It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I had been referring to my trip up to Normal to face my charges as a “sex vacation.” (I had six different girls I was gonna stop to fuck along the way up and back). Instead I invited this girl that I had just met a couple days prior and wound up falling in love. It’s a total aside but I feel a little bit bad because I had a few different things going with different girls that have now – consequently – been totally shut the fuck down, but when this sort of thing happens and just clicks, what can you really do about it? I’m in love and it’s wonderful.
I’ve got a whole, whole lot more to say about all this; some of it’s as dopey as that last sentence, some of it is sobering realizations that I’ve had about past relationships…. whatever – that can all come later. Here are some photos from our li’l road trip.
Our first stop was in Atlanta to visit Mary Beth. Wallis fell quick for MB’s new rescue pup, Barnsley.
After my court appearance in Normal, we went to Chicago and found us a Chris Spillane. Which is sorta great, seein’ as I’m kinda givin’ Wallis the Chris-Spillane-treatment right now. And ’cause – you know – he’s my best friend.
After playing tourists and eating Chicago deep dish pizza (something I never did while I was living in Chicago), we braved the winter night and headed out to the abandoned factory on the river to go exploring. The underground river in the basement was frozen but Wallis wouldn’t let me try to walk on it.
Back at old 1752 (a place for Shitty Children), we reconnected with the old crew. Mike apparently hates me now and acted like a real bully and an asshole all night. It was a bummer but I did my best to take his abuse gracefully and (luckily) he passed out pretty early in the night. Travis, on the other hand, was definitely on his shitty-children-A-game and was really fun to hang out with.
On our way back down south, we saw a sign for Dinosaur World and decided we needed to stop and spend the night so we could go when it opened up in the morning. We were the only people there so we got away with climbing the ropes and taking photos. Wallis makes for a pretty cute dinosaur.
I don’t think you’re supposed to climb up on the mammoth’s tusks but I do what I want.
Wallis uncovered the bones of a stegosaurus in the fossil dig. I’ve never been so proud.
After Dinosaur World, we went to check out the world’s largest (400 miles) cave – Mammoth Cave (in Kentucky). Hung out there for two hours before heading back to Atlanta where we’re hanging out now, back at Mary Beth’s place again. For lunch I ate black truffle macaroni and cheese with lobster ’cause I’m a fucking millionaire now.
Today, I’ve got a couple people in Atlanta to meet up with and then we’ll head back to Jacksonville later tonight or tomorrow morning.
I’ve neglected my blog for so long that it’s hard to know where to start. While anyone who follows me on Facebook is pretty up to date with the gruesome details of what’s going on in my life, here’s the gist of it for anyone who’s not up to speed:
I moved in with a girl in Chicago in July. We broke up in August.
A day and a half later, I started seeing another girl in Chicago. That lasted three months, until Thursday, when I finally left.
I love the girl but the relationship was incredibly dysfunctional and it had me more fucked up, twisted around, confused, depressed, anxious, and suicidal than I’ve been since December 2012.
While I’ve neglected writing the statements for my artwork, I’ve still been actively creating new pieces. The lack of updates can be accounted for by (1) not having had the new pieces photographed yet, (2) not having their statements written, and (3) the fact that these new pieces are HUGE and the last two have each taken more than a month to complete.
My charges are still pending and still stressing me out but I’m still (sort of) optimistic that some kind of a resolution can be reached – or at least resigned to accept the punishment that’s being offered as part of the plea deal that’s currently on the table.
As the weather got colder in Chicago, I saw a dramatic decrease in my print sales when I’d go downtown to set up, paint, and sell. Consequently, my income this last month is lower than it’s been since January, which is stressing me out but not killing me.
I desperately needed to get out of Chicago to escape my shitty relationship, so I’m in St. Louis now. On November 22nd, I’ll go to Minneapolis for the Rivethead reunion. On November 24th, I’ll return to Normal/Bloomington, IL for my next court date. From there, I’m not sure what I’ll do but if I have to accept the plea deal, I’ll be put on two years probation and will need to choose a state to serve it out in, since my movement will be restricted and I’ll have to be physically present for monthly check-ups. My art career would warrant that I choose either New York or California but I would probably have to choose Florida for the sake of my mental health, as that’s where I’ve got the most emotional support. In theory, I would be able to apply for travel permits to leave the state for my “job” (for example, to go to Minneapolis for my exhibition in March).
