Fat Man Down

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Fat Man Down[1]
Somewhere Out There
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
Serious Monologue, Absurd Monologue, 58 minutes
Preceded by: A Death In The Family
Followed by: Talk To Me

He tries to sleep as long as possible. When he feels himself rousing...

Fat Man Down is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Somewhere Out There. It was originally broadcast on May 24, 1997.


0:30: 'He tries to sleep as long as possible…' Joe describes a man's efforts to avoid waking up because he doesn't want to face the day; he watches TV, paces, prepares elaborate breakfasts. He feels badly that others are doing things, he's not.[1]

3:30: 'He went to a small college in Iowa' - Joe tells the story of his college career, in the '60s.[2][3] He drives to NYC for vacation, stops at Howard Johnson's. He steals brownies, eventually accumulating 2 steamer trunks' worth, then returns them stale.[1][4]

9:20: 'He acts as if he were at a resort in the mountains…' The narrator visits a delusional old man in the hospital who imagines he's a businessman, making big deals.[5]

10:50: He turns on the TV to watch the 1 PM movie, often watches until dark. If a friend is going to drop by he sets up his guitar and letters in hope he will look busy. Sometimes he takes a walk; he hasn't shaven or showered; he sometimes envies the homeless on the street.[1]

12: He smokes dope in the evening, which makes him stop caring about the failure of his life.[1]

12:40: 'After he left college in Iowa he came back to Manhattan', moves into the Village, takes courses at Columbia, takes a janitorial job at the Cathedral of St John the Divine; his mother pays tuition and helps out. He steals snacks from the kitchenette refrigerator.[1][6]

14:40: After work he hangs out at the Brass Rail,[7] a campus hangout. He meets Greta, 'a tall blonde German waitress'. One morning, after spending the night with her, he takes her to St John, where they make out on a table in the library, are seen by a priest. She talks to him in German while they make love. The church fires him for stealing food, doesn't mention his encounter with Greta in the library. Greta leaves town without telling him.[1][8]

17:50: We're back at the hospital with the old man. He wants to go home; the hospital wants to restrain him. He wants to go to Puerto Vallarta.[5]

19:40: He stops in a drug store, window-shops. He steals a pair of sunglasses, a pair of jeans at The Gap, sneaks out of busy luncheonettes without paying, finds a purse in the gutter, sells the credit cards.[1][9]

20:50: He sings promotions of a new product at a department store chain, steals stuff from the gift shop.[1]

21:20: He fundraises for a symphony orchestra.[1][10]

22:20: Joe describes going into the subway like entering an alternate state of consciousness; the people behave like animals; it used to be better-appointed. He thinks about living in an underground city, that ancient Christians did in Rome.[1]

24:30: We're back at the hospital with the old man. He's eating in the solarium, playing with his food.[5]

26:50: '3 years ago his mother disconnected her phone and swallowed over 100 Tuinals' - her friend Dora checks on her, saves her life, calls him.

29:10: He remembers their distant relationship: 'they didn't touch, kiss, or embrace'.

30:30: He knows she'll be angry if she recovers. He knows if she dies soon he'll receive a 'fine inheritance' but have to arrange the funeral, but if she lives medicals bills could use it all up. Having a mother in a coma gave him a story to use to call attention to himself.

33: He remembers the time she sang 'The Linden Tree'[11] at La Brasserie. She was the best singer in school; the teacher wanted her to go to conservatory. Because 'women didn't do that then', she didn't, married instead, regrets that she didn't become a professional singer.

34:20: Helga, Swiss, the nurse from 4 to midnight, looked like a Norse snow goddess; he imagines letting her tie him up in her long hair.

