6 AM. Walking home.
It’s 40 degrees outside and I still haven’t gone to bed.
Pineapple soda, a cigarette,
BRAND NEW RATIONAL ANTHEM playing in my headphones.
What more could an idiot ask for?
I stayed up all night, clearing out my house,
Getting rid of the things in my life that I don’t need.
Some of it is really hard to get rid of.
I still don’t know if I’ll actually be able to part with my zine collection.
And (honestly) I haven’t even considered the records.
But I’m young, itinerant,
I’d rather not be weighed down by possessions.
Do you ever fantasize about your house burning down
And starting over with nothing?
I’m working to be okay with the idea that if something is important
It’ll come back to me.
I don’t need to cling to anything.
Or only to so much, in any case.
Here’s a cartoon I drew in an Alcoholics Anonymous.
It was the second of three that night.
The third being My Favorite Cartoon.
This one’s not important.
It’s just about me,
Being a resentful little jerk-off.
There’s no way for me to explain what I was thinking when I drew this without sounding like an asshole. Which is okay – after all – sometimes I’m an asshole!
This kid was rambling on and every word out of his mouth reeked of “here’s some shit I heard some other clueless bastard say at a meeting, so now I’m gonna repeat it at all of you so that I can walk back to my halfway house confident that you guys will think I’ve really got a handle on this recovery thing.”
Which – who knows – maybe that’s me projecting. Or maybe it’s just me being bitter about some girl not paying enough attention to me. And – honestly – what the fuck should I even care? I guess it’s easy to fall into this kind of judgmental/negative thought when you’re compelled to go to more meetings than you’d otherwise elect to on your own. I might have needed that many at one point early on (or I might not have) but by this time last year, I was definitely ready to move on to the next phase. And within a month I had done just that.
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.
I could describe my day in a way that’d sound horribly tragic and it’d be totally true. Shit – I could frame my entire life in such a way that it’d sound really awful…
But… as much as I feel like a crybaby in this moment – as stressed as I am right now – I know that the other truth – the one in which my life is awesome and I’ve got nothing but good things to be grateful for… it’s a better story and it’s better for me. And like I said, it’s totally true.
So – with an eye toward focusing on the positive – check out how happy this kid is….
And that’s from just earlier today!
I posted that photo on Instagram a little bit ago with the caption: “The (former) police officer and the KING OF THE SUPER PUNKS had a few disagreements when they first met last January. But *today* Robert bought a painting from his friend, Sam, who happily posed for a photo before he parted ways with the piece, less than 48 hours after its completion.” That was after Robert had posted it on Facebook with the caption: “I am now the proud owner of an original Sammy ThrashLife canvas! He is an intelligent (went to law school) and talented artist I’ve had the pleasure to get to know; he creates edgy works via stream of consciousness and drawing upon his emotions at the time.”
And all of that’s really awesome. It means a whole, whole lot to me. This little art thing I do… it’s my life. It’s saved my life. It’s brought people into my life. It’s made me a better person. It’s made it all worthwhile.
It’s what I do when I’m feeling down – to pull me out of that and get me back to a better place… it takes me places I never used to go.
Here’s one of my very first pieces, from November of last year; I made it one night when I was feeling especially depressed and suddenly (well, by the time I finished it HOURS after I started) I wasn’t depressed anymore.
In the past, when I’d felt as I did that night, it was an occasion to do way too much heroin. A few times in an attempt to fatally overdose, other times to just not have to exist for a little while. But – you know – I was in rehab so it seemed like the thing to do would be to maybe just create that image. It’s a mixed media collage – can you see the little cartoon syringe that I drew and glued onto my arm? The caption says, “Is blue a good color on me?”
Here’s a song I like a lot.
“Rejoice despite the fact this world will hurt you. Rejoice despite the fact this world will kill you. Rejoice despite the fact this world will tear you to shreds. Rejoice because you’re trying your best.” – Andrew Jackson Jihad
Numbered, signed, and sealed 12×18″ prints of Winter Colors are available in my webstore.
If you’re interested in the original piece, please get in touch.
Last January, still living in inpatient care, my friend Mary Beth got me a bunch of art supplies, including a set of calligraphy pens and inks. I got someuse out of the inks (until THOSE FASCISTS said, “You can’t give yourself tattoos in rehab, Sam – especially not sitting out by the pool“). The pens were a little more than I could handle though. I use the crow quill every now and then, but I only ever did one piece with all the different pen tips. I figure now’s a good time to throw it online, given the nature of my most recent painting.
It’s pretty much bullshit. It means nothing. The spoon in my hand: that’s what I was using as a tongue scraper. It’s all whatever; I was just playing around with a new toy.
