In "A Life Lived Backwards: One Man's Life," a new podcast launching in August 2021, Larry Ruttman makes the case that old age can be the best time of life. You'll hear stories of friendship, mentors, romance, the love of learning, Larry's dedication to his faith, his passion for music, history, the law, and, of course, baseball. Tales told by a master storyteller with a razor-sharp memory and a wit to match! Subscribe and enjoy "A LIfe Lived Backwards: One Man's Life," available on all major podcast platforms.
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and Larry Ruttman's Notes to Each
What I Mean by “Living My Life Backwards”
Voices of Brookline
Talking with Dogs
Air Force Stories
Jewish Life in Brookline, Massachusetts
Braves Field, Jackie Robinson, and WWII German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
A Tempestuous Parent and Other Family
High School Teachers Are Game-Changers
University of Massachusetts Buddies Are Game-Changers Too
Columbia Law School, the Ambassador, and the Dummy
Boston College Law School, a Happy Mix of Irishmen and Jewish Men
Thespians, Billy Crystal, and a Gravedigger
Acting and the Human Condition
Why I Wrote a Memoir
Baseball and America's Survival
Greg Spiers - The Best Boy Next Door
Row Hard, No Excuses
The Minister Disappears, The Silver Screen, and Other Fascinating Cases
Life and Death
Irishmen and Irishwoman Are a Boy's Best Friend
Looking Backwards to See the Future
John Gallagher and Dr. David Link, Two Jewish Brookline Guys Who Changed the World
The Two Faces of Rudy Giuliani
Nonagenarians and Democracy
My Eighty-Two Year Love Affair
Ted Williams, Priscilla Howe, and Me
Hot Dogs, Baseball, and Babe Ruth
Baseball and Life
Baseball in Roman Times
Why Massachusetts Is a Blue State
Why Baseballers Inspire You and Me
A Model Public Servant
A Potpourri: Baseball, Teens, Movies, Marriage, and Politics
What Is a Genius Like?
You Don't Have to Be President to Have a Personal Doctor
Self-Esteem and Friendship Versus Narcissim
Episode 39: Self-Esteem and Friendship Versus Narcissism
One of the big ironies in our world is how self-esteem and narcissism are often confounded. One who has self-esteem, self-confidence, chutzpah, whatever you want to call it, and backs that up with ability, talent, and accomplishment, is often mistakenly regarded as narcissistic. Usually such a person has many friends, many of whom help him along the way, despite those many detractors whose animus is often the inability to see the true person, or, even worse, envy. The true narcissist has few if any friends because he thinks he has all the answers. There are true narcissists before us on the world stage every day these days as war rages in Ukraine. Another was our President until recently. Usually the true narcissist has little to back up his claims of superiority.
In this podcast you will meet Conductor Benjamin Zander, a man who shows his self-esteem on his sleeve but has the goods to back it up as the impassioned leader of two eminent symphony orchestras under one roof, the Boston Philharmonic and and the Boston Youth Philharmonic. Ben has literally thousands of loving friends through his music-making, his caring for the personal and musical development of his youthful disciples, the gratitude of the parents and family of those charges, and his energetic generosity of time to the welfare of those who come within his wide ambit. That is what I call “self-esteem and friendship.” It describes people who make a difference in this world. It provokes envy too among some of Ben’s fellow musicians and the public too, those folks, like me at an earlier time, who fail to see the difference between self-esteem and narcissism. Ben put it all down in his best-selling book, The Art of Possibility, written with his former wife, Rosamund Zander.
As this podcast went on my accomplished interlocutor, Jordan Rich, and I segued into talking about Matthew Aucoin, another celebrated musician barely past thirty who recently composed the opera, Eurydice, performed several times at the Metropolitan Opera in December, 2021, and who authored a book published that same month about opera, entitled The Impossible Art, which is destined to be a classic. Already Matthew is described as the Mozart of our time. A few years back I enjoyed a two hour conversation with Matthew which provided me with valuable insights for my current book, Intimate Conversations: Face to Face With Matchless Musicians, which also created a bond of lasting friendship between us. Listen and hear more about this remarkable young man who hails from among us in Massachusetts.
That led Jordan and me to talk about the interview vs. the conversation, the latter of much greater value, in which Jordan and I, as veteran conversationalists, seek to have the listener feel they are listening over our shoulder to the actual conversation. Jordan rightly described those as “enriching and refreshing.”
The words Friendship, Inquisitiveness, and Maturation are in the title of my memoir. They are all exhibited in this podcast.
People, always people!
Episode 38: Friendship
The title of my upcoming memoir cites in its title the three guideposts of my life: Friendship, Inquisitiveness and Maturation. This podcast centers on friendship, and the other two facets are naturally involved in talking about friendship. You will hear about three remarkable and talented musicians, although each is different than the others. Each of them are now joined to me in a friendship that in an earlier stage of my life could not have been imagined. The three men are jazz pianist, composer, and educator, Ran Blake; conductor, educator, and organizer, Benjamin Zander; and longtime Boston Pops conductor, and Boston Symphony violinist, the late Harry Ellis Dickson. Let’s take Ran first.
I met Ran almost twenty years ago in my early years as a writer when I was assigned by Oral History of American Music (OHAM) at Yale University to record a conversation with him about his life. I did that in a way natural to me by approaching Ran as a person rather than a celebrity, and asking him somewhat prying questions another might not, as well as offering my own views as we went along. Ran made no objection, and we conversed easily as two friends might. Our conversation, and another in later years assembling my current book, Intimate Conversations: Face to Face With Matchless Musicians, revealed the manifold talents and personal characteristics that make this modest polymath a cultural resource and a warm and generous friend to many. From the start we did become good friends. Through him I entered into a social circle of musicians at the New England Conservatory of Music, including such notables as Eden MacAdam-Somer (who is a chapter in Intimate Conversations), and Hankus Netsky, co-chairs succeeding Ran at the head of the Improv Department at NEC; Eden’s husband, trombonist, Aaron Hartley; and others. Along the way, Ran and my wife, Lois, became fast friends.
Ben Zander is the opposite of Ran in many ways. While one would never describe Ben as modest, one would have no hesitancy in describing him as a great man. A case in point is his feat of organizing and conducting the now-renowned Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. That celebrated assemblage demonstrates Ben’s lifelong commitment to the development of young people as musicians, and as people invested in improving the world around them. Under the same roof is the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, where talented adult musicians find a home. Both orchestras are rated worldwide as excellent. Each has a big following. Combine that with Ben’s many years as a now-retired professor at the Conservatory; a bestselling author of the book, The Art of Possibility, with his former wife Rosamund Zander; and his many contributions to the Boston community, with his incredible youth, and you have a true-life story stronger than fiction. Consider that Ben emerged from an amazingly accomplished family, lived in his boyhood years with renowned musicians Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and Imogen Holst, and traveled around Europe with world-class cellist, Gaspar Cassadó! After a slow start, a close friendship sprung up between Ben and me too, as has happened with many of the musicians included in Intimate Conversations, all following my approach to them as people, not as icons.
I deem each of them smarter than me, but who among us does not want the hand of friendship held out to them. That can happen on short notice as well, as when I met the elegant and multi-talented, Harry Ellis Dickson, for many years both the Associate Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and for forty-nine years a violinist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, following his early stay in Germany, honing his craft and witnessing the rise of Nazism! Harry is the father of Kitty Dukakis, loyal wife of old friend, Michael Dukakis. Harry and I shared some personal words at his bedside minutes after I interviewed him for my TV show, words engendered by how warmly we connected on that show.
Friendship is really the subject of this podcast. It is the idea that approaching anybody in friendship whether he or she is rich, poor, educated or not, black, white or in-between, famous or a genius, or just plain folks, is likely to get a warm reception, and more than likely way more than that.
Listen to this podcast to learn a lot more about these three gentlemen, and the idea of friendship.
People, always people!
Episode 37: You Don't Have to Be President to Have a Personal Doctor
One dicey thing about traveling is the time it takes to get a doctor if you become ill or get hurt. Not for presidents, though. Not for me either. Here’s how that goes down. It is yet another facet of friendship. Guifu Wu is a Chinese name. Indeed Guifu Wu is Chinese. In fact, he is one of the top cardioligists in China, despite his youth. Around 2007 he came to Boston to further his expertise at the Beth Israel Hospital. Guifu also wanted to improve his English speaking. We met because I had signed up to teach English as a second language. We became friends. We spoke of many things. He invited me to China. I accepted and together we visited several cities north and south, and east and west. Many adventures! Not enough space to tell them all. Here is one. In Guilin we had unidentified fish one night. Back at the hotel I broke out in a scaly rash. I looked like a fish. “Am I going to die?,” I asked Guifu. “Let’s wait,” he counseled. Sure enough the rash faded in a few hours under Guifu’s watchful eye. A few years later when the misnomered condition called BENIGN prostate hyperplasia, BPH for short, afflicted me. I was counseled to treat it surgically. Hearing a few horror stories about that operation, I sought out Guifu, now back in Guangzhou (formerly Canton) for his advice. “Have the operation,” he advised in no uncertain terms.
So too did two other doctor friends, Dr. Marinos Charalambous from Cyprus, and Dr. Michaela Schneiderbauer from Germany. Earlier I had met Marinos in Boston when he was seeking a residency in the United States despite his medical education at a medical school in Crete with a mediocre reputation. Recognizing his sincerity and strength of character, we quickly became friends. Marinos got that residency on his own, despite advice from foremost doctors here who opined he would not. He invited me to stay in his family home in ancient Cyprus, and then travel together to the vulcanized Greek isle of Santorini, scenic Crete, and Athens of the Acropolis. Great host, great guy, great doctor, who helped me when I took a few falls on that trip. I consulted Marinos when the BPH struck. Like Guifu he said in no uncertain terms, “Have that surgery.”
So did Michaela, the highly thought of surgical oncologist and loyal friend whom I had met while attending a Handel opera in Boston. A lobby chat about music led to a friendship with a wise, medically talented, thoughtful, and athletically gifted person whose close-to-six-foot frame would likely have carried her to tennis fame had she not chosen another career. All three of those folks are youthful, generous, and warm, with whom lasting friendships were formed almost serendipitously with a touch of chutzpah sprinkled in. Did any president ever have such a terrific medical advisory team? What a life!
And who is that great and caring surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital who transformed me from a dripping faucet into a firehose? That would be the eminent Dr. Shahin Tabatabaei from Tehran, Iran. In follow up visits Shahin became interested in my literary career, telling me on the last visit as we shook hands, he intended to read my book on baseball and American Jews. Maybe the next trip with a personal doc will be with Shahin to Tehran, where his folks still reside, and with whom I would feel very safe indeed in that distant land.
Listen and learn lots more about these fascinating folk.
People, always people!
Episode 36: What Is a Genius Like?
