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.

I’ve been in kind of a lull since I’ve done trading cards for Topps, simply because I don’t know how to do anything cooler. And then I got an idea.

I started bugging other trading card companies to see if I could do sketch cards for them. I currently have a small portfolio of Marvel characters which are in at the great Rittenhouse. I’ve exhaustively browsed around, looking for other examples of cards by Rittenhouse artists. Many are comic-styled, and many are graffiti styled, and there are a few ultra-cute ones in between. I opted to approach this in an animated-detailed style. They’re currently being reviewed by the trading card company and Marvel. Getting real, honest-to-god work with Marvel would probably be another highlight I’d never be able to surpass.

Here’s what I submitted.

PS : If I get this Marvel job, I’m shaving my head. I’m shooting for a 50/50 chance, but I know I can do better than some of these folks.

Other current projects include a baby mobile comprised of robots, and a design for the case of a small pinball machine mechanism. I’m squeezing all of this in between jobs, jobs, and more jobs – including applying for roughly 25-30 jobs on eLance this month. No bites yet, but that’s because I’m asking for a realistic wage.

I’ve been especially ornery and impatient at work. I want that to not happen anymore.

Back from a long weekend in Newmarket, NH [corrected] (by way of Hartford and Boston) to celebrate Free Comic Book Day with and old friend by visiting two really awesome comic shops, one mediocre shop, and not even getting into a fourth because of a mismanaged line situation and the rumored presence of artist Ed McGuinness and his depictions of gigantic, uniform, inflatable muscles. I spent way too much money on oldschool NES games, graphic novels and comic book appearance of MODOK (much of it in generous store credit, due to a full carload of undesired stuff brought to one shop), but I had a good weekend just ignoring all of my responsibilities, the madness of my family, and being about 250 miles away from the locus of things that make me unhappy so frequently.

I was also pleased to find out that the 2009 Corolla can get around 500 highway miles to one tank of gas. For as much trouble as that car has already brought upon me (two recalls and a busted roof), this revelation is at least a positive one. I’m barely a car person, so I’m still impressed that this big metal and plastic box does anything good at all.

I found a certain peace by being away from home and hanging out on a saltwater river, a renewed desire and endurance for writing, and a determination to take my life a little more seriously and save up some money after a steady influx of nerd debauchery.

This motivation was quickly torn down by my sister once again fumbling with the impossibly complex world of the washing machine and flooding not only the laundry room, but the adjacent room. Feeling that this would dry up and no one would notice, she decided to leave $800 worth of my collectible investments sitting in the puddle, which were subsequently stripped of any true resale value, should I need a spare kidney. While the contents are okay, you just can’t resell water damaged boxes for what a pristine item is worth. It seems that a simple, honest admission of guilt and quick action would have saved everything, but after 9 hours of soaking on a saturated rug, no manner of hair dryer can save peeling cardboard and bleeding ink.

I don’t play with the stock market. I play with high-end Iron Man statues, and fuck, I do it very well.

It’s never easy for me to gather enough momentum to feel a sense of real hope, rather than just pushing through to survive each day emotionally. There is no excelling, except in rare moments of isolation.

This weekend, I am going to my old college town of New Paltz for fun, pool, and hangin’ out oldschool.

Next weekend, I’m making the 4.5 hour drive to Newmarket NH for Free Comic Book Day and to trade in a whole mess of toys I don’t want anymore. And more fun.

The following Thursday, I’ll be heading to the city to sneak into a gallery and take some photos of nautically themed fabric arts for Splice.

Photos to follow.

A few weeks ago, I woke up with a weird mark cut into my arm. I don’t know where it could have come from, but I immediately recognized it as a rune, from my old days of studying that kind of thing. Eventually, I figured out that its symbolic meaning is that of ‘self-revelation’, so I took it to heart. The faded scar is still on my arm, and I still don’t know what caused it.

