Tag Archives: August 2013

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.

You Make Me a Worse Person (I’ll Feed My Negativity and Roast in My Fucking Hate)

"You Make Me a Worse Person (I'll Feed My Negativity and Roast in My Fucking Hate)." 6/21/13. Colored pencil. 9x12".
“You Make Me a Worse Person (I’ll Feed My Negativity and Roast in My Fucking Hate).” 6/21/13. Colored pencil. 9×12″.

I had to bring my scooter with me because I was going to be in south Florida for the next month. When I loaded it into the back of her car, I accidentally scraped the bumper. She was angry.

The document verifying that I had completed my community service was due with my probation officer that afternoon. I asked if we could stop somewhere to print it out before we left town. That was also a problem.

We were in no hurry and my probation was on the line. This was important to me. Why was it an issue? I didn’t understand. I was hurt so I didn’t insist upon it; I just got in the car, dejected.

We had a four-hour drive and in that time we didn’t speak at all. Eleven days after moving in together and just two days after the explosion of sunshine and fucking rainbows that was “Out All Day,” this is what came out of me… In bits and pieces, it says:

FUCK EVERYTHING. I’m ready to be dead now. This is a drain. I failed today. Can I say “everyday?” Fuck community service. Fuck being a responsible human being. Fuck the scratches on your stupid fucking car. Fuck our apartment. You make me a worse person. I’ll feed my negativity and roast in my fucking hate.

[If you’re not familiar with borderline personality disorder, that’s what it looks like]. Here’s what I wrote about this piece when I was done with it:

I don’t wanna share this ’cause I don’t wanna give people the impression that I’m unhappy. But fuck that. Real life isn’t a simple narrative on a straight trajectory in one direction. My art can say, “I couldn’t be happier,” one day, and “fuck everything, I’m ready to be dead now” on the next. That’s reality and I’m not into painting a picture of my life that’s any less honest than I’m capable of being.

This scribble isn’t exactly “art fully realized” but I held on to it like I would a photograph. It’s a document, an artifact, or a memory – and not a bad one. This was cathartic and it was an opportunity…

I didn’t have my website yet but I was already regularly sharing my artwork and (sometimes) related writings through my Facebook page. To that extent, my day-to-day and my emotional process had become a public spectacle of sorts. I always feel awkward acknowledging this but my art has come to mean something to people (friends, fans of my old record label, even total strangers). I’ve received more than a few emails and messages from people telling me how powerfully they’ve been affected by something I made or wrote. I’ve been regularly called “an inspiration.” [I feel especially awkward acknowledging that]. But it’s been amazing, encouraging, and – in turn – has truly inspired me. One consequence, however, is that I feel like I have a responsibility now. With this piece, I had a choice: Did I want to be some icon of hope or did I want to be honest about what my life, in recovery, is really like? In sharing it, I opted for the latter, and I’ve done my best to honor that decision every day since.


When I first added this piece to the website, there was a journal entry from that day (9/22/13) along with it.  I later decided to make that a separate entry.

Journal: September 22, 2013

I was updating Storenvy listings when I found the original statement that I had written for “Out All Day” back in June but hadn’t included when I wrote my blog entry around it in early August. So I went back just now and worked it in.

In doing so, of course, I also read what I did write at that point: something about how I had sold a bunch of records and books that day but no artwork. And how I had some ideas as to why that might be, but that the reasons didn’t matter. That’d be true if it weren’t for the fact that I was afraid to acknowledge them. But I can now.

In early August, I was doing my best to be positive and upbeat but I think it was coming across in my art and my writing that all was not well. I had just wrapped with the shooting of “No Real Than You Are,” one of my first entries on this website was a painting detailing a relapse from earlier that day, and I think I looked a lot like a disaster waiting to happen.

I was used to a regular flow of feedback from posting my artwork on Facebook. When I got home to Jacksonville and launched this website in the last week of July, I half-suspected that I’d start to get more than ever (especially in light of the text content I was posting to accompany the art). That didn’t happen. Instead, my stream of feedback ceased almost entirely. After a week or so, I asked my friend David if he had any guesses as to why that might be. “I don’t think people know what to say,” he told me.

At the time, I thought that meant that the things I was putting up here were so earnest and vulnerable that they made people uncomfortable. There might be a little truth to that but, in hindsight, I think it’s mostly because I looked like I was about to fall – back into heroin, misery, and shit – and like I had no idea it was coming. If nothing else though, I know that my soul felt rotten and my strained optimism wasn’t hiding it. I had fallen apart to some extent – more than I was willing to let on (and I still haven’t talked about everything that happened with anyone other than my counselors and a few close friends). I’m sure I’ll eventually get to the point where I’m able to be as open about that period of time as I am about most of my life but – for now – I’m just happy that I pulled through it.

