Tomorrow marks five months clean. Everything’s going pretty well. I’m a little bummed that I haven’t been able to share decent photos my post-relapse paintings on here yet (there are five finished paintings so far, another that’s in progress, and a drawing that’s in progress as well). I should be able to get most of them photographed sometime this week, at which point I’ll start writing the ancillary statements for each so that I can give each one its own proper blog entry AND start offering prints for sale.
The big news lately (as those that follow me on Facebook already know) is that I got Wallis back down here and back off drugs. (Things took a (predictably) bad turn for her when we split up and she went back to Jacksonville). There’s no judgment in that statement by the way; if I had been in that situation, I very sincerely doubt that I’d have fared even the slightest bit better. Anyway, initially we (I, with the help of some friends) got her into inpatient rehab but – for reasons I’m not going to get into – that didn’t really pan out as well as we might’ve hoped. So she’s been back out now for a few days and I’m scrambling a little bit to figure out where to put her. Art sales have been going as well as could be expected considering I’m just now getting back to it after a two-year hiatus/relapse but the brief period that she was in rehab wasn’t exactly enough time for me to make enough money to find a place for her to live. (She’s, of course, going to be getting a job and paying her own way but someone has to cover her first month’s rent and who’s that gonna be if not me?) Toward that end, I swallowed ALL OF MY PRIDE and actually got a “real job” for the first time in ten thousand years. I’m not super happy about it; it feels a little bit like an acknowledgment of failure; like maybe I can’t support myself (and someone else) off art alone but history’s already proven that that’s not true and I’m confident that this isn’t the new “state of affairs” and that I’ll be able to return full-time to art in the relatively near future. It basically boils down to the question of what’s more important to me: my pride and my image or providing a safe place for the girl that I love to recover/heal/rebuild in the same way that I was so recently given the opportunity to do?
I guess that about covers it for now. Hit me up if you wanna buy some art. Apparently these “JOBS” have these things called “pay periods” where you don’t get your money until, like, two Fridays after you do the stuff that you do and I’d like to start renting a place before then. But – you know – whatever. It’s all gonna work out regardless. IT SORT OF ALWAYS DOES.
I’m pretty sure I left Chicago immediately after writing my last blog entry. We packed up that day and were on the road within 24 hours. We came to Jacksonville, which is mostly where we’ve been ever since.
I started work on the eight by twelve foot canvas that I had been planning since Spring. I set it up in front of Sun-Ray Cinema everyday and work on it with a table of prints set up to sell as I paint.
November turned out pretty well. After not even attempting to make any money the last two months in Chicago, I started to sell a good deal of art and am no longer in the dire financial position that I was in when I left Illinois. My emotional state improved significantly too.
December has been kind of rough so far. I stopped setting up to paint and sell quite as often so I started to make less money and I started to not feel quite as good. December’s Art Walk in Jacksonville was surprisingly bad and the rain at Art Basel pretty much fucked that up too.
I also finally had my first run-in with some idiot who wants to believe that I’m a rapist. Wallis and I were out in front of Sun-Ray and some girl walked by.
Without stopping, she asked, “Hey – didn’t you rape that girl?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yeah you did,” she said, by that point already a ways down the sidewalk, barely within earshot. There was no use trying to argue with her. She (and people like her) don’t care about the truth.
Though I’m not sure exactly what it is that they do care about. Condemning me does nothing to prevent violence or to aid victims/survivors of violence. It’s a showing of support for an anonymous girl that told (or at least went along with) a really disgusting lie. And it hurts me.
There are a thousand things I could write or say in an attempt to convince people that I was innocent. None of that really matters though. There are only two people in the world who really know what happened that night. And though the news stories about the alleged crime are sensationalistic and factually inaccurate, the little bit of information that is publicly available is more than enough to suggest a reasonable doubt.
If someone wants to believe that I’m a rapist in spite of that, their belief really doesn’t have anything to do with me, my actions, my character, or my history.
This isn’t really what I set out to write tonight, when I sat down to write this blog entry. I just wanted to give an update to the people that care about (or take an interest in) me.
For reasons I don’t want to discuss, I’m less comfortable disclosing the more sensitive details of my life right now. (The reasons and details have nothing to do with what I’ve just written about). Suffice to say, in the time that’s passed since my last update, I’ve experienced plenty of highs, lows, and middles, and tonight I’m just feeling very introspective and a little somber.
