Life


When you sign up to be a librarian, ‘having a kid spit on you from the second floor’ isn’t usually in the job description. Belligerent parents who insist that they’ve never returned a late book, the local vagrants falling asleep at the computers with pornographic websites on the screen, and even a restroom or two sprayed with excrement – all of these aren’t too outlandish.

No one warned me about the spitting.

I am a glorified video clerk, except video clerks are paid better. And get to watch movies all day.

I took a few days off to recoup my brains and figure out where my life was headed. I’m pretty sure that I was sent further off track than I started with. I’m probably antisocial for a reason or reasons which I won’t venture to explore again anytime soon. A few days at a friend’s place in Harrison brought me closer to and further away from my idea vision of a perfect life than I’ve ever experienced.

Not sure where to go from there.

Have you ever met a person who redefined everything you ever knew by simply existing?

I received an edited script back from one of my new gigs and I’d been Schumachered. While my titles and a few innocuous bits are generally changed during most jobs, this gig went hardcore on the the really, really bad ‘ice’ puns. They weren’t even ironically bad – they were insulting to my intelligence and brought on alarming flashbacks of Batman and Robin. So, I spent the weekend grappling with how to deal with this. I don’t have any real footing at this gig yet, but if Harlan Ellison has taught me anything, it’s to stand up for what you’ve written, or spend the next 50 years screaming about it and never getting over it.

Ultimately, I left the puns in, and made a few even worse, and used the other characters in the script to express their intense disapproval. I’m relatively proud of my solution and maintaining my own style in the process.

Other gigs remain silent, even after doing good work for them. It’s not the good kind of silence.

The ways in which other people have damaged you in the past will resurface and make themselves apparent at the most unexpected times.

An evening of absinthe shouldn’t fall into the ‘unexpected’ category, though. Now I know.

While I’m perpetually overbooked and overworked as it is, something in my brain isn’t happy until I’ve filled every spare minute, and plenty of minutes I’d have if I could freeze time with my brain (which I am working on), with work. It’s not a desperate quest for relevancy or wealth, but I’d like to be able to make enough money to survive nicely. The only way to do this is to throw myself down as many avenues as possible until something sticks. Ten years later, nothing has really stuck.

I joined eLance a month ago and paid the $15-per-month registration fee, which allows me to work in both graphic design & writing categories. For ten bucks, I could only choose one category, and I needed to access both. It also allows me to have 25 ‘connects’ per month, which are essentially points which you need to use to bid on projects. Projects that are budgeted under $500 cost one ‘connect’, while others cost more. Any unused ‘connects’ are supposed to roll over to the next month, but you’re also not allowed to have more than your allotted connect limit. This means that someone at eLance flunked common sense, because if you have ten connects left at the end of the month, and they roll over into your 25 connects, you’re left with 25 connects – which nullifies the whole ‘roll over’ thing completely. Sucks to your ass-mar, eLance.

You might also bid on projects that the employer never decides to award. They can politely cancel the project, at which point your connects are returned to you, but if they just leave the project dormant, you never get your ‘connect’ back, which you’ve paid for. eLance doesn’t seem to care either way. So, that’s how eLance works, if you were curious.

After a month, I’ve actually made one solid connection through a contact I made on eLance – but only after I pursued him outside of the eLance structure, due to the client’s inactivity on the site. I also had made a fiction writing contact through Freelance Writing Gigs, which I check religiously for work (though it’s recently been sold and the job leads have become very sparse). This will be the first time I write fiction professionally, so I’m very excited about it – especially the format I have to write in. Think ‘Dungeons of Dread’. Due to signing two NDAs and one contract, I’m obligated to say nothing until these projects go live.

Work at Splice is going well, with a lot of positive comments coming in, and my stories routinely scoring 250+ Diggs. The site seems to be skewing towards local Baltimore stuff and sports, so I’m not completely sure where I fit into it all, but so far, so good. And I’m paid regularly, which is great. I was also completely thrilled to see myself on the front page of Graphic Novel Reporter as the top two stories, as well as three more stories down the page. I’ve yet to actually add up my freelancing revenues, but I think I’m doing pretty well after the collapse of last year.

