Sunday, August 3, 2014

You Only Live Twice. PT.2 (My Dinner with Elvis)

“You only live twice: once when you're born, and once when you look death in the face.”
- Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice.

Hello Blogiteers!

Welcome back to the Snarklands.

When last together, I had just started to expound upon my near-death experience back in June of 2009, after engaging in a one-sided battle of wits with the human equivalent of a house plant, an internet twit who went by the name of "Uniquesparrow".

Despite all my best attempts, it never did rise above a minor annoyance, leading me to speculate that if this is the level of adversary that's available in the PAS these days, I might just have to outsource to Pakistan* to acquire the type of antagonist I've grown accustomed to.

*[I can see it now- "Hello, my name is Akbar, how may I serve your needs for bitch-slapping today?"]

Say what you will about former Artbitch scratching post Amy Silverman, PHX New Times' Mangling Editor and her innate talent for being a triple platinum-plated bitch, but at least she had claws and knew how to use them. Granted, not to any real effect, but at any rate, that shriveled black lump of coal she carries around in her chest and wittily calls a heart was in the right place.

There's an old saying that you judge your success by your enemies, and if we were to get brutally honest, I think it's fairly obvious that I need to upgrade right quick and get my hands on some better enemies. A Sherlock to my Moriarity, as it were. Skywalker to my Vader. Batman to my Joker. Skinny jeans to Kim Kardashian. Reality to the Tea Party. Sobriety to Lyndsey Lohan... you get the idea.                   

When the finest someone can throw back at me is the threat of an imaginary lawyer, that's when I know it's definitely time to look for a better class of detractor. But as I stated in my last blogvella, there's been a disturbing development when it comes to my efforts to remain a curmudgeon's curmudgeon, and that is this- everybody lately has just been so damn nice where I happen to be concerned, and quite frankly... it's kind of freaking me out a bit.                                                                                                

If I didn't know better, I'd say there's some sort of loose conspiracy in regards to making me feel good and/or important. As to what their end game is, I have no idea, but I am sure of one thing- when I'm the one person that some are seemingly turning to for advice on both their career and the PAS, there just has to be an Angel in proximity consecutively blowing a horn while breaking open a sacred seal.

[See: "Revelation". "End of the World." "Forthcoming Apocalypse."]

After years of being marginalized, it's still feels a little odd to have people ask me for advice, whether it happens to be personal or theoretical. I don't consider myself smarter than the next guy/gal, nor do I think I truly have a lock on what's really cooking behind closed doors either.

To quote Groundhog Day's Phil Connors: "Maybe God has just been around a long time and knows everything" an apt analogy as to where my point of view is concerned. After two decades of carving out my niche, I have picked up a nugget or two of sometimes useful information, which occasionally does come in handy.

This small aside: a while back, I was asked by a fellow Creative out to coffee so they could "pick my brain" about their next career move, and as to how they might/should go about it. Naturally, since this was an opportunity to talk at length about my favorite subject (me and all the wondrous things pertaining to such) I took them up on it.

Plus, to a lesser degree, there was also the fact that someone else was going to be picking up my soda tab, and as an artist, I can never pass up the possibility of free food or drinks. Actually, come to think of it, I believe that might actually be an actionable clause of my artist union membership.                                              

Anywho... after about two hours of thorough and intelligent questioning, I asked why [of all the people they knew] they decided that my brain was the one to mine for info. Their response?

"Dude- you've been around forever...  you're like an artsy dinosaur "
. In their defense, they did follow up that with: "I mean that as a compliment."

Ouch. If that's a compliment, I'm sure I don't want to be around for an insult, as it probably involves the application of both fire and rabidly feral weasels to my favorite body parts.                                                                                                                     

Some small, yet important, advice: if you want to get on my good side (yes... I do have one) I'd suggest that you never imply that I'm ancient, reptilian, and possess a physiology dependent on environmental heat sources, which permits me to operate at a very economical metabolic rate, while subtly inferring that I may possibly have tiny arms like a T-Rex.

Just saying.                                                                                                               

Granted, I may have taken his words a little too hard, due not to what was actually said with good intent, but as to what was stated to me a few days later when I had lunch with a fellow colleague who had started his career at about the same time as I.

After hearing my complaint, he merely nodded and said: "Well, when you look at it... you kind of are standing right next to me in the tar pit."

Excuse me...Tar pit? TAR PIT?!?!?!?

Sure, I may be getting somewhat long in the tooth, but I'm still one of the cool kids, right? You know, the ones standing on the grass, with their Walkmans, and the spiced clove cigarettes, rocking the acid-washed jeans and the British flag t-shirt?

Oh, holy ****... I am a dinosaur. A sad point driven home when he followed up with: "Ok. You're not technically in the tar pit, but at the very least... you are standing on my head."

Great. Now I'm depressed. And I'm all out of Ding Dongs, so I can't even eat away my emotional pain like I normally would. I seriously need a vacation, and I need it right quick. However. I have a job to do, as I just can't leave you stranded in the middle of a story, and when it comes down to the brass tacks, seeing it through to the end just happens to be one of my better character flaws.

Lately I find myself on the brink of a conundrum, and it's been a bitch hacking through the jungle with only a metaphorical spork to aid me. The problem is this- recently my health has taken a few knocks due to my Diabetes, and if one were to be honest, I'd have to admit I'm nowhere near fully recovered from my near-death incident in 2009.

By all outward appearances, I look fine, but even though I've bounced back from Death's door, the battle isn't over yet- not by a long shot. When I finally checked out of the hospital's ICU, I strode out (gratefully) with my life, but I also left carrying multiple diabetic related issues as well, the two biggest being neuropathy and some serious short/long term memory loss.

I'm pretty sure I don't have to give you the textbook definition of what memory loss is, but when it comes to neuropathy, it's likely there's more than a few of you wondering just what in the hell that is, so here goes, straight from the dictionary:

"A disorder of the peripheral Nervous system, It may be genetic or acquired, progress quickly or slowly, involve motor, sensory, and/or autonomic nerves, and affect only certain nerves or all of them. It can cause pain or loss of sensation, weakness, paralysis, loss of reflexes, muscle atrophy, or, in autonomic neuropathies, disturbances of blood pressure, heart rate, or bladder and bowel control; impotence; and inability to focus the eyes.

Some types damage the neuron itself, others the myelin sheath that insulates it. Examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, poliomyelitis, and shingles.

Causes include diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus), [my issue] leprosy, [not me, as I have all my body parts] syphilis, [what killed Al Capone] injury, [possible.. I did play a lot of twiddly-winks back in the day] toxins, [do Ding Dongs count?] and vitamin deficiency. [see: diet of, Ding, Dongs.]

There... doesn't that sound like fun?
Not too shockingly, it really isn't, as the effects of said condition affects my life in a number of ways.

On a good day, it feels like I have a bad sunburn, and on the worst- it feels like I'm being fed feet first into a wood chipper. I also suffer random stabbing attacks in my legs, chest, and sometimes in an area that personally, I feel should be off limits to pain in general as clearly stated under the rules of the Geneva Convention.

A Forbidden Zone, as it were. Strictly Forbidden. Verboten on all levels. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. Recently, the decreased sensitivity in my feet [another side effect] led to a rather worrying incident- I woke up in the middle of the night to grab a drink, experienced an intense onset of vertigo (aka: a "head rush") and wound up almost passing out.

[Which BTW, has happened almost a half a dozen times in the last two months. Why? Not a clue.]

This led to my dropping the glass container directly on my left foot, a fact that I didn't notice until almost 14 hours later when I observed that one of my toes was the color of Prince- black, purple, and just a touch of golden yellow.

Sadly, the toe still lacks Funk.

What's truly upsetting is the fact that I didn't [then and now] feel it at all, which as you can imagine, could become quite problematic in the long run. If I inure myself unknowingly and said wound goes untreated or septic, then not only do I run the risk of illness, but I could also be facing the very real risk of amputation in the not too far future.

Personally, I don't know about you, but I'd like to keep all of my parts- for all I know, there could be a trade-in policy regarding your body when you die, and I'd hate to have to tell God he's not getting back a pristine model because my foot got taken out by a pitcher of lemon-flavored Crystal Light.

The end result of all of these maladies is that for the last few years, I've been relatively dormant as an Artist, and have turned most of my personal energies towards the dual role of being a highly vocal arts activist and writer- not because I don't still feel like painting, but because I now suffer from some severe physical challenges in regards to producing work.

Besides random hand spasms, which usually manifest as uncontrolled tremors, I sometimes also undergo severe pain in my right hand which directly affects how well I can control a brush and/or pen. Considering how vital focused control is to creating an original work, you can see why this is a huge problem where producing new ones are concerned.

Fortunately, I do have an artsy backup with my archive of original photography in regards to my painted and illustrative work, but I still have a troubling issue- my eyes.

