6 AM. Walking home.
It’s 40 degrees outside and I still haven’t gone to bed.
Pineapple soda, a cigarette,
BRAND NEW RATIONAL ANTHEM playing in my headphones.
What more could an idiot ask for?
I stayed up all night, clearing out my house,
Getting rid of the things in my life that I don’t need.
Some of it is really hard to get rid of.
I still don’t know if I’ll actually be able to part with my zine collection.
And (honestly) I haven’t even considered the records.
But I’m young, itinerant,
I’d rather not be weighed down by possessions.
Do you ever fantasize about your house burning down
And starting over with nothing?
I’m working to be okay with the idea that if something is important
It’ll come back to me.
I don’t need to cling to anything.
Or only to so much, in any case.
Here’s a cartoon I drew in an Alcoholics Anonymous.
It was the second of three that night.
The third being My Favorite Cartoon.
This one’s not important.
It’s just about me,
Being a resentful little jerk-off.
There’s no way for me to explain what I was thinking when I drew this without sounding like an asshole. Which is okay – after all – sometimes I’m an asshole!
This kid was rambling on and every word out of his mouth reeked of “here’s some shit I heard some other clueless bastard say at a meeting, so now I’m gonna repeat it at all of you so that I can walk back to my halfway house confident that you guys will think I’ve really got a handle on this recovery thing.”
Which – who knows – maybe that’s me projecting. Or maybe it’s just me being bitter about some girl not paying enough attention to me. And – honestly – what the fuck should I even care? I guess it’s easy to fall into this kind of judgmental/negative thought when you’re compelled to go to more meetings than you’d otherwise elect to on your own. I might have needed that many at one point early on (or I might not have) but by this time last year, I was definitely ready to move on to the next phase. And within a month I had done just that.
Zack and his mom were in the front yard when we pulled up to get him. From inside the van, I heard him say my name and when we spilled out, he pointed me out and said something about “Mowgli.” I thought that was pretty funny seeing as we have pretty similar taste in attire and I’m constantly scratching at real or imagined bugs in my hair. It’s an apt comparison.
Today is Tuesday – that’s my one day of the week when I have a routine in the outside world. I meet with my counselor at 10 AM and then go to an NA meeting at noon. It’s a reason to put clothes on. The rest of the time, I tend to not be very dressed. I ride around town without shirt or shoes because my only destinations are Alex and Angie’s (to do yardwork) or the convenience store up the street from my house. Sometimes I keep a shirt or shoes in my backpack though just in case. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m pretty free. I do whatever I want to do. Not only do I not have to put on a uniform or a collared shirt every day, I don’t really have to put on much of anything. That’s only significant insofar as what it says about the world and life I’ve built for myself.
I made plenty of friends in the years when I was a college student, but I only made one friend in college. He’s pretty much my only non-punk rock friend. By which I just mean that he’s my only friend that didn’t at least grow up in the punk scene – he’s my only friend that’s not connected to that world at all. He’s married, he has a mortgage, an advanced degree, and he just got a promotion at work. He’s well-adjusted (relatively speaking). When we were in school together, I was always cynical and angry and just chock full o’ nihilism, gloom, and doom. As much as he enjoyed that comedy (because it was so over-the-top as to be parodical) he’d try to get me to see the bright side and not be such a miserable little shit all the time. Tonight he sent me a text to ask how I was doing. “Great! Working on a huge painting right now. How are you?” His response was a little less enthusiastic so I called him.
He’s bored with work, with life. He doesn’t get to spend his time doing the things that he likes to do. Years ago, on the occasions when he was feeling a little less cheery about the world, I couldn’t offer him anything but commiseration (and maybe some I-told-you-sos). But tonight we talked for a little over an hour and (at the risk of being presumptuous) I’d like to think that I was actually able to help him feel a little better. Together, we came up with an idea. A change he could make to free up more of his time so that he can get a little more enjoyment out of this whole “being alive” thing. I don’t know if it’ll necessarily turn out to be the right thing, but that’s not really the point.
I’ve gone over this before but… fuck what the world wants you to do. I don’t have a job, I don’t own a home, and I run around this city looking like Mowgli from the Disney Jungle Book. He asked me what am I gonna do if something falls into my lap that I can’t handle, that I can’t afford. We went back and forth for a while over different hypotheticals, discussing different outcomes for different problems but the “what if”s kept coming. Finally, I came up with an answer that satisfied him. “I don’t know what I’d do. But none of that stuff has happened. I have everything that I need today. If something changes tomorrow, then I’ll deal with it tomorrow. I don’t live in fear or with anxiety over what might happen. I live for today and – today – I’m happy.” He liked that. Whatever it is that he needs to change, I hope he figures it out and follows through. He deserves to be happy and it’s not outside of his reach. (The same can be said of just about everyone).
Speaking of Zack (um… like, nine paragraphs ago). He told me last week that my worldview is (are you ready?) a little immature! (Unbelievable, right?!?)
