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Some Days in the Life - Frank

Posted 5/5/99

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It was my big friend Frank's Birthday yesterday, so we talked on the phone for about two hours. I'm not by nature a phone-talker. My ear gets tired and my neck cramps and just in general I'm usually sick of it in about ten minutes. But, Frank is different. Frank and I understand each other. Our connection is very deep and over a decade old at this point. So I guess today's topic is going to be "Frank."

I met Frank online. He was one of the first people I met online, but by far not the last. The greatest legacy of the Information Age is a person's ability to find a group of people who are just as geeky as he is in exactly the same ways on the Internet. I don't mean (necessarily) Computer Geeky or Role Playing Geeky or any of the usual areas you associate with Geeks (see my 4/20 entry for an essay on geeks, which I'll put a hyperlink to in the sidebar). I mean a group of people who have the same near-obsessive interest you have in a topic most of the world doesn't share, whether that interest is usually considered geeky or not. Lot of people think Harleys are cool, for example. But people who put up Harley web sites, talk on a daily basis to other Harley enthusiasts, and generally do a lot more with Harleys than most people who like motorcycles are Harley geeks. There's nothing wrong with being a Harley geek. My friend Bill is a big time Vespa Scooter geek. You can be a music geek, forming fan clubs or joining organizations -- from the KISS Army to Heather's Heathens. Geekiness is out there for anything. Anything at all.

And the Internet lets us find geeks. Geeks who usually make our own obsessive level of interest in a subject look pale. For instance, one of my personal geekdoms is (and I blame Frank for this) WCW wrestling. This is lots more legitimate a geekdom than it used to be -- wrestling is currently considered "cool" again. Lots of folks watch wrestling on Monday.

I'm a geek because I enjoy the "behind the scenes" machinations you read about on so-called 'smart' sites more than I do the wrestling. So, I read a few of those web pages a week, and catch up on all the dirt about who's been fired from what. It's not an obsession. I don't really care what happens to Bret "The Hitman" Hart or anyone else. But it's a diversion. A harmless geekdom.

But the people who run those sites? They care. They care in spades. Their lives can be defined by their love of and need for Wrestling. And I'm sure those people look at other Wrestling Fans in the business and feel the same way about them as I do. "Wow -- he needs a life." And those fanatic's fanatics look at the people who didn't get the memo that it's all fake and believe this stuff and say the same thing. And the marks -- those who just buy into the 'reality' of Wrestling -- have their own hierarchy of geeks, from the guy who thinks it's real and is a big fan of a given character to the marks who wear nothing but wrestling tee shirts and talk to passersby about how cool Goldberg is.

All levels of geekdom for professional wrestling, which as I said is currently considered to be "cool."

The Internet brings those geeks together, and so it was with Frank and I. I naturally associate Frank with wrestling, which is why the example came up He's from Philadelphia, and as a kid he used to head down to the Philadelphia Spectrum and watch the wrestling. Gorilla Monsoon -- an announcer from the eighties who'd been in the Wrestling business as a wrestler, promoter and manager for a long time before that -- used to work the ticket counter, and was on a first name basis with Frank. Frank would call him "Gorilla" and Gorilla would call Frank "Kid." Years later, when we lived together, he'd watch it Monday Nights. Eventually, I found myself watching too, mocking him all the while. Bill, when he lived with us, did the same thing. In both our cases, we reached a point where we stopped mocking. In Bill's case (which I remember more clearly than mine), it was the day that he was watching the Million Dollar Man abuse his lackey, Virgil, and Bill was watching. He looked at Frank and said "all right, this is all really stupid. That man, however, must die."

That's when they get you.

Ultimately, "Kid" Frank grew up. And I mean up. Frank's a big guy. He's got shoulders like you wouldn't believe. He was a powerlifter in high school. Big, huge guy. He used to lift me over his head as an example of just how strong he was. Which was impressive, since I'm not exactly small.

We met on Relay, which is what we called an IRC program back in the stone age of the Internet. It was the two of us and a bunch of other people with goofy names. Half-Elf, Beez, Alacrity, Pickle, Gypsylynx, Scamp, Niniane, Lady_Kate, Lady_Jane, Starfire, Kamikaze and so on and so on... all just goofy people having fun talking in a virtual bar. I was Sabre. Frank was Wolverine, later Trelf.