My Diabetes can alter my corneas to the point [depending on my blood sugar] where every now and then my vision is akin to looking through a vibrating set of lightly tinted sunglasses, while riding a roller coaster, on a boat that's sailing the English Channel... holding a seasick cat.

And when you're handling a medium sized camera, the hand tremors certainly don't help in keeping your focus steady, either. So given all that, it's no wonder why I turned to writing to burn off some of that backed-up creative energy.

But as usual, I am getting ahead of myself. I really need to stop doing that, methinks.

So, let's start where it all began- late June, 2009.

And like most things that go South in my life, it all started with my mouth.

Despite my best efforts to keep my teeth healthy and in line, I had one that decided to cross the tracks and join the oral version of the Hell's Angels. Speaking as a diabetic, tooth health is a big deal- it's just one of the many paths that this disease can use to take you out, and as I stated in the first installment of this tale, I plan on living long enough to be a burden to others, much more so now than then.

But there were a few problems I had to contend with before I could take the appropriate action. At the time, I had no health insurance, and even though the dentists fee was small, money at that point in my life was fairly tight. Fortunately for me, my GF Ashley wound up buying one of my framed photographic works and insisted on paying full price for it, which allowed me the opportunity to both get my tooth fixed and keep my valuable man card points all at the same time.

[One day, I'm going to make clones of that girl and sell them online- yes, she rocks that much.]

The truly sordid thing about searching for a dentist? If you have insurance, most will get you in that day or the next, but if you don't.... well, maybe they can see you in a few weeks. If they have an opening, that is.

Obviously, I needed to have it pulled, so I cashed Ashley's check, and after ten or so calls, found a dental clinic using the Yellow Pages [For our younger readers, it's like Google, but in book form] and made an appointment to have the offender yanked out of my mouth hopefully faster than Sheriff Joke can get in front of a camera crew.

Ashley had been visiting relatives in Salt Lake City while this process was going on, and when I went to pick her up at the airport, it was fairly apparent that I was really sick- I was listless, in great pain, and physically exhausted.

[The rest of my tale is cobbled together from the unaffected remembrances of my GF Ashley, translated into Artbitch snark by yours truly.]

On June 26th, I go in for the dental appointment, feeling sick as a dog, and with a face chock-full of swelling and infection, I meet the clinic's resident Dentist, chat briefly about my medical history, and have some X-rays taken. After those were done, I leave with two prescriptions, one for pain pills and the other for antibiotics to crush my occupying infection, and make an appointment to have my tooth (which has gone black) to be extracted on Monday the 29th.

So that night, all is relatively well- granted, my mouth still hurt and I was feeling slightly nauseous, but I wrote that off due to the fact that I had taken a large amount of aspirin for the pain, and as someone who doesn't generally take painkillers of any kind, I unwisely assumed this feeling was normal.

The next day, Ashley goes and picks up my prescriptions for me and after taking the first dose, I started having flu-like symptoms, which led to my throwing up said antibiotic a few hours later.

Once again, I just assumed that was a normal reaction, which in retrospect, was a big mistake. Turns out that I was deathly allergic to the antibiotic proscribed, a rather important detail which was clearly listed in my medical history, but more on this later.

Ashley and I were supposed to attend a party that night, but I demurred due to my being under the weather and the continuing feeling of being physically exhausted. When she returns later that night, I'm still suffering the flu-like symptoms, pain, and in an even more concerning development- I am starting to show signs of not remembering whether or not I had been adhering to my insulin routine.

Over the weekend, my symptoms get even worse- I'm throwing up almost everything I eat or drink, and I'm so disoriented that I have to arrange for someone to drive me to the dentist the following Monday. Stupidly, I'm still of the opinion that I'll be right as rain once I get my tooth pulled.

So, Monday finally arrives, and I am picked up by my former artist rep, who later describes my countenance to Ashley as  "that of a homeless person", due to my uncharacteristic rough-looking appearance. Never let it be said I don't know how to dress to impress- thank God I clean up nicely when it really counts.

|The extraction goes quickly and smoothly, and despite the fact that I'm having issues with my medication. my dentist offers no additional information or recommendations towards the betterment of my symptoms. In fact, the extraction lasts longer than the consult.

But here's where the fun really starts- within several hours of the procedure, my symptoms become more severe, and I find myself experiencing what one could tactfully describe as apocalyptic delusions- think visions of Hell on steroids, and you'd be in the right neighborhood.

That's one of the downsides of being a Creative- when we hallucinate, it's a full throttle, balls to the wall, over the top, completely gonzo, THX Sound, chock a block Michael Bay experience.

Initially, Ashley suggested I call my Mom for help, as she lives less than 15 minutes away from me, so after I had a really good laugh about the idea of my Mother doing something that required an act of selflessness, I emphatically put my foot down and said that no, we weren't going to be doing that anytime soon. I'll flesh out this particular razor-ball later on, but for right now, let's get back on point.

Now, for some unbeknownst reason, my visions of seeing Satan riding a pale horse while strumming Stairway to Heaven on a lute freaked Ashley out to the point where she called in my best friend Cale Richardson to ask for his assistance in getting me to the closest hospital, which in this case- turned out to be the John C. Lincoln located at Third Street and Dunlap Avenue.

[Cale by the way, is literally the last American Boy Scout- loyal, dependable, and one of the best people I know by far. He's also 6'2', good-looking and single, so if anybody's out there looking for a good Christian boy with an impeccable work ethic who loves his Mom, (and dogs) let me know, and I'll arrange a really entertaining lunch.]

Despite my strenuous objections about going to the hospital based on the fact that I had no insurance, Ashley and Cale managed to get me down stairs and into Ashley's car, a trip I in all honesty, have no recollection of. In fact, there are 13 days missing in total from my memory- the
last thing that I can clearly recall is sitting on my balcony two nights before watching the sunset.

Poetic, but in the end, pointless.

Arriving around nine a.m., I am quickly admitted and in swift procession receive initial treatment for severe dehydration by having saline administered via an IV line. Testing my blood sugar, the ER staff learns to their horror / amazement that my index is at 1482- despite that, I am fully conscious, if not fully cognizant.

Apparently, it seems that in this day and age, having a fairly lucid conversation with Elvis in regards to Southern cooking while laying on a hospital gurney makes you "out of it" from a medical point of view. That's the problem with doctors... no imagination. Until it comes to the bill, that is- then it's like you're stuck in an elevator with the animators from Fantasia.

Seriously... if telling me "good morning" is considered (and billed) as a medical consult, then my response of "f**k you" should count as a one night stand.

Now to give you some perspective of the overall seriousness of the situation I was facing, a blood sugar reading of over 500 can affect mental processes, and once your numbers hit where I was, well... it's best to probably not make any long term plans for the weekend.

What can I say? I like to set the curve for the rest of the class. Essentially, I was suffering from severe (and life-threatening) ketoacidosis, which is defined as:

"Ketoacidosis is the accumulation of substances called keytones and ketone bodies in the blood. Acidosis is increased acidity of the blood. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include slow, deep breathing with a fruity odor to the breath; confusion; frequent urination (polyuria); poor appetite; and the eventual loss of consciousness."

From an outsider's POV, it would seem that with those symptoms, I'd share much in common with a slightly addled, undernourished, narcoleptic apple with poor bladder control, but I digress. I know what you're thinking...  I'm in the hospital, a crack team of dedicated professionals is working on me, and at this point, it's clear sailing ahead.

That's why I like you people- you're all eternal optimists. I did happen to mention that I was pretty delusional at this point, didn't I?

Good. Because that little nugget of knowledge is going to come in really handy right about now.

Despite Ashley's assurances that I led a life of clean living and even with my established medical history, the doctor in charge of the unit (a pint-sized twit
named Dr. Idriss) was adamant that I had to be a heavy drinker or drug user due
to my symptoms.

Now, I don't want to sound like a jerk, but when it came to the "diabetes" classes offered at whatever online med school he graduated from, I can only assume that he was too tired from his shift at the Wonka Candy Factory* to pay attention, as he seemed relatively ignorant as to what the widely documented effects of an insanely high blood sugar can do to one's psyche.

*[The Wonka Candy Factory staff is comprised solely of Oompa-Loompas, a race of vertically-challenged people, in case you missed the joke.

Not that I have anything against Oompa-Loompas, mind you- their noble culture based on morality tales delivered in the form of catchy songs is truly inspirational, and their traditional native dress which incorporates Joker green hair, orange body-paint, and snazzy striped socks is truly a visual smorgasbord for one's eyes.

If you ever have a chance to share a Snozzberry with one of these fine and I might add, dignified people, I'd advise that you take it- you'll have stories for days.]

Shortly after being admitted into the ICU, I started slipping deeper into a delirious state, leading to my being severely sedated and restrained against my will, [an action I agree with in retrospect] as I was becoming combative due to my ongoing suffering from further apocalyptic delusions.

