Category Archives: Journals

Adrenaline out; humility in

Response on social media seems to indicate that some people feel like I might not be responding to my current situation as… well… – as some people would like me to. And while I have zero interest in conforming to anyone else’s ideas of “how Sam should be feeling,” I’d like to make something clear. Last night’s blog entry was the consequence of the pure rush of adrenaline that comes with a surprise release from jail. To some, a week in jail may not seem like much. For me, it was a baptism by fire. What people might not understand is that I’ve (obviously) been arrested before and have had court cases draw out for as long as eighteen months. Without bail, a defendant sits in jail until their case is concluded. When it looked like no bail was forthcoming, I was settling in for the long haul. I was virtually certain that no clemency was coming my way anytime soon and that I was going to be stuck in jail for a very, very long time. And – as anyone who knows me is well aware – I am not the sort of person that could do well in jail for very long. I absolutely don’t know how to keep to myself and – let’s be honest – I’m “soft.” I’m gonna be overly familiar and friendly with the wrong people, I’m gonna get taken advantage, and when I do inevitably attempt to stick up for myself, it’s gonna go really south for me really fast. And exactly that almost happened just in my short time there. I had some twice-my-size wannabe gangster in my face at one point screaming at me, “tighten up, cracker!” (Slang for “fists up, we’re fighting now”). I was extremely lucky to get out of that situation unharmed and am still not entirely sure how I managed to do so. Finding out that I wasn’t going to be stuck in that world anymore and then being released so suddenly after what was likely the most challenging week of my life (remember: I was also detoxing / withdrawing from heroin the whole time) – that made for an incredibly celebratory mood last night. It was the greatest natural high of my life.

With that being said, I’d like to address some things that didn’t quite make their way into last night’s entry. Regarding the victims of my traffic accident: Holy fucking shit. Am I ever lucky that no one was hurt (as they SO EASILY could have been). I thank God no one was injured. Because I want to make something clear: sitting in jail all week, I didn’t just feel terrible about my situation and the situations (caused by me) of those I know and love but – how could I not – also about that traffic accident. I don’t know the extent of the damage I did but those people didn’t deserve any of that. You shouldn’t have to worry about some emotionally troubled drug addict fuck-up every time you decide to drive somewhere. That’s not a concern anyone should have. And even when they’re not “horrible” even mild traffic accidents can be pretty traumatic. I sincerely hope that this wasn’t the case for any of the other drivers I effected but I don’t really have any way of knowing. And the thought that I might have had that kind of impact on someone pains me to think about. For all my brashness and my loud personality, on the occasions that I discover that I’ve so much as genuinely annoyed anyone – even that shit bums me the fuck out. I like to be a lightI absolutely have NOT been for the last year but the notion that I’m actually doing more harm than good makes me feel sick to my stomach with self-loathing.

And while most of the people reading this already know that I’m not the world’s biggest supporter of the police forces of the world, I’m also not so resentful at this point in my life to have the kind of animosity that would lend itself to wanting to in any way hurt some random police officer that I know nothing about. I’ve been charged with assault against a police officer and while that could have meant as little as touching his arm, I haven’t seen the report yet and thus don’t know what I did in my blackout state. Do I think there are cops out there who deserve to have terrible things happen to them? (It’s hard for me to say no). But if I rephrase that and consider whether or not I think there are people out there who deserve to have terrible things happen to them, my answer is almost definitely no. Even when it comes to the most bigoted hateful people in the world, I’m not a huge advocate of punishment. I have a hard time believing that someone with those kinds of ideas kicking around in their head (and manifesting themselves in their daily actions no doubt) isn’t already living in the consequently hellish world they’ve created for themselves. And even if some people do deserve “bad things,” I’m not the arbiter of justice and have no interest in being one. Plus, shit – can we drop our punk rock attitudes for just one second long enough to acknowledge that it’s thoroughly possible that some cops aren’t evil? In my mind (even though I don’t know that I actually did anything remotely serious to this guy) when I think about it, I’m just picturing me doing something unpleasant to a person – not a cop – but a person. Some guy who has a job to do and shouldn’t have to deal with my bullshit but did anyway. And – again – I don’t feel so great about that. I don’t wanna be a pain in anyone’s ass. I just wanna feel okay and I want the same for everyone else in the world.

