Usually, I only stay in a city for a week or so before moving on to the next one. Chris and I decided to post up in Chicago for a good chunk of the summer though so – as long as we were gonna be around – Mike asked if we’d like to start a band with him and Dave.
Chris and Dave had played together before, on Rational Anthem’s 2009 summer tour, back when I was still doing all of the band’s booking. Rational was down two members and I recruited both of them to fill in. Mike sings and plays guitar in Like Bats, whose records I used to release on Traffic Street. Dave also plays in Like Bats these days (bass) and played guitar in my band, Troublemake, on a couple records. Anyway, in Shitty Children, the line-up is Mike on drums, Dave on guitar, and Chris on bass; I sing.
Last night was our first show and we played five songs. One was a Cleveland Bound Death Sentence cover and the other four were things Mike’s been working on for a while that didn’t make sense as Like Bats songs. He wrote the lyrics for one and I wrote the lyrics for the other three. We only practiced the set altogether twice – once the night before the show and then again just a few hours before the show started. I was really nervous going into it. It’s been four years since Noelle got sick and I subbed in as Rational Anthem’s singer one night in Manhattan. It’s been six years since Troublemake played and I sang my own lyrics in front of an audience. But this wasn’t just my first time singing in a really long time, it was my first time singing sober ever. I had never gotten up on a stage before without being some kind of fucked up. I was so nervous last night that I shook throughout the whole set and so out of my element that I was unable to articulate anything that I had wanted to say in between the songs. When one song would end, I’d just anxiously wait for the next to start. Now that I’ve seen the videos of our set though, I feel a lot better about it. I think we actually did pretty well.
Here’s the first of those five videos. We play a short intro before transitioning into our first song, which I haven’t titled yet. (Scroll down for the lyrics though).
The dumb smirk plastered on my face, like the crooked smiles that I paint and all of my clever, contrived slogans, quips, and tag-lines… All the things I do and say are just designs to garner sex and praise. But – sometimes – I really despise the way that I don’t even try at all to hide my stupid pride. My vanity’s embarrassing.
Unpredictable mood swings. No self-esteem.
I’m so in love with myself; I’m so disgusted with myself. I’m a shame and I’m ashamed. I’m a joke; I’m okay. I say I’m living out my dreams, like I have any clue what that even means. I laugh and smile all the time. Except when I’m preoccupied with anxiety. I find relief in suicidal fantasies.
Went back home, sat alone in a park with my phone. I’m too insecure to just pick up and call you. I wouldn’t want you to think that I might need you. I’d rather sit stuck in my rut between unpredictable mood swings. I have no self-esteem.
We’re gonna record a demo before Chris and I leave town and we’ll probably play at least one more show too. Whether or not the band continues to exist beyond that, I’m not really sure, but there’s no reason we couldn’t get back together every so often to write/record more songs or even go on tour. We’ll see what happens.
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.
There’s not much I can say that I haven’t already, in my statements for the other 12.13.14 pieces and others relating to codependency (like “Girls Are Not Pokemon“). As indicated in the graphic, this is a diagram of Figure 12.13.14 or (in reality) it’s a diagram of how I was feeling one day in December 2012 – like an interchangeable asshole, with a life not worth living.
However, as I mentioned on Thursday, sometimes there really are fruits of being a contemptuous bag of dicks. In this case, it was my friend David asking me to adapt this drawing for use as a t-shirt for his label, John Wilkes Booth Records. They came out really great and you can pick ’em up in the JWB webstore for a measly $10.
And so long as you’re already throwing your money away, allow me to present the first release from Traffic Street in more than two years. Technically, it’s a reissue of the Like Bats EP we put out back in 2009 but this time around it’s on cassette and it includes something we’re choosing to keep secret because… well – there are only 100 copies sothey’re going to sell whether we tell you or not and secrets are just more fun.
Buy cassettes here. Buy prints of (either version of) “Unspecified Selection” here.
“Snowflakes Anonymous.” 11/22/13. Acrylic, watercolor, and spray paints, food coloring, markers, pen, resin sand, cardboard and EBT card – on 24×30″ stretched canvas.
This piece took me over a week to finish. That left a lot of time for different issues to pop up, play off each other, and rearrange my ideas. I started it one nigh while I was thinking about missing Tranquil Shores. Then I thought about how I might like to work at a place like that except… For starters, I don’t have enough clean time. I’d have to pretend like
I didn’t fuck up at any point. That made me sad. You know what I eventually realized though? Fuck that. Someone recently complimented my honesty / willingness to be vulnerable through my artwork – “especially for someone with so little clean time.” That threw me for a loop! There was nothing mean-spirited about the comment (it came from someone that’s been really positive and supportive) but still – the implication is that I’ve only recently started getting well. In reality, most of the pieces she had seen and read about were created before that – sometime after my previous clean date (the day I got to Tranquil Shores: August 17th, 2012). And I didn’t really start getting better ’til December 12th. The vast majority of honest text in my pieces was always scribbled out up until that point.
