Tag Archives: 12-13-14

Raygun Youth

"Raygun Youth." 8/3/13. Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel. 24x6".
“Raygun Youth.” 8/3/13. Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel. 24×6″.

I painted this for the cover of Billy Raygun’s posthumous discographic cassette. Each of the three bits of text is a lyric from a song of theirs that means something to me.

I thought I heard you calling; it was just the emptiness ringing in my head. I still think about you a lot. I still think about you a lot. I still think about you a lot.

In April 2011, my six-year relationship with Taylor came to a close. She broke up with me. I didn’t take it well. I had been pretty strung out on heroin, in a pretty bad way, for a little while but had just gotten into my first “treatment program” a few days prior (it was just methadone maintenance – not exactly the best path to wellness but what did I know?) On top of that, final exams for my final semester at Georgetown Law were about to begin and I hadn’t been to any of my classes all year. I didn’t even own the textbooks. I had a lot of studying to do if I was gonna graduate on time and I knew god damn well that if I didn’t graduate now that it was never gonna happen. I needed to keep it together (get it together) real, real fast if I was gonna keep everything in my life from crumbling into absolute shit, misery, and failure. Between the methadone, the heroin, the Adderall, and the sleep deprivation that goes along with studying in 24-hour shifts, I was … not entirely well. For a while there, I started to experience regular auditory hallucinations. Mostly, it was people (strangers) screaming at each other. It was like channel surfing on a TV where every single show featured nothing but loud, angry people. Occasionally though, I’d get a break in that and hear something softer and sweeter: “Sam…” It was a voice I knew; it was Taylor’s voice. Every single time, I’d turn around without fail, hoping (and actually believing) that this time she’d actually be standing there. She never was (of course) but it still broke my heart a little bit every time. It was a miserable cycle of studying, drugs, and crying.

All of this care / not caring is killing me.

This lyric isn’t tied into any one specific memory as much as it serves as an all-encompassing description of my relationships (romantic and otherwise) throughout my life. Oscillating frantically back and forth between giving a shit and shutting down. Between feeling loved and feeling abandoned and rejected. Sometimes it seems like my emotions are wired to a light switch. It doesn’t take a lot to flip from “perfect” love to total apathy (or even hatred). And since “we’re attracted to those at our same level of sickness/health,” I’ve gotten mixed up with plenty of girls who are equally skilled at unintentional (often drug-fueled) emotional back-and-forth. There was one night in early 2012 when my then-girlfriend professed her deep, unending, profound love for me in one moment, and was swearing that I was a disgusting, ugly, unlovable piece of shit in the next. And before the hour was up, she was right back to telling me how wonderful I was. Experiences like that can fuck with a person…

I’ll just admit that it’s a different girl, the same old story.

When I half-heartedly tried to kill myself in December 2012, I didn’t write a suicide note, but I did scribble something down on the back of one of many scraps of paper that were laying around my room. All that it said: “different girl / same old story.


Ideally, I’d have held on to sharing this until this release was announced but – shit – it’s been more than six months since I painted it so… sorry, kids!

Here’s a stream of their self-titled full-length. The first song is the first song I quoted lyrics from.

Of Monsters and Giving a Shit

"Of Monsters and Giving a Shit." 12/13/12. Oil pastels. 12x18".
“Of Monsters and Giving a Shit.” 12/13/12. Oil pastels. 12×18″.

On the left half of this piece, I can still see a few of the words I wrote but not enough to make any sense of it. Two weeks from today, this piece will be a year old; it’s one of the last I made before I got the courage to stop completely obscuring the more serious/honest/vulnerable text in my art. All I really remember is that it was related to the girl at the center of all my 12/13/14 pieces and that the original sentiment was that – of all the things in the world to be scared of – the one I feared most was the prospect of really caring about another human being. I wrote a little bit about that back when I drew this…

That feeling when you wake up from a really good dream where everything worked out and you still have everything that you’ve lost – only to realize moments later, “Oh yeah… that’s not my life anymore. I’m in rehab for the third or fourth time this year.”

But there’s comfort in having lost everything – in having nothing. What else can you lose at that point? What’s there to be afraid of?

Yet, as I get better, I’m starting to get some of those things back. I’m starting to develop meaningful relationships again. And it’s pretty fucking terrifying. Giving a shit about other people (about anything really) opens the door to serious heartache and frustration.

But it’s worth it.