As I sit here on February 27, 2022 watching the horrific attack unleashed by Putin on Ukraine, I am thinking of an amazingly peaceful man who can hear “the troops coming out” when he plays the piano. That man is Ran Blake, who plays the piano like no other pianist, speaks like no other person, has a memory like no other person, is like no other person, and is a genius among us, winner of a MacArthur genius grant, and the longtime leader of the Contemporary Improvisation Department at the New England Conservatory of Music. You might think a guy with those chops would be hard to know. Not at all. Easy to know. Easy to love, as many who know him do. Described as the man who wants to “introduce everybody in the world to everybody else,” Ran’s eyes become moist listening to other musicians make music, part and parcel of his own modesty about his own unique talent. You might ask why Ran hears those troops coming out. Because he was caught in the jaws of the Greek junta in 1967. Later, his great and good friend, American composer and everything else musical, Gunther Schuller, wisely brought him to NEC, where Gunther was then ensconced as President. When the Twin Towers came down on 9/11, within days Ran organized a concert to honor Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, and the New York firefighters, in which he brought together musical artists from all points of the compass to play indigenous music, including several Muslim countries, to offset the anti-Muslim hatred then raging. Not long before that concert I met and interviewed Ran for the Oral History of American Music Project at Yale University (OHAM). We became immediate friends then to this day. That was easy because Ran was forever supportive as I took up writing as a second career. It might well have been the other way around, but that is not who Ran is. Visiting this “genius” in his modest Brookline apartment is an experience in itself. You might be greeted by his beautiful cat, Dektor, with his pushed-in face, huge whiskers, long hair, and leonine appearance. Often his faithful friend, trumpeter, Aaron Hartley, is there to attend to now octogenarian, Ran. Standing tall in the living room is Ran’s grand piano, where he teaches his students. The walls are lined with shelves containing his vast library of musical scores, his long list of his published CDs, as well as his library of film noir, in which he revels. In fact, Ran and Aaron produce a show based on a classic film noir movie at NEC regularly, featuring an array of Improv students. Visiting Ran he might give you some applesauce made by an applesauce maker of renown, my wife, Lois, who brings Ran that treat regularly. Hear about Ran telling of musical soirees long ago at the home of Dorothy Wallace on Chestnut Place in Brookline, where Ran and Gunther would come to commune with their genius brethren, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig Van Beethoven. What, you thought Ran was only a jazzer? Geniuses travel all roads. This genius loves us all.
People, always people!
Episode 35: A Potpourri: Baseball, Teens, Movies, Marriage, and Politics
How do you get from baseball and other kinds of ball to politics when you’re talking about Paul Epstein? Who is Paul Epstein anyway? Well, Paul is the twin brother of Theo Epstein. You know, the smart GM who brought World Championships to the Red Sox and the Cubs after droughts of close to a century or more. Best GM in history probably. There is always a power behind the throne, and here it is Paul to whom Theo always looks up to, not only because he’s taller, maybe more handsome (both are handsome), but because Paul is one helluva guy! When I met him twenty years ago just before I interviewed him on my TV show, I was knocked out by Paul’s magnetic appearance and personality. You’ll hear all about Paul’s’ calling as a social worker in the Brookline schools, how he brought a family with ten kids from Rwanda to live here, his work as a Big Brother nurturing teens to success, and his successful effort to found the Brookline Teen Center where friendships are found, how he got me a photo of Theo playing rock for my baseball book, and his work at the iconic Home for Little Wanderers, where his boss was the beautiful Saskia. Now there was a conflict when Paul started dating his boss. Paul solved that one. You’ll find out how. You’ll also hear how Paul and Theo caused chaos in their teen years batting balls over the “Blue Monster,” playing sewer hockey, gutter ball, tenny ball, and baseball, in the open air, then taking those sports at night into the tighter confines of their apartment, driving their neighbors, the Markells, crazy, along with Mom, Dad, and their sister. Such are the underpinnings of success, which got Jordan and I talking about Paul and Theo’s grandfather, Philip Epstein, and their great-uncle, Julius Epstein, who wrote the screenplay for Casablanca, whom many think is the greatest movie ever made. Jordan was surprised I had never seen Fiddler on the Roof, (I soon did), which sparked movie buff Jordan asking me why I had rejected movies for a while, then returned to the fold, sometimes with odd but fascinating choices like Contempt, with sexpot, Brigitte Bardot. It featured a well-remembered true-to-life twenty-five minute scene which could only have been done in a French movie, of a marriage dissolving before our very eyes, which caused me to exclaim in a falsetto voice as my wife, Lois, and I watched it at home, “This is us!” Well, no marriage is perfect. If you want our take on why movies enchant and beguile us, here is the place. Somehow, while ending up with how Paul and Theo parlayed running amok on Brookline’s playing fields into consummate success as adults, we digress to talk about Representative Jamie Raskin’s keen view from the catbird seat of House Manager of Trump’s second impeachment trial, of threatened American democracy in his best seller, Unthinkable.
People, always people!
Episode 34: A Model Public Servant
I would ask you to read that title two ways, first as to what makes a person a model public servant, and second as to a public servant known to all of us who fits that description. Reading this note and then listening to this podcast about Massachusetts State Treasurer, Deborah Goldberg, will be my attempt to answer that question as an impartial apolitical observer. When I interviewed Deb on TV for my book Voices of Brookline, over nineteen years ago on February 6, 2003, as she lovingly held in her arms her small dog “Sawyer,” one more clairvoyant than me might have discerned that day the background and characteristics that have propelled her to her present and long held position as the State Treasurer of Massachusetts: love, family, hometown, civic responsibility, public service, commitment, inventiveness, and more. From that day to this Deb has developed, developed, and developed, and that shows no sign of stopping as she contends for her third term in that office. We will examine more closely from where Deb has emerged. Her mother Carol is a Rabb, a family famous in the state for parlaying a small grocery store in the North End of Boston into the famous chain known as Stop and Shop, under the guidance of the late Sidney Rabb, and that family’s commitment to charity and public responsibility. Carol herself, a woman whose independence and insistence on the right of women to be equal, rose to the be the COO of Stop and Shop. Certainly Carol was a key factor in her daughter’s development. Deb herself credits working as a youngster in a family run market honed her family and public values. Her father, the late Avram Goldberg, himself an astute businessman who became the Chairman and President of the company working in tandem with his wife, was the son of Judge Lewis Goldberg who served an incredible 41 years as a Massachusetts Superior Court Judge. These two families merged their attributes from the time Deb was a little girl. Little wonder she grew up committed to her family, town, and state, aiming at public service “as the right thing to do.” As an example of this you’ll hear that when her mother received a dog as a present, both Carol and Deb became lovingly attached to that dog, engendering in Deb an empathy for all dog lovers, and a sense that such folks could contribute to Brookline community. Later, as a Selectperson, Deb would support the now well established Green Dog Program which provides a place for dog owners to allow their dogs freedom to exercise, socialize with other dogs, and to themselves make new friends. One of its many venues was the Still Street Playground where JFK and later estimable attorney, Charles Kickham, played ball when they were altar boys at close by Saint Aidan’s Church, now converted into condos. Deb’s passion for that relatively small program shows in all of her public endeavors whether in Brookline or as State Treasurer, and whether the issue is small or large, such as announcing on November 18, 2021 new draft rules that would allow the State Pension Fund, which controls 95.7 billion dollars, to vote against directors of companies that are not aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement. Certainly that innovative approach to her office marks Deb as a woman who loves her job. When I interviewed Deb back in 2003 she was already alert to the coming changes to be wrought by the so-called Communications Revolution, and whether our values would survive that revolution, Finally my esteemed interlocutor, Jordan Rich, asks me whether Deborah Goldberg is a model of what a public servant should be. By now, my answer is a foregone conclusion.
People, always people!
Episode 33: Why Baseballers Inspire You and Me
Let’s take YAZ, Carl Albert Yastrzemski, to be precise. Without his talent, Yaz would be an ordinary guy. With it he is extraordinary, not just as a player, but as the inspiring person he or any of us “ordinary” folks might be. That is why he inspired us. Did Yaz have the natural ability of Ted Williams, or of dozens of other lesser players, like his teammates Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, and Wade Boggs? Probably not. In his first six seasons, Carl was a serviceable player whose home run total reached twenty only one time. Suddenly, in 1967, Yaz led his team to the World Series with one of the greatest seasons ever, winning the Triple Crown (batting average, home runs, and runs batted in), and the MVP, winning forever the respect of everyone. Did it stop there? No. Carl whacked 40 or more homers thrice in the next three seasons, and went on to a remarkable 23 year career that included a multiplicity of batting, fielding, throwing, and team leading exploits which make his moniker, “YAZ,” ring down the baseball ages. That was accomplished by a singular dedication to be the best player he could be, a seriousness of purpose and desire to excel, which made him a role model we all admired, and inspired us to lead a more focused life. Of all players, it may be that Carl Yastrzemski best fit the notion that we identify with ballplayers because of all athletes they most resemble in size and background any one of us. Another player of that ilk is Ian Kinsler who wasn't picked until the 17th round of the draft several hundred rungs down the ladder, but pulled himself up by his bootstraps a la Yaz to become one of the most prominent players in the American League over a 14 year career, capped by winning a ring with the Red Sox 2018 Championship team. Listen here to my retelling of my interview of the centered Ian in the third base dugout at Fenway Park when he visited here with the Rangers in the midst of a torrid batting streak. That meeting led to my joking offer to Nolan Ryan, then the President of the Rangers, to hire me as a Rangers magic maker for the coming World Series. How about baseballers off the field like Chaim Bloom, the astute Chief Baseball Officer of the Red Sox, who was the only one who believed me that I witnessed Teddy Ballgame’s 500 foot plus home run in June, 1946, prompting me to write a story about Chaim and Teddy, soon to be published. Another such baseballer is poet, author, playright, Sox Public Address Announcer, and raconteur, the gentle and talented, Dick Flavin, whom I address as “King Richard.” You’ll get to know him here. As you will meet at an event I attended, Mariano Rivera, Bud Selig, and Pat Courtney, Bud’s right hand guy. Not to mention brushing elbows there with Pedro Martinez and Joe Torre. I was also there long ago on that horrific evening when I heard “a sound never to be forgotten,” when Tony Conigliaro got beaned and blinded by an errant fastball. Happier times involved Juan. Marichal, the Cooper brothers, Mort and Walker, the Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, Tom Seaver and his long ago predecessor, Christy Mathewson, and the unforgettable Rickey Henderson. They’re all here, so please listen and share.
People, always people!
