Let My Girlfriend Go





“Come by at 8:30. We can talk then.” Even though it was a text, I could feel the flat tone of my girlfriend’s mood coming through. The verdict was in and it did not sound promising.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought it all through when I embarked on the “Second Seder Initiative”.  The notion was admirable – an unmarried guy throwing something special for friends and neighbors of whom he had been ‘shnorring’ for years.  Rosh Hashanah lunches at the Feldsteins, breaking the Yom Kippur fast at the Weinbergss, a fistful of Sukkot parties at Hershey Faigenbaums and too many Shabbat dinners to count at the Zuckermans.  None of the hosts would call it schnorring, a yiddishism for freeloading.  Such was their generosity in performing a mitzvah (good deed) for a poor schlemiel on his own after twenty years of marriage.  

For some additional flavor I was going to sprinkle in some denomination-appropriate strays and a couple of gentile women from the office.  Add in the kids, the ex and the aforementioned girlfriend – ah, you see the storm clouds forming –  and  I was looking at kosher for Passover catering for sixteen. I had a handle on some high end bridge chairs to go with the folding tables. While global satellite technology developed in the diaspora has eclipsed the absolute need for a second seder, it has evolved as a relatively convivial replay for most.

When I told the former Mrs. Gross that my girlfriend would be in attendance, she reacted badly. She made it clear that if this was the case she and my two kids wouldn’t be coming.  Much cursing ensued as we dug in our heels. My position was weak as my former wife had always, generously, made her Seder table open to me. Jewish holidays are about family and even if the limb of marriage was long amputated I still had some vestigial longings for that life during the festive seasons.

Planning a seder is no easy task especially if you are playing by “Strict rules of Passover, Mr. Goldstein.”  We’re talking separate dishes, cookware and cutlery, total ethnic cleansing of the kitchen and wildly overpriced seasonal foods for which you have to wrestle over bottled borscht with old crones from the Gulag who have no problem backing over your still twitching body with their shopping carts. I was having a nervous breakdown just putting together a seder with catering and waitstaff!

Girlfriend was now a problem.   It was a relationship that spanned four decades through several acts.  I was smitten the first time I saw her sashay, with just the right amount of notice, through a plaid skirt across the floor during a mutual friend’s basement party.  She was so far out of my league that it took another four years for act one. I asked her out during a break from what was then a long running romance with a woman who went on to be known in New York magazine circles simply as ‘The Boss Lady’.  For the few months of that first pass, I was in heaven but too daft to understand what she meant when she looked at me with those lupine blue eyes over a smile you would want in your carry-on for that last flight to eternity and whispered, “We’re playing with fire.”

We were consumed by the heat.   Eventually she  went off and met her husband. I eventually met my wife. Save for a couple of sightings that was it for the next twenty five years when, freshly out of my own marriage, I ran into a friend of hers and enquired as to her well- being. “Well she’s getting divorced.”  My response, “Would she take a call?”  The email response was a solid affirmative.  We found ourselves having drinks and catching up.  The smile was pretty much intact as was the incandescent sapphire in those eyes.   We went out about ten times but it never got physical.  She wasn’t ready and I saw that.  Ultimately we parted and for the next couple of years we stayed in touch via email in an irregular fashion, all of it on my initiative.  

Then about six years ago, shortly after New Years, I got a request for a live appearance.  Drinks and some catch-up.  It was all pleasant enough until I had to “flip all the cards” and ask her why she called.  “I made a resolution for the year” she said.  “I want to have more sex.”   Did not see act three coming to be honest.  Nor did I foresee the intensity of her physicality – she had a obtained a degree in dance in the quarter century interim –  that was exponential in relation to what we had way back when.  Alas, even though she was ready for something serious, I was not and I walked away after a few insanely hot months.   I should have held on a little tighter.  

Yet, incredibly, I had one final chance.  We had kept in touch and I stepped in just after a long running relationship of hers had ended and I decided to improve my game for one last shot at something substantial.  And so, act four began. We were great.  For a while.  A ski trip to Whistler, double dates, theater, concerts. And then it was just good.  I could see that her divorce, the years building a business, keeping a house together, raising three kids, burying a father and a sibling had taken a toll on her soul.  There was a chill in those eyes and some ice on the wings.  Drinks were more than social. I was looking for some emotional content and outside of a few flashes, it never appeared. In fairness she tried and I remember the effort.  But it was tough to fight against so much and wrong to expect she was even a distant shadow of what I fell for forty years ago.

Back to the Seder.  Yes, the road to gehenim, (hell) is paved with good intentions. Part of the problem was that she wasn’t as observant as I am.  I was keeping a pretty good Shabbat, staying away from the trayf and doing some learning when I could.  A lot of that had to do with my ex who took a turn to the Torah after the passing of my sister almost two decades prior.  I had caught on with an orthodox shul in which I could grow and grow old.   Sadly I made the second error of judging her on the basis of observance.

Outside counsel was of little help.  Single women said my girlfriend should be my first priority – “Are you not in a relationship?” My crew of disenfranchised single dads told me to put the kids first.  Without the kids there, a seder is a waste of time. Indeed the whole  point (and this is in the Haggadah itself!) of the  the experience is to pass it on to your children so they will continue the tradition when you are gone. But I didn’t want to use mine as the reason why my girlfriend should “take one for the team”.

The bottom line is that even if both parties could exist at the same table the tension would have been as thick as the matzoh balls in the chicken soup.  The girlfriend was going to be asked to step aside. The mistake and third strike was  to not have had the foresight to have nipped this in the bud and kept her out of the plans from the start.  I think she would have understood and maybe we would have stayed together….who knows?  

She was upset when I dropped her off after a fairly horrible night at the movies. “Don’t do anything rash,” I said. “We have some equity here.” But I knew it was over when I walked in the door the next night. That usual effervescent greeting was not there. She offered me a drink we sat down and then she uttered the words – “It’s over” – through a stream of tears from those eyes. More hurt than angry, she said I was still married and that I should go back to my ex.  She didn’t need the drama.   An epic story arc of almost 40 years was coming to a painful close. I felt it and still do on occasion. Was she my beshert as they say? What can we really expect from a woman with 55-plus years of wear on their life engine? Was I doing more taking than giving? In the end I know it was too much to ask anyone to turn back the clock and go forward simultaneously.   Frankly, at my age, I should have been thankful for any level of vitality in a partner, let alone a killer smile.

Both the battle and the war were lost at the expense of a seder that was, surprisingly, a resounding success, especially when a power blackout put the clusters of candles into play.  The conversations were of an elevated nature, the food was great, and my son co-chaired the proceedings with an enthusiasm that I won’t forget.  Was it worth losing a lover?  The spiritual rationale, based on the understanding that Passover is the real Jewish New Year, is that ridding one’s self of both material and spiritual chometz, combined with the metaphor of shunning leavened bread as a flattening of one’s ego, offers a true opportunity to improve one’s soul.  

Postscript:  This was written a couple of years ago and submitted to a few appropriate outlets, all of which passed.  Maybe for good reason.  I didn’t publish it here because I was involved with a  woman – see my New Year’s post and she was a little sensitive.  Now that she is gone – I have someone new  but is twice removed so to speak – I don’t feel any guilt in publishing this.  Further, my ex-wife has fallen very ill and I am hoping and praying she is well enough to attend this year with my kids.  Funny how your priorities change with age.


That Was The Year That Wasn’t


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Its not a particularly widespread tradition in my ethnic snack bracket to send out “End Of Year” letters. My wife, now ex, and I had some some friends during our time in LA that introduced us to this tradition and it was a nice way of catching up, collecting thoughts and framing a piece of time in the context of a continued commitment to friendships that became out of distance.  Molly and Edward had us on their list for a long time, long after we left town and, eventually, each other.

I recently was emailed a yearly review – snail mail read by a holiday fireplace is just a Rockwell fantasy these days – by Janny who is married to my close friend Steve.  We will keep last names out of this because of the potential problems of being identified as someone who actually knows me.  It was a terrific narrative with photos, captions and some heartfelt reflections on the losses and wins of her year from travel to volunteer work to a terrific early third act in her professional career to pets ferried and buried and a not so gentle reminder that life is for the living.  And Janny lives, with Steve riding shotgun whenever he can.  Just getting it reinforces a friendship that I have not been terrific at maintaining.

And so what about my year you ask?  Hmmm.  Not the best if you are asking and I should have known going into 2017 because New Year’s Eve was pretty much the worst I have ever experienced.  Barbara and I decided to spend the weekend in Las Vegas and it was not great.  The relationship was sliding and although I could see the erosion, we had been together for the better part of 30 months and the investment was real at this point.  But something was amiss before we showed up on The Strip and something snapped when she snapped at me for being fifteen minutes late for dinner on the Friday night because I had fallen asleep in the sauna downstairs in the gym.  This was not her.  And then New Year’s was as close to an OD that either of us had experienced.  Fingers were pointed and it was a sign that if this is what we needed to enjoy each other’s company then we had problems.  We flew home hung over and clammy and things were never quite the same through the winter and into the spring when it finally ended.  I didn’t control any of the narrative and I was badly hurt at the end.  I lost 20 pounds, couldn’t sleep,  work was sketchy.  I’m too old for this shit.  A close friend of mine suggested I could have my future needs met by a dog and a hooker.  Ten years ago I would have laughed at the suggestion.  Back in April, however, not so much.

I hit the therapist and after a few months I am back in the land of the living, left with some scars but a few good memories of what Barbara said in parting was , “a good run.” I am writing a film script now which has a cathartic quality to it.

