Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hello Kitty

Decades ago my father had a dog, named “HeyYou.” The black and tan Coonhound bitch was ferocious, crushing cats like a sock full of eggs. When pink plump Frankie came screaming into this world, my parents thought it was a good idea to replace the cold-blooded killer with a more appropriate companion: a cat. Following his trend of originality, my father named the calico “Kitty.”

Kitty would roost on top of me, using my padded fat as insulation from the cold of Canada. Only slightly worried she would smother me, my parents welcomed the reliable heat blanket. Often, Kitty would knead and massage my tummy, coaxing spittle and milk-goo from my toothless mouth. An instant snack. Her contented purr would put me to sleep instantly, an Eskimo wrapped in brown and white fur.

One particularly brutal snow-swept spring inspired my parents to relocate. Fleeing the cold, our family immigrated to Texas. The warm summer nights allowed Kitty the freedom she’d not had in Canada. Kitty became an outdoor cat, staying out late and cavorting with reckless abandon. I was imprisoned indoors, with Beatrice the stuffed snaggle-haired bunny. But before my abandonment issues were exposed, Kitty got knocked up and was prescribed couch-rest.

During this poignant time in my development, I began repeating words like a trained parrot. Pieced together in broken English, my first phrases were an early glimpse into my adult persona. Frank are Hungry! No paint wall! Fucking Cat! The latter expression I mastered from my mother, but used during a church function to frame my father. At two, I was already a master at manipulation.

The most famous phrase from my youth occurred shortly after Kitty’s vagina exploded. Although largely complacent, her temperament would flare as I toddled toward her litter. Varying the force of my adoration between pats and thumps, Kitty would emit a guttural growl.

“Frankie?” My mother would nag. “What are you doing? Be careful. He’ll scratch you!”

“Kitty good! Good Kitty!” I’d drunkenly pronounce, digging my pudge of a finger into her ear. “Ear fun truck!” With seven kittens suckling at her teats, Kitty was not as easily amused. Again, she snarled. I dug deeper. “Ear fun truck!”

“Frankie? Don’t do that!” My mother reprimanded, in that singsong voice mothers invented. “He’ll scratch you!” I extracted my forefinger from Kitty’s orifice, and examined what I must have been brain. “Oh God, FJ! That’s disgusting!” My mother leapt from the couch and disappeared into the kitchen.

With the ever-watching parent momentarily absent, I reached for a bug-eyed kitten. Kitty warily eyed my arm and outstretched hand. I scooped up the feeding kitten, which clamped onto his mother with fervor. Kitty had had enough. In a deft move too quick for my infantile motor skills to process, Kitty swiped her paw across my hand. In all her fury, the cat had not drawn blood. But I had been betrayed.

I gasped, released the kitten, and stood facing my double-crossing companion. My vision blurred, tears seeped forth. Clutching my hand, I began to howl.

My mother rushed into the room, and towered over me. “Frankie, what did I say?”

I held my hand to her in offering, attempting to gain sympathy from the woman who’d birthed me. “He scratch you!” I sobbed, burying my face into her leg. “He scratch you.” I muttered. She swooped me into her arms, and carried me away from the battlefield. I ceased crying Instantly and glared at Kitty and her litter.

“He scratch you.” I declared one last time. Fucking cat.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Killing Christmas

My father is a veterinarian, so I’ve grown up with all sorts of animals in and around the house: chickens, horses, mules, llamas, guinea pigs, mice, peacocks, guinea fowl, gerbils, goats, pigeons, doves, quail, pheasant, sheep, dogs, cats, raccoons, magpies, cows, pigs, ducks, geese, rabbits, bobcats, and turkeys. As an only child, I never had a problem finding a critter to keep me company.

Mr. and Mrs. Puddle Duckling were two goslings my dad purchased one Sunday morning after church. My parents and I would customarily stop by the Feed Lot to pick up grain and chicken scratch for the poultry we kept in an expansive compound of coops behind our house. Pre-Avian Flu epidemic, my dad and I would gawk at the little cream and yellow chicks, letting them lightly peck our fingers through the wire cages. On an impulse buy, I found myself sitting in our backyard cradling two banana-yellow newly hatched geese.

The gangly little creatures imprinted on me and provided many hours of entertainment one summer, much to my parents’ dismay. A budding landscaper, I dug a series of shallow ponds by blasting water into the soft Texas silt. A more accurate description of these “ponds” would be “mud flats” with tangles of roots and floating grass. Mr. and Mrs. Puddle Duckling were thrilled, and excitedly waddled into the sludge while I laboriously blasted the holes deeper with a high-powered hose. A few hours later, my parents came out to find their son, the goslings, and their entire front yard a black silty mess.

