Thursday, November 6, 2014

You Only Live Twice PT. 6 (Nifty Fifty)

“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”- Virginia Woolf

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

“When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "One word at a time," and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That's all. One stone at a time. But I've read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”- Stephen King

Hello Blogiteers!

Today marks a milestone here at the Lair of Snarkitude, and I couldn't be happier about it. In fact, I'm in such a good mood that I even let the minions take out the Snarkcopter for a joyride. Sure, gas is expensive and those surface to air missiles don't replace themselves, but sometimes ya just got to party like it's 1999. Minus the purple satin jackets, of course. I do have some standards, after all.

Oh, what the hell, it's a party- free satin purple jackets with matching headbands for everybody!

Tell you what- I'll even throw in a chance to play with the giant Death Ray Laser as well, but only if you pinky-swear not to blow up New York. Glendale, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable to use as a target, so long as you promise me that the first shot takes out my Mom's house.

Come to think of it, hit that sucker twice. She's a lot tougher than she looks.
So, what grand event are we celebrating, exactly?

Well, Artbitch officially "turns fifty", with this being the milestone blog. Since I started writing these here screeds back in 2009, the very nature of the truth I like to think I tell has added up to a heckuva lot of text. Minus this piece, the word count for my previous scrawls stands at 207,975. To give you some perspective, opinions vary wildly on what an average blogs' word count should be, but most of them (on the face of it) concur that it's commonly around 500. When it comes to short stories,1500 words is seemingly the base standard, and 50,000 is the typical count for a novel.

What this basically means is that at this point, I've written four books already.

Oof. No wonder why I curse so much. I've apparently used up most of my accessible lexicon. The breakdown by year is also kind of interesting when I see it with the benefit of hindsight, as it shows exactly when I was most ticked off.

It is as follows:

2009: 5.625
2010: 38,477
2011: 61,374
2012: 27,187
2013: 46,735
2014: 34,202 (thus far)

Obviously, I was really fired up in 2011, that being the year where both my public drubbing of The Phoenix New Times and a whole slew of craven and usually anonymous online detractors was firing on all cylinders- this led to my cranking out fifteen blogs like clockwork, a rate that fell to one third the next year, due to my then feeling of being totally burned out.

When you take into account all that I have written and you do all the math that's required for a true dissection of the last five years, it comes out to an average of 10.4 blogs per year, an integer I can live with, considering my normal word count per blog is 4077.94 bits of linguistic fiery finery.

And you thought I talked too much.

In comparison, it seems my hands are keeping a pace to beat the Devil, but the really funny thing in regards to this blog is that it was never supposed to happen like this in the first place. My success, if I were to give it a name, is primarily due to two unforeseen things- the first being illness, and the second being the direct involvement of the Phoenix New Times, via the personage of it's Mangling Editor, Amy Silverman.

In retrospect, they're the flipped sides of the same coin, but I'll digress for the sake of moving our story along, and the fact that at this time, there is no vaccine for the willfully petty ignorance that she inflicts upon others. Sure, being smarter and more refined does help, but that's the organic route, and it's way more expensive in the long run than just taking a swig (or six) of Tequila.

While I don't recommend being drunk when you have to deal with her directly, it certainly couldn't hurt, and theoretically- it just might make her seem far more interesting to talk to, what with your diminished capacity and all. Hey, if it works in regards to ordering from the late-night menu at Jack in the Box, it may be just crazy enough to be implemented as a rule of thumb.

But I'll get back to Editorzilla in a moment, as my getting sick back in 2009 is what really started the whole razorball of snark rolling. Since I "gave away" the ending in my last missive, there's really no point to play coy with what happened, despite the fact that I'll be finishing up the story arc in this blog nonetheless.

Think of it as a flashback, even though it comes after the story ends. That's me- screwing with the laws of verse and spacing. I'm like Captain Kirk, except I come with a sleek laptop rather than a warp engine and a Scottish engineer who sleeps with green women- not that there's anything wrong with doing that, mind you.

Feel free to taste the rainbow, if that's your thing. I won't judge.

The Cliff Notes: after I left the hospital, I was in physical recovery for about five weeks. Thirty-eight days. A month and a week. With nothing but healing and trying not to die as the two main priorities on my day to day "to do" list. Until this happened, I didn't really think that there was such a thing as watching too many zombie movies.

Trust me here. THERE IS.

I had previously been dabbling on MySpace with the writing thing prior to 2009, and it was okay, but ultimately read like an eternal whine of "woe is my life" as I was going through a highly public break up at the time, and apparently had no way of dealing with it other than unloading on the community.

Good times.

It did however, allow me to get comfortable with the practice of being honest on a routine basis, which is one of the things I'm proudest about in relation to my writing- I don't pull punches, and I don't hide, either. One of the great unforeseen things about forcibly accruing several weeks of personal introspection is this: it allows you the opportunity to make changes, whether for the better or for the worse, and I like to think I've taken full advantage of this particular quirk in the end.

So, after becoming sated on zombies and daytime TV, while being unable to read due to corneal distension, I started putting my thoughts to pixels regarding something I did know about- that being the travails of a working artist in Phoenix.

Originally designed as a quasi-sort of journal entry for me and weekend reading for the six of my friends who followed it, Artbitch blew up after some of my pieces tweaked off a few of the so-called "journalists" at the good ol' Phoenix New Times (AKA: "The Pennysaver with Porn") and they mewled their discontent to the failed bartender who runs the place, a walking horror show* who goes by the name of Amy Silverman.

Her petty response was to publish a soulless online "hit" piece about yours truly, which led to a major increase in both my readership and artistic street cred, which, let's be honest- I already had in buckets. The street cred, that is. Readers? Eh. Not so much.

However, her attempted bitch slap failed miserably, as all she succeeded in doing was inadvertently embarrassing herself, her position, and the lap-dog milquetoast she sent to dispatch me. With any luck, that particular person has gone on to greener and hopefully more professional pastures, where they don't allow their journalists to write their articles in crayon. After several pro-me comments were posted on New Time's website, Amy, flying under the guise of "extending the dialogue", suggested that we meet, and the rest as they say, is Artbitch history.

Which you can read all about using the archives.

Seriously. If you haven't, you're missing out on some comically epic carnage. If there's one thing I truly enjoy, it's metaphorically slicing up insufferable cretins with my switchblade tongue. Especially when they willingly provide the pre-sharpened cutlery for me to do so.

Sadly, the number of willfully ignorant people seems to be rising in this country, much in the manner of an unstoppable plague which is slowly leading to the detriment of culture overall. When it comes to the Phoenix Art Scene, there are a limited (but dedicated) number who stand as artistic bulwarks to protect what the PAS is attempting to build.

In my own snarkerific way, I'm trying to be a force that helps stem the tide of this inanity, and bars the door against those who would impugn our talent and craft.  

When it comes to calling it, I'm usually pretty spot on in my observations, an opinion backed up both by email and personal interactions with my fellow Creatives. For all the judgments that have been passed upon me by my traditionally anonymous detractors [IE: I'm arrogant, overbearing, intense, condescending, over-opinionated, etc.] the two words I have yet to hear with any regularity which would stop any argument I might have in it's tracks is this:

"You're wrong".

You'd think that if I was so off-base it would be fairly easy to prove, but this particular phrase has yet to come up, regardless of what form the dialogue takes. They'll attack my tone, my ponytail, my art, my beard, [Have they no decency?] my photography, my love of clog dancing and my ongoing addiction to Ding Dongs- yet when it comes to their being able to launch an effective counter-debate, it's like I'm facing a room full of empty chairs most of the time.

Welcome to Phoenix, where talking behind one's back could be considered an Olympic sport, if it wasn't for the fact that nobody here is really any good at it. What we do have in abundance as an offset against this plethora of thin-skinned and petulant cravens, is artistic talent.

Raw, gritty, largely undiscovered talent. And it's long overdue that we get our collective s**t together and let the rest of the planet know what the f**k we're about. In a perfect and just world, Phoenix would be on the same level as NYC or LA- and while I will give a nod to the fact that RoRo was recently named one of the 10 best art districts in the United States, it's all for naught if we don't know how to effectively market what we do.

