Monday, July 29, 2019

Hart-burn (Carry on, My Wayward Engelsen)

"If workers are more insecure, that's very 'healthy' for the society, because if workers are insecure, they won't ask for wages, they won't go on strike, they won't call for benefits; they'll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that's optimal for corporations' economic health." - Norm Chomsky

Hello Blogiteers!

Today's screed is all about responsibility, and how some corporations avoid it much in the same manner that I tend to shun gas station sushi. I've previously written* about how the Arizona Attorney Generals Civil Rights Division (AZAGCRD for short) dropped the ball regarding my claim of diabetic discrimination against my former employer and immediate supervisor, but their inability to do what they were supposed to do can easily be ascribed to a perversely bloated bureaucracy and alleged incompetence, versus an actual focused unethical intent. While technically not a corporation, in my POV, they're as useless and corrupt as any of the ones who are.

Sure, AZAGCRD may have threatened me with a Class 1 misdemeanor if I wrote anything about the case that I alone filed, but despite my repeated requests for clarity, they failed time and time again to directly inform me exactly what law I would be breaking that superseded my first amendment rights. Therefore, I didn't lose any sleep over it, as I laid comfortably secure in the knowledge that at best, I was being attacked by an impotent porcupine, that was all gums, badly matted fur, and posessed no actual claws of note, with the odds in my favor that I'd soon have a really nice matched set of quill-free pot-holders as a consolation prize for all of my troubles. I also purposely avoided using the real name of the company I worked for, along with giving the two arrogantly asinine employees I was forced to work with on an almost daily basis pseudonyms, as a means to tell my story without the concern of snaring myself in any legal issues.

But I'm now of the belief that this self-imposed ball-gag of sorts needs to come off, and that right quick. After I wrote my fact-based tale of alleged ineptitude, definite inanity, and defended myself against the wholly ludicrous slander of my former supervisor, I felt there was nothing more to say, or more to the point, do. The Phoenix chapters of my days were over, and I had to move on to the next phase of my new life in New Mexico, land of the "we put green chilies on everything" mind-set that I've come to love. And for a while, despite all the health issues I've suffered through the last couple of months, there was what can sometimes pass as relative peace within the Lair of Snarkitudes' storied halls, and to bolster this, just read the previous blog where I wrote extensively about my inner Zen as of late.

Oh, how the times do change.

So what brought about this shift back to my switchblade tongued self of old after months of inner tranquility? In a simple word, ethics, or the lack of them, as displayed by two entities I've had the misfortune of dealing with for over a year. The first being my former Michigan-based employer, which goes by the name of Engelsen Frame & Moulding, and the second, collectively known as The Hartford, which allegedly, perpetuates medical grift under the guise of providing insurance. And yes, I can back up my statement, or otherwise I wouldn't be here at my office away from the office, otherwise known as The Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery, writing about it. Sorry for the shameless plug, but I'm trying to get my future sodas for free, and to do that, I need to whore myself out somewhat. I may not be proud, but if all goes well, I won't be thirsty or sugar-free either.

As to the first entity, I worked for them as a warehouse laborer for almost a year and a half, and hated almost every second of the job, save for the interaction I had with my first crew, that being a great co-worker named Bernie, and my then immediate supervisor Barry, who despite his somewhat conservative point of view, turned out to be both an awesome person and boss. Deep discussions were had, and we ran like a fine Swiss watch most days, despite the hellish heat in the summer, and the crippling cold in the winter. A team worth being proud of, if I were to fake all shades of modesty.

Our so-called top boss Ellen, who was comfortably entrenched in Michigan, was wholly ridiculed by us in the Phoenix division, due to her stunning consistency at being both a micro-manager and a screeching nag, which led to abominable work delays because my supervisor had to spend as much time on the phone placating her uninformed idiocy as he did working, but I digress for the sake of my sanity. But what's really sad to point out is that Barry had worked for this company off and on for close to thirty years, and was quite fond of talking about it's founder (always respectfully referred to as "the old man") as a paragon of ethics, dependability and loyalty- traits which obviously skipped a generation, if I were to be so bold.

A few months before my illegal and discriminatory firing [see previous blog link] Barry gave his notice, due to Engelsen coldly reneging on a false promise they had made in exchange for his uprooting his life to run the Phoenix branch of this once proud company, and with that, my troubles began.

[The following is paraphrased from the previously mentioned blog, hence the reason for the use of Italics]

At first, my new supervisor Antonia ("Toni") Ramirez, came across as somewhat sweet, even with her internal Damocles sword of self-doubt that was fairly and markedly displayed from day one in regards to how she ran our day to day operation. To be fair, there was a good chunk of days where we ran like gazelles, but on a majority of the days, it was akin to trying to swim through molasses with concrete blocks tied around your feet, as you try in vain to settle down a headstrong three year old who's having a full-on meltdown, as they grab all the candy out of the racks next to the cash register at WalMart. In addition, Ellen also foisted upon us a dense slab of idiocy in barely human form known as Rick, who in my opinion I'm pretty sure, is the missing link that paleontologists have been searching for all of their professional careers.

Held together primarily by Monster energy drinks, pain pills, and sheer hubris, Rick presented as one of those people that all those after-school specials tried to warn you about. Arrogant as hell, he often clashed with Toni, and visibly chafed at having to take orders from her, as he helped push our customer product return rates through the roof, due to the fact he spent most of his time on the production floor running his mouth and acting as a vulgar distraction to my actually competent co-worker, Bernie. And nothing else by the way, makes you want to work alongside your co-worker on a commercial saw, then their constant bragging about engaging in hard drinking before 9 a.m., let me tell you.

And as an aside, now might be a good time to mention that Rick was also obsessive, engaging in unhinged meltdowns with the local homeless population as part of a clearly well thought out strategy of personal diplomacy, because nothing represents your company better than an employee threatening a dispossessed person that lives rough in the causeway behind your building who's trying to just get some sleep, with a totally unprovoked beating because they dared to attempt doing so in "your" alley. But maybe this all stemmed from that A.M. drinking he liked to brag about- I honestly don't know.

Granted, I did expect somewhat of a sea-change given the new line-up, but I didn't foresee what would eventually happen in regards to my work schedule, my responsibilities, and most importantly, my sense of self-worth. At the time, long before Toni and Rick would go on to darken my metaphorical doorstep, I had already seen my hours cut way beyond the normal parameters of what constitutes a standard part-time schedule, the excuse being that we "didn't have enough work", and yet, Rick was given a full 40 hour work-week laboring at most of my previous responsibilities, despite Ellen's claims he was only there to build storage bins and perform general duties. By the way. we had a full capacity of storage structures already built and in place long before he arrived, but I digress, as I hate glorifying obvious falsehoods.

In addition, let's all just forget to note the phone call and text he placed to me one day while I was thankfully off, asking if I could score him some pain pills, because fully unbeknownst to me, us Diabetics apparently are on some seriously heavy narcotics, if you exclude our predilection for mainlining Coca-Cola and Ding Dongs, along with our several standard daily shots of Insulin. That's heavy sarcasm by the way, for those of you in the back who arrived late.

Now at that point, I was still grinding along with a serious shoulder injury I had suffered earlier while in the employ of the company, but as of then, had not yet filed the workman's comp claim in regards to it, as I immediately did after my illegal termination. Why, you ask? Well, I needed the job, and prior to the management shift, I was essentially an assistant manager, in all but name only, and was tasked with product shipping and tracking, material inventory, overseeing the receiving of deliveries, opening/closing the warehouse, and filing the crucial end of day paperwork. Rick by the way, wasn't allowed anywhere near the access to the procedures like I initially was, but I'm sure Ellen has a rationalization for that too, if I were to hazard a guess.

