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.


I would ask you to read that title two ways, first as to what makes a person a model public servant, and second as to a public servant known to all of us who fits that description. Reading this note and then listening to this podcast about Massachusetts State Treasurer, Deborah Goldberg, will be my attempt to answer that question as an impartial apolitical observer. When I interviewed Deb on TV for my book “Voices of Brookline,” over nineteen years ago on February 6, 2003, as she lovingly held in her arms her small dog “Sawyer,” one more clairvoyant than me might have discerned that day the background and characteristics that have propelled her to her present and long held position as the State Treasurer of Massachusetts: love, family, hometown, civic responsibility, public service, commitment, inventiveness, and more. From that day to this Deb has developed, developed, and developed, and that shows no sign of stopping as she contends for her third term in that office. We will examine more closely from where Deb has emerged. Her mother Carol is a Rabb, a family famous in the state for parlaying a small grocery store in the North End of Boston into the famous chain known as Stop and Shop, under the guidance of the late Sidney Rabb, and that family’s commitment to charity and public responsibility. Carol herself, a woman whose independence and insistence on the right of women to be equal, rose to the be the COO of Stop and Shop. Certainly Carol was a key factor in her daughter’s development. Deb herself credits working as a youngster in a family run market honed her family and public values. Her father, the late Avram Goldberg, himself an astute businessman who became the Chairman and President of the company working in tandem with his wife, was the son of Judge Lewis Goldberg who served an incredible 41 years as a Massachusetts Superior Court Judge. These two families merged their attributes from the time Deb was a little girl. Little wonder she grew up committed to her family, town, and state, aiming at public service “as the right thing to do.” As an exampe of this you’ll hear that when  her mother received a dog as a present, both Carol  and Deb became lovingly attached to that dog, engendering in Deb an empathy for all dog lovers, and a sense that such folks could contribute to Brookline community. Later, as a Selectperson, Deb would support the now well established Green Dog Program which provides a place for dog owners to allow their dogs freedom to exercise, socialize with other dogs, and to themselves make new friends. One of its many venues was the Still Street Playground where JFK and later estimable attorney, Charles Kickham, played ball when they were alter boys at close by Saint Aidan’s Church, now converted into condos. Deb’s passion for that relatively small program shows in all of her public endeavors whether in Brookline or as State Treasurer, and whether the issue is small or large, such as announcing on November 18, 2021 new draft rules that would allow the State Pension Fund, which controls 95.7 billion dollars, to vote against directors of companies that are nor aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement. Certainly that innovative approach to her office marks Deb as a woman who loves her job. When I interviewed Deb back in 2003 she was already alert to the coming changes to be wrought by the so-called Communications Revolution, and whether our values would survive that revolution, Finally my esteemed interlocutor, Jordan Rich asks me whether Deborah Goldberg is a model of what a public servant should be. By now, my answer is a foregone conclusion.

People, Always People.


Let’s take YAZ, Carl Albert Yastrzemski, to be precise. Without his talent, Yaz would be an ordinary guy. With it he is extraordinary, not just as a player, but as the inspiring person he or any of us “ordinary” folks might be. That is why he inspired us. Did Yaz have the natural ability of Ted Williams, or of dozens of other lesser players, like his teammates Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, and Wade Boggs? Probably not. In his first six seasons, Carl was a serviceable player whose home run total reached twenty only one time. Suddenly, in 1967, Yaz led his team to the World Series with one of the greatest seasons ever, winning the Triple Crown (batting average, home runs, and runs batted in), and the MVP, winning forever the respect of everyone. Did it stop there? No. Carl whacked 40 or more homers thrice in the next three seasons, and went on to a remarkable 23 year career that included a multiplicity of batting, fielding, throwing, and team leading exploits which make his moniker, “YAZ,” ring down the baseball ages. That was accomplished by a singular dedication to be the best player he could be, a seriousness of purpose and desire to excel, which made him a role model we all admired, and inspired us to lead a more focused life. Of all players, it may be that Carl Yastrzemski best fit the notion that we identify with ballplayers because of all athletes they most resemble in size and background any one of us. Another player of that ilk is Ian Kinsler who wasn’t picked until the 17th round of the draft several hundred rungs down the ladder, but pulled himself up by his bootstraps a la Yaz to become one of the most prominent players in the American League over a 14 year career, capped by winning a ring with the Red Sox 2018 Championship team. Listen here to my retelling of my interview of the centered Ian in the third base dugout at Fenway Park when he visited here with the Rangers in the midst of a torrid batting streak. That meeting led to my joking offer to Nolan Ryan, then the President of the Rangers, to hire me as a Rangers magic maker for the coming World Series. How about  baseballers off the field like Chaim Bloom, the astute Chief Baseball Officer of the Red Sox, who was the only one who believed me that I witnessed Teddy Ballgame’s 500 foot plus home run in June, 1946, prompting me to write a story about Chaim and Teddy, soon to be published. Another such baseballer is poet, author, playright, Sox Public Address Announcer, and raconteur, the gentle and talented, Dick Flavin, whom I address as “King Richard.” You’ll get to know him here. As you will meet at an event I attended, Mariano Rivera, Bud Selig, and Pat Courtney, Bud’s right hand guy. Not to mention brushing elbows there with Pedro Martinez and Joe Torre. I was also there long ago on that horrific evening when I heard “a sound never to be forgotten,” when Tony Conigliaro got beaned and blinded by an errant fastball. Happier times involved Juan. Marichal, the Cooper brothers, Mort and Walker, the Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, Tom Seaver and his long ago predecessor, Christy Mathewson, and the unforgettable Rickey Henderson. They’re all here, so please listen and share.

People, Always People.