So – yeah – I may have fucked up over the summer, but that didn’t hit the reset button on my recovery; I didn’t fall down into a gutter with a needle in my arm, desperate and miserable as ever. I made a mistake, called myself on it, told the people I needed to tell, and carried the fuck on and moved forward with the things I know to be good for me and good for my mental health and emotional well-being. And you know what else? The dangerous position I allowed myself to be in (that led to my relapse): it was worth it. That month I spent working on that project – it had incredible highs, some (very obvious) lows, I learned a lot about myself, a lot about the world around me, and – overall – was a better stronger person when all was said and done.
And it still affects me today (both positively and negatively). I wouldn’t say I regret any of it. Life is for living and anyone that’s really living is gonna fuck up every now and then. That’s not a preemptive copout for future relapse, it’s just reality. You can count on my not repeating that mistake but I’m sure as shit gonna fuck up at one thing or another!
Back on point: on Tuesday, I was reading the NA literature and I realized that so much of it really has nothing to do with me. It’s totally undescriptive of my thinking and my behavior. Not all of it, but enough of it. Does that mean I’m gonna quit going to meetings? No. But it explains why I stopped going more than once a week back in February – and why my
counselors at Tranquil Shores didn’t throw a monumental fit about it the way they’d always done with everyone else. I may not be some beautiful fucking snowflake, thoroughly unlike all to come before me, but – you know what? I am different than a lotta people and meetings, meetings, meetings isn’t the fucking cure-all for everyone.
And if you wanna get technical – it’s got nothing to do with the twelve steps as they were originally written (and are still written in the AA text). Same with sponsorship – there’s nothing in the original text about going to meetings or finding a sponsor. It’s just about working with / helping other alcoholics [or addicts]. And I do that shit constantly. I hate a lot of the attitudes that dominate the rooms of AA and NA: “Do this or die” (especially when “this” isn’t even part of the program). You know why they think that the only people who succeed in recovery are the ones that continue going to meetings for the rest of their lives? Because the people that come back are the one that fucked up and needed to come back; they never hear the stories of the people that leave their group and succeed because they don’t have any reason to come back around and tell their tale. It’s right for some people – not everyone. And fuck the notion that “clean time” is the only measure of success. I do pretty okay. I like myself. I like my life. And it’s been that way for a while now. It didn’t start ’til I got clean (and then some) but it didn’t go away just ’cause I had a lapse in judgment. I still have that time. There are documents of it – all over my walls and all over this website.
SECOND (reason I can’t get a job at a treatment facility), I don’t think I’m cut out to work anywhere. I’m not some wild, outta control basket case but that’s ’cause I know what I need to do to keep my grip. When things get rough, I’ve got tools I can use to get ’em back on the right track. But mental health is a chore and I can’t schedule my emotions. Being on the clock, being on someone else’s time… it doesn’t work for me. I have too much to do – sick or well, fucked or not. So while I might like to do some volunteer kinda stuff now and then, I don’t think that “getting a job” is anything that’s ever gonna work out for me.
From there I was thinking about something that’s occurred to me before: that I could almost certainly qualify to receive disability payments. Up ’til my “recovery” began, I’d have taken those without a second thought; I had (and still have) no moral objections to something like that (even if I were/am fully capable of working). But getting disability doesn’t really seem in line with what I’m about these days. My brain might be a little off but I’ve been creatively building a life out of that, through my artwork. I’m not sure I want a label like “disabled” on me.
But – also on Tuesday – I realized that I use food stamps and… is that really any different? It’s basically partial-disability with no questions asked. “Oh? You don’t make enough money? Okay, here you go. No – we don’t care why, just take it.” Strangely enough, the very next day, I met a girl who does receive disability payments (and for borderline personality disorder!) That had me actually considering it for the first time but it wasn’t ’til later that night I realized that – immediately after meeting her – I volunteered to pick up a shift at Sun-Ray over the weekend if they needed any extra help. AND THEN(!) I had to modify my offer to exclude Saturday because I’m going to some kind of seven hour “personal growth” / mental health thing tomorrow.
Just like that – I went from ruling out work because of my obligations to myself and my mental health but rejecting the prospect of disability payments on principle, meeting a girl on disability with the same issues I have and starting to reconsider, to unthinkingly offering to work, and then realizing I couldn’t because of a (very concrete, specific) mental health obligation.
For now, I’m gonna keep on as I have been. I already have everything I need. Well, maybe not a sense of security but what fun would that be?
Hey – speaking of “clean time,” “clean dates,” and what a beautiful fucking snowflake I am… When someone completes their treatment plan at Tranquil Shores, they have their coin-out ceremony and they get a little keychain with their clean date on it. Here’s the one they gave me back in February.
Yes, that is an “X” in place of a clean date. No, I had no idea that mine was going to be different and – no – of all the people that have been through the program, no one else has ever gotten anything other than their actual clean date.
Something I wrote in this entry reminded me of a lyric from a song I haven’t heard in a few years. “She asked me if I want to die / I said of course I do sometimes / Anyone who never wants to die / must not really be alive.” And now that I’m listening to it, I’m realizing that it’s right for this entry in more ways than one.
