There was a little confusion at the printer and – after getting home – I had to turn around and go right back. I got everything sorted/fixed (free of charge!) and flipped on the new Iron Chic album, The Constant One, as I made my way home. I like to put off listening to albums until I have a physical copy and can sit down with it but it’s been long enough that I didn’t wanna wait anymore. (Money’s not too tight but tight enough that I’ve had to put off picking up a few records that I’d have otherwise bought by now).
The first song, “The End,” is a fairly ambient intro to the record and it was the perfect soundtrack as I made my way down the quiet little backstreets of Riverside. Under a perfect grey sky, I passed a kid sitting on the sidewalk with a book.
After just one minute, “Bogus Journey” kicked in and I had a thought about the guitar tone. It’s different, which is kind of cool. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here but it’s nice when someone puts a little bit of thought into making something interesting.
But guitar tones aren’t really important. What is important is that I had a big grin on my face before Lubrano had even started singing. This song just sounds joyful. I became conscious of my smile and it grew even more. And then I laughed out loud. This is wonderful.
I could describe my day in a way that’d sound horribly tragic and it’d be totally true. Shit – I could frame my entire life in such a way that it’d sound really awful…
But… as much as I feel like a crybaby in this moment – as stressed as I am right now – I know that the other truth – the one in which my life is awesome and I’ve got nothing but good things to be grateful for… it’s a better story and it’s better for me. And like I said, it’s totally true.
So – with an eye toward focusing on the positive – check out how happy this kid is….
And that’s from just earlier today!
I posted that photo on Instagram a little bit ago with the caption: “The (former) police officer and the KING OF THE SUPER PUNKS had a few disagreements when they first met last January. But *today* Robert bought a painting from his friend, Sam, who happily posed for a photo before he parted ways with the piece, less than 48 hours after its completion.” That was after Robert had posted it on Facebook with the caption: “I am now the proud owner of an original Sammy ThrashLife canvas! He is an intelligent (went to law school) and talented artist I’ve had the pleasure to get to know; he creates edgy works via stream of consciousness and drawing upon his emotions at the time.”
And all of that’s really awesome. It means a whole, whole lot to me. This little art thing I do… it’s my life. It’s saved my life. It’s brought people into my life. It’s made me a better person. It’s made it all worthwhile.
It’s what I do when I’m feeling down – to pull me out of that and get me back to a better place… it takes me places I never used to go.
Here’s one of my very first pieces, from November of last year; I made it one night when I was feeling especially depressed and suddenly (well, by the time I finished it HOURS after I started) I wasn’t depressed anymore.
In the past, when I’d felt as I did that night, it was an occasion to do way too much heroin. A few times in an attempt to fatally overdose, other times to just not have to exist for a little while. But – you know – I was in rehab so it seemed like the thing to do would be to maybe just create that image. It’s a mixed media collage – can you see the little cartoon syringe that I drew and glued onto my arm? The caption says, “Is blue a good color on me?”
Here’s a song I like a lot.
“Rejoice despite the fact this world will hurt you. Rejoice despite the fact this world will kill you. Rejoice despite the fact this world will tear you to shreds. Rejoice because you’re trying your best.” – Andrew Jackson Jihad
Numbered, signed, and sealed 12×18″ prints of Winter Colors are available in my webstore.
If you’re interested in the original piece, please get in touch.
I’m still riding the high of that sale from last night. On top of that, I was carrying a couple of paintings into Sun-Ray when someone asked if they could take a look. It’s not in stone or anything but it looks like, from the brief exchange that ensued, I might have another opportunity to show some pieces in a pretty great location in January. And I still have two other offers on the table (to display some work) that I haven’t taken advantage of yet just ’cause I was busy, outta town, sick, and then busy again. So things are going really well and I’m pretty excited. And really grateful.
Oh – and how could I forget… My mood wasn’t in the slightest bit hindered by the arrival of a veritable shit ton of records and zines today!
I’m really excited about all of them but especially the Teenage Softies 7-inch. Like the Brokedowns / Vacation Bible School split 7-inch and the Humanoids LP that I’ve mentioned here before, this was one of the records that was slated to be released on Traffic Street (my record label) before I crumbled and gave it all up.
The whole EP is great, but I think the opening track might be my favorite: “If your life is easy, you got caught in their trap. Distracted like monkeys, living life flat on your back. But if you’re working for some asshole then you’ll understand that life’s not that easy – so what about getting ahead? If you’re looking for a solution, it’s not to fuck it all up. If you’re looking for a solution, it’s not to give up. So just do what you can to get by. You’re the one that can change it this time. Stay with it.”
The two drawings in this entry were products of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, early on a Saturday morning last January. Give Us Your Blood was inspired by some asshole giving my friend a hard time; it says: “we are insane (and mean) and we’re here to help – give us your blood.” Happy, Joyous, and Free was my second attempt (following Pulp) to draw a more realistic kind of portrait. I only had one sheet of paper folded up in my coat pocket, so one is on the back of the other.
