What has Frank been up to…what Frank has been up to… what I’ve been up to (What I’ve Been Doing – Episode 3)

This was originally started in June 2011, after my 20-year high school reunion (Go Mavs!), but it just never got done…since I’ve been updating my blog recently I noticed that this and other blog posts have been sitting in the ‘Drafts’ section for quite a while, and with my 40th birthday coming up it’s about time to finish this up!

With my recent 20th anniversary high school reunion and trip to Texas to see old friends (and in Chicago, too!), I’ve been getting a few more friend requests on Facebook, which is great! Unfortunately, many of the friend requests come mostly from people who I haven’t seen in 10 years (at the last high school reunion), 14 years (when I left Texas), or even 20 years (when I left high school)! So it’s hard to catch up individually with everyone and explain what I’ve been doing in that time. Don’t get me wrong – I love to catch up with folks who I haven’t seen in ages, but by the time I condense the last 20 years of my life to the 20th person, it comes out like, “Moved to California in ’97, moved to England in ’04. What have you been up to?” And that’s just not fair. People (as in literally everyone) want to hear what The Frank has been doing, so here goes a general timeline:

1991 – graduated high school, worked at Tom’s Ribs (the original location!) for the summer, went to North Carolina A&T on a full-ride Army scholarship. I picked ‘Architectural Engineering’ as my degree choice. That was…okay.

1992 – flunked out of that scholarship. I blame loneliness (1500mi from home), a very tough math schedule (I never enjoyed math, never took calculus in high school, and the schedule threw you right into some pretty tough stuff!), yeah some laziness (let’s be honest), a general unwillingness to go into the Army and total unpreparedness about going to college. I only chose architectural engineering at NC A&T because it was related to a couple of classes I’d taken in high school – I didn’t know shit about selecting a college for its specialty, and much of A&T was about engineering, so of course I’d be over my head when I went! After the school year, I came back to San Antonio and got a job working as a valet in downtown San Antonio, where I stayed for a year. It was fun: it put me on the fringes of the downtown night life, I saw and met several celebrities, I got to see pretty girls and drive cool cars every night, it was alright. I pretty quickly got a permanent position (most valets are just called in when needed, usually for banquets at the hotel), and eventually got the graveyard shift position from 11PM to 7AM. In the autumn I went back to school at the community college, still trying to do architecture, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I never really ‘felt it’ for architecture in the first place, and eventually (’93 or ’94) I dropped out of school altogether.

1993 – got a job at Domino’s Pizza delivering pizza with my brand new car (Civic). The car’s life didn’t start well, my dad dented the bumper the first weekend and my first night of delivering I scraped a chain-link fence and damaged the just-replaced bumper. Stayed with Domino’s for 2 and a half years. Had a bit of fun there (and got an $80 tip from Dan Akroyd’s assistant on a delivery to the airport tarmac after the NBA All-Star game).

1994 – moved out of my parent’s to live with a guy I worked with at Domino’s. This didn’t start well, because his housemate that was supposed to be leaving hadn’t, so I slept in the dining area for a month or so, until he moved out. Then my housemate turned out to be kind of a druggie – I remember him using a large framed picture of Einstein (that my parents had give to me as a gift) as a cocaine party line tray for some friends. Yay us! One funny moment I remember was he got a huge 8-speaker bass amp (he played in a band), cranked it up and within 2 minutes had our downstairs neighbor knocking on the door. Within several months we were getting kicked out because he wasn’t paying his share of the rent, and I’d moved onto the couch of another guy who I worked with…he was on the other couch and he had 2 other housemates in the apartment.

1995 – the four of us housemates move into an actual house, where we stayed for a while. Some moderately funny stories here about Halloween visits, garage band stuff, visits from the cops, driveway basketball battles, angry housemate move-outs, ignoramous housemate move-ins, and a bit more.

1996 – somewhere in here we had to move out of the house (our beer bottle collection required a full wheelie bin and more to hold it), I’d moved into a shit hole apartment with no working air conditioning and upstairs neighbors that must have been practicing WWE wrestling moves every night. I quit Domino’s eventually and started trying to sell insurance at a place my dad worked, to members of the military. I sucked at it and was borrowing loads of money from my mom. I quit the first insurance place and started up with Mutual of Omaha, where I made even less money. Cold-calling and dead leads was just not my thing, the presentation and personal communication wasn’t that bad. I didn’t know how to network for shit, so I wasn’t able to build up a list of names in any way.

c. early 1997 – my poor Civic (which I really enjoyed driving: manual transmission, small car) was crashed into on a very poorly-judged left turn, so I had to give up my Mutual of Omaha job AND let the car get repossessed…not good. Bought a junker Buick that died within a few months (left on the side of a highway, it got towed and it wasn’t worth paying the impound lot fees) then paid far too much for a non-working Honda CB550F motorcycle. Paid nearly as much to get it running ($1100 or so in total) and got a telephone job at Domino’s to get some money in.

mid-late 1997 – Started working for West Telemarketing (for the second time, I can’t remember when I worked for them the first time but it was somewhere in ’95-’96) and used my insurance certificate to get more money on the phones (callers would be transferred to people like me who were legally authorized to sell insurance in various US states). I was living in a crap apartment with no AC, noisy neighbors above, no car, broken-down motorcycle (if you let it sit for a week the carburetor would gum up and require $100 of work), taking the bus 2 hours each way to work 6 hours a day for just a few days a week. At a call center. At least there was AC at work.

