I drew this while sitting in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, one night after “Clarity” and “Chrissy Fit” and one night before “No Accident.” I guess you could say it’s about stress and coping mechanisms. Cigarettes, yoga, whatever. I chose the kangaroo with the overgrown kid ’cause the things that stress us out most tend to be (1) problems we’ve created ourselves and (2) things that – long after we have any reason to – we continue to carry around with us.
I’m still sick and I’ve been feeling especially under the weather today. I’m good emotionally though, so I’m very grateful for that.
The original is still available, but the image pictured here is the 4×4″ print that I have for sale in my webstore.
I painted this cartoon on the front page of one of my treatment plans. It’s got a list of all of the things that I should’ve been doing at that point but wasn’t. The thing my counselor was pushing the most was that I go out and interact with human beings that weren’t (1) my girlfriend or (2) my ex-girlfriend’s family [who I lived with]. Basically – to hang out with my friends—not too unreasonable but… you know… I’m busy… and I kinda like my bubble.
On this particular evening – I was out in the great big world. I rode down to Sarasota for a house show with Rational Anthem, Wet Nurse, and Weak Nights. When the last band finished though, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Without heroin or some other intoxicant, how was I supposed to handle this? I’m good with one-on-one interaction but groups of people are tricky.
I decided to make myself useful; I went around the house collecting all of the beer cans and other garbage, bagged it all up and took it outside. I felt pretty good about that [it was nice to be the one cleaning up, rather than fucking up someone’s house] but … what now? I was sleeping at Pete’s house and he was still having fun; I couldn’t ask him to leave. I looked in my backpack. I had pen, pencil, some watercolors, but no blank paper.
It seemed like a funny idea—to make a cartoonabout finally being in a social situation but engaging in a thoroughly antisocial activity—a cartoon that acknowledged my foolishness but demonstrated a resistance to giving it up.
I wasn’t actually trying to be antisocial, of course. [I’m not an asshole – I’m just awkward]. I’d break from what I was doing whenever someone walked up and expressed an interest in talking to me. Maybe – on some level – I was even doing it with that outcome as my goal. Maybe it was an effort to interact one-on-one without having to feel like I was somehow monopolizing someone; it might have been a subconscious move to interact without having to insert myself into a crowd and feel out of place. (It’s cliché and childish but – just about everywhere I go – I still regularly feel that I don’t quite fit in or belong).
So I worked on this at the house, at the bar we all went to afterward, and then back at Pete’s.
Epilogue: This is one of the few things I’ve sold really cheap. To a kid I met in downtown St. Pete during my one Indie Market experience. He really liked a lot of my stuff and especially this one. He had one of those huge backpacks that transient/traveler kids tend to have, so when he asked of there was anyway i could accept just $12 for it, I figured that was probably a pretty decent chunk of his net worth. Besides, when it comes to pricing my art – it’s got very little to do with money. I mean – don’t get me wrong, it is how I pay my bills so I do need to make a certain amount each month, but (after that) it’s not about money – it’s about personal valuation, self-esteem, and confidence. I’ve been encouraged not to give things away which is something I was initially doing anytime someone expressed an interest or even when they actually made an offer to buy something. (And I still do it occasionally). ‘Cause it’s uncomfortable. It’s foreign. Coming up in punk rock – we’re not supposedto make money off our creativity. I still feel guilty sometimes when somebody asks how much I want for something. I’ll usually tell them a number that’s only two-thirds or so of what I actually had in mind. But then when they buy it without blinking, I feel dumb for not just saying the actual price I had in mind (especially when I’m struggling financially).
Although “struggling” is a little of an overstatement. I might *stress* but – so far – everything has always worked out for the best. In the six months since I moved out of Tranquil Shores, I haven’t failed to pay for essentials yet. Things are good. Things are okay.
I’ve struggled with whether or not I should post this image. I drew this the day after “Clarity” and the day before “No Accident.” If you haven’t read the entries that I wrote to go along with those pieces, you should. This week in December may have been the most significant of my life. I’m very glad that it played out as it did.
“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!
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.”
She might be scared, but that has nothing to do with me, my choices, my attitude, or my … how I’ve been.
I’m ambitious and I have confidence but moving out starts the ticking of the clock. It sets the deadline for my success or the date of my failure. Not moving out is what I’m comfortable with. But how long is it okay for me to stall intimate relationships so that I can enjoy myself (and do the things I want to without worry)?
