Tag Archives: friendship

(We Are All) Shitty Children

"(We Are All) Shitty Children." 7/24/14. Acrylic paint. 60x40".
“(We Are All) Shitty Children.” 7/24/14. Acrylic paint. 60×40″.

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.


So Badly

"So Badly." 1/14/14. Ink. 3 ½x5".
“So Badly.” 1/11/14. Ink. 3 ½x5″.

Statement written March 6th, 2014:

In early January, I went to a reception/get-to-know-each-other kinda thing for the artists participating in Wunderground’s quarterly “Look! Listen! Buy!” event. At one point, I was telling another artist about my tendency to isolate – staying home and spending all of my time painting and writing. “Do you get social anxiety?” she asked. For whatever reason, I wasn’t totally honest. I told her that I didn’t. Which – OBVIOUSLY – is slightly less than the truth. I think it’s because I didn’t feel anxious in that moment. Either way, before long, I was proving the falsity of my claim. I tried to keep myself moderately engaged in and attentive to the conversations around me but I was primarily focused on scratching out some artwork in the tiny notepad I kept in my backpack. Eventually, I put it away and got involved in the slightly more socially appropriate activity of doing the exact same thing, only with the pretext of “entertaining a child.”

Seven days later, I was at “Look! Listen! Buy!,” sitting at my table, not enjoying myself. The music was too loud to really talk to anyone and – having just faced the consequences of some bad weather and an outdoor set-up – I wasn’t in the best mood. Things didn’t seem to be going especially well and I found myself back at work on the drawing I had started the night of the reception. I didn’t like the band that was playing. I had my headphones in. This was antisocial as fuck and I didn’t care. “I don’t want to be here anymore,” I thought. “All I want is to go back home and eat my leftover pizza. More than anything. SO BADLY.” (Not super-poetic but – when I’m falling apart emotionally – it’s not unusual for me to look to pizza to make everything okay again).

Which isn’t to say that I’m not grateful for the opportunity or that I don’t love the fuck out of Wunderground (because I really fucking do). I’m so happy to be a part of that group (though that doesn’t really have anything to do with Wunderground as much as it does the people behind it). Which kinda goes to show that (1) I don’t know shit about shit, (2) I’m a crybaby, and (3) everything works out exactly as it should / everything’s got a silver lining. I don’t make “friends” outside of punk rock (or treatment) – or so I thought. And I definitely didn’t think I’d make friends in Jacksonville. I’m not sure why that is… I get along with just about everyone I meet. I like just about everyone that I meet. But I just don’t usually feel connected to anyone. I was thinking about it recently though and (especially) last night. I’m kinda, sorta actually a part of a little crew of friends / artists here now. They like me and I like them. They invite me to do stuff with them. That feels nice. It makes me feel good. I’m grateful for it (and for them).

I’d Kill Your Family If I Thought You’d Notice, But You Wouldn’t, So Fuck It, I’ll Just Smoke Cigarettes and Light My T-Shirts On Fire

"I'd Kill Your Family If I Thought You'd Notice, But You Wouldn't, So Fuck It, I'll Just Smoke Cigarettes and Light My T-Shirts On Fire." 2/1/13. Tempera. 2/1/13.
2/1/13. Tempera. 12×18″.

It’s such an unbelievable coincidence that – if I were someone else, reading this – I’d probably call me a liar but… this is a painting inspired by Donnie (my roommate for five of my months at Tranquil Shores) and I was all set to feature it in my blog entry for last night when – at the last minute – I decided the image was too blurry and that I should write-up a different piece instead. As I found out within seconds of opening my eyes this morning, Donnie is dead.

It’s against the rules but I (very sneakily) recorded my coin-out [the ceremony to honor completion of a treatment plan]. And I’m really glad I did it because it’s nice to listen to every once in a while. I just listened to Donnie’s segment and it made me smile pretty big. The first words out of his mouth were “You know how to push my buttons better than anyone I’ve ever known in my life.” And the reverse was true too. I don’t know that I’ve ever been angrier with anyone than I was with him just one week prior (the day that I painted this). But as he went on to say, “We have some things in common. We’re both drug addicts, we both hate each other, and we both love each other.” Which kind of hits the nail right on the head. Back when he said it, I was a little disappointed ’cause – as much as I had an equal part in our conflicts – I always just wanted us to be friends. I was a little sad that he chose to acknowledge the darker part of our relationship in that moment. But – looking back – he was doing exactly what I always say is so important: he painted the full, honest picture. And I’m really grateful for that.