If that is at all true though, it’s at least partially his fault.
“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 was sitting in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and I was pretty bummed out over (surprise!) a girl. (I’ve astutely noticed that this seems to be a pattern). You see… When we saw each other just before we went into the meeting, she hadn’t paid me quite as much attention as I felt that I needed (ALL OF THE ATTENTION).
So, as I had become prone to doing, I tried to work through my anxiety and hurt feelings with a pen and a piece of paper. I drew a little cartoon, but I wasn’t happy with it. Which made me even more upset. So I tried again. Annnnnnnd… same result. I put my pen and paper on the floor and decided to just sit in my misery and sulk. Because I so enjoy feeling that way. (Who doesn’t?!)
But that was what the old Sam would do. So I begrudgingly picked my pen and paper back up and started again, not even knowing what I was drawing. And this is what came out.
And then I wasn’t upset anymore.
So while I really like this cartoon, what makes it my favorite isn’t necessarily the cartoon itself as much as it’s evidence that I can use art to heal all my stupid, petty wounds. It helps me step back and realize that every little thing that happens around me is not (and is not meant to be interpreted as) proof that I’m a worthless, unlovable piece of shit.
I painted this for a friend’s nursery (and wrote this) after the birth of his first child.
Sometime in April, I found two baby birds that had fallen out of a nest and were clearly dying. I’m embarrassed to say so (which strikes me as a pretty strong indication that I should) but that little incident sparked serious thought – about my priorities, my responsibilities, and how I spend my time. I felt stupid since (apparently) I need to be confronted face-to-face with a dying animal in order to consider it. And I felt weak for being affected by the encounter at all.
About an hour before I had planned to start painting this, I was reminded of another incident where I had felt similarly weak. In twelve-step programs, the sixth step is to become ready to have God remove all of one’s character defects (and the seventh is to actually ask God to remove them). For me, step six meant spending a considerable amount of time actually considering and listing my character defects and then really thinking about whether I truly wanted to stop indulging them. Regarding the seventh step… I talk about faith in relation to other pieces and it’s not the crux of this painting so I’ll just say that one of the best things I’ve ever heard in Alcoholics Anonymous (one of very few things that actually stuck with me) was: “If you’re gonna pray for your character defects to go away, you better fucking act like it worked.”
I did those two steps and realized, “Shit – if I just committed to being honest, I can’t really sneak out of rehab tomorrow to meet up with a girl.” (A scheme I had hatched earlier in the week). So I called the girl. “Um… this is going to sound really dopey, but I have to cancel… I just did my seventh step so I can’t be dishonest and sneak out to see you.”
The buildings in this painting are arranged like the ones at Tranquil Shores. The one with the bird at the window was my room. I often contemplated sneaking out by stepping out of that window and onto the roof of the adjacent building. (I never followed through, but only because I had easier means of sneaking out).
I’ll never forget when Kyle’s mom left (or, more specifically, the day she came back), her attitude, and Kyle’s response… We were sitting in his room when she showed up at the house. She was really happy to see him and he was just… blank. Emotionless. He looked bored by it. I’m sure he wasn’t bored, but he was hurt and I guess that’s how he protected himself. Or maybe he was angry and that was his way of getting back at her: acting like he didn’t care. I don’t know why Kyle’s mom left and maybe she didn’t have a choice, but I saw how the way that she left hurt my friend. She loved him, but she fucked up. My parents loved me and they fucked up. Kyle has his own kid now and I have faith in him as a dad, but he’s going to fuck up in some respect somewhere along the way. We all do. It won’t mean he doesn’t love his daughter, it just means that he’s as shitty, selfish, and imperfect as everyone else. I might do tremendously terrible things in some moment, but I never have that intention; I’m just misguided, short-sighted, frustrated, or [whatever].
The mean looking bird is in my window because it’s me. It’s me and it’s my dad – and my mom. It’s Kyle’s parents, it’s Kyle, it’s his girlfriend, and one day it’ll be their daughter.
“Take what you need and leave the rest” is a slogan that gets used a lot in the contexts of substance abuse recovery and mental health treatment. “Take what you need and leave the nest” is a silly, little bird/growing up pun that I came up with for this piece to show everyone how clever I am.
I struck out on my own at a pretty early age. Some people seem to never leave home. It doesn’t matter. When it comes to parents, family, and home (or anything really), get what you can out of it – all the good lessons or experiences available – and then move forward to what’s next. Don’t dwell on the bad. Resentments only hurt one person – the person holding them. Forgiveness can still be tough, but it’s easier to forgive someone when you remember: they mean well, baby bird.
On an unrelated note, I just fixed a lamp with a soldering iron. If anyone needs the wiring in their house redone, I’m now taking appointments.
Who says a full-length can’t be 19 minutes long? The first three tracks on this thing are so good, they could have cut it off right there and called it a full-length and I still wouldn’t have argued.