Tag Archives: Georgetown Law

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.

Because Nihilism

"Because Nihilism." 4/22/13. Watercolor and acrylic paints, charcoal, and ink. 12x16".
“Because Nihilism.” 4/22/13. Watercolor and acrylic paints, charcoal, and ink. 12×16″.


I painted this in April. I like ants. It’s expressive art and the story behind it is enough like a million others 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.

April 2011


“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.

Two kinds of rotten

Last January, still living in inpatient care, my friend Mary Beth got me a bunch of art supplies, including a set of calligraphy pens and inks. I got some use out of the inks  (until THOSE FASCISTS said, “You can’t give yourself tattoos in rehab, Sam – especially not sitting out by the pool“). The pens were a little more than I could handle though. I use the crow quill every now and then, but I only ever did one piece with all the different pen tips. I figure now’s a good time to throw it online, given the nature of my most recent painting.

"Rotten." 1/4/13. Calligraphy pens and black ink. 9x12".
“Rotten.” 1/3/13. Calligraphy pens and black ink. 9×12″.

It’s pretty much bullshit. It means nothing. The spoon in my hand: that’s what I was using as a tongue scraper. It’s all whatever; I was just playing around with a new toy.

“Rotten,” though, is a word I really enjoy and a feeling I’m not totally unfamiliar with. I ran a search for it on the draft of my second book and came up with a couple paragraphs about why I went to law school. I wrote this more than a year ago but just spent three hours editing it obsessively.


Kevin pitched the idea and I agreed that it couldn’t hurt to just take the admissions test. At no point did I ever expect to score in the 99th percentile. Suddenly, all these schools that I never thought would even consider my application [ T14 schools] were practically begging for it. And then they were actually accepting me (even with my “criminal addendum,” failed first year of community college, and total lack of extracurriculars or wholesome activities). And they were offering me scholarships even! It was strange and – honestly – kind of exciting. It felt good and I got caught up in it, for better or worse.

I’m not sure if I ever once paused and thought, “Is this what I really want to do?” When one of the T14s – Georgetown – offered me a six-figure scholarship, my entire rationale consisted of: “this is quite the opportunity… if I don’t take advantage of it, I might regret it later…”

That’s it – that’s why I went to law school: a fear of regret. Well, that’s not all of it (it’s just the only part I’ve ever acknowledged to another human being). I also went to feel validated. It was one thing to be a shitty punk kid that shot heroin on the weekends, who was told by everyone including his mom that he was gonna grow up to be homeless and eating out of a dumpster, and who people generally regarded as less of a human being and more of a disease – to be all of that and to get straight A’s at community college or USF was [whatever]. But to fit that description and go to one of the top law schools in the country on a scholarship – this was next level. It was kind of a huge “fuck you” to everyone that looked down on me or had said I was worthless. “Rotten,” on the other hand, I was okay with. I still felt rotten – and this only concentrated it. The whole thing felt sinister. It sort of was. Fear of regret played a part but spite was right up there with it. I’ve said my law degree’s got less utility than a sheet of toilet paper but – before I got clean especially – it did serve me in that one regard: it was a pretty decent fuck you.  “I may be an asshole and a fuck-up, my clothes are tattered, my teeth are gapped out, I feel like a mutant, and I smell like cigarettes, mildew, and bad decisions, but I ALSO have a law degree from Georgetown. Where do you keep your law degree from Georgetown?”

Granted, even back when I had a use for a “fuck you,” I never actually had that conversation with anyone. But if I felt like someone was condescending to me or even just thinking they had me figured out, I’d throw it out there and watch their perception of me change in an instant. Even now, since getting out of treatment, I don’t ever have a reason to “show up” anyone or to prove shit, but it can still be a fun card to play on the rare occasion when someone (possibly looking to write me off as a dirty kid who’s too lazy to get a “real” job) asks about work or school.  I can just smile. Which gets at something else: to me, it’s more of a punchline than it is my proudest achievement. Sure – it’s pretty good indication that I’ve got the capacity to do [something or other] or make [some kind of shit] happen, but so is my time running Traffic Street  – and that means infinitely more to me.  But, shit, normal people don’t see that and I don’t wanna lie; it feels good to also have the thing under my belt that they can understand. The thing that tells ’em: if I’m opting to play with colors and paint funny faces all day, it MIGHT not be ’cause I’m a lazy idiot – I just might have my reasons…


Had a long conversation with a friend tonight about the best records; it ended with me listening to Dear Landlord‘s catalog on repeat from sometime before midnight until… [it’s still going].

Here’s the last song they recorded but it better not be the last song they record.

It’s the only song of theirs that I don’t have on my iPod ’cause the download code that came with my LP doesn’t work and Adeline won’t respond to my emails. Somebody do me a solid and email me the mp3s for “The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore.”

Blueprint For a Successful Evening

"Blueprint For a Successful Evening." 6/17/13 and 5/12/14. Acrylic paint, spray paint, and ink. 24x18".
“Blueprint For a Successful Evening.” 6/17/13 and 5/12/14. Acrylic paint, spray paint, and ink. 24×18″.

