Category Archives: Episodes


That is the title of a course I’m teaching this Summer at the iconic Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill under the guidance of longtime Director, the able Cherie Mittenthal. First a word about timeless Truro, situated on Cape Cod just south of Provincetown of Pilgrim fame where the magical water infused light illuminates the gentle hills and vails of this town lying between the sometimes-savage Atlantic Ocean on the east and the usually gentler swells of Cape Cod Bay on the west, where almost extinct right whales find respite.

What a place to teach! What a place to learn! What is it I will teach? In the course description I said it best.

“It will explore how the writing of a memoir will illuminate the meaning of your own life, deepen your appreciation of what you have accomplished and the personal characteristics which have made that possible, and inspire you to use them to follow a newly bright path to a never before dreamed of future. …. you will be prepared to write your own memoir for your family….and further should ambition lead you there.”

A tall order. But doable. I know, because I lived it writing my own memoir. In this podcast I tell the high points of that story guided by the able, humorous, and knowing hand of my friend and mentor, broadcaster Jordan Rich. In these eighteen minutes you
will acquire a strong notion of the art of memoir.

I never did like to dwell on the past. But you have to plumb the past to write a memoir. What an experience that is! You learn truths you never knew. Like how every single life is interesting. How incidents in your own life which seemed meaningless when they happened were profoundly important in you own maturation. How your inquisitiveness into your own roots lead you to a fuller understanding of your own family, and perhaps the family of your partner in life. How recapturing your life may spark your reaching out to old friends. How you will come to believe your effort will guide yet unborn family members of the future back to you and your and their forbears. Your work will be treasured by them. If you have ever witnessed the look on the faces and the water in the eyes of the guests of Henry Louis Gates Jr. on his program, “Finding Your Roots,” when they discover their own roots from long ago, you will know the truth of what I say. Is it any wonder I entitled my own memoir, “Larry Ruttman: A Life Lived Backwards: An Existential Triad of Friendship, Inquisitiveness, and Maturation.”

I suspect, though, that most of you lived your life forwards. I’m having the strange experience of so far living my best years in old age! Many are afraid to embark on a memoir. With encouragement you will find how easy it is. And the newfound talent that goes along with it, like the art of interview. And surreal experiences of appreciating departed persons in your life whom you hardly knew, like my headmistress in high school, Ms. Marguerite Greenshields, whose heartfelt words to us in the school yearbook brought her so alive in my mind that I shed tears that I never knew that great lady better!

Last and maybe least you will learn something about my own writing style as I answer Jordan’s questions, focusing on a story I wrote about him for my memoir. How, as usual when I sat down to write it I had no idea where to start, but secure in knowing when I found it, the rest would come to me as I wrote. I soon found the start with, “You want to know why I love this guy?” The rest flowed spontaneously and truthfully from my head and heart. In less than an hour the story was done. A few minutes of copy editing, and it was in final draft. Hopefully it meets my wish that the person reading it feels like they are sitting with me as I speak it. But it’s not my way or the highway. There are a zillion ways to write. Just be yourself. That is what attracts folks to you.

People, Always People



When Lois and I visited Israel in the Spring of 1973 around six months before the Yom Kippur War, the atmosphere between the Jews and the Arabs seemed reasonably quiescent. One more cautious than me would have grasped that the boiling passions between the two sides were just below the surface. Danger lurked everywhere. Trusting and optimistic Larry chose to book us into the American Colony Hotel, a posh Jordanian establishment which had long been in Jordan until the Israeli victory in 1967. While no untoward incidents threatened us during our stay at the hotel, being a guest there placed us close to dangerous sites. Take our first night. After dinner I suggested we cross the nearby old city to the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock, today a location of constant strife. Armed Israeli guards stood at the centuries old gate which provided entrance to the city. That should have tipped us off. Entering the narrow streets of the city where souks and stores lined the way. There were no more guards as we traversed the city from one side to the other, the sights were fascinating to our inquisitive eyes, bending our minds away from any danger. We came out to the great and wide plaza where we saw the Wailing Wall, and high above the Dome of the Rock, and armed Israeli guards all about. The failing light, made it a mysterious and thrilling scene. We approached close to the wall, observed those in prayer, and then retreated back through the darkening Old City to return to our hotel.