But parallel to these shenanigans was the issue of my father who, at 92, was finally starting to act his age.  The old man has survived most of his friends.  “Moishe Dior” is a few years older and is still going strong in Florida.  They talk on the phone a lot but the rest of his golfing buddies are permanently ensconced under man-sized divots, guys who were very much vital not so long ago.  And so, while my lovelife was disentegrating last winter, so was my father’s health.  He started to fall as a main course of action with a side order of fainting and with that came hospital stays and various anemias.  Spending wholesale amounts of time in a live-in health facility alters the time-space continuum into a parallel universe where the days are marked not by hours but by visits from the on-call, the nurse, the social worker and the meal caddy.   His short term memory started to go and he quickly went from not driving at night to not driving at all.  Now he’s pretty much wheelchair bound.  He won’t go to a home and I can’t make him.  We have gone to round the clock care in his condo and he has a girlfriend – Gross men never seem to be without – who is best described as an angel he was lucky enough to have met while still of this world.  Look at me, I’m starting to sound like Mitch Albom.

And now he’s 93 and we have a new normal –  a weekly or so expedition to a local dairy restaurant where he doesn’t eat much.  Maybe me and the kids come over for dinner on a Sunday night and when he’s not asking me the same questions he did five minutes previous he enjoys a lot of television and various medical excursions.  The last was at the local cancer service centre where they removed a Titleist Pro VI-sized chunk of his forehead.  Apparently this was a malignant melanoma, the result of 70 years of the playing golf without a hat.  However I’m not sure the melanoma will beat him to the finish line.  He is built of stronger stuff.

So this is now a daily thing but more significantly this year was my newfound role as Big Brother to my younger brother Adam aka “Mr. Shlaimey”.  A little background, long overdue I guess.  Adam is seven years younger than me and severly autistic going back to a time before autism was “cool”.  I am being cynical but there was no “spectrum” way back when, nothing broad enough to allow for a network TV show about a gifted physician who is also autistic.  Yeah. Sure.  Spend a half hour with Mr. Shlaimey.  Anyway he’s a gentle soul who lives in a group home full time save for every other weekend where he is mandated out of the house by the agency.  Fair enough and until my father stopped driving he was taking Adam on those weekends.  But with the arrival of live-in help and the end of driving, Adam was better served by spending his weekends in my spare room.  So now, instead of picking up him on the odd Sunday for some bowling or golf, I get Adam on Friday and outside of a few hours with my father on Saturday afternoons I am responsible through to Sunday night.  And fine.  My father’s most consistent relationship has been with Adam who has the communications skills of a five year old and has since….he was five.  You raise children in hopes of some payback.  Not here.  Not that he is a problem outside of making sure he is fed and given a decent place to sleep.  We have our activities and he is a good boy.  My father has spent the last forty some odd years looking after my brother without a word of complaint and now its my turn.  Hopefully my kids will kick in after a time. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the former Mrs. Gross as backstop.  Everybody has been very supportive.  Its appreciated.

As for my own health, I had a little mishap with the motorscooter in September leaving me with a slightly dented pinky and I have now entered the wonderful world of blood pressure medication but all things considered I am a paying and attending member of a local Orange Theory Fitness which came to town this past year. Its a tough hour and I shed about 800 calories per session.  Seriously, I need ten minutes in a cold shower to bing down the core temperature.  The class is at best a half my age on average.

As for everything else, its been no less rocky a  ride.  The year started off with one of my major customers – HMV – going bankrupt which was the third such on the customer side in the previous twelve months.  I spent the entire 2017 holding things together in my little film distribution company and it has taken a toll. I am going to devote another post to the business but this was the year where I realized I need an exit strategy.  Not a moment too soon either.  Again this is going to take another post.

What else?  Fun travel?  Was in Berlin and Paris with my daughter Madeleine last February.  It was good to spend the time but I was distracted by the erosion on my busines and personal fronts.  Got to ice skate in the Eiffel Tower though.  However Paris wasn’t what it was way back on my honeymoon.  Not sure I have to go back to what is now pretty much a Third World City Of Headlights. I’m grateful to the aforementioned Steve for having me at his place in Palm Desert  last March during his 70th Birthday celebrations which was a nice distraction.  I owe him for this and for the birthday weekend in New York which came just ten days after the breakup.  I was a mess but he was very patient.  Thank you.

I am thankful to my lifelong friend Richard Shaw for having me at his Florida condo last June to do some scuba diving while I was still in rough shape.  He helped me resurface as a human being.  I am also thankful to one of Barbara’s friends for setting me up on a date before I was ready.  I had to write a letter of apology to the poor woman.  She was gracious at a time where I needed to know that I wasn’t ready.

In the middle of this my son went into the recording studio and laid down some tracks.  He smiled.  So did I.

In October I participated in a charity hiking  trip in Israel.  Again I needed a goal and this was a terrific target back when I signed up in the spring.  Five days in the Golan Heights with my reconstituted knee. I  made it while making some new friends and a few thousand bucks for the One Family Fund, an organization that supports victims of terror.  Thank you Gary Tile, Shelley and Simmy for working your asses off to make it special.  Not forgotten.

And there was other trips, mostly business (LA x 3), the last in Florida with my daughter the artist during Art Basel earlier this month.  Thank you Richard and Carol for the condo. I came back a couple of weeks ago, exhausted from spending most of the previous two months on the road.  I promptly caught the flu and am just now off the extra list from The Walking Dead.

Along with a few good golf shots (thank you Uncle Benny), a few well drawn Cohibas, a decent calendar of sporting events and concerts – Tom Petty with my son a month before he passed –  and, finally, a new relationship with a terrific open hearted woman who actually uses the words, “How are you?” in conversation, I can’t complain.

What is in the future?  I will finish that screenplay, start my new business and spend more time with my kids and the people I love.  And I hope for the best for you, you who read this self-indulgent dribble.  Thank you.








And I’m Never Going Back To My Old School…

The great late film critic Jay Scott, during his 1982 review of the legendary teen classic Fast Times At Ridgemont High for the Toronto Globe & Mail, wrote that high school was the last truly democratic institution we encounter during our lives.  Those sentiments rang so true a few weeks ago when I attended the farewell event for Vaughan Road Collegiate Institute which has now been shuttered for lack of enrollment.  Permanently.  Closed. Ferme.  SchlieBen.  Threw that last one in because they used to teach German there.  That’s how far back I go.  Class of ’72 as it were.  I had been to a couple of events in the past.  There was a 50th anniversary event in 1976 for which my sole purpose was to take Angela Koutoulakis as my date just to blow away my friends.  She was our collective crush and somehow, years after graduation I found the courage to ask her out, let alone find her.  Nothing much happened but she was as charming as a Greek girl chained to her old world parents could be.  I was 22 and she was barely 20.  I don’t remember much else except there were a lot of WWII veterans floating around the halls that night.  Proud proud Canadians.

The Vaughan Road Collegiate Senior Basketball Team 1971-72

That’s me in the back on the left, Nick (passim) below me, Ronnie Gratz to his left and left of Gratz is Louie DiPalman. Guy next to me is my old pal Ray “Raygo” Goodman. Thanks for the phot0

Sixteen years ago there was a 75th reunion and a small chunk of our class showed up.  And so did Angela, then on her second marriage and living in Boston.  I hadn’t seen her in 25 years but I got her number and we became e mail pals and even hung out in Boston when I was down on business or visiting my son at college.  She had grown into an extremely  sophisticated woman for whom life had worked out.  Outside of that it was just me and my idiot friends.  We went out for a bite after.  My pal Mitch was lusting after one classmate to a point where it became embarrassing.  Randy brought Judy, his wife whom I dated once in twelfth grade.  She had a car back then, I didn’t even have a driver’s license so it was short lived.  As was she, dying tragically of cancer just a few years after that reunion.  Randy showed up for the closing party.  We exchanged greetings.  He had dated my freshly former girlfriend years before my recently ended three year stint.  Small world.

I was there for no more than two hours.  A couple of women were friendly and remembered me as the class clown.  There would be no lusting at this point. A couple of the guys from the basketball team were there.  Louis DiPalma.  Ray Goodman.  Ronnie Gratz.  I played ball my senior year.  Well I sat on the bench for most of it.  If you look at the picture above its a wonder they let me hang around.  Coach Kantaroff, now gone, didn’t care much for me.  My one moment of glory, and I remember it perfectly, was during the annual scrimmage with the gym teaching staff.  I managed to steal a ball from Mr. Smagala under our basket ran it up the court and laid a perfect over the shoulder pass to #24 in the picture (name escapes me) who in turn flipped in back to me and I made a perfect layup.  Geez, I might had some potential.  From Ray I found out that Nick , a guard on the team, had died.  So had a few other guys – Al Krofchick, Lawrie Baltman, Steve Ineson. And Lubelski if you follow this blog.  He would have been very entertaining at this event.

There were others present and it was great to see them.   Chris, Ellen, Hanita, Roz, Cyndi, Carole, Bonnie and Binny.

However, back to Scott’s point.  Prior to high school my local elementary school was populated with Jewish kids more or less on the same page.  I think the ratio against the non-Jews was at least 80:20.  Many of us went to the same Hebrew school. Everybody traded Bar Mitzvah invitations.  I delivered papers to everyone’s house.  When we wanted to play some softball it wasn’t hard to get eighteen boys together.

