Category Archives: Memoir

I Forgot My Yahoo Password! You can’t imagine what happened next.

 

Verizon now owns Yahoo, and all of a sudden when I went to log in today, because I signed up for newsletter, my password at Yahoo didn’t work. This is exactly what used to happen at the Verizon website when I had my phone and internet accounts there. The passwords never worked.

So, I went to reset the Yahoo password today, thinking that maybe I changed the password after last summer’s revelation that a billion Yahoo accounts has been compromised, and then didn’t write down the new one. That would explain the problem.

I told Yahoo to reset my password and was taken to a Verizon screen, which asked for my user name and zip code. I entered it, clicked and went to this page:

Yes, Verizon is going to mail me a temporary password by US Mail. That’s so 20th Century.

What else can you do? I’m supposed to be confirming my email address for a newsletter. I click the button and am taken to this page:

They’re acting as if I’m a Fios customer. I’m not. I’m a Yahoo customer, who will be getting his password reset by US Mail! (That’s where the exclamation mark went.)

Yeesh.

The Spectacular Awfulness of Verizon Customer Service

I wrote this in January, but didn’t post it then because I was too angry and wanted to let it sit. Then I got distracted by other things, and it sat waiting for attention. Reading it today reminds just how screwy our world can be. So, I hope this provides a laugh. Plus, I got a bill from Verizon the other day. It said I owed .75 cents plus 8 cents tax for a Three Way Call between 1/13 and 2/12, though our service was disconnected on December 20th. I struggled to find a phone number and I struggled to get through the voice-activated phone tree, but eventually spoke with a charming woman in Finance (I had been misdirected). She said (before transferring me to customer service), “Don’t tell anyone I said this, but just tell them that this is too small an amount to write and mail a check, and they’ll take it off. Just don’t tell them I said so, she laughed wonderfully. And I did, and so did they.”

goodbye-verizon-featuredI’m on hold right now, having finally found a way to contact a person at Verizon. The issue today? I cancelled my Verizon phone service on December 20th, but today they pulled money from my bank account automatically for December 13 to January 12. I want a refund for the days after I cancelled service.

Here is what happens when you go to the Verizon website:

It takes you to a page with no login link.

You click the Phone link and it takes you to the home page. There is a login link in the upper right corner of the screen, where it should be.

You log in, but it doesn’t recognize your password. I know it didn’t recognize my password last time and the time before that. I figure this has to be my fault, I must be entering the wrong password, but I can’t think of another website where I have to so methodically reset the password every time I visit. I have an entry in my password list for Verizon, could it be outdated? No way to know what the matter is, but this happens every time at this website.

It asks me a security question. Where did I meet my wife? I know the city name, the restaurant name, the security answer I usually enter to answer security questions, the answer which has nothing to do with the truth. All are wrong.

It offers to reset my password. I enter my username and zip code. It prompts me to text or email a temporary password. I say Text.

I’m texted a temporary password.

I enter my username and temp password. I am then prompted to enter my a new password and confirm it. I enter the old password twice, meeting the requirements of capital letter, lower case letter and at least one number. At least eight characters overall. Now my password list is right, I think. I press enter and am prompted to choose a security question.

I do so, choose a new one not involving my spouse, and am prompted to log in. I type my username, click sign in, and am prompted for my password.

I enter my password and am told that the user name/password combo doesn’t exist. I want to scream, then notice that autofill is adding a y to the beginning of my username. Maybe this is on me, my browser, some past typo. I don’t know. I have to click the x on the autofill tab to advance to the password page.

I type in the password, click sign in, and am taken to the security question page, which I answer flawlessly. I’m finally in!

I click Billing. I’m given the choices to View Bill, Pay Bill, Payment History, Auto Pay, Paper Free Billing.

I click View Bill and am told my account has been disconnected, and I will remain in Auto Pay for my final bill(s). My final bill should have covered 12/13 to 12/20, but instead covered 12/13-1/12, so I need to arrange a refund.

I can’t find a telephone number to call, there isn’t a telephone number to call, so I contact the automated Virtual Chat. I type “I need to arrange for refund for overcharge on bill.”

