Archive for January, 2016


Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

A hollow day, it was. Work to be do (yet no one to see). Paper to push ( while no urge to do it). And nothing — nothing required that moment.

Did I mention it was cold outside. Dry cold…bitter? Or that I was bored?


Perhaps the systematic culling of our aunt’s archives — the self-imposed obligation to closely scrutinize each and every document left from her Hundred Years War — had taken a toll. Carrie got it, (and a few others). To much of the western hemisphere, however, Aunt Helen was somewhat of a pain … an aberration…an inconvenience.

It was about 11 that my brother called. There were matters attendant to Helen — things to discuss. As such, when he asked if I had time to swing by, I jumped. (Ed. Note 1: Make that “leaped” from my chair).

“The door will be open,” he told me by phone. (Ed. Note 2: Was that not a metaphor of our nexus?).

Not long after, turning down Aldersgate, I reveled at this perfect measure to fill the morning’s vacuum!

I knocked while entering, and was greeted by my splendid brother, standing with the paperwork. Our task took but seconds.

“Do you have somewhere to be?” he asked.
“Not really.”
“Why don’t you sit for five minutes,” he urged me. “We don’t talk as often.”

I obliged, of course, quite amused. So was he. Laughing, we both pretty much said the same thing: his words were the words of Aunt Helen! How many times over the years had one of us wanted to run into her house, drop the groceries, and just “Get out of Dodge?”

— And yet… how many times had each of us sat, kibitzed a bit, and not felt the better for it?

So I sat on his couch. And we talked about kids, and wives, and work, and whatever. And we laughed.

“Gotta go,” I said after a while. (Ed. Note 3: Not that I had to, not that I was bored, but perhaps more along the lines of what Stuart or Stacy term my A.D.D.).
(Ed. Note 4: My wife takes it a step further: “If he was school-age now, he’d be diagnosed”, she tells others).

“Do you have time to go to Staples? Nothing urgent”. (Little did he know HE was doing ME the favor).
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. Do you want me to go for you?”
“No,” he demurred. “We can both go.”

(Ed. Note 5: Truth be known, understand I didn’t, his necessity to shop. Desiring a check register, H didn’t opt to wait the day for his bank to reopen. Oh, and ink was needed, he said, for his computer. First: I don’t know why he can’t keep his balance in his head, like I do, but God bless him, and Second: did any male Bogart really have the wherewithal to load a cartridge in a computer?).

Thrilled I was however, to go.

Within minutes we pulled in the lot. He ran in; I waited; he came back; they were out.

“What kind of office supply store doesn’t have ink?” I asked, and he shrugged. “Let’s try Office Max!” I urged, not ready to go home.
“They’re closed,” he told me.
“Let’s drive by just to make sure,” I pushed back.
“We can if you want, but they’ve merged with Office Depot.”

… So we drove up to Eastgate. I told him, en route, how I had once boycotted the store when a friend had a fight with it…and how years later, unbeknownst to me my buddy had ended his feud … and how for another decade, not knowing my pal had since mended fences, I continued to abstain from Office Max. He wasn’t impressed — my brother wasn’t — even as I drew the analogy of Letterman doing the Super Bowl commercial with that piece of shit Leno, much to the chagrin of Howard Stern.

… And then drove back from Eastgate — the store clearly closed.

“Do you need to go anywhere else?” I asked. His answer was “No.”

A bit later I dropped him off — my sterling brother — and went to my office.

I could have used another five minutes.


Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Dear Dad,

Remember how we slipped away to Vegas a few times when I was in my thirties? You from Columbus and me from Cleveland — we’d fly separately and room together, just spend quality time? Well, as oft’ you said: “The players change, but the game goes on.” Last week I went there with my son.

From New York he came and from Cleveland I flew. Watching football — not baseball …playing poker — not gin … and staying uptown at The Aria — not downtown at the Plaza Hotel And Casino. Oh, Sorry Pop … it changed its name a few years back. It’s no longer “The Union Plaza”.

But yes, Dad, the more things change ….

Semi-bored Michael sat, studying his phone as I folded my hands — not unlike, by the way, my reading SI as you played in your tourney.

Father and son. Side-by side as adults. Away from the politics of family, from the mandates of home. One.

