I started the band Extra Day For Riots in 2003 when I was seventeen. In the summer of 2004, we went on a short tour. At our show in Jackson, Tennessee, we noticed some cop cars parked out by our van. As the hours passed, the cops didn’t. They just sat there. We were never up to any good but hadn’t done anything (on that day) that they’d have any way of knowing about, so we did our best to pretend they weren’t there. Finally, one of them came inside. “Is there a Samuel North here?”
I stepped forward. “We need you to come outside,” they told me. I had no idea what was going on, but I went.
“Are you the owner of this van?” Yeah. “Were you at the Old Hickory Mall earlier today?” Yeah. “A woman filed a report that the driver of this van, before entering the vehicle and leaving the mall, exposed his penis to her.”
What the fuck? I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. And then it hit me.
My belt had broken and, earlier that day, I was complaining about it to the other kids as we were getting in the van. “Check out how ridiculous this is,” I told them. “The waist of these pants is so worn out that I can make them drop just by clenching my butt.” I demonstrated, letting my pants fall off my waist without the use of my hands. Then I pulled them up and we left. At no point was my penis exposed (I was wearing underwear) but I guess my friends weren’t my only audience and – for whatever reason – this person reported an exaggerated version to the police.
I explained what actually happened, but the cops didn’t believe me. “Seriously!” I pleaded. “Here, look.” With my arms out at my sides, I let my pants drop. The one cop eyed me with contempt: “Pull your pants up and go inside,” he said, “we’re done here.”
Right around the time I started drawing just for the fun/fuck of it, I thought of that night for the first time in years. I was sitting inside Tranquil Shores, waiting for group to start, and I picked Alexis‘ notebook up off her chair and scribbled out an even more exaggerated version of what happened.
Wanna see me and little Hembrough playing a high school talent show TEN YEARS AGO? Well I just so happen to have a video of Extra Day For Riots’ performance at Sarasota High School during the ’03-’04 school year. (Hembrough plays bass in Rational Anthem now, but back then he played drums; I sang).
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.”
After the show in Valdosta (which was just Rational Anthem and Johnathan Coody of Ninja Gun), I drove the van back to my place in Jacksonville, where we spent the night. The rest of the crew left around noon and I’ve spent the day kind of catching up around here. Did some yardwork, started to replace the blurry images (in all of my posts made from the road) with high-res ones. I should have that done by tomorrow, at which point I’ll also add them all to the Gallery page.
I don’t take a lot of photos, but here’s what I got.
I guess that’s it for now. But speaking of Mike…
And if you’re tired of my nonsense, those links in the photo captions will take you to Brett and Evan’s websites, which both have a bunch of their art online.
Things got a little hectic yesterday morning. I’m going to try to tell this story, which involves other people, while keeping the focus mostly on myself. I’ve never stated so explicitly but there’s a reason I do that and it’s not because I think I’m such a fascinating character. Letting my focus shift to other people would make for better storytelling but less effective mental health exercise. When it comes to my well-being, the things that other people think, say, and do are irrelevant. Really, they have nothing to do with me and are none of my business (or at least none of my concern).
The Lipstick Homicide and Bloated Kat houses are about a block apart, so our crew was split between them for the night. It was about time for us to get on the road from Iowa City to Carbondale when Noelle called me and said she needed my help. “It’s nothing bad or serious, is it?”
“Andrea broke up with me and is driving back to Florida without Jessica.”
Since 2008, Rational Anthem has had an incredibly sensible rule: no girlfriends on tour. Relationship problems are bad enough on their own, but when they come up on tour, they become the whole band’s problem. This trip though wasn’t quite a tour and an exception was made. Noelle’s girlfriend rented a car to drive up to Dave Strait Fest, but also to stop along the way up and back for two of the shows Rational was playing between Florida and Minneapolis. In the car with her was a friend of Noelle’s (and – at one point – possibly of Andrea’s as well).
