Frank (Slept Here) is still dead

But you can find me here.

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All good things…

It’s time to make a change at Frank (Slept Here). You may have noticed that I haven’t been writing much here lately. Rather than offer up excuses I’ll be honest and say that recently I’ve found the urge to post here waning; for whatever reason this place just doesn’t feel quite like it used to. I feel like I’ve been going through the motions, posting just for the sake of posting, and as a result the content here has suffered in both quality and frequency. Instead continuing to half-ass it for the foreseeable future, it makes sense for me to put this blog down, effective today.

Does this mean that Frank (Slept Here) is gone for good? Not necessarily, it just means that I’ve got to move on to some other things and I’ll be back if and when the spirit moves me. I love to write, but I love doing some other things even more, and for the time being I’ve found other writing projects to scratch that itch. There may be the occasional post when I feel like I need to share something but after seven years and something like 2,200 posts I think I’ve said just about everything I want to say here.

I’ll still be around reading your blogs and most of you know how to find me if you’d like to.

Thanks for reading and playing along at home, I appreciated it more than you’ll ever know.

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Cleaning house

This is a half-written post that has been sitting in my drafts folder for ages:

I found a picture of myself and someone I don’t see anymore on a flash drive I used in college. I didn’t expect to see our faces amongst my old research papers, but there we were, both squinting in the sunlight and looking happier than I remember actually being. I’m aware today that we were never as close as we appeared in that photo but the passage of time has a way of smoothing over differences. I thought about writing them an email – if I even still had the address – before dragging the photo to the recycle bin and disconnecting the drive. The past isn’t my problem anymore.

I share this today because when I looked in my drafts folder I could not remember who I wrote this about. Then I remembered and got mad at them all over again. Had I posted this when I first wrote it wouldn’t be mad today.

Here is another post that I started writing and then abandoned:

FrankandElla

Recently I was thinking about my wife. I do this frequently. You may know her from the internet or the

I don’t remember what I was going to say here but it’s a nice picture. This ends today’s edition of “Frank Checks His Drafts Folder.”

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Explaining my absence

Lately I haven’t been writing here was much as I usually do. In years past, when the rate of posts slowed down it was usually because I was:

1. Depressed and hating myself

2. Sick and in bed

3. Both 1 and 2

I just want to let you know that it’s none of those things. In fact, the lack of posts is due to the exact opposite of those reasons. I am doing surprisingly well, so well that I haven’t really had the time or motivation to sit here and tell you what I’ve been up to. I hope to be back soon, but in the meantime you can check out what my wife has been up to because she’s awesome and won’t disappear on you like I have.

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Better angels

My first serious girlfriend and I broke up seven years ago today, February 11th, 2007. The story of that breakup has been told several times on this blog and I won’t rehash it again but I mention it today because it started a chain of events that went far beyond a breakup via a phone call.

In hindsight it would have been great if that one phone call had been the end of it, but of course it wasn’t. We continued to talk almost every day, and even though nearly all of those calls devolved into shouting matches neither of us was quite ready to let go completely. Through all this she was very coy about how she was feeling about our relationship but I made it abundantly obvious that I was not taking it well. In March my ex had a conversation with one of her friends (a former friend of mine as well) that went something like this, and I’m paraphrasing:

Ex: “I’m worried about Frank. He’s been really upset since we split.”

Friend: “I’ll see what I can do.”

Her idea of helping, as it turned out, was to call my college and tell campus authorities that I was depressed, and then added, he might kill himself. Long after the fact I was assured that this had been in jest but if there’s one thing you don’t want to tell the people running a college it’s that one of its students might be suicidal. Later that night there was a knock on the door and when I opened it I was greeted by what looked like every uniformed campus safety officer under the college’s employment. I was questioned, forced to stand, humiliated, in the hall while my room was searched for “dangerous objects” (all while my puzzled and terrified roommate sat in the corner, looking very pale), and then placed under constant surveillance in my room until the school psychologist was roused from his bed in Chicago and caught a Metra train out to see me.

I should also add that it was a week before the final exams for the term, I had the flu, and was running a temperature of 102 degrees.

They psychologist arrived just before midnight and asked me about my ex, the breakup, and my feelings.

“I’m fine,” I protested. “I just want to finish my studying and go to bed.”

“Come sit down. Let’s talk.”

“I’m not suicidal.”

“No, based on what I’ve gathered, I don’t think you are.”

“Well, good, I’m glad we’ve established that. Goodnight.”

I started climbing the rungs up to my bunk. He turned in his place on my futon to face me.

“But I do think you’re depressed.”