The title of this painting is mean as fuck. Donnie had a family up north that, in his addiction, he had almost completely lost touch with. It hurt him so much that – before I had met him – he did a six month stint of inpatient treatment in which he kept his kids a secret. The day that I made this, I said a lot of fucked up shit to him but I didn’t ever say anything about that. As mad as I was, I didn’t want to take it that far so I used the painting to get my meanest thoughts out of my head. The first sentence of the caption, “the world’s not black and white,” is an allusion to a conversation I had earlier in the day, when I asked Tracy under what circumstances it would be okay to burn a person alive. When she told me it’s not ever okay to set another human being on fire, I said “that sounds like the kind of black-and-white-thinking characteristic of mental illness, Tracy. In this world, there exist shades of grey.”

donnie's shirtThe night before, I had taken a shirt that Donnie had given me and went out to a parking lot at the end of the block. [I was allowed by this point to go on short walks if I signed in and out]. I set it on fire, let it burn for a minute, stomped it out, and then took it back to my room to paint some text on the back: “WHAT I LACK IN EMOTIONAL MATURITY, INTELLIGENCE, AND LIFE SKILLS, I MAKE UP FOR IN PUSH-UPS!!!” That, I figured I could get away with – especially since I had been working out a lot too around that time so (while it was definitely my “Donnie shirt”) the statement could have easily been applied to me as well. After things cooled off and we weren’t mad at each other anymore, I showed it to him and he agreed that it was pretty funny.

Someone once told me that real friends fight. That if you’ve never gotten into an argument with a friend, you must be bullshitting each other an awful lot. And that’s what it was always like with Donnie. We didn’t argue about nonsense. It was always about real, serious shit. We’d call each other out when one of us was fucking up. And (naturally) – since we were both smarter than everyone – I’d constantly have to tell him when he was wrong about me and he’d constantly have to tell me when I was wrong about him. But we always seemed to work it out and get back to a good spot. Probably because each of us was always right about the other (and wrong about ourselves), even if it took us a minute or two to realize it. We were pretty good at keeping each other in line.

Which isn’t to say that we were constantly at each other’s throats. After we both moved into the real world and weren’t roommates anymore, we didn’t get into it like we used to. I even stayed with him in his new apartment when I came down to visit once. But even before that, as roommates, we got along more often than we actually fought. I can’t even count how many nights we sat up in our apartment talking out everything going on in our lives. There were days when I felt like I’d accomplished nothing or had no meaningful interpersonal connection with anyone – until just before bed when Donnie and I would have one of those conversations. And I know I helped him too ’cause he’d tell me so. Shit – for his first two months, I talked him down from his constant “I’m leaving THIS Friday” every week! We got our sponsors together. Did our fourth steps together. We were never “best friends,” hanging out all day; we didn’t like any of the same shit. I liked drawing and punk rock; he liked football and Hoobastank. But we were close. There was one week when I was overwhelmed with thoughts of self-harm. “Is there someone you can reach out to before you do anything to hurt yourself?” Tracy asked me. “Yeah,” I told her. “Donnie.”

Last year, when I wrote all those Christmas cards, I had the foresight to snap photos of some of them before I handed or mailed them off (for posterity or [whatever]). I just checked and – sure enough – I have a picture of Donnie’s. I’m struggling to admit it, but the tears are welling up. I wrote something in his card about faith, which reminds me of something I used to say back then: that I had more faith in Donnie than anyone. I really thought he was gonna “make it.” The last words in the card reflect that too…

I’d say “do good” but I know you will anyway.
Love you, buddy.
– Sam

It feels like a goofy thing to say but … all things considered, he did do good. He did a lot of good. And I’ll miss him. I already do.

Weird War

"Weird War." 8/20/13. Mixed media. 9x12".
“Weird War.” 8/20/13. Watercolor paint, watercolor pencil, marker, pen, and oil pastel. 9×12″.

I started (and finished) this piece in the van, but also worked on it at the Ski Haus in Carbondale, (where Rational Anthem played with The Heat Tape, Future Virgins, and Hate Waves).

My primary purpose in creating art is emotional balance / regulation. Sometimes though, when I don’t like what comes out of me, the process can actually throw me off base a little bit.

I’m pretty fragile. Little things fuck with my head. I sometimes forget that I can write private journals that don’t have to go online immediately. When that happens, I lose one of my tools.

Noelle said this one looks like a warzone. From the beginning, I was pitting the top right and bottom left against each other, alternately considering cropping one or the other out. It took a long time to bring them together in the center in a way that felt right to me. I think the combination of textures (through the layering of the different materials) helped a lot with that. So did journaling (privately) in order to really examine the forces behind my feelings. Taking a suggestion made by a friend a few weeks back, I wrote on the back of the piece. As I wrote on the front of “Iowa,” I don’t need to put my every thought up in lights for public scrutiny.

Noelle works early on Wednesday morning, so we decided that tonight (in Valdosta) is the last show before we head home. We’re running more than a little late, but I’m not stressing it anymore. I don’t know how tonight will shape up, but I’m excited for whatever’s coming next.

This piece is currently listed for sale in my webstore.