Status Update (12/1/13):

Yesterday was the last day of my exhibit at Sun-Ray but, when I went down there to check in, Tim and Shanna told me that I could keep half of the wall space I had been using. So – when I went down there today – I took everything apart and then put it back together within the confines of the space I’ve got now. In all, I have thirteen pieces up: five that were featured in the exhibit, plus eight new ones. I’m still a little shocked when I’m even tolerated somewhere so to actually have my welcome extended … it’s a pretty great feeling.

The last couple days have been a little hectic. I’ve been getting more emails than usual (from people reaching out) and I’m having a little trouble keeping up. It’s kinda strange ’cause (obviously) I’m not really qualified to help anyone but I think it’s a good thing that something about what I’m doing is hitting people in such a way that they’re comfortable sharing things with me that they don’t feel comfortable speaking about with anyone else. I think sometimes just the act of acknowledging something to another human being can have a powerful, healing effect. Still, it’s tough sometimes to figure out exactly how I should respond (especially via email which doesn’t really feel like the most compassionate means of communication).

On a sorta-related note, something kinda cool that’s been happening: the last three times I’ve left the house, I’ve been asked by a stranger if I’m … me … and then they’ve shared with me something about having seen my art and told me what they liked or how they related to it. That’s not totally new but it doesn’t usually happen this frequently and (again) it’s a pretty good feeling knowing that some of what I’m doing is getting through to people, even beyond my little punk rock bubble.

That’s all for tonight. I’m feeling grateful. For all this (and more).


Almost forgot: if you didn’t see it already, check out this little write-up about me! There are a couple small errors (like “bipolar” instead of borderline) but it’s really cool all the same. I met this girl on the street in Riverside about a month ago when she asked me, “What’s there to do in this city?” I took her to my art show and we spent about an hour together. I’m really honored to see all the nice things she had to say about me/my art ’cause my admiration for her bravery and what she’s doing with her life right now is about on the same level.


Signed/numbered 12×8⅙-inch “Of Monsters and Giving a Shit” prints are still available. The original piece sold in May.

Unspecified Selection From “The Worst Kinds of People: An Omnibus of Terrible”

"Unspecified Selection From 'The Worst Kinds of People: An Omnibus of Terrible.'" 12/7/12. Oil pastel. 12x17½.
“Unspecified Selection From ‘The Worst Kinds of People: An Omnibus of Terrible.'” 12/7/12. Oil pastel. 12×17½.

Unspecified Selection From "The Worst Kinds of People: An Omnibus of Terrible" #2 [image]There’s not much I can say that I haven’t already, in my statements for the other 12.13.14 pieces and others relating to codependency (like “Girls Are Not Pokemon“). As indicated in the graphic, this is a diagram of Figure 12.13.14 or (in reality) it’s a diagram of how I was feeling one day in December 2012 – like an interchangeable asshole, with a life not worth living.

However, as I mentioned on Thursday,  sometimes there really are fruits of being a contemptuous bag of dicks. In this case, it was my friend David asking me to adapt this drawing for use as a t-shirt for his label, John Wilkes Booth Records. They came out really great and you can pick ’em up in the JWB webstore for a measly $10.

TSt-017: Like Bats s/t cassetteAnd so long as you’re already throwing your money away, allow me to present the first release from Traffic Street in more than two years. Technically, it’s a reissue of the Like Bats EP we put out back in 2009 but this time around it’s on cassette and it includes something we’re choosing to keep secret because… well – there are only 100 copies so they’re going to sell whether we tell you or not and secrets are just more fun.

Buy cassettes here. Buy prints of (either version of) “Unspecified Selection” here.

For wholesale orders: United States / International.

The Second Day of My Life

"The Second Day of My Life." 12/4/12. Pen. 8x10".
“The Second Day of My Life.” 12/4/12. Pen. 6×7½”.

I drew this cartoon of an astronaut boxing a pirate, while sitting in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It was the same meeting the 12/13/14 thing started. It was also the day I finished reading my life story to my peers and counselor. It has no real significance, I was just trying to draw something a little bit unlike everything else that I draw.

  • The last time I was struck by that urge, I drew this.
  • The day that I started reading my life story, I drew this.
  • I chose the word “promise” for the same reason that, a week or so later, I drew this.

This is a really shitty, lazy update. I’ll make up for it later!

Life is cool though.

I Am Impossible

"First Day of My Life (Story)." 11/28/12. Colored pencil. 6x8½".
“I Am Impossible.” 11/28/12. Colored pencil. 6×8½”.