And on top of it all, one has to remember that I was still fighting the original infection that had landed me here in the first place. When I eventually regained consciousness, my nurse informed me that my blood was so septic that if we had delayed my visit to the hospital another 24 hours, I most likely would have died- a condition that might help my art sales, but would definitely limit my future plans of becoming the ballet dancer I always knew I could be.

I remained sedated for the better part of the next three days, during which time a staff psychologist informed Ashley that they wanted to do a psychological evaluation regarding my mental state, to which Ashley asked her how that was going to happen as I was still delirious and so heavily medicated that I was unable to speak.

Finally seeing the obvious problem, she asks Ashley if I drank or did drugs and was answered with an emphatic "no" yet again. Ashley explained why I don't drink [the combination of my diabetes and past relationship with an alcoholic fiancée has made me exceedingly adverse] and went on to further state that I don't take any drugs, as I don't like and/or approve of the majority* of them.

*[For the record, I don't consider weed an actual drug, as I see it more along the lines of a conduit to help keep local musicians employed via the pizza delivery industry. Speaking of which, I actually have a joke that relates to both pizza and hospitals, so here goes:

" A man wakes up and finds himself in a hospital room, one with only himself in it. He has no recollection of how he got there. While pondering it, his bedside phone rings, and he answers it.

A doctor on the other end identifies himself, and tells the man: "I have really bad news. You're very sick. After your collapse yesterday, we ordered several tests, and got the results back this morning. I'm afraid you have Avian flu, Ebola, and you're positive for HIV and hepatitis."

Stunned, the man asks "Well, what's next!? What are you going to do?"

The doc replies: "Well, for starters, we're putting you on a strict diet of only pizza."

The patient asks: "Will that really help me, doctor?"

"No", the doc responds. "But it's all we can fit under the door." ]

Wahahaha!!! Um... I'm sorry. Let's get back on track.

Giving her my business card, Ashley suggests she go to my (then) web site and look at the media interview that was originally on the front introduction page, as a means to observe my normal demeanor. Ashley is later informed by my daytime nurse Eric that she did so, and after that- she is not asked again about my behavior by anyone.

So the message here is this: give good interviews, as it might just improve the perception of how others see you. Despite her glowing assessment, the ICU staff under the direction of my Smurfesque doctor still have me under heavy sedation and are inflicting endless MRI's and spinal tap procedures upon my person, which leads Ashley to break down and call my mother, who to her limited credit, informs the hospital that she objects to them keeping me sedated and states that if it comes from Ashley, the staff is to follow what she says as Gospel from my family.

As you can imagine, Ashley immediately orders them to lift my heavily medicated veil, and that is when I start slowly coming back from the land of hellfire and gauze. Several hours later, I come to, my first recollection of hearing the beeping of an EKG machine next to my bed.

Obviously from my still groggy point of view, things had gone awry- a theory made fact when I looked down and saw that I had IV lines in both arms, and a catheter in a place where no length of tubing should ever be. In the future, let it be widely known that given a choice for what method to use for voiding my bladder, I'm perfectly fine with a bedpan.

Just saying.

At about 8:30 that morning, my daytime nurse on duty calls Ashley to inform her that I was awake and talking.  After asking whether I was the "f**k you" Wayne seen in the ICU or the normal "lets talk about me" Wayne, she and I have a brief conversation, of which I have a somewhat limited recall.

Remember my mom? Well, when Ashley calls and tells her I'm conscious and that she needs to come to the hospital, my dear sweet mother states that she would like to come and visit, but her car has two bald front tires and then goes on to say that one of her very good friends had died the night before, so could Ashley come and pick her up?

Here's why this particular moment has become such an issue with me- she can get to her job halfway across Phoenix, but she cant take a cab or bum a ride to a hospital less than 25 minutes away to visit her son in the ICU who came within 24 hours of dying?

As one of my friends who has a gaggle of kids told me later: "If one of my kids was trapped in a bank vault, I would chew my way through the door to save them." Apparently, my mom never got that memo. But it only gets better. That "friend" my mother claimed had died?

After I get out of the ICU, I ask my mother about them, and within the span of a few hours of our conversation, her close friends name changes... twice. And as for those so-called bald tires, she claims not to know what I'm talking about.

In other words, it was business as usual. Or as I like to call it- Friday with Mom.

So for those of my really close friends who've always wondered why I never mention my mother, there you go. Ashley did pick her up, but after visiting less than then ten minutes, [another void in my memory] she asks to be dropped back off at her house. In her limited defense, people have told me that at the time she seemed concerned, but after she leaves, I don't hear from her for almost three weeks.

But I'll talk about that later, near the end of my tale. So the next day arrives and I'm feeling slightly better- granted, I'm still weak as a newborn kitten, almost 30 pounds lighter, and thanks to the massive amount of antibiotics they had to pump into me, everything I eat tastes like wet cardboard.

But I was alive, on the mend, and that's what counts. Not to mention I also hit the couch potato jackpot by having the best free entertainment known to Man in my private room- CNN and the History Channel. At the time of my unwilling stay, it was also the week that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson unfortunately died, and the station that now prominently [and sadly] features alien abductions as fact was showing an all day marathon of the history of the Mafia in America.

Seriously... how lucky can a guy get?
But that's for the next installment, I think.

And when we come back...

I finally get to wax poetically about vanilla pudding, elucidate on why I would kick your ass in Trivial Pursuit regarding anything mob related, and set the possibly lowest speed for the 50 yard dash ever recorded, all while humming the entire Michael Jackson catalog.

Well... the three songs I know anyway.

 “The meaning of life is that it stops.”- Franz Kafka

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You Only Live Twice. PT. 1 (Death becomes you.)

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.”
― Isaac Asimov

Hello Blogiteers!

I'll admit it. I have a serious problem.

Recently, I find myself trapped between a rock and a T-Rex in regards to my writing, and it's starting to become an irritant of epic proportions. It's well known that I tend to flow best when I'm ticked off at something, and to be quite honest- that's just not happening as of late, due to the unchecked flow of positivity running rampant throughout the PAS.

There's murals popping up unchecked all over town, new restaurants, cafes and art-spaces opening on what seems an almost hourly basis, and heck, even my ol' buddy the PHX New Times has had at least three articles this year that were actually well-written, and more importantly- worth reading.

(I know. I honestly didn't see that coming either.)

To add to the big rock candy mountain, interest in my limited artistic endeavors has blown up (mainly in countries whose name ends in "akia") thanks to the magic of Instagram*, my latest media interview by Douglas Proce of the Valley Spotlight** is getting good reviews, although my Twitter*** account could use some serious love- and in an even more shocking development, I'm receiving non-sarcastic invites to all the cool kids parties as well.

[*Link: ]
[**Link:   ]
[***Link:  ]

And since I'm practicing shameless self-promotion, let's throw in my Tumblr as well:
[Link: ]

It's all highly unsettling.

Factor in that my normally solid river of hate mail has actually slowed to an almost tranquil trickle, and you can understand why I feel all shades of off-balance these days. If I didn't know better, I'd almost believe that people are starting to respect my point of view, and that feels just downright wrong somehow.

I'm actually worried that I might lose my amateur Snark status and be forced to turn pro- in which case, I'm grabbing all the personal endorsements I can before my 15 minutes are up. If Bob Dylan can hawk Victoria's Secret, then I'm pretty sure that my choosing to pimp Midol wouldn't seem all that strange in the long run, now would it?

I can totally see the billboards, if not the magazine ads: "Artbitch here to tell you about personal relief in a tiny little pill..." and if I could somehow score myself even a small chunk of that John Stamos Greek Yogurt marketing action, I'd be set for life.

Granted, I'm not nearly as cute, but I'm definitely cheaper to hire.

Regardless, while all this influx of awesomeness is definitely a positive for the PAS, it's also cutting into my niche- I am the "Artbitch" after all, and focused kvetching is, well... sort of my established forte. It's great that everybody is so happy, and it's terrific that all of us are seemingly holding hands and singing Kumbayah while simultaneously painting community murals full of rainbows and unicorns, but speaking as a curmudgeon's curmudgeon, it's highly detrimental to those of us who live to complain about the obvious.

Usually when things get lean in the annoyance department, I'll reach out to whatever god-awful
sub-par event is being touted, but even that particular fruit tree has been denuded of late. Joseph Sentrock Perez's solo effort, and the incredible group show "Crosscurrent" are two of the most recent happenings that come to mind when discussing what the PAS is capable of when the truly creative people are allowed to think outside the white gallery box.

For a brief and shining moment, there did exist the possibility that a minor irritation could evolve into a full-blown brouhaha with a twit who went by the internet moniker "Uniquesparrow", but sadly, it never rose above an insignificant annoyance, due to the fact that it's hard for me to take anyone seriously whose name sounds like it came out of a comic book for basket-weaving vegans.

