I used to care about stuff. These days, whenever I hear someone railing on about how this or that is bullshit or a scam or [whatever], I just kinda roll my eyes. “Get some real problems,” I’ll think. “Isn’t there anything going on in yourown life worth being concerned about?” I’ve only got so much emotional capital and I’m definitely not investing it in some shit that has zero bearing on my day-to-day. And (of course) I’ve got my own principles, but I’m not about to start preaching to other people about what they ought to support, not support, believe, or not believe. Again – I GOT ENOUGH GOING ON RIGHT HERE. I don’t have the time or energy to waste on trying to change or influence somebody else. Besides, I’m pretty sure that the most positive effect I’ve ever had on the world has been through my art and my writing, which I do for my own benefit but which seems to positively impact other people as an added bonus.
On another note: I’VE BEEN FUCKING A LOT LATELY. I’m getting a lot of attention from girls. It’s probably going to my head a little bit. There are still plenty of times when I’ll catch a glimpse of my reflection and get pretty bummed out about the way that I look but for the most part I’m pretty pleased with myself these days.
I painted this while I was selling prints at the opening of a new art space in St. Augustine. It’s been a really long time since I spent less than ten hours on a painting, but I’m pretty sure I wrapped this one up within an hour or so. If I’m being honest, it was half expressive art and half “hey, girls! look at me! come talk to me!” Even still, I’m pretty happy with it.
I chose to use only the second half of my caption as the title because (by itself) it’s sexually suggestive but silly. That line underneath the body was originally meant just to distinguish one leg from the other but I left it as is ‘cause it kinda looks like it’s meant to be a dick. That works too.
This painting is already up as part up my exhibit at Burrito Gallery in Jacksonville, FL. By tomorrow afternoon, it’ll also be available as a 12×16″ print.
Speaking of prints, I set up at Rain Dogs to sell last night (thanks to my buddy, Mike, who does art under the banner of Hood Rat Shit). I just found out that Chris Wollard and Jon Snodgrass are playing there tonight, so I might try to go back and do the same. Here are some photos from last night though.
Snarkiness, pride, self-deprecation, vanity, whatever… all that shit aside – I really do have fun. And I really am grateful. I couldn’t ask for anything more than what I’ve got. And when I think about all the people that have been so supportive of me recently – personally or in just buying my work – it really is humbling. I feel like I’m in a pretty good state of being, even if it is a delicate balancing act sometimes.
It was my first expressive art therapy group after Tranquil Shores readmitted me. The theme was grief / loss… and I chose to paint a giant glue bottle, chasing down some kids, trying to get them to sniff him… (I had my reasons – and I’ll get to them, I promise). It was a scene I remembered from a cartoon we watched in fifth grade. It’s stuck with me not because it was effective but because it was so incredibly stupid and condescending – even to eleven year olds! We laughed through the whole thing. It was a big dumb joke.
Regarding anti-drug messages – in the short span between my discharge and return, I received some that were just slightly more powerful. I called a friend that had been my regular dealer whenever I was in Sarasota. She said she was in the hospital. Chris and I picked up some things for her and went to visit. After a particularly strong shot of heroin, she had nodded out at the wheel and flipped/rolled her car. Her scalp was torn off, her teeth were knocked out, her neck was broken, and her body was filled with broken glass. She survived but it definitely didn’t seem to be a “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger situation.” What didn’t kill her left her a fragile mess, now forever at risk of paralysis or death.
Later that night, I saw something cryptic on Facebook that seemed to imply the death of my friend, Mitch. That familiar flood of panic and dread rose up through my body and swelled into my head. I called a mutual friend in Delray…
I struggled to get the words out. “Is… um – is… is Mitch… ?”
“Yeah. He is.”
(You know the feeling…)
I had only met Mitch nine months prior; he wasn’t my best or oldest friend. But we had been in the same “small group” at Wellness Resource Center and had gotten to know each other really well. I liked him a lot. And there was another reason his death affected me as it did – a reason that didn’t really have anything to do with Mitch or my relationship with him, but that hit me on a really deep, personal level. I’ll save that for another time.
Drug addicts (particularly heroin addicts) die. And those that don’t – by virtue of their association with other addicts – get to witness a lot of death. But death isn’t the only kind of loss (it’s just the most permanent). I lost a lot in the midst of my addiction. A relationship with the girl I was about to propose to, my record label (which was sort of my whole fucking world), my integrity, and plenty of friends – to death and otherwise. So why was I sitting in expressive art therapy group (during grief/loss week), painting this stupid cartoon bottle of glue? I had my reasons, but I still felt pathetic.
I grew up as a snarky, cocky, little fuck. I had all the answers, I knew all the tricks, and I was always ready with the cynical, witty little quip. But now… now I had to be… something else. Desperation forced me into a corner where the only choices were to change everything or die. I was gonna have to look at the world with a new set of eyes and address it with a new tongue. If everything isn’t shit – and I’m not the shitty little kid – then what is it? And who am I?
The loss I was grappling with at that moment – and I mean really grappling with – was a loss of identity. Or a perceived loss of identity in any case. I was extremely grateful to have had the epiphany consequent to my discharge; I was really grateful to have been readmitted to Tranquil Shores. I was feeling upbeat, optimistic about the future, and sort of (dare I say) happy. And that was really fucking my shit up. I was friendly, and positive, and I felt like the biggest impostor on the planet. I wasn’t pretending, I wasn’t faking — but I felt like I must have been and I just didn’t know it.
