GEORGE REINCKE – A BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE

I first met George Gilbert Reincke in 1955, North Miami Beach, Florida. He was 16, I was 15. We were unlikely friends. George was tall and gangly, very serious minded, a natural car mechanic and an expert for his age in following the stock market. He learned that from his father. And, he was a conscientious student.

I was none of those things.

I couldn’t tell the difference between an inner tube and a spark plug, and I thought a stock market is where lots of food and beverages lined the aisles of grocery stores. I didn’t even have a father, he died when I was a baby. I liked baseball and playing the violin, neither of which interested George.

But we hit it off for some reason. He did have a gross sense of humor and a roaring laugh. He laughed when I made jokes and funny faces, or made fun of stupid people. He forever egged me on for more jokes. And he happily adapted to his new nickname: Rinky Dink.

He was funny also, though not because he tried. Simple little flubs turned into uproarious laughter. The laughter itself was contagious. Sometimes, we and our friend, Jim Murphy, would hold our stomachs laughing.

In 1955-57, we went to drive-in movies. During one intermission, we all assembled at the outdoor popcorn counter that was situated directly beside the outdoor microphone. A movie manager was standing there making announcements about the next movie which played on every speaker on every car window in the drive-in. Suddenly, next to the mike, George let loose with a thunderous belch that echoed in each speaker in the entire drive-in. We could hear people laughing.

George fell in love with a cute twin named Gail. When she moved back to a northern state with her family, he was devastated. Never knew he was such a loving guy.

George joined the Coast Guard in 1958, six months active duty, six years active reserves, mainly to satisfy the draft rules. From there, he got a job working in a business office for Dade County.

Meanwhile, I had joined the police department, which seemed to interest him, so he quit his job and joined the county police agency too.

We became roommates in 1961 after my young bride of one year decided to leave me. We lived in a two story apartment off West Dixie Highway and 150th Street in North Miami Beach. Now in our 20’s, we became drinking buddies. We talked and shared much about our lives and our future ambitions, that we did not share with others. This is when became like brothers. George was always someone I could talk to, as was I to him.

George ended up marrying three times. His first to a French Canadian woman seven years older who was a barmaid at an old clapboard hotel by the railroad tracks. She had two kids, one of whom was a boy named Chad who George loved as he was his own, but never went through the process of adoption.

His second wife was a stenographer in the department, who grew tired of George’s chronic absence from home.

He met Bobbi in the early 1980s and hit it off. They had two daughters.

George managed to promote to the rank of Sergeant and served in various capacities for Dade County, including a number of years in charge of the Underwater Recovery Unit.

He took one lieutenant’s test and did poorly. It wasn’t a natural for him, so he never took another promotional test. Test-taking was not his forte. But in truth, I envied him, because getting promoted to lieutenant and captain, was one of my great career mistakes. George stayed on the road, working with the public and with fellow officers. My job became relegated to an administrative desk. I always figured he was really smarter than me.

For some reason, I could always beat him at chess and at tennis. So, he went to the library and checked out books on strategy for playing chess and tennis. He hated losing to me, so he became an expert and eventually beat me using his new strategies. Pretty smart.

I always told George, don’t worry about being ahead of me, you’re the one with all the money.

But we did enjoy golf together. We were as bad as each other. He had a hard time breaking 100. (Thanks Goodness for Mulligans) But he worked on studying that game as well. We were playing the Red Course at Doral one day and decided to play with two clubs only; the 7 iron and the putter. That’s all. Would you believe, he shot a 90 that day. Beat the heck out of me.

It was in the mid-1980s that George and I were playing the Maggie Valley Course in North Carolina as a get-away golfing week. The first day out, he came down with a terrible sickness. George worsened as we drove home. Finally, the diagnosis. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Cancer. Chemo. Hair loss. Recovery. But the disease always followed him.

In retirement, George took his family and moved upstate to Palm Bay Florida, to give his kids a better education and feelings of safety. Nevertheless, his marriage to Bobbi was a rocky one. Each were hard-headed. Each had their complaints with one another. They eventually divorced. But he was a moral, decent and loving man, though he was not always adept at showing affection. It mattered most to him that his daughters learned good morals and smart business sense.

George was already living in Brevard County for several years, when my wife and I moved nearby to Melbourne. George had introduced us to the area.

Twenty-two years, George lived with that black cloud called Lymphoma, He had gone into remission several times over the years, in and out of chemo treatments. And, as he aged, he also became more devout to his God.

My wife, Suzanne, and I were at his hospital bedside when he passed away on November 14, 2008. He was breathing…then he wasn’t. George Reincke was gone, a week shy of his 70th birthday.

He was truly a loved man, even by that little step-son from his first marriage, who followed George’s footsteps in law enforcement to eventually become the Chief of Police in Hollywood, Florida.

