FRIENDS FOREVER – DR. JAY PIANO, ME VIOLIN

(A two-minute video. c. 2014)
     The back story: About 14 years ago, a little lady came over to me after a library talk about writing books, and introduced me to her husband, Dr. Jay Barnhart, saying, “My husband here plays piano, maybe you two should meet up and play together sometime.”
     Now retired and in his 80’s, Dr. Barnhart had a long medical career, in Pennsylvania and then in Miami, where he worked for the renowned Dr. Joe Davis, as an assistant medical examiner. He was the autopsy guy. 
     Jay and I kinda eyeballed each other, reluctant, then saying, “Well, what the heck. We’ll try it.” He had his quirks, I had mine, he was finicky about playing, and like him, I always want to play pieces – my own way. (ahem)
     Long story short, that began one of the most wonderful and rewarding relationships ever. We played everywhere, not always at Carnegie Hall levels, but always having fun. When music got too difficult, we’d just laugh and fake it.  Our greatest gift was that we could play most anything…by ear.  (Yes, I used my fingers too). Jay was a musical phenom. Sometimes we dared the audience to name any tune that he didn’t know. Rarely could he be stumped.
     The one thing we had in common, was — in childhood — the good fortune to have a mother who made us learn and practice, practice, practice. One time, I asked my mother, “Why, Mom? I wanna go out and play.” Her answer: “Practice first. Someday you will thank me.”
     Thank you, Mom.
     Jay and Ruth, his devoted wife, have now moved to another state, to be with family in the twilight years.  I do miss him, and our music together. I couldn’t love a brother any more. The memories will always prevail.
     Thank you Ruth. And…thank you Jay.
     Sharing this story, a heartfelt musical message, with good friends and loved ones. Enjoy.

 

 

THE FABULOUS NIKOS CUISINE

This posting is directed toward local friends and associates who live in Brevard County, particularly between areas of Cocoa, Suntree and Melbourne. If you love good food and classy atmosphere, I hope you will give it a try, you’ll find it quite different than ordinary breakfasts. 

Nick had been owner of the corner restaurant, Time Square Diner, on the far end of the Publix Plaza on Wickham and Interlachen Road.  He sold that then opened a smaller, upscale diner-like restaurant two doors away, now called “Niko’s Cuisine.”

I was amazed at the breakfast, not only good portions, but delicious as well. I had a Breakfast Pizza, then took half of it home. The pizza crust is thin, and the toppings are plentiful.

Prices are low, considering what you get. My breakfast pizza was eight bucks, enough for two, or even, three.

They are also a well-established to-go operation for lunches. 

7777 N. Wickham Rd., Melbourne, Fl  32940. Open daily starting at 7:30 a.m.

Drop in and tell Nick I sent you.  You won’t be sorry. (No, I’m not pandering for a free meal)

See menu below.

 

Amazing shrimp scampi with loads of shrimp. – Yelp

BENNETT’S 60th BIRTHDAY

 

This poem (below) was written more than 30 years ago by a brilliant young man whose young life had been laced with rejection, heartaches, poverty and addiction amid the absence of ever feeling truly loved. Below is one of the sixty-plus poems he penned, which are taken from his book, Black Hole, assembled and collected from spiral notebooks and scrap paper, with no intention to have them published. That was done for him by a sympathetic family member. 

These few simple words speak volumes about the persona of Bennett A. Frank.

 

THE DAY THAT I CAME LAST

 

Gather friends and listen, to a tale that’s true and wild

About a boy whose eyes would glisten as he turned to man from child

 

When Dad came missing in ’72, Mom spent no days in black

The world he knew was shades of blue, there was no turning back

 

The school bus dropped him off at home, but the door was often locked

His afternoons were spent alone, catching fish to trade in shock

 

When you’re between child and man, your world is what you make

There’s no time for tears that ran, He’s had all that he could take.

 

Hey Mommy, keep your men, your wine and bags of grass

For I would always remember, the days that I came last

 

*  (second verse, Bennett refers to “Dad”…who was a stepfather.)

 

     Bennett Arthur Frank died from an overdose on hard drugs in January of 2019.  Xanax, Methamphetamine and Fentanyl, all three, were found his body. He had been living the homeless life, befriended mainly by homeless people and supplied with drugs of his choice by a generous physician.