But that's a rant for another time I think, as today is all about celebrating what has changed for the better since I started screaming from this humble little soapbox. To begin with, there's more arts coverage, and even though it's still uniformly terrible, at least it exists. There's more appreciation for public art, thanks to our pro-art and more importantly, pro-Phoenix mayor, not to mention a whole slew of independent stores, cafes, and restaurants, which have invigorated Downtown Phoenix.

And let's not forget all these new galleries and art spaces that when it gets right down to it, seem to be trying really hard. Granted, truly effectual marketing, standards of presentation, and a coherent business plan are seemingly abstract concepts to the majority of them, but at least they're making an effort... two nights a month.

Gah. Sorry. Even when I'm celebrating I can't enjoy myself. But at this moment, I'm not gonna be a negative Nancy, heck no- today I'm going to be an upbeat Ulysses, or maybe even an optimistic Orville. I know, I know, that's just crazy talk, but that's how I feel.

Plus, I have a tale to finish, let us not forget that, so I think I'll just sum up my feelings on the first fifty thusly- I hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as I've enjoyed writing them, and I hope that in some way, they've at least furthered the dialogue as to what we need to do to in order to make the PAS a world-class artistic entity.

If you're one of the people I've given props to, I hope it helped. And if you're one of the chosen who for whatever reason landed within the reach of my swift and terrible admantium claws, I hope you'll be comforted by this heartfelt sentiment as to why you were singled out for my special, if not focused, attention: it was something that you and you alone did, that got you what you deserved, and if you were offended, that's just too damn bad.

Want to stay off the radar? Then don't be an unethical talentless twit. Easy as that. And if you're upset about my opinion, take to the Internet and bitch freely- it's worked out pretty good for me, and it can work out well for you too. Maybe that's what recent Artbitch scratching post Joe Too Many Consonants In His Name really needs to fuel his inner calm- having access to a keyboard and possibly a puppy.

Come to think of it, that seems like a really cruel thing to do to the puppy.

Speaking your mind typically won't win you any friends, but it will get you the right ones, and that's what really counts. When all the chits are totaled, if the worst thing they can say about you is that you're a truly honest (if sometimes disliked) son of a bitch, consider it a win, and move forward.

I know I do.

And with that, lets get on to the end of my tale, before I start weeping like Jude Law in The Holliday*.
*[Netflix. Rent it. Seriously, it's a freaking adorable movie, and Cameron Diaz is funny as hell in it.]

Where were we? Lemme hit the bullet points. Let's see...

- In the hospital ICU after a near-death experience? Check.
- Mother showed up for five minutes and hasn't been heard from since? Check.
- Watched enough about Gangsters on TV to easily write the script for Goodfellas 2? Check.
- Discovered why catheters will not be the new fashion must? Check.
- Watched enough Michael Jackson videos to front a Jackson 5 cover band? Check.

Nice. We're all up to speed.

At this point, despite the fact that I was bouncing back with an almost Wolverine-like velocity, I was still in the ICU, due to complications from the original infection that landed me there- in other words, they were having difficulty finding the source, and were extremely concerned that I would pick up a secondary infection by remaining where I was.

If you're not familiar with basic hospital protocol, I'll share this: bacteria in a sterile environment morphs into some seriously weird and lethal combinations. Thus, the decision was made to transfer me to a semi-private room as soon as possible in order to avoid my experiencing directly just how strange those unholy partnerships could get.

As I'm being transferred out, my day nurse Eric says the following: "It's been a pleasure, I hope to never see you here again." Aw... I guess that underneath all that sadism thinly disguised with cartoon scrubs, beats the heart of a really decent person. Mind you, this really decent person was the one who pulled out my catheter on the count of "two" and not on the agreed count of "three", which sort of negates that whole warm fuzzy feeling I should have had in regards to this moment.

Settling in, I take stock of my new surroundings: a window view of rooftops, a flat screen tv tuned to Cartoon Network (sweet!) and a heavily tatted young Latino guy sleeping in the bed next to mine.

Embarrassingly, I don't remember his name, so for the sake of our story, let's just call him Jaime.  

And I'm not stereotyping here, his name certainly wasn't white-bread, like Tom, or Bill, or anything like that, so no need for angry e-mails or burning pitchforks, ok?

As I was still weak as a kitten (but improving) I almost immediately doze off, and wake up to a very sweet looking, somewhat elderly woman wearing a stylish black turtle neck and a huge crucifix around her neck sitting next to my bed. I'm talking a 1984 Like a Virgin Madonna cross here, the kind that you could use to stop a mugging, if you wielded it like a bat.

And in the lingo of the rough upper middle-class streets that I hail I'm from, that screams "Nun".

Fairly quickly, the realization that I, the lapsed Catholic, am currently in the presence of a totally dedicated God Squad member hits home, and I start sweating bullets, because nothing on God's green Earth is scarier than a nun.

Especially one that has a keen sense of fashion.
Who also wants to chat. With me.
Gulp, I say. Gulp.

This is so not good, as I am a very bad Catholic, even by the modern standards of the day. My past trip to New Orleans in 1994 alone could (and most likely will) send me straight to H E double hockey sticks, so as you might surmise, I wasn't exactly looking forward to the idea of conversing with one of God's ticket takers, no matter how stylish she was.

But since I'm also not a rude vulgarian by any measure, I did open our dialogue by politely letting  her know that while yes, I had been thrown for a loop spiritually, I was also not open to the idea of discussing my personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, which at that particular moment, could have been Pierce Brosnan for all I knew, given my somewhat frazzled mental state.

Barry Gibb, by the way could also be considered, due to his awesome hair and love of super tight pants. It's almost like we're brothers.

We did however, have a brief (but pleasant) discussion about art, and talked about the continuing media frenzy over the King of Pop fizzing out, and as she leaves, she ends our discourse with the statement that if I do need to talk to someone, her metaphorical door is always open.

After a few minutes of contemplative silence, my bunk-mate finally introduces himself and inquires as to what I was "in" for. I explain about how my jaw infection led to my kedoacidosis, which in turn, has led to my laying in this hard as a rock bed in this lovely post 1970's room with two IV lines in my arms. After acknowledgement of how "rough" my situation is, I casually ask him why he's there, and given the detail that the majority of his tattoos are seemingly of prison quality, [a fact he admits to later] I assumed it had to have been a fight or something of that nature that had landed him here.

In fact, nothing could have been farther from the truth. What had really dropped this former gang banger (found Jesus, had a kid, cleaned up his act) was far more insidious, the knowledge of which led me to regard my health issues in a much better light: kidney stones.

What are kidney stones? Well, I'm no doctor, but I have seen my share of the white coat brigade, so here's the info you seek: "Kidney stones (AKA: renal lithiasis) are small, hard deposits that form inside your kidneys. The stones are made of mineral and acid salts. Kidney stones have many causes and can affect any part of your urinary tract — from your kidneys to your bladder.

Often, stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together."

Now, I know what you're thinking, and that thought is mother-f***ing yeouch.

The pain issue alone is bad enough, but the way you purge the stones is to pass their pulverized remnants through your faithful spam dagger. That is just so wrong on so many levels, and I won't even touch on the fact that unlike women in the process of giving birth, our unassuming manhole doesn't have that amazing ability to elongate like a freaking Stretch Armstrong doll.

But despite his obvious pain, I still felt that I had the sympathy vote all wrapped up- after all, I had just come from the ICU, survived a near-death experience, chatted with a nun, and suffered the indignity of a catheter. As far as I was concerned, the empathy jackpot was mine and mine alone to wallow in as I saw fit.

Kidney stones?
Oh bitch, please- I gave Death a metaphorical wedgie, and survived. I am badass, hear me roar.

Clearly, I was having a Lifetime Television moment, but I was still going to suck it dry as if I were Paris Hilton working a DJ gig in Ibiza. After all, I'd cheated Death, taken his prize, and while I had come out physically and mentally weakened, I was alive, and that's what counted. Clearly, his ailment couldn't possibly compete with my touching of the Bunny Slippers of Death.

Or so I thought. See... managing one's Ego is a tricky and slippery business- once you think you've got it all figured out, your Ego throws you a curve ball.

That's moving at Mach 1. Towards your face. While on fire.

