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A Monstrous Decade, a Fanatical Family, and the Worst Birthday in Human History

Ten Years of 9/11

A Monstrous Decade, a Fanatical Family, and the Worst Birthday in Human History

Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery.

TWO TOWERS BY JACK DAWS Chromogenic print of artist-made construction from McDonald’s french fries and Heinz ketchup. Photographed by Richard Nichol.

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MIKE FRIZZELLE Fort Benning, Georgia, 2008.

Remember when "September eleventh" didn't mean anything? Except "my birthday," if it happened to be your birthday? That last summer before it meant anything, before the date became the name of the deadliest day on American soil since the Battle of Antietam, I got an internship at Seattle Weekly. I was the Best of Seattle intern, tasked with sitting in one of those cubicles with walls that don't go all the way up, unfolding reader ballots, and tabulating votes for, say, Best Nail Salon.

I'd recently stepped off a cliff, family-wise, and wasn't speaking to them. I was 20.

September 11 happens to be my birthday (always has been!), and September 11, 2001, happened to be my 21st birthday. I awoke to the phone going nuts and answered it with all those expectations you have about your 21st birthday. The person on the line didn't know it was my birthday. Said to turn on the TV. For the next two hours, I sat on the couch with my boyfriend—an older man who turned out to be taking advantage of me, although I didn't see it that way at the time—and watched a Boeing 767 meet its reflection in the south tower of the World Trade Center over and over. Every time the plane came into the frame, I expected it to slice behind the buildings, Blue Angels–style, and every single time it failed to do what my eyes expected. Then the south tower thickened and disappeared over and over. Then the north tower thickened and disappeared over and over. It seemed fictional, far-fetched, trapped in the gluey flicker of the TV, too staged to be true, too exponentially unreal: The unreality of the plane hitting the building instead of missing it, times the unreality of uncountable people having to choose between burning to death or jumping to death, times the unreality of the towers vanishing like a magic trick.

Justlikethat.

Before there were images of the glowing, cathedralesque, rancid wreckage, there was miles of footage. The New York media market made the most of it. The Today show went into extra innings. The mediators revived and killed and revived and killed all those passengers and officer workers and emergency crews. The more it looped, the more the plane looked like a toy. We now know that somewhere aboard that second plane, seconds before it hit, passenger Peter Hanson was on the phone to his father in Connecticut saying, "It's getting bad, Dad—a stewardess was stabbed—they seem to have knives and Mace—they said they have a bomb—it's getting very bad on the plane—passengers are throwing up and getting sick—the plane is making jerky movements—I don't think the pilot is flying the plane—I think we are going down—I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building—don't worry, Dad—if it happens, it'll be very fast—my God, my God." The call "ended abruptly," according to the 9/11 Commission Report, and Hanson's father turned on the TV and "saw the second aircraft hit the World Trade Center." His last words before "my God, my God" were consolations to his father.

I'm sure they said on the news that another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania and then another into the Pentagon, but it wasn't until I got to the Seattle Weekly offices that this sank in. The working knowledge in the newsroom was that the plane over Pennsylvania had been shot down to protect the White House, an error that sticks in my mind because it was published in the newspaper as a fact under my byline the next day. Since 9/11 was a Tuesday, and since Seattle Weekly went to press Tuesday night, the editor, Audrey Van Buskirk, had only a couple hours to make a bunch of articles, which is how the intern tasked with Best Nail Salon got to write about the most important news story in decades. The meaningless coincidence of this 21st birthday was the topic. I reheated a line from Joan Didion that she'd reheated from William Butler Yeats—"The center did not hold," I wrote—and put it in a blender with some autobiographical stuff about my family's military history and turned in a piece that, someone told me later, made the news editor cry. In his defense, it was 9/11.

Six months later, during my sophomore year at the University of Washington, Seattle Weekly offered me a job. Neither of my parents was helping to pay for school, and in their standoff with each other, neither would cosign on a student loan—Dad was trying to buy a new house for his new wife and daughter; Mom was trying to refinance the house because the dishwasher had just exploded or something. So I took the job. Six months after that, on the one-year anniversary of 9/11, Audrey Van Buskirk threw a birthday party for me in her Wallingford backyard.

Once everyone was good and drunk, we did a reenactment of the tragedy. It was a completely fucked thing to do, but then it was a completely fucked day to be having a birthday party, and it seemed better to face it than to eat cake and make small talk and pretend like everyone wasn't sick to their stomach. There didn't seem to be any good reasons to celebrate. Van Buskirk, the Seattle Weekly editor who'd hired me, had just been fired by the CEO of the New York company that owned Seattle Weekly, along with managing editor Bethany Jean Clement. These were the editors who'd given me my first shot, who'd saved me from the depressing drama playing out between my parents over money, who'd given me a column and begun to teach me how not to embarrass myself, and who were as well, by the way, probably the best chance Seattle Weekly had at being an extraordinary newspaper.

When they were fired, the CEO, realizing that it was a Monday, said he needed them to come back the next day to finish seeing off that week's issue to the printer. Someone high up in the office later described this move as "asinine," equivalent to "chopping their heads off and then asking them to clean it up."

So at the party, Clement was the south tower, and I was the north tower: We're both tall. The smallest woman at the party volunteered to be the airplanes: She stretched her arms out and two men picked her up and rammed her into us. A friend who looked a little like Katie Couric played Katie Couric. And everyone else had to decide if they wanted to jump to death or burn to death. People had been asking all night how it felt to have my birthday be September 11, had been apologizing for my awful luck, had been telling me that I should've maybe thought about having my birthday on a different day. But I thought then, and still think now, that having a birthday on September 11 is nothing if not a reminder of one's exceptional luck simply to be alive. Not a bad thing to be reminded of. Like: You've made it this far. Good on ya. You've never had to choose between burning to death or jumping to death...

Several years after 9/11, I noticed another coincidence. It's not just that it happened to be my birthday and that this particular birthday happened to be the threshold of technical adulthood, the official graduation from innocence. Being born September 11, 1980, means that I was conceived in December 1979. A month before that, in November 1979, Iranian radicals longing for a return to Islamic theocracy stormed the American embassy in Tehran, taking its guards and occupants hostage for 444 days, or 14 and a half months. My conception and birth happened within the Iran hostage crisis, the first battle in America's war with militant Islam. I saw Mark Bowden talk about his book Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam in 2006, and as he signed my book, I told him of the coincidence. He paused and sat back and said, archly, "You're the son of the global jihad."

I never would have gotten a job at The Stranger if not for the job at Seattle Weekly, and if not for 9/11, I might not have gotten a job at Seattle Weekly. In many ways, 9/11 was perversely lucky for me. 9/11 was my big break.

