There was a little confusion at the printer and – after getting home – I had to turn around and go right back. I got everything sorted/fixed (free of charge!) and flipped on the new Iron Chic album, The Constant One, as I made my way home. I like to put off listening to albums until I have a physical copy and can sit down with it but it’s been long enough that I didn’t wanna wait anymore. (Money’s not too tight but tight enough that I’ve had to put off picking up a few records that I’d have otherwise bought by now).
The first song, “The End,” is a fairly ambient intro to the record and it was the perfect soundtrack as I made my way down the quiet little backstreets of Riverside. Under a perfect grey sky, I passed a kid sitting on the sidewalk with a book.
After just one minute, “Bogus Journey” kicked in and I had a thought about the guitar tone. It’s different, which is kind of cool. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here but it’s nice when someone puts a little bit of thought into making something interesting.
But guitar tones aren’t really important. What is important is that I had a big grin on my face before Lubrano had even started singing. This song just sounds joyful. I became conscious of my smile and it grew even more. And then I laughed out loud. This is wonderful.
I painted this in April. I like ants. It’s expressive art and the story behind it is enough likeamillionothers that it’s not worth telling. Instead, here’s the story of my life in April 2011.
When Taylor finally called me back, she sounded weird. “What’s going on?” She wouldn’t say. She was being evasive. I just came out and asked – “are you done with me?” She didn’t answer right away but – when she did – yeah, that was pretty much the gist of it.
Six years… I was in total shock. I had just gotten into my first “treatment” program eight days prior. (Methadone maintenance). I was cured! How could she break up with me now?!? Life was about to become a dream! This is preposterous!
Not to mention, I was in the middle of my final exams. My final final exams. She couldn’t wait two fucking weeks to do this? I was gonna be so busy for the next few weeks that, at most she might have seen me once. By breaking up with me now, it was guaranteeing that I’d fail my exams, not graduate from law school, lose at life, and DIE. What a selfish, miserable human being. (Her, I mean). (I’m really cool and great).
Granted, her timing was a little poor but I’m obviously still alive, and my interpretation of things has changed with time. Taylor didn’t leave me that day – because I had already left her – when I let heroin overtake her on my list of priorities. For the last eight months, I had barely existed in her life. I spent all my time hiding from her, out all day, out all night, shooting up at school or the basement of our building, ignoring her phone calls. Now that I had a couple pleasant days I thought everything was gonna be okay again?
But I couldn’t see that; I couldn’t see anything. I just hurt. More than hurt. I was fucking leveled. I didn’t want to use but… I had to. If I didn’t relapse, that’d mean I wasn’t really hurt. And I was really hurt so… I had to shoot some heroin to prove it. To myself. To Taylor. To the world. (I’m not really sure). And I had to buy a lot (two hundred bucks’ worth) ‘cause that was the best deal. (Money management’s an important skill!) My little bundle lasted me through the day with a few caps left over for the next. And then I put it out of my head and got back to the task at hand.
I hadn’t been to any of my courses all semester (I never even bothered to get textbooks). I logged in to the school’s website, found out which classes I was enrolled in, and settled into a couch in a (usually) empty room at school, where I’d spend the next few weeks, trying to learn as much as I could and just maybe graduate. When I couldn’t stay up any longer, I’d put my computer in my backpack and sleep on that same couch where I was studying. I didn’t get up for anything. Almost. Every six or seven days, I’d walk to the closest store to stock up on bagel bites and apples, which I kept in the fridge of a student organization to which I (of course) didn’t belong. There were three other reasons I’d occasionally leave the couch: to smoke a cigarette, use the bathroom, and (most importantly) – once a day, between the hours of 6AM and noon – go get my daily dose of methadone.
At one point, I saw myself in the bathroom mirror and was pretty impressed with how strung out I looked. (I guess the methadone / Adderall / sleep deprivation combo will do that you). I took a picture for posterity.
“Barkmarket Fuckacy” by House Boat is my favorite song on the last record [The Thorns of Life CD/LP] to bear the Traffic Street Records logo.
In the liner notes for the record, there’s a special “thanks to Sam North for basically ruining his life to help get this record made.”
(On our way to the studio for the recording of the album, I caught two felony possession of heroin charges and more misdemeanor charges for needles and other paraphernalia than I can count/remember). And if that wasn’t bad enough, the cops didn’t even give me back my drugs when they let me go! So on top of everything else, I had to spend the next day scrambling around Indiana looking for heroin.
In my mind, the word “limp” is usually an adjective associated with something weak or ineffectual (like a wiener, you guys!) but it’s also a verb (Professor North’s dropping knowledge today!) and – in that sense – it’s got a very different kind of connotation. You limp when you’re hurt – when you’re struggling – but what’s important is that you’re still going in spite of whatever’s slowing you down.
