St. Frank’s Infirmary: the blog

I have known St. Frank since my days in California, many years ago. He has been a steady friend of the Star Chamber throughout its tenure, and has contributed many pieces to this site, of which the most graphically disturbing is surely The Naked Felix. The proprietors of this site cannot in good conscience recommend you read this piece unless you are helmeted and buckled in to a secure reading chair.

At any rate, St. Frank has started his own blog which I recommend without reservation. He’s a funny guy. St. Frank’s Infirmary.

What I miss

by St. Frank

The other day I was walking back to work at lunchtime in downtown Oakland. This being California, it was sunny and mild, and I caught sight of a guy in front of an office building enjoying a cigarette. Now, as I said, this is California, so it’s a tough time to be a smoker…and it ain’t cheap either. At any rate, I looked at this guy as I hurried back to my job, and I felt a pang of nostalgia. I am an ex-smoker.

What I miss about smoking is just standing around, watching the world go by. It’s nearly meditational, as you rhythmically breathe in and out, all the while checking out the scenery. As a non-smoker, I’d look foolish standing outside a building, huffing and puffing and gazing mindlessly at people.

I also miss the rush or buzz you get from having waited a little too long between smokes. For me, this would have been something like ten minutes. But that first drag! You can literally feel the nicotine course through each vein and capillary as it goes about its business, feeding your body’s craving. You might get a little light-headed and let out a giggle, as passersby glance at you to make sure you’re not dangerous.

I miss the paraphernalia and routines: Getting ready to get out of the office to “burn one”; the smell of the sulphur from a freshly lit match. These things usually accompanied the first one of the day, or one of the ones you’ve waited too long for.

Mostly, I miss the camaraderie of smokers. Actually, it was less camaraderie than it was a Bunker Mentality. Yes, even a few years ago, being a smoker in California was about as popular as being a Young Republican at UC Berkeley. We knew we were hated, but that merely strengthened our resolve to smoke more! To Hell with the “Health Nazis,” we’d say, give me another Menthol.

Now I’ve turned the corner. Now it’s me casting disparaging looks at them. I have become the enemy; worse, I am an ex-smoker. I am reformed, so I preach to the unenlightened about the horrors of their pastime. I have recently become more of a danger, as I have entered to race in the Sea Otter Classic Mountain Bike Race in Monterey this March.

Still, there are those times…

Die Zimmer

Paracelsus is spending time this week thinking about his parent’s fiftieth anniversary. He’s pulled out his family tree charts and is puzzling over the generations that came before. Coincidentally, the movie The Titanic has just been released in video (Wait! Stop! Please don’t rush away to rent it just yet — I should never have mentioned it this early in the column).

What’s the coincidence?

The Titanic was 882.5 feet long. It sank in the middle of the North Atlantic. There is a great temptation to think that the icy dark water that closed over it is, effectively, infinitely deep. It just went down down down into another realm entirely, a separate reality, a different world. But in fact, it’s sitting on the ocean bottom some 12,500 feet below the waves. That’s only 14.2 lengths of the Titanic deep. Because of the Titanic’s titanic size, it didn’t really fall that far relative to its length. The equivalent depth for a human six feet tall would be 85 feet deep. Deep, but not crazy go to heck and back deep.

When I first saw this depicted graphically, I was immediately struck by the image of a person’s life stretched back across time; the water isn’t really as deep as it seems. Lincoln pronounced the words “four score and seven years” in Gettysburg only 1.93 seventy-year lifetimes ago. And four score and seven years before that, the Revolutionary War, is only 3.17 seventy-year spans underwater. Deep, but not crazy go to heck and back deep.

This is strangely comforting to me. I can picture the sloping deck of the Titanic, not in a storybook dimension beyond imagination, but gently resting on a solid muddy landscape. And I can picture my great great grandfather Jay Whittington Lewis marching along muddy North Carolina roads to join the Confederate army. He’s still there, just as my parents are still kissing each other with wedding cake in hand. The past is more present than it seems. And that’s pure gold.

The persistence of the past figures into this week’s contribution: we are fortunate to be joined once again by St. Frank (see his wild tale of debauchery under the Christmas tree in the Naked Felix, in case you missed it the first time around). This time he takes us to a small room far far away (unless, of course, you’re reading this in Germany).