When I left Chicago on Thursday, I left without Chris Spillane. It was six months ago that I petitioned the court to have him picked up by police and put into detox and six months since I picked him up from detox and brought him out on the road with me. He now has six months clean, a job, a place to live, and everything else that could be reasonably expected of relatively well-balanced kid of our ilk. When I return to Illinois for my court date at the end of the month, he’ll have the option to rejoin me but I suspect that he’s gonna keep on in Chicago, building up his new life.
In September, I started seeing a psychiatrist in Chicago. In October, she put me back on antipsychotic and antidepressant medications (in addition to the Adderall that I’ve been on for ten years). The last time I was on antidepressants was as an inpatient at Tranquil Shores in February 2013. The last time I was on antipsychotics was (I think) as an inpatient at the Wellness Resource Center in February 2012, though I almost went back on them in January 2013.
Anxiety and depression destroyed my appetite the last month or so and I’m skinnier than I’ve been in at least twelve years. That’s good because I have body dysmorphic disorder and being this thin makes me feel good about myself. It’s bad ’cause… I don’t know… ’cause people say it’s bad…?
I have no idea how this all comes across as a whole but here’s what I think should be the important point to take away from it all: October was a bad month but – here, in St. Louis – I am safe, and cared for, and feeling eight million times better. I am no longer suicidally depressed and though I am afraid of what will happen once I leave St. Louis in two weeks, I am okay and I am once again grateful.
I’m going to spend the day with my current work-in-progress, possibly do some layout work for a new flier or work on written statements for finished pieces, and – tonight – I’m going to go downtown to see Rational Anthem play with The Copyrights and The Murderburgers.
If you wanna buy some art right now, that’d be pretty great.
I wrote two journals on this canvas that I later painted over.
Saturday, July 19th:
I don’t know where to start so I’m just gonna let my pen not stop. Chris was being an asshole and maybe I played a part but I don’t think so. So I went into emotional shut down mode and locked everyone out and dropped all my plans for the night. I hid from my friends and slept in the van and wrote a letter to a stranger and now I’m on the street, painting and journaling about some shit that no one will find interesting. When I got up this morning, I went inside, woke him up, drove us downtown, got out with my canvas, and sent him off with the van. He probably went back to Kendra’s, where the two of them can talk about how unbalanced I am. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m not the center of the universe. (Yeah, right).
Sunday, July 20th: Chris has been traveling with me for almost three months now. He’s got three months clean that he wouldn’t have without me. We got into an argument the other night. He thinks I boss him around. I think he takes all that I do for him for granted and that he doesn’t pitch in enough. We’ve basically not spoken for two days now. He’s off doing his own thing for once. Didn’t call or “come home” last night, which is more than okay with me. It’s what I was hoping for. I think his stint traveling with me is over. Actually, no. He’ll come back around as soon as he needs something. Money. Cigarettes. A place to sleep. Nevermind that I could use his help in the meantime. But I don’t need it. I get by fine without him. Maybe better. I’m more productive. Don’t need to spend as much money. Maybe I take him for granted but I’m ready to cut him loose. He likes the lifestyle my art’s provided, traveling, but he hasn’t taken to being an assistant or manager of any kind. I can’t protect him from needles and drug-addled girls forever. It’s time for him to find his own thing or fuck up trying. The only person I’m responsible for is me. Anyone that’d fault me for whatever might happen to him can fuck off. It’s no stretch to say that I saved his life and I absolutely gave him the reprieve he needed to start fresh and make another kind of life for himself. And – fuck it – I’ll say it: he has a good heart and all that shit but he’s selfish and lazy. And maybe that’s ’cause he doesn’t care about *this* like I do but all the more reason for him to find his own thing and make his own way.
Kendra had gone downtown with me that afternoon and when we got back to her apartment that night, Chris was sitting outside waiting for us. I went out to get dinner and bought food for him too but still chose not to speak to him anymore than was totally necessary. I was being a shitty child and was totally okay with it for the time being. I was still mad. Because he was being a shitty child too. It didn’t matter in that moment that he was my best friend. For all I cared, he could fuck right the fuck off. I didn’t pull it together until the next afternoon. I didn’t want to be an asshole but I also didn’t really care whether or not he stuck around and didn’t feel that I should be making any concessions. The work that I ask Chris to do (mostly errands and driving) isn’t as fun as a lot of the “work” that I do (painting, drawing, writing) but I also spend a lot of time on more tedious chores like color-correcting photographs and formatting images for prints. And my work is the stuff that pays for all the pizzas we eat, cigarettes we smoke, and the cool shit we get to do traveling around the U.S. If there’s stuff he can do to help, he should do it. It’ll still leave him with at least 22 hours each day to do whatever the fuck he wants. I have a hard enough time having to ask Chris, my friend, to do things, like he’s an employee, and it only makes it that much worse when we have to argue about it. When Chris pitches in without having to be asked, everything runs really smoothly. When he doesn’t, I feel like I can’t ask him unless I’m using 100% of my time super productively. I feel guilty if I watch The Simpsons or spend time with whatever girl I’m seeing.