Mike Frizzelle—born in 1983, the third of my parents' four boys, the only blond one, sardonic, laconic, virtuous, hardworking, a stress case—was in his senior year of high school on September 11, 2001, in Southern California, retaking Algebra II so he could go to college, listening to the news by radio. He'd already thought about joining the military, because when you're a Frizzelle, it's sort of expected, and after telling a recruiter he was going to wait until after college, he got the hard sell to join the reserves. Mike asked how often reserves get called into active duty. "And he was like, 'Only if the country is attacked, and how often does that happen? Hahahahahaha.' And then two or three weeks later was 9/11."

The family history is organized by world conflicts—our great-grandpa in World War I, our grandpa in World War II, our great-aunt as an army nurse in the Korean War, our uncle going off to Vietnam, our dad doing air force intelligence in Germany during the cold war. But Mike joined the army in 2007. This was five and a half years after the invasion of Afghanistan and four years after the invasion of Iraq and two and a half years after an international team of weapons officials had declared the official reasons for invading Iraq to be officially bullshit. We talked about it, Mike and I, kind of—how little sense it made to be joining the army at that moment in time. It was so unusual for someone with a degree to be signing up for the army in 2007—if you have a degree, you can start as an officer—that the guy at the recruiting station had to dig up a manual to figure out how to do it.

But I didn't harp.

Our family uses politics to hurt one another. There is little respect for calmness. There is little respect for the opposing point of view. And after years of all of us fighting about all kinds of things, I had no interest in inflicting my opinions on Mike. "You know how the whole family's kinda arrogant? We think we're better than everyone?" Mike said once. It seemed like news at the time, but it wasn't: There's unwarranted arrogance going back generations. And military personnel going back generations. We are not a peaceful people.

And Mike is the brother who makes me thank my lucky stars my parents made so many babies, the brother I look up to even though he's younger, and he's not an idiot, and the army was something he wanted to do, and he didn't feel like elaborating. The closest he ever got to an answer was "I actually joined the army to avenge your birthday. I was like, No one takes a birthday from a Frizzelle."

Plus, we are the children of parents who were madly in love and then went to war with each other. They kept it mostly civil, but each of my parents felt right, felt wronged, felt burned.

The short version (as I understood it at the time) is that Mom had an affair and Dad wouldn't forgive her, but Jesus would, so she became a born-again Christian and, along with that, a Republican. (She voted twice for George W. Bush because she thought he was "more Christian" than his opponents.) The affair was with a veterinarian whose office she worked at on Saturdays—a dumb little side job to help make ends meet in a dumb little building by the side of the freeway. The veterinarian was short and chinless and an unlikely romantic rival for my dad, who practically spit his name whenever he said it.

Because I am nosy and manipulative, and because their divorce was the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me, and because Mom was lonely and available—she ran a day care at home, so she was always there, covered in babies—I asked as many questions as my 12-, 13-, 14-year-old brain could formulate. She answered everything I asked. She would apologize for telling me things that disturbed me—things I was too young to know about—like how pornography made her feel undesired and how Dad being at work late into the night made her suspicious, and even though I didn't know what I was talking about, I would act worldly and sympathetic, like I'd seen this kind of thing all the time. In fact, I was on my way to obese and deeply closeted, and Mom was my closest friend. As she radicalized into an evangelical Christian, I radicalized into an evangelical Christian, too, giving speeches in church, having epiphanies around the fire at church camp, and agreeing fervidly that simply looking at pornography was the same as cheating and therefore Dad had cheated on her first. Embarrassingly sure of myself, lit up by Christ's mandate to forgive, I declared it unforgivable that Dad couldn't forgive her.

Dad didn't exactly radicalize after the divorce, but his Republicanism became more pronounced after he remarried. Once, randomly, my stepmom said, "Since you're gay, I'm guessing you're really into gay rights, but gays are no more than 10 percent of the population, and in this country, majority rules." She insists that Barack Obama was sworn in on a Koran. Rush Limbaugh is the reason she gets out of bed in the morning.

What's disorienting about talking politics with my parents now is how different the messages are than when I was a kid. During the 1988 presidential debates, when my parents were still married, I asked who we were voting for, which guy was our guy, and Mom said Dukakis "because Democrats care about poor people." Dad now says he never voted for Dukakis, and in the years since 9/11, he has been a vice president for more than one defense contractor. Maybe that explains why his position on just about everything seems more hard-right than it used to. Mom's move toward extreme Republican positions has seemed bizarre, but it makes sense considering her religious transformation (a religion I ran screaming from after her hysterical response to my coming out of the closet). Still, I often feel like I'm defending the values they instilled in me when I was a kid—that they're the ones who changed.

In May of 2009, Mike called to say that he'd be leaving for Iraq in the morning. It was one of those phone calls you know is coming but still surprises you when it comes. I had no idea what to say, even though I'd had years to prepare for the moment. He and I think similarly, but our closeness is tacit, based mostly on the universal facial expression for Can you believe this fucking family? The family without Mike around would be unendurable, and I'm a worrier warrior, a Worst Possible Scenario machine, and I kept thinking about who would be left if he got killed.

The last time I'd seen him was in October 2008, in Jacksonville, Florida, where our older brother Patrick, who's been in the navy since 1998, was getting married. Like a Frizzelle out of central casting, Patrick's primary mode of communication is ad hominem attack—he once called me out of the blue, after we hadn't spoken in more than three years, to convey that my life was meaningless and that Satan was living in my body. (Nice hearing from you, too!) He considers the dissolution of his first marriage a promise to God that he broke, and to make amends, to do right by Him, to be fit for heaven, finally, he and his bride-to-be decided they would wait until marriage to have sex. On the advice of their church, they decided not to kiss during their year-and-a-half courtship, because kissing presents the temptation to go further. Mike and I shared a hotel room that wedding weekend, and learned about the whole kissing thing the morning of—learned that when the officiant said, You may now kiss the bride, that would be their first time ever—and as Mike stood in the hotel room ironing his formal blues, he laughed and blushed and covered his eyes and laughed.

At the wedding, in a wheelchair, was our grandfather, Dad's dad, Nolan Frizzelle, who followed his World War II career in the marines with a career as a businessman and Republican Party activist in the 1960s, and ultimately, from 1980 to 1992, as an elected representative in the state legislature, representing Orange County. He was "a right-wing extremist," "a bigot," and "the only elected official in the United States who defends apartheid," according to opponents' descriptions of him that appeared in the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper itself described him as a "hard-line ideological," "irascible and long-winded," and "one of the 'cavemen,' the archconservatives Orange County exported to the Capitol during the Reagan Revolution." Grandpa thought South African blacks were, in his words, "quite incapable of governing themselves" and that their problems had been exaggerated. In 1989, he authored a measure that would "prohibit prosecution of parents whose children die of illnesses or injuries treatable with modern medicine" for those who would rather rely on prayer than science. That same year, he attempted to remove the words "sexual orientation" from an antidiscrimination law in Irvine because he believed preventing discrimination against gay people would "advance homosexuality... a perverse lifestyle."