Of course. as you trawl through eLance, there are a ton of really, really awful, ridiculous jobs.

One job offered the amazing prize of $5 per week for five 450-word articles, or ten bucks for a logo design with five revisions. You might wonder how these are acceptable terms to anyone, but there’s a huge Indian and Pakistani population on eLance with a very low cost of living, and these folks create design farms which can afford to underbid all of the other working artists and crank out a mediocre product. Honestly, most people who are looking for designs have a terrible sense of aesthetics. Just deplorable and sad. They don’t know what they’re looking at. I’m sure they’re charming people, but when it comes to accepting bad design, they are clueless. Like whoever designs the covers of the Charlaine Harris books – I want to smack that person. On their drawing hand. With a cleaver.

Sample freelance jobs have recently included :

“draw a character. Client has scethes as to what she wants” [Your client has scethes? Are they itchy?]

“we need origional interpretation and dont forget I am Irish” [I won't forget. I promise. Just don't drunk me.][PS : I'm Irish so I can say that, and also use 'drunk' as a verb.]

“I need a cartoon that represents the idea that a slender, fit, healthy, sexy woman lives inside an obese woman and is ready to come out. My idea is that the healthy woman is unzipping and stepping out of a fat suit. I will provide a photo of the obese woman.” [I don't want the job, but can I borrow the photo? Just for 15 minutes.]

“The designs are very simple, and I can provide sketches and explanations for each of them. I put one together myself using Inkscape in about 45 minutes, and I don’t really know what I am doing. It shouldn’t take someone practiced very long at all. I figure, approximately 25-30 minutes per design, and I have between 4-6 that I want done.” [The appropriate response to this is 'Then do it yourself, fucko.' The implication that 'anyone can do this, even me' undermines the amount of skill and work that artists put into their own jobs.]

“I want someone to use photos of myself and draw them, as well as re-draw my face on the body of very musclar body builders (Superhero cartoon characters are fine too.) In other words, i want to see photos of MYSELF with my “IDEAL” body I am 6’2 and muscular already, but this will help me in my visualization process…” [Is there even a word for when you pay someone else to be narcissistic FOR YOU?]

There was also an ad to co-blog with this man [BLOG DELETED]. I think there’s a picture of him next to the word ‘incoherent’ in the dictionary, except someone got jelly all over it and tried to redraw it before their mom found out and got so nervous that they just puked on the whole freaking book. This is the test on the ‘About’ page.

People come to see me and they want to know “are you somebody special?”. Man I’m not freaking bull. “I’m the man of all mans the cool of all cool and especially the true of all true and definitely the king of all kings.” “What?” “You don’t believe me then stop asking me man.” Man plenty have asked that and they asked “freaking true are you truly the truest of all people fool?” “Fool?” “Once again never man no but I’m truer than most people ever man slow.”

And then there’s this one. It’s bad news when the person you outsource to needs to outsource as well. Maybe because ‘making fucking sense’ isn’t her native language.

“Hi there,
I have a request. This file contains smileys for a poster i am making. But now they want 5 or 6 happy smileys :
It would be great if you can make them for me…. you can use the eps file/….
…Two shake hands
Two are building something
One female version
I have to propose these as well, so i hope I an make adjustments later?
Could you do anything for me with this….
Hope to hear from you
Thanks”

At least the jobs which are actually reputable are worthwhile, thus far, and each job leads to a greater amount of credibility, and better work. It’s been a slow climb, but here’s hoping for the best.

This past weekend, I took a 3.5 hour road trip to Orange, MA with my good friend Chase-Lyn – a beautiful French girl who has a Master’s degree in things I could never hope to understand, throws Pixies references into conversations and has a hilariously vulgar sense of humor. If that’s not a combination for an amazing weekend, I don’t know what could be.