Here are a bunch of photographs:
And here are a series of photographs to show the development of my current work-in-progress. It’s the biggest thing I’ve done thus far (eight feel tall, twelve feet wide) and I’ve been at it for about a month now.
If you’re in Jacksonville and wanna buy something, meet me, or just see how the painting is coming along, I’m out front of Sun-Ray most days from around noon ’til 10pm or so (unless it’s raining or I’m depressed or… whatever). Come say hi and then go inside and see a movie or get a pizza or something. Right now they’re playing Krampus and Room. Thursday’s the last night for Krampus and then on Friday they’re opening Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room and the new Star Wars movie. Oh – and on Thursday night they’re throwing a huge fucking party out back (in the parking lot behind the theater) where they’re gonna be recreating the cantina from Mos Eisley (which, for you non-nerds, is a setting from the original Star Wars movie).
For as much as I talk and write about Wallis, I’ve never really shared the full story of how we first came together. I’ll save the cute elements of the story for later and just give you the important part that hasn’t seemed relevant until now.
When I met Wallis, she was actively addicted to heroin. She was trying to not be on heroin but (like most addicts) she was finding that to be a little tougher than she could handle. We hit it off really quickly but I told her on our very first night together that I couldn’t be around that sort of thing. I told her that if she wanted to continue spending time with me, she couldn’t be using drugs. (I’m way too fucking fragile to not relapse if a pretty girl has a needle and a bag of dope to share with me). She told me she didn’t wanna use. I invited her to go with me on a road trip for a week – up to Illinois and back. In the course of that trip, we fell in love. Which was a problem because it meant we needed to figure out what we were gonna do to keep her from going back to heroin once we got back to Jacksonville. We decided that she’d need to quit the strip club and get another job (nobody can stay off drugs in that environment – no addict anyway). I told her I’d cover her ’til she got a new job and then – when it was time for me to leave Jacksonville – she’d quit her new job and come with me. Sound familiar? I did for Wallis the same thing I had done for my best friend, Chris, a year prior. I brought her out on the road with me to keep her off drugs. To show her another kind of life. Like Chris had done, in exchange for “all expenses paid” she’d just help me with my set-up, selling art, whatever. (And like Chris, it pretty much worked. She never used once; not while traveling with me anyway).
When we left Jacksonville, it was for Minneapolis, where I was to be featured in a gallery exhibit. Halfway through the exhibition’s run, we returned to Jacksonville for a week, so I could bank at One Spark. On the drive down, Wallis started talking about going to see old friends – friends that she had, historically, used drugs with. I told her that this was a terrible idea. She argued that I needed to have faith in her. I responded that I’d heard that same exact sentence and had this same exact conversation many, many times in the past (with another girl) and that I knew perfectly well how this was gonna end. I told her that if she wasn’t willing to forego the reunion (and the inevitable relapse that’d come with it) that I couldn’t be her boyfriend anymore. One Spark was going to be an incredibly important week for me financially and I didn’t wanna fuck it up by spending the whole time worried about whether Wallis was safe. She said okay (as in okay, then you don’t need to be my boyfriend anymore). There was no hostility or drama beyond that but when we got to Jacksonville, we went our separate ways. Wallis relapsed that very first night (thought she wouldn’t tell me until later), but called me the next morning and spent the rest of the week by my side like a lost puppy. On the night before I was to return to Minneapolis, she broke down crying, told me she had fucked up, and that she still wanted to be with me.
