24 years. You’ve been gone from me longer than I had you. I’m old now. Today, I particularly recall my visit to your bar — Mel’s — the week or so after you died. I took a seat at the bar, just inside the doorway and where you would have sat, smoking your Dunhill Blue’s and chewing the fat with anyone who happened to be seated alongside you. Happily, Fran was bartending. At that time, Mel’s was still at Paseo Nuevo, squeezed between the movie theatre and a pizza joint.
I settled in, Fran asking what I’d like. “Brandy.” She then asked what brand. I replied, “Whatever Frank drank.” “Well Brandy.” I remember telling her that must have been because he was always so cheap with himself. (Never others, including the homeless fellow, a five-minute friend he made outside Chicago’s Blackstone one late frosty night. My favorite Frank story.) Fran smiled as she poured: “No. He just didn’t want the bartender to have to work too hard.”
For those who loved him, this simple story reveals pretty much his essence, and why we – students, friends, strangers, me – were thrilled just to ride shotgun alongside the man. Tuesday, rain or shine, I’ll be by to visit you with a bouquet. Eric brings the brandy.