What happened isn’t important. There was now bad blood and Andrea didn’t want to drive back to Florida with the other girl.
Rational Anthem has three members. Their van has four seats. I was along for the whole trip and Zack’s summer in Minneapolis was over, so he was hitching a ride with us back home to Florida.
I walked over to the house and sat down with Andrea. I offered a couple different ideas/options that might make her more receptive to driving back with Jessica in tow, as planned. She wasn’t having it.
There was a point in my life where I was so desperate to be perceived as a “winner” – as someone capable of pulling any trick or fixing any problem – that I would have pulled whatever emotionally manipulative bullshit was necessary to get those two girls in the car together and back on the road to Florida. But that’s not me anymore. Andrea was hurting and I felt for her. Whatever happened to spark the conflict didn’t really matter to me. Two (or three) people can have radically different versions of a story and neither’s is wrong. Perception *is* reality. If Noelle or Jessica were mean to Andrea, if it was all in Andrea’s head – it didn’t make any difference. Emotions are more powerful than facts. I didn’t care about the problem, only the solution.
The rental car was in Andrea’s name. On paper, the call was hers. Could she have been coaxed into taking Jessica and making life easier for the other people involved? Probably. But I consider Andrea a friend and – it’s a little strange but – my empathy was stronger than my need to be the clever problem-solver. It’s strange because I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. I wasn’t willing to do anything to keep her from doing what she felt she needed to in order to feel okay.
I gave Andrea a hug and told Jessica she’d have to take a bus from Iowa to Florida. Not because she did something wrong (I don’t know or care whether or not she did) but because that was simply the situation we were in. Unfortunate but… things are as they are.
Jessica said she didn’t know what she had done wrong. I said that I didn’t either, but that it didn’t matter. She was upset (and reasonably enough so). Not being the type of itinerant punk rock fuck-up that so many of us are, a bus trip from Iowa to Florida was going to be a new kind of experience for her. I did my best to remain calm, compassionate, and supportive, and to alleviate any fears, but it didn’t go over much better than my initial proposals to Andrea. Jessica asked if she could go in the van with Rational Anthem and someone else could take a bus or ride back with Andrea.
Chris, Noelle, and I walked back to the other house. Chris wanted to keep the group intact as it was. Noelle said she felt bad about the situation Jessica was in so she was okay with Zack or I heading back with Andrea – so long as we were. I didn’t like that option, but was willing to do whatever seemed to make the most sense. Zack was too. I saw Andrea’s hurt, but there was hurt all over the place and I’d do just about anything for Noelle at this point. She’s my friend and – besides – I owe it to her. For all the times when I haven’t been a good friend to her. For all the times when the only thing she could really count on me doing was making trouble myself.
As it turned out, Andrea returned
the car in Iowa and made other plans. The five of us decided to hit the road as initially planned.
This was finished later that afternoon but drawn mostly the night before, on the way to (and at) the show in Des Moines (which was The Copyrights, Lipstick Homicide, Rational Anthem, Tight Bros, and a few others). The text is basically journaling about the situation and some other stuff that was on my mind at one point or another.
The text that stands out most to me says, “What’s to come is what matters. We roll with the punches. We’ll do whatever it is that we have to do.” It’s kind of about what is as well as what should be. Or maybe just what is when we’re at our best. Human beings, I mean.
I’m really grateful for the fact that – even when I thought it might mean that I’d have to go home early – the thought never occurred to me that I should go back and try to talk Andrea into taking Jessica after all.
And I’m grateful that I’m still here with four of my friends. And grateful that I’m finally able to treat my friends the way a friend should.
Running late on our way to Carbondale. The show tonight is with Future Virgins, The Heat Tape, and Hate Waves. 9 pm at Ski Haus. I think.