Yet when I showed up at Vaughan Road for the 9th grade at the tender age of 13 it all changed.   The Jews were the minority.  The majority was a melting pot of  working class Italians, Portuguese, Jamaicans,  Greeks, Estonians and even a little white trash for flavor.  There were big ugly guys on the football team (I sat on the bench for one season of JV ball) who stank up the locker room.   Girls in the hallways who looked like women, and teachers who didn’t give a shit about Johnny Gross.  And so I flailed in time with my parents’ failing marriage, never really finding my place , never really understanding the opportunity a full service high school offers.  But for the less fortunate kids, this was a haven.  I remember a guy named Phyto Harris, perhaps a grade or two ahead of me who destroyed me on the football practice field with a cutback block during a scrimmage.  Kind of guy who ran around the halls with a full briefcase because he not only worked hard but played every sport the school offered as well.   I saw him at the last reunion.  He was living in Ottawa.  He brought his kid and I said to the boy,  “Your father didn’t waste his time here.  He became the kind of student we respected and strived to emulate.  Take a lesson from this.”  Not sure it took but Phyto appreciated the sentiments.

Then there was the aforementioned DiPalma, a standup guy and terrific guard on the team who worked the early morning shift at the Food Terminal way across town prior to coming to high school because he had to kick in at home.   Managed to keep his grades up and letter in a few sports.  Sure, I delivered papers in the morning but that was an hour and I still had time for a hot breakfast.  I wasn’t on the public transit for a couple of hours just to get to school.

But I remember that everybody in the class were good, solid kids.  Not a lot of druggies for the period and even though I never saw a lot of them after high school, the memories are warm, outside of those of a few requisite beatings I took from the requisite thugs who hung around the school’s somewhat rougher environs.  Its different now.  Houses in the ‘hood that sold for $25K back then now go for $1.5 million.

After high school, the democracy Scott identified vanishes in an intersection where the paths are divided by merit and money.  And so we scattered.  Although our high school class didn’t produce a lot of world beaters there were more than a few doctors and lawyers.  Quality adults. Some of my buddies did well.  I can still count a few of them as close friends.  For a time we got together on a regular basis to recount the girls we almost got to second base with.  But that too, got tired.

As I left the school I heard a couple of kids say with enthusiasm, “See you Monday Mr. Parker!” to a teacher driving off the lot in an old Camry.  Maybe just a couple of more Mondays at that point.  As I walked a couple of more blocks a passed a couple of oldtimers (like me) with the name Koski on their name tags.  I stopped and asked if they were related to a Keith Koski, a kid from Vaughan who played against me in the local league.  We had a little rivalry in the halls one year.  They said he was a cousin.  I asked how he was.  They said he passed away about nine years ago.

There wasn’t much to say.  I turned and walked away from Vaughan one last time, content  that I was still around.  Perhaps there is a reason for that.  Yeah, its not over til its over.  Enjoy your Mondays while they still are on the calendar.





Palm Springs Weakened


I’ve been watching some TV lately.  I don’t know why.  You can blame some personal struggles, the late winter, the inability to finish a Chabon novel.   HBO is currently running a free preview promotion.  I killed my subscription a while back because I don’t see the value if you were not a fan of Game Of Thrombosis or there isn’t a new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm to sop up like chicken soup and a loaf of challah.  I took the opportunity to check out some new shows from the once respected pay TV icon.  My son told me to  watch this show called Crashing in which the less than hilarious comedian Pete Holmes plays a struggling comedian (what a stretch) who finds his wife shtupping somebody from work ( I don’t care) and leaves the marital home with no place to go. He goes to a comedy club, bombs and spends a night with the legendary thespian Artie Lange.  There’s some male genitalia thrown in because you might as well get something for your $20 a month.  It is the kind of slacker comedy that HBO came up with to feed the audience for the concluding Girls and the itinerant Silicon Valley.  Nobody has anything smart to say.  Makes you pine for Flight Of The Conchords  which was brilliant, charming, lowbrow fun. If you are even within ten years of my age and you watch the above shows there is something gravely wrong with you, especially when it comes to time management.  You can add the stoner inadvertently tragi-comedy High Maintenance to that list .  There was another show on the freeview called Quarry which falls into the HBO genre of  need-to-take-a-shower-after-viewing crime drama.  It started with True Detective, the first season of which was three years ago (different girlfriend) and was a trainwreck worth some inspection.   McConaughey and Harrelson on screen were like an evening of sour mash and quaaludes.   No happy endings in a procedural that basically eviscerated any residual faith you might have held with regards about the ability of the human condition to overcome moral challenges.   Then came Season Two which should have been titled, Vince Vaughan’s Acting Doesn’t Measure Up To That Of Rachel McAdam’s Facial Mole.  A true vision of  SoCal as hell without redemption.  Fun.   Quarry is about a Vietnam vet who comes home to Memphis in 1972 to find himself branded a war criminal for his alleged role in a My Lai-type massacre which isn’t fully addressed in the first two episodes outside of some dream footage of him drowning in his fatigues, cut into scenes of him in his own swimming pool.  The sinking metaphor has been done in The Affair‘s opening credits.  His professional outlook is bleak and during a short stint as a grease monkey he loses it with a customer who brings some memories up to the surface.  He later is approached by some painfully cliched characters from a Death For Hire firm who send him on an assignment to terminate with extreme prejudice a guy who is, not coincidentally, faithfully shtupping our lead’s wife who wasn’t quite so faithful to her husband while he was ‘in country’.  Imagine happening upon that scene.   Hilarity ensues in shockingly pat cliched television lacking anything resembling life positive values, all at the low low price of a double saw per month.  Better to pull out a copy of the post-Nam classic Coming Home with Jane Fonda and Jon Voigt made back in 1978 when the shrapnel wounds to the country were still fresh. Schadenfreude is the shits.    I also caught a glimpse of Big Little Lies featuring an all-star cast of soulless female characters living  with various douchey husbands in hollow joyless lives in a region of California featuring some of God’s best work.  The irony is not lost although the outlood is  no less hopeless than Quarry‘s.   Makes you long for the gestalt of The Sopranos.  Or Madmen.

Yeah there are hours you can’t get back no matter how hard you try.  I made an effort last night at retrieving some lost time and I just felt worse for the effort.  From the age of about eleven or twelve my sister and I would find ourselves sitting in front of the TV on a snowy Sunday afternoon in March (see:Toronto pre-climate change) watching  a seasonal piece of fluff on one of the Buffalo channels called Palm Springs Weekend.  The film dated back to 1963, a west coast counterpoint to Where The Boys Are.  Troy Donohue is captaining a college hoops team escaping their tyrannical coach for some spring break r&r in the desert only to find him (the legendary character actor Jack Weston) on the very same bus along with Connie Stevens,  a high school girl faking a Beverly Hills pedigree to really escape into the palms.   The guys and gals converge on a local motel where some lighthearted comedy and romance ensue.  The passion play is provided by alienated rich boy Eric Dean, played perfectly by Hollywood asshole Robert Conrad, who drives a bitchin’ T Bird Fastback and comes on a little strong to Stevens who secretly prefers a good natured lonesome cowboy played by Ty Hardin.   Donahue gets into an argument over sexual double standards (very racy for the time) with his new love Stefanie Powers ( the then future Girl From UNCLE my friends) who just happens to be the police chief’s daughter.  There’s plenty of sedative switching going around (Jerry Van Dyke gets ‘roofed’ by his own conconction courtesy of the precocious tyke Billy Mumy who was the charge of Van Dyke’s date) until a climactic car chase in which Hardin winds up in the hospital under the loving gaze of Stevens.  Its a piffle from Warner Brothers then trying to catch up with American International.  But it became a ritual for us every year through high school, our own Rocky Horror Picture Show if you will.  We memorized the corny lines, laughed at the cheap sets (desert backdrops that didn’t quite cover the frame) and stayed warm in those cold Canadian winters of the sixties.PalmSprings

I have written about Marjorie in the past and thought I’d appropriately set the wayback machine courtesy of an old VHS copy of hers that I managed to hang onto.   I hadn’t seen it in years and even though I had a couple of smiles, the feeling is long gone and I just can’t get it back.  That kid who watched matinees is long gone and so is the Hollywood that made this film along with most of its stars.  Yes, its cheese aged 50 some odd years  and it had has no redeeming value in the battle for diversity but I remember watching it with a grin.  And it was the memory of those days that gives me a little warmth this morning.

Look for entertainment that inspires rather than drives you to despair.


Working With My Thumbs


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I have said for years that most of my work days start like the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan – the nausea of certain doom, heavy email fire from the financial front, PTSD all over the office (Post Traffic Stress Disorder).   Monday didn’t start any better – a pre-dawn service recon mission to the car dealer (German too, just to top up the metaphor), radio signals of trouble at the warehouse, goods held hostage.  Yeah, the smell of payables in the morning isn’t victory.  What’s worse is that I left dishes in the sink because the handle on the kitchen faucet kind of freed itself from its mortal coil so to speak.

I beheld the suddenly disconnected low-end Moen swivel faucet like Larry Olivier  in Marathon Man, when der weisse engel  realized his deadly “wrist knife” was now stuck firmly in his own mid-section.  Now what?  Death can wait, I had dishes to clean before the girlfriend came over.

My choices at that point were thin.  One, I could call down and wait three days for someone to show up.  The collateral damage, beyond the pain of relocating my kitchen to the forensic killing field known as my bathroom sink is that look from the  super – the  “Are you that useless?” head tilt.  I regularly feel less independent than Mrs. Ruskin in 1008 who is pushing 99 and still has more game than me on any given day.  The alternative was to – give me a second just to find the courage to type it out – Try To Fix It Myself.

Before I continue, in the interest of full disclosure, I need to remind you that I am Jewish.  Cue the eyes rolling knowingly heavenward with the words “Of course…!” from the chorus of  gentile tradesman who have made millions visiting Hebrew households for the sole purpose of releasing a trapped chain in a run-on toilet.  That should explain just about everything.  You will never see our people hosting any kind of home reno reality show other than, “I Can’t Believe What This Marble Bathroom Floor My Wife Insisted On  Is Costing Me.”

