When I was in pre-school, my dad once asked my teacher, “Racey brings home art almost everyday – why doesn’t Sam ever bring anything home?”
“Because it doesn’t turn out the way he wants it to, so he crumples it up, throws it away, and then stares at the floor sulking until art time is over.”
Forget about art and pre-school – that’s kind of how I lived my entire life until recently.
I drew this one day in January back when I was still inpatient at Tranquil Shores. (It wasn’t an art group but I’m like – totally rebellious, you guys). It started out as a drawing for my friend Nick but – after I fucked it up – I let it become something else. (Pen isn’t a very forgiving medium). I’m glad that I have the capacity these days to accept my mistakes as normative. (They’re not really mistakes; they were supposed to happen). And this too works as an analogy for my life. I’ve fucked up plenty, even in this last year, but I accept all of it now. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
The caption is the same as the title: EAT GUMMY WORMS AND SMOKE CRACK WITH SOMEONE WHO APPRECIATES YOU.
Daily status update: My first Artwalk tonight went really well. Jacksonville may not be the ARTS CAPITAL of the world, but I’m really grateful that we’ve got something like this that happens every month. Looking forward to round two in November. (It’ll be just two days after my birthday)!
I’m always busy. I always have “really important” stuff that I “have” to do. When I was living in DC, it was Traffic Street Records year-round and law school around final exam time. Back then (before heroin became the main problem), I feel like the biggest point of tension in my relationship was my emotional unavailability. Every night, Taylor would ask me to come to bed, I’d tell her I was almost done, and then six hours would pass before I actually made it to the bedroom. So every night she went to sleep alone, woke up while I was still asleep, and then came home from work to find me busy packing up records or laying out a record insert or [whatever]. Eventually, I started doing whatever Traffic Street stuff that I could at school instead of the apartment, so that she’d already be asleep when I got home and I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about not coming to bed and not paying attention to her.
Heather and I moved to Jacksonville this June. She didn’t have a job lined up before we got here so, for the first two weeks, we were both home all the time. Since I’m always busy, I’m never bored and I’m always content in that regard. But Heather has been working [forever] and likes having a job to go to every day. Consequently, she was bored out of her mind. And – maybe because of my own insecurities and my experiences with Taylor – I felt guilty anytime I was working instead of paying attention to her. It was stressing me out. And the fact that she was visibly bored and unhappy made even harder. Especially when I tried to talk to her about it and she just tuned out. Eventually, I decided that there was nothing I could do and just went about doing my own thing. But when it got to the point where we were barely talking at all, it was too much.
I’m feeling disconnected. I’m trying to push through it, assume the best, not stress out. If someone’s not talking to me, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with me. They could just not feel like talking. Or it could have everything to do with me. But if every attempt at conversation – every question asked – is met with a one-word response, what am I supposed to do? [Moving to a new city together] is supposed to be exciting. And it is for me. But I feel like only for me. And that tempers the excitement a bit. I opened up, put everything out there. Explained with sincerity how I’m feeling. And I got nothing back. Literally, no response.
[ -written June 17th]
I was at a loss. Now I couldn’t work. I sat alone in the living room dumbfounded. And scatterbrained; I had my probation deadline hanging over my head and hadn’t finished my community service hours yet. That was also weighing on me and fucking me up. Especially since I was getting my hours from home; that meant that I could have been doing it in that moment, but wasn’t. Instead, I decided that I needed to paint. It had been too long.
There’s a small block of text in the center of the canvas:
My first impulse is to lie in bed, face down, and cry forever. My second is to beat off. I need to write and paint. I spill my guts and… I’m struggling. Sharing life isn’t easy. I might not be built for it. It’s tough to know what’s right for me. I like being me but it isn’t easy. I guess nothing is. That doesn’t feel true.
The next day – as has so often been the case this summer – I did a total one-eighty. Within twenty-four hours of painting “Blueprint,” I was working on a drawing that says: “I couldn’t be happier” – something I genuinely felt.
Nearly a year had passed since I painted this piece and it remained unsold. That’s mostly due to the fact that I hadn’t been displaying it because I didn’t really like it anymore. I don’t usually go back and work on old pieces because I tend to think of them as “artifacts” from another time in my career. But if I was keeping it locked up in a trunk, in a garage somewhere, it wasn’t really doing much good as an artifact or anything else for that matter. Better to go back, work on it some more – until it was something that I could be proud of and sell with confidence. It took another ten hours or so and I finished it on May 12, 2014. Sixteen days later, it was sold. Here’s what it used to look like…
In treatment, I was encouraged to drop sarcasm entirely. I’m not sure if that’s possible, but (in any case) I think it’s got its time and place like anything else. I am able to see now that I was overutilizing it in moments when I felt uncertain or otherwise lacking in confidence. This – my smallest piece of expressive art – is a simple acknowledgement of fear and insincerity.
Since the above isn’t much to absorb, here’s a bonus story. My memory of one day back in Summer ’08. It was a week before we left for the first Rational Anthem tour (which ended one month before I moved to DC to start law school).
I spent the first half of the night shooting up and the second half nodding out on the toilet with the worst stomach pain of my life. Now itʼs morning and my tongue is black. Really black. I canʼt brush it off. I get a knife from Peteʼs kitchen and try to scrape off whatever’s on it. It does not scrape off. I get online and research possible causes. Smoking too many cigarettes? Guilty. Poor oral hygiene? It could certainly be better. Too much coffee? Maybe. Intravenous drug use? Ummm… Bismuth? What the hell is bismuth? An ingredient in peptol bismol. Oh, I take peptol bismol sometimes – that must be it!
I sold my car last week and used the money to buy a bicycle with a little engine on it. I pull the ripcord and start the ride over to Noelle’s to spend the day recording Troublemake songs. The bike runs out of gas at the bottom of a hill and the cheap plastic pedals are already broken. Excellent day so far. I walk the bike up the hill to a gas station. I fill up an empty Gatorade bottle with gasoline and mix in the oil my engine requires. I go inside and get another Gatorade to drink. I sit on a curb to smoke a cigarette before I get moving again. I reach for the bottle and take a slug. Wrong bottle. My mouth is full of gasoline. I swallow a little and spit the rest out. I am now covered in gas, my whole head is tingling, and I feel instantly ill. I go inside and get a cup with a better spout on it than my bottle, so that I can pour what remains of the gas into my tank without spilling. I sit back down and pour the gas into the Styrofoam cup, which dissolves almost instantly, spilling all of what remained onto my shirt and lap. I am now thoroughly soaked in gasoline. This moment is the culmination of every decision I have ever made over the course of my entire life.
But, when I get to Noelle’s, I find that the gas I poured into my mouth has significantly reduced the blackness of my tongue. Things seem to be looking up!
Website news: By the way, if you hadn’t noticed, I’ve stopped using aliases for other people. I figure I don’t need rules. If I wanna use a real name, I will. If I wanna use an alias, I will. Whatever feels right.