Snug in my personal kingdom of self-importance, I ask "Jaime" how he's coping with his obvious pain, and he responds by telling me that overall, he's okay, but that it's his other issue that's really killing him. Naturally, I inquire about his other issue, and instantly come to regret it.

Not because I'm a jerk, oh heck no- it's that I had just asked one of those questions you really don't want the answer to, no matter how curious you might be. Come to think of it, some of my more sensitive male readers may actually want to skip a bit ahead, cause what's coming up isn't pretty, and I really don't want to ruin your lunch.

That's one of the great things about hitting rock bottom- it always has a sub-basement filled with rats. In retrospect, I should have just stayed on the topic of kidney stones, as it can be fascinating.

Did you know you can actually make jewelry out of those things? I didn't, and I like to believe that I'm a master when it comes to the field of arcane knowledge, no matter what the subject is about. See, normally, I'm one of those people who like to know a little (if not a lot) about pretty much almost anything that exists.


That is, anything except the newly introduced topic I was on the verge of learning about, that being the medical condition known as "Testicular Torsion". Some of you just went green guessing what that might be, and if you're off, I guarantee it's not by much.

To be technical, it's usually described as such:

"Testicular torsion occurs when a testicle rotates on the spermatic cord, which provides blood flow to the testicle. As a result, the flow of blood is stopped causing sudden, often severe pain and swelling. Prolonged testicular torsion will result in the death of the testicle and surrounding tissues.

Generally, testicular torsion requires emergency surgery. If treated within a few hours, the testicle can usually be saved. However, waiting longer for treatment can cause permanent damage and may affect the ability to father children. When blood flow has been cut off for too long, a testicle may become so badly damaged it has to be removed.

Testicular torsion is most common in males 10 to 25 years old, but it can occur at any age. About 65 percent of cases occur in adolescents between 12 to 18 years of age. It occurs in about 1 of 4,000 males before the age of 25."

There... don't you all feel better now?

I'll bet dollars to donuts that no matter what is going wrong in your life right now, given that perspective, it just became all excellent across the board. As he was describing his unimaginable pain to me, all I could think was this:

"You know what? I'm good. Perfect, in fact. Top notch. A-ok. Feelin' fine. Okeley-dokely, for lack of a better word.
Come to think of it, I've never felt this good, and in retrospect- nothing in my life up to this point could truly be counted as a solemn hardship."

And I was dead serious. Sure, I was flat on my back, barely able to walk, and couldn't stay awake for more than a few hours at a time, not to mention the roughly 12 feet of IV line I had running out of my arms, but at least my boys were still in their right place, tucked under the ol' love silo, where nature intended them to be. And with that, moving day ends, and I fall asleep.

The next morning, after Jaime has his successful surgery, a small but steady flow of visitors arrives to see me, my mother not being one of them, as that would involve her having to actually fake interest, and she's so not about that.

However, the first two friends who do show up bring me a specially requested illicit gift: Taco Bell.
I'll explain why that was so.

If you've ever been hospitalized, you're aware that most hospital food traditionally lacks a few things- taste being paramount above all. At the time of my stay, everything I was eating tasted like wet cardboard, which I attributed to the theory expressed above. So when my friends announced that they were coming, I asked them to smuggle in some "food" as a saving grace against the hospital's kitchen.

Mmm... wet cardboard topped with weak hot sauce and tasteless cheese. Perfect. And I'll get to be reprimanded later by my day nurse for casually spiking my blood sugar by eating non-documented carbohydrates? Super sweet. However, the hospital did have one thing that rocked my mouth, and that was the most amazing vanilla pudding that I have ever had in my life.

It was as Aphrodite herself came off Mount Olympus. and decreed that I alone should experience what was essentially a joy-gasm of vanilla. Sorry if you're visualizing that right now, but on the upside, you can always substitute your favorite celebrity instead of me, so it's all good.

I'd recommend Milla Jovovich, but that's just my fondness for zombie killing chicks talking.

Believe you me, that stuff was amazing, and it was literally the only thing I could taste. As it turned out, the lack of flavor in my meals wasn't because of anything the hospital kitchen had done, it was due to the amount of antibiotics the medical staff had used while battling my infection- it had suppressed my ability to actually taste anything that wasn't super sweet, spicy or salty, and I was later casually informed by my doctor that this condition could possibly be permanent.

Gee, Doc... I didn't get you anything. Boy, is my face red, or what?

Fortunately, this effect only lasted for a few weeks after my being discharged, which led to the incorporation of chocolate chip mint ice cream, pretzels and jambalaya as main-stays in my diet for a brief period of time. While this may sound unhealthy, it did help me put back on the thirty pounds I had lost, so there is that.

But on top of the frustration in regards to my taste buds, I also had to deal with an awkward social situation as well- two of my friends had recently broken up with each other, so I had to schedule their visits so that there wouldn't be any conflict betwixt them, or more specifically, the one who couldn't act like a grown up for ten minutes.

Spoiler: it wasn't the girl. It never ceases to amaze me how petty people can get when they're no longer the main flavor for someone. Here's some gentle advice- if you're aware that you haven't brought anything to the table, you don't get to act surprised when your partner pushes their chair back and walks away from you.

And let's face it, if there ever was a moment for me to act completely self-absorbed without guilt, this would be the one. After all, you're visiting someone in the hospital who nearly died, so your drama I'm sorry to say, needs to be shelved for the duration of your visit without question.

Yes, at that moment, it literally was all about me, and for the first time in my life, it was completely justified beyond reproach. Despite all this potential aggravation, the rest of the visits go off without a hitch, and I spend the rest of my day alternately napping and watching TV. Sadly, Michael Jackson remained dead, and according to the news, "Thriller" was still the only album he had ever recorded.

Does no one remember "Off the Wall"? Because that album rocked.
Question for another time, I guess.

Mid-afternoon of the next day, a doctor I've never seen before comes into my room and asks me if I want to go home, as they're still worried about my catching a post-infection, and they collectively think that I'm far enough along to be discharged safely. Naturally, I say yes, and naturally, he later bills my insurance company $150.00 for his "consultation".

Which by the way, I'm happy to announce he never got to pocket, as I eventually get it cleared from the final bill, which originally stood at $118,000.00. For the record, if you're going to charge me $150.00 for answering a simple question, there had better be soft music and candlelight involved beforehand. Just saying.

And if you can't do either, I'd better be seeing a case of chilled Ding Dongs come my way, and that right quick. So, after waiting a few hours to clear all the medical paperwork hurdles, I'm officially discharged, looking like a meth camp reject- bruised, pale, wobbly as a drunken aardvark, and extremely sensitive to sunlight.

And here I was, thinking it could only get better. But as I stated earlier, I was on the mend and that's what really counted in the long run. Granted, the next five weeks were transforming in their own way, but here's where our story stops for now, I think.

Looking back, I can honestly say I'm very grateful to be alive, and even more so now that I get to opine on the PAS with such brutal transparency after years of playing it quiet. I can't even begin to tell you the sensation of freedom that comes with openly and plainly stating where you stand on something, albeit it about art, politics, or your fellow human beings.

People may not like what I say/write, but they know exactly what I believe in, and no matter how many anonymous internet cravens pop up spewing venom or threats of implied violence, I'm not going to be varying my approach anytime soon.

If I'm partially responsible for changing some attitudes within the PAS, that's for others to decide, as I've got bigger fish to fry. When it gets right down to brass tacks, if someone's nose gets bent out of joint, so be it- it's on them, as I'm only accountable for what I say, not how it's interpreted.

At the end of the day, if I can get a few people to discuss openly what most needs to be discussed, I'll consider that victory enough, and I move on to the next issue at hand. What truly matters is the end goal, where the PAS is fostered into becoming an economically viable and stable art market, where galleries and their artists can not only make a living, but also get the respect that their talent is worthy of.

So in closing, my sincerest thanks to those who've read, those who've complained, and even those who've spent their free time hissing at me from under the Internet's bed- you've all helped make the last five years of my life creating this body of work some of the best.

And when we come back with number 51....

A Treeo grows in Phoenix, I attend a laughably passive-aggressive art opening, theorize about a possible new Superman villain, explain why an "art-space" isn't the same as an art gallery using an analogy involving chocolate milk, and cast a critical eye on the fair weather that blows within the PAS.