His lovely daughters, I know, are proud to have had such a caring and devoted dad. And, even in divorce, he still cared deeply for his Bobbi.

He was the closest I had to a brother. No matter our differences, we could talk about anything.

He loved me. I loved him.

Happy Birthday, George.

Bur-Lah-Loop: Rinky Dink

 

DESPITE MISCONCEPTIONS, MARIJUANA STILL HARMFUL

(This article by yours truly, appears in Florida Today Op-Ed page this date.)

Remember when cigarettes were the “in” thing? Teenagers like myself joined millions of kids aiming to be “cool.” Boys carried packs of Lucky Strikes in their t-shirt sleeve. Girls smoked daintily. My mother smoked Kents with the micronite filter because they were “healthier.” She died of cancer at age 55.

Throughout the 1930s to the 1990s, in nearly every scene, movie characters were filmed and photographed with cigarettes dangling from their fingers and lips. Images and billboard ads depicted Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and scores of other stars glorifying cigarettes as a tool for sexiness. Some medical doctors prostituted themselves by promoting the use of nicotine. Magazine ads were common, many portraying physicians holding a cigarettes saying, “More doctors smoke camels than any other cigarette.”

For nearly a century, no one listened to nay-sayers trying to convince us how nicotine was bad for our health, that it was addictive and potentially lethal. We didn’t listen. We didn’t believe nicotine was addictive. Meanwhile, cigarette companies exploded with profits as they enhanced the content of nicotine. Politicians were barraged with warnings and data, but that didn’t matter so long as the companies installed a new notice on the side of packs, warning that “cigarettes could be harmful to your health.”

Finally, toward the end of the 1980s, the verdict was in and everyone knew it, including manufacturers and politicians. No more ads, no more promotions. Rather, new ads told the horrors of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and cancer, all related to smoking. The cigarette business started to diminish.

Marijuana has since risen into prominence as the new cigarette of choice as folks refuse to believe that weed is harmful. Sound familiar? Too many people were serving time in prisons who were otherwise not criminals — sad but true. We began seeing casual scenes in motion pictures where kids and adults used pot routinely, much like cigarettes of yore. More and more, celebrities promoted pot as not only harmless; it was useful in the treatment of numerous diseases.

What the purveyors of pot failed to realize was how much marijuana was being psychologically glorified by adults, including family members, to young people. Here lies the potential damage to kids as young as age 10, because youthful users often grow into adults addicted to something worse. And that’s our fault. Out of ignorance, we have given legitimacy to recreational pot. Adult users have spread propaganda that harmless pot is not a gateway drug to harder substances. It’s true that not all pot users move up to harder drugs. But it’s also true that most addicts on heroin, cocaine and other hardcore narcotics started their drug life with marijuana.

Studies by the Center For Disease Control and Prevention found several health risks in using marijuana, including:

  • One in 10 users will become addicted;
  • Marijuana affects the brain, particularly learning skills, attention, decision making, emotions and lethargy;
  • Smoke from marijuana contains many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke. Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis

In 2016, marijuana was legalized in Florida for medical purposes. We’d be ignorant to believe that users will limit usage to medicinal purposes only. Recreational use will likely explode when and if marijuana is fully legalized.

Without question, marijuana is a mind-altering drug. Thus, it would seem only proper to allow pot for medical purposes requiring a doctor’s prescription, much like other pain killers and mind-altering drugs.

Enforcing laws for illegal possession of small amounts only, should be restricted to fines, counselling and other consequences besides jail time. Driving vehicles while high on marijuana should receive the same penalties as driving while drunk.

I’ve known youngsters who were affected by liberal parents who turned a blind eye to their children using pot. Those kids grew into full-fledged drug addicts.

We should do all what we can to avoid glorifying or sanctioning recreational pot for impressionable youngsters, especially pre-teens and early-teens. Those are the vulnerable years that can be negatively altered for life.

We must protect kids. It’s our job.

 

WE’VE TAKEN EQUALITY TOO FAR

(This Op-Ed by yours truly appeared in the June 9 issue of Florida Today)

 

Some folks might call me a bigot, or some other neo-expletive, but I feel we’ve carried this “equality” thing a little too far.

Most of us ascribe to the question, “Why fix something if it’s not broken?” Yet the loudest voices within minority groups have managed to create fixes that were not needed to begin with, all in the name of “diversity” and the pandering for bloc votes.

The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, consisting of 2.3 million and 1.8 million members respectively, are wonderful organizations that have thrived for over 100 years. They teach harmony, unity, survival skills and more. Now, the “diversity police” have altered a fully successful program by merging girls into the Boy Scouts.

Perhaps gender-neutral scouts should all be issued bras and jock straps, equally, so as not to discriminate against one sex or the other. Yes, that’s dumb. So is breaking down organizations that work well.