However, by the end of my employment, my daily obligations had been brusquely abridged to sweeping the floor and occasionally doing the most basic data entry that Rick, the walking meat slab could not be trusted to do. I was also originally, the lone official
key-holder, but after Toni arrived, that responsibility was, without any form of rational explanation, taken away from me and never returned. Keep in mind, the entire time I was under employ there, I never once received any official rebuke, write-up, or period of suspension- EVER. To this day, I strongly believe that for whatever reason, Ellen was, previous to the hiring of Toni and Rick, trying to get rid of me by a form of not too subtle attrition. And to be quite frank, I wasn't going to give her the surplus ammunition she'd require to fire me.

Arizona is sadly after all, a right-to-work state, and I'm sure if she had been made aware of my limitation, a dire tidbit of knowledge I suspect my ex-supervisor Barry neglected to inform them of on purpose, she would have fired me on the spot, and of that, I have no doubts whatsoever. Keep in mind, that working with said injury only aggravated it more, but I had no choice. as there was literally nowhere I could go, and I had been SERIOUSLY looking for a new job since the first week I started there. But from the start of her tenure, besides being in way over her head, Toni also took a highly inappropriate interest in my ongoing health issues way past what some might consider to be the normal boundaries in regards to what truly constitutes the boss/worker relationship.

Toni was (at the time) morbidly obese, and came to work daily, wearing a knee brace, compression gloves, talking at length about the salves she used for her bad back, so naturally, she was an obvious go-to for asking how I should tackle my various health issues. Once again kids, that's sarcasm, and no, I'm not deriding someone's serious lack of well being, I'm just pointing out that somebody suffering with such, should keep their unsolicited and erroneous advice to themselves, since at that time, I already possessed a cabal of white-coated professionals trained in the medical dark arts.

Not to mention her penchant for eternally composing (on company time, no less) a never sent missive to Ellen, basically telling her to go f**k herself twelve ways to Sunday. That's definitely an ethical way to justify earning your paycheck, no matter which way you look at it. And as an employee, it definitely boosts one's morale to have your superior constantly ragging on the top boss as if they dumped you at the Prom. As I noted earlier, we all used to take great joy in mocking Ellen, but none of us ever approached it as if it were a viable career option. Shockingly, I don't need to be told by what is essentially a total stranger, to "eat better" or that I "should be at home working on my diabetes" nor am I open to any suggestions that Ashley (my GF) "doesn't know how to take care of me", a trio of stated discourtesies that if Toni had been a dude, would have been refuted by receiving both of my size 10&1/2 work-boots straight up that mass of extensive cellulite she refers to as her ass, without question or concern on my part.

I've already noted my assertion that Toni had no business being placed in a leadership role, but as evidence for what I consider an alleged lack of character, I would like to reiterate that in the official statement to AZAGCRD regarding my illegal dismissal, she talked at length about her not caring one bit about my diabetes, whilst constantly obsessing about my diabetes throughout it's narrative. Then, after being questioned, Toni abruptly quit working for my former employer, a detail the AZAGCRD investigator somehow missed, despite her inherent Jello-sharp instinct for ferreting out obvious contradictions within Toni's official retort.

Once again, that's heavy sarcasm for those of you in the back. And thus, the ending of the Italics proceeds.

But even with all that, I still was willing to let Toni's slanderous lies slide, as I had a new future in New Mexico to look forward to, and what would be the point of going after a person who along with her lack of credibility, also lacked anything financially worth taking? When I appear to be more fiscally stable than you, odds are pretty good you either need a better accountant, or need to snag a sugar-daddy who's into both congenital liars and betrayers of trust. But as what I thought was soon to be a settled issue (more on this in a bit) reared it's ugly head yet again, I realized that walking away was the wrong thing to do, given the principle of the thing, and the harm it's caused. So, while I'll be focused primarily on dealing with the soon to be discussed issue first, I'll concurrently be seeking legal damages against Toni personally as well- that means she won't have the cover of her former employer to hide behind, and I plan to use every legal method at my disposal... and that's a guarantee.

And if you're wondering why I just don't file an appeal with AZAGCRD, I counter with this thought- why would I place my faith again in an agency with an impotent bureaucracy, who couldn't do their conscripted jobs properly in the first place, and why would I depend on the naive belief that they'd do it correctly the second time around? Fool me once, that's on you. Fool me twice, that's either my personal idiocy or Tequila Jesus taking the wheel. Heck, maybe it's both, since they do have a legacy of working together as a unified team.

Let's face it, other than A Clockwork Orange, no truly good story has ever started with a glass of milk. Just saying. But there still was the issue of my filed workman's comp claim to be settled, and that is why the ol' Admantium claws have come out of storage, still sharp, rust free, and unlike my partially amputated left foot, ready to dance. When I filed my claim on (or close to) the day I was illegally fired, I assumed it would take some time, but over a year? Either the wheels of Justice turn really slow, or they're damn outright narcoleptic, a theorem proven after multiple attempts to settle this case with my former employers insurance company, The Hartford, who in my opinion as I noted earlier, is nothing more than an unethical grifting Ponzi scheme. Now, I do realize the sole purpose of most insurance companies is to avoid providing the service that they're paid extravagantly to supply, but these muck-dwelling carrion feeders take the proverbial cake in this regard.

My apologies. I feel the need to correct myself.

When you look at it more closely, "take" isn't really the best term to truly describe the absolutely odious malfeasance that I believe they willingly engage in, but I'm trying very hard to be diplomatic in the face of what I consider to be the closest I've ever been involved with an alleged white-collar crime ring. Why do I think this? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that they never talked to my first supervisor who was aware of my injury, never discussed my injury at any length with the doctor who diagnosed it, or even bothered to think of questioning the physical therapists who were working with me so that I could hopefully one day, reestablish the full range of motion back to my shoulder.

And in addition, they never once contacted my first supervisor Barry, who was my boss during that time period. It's known as "due diligence"  and it's what ethical companies do in order to solidly establish fault or exoneration. But why do that when the employer in question (without any evidence) claims that their former employee "didn't get hurt here". I guess I must have strained my supraspinatus trying to move their pile of bullshit out of the path of my life- who knew? A small and unintentionally humorous aside: when one of their treacle-oozing media customer relation reps (AKA: "a professional liar") called me in a pathetic attempt to cover the Hartford's metaphorical ass, I made the sarcastic comment that perhaps she thought I had hurt myself at home putting away a dish, and she responded, and I kid you not, with:

"I see nothing in the determination report that mentions any dishes."

Let's get real for a moment. We've all done dumb things. We've all said dumb things too, as it's a natural part of our being former monkey-brains with opposable thumbs who can occasionally fashion tools and to a lesser degree, television shows starring D-list celebutards. But with the non-existent God as my witness, most of us comprehended sarcasm long before we aged out of that whole paste-eating phase in Kindergarten, did we not? Keep your eyes on this dumb wench, boys and girls, because one day she's gonna be the Hartford's newest CEO.

Sigh... if one goes online to see what people think of this company, one can easily find scores of consumer complaints, ranging from the issue of stereo-typically poor customer service to charges of outright fraud. No wonder they're not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, as the BBB generally likes to know their client's check will clear.