Nothing happens. I realize this might be an issue with Chrome, with a security setting that suppresses popups, so I move over to Safari. I am able to log in directly. I ask the virtual chat the question and am given a link to the View Bill page. Grrrr. I was there already.

I find a menu item at the bottom of the page for Billing Disputes.

The link takes me to a page called

Billing Disputes.

It tells me I need the date of my bill, the amount of the charge, the label of the charge, the page number from the bill, and the reason for my dispute.

There is a link to contact Verizon. Clicking it takes me to a page that shows this (click to enlarge):

screenshot-2017-01-02-09-50-59

I click Billing & Account, which brings me to this:

screenshot-2017-01-02-09-53-35

I click Billing Questions, which brings me to this:

screenshot-2017-01-02-09-59-19

Grrr! No phone number. No link to Billing Disputes after many links starting with the prompt Billing Disputes.

I’ve already been given the runaround by the virtual helper. Forums won’t help. Chat is busy! Hmm. More contact options. I click that.

Click that and the button changes to this:

screenshot-2017-01-02-10-01-16

I click that and am given this:

screenshot-2017-01-02-10-02-16

But I don’t think the one I saw said Call Me in 29 Minutes. What I know is that I entered my phone number, but made a typo in the area code box, and it would not let me delete it. Not by back spacing, not by using delete, not by highlighting and typing. Nothing.

So I X’ed out, reopened the form and made sure to type my phone number correctly. I clicked the Call Me button and my phone rang immediately.

Wow, that was fast. But it wasn’t a person. It was a voice recognition system which asked me if I was calling about the number I was calling from.

No, I said.

What is the number you’re calling about?

I give the number. There is a whirring sound, like a robot thinking, and then I’m told that the account has been found and I’m prompted for the four number PIN attached to the account.

I don’t know the PIN. This happens every time I contact Verizon, no one ever tells me what the PIN is, they can’t tell me what the PIN is, but after a really frustrating time we always proceed. In this case, the voice prompts for the PIN. I give the PIN I often use for low-security accounts (not banks etc), and am told that’s not right.

Will I give another PIN?

No, I say.

Okay, the voice says. We’ll proceed without a PIN, but you may be prompted to answer some security questions later.

I’m given a list of menu items that seems familiar: Hear billing amount due, pay bill, recent transactions, anything else.

Anything else doesn’t help. I say Customer Service.

Would you like to speak to a customer service representative?

Yes.

I’m then prompted for the three digit number that appears on my bill next to the phone number. I start to say One and the voice interrupts me. I stop, listen to the prompt, then say One Seven Six.

The voice says back: DId you say One One Seven Six?

No.

Please read the three digit number that appears on your bill next to your phone number.

One Seven Six.

I’m transferred to Ashley, who answers the phone, Verizon Financial Services.

Ashley listens to my problem, says she’ll take care of it and puts me on hold. I’m on hold a long time, listening to terrible music, but she jumps back in a few times to apologize for the delay. It is okay.

After about 10 minutes she tells me that Autopay has been turned off. I ask if my card will be charged back for the balance I shouldn’t have been charged for and she says it will.

She’s very nice and helpful. Just as the man was who turned off my service two weeks ago, the man who said I would be billed for the useage in a final bill and I didn’t need to do anything else, was.

So, we’ll see.

Verizon is a giant company offering services to vast numbers of consumers. In my experience, over many years as a phone, wireless and internet customer, the website has always been a user interface disaster. The thing you need is always hidden, the pages take you to endless loops of not the information you want. The account page is sparse and not helpful.

On my page, a view of past bills, shows no past bills.

The messaging system deletes messages after 15 days, so you have no record of  your interactions.

The chat system, when it’s working, doesn’t allow you to easily save the chat.

This utter disregard for the customer experience has to be designed into their service intentionally. It must be working for Verizon, in some cynical bottom-line way, but it is lousy and I’m glad to have finally moved on.

Spectrum, the new combined Charter-Time Warner service, is paying attention to customers now.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to Play Dice Baseball

double-six-diceMy father handed me the salt and pepper notebook and three chunky white dice, cubes with bold black concave circles called pips on each side. The dice were old, their white ivory yellowed with age, but they were heavy, substantial in a way that the dice that came with our Monopoly set weren’t.