When I did Crafty Fest at Artpool, I met some good people, including an artist named William Somma. He does mostly abstract paintings with lots of neon and fluorescent colors, which I liked a lot. (Before I met Will, I didn’t even know they made paint like that; that day, he let me use some for my first time). He also asked if I’d be interested in collaborating on a painting. He started it off and once his paint was dry, handed over the canvas for me do with it what I might. I had never done anything collaborative before and I didn’t quite know how to go at it. That coupled with the fact that I didn’t want to disappoint Will made it a little bit of a difficult process. I didn’t know where I was going and I wasn’t used to working with the anticipation of someone else’s reaction or response in mind. But I kept at it all the same until I finally had something I thought we could both be proud of.
While it wasn’t exactly the greatest mountain I had ever scaled, “limp” came to mind and it felt right. In a sense, being out in the world – creating and selling art like this – was a culmination of more than two years I had spent limping. Or – it would have been if I weren’t still limping. Which isn’t a complaint; it’s just what I do. And it’s working out.
There is (or at least used to be) a band called Fiya that had a handful of really excellent songs. When I heard a couple of those kids had started a new band (Nervous Dogs) with one of the guys from Grabass Charlestons (a band I really liked), I picked up their 7-inch immediately.
Avenida Sevilla is three songs and, if I’m being totally honest, the first two didn’t really do a lot for me – but the third was one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard and (nearly eight years later) remains a favorite.
At $2.70, it’s way than worth picking up. I couldn’t find the song online though so I threw a few images together and dropped it on YouTube myself.
“Walk With Difficulty” by Nervous Dogs Dad was looking at my brother and at me and said, “I don’t know what I’d do – or if I’d even try to fight a thing like this disease – if I didn’t have the two of you.” He used to go out running in the mornings before work but he walks with difficulty now. But he walks anyhow…
The other new piece from Thursday night. The one that’s mean and shitty and makes me not like myself.
“Diaper Baby” by Sass Dragons seems appropriate right now…
I don’t care. I want attention. It doesn’t matter just where it comes from.
I’m as needy as the day I was born. Like a crying baby.
SOMEBODY CHANGE ME.
Before I went to bed at 8 AM, I uploaded the new high-resolution photos of 28 and Eradicating the Threat of Happiness.
Both are available in my webstore, as are prints of my newer pieces.
The good people of the Wunderground collective have been sweet enough to include me in their quarterly event at 1904 Music Hall. If you’re in/near Jacksonville, come hang out with me on January 11th. Art, music, burlesque, spoken word, food… IT’LL BE AN EVENING.
This is the less objectionable of my two pieces from Thursday night. I started it while Heather and I were actually talking about all this (and finished it after she went to bed). It was strange because I felt like I had gotten to such a good place after my journal the other day but by late Thursday / early Friday, I felt more convinced than ever that our relationship was over. Today [by which I mean Friday; I haven’t gone to sleep yet] I sort of accepted that I honestly have no idea. It makes me feel less in control than I’d have been comfortable with in the past but – these days – I’ve sort of come to terms (or am at least gradually coming to terms) with the fact that my emotions (and my ideas or plans that find root in them) are subject to unpredictable, radical change at any time. At one point while this was happening, I actually said, “I wish you’d let me break up with you so we could just be friends already.”
This shit’s retarded… This fickle / flighty bullshit. I can’t possibly be worth it. There’s no self-pity in this – it’s just a reality and I feel at peace with it. I tried to make the case that I’m probably not fit for a relationship and was reminded of the (positive) impact I’ve already had. Okay – I can accept that; I’ve heard it before. But that doesn’t necessarily make me a good life choice. Taylor and I dated for six years and while she’s said her life would be wildly different (almost definitely for the worse) had it not been for me, that relationship wasn’t meant to go on; it served its purpose and it ended. So – I don’t know – maybe that’s the role I’m supposed to have. I might not be the best partner but maybe I’m a great detour – a stepping stone to something that, ultimately, makes more sense… something not necessarily better but … just … what it’s supposed to be.
Today – I don’t know what the fuck to make of any of that but there’s my explanation for all the dumb CLT/airport metaphor stuff.
My favorite part is where it says, “I’m pretty okay at fucking!”
My title’s a Mountain Goats’ reference (for reasons that are too dull to bother sharing). But, in light of that, it seems like I oughta throw one out here. “No Children” is about wanting for the end of a relationship, but that’s the extent of its relevance to this piece/last night. The song’s all hostility, bitterness, resentment, and snarky, cynical hate, which has definitely been relatable at other points in my life but I didn’t feel that way at all when I made this. Not during our conversation and not at any point afterward. As crazy as it might sound (which I’m going to take as indication that it probably is) I felt like I was being practical and considerate…
In any case, the parts of the song that are self-deprecating or self-loathing – well, shit – that stuff’s always right on target! Even when I don’t feel it, I fucking love it.