"No legacy is as rich as honesty" - William Shakespeare

Sunday, October 5, 2014

You Only Live Twice PT. 5 (Is that a catheter or are you just happy to see me?)

"Diabetes is a lousy, lousy disease."- Elaine Stritch

Hello Blogiteers!

Do you hear that?

Those are the forceful, yet calming, Winds of Change. Granted, they're a bit tardy in getting here, but it's nice to see them eventually show up, nonetheless. With all that's happening in the PAS, I'm hoping they hangout a while, and keep things on track to a better and shinier future.

Besides... those bitches owe me a fitty, as 50 Cent likes to say.

Speaking of owing somebody, I offer my apologies to those of you I haven't got back to in regards to your Emails. I was crushed by the reaction to the last three blogs I wrote, so I'm a bit behind the metaphorical 8 ball, as it were.

But I promise to address whatever you've written me about- I just need to either stop time, or find a way to take two weeks off, which I can assure you, will not happen anytime soon. But I'll get those last missives squared away ASAP, no matter what.

It has, to be honest, been a very draining couple of weeks- the last three pieces of writing comprised a total of 13,701 words, which let me tell you, is a LOT of freaking vocabulary to issue forth. So it should come as no big surprise that I'm a tad bit on the burned out side, and looking forward to finishing up my tale of being hospitalized back in 2009.

In fact, I can't wait to get started. Seriously chomping at the bit, as it were. Raring to go. Full of hellfire and brimstone. Once more into the breech. Up and at them. Geronimo. *Allons-y!
*[Dr. Who fans will get this.]

But first... I have to touch base on a few things. Seems the Peter Bugg/plagiarism thing just keeps getting more interesting the longer time passes. I've been wondering why SMoCA didn't even bother to do the merest of checks in relation to what I wrote or the troubling question I raised of his "alleged" plagiarism in regards to his winning a SMoCA grant.

As it turns out, there's a rumor that I'm attempting to vet that Peter Peter the Idea Stealer from time to time actually does work for SMoCA, photographing their events and the like, which if proven to be true, would sort of make him an employee, albeit one that might be classified as an independent contractor. I know I may be splitting hairs here, but wouldn't having someone who works for you being allowed to compete for a grant you're sponsoring constitute some version of a conflict of interest?

Hear me out: if you work for the state lottery for instance, you're generally disallowed from winning the Powerball, and while the SMoCA Good N Plenty grant is only $1000.00, would it be ethical to allow an alleged employee to compete for it?

I'd say no, but I'm kind of an old school stickler when it comes to rules.

However, if this rumor does turn out to be accurate, it could explain why SMoCA [in the personage of Lesley Oliver] blew me off with a boilerplate politico's non-answer. A protection of one's own, as it allegedly were. As she stated in her letter, "we consider the matter closed" a stance which strikes as odd, since doesn't the matter at hand have to be actually open first before it can be closed?

I'd say yes, but then again- I happen to be a straight to the point kind of guy, something that seems to be a rarity in this town. And since I am, I'm planning on firing off an Email to SMoCA's top kick in the next couple of weeks or so, to see what he has to say about this topic. I'm sure it'll go one of two ways: either he'll ignore it [what I expect to happen] or he'll dismiss it (also a distinct possibility) as curtly as Ms. Oliver did.

Although her tacking on a sales pitch at the end of her Email [the section which I didn't publish, because really?] was brassy as f**k, I still consider her position to be cravenly due to two things, the first being her lack of even attempting to acknowledge or debate the obvious similarities between Peter's "concept" and the Artist he "allegedly" stole it from, and the second: if I was wrong in my original summation, why not just flat-out say so?

Granted, you can only say so much as a representative of a so-called professional arts organization, but even still, wouldn't it be easier (and smarter) to prove me wrong? Once again, I'd say yes, but there's a whole lot of wobbly happening where SMoCA's unofficially official position is concerned.

Keep in mind, I asked these questions first on SMoCA's Facebook pages, and was met with stony silence for two days. After the blog dropped, they were removed [with no comment given] and I was "blocked" from all their sites. Let me tell ya, nothing says "we got nothing to hide" better than refusing to answer a few simple questions and hiding under the Internets' bed like a 13 year old girl.

Thank God for Yelp and Travel Advisor, where I gave a short but sweet summation regarding their lack of interest to address this issue and advised those who might be curious to see one of SMoCA's attempts to redefine Art for the worse, to perhaps spend their money elsewhere.

What can I say? I'm all about helping out the occasional wandering traveler.

Besides, the PAS could use that money so much more than a faux-arts temple that charges a fee to see pyramids built out of slowly rotting fruit. Hint from me to you: save the ten bucks, and go visit your local Safeway. On the upside, they have reasonably priced beer and sandwiches, as well as a totally bitching candy aisle.

And some advice: do not start drinking and eating before you pay. They just hate that.

Getting back on track, if there isn't anything "allegedly" shady going on, then why delete my rather tame comments at all? I wasn't vulgar, heck, I wasn't even rude- I was direct. And if you're going to claim that you serve the community, shouldn't you then? Keep in mind, I received over 200 total emails and FB messages in regards to this issue, and there were only six negative* responses.


*[And one fake FB profile created to attack me anonymously. On a related note, I miss you so much, "Gordon Bradford"... why don't you call? I promise I won't get too clingy.]

Remember this- I'm not the one that noticed the similarities in the two projects until one of my readers brought it to my attention, so I can't (and won't) take credit for that, either. And if someone else noticed this, it's not an unreasonable stretch to assume others probably may have too, they just haven't commented on it, due to either social fear, politeness, or not knowing what to do.

Speaking of comments, this little gem was FB messaged to me recently, and it made my week:

"You are forthright with your opinion & that is admirable. That means people always know where you stand. It's the wishy-washy fuckers you have to keep an eye out for."

Damn straight. I despise wishy-washy people too, as I do get that not everybody is wired like me, willing to go to the wall for what they think is right- most people sit down and wait for somebody else to do the hard lifting first. So in that regard, I'd surmise SMoCA does know it's audience- that being people who think that 3 canvases painted the same unbroken shade of white that's virtually indistinguishable from the wall they hang on is truly the pinnacle of pure artistic expression and enlightenment.

You know... morons, idiots, blockheads, dunces, ignoramuses, simpletons, halfwits, imbeciles- in a phrase, stunted cretins who think they're art savvy. Call me a snob, but if your "art" can be easily duplicated by a toddler having a colic attack, or a gibbon in a zoo, I'd suggest that perhaps your ass needs to get back to art school/the streets/the public library/a real artists' studio to see what art actually is, and maybe this time, let the relevant info stick.

And on a correlated note: f**k Richard Serra too. Preferably with Damien Hirst's skull.
Either the diamond-studded sculpture* or his real one. I'm really not gonna split hairs over which.

Gah. Done with this. For now, at least. So.... what else is on the table?

Ahh, yes- Joe Brklacich, my fellow artist who implied that he wanted to "punch me in the f*****g face" for what he perceived as my insulting his good friend Lesley Oliver two blogs back.

Fortunately for me, there wasn't a playground nearby, so I was able to stave off his grade school chest thumping with a flippant chuckle and the turn of my back. But if there had been a swing set in the vicinity, rest assured that I'd have been morally obligated to get my best kindergarten poker face on, something I haven't had to do since... well, kindergarten.

So, what's been going on with that situation?

Well, just like the inside of Joe's studio and his all too familiar art hanging on the walls, nothing.
Nothing at all. Figuratively, metaphorically, and literally. Simply zilch. Zero. Nada.

Sorry. I did my best to see if I could get his head to implode, but I've heard through the grapevine that he's been distracted lately by a particularly shiny set of keys, so I guess we'll just to have to wait and see how it all turns out in the end.

My take? If he throws a punch as well as he debates, then I'm fairly confident that I'll be in my grave two decades before his fist ever reaches my ruggedly handsome face.

Gah. Also done with this. For now. So then... what ever shall we talk about?
Wait a minute, I have an idea- how about I finish my tale of touching the Bunny Slippers of Death?

Trust me, it's gonna be a really good read, and the ending will be both touching and infuriating.