Inside the notebook, each page was a hand-drawn baseball scorecard, rendered in my father’s elegant calligraphy, and filled in with the notes and marks he used for scoring a game. Beside each scored game was pasted that day’s yellowed newsprint box score from the New York Daily News, underneath the date the game was played.

My father explained to me that he’d come up with the idea for his dice baseball game when he was fifteen or sixteen. Obsessed with baseball, he figured out how often players walked, made hits, hit home runs, on average, and so he populated the possibilities of the dice rolls with the appropriate number of walks, hits and home runs, plus doubles, triples, ground outs and fly outs.

Here’s how the game worked:

First you rolled one die. A one or a four was a strike. A two or a five was a ball. A three told you to roll two dice. A six told you to roll three dice.

When you rolled two dice, the lower die always came first. So, the order from lowest to largest would go: 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 2-2, 2-3 and so on up to 6-6, for a total of 21 outcomes.

When you rolled three dice, again, the lower die always came first, then the next lowest, and then the highest. That added another 56 outcomes, for a total of 77. It certainly seemed like a lot more back in the day.

My dad could have stacked the game events up. Since batters make hits about 22 percent of the time, he could have made all but four of the two-dice rolls hits (22 percent of 77 is 17) and all the three-dice rolls outs, but he didn’t. Which made the game more fun, because there was a little suspense while looking up the result of many of the rolls.

While I quickly memorized the codes for home runs (66, 666, 256) and triples (111), other rolls weren’t clear until I found them on the game sheet. A roll of 126, for instance, meant turning the page over, scanning down the column, then, “Ouch, line out to third base, dang.” I would dutifully write the number 5 down in the appropriate box and move on to the next batter.

To play I would take the salt and pepper notebook from the shelf in my bedroom of our house in Smithtown New York. I’d pull the velvet bag of dice out of a drawer, and a pen and ruler from off the table. I would flop down on the floor in my room, onto the carpet by the bed, and carefully draw in the lines for the day’s scorecard, running the pen alongside the ruler. My lines were often but not always straight, usually parallel, but still somehow sloppy, so different from the fine work my dad had done back in his day.

The drawing of the lines took too much time, but there was no way around it. The game couldn’t start until the scorecard was ready. A few years later, I bought a real scorebook to record the game records, to make it easier. I’m not sure the scorebook was the cause, but my interest waned a short while later and that season was never completed.

I would consult the Long Island Press, our daily newspaper, for the lineups and probable pitchers that day, and enter the Mets lineup versus whatever team they were playing. This was what my father had done, in his bedroom in New Hyde Park, 20 years before, following the schedule of the New York Giants in 1944. He was older than I was, 16 years old and in high school, when he invented his dice baseball game, but I could only imagine him bent over the notebook, furiously rolling the die into a cardboard box sitting on the carpeted floor.

“Strike one, ball one, ball two, oh! Roll three dice!”

Shuffling paper, a page turns, the three dice, bouncing off the box’s low sides and clattering to a rest haphazardly.

“One-two-five.”

Another page turn, paper swishes.

“Hmmm, ground out to second base.”

Pick the pen up off the floor, move to the scorecard and write 4-3 in the first inning next to Tim Harkness’s name. Oh, that was me, playing his game. He would write the result next to Ernie Lombardi’s name, or Mel Ott’s, in a statelier hand than mine, but with the same intensity, the same consciousness ensnared by baseball, devoted to recording the events of the game.

Mazeroski on the Radio: October 13, 1960

My first baseball memory was the 1960 World Series. It was the ninth inning of the seventh game, the teams were knotted at nine apiece. One for each inning, I probably thought, because I’ve always created relationships between numbers, often fancifully. Of course, maybe not, since I had just turned four and probably didn’t think that much about numbers at all.

How the teams got to 9-9 is a story, but not one I knew. The game was played on Thursday, October 13, starting at about 1:00 PM (television and radio coverage began at 12:45 PM). From the start of the game to its dramatic conclusion took two hours and 34 minutes. I remember coming home some time after the game started, having missed the start.

Home from preschool? My mom had started a preschool at the Presbyterian Church that year, in part to make sure I had a good school to go to, but it only offered half days. Maybe I went home with a pal, or maybe we’d been out shopping. One thing is for sure, my brother was just two-and-a-half months old.

