a falling nephew.

Ed. Note 2: That’s counting each Shammash.

Eight houses from her home, however, it occurred to me: what we really needed was a code H could shout out if our aunt started to leave his side. That the last thing we wanted was her walking from the bedroom and seeing me snoop.

“Remember when Seinfeld was switching the telephone message that George had left for that girl? What was the word of warning?”

(He looked puzzled).

I was driving on…we were approaching … I was drawing a blank…he didn’t care.

“Who, I wondered inwardly, would remember the word?”  Three syllables, I sensed, but I couldn’t come up with it!

I called Jason. Voice mail. And Walt. Voice mail. And Burnside. Same.  We were now in her driveway now, as I dialed up Lester.

“Everything OK?” he asked (from the middle of his workday).
“What was the code word Jerry and George used when they changed the tape?”
“Tippy toe”, he shot back.  “Tippy toe.”
The flag was up!

Ascending her stairs and bidding hello, we entered her boudoir. To Hal’s right stood our aunt; to his left, poised toward the door, stood I.  Gamely he toyed with the fixture.  (I mean really, how difficult is it to unscrew a light?).

“Bruce, you’re standing too close,” he complained. “Just go in the other room.”

—And for the next five minutes I scrambled through bureaus,  sifted through papers, and came up empty. Wherever her records were, I’d deduced, they were not to be found. Ah… but Hindy’s coat? Would I ever have another chance to scour closets for the garment my cousin left behind?  In 1990.  At Michael’s Bar Mitzvah!

Perhaps…just perhaps!

Time running — after all it was only one bulb H was dickering with — I bolted from the dining room to the front of the house… and I rummaged through the closet —salivating…anticipating that indeed this day I’d uncover the holy grail.  I could feel it, I could.  I could feel it.  Surely it was in there!  What could go wrong?

“Tippy toe!” my brother shouted. “Tippy toe!”


Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Our parents’ divorce meant the Brothers Bogart saw their father but every other weekend. He was selling on the road back then, but came in late Fridays and returned us on Sundays, and took lodging with his mother (Grandma Bogart). These were simpler times, and frankly, I don’t think it ever really bothered me when we shifted to Cleveland Heights twice per month. A vacation of sorts, it was a respite, in a way. (At least for me. In all these years, I never really asked H how he felt).

Aunt Helen, of course, lived there. And when our Dad came to town and his boys came to stay, quite often our Mom was nice enough to let Adam come with us. Not that our grandmother was so thrilled about it, but — except for when the sheltie would playfully sniff at her — she was fine.

“Albert, what is he doing?” she’d ask timidly. “Tell him to go away.”

It was fun, though … and pure … and family.

Ed. Note 1: I mention “family” specifically. When our Dad first moved out, he was in the final downward spiral of his insurance sales career. Still in town, he’d cut a monthly deal at the Hillcrest Motel, inconveniently located at Richmond and Euclid. ‘Twas there that we stayed. (And NO, I don’t want to know how he found that place)!

The spot wasn’t as far away as it sounded, actually. We used to play ball at Negrelli Field on South Euclid’s northern tip. Dreidling through side streets in our father’s Plymouth Valiant, why it took but minutes to emerge down on Euclid. Not a big deal, to be sure, but with the outdoor pool (and a father that didn’t swim), well …

Grandma Bogarts’, however, offered a semblance of home: a renewal, a gentrification, if you will, of our fallen family. It was family.

There were the four of us (with Adam at times) upstairs in a two-bedroom walk-up. Grandma had her bedroom; our aunt had hers; and the three of us — a father and his boys? On a “studio couch” we slept…on a “fold out”… as a trio…our Dad in the middle with a son on each wing … wishing and hoping that in the course of the night our father (who moved around in his sleep), wouldn’t kick the middle third of the mattress out the window.

It was 1965, and the bedding— old, ugly, and a putrid burnt yellow — was awkward and inconvenient, and yet still warm, and fuzzy.

In a heartbeat, it seems, a half century passed.

I’m getting married this August. On the first, to be exact, once Shabbos concludes. Being the second time around, of course, there’ll be little in the way of pomp and circumstance. And still…I don’t want to see her that day — not before the wedding. Let the pulse of the day build through anticipation!