Our family is so often propelled by imaginary facts, and the president who invaded Iraq was so propelled by imaginary facts, and the thinking of the majority of the American public that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 was such a constellation of imaginary facts, that Mike getting killed in Iraq, for nothing, would be the bolt from heaven par excellence: What better illustration of the harm of imaginary facts?

On the phone that day, it seemed obvious that Mike was going to die and that the only way to prevent that from happening would be to keep him on the phone forever, but I couldn't think of a single question to ask, so I went with the winner: Are you nervous?

"I feel fine," he said. "I was nervous two days ago but now I'm fine." What was he going to be doing? "We're going to be training Iraqis. The Iraqi brigade or something," he said. What was he doing at the moment? "Sitting in an empty apartment with a computer and a pillow." What were his plans for the night? "Steak dinner. Just take it easy."

And that was it. Then he heard his older brother try to explain how proud he was of him and how brave he was, and talk about how meaningful it was to go off and be part of history, and all that other uplifting crap you say to someone when there's a chance this is your last chance. Feeling blank, full of love, terrified, inarticulate, the next thing I knew, we were done talking and I was wandering around the apartment trying not to cry.

I called Dad, who said, "I think Mike's chances of coming back in one piece are pretty good."

I called our great-aunt—the army nurse during the Korean War—and she said, "I think he'll be in jeopardy, of course, but it'll be a random sort of thing, Iraqis blowing up Iraqis—getting in the middle of that. That would be the danger. But probably not as much danger as being a policeman in Oakland driving on the freeways. I hope he doesn't get killed, but mostly I hope he doesn't get hurt." She said it was worse to lose a limb or come home with your brain scrambled than not to come home at all.

I called our youngest brother, Steven, who still lives at home with Mom even though he's well into his 20s and who said, "I told him, 'Don't be a hero. If you hear a gun, don't think about your guys—run!' That's what I would do." This is classic Steven, so offhandedly selfish. When I told him what Aunt Betty said about getting injured being worse than not making it back at all, he said, "More things to worry about! Thanks! I didn't even think about that. Jesus." And then he added, "I told Mom, 'He's nervous but he's keeping it together. Try not to freak him out by crying and telling him how Jesus loves him.'"

Two months after he got to Iraq, Mike and I were on Facebook at the same time. "It's like 120 here and windy. Feels like a blow dryer in your face all the time," he typed on Facebook chat. "I would like to go home. I'm over this place." I asked what he missed most and he said, "Girls, alcohol, and the ocean."

"They made me a platoon leader today," he said in a chat a month later. "I've got 30 guys. Basically I'm in charge of force protection and logistics. I handle that so the MiTT only has to worry about the Iraqi army." I could never understand this technical stuff, no matter how many questions I asked, so I usually steered the conversation toward his state of mind. Six months into his Iraq tour, he started mailing handwritten notes on United States Army stationery, "because there is nothing more impersonal than the internet." He wrote letters to his long-term girlfriend, his college sweetheart, almost every day during basic training, "and we grew so much closer because of it," he wrote. "Since I've been out here, I've only done internet and we've been kind of drifting, so writing letters is my new thing. It's relaxing, too, not to mention people actually keep them." He said he'd come home to the States for a two-week R&R and hadn't told the family because he just wanted to spend the time with his girlfriend. "I just didn't feel like talking about the military and I knew the family would be asking," he wrote. And "if I expect to keep [her] around I need to give her most of my attention."

Keeping her around wasn't in the cards, though, not in the end. At a certain point in time, he learned some information that changed everything, just as, at a certain point in time, our dad learned some information that changed everything with Mom—a piece of information Dad shared with me only a few years ago, when I was on a road trip with him, just the two of us.

According to Dad, in the early years of their marriage, on the air force base in Germany, one of his superiors sent him away for a weekend of training and had sex with Mom while Dad was gone. When Dad got his orders to move to Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, my parents undertook a driving tour of Europe in a yellow-green MG with a suitcase full of diapers and their several-months-old first baby, Patrick. During that drive, in the town of Dunkirk, Dad almost left her. In a fury over finding out about his air force boss, Dad got into the MG and drove to the water and got out and looked up at the cranes in the harbor and thought about what to do. He doubtless also thought about the miracle of Dunkirk, one of his favorite war stories. He thought of his wife back in the motel room with their first-born son, and he swallowed his pride and believed her that it wouldn't happen again, and then they moved to Omaha, where I was born and where unbeknownst to him she had an affair with a neighbor, and then to Northern California, where unbeknownst to him she had an affair with a swimming instructor at the pool.

Dad found out about those other men when he found out about the veterinarian, years later—imagine the violence of that revelation—and to add insult to injury, Mom asked him to move out so she and the veterinarian could make a go of it. (Didn't pan out.) My unbridled rage against my father for the entirety of high school—my formulation that it was all because he couldn't forgive her for one thing—was born of ignorance. I'd been propelled by made-up facts and, fighting against his supposed villainy, had done my best to hurt him. By the end of the conversation on that enlightening road trip together, he and I were sobbing—a tough-guy military dad and his gay adult son sobbing so hard we had to pull into a Bank of America parking lot and just sit there for a while to pull ourselves together.

Mike had found out long before I had, which probably explains why he never went to war with Dad like I did. He remembers where he was when Mom told him. They were sitting in the car in the driveway of the house that would end up in the bank's hands, and Mom confessed to the affair with the veterinarian. "And then I think she said there were more," Mike remembers. "She's just kind of like, 'There's a lot more.'"

Mike got home from Iraq, got out of the army, and found out his girlfriend's devotion to him had been a myth. They had been together for four years, but there had been a lot of other men while he was gone, which in retrospect explained all the odd looks he got from mutual friends whenever he'd come home to see her. When he graduated from Officer Candidate School in 2008, on a Valentine's Day, and my dad and granddad and their wives and I all flew to Georgia to pin lieutenant bars on his uniform, Mike's girlfriend was supposed to be there, too, but never showed. "That probably would have been a great time to break up with her," he says now.

As for Mom, the picture I have painted here is incomplete. She has soldiered through so much grief—her father died when she was 17, her only brother has been in and out of jail and halfway houses for decades, her mother is estranged—and she has transformed her grief into a fixation on taking care of other people. She is perhaps the most preternaturally sensitive person currently living, a rescuer of stray animals, a person who emphasizes manners and modesty, a person who will do anything for anyone even if she doesn't want to. As a mother, she always made it clear that her love was unconditional, and her foibles richly illustrated the concept of consequence. For what it's worth, Dad was the first date she'd ever been on.

She has been struggling in financial quicksand for the past 20 years, since the divorce, and she works three jobs, seven days a week, and has never once complained about it. No matter how little money she has, every September she makes a batch of chocolate chip cookies and a batch of peanut butter cookies and sends them in a box (some cookies break in transit, coating the other cookies in cookie dust) along with an inflated Mylar birthday balloon that floats out, falls up, when I open the package.

