Posted by: Bill Tracy | April 11, 2021

You Bet Your Life — Mass Medicine

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is an unapproved vaccine that may prevent COVID-19. There is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

New Jersey conjures a host of images for most people. A vast expanse of 75-MPH oil refineries seen from the New Jersey Turnpike, gangster images like “leave the gun, take the cannolis,” Jimmy Hoffa’s body, the Jersey Shore — closed down by a bully-boy governor who was found lounging on one of those very beaches by an enterprising reporter, Springsteen, agriculture by those more in the know, and that famous “Jersey tomato.” Most recently, New Jersey distinguished itself a gambling leader. In 1978, casino gambling came to Atlantic City; suddenly you didn’t have to fly to Las Vegas. And now the state is the leader in online gambling. So I took a chance here in NJ. I put my life on the line the other day.

A pandemic now ravages the planet. Humans are dropping like house flies in a freak snowstorm. In the U.S., we’re now around 600,000 dead, far more than there would have been if government had acted appropriately to protect the people. Finally, now we have vaccines that may protect us. I took one of those vaccines recently, and in the literature they provided, it said:

“The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is an unapproved vaccine that may prevent COVID-19. There is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19.”

So even our vaunted science is telling us it’s a gamble. Or maybe that’s just the lawyers talking; either way you can’t be sure you’re safe. I’m not a gambler by nature. I lived in Atlantic City for years and never wagered a cent. You walk into a casino, the odds are immediately against you. In anything you do in life, you have to calculate the odds. Cross a street amid traffic, and you’ll choose the best odds of getting between moving cars. I calculated my odds in dealing with COVID-19. I’m 75 years into this game, overweight, high blood pressure, a touch of asthma and a long history of bronchial ills — all what the doctors call “comorbidities.” That word certainly gives me pause. Given the way this COVID attacks, it would make quick work of me — like a short order cook with a grilled-cheese sandwich, a couple minutes on each side and out the door with a side of fries.

The Burlington County, New Jersey Mega-site for COVID-19 vaccinations, the old Lord & Taylor department store.

Until the vaccine options came along, I considered my front door my best defense. I stayed home. I’m retired so I can do this. In a typical week, I don’t interact with more than two or three other people, and that very briefly. The vaccines, in real world trials with real people, have shown to have a 70-to-90% percent chance of preventing severe illness from COVID — not that you won’t get it, but you probably won’t get sick enough to die. Casinos make their fortunes by having odds 1-to-3% in their favor. Odds on the vaccine sounded a lot better than what keeps gambling casinos alive, so I got in line — and stepped into the world of mass medicine.

Pfizer, Virtua. If I had scrawled such words in pencil on paper 70 or so years ago, some Catholic nun would probably have beat my knuckles bloody with a hardwood yardstick. Misspellings, made-up words! Today, they are accepted as part of everyday medicine, at least here in South Jersey. Virtua Health is a local sprawling, non-profit medical delivery organization. Pfizer, as everyone knows, supplies medications to medical care providers. They came together for me as I got inoculated against the COVID-19 disease — along with several thousand other folks in a defunct department store one recent afternoon.

I don’t know what took so long. For two months now I’ve been looking for someone to stick that needle in my arm. At first I saw one of those urgent care places within walking distance of my house was providing the shots. Elated, I called. They said they were focused on medical providers, first responders, etc., and it would be a couple of weeks before they got around to ordinary geezers like me. I said fine, understandable. I called back a couple of weeks later; they said they weren’t doing vaccine shots anymore. So I registered with a site the state of NJ had set up with Virtua as the provider. I was satisfied as I’ve had good experience with Virtua. That was seven weeks ago. They said it might take a few days until I was notified that I could make an appointment. So every few days I checked, no luck. After a few weeks I registered again. No help.

Vaccinations are being done by supermarkets, big-box drug stores, farm markets for all I know. I fished all those waters. Appointments were never available anywhere. Meanwhile they kept making more people available for appointments — so I resigned myself to just sitting alone in my apartment. I’m a hermit at heart; no problem.