Still unwisely adventurous, I suggested to my trusting bride that we venture into the West Bank to the rarely visited Herodion, where it is said Herod is buried. No one was in sight when we arrived. We were alone in Arab territory. I could navigate my car only part of the way up the circular road that led to the top where one could look down on the ancient burial site. Lois claimed she was too tired to walk up. I did so, placing her out of my sight for a short time. When I returned there was an old Arab lady sitting nearby whom Lois said had engaged her in conversation. Let’s face it! I had taken us to a location where we were sitting ducks. Lucky for us, we drove back to Jerusalem unhindered. It could have been the end right there close to Herod.

I had told Jordan I would relate our adventures on The Plains of Abraham. A keen student of history, he missed on this one, thinking it was in Israel, as I thought he might. I related to Jordan that the plains are in Quebec City, and it is where the French under General Montcalm were defeated by the English under General Wolfe in 1759, making America English speaking, despite both generals being killed in the battle. My close call there was taking a horrific fall while skating in the lee of the magnificent hotel, Chateau Frontenac, proving yet again the hard bones in my head were matched by those in my hip, protecting me yet again from serious injury.

To Jordan’s amusement I related how we then drove north along the magnificent St. Lawrence River to Point a Pique, a village close to one hundred miles from Quebec City, staying on New Year’s Eve at a Quebecois hotel where we were the only Americans. At the raucous party, the hotel manager chose me to be his dance partner, not his beautiful Japanese wife, which Jordan jokingly described as another close call, “almost fooling around with the hotel manager.” Not likely. I wisely chose Lovely Lois.

People, Always People!


Imagine getting killed on your honeymoon in beautiful Jamaica. Lois and I started out in Montego Bay, our first tropical island, in November, 1963, the day after we were wed. What a gorgeous island, its beauty startlingly apparent as soon as we stepped off the plane. The beach and bay were alluring, even seductive. It impelled us to stay in the sun much too long, burning my face and head, and perhaps being responsible for the melanoma appearing there many years later. Our first stop while driving from Montego to Ocho Rios and the highly regarded Plantation Inn was for a few hours at Rose Hall, a few miles off the road into a remote area where we had to walk on a dirt road to reach that famous site. Rose Hall is where the “Wicked Witch of Jamaica” resided in the 18th Century, and where it is reputed, she did away with a few husbands she didn’t especially care for. Her ghost must have accompanied us when en route in this lonely place, on this dirt road, with an abyss to our left, and a wooded bush to our right, we saw a lone and threatening figure approaching us at a distance. Inquisitiveness turned to fear when we saw he was armed with a machete! I could already see the headlines in the Boston newspapers. “Recently married couple disappears in Jamaica,” As he came closer, I saw what I thought was a cruel twist of his lips. I told Lois if there was trouble, run down to the car and call for help. As he came closer, he seemed less cruel looking. Was he smiling at our trepidation? And there was that machete which could sever me from my head with one swoosh! Now he was only a few feet away This was the moment! Then he walked by without a word, that amused smile still on his lips. Close call! We gathered ourselves together, walked on to Rose Hall, thanked the witch for sparing us, retreated to our car and drove on to the inn, where terrific services awaited us including two sumptuous meals on our patio every day, a pool, a sandy beach, and our every wish met, especially by the bass throated Mr. Brown, who led all his staff, but was there on the phone to take our order every morning for a hearty breakfast served on Irish linen on our patio overlooking a deep blue sea. All this for $28. a day? Yes. Now it would be more like $1.500. a day. A few miles down the coast is Oracabessa, famous for the unloading of the banana boats, where the scene at night is one of tumult and haze created by the sweat of limbs and the sweat of bananas. On to the capitol city of Kingston, where I was lucky to become friendly with Dudley Thompson, Esquire, the top defense lawyer in Jamaica, whose visage appeared almost daily in the Island newspaper, “The Daily Gleaner,” and was later the right hand of Jamaica’s premier, Michael Manley.

