Archive for September, 2015


Thursday, September 24th, 2015

The rabbi held the congregation in his palm and they loved it. Meshing liturgy with (as Grandma Bogart would have called them) “hochmes”, he was making points, grabbing some laughs and for the moment … losing me.

‘Just wasn’t feeling it.

I love my synagogue. Growing up Bogart it was, and today it remains, the only game in town.

Why shouldn’t it be? Coming of age in the fifties, with a world within walking distance, did not the whole street attend?

Gelfand, Davidson, Shafran, Shafran, Polster, Gross, Markowitz (2), Duchon….as west down Bayard as the eye could see! (Ed. Note 1: Even on the other side of Miramar there were the Davis’s, Roger and DD (Mark) — until they moved down to Florida).

And what of my grade school friends? But for Stuart (Cleveland Hebrew Schools, Mar Orlon) and Bobby (Taylor Road — they were Orthodox, after all), did their parents not all dreidle down East Antisdale across Taylor Road and down Euclid Heights Boulevard?

Agin, Cohn,Gottesman, Libhaber, Walter, Wieder …

Ultimately this would add excitement to our year of Bar Mitzvahs. Services at other shuls were like field trips, the great moral issue of my father’s world being whether I belonged at my friend’s service or at Sabbath School. Revere Park, he did, always, often calling services at other temples “non-conference games”.

(Ed. Note 2: It was the year pre-divorce – fall afternoons spent with Dad on the bed. Prone we would lay, side by side. Band music blared from the radio as Al Bogart –-belly down, perched on his elbows … cigarette in one hand, pen in the other — methodically checking off intermittent results as announced between marches. To me all songs sounded like Souza, but learn I would “The Notre
Dame Victory March” and “On Wisconsin” and even “The Victors”.).

(Ed. Note 3: Long afternoons they were — sometimes arduous for ME: 1PM game on TV —three hours of black and white— and THEN radio: the bands … the final scores … and then: just when I think I can go to the bathroom … WHAT NOW? The west coast games!).

I missed those days this Kol Nidre, as I sat (third new mahzor) in the bowels of the chapel. Overcome I was, by a sense of time, and change, and a world gone by:

Hal and I bored at children services – parents fourth row, under Park’s big dome…

And my grandparents. …My maternal great-grandparents Sam and Becky Sharp (for whom Michael is named)…always in the same seats, mid-way up on the aisle…

And Uncle Bob and Aunt Etty and Bonnie, Gary, Debbie Marla. And Cousins Ruth and Leon…and Rita and Mel….

Images of my three prizes growing up at Park —

Michael’s Bar Mitzvah …Jamie waiving a lulav on Succos …Little Rooney, maybe five — Neilah is concluding and she’s  parading down the Main Sanctuary aisle (with the Gelfands, Davidsons and Shafrans of her world)…

Intellectually I knew, the world … my world had changed. Theirs too had changed.


In my gut though I wanted so much to be young again, with them again — as one again —

When times were black and white, and often pure….

(and Yes, when the rabbis didn’t joke).


Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Carrie corrected me that night, noting that the tugboat I pointed to was actually a barge. (Not that to a Jew ANYWHERE there’s a difference). Still, my sighting of the “vessel”, if you will, had come days after my brother’d sent the video of an old Gerry & The Pacemaker’s song. It, of haunting lyrics:

       “…Life goes on day after day…
       Hearts torn in every way
       So ferry ‘cross the Mersey
       ’cause this land’s the place I love…
       and here I’ll stay…”

It’s not that I crave Cleveland so much as that I hold dear the concept of home. My home. Cleveland. Never have I understood, frankly, how others — especially those of my generation — so easily, so readily picked up to drop anchors elsewhere.

Did they hate it here? Was the opportunity there? Did they fall in love with out-of-staters? With other cities? What, pray tell, could have provided impetus justifying the pulling of one’s roots?

Might choice of college have contributed to desertion of our North Coast? Sadly it’s noted that cousin Bonnie, Cohn and Herman all schooled at Wisconsin. Yet from Madison none returned home. Columbus took everyone back then, so the rest of us for the most part, attended. (Ed. Note 1: Ermine? Ohio Northern? Really?).

