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…
I made this on the day that I first tried to sell my artwork. It’s kind of embarrassing. Beneath the bolder caption is some less legible text: “Fill your arms with paint. Sorry. I fill my arms with paint. Or I want to anyway. Um. Metaphorically. This thing is kind of cool. I guess it is what I thought it’d be. I feel selfish though. Like I’m not watching the other bands.”
Translation: Dumb phrase that sounds poetic. Apology for not speaking in the first person (as we’re taught in treatment). Analogy about using artwork in place of heroin to manage my anxiety. Craft Fest [in St. Pete] is kind of cool and about what I expected it to be. I haven’t looked at anything any of the other people are selling at their tables and I feel guilty in the same way I might if I were playing a show and didn’t go inside to watch any of the bands before/after my own.
I felt weird about all of that so I decided to just write out my bluntest, most human feelings on top of it: “Give me money and praise and I’ll give you this.”
Alex and I went to go see the “Everything is Terrible” holiday show at Sun-Ray tonight. When we walked out of the theater, there was a big gaping hole on the wall where one of my paintings once hung. I asked what happened and was handed an envelope with more money in it than I’ve ever been given for a single painting. Somebody bought it right on the spot and gave instructions to tell me that I’m “an international artist now” because it’s going in their home in Paris. So that’s pretty fucking awesome. And (like Beachtown Grafitti) – at the time of this one’s sale – it was also my favorite: Snowflakes Anonymous.
I’m really wrapped up in a “project” right now that’s costing me a lot of money and won’t pay anything (it’s not for me – it’s for some people that I care about). I was stressing about it earlier today but just told myself that it’s a nice thing to do and I don’t need to get all nervous because I like to believe that things will always work out when I’m making good, positive choices. And then this happened tonight so… Life’s kinda cool, right?
Here’s a song that’s rad as fuck.
Numbered, signed, and sealed Give Me Money and Praise prints are available in my webstore. If you’re interested in purchasing the original, get in touch.
This image was an accident. It was just a piece of paper, on my desk, beneath something that I was actually working on. I brought it with me to work on while I tabled at Indie Market [the day I painted “Roller Skating Sideways Through Blood” and “Getting Greedy“]. Ultimately, I didn’t do anything to it; instead, opting to use it as a statement about THE VALUE OF ART. (Wow! I sure am thoughtful and interesting!)
Set up on the sidewalk across from me were some kids selling a socialist newspaper they had written and published. When I was younger, I might have thought that was kind of cool and impressive but – at this point – I couldn’t help but marvel at how incredibly fucking fruitless of an endeavor that must be. To publish a socialist newspaper in Tampa, Florida. I mean – what kind of a person thinks that they’re going to make the slightest fucking bit of a difference with something like that? I mean – ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Not to mention: how incredibly fucking boring.
I picked my “Value of Art” piece back up to add the words: “AND SOCIALISM!”
Though I saw the similarity between this piece and their newspaper even then, it’s only in hindsight that I see the similarity between their newspaper and everything that I do. After all, if their paper is even slightly worth a shit, I’m sure they turn someone on to a new idea every once in a while and set them on a path to… something or other… I’m sure they’ve made some kind of a positive difference in someone’s life. And I’m sure it gives a sense of purpose to theirs.
So while – on some level – I might think that publishing a socialist newspaper is a total waste of fucking time… I’ve got to admit that it’s roughly equivalent to everything I’ve ever made and everything I ever will make. So – you know – power to the proletariat or what-the-fuck-ever.
5×6″ prints of “I’m Publishing a Socialist Newspaper in Tampa, Florida” are available in my webstore. The original sold earlier this year.
I’m still sick and it’s bumming me out. I think one of those two new paintings I’ve been talking about is done though. If so, it’ll be online tomorrow… So… that’s kinda cool, I guess.
“I get a physical at least once a year. Not by design. It’s part of most places’ intake process.”
I don’t remember if I had this idea or if I just drew something that developed into a kid in a straight jacket and then added the caption after the fact. Either way, it’s silly but it’s not really a joke. The only check-ups I’ve had in years were all in treatment centers, mental wards, and methadone clinics.
I’m still outta town, visiting a friend. Today, I met James; he’s seven years old and really great at Mad Libs. For example:
Yesterday my friend Poop and I walked across town to see Santa at our local poop store. But there was a long line of kids waiting to poop with Santa. As expected, he was a big, round poop who wore a bright red poop. Whenever a little kid came up to him, Santa would sit the child on his poop and ask, “Have you been a good little poop this year?”
James has been lucky to find his niche early in life and I admire his confidence in ignoring his detractors and refusing to deviate or stray from his vision. He knows what works and he delivers.
Granted – I’m out of mind but, for an emotional basket case, I’m a pretty nice kid. I’m friendly. And because I isolate and know that I shouldn’t, chances are – that if you ask me – I’ll probably hang out with you.I have enough of an interest in people (and interact with them so rarely) that I’ll sit and talk with just about anyone for an hour.