Historically there is very little Biblical evidence to the contrary when it comes to manual skillsets amongst our people.  Apparently Abraham and Isaac dug wells but there is no tractate in the Torah which they actually appear shovel in hand.  I suggest that most of the digging was left to “schleppers” recruited from the heathens.  Jacob hands were so soft he had to fake his ‘evil’ twin Esau’s calloused hairy skin to steal his father’s blessing.

Here’s a perfect illustration – my girlfriend is close with a family who have a daughter who was “marrying out” so to speak, meaning that her future husband was not of the faith which was a blessing, so to speak, for his future father-in-law who now had genetically capable labor inside his own family.  However, once the kid converted to Judaism he suddenly went from singlehandedly installing a boat lift at the summer home to, “Dad, now that I’m Jewish…let’s just call someone…” when it came to dry walling the guest  house.  I’m not even sure it was a legitimate conversion but just the notion of Jewishness changed his  DIY DNA.

Back to my own ambitions which led me to the local hardware store.  Not Home Depot, just the local Home Hardware.  The former is so intimidating that my few trips there have usually left me on my knees in the parking lot  crying to the contractors stepping out of their Dodge Ram Diesels in the special VIP “Professionals Only” spots,  “Help me….please Help me. I have money, please.”  Reverse begging.   Home Hardware is a little more my speed.  They sell things I can understand like driveway salt and chocolate bars.  Most people come in looking for a decorative light bulb or a second house key.

The plumbing department is one small aisle that allows you a couple of minutes of almost looking like you know what you are doing.  I pulled out the old “fake nod of wisdom” as I handled the various Moen faucet kits.  A clerk  soon approached with his own nod, the old “this customer has no clue” look.

“I think I might need a new faucet,” I said pulling my tap out of my pocket, “The thingy that keeps this whatchamacallit in place kind of broke and I don’t know if I should replace the whole tamale or see if you have a part.  Probably have to replace it because its all a racket.”

My father is fond of saying that everything is a “racket.  Hardware, dairy products, marine fuel, colonoscopies. Its all fixed, all rigged by the unions and the manufacturers.  All at the expense of the honest taxpayer.

“Well are you sure you can replace it yourself?” was his response because he had clearly sized me up like so many others and was correctly thinking to himself –  ‘this Jew isn’t doing shit’.  Truly, there was no friggin way I was going to replace a complete faucet.  Would that I could there would be a Negev Dinner thrown in my honor with Mike Holmes leading the tribute, “Ladies and gentleman, this man sitting next to me taught me and, I guess all of us, that  home improvement has to begin in your heart before you can do the job with your hands.”  Something like that.  Then a half hour of Tim Thomas standup before we hit the valet parking.

However, the aisle had a parts section – various bags and little plastic bubble packs containing washers, bolts and pipe junctions unaccompanied by any kind of 4K Bluray instruction disc – and I noticed one package containing a little thingamajig that looked exactly like the thingamajig inside the handle in my hand!!!!  It came with a washer that looked vaguely like something that might fit my faucet.  And there was an allen key to boot!

Of course what followed was about a half-hour of soul searching.  Should I?  Can I?  What if I completely screw it up and the pipes blow up and the resulting flood seeps into Debbie’s apartment directly beneath me.  That’s a ticket to a permaglare every time we meet in the elevator together.  Forever.

Finally the clerk said, “Look, if its the wrong part just bring it back.”  Ah, an out.

For ten bucks – it is really a racket – I took a shot and brought it home.  I immediately set out to remove the screw in the tap that held the broken washer.  No go.  Pulled out the power drill with the screw driver attachment.  No go.  I then did something that truly defines the miracle of modern living.  I went to the computer and Googled ‘Moen Faucet Repair’.  Sure enough, up came a home made video from a guy and within a minute I figured out how to pull up the screw to get it loose.  I also was reminded to turn off the water before working on your faucet.  Solid advice.

Within ten minutes the job was done and I had very clean action on the faucet.  Not going to mention that I accidentally reversed the cold and the hot water, a minor detail, but I did it and holy shit, was I proud.   I was close to inviting the fellas over for wings and beer just to see the handiwork.  Trust me, they would be impressed.  Had I done this for the girlfriend…?  Well  a woman working for me had an Italian boyfriend who came over and in one afternoon completely rewired her house. After that she said, and these are her words, “He could do anything he wanted to me.”

Well, maybe not a faucet but if I fixed her fridge?   It has been on the fritz so much I am jealous of her relationship with the repair guy who seems to show up daily.  Another racket.

The lesson of the faucet is an easy one, albeit one learned late in life.   We are so dependent on others that when we achieve self-reliance, even on this tiny level, we  harken back to the untamed west when rough hewn men would build rough hewn homesteads from el scratcho for their families.  They figured it out, they improvised, they invented.   There is something intrinsically holy about working with your hands which are capable, with the right intention, of making all kinds of miracles.  Yeah Jesus was a carpenter.  And  Jewish.

Its actually embarrassing  to celebrate ten cents of workmanship, shoddy or not. However imagine if I had picked up some of the trade skills they were teaching us in Shop Class fifty years ago and ran with them from an early age.  Geez, I don’t even know how to replace a light switch.  What’s worse is that my former wife went out after our divorce and without a contractor for the most part and built a country home for herself.  Quite an achievement.

I am emboldened to again by the dream of going to Florida and buying an old yacht that needed a year or so of restoration.  I would do as much as I could myself, owning the experience as much as the boat itself – remember Tim Robbins in that last scene in Shawshank Redemption – the result of which would attach a value to it far more than what I paid.

In Memoriam

The Emmys are coming up and I have noticed in recent years that in this show and in others like the Oscars, Grammys and Teen Choice Awards I look forward with morbid curiosity to the scroll call highlighting the significant names lost during the past year.   It’s a bittersweet interlude to the festivities, mournful and  astonishing,  for the way these distant stars and their work impacted us so significantly during our lives.   There’s that sudden sinking feeling when a face comes up that you didn’t realize was gone.  It’s quite profound and it happened to me last weekend in Montreal which got me to thinking that we should compile our own “In Memoriam” reel every year to remind us of both what is gone and perhaps what was gained from our time with the now departed.  This is my first go at it so I have some catching up to do.

I did not know John Lubelski all that well in high school.  He was a couple of years back and what I knew of him was that he was rarity – a tough SOB Jewboy (I can say that, not you) from the wrong side of the street.   He ran with a guy from my neighborhood named Marty Cole and when it came to the girlies, well, he and Marty were Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.  We, who got nothing, could only look on in awe.   As we got older he was a guy you played hockey with on occasion or ran into at parties.  Marty went to medical school, got married and moved to Calgary and the bromance between those two ended badly.  Lubelski, one of the most loyal guys I every met, took that hard but started his own family that produced three daughters.   I couldn’t call him a friend but he was always one of those guys that was, in the words of Billy Joel, “quick with a joke or a light of your smoke…”  Too many smokes in fact and about a dozen years ago was diagnosed with some kind of lymph/larynx cancer that earned him a hole in his throat through which he spoke for the rest of his days.   That didn’t stop the hockey, the insults or the extremely sharp opinions that came forth but this many decades later it was just Lubelski and he was part of the local fabric.  Strangely I became closer to John in recent years through a mutual friend.  He just seemed to turn up more and he was a lot more engaging.  He also had some wisdom, a very successful but unflashy guy,  that he was willing to share.  He also had guns (again the tough Jewboy) and was happy to share those too.  I still have my targets from the time he took me and his small arsenal out to his gun club .  Shit, that was fun.   Then, about a year and a half ago, he was playing hockey, made a quick move behind the net, tripped, broke his neck and died with his skates on.  Apparently the chemo had so weakened the neck muscles that he didn’t have the failsafes the rest of his have when it comes to sudden twists.  He was barely 60 and a new grandfather.   I had had lunch with him about ten days prior where he confessed to be on the path to be buying a condo in Florida, something he had been very much against in the past, especially if he heard you were thinking of it.  Again Lubelski and opinions.  Very much hand in hand.  I am writing about John now because his name keeps coming up and as the Rabbi at his unveiling said, “John is not gone, it’s just that our relationship with him has changed.” So true.

My business is a very niche corner of the entertainment segment.and I have been fortunate or foolish enough to be able to indulge some personal passions.  A few years ago I came up with the stupid idea to produce and write a documentary about Roller Derby.  I had been a fan as a kid and there was a new wave of roller girls out there and perhaps I could draft off the buzz of Whip It, a forthcoming roller derby feature from new hyphenate Drew Barrymore starring Ellen Page.  For better or worse I also knew Steven Bass, the only man in possession of what film and tape was available from the glory days of Roller Derby from the 50s to the early 70s. I had done some business with him a couple of years prior as he was in possession of the only copy of a rare HBO telecast of a hockey game between the Hartford Whalers of the World Hockey Association and the Soviet nationals circa in 1977.  I bought some DVD rights from him for a boxed set I put together on the history of that short lived league called the WHA Chronicles.  Uber niche.   I couldn’t get anyone to finance the Roller Derby doc so I plunged in with some corporate profits and entered Bass’s world of ancient derby stars, commentators and promoters.   Bass was one of those guys who didn’t care much for anything that happened past 1964 which is perhaps why he lived in Niagara Falls, New York,  a good place to be if you are not too fussy about your future and your present for that matter.  He was a terrible chain smoker and was married a woman from Toronto who shared that same addiction.  He looked like a vagrant thanks in part to more AWOL teeth than a smile can suffer.  Even though he had a full head of hair he would always show up at the office with a ratty trademark cap that you might have seen on a Bowery newsboy in the 30s and a a threadbare Namath-era New York Jets jacket   We shot the doc, Rolling Thunder, in the home of derby, San Francisco,  and thanks to Steve we had most of the greats on tape. It actually ran on a few PBS stations.  From there he was focused on launching Golden Sports which was going to be an internet subscription service where you could stream his library of vintage boxing, football and basketball films.  The stuff went too far back for most of the those who are above ground but I did what I could to support him.  He fell ill with cancer, bounced back and we stayed in touch until a couple of years ago.  A few weeks back I got an email from Jerry Seltzer, the godfather of syndicated sports television who said that Steve had passed away.  I called Steve’s number but there was no answer.  I tried getting a number for his widow but it just dead ended.   I am left a little empty at the thought that Bass will be forgotten quicker than he was remembered.  Not by me though because thanks to him, I got to make Rolling Thunder.   Rest easy my friend.

