It wasn’t gradual and it wasn’t an accident. I was eighteen years old and I remember saying to a friend, “Where can we get heroin and where can we get needles?” I was angry and I was miserable. The world was not fair and it wasn’t fun. Everything that everyone had told me was important was not. Shooting heroin seemed like a pretty good way to prove either that nothing mattered or – at the very least – that everything everyone else believed to be true was actually bullshit.
Six years later I was even angrier and even more miserable. I got reckless with heroin. I didn’t care anymore about whether or not I developed a physical dependence. I started shooting up every day. This would really prove a point, right? Eh, probably not. But it didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t care. It made me hurt less. That was enough.
When I started a record label in 2008, I named it “Traffic Street,” after the last song on “The Cheap Wine of Youth,” the second EP by Rivethead. It’s been my favorite record for a long time and it means even more to me today than it did back then.
The songs on that record describe life more accurately and poetically than anything I’ve ever read. There are the feelings of desperation and exhaustion, but there are also all the little moments that make life worth living. And there’s hope. When I’m feeling awful, I listen to “The Cheap Wine of Youth.” When everything’s going my way, I listen to “The Cheap Wine of Youth.” I’ve been asked for advice in the past and found myself quoting these lyrics. They come into my head every day, whether or not I’ve listened to it. It’s the most important piece of art I’ve ever been exposed to and its influenced the way that I’ve lived my life and the way that I live it today.
From “48 Doublestack”: I know it’s nothing short of terrible – the way this place seems sometimes. Still, it’s not impossible to laugh at the bullshit, drink up with the worst. Kid, I know it’s hard but try not to let the world make you the sucker all the time. These things that we’ve done, somewhat desperate and drunk, built the basis for this restless way that we live. We’ve rejected what you’ve got to show for the trade-off.
From “Traffic Street”: And now today I think I found a way to make myself go outside and laugh in the faces of the winning team, while they chase boring dreams and still live paycheck to paycheck. Do what you really wanna do. Don’t fucking “yes, sir” through your whole life like a fool, kid. I hope you don’t really need the lies. Don’t fucking waste your time with the world always dragging you down.
I don’t shoot heroin anymore and I’m not miserable anymore. People tell me I should take the bar exam and be a lawyer. I don’t want to be a lawyer. A lot of people think that’s crazy and think that they know better than I do how I ought to be living. I don’t need to shoot heroin anymore to show them just how little their ideas and opinions mean to me. Now, I’ve got a new way to laugh in the faces of the winning team. I wipe my ass with my law degree and I paint pictures of weird kids with bad teeth. Money is cool, but it’s not that cool. I’m not interested in the trade-off. I like my life the way that it is and I’m way happier living this dream than I would be chasing that other kind.
When life seems tough, I draw inspiration and encouragement from these lyrics (and a lot of others in the Rivethead / Dear Landlord catalog). If it sounds silly to say stuff like this about a pop punk record… I don’t care. This is the kind of stuff that I think is important.
“Stand Up and Say No.”July 31st, 2013. Acrylics and ink. 16×20″ stretched canvas.
Zack (who wrote the music (and sang) in Rivethead) has become one of my closest friends over the last few years. Brad (who wrote the lyrics (and played drums) in Rivethead), on the other hand, I don’t really know outside of a couple shows and a couple fests. But he knows how much I like that band. One day last year, my counselor gave me a package that had come in the mail for me. It had Brad’s name on the return address. I opened it up to find a letter and a test pressing of “The Cheap Wine of Youth.” I’m pretty sure there are only four of these in the world. He could have easily sold it on eBay for … shit … at least a couple hundred bucks I’d guess. Probably more. But he sent it to me, as a surprise, while I was in rehab. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s pretty much the coolest thing anyone could have sent me. It’s on the same level as if Aaron Cometbus had sent me the original handwritten Double Duce. Or if Zack had given me the last Rivethead t-shirt and City Sound Number Five poster (which he did (because he’s awesome) (and I love him for it)).
But – yeah – this painting is my “thank you” to Brad ‘cause getting that record, from him, on that day, was… something for which I am incredibly grateful. I don’t really have the words to describe it.
The images are allusions to the lyrics of “48 Double Stack” and “Traffic Street.” If you don’t understand the caption, go pick up a copy of the record and start from the beginning.
Here it is on my wall. It’s the one record I’ve ever framed.
And here – for your listening pleasure – (by the flip of a coin) is “48 Doublestack.”
The painting featured in this entry is available as a 12×16″ print/poster. It comes signed, numbered (of 10), and framed.