Extraordinary times clearly call for extraordinary measures: thinking outside the box, perhaps, or through the rear view mirror.

Ten days from now I’ll be a day from my wedding. Ten days from now, for the last time after twenty years, I’ll retire unmarried.

What to do? How shall I spend my last night single? What would be fun? Right? Appropriate?

Ten nights from now I will pick up my aunt. It won’t be for shopping or even for banking.

Ten nights from now we’ll pick up my brother and drive on to shul. For services…at Park Synagogue … our father’s yahrtzeit.

— And ten nights from now…after dinner, and after services, we’ll head back to Aunt Helen’s…

To sleep on a couch that is still old, and still a putrid yellow.

It will be family though, and on the thirtieth anniversary of my father’s death, the thought of snoozing on the same couch I shared with him lo those many years ago is … well …

warm and fuzzy.


Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Michael had retrieved us at LaGuardia,  and as we entered the Chappaqua Starbucks, we were greeted by the sparkling eyes of a two-year old.  Eyelashes flickering…. cheeks splashing his unforgettable smile, Eli Bogart was beaming.  “Papa Boos”, he blurted, as this grandfather melted.

Trips east or west without an agenda are special in their own rights. Life cycle events are nice, but the un-orchestrated is often more memorable. Like last weekend.

Max was at camp when we arrived, so my eyes first caught him in our motel hallway hours later. Has it really been five years since that summer of pregnancy, of expectation? Since the ultrasounds?

The kids ate before us, game plan being that Carrie and Meredith’d read them to bed while Michael and I picked up food. Ah but in a scene so reminiscent of my dropping Michael in Manhattan fifteen years ago, we got caught on the wrong side of a procession —this time Mt. Kisco’s annual Firemen’s Parade. (The food got cold; my son got hot; and to the pleasure of absolutely no one, I caught it on tape).

Our first choice would have been to stay at The Kittle Inn. Booked it was, though, so we wound up at the Holiday Inn adjacent to the kids’ camp. Saturday’s day night doubleheader, then, gave us opportunity to see their summer indoor haunt, and their outdoor pool. (Ed. Note 1: My Dad was a great father, but other than baseball, he was not the outdoors type. Frankly, I can’t remember seeing him in a pool but for an occasional volleyball game in the 3-feet at Riviera. Seeing as how those swim club years numbered three, and Cleveland baseball’s but four months, that tells a story). (Ed. Note 2: Michael’s a doting father. Indoors and out. Watching him roll around in the pool with his boys was endearing. To everyone).

No parade before dinner. The Bogarts readied for a party while the soon-to-be Bogarts ordered Chinese. We sat the kids that night, eyes bouncing between network programing and bedroom monitors.


“Papa Boos!” he repeated. “Papa Boos!” Hand in hand, Eli Matthew and I traversed the unfamiliar confines of Muscoot Farm. Thank God the adults were there to identify the farm animals. I was lost. (Ed. Note 3: Yeah, the petting zoo was something else our father didn’t believe in). (Ed. Note 4: Come to think of it— and my brother may correct me if I’m wrong – but I think the only reason we ever went to the regular Cleveland Zoo was because the lodge had some outings there).

Max, of course, big brother that he is, pushed ahead. In the course of the weekend he’d taken a liking to Carrie (his pronunciation rhymes with “sorry”), and the beauty of the whole dynamic was that WHATEVER Max did, Eli would mimic.

There’s something about brothers. Something special.

Sixteen months separate H and I. Less than a year and a half. And don’t get me wrong…growing up…it was both a blessing and a curse. For years our mother dressed us as twins, ‘til she couldn’t. For years he’d tag along with my friends, ‘til he didn’t want to. For years we fought here and there, yet always made up. (Ed. Note 5: To this day I can picture wrestling with him on the carpet of the unmarked line of demarcation between the small dining room and the even smaller kitchen. The flooring had torn; he was poked by a nail and was crying; and our mother’d come to the rescue).

But we were brothers. Always.  We sparred; we jousted; but we were brothers. (Ed. Note 6: In a dozen/plus Boobus Bowls, we were ALWAYS teammates).

Brothers. Like Eli and Max.

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

We returned today. To the work and the play of Ohio.

And ‘though my album of this weekend may fade, one picture won’t dull. It’ll be that of Max and Eli … almost 2, almost 5 … brothers-in-arms. Together.