Jesse coined out and went on vacation with friends of her parents. She’ll be back, in two weeks, as an outpatient, and she’ll be living on property again. That makes me really, really happy. I don’t know what I would do if she left for good. She’s the source of all that’s good in my life. She’s what makes my life worth living. You know… since I had met her a couple weeks ago anyway.

We talk every day while she’s gone. I tell her about the note I got from Hal. She has something to tell me but won’t say what. I’ll get it out of her when I have her in person. I don’t think for a second that she’s relapsed. But she has. And that’s not fair.

Jesse got back two days ago and, yesterday, started to really push. She wants to get high. “That’s a terrible idea,” I tell her. But then something MONUMENTAL happens. This morning, she went off-property to go do something other than hang out with me. Naturally, I’m feeling rejected and depressed and  am in a really dark place again [unreasonable as that may be]. As she always does when I get this way, she’s distanced herself, which is – of course – making me feel even more rejected. But I know how I can feel better and win her back.

I call Stacy. She’s at the hospital because her sister is giving birth but – if I can meet her there – she’s got some thirtys on her that she’ll sell me. [Florida. It’s always pills with these kids.] Close enough. I set it up and look for Jesse. When I see her, I creep up with a grin that tells her everything she needs to know: “Go sign out and park your car at the strip mall. Soon as the coast is clear, I’ll sneak off property and meet you. We’ve got an errand to run.”


That was part two of the story I started to tell yesterday.

I’m pretty sure anyone reading this already knows but just in case… A “thirty” is a 30mg oxycodone pill. More commonly known as “blues,” but I’ve always hated that name. It’s too cute. If you had asked me about it back in the day, I’d probably have said something like… “I shoot heroin and – absent that – synthetic heroin. But never blues. There’s nothing colorful or fun about this.”

Really, I think I was just upset that my SUPER COOL DRUG HABIT had been co-opted by half the dorks in Florida and I didn’t wanna use the same terminology as them. I was dangerous; they were cuttin’ loose! … Fuck that.

[Check it out, guys! You can be a douchey elitist when it comes to just about anything!]

The drawing I chose for this entry was drawn on the day that I shared the first half of my life story in group at Tranquil Shores. It was also a day on which I was similarly upset because I felt similarly rejected by a girl that I was similarly in treatment with.

The tombstone behind me reads: “Sickle Cell: November 4, 1985 to Any Day Now.” The original drawing was damaged before I ever got a good picture or scan of it, so this image is the best I can do.


Face Thing

"Face Thing." 12/12/12. Oil pastel and watercolor. 12x34".
“Face Thing.” 12/12/12. Oil pastel and watercolor. 12×34″.

For a long time, I thought this was the most embarrassing thing I’d ever made. I was hesitant to even call it “art.”


Immediately after figuring out how I felt about myself, I decided to see if I could use the same approach to figure out how I felt about the girl. With my non-dominant hand, I wrote until I had completely filled the two sheets in front of me (taped together earlier for some other purpose). My only pauses were to change colors and even that was done without real consideration – a quick swap when I felt the urge.  I tried my best to be totally blunt, perfectly honest, and entirely concentrated on my feelings. I didn’t want to rationalize, bullshit, or otherwise fuck myself up. I wanted what came out of me to be real. I’m not sure whether or not it was…

Some parts were written in such a way that they wouldn’t make sense to anyone else – and there was no punctuation in any of it – so I’ve made a few minor edits.


Your first group, the buddhist monk we had coming was running late. I was manic but I caught myself and asked the group to keep me in check. I didn’t want to be a spazz on your first day even though I preemptively disliked you. (You seemed too level-headed and assembled to like me).

I didn’t like the way the other guys talked about (and sometimes to) you. We didn’t talk much but you were nicer than I’d assumed and smarter too. When I ran into you after getting kicked out, you were so sweet to me. I thought, “I’d like to have sex with her.”

I didn’t really understand friendship but ,when I came back, we became friends. It was outstanding. We were exceptional. I liked it when we’d touch but knew that was the limit. We had both made that mistake in treatment before. Our counselors said they were worried about us getting too close. We talked about it and you said, “If this were last year, we’d be in trouble.”

We respected the physical boundaries we were given (for the most part) but got carried away otherwise – we loved each other too much. I didn’t know what was real. A pretty girl, an interesting boy, codependency issues, rehab and limited options… Was it love or something like it, or just compulsion and fear?

You didn’t seem too interested when I presented my life story. (Punishment for how I acted at your first step?) It hurt. That and more. It got worse. I needed to talk. I still don’t understand that night. I  got mean enough to get rid of you when all I really wanted was for your door to open.