“You’d be depressed too if you had the flu right before finals.”

“Please come back down and sit with me. We’re not done here.”

“I think we are.”

He stood up and pursed his lips as he considered the floor for the second before again raising his head to look at me.

“You’re not really in a position to dictate the terms of our conversation,” he said with a small smile.

My face flushed and I wearily rejoined him on the futon. We talked a little longer until he was assured that I was not a danger to myself or anyone else and I agreed to meet with him the following week. I assumed the ordeal was over after he left but then the chief campus safety officer stepped back in the room and informed me that I was banned from campus.

“Banned?”

“For the weekend,” he said. “It’s campus procedure in the event of a possible suicide.”

“The psychologist said I wasn’t suicidal. He was just here and he thinks I’m fine.”

The officer’s position was unwavering. I threw my hands up in despair.

“Where the hell am I supposed to go?” (My sister Rachel lived nearby but I wanted to stay in my dorm and wasn’t ready to volunteer this fact right away.)

“We can take you to a hotel.”

“I don’t have any money,” I said and then paused as my mood changed from helplessness to anger. I took a step closer to the officer.

“Are you saying that I’m too dangerous to stay here tonight, surrounded by my friends, because I might kill myself, and yet it’s perfectly acceptable to send me off to stay in a hotel by myself? Is this about what’s best for me or what’s best for the college’s public relations should ‘something’ happen?”

The officer blinked but his expression did not change. “It’s campus procedure.”

In the end I gave up and a friend volunteered to drive me to my sister Rachel’s house. I was escorted out of the building, lowering my eyes so I wouldn’t have to meet the stares of my friends and other students as they poked their heads out of their rooms and whispered amongst themselves. Once outside I raised my middle finger at the officers and the college before climbing in the back of the car and heading off into the night.

After a tense weekend I returned to campus and met with the psychologist again. Our meeting was brief but he seemed preoccupied with something.

“…and I think you should keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings,” he said. “Sometimes it’s best to let things out in writing even if you’re the only one who ever reads it.”

“Okay. Are we done?”

He sighed. “Yes, I suppose we are.”

I headed for the door to his office.

“Frank,” he said. “Is there something else you want to tell me?”

“I don’t think so, no.”

“Are you depressed?”

“No.”

He leaned back in his chair. “Well, if you change your mind about that…you know where my office is.”

I was relieved and elated to finally be done with campus safety and the psychologist and just get back into my regular rhythm of track practices and classes. Unfortunately it became clear to me not too long after that conversation with the psychologist that something wasn’t right. What started out as sadness over my breakup slowly morphed into something much darker and harder to define. I developed insomnia, increasingly avoided social interaction and started drinking. The urge to be by myself was overwhelming, consumed by my thoughts no matter how dark they might be, so I avoided people at all costs and tried to convince myself that I could out-reason and out-think the turmoil in my head. I tried convince myself that I was fine. Except I wasn’t fine. I only felt okay when I was alone and when the room was dark. And when I didn’t feel okay, I drank. Thankfully it did not take a tragedy to make me realize I wasn’t okay.

I pushed friends and family away, some of them so far that after a while they gave up and stopped coming back. A conversation with a friend grew heated and after she stormed out of my room she sent me a text message that simply said, “Get help.” I responded by getting drunk and crawling into bed, but the next morning I knew I was no longer in a position to make a deal with myself. I left her a voicemail to say that she was right and then I went to see the school psychologist to let him know that I was done trying to convince myself that everything was fine.

“I’ve…been feeling pretty down lately,” I said haltingly as I stood in the doorway to his office. He stared at me for a second.

“All the time?”

“All the time.”

“Come on in and have a seat.”

I’m not writing this because I feel I deserve credit or sympathy. There’s no award given for simply realizing that your life is headed down the wrong path and admitting you need to ask for help in changing direction. If anything I waited too long before I finally sought help; in some cases the damage was already done. More than a few of those friends I pushed away never came back. If this chapter of my life can be used as a warning against what can happen if you find yourself falling down the rabbit hole of depression, the chapters leading up to today are proof that there is always a way to climb out.

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Get up and be it

I wish I wasn’t in an office right now. I wish I could turn up the music and dance on my desk, American Bandstand white boy style. For the moment I will only do so in my head and take solace in the warmth of the Ted Leo and The Pharmacists T-shirt hidden beneath my work clothes.

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Time enough at last

Day two and the editors of Frank (Slept Here) are still gone. They didn’t call or write. I wonder if they are gone for good.