Granted, online reviews are sometimes not worth the pixels that they're posted with, but there seems to be outwardly at least, the idea that they're not vaunted as reputable by many. And as someone who spent the last two days on the phone with these parasitic pinheads, I can easily attest that this overall consensus rings true for me. And if I may offer another insight? Soon after I was illegally fired at Engelsen, The Hartford had an open-house hiring drive at one of their locations in Arizona, which I attended, based on the recommendations of two of my GF's friends, who as current employees, waxed poetically about how great the company was to work for.

The fact that both of these people are as exciting as a glass of sun-warmed milk should have been a tip-off as to what was to come, but I desperately wanted another job where I didn't have to come home beat to a pulp every day, and so I went to the orientation. First, after being herded into a conference room by a person I would charitably describe as "working off a badly written script", we were presented with two trays of a refreshing snack combo , that being room-temperature bottled water, and wait for it, individually wrapped, single-serve, LifeSaver brand... mints. Looking back, I can only assume their caterer sent our actual munchies to the retirement community down the street, and we got theirs by mistake.

At that moment, I tried to leave discreetly, but found the only exit blocked by two more barely sentient Hartford houseplants who closed the door, and started the orientation off by playing what amounted to a full-on PR commercial for the company. Let me just put it out there for the future generations of workers yet to come, that nothing makes you want to work more for a company then when it forces you to sit through a narcissistic video circle-jerk, supplemented by unfettered access to tepid water and cloyingly noxious mints. I'm frankly amazed other companies don't utilize this approach more often, as it seems like a real winner. A casual heads-up? When everyone in a corporate video and the presenters of said video themselves start tossing the buzz-phrase "Work/Life Balance" around as if they own the royalty rights to it, you should be suspicious as all get out.

What this innocuous idiom really means is that the company expects you to put your job ahead of your life, that's why "work" comes first in that word duo. How was this made clearly obvious to me, you ask? Other than the fact I heard it no less that eight times in the video, where at least one of the "employees" made sure to mention that his "work family" was just as important as his real one, it was dropped into conversation at least another ten during the Q&A section of the conference room orientation, where the Hartplant twins kept saying how much "fun" and money was to be had, but only if people were willing to work the multiple 10-12 hour shifts available.

Hard to believe that in the end, I gave all of this a hard pass, huh?

But if you think having no life outside of your job, slaving away for a company that will use your life-essence to sell a service begrudgingly given to the dupes who paid for it, and that only after being threatened with legal action, sounds like one heck of a good time, who am I to dissuade you? And given the fact that they already had an in-house contingent doing that anyways, it was obvious their recruitment pitch worked on some level, that clearly being the one that houses all the lonely people. Sure, we were politely asked not to talk to or ask any questions of the work/life warriors at the facility, but hey... wasn't that one heck of an employees break-room we just showed you, boys and girls? Now, I won't as a rule speak for you, my loyal readers, but I've always liked to think that my soul and social life would demand a higher asking price for their submission than a Foosball table and free vanilla lattes.

Throw in some free pizza, if not an Asian stripper wearing thigh boots, for God's sakes. Make it worth my while at least.

Now outside of the brainwashing they hope works on their employees, is the mewling rationalizing that they hope will work on you. When I noted that I had not heard anything from them, despite three letters, one inquiry on Twitter, and half a dozen phone calls, I was rudely informed that my claim had been denied months earlier, with no explanation given. It took an additional four phone calls, and the better part of a day and a half, to be informed of their bullshit excuse that because my Doctor had not expressively noted his diagnosis of my injury as a work-related injury, therefore it was not a work-related injury. And no, I'm not making that up. Despite several months of physical therapy for an injury CONSISTENT with the type of work I was doing, once again, The Hartford, without talking to my therapists or my first supervisor, decided that I wasn't injured at work at all.

Because it makes way more sense that one day, for no reason whatsoever, I decided to go randomly engage in months of unnecessary stretching, lifting weights, having ice-packs strapped to me, and sweating my skin off in order to make sure various assorted personal trainers got paid, and I wouldn't see dime one. Anybody who knows me that I walk a lot, but I don't play sports, I don't hike, I don't work out, and I sure as Hell don't lift. If I drop something on the floor, I weigh whether it's easier to either buy a new one, or actually pick it up. The only time I'll engage in non-work related physicality is if sex or Ding-Dongs are on the table, and even then, It's has to be something I really want to do. And trust me, if I had received this injury doing something manly or sexy, I'd have already written about it here, bragged about it on FaceBook, and then posted a hilarious meme in regards to it on Instagram.

But I do have to give The Hartford's alleged customer service reps one thing, they tried every way to call me a liar and fraud, without using the actual words to do so. But then again, it's not like they know how to respond with answers that aren't scripted anyway, so perhaps I'm giving them too much credit to begin with. But on the upside, they've seemingly got the "work" part of their bullshit slogan right, because given their inability to come across as actual people, they might need to work on that "life" half when they're done doing a flawless impression of a RICO case defendant. So this week begins anew, with me filing yet more forms with the Arizona Industrial Commission, tracking down my former supervisor so I can file a claim against her in civil court, and getting a host of other errands done as well, because let's face it, I love both the art of multi-tasking, and swiftly crossing items off of lists.

Once more into the breech is seemingly where I find myself at the moment, and if I have to go down swinging, I honestly can't think of a better reason to do so, than in defense of both my honor and my principles, can you? And while I can't possibly dent the skin of the arrogant human-suit that is The Hartford, I can definitely (and legally) scratch the paint off both my former employer and their deceitful ex-employee, without breaking too much of a sweat, I hope. And if not...

Well, I'll always have Yelp.

"There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?" - Woody Allen

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Latest Chapter. (Same Bitch, New Tricks.)

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go."- Dr. Seuss, "Oh the Places You'll Go!"

Hello, Blogiteers!

It is yet another beautiful day out here in the splendor that is Silver City, NM. The sun is shining, the clouds are puffy, the birds are singing, and the sky is the color of blue you've only seen in old Westerns and when you're choking out a Smurf in the ambient gloom of your crawlspace. Idyllic, by and large. But as with all things that are seemingly bucolic, there co-exists within a dark and seedy underbelly, unobserved by even the sharpest of eyes. What is this menace that sows it's evil under the carapace of many names, summoned by sugary drinks and worshiped by overpriced medical specialists with withered souls and blackened hearts?

Some of you may have guessed by the subtle clues, it's my old go-to nemesis, also known as Diabetes, or as I like to reference it, the blood-monster nobody writes operas about. As a rule of thumb, I'm pretty much ok with the majority of my adult responsibilities- sure, paying bills does suck, and having to always wear "real" pants when you go outside does tend to put a kibosh on one's good mood every now and then, but the knowledge that I can have pizza and ice cream for breakfast any time I want* does act as a salve of sorts.

*[UPDATE: I have just been informed, and rather tersely I might add, by my GF Ashley that I cannot in fact, "have pizza and ice cream for breakfast any time I want", citing my said brittle Diabetes as the core reason for her belief. In addition, it was also noted that it would also be a "cold day in El Azizia" before she, I, and that gothically hot girl who works at my favorite coffee-shop would ever get physically creative in a tub full of Cool-Whip and Jello. I can only assume that she's worried about my blood sugar spiking, which in of itself, is actually quite responsible on her part, when you look at the situation overall.]