Two weeks ago, I called my father's aunt, Betty Lewis, the army nurse of 21 years, to get her take on how the family had changed since 9/11, and how her own life had changed, and she said, "9/11 meant nothing to me in my life." She's 88 years old, and she's long been something of a black sheep in the family: In the army, she met another army nurse, Dot, and the two women lived together as life partners for 30 years, an arrangement that was never discussed by anyone ever when I was growing up.

I told her I was working on an essay about the 10th anniversary of 9/11, specifically a piece about how my life had changed and my little brother's life had changed since 9/11, and how being the children of divorced parents has programmed us for conflict but also demonstrated the dangers of taking sides, to say nothing of this being a military family and this having been a militarized decade—and she stopped me right there. "We're not a military family," she said. "We're a family trying to get away from some ghost."

I said: We're not a military family?

She said, "When they talk about the war experience—it's a dream. It's a fake dream. It's a dream they all have. Their patriotism is a myth. 'I wanted to be patriotic—rah, rah, rah—the military!' But none of them have really been in the military." She said that during World War II, Grandpa Nolan "sat over there on an island," meaning Hawaii. He was ill with spinal meningitis, which spared him from being sent to Iwo Jima, where something like 93 percent of his peers died.

"Like me in Korea," she went on. "I was there the day the war ended. I was never in danger of anything more than maybe drinking too much and falling down. Whenever my sister said I was a hero, I just wanted to vomit. It was a job. That's why I joined nursing school." She pointed out that my older brother, Patrick, "has never been shot at in his life." She added, "Your father was in the intelligence corps in Munich—what kind of suffering is that? People pay big bucks to go to Munich." In terms of actual suffering and/or imminent danger, she believes Uncle David in Vietnam and Mike in Iraq came the closest.

It has to be pointed out that Aunt Betty exaggerates. When I floated the above past my father, he said, "More soldiers die in every war from illness than combat. Dad almost did. Then he taught hand-to-hand combat to marines for a year. That's an office job? And because I scrambled fighters to the Czech border but did not fly one, I was not in the military? Come on."

But here was Aunt Betty's point: "I think there's a right-wing nut problem with the family, and they sing praises to the military because if you want to be a right-wing nut, you have to do that."

I had a violent, familiar feeling of the family story rearranging itself once again. There are people who want God to run the country, and they include many of my relatives. And were it not for the great gift of being gay, getting pushed out, I might well be one of them. Mike, to his vast credit, got away from it on his own. Like the rest of them, he's a fighter, but he's not a fantasist, a fanatic, a showboater, an egocentric dreamer, or an extremist, like certain people I could mention. They look so middle-of-the-road, my family. But they're fundamentalists, basically, and the question is: Are they armed? recommended

 

Comments (101) RSS

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1
Oh, no.
Posted by gloomy gus on September 7, 2011 at 9:51 AM · Report this
2
Thanks for this Christopher. And I'll never complain again about turning 21 on the day John Lennon was murdered (12/8/80).
Posted by elaineinballard on September 7, 2011 at 10:13 AM · Report this
3
How is Mike doing?
Posted by Luckier on September 7, 2011 at 10:19 AM · Report this
rodolfo 4
Well fucking done, Frizzelle.
Posted by rodolfo on September 7, 2011 at 11:46 AM · Report this
5
Thank you, Christopher.
Posted by I Liked It. on September 7, 2011 at 11:48 AM · Report this
6
@3 -- He's doing well. He's living in California in an apartment with a view of the ocean, and he's getting his master's in business, paid for by the army.
Posted by Christopher Frizzelle on September 7, 2011 at 12:01 PM · Report this
Nugget 7
My favorite writer! Good work C Frizz!
Posted by Nugget http://hillebrity.com on September 7, 2011 at 12:59 PM · Report this
jesgal 8
You have no clue what children, families, loved ones, and co-workers have gone through these past 10 years. The PTSD that exists among survivors is horrific. I know, I volunteered with the Red Cross in New Jersey for many years after 9/11. We helped survivors, loved ones and children courageously deal with this trauma. This is an exceptionally self-centered article and you should be ashamed of yourself.
Posted by jesgal on September 7, 2011 at 1:41 PM · Report this
9
@8

It's a personal essay. There are thousands of articles people can read if they want to read about 9/11 survivors, kids, etc. Fuck off. This is fine work.
Posted by The CHZA on September 7, 2011 at 3:11 PM · Report this
10
@6, I'm so glad to hear that. I always liked hearing about him. Also, happy birthday on Sunday. It's my birthday too, so yay for awkward birthdays.
Posted by Luckier on September 7, 2011 at 3:29 PM · Report this
Njoy 11
Thanks for sharing Mr. Frizelle. This is a wonderful piece of writing that has made me think a little bit more how I've changed in the wake of 9-11. Also, glad to hear Mike's ok. I held my breath through most of it hoping it didn't end a different way.
Posted by Njoy on September 7, 2011 at 4:04 PM · Report this
Jessica 12
I remember reading your SW piece in 2001, because it was my 21st birthday, too. It stuck with me for a long time, as I'm sure this one will.
Posted by Jessica on September 7, 2011 at 4:22 PM · Report this
Eastpike 13
Come to think of it, among the victims inside the twin towers, odds are at least 5-10 of them were celebrating a birthday at the time of the attack.
Posted by Eastpike on September 7, 2011 at 5:26 PM · Report this
14
Do you feel differently now about supporting the Iraq war and criticizing antiwar protesters on grounds of "it's my brother's job, therefore you should shut up and let him do his job"?
Posted by Dravid on September 7, 2011 at 5:37 PM · Report this
jesgal 15
@9 Yes, it is a personal article. Yet, Mr. Frizzelle's lifestyle changes, what affected him and his family since 9/11 presented in this way is narcissism. It's all about him, in a rambling piece of writing. He should know his problems are minimal and present them differently.

Posted by jesgal on September 7, 2011 at 5:44 PM · Report this
16
@14 -- Sure do. Was totally wrong about Iraq.
Posted by Christopher Frizzelle on September 7, 2011 at 5:46 PM · Report this
17
@16, thank you for your reply.
Posted by Dravid on September 7, 2011 at 6:05 PM · Report this
18
War is definitely hell.
Thank you for sharing, Christopher Frizzelle.
I'm glad to hear Mike's okay.
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 7, 2011 at 7:54 PM · Report this
Big_K 19
Two friends who I used to work with both were born on 9/11. Including Mohamad, from Syria. We rode home together on the train 9/11/01 and I gave him a lift to the local mosque/school to ride home with his wife and daughter. Police were guarding the mosque.