Last week, surprise, surprise! I got a notice from Virtua to set up an appointment. I took the first day I could, Tuesday, April 6 at 3:15 P.M. They had sent me an email confirming the appointment, and it contained a QR code to be scanned when I got there. Since they had all my information already, I figured all I needed to do was get there a few minutes early, show them the QR code and I’d be ushered right to a needle sticker for the shot. Turns out, Adam and Eve got less of a shock after tasting that apple.

It’s a bad time for shopping malls, and the Moorestown Mall was never that prosperous (comparatively) to begin with. At least one of the big anchor department stores is abandoned. Lord & Taylor was the oldest supermarket in the U.S., dating back to 1824. Their mall store is now the space being used to get masses of people vaccinated — a “Mega-site” the state calls it. I drove around the mall looking for the place; coming upon a mall security guard, I asked him. He told me to keep driving until I saw a line of people outside the building. So, there was a line to get in, and there was also no parking, at least none I’d call “convenient.” I kept driving around, farther and farther from the old department store until I found a parking place. Now it was a long hike back to the building entrance.

I began to wish I’d brought along a canteen of water. At the entrance I began following the line of people waiting to get in. It snaked across the front of the building, then around the side all the way to the loading docks at the back. Must have been several hundred people ahead of me. Did they all choose the same 3:15 appointment? Fortunately, the line moved at a reasonable pace. I never stood in one spot more than 30 seconds or so. They’re doing about 4000 shots each day here so no real surprise there is a line. At last, the front door loomed in sight!

I anticipated a mandatory “hand-washing” with that awful gel in a jar stuff. Since I hate it, I brought a couple of sealed antiseptic hand wipes with me. A woman was dispensing the hand sanitizing liquid, and I opened my own wipe in front of her and told her I would use it instead. Nothing doing. They are the medical professionals and they make the rules, no deviation from the hand sanitizer. I let her squirt a little on my palm, stepped past her, flung as much off as I could and wiped the rest with my antiseptic cloth wipe. First problem overcome. Next was the mask issue.

But before the mask issue a woman jumped six inches from my face and demanded to know if I could come back on April 27 for a second shot. Startled, I muttered, “I guess so, sure,” and she disappeared. Apparently they don’t want to give you a first dose if you can’t come back for a second. Next they scorned my mask. It wasn’t good enough for them so they gave me the flimsiest wisp of a mask in all creation to use. I stuffed it inside my mask and that somehow satisfied them. I guess I’m a tough customer. But it’s all free, and beggars can’t be choosers, and life is short, and….

Once inside the front door, there are two line options, one for those who have done an electronic pre-registration and another for the commoners. I thought since I had done all the preregistration and had a QR code and all, I’d speed on through. No luck. You needed “a bar code with numbers under it.” I looked longingly at the preregistered lane with no one in it as I got into the other line with my fellow commoners. The “line” was a serpentine back and forth arrangement created with stanchions and crowd control ribbon. Back and forth, back and forth, probably an eighth of a mile. Again, it moved pretty steadily so progress seemed to be happening. There was one man with a turboprop voice — his regular speaking voice could be heard all over the building, like he had a turboprop pushing air through his voice box. If he were speaking any of the times he passed me through the serpentine I planned to say, “If you speak just a little louder they’ll be able to hear you in Guam” (an old David Brenner joke). Fortunately, this confrontation didn’t happen.

At the end of the line. Sort of reminds me of the first day casino gambling opened in Atlantic City (except for the face masks!).