Is it okay for me to be okay? Complacency. Fear. Priorities. GROWING UP. I understand far less than I let on. Strange that someone with all the answers in interactions has nothing but questions when alone.
That’s the text within this piece – painted in my Friday expressive art therapy group at Tranquil Shores. It was getting closer to the time Heather and I had talked about picking up and moving to Jacksonville. We were bickering a lot. I had asked her what was really going on. When she failed to come up with anything, I suggested that maybe she was scared about moving to a new city. After all, it wasn’t me. I’m itinerant! I’m punk! All we do is move. We have no roots. “I don’t live anywhere!” She, on the other hand, had never moved to a new city before so she was scared and that was making her irritable. Obviously.
But this was expressive art therapy and (in therapy) we don’t look at what’s wrong with other people, we look at ourselves. So that’s what I tried to do as I painted and – when I started writing – all of this suddenly came out of me.
God dammit. It was totally me. I was terrified. If I moved to Jacksonville with Heather, I’d suddenly be responsible for rent and utilities and who knows what else. I had been out of (inpatient) treatment for three months and thus far was doing great. I was supporting myself without having to give in to reality and get a real job. (Which – in hindsight – I realize may not have been all that impressive a feat considering that I had absolutely no bills to pay). But if I moved to Jacksonville and came up short on money for bills one month, all of a sudden, I’d have to admit that I was wrong. I’d have to get a job and acknowledge that I couldn’t support myself creatively…
Maybe I should just break it off and stay in Bradenton and live with Taylor’s family forever…? I don’t need a girlfriend or to be an adult or…
“Moving boxes and little else” is an acknowledgment that I had moved more times than I could count but was terrified to move forward.
But I did! And – so far – so good.
This piece is important to me because the process of creating it really was revelatory. I had spend a lot time thinking about this stuff and had gotten nowhere. After I made this piece, the bickering between Heather and I stopped completely. It’s pretty remarkable how much garbage sometimes lurks just below the surface (and how badly it can fuck me up). This piece is proof that art is essential to the maintenance of my mental health.
Here’s the song I quoted in this entry. It’s from the new Dead Mechanical album out soon on Toxic Pop (who split released the last DM full-length with Traffic Street (that’s my label, you guys!)) When I lived in DC, I spent a lot of time in Baltimore. When I wasn’t copping or shooting heroin, I was usually at a Dead Mechanical show. (Sometimes both!) But getting to see them play all the time was definitely one of the best things about living up there.
Here’s another song from the same record. Just ’cause.
Hit the Toxic Pop website to check out the album art (by Julie Benoit!) and pre-order the LP, which starts shipping next week. (I know the site says that it starts shipping in early August, but Mike (Toxic Pop) sent out an update changing the shipping date due to delays at the pressing plant).
This painting is currently for sale. Or – if you’re not a big spender – you can pick up a signed and framed (behind glass) print/poster that’s the same size as the original.
I’ve never shared the text in this piece with anyone until now. Shortly after I moved out of Tranquil Shores, I went down to Sarasota to see if I could sell some of my artwork by just setting up on the sidewalk. I didn’t want any trouble with police and the most trafficked spot in downtown Sarasota is outside of Whole Foods, so rather than set up in such a way as to be explicitly selling artwork, I just sat at a table outside of Whole Foods and painted, with a few finished pieces (facing outward) in the crate attached to my bike, another on the table in front of me, and another leaning against my chair. I just painted and hoped that someone would walk up and want to talk to me and then I could somehow segue into trying to sell something. Plenty of people did stop and talk to me, but I didn’t say anything to anyone about selling anything. And it was twilight, so no one could really see anything anyway. The whole thing was awkward. It wasn’t exactly my best plan.
Just before I went to Whole Foods, I had stopped by Clothesline. I had made a habit of doing that whenever I was back in Sarasota in the last year or so (in between stints in rehab), but this time it wasn’t just to say hi to the owner, Austin (my best friend from ages two to ten or so). Clothesline does gallery openings or art exhibits or [whatever you call that kind of thing] and – as of a couple months ago – I was now an artist. I figured I’d show him some of my pieces and see if there was any possibility of showing some of my stuff there. He was really supportive and sweet, but I didn’t actually ask outright and the whole thing didn’t pan out exactly as I’d have liked it to. Looking back, that makes a lot of sense.