My father (WWII - Philippines) would never talk about the war. My brother (Vietnam, and closeted) never would either. Both were clerks/office workers and not in the "shit" as infantry.
Posted by Big_K on September 7, 2011 at 7:58 PM · Report this
freesandbags 20
Happy Birthday on Sunday. Have a big piece of cake.
Posted by freesandbags on September 7, 2011 at 8:53 PM · Report this
Puty 21
I really enjoyed reading your story! Thank you so much for it and for the great work you and your colleagues do every day at The Stranger. Man, everything Dan writes about how destructive making monogamy the most important virtue in a relationship sure must hit close to home. Your poor mom and dad.
Posted by Puty on September 7, 2011 at 8:55 PM · Report this
22
I liked reading this. Thank you, Mr Frizzelle.
Posted by q on September 7, 2011 at 9:16 PM · Report this
23
Brilliant writing. Absolutely brilliant. You should feel very proud of this piece.
Posted by -ink on September 7, 2011 at 9:39 PM · Report this
24
@15, I take it you are a Right-Wing anti-gay loon and an Evangelical Christian...or maybe I'm wrong, like you are wrong about this article. First and foremost that day had an impact on everyone in this country if not everyone in the world in one way or another. His is a story about HIS experience, one that is probably more common than you think. I think anyone with an ounce of sense would resent your "lifestyle changes" comment, I'm sure by that you think it's a choice and since you don't agree with that choice everything that was written is irrelevant or "self-centered". Christopher I want to thank you for writing a wonderful, meaningful and personal article that above all is an honest story not just a "patriotic" one. What I am sorry about is now that it's 10 years later the lines in the sand have only gotten bigger and we are farther from eachother as Americans than we have ever been, @15 proves that point. My sincerest thanks to your brother Mike for defending our country and risking everything for a country who often talks the talk but rarely walks the walk when it comes to the honor, respect, and care our soldiers deserve.
Posted by Ambwa on September 7, 2011 at 10:00 PM · Report this
artistar 25
God damn this article is horrible. It's about as bad as the English papers I was forced to write.
Posted by artistar on September 7, 2011 at 10:43 PM · Report this
26
Those people saying this article are bad are really missing out on the wonderful, personal, honest and touching story that he has shared with us! Thank you CF !
Posted by Forgotton2011 on September 7, 2011 at 11:13 PM · Report this
27 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Karlheinz Arschbomber 28
Beautiful Essay.

Although the personal pain almost oozes from the screen.

The words of Aunt Betty towards the end of the piece is a bonus that makes the story doubly good.

Doesn't stop me from being freaked out by Flyover Jeebusland maniacs, though.
Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arschbombe on September 8, 2011 at 1:08 AM · Report this
29
Families are the strangest. I am glad you had an ally ("Can you believe this fucking family?") growing up and that he is back home and doing well.

For me September 11th has always meant something - as the anniversary of the (CIA backed) military coup in 1973 in Chile, which precipitated the disappearances and deaths of over 2000 people and the torture and exile of tens of thousands more.

So the fact that it's also your birthday brightens the date considerably. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday for Sunday!
Posted by Rubbish_Transcriber on September 8, 2011 at 7:34 AM · Report this
30
@15: I didn't think you knew how to leave comments, Mr. Steen!
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on September 8, 2011 at 8:18 AM · Report this
John Horstman 31
Best 2001/09/11 retrospective I've read so far.

@15: Look up the word "allegory".
Posted by John Horstman on September 8, 2011 at 9:24 AM · Report this
Anthropomorhpise Me 32
I could not read the whole thing because it was becoming road kill. It was no longer about 9-11 but about day-time talk show fodder. I felt dirty.

I hope it was cathartic to air your families laundry.
Posted by Anthropomorhpise Me on September 8, 2011 at 10:13 AM · Report this
slade 33
'Thee" deadliest day in American history on American soil is marked as the day the Civil war started. The Media "cant spin" facts that involve the wicked truth of Americans killing Americans or Americans killing Innocent foreigners.

As for 9-11 its a jug fuck of human flaws combined with red neck Americans who cant think too fast or too well.

the term "ground zero" dose not in any form represent New York or Manhattan or anything the "United States" Represents. It's purely a Media spun Federal description.

The Iraq war and the Afghanistan war and the entire middle east conflict involving the American federal government has about .0001% to do with 9-11.

Being Gay? not the reason you have such a factual perspective on your life as jerks are jerks and the good is the good.

Christianity is warped as are Republicans and the American Military? and all are of extemly out dated un dated or wrong way right way Ridge way or the hiway concepts.

One of the best articles I have read in the stranger as it made Me thing of how I can relate to all you typed and thus made me visualize your story but that is definitly a bummer and a reality check

Posted by slade http://www.youtube.com/user/guppygator on September 8, 2011 at 10:45 AM · Report this
34
My dad's birthday is also September 11-he was born in 1938, in London. He lived in London until 1975 when he (and us, his family) emigrated to Canada. When we gave him a golf club membership for his 63rd birthday, and I apologized for the crappy day, he laughed and said that was okay, WWII had started on his first birthday.
Posted by Evil Jenny on September 8, 2011 at 11:21 AM · Report this
35
Great piece! I wish my family and your family had to sit down at the same table one day. Maybe we should get married....
Posted by Kelly O on September 8, 2011 at 11:30 AM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 36
fries and ketchup.. ..and my first thought was 'toast'
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on September 8, 2011 at 11:36 AM · Report this
ceefurn 37
Beautiful. Thank you.
Posted by ceefurn http://weeklygeekshow.com on September 8, 2011 at 11:42 AM · Report this
The Accidental Theologist 38
This shouldn't be a rare thing, but it is: American history from the inside, written "on the flesh," as they say. Bravo, Christopher, and thank you.
Posted by The Accidental Theologist http://accidentaltheologist.com on September 8, 2011 at 12:22 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 39
This was terrific. I wish more Stranger features were this good.
Posted by Matt from Denver on September 8, 2011 at 1:17 PM · Report this
sirkowski 40
Great read.
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on September 8, 2011 at 2:48 PM · Report this
41
We all need some Good Will Hunting BS here...

9-11 was not our fault.
9-11 was not our fault.
9-11 was not our fault.

Why do we have to keep playing it over? ($$)