We set off at around 6 AM from my town, and after an incredibly uneventful drive accompanied by an array of unfalteringly awesome music, we arrived in Orange, MA by 9:30 AM. I live in a really small town, but as you drive into Orange, and you’re 30 minutes from the nearest highway, and ‘Main Street’ becomes a dirt road with sharp drops on either side of it, you begin to wonder about your safety. It’s everything that my town was 20 years ago, so it weirdly felt like coming home. I’ll always be more comfortable in the woods.

The purpose of the journey was to learn about a more holistic approach to farming and growing food. While I’ve never been that deep into the ‘holistic’ thing, I’ve always had an interest in it. Something about really loving robots, plastic toys and red meat would just make holism feel forced, but I’ve also always wanted to start my own garden. I’ve made an effort to lose weight over the past few weeks, and it’s actually shown some genuine results, although small, and all of this has possibly been aided by a stomach virus, but having completely cut out processed foods, I feel much better than usual. I say this without trying to be preachy at all, because processed foods are scientifically engineered to be fucking delicious and satisfying on a weirdly emotional level. I’m just saying that this little blue line is saving my life. The orange dot represents going away for the weekend and eating Dunkin Donuts & Chinese food.

Actual proof of weight loss over the last 10 days! Thanks, Wii Fit.

That being said, food from your own garden is always the best. I was going to have a garden once, but now I’m just waiting for the next opportunity. Visiting Seeds of Solidarity’s free workshop day was inspiring. A lot of people are feeling the same way that I do about how quickly the whole human race is damning themselves every day with their neediness and arrogance. Don’t get me wrong – I know I’m part of the problem. Even filling up the car with gas to drive well over 300 miles round trip has a certain irony to it, but it is all done with the best of intentions. I still buy plastic toys and take long showers, but there’s an evolution going on, at least. It’s a strange line between hopefulness and hopelessness.

It rained all day, but it wasn’t unpleasant at all. Rain used to be unpleasant. Between workshops, there was a potluck lunch, with lots of homemade stuff which people brought from the local areas, which was very good. I ended up talking with a tall guy named Christian who was exploring the meaning of peace and community, and had just returned from a peacewalk along the east coast, which I presume is like the North American version of a walkabout and involves more highways.

We checked into a hotel nearby which seemed to be frequented by pairs of men, and a group of rowdy beer pong players who enjoyed yelling all night. All night.

The Athol of Mathachuthetts

Before turning in, we wandered over to Athol in search of food, because by 3 PM on Saturday in Orange, everything is closed. Everything, and we joked that we ended up in the Athol of Mathachuthetts. We weren’t that far off. We found a nice little Chinese food place, and then used her fancy GPS to get up to a billiards hall, about 15 miles away on narrow routes and weird roundabouts.

The billiards hall looked like it was shut down for good, except for the few glowing neon things inside. The decrepit pool trophies that decorated the enormous showcase windows didn’t do it any favors, either.

A loser of a winner's trophy.

We walked across town to find a restroom, still in the rain, and came across an elaborately ridiculous shop window talking about “Lakin’s Kids”, which sounded like it was a horrible disease. Like, one stop away from being a proud Thalidomide Baby. Chase-Lyn posed for this photo, as the heavily made-up shop owner stepped outside with a cellphone and a cigarette and seemed to want to shoo us away, so we skittered away quickly.

We are all Lakin's Kids.

Chase-Lyn played some crazy version of French pool that involved pushing the balls into the pockets with her hands when I wasn’t looking, and slapping the sides of the cue ball (and anything near it) with the side of the cue itself. At this point, I was cripplingly exhausted from driving and eating rich foods and being awake since 6 AM, so I was a grump. By the time we were done, it was raining harder, and it was dark. I can’t drive in the dark.