For those of you painfully familiar with my writing, I tend to mine my diabetic condition  every now and then, both for blog fodder and as a means to blow off the 24/7 stress of having to deal with it, notwithstanding the complications it brings to my personal Lair of Snarkitude. Unfortunately, I can't use my doorstep's automatic trapdoor system to get it off my back like I tend to do with missionaries and those annoying kids who sell candy at three times it's price for their school's band camp program, but you get the idea. If I had to do it all over again, I'd make sure to pick a condition that either comes with a built-in Lifetime movie, such as fighting a corrupt City Hall, or a sense of true adventure, that being abducted by Aliens, or "Grays" as they're known within the cosmically hip circles.

I definitely would not have chosen this as my go-to back-story, given what it's cost me over the years, that being one already fatally flawed relationship, my ability to paint and draw, multiple gastric issues, feeling like an overly prodded lab rat, and my personal favorite so far, the forced liberation of chunks from my left foot, resulting in a walking style charitably once described as "the swagger of an overly drunken pirate" to which I can only use the rejoinder of "eat your heart out, Captain Jack Sparrow". Speaking of said traitorous foot, I find myself swimming within the prosthetic technology river, and so far, my options seem to be rather wide, in relation to where shoe-based fashion is concerned.

Recently, my medical peeps set it up for me to have my foot cast* in order to create a custom insert, which in theory, should limit the need to rely on my cane so much. Say what you will, but if I ever get famous enough to get my footprints placed in front of Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theater, mine are definitely gonna be more interesting to look at than Errol Flynn's, let me tell you.

Even so, I may still decide to keep the cane, because it does add considerable weight to the whole "mysterious stranger in a small-town" mystique thing I'm currently crafting. In addition, I'll hopefully be getting a sexy state of the art insulin pump* along with a brand-new CGM system**, and if all goes to prescripted plan, I'm just one bionic eye and red 70's jogging suit away from being the next Steve Austin***, sans the cool sound effects and occasional Bigfoot appearance.**** I'm so looking forward to getting this tech that I'm almost willing to overlook the fact that the med-lab out here not only failed to do all the blood tests they were supposed to do, they somehow LOST MY BLOOD as well, which gives me the impression that certain technicians in charge of my future health couldn't arrange a fellatio session in a bordello, but I digress.

[*Just look at this tech- it literally does everything, save giving me an erotic backrub, and I'm sure that will be an option relatively soon.
**A Continuous Glucose Monitor measures the body's glucose levels in real-time by sensing the glucose present in tissue fluid, and are truly awesome, because it cuts way back on the whole "jab a freaking spike into your fingertips" thing. A CGM works through a tiny sensor inserted under your skin, usually on your belly or arm. The sensor measures your interstitial glucose level, which is the glucose found in the fluid between the cells. The sensor tests glucose every few minutes, and then a transmitter wirelessly sends the information to a monitor. Science. It's just not for accidentally creating armies of the Undead or Kardashians anymore.
***Steve Austin had superhuman strength due to bionic implants inserted after an accident, and was employed as a secret agent by a fictional U.S. government office titled the OSI. He also had a bionic girlfriend named Jamie Summers, and while I know you're expecting me to make several off-color jokes about oil changes and keeping his piston lubed and polished, I'm going to opt for the high road on this one. 

 And as an aside, the Six Million Dollar Man Bionic Transport and Repair Station toy was the motherf**king bomb.   
**** This was a thing. It actually happened. And we as a country, are all better for it.]

Getting back on track, my first three articles and two photo-shoots for a regional New Mexico publication are finished, which in theory, could lead to further writing and photo opportunities out here, or so I hope. At this stage in my life, I think I'm pretty much done working for a fiefdom type gig- If I ever feel the need to go work for a truly arrogant idiot again, I'll just cut out the middleman and go straight to my Dad. That title of course, being honorary, as he's never had any idea how to do the job in the first place. As I've explained to friends and strangers alike, I'm the end result of immigrant parents, one German, the other Sicilian, who for some strange and as yet unknown reason where the Universe is concerned, decided not to listen to the grand Cosmos in all of it's Wisdom, and bred a trio of children with whom they could equally and with a varying degree of success, turn their own individual projected disappointments and failures into cavernous psychological scars.

In other words, the stereotypical American family.  As I've often said, we're the ones who truly put the "fun" in "dysfunctional", no matter what my therapists say.

I recently heard a comedian describe their family as cardboard cutouts sitting around a dining room table, and if that doesn't describe my family dynamic to a T, I don't know what does. My mother is for all purposes, a lying narcissist, my father a clueless one, and my youngest brother is essentially a disturbingly distilled version of them both, but with an added dash of arrogance that makes me look like Bob Ross. My older sister on the other hand, is totally good peeps, so there is that. To give you an idea of just how fractured, if not emotionally isolated my so-called family is, my parents and younger brother don't know that I moved out of Phoenix, they don't know where I currently live, they don't know about my amputation surgery, and they sure as Hell don't know anything about what I do for a living. And obviously, none of them are readers, either. Unless you count pop-up books as actual adult literature the way they do, that is.

Heck, if any of them actually know how to turn on a laptop without the aid of a tutorial given by hand-puppets, I will literally eat a case of knock-off Ding-Dongs as an act of recovering Catholic contrition. But in their limited defense, they always did have an opinion as to how I should live my life, even if all evidence and reality pointed to the contrary, and this has never wavered even in the face of their own shortcomings and failures, of which there are too many to note.

Sorry for the unforeseen Freudian lay-down, but one of the side-effects of living in a place where I can actually breathe and relax for the first time in 20 years, is the time to do some serious self-reflection. Granted, having yet another go-around with your mortality is another aspect that helps this inner conversation, and as a means to underscore my POV, I will quote Thor, the God of Thunder: "The rage, vengeance, anger, loss, regret, they're all tremendous motivators. They truly clear the mind... so, I'm good to go." Now, that's not to imply that I'm walking around with my Admantium claws unsheathed, snarling at the common rabble, but my tolerance for dealing with sheer ignorance has been severely truncated as of late, whether it's been on Twitter or in the real world.

Speaking of which, I was permanently banned from the Twitverse a while back, and it feels great, knowing that I've vexed conservatives and faux Christians to the point where they felt the need to rally en masse- to get me banned is almost a badge of honor for this ol" Snark, let me tell you. And sure, their decision was and is based on sheer hypocrisy, considering whom they've let remain, but I'll defer from commenting on that... for now.

As I've often said before, I don't care that you think differently, as long as you have made it clear that you're THINKING in the first place. No debunked conspiracy theories. No weak debates based on emotion over facts. And I definitely don't want to hear any racist, misogynistic, homophobic, jingoistic, xenophobic, elitist and wholly uniformed opinions either. I get enough of that every singe time I run into a Trump supporter, and let's face it- they're more than holding up that end for their ilk. If anything, I think I'm moving into a position of reinvention for both myself and my focus of what I truly wish to do now and in the future. And at the very least, it definitely does not involve anyone who purposely gets in the way of my destiny, whatever course that may chart.

Aside from my personal cabal of impotent cyber-stalkers, I usually don't have to deal with too much animosity within the place I currently live, which is a very nice change from where I was in Phoenix not too long ago. And since I haven't made too wide of an inroad within the local Arts community yet, it's also been rather nice being a metaphorical fly on the wall in regards to interacting with my fellow Creatives. It's definitely a nice pace I've set for myself here, and coalescing my facets as a writer and artist certainly hasn't hurt the self-recovery process either. It's such a relief not having to write about (or experience) the worst aspects of the Phoenix Art Scene anymore- I literally feel these days like I was paroled right before the penitentiary was nuked, and it's foundational ruins camouflaged with overpriced condos and shitty corporate murals.

