My Dad taught me early on that certain circumstances mandate treating life as but a scripted reality show. (And, YES, ‘twas a lesson learned long before we were plagued with such programming). One quick example: In college days when one might fill his gas tank for five bucks or so, occasions arose where I would drive friends to Cleveland and back. His recommendation? That I discreetly give one of my pals a dollar and ask him to wait until we were half-way up 71 and to then ceremoniously offer to chip in for gas. Then, he reasoned, the rest of the car would follow suit. “They should offer on their own”, he would add, juxtaposing his code of honor on others. “Actually,” he’d add, “You’re really doing them a favor. You’re saving them the embarrassment if their parents should ask.”

Make no mistake about it: when it comes to the scripted reality of this millennium, Hal Bogart’s my “go to” guy. (Especially for all things nonsensical). It’s not that we can’t play like adults. Au contrere. It’s just that —and I believe I speak for both of us — no one touches our inner idiots like we do each other’s.

Some scoff at the length of our colloquies. They roll their eyes in frustration as the Brothers Von Bogart dissect and trisect what to many are but mundane matters. But are they? And are not the paths of our discourse ripe bounties of profound logic?

Should we serve strong or weak coffee at our mother’s party? It will, after all, be evening and what if the people aren’t really coffee drinkers…and should we buy weak coffee from Starbucks or strong coffee from Caribou and should we have non-dairy creamer as well as half-and-half and what about milk …but then if we have dairy what about the one person in the crowd that maintains kashrut and does that mean we need different spoons and should we get plastic and if we do should they match the paper plates and if we have paper plates would it not make sense to buy them at the Dollar Store…but then what if our aunt asks the two of us why we spent money on paper plates when “surely you could have brought them from home”…which, of course, always somehow ends with me driving her home and where as she gets me one-on-one this lifetime leader of passive aggression will warmly remind me that if I didn’t spend money on paper plates that I didn’t need I would have money in the bank right now….

Yes, some deride this recurring yet earnest dialogue. (These nay-sayers are typically B or even B+ students constrained by rote upbringing. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist like Howard Ross however to sense true beauty in our fraternal exchange. Indeed, if one really listens, he hears not nonsense, but connection.

—And so it was that I missed Little Herb through his recent stint down at Seidman. (Not that we didn’t sit there … make plans…orchestrate)—

“Please call your aunt and tell her I’m too tired to talk.”
“What if she asks how I know?”
“Tell her I emailed you.”
“But what if she says that if you’re strong enough to be on the computer then surely you could have called her’”?
“Then tell her you haven’t spoken to me since I went to the hospital.”
“OK— and what if she asks if I was down here to see you?”
“Margie,” he mused, somewhat lost with introspection, “What do you think the answer should be? Was Uncle Bruce here?”

Little help was my sister-in-law. (She’s seen this movie before). There was thunder in her silence.

“I don’t care what you want me to tell her,” I assure him. “As long as we’re on the same page.”
“What do you WANT to say?” he asked.
“I’d rather go with the truth. It’s easier to remember. Who knows when she’ll get around to asking you?”
“But what if she wants to know why I didn’t ask her to come down with me?”
“Tell her I wasn’t strong enough for company, but that you were an exception.”
“And what if she asks if your kids were down here?”
“Tell her you don’t know.”
“But she’ll ask why I didn’t ask.”

FINALLY…FINALLY Margie chimed in: “Why don’t you both grow some __________”, she demanded, signaling the end of the conversation.

Hal was discharged days later and that fire was put out. Others smoldered, of course, and me? I had to face them with the help of rank amateurs.

—-Like last Sunday…Jack’s Deli.
—-With Carrie and Leesa. (Lovely people, of course…but as I said: “rank amateurs”.

We weren’t at dinner five minutes when the lady of my life spoke. “When Bruce spoke to Harold” she began …

Then she saw my face—
And she heard my voice…change the subject….deftly.

Dodged a bullet, thought I, my segue hurdling over the hazard. And relaxed I was, until Leesa spoke up.

“It was nice to meet Michael, Aunt Helen.”

She never quite heard it. Interrupting LOUDLY, somewhere between the c and the h (of “Michael”), I’d eluded another. And my stare at Leesa? (Think Margie at the hospital).

Dinner progressed and the talk turned quite safe. Hal was missing, though, and we fumbled through our reality show unscripted.

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