I remember listening on the radio in the kitchen, my mother was getting things ready for dinner, I suppose, or tending to some other business. My brother was sleeping in his cradle, or eating. What else did babies do? I imagine everyone was tired, but I don’t remember that.

We listened on the radio, maybe not that attentively. We listened on the radio because that’s what everyone did for the World Series. Those four to seven games were a soundtrack to the American experience in those days. That week in 1960 the US contemplated the start of sanctions on Cuba, an embargo, and John F. Kennedy and Vice President Nixon debated, as election day approached. But everywhere you went the game was on the radio. People who didn’t pay attention all year long tuned in, or turned on the TV, which would play in the background while business went on.

So, we listened to the radio, and I’m sure I did something or other else, too. I was a baseball fan, just turned four, but I can’t imagine I followed the events of this back and forth slugfest of a game.

The shock of discovering the Yankees trailing, the thrill of the Yankees going ahead 7-5 in the top of the eighth, and then the total devastation of Hal Smith’s homer over Yogi Berra in left, plating  Dick Groat and Roberto Clemente as well, putting the Pirates up 9-7 going into the 9th. (I don’t remember this stuff, but I’m sure I was listening to it on the radio. I didn’t remember Hal Smith’s homer, I looked that up.)

I read today that Mel Allen said in the game’s broadcast that Smith’s three-run shot was one of the most dramatic home runs ever in a World Series game, one that would be long remembered. Right.

I like to think I didn’t give up hope. The Yankees were the best team of all time, they could do it. Singles by Bobby Richardson and Dale Long got the rally going in the top of the ninth. This I know from Retrosheet’s account of the game. Harvey Haddix came in to face Roger Maris and got him to pop out. But then Mantle singled Richardson home, and Long scored on a ground out by Yogi Berra. Tie game!

Ralph Terry, who had thrown the last out of the eighth inning, came out for the ninth. Mazeroski stepped up to the plate.  Maz was a second baseman, batting eighth in the order, just ahead of the pitcher. I probably didn’t know enough yet about the game to think, “No worries.”

The first pitch was a change up high. Maz took the pitch. The catcher Johnny Blanchard went out to the mound. He says he told Terry to keep the ball down, Maz like the high stuff.

Maz at the 50th anniversary celebration of his homer.
Maz at the 50th anniversary celebration of his homer.

Terry’s second pitch was lower, but right down the pipe, and Mazeroski reached out and slugged it. The ball jumped off his bat, shot out to left field, though I couldn’t see that. What I heard was the roar of the crowd and the announcer’s voice, which rose and rose in excitement and exploded with “it’s gone!” After a pause, “The Pirates have won the 1960 World Series.”

To this day, 55 years later, Bill Mazeroski has the only walk-off Game 7 World Series homer. (Joe Carter hit a walk-off Series ender for the Blue Jays against the Phillies, but that was Game 6.) What I remember most was the excitement that homer generated, the chatter and energy and conversation, even as the Yankees lost. It would have been about that time that my love for the game grew. But I imagine myself that day, sagging there in the kitchen, not believing that anything so awful could ever happen. Little did I know.

Here’s a link to the Retrosheet box score.

Here’s a link to a USA Today story (pdf) about an annual celebration of Maz’s home run in Pittsburgh. They play the radio show of the game, starting at 1:00 PM, so the call of the homer is at 3:36 PM. Nice. Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski 50 years later, shot still echoes – USATODAY

I haven’t found the radio broadcast of the game yet. The radio announcer, Chuck Thompson, says of the final pitch: “Art Ditmar throws…” misidentifying the pitcher, confusing Ralph Terry with Ditmar, who was warming up in the bullpen.

The greatest home run ever: https://youtu.be/65Og0gUKfvc

MLB’s Greatest Moments: Maz’s Walkoff http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/6479266/v3218957

This is a showing of the entire game’s tv broadcast in Pittsburgh in 2010, with interviews.

My First Major League Baseball Game Part 2

yankeestadium1961My dad died last year, perhaps one of the reasons I started digging around in these memories, so he wasn’t around to ask about my first baseball game. Was it the game I remember in 1961? Were there earlier games? What game did we go see in 1961. But then it occurred to me that my old friend John was there, too, and maybe I could find him.

