Archive for August, 2015


Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Whirlwind days they had been — two weeks of hard work prepping the office for my absence, the pre-wedding “To Do” list, the honeymoon itself. Wondrous as our sojourn was, in so many ways it was non-stop. From the tranquility of Rabbi Mandel’s ceremony to the post-midnight Pittsburgh arrival to our run at the casino to the concert at Heinz Field to the early Monday flight south…. Heck, Florida too was non-stop until we were finally ground to a halt by the unforgettable, unforgiveable, and utterly piss-poor service that last day in the airport restaurant. No surprise then that after ten days at home we needed to get away.

It was almost heaven— West Virginia. 24 Hours, in and out. Almost heaven.

Those who know what makes me tick, i.e. the little things: the nonsense things…the things you can’t put prices on — will get this narrative. Others perhaps have yet to evolve to a point where they can appreciate being shallow with dignity.

Picture/perfect weather last Friday as we drove toward Newell! Popcorn in the car, insouciance and Stern in the air, we went east then south. Carrie drove, and always having my back she was first to acknowledge that my friends would be impressed at the expanse of my travels. Jubilantly she was pointing out that as we sped down Ohio 11 we were passing such exotic places as Calcutta, Lisbon, and indeed, East Palestine.

But let me tell you about the hotel. It was a stellar venue in multiple ways:

1. We parked fifty feet from the lobby, and
2. The lobby was fifty feet from our room.

(Ed. Note 1: I’d called the casino en route, hoping to get a “flop” for the night. Not to be. As such, when the Holiday Inn Express front desk advised they had only a room with queen-sized beds, I deflated. “That’s what we have at home,” noted Carrie. (Who knew? I thought we had a King).

3. Friday nights the place offered All You Can Eat pancakes. We didn’t partake, mind you … but the touch was nice. Showed good values.
4. Set on a massive hillside with the backdrop all greenery, it struck me that this would be the perfect setting to sing “The hills are alive with the sound of music” in a video for Lucy.   Alas, time, sunset and the magnetic pull of good cards made it just impossible.

Suffice it to say that after appropriate private time we found our way to Mountaineer.

“Two hours?” she asked me as I bolted toward the Poker Room.
“OK,” I said over my shoulder, “But I’ll text you if it doesn’t feel right.”

It felt right. (Ed. Note 2: I’ve always had good karma at this place. From the days when I’d drive down with Bob, Terri and Mary Anne, to the day jaunts with the program guys to now. Some rooms just feel right).

Indeed, once sitting down to play (in my favorite seat, just left of the dealer), the gods kept smiling. ‘Twas a good hour and a half later as I stood for the first time (to shake off some putz that had played a 9-3 off/suit), that I noticed my bride…sitting by the side … waiting patiently.

(Ed. Note 3: I remember Walt assuring me once, when talking of losing a hand to a guy who’d played like a schmuck. “Be glad he’s at your table.”).

‘ Left the casino on schedule…not quite 10… and it was there, off the center the hotel lobby, that we made what I would humbly submit is thus far the greatest discovery of this young 21st century: The Mahogany Restaurant. After requisite due diligence confirming that the burgers were “all beef”, we ordered sandwiches to go.
Let me make this perfectly clear (as Dr. Leon H. Spotts would have said fifty years ago at Park Synagogue): Carrie and I, that evening, in a small town in West Virginia (of all places!) sunk our teeth into the best cheeseburgers ever created. Clearly, as she sat desk/side in our room and I lay stomach/down on the bed, as we watched Trump in Alabama, the enjoyment derived from Mahogany’s cheeseburgers was no less than a religious experience.

Had our respite ended there, it would have been enough. Ah, but there was still morning to come —

We rose Saturday and walked those fifty feet back toward the lobby. To the free buffet breakfast.

“I need to video this!”
(She understood).

There in the midst of the banquet (Ed. Note 4: No bagels, no lox— strictly Christian cuisine) … was a pancake maker! Can you believe it? A no-more-than twelve inch cubed metal instrument that — if you press a button — rolled out flat four-inch in diameter flapjacks.

“Lucy needs to see this!”

Carrie had a pancake; me:  scrambled eggs.  And of course we filmed the machine.

I then played poker, and Carrie some blackjack.  Looking up two hours later, (slightly less), my eyes caught her.

She was sitting there to the side, quietly reading, waiting patiently…angelically… for me to tire or my cards to turn.

Soon we were heading home,both refreshed yet still glowing.

“Is this heaven?” John Kinsella once asked his dad.  “It’s Iowa,” he was told.  One state over, last weekend, my bride and I walked our own Field of Dreams.

It was “almost heaven”.


Monday, August 17th, 2015

Diverse we were, in athletic interests, athletic prowess, intellect, social graces and confidences — heck: one of us never played little league, one of us (me) couldn’t buy a date, and one of us grew up in a house where English was the second language! Still there we sat, five guys, fifty-fivish years later, in the corner of Red.

We don’t convene that often, actually. It took my marriage to do it. Mark’s in Columbus, but barely. Having just built a home down in Boynton Beach, he’ll retire next month and drag Lisa down south. Fenton? Already gone he is (no matter where he spends summers). Bobby, Art and I stand tall, however, imbedded in Cleveland. Even so, did not The Kraut relate that he might move to Israel?

It was the typical night. Discretion mandates no names be used, but suffice it to say that one of us charmed the server, one of us looked bored, one of us tried to impress the group by ordering appetizers Al Bogart never heard of, one of us kept trying to stir the pot and create controversies, and two of us (Erv and me, go figure), valeted cars.

