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  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

The passing in January of baseball immortal "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron got me thinking back on the remembrance I had written for the blog of the Big Band Academy of America of the great jazz pianist Hank Jones following the latter's death. My experience with the Big Band Academy is a saga in itself, one I haven't related yet on this website but will in the near future.

In fact, Hank Jones did anything but hammer the keyboard. However, he was every inch the master in his field that Hank Aaron was in his. I never met Mr. Jones, who died eleven years ago at the age of 91, but in my work as a travel agent, I did have the privilege of speaking with him on the phone exactly once. In 1995, bassist and client Ray Brown asked my dad and me to contact Hank and arrange for him to fly from his home on a small farm in upstate New York to a city in the Midwest where he and Ray would perform. I made the call.

Some people are only as considerate as they need to be. Hank Jones didn't need to do more than simply answer a few questions about his flight plans from a humble travel agent. But by the end of our conversation, he had made me feel like a favorite nephew. At one point, I mentioned that relatives on my mother's side lived on a farm in the same general region of New York State. Hardly an earthshaking announcement, yet Hank seemed genuinely interested and we chatted for a while about the Baseball Hall of Fame and other attractions in the area.

In his final years, Hank spent nearly all his time in a 12-by-12-foot room at Broadway and 108th Street, while his wife remained upstate in an assisted care facility. By all accounts, though, this man who had worked with giants such as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, was content. He practiced hours every day at an electric piano, listening through headphones out of concern that otherwise his playing might disturb the neighbors.

Yeah, that considerate.

To both legendary Hanks, rest well.

  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

I would like to express heartfelt appreciation to everyone who helped me celebrate my 62nd birthday today.

Many years ago, Bob Seger sang my philosophy:

He wants to dream like a young man

With the wisdom of an old man ...

You know the title of that song. Let's see if I make it.

  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

Yeah, I'm exhaling a little today. Among the reasons, besides the obvious, is that a Cabinet member of the now-previous presidential administration made it to the end of his term in office without saying or doing anything to bring dishonor to, or even much awareness of, his name. Why is this important to me? His name is David Bernhardt.

This David Bernhardt served as Secretary of the Interior for the past two years. Not surprisingly, he came to the job having worked as a lobbyist for the oil and energy industry, so I really shouldn't imply that he has a squeaky-clean resume. As had been the case with his 2017 nomination as deputy secretary, my homophonous namesake's 2019 nomination to the top post at Interior was opposed by an array of conservationist and allied groups, all pointing to Bernhardt's history of siding with big business at the expense of endangered species and wildlife in general. The Natural Resources Defense Council went so far in its objection as to publish an article titled "Who is David Bernhardt? (And Why Every Environmentalist Should Care.)" Bernhardt was confirmed by the Senate anyway.

More recently, the Government Accountability Office issued a report finding that Secretary Bernhardt had twice broken federal law in a matter involving the National Park Service and the transfer of funds without authorization from Congress. Bernhardt also ordered the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management from Washington, D.C., to, of all places, Grand Junction, Colo. Of all places, that is, until one remembers that Bernhardt is a lifelong Coloradan. And he capped his service to the nation last month by leading a private, after-hours tour of the Washington Monument, then testing positive for COVID-19, which resulted in the quarantine of those in his tour party and several Park Service staff, along with the closure of the monument over a weekend.

I love the swamp creature sitting behind the Honorable Mr. Bernhardt in the above hearing.

Throughout my adult life, I idly wondered what I would do if another David Bernhart (or Bernhardt) hit the news, particularly if he committed embarrassing acts or worse. When I was 10 years old, the Manson Family murders happened. I wasn't conscious of those events at the time, but in the years that followed, my mother occasionally reminded me that our neighbors three doors up the block -- the Mansons -- had received many crank calls in the aftermath of the killings. They shared only a surname with the infamous Charles Manson, but they were still harassed.

Despite his questionable deeds, David Bernhardt stayed largely out of the public eye right to the finish and so, as someone whose name sounds exactly the same, I'm relieved.

Then I turn on the TV a moment ago and see a commercial for a new banking app ... called Dave:

Just when I thought my troubles were over.

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