Will next week find me self-sufficient? Or will I be sitting with my fingers on the keyboard, hoping the words just come through me like magic without them looking over my shoulder and offering suggestions?

For now I am managing on my own and trying to keep the show running. I even signed on to the e-mail machine by myself. That’s a start, right?

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Last one out, hit the lights

The editorial staff at Frank (Slept Here) has taken a leave of absence. They left a note yesterday:

Frank,

It seems the motivational force that makes us bang away at the keyboard to tell your story in this forum is lost. The inspiration is missing, the muse has packed her bags and gone home. We’ll be back as soon as we get it together.

See you soon,

The Staff

They do this periodically but this time they mean business. I can tell because they took all the cookies and their coats. If they were just mad at me and taking a long lunch they would have only worn sweaters. Looks like I have to run the show alone. Here’s some music while I figure out how to do this:

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Last Days
Poor Old Shine – Weeds or Wildflowers

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Houston, you’ve got a problem

One of my resolutions for the past year was to watch less TV. I succeeded in limiting my time scrolling through channels but unfortunately a lot of that progress was offset by my discovery of a lot of my favorite shows on Netflix. Even so I still do my best to ration them and avoid binging on episodes as I lay on the couch in front of the TV. Most of the time I’m successful, but today was not one of those days. Ella was out running errands, it was snowing and looked unpleasant outside, and I discovered that the entire When We Left Earth documentary series was on Netflix. With nothing better to do I watched the entire series – there are only six episodes for a total of six hours but it was still long enough to make sure I accomplished nothing else today.

One of my dreams when I was a kid was to be an astronaut. And I’m not talking about the, “golly gee, I want to be an astronaut,” that makes your parents smile and pat your head and say, “of course, dear.” I was serious. I consumed every book, TV show, and documentary on space travel that I could. I had models of every spacecraft from the original Mercury capsules to the Space Shuttle. My bed was raised high enough for me to crawl under, and in that little crawlspace I used cardboard, paint, and any piece of electronic equipment that looked “space-like” to build myself what I called my “simulator,” taping a picture of the moon I’d found in a magazine where I decided the window should be. I even went to Space Camp down in Alabama, and came back with both a slight Southern twang to my speech an an even more intensified obsession with going into space.

Eventually I came to terms with the fact that my poor eyesight and susceptibility to motion sickness would disqualify me during an astronaut physical. That plus my complete lack of grasp of mathematics and physics would almost certainly limit my usefulness during any sort of scientific space mission. With a heavy heart I gave up on my space dreams and resigned myself to a an earth-bound life.

Still, space travel fascinates me to this day, and I’ll take just about any opportunity to brush up on my space education. The When We Left Earth series is a good one as far as NASA documentaries go. It’s a little more fast-paced than I would like but it’s one of my favorites because of its extensive interviews with my all-time favorite astronaut, John Young.

When you ask people to name some astronauts, there are a certain few that always get mentioned: Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, and so forth. John Young rarely gets mentioned and I think that’s unfair because he’s easily the biggest badass to ever go through the space corps.

Look at this badass, that steely-eyed gaze that says: "Space? Yeah. I made space my bitch."

Look at this BAMF, that steely-eyed gaze that says: “Space? Yeah. I fucked space up pretty good.”

Young started out in NASA’s Gemini program in 1965 and rustled everyone’s jimmies right off the bat when he decided he didn’t like dehydrated astronaut food and instead brought a sandwich into space. This earned him a formal reprimand from NASA but he just said, “Haters gonna hate,”* and flew again on Gemini 10 and orbited the moon as Command Module Pilot on Apollo 10.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Sandwiches are cool, especially space sandwiches, but everyone knows it’s really hard to be a supercool astronaut if you haven’t walked on the moon.”

I’ll see that and raise you Apollo 16 in 1972. The mission commander? John Muthafuckin’ Young. Not only did he walk on the moon, he did some sweet power slides in the Lunar Rover, flagrantly ignoring all moon speed limits and pushing the rover from its “recommended” top speed of 8 miles an hour to a blistering 11 miles an hour. I’d like to say he leaned out the window and screamed “Fuckkkk yeah,” as he did doughnuts on the moon but of course the Lunar Rover had no windows and in space no one can hear you scream. Unless of course you’re wearing a microphone, which he was…and accidentally left on during a mission broadcast, embarrassing NASA yet again when he said, “I got the farts again. I got ‘em again, Charlie” on live TV.

Now for any lesser man this would be enough space badassery for a lifetime. Not John Young. I know what you’re thinking, as you contemplate manned space travel for a moment and then lean forward with an eyebrow raised.

“Space Shuttle?”