I confess to thinking at one point, “Maybe it would just be easier to die.” But I’ve never been prone to suicidal ideation, so I soldiered on. Then I came to a stop sign. A proctor stood there, making sure I could not proceed until permitted. At the appropriate time, he waved me past to a Kafkaesque scene — a camouflage-uniformed soldier sitting in a plexiglass cubicle behind a computer station. Thinking to inject (sorry, had to) humor into this weird situation, I said to him, “Hi, can you please direct me to the housewares department,” as this used to be a department store and some display cases were still scattered about. He gave a brief, perfunctory smile and said, “What’s your last name?” I guess this constituted the initial check-in. Satisfied I had an appointment, he directed me to the next set of serpentine lines. Amid this was a woman yelling information at no one in particular. She said today’s vaccine would be the Pfizer one and required you to come back for a second dose in exactly three weeks. Then she handed me a 16-page set of stapled instructions with apparently everything they thought I might want to know about COVID, pandemics, vaccines, side-effects, Virtua, etc. Scanning through it during my abundant waiting line time I noticed there was no date after February so much of the info appears out of date.

After another few backs and forths of line waiting, another stop sign, complete with proctor enforcement appeared. Ahead loomed a counter, sort of like you’d see in a hotel lobby — except no perky, welcoming young clerks; just more soldiers behind plexiglass barriers. The chipper proctor smiled behind the mask and asked, “How are you?” Summoning the Bee Gees, I said, “Staying Alive” in as musical a voice as I could muster. Success I guess, the proctor directed me to an available agent.

The young soldier asked my name. After giving it, I decided on one more try at humor: “But that’s Sergeant Tracy to you, soldier.” He ignored the ranting old man and just said he needed to see my drivers license and insurance card. No idea why he needed these things as Virtua has already seen them. I’m in their system. He pointedly ignored me as he examined my cards, then put them through a scanner, twice. I signed an electronic pad, twice. No explanation why. I made the mistake of asking him why I was given this QR code I was carrying around; again, he just ignored me. I don’t imagine when he signed up to be a National Guard soldier this was what he had in mind. But, that’s the military for you. I didn’t sign up to be a Sergeant either!

My check-in receptionist soldier quickly waved me off to another makeshift aisle between some old retail display cases. I came upon an intersection with another aisle with no guardrails. There was a man with a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) jacket literally directing traffic — preventing people from leaving their assigned lane or making an illegal turn. He looked a bit embarrassed as he waved me through the “intersection.”

Next I encountered a proctor with official questions. She began asking me things  like, “Have you ever had an anaphylactic reaction to any vaccine or medication?” I have no idea what that means, but since I’ve never had any unintended consequence from a medical procedure, I just said no. Further on down the line an opening appeared, and another proctor. This one was going to direct me to an actual needle sticker!  Before we had time to chat, he pointed me to station 38.

The nice lady at station 38 asked if I wanted it in my left or right arm. I said, “Let’s do the left since that one hurts all the time anyway.” She smiled and said something like, “I can relate to that.”  I sat down and she started through her computerized quiz — more questions about anaphylactic reactions, what kind of work I did. I told her I haven’t worked in years — “I’m working at living the childhood I’d always wished I had,” I said. Then we got to my arm. The shirt sleeve came up, she wiped me down with an antiseptic like she was scraping old paint, then jammed the needle in. I didn’t feel a thing. She stuck a thoroughly needless bandaid on the site, gave me a slip of paper with a secret code (4:11) and ushered me off to sit in the “observation area.” They require you to sit 10 or 15 minutes after receiving the shot — I guess in case you have an anaphylactic reaction or something! A soldier at the entrance to “observation” asked to see my secret code — actually the time I could be released and head for the great outdoors again, and he directed me to a chair.

Even your best party shoes can’t make you a winner in Atlantic City.

Not satisfied just doing his duty, the soldier asked why I was carrying a camera — there are signs posted all over the place disallowing pictures or video inside the facility. I said I carried it with me rather than leaving a $1500 camera in a car in a mall parking lot. He asked if I had a case for it. Growing weary of his silliness I just sat down and ignored him; so he went away.