As usual, some context is required.

Recently, one of the public art projects on Grand Avenue was vandalized, an action which to be quite honest- ticks me off something fierce. A lot of hard work went into the project (the mosaics alone are ridiculously labor intensive) so when a group of smug rat bastards comes along and destroys hundreds of hours of work in under five minutes, you damn well better expect me to respond.

When the three works I created in 2008 for the City of Phoenix Beautification Program got stolen last year, I was mad, but at least I knew somebody was taking care of it, at worst. Besides... it is kind of an ego stroke to discover your stuff is good enough to steal. I may not have my paintings, but I do apparently have street cred, and that's almost sufficient enough to soothe my aggravation at not knowing where my work is or who has it.

So, feeling rather irked by the news that yet again, we seemingly can't have anything nice, I posted on a FaceBook thread the opinion that perhaps a swift kick in the ass and some outdoor community service in July might make said perpetrators think twice about doing that in the future- yes, yes... meting out consequences for bad public behavior is so 1950's, but what can I say?

I just simply adore the classics, and besides...
I'm an awful, terrible, heartless, person as you already know.

Oh, the walking horror-show that is me.

"Uniquesparrow" was having none of that, and she immediately posted that "violence" was not the answer, and implied that all these punk kids needed was [I kid you not] some art classes and human understanding, something that I actually do agree with up to a point, but in my opinion- only after their requisite punishment has been dealt out.

Here's the thing- the reason these kids did it is due to of one of two things: either they've done it before, got caught, and nobody ever punished them the way they should have been disciplined, which has led to their belief that in the end, they'll face no consequences whatsoever for their inane destructiveness.

Or the more likely scenario: they were never taught civil manners in the first place. Either way, it's time for a trip to the woodshed for a few lessons in civility and respect for one's community.

But apparently "Uniquesparrow" thought my take was just too harsh, too medieval, too inhuman, so she threw out the comparison that I was just like Sheriff Joe- you know... our puzzlingly re-elected scumbag who profiles and terrorizes Latinos, allows their children to be sexually assaulted without consequence, abuses the power of his office to settle personal scores, and has cost the taxpayers of Arizona over 40 million dollars in both overruns and lawsuit settlements?

I, on the other hand, am of the outlook that if you destroy community-based art, you should be held accountable for your actions, financially, judicially, and most importantly- publicly.

When you look at us side by side, it's almost like we're twins, isn't it? (Rolls eyes.)

She further went on to rant on her FB page that I was a "bully", a "joke of an artist" and that I was personally "what was wrong" with the PAS- an observation I immediately burst into laughter over, since just a few weeks ago she was interested in soliciting my services as an art framer. I guess when it comes to framing her "art" economically I'm cool, but somehow having a contrary opinion makes me the worst thing to happen to PHX since they built Cityscape*.

[*See: "Ugly Box", "Drunk Architect?", "Thinking Inside the Grey Ugly Box", "Vacant Lot Preferred"]

Two things that you need to realize, Captain Slack Sparrow- first, I've been in the PAS trenches since 1991, so have a care with my name. I helped lay some of those floor bricks that your self-righteous arrogance floats above, so I will be damned if I let you or anyone attempt to screw with the art temple so many others and I helped construct.

Second, speaking as a guy whom you regard as a joke, I'll call attention to the fact that I do seem to be the topic of discussion way more than you on a daily basis, so whether they're laughing at me or laughing with me, I still win either way. See, here's the deal: I don't really care about the opinions of twits who I don't like, fear, respect, or in your case- have the pleasure of not knowing personally.

Hate mail? Bring it. It's how I pass the time during commercials.
Want to call me names online? Thanks for the publicity.

Shun me in public? I appreciate that. It means I don't have to pretend to give a f**k about you.

My gut tells me I won't be doing any framing for her, but that's okay by me, as I'm really not into showcasing derivative and uninteresting work to begin with. In the name of honesty, I was the one who launched the first FB message in regards to her lumping me in with our corrupt Sheriff, and frankly- I don't regret it, as she needed the trip to the woodshed.

If you're going to quarrel with me, come armed with an actual point of view, not generalized hysterics. Granted, the most amusing part of all of this was her threat that she would send her "lawyer" after me due to my asking her to stop sending me FB messages that were equal parts whiny and chiding.

That's right kids... asking someone to stop contacting you [after they've publicly slandered your character and work] is apparently now considered "harassment". Here's a thought to ponder, my dim-witted sparrow- perhaps I should return the favor and sue you for libel, because unlike yours, my lawyer happens to actually exist on this planet.

You'd like him. He's tall, good-looking, and smells like Golden Grahams. Just ignore the fact that he and Satan have never been seen in the same room at the same time. I'm sure that's just an amazing coincidence.

To be fair, she did try to assert that her initial response was a "joke", a statement that I perceived as nothing more than backpedaling, due to the fact that it wasn't funny in the slightest. If this is her sense of humor, I'd love to see what sort of jokes she cracks while walking through a hospital.

And despite her very public assertion that this situation was "not worth her time" and was "tiring", she continued to keep the conversation going while simultaneously stating that she wasn't keeping the conversation going- all the while posting what she thought of my character, while still implying she was the one being harassed.

Now from where I come from, that's defined as hypocrisy, but hey- maybe I'm the only one whose smart phone has a working dictionary app. To quote The Princess Bride's Inigo Montoya:

"That word you keep using? I do not think it means what you think it means."

Truly, she has a dizzying logic. I can't wait until she calls the FaceBook police, as they're probably just as terrifying as her lawyer. Gah. I've given this insignificant gnat way more attention than she deserves, and my blood isn't even riled up half as high as it should be- how sad is that?

I mean... I used to have epic battles, and now it feels like I'm going up against the Tuesday morning "B" team of zombies from the Walking Dead. Seriously. With adversaries like these, not only could I phone it in, I'm pretty sure I can ask my ten-year old nephew to do it for me instead.

The smart and mature thing to do here would be to just take her trifling insults on the chin, secure in the knowledge that when it gets right down to it, she's just another rudderless dinghy floating adrift on an ocean of fools.

However... there is one small, teeny, tiny, minute, diminutive, almost petite issue I have with the situation overall, and it is this: despite my lack of warm fuzziness, it's also a well-established fact that I'm rarely wrong when I choose to call it as I see it.

And, no this isn't a sour grapes case of "can dish it, but can't take it", either- you can freely call me whatever you want- I've literally heard it all, and to be fair, most of it is usually on the mark. I am an arrogant, judgmental, scathing, overly opinionated, venomous bastard at times, and that's when I'm in a good mood.

But when it comes to my life's work, you don't get to say bupkus.

I'm no Eric Cox by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm goddamn good at my gig, and have been consistently so for two decades. I may not make socially relevant or groundbreaking art, but I'm not a hack either. I take my career seriously, which is one just one of many reasons why I'm still around and relevant in possibly one of the worst art markets in the United States.

I can sculpt, silkscreen, write, photograph and last but not least, paint. And when it comes to my proficiency in regards to all five of these skill-sets, let me just say this: at my worst, I'm highly competent, and when I'm truly at my best*, firing on all cylinders, I will take your head clean off.

[ *I also rock pretty hard at the craft of Pysanky- Google it.]

So as to be expected, I took her insults quite personally, more so than normal. Nevertheless, as I stated earlier, the smart and mature thing to do here would be to just take her trifling insults on the chin, like an adult should. So despite my natural tendencies, I will take the high road for once.

Not gonna take the bait as it were. I've got better things to do, after all- like organize my collection of My Pretty Ponies, for instance. Come to think of it, I could use this time to read a good book, maybe something by Neil Gaiman- he does write wonderful stories, and focused reading I've been told, is an excellent way towards helping lower your blood pressure.

If I were to hypothetically react to what she said, [in theory of course] I might have said this:

"We already have enough human speed bumps within the PAS, one more cretinous spanner in the works hardly counts as "unique" by any means of accounting.

Some friendly advice, my not so distinctive twit- the next time you're in your studio painting, or screen-printing, or whatever the hell it is that you do, may I suggest that you also make sure to open the windows, because I'm starting to truly believe that all those art-related chemicals you've been inadvertently huffing over the last few years are beginning to affect your already dangerously limited intellect and decision-making skills."

That's what I might have said.... you know... if I felt the need.
Damn, I'm bored with this already.

Sigh... where's a Peter Bugg artistic train wreck when you really need it?
Or a Suzanne Falk public meltdown?

What's this world coming to when you can't even rely on Richard Bledsoe's craptastic Remodernist group to tick you off? I swear to God, it's like everybody got together and decided all of a sudden that making me happy needed to be a community project.

There's an old saying that goes: "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade", but in this case, I'd rather find Life, shove those lemons down it's throat, all the while demanding to know what the hell it's done with my sour apples and asking for it's boss. If this feeling of goodwill and brotherhood continues, it's a pretty sure bet this blog will eventually turn into an ABBA discussion forum.