Episode 32: Why Massachusetts Is a Blue State
Everybody knows Massachusetts is a blue state. It’s been a blue state for a long time. Can anyone explain why that is? Is there anything about baseball as played at Fenway Park that throws light on that puzzle? Let’s go back to late June, 1949 when the Yankees came to to town for a crucial three-game series. Joe DiMaggio was set to play his first games of the season, having sat out half the year with a bone spur in his right heel. I was eighteen at the time and attended the first game with my father on a Friday night. Our pitcher was the blinding rookie left-hander, Maury McDermott. He didn’t blind Joe who blasted a home run, followed that with two more homers and six RBI on Saturday, and finished the job with another round-tripper on Sunday to sweep the Sox out of their minds, stunning the Sox loyals. You would think Sox fandom would aim death threats at DiMaggio. Instead, they cheered him to the rafters, demonstrating a fan characteristic in Bean Town, not in vogue elsewhere then or now, of giving merit its due. The same reaction was shown in a 1958 game I attended when hard throwing Detroit right-hander, Jim Bunning, no hit the Sox, and left famous and failed for a day Ted Williams flailing weakly at his slants. That is what one does when a master shows his grit. That is the same Jim Bunning who later pitched a perfect game in 1964 for the Phillies, the first one in the National League since the 19th century, was later voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and also elected United States Representative and Iater Senator from Kentucky, thus becoming the sole MLB player to be elected to both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Senate. As a politician, Jim Bunning compiled an eccentric ultra-right-wing record diametrically opposed to Massachusetts Blue State beliefs. Those accounts seem to be an accurate, albeit anecdotal, answer to why Massachusetts is and has been blue. One thing is for sure. When I get to talk baseball with a true baseball believer like my articulate and informed interlocutor, Jordan Rich, anyone listening is sure to learn a lot about baseball history, the guys who played it, and what that means in the context of our lives. They are all in this episode, from the charming “Little Professor,” Dom DiMaggio, the unfairly maligned, Johnny Pesky, the smooth-fielding and the power-hitting keystone sacker, Bobby Doerr, and partner in power with Teddy Ballgame, Vern “Shoulders” Stephens, of my youth; the power-throwing right fielder, Dwight Evans, Hall of Fame slugger, Jim Rice, smooth center fielder and MVP, Freddy Lynn, elegant infielder and home run threat, Americo “Rico” Petrocelli, and Rick “The Rooster” Burleson of my mid-years; to Nomar, Youk, Dustin, Manny being Manny, brave Jon Lester, and the incredible Mookie, of my later years.
“C’mon along and listen to….”
People, always people!
Episode 31: Baseball in Roman Times
Well not exactly, but I thought so when I met beautiful dark and enchanting Octavia sitting next to me at Fenway Park. At first I thought she might be Cleopatra, but it turned out her husband’s name was Cecil and not Caesar. Cecil who? Cecil Cooper, that’s who, a rookie then, but a player who came mighty close to making Octavia’s words that day come true when she said, “My Cecil is going to become a SUPERSTAR!” Plenty of those in Boston Red Sox history, and plenty of them on this podcast like twirling and whirling hurler Luis Tiant, man for all seasons and any situation, Tim Wakefield, a player maybe greater than Ted Williams, known as Big Papi, the one and only David Ortiz, and that colorful, courageous, proud, and unhittable Dominican, Pedro Martinez. I pose the question to myself why is it that these diamond heroes playing a little boys’ game become so important to millions of us. You’ll be interested by my answer. Jordan posed another question to me on how do we know which guys who used PED’s should be admitted to the Hall of Fame, and which guys shouldn't. You may be surprised by my answer. C’mon along and I’ll tell you what it’s like to sit in one of those luxury boxes high above the field of play. How about Wade Boggs and Manny Ramirez, two of the best hitters ever, and Roger Clemens one of the best pitchers ever? I tell of their exploits here too. Jordan speaks of the almost-forgotten Tim Naehring, one of his heroes growing up. How did Pedro’s first game as a Sox cost me over $200, and the threat of dismemberment or divorce. Now that one is a story you don’t want to miss!
People, always people!
Episode 30: Baseball and Life
The New York Yankees may have won the most pennants and World Series in baseball history, but no team has taught us more about life and how to live it than the Boston Red Sox.
Let’s start with a few facts one needs to know, to know the truth of the above statement. In the early years of 20th century the Red Sox won every one of the five World Series in which they played, four of those in the teens, the last in 1918, making them the dominant team in that era. In the early years of this century the Red Sox won every one of the four World Series in which they played, in 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018, making them the dominant team of this era. That is represented on my dresser by four Waterford Crystal etched baseballs made by that iconic company, gifted to me by my baseball-loving wife, Lois. In the eighty-six years in between the last of those victories in 1918 and the win in 2004, the Sox suffered a drought which bid fair never to end, a drought often called “The Curse of the Bambino,” a reference to when the Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees to support their owner’s Broadway ambitions. Sure, the Red Sox offered lots of thrills, great players, four AL pennants, many disappointments, and NO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, in those many years, despite taking every one of the four World Series in which they competed in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986 to the full seven games. I attended a game in the 1946 Series against the Cardinals which the Sox lost 12-3, a harbinger of their loss in the 7th game aided by the intrepid base-running of Enos Slaughter, and the continuation of Ted Williams’ Series-long slump in which he batted a minuscule .200, with nary an extra base hit! Let’s take 1967, the year of the “Impossible Dream,” when Hall of Famer, Carl Yastrzemski’s incredible play won the pennant for his upstart team, and the triple crown and MVP for himself. Carl continued his heroics in the Series, but the team fell victim to the speed of Lou Brock and the power pitching of Bob Gibson who won three games. How about 1975 when Carlton Fisk slammed a walk-off homer forever caught by the camera as Fisk willed it fair, to win the sixth game against Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine,” a game often cited as the best game in baseball history. This win made torturous the Sox loss of the seventh game on Joe Morgan’s bloop hit to short center field. Let us not forget 1978 in passing when Bucky “F——-g” Dent, as he has come to be known in these precincts, hit yet another blooper into the net atop the “Green Monster,” to do the Sox out of the AL pennant and the World Series. Or 1986 when Bill Buckner found a way to misplay a LIttle League ground ball to first into a Mets win and World Championship for them. Them, always them, for eighty-six long years, them!
Yes, I lived through a lot of this, from my first game with my Dad in 1935 onward. You can tell yourself that it’s only a game, that it has no real effect on my life. But you know what? We live every moment, whether we’re out there at the game, seeing it on television, or listening to it on the radio. During this podcast, Jordan Rich tells of not being able to sleep after the Buckner game. That is more typical than atypical. It shows how passionately millions of baseball fans are invested in their teams. As I’ve tried to show above, one might truly say Red Sox fans are greatly invested, perhaps the most invested, and certainly the most disappointed fans of all, a feeling lately repeating itself when they lost a playoff series against the Astros they should have won to reach the World Series.
So what does all that have to do with life? I believe that although baseball is not life, it simulates life in its ups and downs, its triumphs and defeats, so that if you are passionately invested in it, and FEEL those ups and downs as they unfold, sometimes often in any single game, it teaches you, mostly subliminally, to deal with life’s ups and downs, the good and bad, as your own life unfolds. One might say that the upside of the downside of baseball is that the true follower grows and becomes a better person. I FEEL that is true!
People, always people!
Episode 29: Hot Dogs, Baseball, and Babe Ruth
“Take me out to the ballgame, buy me some peanuts and crackerjack….” How about a hot dog too? What goes down better at the old ballgame than a hot dog? I have some stories about hot dogs at Fenway Park that tell tales about more than just eating them. Listen and you shall hear. About one that almost killed me. Another with which I almost killed another guy. Well, a bit of hyperbole there. We’ll get to a preview of that.
First, a little history. Who were the opponents in Fenway’s first game ever in 1912, less than a week before the Titanic went down with Leonard DeCaprio aboard:)? Right, the Red Sox and the Harvard University nine. They did a redux in 1916. The Sox won the pennant in both those years. How could the Harvards match wits and hits with a team featuring players like Tris Speaker and Babe Ruth? Predictably, they lost the 1912 game, but amazingly they vanquished the Sox in 1916.
Today it’s all about AL MVP Shohei Ohtani, a great pitcher and slugger. Hey, what about George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Red Sox slugging and pitching star in the 19teens who was arguably the best pitcher and batter in the AL even before he got to the Yankees? And what about his grand home in Sudbury, Massachusetts, with its big grand piano which the Babe toted in a state of inebriation and threw it into Willis Pond fronting his manse to show off his strength. Babe Ruth didn’t want to leave Boston. He loved it here. Blame it on Sox owner, Harry Frazee, who loved Broadway, and the show, “No, No, Nanette,” more than he loved baseball, and sold the Babe to the Yankees to finance it!
Babe Ruth very likely saved baseball from ruination following the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal with his outsize personality and incredible batting skills. Who else could boast in later years that the reason he was being paid more than the President was because, “I had a better year than he did!”
Oh yeah, hot dogs. How could a puny guy hit a Ruthian home that almost removed me forever from the ranks of the bleacher boys? How could fastidious me dump a gargantuan hot dog on an unsuspecting box seat customer? Listen and I’ll tell you more. What do peas in the sky have to do with Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and my wife, Lois? Is this podcast all about food? Did I have to tell on it why I don’t like buffets? Or why architects don’t like Fenway Park? And what does the old long defunct Record-American newspaper have to do with my parents, the Nazi attack on Poland to open WWII, the Berklee Performance Center, longtime Yankee pitcher “Bump” Hadley from Lynn, Mass., the last game of Ty Cobb’s career in 1928, and the emergence of rookie Ted Williams in 1939? Believe me, they all hang together, and then some. For that matter what do the York Times and the University of Massachusetts have to do with a Jimmy Foxx walk-off home run in 1940 with then sophomore Teddy Ballgame on base? Dusty libraries make the difference. What does that mean? OK, how about 1942, a year after “The Kid” hit .406, when at eleven I got my picture in the paper with him? Or in 1943 when Ted outslugged the Babe in the midst of WWII? Me, alias Zaftig, has a few JFK stories too. Did he really say ‘Hi Larry” to me ascending the stairs at historic Faneuil Hall to give a speech on the eve of Election Day in 1960?
If this all sounds a little scattered with lots of questions, I promise if you listen I’ll make sense out of it all. Even my friend Jordan Rich is a doubter, retreating from the mike as we ended, saying about the drink in my hand, “I’m afraid you’ll spill it on me.”
People, always people!
Episode 28: Ted Williams, Priscilla Howe, and Me
Who was beautiful Priscilla Howe? What has she got to do with handsome Ted Williams? What do I have to do with either one of these two talented people? You’ll have to wait until the end of this note to get to that part of the story, and listen to the podcast to get the whole story.
Let’s start with something more serious, that being the central place baseball held and still holds in American life, in fact a glue that holds it together, as “Rudy Giuliani The First” reminded us as the Mayor of Gotham, days after the Twin Towers were felled. How stuck the diamond game is to our national culture was yet again shown during the pandemic.