Then there is the discussion about public restrooms. According to a study issued by Pew Research, 3.8 percent of Americans identify as gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. Of that, 0.6 percent identify as transgender. Thus, thousands of restrooms throughout America are now being denoted as “gender neutral” in order to accommodate that 0.6 percent of America. What about the other 99.4 percent who are not transgender? Or the 46 percent of Americans polled and the 60 percent of churchgoers (Pew Research), who want to keep restrooms gender separated. Do they matter?

If a parent brings a four-year-old daughter into a restroom, do we want her exposed to the private activity of male users?

This raises another question about the LGBTQ acronym, which supposedly covers members of the gender-different community. I’m fine with minority groups seeking fairness and equality in basic constitutional rights, but the letter “Q” — which stands for “Queer” — has a negative connotation. As a young lad, when I took dancing and violin lessons, I was repeatedly bullied in school by that derogatory term, causing deep emotional problems. Can anyone explain why “Queer” needs to be included in gender sex-orientation identity? And how, exactly, is “Queer” defined?

The gender-alternative issue has impacted our military establishment. Again, we fixed something that wasn’t broken. Female divisions were functioning well and contributing toward military operations. Women in the military accessed the same benefits and opportunities as men. But, they would use their own barracks and restrooms. Yet, the Obama administration instituted a policy which allowed for transgender people in all military/combat operations and training without separatism. Never mind that Mother Nature, in general, creates males naturally bigger and stronger than females. That’s not only a fact, it’s vital in fighting wars.

Though the numbers are small, a Rand Corporation study claims that sexual-adjustment surgery for transgenders cost the taxpayer no more than $8 million a year. Cheap enough. But it begs a question: Why should American taxpayers be held responsible for costs involved for voluntary, unrequired medical surgery? That’s much like a person joining the Army so he/she can get a free nose job.

It’s good that new changes are being enacted by President Trump.

Miss America Pageant administrators have decided to drop personal appearance as an element in choosing winners. The mentality: We shouldn’t identify some women as prettier than other women. My stepfather would have said, “Oy vey.” Pageant administrators need to get over it. It’s normal. People have admired men and women’s natural assets since the beginning of time. There’s nothing wrong with beauty being an element in a “beauty” pageant.

Some folks feel that passing or failing tests and competitions is harmful to kids. Whatever happened to striving and working hard to do well?

Then there are multi-millionaire football players who complain about life in America. Sorry, no sympathy there.

Think: North Korea, Iran, ISIS, Venezuela, terrorism, domestic violence, runaway illegal immigration, addiction epidemics, economy, jobs, energy and honesty in government.

Now we’re talking about real needs for fixing.

Florida Today:   We’ve taken ‘equality’ too far

WE'VE TAKEN EQUALITY TOO FAR

(This Op-Ed by yours truly appeared in the June 9 issue of Florida Today)
 

Some folks might call me a bigot, or some other neo-expletive, but I feel we’ve carried this “equality” thing a little too far.

Most of us ascribe to the question, “Why fix something if it’s not broken?” Yet the loudest voices within minority groups have managed to create fixes that were not needed to begin with, all in the name of “diversity” and the pandering for bloc votes.

The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, consisting of 2.3 million and 1.8 million members respectively, are wonderful organizations that have thrived for over 100 years. They teach harmony, unity, survival skills and more. Now, the “diversity police” have altered a fully successful program by merging girls into the Boy Scouts.

Perhaps gender-neutral scouts should all be issued bras and jock straps, equally, so as not to discriminate against one sex or the other. Yes, that’s dumb. So is breaking down organizations that work well.

Then there is the discussion about public restrooms. According to a study issued by Pew Research, 3.8 percent of Americans identify as gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. Of that, 0.6 percent identify as transgender. Thus, thousands of restrooms throughout America are now being denoted as “gender neutral” in order to accommodate that 0.6 percent of America. What about the other 99.4 percent who are not transgender? Or the 46 percent of Americans polled and the 60 percent of churchgoers (Pew Research), who want to keep restrooms gender separated. Do they matter?

If a parent brings a four-year-old daughter into a restroom, do we want her exposed to the private activity of male users?

This raises another question about the LGBTQ acronym, which supposedly covers members of the gender-different community. I’m fine with minority groups seeking fairness and equality in basic constitutional rights, but the letter “Q” — which stands for “Queer” — has a negative connotation. As a young lad, when I took dancing and violin lessons, I was repeatedly bullied in school by that derogatory term, causing deep emotional problems. Can anyone explain why “Queer” needs to be included in gender sex-orientation identity? And how, exactly, is “Queer” defined?