You don't want that, do you?
Of course not.

However... there is a lot to be said for discussing the pros and cons in regards to the band's use of rather flamboyant Japanese-themed jumpsuits during their 1974 World Tour, but we can always come back to that later.

See? The madness is already starting, and we haven't even begun the long overdue debate on who the sexiest member is- my money will always be on Frida over Agnetha, but let's be honest: Benny looks like he would cuddle and then make you a really hearty breakfast. And since he's Swedish, you just know it's gonna be all shades of berry-flavored pancake yumminess when you wake up.

Great. Now I'm annoyed and hungry.

So, since I have nothing to complain about except the absence of complaints, what will I write about then? Hmm... we could talk about current events, but the political and cultural landscape is already so absurd that there's really nothing I could add to the discussion that hasn't already been said, ad nausea.

Perhaps I could write about co-starring in a documentary in 2008, while simultaneously noting that six years later I still don't have my promised copy of the damn film due to a music licensing issue which when viewed from the outside, looks like it should be an easy fix. Seriously- if George Lucas can add a few extra Ewoks in "Empire", how hard could it really be to swap one or two tracks of music with suitable replacements?

But even given the aggravation in dealing with that minor annoyance, the best I'd be able to muster  would be a few sulky paragraphs at best, and let's face it- brevity really isn't my style, now is it?

Dagnabit to H-E-double-hockey-sticks.

I could write about Music, but you've already seen what I consider to be good tuneage, so that's a wash. I'd write about Sex, but I think I covered that well enough in my last two blogs, so that too, will be a no-go area. Perhaps an in-depth blog about Life would be an interesting diversion, but I just remembered that I loathe both the cereal and the board game, with a hatred hotter than a million suns wearing a parka.

So what's left? What's interesting? What's truly hip?

What would make my loyal readers and to a lesser extent, my loyal detractors, want to sit down with a club sandwich and a cold beer and peruse my latest magnum opus? I honestly have no idea, and seriously- what could possibly make both groups happy?

Got it! A light hearted take on my almost dying of diabetic kedoacidosis back in July 0f 2009!

It has everything- a life and death struggle, an incompetent dentist, a love story, medical-themed drama, arrogant doctors, heroic nurses, a reformed gang-banger with a torqued testicle and kidney stones, and to top it all off- surprise cameos by Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Alphonse Capone and some truly amazing vanilla pudding.

That's right... celebrities and a snack. Take that, Bluebird of Happiness!

And the best part? It's a win-win for both sides- my fans can rest secure in the knowledge that I survived the experience (albeit with some ongoing health issues) and my haters can revel in the fact that for one brief shining moment, they came this close to being rid of me.

That's what I do best- I bring diverse people together, using nothing but the sheer raw magnetism of my inherent awesomeness. I'm sort of like Shatner, but without the obvious toupee and man girdle.

So, today's little screed will be all about the subject of mortality, or to be more accurate, it's all about being near Death. For the sake of clarity, I'm not suggesting hanging out with Death or having Death as a neighbor, I'm talking about going through the experience of almost dying and it's aftereffect.

Yep. It's going to be all shades of cheery up in here.
And if you thought I couldn't bring the sunshine and the happiness, you're just wrong.

Dead wrong.
[See what I did there? Sometimes I just crack myself up.]

When it comes to the subject of mortality, most people do their best to avoid thinking or talking about their inevitable end, which is highly understandable, as giving credence to the mere thought of one's personal non-existence can be a somewhat terrifying prospect.

As Woody Allen once said: "I am not afraid of death, I just don't want to be there when it happens."

In fact, I'd wager that most of you reading this rarely (if ever) give any consideration to the notion that one day you too, will shuffle off the mortal coil into the ether, and face the unknown just like your ancestors. When that moment comes, some of you will choose to face death with dignity and resolve, others will fall apart like Jello in a hot car, and a select few will fight with all their strength to hang on to this plane of existence- an act of final defiance that I find to be straight up noble.

No matter what form your end takes, it isn't going to be a cakewalk by any means, and I've often said that when Death finally comes for my soul, he better be wearing Class Four body armor and one heck of a seriously girded groin cup, because he's gonna earn that sucker, let me tell you.

In fact, he's already tried to collect me twice and failed, much to my relief. However despite all that, I will grudgingly admit that when it comes to getting his job done, the guy is focused- and in this era of half-assed and increasingly incompetent customer service, you almost have to admire that kind of singular dedication to one's career, and give credit where credit is due.

My game plan is to live long enough to be a burden to others- that's the goal. But whether I live to be 105 or more realistically, 65- which is the average life-span for persons afflicted with Diabetes, I still don't want to die- who knows, maybe they'll find a way to keep my singular consciousness alive [Google "Brain in Jar"] via the Matrix or possibly even the Quickening.

Either/or. One can always hope.

I'm not really interested in immortality, I just want a few hundred years extra to see if they'll ever make a truly watchable Star Wars movie again. My money is on "No" as long as Disney is still involved, but I think with the right Kickstarter program, maybe we could raise up enough capital to buy their share of the creative property outright.

Getting back on track and all kidding aside, immortality would just outright suck- you'd lose all your family, the people you truly love (not always the same group) and just think of how many times you would find yourself telling the same stories over and over again.

I do that now, and I'm not even 46 yet. Think about it- if listening to your 90 year old Grandfather tell the tale yet again of "The Great Spaghetti Incident of 05" is a real chore, imagine 400+ years of similar caliber yarns ad nausea.

Heck, when I regal my eight-year old nephew with stories of having to look up phone numbers using nothing but my wits and a magical mystical yellow-toned book, can you just imagine what that oft repeated tale will sound like when we're all walking around with Google Implants?

Horribly boring, would be my guess, if not downright excruciating. And that's why Death is the Yin to the Yang of existence- because while it can be unpleasant to think about, in the end, it's what makes Life worth living in the first place.

Well, that... and watching Milla Jovovich kill Zombies in a mini skirt.

Let's face it- they're both really good reasons to make one want to strive for the better, even if it's only for an 80 year run. As someone who's been through a near-death event, I can definitely state that for myself, every day above ground is a good day, no matter what might be happening to me at that particular moment.

No matter how much things might suck in my life, at least I'm here to experience it, and that beats being dead by miles. If there's one deep thing I can take away from the incident that almost killed me, it's this- after surviving such an occurrence, I really don't sweat the electric bill anymore.

In fact, what I used to consider a priority has definitely gone through a paradigm shift of sorts, especially in regards to what my former definition of "suck" meant. Thanks to my week and a half stay in the ICU, I discovered where that particular bar should be set, and trust me, it's at a much higher level than it used to be.

Much higher. Snoop Lion kind of high, to be exact.
But as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself, so maybe we should take a break right here.

So go grab a snack, get in your comfy jammies, situate your self in your favorite interweb surf spot, and when we come back...

June, 2009. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and I'm afflicted with a tooth that's gone bad.
Wrong side of the oral tracks kind of bad.

Plus, I tell of my journey through an Apocalyptic wasteland, wrestle nurses, discern that "catheter" is never a happy word, learn more about Alphonse Capone than I ever wanted to know, surmise that my doctor might just be a refugee from the Land of the Oompa Loompas, have my hopes for a "Charlie's Angels" reunion movie crushed, and discover the exact moment when I realize I never ever ever want to hear Michael Jackson's "Thriller" song again.

In addition... there's also pudding, and who doesn't like that?

"If Death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character, would you slow down... or speed up?"- Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What Happens in Vegas... (Should probably stay there.)

“One man's pornography is another man's theology.”- Clive Barker

Hello Blogiteers!

Greetings and best wishes to you in this, the third month of the sparkling New Year of 2014. I’ve been assured repeatedly by the hourglass wielding baby that it’s not going to suck nearly as bad as 2013 did, but since he was obviously smashed on formula when he shared his observation with me, I’m gonna have to take his opinion with a few grains of salt.

I’ve been somewhat absent the last few months due to some personal issues in regards to my family and health, and the majority of my vacation time was spent in beautiful Salt Lake City, which at the tail end of December (surprisingly) legalized gay marriage*- an action which causes this here Artbitch to simply state: way to go, you sexy bitch.

*[Sadly, this was shot down a few weeks later, which just goes to prove why it’s essential to raise your kids with science and common sense, rather than a 2000 year old book where people get supposedly turned into salt by an angry and petulant demigod . Just sayin’.

And don’t send me any hate mail on this issue either- I’m Catholic, I already have enough guilt.]

Now, if only the rest of the states who are still standing on the wrong side of History would follow suit, we could get back to the truly important business of choosing who gets to become America’s next Top Model/Chef/Singer/National Embarrassment, etc.