I’m trying to eke out a living as an artist. That’s not the easiest thing to do and I’m not above charity. Last week, I saw some guy with his hands full and I offered to help him. It took me all of thirty seconds and I certainly didn’t expect to be compensated, but he pulled out a five dollar bill. I paused – unsure whether or not I should accept it. But I did and I thanked him. If he felt that my little bit of help was worth five dollars, I’m not gonna tell him he’s wrong. Five dollars makes a difference in my life and I was grateful for it.
I was organizing my prints at Sun Ray and some guy asked me if the art on the walls was mine. I talked to him for a while, he was friendly enough, said he collects art, said he couldn’t make it to the opening tomorrow but that he wanted to get in touch later and asked for my phone number [which isn’t something I’m protective of; I even have it listed, here, on the internet]. I wrote it on one of my cards and gave it to him. “I really wanna keep in touch,” he said. ” I can really help you out. What I’m really interested in is hearing more about your background, maybe over a meal.”
“Yeah, okay, cool…” I said somewhat warily, trying to be polite, trying to not be socially awkward. (I have a hard time knowing when it’s me that’s being weird). If I take him at his word, after all, all of that would be cool. I mean, I (CLEARLY) don’t have a problem talking about myself, I eat food, and I’m stoked as fuck to sell my artwork. So… sounds like a win? Even if his choice of words is a little strange…
And then I realized that I was falling for the same shit I’ve fallen for before. And I remembered something else he had said in our conversation that now made a lot more sense to me. How he was disappointed the last time he bought a painting because, as he put it, “I was hoping the artist would have been a lot more appreciative.”
Being put in this position sucks because it makes me feel like a prostitute. I don’t want to come right out and say, “Hey, I’d be happy to eat lunch and talk to you, and more than happy to sell you a painting, but I’m not going to have sex with you.” Because no one’s actually said anything about sex and it makes ME feel like an asshole for jumping to that conclusion. But I fucking know that’s what it’s about. And I also (unfortunately) know from experience that even if I do state all that explicitly, an attempt is going to be made to coax me into meeting up under the pretense of selling art and having a meal and then I’m still gonna get propositioned. And even if I’m not, I’m still gonna feel like a prostitute because it’s not really my art that the guy is trying to buy, it’s me (or my time or my attention or [whatever]). That doesn’t sound so bad, but I just can’t do it. Even without the bullshit art pretense. I know because I tried once.
The offer was a hundred bucks (paid up front) to meet at a Starbuck’s for a cup of coffee and sit and talk for an hour. I thought about it and – like I said – if there wasn’t money involved, I’d meet up with somebody and talk for an hour, so why not? If somebody I don’t know is asking me to sit and talk, they’re probably pretty lonely. It seems like a kind thing to do and maybe I’ll learn something. And in a case like this – where money is offered – well, I wouldn’t have asked for it, but if someone wants to give it to me, I’ll accept. It might not be as altruistic, but that doesn’t make it unkind.
So it seemed like the rational choice was to go. The only “why not” I could think of was that it made me feel uncomfortable. And when I reflected on that, it struck me as being somehow homophobic and I didn’t like what that said about me. So I went. I walked into the coffee shop and… turned around just as quickly, went right out the door, got on my scooter, and sped the fuck away. It was too fucking weird. I felt uneasy. It felt wrong or, at the very least, it definitely didn’t feel right. No one should wanna pay me just to hang out with them. I’M COOL BUT I’M NOT THAT COOL. Besides, this asshole didn’t even know whether or not I was cool. He didn’t know me at all.
I thought about it afterward and couldn’t quite figure it out – my reaction, I mean. Was it homophobic? My gay friends don’t make me uncomfortable. Being hit on by a guy doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Somehow, I’ve only just now arrived at a satisfying conclusion. It has nothing to do with sexuality; it’s about respect. I might be a self-promoting little fuckshit but it’s not really me that I’m selling. It was Traffic Street Records, now it’s my art, and (in a sense) it’s sometimes even my personality. (There’s a component of myself in all of it). But it’s not me. No one can actually buyme.I’m not for fucking sale.
Obviously, this stuff makes me a little angry but I’m still sympathetic. After all, I don’t think anyone out there is acting with the intent of fucking with me; we’re all just trying to get by and find some kind of happiness and we all act selfishly (to whatever degree) sometimes. But I’ve decided that I’m not interested in playing this sort of game or walking this balance beam. If you wanna buy my art because you like my art, that’s fucking awesome. But if you wanna buy it ’cause you want something else from me – with all due respect – fuck off. I might be broke but I’m not that desperate. I’d rather wait ’til I find a buyer that actually appreciates it.
If I didn’t make and wear shit like this, I probably wouldn’t have these problems but… fuck that. It’s my RIGHT to be fucking hilarious.
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).