Detroit, home to haters Henry Ford and Father Coughlin, was a hotbed of anti-Semitism in the years before and during WWII, when Henry “Hank” Greenberg, two-time AL MVP, played there and demonstrated that Jews were no sissies. This handsome 6’ 4” giant home-run champion held off the haters with his fists when necessary, joined the service before Pearl Harbor, rose from the ranks to be a Captain, served four years, returned in 1945 to lead the Tigers to yet another pennant, went on to rise to GM and then part owner of the Cleveland Indians, and crossed the line to help Marvin Miller and the players win free agency! Did “Hankus Pankus,” as he was known, personally support, on the field of play, Jackie Robinson in his quest to break the color line? Yes, he did. Did he nurture his lifelong friend, Ralph Kiner, to be the NL Home Run Champ seven consecutive seasons to become worthy of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Yes, he did. Was Hank Greenberg the greatest American Jew of the 20th century? Arguably, yes he was, as the hero to millions of American Jews in an era when anti-Semitism was rife.
You want to know about the Boston Braves who departed Boston for Milwaukee in 1953 taking away from Boston Hall of Fame stars like the winningest lefty in MLB history, Warren Spahn; feared slugger, Eddie Mathews; and maybe the best MLB player ever, the late “Hank” Aaron, not to mention four-time twenty-game-winner Johnny Sain, who could well be in the Hall of Fame. The Braves had acquired other stars to play in Boston, like Paul and Lloyd Waner, known as “Big Poison” and “Little Poison,” Hall of Famers both; two-time NL batting champion, and yet another Hall of Famer, Ernie Lombardi; NL 1948 MVP, Bob Elliott; slugger Wally Berger, and many others. Listen and you shall hear.
You want to know about the woeful NFL Boston Yanks, whose main claim to fame was bringing to Fenway Park opposing football superstars like Sammy Baugh, Bob Waterfield. Sid Luckman, and Don Hutson to treat us to gridiron thrills? Listen and you shall hear.
OK, let’s talk about Priscilla Howe. Petite, charming, talented enough as a band singer to appear on the Arthur Godfrey show, and regularly at Boston’s well-known Rainbow Room, impressionable enough to be impressed to take a liking to me to the consternation of the leader of her band, one Sammy Dale, who had a Mickey slipped to me which could have killed me. Listen and you shall hear!
Taking Priscilla to one of Teddy Ballgame’s last games ever late in the 1960 season seemed like a better bet to escape harm. I predicted for Priscilla what Ted was about to do which he promptly did. Listen to what he did! That caused my podcast partner and good friend, Jordan Rich, to say on air, “You really know how to impress a chick,” adding, “Thank you Chuck Estrada, wherever you are.” Who is Chuck Estrada? What is he doing in this story? Listen, and you shall hear 😀!
People, always people!
Episode 27: My Eighty-Two Year Love Affair
An eighty-two year love affair! That is next to impossible, especially considering that a romance that began in the teen years would now be over one hundred years old! Oh, I forgot, this is a love affair with a ballpark, the most iconic one in America, Fenway Park in Boston, where my Dad first took me at age five in 1936. I have attended there ever since, now more than eighty-two years ago. Could I have known that in addition to the many diamond thrills I enjoyed there, a day at the pinnacle in my latecoming literary career would occur there in 2013, a day that added some famous names to the growing list that career brought to me, usually face to face. All that In this short seventeen minute podcast? Oh yes! So better you listen, because what is here written is only enough to whet your taste buds.
The Red Sox, under the leadership of their three owners, the liberal and brilliant entrepreneur, John Henry, the veteran and successful baseball executive, Larry Lucchino, and the well-known entertainment mogul, Tom Werner, brought to Fenway a series called, “The Great Fenway Park Writers Series,” a first in MLB history. Under the guidance of its founder, the late George Mitrovich, politico and idea guy, many great writers stood at the podium in the upper reaches of Fenway Park to tell about their books. I never thought that I would get the call from George, but I did. George wanted me to talk about my 2013 baseball and cultural history book, American Jews and America’s Game. I chose the irrepressible dentist, Dr. Charles Steinberg, far more adept at pulling rabbits out of hats than teeth out of mouths, to be my guest on the show. Charles is the same guy who oversaw all those extravaganzas at Fenway you saw on television with a huge American flag draped over The Green Monster, otherwise known as the left field wall, and former Sox players from the year one trooping in from deep center field to surround the mound. Charles wowed me and everybody there in answer to my convoluted and idiosyncratic first question invoking Edward Bernays, the founder of public relations, and his uncle, famed Viennese psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud. That made it easy for me to get along fine with the now warmed up and softened audience, each required to buy a copy of my book to gain admittance. In the audience were luminaries like Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe columnist, Kevin Cullen, who also wrote a best seller about famous mobster, Whitey Bulger, after emerging unscathed but unsettled from his South Boston lair some years before. Kevin and I continued our conversation, begun at the event, later that Wednesday evening at a party at the home of socialites and broadcasters, the late Smoki Bacon and the late Dick Concannon.
Sitting with Kevin was the biographer of Ted Williams that very year, Ben Bradlee, Jr. I suggested to Ben that his marvelous biography on the “Splendid Splinter” could be understood as telling about the greatness and deficiencies of Ted Williams on its surface, and those of the United States subliminally. Ted, after all, was a great player, a storied fisherman, and a courageous wartime flier, as well as often being loud, vulgar, ugly, and violent, sort of a mirror image of America.
My stay in the ether surprisingly continued two days later when Kevin featured me in his Boston Globe column that Friday. He wrote there too about Sox southpaw relief pitcher, Craig Breslow, whom I had talked about on Wednesday, dubbed by many as “the smartest man in baseball” because of his degree in esoteric science subjects at Yale University, and about the entire pennant-winning hirsute Red Sox squad. Kevin wrote they looked like rabbis, observing that, “Those beards are working,” as they drove toward their World Series victory. Talk about free publicity!
This podcast ends with a few words about my favorite Sox players, Mookie Betts, now alas the leader of the Dodgers, and the colorful Ted Williams way back, a harbinger of the next podcasts which will take you further into the fascinating world of baseball. See you there.
People, always people!
Episode 26: Nonagenarians and Democracy
Nonagenarians have an advantage over others of lesser years. Starting life in 1932 or earlier, they have witnessed a large part of the 20th century and a significant portion of this one, and all the stupendous changes in society and the world over in that period of time. They are experiencing a change now that they never thought they would witness. That is the threat to our own democracy, now extant for close to 250 years, and to democracies all around the world. All three principals in this podcast are nonagenarians who have lived in or near Brookline, Massachusetts for most of their Iives. They are Justin “Jerry” Wyner, now 97, former Moderator of the Brookline Town Meeting; Marshall Smith, the founder of Paperback Booksmith, and the force behind the Paperback Revolution of the 1960’s, and my classmate at Brookline High School, Class of 1948; and myself. Marshall and I will turn 91 in 2022, God willing. All three of us have made a mark professionally, Jerry as the CEO of Shawmut Mills, his family’s highly successful business, and is known for his participation in Jewish affairs locally, nationally, and internationally. Marshall is a successful entrepreneur in whatever field he enters, especially in books, which he regards as indispensable to the populace of a democratic country. In my work as a lawyer, and now as an author, I have always loved American democracy and freedom, and have done what I could to protect it. Each of us is still fully engaged in life and work.
Let’s take Jerry and Town Meeting first. This is where democracy starts. As the French philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, author of “Democracy in America,” observed when he visited America almost two hundred years ago, “The town….exists in all nations….It is man who makes monarchies….but the township seems to come directly from the hand of God. Town meeting….bring(s) it within the people’s reach.” Indeed! Jerry Wyner invoked as a precedent to the first vote of any town meeting in the country, the vote of the Brookline Town Meeting to bring home the troops from Vietnam, the action of the very same Brookline Town Meeting in 1773 opining on the Boston Tea Party.
As you will hear from me on this podcast, and as you have read, local institutions everywhere have been attacked in the last few years. The divisiveness in the country has been seen lately for the first time ever in the Brookline Town Meeting. The constructs of democracy gifted to us by our founders are under threat of dissolution in all corners of the land.
Marshall Smith, a man who doesn’t say a lot but does a lot, recognized when he founded his first paperback bookstore in 1961 that “democracy is founded on the knowledge of its citizenry.” Thus he took as his mission to broaden the scope of paperbacks to cover a multiplicity of subjects. Not long after, under the impetus of Marshall and others, the number of paperback titles grew exponentially in number and subjects from 3,000 to 30,000, including titles in fiction, non-fiction, history, political science, science, and other subjects. That signal event has been dubbed, “The Paperback Revolution.”
Both of these gentlemen are personal friends. Their families and friends are more than interesting. My own interactions with each of them are informative, and sometimes humorous. I think you’ll enjoy all of that on this podcast, as well as the discussion of the present crisis.
I thought I should devote this note to the sections in the podcast of existential importance - the threat we face of losing our cherished democracy, the longest lasting democracy in the world’s history.
People, always people!
Episode 25: The Two Faces of Rudy Giuliani
Within a month after the horrific events of 9/11, I wrote a story entitled, “Baseball, Brookline and Giuliani.” There existed then another Rudy Giuliani who resembled the one seen lately aspiring to become the mayor of Kiev in the Ukraine. That Rudy Giuliani was a terrific DA, and then a terrific mayor of New York City. A few weeks after 9/11 he was seen rallying Americans at the World Series, and intoning accurately that, “Baseball has an amazing grip on people. It is a unifying force.” That Rudy was a real unifier, not the divider his alter ego became.
How right Rudy was! America came together in those almost now-forgotten days, perhaps for the last time. What is it about baseball that has such force? It can’t really be defined. It has to be experienced. It lies in mysterious regions, like music. One way to approach it is in the telling and retelling of ordinary folks‘ baseball experiences. That is what I tried to do in the story. That is what I tell about in this podcast. Like how “Bunny” Solomon got to catch for his grammar school team when regular catcher, “Wiggy” Wiggins fell out of a tree and broke his wrist. “Bunny” had “a proud moment” when out of the corner of his eye he caught his Dad proudly watching behind the backstop! Like how Pops conductor, Harry Ellis Dickson, would sit with his friend, famed movie star and comedian, Danny Kaye, in the press box at Fenway Park, munching hot dogs and talking baseball. Like how Bob Sperber, longtime innovative Brookline Superintendent of Schools, was given a “Fifty is Nifty” birthday party by his workers, the motif of which, as shown by the Red Sox-themed paraphernalia they created, was his love of the Red Sox and dislike of the Yankees of his native city. And what about Brookline folklorist and School Committeeman, Owen Carle, whose hilarious baseball recollections include his grammar school principal, Charles Taylor, giving him a baseball to make a serious point; French philosopher Albert Camus; his violinist mother, Florence Owen Mills; the megaphone-toting public address announcer of the lineups for that day’s game at old Braves Field, Eddie O’Brien; his bottle collecting to make a profit with later rabbi, Al Rubin, at the 1936 MLB All-Star Game, which turned out not to be very profitable, and his trip with the the local nine to play the Young Men’s Polish Association of Manchester, NH, where his outfield collision with budding artist Billy Maynard resulted in Billy’s tooth sticking in Owen’s hand. That left the team with only eight players. Who won? Did Billy ever get his tooth back?
