Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It’s been a while since my last posting, and I apologize. What’s happened is that my screenplay writing project, for a miniseries based on my book, just got expanded from two segments to five. Segments three and four to be based on the two completed but not yet published sequels, the fifth on a sequel I have not written and probably never will. In book 3, the story of our escape from war-torn Poland ends as my mother and I sail into New York Harbor, but the producers are so intrigued by the relationship between my mother and myself that they’ve asked me to carry the projected series through to the end of her life.
This, as you might imagine, has caused considerable soul searching at this end. While the story that ends with our arrival in the safe haven of New York City is basically an adventure story, one that follows my mother’s life to its conclusion would be a drama and, in her case, a tragedy. It’s not an undertaking that one assumes lightly.
While I can’t give you any more information on the project, at this point, I do hope to at some time in the future.
In the meanwhile, is there anyone reading this material? While I’ve been told that a blog is supposed to provide opportunity for readers to respond, I haven’t discovered how that’s done. Consequently, I’ve received absolutely no feedback and, for all I know, there is no one reading it.
I would appreciate it if you’d e-mail me at and let me know if you’re out there and how you feel about what I’ve been writing. And, if anyone knows how this can be managed directly on this page, please tell me about that as well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In the mid 1960’s, when I got a job in New York and my then wife and I moved from Cape Cod to Westport, Conn., we were pleasantly surprised to find that Westport was a real tennis town. My wife and I were both avid tennis players (she was good and I was just avid.) We soon made friends with several other tennis playing couples on the public courts, and our social life grew out of that activity.
One of those couples were Carol and Jerry, and when they built a court on their own property, I was quite honored to be invited to play singles with Jerry one Saturday morning. Jerry beat me quite soundly, which made me quite surprised to be invited back the following Saturday. Soon this became a regular thing, and Jerry and I played singles just about every Saturday for the next 35 years. During the winter, we would reserve an indoor court, so that our tennis routine was uninterrupted. Jerry still kept beating me, but I heard his wife, Carol, say that I was the only one of his friends who could give him a decent game.
When my wife and I ended a marriage that really, really wasn’t working, and I moved out of Westport, I discovered that she had spread a lot of untrue stories about me, and I had no more friends in that town. Except for Jerry and Carol. The tennis with Jerry continued and, when I hit some bad financial times and could no longer pay my share of the indoor tennis, Jerry generously took over the entire burden. My second wife, Phyllis, and I were invited to social functions at their home, and occasionally we would go out to dinner together.
Not only was Jerry a tennis player I looked up to, but he had a brilliant mind and incredible energy; his last job, before retirement, was as VP for planning at one of the nation’s major banks. His presence at one of our parties always made the party a little more interesting. Our "apre tennis" chats would have been an education in finance for me, had I had the ability to absorb it. When I was making an educational film on the legitimacy of emotions and needed a man in a business suit to stand, knee deep, in a pond and say “I feel cold,” Jerry not only volunteered, but nailed the line on the first take.
Phyllis and Carol became good friends, and, when Phyllis passed away in ’86, after an appropriate time, Carol and Jerry had a single lady all picked out for me to meet. I never did meet that lady, because I already had my eye on the woman who would become my present wife, Donna, but Carol and Jerry quickly accepted Donna as a close friend, as well.
We had some twenty more years of this friendship. For financial reasons Donna and I were never fully a part of their social group. Some of their activities were beyond our means. But the tennis and the occasional get-togethers continued.
Then, some six years ago, in his seventies then, Jerry suffered a heart attack and I feared that our tennis days were over. On one of my runs along Hope Street, my muse put the opening lines of a tennis poem into my head, and, on getting back to my study, I finished it. You’ll find it at the end of this blog.
As it turned out, my fears were only partially right. Our singles game was turned into weekly men’s doubles, and just during the summer months. But even that only lasted a couple of years, because Jerry and Carol decided to sell their house and move to Cincinnati, where their son and daughter-in-law had settled. Speaking to their son, just before the move, I heard that Carol and Jerry considered Donna and me to be their closest friends.
It’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen them. When we speak to Carol on the phone, she seems genuinely anxious for us to come and visit. But it's a long drive to Cincinnati, and,with grandchildren and things, we just haven't made it. But last week we set up date to stop at their new home on our way to Missouri, where we may, some day, be settling.
Now that it's on the calendar, I look forward eagerly to seeing our dear friends again. I'm not one to bandy the word, "love" around, and Jerry certainly isn't. I've never thought of a weekly whipping on the tennis court as the basis for that particular emotion, but, if nobody tells Jerry, I would dare to apply it quietly in this case.