I first had the thought years and years ago, upon hearing Rivethead’s “In My Heart a Warehouse Burns For You.” The last lyric in the song is “I love you just as much as I hate the man.” I’m not exactly the biggest fan of cops or authority figures of any kind but when I’m really fired up and full of hate, there’s only one target it’s ever directed at: me. I still listen to that record (The Cheap Wine of Youth) all the time so the idea of captioning a painting with “I love you just as much as I hate myself” had occurred to me on a couple occasions but I didn’t wanna be derivative. Then, when I bought Pretty Boy Thorson’s An Uneasy Peace (the final song of which is called “I Love You Even More Than I Hate Myself”) I had a bit of a god dammit moment. That should’ve been mine! The song’s awesome and it doesn’t matter that the lyric is similar to another. I started thinking about it though – that line – and whether or not it was actually true (for me). I was dating Wallis and I absolutely loved her but did I love her more than I hated myself? I wasn’t really sure. I decided that sometimes I’m afraid that I could never love anyone more than I hate myself. After all, we had weathered the storm of her relapse but I was sabotaging our relationship bit by bit with my low self-esteem. I wrote about some of that anxiety in the bottom-right corner of the painting:
It’s so much harder to travel with a second person. Staying with friends feels like a much bigger imposition and I can’t stay with girls I meet. That’s probably the hardest part. But I love Wallis. (And I really like fucking her). And I think she needs me. I tried to leave her in Jacksonville but it didn’t work out. I hope she’s with me because she really loves me and not just ‘cause she’s scared to go back to “real life.” It if doesn’t work out, it’s probably gonna be because I can’t stop thinking about fucking other girls, which I know hurts her (and is really so selfish and dumb - and even mean - on my part) but really has nothing to do with her. (She’s so fucking hot and sexy and cute and beautiful). It’s just my insecurity and my compulsion to fuck every pretty girl, to prove to the world (and myself) just how fucking wonderful and desirable I am. It’s not helping that girls are throwing themselves at me these days. But I know (or think) that shit won’t make me happy. And in the end, I’m just gonna want someone to love me and I love Wallis.
There’s another, shorter string of text higher up in the painting, similarly inspired by punk rock: “I was listening to that Gateway District song where they sing, ‘I’m always falling way behind and you go on and on and on.’ If only I knew someone like that. Maybe I’d have someone to look to. Everybody I know is struggling. Everyone I know is as hopeless as I am. (Or worse).”
There’s a brighter, happier pair of sentences in the top-left corner – the product of a moment when everything was right in the world. Amazing sex with Wallis and I’m driving to the gallery showcasing my art while listening to “Another Way Out of Here” by The Murderburgers. The thought occurred to me that “nothing in this world makes me happier than an energetic, upbeat song about suicide.” I gave it a second thought. Is that true?I concluded, “Except (maybe) hitting girls in the face during sex.” I smiled. That’s pretty funny. I’m pretty fucked up. The things that I enjoy are – well – a little odd. This was all well and good at the time. I posted a close-up of that part of the painting online and it was met with positive feedback and just a little bit of “Oh, Sam…” But before I even got the chance to write the statement for this painting (as I am now), that photograph – that caption – would make the rounds on the internet elsewhere and garner a very different kind of response. You see, when I wrote that, it was about sex with Wallis. Sex which includes light consensual fake-violence (or whatever the fuck you wanna call it). Wallis likes getting slapped in the face during sex. And I like doing it. Win-win, right? Well, yeah – until you get accused of a violent rape and the media picks up on the story and uses your art to support the idea that you’re the kind of person capable of violently raping a nineteen year-old girl you just met. Sitting in jail, I wondered how I was going to break the news to my friends and fans that I had been accused of this horrible fucking crime. I bailed out, Chris Spillane picked me up, and after ten minutes of discussion he tells me, “There’s one more thing we’ve gotta talk about, Sam. The publicity on this story is not good right now.” Publicity? This story? “What the fuck are you talking about?” I googled my name and discovered that I didn’t need to worry about breaking this news to anyone. Some reporter knew or figured out who I was, wrote an article about me complete with images of my art (like the “hitting girls in the face” one) and everyone else picked it up and ran with it. Suddenly, strangers on the internet were talking about how I was the kind of person who PUNCHES girls in the face. I was a scumbag and I was definitely guilty. What the fuck? I’ve never punched a girl in the face! I slap! Playfully! And only with girls that WANT me to! But none of that mattered. What mattered was that it was incredibly easy to paint me as some kind of violent sexual deviant who had finally gone off the rails and just started violently raping people. Freedom of expression has its fucking consequences apparently. The charges against me have since been dismissed by a judge who (after hearing all of the prosecution’s evidence and the girl’s testimony) ruled that there was no probable cause to believe that any crime had been committed but the evidence in the case isn’t all public yet and I’m still having to deal with (well-meaning) assholes who think I deserve to be castrated for something I never did. At the time of this writing, this is all still incredibly recent so I’m still working out exactly how a person does deal with something like that. (I’ll let you know when I figure it out).