You may have noticed, if you give a damn, that April Annihilus Awesomeness stalled. Badly. Life gets in the way. Life, and about a half dozen really fucking awful attempts that drive you so far into the ground with embarrassment that it takes a Herculean effort to climb back to the surface. I am, however, up to the painting phase of Page 7 in Coptopus Issue #2 – that’s just about 1/3 done, which is exciting as hell. I have stalled, but I’ve also felt weird and disconnected and antisocial, and I’ve been unable to pinpoint exactly why.

I took a 4-day weekend from work with the intention of doing incredible things, but I spent much of that fighting with Toyota (details in the previous post) and getting nothing done but worrying. Shakti visited on Saturday, and we hit an Indian buffet, and played pool at a local place which I just discovered called Iron Willie’s, which sounds like a gay bar. It was actually very laid back and completely enjoyable. We messed with horny guys on Chatroulette, with the aid of Shakti’s ample cleavage, and it was a great day.

I cashed in my Disney Rewards Points for a free Hannah Montana 3/4 scale electric guitar, which I eagerly await in the mail.

I was also hired on by Splice Today to write about art & design, which is super exciting also. I’ve become a bit disillusioned with writing about the world of collectibles while being owed about $2100 in back pay, so I’ve scaled back that particular gig. It’s a great avenue into accessing galleries pre-show and interviewing people I like. I question whether or not BEING an active artist qualifies me uniquely for the position, or actually serves as a bias that will prevent me from being a good reporter. Does it prevent me from working in the perfect vacuum which art is supposed to be created in, or will this exposure to more artists and design influence me positively? ‘Those who can’t, write?’ Is that how it goes?

So many of the creators I really like are tremendously inarticulate, but excel so amazingly at the visual aspect of expression. Trying to read anything written by Ash Wood is like decoding a dystopian-future version of the English language, where verbs and spelling have been completely eliminated from the lexicon.

Maybe there are no correlations except for the ones I impose upon myself by worrying too much.

And, unrelated, but this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever found. I’m guessing that it’s worth at least $600 – $1000 in the right market.

Here’s the story :

Tree branch fell on my car during a snowstorm. Damaged the roof very badly. I called Geico, they made an assessment (and then re-made it, once I pointed out that they got some of the details wrong) and wrote me a check for repairs. The check had to be a 2-party check, with Toyota’s name on it, as I am still paying for my car.

I wanted to take my car to Curry Toyota, where I bought it, because it’s still brand new and I thought they could match up the paint and contours the best. I’ve had body work done at other shops, and it’s been awful. So, I take my car to Toyota, who inform me that the check is written out wrong, and that they’ll have to send it to some faraway land to get it signed correctly. They also notice a ding in the trunk, which was also caused by falling branches (which I have the photographs to prove). They tell me that they’ll get Geico to look at it again and adjust my check – don’t worry about anything.

I leave my car with Toyota, and I relinquish my check.

They do not handle the dent in the trunk, at all. They claim that Geico would not approve it, and neither party had the courtesy to call me and ask me if I wanted to go ahead on the repairs anyhow, or to provide evidence of the source of the damage. Instead, they just ignored it.

I get my car back, I pay for the completed repairs in full, with the understanding that I would get the check back once it is signed and I can deposit it in my bank account to make up the difference. A month passes, and the body shop guy cites ‘Jewish holidays and vacations shutting banks down’, which is a bullshit answer. I call, he says that he’s going to follow up, I am not called back. It is implied that Toyota lost the check.

I take things into my own hands and call Geico to see where the check is, and I find out that Toyota cashed it into their own bank, instead of giving it to me. So now, they have about $950 towards a $730 repair. Once again, someone dropped the ball.

I call Curry Toyota, and body shop guy tells me (after literally seven transfers, one of which I was cut off mid-sentence) ‘they’re all backed up, we don’t know what happened to your check yet’, so I tell him, check number and all, and that I expect an immediate refund to my credit card for the exact amount of the check. He says he’ll get on it right away.

I’ve lost all patience, and it was all I could do to not start spewing profanities at this guy who kept on trying to talk over me instead of hearing what I was told by Geico, as I was obviously the only person who could handle the situation intelligently.

