Archive for October, 2016


Monday, October 17th, 2016

Midway through the chant of “Kol Nidre” I sat in the bowels of the synagogue flanked by the love of my life, and already embracing the bitter-sweet.

For sixty years, give or take, I’d been coming to Park Synagogue. 1949 …Childhood … adolescence … college … marriage … divorce … odyssey … renaissance … 2016.

The congregation sat back down – me in the centerfield stands where familiar faces beam warmer by the year. As the rabbi spoke, overwhelmed I was by a sense that things were both the same and different.  Hearing his words, digesting his words, I studied the room.

Jeff Schneider was there. (An usher since last century).

And Cousin Gary.

And almost-kin Maynard.

And the myriad of Levines.

And even the guy my brother once insisted has a face resembling gefilte fish — he was there. (Same seat, actually).

And yet,

Aunt Etty was ailing, and at home. And my brother was ailing and at home.

The room was full; my heart was full; but did my mind not wander?

Our first year, it was, without Aunt Helen. (In a lifetime).

“I’ll pick her up and you take her home” Hal would say.
“No. I’ll pick her up and YOU drive her home,” I’d push back.

Or vice/versa.

“Either way, will you get her home after lunch?”

Or vice/versa.
Rosh Hashanah.

Eyes watering, I heard Rabbi Skoff speak of the finiteness of time.

In the fifties, after Children’s Services in Glass Auditorium we’d wait by the rock outside the Main Sanctuary for the first citing of Al Bogart’s bald head. Must Grandma Bogart be the last one out of the service every year?

In the sixties came divorce and our father’s hiatus. The Brothers Bogart, though, were never alone. Certainly not at The Holidays:

The Eisners drove Grandma and Aunt Helen. Our Mom came with Sam. There were grandparents and great-grandparents, and aunts and uncles galore. Family abounded with Hoffmans and Woldmans and Ungars. (Ed. Note 1: Aunt Ruth opened as an Ungar, buried sweet Uncle Irv early on, and ‘ere decade’s end wed Irv Porter’s friend Sam Levensen. This  stunned odds-makers as smart money had him going to also-widowed in the 60’s Grandma Cele).

Fact was there just was no place like Park for the holidays. (Ed. Note 2: My Dad’s Dad had been Torah Reader there. As such, we were grandfathered in for primo seats under The Dome. Our parents divorce, though, also divided our seating.  Fast forward to Hal and I sitting in the caverns of Kangesser Hall or at Park’s temporary satellite shul, The Richmond Theater).  (Ed. Note 3:  It was outside this latter venue that in autumn ’67 Uncle Phil urged me to go back to college.  I’ll never forget it.  There we were, walking to our car after services, when his big car approached.  Rolling down the window he warmly counseled “You’re a smart kid.  “Don’t quit.”  “I didn’t quit, Uncle Phil,” I tried to explain.  “I’m just transferring to Ohio State.”  He gave me his signature quarter, smiled at me, and with Aunt Lil aside him drove on — but I never quite thought he believed me).

We rose again for “Ashamnu”. My machzor was in my right hand. Was it wrong to pound my chest with my left one? My father would know.

The seventies saw Grandma Cele and her siblings head south. (Did they even have a temple in Pembroke Pines?).   The eighties brought children while the nineties and millennium brought distance, dynamics, and less dovening.  And yet, did not the pictures in the mural of my mind have us all together, still, on that night?

The Adelmans. The Eisners.  Sam Lerner.  The great aunts and great uncles (all of them). Grandma Becky,  and Grandpa Sam.  Grandma Cele and Grandpa Irv.  Grandma Bogart. Aunt Helen.

My mother and father.

Up once more for “Ve-al Kulam”, I could hear yet long-gone Rabbi Cohen singing over —no, drowning out — the choir. I mentioned it to Carrie, (as I do every year).

Then we sat.

Minutes from conclusions, as others were leaving, we sat. I wanted to leave — was emotionally drained — but we sat. Longing to exit, clinging to the familiarity— sitting.

“Let’s go out this door, “ I urged as it ended. “I want to shake Jeff Schneider’s hand.”

Traversing the very walkway where Stacy’d had her Bat Mitzvah luncheon, we stepped outside to brisk air, crossed the driveway, and cut through a backyard to the side-street of Ivydale —where Bogarts have parked for sixty years …

(more or less).


Monday, October 10th, 2016

The aging of a parent occasions some adult children to suggest a father or mother no longer drive at night. Reluctantly, with love they’ll speak up. The conversation — awkward, poignant as it must be — is even more difficult when keys are grabbed altogether. Imagine the expanse of emotions eyeing a beloved within field goal range of the nursing home.

Alas, the task facing my children is different. Perhaps it’s because they live ‘cross the country. They cannot (from miles away) gauge the quality of my driving. Trust, they must, as they love in absentia. Trudging past my prime I am strengthened by their unfettered candor.

“No more graphics on your shirts, Dad”, word came down from the east. “It’s just not a good look,” urged my kid in the west.

Rarely do I wear my old T’s. Their glory days were my smaller days and the stack of Larges and Extra Larges in my closet rises higher than any in the back rooms at Norm Diamond’s old stores.  Unworn for years, they remain a reverent and rainbow coalition of shirts I can no longer fit in — even with Vaseline.