I am writing all this because of what happened last weekend.  I am a relatively observant Jew and try to get to shul every Shabbos.   A couple of times a year I get to Montreal and stay the weekend.  I make a point to schlep up to an old synagogue in the neighborhood made famous by the writings of native son Mordecai Richler.  This past Shabbat I got in late but it wasn’t until noon that they had the requisite ten men to run a kosher service.  When it finally was over the few of us who hung around gathered in the basement for a traditional post-service nosh called, for those not of the faith,  a kiddush.  The gentleman who keeps this religious landmark open walks in several miles every Shabbat to run the service and I asked him what happened to Teddy Millberg, a guy I had looked forward to shmoozing with when I came to the shul.   I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years in fact.  I honestly thought  he might have been away coincidental with my recent visits.  No, “….Teddy died” was what I was told from a face suddenly visited by an unwanted sadness.  Some kind of cancer came up quick a couple of years ago and he was gone.  I walked back to the hotel a little winded.  We were used to hearing other things in these situations. “Oh, he’s on vacation.”  “Oh, his wife dumped him and he moved away.”  “Oh, he spends his Shabbats somewhere else now closer to his house.”  But death, that was never part of the vocabulary.  Now it is part of the equation.  But one thing is for sure, that little shul a block or two away from Schwartz’s Deli will never be the same for me.  Alev sholom Teddy.

I have in my bathroom a black and white  8 x 10 of hockey legend Gordie Howe that my father brought me over 50 years ago after one of his frequent business trips to his Detroit office.  When I got the glossy my mother had already taken it down to the old Eaton’s on College Street in Toronto and had it framed.  It is signed to me in ballpoint, Gordie posing on the boards, leaning so slightly on his arms, wearing his battle worn hockey gloves. Not that I was the biggest Howe fan but if you were a fan of hockey back then in the days of the six team NHL you were a fan of Howe.  That’s how it was back then.  The first game I ever went to was Toronto vs Detroit and even though the Red Wings lost that night to the Maple Leafs Howe scored both for the losing side.  You didn’t see Howe play much because there was little hockey on TV after the Leafs on Saturday night.  You listened to the radio a lot more than you do today. By the time I saw him that night he was already a solid sixteen years into his career but still so dominant.  A few years later the Leafs traded my favorite player Frank Mahovlich to Detroit in one of the worst deals in sports history but I was there when big Frank came back to Toronto on a line with Howe and another legendary Red Wing, Alex Delvecchio.  Gordie was almost 40 but when they came down the ice but it was magical.   Cut to 2006 or so and I was compiling a DVD boxed set called The Lost Series, a retrospective of a little remembered showdown pitting the best of the aforementioned WHA against the Soviet national team that had nearly beat Team Canada two years prior.   It was mayhem on ice and to sweeten my package I reached out to the Red Wings to see if I could get Howe to come to Toronto to add his perspective in a commentary track.  It wasn’t cheap and if I didn’t get him out of there in time to drive back to Michigan to look after his beloved wife Colleen, then in the final throws of what I believe was ALS, I would have to pay for the nurse’s overtime.  Fair enough.   Gordie showed up as his usual soft spoken self.  Somehow big Frank had gotten the word and so did the widow of the late Carl Brewer, another legendary player and  she showed up for support.  Howe was marvellous on the mike, talking of the joy of playing with his sons Mark and Marty on that version of Team Canada.  I do remember him looking at the monitor and saying something like, “I never saw my sons smiling while they played and I said to them, ‘Boys are you not having fun?” because its fun to me and that’s why I play.  If it isn’t for you then you shouldn’t be playing.”  This is the kind of person Gordie was.   It was never really about the money.  He had a talent and he didn’t waste it.   When we interviewed Chicago great Bobby Hull a couple of years later he referred to Mr. Hockey as “Gordon Howe”.  Such was his respect for the man and they way he lived on and off the ice.   It would be impossible to find a more humble specimen of professional athlete today.   To say that I am going to miss Howe, gone at 88 this past June, would be inaccurate.  But I do miss what  his generation Gordie Howe and Frank Mahovalichstood for and what he did for the fans and people of Detroit in that old forgotten barn called The Olympia. That’s Gordie with me over his shoulder and Frank Mahovlich on the right.


My Lover The Car

Me and my 325is.

Me and my 325is.


I had breakfast with my father this morning and he openly talked about the end of his driving life.  Granted, at 91, he is doing way better than most including what’s left of his friends who aren’t parked permanently underground.  However, even I didn’t expect he would bring it up.   If my father has any unique talent, it is behind the wheel.   It has been a consistent quality of his for as long as I have known him even with his most recent rash of chafed and bruised bumpers and fenders. My fear is that when that day comes is not that I will have to do some chauffeuring but that a good chunk of my father’s remaining vitality will be sitting in a grease spot on the vacant spot in his condo.

Unfortunately, I don’t see the end of my driving career but I do see my last car on the horizon.  Not this one, not the next but after for sure.  And this is not because I’m cheap or broke.   At one point I will need to find one last lover between the sheet metal as a metaphor for both my own longevity and one last fling in my checkered carburated love history.    Such it is with cars and women. If the relationship with the woman lying next to you in bed goes to ground (I have given my current girlfriend way too much out of warranty trouble), you at least have the old girl in the garage.  After a while you just hang on to what you’ve got. You’ve witnessed it first hand – old duffers tooling around good in ancient Buick Elektras and Mercedes Diesels with 600K on them.  Most of these cars have been given feminine names as in  – “We’re taking old Bessie down to the legion hall.”

Its  an extension of the gender specific nature of marine vessels going to back to the “Good Ship Venus” and well beyond.   “She’s taking on water!” bellowed the bo’sun.   Or someone like that.

And for our generation, and maybe the older Gen Xers who remember leaded fuel, we are the last to feel that relationship, the primal need for high-power transportation we can own, drive hard, nurture and with which we can kill the planet.   Women will let you down.   An Eleanor in your life, (Nick Cage’s object of desire in Gone In 60 Seconds) well, that’s a girl that will never get old.  And you can be inside her without paying for dinner.  Not to get too graphic but its the truth.  See Judge Reinhold in the car wash scene in Fast Times At Ridgemont High.   Not sure the millenials will feel the same about the gender-neutral cars of today.  Especially when their women are paying half.  Or more.

Imagine your first love coming back in your life and looking better than she did way back when.  This is why guys my age go to Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale every year and drop six figures on American muscle cars that sold for a small fraction of  the  price forty five years ago.

My first wasn’t really mine.  It was my mother’s – a 1970 Buick GS Stage 1, bought on my urging, a legend which is remembered with reverence to this day. Blue metallic, white vinyl roof, bench seats, power everything and nothing short of 455 cubic inches under the hood.  Three hundred and sixty horses.   With my learner’s permit in hand I could take the speedometer completely around the horn.  One hundred and forty miles per hour was not a problem.   For my idiot friends and I it was our chariot to the storied Watkins Glen Festival of 1973 and when my mother died later that year, the car became mine for a short while.  There was a pledge class trip to DC from Penn State, a complete destruction of the front end by my sister for which I took the heat lest there were two kids in the family with horrible driving reputations.    Mostly I remember my mother at the helm with my little brother sitting on seat beside her.  He is autistic and to this day if I ask him what his mother said in the car forty five years ago he parrots a good Brooklyn accent – “C’mon lady lets go!”  Was it my first love?  It was surely a schoolboy crush. Tantalizing but never really mine.

A few months later my father sold it off, like most everybody with little foresight and not enough garage to keep muscle around that would rise exponentially in value.   It was time for me to get my own car and I went in a completely different direction – a 1974 Fiat X/19  sled.   This was the coolest looking little wedge ever, complete with pop-up headlights and a trunk that could easily fit a couple of canoles.   I remember a drive to New York, some sketchy nights in the snow and a nifty car to take down to the campus where I had a parking spot thanks to my part time job as sports editor of the school paper.  As a lover it was thin skinned and the looks oxidized a little too quickly.  I remember taking the prettiest girl in the city to a wedding.   She was there purely for show, no different than the Fiat.   I was as shallow as the Italian engineering – dating for looks and looks alone.  My girl moved on and so did those old rusty Fiats which couldn’t survive a collision with a Corgi, the dog or the toy.

Next up was a Limited Edition VW Rabbit.  I think the limited element was the crushed velour interior.   This car coincided with my first serious girlfriend who, like the VW, was demanding but loyal.  Meatloaf was on the cassette deck going like a Bat Out Of Hell.  Sexy when it had to be.  I remember some front seat activity. Dependable too as it stood me for my first full-time newspaper job in Ottawa and a frigid winter up there covering the junior hockey scene.  I brought it back to Toronto a year later.  Eventually I took a break from my dependable girlfriend for a racier model with more than merely an infectious personality and both the affair and the car died, the latter courtesy of skid over an old railway tie that trashed the engine.  The mechanic stole my Porsche sunglasses out of the glove compartment.   Wish I had them now.  This what happens when you conduct a reckless youth.  Its never wreckless.