As for me, I have many baseball memories, marking the seasons of my life and how my character developed. My words ending that story of a generation ago seem as true now as they were then:
“For sure that grip and that force are being felt all across America every day and every night in these baseball days following the trauma of 9/11, somehow diverting us, helping us to heal the wound, and making us yet again feel whole as a people”
Listen and meet these people.
People, always people!
Episode 24: John Gallagher and Dr. David Link, Two Jewish Brookline Guys Who Changed the World
John Gallagher Jewish? Sounds Irish to me. The John Gallagher who was the President of the world-famous Longwood Cricket Club where tennis is king and was deplored for its policy of not admitting Jews as members? The very same. The guy who wore a custom-made mezuzzah with a Star of David and a shamrock embedded in it, not to mention attending more Bar Mitzvahs than most Jews, knew lots of Yiddish phrases, had his own yarmulke, and sent his daughter, Amanda, to pre-school at nearby Temple Emeth where Rabbi Zev Nelson led the congregation? Why not? It was Zev Nelson who taught John Jewish history as a a kid, befriending him when John’s forty-four Jewish classmates at Baker, the local public school, left him and two others not Jewish alone, when they attended Nelson’s Jewish history class. “Three is not a baseball team,” as John puts it, so he snuck into Temple Emeth and joined that class, thus becoming Jewish, sort of. Enough to later become a Shabbat father in Amanda’s class, the only Irishman to be so honored. John says, “That is how I became an Honorary Jew AND an Irish Catholic. It shows Brookline’s egalitarianism.” At least in South Brookline, it might be said. Brookline has had its own racial problems. But not lately at Longwood which has outgrown its earlier bad rep, and now, as John proudly points out, is an oasis, open and equal, fun and friendly, moderate and not boisterous, respectful to all, the only requirement for admittance being a love for tennis. John’s Irish credentials include his stepfather, “Last Hurrah” Mayor of Boston, James Michael Curley, and his grandfather, the erudite former counsel to the Boston Globe, Francis T. Leahy. That gentleman took John into his home when his father passed early, where he reaped the benefit of learning Latin and locution at his grandad’s knee, and the pleasure of interacting with his forty-four first cousins, and other members of the Leahy clan. John learned the art of getting along in a large family so well that he became an all-time integrator of peoples.
The world lost a great doctor and humanitarian when Dr. David Link unwillingly and prematurely left the world a few months ago. As an expert in vaccination he would have brought help to many souls in this pandemic. Leaving the profitable private practice of his early years to take up the far less remunerative practice of pediatric primary care and public health for the less affluent here and abroad, allied with his work as the Head of Pediatrics for over thirty years at the Cambridge Health Alliance and the Mt. Auburn Hospital. In that role, David traveled often to Africa and Europe to improve health systems. The Jewish Community Relations Council commissioned David and his team to visit Dnieperpetrovsk, the city of Peter the Great, to introduce the vaccine for Hepatitis B so Ukrainians could get there what we get here. His team won 10,000 patients to that vaccine. Revisiting some years later, David was happy to see the plan had been legislated into law so the vaccine was available country wide. His major interest was children. Loving music learned from his Viennese Mozart-loving family, David said maybe he could save a kid who would become a Mozart - that if Mozart could have been saved from his early death from kidney disease at thirty-five we would now have over 1,000 of his works instead of only 600. In my own case, it may be I owe an existential debt to David. When I developed an invasive melanoma above my left eye a few years ago, he told me in no uncertain terms that, “Anyone who has a melanoma in or around Boston who doesn’t go for care to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute is nuts.” I went. I’m here. Thank you Dr. David Link!
People, always people!
Episode 23: Looking Backwards to See the Future
That is what historians do! That is what preservationists do! Many a wise man has said that we can’t see where we’re going if we have no awareness of where we’ve been. Human nature remains the same. The lessons we need to navigate forward are all there in our history. Two late Brookline people who knew that were Jane Holtz Kay and Dr. John "Jack" Little. It seems Jane was born knowing it, raised by her eminent lawyer father, Jackson Holtz, to read, read, read, which brought her as a student at Radcliffe College to stand before Brookline’s 19th Century ornate and beautiful Town Hall in her famous and futile attempt to save it from the wrecking ball. That led to her book, Lost Boston, (1980), which told in words and remarkable pictures how many of Boston’s great homes and buildings of earlier times had met a similar fate. I clearly remember when first looking at that book how sad I was to see how development had won over good sense. It was In Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took over America and How We Can Take It Back (1997), that the prescient Jane Holtz, expanding on the ideas of Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s most renowned landscape architect, that Kay hit full stride as an exemplar of urban design and the conservation of natural and urban environments a generation before others got on board. She demonstrated the deleterious dominance of the car on American culture and climate. To prove it Jane sold her car and got along very well without it living in Boston’s Back Bay. She opted for trains, bicycles, less cars, and living densely. What a lady! What a generous person in my own life, always helping me in my early efforts as a writer.
And what about Jack Little, another Jewish preservationist whose mother, noted historian, Nina Fletcher Little, lived at Brookline’s famous palace of Jewish learning The Maimonides School, named after the famous Jewish 12th Century philosopher. Well, not reallly, not at all. The school stands on the grounds and in the structure of the former affluent Fletcher home where Nina lived as a child looking out on Boylston Street and its horse drawn carriages, now Route 9. In later years Nina returned home in 1978, by when it was the Maimonides School, to give a reading of her work, “Reminiscences of the Philbrick Road Neighborhood,” which the home and now the school partially bordered. She and her husband, Bertram Kimball Little, both noted preservationists, brought Jack Little up in the same tradition in an old house not far away on Warren Street. Besides preserving and building early TV’s, radios, and autos, Jack, as President of the Brookline Historical Society, preserved old houses such as the famous Devotion House which dated back to the 17th Century and where the curator of the Society lives. In his college years Jack and a friend drove an old Model T Ford 12,000 miles over four months seeing the USA, and repeated the exploit in his Army years in Europe in a French Citroen. That led to his collection of vintage cars and old medical apparatus. Truly, Jack Little preserved the past! Indeed Dr.Little even found time to become one of the most famous radiological researchers in the world during his long tenure as a Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, writing five hundred or more published articles, and receiving many honors. Whenever I ran into Jack he always met me with a big smile.
Listen to hear me tell more about these two incredible people!
People, always people!
Episode 22: Irishmen and Irishwoman Are a Boy’s Best Friend
How could I know that I would spend twenty of the happiest years of my life from age 69 to 89 at one of the most undesirable office locations in Brookline:), amidst a gang of Irishmen, two Irishwomen, a Garage Punk Midwesterner, and a severe Italian landlady. After all, I had just recently inhabited the grandest office in Brookline’s famous Coolidge Corner. Sure, I wanted a small and private space to test out my notion of becoming an author and historian, but what was I getting myself into? My tough landlord, Patricia Simboli, had me cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, probably figuring this old guy will be outta here in no time with his grandiose notions. As (bad) luck would have it, on my first day my office mates, each having their own small office, were out in the hall talking, chief among them the seemingly unwelcoming husband and wife legal team, Joe and Paula Killion. Being crazy me, I said, “Hey everybody, I’m just what you need up here, an old Jewish guy.” That broke the ice. We all became immediate friends, and that warmth continued forever.
Joe turned out to be a pussycat who helped me out of the trouble my bad driving habits induced, and discussed baseball with me constantly, he having been a star pitcher at Holy Cross. He also proved to be the Champion Pack-Rat of all time! Brilliant criminal defense lawyer, Paula Killion, stared at me with her gorgeous blue Irish eyes, set in a face of flawless alabaster skin, but later shared with me her vast knowledge of the criminal law and shrewd opinions of people. Linda Gavin, Esq. became a chapter in my book, Voices of Brookline, when she was married by the Town Clerk to her longtime same sex partner at the Brookline Town Hall right after the Massachusetts Supreme Court allowed such unions in the landmark “Goodrich” case. Gentle Walter Landergan flawlessly handled several cases I referred to him with honesty and respect. Walter was close to Joe, and was broken up, as were we all, when Joe passed early at seventy. Walter and I bonded as friends. So too I bonded with the low key Steve Simon who startlingly combined that persona with his love of garage punk music which he blasted out on his program on Boston College radio station WZBZ. Steve’s late small dog, Chloe, came to the office often with Steve, and whimpered when I called him down the hall from his sanctum sanctorum to fish me out of my ineptitude on my computer. It turned out that Patricia Simboli possessed a full measure of warm Italian family feeling when she told me of her happiness with me as a tenant, and of her pride in my success. My luck in friends had held, coming as I did from my previous big quarters and my long friendship there with David Jensen, Esq., who like those above possessed a warm personality that has made us friends to this day.
Listen and you’ll hear much more about these nice folks! Who knows, you might get to like lawyers!
People, always people!
Episode 21: Life and Death
Does anybody have the ridiculous notion he or she will live forever? Yeah, me! Not really, but when Jordan Rich asked me on this podcast why I had waited to age eighty-five to have drawn an estate plan, that is what I answered, along with saying I was having too much fun to think about death. He asked why so many people never get around to drawing a will, let alone an estate plan? I replied that folks don’t want to think about death, although that was not true in my case. My thinking was crystallized into action when an older couple for whom I had drafted a will some years previously consulted me about a codicil to their will. By that time it was plain that their holdings required an estate plan drawn by an expert in that specialty. I sought one out for them. We met with her. She impressed me mightily. Her name is Kristin Shirahama, whose persona impressed many, resulting in her election as President of the Women's Bar Association while still in her thirties, and a partnership in a large Boston law firm a few years after we met. Cool, calm, and collected is Kristin as a professional, warm as a person! I retained Kristin to draw a plan for Lois and me, a necessity in many ways, not least because I am a decade older than my wife of fifty-eight years.
In an unusual collaboration Kristin and I joined forces on a plan leaving major gifts to several charities when we’re gone. She handled the expert advising and drafting required, and I met the leaders of the various charities considered. It required two years to get it right, but the the result was the plan of my and Lois’ dreams. That included the warm friendship Lois and I sought with Kristin for the long term, unanticipated benefits from the charities chosen, such as the august New England Historical Genealogical Society collecting my authorial papers and publishing them on the worldwide net, arrangements for a foundation grant to the newly formed Jewish Heritage Center, a valued participatory association with the Yiddish Book Center, and other honors of the same ilk. The experience directed my thinking to the needs of elder people, and the ideas expressed in my memoir that older folks need not take to the sidelines, but can remain immersed every day in life. For example, anybody can write about their own life for the benefit of family, friends, and associates, even if not for commercial dissemination, by the simple act of dredging their memory for the forgotten incidents of a long life. Everyone has a story to tell! Everyone in reasonable health can contribute meaningfully to their own and others’ lives until their dying day.
Listen to this podcast and hear that not only in my words, but in how I speak those words.
People, always people!