You’re goddamned right.

Normally the shuttle carries seven astronauts, but they needed the extra five seats as well as the cargo hold for John Young's massive nuts.

Normally the shuttle carries seven astronauts, but they needed the extra five seats as well as the cargo hold for John Young’s massive balls.

And not just any shuttle flight. This was the maiden. voyage. There was no unmanned testing beforehand because you can’t remotely fly the space shuttle. When that day came for its first flight, there had to be a man behind the wheel (or stick…however shuttles work). Naturally the bigwigs at NASA were like, “We’ve got an untested spaceship here that might blow up on the launch pad for all we know. Who should we get to fly this thing?”

I’ll tell you who: John “Just Make Sure There’s A Goddamn Sandwich On Board” Young. (As you can see from the picture, they sent someone else too: I assume his only job was to try and keep Young from giving NASA the finger yet again, filling the shuttle with strippers, and taking it to the moon.)

Not only did the first shuttle flight go off without a hitch, as all John Young-piloted missions do, he flew a second shuttle flight two years later, and was scheduled for a third in 1987. Only the Challenger disaster could keep Young on the ground, and during the post-Challenger break in shuttle flights he decided that he’d owned space enough and called it a day.

But did he retire? Hell no. He stayed in NASA for another twenty years, kicking ass and taking names at the astronaut office and making sure no pussies ever set foot in space. It wasn’t until he was 74 years old, after spending 42 years dick-swinging around NASA that he finally said “Later bitches,”* and headed back to Texas.

Don't be fooled by his age - that coffee he's drinking is Irished up enough to kill a lesser astronaut.

Don’t be fooled by his age – that coffee he’s drinking is Irished up enough to kill a lesser astronaut.

These days I don’t feel so bad about not being an astronaut. I have asthma, a bad back, and even the smoothest of car rides has the potential to make me motion sick. There’s no way I would have made it through astronaut training with this Chuck Norris of the stars evaluating my every move. Heck, even if I joined now there’s a distinct chance he’d pull himself out of retirement and beat me up in the parking lot for not having the right stuff. There’s no room in NASA for anyone who isn’t a total cosmic stud (see: Hadfield, Chris), and we all have John Young to thank for that. Remember this and chuckle every time you hear the name “Neil Armstrong.” After all, Armstrong only went to the moon first to leave a sandwich and a bottle of Jack Daniels in anticipation of John Young’s arrival.

*These statements have not been evaluated for accuracy.

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Get your Tardis off my lawn

I know I’ll end up taking a lot of flack from my family about this but I really can’t stand Doctor Who. Whether it’s David Tennant, Matt Smith, or…that other guy, “allons-y” or “EXTERMINATE,” I can’t find much about the show that’s appealing. The rest of my family are self-described “Whovians,” so I know how unpopular my opinion is but I’m sticking by it.

I think a lot of my feelings toward Doctor Who result from my inner hipster pushing back against hype. The more hyped a movie, TV show, or band is, the less likely I am to seek it out. Back in 2005 (was it that long ago?) everyone and their mom was telling me I had to go see the movie Wedding Crashers.

“Go see Wedding Crashers!”

“You haven’t seen Wedding Crashers yet? What the hell is wrong with you?”

“If you don’t go see Wedding Crashers, you are dead to me and you might as well drown a basket of kittens while you’re at it.”

I didn’t see it, at least not when it was in the theaters, and by the time I finally saw it on TV I was…completely underwhelmed. It’s not that it wasn’t funny – it certainly was at times – but after months and months of uninterrupted hype from everyone I knew, my expectations were subsequently raised to a point that no movie except maybe Blazing Saddles could ever hope to match.

Same goes with Arcade Fire – when I lived in Chicago the radio station I liked did nothing but praise Arcade Fire’s supposed genius and talent. I’ve listened to their latest album and it’s not awful but it’s also certainly nothing I would spend money on or desire to listen to again. I’d take almost anything U2 has done (and I’m not a big fan of U2) over Arcade Fire.

And Doctor Who is no different. The memes spattered across the internet, the dress-up conventions, the endless hype, the looks of amazement and disgust when I tell people I don’t watch the show – all serve to dissuade me from ever watching it. This is quickly followed by people insisting, “Oh but you HAVE to watch Doctor Who.” No, I don’t, and the more you push me to the less I want to. Maybe at some point I’ll try it out on Netflix after all the hype has died down, but as long as “Tardis” and “allons-y” are still buzzwords in pop culture I think I’ll pass.

This has proven to be an exceptionally unpopular opinion but I know I’m not alone in this.

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