I don’t remember the exact details of what was said to my friend that morning, but I do remember something else that the same guy had said to me after I shared/spoke at that meeting for my first time (after having gone every Saturday for several months). “I hope you make it. I doubt that you will, but I hope you do.” Some of my friends thought that was pretty fucked up but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I kind of liked it actually. (Although – in hindsight – what purpose is a statement like that supposed to serve?) But like I was saying, I liked it just ’cause it was brash, insulting, and honest. After all, most of us don’t / aren’t going to make it, so it made sense for him to doubt me. Shit – especially me. Very, very few people ever thought I’d do anything besides die with a needle in my arm. (And – in their defense – there’s still plenty of time for me to prove them right). I remember in March of last year (in between inpatient stints) I picked my girlfriend up from her first outpatient session with a therapist she had started seeing while we were still in treatment. The therapist knew me so I asked my girlfriend if she had given her any advice or had any thoughts concerning our relationship. “She says there’s a 99.999% chance that you’re never going to get it and that you’ll die an addict, more likely sooner than later.” I cracked up laughing. She didn’t know me that well! I was a little shocked she’d make any kind of a statement so bold. I asked her (the therapist) about it at some point shortly thereafter (we’d talk a little after some of my girlfriend’s sessions). I told her what I had heard and she just kind of smiled and shrugged at me. “Prove me wrong,” she said.
No sweat! (So far, so good).
Go check out my store!!! It’s got cool stuff in it!
If you’re interested in these drawings, I’m interested in selling them to you. Hit me up.
I made this on the day that I first tried to sell my artwork. It’s kind of embarrassing. Beneath the bolder caption is some less legible text: “Fill your arms with paint. Sorry. I fill my arms with paint. Or I want to anyway. Um. Metaphorically. This thing is kind of cool. I guess it is what I thought it’d be. I feel selfish though. Like I’m not watching the other bands.”
Translation: Dumb phrase that sounds poetic. Apology for not speaking in the first person (as we’re taught in treatment). Analogy about using artwork in place of heroin to manage my anxiety. Craft Fest [in St. Pete] is kind of cool and about what I expected it to be. I haven’t looked at anything any of the other people are selling at their tables and I feel guilty in the same way I might if I were playing a show and didn’t go inside to watch any of the bands before/after my own.
I felt weird about all of that so I decided to just write out my bluntest, most human feelings on top of it: “Give me money and praise and I’ll give you this.”
Alex and I went to go see the “Everything is Terrible” holiday show at Sun-Ray tonight. When we walked out of the theater, there was a big gaping hole on the wall where one of my paintings once hung. I asked what happened and was handed an envelope with more money in it than I’ve ever been given for a single painting. Somebody bought it right on the spot and gave instructions to tell me that I’m “an international artist now” because it’s going in their home in Paris. So that’s pretty fucking awesome. And (like Beachtown Grafitti) – at the time of this one’s sale – it was also my favorite: Snowflakes Anonymous.
I’m really wrapped up in a “project” right now that’s costing me a lot of money and won’t pay anything (it’s not for me – it’s for some people that I care about). I was stressing about it earlier today but just told myself that it’s a nice thing to do and I don’t need to get all nervous because I like to believe that things will always work out when I’m making good, positive choices. And then this happened tonight so… Life’s kinda cool, right?
Here’s a song that’s rad as fuck.
Numbered, signed, and sealed Give Me Money and Praise prints are available in my webstore. If you’re interested in purchasing the original, get in touch.
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.
I made this for my counselor at Tranquil Shores last year because I’m a sweet, sweet boy. And also maybe a little because she kinda sorta played a huge role in saving my life and is one of my favorite people ever. The little bubble of text says, “I know you’re required by law or something to be nice to me, but a weaker soul would have definitely snapped my neck by now (U.S. Constitution / Hippocratic Oath be damned). Thanks for not giving up on me, even when I try to. Oh – and … HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” Technically, I wasn’t even supposed to know it was her birthday but I found out by virtue of a happy accident so… I took advantage of it.
I don’t know how my personality comes across through my writing on this website but I joke around a lot (and propriety is not my strong suit). One of my favorite things about Tracy (on a personal level) was the way she’d react to that. As a counselor, she’s really serious/professional/by the books. Joking around in our groups wasn’t really something she had time for. So whenever I cracked a joke in group, I’d look over to gauge her reaction and see just how much trouble I was in. She can make a more serious face than any serious face that’s ever existed, so if she had that expression (her “ice cold death stare”) when I looked over at her, I could immediately feel my soul being ripped from my body and shredded by the demons now feasting upon it in hell. That face could wreck me. But sometimes I’d look over and see her smiling – which would be the best thing ever. And every once in a while I’d get a laugh out of her, which would be the SUPER best thing ever. As bad as the ice stare could make me feel, the laugh would make me feel equivalently at the other end of the spectrum.
