My phone rang on a Friday morning in January. It was Jacobson.

“Bogie,” he exclaimed, “We missed you yesterday.” (He was referring to Past Chancellors’ Night, the annual reunion of former lodge leaders).
“Rehearsal,” I noted.
“Well,” my friend went on, “You really disappointed Dr. O…. He said the only reason he came was to see you.”
“I swear. He asked all about you. I told him of Carrie and your grandchildren—“
“I should call him…say hello.”
(I never did).

There was an era—a decade solid, maybe more—when as a young adult, every nuance I felt was shared with Dr. O. More than frat brothers, we were compatriots.

Lodge was prime-time back then. From the mid-70’s to the lean ‘90s I lived, breathed and basked in Thursday night glory. It was all my dad said it would be and more. Lifetime friendships were born, relationships were carved, and yes, even lessons were learned.

Bolstered by the old (my father’s cronies rallying ‘round the flag one more time) and the young (my pals, most of whom didn’t care), two years into knightdom I found elective office. It was an upset win, never really respected by the middle-aged brothers. And yet…

Doc O was one of them, connected not only by age but by lodge politics.

Allen, even so, not only didn’t resent youth, but he gravitated to the blend of tradition and irreverence that dripped from my being. For some odd reason, perhaps sensing the fade of his own youth, Al Oster got a kick out of me. And Jacobson. And the nonsense of Castle Hall.

I could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice, and feel it as he gave me counsel.  How well I recall the shoulder he’d provide as his contemporaries, trying to keep me in my place, flexed their muscles in the guise of brotherhood.

“Don’t mind Eisen,” he once told me. “He just can’t accept that you won.”
“Yeah, but—“
“He really likes you, but as long as he sees you as ‘Harvey’s boy’ he’ll never make it easy.”                                                   “Yeah, but…”

It’ll be thirty years this June that I held the gavel…Chancellor Commander. The world was changing; fraternal organizations everywhere were declining—and against that backdrop there I was—in my early 30’s—-running the show.

I needed every Al Oster I could get.

We were mavericks trying to change things; it didn’t take.

Rather than go with the usual suspects, I asked Cutler and Widman to run entertainment. In the day, Entertainment Chairs were akin to Secretaries Of State. I wasn’t just pushing the envelope naming the two relative unknowns—indeed, I was opening an Office Max.

Al never broke stride. Al never buckled. Always, he waved the flag.

There was a guy on tv back then called “The Unknown Comic”. He would do his routine with a brown paper bag over his head. Some jokes were good, of course, but some weren’t. Still, the sight of a schmuck doing stand-up with his head covered always drew laughs.

—Until the night when, to generate excitement for the upcoming entertainment calendar—we had Cutler and Widman sit the entire meeting with heads covered.

Only Oster laughed.

—Or the bus trip to Toronto where I went up and down the aisle waking sleeping altacockers, asking each if he preferred beef or turkey sandwiches. Dutifully each responded and diligently I wrote down each order. Problem was, we had no food. I was just having fun. (It took Oster to calm the seas; some people, hungry perhaps, just didn’t think it was cute).

Yet Oster, too, could tell me the truth. Privately. Like when The Jersey Girl was in her ninth month with Stacy. (Might have been the tenth month even). She was being “herself”, let us say—only more so. There I sat with Doc O…at the Theatrical…bitching.

“LISTEN TO ME!” he shouted, semi-shaking my shoulders. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to carry that thing around for nine months…and it’s always there…and every time your wife sits down on the toilet it’s there…do you know how uncomfortable that is….? Give her a break!”

“Yeah, but…”

I was thinking about that today because…I never called Oster. Not in January. Not in February. Not at all.

You see…my phone rang just Monday. And again it was Jacobson.

“Dr. O died,” he told me—there would be no funeral.

“Lost time is never found again.” —-Benjamin Franklin

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