Continue reading “Die Zimmer”

The Naked Felix

or Things That Go Bump and Grind in the Night

by St. Frank

Author’s note: I have travelled across vast oceans and journeyed through distant continents; I have witnessed great savagery, seen exquisite beauty and have thrown up in over twenty different urinals… there is little of these adventures that I remember, for I am an old man and my memory is not what it once was. But there are some things one can never forget, no matter how hard one tries.

Part I. The Beginning

It was the best of weather, it was the worst of food. It was Isla Vista. Here is where the Legend begins; a small band of rogue intellectuals, known as Physics Grad Students, roamed the land espousing their own twisted ‘Weltanschauung’ on the unsuspecting Undergraduate populace.

Among this group of brigands was Alan ‘the Gash’ Lash, a Teutonic brute who stood well over Six Feet, four, whose gigantic wit was excelled only by his obscenely large liver. He was impervious to extreme cold, toxic levels of whiskey and Mark Sperling. Alan was an ‘odds’ man; his specialty: Fillies.

Another well-known n’er-do-well about campus was Jean ‘SCUM!’ DuBoscq, a shadowy figure from high in the Basque Pyrenees. It was rumored that he could eviscerate forty sheep while dancing a Can-Can… and still keep his beret on. It was also a well known fact that his body odor could make a Frenchman faint. Jean was a practical type; his specialty: Smoke and ‘mirrors’.

Then, of course, there was Chris ‘I love it when you call me Big Papa’ Felix. He was a mountain of a man; He once laid waste to a cafeteria, leaving only a bowl of Velveeta and a stunned food server behind. He could fart the national anthems of fourteen different countries and burp those of another twelve. Chris was omniscient; he knew everything and would tell you, too… those who were lucky escaped before anything by Douglas Adams could be discussed. His specialty: Lasers and ‘the Dance!’

These three Physicists formed a mighty Troika, a legendary threesome whose presence on campus sent ripples through the student body. (Their combined weight was well over 600 lbs.) They were a culture in and of themselves; they associated with like-minded individuals, they shunned style and good taste, but despite all this, they welcomed into their fold a certain undergraduate. This was not just ANY undergrad… he was a Poli-Sci major! That undergrad was me.

I was allowed into their world; and what a strange, bizarre world it was. I saw pocket protectors, I ate nachos until I felt like I would die; I drank vodka, cheap vodka, late into the night, playing insipidly clever word games. I listened to MATH JOKES! Occasionally, in an cathartic burst of energy, we would hurl obscenities at well-dressed Undergrads. All this time I had to feign interest. I had also to feign intelligence, for I had no idea what was being discussed when the conversation turned to Physics, which it invariably would as the hours wore on. The one thing this twisted gang of three did that even remotely interested me (besides the booze that is) was gambling. Oh, how they loved to gamble; the “probabilities”, the “odds” the statistical-freakin’-anomalies! I didn’t care, I was there to learn and to win… I wanted their money, but alas, rarely did I prevail… I had no head for probability.

It was through countless nights of drinking, gambling and inane Physics stories that I eventually gained their trust. It was this trust that led Alan, Physi-Goth, to confide in me a story; a story whose basic facts would send me reeling, searching for something, anything, which I could grab onto and anchor myself in reality. I listened as he explained a night not unlike many others we had spent together. On this particular night, the carousing and gambling took a perverse turn: There was dancing, naked flesh and grinding bodies. I listened to him, but I could not believe it; I thought it was perhaps a test of my loyalty. After all was said and done, I soon put the whole sordid tale out of my mind… I was after all by then working in a coffee shop and this took nearly all the concentration I could muster in my waking hours. I was to spend several years in the pursuit of the perfect double espresso and my connection with the Physics Gang all but disappeared.

Part II. The Part II Part

As I said, I had all but fallen out of touch with the core group of Physics gangsters… we had scattered to the three corners of the earth (The Fourth corner would have nothing to do with any of us). I did stay connected with the Teutonic Knight of the Newton order, who had, in the meantime, broken ranks and joined another sect: Mathematix. It was the Teuton, Al, who was the most preoccupied with ‘probability’ and also the one who had told the strange gambling story.