Say what you want about Phoenix's obsessive need to undermine it's own road towards actual progress, at least it does it well and with stunning consistency. Now for some, there has been what might be considered as bright points of light in relation to the Scene, but when looked at with a practical eye, are they really? Many are hyped about the plans by Sant Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf to open a boutique hotel in Phoenix's so-called Downtown Arts corridor, but if a city can't even economically support the majority of it's artists, can it really sustain an overpriced flavor of the moment niche hotel? I for one, am quite cynical that it can, but what do I know? I only have my well-established track record of calling it right for the last decade or so to draw my conclusions from, and it's not like that ever carried any weight with those who consider themselves as an influencing force within the scene.

What is worth looking at however, given how some blithely dismissed my point of view in the past, is why I'm still being asked to write about what's going on in the PAS, even though I've lived in New Mexico for almost a year now, and have zero interest in doing so any longer. I've served my time in the pointless PHX art advocacy army, I've bought the
trendy t-shirt and ate the fatty hamburger, and I'm more than happy to have turned over this thankless task to anyone who in time, and like myself, will eventually come to truly understand that it presents as nothing more than a series of confrontational and wholly circular arguments with people who are more interested in calling themselves Artists, rather than backing it up with solid work, forward progress, and self-benefitting economic stability.

The overall absurdity of people asking for my continued input in regards to a scene I no longer have any interest promoting past the point of calling attention to certain peeps within it, can be best summed up by this quote from my fellow Creative and Obi-Wan of Snark, Artist Peter Petrisko:

"As somebody in a position to write about the arts scene, it's discouraging to find out that all the news tips are being sent to a dude in New fuckin' Mexico. #ThatsSoPHX though! :( "

Now don't get me wrong, it's nice to be missed, but not when the only reason that people do is because they think they can continue in their attempts to use you as their personal hitman. I'm here to carry my own axe, as it should be, not to do the wet-work for others. As the saying goes, my plate is full. But at least it's topped off with something I'm happy to be chewing on, for the first time in a while. Say what you will about the metaphorical politics and limitations of a small-town art scene, but at least the Creatives here strike as authentic in how they deal (or don't) with you. One of the highly understated perks of anonymously starting from scratch within a new Lair of Snarkitude, is that you can observe the lay of the land from the shadows of your parapet, before reinventing and presenting yourself to a scene that's never heard of you, but hopefully, soon will.

Along those lines, my home studio is finally starting to feel like a creative space after almost a year of being tweaked, re-tweaked, and blankly stared at. All it really needs now is a double-wide papasan chair, and an additional bookcase, and I'll be ready to rock out with my Diet Coke out, come this Fall. But overall, things here are pretty ok- I've got a fairly Zen office* away from home that comes complete with a bar and the best medium green chile bacon cheeseburger I've ever had in my life, along with being perfectly situated on the busiest corner in this town, where the people watching is excellent, and three cars backed up is considered a traffic jam.
*[That "office" BTW, is called The Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery, and I swear on all that's holy, the entire wait-staff is disturbingly gorgeous. I don't know what the stats are on that, but I'm thinking I need to go buy some lottery tickets right quick to take advantage of this anomaly within the time/space continuum.]

I will admit however, to feeling a tad bit weird in relation to the fact of how laid-back I find myself these days. If you had told me 20 years ago that I was ever going to be living in a nice 3-bedroom house, complete with curtains and coasters, in a small town where I would find myself willingly waving "hello" at strangers, I would have glared frigidly, punched you in the throat for spewing such inanity, and then, after throwing your girlfriend on the back of my bike, would have roared off into the sunset, laughing darkly.

You know... like you do.

But time heals all wounds, polishes off some of the rough edges, and if you're lucky, also has enough consistent memory lapses to make your transition from the old life to the new one that much easier. And let's face it, one's health being bad also tends to take your pole position of being relevant down a few notches, whether you want to admit it or not. That's not to say I've been sitting on my butt as of late, far from it- but my need to be on the go constantly has been immensely reduced as my time here goes on. Or maybe it's just old age settling in, and given another week or so, I'll be yelling at the neighborhood kids to get the hell off my front lawn, as I add yet another of their errant footballs to my ever-growing collection. Yeah, go tell your Dad, Timmy- I'll be waiting right here.

Hence as I sit here at The Toad, writing this blog, listening to awesome 80's New Wave Pop music, (Is that Sigue Sigue Sputnik's "Love Missile F1-11"?!? AWESOME!!) I find myself creatively recharged in a way I haven't been for quite some time, and it's a nice change of pace from the position and scene I was up to my neck in for the last 25+ years. It's amazing how your priorities shift back to yourself, once you're able to get away from yourself, if you know what I mean. And if all goes well, I'll be able to figure my own narrative out as I work on the craft of telling other peoples stories.

Well, that's the plan, anyway. And those always go the way you want them to, right?

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
- Andy Warhol,The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Work in Progress: Post Number One.


"As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I'm not sure that I'm going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says 'you are nothing', I will be a writer.”- Hunter S Thompson

Every good book, at least all the ones I've always admired anyway, have without exception, started off with a succinct introduction, a really good joke, or both. I for one, having never seen a truly persuasive reason as to ditching the use of a winning stratagem, will with any luck, merge the two into one concisely hilarious statement:

Hi there, I am a writer.

Now, the end goal of that fairly sardonic introspection is to hope that when I'm beyond the pale of all that is doubtful, I'll have a finished book, adorned with a beautifully bespoke cover graphic, and that resplendent smell of vanilla flowers and almonds known as Biblichor, which to this day, still makes me more contented than a small child that's hopped-up on sugar, armed with an illicit Sharpie, and has no parental oversight within their view. For the majority of people who haven't been blessed (or cursed) with the duality-tinged gift that is writing, assumptions that as a trade it fails to meet the standard of what true work is, or that it's nothing more than stringing words together as a lark, is just flat out wrong, if not naive.

Writing IS work. It demands dedication. Prominence. Blood. Sweat. Tears. And in my singular case, the unusually large consumption of Ding Dongs, which we'll return to at some later point. For those who have no idea what a publishable pile of words must attain in order to be designated as such, here are the benchmarks:

- a short story: 1000 to 7500 words.
- a novelette: 7500 to 20,000words.
- a novella: 30 to 50,000 words.
- a novel: 55 to 300,00 words.*

*A related aside: if you do indeed intend to aspire to craft a novel that makes War and Peace which clocks in at 587, 287 words, come off akin to skimming an index card, such as "author" Nigel Tomm's ongoing 23 volume opus known as The Blah Story does, some words of caution are to be expressed. A deservedly well-maligned tome that belabors it's non-point with an agonizing 3,277,227 words, which translates into 7312 pages, it's one you're probably going to be shopping around for a bit, considering a sheet of paper weighs .01 ounces, indicating your manuscript would weigh an average of 36.56 pounds.

That's in American weight versus European, which as we all know, seems heavier and far more intellectual than it really is. Best of luck mailing that to Hatchette.

At this point, my skin is only in for 474 words, so as you may have surmised, I have a bit to go before I can righteously demand that Nigel buys me a drink for inscribing something worth reading. But as stated, I am a writer, and perhaps I should get back to that, before I set any future inebriation in stone. Primary introductions having been made, albeit with an attempt at levity, I shall now give you my, as they used to say back in the day, Christian name- which always make me laugh darkly, since regardless if one uses the Biblical or the applied definition from Webster's, I'm no Christian.