     Despite drug addiction which had haunted him since the age of twelve, he was a gentle soul, loved by his son and daughter, and his father, who knew he was trapped by a combination of mental illness, psychological impairment, low self-esteem and the everlasting grip from substance abuse.

     Bennett knew that his father loved him, all his life, but always felt less important than other people, including family and friends. He felt he had disappointed everyone in the family circle. There was no turning back.

     On September 11, 1960, Bennett was born a healthy baby in a North Miami hospital, the morning after Hurricane Donna hit the southeast coast of Florida. Today would have been his 60th birthday.

     On January 17, 2019, he chose to put an end to his lifelong misery.

     I will love him forever. I only wish he knew that. 

     And, I wish I could wish him a happy birthday. 

 

Black Hole is available on Amazon, or from me via e-mail.

Bennett’s full story of his struggles can be found in the book “A Boy Who Mattered” available via Amazon. Signed copies available by contacting me at mlf283@aol.com.

 


 

 

SIXTY YEAR POLICE ANNIVERSARY – WHO’D A THUNK IT?

On July 26th, 1960, Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his waning months as president; Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” topped the music charts; baseball Yankee, Mickey Mantle would become the home run champ while most of the south still practiced strict segregation based on race.

     Meanwhile, Dade County was hiring an unlikely new rookie cop.

     Downtown Miami was dark and quiet at 10:50 p.m. Thick with fog, the summer night air was like breathing pea soup. I parked my stick-shift, 1955 green Pontiac in a parking lot free to county employees, and walked toward the 28-story courthouse, the only building with lights on. It was the tallest structure in Florida until 1967.

     July 26th, 1960, would become a memorable day in the life of this unfocused violinist who needed a real job to support an 18 year-old wife and a new baby on the way. The application for police officer sailed through the system unchallenged. Here I was wearing an over-sized bus-driver’s blue uniform denoting me as a rookie, age 21. Looking to the sky, I marveled at the pyramid summit of this mighty building in downtown Miami that housed the county jail and other administrative offices and courts. It would be my pre-hire employment venue for two weeks along with two other rookies, older than me,

     The last job I ever wanted would be carrying a gun and barking orders to people twice my age, or worse, arresting them for breaking laws. I felt like a little boy playing grown-up.

      The courthouse was my first step into the cop world. Yes, I was nervous and unsure of myself, but the pay would be good, as was job security. Thank goodness for my stepfather, Bernie the bookie, an old friend of mobster Meyer Lansky, who had connections in the Dade County Sheriff’s Department.

     I exited the elevators at the 19th floor, watching cops hustling to and fro. A large distinguished man, white haired and lumbering, Captain Noah Scott gave me a dutiful lecture then handed me over to an overweight officer from Texas who would show off his mighty brawn with inmates, for my benefit.

     Wham, Whack, Zing, Ohhhh…the Texan was showing me the ropes, how to calm an inmate, a drunk teen, and ordered him to bend naked and show his stuff. Never can tell where those weapons might be.

     Oy.

     Maybe I can work for a grocery store, a car wash, or better yet a symphony orchestra. This wasn’t for me. But I was only twenty-one with two mouths to feed. It was my job to stand tall and suck it up.

     The inmate floors were separated by race and gender. Blacks were not to comingle with whites. These were the times when blacks were not permitted on Miami Beach at night without a work permit. All of Miami was segregated, but I thought that was normal.

     Throughout the cell blocks, noises, voices and smells were unpleasant to say the least.

     After two weeks at the jail, I spent eight weeks in the police academy, where I ended up wearing a badge. My first position as a cop was walking the beat at the airport, blowing whistles and writing parking tickets.

     Eventually, I was assigned to the Sunny Isles section of North Miami Beach, which bordered the ocean and a hundred motels. I didn’t write many tickets. Most cops wrote at least 50 to 100 a month, I wrote about ten. I got my butt chewed by Sgt. Butler. So I started hiding behind bushes along the highway at the end of the month, catching speeders, to bolster my numbers. In one instance, I felt so guilty ticketing newlyweds, I paid their breakfast check at IHOP.

     One evening, around 3 a.m., I chased after a speeding car, weaving until it smashed into a light pole. The streets were barren, but I called in the accident and rushed to the driver. He was pinned behind the wheel, moaning, drunk and slippery from blood, trying to get him out. Finally, as I lowered him on the sidewalk, he looked me directly into the eyes. It was his death moment. I’ll never forget feeling a body going limp in my arms. I never knew the man, but I cried anyway.