To avoid another landscaping disaster, my parents encouraged me to keep my activities indoors, and Mr. and Mrs. Puddle Duckling became permanent residents to the household. Every morning I would switch out the butcher paper in the tiled foyer, replenish their small wading pool with fresh water, and clean out the food bowls they had inevitably shit in. To amuse my parents, I would let them out of their enclosure and walk into the kitchen, Mr. and Mrs. Puddle Duckling close at my heels. Our cats would scatter in fright as the two bumbling birds would obediently follow my every step, honking and hissing along the way.

A traumatic encounter with a neighbor’s dog ended Mr. and Mrs. Puddle Duckling’s summer of bliss. I’ll never forget the two lanky, fuzzy, beautiful little yellow geese as they happily ran toward me honking in unison, their over-sized webbed feet slapping on the ceramic tiles.

The following summer, my dad brought home two poults. Nimble and streamlined, the baby turkeys reminded me of Velociraptors, bobbing their heads and sauntering down the hall. They too, resided in the front entryway where they calmly watched visitors enter and exit. However, my parents quickly established the birds’ role as turkeys.

“Now Frank, these birds are not pets. Don’t get too attached, because in November, one of them is going to be dinner. And we’ll be eating the other one in December. We don’t want you to get attached. These turkeys are food, not pets.”

Thanksgiving and Christmas, as I lovingly named them, were blissfully unaware of their future. Not nearly as loyal as the goslings, the pair would burst out of their pen and begin stalking the cats. Van Gogh and Tiger put the “pussy” in “pussycat,” but it’s no wonder with the shit they were forced to endure. Thanksgiving and Christmas would actively hunt the two cats, chasing them under beds and up trees.

As I watched the 4-inch plucky little chicks transform into 25-pound bronze and iridescent adults, I noticed that Thanksgiving was sizably smaller than Christmas. So when the fourth Thursday in November rolled around, my dad asked me to bring Christmas to the backyard. While he sharpened his knife on a marble slab, I stroked the bird, playfully poking at its snood. Miraculously, we remained calm. Until my dad asked me to hold the bird’s wings shut while he tied its legs to the persimmon tree.

Christmas gobbled quizzically. And I lost it. I started to sob uncontrollably, begging my father to not kill the turkey. But it was too late. With a flick of his wrist, Christmas’s head was severed, and blood sprayed everywhere. I went into hysterics. My father had killed Christmas.

Then and there, I resolved to stop eating turkey. That Thanksgiving, I sulked and nibbled on potatoes and cranberry sauce. All my parents had to say was, “We told you not to get attached!” Thanksgiving the turkey was depressingly aware of its missing cohort. And with Christmas gone, the cats were getting increasingly confident, even if the turkey was over half their size. Thanksgiving was moved to an outdoor pen, where it ruled over the chickens.

A week before the Christmas holiday, my dad made a miraculous discovery: Thanksgiving was a female. Lying in a shallow of dirt was an enormous brown speckled egg. Since the cold weather had slowed down the chickens’ egg-laying productivity, he decided to buy a Butterball at the market.

For years, Thanksgiving laid an egg every other day. I became able to recognize and imitate seven different turkey calls, differentiate between distressed, angry, or randy. I tamed her, and she bowed her head to let strangers pet her. She would calmly let me trim her claws or extend her wings to their full 4-foot wingspan. For a local Renaissance Fair, I was able to fashion a modified ferret leash around her, enabling me to browse the festivities while she pecked at bits of stray roasted corn.

Thanksgiving lived a long 8 years before dying of ovarian cancer. The poor creature became emaciated and unable to stand, but never lost the luster in her plumage or her resolve to live. She answered my calls with a shrill cluck until the day she died in my arms, one cold day in November.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Appealing Citation

Dear very attractive members of the Parking Ticket Appeal Committee:

This appeal is in regards to the white, unscented, 2-ply citation found on my windshield issued July 14th, 2006. I am a student of good standing at Art Center College of Design, and would never dream of crossing the line (no pun intended). Thus, I feel compelled to write this appeal to defend my integrity. I realize you read through many appeals per session, and apologize for interrupting your lunch hour. For your sake (and happiness), I at least hope it was Taco Salad Day.

I would first like to apologize for my unruly disregard for Art Center College of Design law. I am aware of the parking procedures as set forth in the handbook, as well as indicated by the flier that has been posted near the entrance of the campus. However, I believe my actions may be justified, and have detailed my reasons below. Thank you for considering my appeal.