At some point in that first week back, I actually asked everyone in group: “Be honest with me. Please. The way that I’ve been since I got back – positive, smiling, all that – does anyone think I’m full of shit? Like – does anyone suspect even a little bit that this is an act? You can tell me. I’m not gonna be upset.”
“Sam, there is one person who doesn’t believe you,” Tracy said.
I knew it! There was no way at least one of my peers hadn’t gone to a counselor to complain about the way I was acting. After all, this “transformation” was unbelievable! How could anyone buy into it? But was Tracy going to actually out this person? Unlikely but maybe this would goad them into coming forward themselves.
I nodded: “It’s okay, I understand absolutely.”
“It’s you, Sam. You’re the only one that doesn’t believe you.”
How did I not see that coming? I just kinda shook my head. “Okay. I guess if… I don’t know.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Seriously though? Nobody else?”
Everyone assured me that they believed it and they were happy about it. Which was nice but didn’t totally squelch my skepticism. It was another couple months before I’d be able to really set it aside (and I still have little questions with myself every now and then) but I think that was the point when I was able to stop grieving the loss of my identity or (maybe) started to recognize that I hadn’t really lost anything after all. Nothing of value anyway.
I still get to play that snarky little character sometimes – he’s just less of an asshole than he used to be. (His jokes aren’t mean anymore). And I also get to play another character now: the kind, loving friend that actually gives a shit. I think I’ve struck a pretty good balance.
One of the albums I released through Traffic Street Records was the first full-length by The Credentials. The first song in particulalar has meant (and continues to mean) a lot to me.
“Nice Girl / Coffee Shop” by The Credentials Rolled down the footbridge, waited for the light Like giving up on all my dreams or finding out a friend had died
It seems like anywhere I go from here won’t really take me anywhere.
Our fingertips are numbing from the cold and how we make it go away
The deafening silence, alone in our heads, won’t leave us alone
So we hope that our friends can relate to that feeling
That weight on your chest, walking back home across the turnpike again
I saw her standing there behind a counter across the street I crumpled up a flier in disgust and in defeat
You see, I’m sick of knowing what it is I want out of this life – and fucking up While all these assholes mill around and can’t decide
Same old story, drunk and bored
We trudge on through the slush and stormy weather Wishing superstitious fears would go follow someone else.
This image was an accident. It was just a piece of paper, on my desk, beneath something that I was actually working on. I brought it with me to work on while I tabled at Indie Market [the day I painted “Roller Skating Sideways Through Blood” and “Getting Greedy“]. Ultimately, I didn’t do anything to it; instead, opting to use it as a statement about THE VALUE OF ART. (Wow! I sure am thoughtful and interesting!)
Set up on the sidewalk across from me were some kids selling a socialist newspaper they had written and published. When I was younger, I might have thought that was kind of cool and impressive but – at this point – I couldn’t help but marvel at how incredibly fucking fruitless of an endeavor that must be. To publish a socialist newspaper in Tampa, Florida. I mean – what kind of a person thinks that they’re going to make the slightest fucking bit of a difference with something like that? I mean – ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Not to mention: how incredibly fucking boring.
I picked my “Value of Art” piece back up to add the words: “AND SOCIALISM!”
Though I saw the similarity between this piece and their newspaper even then, it’s only in hindsight that I see the similarity between their newspaper and everything that I do. After all, if their paper is even slightly worth a shit, I’m sure they turn someone on to a new idea every once in a while and set them on a path to… something or other… I’m sure they’ve made some kind of a positive difference in someone’s life. And I’m sure it gives a sense of purpose to theirs.
So while – on some level – I might think that publishing a socialist newspaper is a total waste of fucking time… I’ve got to admit that it’s roughly equivalent to everything I’ve ever made and everything I ever will make. So – you know – power to the proletariat or what-the-fuck-ever.
5×6″ prints of “I’m Publishing a Socialist Newspaper in Tampa, Florida” are available in my webstore. The original sold earlier this year.
I’m still sick and it’s bumming me out. I think one of those two new paintings I’ve been talking about is done though. If so, it’ll be online tomorrow… So… that’s kinda cool, I guess.
I wrote a statement about this piece after I finished it:
Awoken by pain at 5 AM this morning, I was given a heating pad and a Flexeril (a drug which I have not been prescribed). Lying in bed, I started this drawing and continued until the pain subsided enough that I was able to get back to sleep. I finished later that afternoon on the ride back home from my outpatient group at Tranquil Shores.
In case you’re wondering, neither my integrity nor my recovery were at all compromised by my decision to ingest a Flexeril. If you think that’s at all questionable though, let me assure you that I am totally happy for you!
I only bring it up to clarify that this title is tongue-in-cheek.
The original has already sold, but 10×13″ prints are available in my webstore.
I’ve been insanely busy the last few days, getting all of my stuff ready for Artwalk in Jacksonville next week. I’m happy about it insofar as it’s put a fire under me and gotten me to work on editing my statements (since I’m putting printed copies in the sealed sleeves along with each print). I’m aiming to have around 50 different prints ready for sale so that means 50 statements. The less fun part is all of the tedious presentation stuff. Putting the prints in the sleeves, cutting thick backing board into the right size for each print, formatting the statements in Word to be the right size for each piece — stuff like that. It’s cool though; I’m going to feel really good about it when it’s all done. (Only four days left to go).