While Heather certainly deserves a lot of credit for my well-being overall, I think that – had it not been for Rational Anthem and the trip they took me on – things could have turned out much differently and much worse. I can say without any reservations that I’m really happy to be exactly where I am right now. – I’m really happy that I don’t have to remind myself to be grateful right now.

Granted, I was in a rough spot last night but those things happen. In fact, in that respect, tonight’s a lot like the night when I actually made “Out All Day” – just twenty four hours after the emotional turmoil that created “Blueprint for a Successful Evening.” I just hope that from here my next piece doesn’t turn out to be along the lines of the one that came next.

Girls Are Not Pokemon

"Girls Are Not Pokemon." 3/26/13. Colored pencil and pen. 8x10".
“Girls Are Not Pokemon.” 3/26/13. Colored pencil and pen. 6×8″.

I’ve been to three different rehabs and – at each – I got involved with a girl. Though it only (directly) got me kicked out of treatment once, it was never not a serious problem. If I include life outside of rehab, in times when I was trying to stay clean, I’ve relapsed with six different girls (and, each time, while upset about something that happened with me and the girl). That number doesn’t include times I’ve relapsed without [the] girl but while upset about something with her. Heroin is dangerous for me, but girls are probably more dangerous. I first started trying to get clean in November 2010 and – in all the time since – there have been plenty of occasions when I’ve been in dangerous situations where drugs were available through someone I was with (and/or someone was actually using around me). When that person’s been male, I’ve never once caved and gotten high, but when it’s been a girl that I’m even slightly interested in (i.e. most girls), I’ve found myself with a needle in my arm just about every time.

At Tranquil Shores, this was one of the issues that we spent the most time on. In my fifth month as an inpatient, Alexis, the girl with whom I was the most mixed up, moved out. She was signed up to come in three times a week for outpatient treatment but, two weeks later, stopped showing up. We were talking regularly by phone even after she left, but it wasn’t long before I lost touch with her too. She fell off – back into drugs – and lives behind bars now. I could have easily been right there with her when it all went down.

So now there were exactly zero girls in my age range at Tranquil Shores but I had others in the area that I had met at AA or NA meetings that I was constantly texting and meeting up with. (And I was doing that long before I lost touch with Alexis). Nothing serious happened between (any of) us, but I came pretty close to making some bad decisions on more than a few occasions. And that I even came close is insane. How many times did I need to put my life at risk just ‘cause I liked the way some girl smiled at me? But I couldn’t help it. It was the definition of compulsive behavior. I felt like I needed it.

A year prior, at the Wellness Resource Center, after getting caught with a girl (somewhere that we shouldn’t have been, doing something we shouldn’t have been doing), I was sitting in my room, contemplating the trouble I was about to be in. I didn’t want to get kicked out because I knew that I wasn’t “better” yet. I knew I’d get fucked up again and fuck everything up. I remember sitting there and thinking, “I don’t care if they never let me anywhere near her again. I don’t care if they basically lock me in my room. So long as I know that she’s also locked up in her room, sitting there pining for me, still in love with me, that’s all I need. I don’t ever need to see her again.

I think that’s all it’s really about for me. I just want someone to love me or – more specifically – to be in love with me. I needed for someone to think that I was the most important person in their world. The best person. Their favorite. Once I’d get that, it never really changed anything. I never actually felt any better or less insecure. It seemed so at times, in short little moments, but if that had really been the case, then I wouldn’t have been constantly pursuing multiple girls, even when I already had one “on the hook.” [That term sounds shitty but it conveys the idea I’m trying to get across. Also, it is shitty].

Sitting in group in December 2012, I did some math. I had six girls that I was trying to juggle to varying degrees. While I’d like to write it all of as inauthentic codependent bullshit – to be honest – with half of them I wasn’t even sure [and I’m still not]. I thought there might be (at least some spark of) authentic love. Yet I was still leading on the three girls with whom I knew it was just bullshit.

What was I really after? What was the point? A thought occurred to me; it was really silly but it was also totally dead on, which just made it that much funnier…

Girls are not pokemon – I do not “gotta catch ’em all…”


If you know me personally you might be looking at the date on this cartoon and thinking, “What the fuck? You were already dating Heather by then – that’s fucked up.” [I decided to turn the idea into a cartoon back when I thought of it, but it wasn’t ’til two or three months later that I actually drew it].