I pray for all my family. We all do. There’s a dynamic to brothers, however, that trumps other combos. I know it; I’ve lived it; I embrace it.

May these two…these two beautiful brothers… live a life of health and family, and embrace their special nexus knowing though they may sometimes line up on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage, they need never compete.



Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

“God does not play dice with the universe…”

Albert Einstein

God made trees, forests, rivers and wildlife, to be sure. What he didn’t create, were plains, trains and automobiles. From this simple fact I deduce it was God’s will that grown children remain in the towns of their ancestors. I can no more imagine He wanted my offspring to uproot, fly, and replant states away than He wanted his Chosen People to abandon Eretz Yisrael and find other “homes” in Europe and The New World. (Ed. Note 1: Play to the end of the tape— where that bottom-feeder Modell moved the Browns out of Cleveland). With this as a backdrop, there I sat: packed in a car with my daughter, a three year old, a two-month old and a dog … heading east on the turnpike.

I knew before sunrise ‘twould be a day to remember. I knew before waking that the day’d be long, the kids would be kids, yet somehow we’d manage. Of material import: I sensed ‘ere we started that as unique as our trek would be—perhaps our once in a lifetime— that the day would be treasured.

Our game plan was simple. We would stop at the 50th annual Bohrer Family Picnic up in Highland Park, mix with the kinfolk, and then head ‘cross the country. (Ed. Note 2: Jason’s family’s get-together is truly a marvelous thing. Generations convene each July 4th —some coming from as far as Florida — and indeed the event would be perfect if only it were held indoors. (Ed. Note 3: Picnics with air-conditioning will come in my time, I predict. I’d like to be on the right side of history).

We left 3-ish from the park — Lucy facing front, Ruby facing back, Adam on my lap, and Stace behind the wheel. We arrived 10-ish — Lucy awake, Ruby asleep, Adam in back all aglow (Ed. Note 4: His roots are in Cleveland; his comfort’s there) … and up front, in the front seat: savoring both the love and the pressure of a day’s travel: two kindred spirits.

…And in the miles twixt and between, a father and daughter laughed, sang, bickered (once), and more than anything else SHARED the splendor of ordinary moments drenched in quality time:

— Me reminding Stacy as we hit the highway that she’d promised I’d enjoy total control of the radio dial.
—Lucy asking “When will we be at Grandma’s?” as we crossed into Indiana.
—Stacy driving cautiously, as caravans of cars passed on our right.

(Ed. Note 5: When you’re comfortable in your skin, as I am in mine, it permits others—especially doting daughters— to be comfortable pointing out how you can improve the skin you’re in. Consider:

“Lucy needs to use the potty,” she said. “We might as well eat.” “OK.” “There’s only a McDonald’s and Dairy Queen at this rest stop” “What do you want me to get? “Definitely not ice cream. You shouldn’t eat it and Lucy shouldn’t see you eat it. Have a salad.” “If I get the salad it will spill as you drive.”
“Then get a wrap.”

(Ed. Note 6: By now I could hear my Dad laughing. This was not going to end well, I reasoned. Sort of like when Michael and I went to the buffet breakfast in Vegas. It was Sophie’s Choice. But Yes, I was going in!).

Returning to the car minutes later I gave Adam some ice chips and wrapped him back under my left arm all-the-while delicately harnessing my inner finesse and gingerly balancing the chicken and lettuce emerging from the foil.

“If you keep your lips together,” she cautioned, “You won’t slurp.” I smiled weakly.  “Do you eat that way in front of Carrie?” She was right, I knew, so I didn’t push back—not even for the sport of it. I went, rather, in a different direction:

“NOW can I put what I want on the radio?” “Not until Lucy’s asleep, please.” (Meanwhile, as Ruby slept quietly, someone had heard her name mentioned). “I think I see Grandma’s house,” she announced in central Indiana. “That’s just a cloud,” I noted. (Ed. Note 7: A good quip, I thought. Cerebral. Apparently not. Not even a muted glare from my daughter).

Fact is I was truly enjoying the trip. We both were. Miles of sharing what H and I term the art of conversation were punctuated by me leading assorted progeny in the singing of “C is for Cookie”. (Ed. Note 8: A second verse, “P is for Pork”, DID yield that glare from my daughter). Meaningful, meaningless, and yet—oh so memorable was our discourse, the highlight being our casting a virtual biopic on Stacy’s life.

