Each Friday the nation’s newspaper publishes a feature titled “!0 Great…”. One week it might be 10 Great Places to dine; another it could be 10 Great Places for bird watching, or perhaps 10 Great Places to Shoot Archery—-whatever. The only things never posted are 10 venues for anything I might do. Not once has it been, for example, 10 Restaurants with Great Corned Beef or 10 Coffeehouses to watch people from. Au contraire! No, it’s always locales to hunt geese or parks to build camp fires.

When, pray tell, will the journal evolve? When will it reach out to shallow people like me?

Screw ‘Em! In the holiday spirit, I will make the first move. I present then, in alphabetical and not preferential order TEN GREAT PLACES I MADE HOLIDAY MEMORIES:

  • CLEVELAND, OHIO. City Mission. Burnside and I worked the kitchen as Joe Piteo and the good folks at Blazin’ Bills fed four hundred. Things took longer than anticipated and leaving to head uptown to a speaking engagement I noticed I not only had no tie with me, but no time to stop home. A moment later, in a scene straight from the movies, a resident approached me with a scruffy, folded tie. “I’ll get it back to you tomorrow,” I said, thanking him. He nodded, though, without hesitation. “Merry Christmas,” he told me. “Please keep it.”
  • CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OHIO. Grandma Bogart’s house. She lived upstairs on East Overlook and each New Year’s Eve my brother and I’d sleep over, so our parents might romp. The TV was black and white, but the thrill of staying up for Jack Paar then switching over to Guy Lombardo lives on. On a clear day, we can still picture the Roosevelt Hotel and hear strains of “Old Lang Syne”.
  • GREAT NECK, NEW YORK. December 31, 2011. Babysitting Max, studying his every move on a monitor. Is there a warmer, fuzzier way to slide into the next annum? He was one year old back then—not only too young to understand how funny his parents were when at 5:30 that day Michael broke the full-length mirror, but also too young to know how much I loved him, and that night.
  • LAKEFRONT STADIUM, CLEVELAND, OHIO. December 27, 1964. Browns 27, Johnny Unitas’s Colts 0. Wieder and I, (with the aid of brother Hal, and Dickie Lomaz), had pulled an all-nighter, won a radio contest and with it two ducats on the forty yard line. In the process we saw Mia Farrow, snuck into the post-game press conference, and carved a winter day we can still hold onto.
  • LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK. Chanukahs with the Ladies Luxenberg and their offspring. In the new century my son wed into a clan with a family backbeat so strong that even oft-missed notes in holiday sing-a-longs can’t quell the warmth. That first year Michael got me a book “The Ten Year War”. I had to read it all through to find out it was about Bo and Woody and not my parents.
  • LYNDHURST, OHIO. The couch on Aldersgate, circa 2009. A random comment to my brother that I’d never seen “It’s A Wonderful Life” had spawned an evening. Margie had the chair to the side as two brothers sat glued to the sofa. That last half hour there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. (Well, at least on the couch).
  • SHAKER HEIGHTS, OHIO. Chanukahs at Grandma Cele’s. The apartment overflowed with aunts, uncles, cousins and food. Most people think “Nes Gadol Haya Sham”, which translates to “A Great Miracle Happened There”, relates to the military exploits of Judah Macabee. Not so. Indeed, this holiday slogan refers to the fact that at Celia Porter’s each year, for two hours, the family got along. In that short respite with the menorah lit, Ruth didn’t hate Irv, Benny liked Phil and our mother still smiled. Indeed, a great miracle happened there!
  • SHAKER SQUARE (IN CLEVELAND), OHIO. Henry Katz’s apartment. January 1, 1969. Fenton had been dating this girl Barbara and was sucking up to her bachelor father. At the time Henry was seeing a former Miss Indiana—someone light years younger—- and had invited Stuart over to watch the Rose Bowl. Good friend that I was, I joined Stuey that afternoon, watching with strangers as the Bucks beat OJ Simpson and the Trojans 27-16. To this day, when people ask me where I was for that game…it’s just hard to explain.
  • SOUTH EUCLID, OHIO. Rowland School. The big diamond was final home for the Boobus Bowl, gridiron classic that kicked off each holiday season Davidson, Gelfand and Bogarts in ‘61—a host of Baskins, Mandels and Fruit Punch thereafter….with one constant: H and I, though both married, always took the muddy clothes off post-game at our mother’s. “And don’t leave them on the floor!” she would shry. Every Thanksgiving.

So there you have it: TEN GREAT HOLIDAY MEMORIES….(Or was that nine)? Did I get ahead of myself? Well…ok…here’s TEN. I left room for it.

  • BEACHWOOD, OHIO. Festivus, 2012. Carrie’s house. Stace and Jace are in town, and though Rooney’s otherwise occupied, Jason and Lucy will join us for the holiday dinner. We’ll watch football, do some feats of strength, and I’ll even rally my one year-old around the Festivus pole. But we won’t air our grievances. (At least I won’t).

I’ve got nothing to complain about, and ten great memories, or more.

One Response to “TEN”

  1. Stuart says:

    Festivus is just not Festivus without all airing grievances. Happy Festivus to one and all.

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