Episode 20: The Minister Disappears, the Silver Screen, and Other Fascinating Cases
You’ve had a look at some terrific lawyers in the last podcast. Now take a listen to some of my own interesting, if not fascinating, cases.
I got a call from my friend ‘Horatio’ one morning asking if I’d be interested in the case of the respected Newton minister who apparently drowned off scenic Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts some years past, and had suddenly turned up alive, wanting to return to home, parish, and wife who, along with everybody else, thought him dead. YES, I softly said at the top of my lungs. Too much to tell here about this publicity attracting case, the handling of which they don’t teach in law school, but listen and relive the adventure with me.
The same might be said about my participation in bringing to these shores the infamous porn film, “I am Curious Yellow.” The legal twists and turns of this case were way more titillating (pardon the pun) than those shown by the so-called lovers on the silver screen in that flick, but our legal team was rewarded aplenty as Americans flocked to see it.
Tinsel Town has its own dark side as you will hear in the case I’ve dubbed ‘“Righting a Wrong,.” In that one a lawyer from north of the Mason Dixon Line (me) joined with another barrister interested in justice from beneath it, to beat Hollywood at its own game and return wherewithal and mental health to a kindly gent who exhibited movies as a sideline. That kind of a case leaves one with a good feeling!
Should you get into an accident involving bodily injury, it’s a bad idea to flee the scene. This otherwise nice guy and family man did, and the gendarmes didn’t track him down until twenty or more miles from the scene. The lady DA was intent on putting him away in a dangerous State prison for a decade or more! What to do? How to help this guy? You’ll see how I did when you listen to this tale of tactical decisions in the courtroom setting along the way to the result.
No homeowner wants to have a single family house next door expanded into a much larger two family house to take advantage of the exploding value of houses in Brookline and depreciate the value of your own house, a town conveniently surrounded on three sides by easily reached Boston, but yet retaining its distinct non-commercial environment, open spaces, and great schools. I didn’t when I was threatened with such a disaster. So I fought it, rounding up all four of my adjacent and also threatened neighbors, joining forces with a Brookline zoning lawyer, and going to work. Do you own a house, want to buy one, or have an interest in what lawyers do in this kind of not uncommon neighborhood dispute. Then you’ll learn a thing or two listening to this case.
Can you imagine arguing yet another movie case in front of the highly respected Chief Judge of the Massachusetts Superior Court in which the judge imitated a bunny rabbit. I can’t, but it happened to me, and here I’ll tell you all about it.
People, always people!
Episode 19: Legal Eagles
Do you want a look inside the otherwise opaque world of lawyers? Listen and you shall hear. Like when as a fledging lawyer I was assigned a criminal case to defend pro bono. I thought the defendant had been imprisoned too long to have received the speedy trial guaranteed by the Constitution, and took my argument to Judge Charles Wyzanski, appointed by FDR, and by then a mythical jurist, respected by all, feared by many. He bought my argument, and angrily summoned then Massachusetts United States Attorney, Elliott Richardson, who went on to world fame, to fess up. The case ended well, and Larry and Elliott, an odd couple for sure, became longtime friends.
Several other well-regarded attorneys, who may have viewed my work habits dimly, affected my development profoundly. Like Morris Michelson, a meticulous lawyer’s lawyer civil trial attorney who taught me the basics of that craft, introduced me to my lifelong passion for classical music, and to a Committee of top Boston lawyers committed to social justice and Jewish values.
My early association with wizard real estate attorney and draftsman, Melvin Newman, brought out my previously hidden talent for the facile and clear drafting of legal documents. Through Mel I met Julian Cohen, not a lawyer, but a fabulously talented real estate developer, Chief Fueling Officer in his twenties for convoys in the North Atlantic in WWII, the biggest philanthropist to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and to my good fortune, a valued friend.
Another legal eagle of my youth was Sumner Kaplan, Judge, Selectman, General in the Army, and State Representative, who was instrumental in my appointment as an Assistant AG for Civil Rights in the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Edward J. McCormack, Jr., whose uncle, John W. McCormack, was Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. My senior there was Gerald Berlin, a clarinet playing tough Southerner transplanted from Virginia, appointed by the forward looking Eddie McCormack to lead his newly formed and groundbreaking Office of Civil Rights. Gerry was passionate about fairness in our country, and included me to assist in the United Stated Supreme Court case of “Gideon vs. Wainwright,” one of the most famous cases in 20th Century jurisprudence.
The best friend of all is Paul Sugarman, who rose from nearbthe bottom rung of the societal heap to the very top of the ladder as perhaps Boston’s top lawyer of the last half of the 20th century, a man for all seasons, who found time to be my longtime friend in and out of bad times.
People, always people!
Episode 18: Row Hard, No Excuses
How could I know my life changed direction the day my longtime and esteemed legal assistant, Cathy Jenness, came into my office and asked for a week off. “Sure,” I said, adding, “What for?” Cathy said her husband Mike was leading his gig racing crew to compete in the championships in the Scilly Isles off Land’s End in England. “Wow, sounds exciting,” I said to Cathy. “I wonder if Mike would let me come along.” A day or so later came a “Yes“ from Mike, star lineman at Northeastern, veteran police officer, boat builder with this father, team leader, and all around nice guy. So off I went.
The Scilly Isles are much more about the ocean than the mainland of England. Its folks are English, of course, but a people unto themselves, living on these remote islands. Famous for its gigs, an open narrow and light boat built for speed, requiring six rowers and a coxswain, used in the past from the late 17th Century to guide incoming sailing vessels over the dangerous shoals in the Scillies, or sometimes for the nefarious practice of plundering the cargo of foundered ships. Even worse was the practice of mooncussing, the placing of decoy signal fires to induce a shipwreck, subdue the survivors, and plunder the wreckage. In modern times gigs are more peaceably employed for racing among crews from the Scillies, England, France, the Netherlands, the Faroe Islands, Australia, Bermuda, and America.
The Scillies offer wind, weather, and rough seas enough too charm and excite any adventurer. So adventurous, in fact, that amid the tumult and excitement of the races, positioned on a crowded open observer boat with my heavy camera, accessories, and attire, standing to get a better view, I totally forgot caution, lost my balance, and began falling in the direction of the bottom of the sea, when a strong Dutch athlete caught me in her arms and stayed my fall. Water is life! Water is death! And yet, still adventurous enough for me to capture many more images of the races, stirring enough for me to write about those rapturous days with my new comrades, and to submit my first ever authorial effort to publisher Bob Hicks, who unexpectedly featured it on the front page that year, and again on the front page the following year in his national periodical, “Messing About in Boats”
That year Mike, his crew, and lucky me ventured to the castle town of Muiden, outside of Amsterdam for another Pilot Gig Racing Championship round. On that trip, I combined observing and photographing by day the rowers fighting the dangerous and storm swept seas which almost engulfed the women of “Team Saquish,” as Mike styled his team, and enjoying my abode along one of Amsterdam’s famous canals with my charming Dutch husband and wife bed and breakfast hosts. The Muiden races ended with a loud, boisterous, but quite friendly tent party of a thousand or more which inspired me to leap on a table and wave the Stars and Stripes aloft, and in Amsterdam with attending a rock concert with my host.
My life had changed. I had become a writer, another adventure which ultimately led to my writing my memoir which I came to realize was written not only to share my unexpected path into old age, but to give “....meaning to my life. That extends life! And it’s something YOU can experience. I think that is the main reason I wrote this memoir,....I’m hoping my life,.... may help you find meaning at any time of life,” as I put it spontaneously in the very first podcast of this series. Indeed, you can set your life down for your own family, friends, and associates.
People, always people!
Episode 17: Greg Spiers - The Best Boy Next Door
I think the title of this podcast could have been, “Greg Spiers - The Best Buy Next Door.” Here’s why. Some years ago I went to Best Buy for expert advice on an item I was considering. Greg was the salesman. Not only was he very pleasant to deal with, but seemed to know cyberspace from endless end to endless end. In our long conversation it turned out like ESP that Greg lived in the house a door or two down the street from my office. Like Rick and Captain Louis Renault in “Casablanca,” that was the start of a beautiful friendship between two guys fifty plus years apart in age, which continues to this day. Not only did the brilliant Greg drag me kicking and screaming into the computer age, and help me on my magnum opus about baseball and Jews. He met my wife, Lois, became like family, and watched over me with advice like, “Hang onto any railing in sight,” as I advanced from my seventies to my nineties. Not that it was one way. Greg sought my advice in his struggle between his low key outward demeanor, and the boiling anger in this highly idiosyncratic person against what he deemed to be the deficiencies in our society to which he would not kowtow. His views can be seen on his Facebook page. For example, Greg refused to do an unpaid internship to win an advanced degree which would have positioned him well to get a highly paid position in the field of cybernetics in biology. His objection was not money oriented, but because of his belief that the intern system took advantage of students. His posture today, fifteen or so years after we met, remains essentially the same. Somewhere along the line he met Carrie Schepker, then an aspiring doctor, now a respected one, who is headed for a starry career. Another example of ESP! Greg and Carrie have formed a warm and seemingly permanent bond in their years together, and prefer now to remain unmarried and without children, against the wishes of close family on both sides. Carrie, as warm as she is capable, as loyal as she is sure of her own mind, has become our dear friend too. Our friendship is a give and take between two very informed millennials and two very informed seniors which is of benefit to each twosome in expanding their respective consciousnesses of trends in societies today. Millennials will soon take over responsibility for administering the world with their very different and very welcome views on how people might get along better. I guess the moral of this story is that if you speak easily and naturally to folks you meet from all walks of life, you may find true friends from any generation who will expand the meaning of your own life.
People, always people!