As a Mathematiker, as they were known, he became more and more obsessed with numbers. This was demonstrated on a visit he made one holiday weekend. He arrived with his girlfriend, Lonnie, at our house in Richmond, California. It was raining pretty hard that weekend, so we resigned ourselves to just remaining indoors. After about two minutes, Al got bored.

“We need to gamble to take our minds off this boredom!” he said None of us were up for a poker game, so Al suggested craps.

“How are we going to play craps without a table?’ I protested. Al got an insane gleam in his eye; he ran over to the coffee table, shoved all the magazines off the top and flipped it over.

“Here, we’ll make a craps table out of this!” he bellowed. What could we do? We were stuck in a house with a madman… we went along with him. Within a few hours we had a craps table that vaguely resembled a real one. We spent the rest of the weekend throwing dice and loose change at each other. We had even gone so far as to include the ‘Don’t Pass’ and ‘Don’t Come’ bars on the table. In addition to that, ‘The Field’ was a panopoly of colored numbers…12 pays Triple! When Lonnie and Alan left at the end of the weekend, we turned the table back over and thought no more of it.

The months went by, and we got news that some of the original Physics Gang was coming out to the West coast for the Christmas Holiday. We arranged to have everyone over for New Year’s Eve, mainly because they were no longer showing the Village People on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

Finally, the big day arrived. My wife, Deirdre, and I spent the whole day preparing a meal and a reception befitting such an august group. The Christmas tree was a shimmering gem that was slightly too large for the room it was in, but it’s beauty made up for any inconvenience it may have caused. There was a roast in the oven, whose heavenly fragrance filled every room in the house. Hors d’oeuvres and drinks were at the ready.

Alan and Lonnie were the first to arrive, and Alan wasted no time before sprinkling the room liberally with Wild Turkey 101. It was as if he was blessing our living room, except some of THIS ‘holy water’ wound up in our mouths. Lonnie immediately headed for the safety of the kitchen, where if the Teuton should enter, she could fend him off with beer.

Al cornered me in the living room and asked me if the coffee table still held its alter ego to its underside. I replied that it did, and offhandedly suggested we might throw some dice after the meal. The telltale gleam returned to his eye, but before he could utter another word, The Basque and Mr. Felix himself arrived.

The Basque went to the kitchen to survey the goings-on… he had an incredible talent for cooking, but had let it remain unnoticed for fear that if his roommates ever discovered it, they would chain him, naked, to the stove and force him to commit depraved culinary acts. The meal seemed to meet his approval and with that we all sat down and began fighting for food. Despite the wrangling and jockeying for bits of food, we all enjoyed the meal. The banter flowed as freely as the wine and soon we found ourselves talking about the old times; reliving the Glory Days as it were.

“Remember that time we almost left ‘Carny’ Dave on the beach, drunk and vomiting and sure to drown in the first wave that reached him?”, The Basque reminisced.

“Yeah, I remember that… No one wanted to put down their drinks so they could carry him”, Alan said. “It’s a good thing we put together that impromptu Rochambeau.”

“I always wondered what you guys would’ve done had I been the slob passed out on the beach,” I said with a nervous laugh.

“Well… uh,” The Basque muttered.

“We would’ve, uh, you know…” sputtered Al.

“Hey, does anyone want that last potato?” Felix interjected, effectively changing the subject.

I couldn’t help but notice a collective sense of relief in all of their eyes.

We made it through the meal without any more awkward situations or injuries and decided to retire to the living room for some coffee. Al suggested we flip the coffee table over while we waited, so we did. Almost immediately, Deirdre and Lonnie moved to the other side of the room, with a look of foreboding clouding their faces. I, of course, thought it was their usual reaction to a bunch of guys getting ready to drink (not coffee either) and gamble. I suspect they had some intuition that something bad was going to happen; something so horrible, that their survival instincts took over and tried to move them as far away from that table as possible.

PART III. The Game

So, the women had moved to the other side of the living room, as the Physix geeks and I prepared to roll the mighty dice. Preparations included pouring large, stiff drinks and searching every inch of the house for small change, as none of us, with the possible exception of Teuton Al, were gregarious enough to wager more than 50 cents on any given bet. I would like to interject for a moment to point out another coincidence or bit of synchronicity: Small change is not just something we were throwing around that night; ‘small change’ would later play a major role in the events that would later unfold. (Check your old albums).