A nice lady from Virtua stopped to check on me. She said she was a supervisor in the X-Ray department and had just come over to help out. We had a nice conversation. I told her of my previous good experience with Virtua. She said she has a father with the kind of medical condition I had experienced. After a few minutes she looked at my secret code — it was almost time and apparently I was not having an anaphylactic reaction so she sent me off to the checkout station.

There were two checkout stations. The first was pretty severe. It was the usual bored solder in a plexiglass cubicle, but this one had painted a crude sign in screaming blood-red lettering:


In my best and booming military voice I stated and spelled my last name, sir! He peered into his computer screen, looked up and said, “Can you be back here at 1:45 P.M. on April 27?” I suspect he would have been much happier asking if I could return at 13:45 hours on 27 April, but that’s the military for you — making you deal with civilians and speaking their language! He directed me to an exit door where there is the final checkout station.

I’m not sure what they had to say at final checkout. I think they made sure I had a return appointment. Most importantly, they gave me the CDC form MLS-319813_r — the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card. It had the date and vaccine information on it, but nothing else. They told me I’d have to print my name and date of birth on it. Given the value these cards seem to carry now, that seemed a bit lax. I could sell this to anyone and just tell them I lost mine when I came back for the second dose. Maybe they figured I had an honest face! At home I used my best indelible black ink to make it my official record.

I understand that official record can get you a free donut once a day at any Krispy Kreme shop. They probably have some kid with an MBA from a fancy business school who dreamed up that marketing ploy. How many people are going to take one donut and leave? You’ll probably at least buy a coffee, probably a few more donuts to go. Krispy looks like good corporate citizens and gets a lot of free advertising in the end. This is why I hate marketing. It’s one big lie.

People always seem to wonder about side-effects from these kinds of vaccines. I’m happy to say I’ve had no noticeable effects whatsoever. My arm didn’t even hurt from the needle — at least any more than it hurts on a normal day. This may not be surprising; conventional wisdom suggests those over 65 have few if any unpleasant reactions.

Strange times we live in now. I recall as a child in the 1950s standing in a line to get a polio vaccine. It seemed far less regimented, and while it was mass medicine it didn’t feel so much like it does today. The polio vaccine was also proven 100% effective, so it felt less like gambling in New Jersey.

Exciting times during my last mass medicine event, 1955, age eight.

Update, April 27, 2021

25 Stickers, No Waiting

My second shot, hopefully the last, was polar opposite of the first one. I was able to park, literally at the front door, better than handicap parking. There were no crowds, no lines. I wore rubber gloves so no one tried to put awful goo on my hands.

My “appointment,” such as it was said 1:45 P.M. I dutifully arrived at 1:35, and I walked out at 1:50. One military person asked my name and confirmed I was checked in. Then straight to a sticker, station 4 this time. Same questions as last time, same scanning of my QR code on the phone. They always seem surprised old folks have smart phones and know how to operate them.

She washed my arm down in anti-germ juice and stuck me. Like last time, didn’t feel a thing. I asked, and she said this dose is exactly the same as the first one — same formula, amount, etc. Not sure I believe that, but, for what it’s worth. She sent me to the documentation person who affixed a sticker to my official vaccination record. She asked what I plan to do with my “new freedom.” Strangely, I don’t consider it a whole lot of freedom. There’s still a pandemic raging, and people are dying every day. My only real expectation is that if the virus gets me, I probably won’t die. A wild beast has been tamed for the time being.

I elected not to participate in the observation area — walked straight out the door and got a true military salute from the door guard, a U.S. Marine. Stopped on the way home for a little food shopping. Once home, I had a celebratory dish of ice cream, well deserved.

Final thought. I’m appreciative of a country that is now taking care of its citizens in a sensible and orderly fashion. Getting protection from a dire enemy cost me nothing except some time and minor inconvenience. It’s not the same in other places — India now is setting records, half million new cases each day and tens of thousands dying.

Oh, and six hours later, I feel fine. My arm doesn’t even hurt. Same, 24 hours later.