Not that we didn’t have a hiccup. Of course we did. Remember how even in the most idyllic of our times every once in a while I’d say or do something that we both could have done without? With that look of yours — that amalgam of incredulity, anger, love, and warmth — you’d muster two poignant words:

“Must you?” you’d say, (and as if once wasn’t enough): “Must you?”

And the storm always ended.

Anyway, let me share of the weekend:

Our room that first night really was two. A wall separated Michael’s bed from the sofa I’d plopped on. (Ed. Note: He offered the bed, of course; I declined. To me sleeping on a couch is the Jewish substitute for the Christian’s camping outside). Nonetheless, spacious as our room was (bigger than the house I grew up in on Bayard), apparently one of us snored too loud (no names, please). As such, the next day we moved. (Ed. Note 2: Our upgrade was bigger than Wieder’s home, and it was a split-level).

Oh, and before you ask, let me say that the food was exquisite. Not that I can tell you what we ate. (Ed. Note 3: It was up to me what kind of food we ate (Italian cuisine, Chinese, American, etc.). Then, once I’d narrowed the field my Heir Apparent chose the locale. For the life of me, though: why do so-called upscale restaurants feel compelled to list menu items so “enlisted men” like me can’t understand them? It was embarrassing how many times I had to ask my kid “What does this mean?”. Frites? Why can’t they just list French fries? And how ‘bout this: “Blistered green beans”! Are you kidding me?

So we laughed a bit. And smiled a bit. And even touched seriously on the realities of my first marriage… A conversation delayed by decades, it was perhaps not necessary, but perhaps quite healthy.

A bit.

We spoke of Max, and of Eli, and of my next trip out east.

—And of, of all things: wardrobe.

There I was, in my own world focused to the goings-on at the Hold-Em table, when he tapped on my shoulder…

“Can you get up for a second”
“Sure,” I said. “Is everything OK?”

Two feet from the table he told me:

“I’m mortified”!
“I’m mortified!”

(Ed. Note 4: Turns out a tee shirt worn over a button/down shirt, (the ultimate in card-playing comfort wear), is not GQ’s look. (Ed. Note 5: I call it the “over-under” style, and although its critics include the wondrous Carrie, I don it proudly).

“Can I take a picture for Meredith?”
“Absolutely,” said I, sacrificing none of my panache.
(His head was still shaking as I played my next hand).

Mostly though, we just hung out. As one. Father and son.  Together.

We left early Tuesday, for our long trips home. He up to Westchester, me back to C-town. Both of us to the “real world”.

It’s not true, Dad — what the marketing guys say. A lifetime after our last trip…a week after leaving Michael, I know better:

What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas … it stays in the heart … forever.

All my love,

Your Heir Apparent


Saturday, January 9th, 2016

       “…Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
       Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel …”

(Polonius to Laertes, in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”)

I have a slew of compatriots —core friends. Through the years each has shared with me life’s blood, sweat and tears. Indeed, I am better for it. Still, while I “cut my teeth” with Stuart and Alan and Walt and Kraut and, and, and… my friend Bobby, celebrating a birthday today, stands unique, and special. To borrow a phrase from Seinfeld’s good friend George Costanza (“The Jacket”, original airdate 2/6/91): “Can I say one thing to you? And I say this with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality….”:

I simply love this man.

(And why shouldn’t I?).

In all the years, through incredible laughter and intermittent tears, through sometimes parallel bumps on our journeys, there has never been a time I couldn’t describe my friendship with him in two specific words: Joy…Loyalty.

How can I not think of the times we’ve had— the times we still share — and chuckle, well up … and just plain old smile!

I’m not alone.

One friend readily recalls watching Bob at a Chagrin Falls restaurant flirting away with a young lady near him — only to learn that indeed she was with her father. Another regales at the time Bobby, at another eatery, sent his food back because vegetables had brushed against his burger.

Yet another tells the tale of being in the Caribbean with Bobby, who had for some reason run out of SPF40. As the only inventory available was bottled lotion, Bob unabashedly cajoled his friend to rub the gook across Bob’s body. (Ed. Note 1: Never let it be said our friend wasn’t “comfortable in his own skin”).

Me? Images conjure still of so many of his hijinks, from the Bexley ballfields to the Rowland halls, from the days of elevator passes at Greenview through my nerd years at Brush … from R.E.N. to A.Z.A. to SAM… from marriages through divorces to our remarriages and rebirths … from radio days downtown to cinema days uptown …through communing at reunions to the NOW — even now: Wednesday mornings in the back booth at Corky’s.