I just want to fly domestically without having to choose between a skin dose of radiation or a junk check.
Posted by gr8james on September 8, 2011 at 2:57 PM · Report this
Estey 42
The last line is deceptively humorous. But this is what we think about these days -- people we've grown up with who have beliefs that seem less based in reason over time, and the things they say sound more insane year after year.
Posted by Estey on September 8, 2011 at 4:16 PM · Report this
43
Thank you for this, Mr. Frizzelle.
Posted by ooppoddoo on September 8, 2011 at 4:58 PM · Report this
44
Thank you for this, Mr. Frizzelle.
Posted by ooppoddoo on September 8, 2011 at 5:08 PM · Report this
mike in oly 45
Very nicely done. Thanks, CF. My birthday is also 9/11. Haters can suck it.
Posted by mike in oly http://enotaipes.blogspot.com/ on September 8, 2011 at 5:47 PM · Report this
Cordwainer 46
That was a great, well written and moving piece of work.
Posted by Cordwainer on September 8, 2011 at 5:52 PM · Report this
biju 47
@36 I thought it was waffles at first. Good piece too, nice work Friz
Posted by biju on September 8, 2011 at 6:11 PM · Report this
48
So many strands woven into one fine tale. Thanks for the memories and please keep writing.
Posted by Blueberry Sal on September 8, 2011 at 10:34 PM · Report this
49 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
OutInBumF 50
I'm of mixed feelings- not much about 9/11, but nearly all of 'that' is being or has been said by others.
I didn't expect to be drawn in by a personal story, yet I read with fascination and keen interest. Nice job once more, Mr Frizzelle, and I *do* hope your family can take itself a bit less seriously re: this article. Alas, xtians and righties have a hard time laughing at themselves.
Posted by OutInBumF on September 9, 2011 at 1:19 AM · Report this
easternstar 51
This was excellent. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this evocative piece.
Posted by easternstar on September 9, 2011 at 8:59 AM · Report this
Porter Melmoth 52
Sorry to add to your 9/11 burden, but Democracy Now! has featured two segments on the 'other' 9/11s (not all of them bad; e.g. Gandhi's launching of his non-violent movement - why don't you make that your foremost 9/11 reference?)

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/9/8/a_f…

and, part 1:

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/9/8/epi…
Posted by Porter Melmoth http://yakkingmelmoth.blogspot.com/ on September 9, 2011 at 10:10 AM · Report this
aisteach79 53
Fantastic read!
Posted by aisteach79 on September 9, 2011 at 12:01 PM · Report this
54
Wonderful piece of writing, Mr. Frizzelle. Thanks for sharing your story!
Posted by leoness on September 9, 2011 at 3:22 PM · Report this
55
Wonderful piece of writing, Mr. Frizzelle. Thanks for shring your story!
Posted by leoness on September 9, 2011 at 3:27 PM · Report this
NaFun 56
Thx for this, CFRizz. Good job.
Posted by NaFun http://www.dancesafe.org on September 9, 2011 at 3:43 PM · Report this
57
Ah yes, I was wondering how far into your rambling article I'd have to wait for the obligatory "I was once very fat" artifact.
Posted by riot gorl on September 9, 2011 at 5:24 PM · Report this
Just Jeff 58
Christopher,

As with the piece on restaurant work (hardly comparable, but there you go), The Stranger has outdone itself yet again - A. Birch Steen's snide deprication aside.

As an English major (yes - like many of you, I was one once), I was often told "write about what you know". What I was not told is what you've discovered through your own work - personal writing means exposing old wounds to the world.

Good work, Chris. Great piece.
Posted by Just Jeff on September 9, 2011 at 6:28 PM · Report this
Rhett Oracle 59
Fab job, Chris!
Posted by Rhett Oracle on September 9, 2011 at 7:54 PM · Report this
60
great job! i was entranced by this article.
Posted by mollyh on September 10, 2011 at 1:05 AM · Report this
61
http://onetotheworld.net/onetheevent

ONE The Event is a 3-day FREE event happening NOW in Seattle and online via Webcast (link above). Seattle Firefighter Erik Lawyer's vision has manifested in the form of a Solutions Summit at UW (yesterday & happening through today) followed by a celebration of the shift from FEAR to LOVE on this profound day, 10 years after the attack. Head over to UW, we're in Kane Hall & Mary Gates Hall today. Tomorrow we will be at Seattle Center's Memorial Stadium starting at NOON.

Posted by sydvicious on September 10, 2011 at 11:27 AM · Report this
62
Amazing.
Posted by Dan Savage on September 10, 2011 at 12:09 PM · Report this
63
@Frizzelle family dirty laundry

This was well written, but ultimately pointless.

While autobiographical takes on events can be illuminating of the larger changes they provoke in a country, yours isn't. In the end it's just 'I hate that my family is conservative and uncomfortable with my chosen homosexuality. And lesbian Aunt Betty agrees with me and talks trash about them too! So I'll publicly express what any decent person would save for their therapists office, not to serve any real purpose but out of sheer vindictiveness.'

That took a few sentences and expressed everything it took you many hundreds of words to write. Nice bit at the end by the way. Way to twist the knife.

Happy birthday. I hope that with a few more you'll attain some basic level of maturity.

@33

You missed a couple of the 'I hate America' Huff Po talking points of the day. 2 out of 10 for effort, 0 out of 10 for original thought, or indeed any thought at all.
Posted by Seattleblues on September 10, 2011 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 64
@ 63,

While autobiographical takes on events can be illuminating of the larger changes they provoke in a country, yours isn't.


That's what you get for not reading with an open mind.
Posted by Matt from Denver on September 10, 2011 at 2:16 PM · Report this
Just Jeff 65
@63,

You're a fucking ass.

There. I did in four words what you proved using many, many more.
Posted by Just Jeff on September 10, 2011 at 3:08 PM · Report this
66
@65

Well, yes. But I didn't want to actually say that Frizzelle was an ass, though he's acting like one. After he bared his families soul for everyone to mock and jeer at, I thought I'd spare him the personal attack. Kind of tactless on your part, really.
Posted by Seattleblues on September 10, 2011 at 3:15 PM · Report this
Just Jeff 67
@63, 65,

You're reading comprehension problem is eclipsed only by your calloused bigotry.

It is YOU who are the fucking ass.

Keep up the good work. We need morons out there spouting the diseased workings of your minds so that we can ridicule, scorn, and ultimately avoid you.
Posted by Just Jeff on September 10, 2011 at 3:30 PM · Report this
68
Here's some helpful advice for you liberals out there.

No family is perfect. None. But they're usually doing the best they can with what they know, and usually your people love you in a way no other human being on earth ever will.

So you can whinge on about how awful your parents were because they voted for either George Bush and watch football after Thanksgiving dinner without a preceding discussion of the evils done native Americans since that first Thanksgiving. And anyway, the Packers haven't released an 'It gets better' video, damn the homophobic bastards! Besides that the United States is an evil empire run by defense contractors and Monsanto! You can piss and moan about how your insensitive father makes the odd sexist comment. And on and on and on.

Or you can accept that they are imperfect human beings doing the best they know how to, that they love you though they may be poor at showing it. You can learn from what they did right and what they did wrong. You can enjoy the time you have with them while you have it.

Kind of your call.
Posted by Seattleblues on September 10, 2011 at 3:34 PM · Report this
69
A fine essay, nicely conceived and well executed.

The handful of detractors are amusing in their self-righteous ignorance. There are countless ways to approach a retrospective piece of this kind, and choosing to make it as personal as possible is one of the best.

How does a writer bring new material to a story that has been written about and examined millions of times over the course of a decade? By radically narrowing the scope and examining the story's impact, in fine detail, on a small group of people. The very small illuminates the very large, and adds texture, depth, detail.

Re-broadcasting the same horrifying images, and talking about them, is much lazier journalism than what Frizzelle does here. The moronic detractors should return to sucking TV's tit.
Posted by Functional Atheist on September 10, 2011 at 3:48 PM · Report this
Just Jeff 70
@69,

Well said.