We started back to the hotel using the GPS, but it began to take us in some very strange directions. Back onto dirt roads with about 5 feet of visibility, or highways that were under construction, and just when we hit the absolute middle of nowhere, the GPS nightmarishly decided to completely cut out and refuse to reconnect. Fortunately, we’d just passed the farm again, so we followed some directions that had been printed out previously, dodging potholes that were made deeper by the rain, and white, hopping dots of frogs which were crossing the road in front of us.

I was asleep by 10 PM, just after narrowly avoiding death or injury, and a brain full of worms having sex and making soil to grow stuff in.

Since the snowstorm of about a month ago, I feel like we’ve barely had time to recover. It’s been all rain and intense wind, and the ground has been constantly saturated since then, not allowing any more rain waters in. The power flickers, and the sky is rarely anything but white or grey or black. The waters that run along the back yard have not settled back under their banks at all, and they’re constantly trying to creep into our house.

It’s all created a whole lot of uneasiness. It’s a world of increasingly frequent earthquakes, storms, and enormous factors beyond out control. Maybe I just notice them more because they reflect a certain lack of control that I feel I have, and it’s not this giant beast of a world trying to shake us off of its back – but I’m far too small to ever really know what’s going on. I still feel guilty for not taking shorter showers.

I had this dream some months ago, before my sister moved back in, where I was standing in the kitchen with her on some summer day, and it was becoming brighter and brighter outside. I looked up at the sky from the kitchen door as the light burned out the silhouettes of the trees, and became brighter, and that was it. Everything was painlessly over. I’ll feel a whole lot better on December 13, 2012. I’ve always believed that if anything were to happen, aside from some big mathematical thing that zealots have tried to ascribe meaning to, it would be a spiritual realignment away from this whole superficial world. Now, I’m not too sure. I just want the stomachache to go away.

I’m starting on page 6 of Coptopus, Issue #2, and keeping regular updates in our Facebook group. Join up if you like awesome things and/or free things.

The rain should trail off this afternoon, and I don’t think it will be enough to damage anything any more than it already has.

Last weekend’s copious rainfall made the brook swell to unlikely proportions, endangering our house, our cars, and our sanity. Fortunately, the stream receded before it could do any serious damage, and fortunately, the temperature was not below freezing, because that much rain would have equaled the death of my town in equivalent volumes of snow.

We’re still recovering from the broken trees, smashed up cars and general chaos that the snow brought. I realized that I took a whole bunch of photographs on the day after the storm, if only to try out my new boots, to get out of the house, to enjoy the tranquility of the being the only person alive after the apocalypse, and to pull some of the larger branches out of the road so that we could be plowed out properly.

A temporary cure for a blackout.

The front yard, oppressed by the weight of the snow.

My new car, experiencing $900 worth of damage. Thanks, nature.

The front fence.

When snow starts to cling to vertical surfaces, you know it means business.

And during the first cold night, we tried to keep busy by vlogging.

She had five tattoos, when we were dating. They were all poorly done, but she wanted to fuck the tattoo artist, so she kept on going back and getting these mediocre, blotchy, unaesthetic tattoos applied to herself. None of them really had any significance, aside from the fact that they were simply things that she liked, as if she were a billboard and needed to externalize these minor aspects of her personality, which was barely a flicker anyhow.

She had a peace sign inside her left arm, made of vines. Not any kind of thick, living, verdant vines – just a scrawl of what a child thinks vines look like. A thin tendril with leaves too far apart, and which belonged on a completely different type of plant. You could not touch the inside of her arm lightly, because it made her whole body shudder and convulse in the least sexy manner possible.

Encircling her left nipple was another ring of vines, identical to the first. These you could touch, but only because they had no sensation in them after a surgery she’d had many years earlier. I’ve always been attracted to scars, but a cruel part of me had always envisioned the doctors hacking away at her with a butter knife, as everything seemed so jagged and rough.

On her ankle was a cartoon of a fat bee that she had drawn. Despite being deathly allergic to beestings, she loved bees. Once, after a rainstorm in Philly, she stopped to pick a floundering bumblebee from a puddle, in spite of the fact that it could potentially kill her. I fell a little more deeply in love with her at that moment. I’ve never liked cartoon bees.