We hadn’t been in contact since high school, at least, and we didn’t run together then. We had last been chums when I was in third grade, when my family moved up the road and I was transferred to a different elementary school. But there he was, on Facebook and LinkedIn. To send a message via LinkedIn I had to be a paying member, I’m not, so I sent a friend request on Facebook, which a short while later was accepted.

I messaged him and we had a brief conversation (my messages are in green):

Hi John. I hope you’re well these days. Are you living in New York? I’m out in Brooklyn.
 
I was thinking about you because I’ve been writing about the first major league baseball game I went to see, and I think it was with you and my dad at Yankee Stadium. I was wondering if you had any memory of that? And any details. Most of the details I recalled were in some way wrong.
 
Of course, it was a while ago.
I think so. I live in the Poconos. My mind is trying to remember.
It’s a pleasant exercise, remembering, but a little chilling to discover none of the details (weather, opponent, who hit homers, time of day) could have lined up the way I remember.
I hear you. My memory is shot.
What was the question again?
 
My dad died last year and I started to put together stories about the way our lives intertwined because of baseball, that’s how I got onto this. Thanks for letting me know if anything comes to mind.
 
The other one was the guy who lived next door to me who was a salesman for Topps. He brought us rolls of uncut baseball cards a few times.
I’m sorry about your dad. I do recall those uncut cards. That was fun
Thanks. I remember cutting them with our little child-safe scissors, so each one had a unique shape.
That’s right. Stay in touch!!
Will do!
Chat Conversation End
Not too promising, I’m afraid. I sent John a link to the first part of this story yesterday and will update here if he has any reaction.

My First Major League Baseball Game

I would have been four, maybe five, but probably four years old. The game certainly took place in 1961.

My father took me and my friend John, who lived across the street in our little neighborhood of new houses on quarter acre lots, to a game at Yankee Stadium.

I remember it was a sunny day. A day game. We drove to the Stadium, and for at least part of it talked about where John had lived before moving to Smithtown, out on Long Island. John grew up in the Bronx, home of Yankee Stadium, and while I don’t remember where he had lived in the Bronx, I do remember that he called the ground outside the floor. That made an impression on me.

This may not have been my first major league baseball game. I could have gone when I was younger, but I have no memories of that game. I would have been two or three, and while I’m sure I was a baseball fan even then, the experience didn’t stick. That is, I have no memory of earlier games.

In the first game I remember, we walked up to the ticket window. My dad always asked what the ticket seller had, and the man or woman would show him a few options. There was a kind of code that passed between them, shorthand grunts this way and that, first base/third base/mezzanine/upper boxes/field boxes, it went on and on. Finally, my dad would say, I’ll take… and the deal was made. It was always like this, going to a game with my dad. In his later years, when I would visit him in Florida, he would ask me what games I’d like to see. I’d tell him I would get tickets online, and he would say nonsense, wanting to drive out to Ed Smith in Sarasota or to the park in Port Charlotte and talk to the guy in the ticket booth about what he had for the day we’d be going. So, while I feel like I remember this happening on that day, I may be superimposing other memories on my first game. But I’m sure this happened.

We sat right behind home plate. In those days, in 1961, you could walk up to the ticket window and walk away with three seats behind home plate, on a teacher’s salary. (My dad was a high school teacher, baseball coach, and graduate student.) My dad had been a high school phenom, signed by the Boston Braves, and played for a year or two for their affiliate the Homer (NY) Braves. He liked sitting behind the plate, he said, because you can see the ball move, you got to see what the hitter sees.

Years later I was at spring training in Port St. Lucie, Florida. It was a day when Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher were going to throw in a make believe game, to gauge how their rehabs were going. Davey Johnson, the Mets manager, brought a folding chair out onto the field, set up right behind the catcher, just behind where an umpire would set up and watched them play their make believe game from the best seat in the house.

mickey-mantle-roger-maris-signed-photo-bb32eMy memory is that the game I went to with my dad and John was against the Kansas City Athletics. And on that day in the epic year of 1961, when two Yankees had one of the most exciting home run races ever, both Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hit homers for us.