After that, wait for the harp, my first BMW!  Je suis arrivee! It was a three year old   320i, green, no A/C, no sunroof and manual windows.  Folks, this was back in the day when people with BMWs would pop their head-lights at each other when oncoming in traffic.  This was a club, a smug self-satisfied club to be sure, but a very cool place to be right down to my now defunct dealer who would let you hang out in the garage.  I was still in my mid-20s so combine that with a gig as a rock critic and an expense account….it was an equation for good times and some status for which I was foolishly lobbying.

I put in a kick-ass Bose sound system and in the short time I had the car – maybe six months –  I remember a really nice drive to Cape Cod with the girlfriend.   Yuppie porn.   The lack of A/C was not a problem.  It was a BMW.  I still remember the sound the door made as it closed.  Solid. The romance was like a starter marriage – over before it started.

Late that summer, on Labor Day, some drunk kid in his mother’s Mercury Montego  hit me  from behind at a stoplight.  I didn’t feel it.   The damage from my car hitting the guy in front of me totaled that car.  The Bimmer was swept up onto a dolly because it couldn’t be towed.  I had a spinal concussion and had to be pulled unconscious through the window.   Thankfully I had previously dropped off the girl I had taken to the concert.   The cop said that had I been driving anything less than the BMW I would have been looking at eternity.   The kid got a three-month suspended license, I got about $10K.  That’s the way it was back then.  Wham bam thank you insurance ma’am.  But the car saved my life.  I always wondered if my girl with whom I shared five fun years could have made my future better had I hung in there.

The writer on the auto beat at the paper knew somebody at BMW and got me a deal on another 320, this one a reliable 1981 model in silver with black interior.   Strangely, of all the cars I had I remember that one the least other than it was the vehicle with which I transported a lot of eager women (I was at my peak of hipness in those years) and ultimately, my future wife.   Both were keepers.  Maybe I was getting older, turning the corner, getting more practical.

In 1983 I sold it and moved to New York and went carless for at least a year and change until my uncle gave me his 1975 GMC Jimmy.  Now this was a cool truck because the entire roof could be unbolted and taken off to reveal a nifty roll bar and a removable backseat.  I gave it new paint, emblazoned the door with the logo for my concert promotion company – Gross National Product – and drove this bad boy everywhere including the Buffalo airport to pick up rap acts like Run DMC who were flying up on People’s Express (hands up if your remember the airline where you bought your tickets ON THE PLANE!)  In the summer I had to put a tarp over the seats and the center console could double as an aquarium when it rained but it was very Walker, Texas Ranger in the open air.    Lisa, my wife,  and I were a pretty cool young couple and the truck was unique, a metaphor for what we felt was our own singularity.   Hey, cops did “Catch and release” all day because they tried to nail me on the lack of shoulder belts.  Didn’t have none and the police just had to let me go!  You don’t realize the good times until they are gone.  I sold it to a firefighter for $1500.

From there it was back to Bimmerland and a used black-on-black 1982 320s.  This lady was trouble.  But so was I, in the last throes of my journalism career, struggling in business.  Parts of my life didn’t fit.  Similarly, the previous owner had put headers on the 320 and it needed leaded gas (remember those days) but the car had a reduced radius unleaded nozzle receptor so I had keep a funnel  in the trunk and pour the gas through that.  There were tune-ups in the four figure area which was a lot thirty years ago.  I kept it for a couple of years until I had enough money to buy something newer more dependable.   She was too high maintenance when you’re trying to quell your inner Peter Pan.  Remember Will Farrell in Old School working on the Firebird ?  Both of us were a little old for that crap.

Next was the best girl I ever drove – 1987 BMW 325iS in Salmon Silver (see the photo above) and a blue leather interior.  Although my wife, now ex, laughs at me about that color to this day, she would agree that the car was terrific.  If I needed some excitement “on the side” this was it.  Not an ounce of trouble, kept quiet and was responsive to my less-than-sensitive touch.   Life was good for four solid years.  (That’s it in the photo!)

Living in LA for the next few years, and now a family, we made do with a Lexus ES 300 when the lease ran out on the 325iS.  Made do, yeah.   I think that car was in the family for over twelve years and it was a lot more dependable than I was.   It was like an aunt that favored you but kept you in line.

When we moved back to Toronto, I was broke.  Whatever I had was put into the house.  My father-in-law took pity on my and gave me his Saab 2000 or 3000 or whatever the hell it was.  It came with a cell phone that was hard wired to the car.  Twenty one years later I still have that number.   The car however was one of those Saab lemons that never let up.  There were $5000 tune-ups I couldn’t afford and I don’t remember one decent moment in the car.   Life was a struggle back then and I didn’t merit anything better in a four-wheeled significant other.

Eventually I made enough money to lease a new Saab for reasons that I can’t explain.  This was a nifty 2-door turbo that was great for a couple of years until everything went wrong, including an episode where my wife and I forgot our 2-year old daughter in the backseat.  In the driveway.  It was one of those exhausting nights where it was , “You take her”.  “No you.”  Not one of our proudest moments.   I’m not sure if the statute of limitations has run out on that crime.  My daughter digs it up enough for a complete season of CSI: Useless Parents.

After that it was the first of several mid-life crises.  I bounced into a Volvo convertible for a couple of years which had the best seats my tush ever touched and the worst trunk for hockey equipment ever.

When that was done, and not flush with cash thanks to private school bills, I bought a brand new 2004 Chrysler Sebring convertible.  Zero down, zero interest. Limited edition my friend, which meant this one was limited to how many they could sell.   But you know what, this is the car that I will remember on my deathbed.   It was never a problem for the eight plus years I had it.   With the low and wide Italian design it looked like a Maserati.  My marriage broke up around then and the top down effect was a self-fulfilling prophecy on more than a few nights.   My best memories was the annual drive to Montreal for the Just For Laughs comedy festival followed by a long peaceful Sunday cruise up to my kids summer camp for Visitor’s Day.   The car was indestructible.   I had to sell it for cash to some Afghani kid when the top died and it would cost more to replace it than what the old girl was worth.   She was the love of my automotive life.  Funny how a simple American car can provide so much assurance and pleasure.    If only I had been as dependable and modest as the car.  Regrets.

What immediately followed the Chrysler was the biggest mistake of my automotive life.  I had gotten back into BMWs during the Sebring period when I bought a second car – I was making a lot of money at the time – an X3 in California when the strong dollar had made it easier to import cars from the U.S.  Technically it is mine but after a nasty accident in my ex’s relatively new third generation ES 350 – car was totaled but the airbags worked – it was pretty much hers to use and she still does to this day and a with a 100K plus on it, it gave great value.  Unfortunately, the next BMW offset every nickel of value in the X3.

I don’t know how it happened or what drove me, literally, to madness but with the X3 at the ex’s and the aforementioned Chrysler on the way out I passed a dream car, or so I thought, on a used lot downtown. It was a black on black 2008 535XiT wagon.  A rarity to be sure.  Loaded to the heated steering wheel to the sport seats to the gangster tint job.  Took it out for a spin and I was hooked.  I left it alone for a couple of months and saved a few grand but man did I love this bad boy when I took it home.   It was a big brazen hussy and the first order of business was to take my son back to school in Boston during a horrible blizzard and then stop off at Killington for a couple of days of skiing.   On the highway, it was a rock at 140 clicks.

Alas the honeymoon lasted about six months.  First, the  sunroof drains got clogged and water got into the electrical system shorting out everything including the suspension.  Then the warranty ran out just in time for a $2500 tuneup, then I replaced some dinged rims with after market cheapies and the car started to vibrate which I didn’t pin on the crappy rims till I replaced about $3K in Tie rods and front end crap.   On it went through transmissions and leaking gaskets and crank cases and thermostats – about $2k a quarter for the last year plus.  I actually took my problems to the tech guru at Bimmer Magazine and his response – “I hope you have a lot of money”.

Included was a full house of speeding tickets that put my insurance up to $6K a year for two years.   Soon after the electrics/sunroof fault popped up again and I limped into the dealer with a plea for charity.  That wasn’t going to happen.  The best he could do was bring in the used guy and throw me some trade-in dough   It was about $10K for a car that cost me close to $70K with all the repairs in.  Thats a $60K cost in about four years.  I could have leased a serious Porsche for the same dough.

It was irresponsible to buy this car.  With a significant other in my life I might have made a more prudent choice.  I am still bitter about this.  Once I chastised my father for missing the funeral of a close friend.  His answer, “This is what happens when you don’t have a wife.”  Truer words have never been spoken.

Now I had some credit but zero interest in another Bimmer.  Those “Nazi bastards” had won to quote Jackie Mason.  The service manager, having  a little sympathy, said  “You’re done here but we’ll honor the credit across the street at our Mini dealer.”   Yeah, right.  A Mini.  Talk about automotive “shrinkage”.   I had no choice.  I dragged my ass over there and mumbled something to a “Sales Hipster” or so it said on his card.   Even the service guys had that Williamsburg look.  He gave me a set of keys to a car outside and I thought of just thrashing through the gearbox to the point of shredding the tranny as revenge.  But I didn’t and the car provided more fun than anything you can do clothed. And so I sat down right then and there and ordered a brand new Mini in the 4-door configuration and dressed option by option like a four-cylinder sundae.