And then there are all of the people I love and who love me. That’s what (admittedly) hurts the most. Friends and regular readers/followers have probably picked up on the fact that I’m an emotional basketcase with an absurd capacity for empathy. I know what I’ve been doing to the people in my life this last year. In fact, that knowledge and the pain of that knowledge probably accounts for a lot of what kept (very selfishly) pushing me further and further into Addiction Round Two. The need to numb those feelings and that pain. The people I’ve hurt are too numerous to name and the emotional turmoil I’ve caused them is too significant to reduce to some petty cluster of words in my blog. It’s really hard not to hate myself for it. The only reason I don’t is that (thanks to that “baptism by fire” / week in jail) I’ve finally regained the strength and clarity to realize and accept that feeling awful doesn’t do anyone any good. It just leads to self-pity, depression, and more self-abuse that winds up spilling over into the lives of my loved ones, anyone at all who cares about me, and innocent bystanders like the drivers and passengers of those cars I crashed into and the cop (and probably any hospital workers and jail officials) who had to deal with my incoherent obnoxious bullshit last Wednesday night.

And it’s that same clarity and strength that caused me to let Wallis go today. I couldn’t love that girl any more than I do. Words are insufficient to express my adoration, love, and respect for her. She means the world to me. And that’s why I told her today that I will not be pursuing her or trying to “win her back.” When Wallis and I met, she was in a bad spot and I was really, really good for her. I got her off of heroin. I got her out of the strip club. I showed her things in life that she had never experienced before and I don’t think it’s unreasonable or boastful to say that I made her happy.

All of that means close to nothing at this point. Because a year later, I let it all go to shit. I let problems in my own life that had nothing to do with her corrupt my sobriety, pull me back into active addiction, and pull her right back in with me. Any good that I did her in the first part of our relationship has been completely nullified. If she’s any better for having known me, her “position” in life at the moment certainly isn’t. And like much of my family and plenty of my friends, I’ve caused her such pain. Untold levels of anxiety and concern for my well-being. The kind of shit that makes you feel physically sick. Whole-truth: I still want a future with Wallis (and I told her as much) but it can’t be because we feel like we need each other. It has to be because we simply want each other for the simple reason that each of us makes the other’s life better. If we’re going to be together, it can’t be now. I’ve been bad for her and I owe it to her to “set her free” (of any feeling of obligation for me or my well-being]. I won’t be calling her. I won’t be messaging or texting or emailing her. I’m sure we’ll still see each other sometimes but it’s not going to be at my request and it’s definitely not going to be because I “need” her to fix my emotional boo-boos. And I don’t want it to be because she needs me to fix hers either. If we do wind up together someday, it needs to be as strong, independent people. And if we don’t end up together – well – that’s just that and I’m sure we’ll both be just fine. I love her to the fucking moon and back [did I use that expression in last night’s blog? I think I did] but I’m committing to focusing on my own recovery and to leaving her the fuck alone. She deserves the best in the world and though I feel confident already that I’ve turned the corner, I’ve abused my right to ask for her faith/trust. If we’re going to be together one day, it’ll have to be the result of something more natural / organic  than my “pushing” for it.

There’s more still bouncing around in my head but – for now – I just want to thank my dad and my ex-girlfriend Emily for talking with me today and helping to refine my goals and my understanding even further. And – by the way – speaking of Emily: god damn. She was my girlfriend during my first round of addiction and, tragically, stayed fucked up for way longer than I did. In fact, it was her ongoing addiction and my concern for her that’s chiefly responsible for how well I’m able to understand the damage I’ve done to others with my own addiction. But today she’s a new person. She’s six months clean and she’s a million times smarter than I am. My conversation with her today made me cry a lot (particularly the parts about needing to “release” Wallis [from any sense of obligation to me] by “leaving her be”) but it also made me really happy. That she can be that kind of voice of reason for the people in her life now… it’s just incredible and heart-warming and I love her so much and am so grateful that she’s doing well, she’s alive, she’s still in my life, and… (you get the idea). It also makes me wanna be able to be that again – for the people in my life that are struggling with [whatever]. I know I can be. I think I’m gonna be.

I’ve still got a swirl of bad feelings flying around inside me but there’s no self-pity here. There’s determination, there’s sincerity – and there’s remorse but not shame. Okay – admittedly – there’s some shame. It’s pretty tough to not feel ashamed of myself for some of the stuff I’m responsible for. But I’m not letting myself soak in it, I’m trying to use it as fuel to get to a better place, to be a better person. Stay tuned.

Fuck the world; STEAL EVERYTHING

I am alive. I am here. I am now. I acknowledge the fact of my life. I am alive, breathing, walking, and smiling. There’s a world, there’s a world, there’s a big DUMB world and some time that I stepped in ’cause I’m getting tired of pretending that I don’t really give a shit. There was guilt and shame, there was fear and hate, but now it’s finally time to appreciate the perfection of all life. All the times and places and time I’d waste. I learned the hard way and ever since – when I look forward or back – I just gotta laugh ’cause it hit like a ton of bricks. I laid down on the ground and I looked around and I saw a miracle. I appreciate the simple beauty of the world. It came to me like a bullet to the heart but it was there in front of me all along so obvious; the only meaning of life is life itself i’m not controlled by anybody else. I must get out of my way, get out of my own way.