In any event, we gathered around the makeshift altar, er, craps table and proceeded to play. We had to wedge ourselves between the fireplace, the couch and the Christmas tree. Chris, being the largest of the group, got the space next to the tree. The flickering candles and Christmas lights added that glitzy Vegas feel. The regular rules of craps applied, of course, with the small exception here that the ‘House’ rotated. That meant, that I started out playing the ‘House’ while the other three placed bets. When it came time to pay out the winner, I had to do it. This went on until the shooter crapped out, and in this case the responsibility of house would pass in a clockwise fashion. The house always retained the option to allow larger bets, double odds (or even triple odds), and side bets.

As I said, I started as house and play began. Jean the Basque was the first shooter and my primary goal was to get him and the other players to throw as much money as they could on the lamest bets.

“Come on now guy, how ’bout a Yo bet, bet that eleven, we gotta new shooter comin’ out!” I wailed in my best croupier’s voice. “Let’s go, let’s go, whatta ’bout those hard ways?!”

“Shut up idiot. Throw ’em Jean!!” was Felix’s response to my attempt at easy money.

I had forgotten already that I was in the company probability freaks, and it hit me like a sucker punch that in all PROBABILITY I was going to lose my shirt… or at the very least my socks. Little did I know how close I was: Clothes would be lost that night.

The Basque’s roll lasted through a few numbers. He made little because his bets were relatively conservative. Al, on the other hand, despite being obsessed with odds, could not help throwing money at the YO, all the hard ways and occasionally into The Field. Felix was reluctantly being drawn into Al’s slowly emerging insanity. Finally, inevitably, the Basque’s roll ended and the dice moved to Al.

He came out with bets on the Seven and Eleven, promptly lost those and, undeterred, kept placing Come bets to amass more numbers. We made sure to keep our glasses at a healthy level, and soon the level of play and that of our VOICES were on the rise. It began to get difficult to follow the action. The dice were passing hands quite frequently now, and there was a definite increase in absurdity: Amid the cacophony of voices and music, someone asked, screaming, why the hell there was no space for Avogadro’s Number on the board. Then someone else, Felix I think, piped in on the side of Pi… “What about Pi??” The next thing I know, a punch was thrown and the lights went out.

I opened my eyes and had the feeling that I had been away for a while, but with no recollection for how long. When I regained what little composure I had, I went back to the table to find that my stack of change was considerably smaller than I remembered… apparently I had made some unwise bets while I was out.

I resumed playing (and losing) and realized that the K.O. was not an isolated incident, but a turning point in the game. There was no rhyme or reason to any of the bets, except perhaps that they were all uniformly bad, and then Al jumped in to stop everything. Felix at this point was the House, and Al asked for permission to make an unusual bet.

“Chris, I want to bet The Naked Felix. Will you cover it?” Al asked.

The Basque and I flashed a look at each other that said, “Wha’?”

“The Naked Felix?” Chris said. “Yeah, I’ll throw a buck on Midnight (the Twelve) and if it comes up, you have to do a Striptease like that time in Santa Barbara. If it doesn’t, you get the buck.”

It might have taken Chris 10 seconds to respond, but in that room, everything stopped; our wives looked over at Chris, not sure if they heard correctly, but damn sure they WANTED to know. I swear to Christ I even held my breath. The Basque, on the other hand, slowly and measuredly began to hyperventilate. A year passed, then he answered.


Look up the word ‘Pandemonium’ in your dictionary… then throw it away!

I began screaming that I wanted to match the bet, Al was laughing hysterically, the Basque was beginning to sweat profusely and our wives started to get up from their chairs.

“Holy shit, I can’t believe it!” I cried, “Throw the dice! Throw the damned dice!”

“Okay, Okay,” Al said. “So you’re all right with this Chris? I mean…” He didn’t finish.

“Hurry up before I change my mind,” Felix said, as a grin that can only be described as ‘Shit Eating’ crawled across his face.

Of course, it wouldn’t happen. It COULDN’T happen; the odds of a Twelve coming up on a roll are 36 to 1… Only idiot’s and drunks bet on ‘Boxcars’. Of course, we satisfied both conditions with ease.


Go get the dictionary out of the trash and try to find ‘Apeshit’.