Then I discovered the internet. And this is where things pick up in my life.

A friend of mine let me jump on his computer to ‘surf the web’ one day…and 8 hours later he was asking, “Ah…Frank? Can I go to bed now? And can you leave?”. The same guy gave me some space on his web server, gave me a copy of Microsoft Front Page, and even gave me his dial-up connection login so I could upload stuff.

So I made a terrible web page, skipping the whole Geocities thing, and made three sections on there: one about the actress Joey Lauren Adams (until Wikipedia, actress fan pages were HUGE online at the time), one about role-playing games and tabletop wargames (specifically, Heavy Gear – a couple of my old housemates and I were playing this from time to time) and the third about a longtime passion that I hadn’t been able to do in a while, radio-control model cars. Although I had a quick blip of coolness with the Joey Lauren Adams web page when movie director Kevin Smith replied to an email of mine (he had dated her for a while), it was the RC car page that really took off.

I was posting a lot on RC car web forums at the time and getting my ‘HPI RS4 Central’ page out there, and people were sending me their setup tips, car pictures and more. I was getting a tiny taste of “Internet fame”…

After a few months of this, my friend who’d given me the web space, etc. (let’s call him “Jim”…hi, Jimbo!) told me, “Why don’t you call these people up and tell them you want to get paid? You’re doing all this work for free.” So I called them up. That led to an invitation to fly to Southern California for a job interview. Whoa. Big times!

I carefully noted Jim’s advice to not accept anything less than $19 an hour. Carefully noted.

They put me up in a hotel near John Wayne Airport (it has a waterfall over the circular driveway!), I ordered room service for the very first time ever, I was driven around Orange County (lots of convertibles! perfect weather!) and even taken to Disneyland!

And on Monday we had the interview.

They offered $13 an hour, plus moving expenses and a 401(K). I immediately accepted.

Seriously, who wouldn’t? 2-hour bus trip and no AC, get offered a job after a trip to Disneyland? It was a no-brainer. And they paid for my moving costs! That was August 1997, and I’m still working for the company now.

from 1997 to 2003, as Marketing Assistant to my boss I did and learned a lot of things: together we worked on web design, I learned about Photoshop, Illustrator, taking and editing pictures, I talked to various publications and websites, I organized and traveled to sponsored races around the US, traveled the world (Japan and France) attending races, it was all good and fun stuff. I even wrote articles for many of the US magazines and in my travels I met lots of great people as part of my ‘company representative’ role, not just customers and fans of my company, but many people that became friends and I’m still in touch with today. Of course I met loads of famous model car racers and the occasional real car racer, too. 

Naturally, I did a TON of RC car racing, using the various models of cars and trucks that the company made at the time. Since 1997 I have owned every single type of car the company has made, except one or two – if I still had them all I’d have a huge garage full of toy cars 🙂 In Southern California at the time you could race 6 days a week if you had a buggy and a touring car, and on Saturdays you could race twice if you really wanted to! I went all over California for races, doing lots of road trips and having plenty of fun.

 2001 – in April of 2001, my dad was in a car accident and when they did an X-ray on his head they found a really big tumor. My mom went through a hell of lot, and my dad, too, and he died at home in November. (If you want to give to a charity at some point, do think about giving to a hospice or care home)

late 2003 – Alas, the fun had to come to an end at some point – after nearly 7 years I was starting to feel that I should move on, my enthusiasm for the job was waning with the result that my boss and I weren’t getting a long. I was lucky enough to talk to the boss of the European arm of the company at the right time, and he offered me a job in the UK doing almost the same thing that I’d been doing: marketing stuff, organizing races and similar things. So…moving costs paid for (partially), a totally new location, another new start…what’s to lose, right? I jumped at the opportunity and in September of 2004 I handed my notice in, finishing up in mid-December so I could pack and ‘move’ back to Texas for a couple of weeks before taking a couple of flights to end up in Birmingham, England.

2004 – So on January 3rd I landed in the UK for the first time, got picked up by my new housemate (and boss) Greg and he drove me to my home for the next 7 and a half years.

…so that’s it for now, this has taken me long enough to get this far! I’ll start writing up about what happened over the next 9-10 years 🙂

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