Holy fucking shit! This year is fucking over so far as I’m concerned. I started fucking up around the three-quarter mark of 2015 and it all really went to shit in February. Fuck all of that. I couldn’t care less. I’m not going into extreme details of my legal situation just now but know that I’m up against plenty. I spent the last week in jail and it wasn’t that I was in jail as much as that I was in jail with the idea in my head that things could very easily play out in such a way as to keep me in there for the next two years or more. No one wanted to bail me out because everyone thought I might just go and kill myself and – can you fucking blame them? I almost killed myself intentionally in August. And then on Tuesday, I went and blacked out and caused a four car collision on I-10 and then tried to fight a police officer. (And I don’t remember a fucking instant of it!) I only know because I’ve been told that it happened.

I love this stupid fucking planet. I love my little brother and my dad and my family and my friends. I love my beautiful fucking girlfriend (who isn’t currently talking to me and – you know what – may never talk to me again, and – as devastating as that would be – do you know what it wouldn’t be an excuse to do? SHOOT HEROIN. Because nothing is an excuse to shoot heroin. Fuck. Yes). I love you. I love me. I’m gonna pay off this fucking bail bondsman, I’m gonna get my ass into some over-the-top, stupid fucking treatment that I don’t really need (probably), I’m gonna get a fucking Vivitrol shot because I am a fucking junkie and my promises don’t mean shit and I can mean the world and know from experience that I’ll still fuck it up. But ooooooohhhhhhhhhh – not this time. Not this time, motherfuckers. I am alive. I acknowledge the fact that my dumb ass turns 31 tomorrow. I don’t like the person I’ve been this last year. That shit’s done. I feel fucking awesome. Let’s start today.

 

[unacknowledged/ripped off opening and closing lines courtesy of GB and KLU].

The rape accusation, quitting art, heroin, and the future

Nine months ago, I was accused of rape. I don’t mention it often because the last thing I want to do is publicize it. For too long now though, that’s prevented me from expressing myself. It’s prevented me from doing just about anything. The accusation crippled me. Before I even had a chance to enter a plea and state my innocence, the charge was dismissed on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to even warrant a trial. That didn’t matter though – the story was already out there. In the Chicago Tribune, in the Chicago Sun Times, and all over the internet. (Mostly harsher) variations on the headline “Traveling artist accused of raping woman.” That’s the kind of thing that started to come up whenever my name was Googled. (Both my names: Sammy thrashLife and Samuel North). Scheduled exhibitions were cancelled or postponed indefinitely. In the coming months, four-figure sales would be negotiated and scheduled for the next day and, overnight, the buyer would disappear. I’d get some opportunity only to have it fall through shortly thereafter. There are plenty of possible explanations for each of these situations but I settled on one: Once a person got a chance to do a little research on me, they’d see those stories and decide that I wasn’t worth the risk. When thousands of artists are all competing for the same opportunity, why invite controversy upon yourself by giving it to one that’s been accused of something as awful as rape? For gallery owners, innocent or not, it’s safer to just steer clear of me and that whole situation and just book an exhibit with a different artist. For buyers, if you’re going to support an artist and buy something that’ll be displayed in your home for the rest of your life, do you really want a painting by someone that might have raped someone? There’s so much art out there – better to just go with a different artist, right?

I don’t know for certain that this kind of logic accounted for all of my opportunities drying up but it seemed like a pretty reasonable explanation. Feeling that rejection was now a guarantee, I stopped looking for opportunities. I stopped painting. I stopped writing. And I started shooting heroin again.

At different points along the way, I had thought about changing my name but that felt dishonest. That would be me trying to hide something. Besides, my art has always been about my story and – like it or not – this accusation was now part of it. A big part of it. The emotionally unbalanced law graduate who overcame heroin addiction and became an artist – I liked that story. The artist who was falsely accused of rape…? Even the word makes me sick to my stomach. I hate it. I don’t want that to be my story. I already had a story. Not to mention, even though the charges were dismissed, there’s no way that I can definitively, absolutely, unquestionably prove my innocence. So that’s who I was now: the artist who might have raped someone. I didn’t wanna be that person. I don’t wanna be that person. But I can’t help it. I can’t get my old identity back. My only other option is to find a new one.