Flashback to five months before that nightmare though – back to when I was still working on this painting (that’d later incriminate me in the court of public opinion). I wrote that I was feeling “stuck in a rut. This spot [on the street] isn’t super profitable [for selling prints]. I don’t even wanna write about what else is going on. I don’t want to muddle up this painting that I’m not even happy with. My little sister is killing herself and today I blocked her phone number because I’m tired of her asking for help, not taking my advice, and then texting me updates on her self-destruction that she knows will just upset me. I really need the validation of some sales to cheer me up today. If I make less than $100 today, I’m gonna feel super depressed.” And then – to remind myself what a dipshit I am for worrying about how much I make in one particular day, I added: “I’ve made $7,000 this month.” True as it was, it didn’t really help me feel any better in that moment. I continued writing – about an interaction I had with a guy who stopped to watch me paint: “Someone asked me yesterday if I really hate myself and why. I had a hard time articulating it [the way that I feel sometimes]. He said he thinks I’m not as unhappy as I let on. I’d do a much better job explaining it to him today: I’M UGLY, PALE, OUTTA SHAPE, MEAN, SHITTY, POOR, FEARFUL, AND IN A CONSTANT STATE OF STARVATION FOR VALIDATION.”
Reading that now, remembering that day – it’s kinda scary. Everything in my life was going so well and I still had this monster inside me, gnawing at my insides, telling me that everything was awful. That I was awful. I’m really grateful that I don’t feel that way about myself all the time. Arguably, my life is way more fucked up now (on account of the VIOLENT RAPE ACCUSATION) but – I don’t know – I feel better today. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to fight this awful thing. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to become stronger. Maybe it’s because enough other people hate me now that I can take a break on the self-loathing. I don’t know. I’m not sure. But after separating in late-June and spending two months mostly apart, Wallis and I are back together full-time. We’re living together in an apartment in Chicago and it’s been really great. And you know what? I love her WAY more than I hate myself. Not just ‘cause I’m not hating myself so much right now but… This girl… After all we’ve been through. After all I’ve done for her and all she’s done for me… Words are insufficient to express my gratitude, affection, and love for her. I’m probably gonna marry her.
And you know what? When it comes to “falling way behind” versus “going on and on and on,” maybe I do a little more of the latter than I allow myself to recognize sometimes. Maybe I do a lot more of it.
“I Love You Even More” by Pretty Boy Thorson & The Falling Angels
“Another Way Out of Here” by The Murderburgers
“Waves and Cars” by The Gateway District
“In My Heart a Warehouse Burns For You” by Rivethead
Yesterday was my first appearance in court since my bond hearing. The judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause (to believe that a crime was committed). As such, the charges against me were dismissed.
There were a lot of reasons behind the judge’s rationale and (unfortunately) the reporters that covered the hearing failed to note most of them in their articles. I was hoping to get my hands on all of the evidence from the case and share it publicly, here, through my website. I want very badly to clear my name. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that I cannot do as I had planned. Because the state could supersede the court’s ruling yesterday (with a grand jury indictment) this is still (technically) an open/ongoing case.
So – as much as I want to run my mouth, tell the whole story, share all of the evidence – for the time being, I have to continue holding my tongue when it comes to that night.
I will however be getting back to creating art and writing. I’m currently working on a book. I have a painting in-progress. And I’ll soon be sharing new work completed before this whole ordeal started. (I didn’t get much done post-arrest, save for some writing that – as noted – I’m unable to share for the time being).
This has been one of the most emotionally painful experiences of my life. It’s second only to the final (worst) years of my heroin addiction (2011-2013). The media’s coverage of this event shattered my reputation. The punk community has been especially awful in their reaction. (Not the people in the punk community who actually know me and know that I’m not capable of committing such an awful crime but the random internet commenters who feed off of shit and negativity and never actually contribute to our scene). If any of you are reading this: you’re a bad fucking person.
It’s been very difficult as late to focus on the positive things in my life but there are many. Before I was arrested (which was the same day I found out about the accusation against me) Wallis came to New York to spend a week with me. As soon as we saw each other again, we knew we didn’t want to be apart anymore and we resolved to work out the logistics of getting back together. It was just three days after her visit ended that I was arrested but as soon as she found out about the charges against me, she hopped on a plane and moved up to Chicago to be with me. We have an apartment here now and (even though I’m legally free to leave the area at this point) we have a lease and will probably be trying our hands at having a relatively “normal” / stable kind of life for a little while. She’s been a wonderful source of support and I love her very much.