However- despite my love of being an earnest yarn-spinner, I find myself forced to reveal one major spoiler about my narrative due to an unusually thick email I received in regards to it, which in it's pure essence asked me this:

"So what eventually happened? Did you ever leave the hospital, and come out okay?"

Let that sink in for a moment. Savor the level of the density, and know that this person is allowed by the laws of this great land to have the right to both vote and breed, and yet you still wonder why I sometimes think that Noah and the Ark needs a sequel. Unless Heaven has one hell of a Wi-Fi, I think the answer is quite apparent.

Now here comes the standard boilerplate: if you hate knowing major plot points before the end of a story, I'd skip ahead a few paragraphs and pick up my account there, lest ye be tempted to foresee the end of my tale. I'm only adding this disclaimer because what I'm about to reveal is such a twist that knowing what it is might just ruin the story for you, and I would never want that.

Here it goes. You still have time to skip ahead, you know. Last chance before I open the box and let Schrödinger's cat out of the metaphorical bag, which raises the question: why would he be in a bag when he's already sealed inside a box?

Question for another time, I guess.
Back to the spoiler!

The spoiler that is about to be revealed, the secret of my tale, the ending to my narrative is this:




So... there's that.

I know, I know, I just gave away the ending to the movie, and I'm truly sorry. But let's face it, you're not here for the all-singing, all-dancing Disney ending, you're here for the pathos, the drama, the reality of my tale. The Lifetime mini-series, as it were. I'll try not to disappoint you, but remember... you're getting all this for free, so you've got very little room to bitch.

Where were we? Ah, yes- the Hospital.

At this point, I was starting to slowly come out of the med-induced haze they had been keeping me under, but I was still not out of the woods yet- not by a long shot. I was legally blind, due to the amount of high blood sugar distension my corneas had suffered, could barely raise my arms above my waist, and my favorite man part was attached to a catheter.

I have previously mentioned the catheter, right? Sorry, but it's just this: while the rest of my physical symptoms were definitely no bowl of chilled Ding Dongs, that whole catheter thing just sucked. As I stated in Part 2 of this tale, that in the future, let it be widely known that if given a choice for what method to use for voiding my bladder, I'm perfectly fine with a bedpan. Or an open window. Or a pickle jar. Or the mouths of any of the GOP's top politicians.

Just saying.

However, I was at least on the road to making a full recovery, and that's always a good thing. On the downside, every channel was seemingly blasting "news" about the death of Michael Jackson, so I'm now way more informed about his life than any skinny straight white boy should be.

Don't get me wrong, he's definitely one of my top five for Entertainer of the Century, ranked just slightly below Freddie Mercury, but for a go-to babysitter, not so much.

Please don't make me explain why.

I kid you not, one station showed an aerial shot of the hearse parked outside the funeral home on and off for almost two hours straight, all while the anchor-people repetitively discussed their
love of the iconic "Thriller" album over clips of the "Thriller" video.

[Ok. That video is still a creative masterpiece, but even so... give it a rest, would ya?]

Know this: if there's one thing more painful than watching really elderly people trying to figure out how to program an I-phone6, it's watching an over-bleached version of Ken and Barbie wax poetic about an album that came out while they were going to high school back in November of 1982.

Plus... did he really have to die that week? He totally stole my thunder, and I just hate that. Sure, CNN in all probability might not have covered my stay, but now we'll never know, will we? And it's all thanks to that amazingly talented moon-walking schmuck picking the wrong check-out date.

*sigh* Some days you just can't catch a break.

Conversely, the History channel was playing a marathon of documentaries that focused upon the colorfully vibrant [AKA; violent] era when organized crime was just starting to come into it's own.

Now we were cooking with gas, let me tell you. And a fair amount of bullets, as well. Genteel businessmen these Thompson carrying mooks were not. After three days of exposure to all
this trivia, I'm fairly certain I could easily kick Alex Trebeks' ass when it comes to gangster related questions.

Go ahead... ask me anything.

The Saint Valentine's Day massacre?
A Capone fronted attempt to kill his rival, Bugs Moran. The out of town hitmen dressed as police missed Moran due to his arriving late, and his seeing the faux cops pull up [whom he thought were real] led to him quickly hiding in a close proximity coffeehouse- but they did succeed in killing off most of his gang and their mechanic, whose dogs name was "Highball".

How did Lucky Luciano get his nickname?
He was taken for a "last ride" by rival mobsters in the 1920's which he survived, despite being severely beaten and having his throat cut. As an aside, he's also considered the most powerful American mob boss of all time, and is credited as being highly instrumental in developing the National Crime Syndicate, which is not to be confused with the Mafia, as they are two distinct things.

And people say you can't learn anything by watching TV. Pshaw! Says I.

But in between the hysteria concerning Michael Jackson's death and learning the art of how to smuggle Canadian Whiskey into Chicago, I was making small steps in regards to my health. The first hurdle I had to overcome was the loss of strength overall. You wouldn't think that being in bed for four days would affect your weight and stamina that much, but oh golly gee, it seriously does.

I could barely sit myself up, let alone stand, and when you take into account that I had also lost close to thirty pounds as well, I was in no shape to do virtually anything physical. I pretty much looked like Iggy Pop after a four day bender in Thailand.

True story: I exhausted myself taking a drink of water. Seriously. Took a sip, and it felt like the glass weighed 300 pounds. Almost immediately I fell asleep due to the strain, and woke up to an unexpected visitor looming in my hospital doorway- my estranged younger brother Chris, whom I hadn't seen or heard from since my Opa's 100th birthday party in New York City back in 2005.

As you might have surmised, we ain't exactly close. The Reich clan is scattered far and wide, and when people talk of us, the term "touchy" would be the most likely used by way of description. We're not warm and fuzzy, nor are we the kind of family that likes to hang out with each other on a regular basis. Let's just say emails and phone calls are the main way we stay in contact with each other, and leave it at that.

So seeing my brother in the flesh (of which he has a lot) was, to be fair, a bit of a shock to the ol' system, as you might imagine. Also, seeing how Chris is not known as being the "funny" one in the family, his opening gambit was surprisingly witty, especially for him.

To quote: "Yes, it's me... and no, you're not in Hell." Immediately followed up by: "If you wanted a family reunion, you could have just called, you know." That kids, is pure comedy- I don't care what anybody says. He then settles in, as we proceed to catch up for the next thirty minutes or so, until my GF Ashley shows up and not surprisingly, is stunned to see him sitting there.

After he introduces himself, he then proceeds to converse with her "rack" the entire time, staring with an intensity I've only seen in people who cut diamonds for a living. Yep. That's my family.

When we decide to give you the worst first impression, we go full throttle.

Don't get me wrong, my girl does have a great rack and all, but it's usually not what I'd refer to as a conversationalist, and if I were to get all caveman here, I'd have to point out that I happen to be renting it with an option to buy hopefully soon, so please keep your eyes to yourself, ok?

After this awkward conversation ends, Chris leaves, followed by Ashley, as she had a long day at work, leaving me alone with my day nurse, whose name was Eric. Now by all outward appearances, Eric seems like a nice guy. His scrubs are usually adorned with cartoon animals, and as a rule of thumb, he's quite upbeat- all of which hides the fact that at his core, he's actually a sadist.

A cartoon clad, mildly perky, somewhat amusing and relatively easygoing sadist, to be sure, but a sadist nonetheless. All that's missing is the dungeon and standard issue leather-clad gimp playset.

How can I say this with such a degree of certainty? Because while I was hovering on the edge of life and death, he made me exercise. No offense, but typically when given the choice between dying and working out, it's usually a coin toss for me. I loathe working out- not because of the truly physical challenge, but because of all the idiots you have to put up with at the gym.

And believe you me, Spandex does have a limit as to what it can safely contain.

See, here's the deal- one of the perks of being in the ICU ward is that people don't expect much from you in general. You get to lay around, watch tons of TV, and sleep quite a bit. It's a lot like being a government employee, minus the pajamas and IV saline drip.

So, because I was getting comfortable with this setup, I obviously wasn't expecting to be doing any Tai-bo or working out to a Richard Simmons DVD anytime soon. By way of example, my night nurse would come in, give me a shot (or two) of morphine, and leave me be.