However, either does apply to my best friend Percival Alexander Breathnach, who will make an appearance further along the line in my narrative, if only to serve as this tale's rarely seen and somewhat metaphorical Dante. To wit, my name is Jannik Niklas Schriftsteller, which if I were to translate it's fully ascribed meaning directly, it would present as: "God is gracious, victory of the people, author." Fate plays cruel tricks on the brethren it manipulates, so I was doomed from the start, for as I may have possibly mentioned, I am a writer. This lofty and at times, imprecise depiction of the burden that was placed upon me at first by others, was begrudgingly taken to heart after the criticism, and the polite compliments being disseminated within the concentric circles of friends started leaking out, and asserted themselves directly to the public, evermore the pity.

But who am I exactly? Easy enough answer. I'm the end result of immigrant parents, one German, the other Sicilian, who for some strange and as yet unknown reason where the Universe is concerned, decided not to listen to the grand Cosmos in all of it's Wisdom, and bred a trio of children with whom they could equally and with a varying degree of success, turn their own individual projected disappointments and failures into cavernous psychological scars. To this day, I still cannot eat soup, but the blame for that squarely rests on my Mother alone, and it's also a very long story, which someday I may share outside the confines of my current support group.  

In preceding incarnations, I've been a comedian, a waiter, a poorly trained telemarketer, a hotel front desk clerk, a cartoonist, a betrayed fiancé, a muralist, a fine artist, an art framer, and now, a writer who at this present moment in time, has had his skill-set ranged as being anywhere from "mildly competent" to "damn good", which when given pause, balances out the too much pressure, followed by a spectacular flame-out scenario for being the best, or the contrary, bringing shame unto the family name and all that for being the worst.

This, despite my in-name-only Father's assertions that's what I've been doing my entire life. On a slightly more carnival-esque note, I also happen to be a severely brittle diabetic, who's missing one toe, and I can craft some serious Psyanka when the need arises.

Granted, these details aren't enough to earn me a stabilized niche in a traveling side-show, but it definitely sets me apart at the family get-togethers. And as a courtesy for the sadly uninitiated, Pysanka is a stunningly beautiful custom from Ukraine, wherein Easter eggs are decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs by means of a wax-resist method, which if you're truly interested, will lend itself to a fairly pleasant, if not an ethereally serene evening of Googling. Overall, my life isn't all that interesting, but I have had a few moments here and there, that have raised it at times, a few degrees above my standard average, and it's that untapped reservoir of note that I will be drawing most of my observations from. Lucky you.

But as noted earlier, all good stories start with a succinct introduction, a really good joke, or both. I'm pretty sure that my birth could easily qualify for that consideration, given how my life has turned out. I was born in Port Charles, New York at the beginning of 1969, a year that introduced the Pontiac Firebird and the 747 Jumbo Jet, would see Americans land on the Moon, and witnessed 350 thousand fans gather at Woodstock. In addition, the Concorde had it's first public test flight, and PBS was established, much to the chagrin of Republicans today, due to the fact that an educated populace is truly dangerous to a government that prefers it's citizens ignorant, docile, and quiet.

However... it was also when the the Beatles' played their last public performance, found Senator Edward Kennedy's driving skills to be somewhat lacking, and capped itself off with the Manson Family murdering eight people. In essence, a mixed bag of signals, if I were to make the keenest of observations. I've often theorized that the Universe has gone to Hell in a hand-basket since David Bowie, and Lemmy Kilmeister died, but I believe the beginning of the end truly started when Paul Mc Cartney and John Lennon thought their respective wives needed to be in the band. And while all indicators lean towards the late Linda and the current Yoko being really nice people in general, their efforts at singing have always reminded me of a cabal of tone-deaf Scotsmen playing bagpipes made out of screeching chickens.

Related to that observation is a side tale of sorts- I once had to let go of my well-loved LP of Double Fantasy by John and Yoko, and decided to save a few bucks by hitting up my favorite gently-used music store to acquire it's replacement. This in itself wasn't that hard, as they had multiple copies, as at that time, vinyl was being slowly phased out by CD's, but all of the albums had one curious attribute, that being the John Lennon disc was truly and completely racked- multiple scratches, nicks, and obvious man-handling were evident on the majority of the ones I was looking at. And Yoko's? Well...

Smooth as glass. Never played. Possibly never even taken out of it's sleeve, by all fair scrutiny. If there was a modern equivalency, I'd opine that it might be the first album since Metallica's "St. Anger"  to be downloaded off the Web and then almost as quickly, returned back to it. Given that knowledge, Geffen Records could have just made one master copy for John to give to Yoko as an anniversary gift, and then pressed the other album to be nothing but reissues of his greatest hits. If the record company had only the foresight to do this, that album would've charted Dark Side of the Moon numbers by now, guaranteed.

Speaking of failing to see forthcoming future harm...

As far as my childhood goes, I grew up within a relatively middle-class neighborhood on Long Island, with an older sister and a younger brother, surrounded by lush forests and a peach farm whose workers brandished shotguns loaded with rock salt as a means of discouragement towards the illicit poaching wave that happened every year during harvest time. Overall, my early childhood was rather non-descript, as my mother stayed at home, and my dad founded an empire based on lawn sprinkler installations. You literally can feel the pathos and dynamic tension in the air, as this riveting back-story brings it's presence to the forefront. The hamlet I spent my early youth in was almost a Norman Rockwell caricature, with friendly to a fault neighbors, community barbeques, baseball games, and a Catholic parish headed up by a seemingly always slightly tipsy priest. But it's also the kind of place that if one has a terminal disease they should move to, as every day there will feel like a damn eternity- idyllic, no?

Granted, it was your fairly stereotypical suburban neighborhood, with a cookie-cutter conformity and master planned monotony, but we did have a few unique square pegs that kept it interesting, such as the Mennonite family known as the Frosts whose patriarch was renowned for his talent of fabricating near-perfect replica birdhouses of the dwellings in my neighborhood, right down to the shingles on their roofs and the etched glass panels of their front doors. If I was a sparrow, I know damn well where I would have bunked, if given the choice. The other fascinating thing about the Frost clan was the fact that despite their parents being truly exceptionally odd-looking, all of their children, nine in total, were gorgeous. Four boys, five girls, and all of them could have been cover models for Vogue, without breaking a sweat.

Even as a young lad of seven, I wholly understood that having any of the Frost girls as a babysitter was an experience not to be missed, if not to brag about, and while the phrase "get me some of that" may not have been known to me due to my tender age, it was definitely something that I would have applied to the situation if I had only the skill-set and presence to do so. Look at it from this POV- Catherine Bach is coming over to cater to your every whim for a few hours, and if she finds herself under obligation elsewhere, she'll send over one of her equally stunning sisters to fill the void. And this situation was made all the more interesting, for as I declared earlier, their parents were truly strange-looking. Not sideshow strange, nor any form of "Dear God, what is that?" eccentricity, they just didn't appear to be actually human in the traditional sense.

Picture a gregarious yet over-stretched Abe Lincoln fabricated entirely from animated Slim Jims married to an adorably petite woodland creature straight out of the Pennsylvania Shire, and you've pretty much nailed the reality of what was. The matriarch was truly recognized far and wide for her amazingly green thumbs, and her community garden was the envy of many in my faux village, as was their penchant for being decently laid-back neighbors, the kind that will not only loan you their lawn mower, but also come and help you rake and bag up afterwards. But nature tends to abhor a vacuum, and requires a balance of sorts, and that was provided in sharp contrast by their somewhat rabidly feral neighbors, a rough-hewn gaggle of Scottish malcontents known as the Mc Craigs.