I couldn’t handle it. I told the truth and you denied everything but, in between, I realized that I really did care about you, contrary to what I thought and said when I first spilled our guts to everyone, while you were away. It gets worse: I think i love you. I admit, I’m still not 100% but I’m going with it – even if you hate me. And not ’cause I wanna be tragic.

I still want to have sex with you but, mostly, I want to be friends.

For real.


Two months later, when I had my coin out, the staff decided that we should have an “art show” – everything I had made since arriving (more than one hundred pieces) was hung up on display in the group room. Each had a title card with a short statement. The one next to this piece said, “If this thing actually ends up on the wall at my coin-out then I am way fucking braver than I have ever suspected. And way more honest. Well, honest about disclosing my art and my thoughts from the past (as evidenced in my art). There’s very little that’s honest about this thing in and of itself.” I’m not totally sure how I feel about that. The things I said with this piece were definitely honest when I wrote them… By February though, I had convinced myself that I had been seriously deluding myself – to such an extent that “the truth” was something completely beyond my reach. Today, I think that was probably an example of my “putting walls back up” to protect myself. My feelings were real and I shouldn’t have tried to discount them just because things played out a certain way and I now (then) felt silly about them.


tipjarThis piece was later cut up and merged with its title card and a related piece I’ve also thought of as “embarrassing.” It’s listed for sale in my webstore but – if anyone wants it – you can name your price. Seven dollars should cover postage and (beyond that) I don’t care about the money.

Update (a couple hours later): Wow – kinda funny. I just looked at the Storenvy listing for this piece and it has a different statement that I wrote back when I first listed it for sale (sometime in August, I think). It’s interesting how much my attitudes and perceptions shift over time.

Why I Fail

"Why I Fail." 12/8/12. Tempera, watercolor, oil pastel. 9x12".
“Why I Fail.” 12/8/12. Tempera, watercolor, oil pastel. 9×12″.

Initially, this was to be a painting of me and this girl, having a picnic under the shade of a tree. You know – cute, innocent. Except not really.

Toward the end of 2012, there were a couple times in the van when I took out my headphones and noticed that the female patients were a little more giggly than usual – and talking about trees. On both occasions, I was the only male in the van and had been listening to music but it was still pretty dumb insofar as it was painfully obvious. Trees was a code word (and not a particularly clever one). I didn’t say anything though (who was I to ruin their fun?) I just rolled my eyes and put my headphones back in.

But that’s how I got the idea and I thought was really clever. On the surface, it’d be really sweet and innocuous but – underlying that – something a little bolder. I wanted it to say, “Hey, I like you, you like me, we’re really cute together,” as well as, “I know what your little code word means and – oh –  here’s a picture of my dickhow ’bout that?

So I set to work. First thing’s first: I needed to trace my penis (you know – the “tree” under which we’d be having our picnic). I chose not to start tracing from the bottom edge because I wanted to leave a little ambiguity. (Like, “Is this the whole thing? Maybe! Maybe not!”). After all, you don’t wanna give it all away, right? I still needed to camouflage it to some extent with branches and leaves, but I decided to draw the two of us sitting in the grass first.

I couldn’t fucking do it. I couldn’t get the characters to look the way that I wanted. I erased and began again over and over until I got frustrated. And then it occurred to me: this wonderful new thing (art) that had recently come into my life — I didn’t enjoy it because it was a way for me to showcase my dazzling fucking wit (or my penis), I enjoyed it because it was a way for me to legitimately work through my feelings and express myself authentically. This – what I was currently engaged in – was bullshit. And what do you know? Like so many of my mistakes and fuck-ups, both big and small, what was at the root of this misstep? My dick.

I changed course, painted without intent, and looked at the page. Yeah – there it was, right in front of me: WHY I FAIL.


Aside from a commission, my first sale was for two pieces: this painting and a drawing.

My first sale as an artist was a painting of my dick.

The buyer had to have seen it, right? Jacob certainly spotted it when I posted it on Facebook back in December. I opted to respond vaguely with comments like, “Eye of the beholder, my friend!” (even when he posted his own derivative work on Imgur to support his interpretation).

I think I was scared because if I acknowledged  it, anyone that saw it could play mathematician based on the dimensions of the painting. Unless I also added that it wasn’t my entire penis. And then I’m suddenly the kid on the internet writing about how “my dick is at least this big (and who knows how much bigger?)!

Which – now – I totally am anyway.

[By the way,  the answer: not that much].