But I wasn’t listening to this stuff then ’cause – like I said – it would have been too angry to fit. I was listening to Shorebirds and Pipsqueak (again), which matches this drawing way better.
This cartoon (about giving up on the things you’re supposed to care about) was my third (and final) piece on 12/8/12 – the first day ever that I did virtually nothing but draw and paint. (The first two were Why I Fail and Group Therapy).
This is one of the few pieces that I just flat out lost somewhere along the way. Not too shocking when you consider that it only measured three inches and that – just eight months ago – my art was nothing more than a heap of paper scraps, ripped cardboard, and a few pieces of loose canvas (all of which I carried around in grocery bags).
I made two new pieces today but I can’t share ’em ’cause I’m an asshole and they’ve got the kinda raw poison in them that I shouldn’t ever let out of my brain and onto paper. Or one of ’em does anyway… Shit – it’s not even that bad but it would hurt the fuck out of my feelings if someone had a similar thought about me, so…
Here’s a really beautiful song that’s usually pretty good at fortifying my resolve and, other times, makes me wanna break down and cry.
With a pain that cuts me like a knife, I wanna know you won’t be hard to find. I wish that I could call you right now and tell you that I’m around. I wish you would’ve called me that night and told me you hurt inside.
Please don’t stop living. – from “Upside Down” by Shorebirds.
On the drive back to Jacksonville tonight, I wrote in my journal. At one point in the process, I felt like I’d had a major breakthrough. Now – just a couple hours later – I’m not so sure. In either case, I think it’s worth sharing. And (above all) what matters is that I was feeling tremendous anxiety when I started and (at least a semblance of) peace when I was done.
Journal: Christmas 2013
The last time I made a playlist was July. The music I like gives most people anxiety but it’s an extremely rare occasion when it has that effect on me. But I’m feeling way too fragile right now to risk hearing anything that I’m not totally prepared for. I need really to be comforted right now and I’m counting on this music to do it.
We just hit the part of the highway with no lights. I’m writing in total darkness now.
Heather’s so sweet. I know she never intends to do me any harm. That’s why it’s hard to leave her. I don’t know if I understand love so – sadly – it has to be a practical consideration.
I know I can’t ever be alone. I fall in “love” way too fast. So if I’m gonna be with someone, it should (probably?)be her…
She’s not great at making me feel loved, which is something I desperately need. But maybe that sort of thing goes both ways. Maybe a girl that was better at making me feel loved would also be great at hurting me if/when she wanted to. Fuck. I can be (or am) such a fragile fucking baby.
I met this girl in November. She took in the whole story behind Autobiography and pointed at the girl in it. “That’s your mom,” she said.
I didn’t like that. I’m pretty sure my disgust registered on my face before I could even think to mask it. With a smile, I responded: “I reject that. I don’t agree at all.” I had just met this girl. What the fuck?
“That’s fine,” she said. “You can reject it. But it’s still true.”
When I shot down her interpretation, I meant what I said. But – of course – she’s fucking right. As much as it’s killed me to realize that and as much as I hate to admit it.
When my mom used to constantly badger me about how much I hated her, I’d tell her I loved her and ask her to stop. I really didn’t hate her. But I kind of do now.
It’s one thing to have an intellectual understanding that your parents did their best – and to use that to “forgive” them. It’s another thing to really make sense of everything emotionally, connect all the dots, and really get a grip on it. ‘Cause when you realize now that I’ve realized that it’s not about the individual incidents of especially fucked up shit that she did, it’s about the life-threatening defects ingrained into my every fiber that she cut in and fucking cultivated for years… It’s about the fact that every time I feel rejected by Heather in the slightest, I wanna run away from home all over again.
I told Heather again yesterday that she hadn’t done anything wrong – we’re just not a good match because she doesn’t have the kind of affectionate personality that I need to feel loved. She responded that she loves me 500% and didn’t I know that? I told her that I had that information in my brain but that I don’t often feel it. Shit – how could I?
No one’s ever gonna be able to do anything that’ll make me feel loved all the time. Just as my art (which is really just the maintenance of my (relative) sanity) is a full-time job, another person couldn’t possibly give me what I need unless that was their full-time job too. Or – more accurately – were on call 24/7. ‘Cause a lot of the time I need to be left alone to “work” (paint, write, or do various backend business-of-art or website kinds of tasks). But the second I need love, if [insert the name of any girl I’ve ever been with here] can’t deliver exactly to my specifications in that instant… well, then IT’S NOT WORKING AND WE’RE JUST NOT RIGHT FOR EACH OTHER.