Armed with nothing more than viciously short tempers, whiskey induced attitudes, and a standoffishness that would make Joan Crawford blush, they engaged in throwing shade of a caliber that had not been seen since William Wallace gleefully informed the English that they not only could go shove their crumpets sideways, they could do it without the aid of butter. This is not to say that they couldn't be civilly social like rational people, it is just to note that it wasn't their inherent go-to as a standard.     


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Biblichor and Art (A bar stool rumination)

“We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don't fuck them.” - John Waters

Hello Blogiteers!

It is a lovely day here in Silver City, New Mexico. The sun isn't shining, the wind is blowing harder than Jenny Mc Carthy at a gathering of nonagenarian anti-vaxxers, and the water falling from the sky can't decide whether it wants to be sleety rain or hail- to which I say let it be both, because goddamnit, this is America and you can do (and be) whatever you want. Speaking of which, one of the best ways to achieve this is through the use of books, or as I like to think of them, compendiums of pure awesomeness. As the more astute of you may have surmised, I LOVE books. And I'm not describing a generalized overall appreciation of the collected written word, I'm describing a personal situation akin to the Collyer Brothers*, but with books.
*[Homer Lusk Collyer and Langley Wakeman Collyer, AKA the Collyer brothers, were two American brothers who became infamous for their bizarre natures and compulsive hoarding. Go read up on it- it's disturbingly fascinating. In fact there are several books you could read about it, ironically enough.]

When Ashley and I moved here, I had 54 boxes of books that had to go as well, much to the unfettered sheer delight of our somewhat ham-fisted moving monkeys. In fact, I heard several comments regarding their weight and how they were getting a gratuitous workout, and seemingly armed with an almost Nostradamus like power of foresight, the crew noted how they already had a place in mind where these boxes could be shoved. On a related side note, I never was informed where that place was, but I got the feeling they wanted me directly involved. Damn. I do like being one of the cool kids.

Puzzlingly, when I unpacked all of my varied tomes, I couldn't get this literature-based game of Tetris to go back the way it once was, leading to the eventual purchase of yet another needed bookcase for the Lair of Snarkitude. So at the moment, my personal library encompasses SEVEN bookshelves, the biggest of which houses all of my art reference books, covering the gamut from the fastidious craft of duck decoys to graffiti,
a singular passion of mine. When and if I die, this will be the one grouping of my possessions that my artist friends will go full Lord of the Flies over. The rest of my collection is pretty much comprised of sci-fi, true crime both case studies and stories, autobiographies, horror, some specialized fiction, and a random assortment of how-to
and "did you know?" type books.

Somewhat eclectic, but it works for me. And I might add, for anyone who visits and who likes to read, no matter what you're into, I'm pretty sure Ashley and I have got it covered, hands down. Not to mention, the bathroom reading at our house is superb, if I do say so myself, and I do. However, the city we live within proximity of, that being Silver City, is an exceedingly small town- the population is less than 10k, and the biggest retailer that exists is a Super Wal-Mart, which truly blackens my liberal soul every time I'm forced to shop there. To give you some perspective, online shopping is such an integrally huge thing here, that Jeff Bezos providing another outlet for retail could be looked upon as the equivalent of Goliath taking on his own clone, albeit a slightly more arrogant version. As you might imagine, this dearth of in-town commerce tends to limit the diversity of what goods and services exist within the confines of my newest home, so monthly shopping trips to the "big city" of Las Cruces one and a half hours away have become somewhat of a highly convenient excuse to go take a road-trip.

Don't get me wrong, Artbitch V2.0 does like the pace here, and not having to deal with the PAS and it's lack of insight anymore is in retrospect, almost a godsend. Seriously. The last time I was this relaxed, was when I was under anesthesia, and that's even with the fact that I eventually had to pick up the tab for that. Helping add bulk to that sense of overall warm fuzziness is the fact that there's at least one kick-ass used book store here, by the name of Silver City Book Shop, and it's exactly how a used bookshop should present itself- comfy chairs, natural light, overstuffed shelves, that tang of old-books wafting through the air, [also known as “Biblichor"] and an owner who knows books and their authors much in the same way that I know the highs and lows of Ding-Dong and Peeps addiction.

In addition to this already charming stack of literary magnificence, said owner, a delightful, if not exceedingly colorful, Scottish expat by the name of Michael Lacey, is also an excellent resource regarding the lore of Silver City, and of the varied social sub-strata that I hope to be finding myself excavating through over the course of the coming year, and let me tell you kids, you can't pay enough for info like that. You can however, buy some goodwill by purchasing a few books now and then, all while enjoying the occasional cup of Tea, which I've always believed is what truly separates us from the narrow-minded rabble of mouth-breathing Red Hat knuckle-draggers who view books and intellectual expansion with the same disdain that Superman reserves for Kryptonite Underoos.

Hands down, this may be one of my favorite bookshops I've ever been in, as Michael is not only well versed in his understanding of authors across the published spectrum, but the way he interacts with his clientele as he informs them of choices they've never considered is an act of performance art that can only be described as inspirational. I've often said that books are life, but Michael lives that maxim as if it were a religion, and the ripple effect of his personal philosophy impacts upon everyone who thirsts for knowledge.

In short, if you come here on holiday, check out his place, and tell all your friends.

Speaking of the written and eventually compiled word, I've finally managed to get off my wounded backside and put out some tentative feelers to several publications out here, and I've gotten some* positive feedback in regards to having my previous work checked out for review- I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my mouth shut, since I don't want to jinx anything, but I will say this- I definitely have decided that I no longer want to work for cretins, such as the mentally deficient and morbidly obese bitch I once had to suffer as my supervisor, or within any arrogant fiefdom that was the norm before I had the misfortune of working for the barely sentient New Age cow I just described.  And it's pretty much a given that due to both injuries and my declining health that I can no longer work the type of physical job that I once did.
*[I've gotten two serious offers from two heavy readership hitters out here to "pitch" some stories- I'm keeping my fingers crossed.]

Oh well. C'est la vie. New glass of Metamucil sweeps clean and all that.

So with a new home base and reworked attitude, comes new possibilities, or so I hope- the writing and art scene settings out here are definitely hard-set to "hustle", and if there's one skill-set I do possess, it's the ability to self-market and chat-up strangers. Or as my GF likes to call it, "making friends with a brick". What is weird that even though I've been here since the tail end of August 2018, I have yet to make any actual friends out here- granted, three months of my new residency was spent recovering from unforeseen and somewhat traumatic amputation surgery, which forced me to be housebound, but it's quite out of character for me to be so hermetic, given the past 20 years+ of my artsy and somewhat gadabout lifestyle.

In fact, the only people I talk to out here with any regularity are Michael, and Jed, the day manager at my favorite writing burrow, that being the *Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery, which by the way, has the best damn bacon-green-chile-hamburger I've ever had in my life, that being the "LTC Burger". I'm not sure what's more amusing to me, the fact that this is the quietist my life has ever been, or that I've quickly morphed into the cliché of a writer who works out of a bar, and has his "own" table and standing food and drink order. To be clear, I'm not being anti-social or anything, it's just that due to my health issues, I just sense that I'm currently punching above my weight class right now, and as such, don't think it's the best idea to jump into a new set of rapids wearing only arm floaties versus the safety of a well-crafted Admantium kayak backed up with not only lasers, but my personal army of wet-suited Ninja ferrets.