Half-Elf, who was Karen in her secret identity, started having parties in Ithaca, New York for the crew, including week-long Camp Relays in the summer. They were a lot of fun. It was at one of those parties that I met Frank face to face. I remember the night well. It was full of music and special friendship -- the sort of passions one has at nineteen and misses at thirty-one. Frank did something he hasn't done much of since. He got really drunk.

I really got to know Frank that night, because at one point he had just thrown up, and was lying on a couch, and then asked to see me. So, being a sympathetic sort (who wasn't completely sober himself at that point) I sat next to the couch and told him I was there, and what was it?

Frank proceeded to put me in a headlock. A tight one. One my little non-powerlifer arms couldn't break. Thus immobilized, he told me I was the best friend he ever had.

What can I say? Some friendships stick for odd reasons. I think I still have a crick in my neck. At that year's Camp Relay, we pal'd around and helped form the Large Manly Men in Wet Clothing. That was myself, Frank, Alacrity (who we now call John) and Kevin, along with a girl named Dawn we renamed Dusk, who was our Moll. We spent most of Camp Relay posing in wet bathing trunks, talking about how Manly we were. Karen was about ready to drown us.

A few months later, Frank moved to Ithaca. A few months after, so did I. We got an apartment together. A basement apartment that looked up at a bridge. We named it Trollhome, and despite being dog-poor, we had a good time and a good life. We had a regular role playing group with Karen, John and Kevin (and sometimes others). We went out Friday and Saturday nights. We angsted together. We hurled pottery into the gorge by our house together. We liked life and slowly we settled into a routine. After a year and a half, we moved into an apartment with a bad Landlord but a good location, on the top floor of a building right on the Ithaca Commons. We felt happy there. Kevin ultimately came along too, but originally it was just Frank and I.

Our first night there, with no furniture at all (our previous apartment had been furnished. This wasn't.) we slept on the floor in our living room, the lights of the Commons around us. We turned my radio onto NPR and we fell asleep in the same room.

That night, the initial Bombings in Iraq started, as Operation Desert Shield heated up. Both Frank and I had war-dreams based on the special reports on NPR that were sliding into our sleeping brains directly.

It was a nice apartment and life. Frank and a coworker of his (Becky) started dating. I had my own interesting extracurriculars. We drifted apart in a way. But at the same time, he remained the person who I could call on. Anytime of day or night, he was there if I needed him, and (I hope) the same for him.

Eventually, Frank and Becky got married. It was a nice wedding in a beautiful outdoor setting with a reception at a Gay Bar. Don't ask. A few months later, Kevin and I moved out of the apartment. I moved into a spare room out at Karen's, which was in Lansing, which was quite a ways out of Ithaca. I didn't have a car, so I felt trapped to a large degree, though it wasn't the fault of the folks I was staying with.

One night, feeling isolated, I decided to do something about it. It was one of those insane nights you get. I went out and started walking. And walking. And walking. Along the way I passed a liquor store, so I bought a flask of cheap scotch and used it to insulate me from the night -- the last time I've ever done that, by the way.

I walked from Lansing to Ithaca -- a trip that takes a good fifteen to twenty minutes by car. It was a way of proving to myself that I could make it back to Ithaca all on my own, over many miles, no matter how long it took. Even while drunk. Perhaps especially while drunk.

It was late when I got there. And I was wrecked. It would take me two weeks to get over my drunken death march. And it had started to rain.

Naturally, I went to Frank's.

It was late, and I knocked on his door. Exhausted. In pain. Drunk. Many miles from home.

Frank took me in. He had me lie on the couch. He gave me medicine. He listened to my incoherent ramblings. In the next room, Becky called Karen and her husband and told them where I was. Becky didn't have to work the next morning, so she stayed with me and talked me through my hangover and the unbelievable pain.

That's a best friend. When you're wet, in pain, exhausted, and drunk, and it's late at night, and you knock on a man's door and he never, ever says anything about the inconvenience, or the time, or what an idiot you had been (and I was a big one, that night), you've got a person you know you can always count on.

If Frank ever calls me and needs me to go out, because there's a problem, I'll call Eileen, tell her she's in charge, hop in the Saturn and head West. It's five hours, but you do that. Even though I have friends I speak to more often now, and people I'm very close to, and Frank and I only communicate semiregularly now... he's my best friend.

And, if I ever give him lip, he'll throw me in a Figure Four Leglock. He's done it before. That sucker hurts.