And speaking of shocking developments, I turned 45 at the beginning of January, something that apparently happened without my permission or input. Granted, I’ve celebrated my 36th birthday nine times since it actually happened, but it’s not like that’s a bad thing, right? Of course it isn’t- how could it be?

So, as you can imagine, a whole lotta partying has been taking place as of late, the most recent location being Las Vegas where I was a full access VIP attendee at the AVN Expo, which is the American adult film industry’s take on a scrap metal convention in Duluth.

Albeit one with more cleavage and less plot development, that is.

But before I get into all that, I need to address the vitriolic reaction to my last screed which tackled the issue of society’s puzzling reticence regarding male nudity. Note to self: next time you chose to address this issue, make sure that you throw in a few photos of Hugh Jackman riding a horse shirtless while cradling a puppy. Just a suggestion.

To be honest, some negative feedback was to be expected- after all, I was addressing a fairly touchy subject, and I did include a full frontal nude portrait of myself (painted by fellow Artist Hugo Medina) as an epilogue of sorts to the point I was trying to make.
Hoo boy. Did that ever hit a high note.

Imagine Freddie Mercury getting his fallopian fiddler caught in a jumpsuit zipper, and you’d be in the neighborhood of what I’m talking about. As I said, I did anticipate some of this, but I wasn’t really expecting the gender line that was drawn in the allegorical sand via my email.

Out of the numerous positive responses that I received, the majority [better than 90%] were from women- a first for anything I’ve ever written.

Score one for the old Ego… as if it needed any additional help.

Given the fact that I took the position of supporting truly fair play in regards to how the sexes should be represented in Art and POP culture, I’m not surprised that my female readers were fairly positive
in their assessment of what I wrote, I’m just stunned by how many I apparently have.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to harness that demographic like Oprah does, and I’ll be set for life. Conversely, when it comes to the male side of the fence, it seems that there are still a few lone Neanderthals currently swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool whose access to the Internet only highlights how un-evolved they are when it comes to their personal lack of respect for women.

Keep in mind that I didn’t suggest that female nudity itself should be abolished in popular culture,
I simply proposed this: Here’s how it would work: for every second / minute / whatever that an actress has to be naked or topless in a movie, there must be an equal amount of male nudity as well to add balance.

Seems fair, doesn’t it? I thought so too, hence the reason why I wrote it in the first place.

Nonetheless, when it came to the men who wrote in, you would have thought I suggested that Victoria’s Secret should replace all their runway and print models with fat middle-aged guys who make their living impersonating George Wendt. The term “over-reacting” comes to mind, but that’s only the tip of the idiotic iceberg, where the hysterics of the opposing email are concerned.

I’m going to share with you a deep dark secret: I actually like women.

Screw that… I LOVE women.

And to be perfectly clear, I’m not just talking about sexual attraction or anything along those lines, I’m talking about the respect that I have for women, versus some of the Cro-Magnons who wrote me in regards to my opinion that perhaps it was long overdue that men should have to experience some of the more exploitative aspects that women have dealt with for centuries.

As someone who’s dating a woman far more advanced than he is, I can honestly say that I love being with someone I don’t have to rescue every five seconds, like I constantly had to do with my ex-fiancée.

Seriously. I used to go through white hats like they were Ding Dongs, and trust me, you don’t want to know what happened to my noble steed when that particular nightmare was laid to rest- let’s just say I have glue sticks for days, and leave it at that.

That’s one of the things I’ve always found funny about 30 year old manboys- they always claim that they want a smart woman… until they actually get one and realize that she’s way more intelligent asleep than they are awake. As I get older, I actually become less and less tolerant of my fellow apes in arms who act like idiots for no other reason than their inability to manage their testosterone.

Yeah. I said it- I’m sick and tired of the “bro” brigade, and all that it doesn’t bring to the table.

Now, don’t get the wrong impression, I’ve had more than my share of the… let’s call it “diversity” that exists within the bat-spit crazy that constitutes dating, so I have a fairly well-researched data bank to cull my supposition from in regards to what is out there for the taking.

And while I’ll admit that are some truly difficult and somewhat dense women out there among the feminine flock, I won’t paint all women with the same ignorant brush that some would like to use.

As a life-time member of the “just us men” club, I know I shouldn’t really be surprised by the sexist attitude contained within some of the missives I’ve been reading, but it’s still disheartening at best, especially when we’re all supposed to be living in an enlightened age and all that.

The one fact I have gleaned from all this correspondence is this: there’s a lot of really scared and intellectually weak men cowering around a fire somewhere out there in the caves of the Internet.

Unfortunately however, it also seems that these knuckle-draggers will not be denied their soapbox.

Sure, they have figured out how to both type and hit the “send” button on their own, so I guess  asking for some well-earned points for doing so is probably not out of the question, but I’m afraid some of those gold stars will have to be taken away due to the amount of misogyny that my Email has been vomiting up.

Between the missives telling me (at length) how women should “know their place” and the others that were chock-full of braggadocio regarding imaginary sexual exploits, it’s clear to me what’s really going on out there in the world of the real- a lot of men whose previous “girlfriends” came with an air pump and a patch kit are lashing out at society the only way they know how…

With testosterone fueled fantasy... minus the talking flying dragons and the large-breasted chain-mailed heroines, of course.

Look… I get it.

Women can be, and sometimes are, downright terrifying. I went to high school just like the rest of you, and have many stories of being blasted out of the sky by the feminine Death Star when the circumstances clearly called for the use of a Tie fighter, but I digress.

[The fault may have been my own, due to my love of both Star Wars analogies and dork culture, but let’s not split hairs here.]

However, just because you’re personally afraid of strong capable women, there is still no reason to hurl a box of vulgar invectives in your sad attempt to control them. News flash: a woman that smart will take you on and take you out, everytime. As sure as the day is long, you my friend, are gonna be metaphorical toast.

Count on it.

Now, the fact that some of my male readers reacted with such brain-dead misogyny is in of itself, not that shocking, to be honest. What caught my attention initially was how ferocious the response was.

If I were to be brutally frank, I have had more than my share of moments where my caveman DNA has overridden my normally genteel common sense, but even given that, it’s not like I have a reputation for being an out-and-out knuckle-dragger, even when fueled by alcohol.

Truth be told, I actually tend to get much more respectful around women, despite the fact that at those moments I turn into your average drunken prom queen who’s pretty much up for anything.

However, that’s a story for another time, so let me complete my thoughts regarding some of my fellow “men” who wrote in… y’all got some serious growing up to do, and that right quick.

Otherwise, you should plan on getting really used to having threesomes with your hands. Moving on…

After having to wade through all that hip-deep testosterone, I definitely needed a break from all the self-absorbed stupid, and I found it in the most unlikely of places… Las Vegas. Or to be more specific, in Las Vegas at the annual AVN Expo.

What exactly is that, you ask?

Ask a simple question, get a simple answer- each January, the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo takes place in Las Vegas, and is attended by everyone who is anyone in the adult industry. Serving as both a trade convention and an adult extravaganza, it’s definitely not family friendly by any means.

Thank God for that.

As everybody knows, I love kids. My GF Ashley often jokes that if you put me near small children my biological clock starts ticking to a 2/4 backbeat. However, despite all that, I’ve often suggested that LV should be a child-free zone, at least on the Strip- a position I espouse even more after attending the AVN at this years’ chosen location, the Hard Rock Hotel.

Between the bigger than life posters scattered throughout the casino featuring porn stars Asa Akira and Lexi Belle whose collective attire left very little to the imagination, along with the occasional sighting of a porn star wearing a see- through top, the scenery was enough to fry your average 14 year old boys’ brain at a distance of 500 yards.

Being a mature adult, I was perfectly fine, of course.
I’m sorry… what was I talking about?
Oh yes. see-through clothing.

As I was saying, it’s not for the kids.
And I’m not complaining. At all.

Nor will I ever.
Vegas, in my opinion, has always been the designated off ramp between Sodom and Gomorrah, and it should remain that way, so far as I’m concerned. Keep Vegas for the adults, and send the kids off to Disneyland with the grandparents.

You know, the set that your kids absolutely hate.

The reason I happened to be there was due to the generosity of Los Angeles based adult film distributor Black Market Entertainment, [] whose co-owner is also the sister of one of my best friends, so remember kids- it does pay to network.

After getting my VIP pass, touring the casino at the Hard Rock, and taking in a late dinner with the team from BME, I was then introduced to a few of the better known stars found dining alongside us, namely [in order] Missy Monroe, industry legend Nina Hartley, who as you can see from the photos apparently found my cross really tasty, and blond bombshell Julia Ann.

Nina BTW, absolutely rocks. She’s been in the biz since forever, and while I can’t repeat the story she was telling over drinks here, I will pay witness to the fact that she has a razor-sharp sense of humor, and intellect- and as I like to say, you meet the nicest people in the strangest places.