(Ed. Note 2: Could I fill a tome with my Bobby stories alone? Of course. The downside, however, would be that not unlike JFK’s autopsy, formal publication would be held up ‘til some fifty years after he’s gone).

Fun stuff, it was…. no doubt. Still, when I reached out recently to those who’ve known him longest, what ran consistently through the thread of comments received was, as Linda so aptly put it, NOT his “killer” smile or his personality nor even his decades-long appreciation for beauty. It was, rather, as so aptly noted, his childlike sense of “joy and wonder”.

Among the luckiest of his friends were Stuart, Alan and I. “The Big Four”, we called our foursome in our halcyon days. (Ed. Note 3: The natural inner nexus was Bob with Stu and Alan with me. The first two chased women; Wied and I chased ground balls).

Sixty years ago we bonded, give or take. Resounding as the frolic of our association has been, however, it has always, through near six decades, been trumped by the purity of our friendship.  Laugh all we want about times with the Birthday Boy, (who since Dick Clark’s 2012 demise has been the World’s Oldest Teenager), but it is those poignant moments we hold dearest.

Well Alan recalls our buddy rallying him one day at a Sandusky hospital. Stuart echoes the theme with further tales of Bob’s tender side, as do I. We know that whenever that proverbial bell has run, our friend’s been there.


Yes, I’m among the lucky ones. Linda went steady with him for maybe a week or two “in the day”. (He was the “it” boy, she reminded). Others have joined him for business or golf or softball or whatever.

I’ve walked through life with him. He’s been at my peaks; he’s stayed through my valleys.


Happy Birthday, Brother Bob. I love you.

—And AGAIN: “I say this with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality….”.


Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

How can I measure my place in life’s journey? Perhaps by the rhythm of each New Year’s Eve.

In the 50’s we’d stay up late, H and I — special treat that it was to watch Jack Paar at Grandma’s. (Ed. Note 1: Not so much to view the show, mind you, but rather for the bragging rights of SAYING we saw it). By the 70’s, both married, of course, first minutes each year were spent calling our parents — and Grandma. Even into the 90’s. Indeed, even then…teasing middle age, we were blessed with calls to make: our mother, Harriet, and the successor to Grandma’s rotary phone: Aunt Helen.

It would stay that way for nearly a quarter century. Emancipated children called us … our Mom went south … but our calls: to our matriarchal clan … continued.

New Year’s Eve, 2016: no pomp, but rhythmic circumstance:

On the outside I went to a meeting, played gin with my wife, and watched “Blue Bloods”.

But inside, I thought, relived, and bid adieu to twelve more months, yet another series of examples whereby God closes doors, but opens windows. So…. while we said Goodbye to Uncle “Mush” and Aunt Helen, many reasons there were (big and small) to smile and be grateful.

There were hits and misses: two shows on stage, one show directed, one stunning rejection.

And things lost and found: Still looking for Cousin Hindy’s coat, but alas, DID discover the world’s greatest cheeseburger at The Mahogany Restaurant off the lobby of the Mountaineer Casino!

And sleeping around: from beds in Chappaqua and Great Neck, New York to a bed in Deerfield, Illinois— not to mention sleeps in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Boca….and a fold-out couch in University Heights, Ohio—

It was, moreover:

The year some unknown woman approached me at Kraut’s daughter’s wedding asking if I was related to Michael— that she’d gone out with him at Ohio State years ago— and we looked alike. (I wonder if he was mortified).

The year that Letterman signed off;
That Stuart and I went to the wrong wake;
And that our Mom’s third husband passed. (Hold the applause).

More importantly however, it was the year Rabbi Mandel joined us in matrimony…

And the year two of my children asked ME for extra one-on-one time—

And the year I saw Max and Eli prance, Lucy dance, and (drum roll) that we all welcomed a wondrous Ruby Emma!

I struggled last night to stay up till the ball dropped. By eleven Michael’d checked in, as had Stacy. My brother had texted good night.

“I’m going to wake you at midnight,” my bride told me. (It was 11:45).

She did, of course, and we kissed for the New Year. And then… be it sentimental or plain denial …but I went to the kitchen and phoned my Aunt Helen.

It was a call I knew she couldn’t answer, but a call that I well had to make.