     This wasn’t the movies. It was reality.

     I went on to enjoy a wonderful career, working with the finest human beings on the planet. I grew up, so-to-speak, and began working in Homicide in 1966 and eventually heading the Homicide Bureau as a captain. The career spanned thirty years and four crashed marriages.

     I witnessed the social and professional changes that took place in the profession over 30 years. It was not all pleasant, particularly dealing with riots, hatred, and ambushing police officers. I’ll never forget the worst race riots in the history of the south, following a “Not-Guilty” verdict for five officers who were charged with beating a man to death…who happened to be black.

     It was unfathomable, to think that I, a career police officer, would be in a position to arrest fellow cops. Alas, someone had to do it. Gut wrenching to be sure. 

     It all began that summer night, 60 years ago in muggy downtown Miami, at the 28-story courthouse, July 26, 1960.

    Happy 60th anniversary to Bob McGavock as well. Sadly, Herb Overly has passed on.

   The whole story can be found in my memoir book, “From Violins to Violence.” Contact me for signed copies.

ANNIVERSARY THANKS

 

Who woulda thunk it?

     They said it would never succeed, this thing called “marriage.” Suzanne had two failed attempts of matrimony that spanned some fifteen years, and worse yet, my first four marriages ended in divorce court, spanning a total of 19 years.

     Then came the moment in January 8th, 1987 when I was attending a birthday party for an eight-year old nephew, Suzanne walked through the door. She had worked as a hairdresser with the boy’s mother. It was a crowded room, but no one else was there but Suzanne and me. Voices blabbered in the background, but the center of attention was too much of a draw. This woman had a glow.

     Not only was she beautiful in her conservative attire, including high heels and her blond hair fixed to perfection. She had poise. She exuded perfection and confidence. She spoke fluent French. I started posing questions, friendly of course. She was open and forthcoming, nothing to hide, confident. She seemed amused that I was so attentive.

     At the time, we were both still married but separated awaiting the final decree from a judge. We both swore we would never do that again. Yes, we could be friends, but that was all. Not only that, we did not want to field the negative smirks and prognostications from friends and acquaintances.

     I took her to the movies. We went on dinner outings. We went to the beaches. We swore to each other, we would go no further. Though each in our 40s, Suzanne treated the relationship like a string of blind dates, no fooling around.  Getting physical was off limits. (well, for a while)

     After a few months of us both warning myself not to get serious, I realized I had fallen in love. It was the real thing. I thought about her night and day. Nothing in my past could compare. I had met the perfect woman…finally. I only hoped she would feel the same toward me.

     I proposed on Valentine’s Day in 1989 (well, kinda), at a swanky revolving rooftop restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale. After entering the dining room, I stealthily handed the Maitre D a tiny box, gift wrapped, and instructed him to wait fifteen minutes, then bring it to Suzanne. Yes…it was a ring.

     “Oh my,” she exclaimed, before opening the box. “Isn’t that nice. They give away a little chocolate on Valentine’s Day.” She saw me staring back at her with a wry smile. “Oh,” she said, curiously. “That’s not a chocolate, is it?”

     I nodded. This was such an important moment, it had to go right. She saw me starting to tear. She looked at the box, then at me, then the box again. As she awaited my proposal, I remained emotionally choked. I couldn’t talk. So, with a smile, she looked up at me and asked. “Will you marry me?”

     From that day on, we tell people that it was she who proposed to me.

     Planning a wedding was easy. We’d invite no one, except a witness couple. Who needed to hear the jokes and taunts, doubts and negativity? So we eloped to Hilton Head Island, S.C. where my best friend and his wife owned a condo.

     The wedding took place at the Baynard Ruins, a local historical site in the woods and a weathered building that once served as a southern plantation. Only a sampling of coquina walls remained, the floors were dirt and weeds. A Notary Public lady performed the wedding requirements. Friends, Harvey and Judy stood by. Such, my fifth marriage and Suzanne’s third, was finalized. Suzanne was so happy.

     The “reception party” took place on the tranquil beach, just the four of us, with wine and goodies, using a beach blanket under a bright moon that served as a light bulb in the sky.

     That was thirty-one years ago, this date, June 14, 1989.  We are still on a roll.

     Who woulda thunk it?

     Happy Anniversary, my love. Thank you, for being you.