A Tennis Player’s Prayer

My knees are both in braces;
My elbow still is sore;
My poor brain, all too often,
Has lost all track of the score.
But I love my tennis.

My forehand is erratic;
My backhand has no power;
My first serve has been rated
At thirty miles an hour.
But I still love my tennis.

My wife has bought me golf clubs;
My son-in-law is wishing
That I’d come up to Michigan
So he can teach me fishing.
But I can’t leave my tennis.

For my heart is all entangled
With my friends who play this game,
Who have listened to my problems
And for whom I’ve done the same.

We have whiled away the years
At this insanity sublime
Hitting tennis balls, pulling muscles, kvetching,
Solving problems, wasting time.

And there is not on this earth of ours
Any other sense at all
To match putting your whole weight
In back of that fuzzy little ball.

So some day, when I’m out there
Decked out in my whites
And I get a really high lob
Lined up in my sights

And I’ve leaped high off the ground,
Four inches or so,
And I’ve dealt that yellow tennis ball
My most devastating blow,

Then I pray the Lord will take me,
Please have no regret,
Because then I’ll never see
That goddamned tennis ball go in the net.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not all the people I approach with my book flyer respond with equal enthusiasm. About one out of every seven or eight claims to be late for work. Some of these are women, dressed in short shorts and halter tops, who leave me wondering just what kind of work they do. Some tell me I should get a proper job. One Hispanic looking woman, with apparently little command of English, embarrassed me by reaching for her purse and asking if I wanted money. Another woman actually called the New Canaan police, leading to an adventure I will tell you about in a future blog.
There is one woman walker, with a heavy Germanic accent, whom I run into about once a week and who uses the occasion to tell me some more of the book she is planning to write some day. Because of her accent and my having ADD, as well as the fact that her protagonist does not seem to have lead a very interesting life, I internalize little of what she says. But she seems to be a nice lady and it seems to be very important to her that she share all this with me, so I stand there, running in place, feigning polite interest, and trying to come up with some new reason to cut this session short. One of these days she may ask me whether I think her story has publishing potential or even to introduce her to my publisher. When she does, I have no idea what I will say.
Some people make a pointed pretense of not seeing or hearing me at all, and just drive away, usually with an insulted look on their face. One man, in a maroon SUV the other day, with his window half open, was so blind to my presence that he blew smoke in my face before turning hard to the left so that I had to jump backwards to avoid being hit.
As he drove away, I yelled after him, “I just wanted to tell you about one of your tires!” Then, as I continued on my run, I had the satisfaction of looking over my shoulder and seeing him squat by each of his four wheels.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The other day on my run, I saw an SUV, with two women in it, stopped at a stop sign so, as I usually do, under such circumstances, I asked if I could give them a letter about my book. The driver, who looked to be in her thirties, expressed some mild interest. I saw that she had begun reading my letter right there, so I waited to answer any questions she might have.
The woman – I’ll call her Suzan – read the first few lines and grew very excited. “Oh, I can’t believe it!” she said, in an accent that was unmistakably Polish. “You’re the writer that my sister Sophie told me about meeting. And, wow, here I’ve run into you!”
Meeting someone who’s already read my book is always exciting. Just this morning a woman told me that, at a dinner party, she had discussed receiving my flier with a friend, and they had both decided to buy the book the next day. But I had never seen quite as enthusiastic a response as I got from Suzan. She asked if I would talk to her some more, and proceeded to pull the car over to the side of the road.
She asked if I would come to her house some time to talk to her friends, and, since I don’t pass up an opportunity to tell people about my book, I said that I would be happy to. Then she asked if I would come to some Polish holiday celebration at the Polish church in town, and I said I would be happy to do that as well.
Then her phone rang, and it was her sister Sophie. Suzan told her, excitedly, about meeting me, right there on Hope Street and inviting me to her house and the church celebration. While they talked, I got a chance to practice my Polish on the other woman in the car.
When Suzan got off the phone, she informed me that she had made a mistake. The writer that her sister had told her about was someone else who had also written a book about his WW II experiences in Poland. Then they got back in the car and drove off. I haven’t heard from them since.