Eric on the other hand, wants me to be up and about, and goes to great lengths to make sure that I am. He sets up chairs every ten feet or so all around the perimeter of the ICU ward and tells me he wants me to walk at least one full circle, no matter how long it takes, which at the time, was forty-five minutes for me, versus three minutes for a healthy person.

Naturally, I tell him I'd love to do so, especially since I can barely move, but gosh darnit.. this dang catheter is in the way, so I guess I'll just have to take a rain check on that whole exercise thing, which I just feel terrible about.

Really. You have no idea the guilt that was eating me alive. Unfortunately, this isn't Eric's first time at the rodeo, so he just looks at me and says: "Oh, I can take care of that." And then gives me a smile.

A big, way too happy, shark-toothed, James Bond villain stroking a white cat kind of smile.

Future note to self: learn how to keep your mouth shut, especially when you have a tube running up your spawn hammer. Charitably, I don't remember them putting in the catheter as I was really out of it when I was checked in, but now I'm fully aware and conscious of what's going on.

Oh, great goody gum drops of freaking sunshine, am I ever aware.

As I'm laying there in my bed, weak as a kitten, Eric tells me that he'll remove the catheter "on the count of three", so I start psyching myself up, secure in the knowledge that I'm in the best of hands and that he's a true professional, even if his Spongebob scrubs are somewhat disconcerting.

Know this- I'm a real man. I may be intellectual and urbane most times, but I can take whatever's thrown at me. Go ahead... pour boiling water down my throat and I'll belch ice cubes. Bad Pizza? Bring it. Circus clowns? I'll drink mead from their severed skulls and mount their giant floppy shoes in my den. The Tea Party? Since logic is like kryptonite to these people, I'll just read the Constitution out loud and watch their heads explode.

A PAS wannabe dares to get up in my grill? Oh please. I'll climb up inside and hollow them out like a chocolate Easter Bunny. I'm not afraid of much, to be quite honest, and as proof of that, I also eat at Taco Bell... on a regular basis. Like I said, I can handle anything. Everything that is, except a certain back-stabbing, under-handed, black-hearted, treacherous, soulless, deal-breaking bastard pulling the tube out on "two", and not "three".

To be fair, the removal didn't hurt nearly as much as the insertion, which apparently required my having to be strapped down to a gurney [so I've been told] but it's not something I ever want to repeat in my life. As a rule, that's one part of my body I've tried earnestly not to expose to anything boiling, sharp edged, sparking, freezing, sizzling, metallic, burning or internal.

I know, I know... I'm way too boring.
But this cautionary approach has served me well, and I'm not abandoning it anytime soon.

As I traverse through the ICU's version of musical chairs, hell-bent on getting back to my not so comfy bed, I take notice of the other rooms within, and recall a conversation I had the evening before with my night nurse, whose name was (I kid you not) Angel.

She comes in, checks my vitals, administers my regular dose of pain killers and sleeping agents, and then tells me how she was just bragging in the nurse's lounge that as her patient, I was going to survive and eventually walk out. Noting my somewhat shocked reaction, she states:

"We usually don't have a lot of wins- in the ICU you take the victories where you can."

Granted, I can see the logic behind this unique worldview, but at the time, I was just hoping she hadn't placed any bets on me, as I really don't perform well under that kind of pressure. Especially when it's fairly obvious that I'm not going to see a cut of the vig in the end.

I think I need to get a better agent to handle these details.

There were 12 rooms (AKA: "pods") in the ICU unit that I was convalescing in, and at that particular time only I and one other person [a car crash victim] were expected to leave under our own power, versus being carried out in a human-sized Ziploc bag.

As you might imagine, there's not a whole lot of joy to be found in a land that has a perpetual death watch, so I came to interpret the nursing staffs black humor as a self-imposed form of protection from the depressive aspects of what the job demanded. It brought to mind something my dear departed Oma might have said in relation to the overall vibe of the place:

"It feels quite a bit Catholic in here, doesn't it?"

Oddly, I'm at my best in a place with that sort of attitude, as I tend to deal with stress by being sarcastic, so I fit right in with nary a hitch. Just like when I travel, I try to be a good and gracious guest. You know the basic rules- keep your room neat, clean off your plate, and don't be a pain in the ass to your host, no matter what the situation is.

And if the circumstance calls for you to don lederhosen, I say go for it.
Sorry. Let's get back to the story.

As I was slowly traversing what was the great circle of the ICU, the reality of all those families hoping against hope that their loved ones might just survive their personal trauma was humbling. In retrospect, I got damn lucky, and the only reason I survived what should have killed me was a simple luck of the draw- no more, no less.

I don't believe in miracles. I'm too much of a realist. If I can't see it, touch it, or rub it all over my body in a fugue of joy, then it doesn't exist.

Understand that I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic.

I credit the fact that despite his arrogance and lack of verticality, my doctor knew his chops and had one hell of an ICU team behind him to aid in my recovery. Add in the fact that God apparently needs me to serve as a bad example, and you can see why I'm not planning on checking out anytime soon.

Speaking of checking out, I believe this would be an excellent time to take a break, as I and most likely you, are starting to nod off. And let's face it, a well-rested reader is a happy reader.

And when we come back...

This tale concludes with gang-bangers and kidney stones, visits from warring friends, I finally explain my obsession with John C. Lincoln's vanilla pudding, enjoy some illicit Taco Bell, and discover the true cost of wanting to go home.

"It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like."
- Jackie Mason

Saturday, September 13, 2014

You Only Live Twice PT. 4 and a 1/3 ( Where there's SMoCa, there's Whiners )

“It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that." As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. "I find that offensive." It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. '"I am offended by that."

Well, so f*****g what." - Stephen Fry, The Guardian

Hello Blogiteers!

I've got to be honest- there are times, if the truth is to be told, where I really enjoy being a self-styled Artbitch. I get to speak my mind, clear the way for progressive debate, skewer a cretin (or two),
and generally walk around with a feeling of a job well done, if not snarkily.

Then there's the days where I'm really happy.

Usually it's because I've found an extra pack of Ding Dongs that I didn't know I had, or sometimes I'll be flipping through the ol' cable TV and find out they're playing all of the Resident Evil movies back to back with limited commercial interruptions.

You know... the simple pleasures.

Granted, the pay is non-existent, but the hours are great, and the perks make it all worth while. No matter what might be happening in my day gig existence, the world where my art-life resides is usually never boring, and that's just the way I like it.

Surprisingly, despite my once being described by a colleague as "saturnly venomous", I rarely run into what i would consider any concrete repercussions in regards to what I write. Sure, there's the occasional vulgar e-mail or sporadic sideways nasty glance when I'm out and about among my art peeps, but at worst- these are annoyances akin to a gnat flying in front of a wind machine.

in other words, no sweat, no sleep lost, no actual f***s given, no matter what. I know, I know. I'm a Hell-bound, supremely arrogant, self-righteous, intensely focused bastard of monolithic proportions.

And oddly, I'm perfectly okay with this.

Do you have any guesses as to why that is? It's simple, really. Because as long as I can remember, I've always been "that guy"- you know, the one that says what everybody else is thinking but refuses to articulate, due to their being either too afraid or too polite.

Fortunately, I have no such hang-ups, and I refuse to apologize for not suffering fools, just because outdated social restrictions and one's lack of personal spine says that I should. Plus, there's always this type of comment that I get occasionally via e-mail, which also helps keeps me motivated:

"I give you props! Not many people in this wretched arts scene/state are brave enough to speak up. Go along to get along is the norm. It's why I stay on the "outside" and travel elsewhere. What you do is valuable and I applaud you."

The unforeseen side-effect of being honest, other than a clean conscience and unburdened soul, is the amount of simplicity that it brings to your life- for instance, the amount of holiday cards that I have to mail out every year just keeps getting smaller and smaller, and at the rate it's going, pretty soon I'll only have to spring for two kinds: my girlfriends card that I spend time looking for (the $3.00 and up kind) and everybody else's from the year-end clearance sale box.

You know the type: generic, derivative, and completely devoid of any actual sentiment, emotion, or creativity. Its what all cards will be if Hallmark ever decides to make a Peter Bugg product line.