Ever since those newspaper/online stories were published, my life’s been in decline. At no point since then has my life been as good as or better than it was before the accusation. Lately, in my head, I’ve been seeing a chart. It’s a chart of my life. There’s a plotted point on it for the day before my arrest. It’s not at the top of the chart, it’s somewhere in the middle. Then there’s the day that I got out of jail, when I found out about all the publicity surrounding my arrest. The line’s dropped all the way to the bottom of the chart; it’s broken through the bottom of the chart to new, previously unknown levels of terrible feelings. Since that day, the line’s gone up and the line’s gone down – but it’s never gotten any higher than the plotted point for the day before I was arrested. That’s the new ceiling. The stigma of that accusation has become a hurdle that I can’t get past and I’m really scared that, when I die, it’ll be the point on the chart of my life from which I never again made any progress. From which I never again got any better. I’m scared that this is it for me – that I already got my “comeback” – that this is what ends me.

Obviously, relapsing with heroin hasn’t made things any easier. I’m not in as bad of shape as I was a few months back and I’m clean right now but I still struggle. I think my biggest problem is that I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. For a time after the accusation, I’d still go out on the street, set up a canvas and paint while selling prints. And just as before, I did fine. I earned “a living.” That was before I relapsed though. When I could forget about the accusation and stick to my regular narrative: the junkie saved by art. But now that’s not true. Now I’m the junkie saved by art, accused of rape, and returned to heroin. That’s not an uplifting story. That’s not something people want to buy into. And it’s not really something that I want to sell. I don’t go out on the street to try to sell prints anymore and I don’t try to get into galleries anymore. Consequently, I don’t have all that much of an income anymore. I’ve been really broke. (Again, using heroin hasn’t really helped this situation much but I’d be having money trouble regardless).

There was this day when Wallis and I were walking out of the grocery store and she stopped to look at a potted plant. I knew that she wanted it but, on that day, I barely had a dollar to my name. I couldn’t afford to buy my girlfriend a ten dollar flower pot. That killed me. I love her so much and I want to give her the whole world – absolutely anything that she might ever desire. And that day I couldn’t even buy her some flowers to plant in our front yard. I felt so pathetic and useless. Though there have been brighter incidents (like the day somebody bought an expensive painting and I surprised Wallis by letting her pick out as many flowers, plants, and seeds as she wanted) there have also been a lot more where I haven’t been able to afford some little item and felt really terrible and guilty about it. (Just for the record, this is all my own doing; Wallis isn’t the kind of girl that ever makes me feel bad about not having enough money; she’s loved me unconditionally and been the one constant ray of light in my life ever since this nightmare started).

The stigma of the rape accusation might be significant enough that it’s no longer possible for me to make a living as an artist. Or it might not. It might just be in my head. Either way, my fear that it’s enough, and my fear of rejection, have absolutely made it impossible for me to make a living as an artist. So what do I do? I tried to get a few different writing jobs with companies where I knew there were people that were already fans of my writing. None of those panned out. (And, personally, I suspect it’s got something to do with my Google search results and the stigma of the accusation). Either way, my suspicion and consequent fear of rejection have prevented me from applying for any more of those types of jobs – jobs where I’d be a public name or face or personality of some kind.

Art and writing are the only two things I know that I’m any good at. If I can’t do either of those, I have my law degree to fall back on but I’ve never taken the bar. As a felon (I was convicted for possession of Adderall, even though I’ve had a prescription for more than ten years, because I didn’t have it stored in the proper bottle and I hadn’t had my prescription filled that month) it’s  impossible (or close to it) to be admitted to the bar in Florida. Because I’m currently on probation (for the Adderall charge) I can’t move out of Florida. Besides, I’m pretty sure that it’s tough to get admitted to the bar as a felon in any state. So now I’m applying for paralegal and legal assistant jobs. I have a degree from Georgetown Law, one of the most prestigious law schools in the world, and I’m applying for jobs in the legal field for which I was already qualified when I was a teenager. And I might not even be able to get one. After all, if some law firm has a whole pool of applicants to choose from, it’s the same as gallery owners choosing artists for exhibitions. Safer to go with someone who hasn’t been accused of rape. Or that’s my fear anyway. And when the odds of rejection (or the perceived odds in any case) are that high, why even bother to try? That’s the kind of thinking that’s made me give up on being an artist and what’s kept me stuck in this rut, spinning my wheels for so long. That’s what keeps me frustrated. And what keeps nudging me back toward heroin. Heroin, after all, makes it all go away. It makes the pain and the fear and the anxiety disappear. At least for a little while. (And then it makes everything a whole lot worse, which is – obviously – why I’m trying to get away from it for good).

Even if I do find a regular job, I’ve got a whole separate set of fears about why it might not work out (which is a big reason I opted to become an artist instead of a lawyer in the first place) but – for now – those are still totally irrelevant. I have to actually get a job before I can reasonably be afraid of why I might lose it. Even still, I’d be lying if I said that those other fears don’t also scare me away from trying harder to seek out new opportunities, new options, and new paths I might go down.

