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I’m passing up plans to chill at ‘art parties’ in Brooklyn tonight so that I can enjoy a calm night at home with Beatles Rock Band and my niece. I’d rather not celebrate the passage of time. I hope that 2010 brings about all of the changes I desperately need. It’s a nice even number. It provides a superficial place to grab onto and leverage psychologically, even if the laws of nature have no respect for our little numbering systems or our geographical landmarks. Last week, half of the town was blanketed by a few inches of snow, and as I drove to work only seven minutes away, the ground was clear.

Let’s reassess 2009. It started out pretty awesome. I was earning twice as much as I ever had, employed at a few different websites and being paid handsomely for my writing. I was making strides at paying back my student loans.

On Valentine’s day, I was in a cab in the middle of Manhattan, wrapped in a coat, a scarf and way too many bags, reporting from the annual Toy Fair with Brian. The phone rang (at this point, I think I was still with my ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’ ringtone), and it was Amberly. She had just broken up with her boyfriend. A few weeks later, we met up in the city and she kissed me in the middle of Toys ‘R’ Us. We held hands and it was nice to see someone run up to you through the Grand Central crowds, excited for an embrace.

screws

A little while after that, I stepped on this. My uncle had broken an old table and left it in the garage, with these screws sticking straight up out of a board on the ground, at the bottom of a ladder. I’ve chronicled the story elsewhere, but the highlight is definitely the fact that I sprayed blood into the shower with more force than I thought humanly possible. I went into shock from sudden blood loss, and about $700 and a few months of limping around later, my foot still hurts when it’s cold or wet out. The top of my foot, where the screw nearly exited, still sports a neat little bruise.

Then, it became clear that I had contracted mono. I started passing out at work, and having intensely tired, heavy headaches. Some people never know they have it. Others are hit by a viral freight train. I was in the latter category, so much of the year was filled with naps, leaving work early (or not going in at all), and feeling like a zombie. It is a feeling of inhuman-ness, and I was nagged by a terrible fear of going anywhere, because the overwhelming nausea and fatigue could hit at any time – like the middle of MoCCA, or a day in the city with my girlfriend. I was falling asleep everywhere, so a lot of life and living were sapped from me. I didn’t get a lot done. I was not the best person I could have been, and that upsets me.

I lost one exceptional writing job because the economy just didn’t support the website anymore, and a huge chunk of income vanished. Another job was unable to pay me, which was another few hundred dollars a month I no longer had.

My car, which I’d had on loan from the family since I’d learned to drive, finally gave up the ghost. The salted winter roads of upstate NY took their toll on the guts of the Camry and every brake line and fuel line decided to fall apart all at once due to terrible rusting – after our local mechanic took $500 to fix a problem that didn’t really exist in the first place. Somewhere in the universe, fate doesn’t realize how very little I earn.

For six months, in the middle of all of this, I had been apartment hunting in Philly with my girlfriend. We found a nice little house with off-street parking that would be all ours. We signed a lease, put down a deposit, and on a choir trip to Brazil, she cheated on me – two weeks before I was set to move in. I got my deposit back, but the only way that we’d not be legally destroyed was if we let her keep the place for herself. I still have boxes of kitchen supplies and housewares that were supposed to be in a nice little place at the edge of the ghetto in Philly. I bought kitchen knives that were in rainbow colors and had bees on them, because she wanted a colorful house, and she likes bees. A business contact sent me a dozen bottles of hot sauce because I mentioned in an article that I dreamed of lining them up along my windowsill in my house. There are a lot of broken dreams that I keep on stepping on.

Somehow, in the middle of all of this, I lost a friend whom I’d cherished for over a decade. She never told me why, and I’m not interested in the cloak and dagger drama that comes with trying to find out. I am an adherent to Occam’s Razor.

Nearly every art piece that I had sent out to shows came back destroyed by the galleries, the USPS, or a combination of both. The Spaceman toy, which I’d given my heart and soul to, was broken by the USPS on the way to Gruff House. I’ve yet to face the real damages and repair the survivors. It’s too disheartening to put so much into something to have an element that’s completely out of your control take it away from you – but that’s really the theme of this year, and my life.