—The wheels kept rolling. Rooney refused my offers to drive, yet as we moved through the dusk, with Shirley Temple chirping in the backseat:
“You can play the radio now,” Stacy said. Rejoicing, I struck the first available button, hitting upon Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “Leave this,” she announced as I moved to change stations, “I like this.”

Ah, but it mattered not. Part of our shtik, it was. I didn’t care so much about the radio. Not really. And she knew it.

Darkness greeted us as we pulled off the freeway. Instantaneously, or so it seemed, our day..our once in a lifetime day…was done.  Within moments Lucy was gone, Ruby was gone, Adam was gone, and my Little One, the sparkle to this long day’s journey into night, was inside her mother’ house.

I will always remember last Saturday, and the rapture it brought, and I’ll save the mosaic.  The seasons will pass; the kids will grow, but there will still be one constant: when I look through life’s rearview mirror, I’ll think not of the music-less travel, fret not o’er the meal that I missed, but see only a priceless postcard: Lucy facing front, Ruby facing back, Adam on my lap, and Stace behind the wheel.

And I’ll know that that very weekend, God rolled me a seven.


Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

“If you were going to repair the world, where would you start?”

Posted by a Facebook friend last week, the above query drew predictable knee-jerk responses. A plurality spoke to intolerance, and others of love, tolerance, and family. Fine answers, to be sure, but not mine. “…Eliminate the Designated Hitter Rule” I suggested.

Tell me I’m wrong. I dare you. Forget your personal happiness for a second and answer me this: Was the world not a better, safer place in 1973 or now?  Ah…now that I’ve secured your reluctant agreement, permit me to offer my personal Top Ten ways to repair the world:

10 The F.C.C. should mandate that all television seasons both begin in September and end in May. Not because I harken to the old days— but because it worked. We shouldn’t have to Google what season we’re in; kids should be able to play outside in the summer and not miss a new episode.

9 High school graduates should be required to attend their first two years of college in their home state. Then, if they want to spread their wings, God bless them. Not only would this defray the mass exodus of upwardly mobile graduates to only New York, Chicago, and the Left Coast, but indeed ‘tis a proviso that is family-oriented. Indeed—why should nice folk like me and you have to get on airplanes to see our grandkids?

8 Political correctness should be outlawed. (Ed. Note 1: NO, I haven’t gotten over how they fucked with Gilbert Gottfried).

7 Newscasters should be topless, (except on CNN, where they should be soundless).

6 SUV motor vehicles should have their own separate parking lots. (Ed. Note 3: Why in the world should drivers of standard sized cars have to play Russian Roulette backing out of spaces?

5 The Washington Senators should return to the American League.

4 If someone steals your parking space you should be permitted to park behind them and block his/her car in.

3 Inappropriate use of handicapped parking stickers should be a first/tier traffic offense with violators compelled to watch one straight hour of CBS’s “Two Broke Girls”.

2 There should be a uniform law for grocery stores whereby the Express Line (12 items or less) defines an item by the “Swipe Rule”, (i.e. you count the amount of arm swipes rather than units purchased. If, for example, Item X is 3 for $3.50, and there is but one swipe and a “3” punched in on the cash register–well, then–that should count as but 1 item. (Ed. Note 2: As an adjunct to this, whenever some mumser wrongfully proceeds through the Express Line and when notified by the cashier feigns innocence, it should be “Intentional Grounding”. Sirens should go off, massive strobe lights should impact on the store, and the putz should be made to return all items to the shelf. (And to watch “Two Broke Girls”).

—- Which leads me back to my immediate answer on that Facebook posting: the horror of The Designated Hitter Rule. (Ed. Note 3: Established by baseball’s American League merely to prolong careers until such time as its chemists could perfect performance enhancing drugs, it changed our great game for the worse. Can you honestly tell me that wasn’t when baseball jumped the shark? It was the yang to the yin of what was one of the GREATEST rule changes in the history of mankind, to the one statute from the 70’s that was indeed divinely inspired: “Right turn on red”.

Amending Ohio’s motor vehicle code to permit right turns on red? Now THAT was a mechiah

…which bettered the world.