Most of us, (even Wieder for a cup of coffee), returned. Born and bred here, we anchored here. At home.

Forty years have passed. Plus. Making rounds through my city even now, an extra dynamic attaches … a heartfelt kinship … to those that have never left town. Be it unspoken communication or whatever, an intangible camaraderie, a heartfelt connection exists.

That’s why, for example, there was a reunion of sorts this past month. No, not the typical high school thing where people come in from all over.  It was, rather, but an ad hoc gathering of a dozen or so classmates at Tasty’s Pizza.

No couples. No dressing up. Just a conglomeration of classmates that didn’t necessarily hang together “in the day”. At some level back then — even in high school — we clung with our own. Sure our group had expanded beyond Rowland. Certainly new friends ensued in junior high and high school. For the most part however, regular running remained with the thirteen or so “original colonies”, the same ones that danced at our Bar Mitzvahs.

       “…People they rush everywhere
       Each with their own secret care …”

(Ed. Note 2: We met great people at Brush. They were, though, pretty much “school friends”. Monday to Friday, 8 to 4 we would bond. And maybe at a football game. But we had Manners at Fairmount Circle; theirs was on Mayfield; and as to McDonald’s? We ate in the car).

(Ed. Note 3: This was similar in nature to the dynamic between regular friends and Hebrew School friends. Some people — guys we’d bond with immeasurably in school — we just didn’t see in the real world. There was, as our parents would say, a time and a place for everything).

— And yet, this dozen or so friends bonded by time and place, laughed, hugged, and broke bread in the old neighborhood over old memories and bonds that may not really have happened.

— But we were all still here.

— And standing.

To me they are notable: the ones that stayed. To me they are special — if only because they stayed. At home.

Perhaps that’s why, in a way, I loved Jason the minute I met him. Stacy had yet to really lock in out west; it was clear that those two had a future; and immediately she had whispered “He’ll never leave Chicago.” Perhaps too that’s the source of my fealty to Stuart Miller or Matthew Klein. Nothing says New York like those two; never could I picture them elsewhere.

Friends criticize because I don’t travel; some chide me and claim I am narrow.

None, however, give me grief about staying in Cleveland. I sense, rather, that within them lays….if only for a bit … if not envy, if not admiration …

…for the Snyders and Treinishs and Walters and Wohlfeilers and even the nerds like me…that clung to, and cherished, and stayed safe at home.

       “…So I’ll continue to say
       Here I always will stay
       So ferry ‘cross the Mersey
       ’cause this land’s the place I love
       and here I’ll stay, here I’ll stay
       Here I’ll stay! ….”


Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

Two brothers stood by the rock– eyes tilted 45 degrees upward – studying faces of exiting congregants. Impatiently (not unlike Pennsylvanians look annually for Punxsutawney Phil), they awaited emergence of their father’s bald head. It was Rosh Hashana (in the fifties), and innocent.

My bride did a great job last Sunday. Diligently, like a balabuste from a time gone by, she had prepped in the kitchen. Brisket (with carrots, of course), chicken (one tray dark, one tray white), kugel, soup…

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

‘ Took Helen shopping late morning. “Garbage time”, I figured. Why not get it out of the way? Thrilled she was, to get out of her house — ‘though fact is that six hours pre-Harold she was already salivating at the mere thought of His presence. Moreover, as well she knew (translate: demanded), the hallowed chair at Hal’s elbow would be hers for the evening.

“Are you sorry you won’t be joining us?” she asked barely out of the driveway.

I napped through the Browns’ game on purpose. More “garbage time”, if you ask me. Carrie’d found comfort in the kitchen while I’d found the same in the bedroom. The world was in place.

Never was there down time back then. Our parents’ sixties’ divorce meant hopscotch each New Years. Lunch at Grandma Bogart’s … dinner at Grandma Cele’s … and of course the compulsory oral exams:

“Did you say hello to Ruth and Leon?” (from my father).
“Did you shake his hand?” (the follow-up).
“Did go to Kangesser and see Aunt Ruthie?” from my mother. (Ed. Note 1: Never could she let go of her hang-up about the Bogarts sitting under the dome and her family being in the other chapel).
“I didn’t see your father there,” (our Mom again, annually). “Is he in town?”