“If you want to keep traveling with me,” I told him, “you’ve got to pitch in more and, if I ask you to help with something, just do it.” He agreed that it was fair, acknowledged that he had been slacking a little bit, and everything’s been cool since then.
I’m uncomfortable writing about any of this and would have much rather just told the story of how our band, Shitty Children, came to fruition but that story’s already been told and this is what was on my mind at the “emotional peak” of the time I spent on this painting so…
Chris, Mike, and I are leaving for California tonight – for Awesome Fest in San Diego and for Shitty Children’s second (ever) show, in Pomona. Dave can’t come so Andy from Turkish Techno will be filling in on guitar. We’ll get to practice with him on Thursday, a few hours before the show but – in order to do so – we’ve got to drive all thirty hours, straight through in one shot without stopping to sleep. If you see me on Thursday, I might be just a little sleepy. I’m really excited and if you live anywhere near Pomona, you should definitely come out to the show.
Here’s a video of us playing “Rumbleseats and Running Boards” by Cleveland Bound Death Sentence. We played it worse than any of our own songs but – for that reason – it’s one of my favorite videos from that first set. I like watching Chris and me laugh it off each time one of us makes a mistake.
I just had my four newest large canvas paintings photographed, which means I can finally start adding them to the website. This one was started on June 2nd in Atlanta and finished June 20th in Chicago. I wrote the following statement for it a little over a week ago, on August 11th.
In May, I picked up Chris Spillane. I was grateful to have him and grateful to feel like I was doing something good for another human being (especially one that’s been such a good friend for so long) but having him with me in the first two months wasn’t always easy – being virtually chained to another person 24 hours a day. Especially since – a lot of that time – I felt responsible for him, like a babysitter or a one-man treatment facility. Chasing girls was suddenly totally impractical if not altogether impossible. I couldn’t leave Chris alone so that I could go on a date or hook up with some girl. Sure – he’s an adult and I’m not ultimately responsible for him (or anyone but myself) but I had taken on a responsibility of sorts and didn’t want to fuck it up, especially for something (that felt) as petty as sex.
If I had the kind of self-esteem (which legend holds is) possessed by normal, well-adjusted people, this might not have been a problem. Unfortunately, I need a steady stream of praise, sales, and sex in order to feel okay about myself. I wasn’t fully cognizant of it at the time but I’ve come to terms with it now. I had gone without virtually any episodes or incidents in May but in June, while painting “Something to Cry About,” I was perpetually sinking into dark depressions over the smallest little things. I tried to explain my bad moods to myself – rationalize and justify them – in all sorts of ways but, looking back, it’s not hard to nail down. First, I wasn’t having any luck getting a show booked in Atlanta (mostly because I had adopted a new, staid, respectful (and totally unimpressive and unmemorable) strategy for selling myself to galleries). That would have been okay if I hadn’t also just gone from a hedonistic period of total promiscuity to sudden and absolute abstinence. If I’m not having sex, how am I supposed to have any self-worth?!?
[I have issues].
Hindsight is 20/20 though and, while this was still going on, I tried to figure it out through journaling. A lot of that’s still visible on the canvas but I’m pretty bored by most of it. Only the last part is really at all interesting to me. Regarding my bad mood and the silent temper tantrum I was throwing: “I just let myself soak in it ‘cause – hey – if I didn’t lose my shit every so often, wouldn’t that call into question the authenticity of my stupid fucking gimmick as an artist? ‘I’m emotionally unstable! Count on it!’”
Borderline personality disorder is one of those conditions where the diagnosis is sometimes withheld from the patient himself because knowing the diagnosis can actually be harmful. I think that’s because in can exacerbate “borderline behaviors” insofar as the patient decides he “can’t help it” and acting that way is therefore excusable. I don’t think that I do that but I’ve definitely attempted to excuse myself (especially in relationships) by telling the girl that my emotional instability was “always part of the deal” and that she knew what she was getting into when we first got involved.
I’d like to think that I don’t use my diagnosis as a scapegoat; I always try to do my best in interacting with other people and I always apologize when I fuck up but I probably do allow myself to be somewhat more of an emotional basketcase sometimes than I otherwise might.