Really – all of that kind of ties into what made her such a great counselor though. She wasn’t some robotic super-counselor incapable of being a human being at any point but she also wasn’t someone who could be “won over” and manipulated with charm. I can bullshit a lot of counselors (I’ve had a lot of practice!) but Tracy could detect my bullshit even when I didn’t realize it was bullshit. And she had just the right level of tolerance for all of it. She’s compassionate but she’s not a sucker. Really, she just knows what she’s doing. She always knew when to guide me and when it was best to just let me flounder and figure something out for myself. And when I put it that way, it makes me think of how – in some of my one-on-one sessions – I wouldn’t really wanna talk about anything; I’d say I was all out of issue or problems to talk about. And I don’t think she ever once responded with a question like, “Well, what’s happening with […]?” (If I had to guess, I’d say she knew that only I knew what was fucking up my brain on any given day so trying to ask me about something would only serve to move us away from talking about whatever that might be). I’d sit there, alternately making/breaking eye contact and squirming around in my chair, occasionally smirking or laughing or jokingly trying to play counselor to her (“What’s on your mind today, Tracy?”). And she’d just sit there, looking me in the eye, until I’d finally start talking about what I needed to. No matter how long it took. Other times were more like the scene I drew, which also (as noted) required patience (and a lot more).
I love all the counselors at Tranquil Shores and I got a lot from all of them but – as my primary counselor – she was just right. Somehow, she always seemed to know exactly what I needed to “get better.” Even before she became my primary counselor – WHEN SHE KICKED ME OUT. As shocked and outraged as I was initially, it wasn’t long before I realized that it was exactly what I needed – it was what had to happen. Unlike the other times I had been kicked out of treatment, this one had a profound effect on me. I realized (fairly) quickly that I hadn’t been the victim of a terrible injustice but had been given exactly what I deserved. I resolved to get back in and – after a letter, a couple phone conversations, and a meeting – I was given a second chance. Or (more accurately) a 634th chance.
When I came back, I remember a conversation with Sandy, the program director, about who would be my primary counselor. Before I was kicked out, it had been Rob, who (like all the counselors there) is awesome. I told her I’d be happy with whatever choice the treatment team decided was best for me. I don’t know if it had anything to do with their decision, but I did say one other thing on the subject – about the counselor with whom (up to that point) I had had the least contact: “I think Tracy might be a good fit,” I said smiling, “because she’s mean to me.”
Which (as much as I half-meant it at the time) couldn’t be further from the truth.
While in rehab last year, I drew a cartoon for a Christmas card to send my friends. It’s me and Santa hanging out with The Devil, Borderline Personality Disorder, an undefined higher power, a Disney-fied syringe full of heroin, myself at age four, an identity issue monster, and two girls that I’m either in love with, trying to fuck, or just looking to get some kind of self-esteem bump out of.
We didn’t have a community event that week so I had Saturday almost entirely to myself. After trying and failing to create something a little more self-serving, I decided to do something nice. I drew this – my most detailed piece up to that point – for a card I could send to all the people I care about. My list had 110 names on it. That wouldn’t have been all that difficult had I not made it into the most emotionally intensive project ever. If these were people I cared about, I decided, then I should write each of them a letter letting them know why I cared about them, just how much I appreciated them, or [you get the idea]. It was more than I could handle. In the end, I got around 60 cards written (and about 55 actually mailed out). The people that have meant the most to me over the years: their cards were the hardest to write. I forced myself to scratch a few of those out early in, but others I kept putting off ’til I could find what I needed to give it the focus and honesty it deserved. Since I had about 50 names left to cross out when I threw in the towel though, some of those people never got any card at all.
As a whole, this was one of the toughest things I ever tried my hand at. Though I ultimately fell short, I’m still really glad that I did it. The 50 or so people that did receive cards – well, that’s still something.
As for the content of the image, sitting around me are physical manifestations of all of my “issues.” From the bottom-right, we’ve got Satan as my dark, sarcastic, attention-seeking behavior; the mask I made in our expressive art group on identity [it’s not up on the site yet and won’t be ’til I can summon some bravery]; a syringe filled with heroin; the ghost that I used in this period as a symbol for borderline personality disorder; Santa’s just hangin’ out ’cause it’s like, Christmas, yo; the girl represents different issues with sex, love, and codependency; the empty chair is for my [then] undefined higher power; the little kid is me at four years old, an age that came up a lot in the course of my treatment and that a lot of my core beliefs can be traced back to; and the second girl is for sex, love, and codependency. Yeah – two chairs for that set of issues. They come up a lot.
Status update (10/30/13): This isn’t exactly my strongest entry but I don’t have much in me tonight. I feel pretty hollow right now. [More on that later, I suppose]. Earlier today I was extremely productive though and got a lot of writing and editing done. I’m really happy about that. While most of that work isn’t anything I want to share here yet, I did completely overhaul the statement for one piece, edit the fuck out of another, and add a good amount to a third.