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For Max, 17 years later

Who: Jonathan Friedman

City: Parkland

Quote: Today vs. 3 days before u are born.

Photo courtesy Anita Mitchell
Photo courtesy Anita Mitchell

Max Friedman 2021: “I am 17 years old now and a student at Stoneman Douglas High School. I like learning about television production and I suck at algebra. I also have a part-time job making salads at Pasquales Pizza Company in Coconut Creek. I know all about Legos and have multiple YouTube videos of the things I have created from them.

Perhaps my dad Jonathan describes our relationship best with the following story:”

Jonathan Friedman 2021: “Max and I have our own special bond best demonstrated on Fathers Day this year.

It was me, Max, his older brother Jeremy and some extended and ex-family members.

We brought home a big cheese pizza, eggplant parmesan, chicken parmesan and a salad, all from Dominic’s, our favorite pizza place on Glades Road. Max has always asserted himself to be the first one to look inside the takeout pizza boxes and this time he saw a cockroach inside of the box.

He knew not to tell anyone, I mean, the combination of people there and the presence of a cockroach had combustible potential.

The cockroach took off, everyone ate the pizza and Max kept his special secret, smiling the whole time.

Get this! After, we told the story to the manager at Dominic’s, he gave us a free pizza!”

Jonathan Friedman 2004: “Max, it’s three days before you are born.

Time for our first father to son talk, wouldn’t you say?

You know, Max, this morning your mother could barely get out of bed, she is laden, well, with you. It doesn’t help that it is 91 degrees today and most likely it will always be that hot on your birthday. Count on birthday swim parties for a while.

Max, here is a peek at the world you are being born into. Thousands of mourners are lined up in the US Capitol rotunda to pay their last respects to our 40th president, Ronald Reagan. Friday, your first whole day here, will be a national day of mourning. For your family, it will be a day of celebration.

Gasoline is $2.25 a gallon, the highest I can ever remember. Milk is over $3. A women’s Prada handbag is $890 and a knockoff copy of that same Prada handbag is $50. In Des Moines Iowa, a man who claimed he didn’t get the right order at a Taco Bell drive- thru threw a chalupa at the right eye of the clerk who filled his order. She saw his tag number with her good eye. His arraignment will be next week.

Your old man has a crazy life right now. I don’t have a secretary now and that is slowing down my work load. I hate to be backed up with all these criminal cases for our first meeting but it could happen.

I am in court today with Tony Brown. Between you and me, Max, it’s over for Tony. He is known as a repeat offender and Judge Paul Backman has a special court for guys like Tony. Some people were meant to be in cages and Tony could be one of them.

He’s 30 years old and his life is a mess, Max. Burglary of a structure, grand theft auto, robbery, escape, he’s done them all. Max, he will spend the next ten years of his life in a six by nine jail cell. No phone, no internet, no women, no new clothes, no wind in his hair, no pool parties, no great restaurants.

I bet Tony’s dad didn’t write him a letter before he was born. I’ll go so far to say Tony never knew his dad.

When I can get a little organized, I will take you to court so you can see what not to do.

I have a secret for you, Max. The most stressful part of my job is not the worrying about getting paid or dealing with the people in trouble. It’s the figuring out of how to be in two places at once. Scheduling hearings in court conflict with office visits. Waiting and keeping others waiting then becomes inevitable. That part, Max, goes against my systematic nature.

I like going to the jail. It smells bad in there and right now 24 inmates have some contagious staph infection. You see, Max, the jail guards move very slowly when they get the inmates for their lawyers so I get a half hour sometimes just to sit. Thirty whole minutes to think about the new wood floor in your room and the car and truck wallpaper border that we put up for you. You’ll see that I’m not really a home improvement kind of guy but I am proud of how I reassembled your brother’s crib for you. Don’t be mad at me if the thing collapses, there were a few screws left over during the construction.

Max, I want you to have fun in your life: don’t be so serious like I am. Well, be a little serious but enjoy yourself. Be prepared for things but find that place where you can be wild and laugh out loud but not fall in a chasm of despair that is so hard to crawl out of. I spend so much time with people who can’t crawl out of their personal sewer.

If Tony makes it out of jail, he’ll have to pay restitution but that is a perfunctory rule. You know, Max, Tony doesn’t have a dime to his name. Oh yeah, he delivered cocaine and used a false name just in case the other stuff he did wasn’t bad enough. It’s hard to believe that in October 1974 that Tony was once a baby with potential to do anything.

I have a 44-mile round trip from home to the office and that eats up part of the day I could spend with you. We have a nice new home in a safe neighborhood full of children. You get a room of your own too. Those things make the drive for me easy.

Max, I hear people say South Florida is a bad place to raise kids. I don’t buy it. The place you live has little to do with how well you do in life. Every state has a jail and they are all full. There are advantages and disadvantages and really what matters is what you do with what you have.

I’ll be there for you, Max and it’s going to be great watching you grow. Love, Daddy


“I am Anita Mitchell and I collect people stories, much the same way people collect shoes or baseball cards or Lladro porcelain figurines. During my 26 years at WSVN7, I had the front-row seat to people stories and it was there I learned about the extraordinariness of the ordinary.

Since retiring from television news, I serve on the Board of Directors of Different Brains, a charitable foundation that supports neurodiverse adults. I also serve on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame. We honor local residents who have set unique standards of excellence through sports.

Since 2004, I have swum competitively with our local Swim Fort Lauderdale Masters Swim Team (SFTL).

I don’t really know how the writing and the swimming and the neurodiverse and honoring local sports figures are connected but I know in my heart that they are.

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