Frizzelle brings his own story - something that was and is doubtless difficult to share on a number of levels - to the table. Unless these detractors you reference are willing to do the same, to expose and analyze the myriad of mixed feelings, memories, events and results of the 911 attacks on a similarly personal basis then really they've offered nothing more than further exposure of their frothing bias and profound ignorance.

Which of course isn't news to anyone at all.
Posted by Just Jeff on September 10, 2011 at 4:10 PM · Report this
71
@67

Apparently irony wasn't taught in the schools you attended.

@69 and 70

Or-

This was an essay written by an emotionally immature young man, though well written. When or if he grows up it will be interesting to see what he's capable of writing.

Further, I love and respect my parents though I don't agree with them on everything and I would never publicly shame and insult them just to make some cheap political point I could as easily make without doing so.
Posted by Seattleblues on September 10, 2011 at 5:16 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 72
@ 71, what kind of life do you lead, where you have to come here to affirm yourself in such a fashion? Do you just go through everything in the Stranger and Slog, looking for opportunities to go, "See? I'm better! Look at me!"

I think I've figured out why it is you're here. It wasn't to debate, or give a different POV, or bring anything intellectual to the table; but it wasn't just to troll either. So it's this.

Seattleblues, you're not in much position to criticize the relative maturity of anyone. I hope you're bringing up your children to be better than that.
Posted by Matt from Denver on September 10, 2011 at 5:48 PM · Report this
freikja 73
This may be one of the best articles l've read in the 10 years l've been reading the Stranger. Moving, enthralling, and evocative. l was also glad to know that your brother is alive and well, and it's certainly a reminder of all of those who aren't as a result of everything that's gone down since 9/11. lt's a heartbreaking reminder, one that never quite lessens every time no matter how much time passes.

#69 - Well said. Given that this is going to be that event that is regurgitated ad nauseum for decades and centuries to come, a new take on it -especially such a personal one- is refreshing.

#71 - l suppose you have issues with all other autobiographical pieces as well? How do you feel about, say, the Diary of Anne Frank? Too narcissistic?
Posted by freikja on September 10, 2011 at 6:11 PM · Report this
74
@73

As I wrote, using personal experience to illuminate a broader experience faced by others around you is one thing.

But though this may come as a surprise to you folks- not every issue has to do with homosexuality.

I'm sorry that Mr. Frizzelles decisions put him at odds with his family. That's too bad. Family is important, and we should do what we can with integrity to maintain that primary relationship. (Mr. Frizzelle, accusing your family members of not really serving their country or being unpatriotic for serving in the military really doesn't advance this goal, since you seem confused about that.)

But how this relates to the terrorist attacks of 9-11 is a bit obscure to me. Know why? Because there isn't any relation. Frizzelle just wanted to get his own back on his folks for worrying about the life choices he's made, as parents will. This wasn't an essay on 9-11 but on Christopher Frizzelle and his narcissism.

Thanks though for pulling the Godwin and citing Anne Frank.
Posted by Seattleblues on September 10, 2011 at 9:31 PM · Report this
Just Jeff 75
@71,

"Apparently irony wasn't taught in the schools you attended."

No sorry. I attended good quality public schools, where they taught us facts and critical thinking instead. Apparently you did not.

FYI this was Frizzelle's story to tell.

Who the fuck are you to tell him it shouldn't have been told?

Dipshit.

Posted by Just Jeff on September 10, 2011 at 10:06 PM · Report this
Just Jeff 76
@74,

"(Mr. Frizzelle, accusing your family members of not really serving their country or being unpatriotic for serving in the military. . ."

Apparently whatever backwater idiots who taught in that useless right-wing private school you want to didn't bother to teach you how to read

He neither said nor implied any such thing.

Read the article again. Better yet - have someone read it to you (or use Dragon!), as you apparently have serious comprehension issues.
Posted by Just Jeff on September 10, 2011 at 10:14 PM · Report this
77
@74

"decisions"? Really, that old canard?
Posted by Aliem on September 11, 2011 at 1:16 AM · Report this
Just Jeff 78
And @Chris,

If you're at all monitoring this stuff (as you guys occasionally and sometimes frustratingly do) understand this: I'm a simple man (tm). I'm straight. A guy who spend time as a military guy (like your brother); a social worker; and these days God forbid a bus driver - I think you sharing your story is AWESOME, and all it represents. I know your goal is not to impugn your family (whom you clearly love). Not to promote an agenda (we all have 'em). But simply to SHARE. It takes a lot of guts, courage, and chutspacha to "put it all out there". Clearly you weren't out to malign your family. Clearly you weren't out to make any kind of partisan political point. You were just sharing your experience.

God (or whomever/whatever) bless you for doing so.

Thank you.
Posted by Just Jeff on September 11, 2011 at 1:19 AM · Report this
79
Chris- beatitiful story. To the rest of you, don't pay attention to the pathetic troll. I need only read a sentence of his bile, and I know to skip his posts entirely. You will all do your sanity a favor, as well as thr ultimate disservice to him- trolls are nothing without people to try and rile up. Without this, he's forced to return to his tragic life outside Slog. That is punishment enough.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on September 11, 2011 at 3:37 AM · Report this
KittenKoder 80
Still doesn't mean anything to me.
Posted by KittenKoder http://digitalnoisegraffiti.com/ on September 11, 2011 at 6:03 AM · Report this
81
would not call it the "worst birthday in human history." there's worse.
Posted by H.B. on September 11, 2011 at 1:18 PM · Report this
82
Eh. I remain unimpressed.

Everyone has enough ugliness to remain wall to wall column inches.

Yours somehow makes you special, because of a date.

Great. Are you over it yet? You're an Editor. Get your shit together and stop playing this out, man.
Posted by six five on September 11, 2011 at 5:05 PM · Report this
83
Oh wait, sorry, 82. This might be your big super important New Yorker PAINED consequences of writing.

Guess what. Nobody gives a fuck. Come up with your own theme, your own birthday, whatever. All you are doing is humiliating yourself and your family to a National Readership.

You probably dig that though. Get a grip man. You are not paying legos with publishing: your paper is failing, as are you.
Posted by six five on September 11, 2011 at 5:13 PM · Report this
84
*playing legos, as it were

You never were.
Posted by six five on September 11, 2011 at 5:14 PM · Report this
85
Re. the caption for the photo illustration: shouldn't that say "Freedom Fries"?
Posted by midwaypete on September 11, 2011 at 7:04 PM · Report this
86
Happy Birthday, Christopher Frizzelle, and all the best to you, Mike, and your family. I hope this year was one of your best.
Eat lots of cake and God bless!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 11, 2011 at 8:22 PM · Report this
87
Fantastic read. I loved how you described the sway that imaginary facts have on our individual and collective consciousnesses. And to all the haters, at least it appears that they can read so as long as there is stuff like this out there, there is hope ;)
Posted by Magyarhammer on September 12, 2011 at 7:03 AM · Report this
88
Sorry, couldn't make it through the whole thing. It seemed to fall off the tracks fairly early but I tried to keep going. Failed.