Anyway, this was written a few hours later – after the Whole Foods attempt, after starting my ride back to Bradenton. It was colder than I could stand (to ride in) so I pulled over and wrote this on a piece of canvas that I had started to paint earlier. It says:
At first I thought it was just because she wanted to see me, but when I started writing on “Smiling With a Paintbrush in My Teeth,” I realized it might not be a good thing. When I asked her if she just wanted to see me or had something specific to talk about (and that I might not be home by ten) she said, “It’s not a big deal – it can wait ’til tomorrow.” But it’s a big enough deal that it’s not a text or a phone call. And a big enough deal that – ideally – she wanted to talk about it tonight. I’m really scared. Trying to see the good. Trying to be a light. Whole Foods today (covert street sales) was a bust. Clothesline was a bust. I might need to be in a big city to be an artist. And what keeps me from that? Heather. If she left me, I could go wherever I want. In another piece today, I had described myself as “stuck” and “trapped.” Also “smiling,” but still. My little punk rock heart’ll be broken, but I’ll be free to pursue my dream. And she’s been weird the last two days. “A dream I don’t want to wake up from.” It’s true, but maybe it’s time for me to wake up. I tried to ride the moped back. It’s too cold. The zipper on my bag keeps opening. I caved and called Lynette. There’s pizza waiting at home. I’m scared but I just need to make it another 100 minutes. Writing this killed 17. By the time I’m warm and fed, I’ll only have maybe 55 minutes to kill. Fuck. I’m smoking a cigarette now.
So – being incredibly codependent – I wanted to see Heather every night, but I was trying to be cool with it on the nights that I didn’t see her. But when she sent me a text on this evening, asking if she could come over around 10, I was excited because she had said that she had to work early and wouldn’t be coming over. And then my brain went into panic mode, as I realized that her text also implied that there was something we needed to talk about. Obviously, I jumped to the conclusion that she was going to break up with me. We had only been dating for a couple of weeks, but – shit – I didn’t really understand why she had been into seeing me in the first place. I’m a heroin addict and I just got out of rehab. She’s well-adjusted and employed. She drives a car! That she bought! With money from working!
I got picked up on the side of the rode and went “home.” (I was living with an ex-girlfriend’s family – although – I think it’s safe to say at this point (eight years in) that they’re basically my family; they’re as much family to me as anyone else in the world). Anyway, I was a ball of anxiety, I was so incredibly stressed out throughout this, but I remember that the one comforting thought in my head was there will be pizza – I will eat pizza and everything will be okay. (Yes, I am nine years old). When I got back to the house, there was not any pizza left. It was a pretty devastating blow.
I didn’t finish this piece that night because I didn’t want it to be a piece. I didn’t want anyone to see what I had written. It’s embarrassing.
Three weeks later, I found myself similarly upset though and I picked it back up. In all of that time, I had been cutting my anti-depressants all the way down to zero. For that reason, it was tough to tell when something was a legitimate issue and when I was maybe just feeling the absence of my medication. Just before I moved out of Tranquil Shores, it had been suggested that maybe I didn’t need anti-depressants after all. I started titrating down and we were monitoring my condition to see how I did with a lower dose and then with no dose. The day that I finished this piece, I was at the very end of my titration. I had no idea what was what.
I still get depressed, but I haven’t gone back on anti-depressants. After all, I still got depressed even when I was on them. And actually, I got depressed even more often because my “mental health tools” weren’t as strong back then. I don’t wanna go on a long spiel about it, but I’ll just say: I think anti-depressants are for people suffering from depression without cause. If, on the other hand, a person has plenty of legitimate reasons to be depressed, depression is the appropriate response and not something that should be treated with a pill. That strikes me as being roughly equivalent to putting a piece of duct tape over a “check engine” light and thinking the problem’s solved.
Anyway, I’m not saying that I have good reasons to be depressed, but I’ve got my little episodes and I have ways that I can manage them without a pill. Did I need it for a time? Almost definitely. I don’t think I could have started to get a grip without them. I was immeasurably miserable all the time. Words like “hopeful” and “happy” disgusted me. I wouldn’t even say them out loud. My process, getting well… it wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy. I had a very long way to go. (And – yeah – I’m still going).
Quick aside. In writing this entry, I noticed something cool about this piece: how many other pieces it alludes to or is tied to in some sense. At least five. Maybe those will be the next ones I add to the site. (As I add those pieces, I’ll add links to them in the text of this entry, where each is referenced).