I’m always busy. I always have “really important” stuff that I “have” to do. When I was living in DC, it was Traffic Street Records year-round and law school around final exam time. Back then (before heroin became the main problem), I feel like the biggest point of tension in my relationship was my emotional unavailability. Every night, Taylor would ask me to come to bed, I’d tell her I was almost done, and then six hours would pass before I actually made it to the bedroom. So every night she went to sleep alone, woke up while I was still asleep, and then came home from work to find me busy packing up records or laying out a record insert or [whatever]. Eventually, I started doing whatever Traffic Street stuff that I could at school instead of the apartment, so that she’d already be asleep when I got home and I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about not coming to bed and not paying attention to her.

Heather and I moved to Jacksonville this June. She didn’t have a job lined up before we got here so, for the first two weeks, we were both home all the time. Since I’m always busy, I’m never bored and I’m always content in that regard. But Heather has been working [forever] and likes having a job to go to every day. Consequently, she was bored out of her mind. And – maybe because of my own insecurities and my experiences with Taylor – I felt guilty anytime I was working instead of paying attention to her. It was stressing me out. And the fact that she was visibly bored and unhappy made even harder. Especially when I tried to talk to her about it and she just tuned out. Eventually, I decided that there was nothing I could do and just went about doing my own thing. But when it got to the point where we were barely talking at all, it was too much.

I’m feeling disconnected. I’m trying to push through it, assume the best, not stress out. If someone’s not talking to me, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with me. They could just not feel like talking. Or it could have everything to do with me. But if every attempt at conversation – every question asked – is met with a one-word response, what am I supposed to do? [Moving to a new city together] is supposed to be exciting. And it is for me. But I feel like only for me. And that tempers the excitement a bit. I opened up, put everything out there. Explained with sincerity how I’m feeling. And I got nothing back. Literally, no response.
[ -written June 17th]

I was at a loss. Now I couldn’t work. I sat alone in the living room dumbfounded. And scatterbrained; I had my probation deadline hanging over my head and hadn’t finished my community service hours yet. That was also weighing on me and fucking me up. Especially since I was getting my hours from home; that meant that I could have been doing it in that moment, but wasn’t. Instead, I decided that I needed to paint. It had been too long.

There’s a small block of text in the center of the canvas:

My first impulse is to lie in bed, face down, and cry forever. My second is to beat off. I need to write and paint. I spill my guts and… I’m struggling. Sharing life isn’t easy. I might not be built for it. It’s tough to know what’s right for me. I like being me but it isn’t easy. I guess nothing is. That doesn’t feel true.

The next day – as has so often been the case this summer – I did a total one-eighty. Within twenty-four hours of painting “Blueprint,” I was working on a drawing that says: “I couldn’t be happier” – something I genuinely felt.

REVISION (5/31/14):

Nearly a year had passed since I painted this piece and it remained unsold. That’s mostly due to the fact that I hadn’t been displaying it because I didn’t really like it anymore. I don’t usually go back and work on old pieces because I tend to think of them as “artifacts” from another time in my career. But if I was keeping it locked up in a trunk, in a garage somewhere, it wasn’t really doing much good as an artifact or anything else for that matter. Better to go back, work on it some more – until it was something that I could be proud of and sell with confidence. It took another ten hours or so and I finished it on May 12, 2014. Sixteen days later, it was sold. Here’s what it used to look like…

"Blueprint For a Successful Evening." 6/17/13. Acrylic and pen. 18x24".
“Blueprint For a Successful Evening,” as it was upon its initial completion on 6/17/13..


I’m breakin’ it bad over here! / Orange Is The New Black taught me nothing!

Re: “4-Hydroxybutanoic Acid Talent Show

I’m in the financial aid office at Georgetown waiting for someone to come up front and answer a question. Another kid comes in and I find out he also grew up in Sarasota; we even went to the same school at one point. I didn’t make any “friends” while I was in law school, but now I’ve got someone to exchange nods with when we pass each other on campus. His name is Joseph.

Flash forward five months. My part-time job is still “assistant to the Law Center’s Director of Wellness Promotion” – and I’m running the school’s Healthy Recipe Exchange. As I manage this wholesome event, I’m more than a little strung out on heroin. Really – I’m not managing shit. I’m nodding out and sweating at a table while people swirl around me and ask questions that I answer with a shrug and a funny face.

Here comes Joseph. He tells me I don’t look well, asks exactly what the hell I’m doing – and finds it thoroughly amusing. Then he asks me how I’m doing. For some reason, he becomes one of the only people whom I tell that I’ve recently been arrested for possession of heroin. And then he tells me about some serious drug charges he had faced at one point for dealing meth. Of course we exchange phone numbers. Clearly, this is a good person for me to know!

It’s been a month since I talked to Joseph at the Healthy Recipe Exchange when I get a text message from him. “Do you have a stove?”

“Hmmmm,” I think to myself. “What are the implications of this text message? He knows I live in an apartment building, so he can’t possibly think he can get away with cooking meth here. What then might he be up to…?

I write him back, “Yes. I do. And I don’t want to know why you’re asking. Just let me know when you want to come over.”

Because this sounds like an adventure! Right???

As it turns out, Joseph has learned a new trade. GHB! Which – as he tells me – doesn’t stink up a place the way meth does. Well – what’re we waiting for?!

[insert Act II here]

There is nothing worse than the pain of opiate withdrawals. Except for the pain of opiate withdrawals, experienced in a cloud of disgusting, noxious, chemical shit.

I wish I were dead. The end.