One illustration job lost my W2 and invoice and has not paid me months later, Toyota cashes my check into their own bank account, my blogging gig owes me over $2100 bucks, and something tell me that if people could manage their own shit, I wouldn’t have to be swimming through theirs all of the time.

I’m never going to be able to afford that unicorn.


4/19/2010 UPDATE : The fax of the cashed check came in from Geico, and it seemed to indicate that instead of returning my money to me (as originally stated), Toyota decided to keep it without telling me – because I owe them money for my car still.

I’ve made every single monthly payment on time. I live paycheck to paycheck, and I have very specific expenses coming out of different areas of my finances – bank, credit card and PayPal. The fact that Curry Toyota would just outright take money that they FEEL they are owed, and well ahead of the scheduled payment date, is unconscionable, and it’s throws my entire balance off.

When I talked to body shop guy Armand, he actually had the GALL to blame 9/11 for not being able to help me (in addition to phones not working, bank holidays, and any other number of excuses for being unable to get his shit together). I don’t know anyone in their right mind who is so desperate to save their own asses that they invoke a national tragedy to distract from their own ineptitude, but this guy did it. I told him that he, personally, was supposed to handle this entire situation, and that he fed me misinformation, and all he had to say for himself was ‘yeah’. No apology, no nothing.

So, Curry Toyota, you fucking suck a whole fucking lot. I’m glad this is finally over with.

It has been an absolutely miserable month for mail-order retail therapy. I have this thing where I don’t feel like I earn enough to really save anything, so I buy things to try to feel better about it, and then you shut up and leave me alone. I pay all of my bills. But it’s been a bad month for this kind of thing.

It starts with Batman car seat covers. I wanted to get a little something nice for my car after paying $700+ to get the roof-scar removed after the snowstorm / branch incident, so I ordered some Batman car seat covers. These, of course, were to match my Batman floor mats and Batman steering wheel cover. After excitedly waiting for these things to arrive, they appear and they’re made of stocking-quality nylon, stitched onto incredibly cheap foam material, with a Batman logo embroidered weirdly in the center. The material was already developing runs, and apparently, the Toyota Corolla has unnaturally malformed tumors for seats, because nothing was fitting anyhow.

I’m not sure how such cheap materials are supposed to protect the car from anything, but these were promptly returned for ‘not being as described’. My car is naked on the inside. My search for Batman shoelaces continues unsatisfied.

I accidentally placed two orders for the same two action figures from an import shop in CA, so when I realized this on the e-mail shipping notice, I just swallowed hard and decided that I’d sell the extra two as a set and earn a little bit of my money back. Why an experienced retailer would ship $140 worth of goods in a thin cardboard box, uninsured, and at Parcel Post rate, is beyond me. It took 16 days to reach here, and by the time it did, it was so crushed that the figures had actually been sprung from their packages. I battled over e-mail for the right to return these, which cost me an extra $10 in shipping for the negligence of the USPS and the retailer. So, don’t shop with HobbyFan. Their shipping FAQ page is a manifesto of dirty, dirty lies.

Finally, I ordered the first 5 appearances of MODOK from Mile High Comics, via eBay. When the order arrived today, two of these five comics were wrong. I mean, these are honest mistakes : ‘Tales of Astonish’ #94 instead of Tales of Suspense #94, and Avengers #112 instead of Captain America #112, but that’s nearly 50% of my order that they colossally screwed up because no one bothered to properly inventory what they were sending out. I’ve yet to hear back from them.

I know that I’m going about life the wrong way, in some way that I can’t understand, but these little things suck royally. Maybe it’s a sign that I should stop buying nice things for myself, or focus on something else, or that the laziness of businesses and employees has reached a sleepy, fever pitch – but this is a collection of annoyances that have clustered together to form a trifecta of suck that takes too much valuable time to deal with. I spend enough time at work fixing everyone else’s negligence.

Get it right, morons of the world.

April Annihilus Awesomeness : Day 7

April Annihilus Awesomeness : Day 6

Thank you, Heroclix.

April Annihilus Awesomeness : Day 5

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