Inside her hipbone was a blue rose, which was probably the most acceptable tattoo of them all, though it held no more significance than a love of blue roses.

And on her upper back, on her right side, was a lion – all blurry greys and a disjointed eye. It attempted to be realistic, though it failed completely, and I could never get past the fact that one paw just seemed to wander off, Escher style, and never meet up with the rest of the body. I never said anything.

The sixth tattoo was going to be one of my design, based on her specifications. Lower back, a kind-of-Victorian pattern of wild vines – the real kind this time – with an empty space depicting the shape of a heart. I’d even convinced her to include a few bees. All of this was an effort to counteract the collection of ugliness that she’d branded onto herself, giving some kind of indication that she knew a little bit about art and style. I guess I knew at the time that she was going to cheat on me, because I also wanted it to serve as a territorial marking : I was here first, and now you have to look at me while you’re screwing her. I knew it was going to happen.

So, we actually reached escape velocity this weekend and left for Brattleboro, Vermont after dark on Friday night. It was snowing like mad to the south of us, but none of this weather was bold enough to touch us. I was grateful that something worked out for us, after the notoriously hideous luck that trailed me like a violent poltergeist all through last year.

We took my 2009 Corolla, armed with a variety of strategies to keep it from accelerating out of control should it decide to go rogue on us. With Eleasa’s confidence behind the wheel, it was a relatively quick 3-hour trip peppered liberally with loud gangsta rap and coffee and a small container of canteloupe. A strange little building in Massachusetts served as a rest stop along the way, with cold, empty parking lots winding around it, and a plethora of vending machines offering up ice cream and coffees (which were apparently far below substandard, but serviceable enough to keep our driver awake until we traversed the final leg of the trip). My eyes will not allow me to drive at night, and my stomach will not allow me to drink coffee with any regularity, so I feel like I’m missing out on some vital aspects of feeling alive. I used to dream of being a trucker, before I could drive, and these dreams have since become impossible for these two reasons.


Our hosts, Eleasa’s grandparents, live in a converted 1800s schoolhouse, with many of the wooden beams and structures still in place. Categories of books lined just about every wall in dark shelves. An entire wall of travel books greeted us at the entrance, followed by a low wall of cookbooks in the kitchen, and many books about boats and medical topics. Her grandmother, ‘Nona’, has spent a life freelance writing about food and travel, and has the evidence all around the amazingly adorned little house. This is a woman who is good friends with Lois Lowry and has hung out with the Carters. A small clock with visible gears chimed dull, atmospheric, ever so slightly uneven chimes every half hour. Spidery plants cast shadows from the front windows during daylight hours, and the stairs creaked wonderfully.

Her grandfather Herb, not biological, but through a third marriage, is a man in his late 80-somethings who still runs in 5k races and owns a 100-acre maple syrup farm in a portion of Vermont which is slightly more upstate. They are both amazing people, patient and happy, and they give me an entirely new perspective on aging, and finding joy and contentment.


Brattleboro is an old mill town, is featured prominently in an HP Lovecraft story, and houses the old Estey Organ factory. After an evening of drinking from a vast cabinet of interesting alcohols (which I abstained from), and sleeping until daylight was in full force the next day, we all headed out for a tour of the impossibly windy roads that comprise the town. The town is mixed with older structures, ski jumps and many bookstores – one with an Edward Gorey theme proudly displayed in their front window. Eleasa called me excitedly from across the street and told me that I had to come and see it right away, full of small skeletons and copies of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing signed by Steve Bissette. I bought a Paul Hornschemeier hardcover called ‘Mother Come Home’, and we stocked up on huge armloads of Indian food which I could not pronounce from a cash-only convenience store – some of which we used to tide us over until dinner, and the rest put into a box for Eleasa’s later enjoyment. I also bought the obligatory ‘maple’ product that everyone is compelled to return home from Vermont with – the object of choice being a small jar of maple mustard which I’ll need to work up the fortitude to try, though I assume it’s something akin to honey mustard. I also purchased a small shotglass for Shakti, who aspires to collect a shotglass from every state. This accompanies the one which I purchased from my stopover in Georgia on my way to Chicago this past summer.