“Rotten,” though, is a word I really enjoy and a feeling I’m not totally unfamiliar with. I ran a search for it on the draft of my second book and came up with a couple paragraphs about why I went to law school. I wrote this more than a year ago but just spent three hours editing it obsessively.
Kevin pitched the idea and I agreed that it couldn’t hurt to just take the admissions test. At no point did I ever expect to score in the 99th percentile. Suddenly, all these schools that I never thought would even consider my application [ T14 schools] were practically begging for it. And then they were actually accepting me (even with my “criminal addendum,” failed first year of community college, and total lack of extracurriculars or wholesome activities). And they were offering me scholarships even! It was strange and – honestly – kind of exciting. It felt good and I got caught up in it, for better or worse.
I’m not sure if I ever once paused and thought, “Is this what I really want to do?” When one of the T14s – Georgetown – offered me a six-figure scholarship, my entire rationale consisted of: “this is quite the opportunity… if I don’t take advantage of it, I might regret it later…”
That’s it – that’s why I went to law school: a fear of regret. Well, that’s not all of it (it’s just the only part I’ve ever acknowledged to another human being). I also went to feel validated. It was one thing to be a shitty punk kid that shot heroin on the weekends, who was told by everyone including his mom that he was gonna grow up to be homeless and eating out of a dumpster, and who people generally regarded as less of a human being and more of a disease – to be all of that and to get straight A’s at community college or USF was [whatever]. But to fit that description and go to one of the top law schools in the country on a scholarship – this was next level. It was kind of a huge “fuck you” to everyone that looked down on me or had said I was worthless. “Rotten,” on the other hand, I was okay with. I still felt rotten – and this only concentrated it. The whole thing felt sinister. It sort of was. Fear of regret played a part but spite was right up there with it. I’ve said my law degree’s got less utility than a sheet of toilet paper but – before I got clean especially – it did serve me in that one regard: it was a pretty decent fuck you. “I may be an asshole and a fuck-up, my clothes are tattered, my teeth are gapped out, I feel like a mutant, and I smell like cigarettes, mildew, and bad decisions, but I ALSO have a law degree from Georgetown. Where do you keep your law degree from Georgetown?”
Granted, even back when I had a use for a “fuck you,” I never actually had that conversation with anyone. But if I felt like someone was condescending to me or even just thinking they had me figured out, I’d throw it out there and watch their perception of me change in an instant. Even now, since getting out of treatment, I don’t ever have a reason to “show up” anyone or to prove shit, but it can still be a fun card to play on the rare occasion when someone (possibly looking to write me off as a dirty kid who’s too lazy to get a “real” job) asks about work or school. I can just smile. Which gets at something else: to me, it’s more of a punchline than it is my proudest achievement. Sure – it’s pretty good indication that I’ve got the capacity to do [something or other] or make [some kind of shit] happen, but so is my time running Traffic Street – and that means infinitely more to me. But, shit, normal people don’t see that and I don’t wanna lie; it feels good to also have the thing under my belt that they can understand. The thing that tells ’em: if I’m opting to play with colors and paint funny faces all day, it MIGHT not be ’cause I’m a lazy idiot – I just might have my reasons…
Had a long conversation with a friend tonight about the best records; it ended with me listening to Dear Landlord‘s catalog on repeat from sometime before midnight until… [it’s still going].
Here’s the last song they recorded but it better not be the last song they record.
It’s the only song of theirs that I don’t have on my iPod ’cause the download code that came with my LP doesn’t work and Adeline won’t respond to my emails. Somebody do me a solid and email me the mp3s for “The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore.”
The first time I ever decided to make art for its own sake, the results were… mixed. It was more than a year ago and at no point has it grown on me…
Maybe that’s for the best though – that I dislike it so much. Maybe it’s good for me to have to accept that the one piece of art that I can’t ignore – that I can’t leave out of my story – is one of which I’m totally embarrassed.
It’s (very seriously) insane just how much something like acknowledging that this painting exists can fuck with my emotional well-being. Sitting here typing this, I don’t … – I don’t want to type it. I hate it. But I’m doing it anyway. As imperfect as all of this is – it’s a good exercise in humility. I’m not perfect, my website isn’t perfect, my stories and artwork are not all uniformly fascinating. Sometimes I’m just okay.
Okay’s not so bad, I guess.
If you’d like to buy this painting, I would love to get it out of my home. Hit me up. (And remember: it’s got historical value).
Let’s play a game! Can you sort out which is the truth and which is fiction?!?
The real subject matter of this piece remains far too personal and sensitive to disclose. Centuries from now, it will be the subject of fierce debate by art historians and scholars of all stripes, the world over.
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).