I got the Like Bats cassettes in the mail today. They’ll be the first new Traffic Street release in more than two years and will go on sale tomorrow! (This is a one-off sorta thing though; I’m not picking back up with Traffic Street for real – not anytime soon anyway).
Fun fact: Did you notice my (expired) EBT/foodstamp card glued to the top-right corner of the canvas? Did you notice that it says “ASK FOR VD” on the signature line? Just below that, it says “ARTS SUBSIDY” which I added after the card was on the canvas). I wrote “ASK FOR VD” on it back when it was still valid though – back when I first got it in March. I am a ridiculous human being.
This piece is available for purchase as a 12×15″ print. The original sold in December 2013.
Like Bats left to start their tour late last night. Though I recently made some adjustments to the cartoon I drew for them (for use as a tour poster) I was up before 6 AM this morning, so I figured I’d draw another cartoon inspired in part by one of the songs on their upcoming EP.
When I checked back in at Tranquil Shores (after getting kicked out) in October 2012, Like Bats had a show in Tampa just two days later that I was (consequently) unable to go to. It wasn’t until a month later that I found out they stopped by Tranquil Shores the next day to try and visit me. (Since I had just been readmitted, I wasn’t allowed visitors yet and they were turned away).
It’s been years since I saw Like Bats play live and I’ve never even met Matt and Alec, who stepped in when Kyle and Joey left the band. Seeing them play and seeing Mike and Dave (who’s on tour with them as usual) is one of the things I’m most excited about for next week.
It’s been a strange morning. (“Strange” being code for “I don’t feel like acknowledging what’s going on). When I first went outside today, it was early enough that it was still dark. And it was cold enough that I had to put on my jacket for the first time since February. I sat outside with coffee, pop tarts, cigarettes, and punk rock and thought about how much I missed rehab. A few minutes later, I realized I was sitting in some really shallow self-pity. I didn’t even know that I was necessarily upset, but I was embracing anything that made me feel sad – and reveling in how tragic it all felt. I was enjoying it in that way that kids like us do but – at the same time – I knew that a well-targeted attack/word could probably pull my pin like the Death Star and reduce me to a puddle – which would certainly take the fun out of it all.
I texted with a friend for a little bit and then drew this cartoon. I think I’ve got a grip on my day now.
If you’re in any of these areas, go see Like Bats this week. They’re one of the best bands in existence today.
10/24- Boston, MA @ Fort Warner w/Peeple Watchin’
10/25- Hartford, CT @ Whitney House
10/26- Brooklyn, NY @ Lulu’s
10/27- Bethpage, NY @ Mr. Beery’s w/ Iron Chic
10/28- Baltimore, MD @ Charm City Art Space w/ Sick Sick Birds
10/30- Greenville, SC @ CFR
10/31- Gainesville, FL / The Fest
11/1- 10/31- Gainesville, FL / The Fest
11/2- 10/31- Gainesville, FL / The Fest
11/3- 10/31- Gainesville, FL / The Fest @ 1982
11/4- Athens, GA @ Flicker Theatre and Bar w/ Two Hand Fools
Here’s the first song I ever heard by Like Bats; it’s called “Lousy” and I love it as much today as I ever have.
If you missed it, go read the short story I wrote that Razorcake posted on their website yesterday. It’s about me fucking over Rational Anthem in the desert.
Just a few days after moving out of Tranquil Shores, I went to Artpool’s “Crafty Fest” to try and sell some of my paintings. I didn’t put my most “offensive” stuff out, but – early in – a kid came up to my table to look at everything with parents trailing behind. When mom and dad got closer I watched their faces change as the content of my stuff registered in their brains and they quickly hurried their kid along to the next table or booth. And then I watched this same exact sequence play out over and over throughout the day. So – right there at my table – I painted something new and laid it right out front.
A month or so after I made this, I got an email from Mike Duda asking if I still had it and how much I’d want for it. I think that was the first time someone had hit me up like that, so it was pretty great. That Mike is also responsible for writing and recording some of my favorite art (in his band, Like Bats) just made it that much cooler.
Here’s “The Last Catholic in America,” the last song on Like Bats’ debut full-length, Midwest Nothing.
“You’ve got a five star enterprise here, and it sounds like a great opportunity, but – what, with huffing gasoline in mom’s basement and wearing out my Like Bats cassette, my schedule just can’t accommodate anything new right now. Thanks for letting me use your bathroom though.”
I thought of this cartoon back in March when I was planning on reissuing Like Bats demo as a cassette. Anyway, the Like Bats cassette hasn’t happened yet for a couple of reasons, but I requested a new quote on it today and decided that it was TIME TO DRAW THIS CARTOON! (The plan was to get it printed up on a poster that’d come free with the cassette). Maybe we’ll still do that. I don’t know! (I haven’t talked to the kids yet). In fact, they’re hearing about/seeing this cartoon for the first time just like everybody else.
I put off smoking cigarettes (and eating/drinking) all afternoon just so I could get it done. I think it came out well. I like it!