The trickle began once I woke: Carrie’s kids, grandkids, mother, brother Jan… friends … It was holiday, and with food on the table, the NFL on TV, and toddlers to play with, it was all it could be….

Leesa was first to leave – with me driving. Taking CJ’s car (for the radio, of course. What better than the simcha of Stern?), it was top open to the cooling breezes of the autumns of Yom Tov’s past. I was alone with my thoughts — or so I thought.

Ed. Note 2: Never again will I underestimate just how well she knows me.

“I’m flat,” I submitted, (as I knocked with four points).
“It’s holiday. You miss your kids,” (she said, dealing).

It was 10:15 and the lady of my life? How she’d nailed it!  Picture, I did, Max and Eli in the pastures of New York. Hear, I did, the sound of Lucy’s shofar tooting on the phone — thrilling even still to Ruby’s cry in the background. And think I did, very hard, of both Hailey and Matthew.

Not much later she caught a “no-brainer” and won. It was only a game. “Flat” as I was, alas, as we head to the bedroom I felt nothing but grateful.

For my children and theirs, and the lady beside me,
And for the picture — pristine pure — of my father’s bald head.


Friday, September 11th, 2015

Lost in the abyss of the Lomaz garage were artifacts of minimal value. Among them, however, was what they used to call a “long play” album …vinyl … a recap of the Browns’ ’65 season. Via the play-by-play of Gib Shanley as narrated by coach Blanton Collier, it told the story of team’s efforts repeating their championship by playing games (as the record was titled) “One Game At A Time”.

More than once I’ve told Carrie that so long as she’s present the activity’s immaterial. “It’s about being together”, I’ve assured her. (Ed. Note 1: Previous evidence includes last year’s Hall & Oates Concert and even a 2012 mile-long hike under treacherous sun on the Beachwood Park path.

Tuesday evening I learned that some times, one game at a time is a lot.

With marginal tongue-in-cheek irony I note that the person gracing us with tickets to see Jackson Browne was one of those not necessarily doing handstands when we married. Still, my bride (I knew) loved the singer and fact is, I’d seen the video of his playing The Scarecrow in the concert version of “The Wizard Of Oz”, so….

“Do you mind if I call Nautica to see if there’s a first act?
“Not at all,” she said graciously. (Had we not both suffered through an atrocious one/hour pregame at One Direction?).
“No”, I was told when I called. “Just him for three hours”. (“Three hours”, I said to myself, quickly doing the math. This was TWICE as long as the Three Stooges movie I’d dragged Michael to).

Still, I love this woman …so I smiled (a bit) … and on a night boasting 88 dripping degrees, I sat by her side.

For three hours.
Knowing but two songs.
Which were sung two and a half hours in.

How much, then, did I love the evening? Let me count the ways:

Tipoff was 7:30, and I entered with reticence. Not having been a druggie, did I even have standing to be there?  The guy’d earned his bones in the 70’s, after all.

Running late, beckoned off I-480 by stand-still traffic, we’d tread down Lee Road and dreidled through city streets until fortunately (or unfortunately) we found the banks of the Cuyahoga and the Nautica Pavilion. It was 7:40; the music had started.

Trudging past beer stands, we hadn’t yet sat when, not breaking stride, my left hand shook the outstretched arm of an old friend. (Ed. Note 1: It would be my last interaction with anyone remotely Semitic until the next day at Corky’s).

Twenty-four rows up we plowed . Tall steps. 8 inches apiece. DOUBLE steps — two per letter, as we sought out Row “X”.  In front of us, already seated, were two schmucks. On and off for a half hour or so these two lumps sat taking pictures by phone. There was a moment, not an hour in, when a huge barge passed by. I’m not sure about the guy, but in his lady’s euphoria over filming the boat, I swear she climaxed.


(Ed. Note 2: The couple left us mid-evening, clearly to be home by 10. And I called THEM “schmucks”?).

The band played on, and how Carrie enjoyed it…as my mind wandered.