[I also met the following stars over the course of the three days while I was there, but they were more of a “hi-ya, bye-ya” type of photo op. In order- Brandi Love, Jesse Jane, and Sophie Dee, who is literally Smurf size.]

But more than just an opportunity to blow off some personal steam, the AVN also serves as a perfect counterbalance to what I wrote regarding the reticence in regards to male nudity, for the adult film industry is largely borne on the backs [no pun intended] of the female talent, and after walking among the scores of attractive women wearing booty shorts and five-inch stripper heels, it’s pretty obvious that women dually serve as both figurehead and the preferred product- a major detail that is notably promoted throughout the several day-long event.

When I woke up the next morning and headed into the Expo, entering fully charged after downing an amazing breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi, a French-themed café located on the strip, I was surprised to find that despite the industry earning an estimated two billion dollars a year, the event itself was actually quite diminutive, and housed in two mid-sized rooms; one strictly for the vendors, and the other for the toy manufacturers.

Now, when I say “toys”, I’m definitely not referring to your basic Kids R’ Us store stock- I’m describing those kinds of accoutrements that are shipped to your house in very discreet brown paper packaging so as not to set the nosy neighbors’ tongues a wagging- you know, the clichéd this was such a nice neighborhood until those freaks moved inkind of discussion?

And if those same neighbors saw what was readily available for your purchasing needs at said Expo, I’m pretty sure they’d build a functional moat around their house and never say hi to you again.

Granted, most of the products for sale were your stereotypical items (dildos, vibrators, etc.) but there were a few that were truly amazing for their uniqueness- the two that come immediately to mind were the life size sex dolls that replicate popular porn stars right down to their sexual preferences, and the ride and bounce ball toys of our childhood, disturbingly re-imagined with the addition of a very lifelike… um... appendage.

Use your imagination… if you dare.

A small, yet disconcerting, thought slowly formed in my mind as I contemplated the products that were for sale in that small room, and it was this: if any of these toys ever develop the ability to take out the garbage and reach the top shelf, we men will be royally screwed, no pun intended.

Three different vibrating modes? Neon colors? Internal lights? And you can ride it to run out for Hagen Das?

Yep- as far as the male gender would be concerned, our end would swiftly race towards nigh, because there is no way in Hell that we could ever hope to compete with that.

And keep in mind- I’m huge in Japan. You have no idea how much, unless you’ve actually seen Hugo’s painting, in which case- you got all the info you need to make an informed decision.

If there does exist a woman out there who can willingly and comfortably take on one of these molded latex monstrosities, Lord grant me that I not meet her until such time that the need arises for a truly unique hiding place that no one would ever dare search.

Eager for a much rosier future, I fled the Frankentoy room and headed over to the Vendor’s area, where all the major players in the industry had pitched their respective tents to hawk their wares, ranging from on-demand videos to webcam sites.

Scattered among the various movie proprietors were a number of random companies selling everything from lotions to custom fetish clothing, and as you can imagine- the space was packed wall to wall, partially due to the numerous industry booths featuring the chance to meet (and be photographed) with your favorite porn star.

Here’s Nina working her fan-line, which stretched around the room almost twice.

[I came this close to almost wearing the same outfit- how embarrassing would that have been?]

Once again, I made some interesting observations while casually watching the crowd flow through, the first being that there’s apparently a huge love for porn within the Asian-American community, as evidenced by the number of Japanese guys who looked like they had just arrived from the set of the Tokyo Drift sequel- if I was going to cast the live-action version of AKIRA, I’d definitely start here.

The second thing that caught my wandering eye were the “camera guys”, and when I say that, I’m definitely not referring to the electronic Media, be it television or web-based. There were literally scores of roving doughy middle-aged guys wearing shorts and flip-flops who had three to four cameras strung around their necks, which to be honest, piqued my curiosity more than a tad.

Considering my D90 can shoot 600 Hi-Res Images (per large capacity card), I was somewhat baffled as to why anyone would need so much digital firepower, but choose not to ask, due to the inherent fear that I would be drowned within a sea comprised mostly of flop-sweat and sheer desperation.

It was later brought to my attention that this particular contingent is labeled by those in the industry as “porn geeks”- fans who collect adult cinema the same way I collect Buzz Lightyear toys. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a hobby and all that, but I have to wonder just how many times you can watch two blondes ingeniously tip the pizza guy before you just get bored with it all.

But when it came to some of these guys… the term “creepy” doesn’t even begin to come close to painting an accurate description.

Ever watch Animal Planet and see the raw footage of a pack of wolves stalking sheep? Replace those wolves with barely sentient pizza rolls wearing sandals, and you’ll have a fairly precise idea of what it felt like to be among these hairy-palmed mouth breathers.

And before you get all up in my grill about being unnecessarily harsh to the socially awkward, I will tell you this: I’m actually being quite kind, given what I witnessed more than once at the event.

Granted, I was at a convention that centered around the selling of sexualized fantasies as if they were hamburgers, but even with all the half-naked women walking around, the overall feel of the place was that of focused maturity, believe it or not. Most of the interactions I witnessed between the talent and the civilians was respectful, (if not downright funny) as a rule of thumb.

[Best statement at a fan photo-op: “You’re cute… you can totally grab my boobs.”- I didn’t take her up on that offer BTW, although I'm sure many behind me did.]

While I do understand the awesomeness of getting to be next to someone you find stunningly attractive, I also know that said hottie of smokingness you’ve been watching for years is in fact, a complete stranger, and that goes both ways.

Just because you bought their poster/album/movie/life-size cut-out/blow up doll, etc.. doesn’t mean you have a license to say or do anything you want.

For instance, I met Debbie Harry back in 1999 and I was a perfect gentleman. Sure, one could argue that was partly due to the size of the security guys and to a somewhat greater degree that pesky retraining order, but I’d also like to think it was a shining testament to my innate chivalry.

Come to think of it, let’s take a look upon that seminal life moment:

This was taken backstage at Celebrity Theatre in PHX, with my part time model and full time friend Sharley, and even though you can’t see it in the photo, Debbie just happens to have her hand on my upper thigh, an area I later had bronzed to mark the occasion.

You know. Like you do.

She autographed my “Autoamerican” album, posed for a few pics, and traded a few jokes, all while smelling like sugar cookies, and it was great.

However, I still didn’t propose marriage, suggest we go out for coffee, or go into detail about that recurring dream of mine where she and I are in a bathtub full of crumbled Ding Dongs and marshmallow fluff giving Joan Jett a back rub.

Not only because it might come off as creepy, [as it should] but because it wasn’t appropriate. Meet your idols, throw down a few compliments, take your pic, and move to the end of the line, cause others are waiting.

Not too surprisingly, those guidelines don’t change just because the object of your obsession happens to have sex on camera for a living, no matter what you may believe.
And don’t hand me any of that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, crap as an excuse to justify your asinine and immature behavior either- there’s a limit to that slogan’s stretchiness too.

If you do engage in truly wretched conduct, it will be found out eventually, no matter how much you try to hide it. Sadly, it’s been my hard-won personal experience that people who go to Vegas to let loose their inner brotard eventually get shanked by their own metaphorical ego shiv.

The process usually goes something like this: douchebag / bitch does something awful, takes great pride in it cause they’re a self-centered moron, and more often than not, is compelled to share their debased story with someone- typically, it’s a close friend, but not always.

That person in turn is either truly appreciative or utterly horrified by said story, and successively passes it on to the next person he or she knows to either brag or ease their burden of conscience, and so on and so on, until it reaches the right (or wrong) set of ears, and then all Hell breaks loose.

And we all know how that goes, don’t we? That’s right… badly.

When it comes to me, I don’t really worry about my past in regards to personal embarrassment- I’ve posed nude, had various body parts casted, engaged in drunken shenanigans, dated more than my share of independent erotic dancing contractors, and once got caught having sex inside a parking garage elevator, so obviously I’m ok with revelations that others would find highly mortifying.

And given the fact that I also proudly own the ABBA box set as well, I think it’s a safe bet that I’m virtually Teflon coated against the humiliating awkwardness that others fear so much. Heck, I almost look forward to making most people uncomfortable- it’s really fun, and costs virtually next to nothing. But even I have limits as to what I would do in full view of the public.

In general, I don’t fly my freak flag in front of civilians, and even when you factor in my penchant for occasionally dressing like a leatherier version of Mad Max meets gay pirate, I still try to maintain some of my innate privacy.

However, among certain elite members of the masturbatory menagerie, my sense of personal decorum is a rarity, at best. Between the stories of obsessed fans from the various cam-girls I talked to at the event, and the personal interactions I witnessed, let me be the first to say that some of these man-boys desperately need to get a real girlfriend, and that right quick.

After they move out of their parent’s garage, that is.
One stunning example of an “urk” moment: remember my mention of Nina’s fan line?