Maris’s landed in the upper deck out in right field. Not right down the line, but in that little section of boxes from which you could look straight down into the bleachers. Mantle’s blast landed in the bleachers, a little more straight away. My buddy John was a Maris fan and I favorited Mantle, and we argued whose ball went farther. We argued on the drive home, and in my yard and his yard in the days that followed.

My first major league baseball game was a memorable one.

There is one problem. A search of games between the Yankees and Athletics in Yankee Stadium in 1961 shows only one game in which both Mantle and Maris homered. That game took place on June 9. It seemed promising, but June 9 was a Friday and the game didn’t start until the fairly unkidfriendly time of 8:13PM. That wasn’t the game.

That meant that if the opponent really was the Athletics, only Mickey Mantle homered. Maris’s only homer against the As that season at the Stadium was on June 9.

Mantle’s other homers against the Athletics in Yankee Stadium came April 17th (too early in the year), June 10th (a day game, but overcast, he hit his 17th of the year to deep right), and August 2nd, in the second game of a doubleheader. The game started at 4:38pm, and it was overcast, which again doesn’t jibe with my memory.

So, maybe I got the weather wrong, or maybe the other team wasn’t the Athletics.

What other days in 1961 did both Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle each hit a homer in Yankee Stadium?

On June 11th, in the second game of a doubleheader against the newly hatched California Angels, Mickey and Roger each homered off starter Eli Grba, and Maris knocked another off Johnny James. All three homers were to deep right, the weather was cloudy, and game time was 4:56.

In a Saturday day game, on July 1 with a start at 2:04pm, against the Washington Senators, Mantle hit two homers and Maris one. The weather was cloudy, 84 degrees, but both Mantle’s shots were to left field.

The next day, the game started at 2:02pm. It was 92 degrees, cloudy, and Maris hit two to RF, one up the line, giving him 30 for the year. Mantle hit a two-run shot in the eighth to deep right. That’s a possibility, though wouldn’t I remember if Maris had hit two? Elston Howard and Moose Skowron also dinged in that game.

On July 25th, in a Tuesday game that started at 6:04, Mantle and Maris homered at home in the same game for the last time in that historic season. Maris homered twice, Mantle once, and they deadlocked at 38 homers apiece. Whitey Ford ran his record to 18-2 in that game. That’s all of interest, but tells me nothing about my memory except that it it isn’t perfect after 55+ years.

For the time being I think I’ll stick with the July 2 game. It was hot, there were clouds, the Yanks won, and the Senators and Athletics can easily be confused in their haplessness.

Molly Lowe’s Redwoods

Pioneer Works is an art space in Red Hook Brooklyn.

Discovered/Founded/Developed by an artist named Dustin Yellin, Pioneer Works is a building, artist studios, a public space, a gallery and a garden.

What I know of Yellin’s work, he’s taken cut outs of mostly Victorian imagery and layered them between sheets of glass, so they become 3-d collages. I won’t mince words. These sculptures are beautiful and mind-blowing.  And impossible to photograph. You have to be there.

Redwood’s is the installation of three on-site pieces in the Pioneer Works gallery. The photo only hints at their grandeur. The real payoff is the movie, which is an hour long, has no dialogue, and is about a young woman, presumably Lowe, finding a way to tell her family’s history through the fragmented memories of her  demented grandmother.

The movie uses face and hand masks and lots of plastic design to render the story in a really real way and really unrealistic way. With emotion, but also with the understanding that emotions and memories get confused. That’s part of the story.

A Saturday afternoon well spent.
2016-03-12 16.26.41

Fred Kreutzer Died June 17, 2015.

My father died in June, and my brother, Scott, and I travelled to Florida to help sort out his things, hold a memorial, and lay him to rest.

This isn’t the easiest thing to do, when a parent dies a lot of the thoughts you’ve had about your life and your parents boil up in surprising ways. It would be easy to cocoon, to deny the importance of keeping on and dealing with the dead in a physical way, to indulge one’s desire to wallow in the inevitable misery, but there were three reasons I came to realize it is better to deal more directly:

1) My friend John told me that when his parents’ died that the mundane activities that go along with the services and burial and traditions help you take a bit of control of the emotional wash.