A greater threat to our well-being occurred a few years later when we lost our way hiking in Franconia Notch, near the now extinct “Old Man of the Mountains,” who must have been intent on vengeance because we had interloped upon his property. You’ve read a lot in those stories where hikers or skiers starting out too late, without a compass, warm clothes, and the necessities of venturing into the mountains, end often very unhappily. You will want to hear how we got out of this one.

Fortunately, that frightful experience did not destroy my love of nature which I describe at some length in this podcast. Somehow that leads Jordan and me into a discussion of Moses, me, and Charlton Heston, Jordan noting that unlike Moses I carry no staff, not even a cane, so distinguishing me, if indeed any is required, from a Prophet of the ages. Then to our approval and why of the latest remake of “West Side Story,” to how one likes their steak, medium or well done.

Jordan and I get around to all kinds of stuff. Listen and you shall share.

People, Always People!


Jordan Rich Speaks About His Encounter with Depression

Jordan and I turned the tables in this podcast. I asked the questions about his depression, and Jordan answered them. That turned out wonderfully, as you will hear. His experience was different than mine, especially his emphasis on time, both in real time, and in time imagined, his depression happening when he was younger, lasting longer, making him feel time was passing him by, and the concept of time finding its way into his inner imaginings. Indeed, we are different from one another. Perhaps that is marked by his lifelong love of poetry and acting. Listening, I realized even more how articulate, sentient, well-read, knowledgeable, and empathetic Jordan truly is. He shares insights with you and me I could not have, so the combination of the two of us gives the whole presentation ample scope. Lovable Jordan and edgy Larry, a nice duo, who get along great. I think you folks listening to this second one will have my reaction – a feeling of kinship with a very open, expressive, and dear man! I didn’t cry, but felt like it. I ended up feeling elation, and hope for us all in his words.

People, Always People.

Depression. The Disease Many Have but Few Talk About

The first part of the title above is demonstrated by myself and my terrific interlocutor on these podcasts, Jordan Rich. Both of us have suffered serious depressions, but both of us, having followed careers requiring expressiveness, I as an attorney and Jordan as a broadcaster, we are able to freely talk about our experiences with encountering this bane of mankind. Rather than tell you with specificity what you will hear on this podcast, as I sometimes do in these notes, I will speak objectively as a critic might in reviewing the podcast after hearing it a few months after it was recorded, as I just did. From that vantage point, it is about as good a picture as you are ever going to hear in plain words of how depression overtakes your life, changes your outlook and persona during its existence, and perhaps changes your life for good or bad after it departs. I would also say that two people who are good friends in the first place, and whose experiences with this disease were similar, are better situated than one to be informative about it because the interplay between them triggers memories and questions that might otherwise be omitted. I submit to you that this dynamic makes this pod fascinating from its beginning to its end a half hour later. I am proud of this podcast because I believe it will be helpful especially to those silent sufferers of depression. As Jordan keenly observed at its end, the subject is so broad that many points where left unsaid in the limited time available. At this writing we are planning another podcast to answer more questions, and share more experiences and insights about this horrific disease. With those remarks, I now invite you to listen to us on a subject that affects all of us in one way or another.

People, Always People.


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 narccissists 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 yourthful 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 thay 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


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 Connservatory 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 opposte 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 best selling 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 Cassado! 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 Naziism! 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!


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!


As I sit here on February 27,  2021 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 CD’s, 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 apple sauce made by an apple sauce 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.


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.