Here I am, eight month later, driving this little go kart with some remorse.  It’s just too small.  The racy number from my Rabbit days saw me in the gym parking lot and said, “Really?”   Yeesh.  My current girlfriend has bitten her lip to the point of bloodshed.   Its cute, its frugal, its fast and the ergonomics are funky but I am so far out of Mini’s target demo its funny.  The manual stick is impractical because nobody knows how to drive that way anymore.   Long drives are painful and the run flats are annoying. I have had and will have no adventures in this car past some quick lane changes.  My aforeblogged scooter is way more exciting.

I will be back into something new in the spring.  Something that is set higher  so I don’t bang my head the way in and out.  Something with a seat that is  suitable for more than the tush of a  super model.  Something I can grow older (already there?) with and christen with some goofy name like “The Great Gasby”.  Something with more character than cute.    That might be the ultimate problem – every vehicle today is a ‘chick car’.  But that’s another story.   Maybe Julio can write  a song, “To All The Cars I’ve Loved Before.”  Maybe I will.


The Night The David Letterman Experience Came To Toronto – A Truish Story.

I thought for years that I could rise in the business to a level where I could guest on Letterman and then “hijack” the show with this story. That, of course, never happened but very few of us have a good personal Dave yarn. Let me share mine. In the late spring of 1979, I was dividing my time at the Toronto Sun between the news desk as a ne’er do well Jimmy Olsen and the entertainment sandbox where I saw myself as the local punk rock answer to the legendary gonzo critic Lester Bangs. I also covered the comedy “waterfront”. There was a tidal wave of young talented comedians building their acts at the old Yuk Yuk’s club on Bay Street – Howie Mandel was still in town and I believe I was the first journalist to notice one Jim Carrey. One day in May of that year I took a call  from a local promoter who will remain nameless for reasons I will explain later. He wanted me to break the story that he was bringing David Letterman to Toronto! That was big news. First, to me and my coterie of standup crazed idiot friends Letterman, at that point, was the comedy Messiah. In little over a year he had parlayed the paradox of his gap-toothed golly-gee Indiana boy veneer with a nasty talent for cynical observation (“Breakfast is coming to McDonald’s? Now there’s something to look forward to!”) into a unique position in a fraternity dominated by neurotic east coast Hebrews. He had caught the eye of Johnny Carson and quickly moved from the odd slot to guest hosting The Tonight Show in weeklong swatches and ‘killing it’ as they say today. Even back then there was talk of Letterman being “groomed” as the heir apparent. This would be a big comedy event. Second, I was going to be the beneficiary of an exclusive interview in advance of the gig. This couldn’t come at a better time because I needed ammunition to get me into the entertainment department full time. You can only cover so many Miss Nude Ontario pageants. Further, my girlfriend of the time was making some disturbing noises –“I hear there’s a mixer down at the Faculty of Dentistry” – and I needed to show her that I could mobilize my readership to create a watershed moment in the city’s comedy history. “Guess what? David Letterman is coming to town and I have the only interview!” “Who?” “David Letterman. You know…?’ ‘The Lettermen? “No, David Letterman, the gap-toothed, sharp witted comedian now guest hosting The Tonight Show in weeklong swatches.” ‘Never heard of him.” Such was the exchange between me and the editor as I broke the good news. After much wrangling, however, I got them to hold some space in the paper. For the interview, a long list of questions were culled from the kind of pseudo-intellectual B.S. that my 25 year-old self was dealing in at that point, crafted specifically so that I could enjoy the sound of my own voice. Things like, “David, as America crossed the socio-political Rubicon from the shell-shocked Vietnam era to the new narcissism of the Me Generation….blah blah blah…Is the comedian’s roll to bridge the strata in society….blah blah blah….or the classic Nietzchian battle for the comic’s soul between what’s smart and what’s funny…..blah blah.” Letterman, to his credit, answered most questions with one cryptic question of his own, “Hey Jon, how about those Maple Leafs?”  Whatever, I managed to cobble together some kind of profile/post-doctoral thesis, illustrating the essay with Letterman’s publicity photo of the time in which he carried a pained expression reminiscent of Oswald’s as he was shot in the Dallas police station. I envisioned the piece would case a seismic shift in the local culture. Not so much as it turned out. The aforementioned promoter had booked Dave into the somewhat downscale Night Moves tavern located in a desolate strip in the industrial west side affectionately known back then as the “Film At Eleven District”. When I strode into the club with my girl I was greeted by none other than the aforementioned idiot friends to whom I had announced the show at our shinny hockey game the Sunday prior with promises of “hanging with my new friend Dave” after his ‘set’. Maybe fifteen of us plus the regulars at the bar – gals in mail order pants from “Short & Squat” and some rounders sporting chenille crested jackets from the local Junior B team with the rank of “Booster” sewn onto the sleeve which means they probably stole equipment for the club. All were smoking and drinking the same thing – Exports. The girlfriend hit the white wine spritzers pretty hard at this point, realizing she had made a poor romantic choice. Poorer still was the choice of opening act, the great Canadian crooner Vic Franklyn brought to the stage with his crushed velour tux and his tape recorder by local comic and emcee Steve Pulver. Franklyn possessed the unique talent of maintaining his equilibrium while performing in revolving restaurants which kept him employed and a moving target. Not tonight. The light show consisted of one spotlight aimed from the bar at the stage that hit Franklyn like a fire hose. To this day none of us understand why our friend Brad stood up in the line of fire to “dance” thus completely blacking out Franklyn. The bouncer, who looked like he was between arrests, politely planted him back in his seat with a clear warning of telethon-level injuries if he did that again. Why he did it again we’ll never know but he did which reduced the floor to mayhem as Brad was pretty much hurled across the room. Due to our ethnic heritage my minyan couldn’t do much more for Brad than promise a donation in his name to the UJA. Franklyn bolted. Enter Letterman to save the day. Stuck for a moment by the girl at the door who wouldn’t let him in until put his face, complete with the Oswald expression at impact, next to the 8 by 10 tacked to the wall, Dave then bravely commandeering the microphone and calmed things down with these words, “Folks, it’s okay, Vic Franklyn has left the building! By the way how many of you think Vic’s jacket was made out of the inside of a trombone case?” Classic Letterman ensued for a solid twenty minutes until the sound system went bad and the noise from the snack machines drowned him out. When it was over David wisely ran out of the bar with me and all my friends in pursuit. We caught up with him at the VIP parking meter as he was getting into his rented Chrysler Cordoba. I had mentioned to the guys that Dave played tennis and my pal Peter, still in university, offered to set up a game for the next day and shoved a scrap of paper with his number on it at Letterman as he sped away. Today my friend Peter can look back at one great career as a titan in the Canadian film and television industry. Great kids, tons of dough etc. But in his personal Top Ten List – David Letterman left a message with his mom. A few years later I had another crack at a Letterman interview when the Buffalo NBC affiliate {finally) picked up the first classic iteration of brilliantly dystopian Late Night where Dave quite correctly predicted that everyone had a role to play on TV – even one Calvert DeForest aka Larry “Bud” Melman. From what I remember Dave was open, generous and relaxed inside what he called, “basically a Mom & Pop operation”. Back then he had nothing to lose and all the freedom to risk it. When I mentioned the Toronto gig he gave me a sheepish shrug and said with a smile, “Worst thing was I never got paid.” Thus we keep the promoter anonymous because I don’t think there is a statute of limitations on stiffing comedians. You can imagine what a great day it was at 30 Rock, entrée partly courtesy of my sister Marjorie, then a young comic who had found favor with Dave and then talent coordinator Robert “Morty” Morton who gave her a few shots in the cleanup slot.  Dave is gone from TV after thirty five or so years on air. He won’t be back. My sister has been gone in a more mortal way almost twenty years but I have those recorded appearances in my library to visit when I feel the need to laugh or at least to relive the warm memories of the laughter that can only be had when you were young and foolish enough to believe that the fun would last forever. But we had fun that night on Weston Road. Thank you, Dave.