2) In college I wrote a paper about Fellini’s Satyricon, and how the breakdown of burial rituals in the film presaged the moral and eventual physical decline of the Roman empire.

3) It is a lot better to do something than to think about something, at least in the long run.

The following is a scrapbook of some of the memories and thoughts from those days in Florida.

The program for the memorial service:

Screenshot 2015-09-21 16.28.11

David Mark, our step brother, MC’d the memorial and did a fantastic job. We don’t have a recording of his remarks, which is too bad.

My wife, Elizabeth Royte’s, recorded remarks were played for the congregants. She asked that I not share them here.

I read mine out loud.

My dad was a carpenter. He renovated an old carriage house in Smithtown, New York, the house my brother and I grew up in, with exacting care, mitering the edges of paneling in the new playroom, for example, so they aligned perfectly with the formerly exterior shingles that made up one of the room’s walls. There were easier ways, but he didn’t take them.

My dad was a cook. Watching him stir together his Alfredo sauce was nearly as memorable as eating it, which I will not ever forget either. One of my favorite meals ever was at my dad and Diane’s house. They made fresh pasta, then swirled it in a pan with oil, garlic and anchovies. Simple but not easy. Incredible.

My dad was a teacher. He spent his career in a high school, in the gymnasium and in the classroom, teaching young people about sports and health and no doubt about their histories and our history and whatever other topics came up. Teaching was at his core, a process of give and take that was more than simply pedantic, and he never really stopped so long as someone near by wanted to discuss something and learn.

One time he offered to bet me some amount of something or other that I wanted. I got to choose, the Mets’ runs for the week added up or the Mets’ runs for the week multiplied. I chose the latter, and I’ve never since forgotten that any number times zero is zero.

My dad was a trailblazer. When I was a little boy my father would sometimes come home from work and too soon disappear behind the bedroom door. I could hear him talking on the telephone. I didn’t understand at first what was happening, I wanted to play with him. But I eventually learned that he was working with other coaches on Long Island to make soccer, an exotic game at that time, a part of the high school sports programs there. That worked.

My dad, when he was in the latter part of his career, took a sabbatical in order to earn his Doctorate of Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College. A large part of his mission was to help introduce modern communications and computer technology to his school’s curricula, years before that became a thing.

My dad was a nerd. He more than once told me proudly that his group of high school friends liked to figure things out, like how many paper clips would fit into the assistant principle’s office.

My dad was a phenom. While in high school, when not counting paper clips, my dad was the ace pitcher on the Sewanahaka High School varsity baseball team. He threw shut outs and struck out many batters against the largest and best schools at that time, and was treated in the press clips as one of the best high school pitchers on Long Island. He was recruited by many and eventually signed with the Boston Braves organization, selecting them over the Philadelphia Phillies.

My dad was a painter. For a while, at least. He created some copies, I think they were, of geometric paintings by Piet Mondrian, that hung in our laundry room when I was growing up. I’m sure there is a story that goes with this. What I know for sure is he made paintings.

My dad was a traveler. Although by the end of his life he didn’t like to leave Florida, when I was growing up we traveled all over the United States and Canada each summer. This landed us in Glacier Park in August of 1967, the night the forests glowed with hundreds of dry lightning fires and two women were killed by grizzly bears 50 miles apart. Over the years we drove across country, and at least twice up into Canada to Nova Scotia and the Algonquin Park. In later years, my dad traveled with Diane to Europe and Asia. His last big trip, if I recall correctly, was at the invitation of the South Korean government, on the 50th anniversary of the Korean War, because he had served in the US Army defending South Korea.

My dad was a patriot. He was proud of his army service, and his remains will be buried, as he wished, at the National Cemetery in Sarasota. Though my father was usually an even-tempered person, the one time I really made him blow up was because of the United States flag. It was 1969. I was going to Wilt Chamberlain basketball camp at Kutscher’s in the Catskills. For years I’d had a crew cut, administered with buzzing shears—my dad was not a barber, at least not in the skills sense—but now finishing up junior high, I had chosen to let my hair grow. I realized at this point that I needed something to keep my newly long locks out of my eyes while I ran up and down the court, and what could have been cooler in the days of Easy Rider and Woodstock and the Days of Rage than making my headband out of an old American flag I had in my room? I actually cut the flag apart and then sewed it back together into a very nice headband, but when my father saw it he was smudged with insult. He yelled at me, I fled and he chased me up and down the stairs, into my room and out again, around the yard even, him grabbing, me protecting, until at some point I relented and gave up my prize.

