Just as I finally accept turning sixty (It IS “the new 59,” you know), there’s one more pill to swallow— Alan Wieder is too. Let me explain.

Home is Cleveland, Ohio. My whole life I’ve managed to move exactly one mile. Further, with rare exception, the friends of youth have followed suit. As such, contact with the guys has been available. Four decades have passed, but here in town, I’ve been spectator to those that remained. We’ve all aged, separately and at times together—but relatively in view. Alan? He set sail in the ‘70s. He’s been gone. So it’s easy, still, to picture him 20.

Or 10. We began, by geography, as Hebrew School buds. Sometime in late elementary school, though, Alan wound up at Rowland. It’s been friends ever since.

Fact is, we’ve hit for the cycle: Rowland, Greenview, Brush, OSU. Later, as life’s journeys separated us, friendship’s bond gestated. Clearly the laughter, tears and, yes, the vulnerability of youth planted seeds of kinship that continue to blossom.

It’s funny what you remember, though:

We were hungry, and stood under the basket in the Greenview gym. There were maybe twenty 8th graders vying for spots on the JV roster. Randomly Mr. Lautenschlager bisected us, lining the bodies on parallel lines bordering each foul lane. We were to match up with the guy across the lane, parallel sprint down court, passing back and forth…and whomever had the ball at the end was to lay it in. Sprint, dribble, pass—nonstop.

I stood next to Alan and noted Bob immediately across, matched to me. Thinking that was good, I motioned to Wieder. He shook his head.
Alan knew better. “You’ll never see the ball,” he nudged me.

And he was right. Bob passed me the ball. I bounce-passed back. Snyder took off like a bat out of hell, drove the length of the court and scored. I never touched the ball again.

Wieder was right.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****
We were confident. Playing a tournament softball game on the fields behind Morrill and Lincoln; it must have been 1970. It was late in the game; we were up big. Alan was on the mound.

A fly ball. A tag. Slide. Play at the plate.

The call, (perhaps a mercy call in this blowout), was “Safe.”

Then, in plain view, the runner from third lay at home writhing in pain.
Signaling time, the ump called for a stretcher; moments later they carried him off.

Back on the mound Wieder had the look. Focused, he stepped back off the rubber, threw to third and announced “The runner left early.”

The ump again called “Safe.” Then, in plainer view for the world to see, Wido slammed his glove on the ground and glared like Nixon at a press conference with Dan Rather.

The game was all but over so the ump didn’t care. But we knew; yes we knew. Wieder was right. For the guy who would ultimately excel in photography, this, to all present….was a Kodak moment.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****
We were winners.

It was 1964. Three Browns sang “Jingle Bells” on the radio. Doing the math (or should I say permutations), stamping his Dad’s Nationwide ID on backs of every possible combination, we won tickets to the NFL title tilt.
Even saw Mia Farrow in the lobby at KYW as we picked up the tickets. (That was in her “Peyton Place” days…long blonde hair—her A game).

We were fearless.

Alan snuck us into the post-game conference in the terminal. I wonder if he remembers seeing the Colts climb in the bus on Public Square. (They’d been 11 point favorites).

We were nuts.

Alan was my first client. One day he saw Chuck Ciraolo walking outside the dorm.

“Hey Lardass!” Alan shouted from the Dracket Tower window.

The R.A. got wind of it and charged Alan with indecency. It went before some OSU administrator, (with me as Wied’s counsel). Citing “Free Speech,” he got probation.

We were battery-mates.

Here’s something else I wonder. Does Alan recall how pissed he’d get when my throws back to the mound made him break rhythm. (Every once in a while there’d be an errant throw between pitches. He’d glare at me like Sgt. Carter at Gomer Pyle; I’d feel like two cents).

But, he always had my back.

…A sunny Sunday morning in 1969. Last regular season doubleheader….

For the true Boys Of Summer this would be just exhibition before an upcoming playoff. But not for me. Apparently Alan had learned from league commissioner Ruby Wolf that I was leading the league in hitting. Problem was, with one week left, I still needed 9 at bats to qualify.

“You’re batting first,” Wieder told me. (Instead of the usual 9th, ahead of Kraut). The manager was taking care of me.

It’s a funny ending. I went 1-9 for the day, but that was good enough. It seemed that Heiser (Robby or Steve-who remembers?), went hitless on another diamond. ‘ Backed into the title.

I owe Alan that trophy, and all my self-confidence that came from it.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Enough rambling. That’s how it gets when you share about a friend you truly love. But I should brag about him.

He was the first of us on TV—when he danced the “Elephant Twist” on the syndicated Mike Douglas show.

He is a multi-published author. He knew Studs Terkel.

He had an early career as a meteorologist. Indeed, when my Dad gave six of us sales leads to cover in Greater Columbus, week in/week out, Alan’s work day was cut short: He always found the one neighborhood where rain prohibited house calls (i.e. work).

I’ve thought long and hard about Wido these past weeks. From his glares on the mound to last year’s chupah on the beach….What I admire most about him, I’ve concluded, is neither the arc on his ball, nor his craft as an author. It is, without a doubt, my friend’s unique balance of confidence and humility…and his sustained ability to, through all these years, never stop being Alan.

Happy Birthday.

One Response to “KODACHROME”

  1. alan wieder says:

    thanks, thanks, thanks

    This could not be sweeter — you are such a mensch

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