Traded art with Evan Wolff last night. I’m afraid to hang his print in my living room ’cause more people will comment on how cool it is than any of my things that hang in there. I might have to put it in the bedroom. Then again, it could be good for me. I can always use a little more humility. I also started a trade with Brett Hunter. He took my “I Don’t Go Out Much” cartoon and is gonna bring me something in trade for it tonight, so i’m really excited for that now too. (Show+trade with Brett+pizza place Zack’s talking about=high hopes for Carbondale). Punk rock is still awesome.
The van is shaky and I’m unusually tired, but I have a new piece to share later. It’s been a strange morning. We almost had to sacrifice a body to the tour monsters and – since the band is kind of necessary to the whole playing shows thing – it would’ve been either Zack or I. We were both willing to do whatever, but things shook out in such a way that we’re both still here.
When I’m not driving, I tend to sit in back, but I’m riding shotgun right now with Chris driving. It’s not too hot out, we’re listening to Ramshackle Glory singing, “I always wanted to die young, now I feel younger every day,” and life is kinda nice.
Says: “I don’t accept what you consider fact, truth, or reality. But I do believe in freedom right now. And I’m gonna do my best to try to be happy. I’ll let you know how it works out.”
It was in response to being told that – what I’m doing / how I’m living – is okay for now but will have to end really soon. That I’ll need to get a real job or learn to draw boardwalk caricatures.
I drew this “for” the insert for (Rational Anthem’s) Whatevermind LP, but decided that it didn’t fit and – beyond that – almost seemed antithetical to it.
Actually, I just remembered: this didn’t start out as an expressive piece, I had something in mind, but I made a mistake (and since I was using ink, I couldn’t correct it) so I just worked around it and it turned into this.
We’re en route to Des Moines. Show tonight should be good. Rational, Copyrights, Tight Bros, and Lipstick Homicide. Kind of strange though: doors at 4, show at 5, and it’s 21+.
Found out The Heat Tape got added to the show tomorrow in Carbondale. Their album was my favorite thing on the planet that first week in Sarasota to make “No Real Than You Are.” It was actually when one of those songs came up in my headphones and I didn’t immediately feel great that I knew something was wrong. I wanted the feeling back – the one that I had gotten, riding around town listening to that album just a few days earlier. Raccoon Valley Recordings (and my response to it) were literally my mental health gauge.
I once pitched “Another Successful Human Interaction” as a song title to Chris (for Rational Anthem). That’s the phrase that’s in my head again right now. I’m sure it’ll strike anyone that knows me as pretty absurd, but (as if I hadn’t covered this just earlier today) I get nervous in social situations sometimes. And when I have conversations that I can walk away from without feeling embarrassed, I feel proud of myself. Self-esteem requires a lot of maintenance, but (having a little bit these days) I can… it’s… I don’t know. I guess what I wanna say is that I’m able to use it to build up more. Just by having *some*, I’m able to develop more.
And it’s an easy slip, a fast fall, back to zero, but it’s not *really* zero anymore, even if it feels that way sometimes.
The Slow Death are playing soon and I’m excited to see them.
Just now – wanting to include a piece of art in this entry since I’m trying to get it all up on the site, piece by piece – I checked to see what I had photos of on my phone. This one seems appropriate.
I drew this with crayons in group back when I still lived at Tranquil Shores. Later, I played with it on the computer and turned it into something else. When I get home, I’ll add a photo of the original to this entry (if I have one, which I may not). In either case, I’ll upload a bigger picture of the “computerized” version. (That’s something I’ll have to do with everything I’m posting from the road). I can’t recall the specifics of why I was drawing in group on the day that I made this because I don’t know what day that was. Again, when I’m home, I’ll look into it. But I remember feeling a little inadequate, but – at the same time – a little hopeful. Like, “I may not be much now, but… you’ll see.” I guess I could call it a “letter to my detractors” of sorts. And – as noted – the original is entirely crayon – which I think is sort of perfect for this. I could call it “naive,” I could call it “immature,” but I’d rather call it innocent. I like that.