Tag Archives: June 2013

Ready When You Are

"Ready When You Are." 6/7/13. Oil pastel. 9½x12”.
“Ready When You Are.” 6/7/13. Oil pastel. 9½x12”.

It was Friday so I drove up to Tranquil Shores for my session with Tracy and my weekly expressive art group with the kids that were still inpatients. Earlier that week, I had found an apartment in Jacksonville. When I told Tracy, she was really surprised. (I had been talking about moving, but it was just a few days prior that I actually started looking for a place, so it all happened really quickly). “Seriously?” she asked me. “Well, let me get the papers for your discharge.”

Somehow that hadn’t occurred to me: that moving away would mean I’d be officially discharged from Tranquil Shores. My life was about to change and it was just now registering. It made me sad. It even made me a little angry, though I’m not sure with whom. (Probably myself). It was a really great afternoon; everyone at Tranquil Shores couldn’t have been sweeter to me or more supportive. But… I didn’t wanna leave. I didn’t want it to be over and I guess I was as caught off-guard as Tracy had been.

After my session, I went into the art room for group. I felt good overall, but had that little streak of darkness in me. I got an idea in my head of a sorta vulture and I liked it. I wanted to draw something that lived off dead flesh – something sustained by failure.

But still sorta comic and fun.


(Especially relevant) status update: Heather’s friends are getting married in Englewood next weekend, so I won’t be too far from Tranquil Shores. On Friday, I’m going to drive up that way and meet up with a crew of kids I went to treatment with for lunch, and then I’m gonna go in for the expressive art group just like I used to. I’ve been really excited about it but am getting more nervous as it gets closer. It’s gonna be a totally new crop of kids. I’ll still know all the staff obviously, but it seems kinda strange to go to group with a bunch of patients I’ve never met before. I hope I don’t wimp out. I hope it goes well.


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.

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..