I don’t know. I sent out a bunch of résumés yesterday. Hopefully, I’ll hear back on one of ’em on Monday or Tuesday. I just need something. I gotta find something to give me some direction, some purpose, some money, and some idea of a future that I’d actually want to get to.


God – I’ve wanted to write this for so long but I’ve been afraid that publishing something like this would hurt my chances of getting whatever job I was applying for at whatever moment. Or of causing a problem with my psychiatric treatment. Or of getting me in trouble for violating my probation. It’s been so hard, not being able to express myself freely. I’m still not legally supposed to talk about what I know about what did or didn’t happen that resulted in that accusation that’s fucked up my life so badly. I’m not used to keeping anything a secret and I feel like there have been so many lately. Having to hide this from these people or that from everyone. It feels so good to finally get all of this out. Sure, there are other secrets from the last year that have eaten at me and that I’ve continued to keep to myself but what I’ve written here today is what’s emotionally relevant right now – and my intention when I sat down wasn’t to “fill in the blanks” for any audience; it was just to write. Up until this last paragraph, I had it in my head that I wasn’t even going to share this with anyone – at least not anytime soon. I liked myself better back when I was an open book though so… whatever (forever) and so on. Writing  (and sharing)  this feels like a step forward.

Happy New Year!

Check me out. It only took ’til May 17th for me to write my first blog entry in 2016. But… um… whatever, okay? Moving on…

When I stopped painting in January, I was working on a twelve by eight foot canvas that I had shared some photos of (mostly on Facebook and Instagram) as it progressed. It’s currently stuffed into a trash bag and I’m not sure what’ll ultimately become of it but here’s a picture and a little bit more info in the caption below.

My most recent (but currently abandoned) work-in-progress, shown here on January 16, 2016. Approximately two months after this photo was taken, the painting caught fire and much of it was reduced to ash. I may or may not attempt to piece the remains back together and finish the painting at some point in the future.
My most recent (but currently abandoned) work-in-progress, shown here on January 16, 2016. Approximately two months after this photo was taken, the painting caught fire and much of it was reduced to ash. I may or may not attempt to piece the remains back together and finish the painting at some point in the future.

It’s been four months since I’ve had my artwork and (five months since I’ve had my) blog as creative and emotional outlets. That’s been really difficult but I’m  not ready to fill in all the blank pages that have accumulated since I abandoned this website in December. As much as I’d like to just spill my guts about everything – for now – I’ve got to leave the story of the last few months (and  – really – the story since September) to be told sometime in the future.

That being said, I don’t want to feel like this website is just sitting online, rotting, so I’m going to try to start updating it with what I can more often.

I’ve been looking into new opportunities and hopefully I’ll have some good news soon. There were also some paintings from last year that never got added to the Gallery, so I’ll see if I can’t correct that soon too.

I hope everyone’s well and I’d like to thank all my friends, fans, and supporters for helping me along this far.

Birthday 2015

I’m feeling lost.

In August, I was arrested and charged with a crime I didn’t commit. I’m struggling to articulate the effect that my arrest had on me. It stole my momentum, erased my confidence, and cancelled all my plans.

I had an exhibit booked in Seattle for the month of November. That was cancelled the same day that the news of my charge hit the internet.

Being out on bail in September meant that I couldn’t risk selling prints out on the street (since it’s technically illegal without a vendor’s license). And given the nature of the charge against me, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea for me to be out like that in public anyway – underneath a banner with my name on it.

Now that the case is over, it’s too cold here in Chicago to sell outdoors. When I tried last year, I found that once it gets this cold, people just walk right past me without stopping.

I’ve got no money.

It hurts to admit that. Especially now that I’ve just turned thirty. I suddenly feel like a total loser.

If I had turned thirty six months ago, it would have been fine. I had money then, I felt accomplished then, I had things going on back then, and had more plans for the future.

I don’t feel like I’ve got much of anything today. Consequently, I suddenly feel a whole lot older and like a whole lot more embarrassed. I feel like a failure.

I need to relocate to a warmer city where I can make money but I signed a lease in Chicago so that I’d have somewhere to live for what I thought would be a long drawn out legal process. And then the case was unexpectedly dismissed less than two weeks later.

I’ll leave anyway when I feel the time is right but I don’t know where to go. Like I said, my momentum is gone and my confidence is shattered.

In the past, I could just pick up and leave because I was living out of my van. But now I have Wallis with me and we need an apartment. She needs to be able to work and have her own life. That’s not possible when we’re living out of a van and constantly on the move. We need to settle in somewhere.