Originally, I set out to write this entry about a different piece but I kind of had to throw all of this stuff about my codependent traits and behaviors out there as background info first. I’ll get to the other one tomorrow. [Update: That one’s online now too].

Anyway, I really love this cartoon. I love how superficially cute / innocuous it is but how the truth to it is kind of dark, sad, and pathetic. So often, I’ve let myself to sink to the greatest depths of hell because of something a girl said (or didn’t say) to me. I’ve dwelled in shit and misery for days, on account of facial expressions that I’d later discover I had completely misread. I’ve let my emotions, as triggered by girls, run and ruin my life.

But I’m getting better, you guys! For serious this time!


  • The original drawing already sold but hit me up to buy a 6×8″ print.
  • For more on my relationships at this point in my life, check out “Autobiography.”

We’re Not Hiring

"Five Star Enterprise." 8/28/13. White-out, marker, and pen on cardboard.  11x14".
“We’re Not Hiring (or: A Like Bats Fan Walks Into an Office).” 8/28/13. White-out, marker, and pen on cardboard. 11×14″.

“You’ve got a five star enterprise here, and it sounds like a great opportunity, but – what, with huffing gasoline in mom’s basement and wearing out my Like Bats cassette, my schedule just can’t accommodate anything new right now. Thanks for letting me use your bathroom though.”

I thought of this cartoon back in March when I was planning on reissuing Like Bats demo as a cassette. Anyway, the Like Bats cassette hasn’t happened yet for a couple of reasons, but I requested a new quote on it today and decided that it was TIME TO DRAW THIS CARTOON! (The plan was to get it printed up on a poster that’d come free with the cassette). Maybe we’ll still do that. I don’t know! (I haven’t talked to the kids yet). In fact, they’re hearing about/seeing this cartoon for the first time just like everybody else.

I put off smoking cigarettes (and eating/drinking) all afternoon just so I could get it done. I think it came out well. I like it!

Here’s a new song by one of my favorite bands.


"Mowgli." 8/20/13. Watercolor, marker, pen, acrylic, collage. 9x12".
“Mowgli.” 8/20/13. Watercolor, marker, pen, acrylic, collage. 9×12″. (The last of the pieces made while on tour with Rational Anthem earlier this month).

Zack and his mom were in the front yard when we pulled up to get him. From inside the van, I heard him say my name and when we spilled out, he pointed me out and said something about “Mowgli.” I thought that was pretty funny seeing as we have pretty similar taste in attire and I’m constantly scratching at real or imagined bugs in my hair. It’s an apt comparison.

It's an apt comparison.


Today is Tuesday – that’s my one day of the week when I have a routine in the outside world. I meet with my counselor at 10 AM and then go to an NA meeting at noon. It’s a reason to put clothes on. The rest of the time, I tend to not be very dressed. I ride around town without shirt or shoes because my only destinations are Alex and Angie’s (to do yardwork) or the convenience store up the street from my house. Sometimes I keep a shirt or shoes in my backpack though just in case. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m pretty free. I do whatever I want to do. Not only do I not have to put on a uniform or a collared shirt every day, I don’t really have to put on much of anything. That’s only significant insofar as what it says about the world and life I’ve built for myself.

I made plenty of friends in the years when I was a college student, but I only made one friend in college. He’s pretty much my only non-punk rock friend. By which I just mean that he’s my only friend that didn’t at least grow up in the punk scene – he’s my only friend that’s not connected to that world at all. He’s married, he has a mortgage, an advanced degree, and he just got a promotion at work. He’s well-adjusted (relatively speaking). When we were in school together, I was always cynical and angry and just chock full o’ nihilism, gloom, and doom. As much as he enjoyed that comedy (because it was so over-the-top as to be parodical) he’d try to get me to see the bright side and not be such a miserable little shit all the time. Tonight he sent me a text to ask how I was doing. “Great! Working on a huge painting right now. How are you?” His response was a little less enthusiastic so I called him.

He’s bored with work, with life. He doesn’t get to spend his time doing the things that he likes to do. Years ago, on the occasions when he was feeling a little less cheery about the world, I couldn’t offer him anything but commiseration (and maybe some I-told-you-sos). But tonight we talked for a little over an hour and (at the risk of being presumptuous) I’d like to think that I was actually able to help him feel a little better. Together, we came up with an idea. A change he could make to free up more of his time so that he can get a little more enjoyment out of this whole “being alive” thing.  I don’t know if it’ll necessarily turn out to be the right thing, but that’s not really the point.