When I pulled into the parking lot a little before 9am for my morning class, I slid my dirty Pontiac Grand-Am next to a silver Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (Forbes rated second most expensive car of 2005) who was encroaching in on my left side of the line. Not wanting to take a chip out of the $452,800 paint job, nor possibly taint the Mercedes with bits of mud and dirt particles that seem to grow from my own car, I inched my Ponty to the right as much as I could afford. Squeezing out my door (thank God I have a 28-inch waist) I checked to make sure I was within the parking boundaries, returned to my car and straightened out. Although my wheels were indeed on the line, I thought the parking attendants would understand why I had crossed the border, and naively believed my selflessness would be pardoned.

At that hour of morning, the car to my right was a Volvo S40 small sedan. I felt confidant the driver of the tiny vehicle would be able to easily enter his or her car upon leaving. So I left my Ponty far enough away from a very expensive car and a very small car, albeit crossing the parking lot line. At 6pm, when I returned from a long day of classes and constructing set on Stage 2, I found the aforementioned parking citation. To my chagrin, I discovered the reasons for my ticket. No longer parked next to me were the Mercedes or Volvo, so I was left with no alibi.

I have included a photograph illustrating the way in which my car was parked, not nearly as severe as the citation states. I would like to point out that the parking flier suggests it is possible to get a ticket for parking in such a way, but not indefinitely, and alludes to extenuating circumstances which I believe my case to be. I would greatly appreciate it if you could dismiss my citation, or possibly divert it to the unanimous driver of the Mercedes. In fact, if you are able to get his number, I would be very interested in settling the score with him personally. I’m sure he will be appreciative of me not wanting to harm his very expensive vehicle. And I am in the market for a Sugar Daddy. If he does not, indeed, swing that way, may I give him your number Carmella? Would your husband mind?

Thank you again for your consideration.


Frank-Joseph Frelier
4th Term Illustration

PS Suzanne, that color shirt you’re wearing looks fabulous on you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tool Time

I recently bought my first power tools. I have finally graduated from my brightly colored KidKraft Tool Set, and settled upon a beefy DeWalt 14.4-volt Drill Driver. Now, I’m not sure what the hell 14.4 volts do, or why words like “torque” and “carbide jaws” will be applicable to my chosen profession, but I know that as a Production Designer I must own power tools. And unfortunately, know how to operate them.

In Junior High shop class, I was able to get around having to operate construction machinery with ease. If I buttered Elaine up with a little gossip, she would gladly run my masonite through the bandsaw. My cousin, with the obedience of a Labrador puppy, would diligently haul, saw, and chop anything I requested. And more often than not, I could convince the instructor to do my work for me, insisting he “show me how to do it one more time” before he had effectively cut out all the necessary project pieces.

Unfortunately, along with the classic bandsaw and table saw, my Materials of Design class required students to learn how to use machines like the router, drill press, vacuform, and the terrifying lathe. Adding to my knowledge of foreign words were things like “jib,” “dado,” “miter,” and “styrene.” But similar to years prior, I got around it. The guys in the shop were incredibly helpful, and if I brought a set of boobs in the form of Michelle, they would happily conquer the building process.

I would also manipulate materials in ways that would not subject me to splinters, blood, or possible (and probable) dismemberment. While the other students machined intricate structures and practical products with Plexiglas and plywood, I employed a bathtub, oven, and sewing machine to make a dress. That’s right, I made a dress in shop class. Consequentially, the dress was displayed in the Art Center Student Gallery because of its creative use of materials. Visualizing the Story, however, required me to load up on the Production Designer gear: tool box, level, measuring tape, hammer, screwdrivers, paper tape, carpet tape, fishing wire, nails, screws, nuts and bolts, and of course the electric drill.

It’s a great feeling, really, having bought my first power tools. It’s like a right of passage, an affirmation of my masculinity. I haven’t felt this butch since I changed a flat tire outside a gay bar in West Hollywood, dressed in size 7 Sevens and a tight Polo.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

En Fuego

Digging through my closet, I reached past my Emilio Pucci collection, past the custom tailed suits from Vietnam, and pulled out a bright red Lacoste shirt. It was perfect Independence Day Red, and would go well with the themed party I was primping for. Wallering on the floor, Kevin lazily told me his plans for the evening while little bells went off in my head. I heard the sirens the moment I smelled the smoke, but it took another few seconds for realization to hit. Fire.

I ran to my window, drew the shades and yelled, “Holy shit, guys! The house across the street is on fire!” My housemates crowed the window, and we stared in shock. Crawling out onto the small balcony, we had a first class, smoke-level view of the blaze. Already 5 fire trucks had filled the street, and dozens of curious locals stood in our lawn watching the inferno.