Buddy Boy

Years ago, decades ago actually, the great actor Jimmy Stewart sat beside Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show and read a poem to his beloved dog who had passed away.   Back in my callow youth which, to be truthful, should have at that point long morphed into responsible adulthood, I wrote it off as the maudlin ramblings of a slightly addled old man. My opinion changed a few days ago.  I lost my wingman. Technically Buddy wasn’t even my dog.  My ex brought him into the house after I had moved out – $1500 worth of ‘Goldie-Poo’ puppy, all paws and a face that could melt ice cream.  I wasn’t consulted.  Nor should I have been.  I thought it as a ridiculous idea.  “Its like having a child!  Who’s going to train him?” I offered in spite of the fact that my opinions were not solicited. The move was, as many of hers were, a good one.  Buddy gave the kids some responsibility and my ex some company. He grew to provide a little protection in the city and up north where she would rough it on a piece of property she was developing.  And Buddy gave back a lot of love.  A ton.  When I would come to the house, he would wag not just his tail but his whole hind quarters.   He had some issues with the mailman, people of color and a couple of dogs who were regulars in ravine by the house but for the most part he gave everybody a fair shake so to speak. He ate everything in sight and you didn’t leave food on a table for too long but he wasn’t a nuisance.   A couple of years in I was granted partial custody due to my son’s going away to college and the ex spending long stretches out of the country. We developed a little circus act.  I would take him down into the ravine to a spot where I could use one of those ball slingers to its maximum distance but directing the orange ball way up the slope to a “hidden green” as they say in golf.  Buddy would scale the heights like a mountain goat, rummage around in the foliage or leaves depending on the season, and then return to the lip of the landing, ball securely in his mouth and  hold a “Rin Tin Tin” pose for the cameras.  He would then negotiate the downslope while I hummed the theme from Lassie or Sassie, if you recall The Flintstones. We played to standing room crowds – no seats down in the ravine – for years. When I  was lucky enough to  have him down at my crash pad, we would throw the ball around at the local park.   He was always the alpha dog.  And when I took him to Starbucks he was a conversation starter, well, a ‘chick magnet’.   My wingman.  Didn’t have to leash him.  We strode down the street in a tight formation.  He loved my boat even if the poodle in him didn’t care for swimming.   And he would worry if I went in to the water and left him to watch the ship.  I even took him on the road a couple  of times.  My favorite hotel in Montreal took pets, albeit with a $24/hr pet sitting fee.  But the staff loved “Monsieur Buddee” and it was cool to throw the ball around the McGill University common or hit the patio scene with him.   Even  took him to Shabbat services a few times.   Not a peep did he utter.   Needless to say he was the Senior Vice President Of Cute at the office. Best of all  was that he opened up my heart a little.  They say that  the latin for dog “canis” comes from  the Hebrew word “chesed” which translates to kindness.  His kindness brought  on more  of mine along with a lot more courtesy which I am a little short of sometimes. He made me get up and hit the street when I wasn’t in the mood. He washed a lot of blues away just by being difficult with the most personality any four-legged creature could have. I have to say that in the last ten years he was the most significant thing to happen to my heart other than my spiking cholesterol levels. Good dog, bad arterial plaque. I didn’t host him much the last couple of years. My ex travelled less and took him up north more.  Our last weekend was in December and I remember almost every step of every walk.  I even took him to my girlfriend’s where her own three grown daughters went crazy for him.  Again, Buddy was a lethal force for hooking up if put in the wrong hands. Or right hands pending on your needs. The end was quick.  My son came home from a golf trip with me a couple of weeks ago. Buddy had gone in for his spring shearing and with all that fur gone, came back from the Pooch Parlor very gaunt and distended. Three grand worth of tests revealed a tumor by his heart that “could kill him at any minute” according to the vet who suggested my son and ex put him down right there. Wasn’t going to happen. Buddy went home with some medication, rallied a little while the rest of his walked on egg shells. Last Thursday my ex took him out for a walk with his beloved ball and he played even when it started raining. He had to be coaxed inside with some treats. She went upstairs to check her email, leaving Buddy on his bed. A few minutes later she heard what was a mortal ‘yelp’, came downstairs and Buddy was gone. By the time I got there he just looked like he was sleeping. My son is taking this the hardest. It was his first major loss and Buddy was really his “pup” as he called him. My daughter lost one of her favorite photo subjects. My ex lost some real companionship. I lost a friend. You can’t have the love of a pet without dealing with the pain when they’re gone. Buddy was only ten but he died at home and spared us the “dead dog walking” trip to the vet. He was a gent, a classy gent. I told my son that he is young enough to have a couple of more Buddys in his life. My ex is going to need a dog sooner than later. Just the way that goes. I don’t think at my age there will be another Buddy. I am not ready to take on that kind of responsibility and I don’t think I have the chops to take on a dog of that energy at my age. I can barely keep a relationship going that doesn’t involve full-time living in! I have some great memories that will sweeten with age. And when it’s all over, when I am supposed to meet those five people in the after world according to Mitch Albom, I might ask to switch one of them out for a part-time wingman named Buddy.

An Affair To Dismember

I can’t get back the thousands of hours spent absorbing The Dick Van Dyke Show and Flintstones reruns. Even though I had a short itinerant career in television – the highlight on the reel is a story credit on the Seinfeld episode The Fusilli Jerry – the hours could have been better spent.  Perhaps a little more homework or even a little more time with my mother who didn’t live to see my 20th birthday.

These days I watch a lot less TV.  The news is verbal diarrhea at best, sitcoms were dead to me after my sister Marjorie passed away, football is too violent, hockey isn’t quite violent enough (seriously).  Nobody my age is going to go their deathbed thinking they wished they had seen more of the World’s Biggest Loser, the title of which might refer more to the viewer than the fat shlubs on the scale.  Not that the ratings even track 60 year-olds past PBS and Fox News because the only people advertising to us are drug companies.  I’m not sure what half the drugs advertised even do outside of the legally required disclaimers that promise more downside than upside.  I remember when “oily discharges” were the worst side effect.  Now its “thoughts of suicide”.   Not exactly Flintstone Chewable vitamins.

However, I look forward with a looming sense of loss to the final episodes of Mad Men which is brilliant and of the era in which I grew up and I did enjoy the stunning Season Four comeback of Homeland which speaks volumes about today’s America.  Scary.   Yet there is one show on which I will share my thoughts – the recently completed first season of the Showtime series The Affair.

The story arc is very simple – two people blow up their lives and those of the people around them with a less-than-explicable affair during a hot summer way out on Montauk at the tip of Long Island.  Dominic West, late of The Wire, plays Noah Solloway, a ne’er-do-well author/schoolteacher married to the only child (Maura Tierney) of the kind of respected wealthy narcissist author Noah would like to be.  But he’s not and the in-laws are throwing money at the Solloways to keep them and their four kids in a lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

The other half of the story – and its told Rashomon style with parallel but conflicting narratives – is provided by Ruth Wilson as the much younger Alison Lockhart, a former mother who can’t get past the loss of her young boy in a murky drowning incident. Her equally haunted husband is played very well by Josh Jackson. It’s been two years and the blame for the tot’s sudden death is a leaden weight on the soul of Alison, a trained nurse who didn’t take the boy to the hospital and the father who took his eye off the kid in the ocean when he went under.  The tragedy is palpable.

For reasons neither party ever explain the affair is on when Noah and Alison lock eyes at a seaside restaurant where Alison is waiting tables.  In my opinion Wilson plays the “street waif” to the point of annoyance and West to his credit is, for the most part, as his Cruella-esque mother-in-law would chime in late in the season, “a useless asshole”. That these idiots stumble into the sack with nary a consideration for the consequences cast them as more clueless than conflicted and extremely unsympathetic which is an interesting twist in itself.   We might not have applauded Don Draper’s extracurricular activities but they made perfect sense given that they were just more panes in the house of broken mirrors that is Draper’s history.

We have all seen the change in American TV drama.  When I was a kid a lead character provided a certain moral center  (Lucas McCain, Marcus Welby, Mike Brady),  breaking through all the crimes, suffering and bad ideas around him like a cowboy breaking and saddling a stallion.  Wrongs would be averted, not just righted.  Hearts would be healed.

Later in the century, the roles became a little more interpretive.  Jim Rockford and Harry O were middling symbols, more low-end shlamazels than heroes but each found a better part of themselves with each caper they solved.  I miss ‘em.

In today’s TV, it’s all kind of gone to shit.   From The Sopranos to Breaking Bad to Boardwalk Empire to Sons Of Anarchy to the imbeciles on Girls, there is no moral center.  In fact the sociopathic leads are so immoral and that they wreak havoc on what’s left of the value systems in the people around them.  They don’t clean up Dodge, they pollute it enabling the worst behavior.  In Lena Dunham’s world, smart girls make bad decisions that only lead to more bad decisions.  Like nude scenes involving Dunham.  I’m probably too old to even discuss the show other than I have a daughter in her early twenties and I fear for her if this is the way it is out there.

Back to The Affair because I do have a point to make.  Even though I don’t buy the actual romance and the somewhat overheated B and C stories, there is a lot of truth in the show’s depiction of the price people pay for such behavior.   Once you go outside the perimeter – in this case with very little discretion – bad things happen.  Kids are alienated, the wife never looks at you the same way again, your living space goes from a nice brownstone in Brooklyn to a shithole in a lesser neighborhood.  Cash is tight.  You get laid a lot for a while because you are fresh meat but even that has its ugly aftertaste.

In Alison’s case she becomes  an orphaned delusional zombie whose actions reopen wounds that might have healed had she not gotten involved with Noah.  Redemption is not on the horizon for either of them.

I applaud those aspects of the show because I have been there.  My marriage blew up – for reasons I don’t wish to share – years ago when I was just a couple of years older than West’s character.  Same deal though – I moved into a dump, my kids went a little sideways, I was eating out of tin cans.   There’s a solid 18 months I can’t account for.  Erego the zombie metaphor. Even if I went back, and I did for a year, it wasn’t and wouldn’t be the same.  Whatever problems we had should have been nipped in the bud decades before.  Even with a good divorce, the pain doesn’t go away and you find yourself having three-ways with the “elephant in the room.”

Yet, when it happened, I became something of a conscripted therapist to a raft of friends who were thinking of pulling the plug on their marriages.  Some guys already had one foot out the door, the others were going through a later-life crisis.  Fifty is past mid-life – when the focus has long switched from departed children back to the four prison walls and that wrinkly stranger who shares your bathroom. It can be rough.

I had some advice.  I would ask each guy if he was still having sex with his wife.  Some would say they couldn’t remember the last time.  To them I would say, “Life is short, find a way or move forward.  She might deserve better too.” Most would say yes to the sex and to them I would say, “You are still married.  Deal with it.”  If that didn’t convince them I would tell them to go to Vegas with about five grand in cash and buy the best hooker they could.  Buy a “girlfriend experience” – discreetly – and then go home to your wife.  You have a relationship.  You don’t need another one. Not the most politically correct advice but some secrets save lives.

Years ago when I was a young husband I  would always refer to Fatal Attraction, the Michael Douglas/Glenn Close bunny boiler, as a deterrent with Close as the Bipolar Express going off the  Crazy/Hot rails when it came to scorned women.

Now, any guy even parsing the thought should watch The Affair if just for its value as the marital version of those old “boating safety” films of our youth where the local Gilligan would add one too many passengers to his outboard and send the whole crew into the drink.  Nobody is spared the carnage of The Affair, the collateral damage of which is way more extensive than a mere dead rabbit.

Wish it was all Rob & Laura Petrie out there.  But, sadly, it ain’t.