The wives were up now, saying in unison, “Oh no! Oh, no!” They knew something bad was about to happen and were making their way to the door leading to the bedroom.

Al was up, “Yes!!! The twelve! Look at it! Look at it! Igotit Igotit! I can’t believe it!”

I was intoning my new mantra: “Oh shit, now what? Oh shit, now what?”

And Chris Felix simply smiled and began getting up from his place at the table. He was chuckling as he stood up and asked, “Well, where am I supposed to do this?”

Al and I sprang into action; he moved the craps table and couch almost simultaneously and, it being my house, I went to the stereo. We would need music for this. What to play, what to play? Ah… What else? My eyes landed on Tom Wait’s CD “Small Change,” which happens to have a picture of a stripper on the front. Hmmm… Here we go, track number 7, “Pasties and a G-String.”

Trying to keep the women in the room to view the spectacle proved impossible. Then we noticed The Basque trying to sneak out with them; He was trying TO BLEND IN with a crowd of two! We grabbed him and placed him between us, unfortunately we were out of toothpicks, so any “Clockwork Orange” analogies would be lost.

This thing had taken on a life of its own; Chris was positioning himself in front of the Christmas tree, our wives were cowering safely in the bedroom and the three of us were standing there waiting… we had created this situation but were suddenly unsure if we wanted to see it through. The only reason I can give as to why we did watch, is to say that it was like slowing down to see a car wreck: You don’t want to look, but you CAN’T not look!

The music started and so did Chris. I had picked the perfect soundtrack; bass drum and hi-hat cymbal… what else did we (HE) need? Felix began to slowly gyrate, seeming a little nervous. After about thirty seconds, his anxiety disappeared, along with his shirt! We laughed uncomfortably as he flung off his shoes and began working on his socks. He was now shaking and grinding and bumping like a pro!

“My GOD! He looks like a human Lava Lamp!” the Basque shrieked.

Felix’s pants came flying through the air. Al caught them and started a victory dance of his own until he realized WHOSE pants they were; he threw them in the kitchen.

Felix was now as close to Totally Nude as you can get. I was experiencing the most bizarre sensation as his body writhed and rolled in front of one of Christendom’s holiest symbols: The Christmas Tree. Good Lord, I thought, this is sacrilege! It’s obscene! Why, we are celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus, and Chris is slapping his cheeks in time to the music!! OH, THE HUMANITY!!

Each time he spun around in this salacious scene, we’d catch sight of his brief’s waistband.

“Jesus! He’s wearing BVDs… Beelzebub’s Vile Drawers!” Al could be heard yelling above the music.

“No,” I replied, “I think it’s HANES: His Ass Nearing Exhibition Stage!”

“You’re both wrong.”, interjected The Basque, “It’s Fruit of the Loom… THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT OF SATAN’S LOOM!!”

It didn’t matter; the skivvies in question were now hurtling toward us and it was all we could do to avoid their violent arc. Chris was now completely naked, after giving his ass a rub-down with the same tighty-whities that almost caused the three of to kill each other in our scramble to take cover.

What do you do when there is a giant, naked man dancing in your living room? Nothing I had learned in four years of college, nothing I had seen in Amsterdam could prepare me for THIS! I could only watch and hope beyond hope that I could someday forget this whole thing ever happened. Obviously, I haven’t…

It ended almost as quickly as it began. The three of us were still frozen in place, like three big, drunken deer caught in a giant, naked headlight. We didn’t know what to do; in a normal strip club, the “Act” returns to the dressing room, maintaining a little decency by being allowed to dress again in private. In this case, we sort of had to help Chris retrieve his garments, then we politely turned away. The only thing to do after something like that was to have a drink and relive what we had experienced, not unlike UFO abductees after a tough night of getting probed. And like so many abductees, when our wives returned to the living room, they didn’t really believe what we told them. Sure, they smiled and laughed along with us, but we knew they didn’t believe… WE KNEW!

In the end, it didn’t matter who believed us. We’d been to hell and back, and the bonds created by such an ordeal will last a lifetime. I’m still in contact with my Naked Felix buddies, sometimes we get together just to reminisce… sometimes, we try to tell others of that fateful night, only to be disbelieved or worse, scorned and ridiculed! I know what I saw… I BELIEVE. I will always believe in the legend.