We spent the evening at a small Yucatan restaurant, which was simple and delicious. Nona had actually spent a fair amount of time in Yucatan, and was pleased with the authenticity of the food.


When we got back, I was asked if I liked The New Yorker. Being a New Yorker, and something of an amateur intellectual, it’s one of my favorite magazines. I was despondent when our library cut off their subscription two years ago because they did not circulate amongst the general bottomfeeding redneckery of my town, despite the fact that I read it every day over lunch. I was given two years worth of New Yorkers which were headed towards the recycling – a good portion of the ones I had missed, and I read them excitedly under lamplight until midnight passed. I learned all about a neurological disorder which causes people to eat their own hands and pull apart their faces, and sabotage as much of their lives as possible (which I now want to paint, somehow), and understood a whole lot about some of the superficial, asinine awards given out in the art world. Having just submitted artwork to the 2010 Eustace Tilley contest, it felt like things had come in sync, somehow.

I enjoyed a tour of all of the artwork in the house, much of it by friends and family. I’m usually not a fan of ‘wall’ artwork, but this was a house filled with intelligently chosen, wonderful artworks from all genres – abstracts, illustrative prints, charcoal drawings. All of it said something, and expressed a deep personality. Maybe I was just especially receptive due to the warmth of the house, but I enjoyed it all tremendously. I came away inspired by the colors.

Eleasa expertly made us an elaborate breakfast on Sunday, and after much more reading of The New Yorker, I loaded them into the car, as well as out small amount of luggage, and new boxes of food, and shook hands and hugged goodbye. I was welcomed back anytime. In fact, they seemed to want me to come visit sooner rather than later. I’m so unaccustomed to welcoming grandparents, as I’ve spent a life with a couple who have palpitations should company even be suggested, and the delicate facade of normalcy and pristine cleanliness doesn’t have enough time to be woven.

It was a beautifully simple weekend, reading in the sunlight, being obligated to nothing, meeting incredible people and enjoying the company of a wonderful human tornado of a girl.

I am back home again, with a renewed sense that it is never too late, accompanied by sense of wanting everything to happen right away. I’ve waited long enough.

I spent the better part of this afternoon unloading boxes from a moving truck – this gargantuan beast that I found in my parking spot when I arrived home today with a giant yellow spider emblazoned across the side, peeking in through the garage windows like some amazing B-movie every time I stepped outside. The garage is a precarious labyrinth of cardboard boxes that are buckling in every direction, and I anticipate the sound of a crash at any moment as things topple under the unrelenting, indifferent fist of physics. They’re not mine. I just hope that they don’t hit anything of mine on the way down. Two hours of carefully picking out footsteps across an icy walkway while carrying an excess of televisions and more clothing than I have owned in a lifetime, and I am exhausted.

—————————

I’ve always wanted to have a piece in The Dirty Show. I’m not sure why, because it has so many pieces that I’d never be noticed, and I don’t think there’s any criteria to prevent the unskilled masses from slapping whatever boobs they felt like onto the gallery wall, and I’m generally disgusted by the whole gallery scene anyhow – but I started messing with ideas for the show today during lunch.

Two words : erotic marquetry. Laser-cut, stained in various shades, with particular areas of the anatomy painted in intense detail in acrylic to make it stand out from the basic shapes surrounding it. Going to experiment with the techniques before I get too into anything, but I like where the idea is going.

—————————-


I bought this. The combination of skull / translucence completely won me over. I’ve usually just seen this artist’s work as a cheap misappropriation of The Misfits’ logo (unless these are being produced by the original artist – I couldn’t discern, despite my best efforts), which itself was ‘borrowed’ from an old horror movie poster.

This, limited to 66 pieces, also comes with underpants and chocolate.

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