That job offer from Elite Daily came in at just the right time. It was right at the moment when I was starting to figure out what my next move ought to be. I was still all fucked up by the events of the last couple months but it seemed perfect; like it was maybe exactly what I needed. And it seemed to be going really well – right until it wasn’t. And then it was a huge disappointment when it didn’t work out.

I looked into the possibility of writing for another company but ultimately decided to start my own. Time will tell whether or not that’s going to develop into anything or just be a short detour in the path of my life.


My older sister just called in the midst of writing this post. After talking to her, I’ve decided that I need to figure this out and get it over with already. I need to stop waiting for things to work out and I need to just make something happen.

To that end, I’m packing up and leaving Chicago. There’s nothing here for me. It will be obnoxious having to travel back to Illinois on December 4th for the next hearing in my stupidly drawn out Adderall case from 2014 but I don’t want to sit here rotting in the meantime just so that I don’t have to incur extra travel expenses.

It looks like I’m going back to Florida. Sarasota-Bradenton to be precise. I’ll be able to work on Vapid Planet from there, Wallis and I will have a place to stay, and I’ll be able to make trips to other nearby cities to sell art every so often.

My girlfriend baked me two kinds of cupcakes for my birthday because she loves me very much.
My girlfriend baked me two kinds of cupcakes for my birthday because she loves me very much. I love her too.

Martin Shkreli and the Daraprim controversy

Caveat: I don’t know shit about shit.

While my initial reaction to this story was the same as everyone else’s (and while I know that the price has since been rolled back, making this whole thing somewhat irrelevant), I have a couple thoughts…

How many people suffering from toxoplasmosis (which – my understanding – is mostly AIDS and cancer patients) are actually paying medical expenses out of pocket? Wouldn’t a price hike like this really just be sticking it to insurance companies and Medicaid/Medicare? Would anyone seeking treatment at a hospital actually be refused Daraprim on account of an inability to pay? (My experience with hospitals has always been that I’m given everything I need and then I get an insanely high bill that I just throw in the trash). And while I can’t find the article today (because there are about ten thousand of them now) I’m pretty sure that I read an article yesterday in which the representative of some hospital stated that they had already been in touch with Turing and received assurance that they’d be able to continue receiving low-cost Daraprim for low-income patients.

So – like I said – I don’t really have any idea what I’m talking about here. I could be totally wrong about all of this and maybe Martin Shkreli is a monster and Turing is the most evil corporation on the face of the earth. With that being said, as someone who was recently the target of self-righteous assholes all across the internet (who – in my case – really had no idea what they were talking about), I can’t help but feel a kind of empathy for Martin Shkreli and relate to what he’s going through right now.

I realize that writing even a qualified show of support for “the most hated man in America” right now is probably not the best PR move I can make but I still pride myself on being an open book and being totally honest and transparent about everything on my mind so… I don’t know – I just wish people would be a little more hesitant / thoughtful before they make someone the target of all of their anger and hate.

For the record, regardless of all the things I don’t know about or understand, I support the rollback of Daraprim’s price. Regardless of who’s footing the bill, I think that all medication should be priced as low as is economically feasible. And if it turns out that I have even less of a clue than I thought and that this price-hike would have hurt people… just know that I’m speaking from a desire for all people to be happy and healthy and treated with the same respect that I think we all deserve. This post is not in support of the price hike, it’s just a call for reason and kindness.

I don't know what's in Martin Shkreli's heart but I do know that he's a human being and that hatred is never productive.
I don’t know what’s in Martin Shkreli’s heart but I do know that he’s a human being and that hatred is never productive.

I Could Never Love Anyone More Than I Hate Myself

"I Could Never Love Anyone More Than i Hate Myself ." 4/30/15. Acrylic paint. 36x36".
“I Could Never Love Anyone More Than i Hate Myself .” 4/30/15. Acrylic paint. 36×36″.

For as much as I talk and write about Wallis, I’ve never really shared the full story of how we first came together. I’ll save the cute elements of the story for later and just give you the important part that hasn’t seemed relevant until now.

When I met Wallis, she was actively addicted to heroin. She was trying to not be on heroin but (like most addicts) she was finding that to be a little tougher than she could handle. We hit it off really quickly but I told her on our very first night together that I couldn’t be around that sort of thing. I told her that if she wanted to continue spending time with me, she couldn’t be using drugs. (I’m way too fucking fragile to not relapse if a pretty girl has a needle and a bag of dope to share with me). She told me she didn’t wanna use. I invited her to go with me on a road trip for a week – up to Illinois and back. In the course of that trip, we fell in love. Which was a problem because it meant we needed to figure out what we were gonna do to keep her from going back to heroin once we got back to Jacksonville. We decided that she’d need to quit the strip club and get another job (nobody can stay off drugs in that environment – no addict anyway). I told her I’d cover her ’til she got a new job and then – when it was time for me to leave Jacksonville – she’d quit her new job and come with me. Sound familiar? I did for Wallis the same thing I had done for my best friend, Chris, a year prior. I brought her out on the road with me to keep her off drugs. To show her another kind of life. Like Chris had done, in exchange for “all expenses paid” she’d just help me with my set-up, selling art, whatever. (And like Chris, it pretty much worked. She never used once; not while traveling with me anyway).

