In my previous post I gave some of the backstory for the protagonist in the The Midnight Shrink, Dr. David Edminson. Today I will give you some insights into David’s two best friends, LAPD Detective Sal Catena and ER physician, Dr. Henry Brown as well as Sal’s partner Detective Paul Burns and David’s girlfriend, Maxene ‘Max’ Stern. I will not, however, reveal all since there may be a tv series in The Midnight Shrink’s future (a guy can dream, no?) Suffice it to say, as with all people, each character has a dark side along with the obvious light side that we readily see.
Much of the personality style and physical description for Sal Catena was derived from a real person in my life and the person to whom the book is dedicated, my dear friend John Catena. Johnny and I were best friends from the time we were ten years old until the day he died. In the early years we were inseparable; we had each other’s backs. Later on, we went in separate directions. We kept in touch but living on opposite coasts and following different career and marital paths, made staying in close contact difficult. Remember, these were the days long before texting and email. When Johnny died, it was the end of an era.
Writing The Midnight Shrink brought him back to life in the form of Det. Sal Catena, the tough, handsome, rough around the edges, no-nonsense cop who had David Edminson’s back. David – yours truly – and Johnny were re-united — virtually. Of the three friends, Sal is the only one who never left the inner city. He remained in New York until his relocation to Los Angeles. Hence, he has more street smarts than both David and Henry.
Dr. Henry Brown was based on yet another friend from my south Bronx upbringing. Henry was one of my closest African-American friends. He was short of stature and smart as a whip. It was through Henry that I learned what it was like to born black in the racist 1950s. As a Jew I knew first hand what it felt like to be the victim of prejudice. While we didn’t talk about it intellectually, we understood it. An empathic bond was formed.
The same held true for my other black friends. In their world, I was the minority. I can vividly recall being taunted by the white boys on my block for being a “nigger-lover.” Between these taunts and being the victim of anti-semitism, I learned to fight, to defend myself, and to stand up for my principles and my friends. Though my mother and Henry’s remained close friends, Henry and I went our separate ways when I went to City College in New York and he went to Howard University; I haven’t seen him since.
Dr. Henry Brown is passionately concerned with the plight of young, people of color, especially Afro-Americans. He feels fortunate to have gotten out of the South Bronx, receive an education, and now wants to help others follow their dreams. He understands the struggles of youth in the ghettos.
Det. Paul Burns was modeled after one of my dearest friends from high school who remains my friend to this day. Paul was also a close friend of Johnny’s. The three of us were an unlikely trio. Johnny and I lived in the South Bronx, a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, poor area of the Bronx that gained notoriety in the movie Fort Apache, the Bronx. Paul lived on the westside, a predominately white, Jewish, middle to upper-middle class side of town. For some reason, we all took a liking for one another. Paul’s middle class lifestyle was one that I aspired to; he was an ivy league kind of guy who received a new car upon graduating from high school. It didn’t matter to Paul or his parents that we came from the other side of the tracks. There was no snobbery in their house, only acceptance and encouragement.
It was through Paul that I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that even people who seemed to have all – looks, affluence, intelligence – all of the good stuff of life, they too had problems; they too had pain. And they too had a story to tell. Paul told his story at his weekly AA meetings. Paul never took his life of privilege for granted; he knew first hand that even the affluent can become addicted. Through his association with David, Sal, and subsequently, Henry, Det. Burns developed a keen understanding of life on the other side of the tracks and an appreciation for the human connection.
David’s girlfriend, Max, represents an amalgam of strong, independent women – the voice of feminism – who are determined to make it on their own in a male dominated world. She grew up in foster care, one of the countless numbers of abandoned children. She represents the voice of the invisible people who are gawked at for their body, who are coveted for the sexuality. Max shows the world that a woman can be strong, courageous, and bright while maintaining her femininity and use it all in the service of self-empowerment. She attends graduate school during the day studying to be a social worker, while stripping at night in order to earn a living and maintain her autonomy.
The main characters in The Midnight Shrink share much in common. None of them had an easy life, they all had to overcome adversity, they all understand the plight of the underdog, and they all want to make a difference in the lives of others.