       “To all the shirts I’ve loved before,
       To all the shirts that crossed my chest—
       In sizes I’d outgrow. I ate a lot, I know.
       To all the shirts I loved before…

       “To all the shirts that covered me
       When I felt no one lovered me.
       Their graphics crossed my heart.
       They’ll always be a part—
       All the shirts I”ve loved before…”

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (Aurora ’96. I was Teddy. Chaaaaarge!”). THE ODD COUPLE (Murray The Cop. Was not playing a fat slob not right in my wheelhouse?). THE MUSIC MAN (Ah, The Music Man. Other than 44121 no town stirs warmer memories than River City, Iowa).

       “To all the shirts that mirrored my life
       And gave me smiles in times of strife.
       I’m glad they came along
       In laughter and in song.
       To all the shirts I’ve loved before….”

WRITER (My inner Richard Castle). THE HUMAN FUND (Money For People).
SPRING BREAK ’96 SOUTH PADRE ISLAND (Michael wore it. Me? Didn’t fit). FREEDOM ISN’T FREE / I PAID FOR IT. (Did I ever tell you I was a medic in the Army?).

       “The winds of age are always blowing.
       My kids say “Dad it’s just that way.
       Please no more graphics. It’s annoying.
       Please Dad, throw them away….”


I returned from Chicago last night.  Carrie was at the airport to greet me — Called my brother as we drove — Got food from Corky’s — then went home to unpack.  I’d travelled quite lightly, of course:  just blue jeans and tees.   That’s it:  blue jeans and tees.  Black tees:  three of them.  Solid black tees!

Stacy, of course, thrilled at my wardrobe.  Truly.  And God bless her.  Little does she know that they can take the shirts off my back but not the memories from my heart.

       “…To all the shirts I’ve loved before….’

Apologies to Willie Nelson



Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

The first voice I heard entering Juvenile Court’s second floor elevator came from a maintenance worker. In heavy work clothes bearing both his and his company’s name he wasn’t so much speaking to his compatriots as he was making a declaration.

“I never go to doctors,” he pronounced.
“Me either,” said I stepping in — like he’d been speaking to me.

One flight we  would share, but bond we did.

“I was never sick ‘til I went,” he continued, “You go to a doctor — they’ll find something wrong with you.”
“Only if there’s insurance,” snapped another.

As the door opened and we separated in the lobby I was warmed by the fact that I’m not the only counterintuitive person that gets it.

Look, don’t get me wrong.  I respect physicians.  Let’s, however, look at the facts:

Our mother was never one running us to docs at the drop of a hat. Our father, however, shot me to Huron Road Hospital each time I was hit by a pitch. “Just to play it safe” he’d advise. (Ed. Note 1: Years later I would note the irony that Al Bogart, a stickler for grammar, always used the adjective instead of the appropriate adverb).

To be sure, we had the family assortment — a pediatrician, dentist, and eye doctor … all chosen by our patriarch. (Ed.Note 2: This, remember, was the 50’s, long before women were allowed to make decisions). Al Bogart did, however, select medical professionals employing the strictest of standards.  Each needed to be from either Ohio State, Glenville, or — in the case of one whose parents moved to the Heights in his adolescence — a graduate of Patrick Henry Junior High….or the Lodge.

Still we didn’t rely on doctors in those days. And didn’t go. And didn’t get sick. Ever.

Then college came, followed closely by my first stab at adulthood. It was the 70’s and a time where everybody (it seemed) wanted to act like grownups. For the would-be upwardly mobile, this meant having doctors. Me? I was married to a girl from New Jersey, so I drank the Kool Aid, followed the rules, and opted in.

…So there I was, on paper only, with Stuart Markowitz, Jerry Adelstein, Art Newman and Art Wohlfeiler — each of them either Ohio State, Brush High School … or the Lodge.

Like the sands through the hourglass, divorce ensued over time. My marriage ended mid-1995; my health insurance a month later. Ripped from the trenches of grownup society, any impulse I may have had for medical attention slid to remission.

Time — make that decades — passed, and not once did I take ill. Minor issues perhaps, yet nothing enduring in nature. Ever. Truth is, even in those rebounding years I not only relied on the foundation I’d received as an Army medic, but I was also blessed with a talented cadre providing advice.

For general health issues, if he were in town, there was Stuart: “I’d have that looked at, B”, he might say, after suggesting yet again his lifelong remedy:  wheat germ. (Dr. Fenton’s first medical advice actually issued in the early 80’s. “B, you need to start running,” he submitted. His laughter — he barely finished his sentence — meant he already knew my answer.

For diet and nutrition I had Bobby. His Wednesday admonitions about my weight and eating right were never quite convincing since I’d watch him (each week) grab seven pads of butter from the Corky’s receptacle.

And as for specialists, well, I didn’t have my own ENT person, but I did have my kid Stacy for both eyes and nose. Eyes and nose, you wonder? Consider one trip to Chicago:

“Dad, you need to have glasses,” she told me. “Not just contacts.”

Obliging, we ducked into an optometrist right there on the spot. No appointment— we just walked into a storefront. (At least that’s how I remember it, and for some reason I think Michael, Meredith and Jason were there … but I could be wrong).

“Dad,” she said, when first seeing my new frames and glasses, “I never realized how big your nose was.”

—- So I always had medical coverage, o’er the years. The Friends And Family Plan, I would call it.  It worked, and for lo those decades I was healthy.

Halloween of ‘14 I turned 65: eligible (pointed out Stuart, Bobby and Stacy) for Medicare. (Ed. Note 3: Fenton’s reminders to enroll began with his birthday that August).

Since then I’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, and gum disease — none of these a malady I’d had in my twenty years sans-insurance.

I thought of that last week, as I met the men on that elevator.

And I laughed.