Across from each other sat Stuey and I. Perfect. Unspoken communication brokered by two hours of eye contact kept both of us laughing. And Yes, Kraut was enjoying himself although he never seems quite as amused as Stu and I at having the SAME conversations over and over about the whereabouts of this girl or that guy…. or the inevitable question from our buddy:  “B, did you find Debbie for me yet?”

We hit priorities first:  the good news with Mark’s granddaughter, then the toast to my marriage… then, (to no one’s surprise) the annual update and breaking news on Marvin.

Bob and Erv haven’t changed an iota.  Their incarnation of Dandy Don Meredith and Howard Cosell blended friendship with their time-worn material — all to our table’s benefit.

Ed. Note: What? You don’t like the 70’s TV-duo analogy? How about this: Ermine played Donald Trump to Bobby’s Rick Perry on steroids.

And the conversation flowed—

Kraut says he won’t retire. I’ll die with my boots on. And Bobby? He won’t stop working, he says, but would consider living in Florida.

“How you going to work down there?” I asked.
“On my computer.”
“You sound like George Costanza,” Fenton told him, referring to George’s desire to be a major league baseball GM.

There was the typical nonsense. We urged the server to put extra garnish on Bob’s plate. He’d ordered steak, as did Ermine. Bobby true to his South Euclid roots went for quantity whereas Brother Mark ordered the small filet, opting for quality. (Both of them SO predictable). Ever-frugal Stuart asked for chicken yet when Kraut got lamb, I followed suit. (It wasn’t so much that I wanted lamb as that in the interim I’d asked Erv the difference between the two cuts of beef and as the waitress came around I still had no idea what the kid from Linnell Road had said).

The fact is it was a wondrous, harmonious evening — not even the gentle jousting that’s oft fueled our dinners. Indeed the only disagreement at all was the table debate about cruises. Stuart noted he’s “been on over fifty”; Mark said he’d never do it again. And me? I told them yet again, “Not in this lifetime!”.

“How do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never done it?” urged Stuart.
“I’ve never had a guy stick his dong up my ass,” I told him, “But I know I wouldn’t like that.”
(The subject changed).

Dine we did, for more than two hours. Sure, we stood mid-meal for the obligatory picture (as Bob and Mark sparred o’er whose I-phone to use).  But the night was for smiling… laughing…reveling…regaling.


The other four treated, in honor of my nuptials. Appreciate it I did, truly.

But what sustains us each at such times — is an appreciation…NO a reverence for our lifetime of friendships …

and more than anything else, our undying bond.


Saturday, August 8th, 2015

                “A law was made a distant moon ago here:
                July and August cannot be too hot….”

Twenty-eight hours before matrimony, and as I picked my aunt up — precisely on time, I might add — nothing had changed.

“I should have asked your brother to drive me.”
“Why, Aunt Helen? I said 5:40 and it’s 5:40.”
“He’s never late,” she noted.
“Neither am I.”
“Why must everything be an issue?”

(We drove in silence: she regretting her last sixty years and me regretting the next sixty minutes). Not really. The Annointed One, Harold be he, was meeting us at temple, and my brother would shine as our buffer).

Poetic it was being our father’s yartzeit. Beautiful memories of him blending with beautiful thoughts of her, the service flew by. He’d have loved Carrie, I knew— and not just ‘cause she played gin. Love him too, would she have. Best of all, however, he (like she and me), would have loved us!

Fourteen hours pre-ceremony I breakfasted at Corky’s. (Go figure).

“The usual?” she asked.
“Challah French toast,” I proclaimed. “No syrup, though. I’m on my wedding diet.”

At the ten-hour mark the calls began.  Meredith and Michael, as I stood in Verizon — followed shortly by Bonesy.  Stacy and I?  We spoke and texted all day,’though Yes, I took a break for Last Coffee with Weiskopf.  (Ed. Note:  From all my single-dom, I’ll miss Ed most).

And the clock ticked down:   Hitting the office, schlepping food for Helen … packing, readying for a rare week away … microwaving (for old time’s sake) one last piece of salmon …

Four hours ‘ere game time I stopped at my brother’s. Sitting in symmetry — on the same couches where we’d cried through “Field Of Dreams” and “It’s A Wonderful Life” — smiling, laughing like the two boys on Hopkins Avenue, on Bayard Road…

Two hours to go, and I was where I belonged: at a meeting. How could I not be?

It was the fall of ’97, and after two nights at Cleveland Clinic, it chose to discharge me.  “Get to a meeting tonight,” urged the nurse.  “I can’t,” I advised her, “…Visitation night with the girls.  ”They’d rather you got well,” she said. “It’s where you belong.”  Sixty-five hundred days have passed. Plus. Forgotten I haven’t: what got me to the dance, what gave me my life.

Dennis stood up at 9, as the conclave was ending.

“Let’s keep Bruce in our prayers,” he announced. “He’s getting married tonight.  “Maybe we should pray for his wife?” someone quipped.

Returning to the condo, psyched, I was greeted at the door by the two Ocean Eyes and unique elegance of my bride-to-be.

Then it happened so fast: Rabbi Mandel’s words … the Shevah Brachot … the holding back tears, the not holding back tears … the breaking of the glass!
Within a half hour we were on our way —

To Pittsburgh
To Boca
To Life.

“…In short there’s simply not a more congenial spot

For happy ever-aftering than here in Camelot!”