Posted by: Bill Tracy | March 23, 2021

Come, Let’s Play

What good is sitting alone In your room?

Come hear the music play.

Life is a Cabaret, old chum

Come to the Cabaret.

Cruise control was set on 85. It was a 1975 late night on a Tennessee Interstate in a maxed out Dodge van he called “jumbo jet,” and Peter Frank had the wheel. A medical doctor and chronic motorcycle racer, he was talking about the bikes on the trailer behind us. Deciding on a quick nap, he asked if I would  drive. I said sure and waited for him to pull over so we could switch. Instead, he simply stood up and walked to the back of the van. In a mild panic, I grabbed the wheel and scrambled into the driver seat before this free range rocket could tumble into the median strip. That was emblematic of how Peter lived every minute of his life! Pedal to the metal all the time — and an unshakeable expectation that everyone else was right there with him. Now retired from his medical practice, he died earlier this month at age 76, a motorcycle crash — still pushing the limits and going for a gusto most of us never see or even imagine. You did not hang with Peter Frank and not get challenged.

One night you may turn upward into a sea of stars. You will see one, much brighter, and twinkling more than the others. That will be Peter, with his smiling invitation to everyone, “Come, let’s play.” How could you not?

Put down the knitting

The book and the broom.

It’s time for a holiday.

Life is a Cabaret, old chum

I was lucky enough to know Dr. Peter Frank, even luckier to be his friend and share some adventures. No doubt there are a million stories about him; I know a few. He was born in South Jersey, but he came from everywhere since his immigrant parents (dad a biomedical engineer and mom a Ph.D. educational psychologist) moved around constantly. He grew up in New Jersey, Baltimore, Cleveland, Manhattan, Minnesota, Arizona, finishing high school in Bucks County, PA. He was smarter than most — graduated high school at 16 and college at 19. Then he went to medical school in Chicago and signed up for the Army, spending 18 months in Vietnam. To hear him tell it, Vietnam wasn’t a war, just another challenge filled adventure. He had a girlfriend at the time, Patty O’Brien, a nurse. Peter decided it would be fun if she could be with him in Vietnam, so he sent her a plane ticket. Now, I spent a year in Vietnam, and I never knew a single man who ever even thought of sending for his girlfriend or wife — we were in a war! For 13 months, Captain Frank fixed broken soldiers and Patty did counseling work for Salvation Army. Peter had a way of locking the horrors of war into one box — and not letting it interfere with the perpetual playground of his life. It wasn’t easy. From an article I wrote for Cycle News in 1975, he talked about their time together in Vietnam:

We had a ball in Vietnam. Patty was a social worker for the Salvation Army working in refugee camps, and I was in the emergency room at the Third Field Hospital. We traveled a lot. We visited all the R&R sites together, but after a while the brass began to see that this guy Frank was “getting over” too much, so they shipped his ass out. They sent me to Dĩ An, between Long Binh and Saigon. Undaunted, Patty would hitchhike up there on the Long Binh Highway. Then they sent me to Phu Bai, she bought some Army fatigues and got on a C-130 and visited me up there. We were having such a good time that I extended for six months. We had a Honda 160 which I was scrambling on weekends. We used Patty’s Salvation Army van to take the bike over to Vung Tau where they had a scramble course which had been built by the civilian outfit Pacific Architects and Engineers. I even met guys there whom I had raced against in the states.

Patty O’Brien and Peter Frank spent their lives together. They were literally the royalty of motorcycle racing. Patty’s father was Dick O’Brien, a king of the sport as racing director for Harley-Davidson for many years. A Harley-Davidson press release said about him:

O’Brien served as Harley-Davidson Director of Racing from 1957 until 1983. In his 26 years at the helm of the Harley-Davidson factory racing program, O’Brien helped develop the dominating XR 750 and worked with legendary riders Bart Markel, Cal Rayborn, Gary Scott, Jay Springsteen, Randy Goss and Scott Parker. Factory Harley-Davidson dirt track team tuner Bill Werner remembers O’Brien as a focused individual. “He was very driven, very purposeful, a real no-nonsense type of guy,” Werner said. “Racing was his passion, and he dedicated his life to it.”