When we left Jacksonville, it was for Minneapolis, where I was to be featured in a gallery exhibit. Halfway through the exhibition’s run, we returned to Jacksonville for a week, so I could bank at One Spark. On the drive down, Wallis started talking about going to see old friends – friends that she had, historically, used drugs with. I told her that this was a terrible idea. She argued that I needed to have faith in her. I responded that I’d heard that same exact sentence and had this same exact conversation many, many times in the past (with another girl) and that I knew perfectly well how this was gonna end. I told her that if she wasn’t willing to forego the reunion (and the inevitable relapse that’d come with it) that I couldn’t be her boyfriend anymore. One Spark was going to be an incredibly important week for me financially and I didn’t wanna fuck it up by spending the whole time worried about whether Wallis was safe. She said okay (as in okay, then you don’t need to be my boyfriend anymore). There was no hostility or drama beyond that but when we got to Jacksonville, we went our separate ways. Wallis relapsed that very first night (thought she wouldn’t tell me until later), but called me the next morning and spent the rest of the week by my side like a lost puppy. On the night before I was to return to Minneapolis, she broke down crying, told me she had fucked up, and that she still wanted to be with me.

And I took her back.

I first had the thought years and years ago, upon hearing Rivethead’s “In My Heart a Warehouse Burns For You.” The last lyric in the song is “I love you just as much as I hate the man.” I’m not exactly the biggest fan of cops or authority figures of any kind but when I’m really fired up and full of hate, there’s only one target it’s ever directed at: me. I still listen to that record (The Cheap Wine of Youth) all the time so the idea of captioning a painting with “I love you just as much as I hate myself” had occurred to me on a couple occasions but I didn’t wanna be derivative. Then, when I bought Pretty Boy Thorson’s An Uneasy Peace (the final song of which is called “I Love You Even More Than I Hate Myself”) I had a bit of a god dammit moment. That should’ve been mine! The song’s awesome and it doesn’t matter that the lyric is similar to another. I started thinking about it though – that line – and whether or not it was actually true (for me). I was dating Wallis and I absolutely loved her but did I love her more than I hated myself? I wasn’t really sure. I decided that sometimes I’m afraid that I could never love anyone more than I hate myself. After all, we had weathered the storm of her relapse but I was sabotaging our relationship bit by bit with my low self-esteem. I wrote about some of that anxiety in the bottom-right corner of the painting:

It’s so much harder to travel with a second person. Staying with friends feels like a much bigger imposition and I can’t stay with girls I meet. That’s probably the hardest part. But I love Wallis. (And I really like fucking her). And I think she needs me. I tried to leave her in Jacksonville but it didn’t work out. I hope she’s with me because she really loves me and not just ‘cause she’s scared to go back to “real life.” It if doesn’t work out, it’s probably gonna be because I can’t stop thinking about fucking other girls, which I know hurts her (and is really so selfish and dumb - and even mean - on my part) but really has nothing to do with her. (She’s so fucking hot and sexy and cute and beautiful). It’s just my insecurity and my compulsion to fuck every pretty girl, to prove to the world (and myself) just how fucking wonderful and desirable I am. It’s not helping that girls are throwing themselves at me these days. But I know (or think) that shit won’t make me happy. And in the end, I’m just gonna want someone to love me and I love Wallis.

There’s another, shorter string of text higher up in the painting, similarly inspired by punk rock: “I was listening to that Gateway District song where they sing, ‘I’m always falling way behind and you go on and on and on.’ If only I knew someone like that. Maybe I’d have someone to look to. Everybody I know is struggling. Everyone I know is as hopeless as I am. (Or worse).”