My dad was an architect. When he and my mom were considering buying the old carriage house that they eventually renovated, it was not obvious what the best way to set up the inside of the house was. My dad had some architectural training from school, and he taught me how to draft plans. I was encouraged to make drawings that showed how I thought the house should be set up, and I can say for sure that my second grade self loved being involved in the planning (though my desire to turn the grease pit in the living room into a pond with gold fish was not adopted).

My dad was a coach. When I was a boy my father spent a lot of time at the high school, coaching the boys’ varsity baseball team in the spring and the boys’ junior varsity soccer team in the fall. I spent a fair amount of time at his school when I was little, wandering among the massive athletes, hanging in my dad’s office, where someone was always popping their head in with a comment, a joke or a complaint. The air reeked of ambitious sweat and the floor was puddled from the dripping, showering athletes. I could go shoot baskets if I wanted, or jump on the trampoline, or climb up the rope, or kick the nubbly red inflatable ball against the wall, or up into the bleachers. There wasn’t anything much better for a six or seven year old than hanging out in a high school gym.

My dad was a counselor. During the early part of summer, he worked as the recreational camp director in Brookhaven. I don’t think I went with him every day, but I did many times, and I learned to play chess and shoot arrows with the bigger kids who let me tag along.

My dad invented fantasy baseball. Well, a game he called Dice Baseball. He gave me a chart that relied on the roll of a die and then dice, to determine baseball outcomes. As a schoolboy he used his Dice Baseball game to play the entire New York Giants’ schedule each day, pasting in the real box score for the day into the notebook in which he kept his Dice Baseball scorecards. I continued the tradition, playing New York Mets games each day, drawing the scorecards into notebooks just the way my dad did. The only thing was, his handwriting was way better than mine.

My dad was also a gardener, a photographer (ask Scott and me about our adventures developing film and printing in the little darkroom my dad built in the bedroom closet), a well-organized fellow who liked to work amidst messy piles. But most of all my dad was a father, my father, which is why I’m here today.

I love him and will continue to miss him, as I’ve missed him the past couple years as he became more and more a man who was just one sad thing with one sad mission to execute. I will regret those times, my inability to help and his inability to accept help, but in no way do they diminish the far better times spread over a long and colorful lifetime.

There were speakers from the Mens Garden Club of Engelwood, talking about my dad’s contributions writing and publishing the club’s newsletter for many years.

In a similar vein, someone from the Unitarian Universalist Church in Venice, spoke about how important Fred’s production of a newsletter for the fledgling congregation was, back in the days before they had a building, while developing a community.

And Diane, my dad’s wife, spoke about his life and his connection to a community that he didn’t always embrace. I think that was a lot of his story. He stood apart, a lot of the time, but also did what was necessary to move things forward. Diane wasn’t sure she would speak, and I was glad she did.

It was in the Unitarian Universalist’s lovely building in which the memorial was held, and they generously helped us set up a slide show and provided refreshments afterwards. It has been a while since I ate so many cookies. And they provided a generous place for us to share memories and thoughts about Fred.

At some point while thinking about my father’s life, at this time, I recalled him coming home from work one day talking about a short film that made him laugh out loud. It was a parody of Ingmar Bergman films called Da Duva. It was years later that I finally saw it, and recognized that it was Madeleine Kahn’s first film.

And many years after that I saw a production by my wife’s uncle, the director Robert Kalfin, which starred the other woman in Da Duva. I mention this because it perhaps explains why the movie came to mind. A fake-Swedish parody of Ingmar Bergman films about a bird and its poop? How does this pertain?

But it does. The wordplay, the scatology, the skewering of pretension, and the humor above all, laughing through the confrontation with mortality, are all a part of my father’s history and his character. I worried about the choice, that people wouldn’t understand, and was gratified how much the captive  audience liked and got the film by its end.

The transfer is awful, but you can see and hear enough. It’s worth it.

Photos from the slide who that day.