Well, what she was doing for the better part of the time I was walking the floor was basically just standing there and posing for fan pics, or signing autographs. In other words, not moving much, if at all. Not dancing, not stripping, and most definitely not performing faux fellatio Madonna style on  water bottles. In essence, not doing anything that would justify the 25+ cluster of man-boys behind her snapping photos as if their very lives depended on it.

And as an addendum, let me also mention that within that group, that at least half of them were shooting low-angle video… of her non-moving ass. I actually left the venue, grabbed a bite to eat, and upon my return, observed that the same people were still where I had left them an hour ago, in the same positions, doing the same thing.

Naturally, I had to say something, for the heart of my core is that of a people person, and when it gets right down to it- I’m here to help.

Focusing my gaze upon a middle-aged Asian man with three cameras around his neck and dressed in what appeared to be a fishing outfit resplendent with matching tackle adorned hat and vest, I said the following:
“Hey dude… I’ve never said this before in my life, but if there was ever the situation where the phrase “take a picture, it’ll last longer” could be applied, this would be the one… just saying.”

As you might imagine, this did not endear me to the cluster of pasty bologna boppers, but the half dozen cam-girls within earshot immediately burst into effervescent laughter, making his public shaming that much more discomforting and awkward.

That’s me… bringing joy and mirth to a cold dark world.

Properly chagrined, he hurriedly puts away his mini-camcorder and peevishly stalks off, giving me a look that could only be described as soul withering- a fierce gaze that seems to be communally shared by the dolphin-floggers who are now glaring at me as if I were a defective set of D&D dice.

Seizing that as my cue to exit stage left, I decide  to go wander about the hall, and in the course of doing so, meet renowned fetish model Masuimi Max*, who was there promoting a custom vinyl clothing company.
*[] []

Other than being obviously striking, she and her husband Morat were two of the coolest people I met at the AVN, and the conversation that followed covered a wide range of topics, from obsessive fan-boys to the fact that she’s triple jointed.

Believe you me, when someone that cute demonstrates that particular skill-set by easily bending their hand all the way backwards to their wrist, it definitely grabs your attention, and it’s a detail that should give any red-blooded American male a moment or two of inner contemplation.

Seriously. Just think of all the vending machines she could break into. You would never have to pay full price for a Snickers bar ever again, and that is just stone cold sexy, no matter how you slice it.

by the way, is also a kick-ass photographer, whose list of previously shot rock gods include everyone from Ozzy to Slipknot, and he also contributes a large amount of his wife’s content, so go do yourself a favor, and check out their respective websites- you’ll be glad you did.
**[] []

And on a more personal note, I would also recommend that if she comes to your town to perform, that you go check out her stage show, as I was lucky enough to do at Vegas’ Club Paradise*, as it was all shades of stunning.

[*Once again, it pays to network, especially if it gets you VIP access to an awesome strip club.]

Having left the floor on a high note, I proceed to hit my hotel, take a quick shower, and head out to dinner with my friend at the legendary Hofbrauhaus* German restaurant located across the street from the Hard Rock. What makes this place truly special is that from the sausage to the beer, the entire menu is directly imported from the Fatherland itself, and that particular facet is the key to it’s well-deserved success.

Set up in the style of a traditional “beer garden”*, the long tables encourage mingling with your as yet unknown dinner companions- which in our case, happened to be a lovely family of four from the city of Cleveland. Other than a briefly awkward (yet amusing) moment when we explained the reason why we were in Las Vegas, dinner went off without so much as a hitch.

[*By definition, a beer garden (taken from the German “biergarten”) is an open-air space where beer and food are served, and seating is communal.]

My Ego did appreciate the moment when the Mom asked me if I was “talent”, to which I answered honestly… “Hell, yes- what… it isn’t obvious?” [Just kidding.] So, buoyed by a small drink [see photo] and stuffed full of yummy bratwurst, I enjoyed the in-house band which served up both traditional beer hall standards along with blistering covers of Neil Diamond songs.

Trust me, you have not really lived until you’ve heard “Sweet Caroline” sung by 100 knockwursted diners, and all of this entertainment was to be had for less than fifty bucks, a bargain no matter where you’re at, but an especially good deal for Las Vegas.

And with that uber-karaoke moment under the ol’ belt, my adventure slowly starts winding down to it’s end.

After getting up the next morning, my friend and I grab a late breakfast in the downtown partition of what’s considered to be “old” Las Vegas at a place called Hash House A GoGo*, a joint known for it’s disturbingly huge portion sizes and to a lesser degree, it’s rather bizarre farm themed décor.

Now when I say “huge portions”, I want you to think of the biggest meal you’ve ever eaten, and then triple it, because that’s what I’m talking about here. The plate my friend ordered, the Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Benedict, could have easily fed three people and their cats, and I don’t even want to foster a guess as to what the salt content was, but judging on no more than it’s sheer size alone, I feel pretty confident in saying I could have sculpted a pretty accurate rendition of Lot’s wife from it.

In a rare display of self-restraint, I ordered a small bowl of Froot Loops, with a side of toast and three slices of bacon. Don’t judge. I’m trying to maintain my girlish figure, and besides… I did roughly polish off about four pounds of pork, beef and lamb at Hofbrauhaus the night before, so all in all- I think that I have put in the hours regarding my personal crusade to eat everything on the planet that has a face.

So loaded up on sugared lard and crispy carbohydrates, my friend and I begin the four hour trek back to Phoenix, buoyed by satellite radio and mix CD’s, of which he is a true master. If you have to travel long distances, I’d highly recommend his unique blend of punk rock and quirky underground classics, which can run the gamut from The Buzzcocks to Stump.

Overall, the trip home was uneventful, as most journeys typically are, but there is one last thing I do need to show you that we discovered on our way back to our respective lairs, and that was kitsch.

Good old Americanized China-made kitsch.

If you’ve ever taken a major highway anywhere in this country, then you’ve experienced first hand the amazing amount of cheap products promoting a certain region or state that are to be found in a majority of the gas stations and truck stops across this great land without fail.

Most are small, say, like an emblazoned “ I Love ____” shot glass or a scorpion encased in resin and turned into key chains- you know what I’m talking about- the stuff you buy on impulse.

But sometimes you find a place that tries a little harder, and we stumbled into it. Unlike most, this particular gift shop/restaurant in the middle of nowhere was blazing it’s own truly unique path by promoting higher end products, in this case, it was stocked to the gills with sculptures of Indians and dream-catchers of all shapes, sizes, prices and colors.

Now, for those of you who don’t live in the Southwest, the definition of a dream-catcher is this:
“A small hoop containing a horsehair mesh, or a similar construction of string or yarn, decorated with feathers and beads, believed to give its owner good dreams by “catching” the bad ones within it’s netted structure.”

Typically, these are rather benign looking pieces of craftwork, and usually don’t attract my attention much, if at all. But there was one hanging on the wall nearest the bathrooms that I just had to snap a picture of:

I don’t know about you, but that is some truly soul-stirring work right there.

Seriously. I’m not sure if it’s the majestic and noble wolves in the background, the acid-washed jeans, the fur wrapped Thor hammer, or the hair he borrowed from David Coverdale of Whitesnake, but there’s something about this piece that just screams for days about truly authentic Native American culture.

I’ll even overlook the fact that it’s a white guy being depicted here, because let’s face it- they did add those feathers, and that’s what ties the whole ensemble together.

Ahh… roadside America. You never fail to fill my heart with joy.
So. How to sum up my trip? Well…

I’ve learned that there can be too much of a good thing, as I am now so jaded to the sight of random thonage and overinflated boobage that I’ve become virtually immune to it when it’s laid out before me now, much to my chagrin.

On the upside, I’ve taken up macramé, and have knitted about thirty sweaters so far. On a related note, does any one want some oven-mitts?

I learned that it was a probably best that I was more interested in girls than playing Dungeons & Dragons in my Mom’s basement, especially after seeing what happens when you watch way too many DVD’s by yourself.

I learned that VIP is always better than the common area. By far. And the drinks are usually free.

I’ve learned that there is a limit to how much sausage one can comfortably eat, but it can be offset by drunkenly singing Neil Diamond songs at the top of one’s lungs, as long as you don’t compare it to your late Oma’s cooking.

I’ve learned that good and dignified people from Cleveland don’t ask a lot of questions after the words “porn convention” have been uttered. They will however, take your recommendations for what to eat when they find out you’re from good German stock.

I learned that my friend snores like a goddamn buzzsaw. Next time, I’m getting my own room, as I really like to sleep more than two hours at a time. Also, having my own room means I can steal all those little soaps and other random toiletries rather than having to split the booty with others.

But mostly I learned that what happens in Vegas should probably stay in Vegas, if only to avoid potential lawsuits, divorces, and the like. And no matter what you do… never bring a camera.

“I love Las Vegas. I like that Las Vegas has everything. Everything and anything you want to do, you can do in Las Vegas.” - Drew Carey.