2009 has been a year of false steps and false starts and severe disappointments.

I met some great people, and I reconnected with other great people. I have a second toy on the way. I’m purging years of depression that I buried in retail, and re-focusing on art. I already have plans to spend time with a few nice girls in 2010. I’ve been invited to participate in at least one art show.

In this new year, I will practice my archery more. I will learn to play at least two Ben Folds songs on the guitar. I will finish an epic project (as there are many to choose from), and two issues of Coptopus. I will find rewarding work. And if none of this happens, I will learn to be happy with myself anyhow.

[This song makes me a little teary because I'm a sucker. I feel like I've never made it out, but it's not my mom's fault.]

On the morning of the winter Solstice, I was dusting off my car with an old broom from some corner of the house. The car was idling, and the whole world, despite it being around 9:30 AM, was sleepy, except for the sound of a new engine and the snow under my boots.

I see something dark flash by the side of my head, and I feel the single beat of a wing, and like an angry fist, something careens into the glass behind me, resonating through the old, dry wood of the garage door. Breathing heavily, lying perfectly in the snow was a bird much smaller than my hand.

I let it stay there as I finished dusting off my car. I didn’t want to scare it, and I didn’t want to give in to the very human reaction of wanting to comfort it somehow. My presence was probably far less comforting than just being left alone. It stopped breathing after a few seconds, its eyes wide open, my car idling behind me. I picked it up and laid it in some leaves close to the house, where at least it stood a chance of not freezing to death, if it were still deeply stunned. There’s really nothing that you can do for a bird. When I left it, it was still warm and very soft.

As someone who looks for signs in everything, as if the universe has a greater purpose that it’s subtly ushering me towards (mostly because I can’t figure out my left from my right most of the time without holding up my hands to see which one makes an ‘L’ shape), I’m trapped dwelling on what this means.

A month ago, I was leaving for work and I found a similar bird trying to get out of the garage, though there were no open doors or windows anywhere for it to have found a passage in, so I escorted it out at the cost of being late for work.

Were this a positive sign, I assume that the universe would have sent me this bird to alight on my hand and sing me a song, and not on a kamikaze death mission that narrowly misses my forehead. Maybe this is akin to the Death card in the tarot – a sign of new beginning, falling on the shortest, coldest, most hopeless day of the year. Maybe this past week has been so violently disappointing that the only way I’d perceive anything was if it hit me upside the head and scared me. Maybe a bird hit a window and I watched it die, helpless to do anything about it.

Bird

The difference between paranoia and prophecy is what happens next.

Two things I do not believe in are ‘boredom’ and ‘random’. The world is too interesting and interwoven to be either.

I love MonstreHero.

I chatted with them for a few minutes when I ran into them at NYCC, while I was still writing for ToyCyte. They are a revelation about the amazing, innovative art that can be made by two dudes working with limited space and materials, and a lot of genius. I took a photo of them that I’ve never published before – they seem to be behind-the-scenes kinda guys, like many of my favorite people. I’ve still never seen a picture of Bob Conge, but was immensely honored when he actually sent me a brief e-mail to compliment my Spaceman.

MONSTREHERO

I bought the PITA Intergladiator figure from them this past summer, and recently, I bought one of their Lazer Blazer Skullminions. There were six and they sold out within 48 hours, I believe.

monstrehero_skullminion

You need to fill your life with small reminders of inspiration and beauty, not just ‘things’. You can always buy things later. Or sell them, and buy them back when they matter again. Meaningfulness is a cycle.

Addendum : Apparently, my order never went through, because the Internet is a fickle mistress and I am a disappointment magnet. Maybe next time. I really liked these, too.

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.” – Kerouac

My copy of ‘On The Road’ was destroyed by a leaky backpack in the Philadelphia rain. Or improved, depending on how you look at it.

- A top hat will get you kisses from beautiful women.

- Tom Waits on the stereo is a lot of fun until he becomes excruciatingly relevant to the situation at hand.

- Walking in the rain doesn’t have to be cold and annoying. It can pretty much be the only thing that makes sense all year.

And I guess that’s as much as you can learn as the sober person amid 7 others who can finish 100 beers between them in an evening.

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