Similarly, in stark contrast to the anonymous know-nothing dipshits that frequent the internet, there have been countless friends, fans, and loved ones that have reached out and lent support of all kinds ever since this started. Whether it was financial help with legal fees, helping me find an apartment, making sure I ate or slept, or just a kind word or two, these people made all the difference in keeping me relatively sane and stable this last month. When that first batch of articles came out (branding me as a rapist) I didn’t know if this was worth the fight. At times, I wanted very much to die. But I didn’t want to go out before my name was clear. I didn’t want people to interpret my suicide as an indication of guilt. So I held strong and kept my head up. If it weren’t for those of you that were there for me, I don’t think I would have survived. In fact, I’m almost certain that I wouldn’t have. Thank you. I got a lot of anonymous hate mail when those news stories broke. A lot of strangers threatening me or wishing terrible things upon me. I’m happy to report that love won out over hate.
There’s still so much that I want to say but – for now – I think I’d better wrap it up. Here’s a picture of Wallis and I outside the courtroom after the judge’s ruling. I wasn’t quite ready for the picture to be taken and am mid-blink but that’s okay. You guys know what I look like when my eyes are open, right?
I dropped Wallis off at the airport this morning. For our last day together yesterday, we went to the LaBagh Woods, rode the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, and walked through Millenium Park. I’m gonna miss her a lot. Writing this short blog post will probably be the most active I get all day today.
Last week, Wallis and I got into an argument. It was nothing serious and we resolved it pretty quickly but it prompted us to consider parting ways. After all, life on the road is one thing for me but – for Wallis – it can kind of feel like putting “real life” on hold. She doesn’t have to work or deal with any kind of responsibility or – you know – anything. She’s kind of just along for the ride. So after traveling together for five months, it felt like maybe it was time for her to return home to Jacksonville and face off against reality and see if she can stay clean without me as a twenty-four hour baby sitter.
On Friday, I bought her a plane ticket for Monday afternoon (today). That’d give us a few more days to spend together, which is something we both wanted.
Over the course of these last few days, we’ve talked a lot about whether this is what we both really wanted. And it seems like our heads were pretty much in exactly the same place. We didn’t wanna let go of one another but agreed that it was probably time. Our feelings said “no” but we felt that, logically, this was the right move. Even still, I’ve felt sick to my stomach all day.
Just now, I took out my phone to check the flight information ’cause it’s time to go to the airport. I had a new email in my inbox: “Status change from Southwest Airlines. Your flight has been cancelled.”
There doesn’t seem to be any inclement weather anywhere between here and Jacksonville. I don’t know why the flight was cancelled but… it makes sense. It just sort of does. I don’t know where we go or what we do from here but… I guess we’ll figure that out.
On an unrelated/here’s-a-picture note, Wallis took this photo of me taking a break from painting (to brush my teeth) one night in the Iowa City downtown pedmall last week.
I’m all done in Minneapolis and currently sitting in a coffee shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Tomorrow, I’ll try to make some money selling prints at [whatever they do in this city for Memorial Day] and then I’ll spend the next couple of days crashing galleries, trying to find a good match for a future exhibit. On Friday, I have court in Normal. I’m pretty sure, at that point, that I’ll get put on probation and have to return to Florida because that’s where I claim “residence.” I might be stuck down there, legally prohibited from traveling for a while. If not, I’ll flip right back up to the midwest for Dummerfest in Milwaukee, where I’m all set to sell prints while my favorite bands play the best music in the universe. After that, I’ll try my luck out with a few galleries in the city and then probably return to Chicago for a bit. If I’m stuck in Florida, I’ll start lining exhibits up down there, I guess.
NEWS… Let’s see… my minivan died and I bought a new full size van. It’s pretty excellent. It’s got a full size bed, a ton of storage space, and plenty of extra room in which to can actually stretch and breathe. I’m really, really excited about it. It makes life about twenty times more comfortable / less stressful. Here are a bunch of pictures from the last month or so.
That’s all for now! Hopefully I’ll have all my new pieces properly photographed and ready to add to the gallery soon! And … um… other stuff too…? I don’t know. Just read my Facebook; I update that all the time!
OH! And giant thanks are due to John Schuerman at Instinct for hosting my first proper midwest exhibit; Griffin Snyder and Zack Gontard for putting me and Wallis up while we were in Minneapolis; Justin Francis for all his help not just with getting the new van together but the old one as well; Jessie and Annie for letting me set up at One Last Party; and Chris Johnson and Kelly Lone for letting me use their basement for storage!
Justin runs a screenprinting shop in Minneapolis, Tee Squared; highly recommended to bands or anyone else that needs shirts printed!