35: 'After his mother's death he got a job singing and playing the guitar at a small ratty Upper West Side neighborhood bar' - he comes on at midnight, when the audience is mostly drunks, the kitchen is closing. He figures out that few listen to him. He gets a free meal, drinks, and $15. The manager is a Chilean who looks like an old prizefighter. The place deteriorates, closes down.[1][12]

39: He takes a walk in Central Park. He sees young people playing touch football, thinks fondly of college, returns home, feels a tightness in his throat and a crushing weight on his chest that nearly prevents him from breathing.

40:10: We're back at the hospital with the old man; he locks himself in a cubicle, says he has a child in there.[5]

40:50: He has a dream; a young boy is with him; they're lost. He makes a call at a phone booth, hears his mother's voice on the recording, tries to get help because of her (he had no quarter).[13]

47:30: When he was younger, he had a strong stomach; in his late 30s, his stomach began to hurt. He eats junk food at fast food joints. He gets morbidly obese. At a prostitute's place he has an orgasm, bleeds.[1]

51:30: We're back at the hospital with the old man, the encounter with the demented woman who puts the old man's finger in her nose.[5]

52:30: A woman talks in German.[14]

Legacy Synopsis
  • A washed-up musician tries to fill time.
  • As an old man, he's in a hospital, but imagines he is in a resort.
  • As a college student, he steals brownies from Howard Johnson's restaurants on road trips between home and school. He fills his trunk with them. Later then put them back.
  • In New York he gets a job as a janitor at a church and dates a German waitress who he makes love to on the alter of the church, and his caught by a priest.
  • Stealing sunglasses, cafe meals.
  • Telemarketing for an opera company.
  • Subway stations as an underground world.
  • His mother tries to kill herself.
  • His mother sings The Linden Tree at a restaurant, talks about wanting to become a singer.
  • Playing music in a bar.
  • Walking in central park and becoming ill.
  • Dream of about being lost and leading a child through a strange city, trying to call his mother at the phone company from a booth. Hiring prostitutes.
  • A woman whispers in German.


Shared Material


'Fat man down' has 4 parts:

  1. the failed musician, wasting his life, substantially the same story as in 'Dreams of the river'
  2. the old man in the hospital the narrator is looking after, substantially the same story as in 'The queen of Puerto Rico'.
  3. the narrator with a young boy in a surreal, deserted, run-down town, substantially the same story as in 'Islands'
  4. additional adventures of the failed musician: the fraught relationship with his mother (unmentioned in 'Dreams'; his father helped him out in 'Dreams') and the walk in Central Park.

It's about 1,000 miles from Cedar Rapids to NYC, all on Interstate 80; doing it in 14 hours wouldn't leave time to stop at Howard Johnson's.

It's about 600 miles from Cedar Rapids to Cleveland, a little late for one's first stop.

Joe would have known about nearby Cedar Rapids when he was a student in Iowa City; if he flew he would have flown into CR's airport.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Originally in 'Dreams of the river'
  2. It's in Cedar Rapids, which means it must be Coe College
  3. Cedar Rapids is 19 miles north of Iowa City; if you fly to Iowa City you fly to CR's airport.
  4. With small differences, the same story as in 'Dreams of the river', except he's in Iowa rather than Ohio, no mention of majoring in music.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Originally in 'The Queen of Puerto Rico'
  6. his father helped him out in 'Dreams', and he dropped out of college; his boss is Mr Wilkes, is Mr Whittaker in 'Dreams'
  7. Gold Rail in 'Dreams'
  8. Greta has a little more back story in 'Fat man'
  9. In 'Dreams' he only tried to sell the credit cards.
  10. It was an opera company in 'Dreams'; he doesn't call the mute in 'Fat man'
  11. 'Der Lindenbaum', a song from Schubert's 'Die Winterreise' - can't go wrong with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
  12. The manager is Colombian in 'Dreams', a wealthy old woman funds him.
  13. Originally in 'Islands', with small differences: in 'Islands' it isn't identified as a dream; the boy is 6 instead of 5; a driverless cab crashes in 'Islands' - the story is more elaborate.
  14. It's the same as in 'Dream of the river' at 46:20