Speaking of my favorite allegedly plagiarizing insect, my last little screed where I gave both he and SMoCA equal drubbing, hit way harder than I expected. And by that, I mean my personal e-mail and FB messages lit up like a Christmas tree on acid at a Pragha Khan concert.

This time however, there was more than the usual one or two negative pieces of correspondence that I've become used to as of late. There was six. Yes, six! Not to mention the one fake FaceBook profile created specifically to comment on my anti-Bugg posting located on the Arizona Artists page.

How did I know it was fake?

Well, they had no photo, no info, and no friends listed on their profile at all, yet somehow zoomed right in on me and my comments right off the bat. So given that... and the fact that they fell off the Earth after being called out on it, made me and several others a tad bit suspicious.

But let it be known, "Gordon Bradford", that we all miss you something fierce.

On the upside, between emails and FB insta-messages, the positive responses numbered over 150- somehow, I can force myself to live with that. The best line in regards to Peter was this:

"You know, he did something that I liked once... now I'm wondering who he stole it from."

Classic. The last time I can recall getting this much feedback on something I wrote was when I took on the Phoenix New Times, and that seems like forever and a day ago. Ah, good times... no pun intended. It seems that many of my fellow Creatives share the same dim view I have of Peter's "talent" and SMoCA's artistic "vision", even if they don't always (or ever) agree with my views on anything else.

See, there's always middle ground, you just have to forge ahead and find a commonality that bonds you as a team. But as usual, there's always going to be those who get their Underoos in a bunch over something I said or did, and I can't help that. And even if I could, I probably wouldn't, anyway.

When it gets down to it, I'd rather be right than liked, and it's been my experience that people who usually have a real problem with me and my opinion are typically the type of people I wouldn't want to be trapped in an elevator with.

Yes, that's actually the acid test I use: would I be okay being trapped in an elevator sans Ding Dongs with this person? If not. then us being friends is gonna be a long shot at best. Given my nature to speak my mind candidly, it's not too surprising that becoming my friend only requires two things: loyalty and honesty- two qualities for membership that I generally don't waive for anybody.

This Artbitch does have standards, after all.

Shockingly, it does take a modicum of effort to get onto my spit list- I may be somewhat aggro at times, but I'm not that aggro, if you know what I mean. Despite what some of my critics might think, it's not like I walk around cracking skulls and slicing up people with my tongue on a 24/7 basis.

Sure, recently somebody asked me how did I eat with that switchblade folded up in my mouth, but I'm pretty certain that they meant that as a compliment. And on a more realistic note, who has that kind of time? And more importantly, the energy?

Not me. I'm way too lazy to go on an unchecked smiting spree, and when it comes to the PAS, let's be honest- it would be a full time job given all the candy-assed human speed bumps we're presently dealing with at the moment.

Speaking of which... as it happened, I was out and about last First Friday with my GF Ashley, taking in the local gallery offerings: Pela Contemporary had a strong showing with painter Jason Hugger and sculptors Brad Konick and Thad Trubakoff, {9} The Gallery was showing artists Dino Paul and up and comer Mikey Jackson, and Braggs Pie Factory was host to "Consumerism" an exhibit by members of Phoenix's Eye Lounge Artists' Collective.

All in all, fairly solid shows, and a pleasant night was being had, until we decided to drop in at The Lodge Art Studio, located at 1231 NW Grand Avenue in industrially interesting downtown Phoenix.

The Lodge is home to painter Abby Messmer [], painter/sculptor Rafael Navarro [] and sketch artist Joe Brklacich, whose website I won't link here due to what I'm about to share.

Now, I've known all three of these artists for the last few years or so- Abby's extremely talented and very nice, but we're not what I would consider good friends, not due to any personality conflicts or anything like that, mind you- we just don't hang out in that context. It's along the lines of she's a much more talented colleague who knows this snarky Artbitch kind of deal.

Rafael on the other hand, I know a little better, we get along relatively well, and I'm a huge fan of his work, which is both innovative and stunning. One day, when my income improves, I plan on knowing several people who can afford to collect him. Rafael is also possibly one of the mellowest Artists I know, being so laid back that if you bottled him, you could market him as liquefied Zen.

And yes, I do mean that with complete and total respect.

Joe Brklacich on the other hand, I can't really tell you anything about. Over the last few years, I've never had more than a handful of conversations with the guy, have never seen his work outside the Lodge, and really have no idea what he believes or represents. I can tell you his website hasn't been updated [at the time of this blog] since December of 2012, so obviously he's exceedingly busy with commissions or juggling kittens- whatever it is that he actually does to make money.

But more on that in a bit.

As I said, Ashley and I dropped in at The Lodge, where I chatted with Rafael a bit about his newest work currently on display and other various sundries, until Joe walked in and asked to talk to me "outside". Some insight: as a rule, whenever anybody asks to see me "outside", I already know that it's going to be most likely a conversation in regards to my writing/attitude/opinion/tone/ or possibly my love of Swedish pop group ABBA.

Either/or. It's a toss-up.

Now, before I start telling you what transpired, be informed that I will also be engaging my standard line by line deconstructionist technique not seen here for quite some time, due to the inherent amount of arrogant stupidity I have to dissect. Much like arsenic, it's best when taken in small doses, so that one can build up an immunity.

So, with that explanation off the table, let's carry on. As I step outside, Joe proceeds to puff up and ask matter of factly:

"You know what your problem is?"

Wow. I have only one? And here I was, thinking that I was just rife with issues. Thanks, you big sweet-talker, you. I feel better about myself already. And damn, if I don't feel prettier too.

"You take everything personally."

Um... yeah, I actually do. It's both a curse and a blessing. Unlike a lot of my contemporaries, I'm actually trying to make a difference by not sitting on my ass waiting like an artsy Rapunzel for my super studly prince to come.

Perhaps it isn't obvious, but I've been writing these first-person narrative blogs for roughly five years now and it's ALWAYS BEEN personal. I see what I regard as obstructions or ethical lapses within my field of Phoenix-centric vision, I say something about it, and that isn't going to change anytime soon... if ever.

When I bring attention to an issue to someone [in this case, Lesley Oliver] who is in a prime position to either address it or kick it upstairs for a management looksee and I'm dismissed like a servant at the Playboy Mansion with a trite and condescending politicians' response, you're damn right I'm going to take it personally.

Focusing my knowledge and personal energy towards the goal of starting a conversation that hopefully changes the playing field, that's what I do. This process involves having to put your own self-interest on the shelf, which is why I can see how it might confuse and enrage you, Joey.

"That's why I un-friended you on FaceBook the first time."

Yep. You read that right. He actually said that. The mind reels.

Two things: first, I'm not a thirteen year old girl, so shunning me on FB is hardly what I consider a banishment to the social Gulag, and second... I wasn't actually aware that we were friends on FB in the first place.

What's next? Going to read my diary and kiss my BGF?

"It so happens that Lesley Oliver is a friend of mine."

As an aside, anytime anyone uses the phrase "So and so is a friend of mine", it's a sure bet that it's a self-righteous rationalization to engage in behavior that otherwise would be called out as dickish at best, asinine at worst.

This may come as a shock, but I too have friends. More than I need, less than I'd like to have, but they all benefit from one thing in common- I stay the f**k out of their personal business unless specifically requested to dive in. See, here's the deal: I automatically assume that as an adult, they can handle their own battles.

I know, I know... I'm weird that way.

And when one takes into account that Lesley is a professional PR person, it's even more ridiculous that Joey assumed he could try and threaten me on her behalf. With all due respect, if that's her chosen field and if I'm the worst person that she's ever dealt with in regards to someone being a bitch to her, then she should just cash in her 401K and become a macramé artist, to the benefit of all parties concerned.

To clarify, I don't believe for one second that Lesley asked Joey to get involved, as it's fairly obvious he took it upon himself to engage me. The level of anger he was dramatically and chivalrously overacting [phrase appropriate] was so ridiculous, I thought for a few seconds there that it was a performance art piece.

If anything. I'd like to think that she'd be truly embarrassed by his high school-esque display of hairless Gorilla chest-thumping. On a more personal note, I guess I should be more impressed, since after all- it is the first time I've ever seen him on a First Friday without a drink in his hand.