I’ve gone over this before but… fuck what the world wants you to do. I don’t have a job, I don’t own a home, and I run around this city looking like Mowgli from the Disney Jungle Book. He asked me what am I gonna do if something falls into my lap that I can’t handle, that I can’t afford. We went back and forth for a while over different hypotheticals, discussing different outcomes for different problems but the “what if”s kept coming. Finally, I came up with an answer that satisfied him. “I don’t know what I’d do. But none of that stuff has happened. I have everything that I need today. If something changes tomorrow, then I’ll deal with it tomorrow. I don’t live in fear or with anxiety over what might happen. I live for today and – today – I’m happy.” He liked that. Whatever it is that he needs to change, I hope he figures it out and follows through. He deserves to be happy and it’s not outside of his reach. (The same can be said of just about everyone).

Speaking of Zack (um… like, nine paragraphs ago). He told me last week that my worldview is  (are you ready?) a little immature! (Unbelievable, right?!?)

If that is at all true though, it’s at least partially his fault.

“Do what you really wanna do. Don’t fucking ‘yes, sir’ through your whole life like a fool, kid. I hope you don’t really need the lies. Don’t fucking waste your time with the world always dragging you down.”

Moving Boxes (and Little Else)

"Moving Boxes (and Little Else)." 5/24/13. Tempera and pen on paper. 12x16".
“Moving Boxes (and Little Else).” 5/24/13. Tempera and pen on paper. 12×16″.

She might be scared, but that has nothing to do with me, my choices, my attitude, or my … how I’ve been.
I’m ambitious and I have confidence but moving out starts the ticking of the clock. It sets the deadline for my success or the date of my failure. Not moving out is what I’m comfortable with. But how long is it okay for me to stall intimate relationships so that I can enjoy myself (and do the things I want to without worry)?
Is it okay for me to be okay? Complacency. Fear. Priorities. GROWING UP. I understand far less than I let on. Strange that someone with all the answers in interactions has nothing but questions when alone.

That’s the text within this piece – painted in my Friday expressive art therapy group at Tranquil Shores. It was getting closer to the time Heather and I had talked about picking up and moving to Jacksonville. We were bickering a lot. I had asked her what was really going on. When she failed to come up with anything, I suggested that maybe she was scared about moving to a new city. After all, it wasn’t me. I’m itinerant! I’m punk! All we do is move. We have no roots. “I don’t live anywhere!” She, on the other hand, had never moved to a new city before so she was scared and that was making her irritable. Obviously.

But this was expressive art therapy and (in therapy) we don’t look at what’s wrong with other people, we look at ourselves. So that’s what I tried to do as I painted and – when I started writing – all of this suddenly came out of me.

God dammit. It was totally me. I was terrified. If I moved to Jacksonville with Heather, I’d suddenly be responsible for rent and utilities and who knows what else. I had been out of (inpatient) treatment for three months and thus far was doing great. I was supporting myself without having to give in to reality and get a real job. (Which – in hindsight – I realize may not have been all that impressive a feat considering that I had absolutely no bills to pay). But if I moved to Jacksonville and came up short on money for bills one month, all of a sudden, I’d have to admit that I was wrong. I’d have to get a job and acknowledge that I couldn’t support myself creatively…

Maybe I should just break it off and stay in Bradenton and live with Taylor’s family forever…? I don’t need a girlfriend or to be an adult or…

God dammit.

“Moving boxes and little else” is an acknowledgment that I had moved more times than I could count but was terrified to move forward.

But I did! And – so far – so good.

This piece is important to me because the process of creating it really was revelatory. I had spend a lot time thinking about this stuff and had gotten nowhere. After I made this piece, the bickering between Heather and I stopped completely. It’s pretty remarkable how much garbage sometimes lurks just below the surface (and how badly it can fuck me up). This piece is proof that art is essential to the maintenance of my mental health.


Here’s the song I quoted in this entry. It’s from the new Dead Mechanical album out soon on Toxic Pop (who split released the last DM full-length with Traffic Street (that’s my label, you guys!)) When I lived in DC, I spent a lot of time in Baltimore. When I wasn’t copping or shooting heroin, I was usually at a Dead Mechanical show. (Sometimes both!) But getting to see them play all the time was definitely one of the best things about living up there.

Here’s another song from the same record. Just ’cause.

Hit the Toxic Pop website to check out the album art (by Julie Benoit!) and pre-order the LP, which starts shipping next week. (I know the site says that it starts shipping in early August, but Mike (Toxic Pop) sent out an update changing the shipping date due to delays at the pressing plant).


This painting is currently for sale. Or – if you’re not a big spender – you can pick up a signed and framed (behind glass) print/poster that’s the same size as the original.