“Jews don’t drink beer”, I noted.
“Who told you that?”
“Here, let me google it”. (I had time on my hands).

From the stage he kept crooning.  Sensing Carrie preferred Jackson Browne’s voice to my nonsense, I closed the link to “Jews And Beer” ( and searched the web for his playlist.

(Ed.Note 3: Two sets of ten followed by 2 encores of two songs each. 24 songs. Figuring seven minutes per song (every tune had two minutes of instrumental foreplay) and an intermission, it occurred to me that we’d leave directly from there for my grandson’s Bar Mitzvah).

The audience, by the way, reveled in the music. Nine times they stood in ovation. Come to think of it, it may have been ten; I slept through one).  And the night pushed forward. About 10:15, temperature diving to 85 and, I turned to Carrie:

“The breeze feels great. Doesn’t it?”

“What’s that woman doing in the back of the stage?” I inquired. (In addition to Browne playing guitar and/or keyboard, there were other guitars, keyboard and drums. That, to me made sense. Quite standard. What I didn’t get was the lady upstage left. Other than clapping to  songs, I feigned to think what service she might provide).

“She’s there for backup,” my wife said quite knowingly. “Right,” I agreed. (Rather avant garde for Carrie to note, I thought).

It ended abruptly, (but a song to the second encore).

10:30ish we trudged down steps: 48, past beer stands, to our car. Just a few months shy, it was, of the Browns’ ’65 finale, which they lost to the Packers.  Driving uptown, as much as I loved Carrie, I couldn’t help but think of the lesson I’d learned …like my Brownies back then:  that sometimes one game at a time is too many.


Sunday, September 6th, 2015

My recent honor necessitated submission of a personal balance sheet. Not for anything bad, mind you — in fact, good stuff.  That stated, the task offered another stark reminder of how often less is more.

I’m in an interesting place, and I don’t mean Cleveland. Six-plus decades within three square miles find me waking daily to Carrie, thinking daily of my kids far away, and walking daily with a God of my understanding. May I be forgiven (at this point in my life) for shouting it out, but I’VE GOT THE WORLD BY THE BALLS!

Fact is, gazing back ‘cross the canvas of my past, I embrace the journey.

First stop: 11417 Hopkins Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio (’49-’55).

Life on the first floor of our grandmother’s duplex was simple. In an exercise of questionable zoning compliance Widow Waller stayed in a third floor box. Her husband Hymie died first, and I recall how my Dad claimed the old man (who wore a patch over one eye and frankly looked like a Jewish pirate) had been a bootlegger. Uncomplicated times, these were, in a house of quite complicated lineage.

(Ed. Note 1: Great Uncle Benny bought the home in ’39. He sold it to Grandpa Harry who died a decade later and left it, in late ’49, to Grandma Cele and their two kids: my mom and brother Bob — 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.). Ah, but the plot thickens: In February ‘52, my mom and uncle deeded their interests over to Grandma, making her the sole owner until … mitten dirrena … mid-March, Grandma signed it back to her children).  Two conveyances in six weeks?

(Ed Note 2: Cele married Irv Porter early in 1952. Note to self: I need to call Aunt Etty and find out if it was Uncle Bob’s idea to get the property out of Grandma’s name. Must have been a whirlwind romance between Irv and Cele. What other explanation for the house being flipped?).

Ah, but I digress. Suffice it to say that the decade’s white flight severed my ties with that wondrous setting. Along with the Rubins, the Eisners, and even Mrs. Waller, we schlepped up Cedar Road to the mecca of “The Heights”.

Second stop: 4249 Bayard Road, South Euclid, Ohio.

One floor living at its best! H and I would cross quickly to school. Abutting us in every direction were friends. To the left: Hovanyi, Fenton, Cohen, Fromin…. To the right: Gelfand, Davidson, Matejka, Mulberg, and even further down Polster and Shafran.  (And Markowitz, and Duchon and DD Davis).

Diagonal from Rowland we were, and everyone it seemed, (except the rich kids from south of the school), would pass our way both in coming and going.