Episode 16: Baseball and America's Survival
On this podcast you will hear how a theatrical event that started out lightheartedly surprisingly turned into something deadly serious, became an adventure, and brought me a bunch of new and talented friends. Actor and playwright, Larry Tish, contacted me one day saying he would like to write a comic play adapted from my book, American Jews and America’s Game. Flattering? Yes. I met Larry. Terrific guy. Knew nothing about baseball. So what I told myself was, “I’ll teach him and his partner, Lee Goodwin, enough for the purpose.” I said, “How about a musical? I know a talented composer, Erin Murray, who just graduated Berklee College of Music.” The three took to each other, and ultimately decided to leave me out of the writing. OK, see how it goes. Well, it went well enough to be produced several times in Boston, Maine, New York, and finally at the home of the late philanthropist and arts enthusiast, Ted Cutler. Alas, money was wanting to continue advancing the play, cleverly named, “Jews on First,” by Larry Tish’s daughter, after Abbott and Costello’s famous line, “Who’s on First?” What to do? Larry and Lee bowed out, as it were. Using that title, I bowed in, writing a short history of Jews in America since the late 19th Century through Depression times to the present. I befriended and hired a brilliant young woman, Jillian Offermann, still in college, to gather illustrations to be sequenced and related to the history, a talent she had expertly nurtured since her mid-teens. The result was a montage of several hundred photos perfectly matched to the narrative, but which created copyright and brand liabilities in an age where MLB and all businesses protect their logos, brands, marks, and images zealously. At that time I formed a team with Jill, and Jordan Rich, veteran and popular broadcaster and podcaster, who you hear conversing with me on these podcasts. Just before Covid struck, Rotary invited me to tell them of the project on a Zoom show. The presentation impressed their audience, and their community-oriented leader, Joyce Graff, asked if I could do the montage to be followed by my interview of an appropriate person from the front office of the Red Sox, directed by generous Brookline producer, Harvey Bravman. Joyce’s idea was that the interview would be on the issue of inclusiveness and discrimination in America. Joyce knew that I had some friends over there at Fenway Park, but hardly did I think I would be successful in obtaining anyone, let alone my first choice, Assistant Head of Baseball Operations, the articulate and engaging Eddie Romero Jr., born and bred in Puerto Rico. That was before generous and socially perceptive Red Sox President, Sam Kennedy, stepped in and made it all come true. Wow, this is getting serious. Well, there is much more to this story. Along the way key and accomplished people over there at Fenway Park like the aforementioned Sam Kennedy; the astute Chaim Bloom, Head of Baseball Operations; House Counsel, the brilliant Dave Friedman, Esq.; and Adam Grossman, Head of Marketing Operations, helped bring it to fruition. Not only did the story get serious but downright existential, as the subject matter segues from baseball to the survival of democracy. Any American interested in where our country may be heading will want to hear this podcast.
People, always people!
Episode 15: Why I Wrote a Memoir
I never know exactly what will be discussed before any given podcast unfolds. That is because Jordan Rich poses the questions, and I answer spontaneously.
Part Two of my memoir is entitled, “Why I Wrote This Memoir: Friendship, Maturation, and Inquisitiveness.” It is a rather academic answer to that question, which I surmised Jordan would follow. He didn’t. So whatever came out, came out differently. Jordan’s comments and questions brought out that writing the memoir was a voyage of discovery in itself.
Friends had said to me that I had led an interesting life, that I ought to write a memoir. I didn’t take that too seriously. I’d done a few things, nothing remarkable, I thought. I started it in a rather desultory manner. Then Covid came along. With time on my hands, I thought I’d give it a shot. Lots of my writings are autobiographical, so I strung them together. My capable formatter, Susan Worst, pointedly said, “Larry, this is an anthology, not a memoir.” So lazy Larry got to work in earnest, writing original material plumbing the labyrinthine caverns and crevices of my ninety year old memory. And you know what? I discovered that I had indeed lived an interesting life, albeit interesting mainly because with my limited authorial talent I could bring ordinary incidents to life, giving them meaning for me and others from which to learn.
You have already heard about several such instances in previous podcasts. How I communed with the late Miss Marguerite Greenshields, whom I hadn’t seen since she was my Housemaster in high school, for example. A transformative and other worldly experience which I related in that mood! Or, recently, in the podcast on acting, when I found new meaning about acting and life from attending Shakespeare’s poetry more closely. Or when Jordan described me as a Renaissance Man because of my many interests, including education, history, politics, music, baseball, whatever, which caused me to view myself as moving slightly away from my previous view of myself as a dilettante. Not much, but some. Or when the modest Jordan asked if I considered myself a little “edgy?” And hearing myself answer that, “Yes I think so. But I am because I always want to be true to myself. I’m lucky now at this age not to be hurt easily, and unafraid to put myself on the line.” Wise man Jordan then asked whether it was hard for me to write negatives about myself, to which I blurted out, “I have no shame.” These late coming experiences coming as part of writing the memoir, or growing from it, like podcasting, have educated me about my own persona, and equipped me to relate my life meaningfully to others, warts and all. As you will hear me say to Jordan, no one is interested in a memoir by a famous person if the warts are not revealed, but many will be interested in one by an ordinary person if he or she tells the truth, most especially if the telling is done with reasonable skill. Add to that all the noteworthy people I’ve been fortunate to meet, write about, and befriend, and you have a book which may win some favor. Indeed, friendship, maturation, and inquisitiveness!
People, always people!
Episode 14: Acting and the Human Condition
Naturally, Shakespeare got it right. Everybody is an actor. He expounded on that notion in his original and poetic way in lines familiar to all of us in his play, “As You Like It.” Here are a few of them:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages…..”
Not that the idea was original with the Bard. He just expressed it way better than anyone else! But it had new meaning to me when I began to think about acting after Jordan Rich brought up the subject in the last podcast. Thinking about it, I thought how much we all act all the time. Take lying. That is acting. We do it every day, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, sometimes out of habit. We often lie to save a friend’s feelings, or to hide from others what we’re doing. Hitler lied to amass power he used to annihilate millions in the Holocaust, and bring on WWII! Haven’t all dictators lied forever? So too do leaders of free countries like America and England lie to save the day. Think FDR and Churchill. Perhaps the most prevalent form of lying are the lies we tell ourselves to deceive ourselves as to who we really are, and what our true thoughts and feelings are, which causes so much insecurity and indecision. All of this might be defined as acting off the stage. Acting on the stage is defined as a craft, even an art, but if what I’ve said above is meaningful, one might reasonably ask, why do we need stage actors? Aren’t they merely dramatizing what we know to be true? Well, no. They are doing something profoundly more important! What is it that they do that invokes names like Shakespeare himself, not to mention a host of Greek playwrights like Euripides, Aeschylus, and Aristophanes who lived two and a half millennia ago, musicians like Mozart and Verdi, and all the folks who support dramatic, musical and poetic presentations the world over - the playwrights, scriptwriters composers, librettists, editors, singers, dancers, actors, and others, of the highest order of artistic ability? Why is it I choose to call such people “reactors,” as much as actors? Listen to this podcast and you’ll find out why all people owe a special debt to all actors and their cohorts the world over, and why all societies honor the acting art in whatever form it is presented.
People, always people!
Episode 13: Thespians, Billy Crystal, and a Gravedigger
Can you make an actor out if a guy who flubbed his one line in a college production of the Bard’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and who was far more interested in the sweaty-but-sparkling young dancer in that play who came offstage to rest near me waiting for her next cue to return to the footlights, bearing the “Scent of a Woman,” as in the Al Pacino movie of the same name? I got my offstage line right, breathing heavily and murmuring indistinctly, “Oh God!” Not likely, and not ever. The guys at my fraternity nailed it when they induced the itinerant caricaturist who came around every year or so to picture me on a stage littered with garbage as I held poor Yorick’s skull aloft. Billy Crystal got it right when he played the gravedigger in a movie adaptation of Hamlet. Hey, I knew Billy Crystal, and you’re no Billy Crystal! So, in this session, theater-loving Jordan abandons searching for my thespian credentials, asking whether I regret not becoming an actor. Indeed not, I answer, because I love to talk, and had plenty of chances to “act” as a lawyer, lately as a Zoom and in-person speaker, and now as a podcaster. In this podcast I tell of my respect for the ancient art of acting in whatever way one might use what might be described as a God-given talent for projecting ideas and personalities to lend a better understanding of life experiences on the stage, or in achieving one’s goals in any other field of endeavor. An attorney is called upon in court to be unafraid to put the best face he can on his client’s case, whether by an over-the-top dramatic performance or an understated but persuasive argument quietly but convincingly expressed to the judge and/or jury. Of course one must walk a fine line not to harm the client’s case by going beyond the pale of truth, or by allowing too extravagant expression to blunt that truth. In this podcast you’ll hear me talk of the last criminal defense in my career, when I defended a family man like you and me who struck down and seriously injured a bicyclist, then fled the scene until the police caught up with him twenty miles away. A tough case to plead for no imprisonment, especially opposed by a DA who wanted no plea bargain but wanted to incarcerate the defendant in State Prison for over ten years. This took acting, albeit not on stage. Actors let it fly. So do I lawyers. Listen here and you’ll find out the result. Who knew when we started this session that Jordan would turn it towards the serious art of acting. My head was spinning with ideas on that subject when we left off. I hope we return to it! Hasn’t acting on or off the stage been used for thousands of years for both good and evil?
People, always people!
Episode 12: Boston College Law School, a Happy Mix of Irishmen and Jewish Men
So how would a Jewish boy do at a Catholic law school? One of the great experiences of my life, that’s how, and still ongoing today, sixty-five years later! On day one a lifelong friendship was struck up between me and the then Dean, the late Jesuit Father Robert F. Drinan, fated to become famous as an educator, Congressman, humanist, author, speaker, ethicist, and champion of the downtrodden, here and abroad. How much luckier could I have been to have the wise counsel and support of Bob Drinan as my life progressed?
And what great people I met there? Take Professor Cornelius Moynihan, bearing a name about as Irish as you can get, with a wit to match. How does Professor Moynihan relate to Judah Benjamin, the accomplished former Jewish Senator from Louisiana, and later Secretary of State of the Confederacy, who was Jefferson Davis’ trusted right hand man? Later, in England, after clandestinely escaping the country to England to become Queen’s counsel and a barrister, Benjamin authored “Benjamin on Sales,” the foremost 19th Century treatise on that subject. Now that’s history you’ll be interested to hear more about! Here’s another unique name! Monroe Inker! A Jew from Brooklyn, accent and all, transplanted to fair Massachusetts, Monroe taught me divorce law at Boston College Law School, changed marital law in the state significantly, was renowned as a practicing lawyer, and outwitted me one time when we locked horns in court. You’ll meet my classmate, and later Monroe’s partner, Marty Aronson, who shamed me in court in my first trial, as well as another classmate, Walter Wekstein, whose brilliance as an attorney shamed one Donald Trump, assuming such a thing is possible. Listen and hear more!
People, always people!
Episode 11: Columbia Law School, the Ambassador, and the Dummy
How could Columbia Law School, one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, have admitted a dummy like me? You really have to be dumb to take a train from Times Square to the middle of Harlem instead of to the Columbia campus! And dumber still to try to traverse the fraught streets of Harlem to and through the depth and dark of Morningside Park which separates Harlem from Columbia, instead of immediately retracing your steps to Times Square, and starting over. How did I make it back safely? Listen, and I’ll tell you. Phil Temple, my roommate, was happy to see me return. Phil and I remained friends forever. Paolo Fulci was happy too, so happy, in fact, that Paolo, the scion of an old Sicilian family studying at Columbia on a Fulbright, has remained a friend to this day. That was a boon because Paolo Francesco Fulci became one of the most storied ambassadors in Italy’s history, rising to become the President of the United Nations Security Council. Lois and I joined Paolo and his wife, Peruvian beauty Clarissa, on a few adventures over the years in Boston, New York, Cape Cod, Canada, and Italy, of which I’ll tell. Hey, better to have a Sicilian for a friend rather than as an enemy!
People, always people!
