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A Life Lived Backwards: One Man's Life
18 minutes | Oct 23, 2021
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 off stage 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 Billiy 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 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!
24 minutes | Oct 19, 2021
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 experience 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!
14 minutes | Oct 16, 2021
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!
22 minutes | Oct 12, 2021
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, 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!
15 minutes | Oct 7, 2021
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 curriculums 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!
33 minutes | Sep 30, 2021
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!
34 minutes | Sep 23, 2021
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!
17 minutes | Sep 16, 2021
What is Jewish Life like in Brookline, Massachusetts?
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!
32 minutes | Sep 9, 2021
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 your 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!
13 minutes | Sep 2, 2021
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 half way 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!
17 minutes | Aug 26, 2021
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 … Continue reading Voices of Brookline →
23 minutes | Aug 19, 2021
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 store who came over … Continue reading Earlier Relationships →
20 minutes | Aug 12, 2021
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 … Continue reading What I Mean By, “Living My Life Backwards.” →
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