Peter at play

That made Patty the sport’s princess. By dint of will and passion, Peter crowned himself the prince of motorcycle racing. It was destiny, a true Princess Bride story. Together they created a motor sports kingdom. In the early seventies, motorcycle road racing had one sanctioning body in the east — Association of American Motorcycle Road Racers (AAMRR) colloquially known as “Alphabet.” I thought I was hot stuff in those days, having an AAMRR “licence” — had to go to a doctor and get a physical and everything! But there was a lot not to like about the group, and Peter Frank saw that change was needed. When the Alphabet folks couldn’t satisfy Peter, he started his own group, Eastern Roadracing Association (ERA). Starting in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states, he quickly grew the outfit and it became Western-Eastern Roadracing Association (WERA). It still lives today. Peter and Patty now had not only a blooming motorcycle racing organization but a full-fledged kingdom of their own.

Larry Lawrence, motor sports journalist and friend of Peter Frank wrote in a remembrance:

Frank had a wonderfully friendly and enthusiastic personality and he gradually convinced owners of some of the premier road racing tracks in the country to open to motorcycles. Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Road America were two of the tracks that hosted WERA races as a trial before later agreeing to host AMA Road Race Nationals. So not only did Frank expand road racing at the grassroots level, but he was also in large part responsible for allowing professional road racing to expand as well. Peter Frank never really got the credit he deserved for his role in the tremendous growth of motorcycle road racing in the 1970s and ‘80s.

While racer Frank and “Peppermint Patty,” as I called her, were building the motorcycle racing kingdom, Doctor Frank and Nurse Patty were building a medical practice. Naturally, a simple medical practice couldn’t satisfy the needs they saw in Philadelphia, so out of nothing they created a group of medical clinics under the business umbrella, Continental Medical Services.

Come taste the wine

Come hear the band.

Come blow a horn

Start celebrating

Right this way

Your table’s waiting.

In classic business terms, Peter was the “big idea” guy. Peppermint Patty was the CEO who made it all happen. She lived a life of constant challenge with Peter, and they both loved every minute. In response to Peter’s  death she told me, “One always imagines a ‘great ride’ will go on forever. The response from family, friends and community has been a huge source of comfort.” Patty was the only woman I ever met with the stature to match Peter. Both in intellect and heart, she was his soulmate.

The birth of their son, A.J. was part of the great ride. It may have been Peter’s idea, but Patty delivered the end product, and in true Frank style. I’ve heard a couple of different origin stories, but the one they told me resonates as most accurate. Pregnant Patty woke up in the middle of the night. Peter, confirmed she was going into labor. Since he was recovering from a medical procedure he had to stay in bed. Patty walked around the corner to the hospital. By the next afternoon, Patty was back in the house — with a new baby. Just another adventure in the life of Peter Frank and Peppermint Patty.

A.J. has a name recalling legendary racer A.J. Foyt. That played a part in the naming, but so did respect for his individuality. As I reported in my Cycle News piece, Peter said: “The A stands for Alexis, and Peter figures that, ‘If he’s a jaunty guy, he can use A.J. Alexis is sort of formal if he wants to be a banker, and he has the J to do what he wants with since it doesn’t stand for anything.’” Turns out, he grew up to be more like A.J. Foyt, racing motorcycles, then cars with NASCAR. To his parents’ delight, the young A.J. quickly took to motor racing like tires take to asphalt.