So – contrary to my understanding up ’til this moment– this is on me more than it’s on Heather and it’s not some incurable defect that she needs to be solely responsible for maintaining an awareness of and behaving accordingly (because she “signed up for it” by getting involved with someone who’s so openly an emotional basketcase). I need to step back in these moments and remind myself of these things of which I need to be reminded. Still, if she’s my partner, she does need to be “in it” with me and make a little more of an effort to actually express that love she says she has for me. She can be pretty cold. And in some of those moments, there’s not gonna be anything I can do to not feel unattractive, unloved, and unwanted. Worthless, and undeserving of love. This new understanding of myself won’t always be enough. Sometimes feelings are more important than facts.
This is a real breakthrough for me. Right now, in this moment. It’s not the only one from the last 48 hours though.
Driving to Manatee from Jacksonville, we had another of our four hour drives without speaking. Not in as hostile a way, but things were tense so I kept busy as she drove and, when I took the wheel, she slept. Then, when we got to the Owens, I went in alone without a goodbye. (We both just looked at each other, waiting for the other to initiate it, as I collected my things from the backseat). Then she went to her parents’. I did my thing with the Owens and with my friends in Sarasota and we didn’t see each other for two days. We didn’t spend the holiday (which means nothing to me but something to her) together. The few texts we exchanged were not especially productive.
I opened up to some friends yesterday and acknowledged that a lot of the problem – what I felt – was sexual rejection. I’ll decide in an instant, at anytime, that I want to fool around, make some gesture toward that, she’ll shoot me down for whatever reason, and I’ll feel like shit. In her defense, I know where and when she will/would be in the right frame of mind for that and I rarely act on it because it’s when I’ll usually be busy working. Our schedules are wildly different and I need to work on compromising mine more, seeing as hers is handed down from a company and mind can be whatever the fuck I want it to be. It sucks but I feel constantly burdened with a need to be productive and I’m rarely willing to set aside and stop working because I’m terrified that I won’t be able to get back on course fast enough once I’m free to pick back up.
“It’s harder to be yourself than it is to be anybody else.” My problems are so petty, small, and (really) within the bounds of my control. Still, they’re monumental monster motherfuckers and THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES WITH WHICH ANY HUMAN BEING HAS EVER BEEN FACED. I say that jokingly but it’s equally true and false. It’s real and it’s a struggle that won’t ever end. It’ll only morph and evolve. As I do…
I got away from myself and the other “breakthrough” to which I alluded. I was talking to some friends about this stuff yesterday and the response I got went from “you gotta end it (for your own sake)” to “you gotta end it (for her sake).” At one point in the conversation, the feedback I was getting, the direction that the conversation had taken, and the things coming out of my own mouth had me feeling like the most sociopathic, seriously damaged, selfish mental case on the planet. I felt like a calculating monster with an impressively evil skill-set, who was so distinct from normal people that he didn’t even have the slightest idea or awareness of what he was doing or the full implications of his decisions and behavior. I felt sicker than I’ve ever felt – like I could be some murderer, smiling at the cameras.
I probably could be. I just remembered – I had been thinking about conscience just earlier in the day. Some friend of Clifford’s murdered his girlfriend and then turned himself in. What a sap, I thought, when Mclane told me about it. What a weak human being.
I considered it further: I would never do that. You buckle down and live with the secret. No good comes from that confession; just move forward, asshole.
Well – not really. He needed to be caught; I mean, he’s clearly dangerous. But if Ikilled someone, Ishould just move forward… Learn from my mistake and accept that the consequence for my actions is having another fascinating story that I can’t ever share with the world.
WHAT’S WORSE THAN THAT?
So… that’s what I wrote as we made our way back to Jacksonville tonight. I probably started around 9pm and put the pen down a little after 10…
I looked in my other notebook at the pieces I have left to add to the website and – given everything I wrote about tonight – one of them jumped off the page and struck me as being a perfect fit.
(Relatively) early in my stay at Tranquil Shores, we got an assignment, in art therapy group – to make a figure of our “inner-child.” Like most of my inner-child stuff, I focused on myself at age four.
This thing isn’t totally devoid of substantive meaning but – obviously – this wasn’t an especially probing assignment. It was mostly fun though and I felt pretty pleased with myself when I finished it.
When I typed up my journal entry, I linked to a few entries which struck me as relevant.
Autobiography: watercolor cartoon (regarding codependency, rejection, and self-esteem)
After I journaled, I felt well enough to skip around and listen to songs that would have made me nervous earlier in the night. One of them was “Debt” by Pipsqueak, the acoustic band which was initially just the kid that sang in Snuggle (and – more recently – Murmurs) but now has a second member, playing cello and also singing. It was great before and it’s great now.
has borderline personality disorder and a heroin problem. In 2012, he got clean, discovered art, and traveled the country, painting and writing. Three years later, he went back to heroin and quit painting. He's currently hard at work trying to get clean or kill himself (depending on the day).