— And pet our sheltie … the dog they all knew: Adam

(Ed Note 3: A bungalow it was — 3 bedrooms, one bath. Ah, but the finished basement featured a tiled floor with four central tiles displaying the ace of spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. The home would be lost in foreclosure, over time — a product perhaps of our father’s compulsion for gambling. Go figure).

The next stops matter not; they all blend together.  The colonial we moved to when Mom married Sam? Bigger, but so? Unknown to me still was that a seed sown on Stonehaven: a house is not always a home.

College intervened, but once Columbus and Uncle Sam were behind me the theme was sustained.

Next stop: 250 Chatham Way, Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

Good times they were, and in some ways idyllic. What could be better than an apartment adjacent to Stuart’s? Classes in the morning, soap operas in the afternoon…

(Ed. Note 4: I didn’t know the place was small, I swear. In the middle of my last last school year, I got the tap. “We should be moving,” she said. “OK.”).

Not that I didn’t like our next stop. 2250 Par Lane, Willoughby Hills it was, and somewhat brand/spanking new. But then came the decorator, and the interior paint, and…

When we bought back on Wrenford I was thrilled. 1911, a walk to the schoolyard, a return to my roots. Three bedrooms they were, somewhat small. And in the basement, one-half was finished. Just a half. Indeed, the other portion (and I don’t know how), but it had a lower roof. We’d have to crouch like Groucho Marx just to navigate through it.

But I was happy, content, smiling.

ENTER ELAINE WALTER, a good friend, Marc’s mom, but a realtor.  (It was 1982).

“What do you need a bigger house for?” asked my Dad as we purchased in Beachwood.

His head was in the 50’s and mine in the 60’s; we were fish out of water. Still, beautiful as the Maidstone home was, necessary as the new space was (with Stacy pending), Al Bogart’s utterances ring true to this day:

“The house you have now is working!” he counseled. “You can only eat three meals a day,” he pointed out. “You don’t need to put this pressure on yourself.”

I didn’t care, I guess; busy I was, being upwardly mobile, driving a bigger car, worrying we might not “keep up with the Jones’s”.

This stop:  serenity. 

For a long time now I’ve been comfortable in my own skin.  Like I was on Hopkins. And on Bayard. And on Chatham Way.

‘Tis a comfort level borne by the simple understanding that bigger isn’t always better, and that surrounded by love, less can be more.


Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

I didn’t want to go, to be honest. The annual awards ceremony at the biggest venue in the adjoining county. Nominated I’d been— for Best Director Of A Musical. (But I wasn’t going to win … didn’t deserve to win … and besides: in my heart of hearts I know these people like me but don’t really respect whatever theater prowess I have).

But I went — because in my deeper heart of hearts I knew not only was it the right thing to do (many of my friends, some of whom I’d directed, were up for awards), but because I’d had a wondrous 2014-15 season, and that I’d savored parts of each of the three shows I’d touched.

How many times last fall, in that last scene of “The Fantastiks”, did I cry to the tender words of “Try To Remember”? How many performances ended with me tearing to the mental whirlwind of Michael, Jamie and Stacy growing up?

How many nights last winter did I schlep to Chardon plagued with the insecurity of directing my first musical? Sure it was “Bye Bye Birdie” and certainly I got a kick out of the high school senior reprising the role both Paul Lynde and I made famous (Mr. McAfee)….but have you DRIVEN Geauga County in February?

Ah, but how many times did I thrill last spring to the tunes of “The Music Man”, eyes wetting to family memories, prancing as but a piece of a pressure-free ensemble?

No, I didn’t expect to win, but show I did and happy I was — the minute I’d walked through the lobby.

There they were, the actors that became my friends. There they were, the stage hands that propped me up.

So sit I did, in the house for two hours. And thought I did, ‘bout what I would say … in the unlikely event … that they called my name.
I’d give a shout out to the musical director John. And I’d thank the choreographer, Lisa-Marie. And our stage manager Lauren. And the cast — all good kids.

I’m a better prognosticator, of course, than director. Called my name wasn’t (unless you count the 8 pm voice mail from Aunt Helen).

Still, I was glad I’d gone and joyed to see friends.   Best of all, I was content and ever-pleased to be a piece of the ensemble.