There’s a brighter, happier pair of sentences in the top-left corner – the product of a moment when everything was right in the world. Amazing sex with Wallis and I’m driving to the gallery showcasing my art while listening to “Another Way Out of Here” by The Murderburgers. The thought occurred to me that “nothing in this world makes me happier than an energetic, upbeat song about suicide.” I gave it a second thought. Is that true?  I concluded, “Except (maybe) hitting girls in the face during sex.” I smiled. That’s pretty funny. I’m pretty fucked up. The things that I enjoy are – well – a little odd. This was all well and good at the time. I posted a close-up of that part of the painting online and it was met with positive feedback and just a little bit of “Oh, Sam…” But before I even got the chance to write the statement for this painting (as I am now), that photograph – that caption – would make the rounds on the internet elsewhere and garner a very different kind of response. You see, when I wrote that, it was about sex with Wallis. Sex which includes light consensual fake-violence (or whatever the fuck you wanna call it). Wallis likes getting slapped in the face during sex. And I like doing it. Win-win, right? Well, yeah – until you get accused of a violent rape and the media picks up on the story and uses your art to support the idea that you’re the kind of person capable of violently raping a nineteen year-old girl you just met. Sitting in jail, I wondered how I was going to break the news to my friends and fans that I had been accused of this horrible fucking crime. I bailed out, Chris Spillane picked me up, and after ten minutes of discussion he tells me, “There’s one more thing we’ve gotta talk about, Sam. The publicity on this story is not good right now.” Publicity? This story? “What the fuck are you talking about?” I googled my name and discovered that I didn’t need to worry about breaking this news to anyone. Some reporter knew or figured out who I was, wrote an article about me complete with images of my art (like the “hitting girls in the face” one) and everyone else picked it up and ran with it. Suddenly, strangers on the internet were talking about how I was the kind of person who PUNCHES girls in the face. I was a scumbag and I was definitely guilty. What the fuck? I’ve never punched a girl in the face! I slap! Playfully! And only with girls that WANT me to! But none of that mattered. What mattered was that it was incredibly easy to paint me as some kind of violent sexual deviant who had finally gone off the rails and just started violently raping people. Freedom of expression has its fucking consequences apparently. The charges against me have since been dismissed by a judge who (after hearing all of the prosecution’s evidence and the girl’s testimony) ruled that there was no probable cause to believe that any crime had been committed but the evidence in the case isn’t all public yet and I’m still having to deal with (well-meaning) assholes who think I deserve to be castrated for something I never did. At the time of this writing, this is all still incredibly recent so I’m still working out exactly how a person does deal with something like that. (I’ll let you know when I figure it out).

Flashback to five months before that nightmare though – back to when I was still working on this painting (that’d later incriminate me in the court of public opinion). I wrote that I was feeling “stuck in a rut. This spot [on the street] isn’t super profitable [for selling prints]. I don’t even wanna write about what else is going on. I don’t want to muddle up this painting that I’m not even happy with. My little sister is killing herself and today I blocked her phone number because I’m tired of her asking for help, not taking my advice, and then texting me updates on her self-destruction that she knows will just upset me. I really need the validation of some sales to cheer me up today. If I make less than $100 today, I’m gonna feel super depressed.” And then – to remind myself what a dipshit I am for worrying about how much I make in one particular day, I added: “I’ve made $7,000 this month.” True as it was, it didn’t really help me feel any better in that moment. I continued writing – about an interaction I had with a guy who stopped to watch me paint: “Someone asked me yesterday if I really hate myself and why. I had a hard time articulating it [the way that I feel sometimes]. He said he thinks I’m not as unhappy as I let on. I’d do a much better job explaining it to him today: I’M UGLY, PALE, OUTTA SHAPE, MEAN, SHITTY, POOR, FEARFUL, AND IN A CONSTANT STATE OF STARVATION FOR VALIDATION.”

Reading that now, remembering that day – it’s kinda scary. Everything in my life was going so well and I still had this monster inside me, gnawing at my insides, telling me that everything was awful. That I was awful. I’m really grateful that I don’t feel that way about myself all the time. Arguably, my life is way more fucked up now (on account of the VIOLENT RAPE ACCUSATION) but – I don’t know – I feel better today. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to fight this awful thing. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to become stronger. Maybe it’s because enough other people hate me now that I can take a break on the self-loathing. I don’t know. I’m not sure. But after separating in late-June and spending two months mostly apart, Wallis and I are back together full-time. We’re living together in an apartment in Chicago and it’s been really great. And you know what? I love her WAY more than I hate myself. Not just ‘cause I’m not hating myself so much right now but… This girl… After all we’ve been through. After all I’ve done for her and all she’s done for me… Words are insufficient to express my gratitude, affection, and love for her. I’m probably gonna marry her.

And you know what? When it comes to “falling way behind” versus “going on and on and on,” maybe I do a little more of the latter than I allow myself to recognize sometimes. Maybe I do a lot more of it.

HAPPY ENDING.



“I Love You Even More” by Pretty Boy Thorson & The Falling Angels


“Another Way Out of Here” by The Murderburgers


“Waves and Cars” by The Gateway District

“In My Heart a Warehouse Burns For You” by Rivethead