By the way, Patty has become a quite accomplished photographer. A lot of her work shows a love of the place they lived as well as their international travels:

For a couple of days in summer, 1975, I was tagging along on Peter’s life to write a story about him for Cycle News. He introduced me as Dr. Tracy to one of his patients in an examining room — he wanted to make sure I got the full experience of what his day was like. He had a new medical clinic opening the next week. We had gone to a discount appliance store so he could purchase a TV for the waiting room. Who else was going to do it? The sales guy was somewhat dismissive, and called him “Frank” at one point. “That’s DOCTOR Frank, Peter barked. You also did not disrespect Dr. Peter Frank. I recall a few years later at his house on Addison Street in Philadelphia, he was meeting with a potential buyer of the little medical empire he had birthed. After that he moved out to the Philadelphia mainline suburban town of Wayne. It didn’t take him long to get uncomfortable among the comfortable and wealthy, and he found his way to live among the more common folk of lowcountry South Carolina.

What good’s permitting

Some prophet of doom

To wipe every smile away.

Life is a Cabaret, old chum

Come to the Cabaret!

Peter and Patty spent the next 40 years in South Carolina. During the seventies, as I traveled with them from one motorcycle race venue to another, they seemed to be searching for a place where they really wanted to be. Turned out, South Carolina lowcountry was the place they chose. He opened a string of medical clinics and worked the simple country doctor routine among the rich and poor alike. On weekends, the real fun began and they were off to the races! They became beloved fixtures there, even celebrated. His obituary says: “The town of Hardeeville recently declared September 20th as ‘Dr. Peter Frank Day.’”

Peppermint Patty Frank and son A.J.

The great Irish playwright, George Bernnard Shaw is often quoted: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” Peter Frank not only asked why not, but tried to bring these into reality. I remember a lunch we had at the Happy Paradise restaurant in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia. It was late summer or fall, and Peter had envisioned a motorcycle museum. He had in mind a site in Ohio, just a piece of bare land where the museum would be built from ground up. Flattering me as “a man who knew how to get things done,” he wanted me to go there and put up a large exhibition tent to begin the museum. This would require living in the tent, at least for the first year — through a snowy and cold Ohio winter. Had I not still been in college, I may have joined in his vision, but I was committed to getting through school first. I think he may have found someone to attempt it, but I don’t think it ever was fully realized.

Some years later I was a magazine editor, and he learned I was going on a business trip to England. He had some vision of an international connection to his racing organization and convinced me to make a pitch over there. So one fine English day I found myself in Leicestershire touring the renowned motorcycle racing venue, Donnington Park. Well, I’m a writer, not a pitchman, so nothing came of this. They probably figured I was just some crazy American fan who wanted a free tour of the place.  I’m sure had Peter been there we would have had some international motorcycle racing happening.

Start by admitting

From cradle to tomb

It isn’t that long a stay.

Life is a Cabaret, old chum

Only a Cabaret, old chum

And I love a Cabaret.

As a medical doctor, Peter surely saved many lives. I believe he also saved lives by providing so many of us with a place to play with speed, safe from the dangers of our streets. My decision to go on the race track was made one day near rural Mays Landing, NJ. I was around 100 mph on a sweeping backwoods curve in the road when a pickup truck backed out in front of me. The driver never saw me — just a cloud of dust on the dirt shoulder as I wrestled the 750 Honda to stay upright and squeak past. I was no fiery competitor, but I reasoned that at least on the race track there were no pickup trucks suddenly blocking the road in front of me. Peter’s creation of sanctioning organizations and opening of venues surely put a lot of street racers into the safer space of organized racing.

Dr. Peter Frank loved people. He loved living. He especially resonated with other people who loved living — like people who wanted to go 200 mph to feel even more alive. Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, once said, “Quality isn’t a thing. It is an event.” Peter Frank was an event. Many thousands of us attended this event and are the better for it. We have countless stories, stories of humor, generosity, absurdity, daring, compassion, and love. Most of the stories will never be widely told, but they will make up the personal reservoir of joy for so many of us who knew and loved him.

Godspeed, Peter, Godspeed!!

Life Is a Cabaret

Copyright: Writer(s): Jean-Claude Cosson, John Kander, Fred Ebb

Dr. Peter Frank and granddaughter

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