But to be fair, I was probably blocking the path to the beer cooler at the time.

"And if you had said what you said about her to her face and if I had happened to be there, I would have punched you in the f*****g face."

Can I ask you a personal favor? Would you please?

Because a punch to my shockingly delicate face couldn't be nearly as painful as that run-on hot mess you believe to be a sentence. All snarkiness aside, are you f*****g serious? Somebody says something about your arrogantly craven buddy and your approach to debating/settling the issue is to threaten them with an act of violent assault?

I just have to ask this simple question Joey- how high/drunk/overconfident are you right now?

First, your unfounded optimism that I would let you attempt to inflict harm on my person without pinning your f*****g empty head to the sidewalk is adorable at best, delusional at worst. Don't get me wrong, your forced faux chivalry is cute and all, but a little absurd- especially when you consider that you're going to need those hands to make art, which you can't do if they've been snapped off your wrists and jammed up your ass sideways.

Just saying.

Given the acidly contentious nature of my writing, I'm not shocked that someone finally threatened me face to face, I'm just surprised that it took this long for somebody to finally do it. Granted, I've always hoped that if and when it happened, it would be by someone more impressive than who I got.

But qualified people are hard to find in the PAS, so it's not too scandalous that I wound up being threatened by a person who has no love for the craft. If you're going to try and scare me, you need
to focus on those things that I find bone-chilling.

Normally, I wouldn't offer up that information, but when it gets right down to brass tacks, I truly want to see the old ways preserved. So in that vein of openness, I put forward this list of what scares the bejesus out of me.

Here goes:

The mere thought of President Sarah Palin. Skinny jeans. Paris Hilton as an actress. Stale Ding Dongs. Earwigs. Clowns. All clowns. Dolls- you know the ones with the dead stare glass eyes and the Linda Blair countenance? People who believe that Jesus rode dinosaurs. People who think science is a conspiracy. The Tea Party. Anyone who is in a "militia" and thinks that they can overthrow the Government with camo and ammo. Cockroaches. Bad pizza. AXE body spray. Nickelback. Sharks in my bathtub. The Boogeyman. My mother in a bikini. My ex-fiance moving in next door. The Tooth Fairy. The Sandman. SMoCA being held in high regard. People who dress up their dog. Waking up naked in a Walmart. Buying something at Walmart. Walmart in general. Zombies. Vampires that sparkle. Lightning. Hellfire. Militant Christians. The upcoming Superman versus Batman movie. Waxing. Constitutionalists who've never actually read the Constitution. Diplomacy. Compromise. Pat Robertson and others of his ilk. The Lifetime Network.

But what I find even more disturbing is this- despite the fact that I made a valid argument in regards to SMoCA's failure to use due diligence where Peter Bugg's outright plagiarism was concerned, his issue [essentially] was that Lesley was butt hurt, and that was why he was mad.

Not because yet another local Arts organization screwed over the PAS community once again, not because situations like this make us [as a whole] look like unprofessional amateurs to serious patrons, no- he was upset that a grown ass woman whose entire job is dealing with sometimes difficult individuals got tagged for what was at best, a spineless rejoinder to a valid question.

It's always been my conviction that it's perfectly fine to get upset- but if you are going to, you should at least endeavor to get mad at the right thing.

As I've said many a time before, there's a reason why "candy-assed" is my favorite euphemism to describe certain members of the PAS, and it only seems to be getting worse with time. I've made note that there exists a specific demographic within this community who don't want to shoulder the burden, but have expectations of reaping the end benefits, nonetheless.

To quote the original Avon Lady, AKA Shakespeare:

"This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

And Joey's twisted testes hissy-fit just underscores that point. When the opportunity arises to clear the air or have a serious and well-measured debate regarding the crucial topics at hand that afflict our scene, more often than not- this is how it typically unfolds.

Back to the argument at hand...

Chuckling, I then inform Joey that "we are done", as I wasn't going to attempt civil conversation with someone who just threatened me. Granted, there was the qualifier of "if I had been there" to be sure, but at that point, you've lost whatever right you had for me to fake interest in whatever topic you're babbling on about.

Wait a minute, you're asking- aren't you the guy who always says that if you have a problem with something I said or did, to come and find me? Yes. Yes I am.

But there's a subtle crowbar difference between talking to me and talking at me, and I don't cotton to that. If you want to debate some point that I've made, that's great. If you feel the need to open up your conversational gambit with an insult about my Mother servicing random sailors, even better- especially if it's one I haven't heard before and can use next time she condescends to call me.

In addition, if your opening involves magic or card tricks, I'll willingly stay for days. But when threats are issued, be they real or theoretical, that's only going to go one of two ways... either I walk away, or I'll make damn sure you remember my name every time you use a mirror.

You want to debate? Here I am.
Gonna act like a Neanderthal? Go pound sand.

I've got better uses for my energy and intelligence, and they don't involve getting into a fistfight over what is, essentially an argument in regards to my writing sharply constructed words about Art.

Back to the argument, still in progress.

(raising his voice incredulously) "We're done?!?" 

Um... yes. Done. Finished. That's all she wrote. Over and out. Long gone. That's a wrap. Completed. That's all, folks. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

Comprende, dipshit?

Oh and by way of additional information, when I turn and start walking away from you, that's what we in the educational business like to call a "visual aid"- it means that no matter how entertaining I may find your rant, I'm off to go converse with a much better type of person.

As I turn to retrieve Ashley (who's still inside the Lodge), he screams at my back:

"Well you can just get the f**k out of my studio, then!!"

You do see the issue inherent within that statement, do you not?

Of course you do, as your brain actually works.

 In order for me to "get out" of his studio, I'd actually have to be "in it" at the time, don't ya think? If one were to get technical, I'd opine that at that moment we were in God's studio, as we were nearly in the parking lot, and without sounding too arrogant- Jesus happens to be my homeboy, so I'm fairly sure I had more pull with his dad at that moment than Joey did.

God may love babies, children, and the drunk- but I'm pretty confident he hates when all three are combined into one mediocre mélange of moronicness. Yeah... I said it. Mediocre. When I think of the term studio, I think of this definition: the working place of a painter, sculptor, or photographer.

What that means to me is this- it's a place where inspiration leads to new works being visualized and then produced, on a consistent basis. This begs the obvious question: what is Joey using the space for exactly?
In all the years I've been going to that particular location, I have never seen any work of his except the same three pencil drawings that have hung there since God knows when.

The other two Artists that he shares space with [Rafael and Abby] seemingly have new work* to look at every time I walk in there, but when it comes to him, it feels like it's been the same weary offerings for every week, month and year of the last decade.
*[Heck... Rafael probably just finished two new paintings and carved four sculptures in the time it took you to read this.]

To be fair, I could be dead wrong about this observation, but I call it as I see it. Literally.

Now I do know that he's connected with a lot of artists in this town (as am I) but I still can't recall seeing anything else he's done... ever. Anywhere. Not Chaos, not any solo show, not any group show I've either been in or attended. That just cannot be right, even as much as I'd like it to be for the sake of my own personal amusement.

Who knows? Maybe he draws under a pseudonym that we can actually spell, or perhaps his commissioned career doesn't require his having to show in galleries, so that's one of the ways it could go, but here's the rub: if that were the case, wouldn't his website reflect his success?

I haven't had a full show in a long while, but my site gets updated at least every two months, and even my diminutive in-house studio has several examples of my work laying around to impress guests when they come over. When I look at Joe and his one third of space, I don't see a studio, I see a mausoleum.

Regarding his banning me eternally from the Lodge, I will have to admit begrudgingly that his plan to enforce it is fiendishly clever in it's simplicity, as I'm pretty sure that his third of the studio just happens to be where the only door is.

Curses! Thwarted again.

In the end, I guess you'll have to make the final call on his significance to this scene, as I've already established what I think of his level of maturity in how he voices his opinion. And while you may not always agree with me or mine, I still wouldn't take the position that issuing threats is the most effective way to resolve conflicts of the Ego or the remaining problems lurking within the PAS.

But what do I know? I'm just an adult trying to school the kids.

And BTW Joey? Integrity just so happens to be a friend of mine.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” - Albert Einstein

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." -Isaac Asimov