A Dandy Artist and Writer

   “He’s done it all,” implies the autobiography, Nonetheless, adventurer Merrill Lionel (Matt) Barbani chooses to live in Washington, NC where he quietly operates an artisan’s stall in The Inner Banks Artisan Center.  Matt sells his oil paintings by day while writing adventure novels at night. His fictional characters have a basis in 23-years of personal expatriate adventures.

I’ve read Matt’s 1999 autobiography, The Way It Was. It’s a good read, but following descriptions of his overseas adventures left me exhausted, yet ready to read his two fictional adventure novels. Then, maybe, I’ll be ready for his yet unpublished novellas.

Matt, the five-foot, nine-inch, muscular Italian dynamo, grew up in The Bronx, New York, where he got a peek at street gang life. His stern father set him straight and later moved his family to a calmer life in southern California. A carefree life at the beginning of the Korean War Conflict ended as his brother George became a Maine and shipped off to Korea. Matt joined the Air Force and saw duty in Japan before war action in Korea.

After the Truce, the boys returned to California where Matt followed George into employment at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. George worked, in 1958, on a radio transmitter in America’s first successful satellite; Explorer I. Matt used his technical skills to perform environmental tests on NASA deep space probes.

In 1965, Matt joined a JPL/NASA/Bendix team in building three Deep Space Instrumentation Centers near Madrid, Spain. During this exciting time, Matt and an English partner ran a farm to provide fresh produce and meat for The Ratskeller, their German restaurant, where various characters and Hollywood elite were lavishly entertained. Matt married his third wife Nichol, and fathered his only daughter Laura during this happy time.

In 1973, he sold the restaurant and leaving wife and daughter with her parents in France, joined an oil company communications crew on the Warri River in Nigeria. In 1978, he was transferred back to California before moving Nichol and Laura to Jordan in 1979 where he worked on communications for King Al-Hussein. Matt describes happy family adventures in the rugged desert kingdom.

In 1983, he moved his family to Vienna, Virginia, where they found a permanent home. His itch for adventure got the best of him and he was off to the Philippines in 1991, Saudi Arabia in 1994, Mexico in 1995, followed by a stint as a civilian contractor with the U.S. Army in wartime Bosnia. After a short stateside tour, he returned Saudi Arabia before retiring in Virginia in 1998. He and Nichol soon divorced.

Matt travels occasionally to visit daughter Laura in France and about the US to visit his sons. Writing, painting, and occasional fishing trips fill his life.

Read Matt’s autobiography and adventure stories and you too will be exhausted!

Short excerpt from Matt’s novel, The Transformation Formula.

(Scene takes place in a bar on an island off the coast of Panama with protagonists Alex Marzoni and Ralph Sorenson)

“….A short fat man with bushy eyebrows and a stubby cigar glued into the corner of his mouth stepped forward between several of the menacing gang members.

“I am de one called Gordito, and what is jor business?”

“You seem to use young boys to do your sneaky work delivering notes to peoples’ houses,” Alex maneuvered straight to the fat man.

Gordito’s eyes widened then narrowed. He removed the soggy cigar from his tobacco-stained lips and let a wad of sour spit dribble onto the already dirty floor. The memory of a pirate spitting on the
deck of his boat years ago, jolted Ralph with a rage for combat. I’m going to nail this SOB. He slowly turned to Alex and said, “You know, ol buddy, I seem to remember an old movie with Bing and Bob when they did their Patty cake, patty cake, bake your cake routine. How about you Al, remember those good old films?”

“Hmmm, yes, indeed I do. Would you care to dance with me to ol’ Patty cake on three?”

“Why I’d love to,” replied Ralph smiling and making a slight bow.
“One—two—three.” Alex and Ralph made quick turns and back-to-back, struck and connected with hard punches to the nearest badass hombres. A dandy donnybrook had begun….”


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