I first met Frank in 1979 when I was starting High School. I had attended St. Mary's School up to that point and had mostly been taught by nuns, so Canandaigua Academy was a big adjustment for me (For reference you can check my blogs entitled, The Infamous Red Jeans Story or Sweaty Hands and a Rotary Phone parts 1 & 2).
My class at St. Mary's had under 30 kids in it, and my Freshman class had over 300...so many more people and so many more girls to strike out with, the numbers were staggering. If I did the math right, I could strike out with a different girl each week of my high school career, and never have to look outside of my class. I had just started that process, when I met Frank as he taught an English class that I had chosen as a Freshman. He was young for a teacher, just less than 30, when I met him, and he still had that "new teacher smell" on him, when I took his class. He introduced me, through his teaching, to people like, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson (the original Where's Waldo?), and Henry David Thoreau. On slow days, or days we finished early, he would unpack his guitar, pull out his harmonica, and play for us. He introduced me then to people like Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Don McLean, and John Prine. Frank preferred the songs that had deeper meanings in them, that called you to action, and during that time, there were plenty to choose from. I think it really sunk in that I wasn't in Catholic School anymore the first time he sang "Dear Abby" and finished with the line about a girl in the back seat with her pants to her knees. Look out Toto, I wasn't in Kansas anymore. Aside from the inspiring talks, and musical interludes, Frank was like every other teacher, he took attendance, he graded our papers, he commanded his classroom like a ship's captain, but he wasn't like any other teacher I had, because Frank, was blind. That's right, he sees only "Crystals", yet he did all of these things equally well, if not better, than my other high school teachers.
I won't write long on Frank's blindness, because he doesn't let it define him, so why should I? I think it happened later in his youth, and I recall a story about a fall at a track meet that dislodged his retinas, but don't take it as gospel.
My oldest boy, Danny, had just become a Webelos, and we had a chapter where we had to have the Den talk to a handicapped person. This was tough, because I didn't know any local handicapped people, did I? It was only after someone else had mentioned a blind person, that I thought of my friend Frank, as you see my experiences with him, hadn't really caused me to focus on the handicapped side of him, and in fact hadn't put him in that category. It didn't fit him.
|An early look at Meyer and McGuire|
So I first heard my soon to be favorite group, Meyer and McGuire on a Saturday night at Wally's pub. I knew right then that I would see them again and in many more places. Frank hadn't only found a life partner in Siobhan, he had found the perfect accompaniment to his original ballads and thought provoking songs.
Formally Frank has not been my teacher for over 25 years now, but that is not to say he ever stopped teaching me. We were at one of his shows at the Cdga Brewhouse on a Sunday night a few years ago and I had a epiphany concerning just that. Those shows he does "unplugged" and invites budding musicians to join him. That night I watched a woman regularly go out back to smoke, she wasn't dressed particularly well, and she looked like a lot of her life might have been spent at the end of that bar.
|Playing the Yarger Golf tournament|