One thing, though. You wrote that the plane in Pennsylvania had been shot down based on "working knowledge" in the newsroom. What the fuck does that mean? People standing around the TV reached that conclusion?

Posted by Cletus on September 12, 2011 at 8:50 AM · Report this
89
the most elaborate livejournal article of all time.

good luck with your family, man. glad im not your brother.
Posted by six five on September 12, 2011 at 12:05 PM · Report this
90
I'm sorry to be trolling this story; I am obviously over-invested in the Stranger and this will be my last and final comment.

You didn't even change the names, dude.

For the duration of your brother's life, or your mom's, or aunt's, or anybody who googles "Frizzelle", this is what they will see.

You are grossly incompetent to be in a position of having access to a pulpit that now reaches across and through the wires, not just Seattle.

The Weekly had it right when they fired you: Mr. Keck and Mr. Savage should take notice before you humiliate them too.
Posted by six five on September 12, 2011 at 12:23 PM · Report this
cedarthvader 91
It's strange having your whole adult life started and shaped by September 11. My entire post-college experience, save for a month and a half spent unemployed and aimless in a new city, has been on the other side of that dividing line. How could it not mold our generation?

Great article! And happy birthday!
Posted by cedarthvader http://open.salon.com/blog/cedar_burnett on September 12, 2011 at 12:25 PM · Report this
92
deleted it. You know I'm right. Amateur.
Posted by six five on September 12, 2011 at 1:19 PM · Report this
93
Hi Everyone, I'm Chris Frizzelle's ex-boyfriend, the "older man" he mentions as having taken advantage of him in this article. It's become de rigueur for him to slag me off in print, so I thought I would introduce myself so you have the complete cast of characters. Chris was turning 18 and I was turning 26 when we met and fell madly in use of each other. I was addicted to sex and crystal meth and he was addicted to manipulating and controlling me and befriending famous writers. If I was an older man at 26, I didn't know it. I had the emotional maturing of an 8 year old. But, Chris and I did have some fun. He wanted to befriend Andrew Tobias so I came up with a gift that was a play on his book, My Vast Fortune. We made My Vast Fortune Cookies with little sayings cut out from his book. We once dressed up as the Pet Shop Boys and got into Q Magazine with them. We had some fun doing things like that. It wasn't all decoupage and fisting.

I was sexually abused when I was a kid, which ended up having consequences for me as a young adult: addiction, felony, mental problems - and if you ask Chris, he can tell you a lot about sexually abusing children and how that can fuck a person up. Chris is perhaps the most mean-spirited and narcissistic man I've ever met. Which is why we were a great match - until I got into recovery. Once I started to clean up my life he had little use of me. Maybe he's different now, but I try to avoid Chris at all costs. He seems to have tenaciously clung to his victimization, which I think you can gather from his writing. It's been ten years since we split and I've been clean and sober and living a good life. Do say hello if you recognize me on the street. I'm Giulio.
Posted by Giulio http://suckit.com on September 12, 2011 at 1:26 PM · Report this
freikja 94
@74:
Actually, it just happened to be the first autobiographical example l thought of. lt wasn't Godwin's law, either, unless l'm wrong about the fact that l need to compare you to Hitler or his minions in order to qualify. Gimme a fucking break.

You need to work on your reading comprehension; Frizzelle wasn't attacking his parents; in fact, quite the opposite where he both points out his mistake in his treatment of his father, and goes on for some time about his mother's generosity. He's merely outlining the facts of his family history, but at no point does there appear to be a vengeful tone to his writing, although there is clearly some sadness around what seems to be quite a bit of dysfunction in the family.

That said, who gives a good goddamn? He's a fucking writer, and a healthy number of writers highlight their various fucked up histories, and that can often be cathartic for those who also had dysfunctional families (for the record, mine was not, but l can see how this kind of piece might identify with others'). Who the fuck are you to judge? Do you share the same disdain for anyone else who chooses to write about how nuts their family is, or just this one? l mean, really. You don't know his family or the challenges that faced the children that grew up under that roof. None of us do, other than what he's shared here.

l think your issues here are more with the author than the content of the article. Or maybe being a prick just comes naturally to you.
Posted by freikja on September 12, 2011 at 3:55 PM · Report this
95
Christopher, fantastic article. Reading about yourself, Mike and your younger brother I see similiarities in myself from each of you. Born the same year as your younger brother, went into AFROTC at UW that fall of '01 (following my sister and her husband in military tradition and want to serve during that time) and subsequently washing out and coming out 2.5 years later. My sister also shares your bday, happy belated! You really gave a fresh perspective on the last 10 years, that day and what outpouring of support/patriotism and at times misguidance went on.
Posted by jouverm on September 12, 2011 at 4:36 PM · Report this
96
I heard abt this piece from a friend of mine. reading these comments, total total YIKES. So this type of things is why doors are closing to you all over the city?
Posted by waste on September 12, 2011 at 8:27 PM · Report this
97
94: I really hate to get involved arguing with a meth head, but I, like you, want to make myself clear. I have no stake in this other than the extremely high standards that the Stranger sets and exceeds time after time.

There is nothing personal with his family. He's a writer, but this is not a book. It is a paper. That other people read. People like journalists and politicians and others who are currently slamming their doors in the face of the Stranger if this type of behavior is manifest by its managing editor.

Who cares, this is a rag, I shouldn't have said anything at all.

Your contribution is appreciated because it really fills out the rest of the story though. Congrats on your recovery.

None of this is anybody's business. That's kinda the point.

Posted by six five on September 12, 2011 at 8:38 PM · Report this
98
OOpsie 93 I meant. OK stopping now =) Be well, Christopher. You are like 1,000 times better than your darkest writing.
Posted by six five on September 12, 2011 at 8:47 PM · Report this
freikja 99
Thanks for the clarification, Six Five; l was wondering what the tweaker reference was all about.
Posted by freikja on September 13, 2011 at 4:21 PM · Report this
100
What a depressing family to have! My sympathies. If I have a criticism, it is that the article rambles on a bit and doesn't really go anywhere.
Posted by cockyballsup on September 14, 2011 at 9:19 AM · Report this
101
You know, when I first saw this article I (cynically) thought "oh, here we go, self-absorbed Stranger navel-gazing adding fuel to the fire of the 9/11 dogpile".

However, for some reason I just decided to read this article in the print version on the bus a couple days ago. And I was sort of blown away at just how spot-on it is. I mean, my family's not quite the same but it's still a similar brand of dysfunctional. I get it.

Great job, Christopher. I'll go out of my way to read more of your articles in the future.
Posted by Soldier of Misfortune http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQO1qZD5lek on September 14, 2011 at 5:58 PM · Report this

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