“Bruce, my boy,” Ben Selzer would muse, “You have the world by the kalooms”. Thirty-something then, I sensed what he said, but didn’t quite grasp it. For years I’d been hearing it in different verbiage from my father: “By the balls,” he would say (more graphically)… “Little boy, you’ve got the world by the balls”.

I was 35 when Al Bogart died and 45 when Ben S followed suit. By 55 however, I’d embraced it. The good times and bad: they’d ebb and they’d flow. On balance, ‘twas clear, I’d been pretty well blessed.

They speak in recovery of having an “attitude of gratitude”. Not that I ever really had a chip on my shoulder, but for the longest of times I saw world as half-empty. Not that I ever quite moped around, but in my darkest of times I could well play the victim.

Closed were my eyes back then, to the wisdom of my fathers.

Gate 3C, Hopkins, Saturday…looking back –

Three weeks sober, sitting in the rear of a meeting… avoiding eye contact… a gravelly old man got right in my face…

“What the f are you so sad about, Bogart? You’re here, aren’t you?”
(I sure didn’t know him, but he somehow knew me).
“What are you grateful for today?” he inquired.
(My silence provoked him).
“Do you have a gratitude list?” he then asked.
(“Really?” I wondered. “Here I am,” I was thinking, “Two kids out of town, the third with her mother, bills up the ying-yang, sitting with these losers…and this clown thinks I should be HAPPY?”). My laundry list was probably still being thought out when:
“Why don’t you do yourself a favor? he pushed on. “Take a moment each day and write down three things you’re grateful for. Just try it.”

It was one of those times in my life where — for whatever reason — I listened. Maybe it was timing. It surely wasn’t me! Sitting alone, feeling alone, I’d been given the gift of desperation.

And I listened.

Lists were made. Daily. Did so for years, actually. Wrote ‘em until…until…it came naturally: that attitude of gratitude. Until I saw daily what Ben and Al had spoken.

I thought about it yesterday, awaiting my flight. Sixteen years later. Plus. While I waited to board. And it still felt good.

Good enough, let’s say, to write one again.


1. Let’s start with the obvious: Here I am heading out west to see Stacy. Could time be better spent?

2. Arrangements with Michael. Plans were made Friday to spend a weekend together — just father and son — watching football. It’ll be in January; I can’t wait.

My father once told me …it was 1977 … he from Columbus and me from Cleveland were flying to Chicago to connect on to Vegas…how “wonderful it was” that his adult son wanted to spend time with him. I heard him then, believed him then, yet understand it now.

3. Carrie. Whether it be after a trip to Max and Eli on the coast or after a flight to Lucy Bohrer in Chicago, is there any better angel to return to? Home with Carrie is where my heart is.

I made the list yesterday, thoughts flitting ‘tween my father and my father-in-law and that crusty old man from the church basement.

And I smiled.

I have the world by the kalooms, I well knew, and the view is wondrous.

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