Minneapolis has been on my list of cities to hit. Cleveland Bound Death Sentence reuniting to play Extreme Noise’s 20th anniversary seemed like a good excuse to be impulsive, bail on Asheville, and spontaneously trek halfway ‘cross the country.
We overnighted in Lexington and Chicago along the way since CBDS doesn’t play ’til tomorrow afternoon. We’re just pulling out of Chicago and making our way north now. 11 PM is a little later than I’d like to be heading out but we don’t operate on a schedule and it’s hard to walk out of Dave and Mike’s place. I just have too much fun with those kids. They definitely come across as jaded, grumbly, curmudgeonly old men (who are actually five years younger than me) but that’s also definitely part of their charm, since they’re secretly some of the warmest, funniest kids around.
I met Dave in the Baltimore punk scene – mostly around Charm City Art Space – back when we both lived out that way. And he met Spillane when I recruited both of them to come on tour with me and Rational Anthem back in 2009. Neither of them had even been on tour before and this one was TEN WEEKS long. (They’re both fucking warriorsafter surviving that thing).
I met Mike that same year. His band had just recorded their first demo and a friend in Ohio tipped me off, thinking I might be interested in them for Traffic Street. Their first tour included a house show somewhere in Maryland. I went out to meet/see them and brought ’em back to DC for a day or two after. We’ve been friends ever since.
So the plan was to hit the road earlier in the day but we stuck around ’til now, doing mostly nothing, just joking around, having fun. We did go out to Logan Square for a few hours though and I got to finish my latest painting (“Something to Cry About,” which I’ll post later in the month). Anyway, one joke led to another and I wound up giving Dave his first tattoo. It’s on the front of his right thigh, just a couple inches up from the knee. The caption comes from something Mike said this morning in a sleepy haze: “Where do rats go when they die? I don’t mean, like, in a spiritual sense…”
I’m looking forward to coming back to Chicago real soon.
I played Calvin Mather in the short film “No Real Than You Are.” During the four weeks I was in town to work on the movie, I tried to pitch in with whatever I could to be helpful. This is some of my “prop work”: a perfect replica of a Walgreens prescription label. Every detail is exactly as it would be if Calvin were… you know… not a character in a movie. That’s the address and phone number for the Walgreens closest to the address I chose for him (my last address before going to rehab in December 2011). It was a shitty little box of a studio apartment that had mushrooms growing out of the carpet. I pulled ’em out, sprayed fungicide and other assorted chemicals, but they’d always grow back. Eventually I relented and just accepted them as part of my home. I kinda liked ’em.
So while this isn’t anything like my usual “art,” I think it counts. I didn’t have a scanner so I had to create it from scratch – and everything is 100% dead on. (Go ahead! Pull out a prescription bottle from Walgreens and see how it measures up!)
Another project I did for the movie… The night before the filming of the first scene in which a character would be sniffing oxycodone, I found out that the powder the crew had been planning to use (instead of real drugs) wasn’t going to work. So Chris Spillane and I went to Walmart at 2am and bought vitamins, food dye, hose clamps, bowls, a lamp, and a lightbulb and cooked up a pile of “oxycodone” that looked extraordinarily like the real thing. Walmart probably gets its share of sketchy characters during the third shift, but I think Chris and I won the contest that night. We both had a pretty good time with the whole thing. I remember laughing a lot that night, especially while we were still in the store. Back at the apartment, I was reminded of being a seventeen year old drug dealer, cutting cocaine with vitamins and acetone.
A couple days later, when we ran out of the stuff and needed more, I had Chris – plus Tola and Alex (the production designer and leadman) – sitting on the floor in my apartment, grinding away at vitamins as I mixed, colored, and cooked them. It felt like I was actually running a fake drug manufacture scam!
In case you’re wondering… while this is what went up the noses of the actors that sniffed “drugs,” it is not what my character was injecting whenever he did a shot. For that, I used blue Gatorade. While there were some concerns that injecting Gatorade might be dangerous… Back when I was shooting heroin everyday, I was pretty shiftless; if there was no water within reach but a bottle of Gatorade sitting next to me, I’d just put that in my spoon instead. Electrolytes are good for you, you guys.
“No Real Than You Are” is currently raising money to help with the costs of post-production. If you’d like to contribute (or just watch the trailer), check out their Kickstarter page.
Bent Outta Shape fans will probably enjoy that the RX# on Calvin’s prescription is telephone spelling for “IYDKMRNIGE.”
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).