I can’t say I wasn’t fascinated. From our window, we saw the inhabitants of the house run out the front door, cell phones in hand. The neighbors had brought out garden hoses, and were spraying the burning house. Unfortunately, Aeolus sent flames over to the house next door, whose beautiful Los Angeles bungalow gables erupted into flames as well. I quickly scanned the area, wondering if our house was in danger. What would I take? Could I rescue it all? What was most important?

Standing against my wall was the French easel that had traveled the world with me, whose sides were dinged from hauling it over rocks and through forests, multi-hued from hours upon hours of projects. In a 1940s makeup box were tubes of oil paints, the most precious of which I bought at the same paint shop Renoir and Monet had frequented, choosing pigments that would influence the 1900s art scene. Close by was the sacred leather-bound box of pastels my father had inherited when he was a boy studying in Paris. Alongside my great-great-aunt, this same box of pastels had attended art classes taught by Rosa Bonheur, the most famous woman artist of the 1880s.

Tucked behind my desk, and sewn through the room was my own artwork - over-sized folders with work from high school, USC, and Art Center. My cherished oil landscapes adorned my room, framed in gold, the only artwork I proudly display. In small bound books were the landscape paintings I did on Semester at Sea, irreplaceable reminders of the vistas I experienced on my journey around the world. Beside them lay stacks of CDs and photos documenting some of my most incredible moments of SAS, Art Center, USC, and every summer in between. Harvey the Dinosaur and Harvey the Skeleton-Man, delicate anatomic sculptures I created, sat on the shelves near my bed.

In the recesses of my bookcase were the Star Wars comic books I’d been collecting since I was 13, some signed by artists, authors, or actors. Above the comics was the magazine collection I obsessively bought and poured through each month: Flaunt, Wallpaper*, Navigator*, and Surface. Displayed under my bed were rows upon rows of DVDs and movies. How could I live without those? Or my coveted Pucci collection? Or more importantly, my Powerbook??

By now, no less than 10 fire trucks crowded the street, hosing down the skeletal top floors. On our lawn now stood the ash-covered residents, watching Menlo 2713 fall to ruin. Mercifully, the bottom floor remained untouched, and the firemen were able to put out the adjacent fire before much damage could be wrought. But what about the rooms upstairs? What about the memories that had been lost?

It seems moronic to be boggled down by all of these material possessions, wondering what matters most and what I could survive without…on Independence Day. But isn’t that what July 4th signifies? It is a day put aside to remember our rich history and revel in past accomplishments. It is a celebration of the United States and the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So it doesn’t seem too far off to be worried about all of my shit going up in flames.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Worthless Fourth of July fact:
Always the progressive state, Massachusetts was the first legislature to recognize Independence Day in 1781.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Spontaneity Rules

I hate flying.

I’m not scared of heights, and I’m not scared of dying on a plane. I don’t fear a renegade pigeon will be sucked into the engine turbine. I’m not worried about the threat of hijackers. I don’t think a crack in the 4-inch thick windowpanes will open up and suck me out into the abyss.

I hate the inconvenience. Sure, airlines have streamlined their dispensation process to levels of military extremes. But there is always, ALWAYS the chance that some glitch will arise, and it inevitably occurs when you’ve made plans long in advance. Not when you book a flight 3 days before departure – no. It’s as if the flight gods, bored by no prospects of terrorism due to increased security, take pleasure by punishing planners. A spontaneous international jaunt to Sydney, Australia for the weekend? No problem. Reservations made months prior for a wedding in a neighboring major city? Congratulations! You get to enjoy your limited time with your high school friends via a cell phone, stuck in an airport terminal!

Well, fuck you, Delta. See if I use Mommy’s AmEx to get more frequent flier miles from you anymore!

I long for the old days of travel. I’m not talking about covered wagons and oxen (mine always drown at the end, in a river), but chic passenger trains. I can picture it now…A snazzy tune wafting from a piano, set in a warmly decorated Deco lounge car. Coco Chanel’s latest designs draped on beautifully bobbed women. My freshly pressed Argonne Arrow dress shirt, and long black tails on my fancy suit. A glass of champagne, as I gossip with the other socialites of 20s society.

Or better yet, what about the glorious days of steam liners? Regardless of the fact it would take weeks to get from one port to the next, those massive ships were always reliable (RMS Titanic not withstanding). If the captain said they’d dock at 8am, by golly, they’d be docked by 8am. And those were even classier than passenger cars!

Now here I sit…two canceled flights later, my stand-by status ignored due to an already over-booked flight, and 8 hours behind schedule. But, of course, a quick call to Southwest Airlines assures me a flight thirty minutes from now. Why? Because the fucking flight gods having nothing better to do than reign terror on planners.