Episode 10: University of Massachusetts Buddies Are Game-Changers Too
Being away from home at seventeen for the first time is really the start of your adult life. My dorm roommate that first year was George Delaney, who at twenty two had already seen the world in the Merchant Marine, as well as all those fetching senoritas on the South American route. George had stories. George taught me a lot, even if vicariously. My best friend in college was handsome and popular, Milton (Milt Crane), who risked his straight shooting reputation joining errant me in pranks like midnight forays to the out of bounds commissary in the fraternity house to feast on tuna and chips. The most popular show on Broadway then was “Guys and Dolls,” How did Milt and I maneuver backstage, meet with its star, Vivian Blaine, and end up with two young beauties from its chorus line. C’mon along to The Big Apple! It was in those years that I began to realize that I was not quite like most other folks, but the true realization of that lay many years ahead. Who could know that Gene Isenberg, barely out of rags from his deprived hometown of Chelsea, would acquire riches to make him the billionaire oil man and philanthropist he became? It was at UMass that I met another guy from Chelsea, Mel Glusgol, who also followed the law, and whose perspicacity gave me many an idea over the years, all shared with never a hint of envy or jealousy when I ran with them. Milt and Mel, two friends for life! A few years later I met Mickey Finn, slipped to me by violinist Sammy Dale, who didn’t take it too well when his little band’s songstress, Priscilla Howe, took a liking to me. Mickey might have killed me!
People, always people!
Episode 9: High School Teachers Are Game-Changers
If you’re lucky the teachers you have in grammar and high school will not only ground you in their subject, but teach you something about life. My Principal at Devotion School, the iconic Charles Taylor, felled me with a line drive off my first pitch, teaching me at age eleven, a little bit about bearing pain, but showed me how an elder can elicit love and respect at the same time. At Brookline High, Miss Perkins taught me and my friend, Michael Dukakis, the wonders of Latin, and sparked in me forever a love of Roman history and language, and a better understanding of English, its derivative language. In those halcyon days I was instructed in civics and music, mostly absent when most needed in the curriculum today, when democracy is threatened. Mythical coach Harry Downes summarily took me out of the lineup when I doubled home three runs playing for the Brookline High School varsity nine! How dare he? He dared. I learned a lesson! Dustin Pedroia would have taught me the same lesson! You will hear it. This podcast demonstrates how my interlocutor, longtime broadcaster, Jordan Rich, metamorphoses these sessions into real conversations between two good friends!
People, always people!
Episode 8: A Tempestuous Parent and Other Family
Let’s start with my mother, Doris, an incredible woman who survived a week into her 97th year, bridging the Edwardian era, the Twenty-First Century, and everything in between, matching each era with her apt style sense! Emerging from this podcast is a one-of-a-kind woman whose beauty never dimmed, whose temperament demonstrated to the male world what a liberated woman is all about, and whose influence had a lot to do with the person I became despite the profound differences between us. Lucky for me this tempestuous relationship was balanced by gentle souls like my courtly father, his dancing brother, my in-laws who accepted me as a son, and my father in-law’s Old World mother, who puzzlingly addressed me as “The Prince.” Do family relationships prepare you for life? Let me tell you!
People, always people!
Episode 7: Braves Field, Jackie Robinson, and WWII German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Alas, Braves Field no longer exists. It disappeared not long after the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1952. But it was my field of dreams in the forties! They let kids in for free with their dads, so living nearby and adopting dozens of dads, I attended dozens of games, even gate crashing my way, as became my wont, into the press box. What does German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, who came close to routing the combined forces of England and America as he blitzed across North Africa in WWII, have to do with Braves Field, me, my Uncle Sel, and Game changer, Jackie Robinson? I’m not telling here, but I do in the podcast! So come one, come all, for tales of JFK, larceny at the 1936 All-Star Game, and the feats of Hall of Famers like Ernie Lombardi, Ralph Kiner, and Hank Greenberg.
People, always people!
Episode 6: Jewish Life in Brookline, Mass.
Have you ever wondered how Jewish folks get to be that way, whatever way you surmise that may be? A good place to start is heavily Jewish Brookline, MA, my hometown where I was Bar Mitzvah’d at age 13 in 1944, ostensibly then becoming a man, in my case a dubious proposition! What is that ceremony like? Well, you read and sing a portion of the Torah, the five Books of Moses in the Old Testament, before the whole congregation, taught in my case by an old world scholar then recently escaped from Hitler’s clutches. I drove poor Rabbi Simon Udevich crazy with my late comings and lazy habits. If you live long enough you may find out what your teachers were really like, as I did long after the good rabbi passed from the scene. And as I did in a surreal and moving other worldly time I spent with the lovely and loving Miss Marguerite Stuart Greenshields, Master of Lincoln House, as my high school class was called, long after she left this mortal coil, who had poetically counseled us to,
“Help us, O Lord, to be master of ourselves
That we may become the servants of others;....”
People, always people!
Episode 5: Air Force Stories
Not many of you folks can remember the Korean War during which I served as an ROTC officer in the Air Force from 1952 to 1954 stateside in Washington D. C. during the waning days of Harry Truman’s presidency, and a little later in Wilmington, Delaware, famous for the DuPonts, and later for Joe Biden. It was at the latter that my life almost unraveled at twenty-two, all because of the love affair with the fair Karla, whose father’s Community Church of Boston invited left-leaning luminaries to its rostrum every Sunday, a ‘no no’ during those days when Senator Joe McCarthy and his sidekick, Roy Cohn, were calling practically everybody who blinked too often a Communist. Fear was in the air during those fraught days, and the fear of others caught me up in a web of unfounded suspicion. We all know that romance can get you in trouble, but this one was straightforward. Boy meets girl. girl meets boy, they fall in love. But the Air Force had other ideas. Maybe I was an enemy agent! Even showing them what Karla looked like as the reason for my trips to Boston every chance I got didn’t persuade the brass hats, at least not then. Well, I suggest you listen to this podcast to hear a war story unlike most you’ve heard. I’m still here, so there was no firing squad. I’m a citizen still in good standing at 90. I had some good friends in the AF, of whom you’ll read here, including my boss, the gentle Captain Beck, who flew in the Berlin Airlift. I never did marry Karla, but you know that. When some of the officers on base feted me at the Officers Club when my two-year term was up, they shouted, “You’ll be back!” Wrong! Indeed, that was my last day of service. But I was honored with a Korean War ribbon! And the GI Bill helped me through law school.
People! Always people!
Episode 4: Talking with Dogs
I call my wife Lois a “dog whisperer.” She whispered to all of them, loved them all, and was loyal beyond belief to every one, even the terrible-tempered Wammy, our first dog long ago, misnamed after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the lovely animals who followed: the Bichon Frises, smart Elke and her daughter, the sweet Mopsy, and Standard Poodles, the queenly Molly and the brave Puppy Puppy. Lois spoke to all of them like they were human beings, and, as I found to my incredulity, THEY UNDERSTOOD, and replied in their own way. It was like witnessing an ongoing miracle! Take Puppy Puppy who lived to almost fifteen, well beyond that breed’s normal life span. How could that be for a dog suffering from life-threatening medical threats and hospitalizing accidents? About halfway through her life, Puppy fell off a high rock playing with another dog, breaking three legs, resulting in delicate surgery not guaranteed by the operating vet to make her whole. Not only did Lois whisper to Puppy, but moved downstairs in our up and down house to sleep on an air mattress with Puppy in her bed by her side every night for six months, during which time Puppy was unable to negotiate the stairs. All that while I knew Lois was talking to Puppy, and that Puppy was responding as the two of them were plotting to prove the vets wrong that Puppy would never again run free. It was inspiring to see the gift Lois bestowed, the resolve Puppy displayed, and the strength of both of them that resulted in Puppy again running with abandon, never once evidencing how severely she had been tested by life.
People, always people! And always with their dogs!
Episode 3: Voices of Brookline
Voices of Brookline is the title of my first book, which came out in 2005, Brookline’s tercentenary, when I was seventy-four. I never thought I would write a book, let alone one about this famous town where I’ve lived for eighty-eight years. It all started with an interview program I undertook as a lark on local access television called “From Community to Cyberspace,” interviewing in one-hour shows around seventy of the famous and regular inhabitants of the town. What a wonderful experience, teaching me a lot about them, Brookline, and myself, and opening the way to a literary career undreamed of before! That is the sort of thing that can happen to you when you put yourself out there at any point in life.
In this segment you’ll meet some of those folks. Sure, Mike Wallace, Bob Kraft, columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Ellen Goodman, and her sister, historian Jane Holtz Kay, and presidential candidate Mike Dukakis are all there, but so too you will hear of Eddie Barshak and his wife, Regina Barshak, Al Rosen, The Baker sisters, Dolly and Bobbi, and same-sex partner and lawyer, Linda Gavin, folks you’ve probably never heard of, each telling their own important and meaningful stories about the law, escaping the Holocaust, liberating the prisoners at Dachau, finally being redeemed as a marital partner in a landmark legal decision, and the life of vaudeville entertainers! Many more stories will be told from Voices of Brookline. Stay tuned!
People, always people!
Episode 2: Earlier Relationships
This podcast is entitled “Earlier Relationships,” but as you will discover as we get to know each other better, I tend to digress because so many stories are bursting out of me wanting to be heard. Here we start off with beautiful Hanna and mischievous Jules, the two young kids next door who came over for dinner with their parents, Angie and Eric, just before COVID, and sort of fell in love with us and us with them, mostly due to my wife Lois’ generosity in the amazing gifts she gave to each of them. Then traversing a landscape of how I gate-crashed my way at age twelve in the midst of WWII into the press box at old Braves Field to join company with the sportswriters there for a game between the Braves and the Cards, my summer camp experiences, at one of which I discovered I never would become a Major League pitcher, we arrive at my first love, the Marilyn Monroe lookalike, Karla. I met her just weeks before my entry into the Air Force, and you’ll laugh at how I revisited the memory of that relationship to gently put down my longtime friend and class “man about town,” in an hilarious way fifty-five years later from the dais at our high school reunion.
People, always people!
Episode 1: What I Mean By "Living My Life Backwards"
How could I know the best part of my life would begin at age seventy? That then I would become an interviewer, an author, a story teller, sort of a personality, and for the first time ever become so immersed in what I was doing, that at those moments I was doing it, nothing else seemed to matter. What a feeling! I still feel it at ninety. That gives meaning to my life. That extends life! And it’s something YOU can experience. I think that is the main reason why I wrote the memoir my good friend, Jordan Rich, just spoke about. I’m not a special person, I’m just a person like any of you listening to this podcast. So I’m hoping my life, and my use of my particular characteristics of Friendship, Inquisitiveness, and Maturation, may help you find yours at any time of life. In this segment I tell of my first book, Voices of Brookline, about my hometown and some of the ordinary and famous people in it; a book I’ve written on my passion for music, titled Intimate Conversations, Face to Face with Matchless Musicians; and how my second career unfolded in the last twenty years or so, leading to my memoir, Larry Ruttman: A Life Lived Backwards. And about some of the people in my life you’ll meet here and later.
People, always people!