The gender-alternative issue has impacted our military establishment. Again, we fixed something that wasn’t broken. Female divisions were functioning well and contributing toward military operations. Women in the military accessed the same benefits and opportunities as men. But, they would use their own barracks and restrooms. Yet, the Obama administration instituted a policy which allowed for transgender people in all military/combat operations and training without separatism. Never mind that Mother Nature, in general, creates males naturally bigger and stronger than females. That’s not only a fact, it’s vital in fighting wars.

Though the numbers are small, a Rand Corporation study claims that sexual-adjustment surgery for transgenders cost the taxpayer no more than $8 million a year. Cheap enough. But it begs a question: Why should American taxpayers be held responsible for costs involved for voluntary, unrequired medical surgery? That’s much like a person joining the Army so he/she can get a free nose job.

It’s good that new changes are being enacted by President Trump.

Miss America Pageant administrators have decided to drop personal appearance as an element in choosing winners. The mentality: We shouldn’t identify some women as prettier than other women. My stepfather would have said, “Oy vey.” Pageant administrators need to get over it. It’s normal. People have admired men and women’s natural assets since the beginning of time. There’s nothing wrong with beauty being an element in a “beauty” pageant.

Some folks feel that passing or failing tests and competitions is harmful to kids. Whatever happened to striving and working hard to do well?

Then there are multi-millionaire football players who complain about life in America. Sorry, no sympathy there.

Think: North Korea, Iran, ISIS, Venezuela, terrorism, domestic violence, runaway illegal immigration, addiction epidemics, economy, jobs, energy and honesty in government.

Now we’re talking about real needs for fixing.

Florida Today:   We’ve taken ‘equality’ too far

SUICIDES KILL MORE THAN HOMICIDES

(This Op-Ed by yours truly was published in Florida Today, Monday, May 14, 2018.)

Most folks do not realize that homicide detectives spend more than half their time on the job investigating suicides, accidental deaths and even unexplained natural deaths, not just murder cases. That’s because any of those could be a homicide in disguise.

Sometimes, it hits home. As a Miami-Dade County homicide supervisor in the 1970s, I was routinely reviewing a stack of reports when I came across a suicide case where a 65-year-old man shot himself in the head and left a note: “I don’t want to suffer the cancer.” His name was Joe Strauss. My stepfather’s brother, he was “Uncle” Joe to me.

On another occasion, I visited the morgue to consult with the medical examiner, a frequent occurrence. As I passed by the array of bodies wearing nothing but toe-tags, I noticed a small person lying with a bullet hole in her temple. I gasped. I knew this girl, my wife’s niece, age 11. Alone in the house, she found her dad’s pistol, lay on the bed and elected to die.

Nationally, suicides comprise more than double the number of homicides, 44,965 compared to 19,362 ins 2016, according to Centers for Disease Control/Prevention.              

Suicide cases are particularly heart wrenching. During my 30 years with Miami-Dade County Police, I knew 12 cops who killed themselves.  One female officer had just lost her job. She took her 4-year-old son with her to the beach at night and lay on the blanket. She took both their lives with a revolver. Another detective struggled with love of wife and love of job, until his wife left for good. He got drunk, wrote a note and shot himself. Motives vary, though advanced sickness and alcohol played a major role in a large number. After that, comes depression and mental illness.

According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34. There are other surprising statistics:

  • In most charts, the rates of suicide are 3.5 times higher among males, than females
  • Racially, Native Americans/Alaskans, rank highest, followed closely by whites. Blacks   show the lowest rates for suicide.
  • Regionally, Rocky Mountain and Midwest states show the highest rates, while California, Illinois and New York show the lowest.
  • Firearms account for over half of all suicides, followed by a myriad of other methods.
  • The percentage of adults having had suicide thoughts were highest among adults 18 to 25,(8.8 percent).
  • Roughly 18 percent of suicide victims are military veterans. That’s 22 per day.
  • School bullying (and cyber bullying) play a significant role in suicides among young people.
  • Having investigated hundreds of these cases, I saw that the common threads between cases were mental depression and other warning signs that were either ignored or dismissed by friends and relatives. It is important for parents and friends to pay close attention when suicide is ever mentioned, even in a joking fashion. Mental health professionals are available throughout the community for consultations. Or, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Other warning signs, according to mental health professionals, include:

  • Sudden increase in use of alcohol or drugs
  • Depression associated with unbearable pain
  • Talking of being trapped or a burden to others
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Verbalizing a wish to die.

In rare occasions, I’ve seen suicides that actually translated to an act of love.

At age 88, Sam was suffering through a long and fatal illness. Greta, his wife of 65 years had been his caretaker for years, only to watch him wither in pain. One moonlit night, she took Sam for drive onto the beach. There, as he sat in the back seat, she connected the hose from the tailpipe into the car window. She turned on the engine and crawled into Sam’s arms. They were found the next morning in an embrace.

Theirs was an act of love.