Although let's face it, I could rock these like Danzig if I wanted to.

When it comes right down to the brass tacks, my main concern is really all about the first impression I'm going to make upon what will hopefully be my future colleagues and allies within this new creative crucible. But despite my somewhat Machiavellian overtures towards introducing myself scene-wise, I have been making some limited forays out into this brave new territory, armed only with devastating charm, rugged good looks, and a truckload of business cards. So, it's just like when I was single, except I don't have to buy anyone dinner, and I'm not going to wind up at the strip club afterwards, throwing my last bit of surplus cash at a dancer named Dakota, who despite all of her assurances, won't call me back three days later.

But as usual, perhaps I've said too much. Now, while the scene here is obviously way smaller than the one I just closed the door on, it's also seemingly way more entrenched within the community fabric than the one represented by the PAS. While Phoenix seems disturbingly intent on happily cutting it's own throat using the twin combo of gentrification and soulless vanilla-esque decorator art geared towards a centralized demographic of blandness, the Arts in this city (and NM in general) have a propensity to lean towards taking risks not only in direction and aesthetics, but saturation as well.

There's literally art everywhere here, and the talent pool ranges from gifted amateurs to mercenary capitalists like myself, a class which at the very least should provide some solemn grist for my future screeds, if nothing else. However, as different as this new place is, the hustle remains the same- you can't keep the high ground if you're not out protecting it, and if your day to day routine doesn't involve dancing on the razor's edge while juggling flaming kittens, you're casually taking up way too much space to begin with. And if there's one thing I've always enjoyed, it's grabbing those sheer moments of catastrophe and turning them into marketable opportunities, or as I've always called it- Tuesday.

It still remains to be seen whether I'm going to still get up and jump back into the art-production side of things again, in the manner of my early to mid-thirties, but the likelihood is there, and the impulse to crank out some new work and experiment with some unique techniques keeps getting stronger as time roars on. Aided of course, by the fact that my new abode comes equipped with a separated workshop where i can finally not have to worry about making an artsy mess.

Speaking of art, which I'm fondly obsessed with doing, I recently made a happy discovery here in my new stronghold of snarkiness, that being a gallery that goes by the name of Light Art Space, run by Artist Karen Hymer. [ ] But before I wax poetic, lets get some background on the creative force behind it first.

From the website: "Light Art Space is owned and operated by Karen Hymer, a visual artist and teacher from Tucson, Arizona.  Karen earned her BFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University, Medford and her MA and MFA in Fine Art Photography from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. She actively exhibits her work both nationally and internationally. Her work is in several public collections, including the Center for Creative Photography and the Polaroid International Collection.  Dark Spring Press released the first book of her work in May, 2018. 

Karen’s experience and technical interests are wide-ranging.  Although “trained” as a photographer and educator, her approach to image making explores the blending of photosensitive materials, digital media, printmaking and encaustics. In addition to working as a fine art photographer, she taught photography for over 25 years at Pima Community College in Tucson and currently offers workshops and private sessions in Photopolymer Gravure printing and alternative photographic processes."

As one might hope to expect, this austerely minimalist space reflects the educational and creative pedigree of Hymer's solid curatorial eye. Given my normal cynicism in regards to how I view most galleries as being marketed and run, I cannot begin to tell you how much I love taking in the shows here- it's truly energizing for the ol' art-batteries, and serves as a steadily inspirational incubator as to how an art-centric business should be offered up to the local community, as it develops the long-term relationships that will prove to be so vital to it's sustained success. Whether the work being displayed is photography, mixed media, or sculpture, the shows I've attended have all been rock-solid, which is a refreshing change from some of the artsy abattoirs I endured during my time in Phoenix.

So, if the storybook Gods are feeling particularly generous, I'll hopefully be writing about all of this professionally yet again. I've sent out the requested "pitches" in regards to getting back on board the journalism jalopy, so now it's just a sit and wait game whereas my published life is concerned. And the best part is that this particular city just bleeds stories, art-related or not. The writing grist here is incredible, if not readily available, and has me thinking about other literary avenues that I could explore. Not to mention that I may also be in a unique niche, as one of the magazines I've contacted informed me that they don't get to cover this side of the state as much as they'd like to, since they really don't have someone who's in place to do so.

At last, it seems that my proclivity for burrowing in like a wood-tick may finally pay off for once, if all goes to hopeful plan. Crossing my fingers and remaining toes that my roll of the dice comes up with a lucky seven in regards to this, because if it doesn't, I seriously have no idea what I'll be doing career wise, as I'm fairly certain that "arrogant snark" is not actually a real job I could get paid handsomely for, even though I should. So with a bit of luck, all the outreach I've been doing will pay off steadily, because I already know it won't be handsomely. Print media as a rule, seems to be in decline, as more people seemingly prefer the information they consume to be spoon-fed to them, via targeted algorithms that only serves to reinforce their personal biases and newly fomented opinions.  But as long as it lasts, I'm more than willing to ride this bomb ala Slim Pickens style, to whatever glorious end awaits.

Other than the monotony of the job searching, everything else is humming alone relatively well- my new studio space and workshop are almost set-up, and my bad health is slowly being corralled by a battalion of new doctors determined to see me in better straits. So, despite the incredibly hellish travail of moving and my medical morass, this place finally feels ike home, even if nobody here knows who and what I am... yet. However, all the indicators thus far point to my stress levels here being almost non-existent in regards to what I was experiencing back in PHX. Sure, my foot still looks like it was utilized as a chew-toy by a rabid zombie Chihuahua, but I'm gradually learning to deal with it, in a fashion, somewhat. And while I'm reasonably stable without my cane on the flat side of the land, I definitely still need it when it comes to uneven ground or steps, of which there are aplenty in Silver City.

In time, I purportedly won't need it as much or at all, but for now, I'm not so sure. It plays a huge role in my current stability when I'm traipsing through my newly adopted city, and let's face it- it's black on black motif has been meshing quite well with my stereotypical Angel of Death wardrobe, so that's a plus. But if all goes to plan, I will find out in the next week* or so if I have to continue to wear the clunky med-shoe I've been putting up with for the last several months, or if I can get back into my motorcycle boots. Because you have no idea how hard it is to look bad ass when you are wearing the foam equivalent of a Lego block on your foot, let me tell you. But as far as things go, I really can't complain- sure, waiting to hear back from the magazines I've pitched to is in itself, a mild form of slow torture, but if it all pays off in the end, then I guess it's worth it.
*[Update; my doctor said I could, so back to my Hell-stompers!!!]

A small side note, if I may: As I noted earlier, I do the majority of my writing in this bar/brewery in Downtown Silver City, NM called The Little Toad Creek bar & Brewery, which as a rule, happens to be a rather nice and mellow place. Today however, I currently have some dumbf**k sitting three feet from me who's advocating FOR drunk driving, dismissing the act of people being charged for it as "bullshit." This presents a question for the crowd, that being if I take my cane and shove it up his idiotic ass sideways, is that a hate crime or a mercy killing?

Sorry. Just needed to blow off some steam before I break out the ol' Brazen Bull* and several bags of Kingsford briquettes, and slow-roast myself a proudly drunken jackass from Ohio, so let's get back to the narrative, shall we?
*[The Sicilian bull which is better known as the brazen bull, was allegedly a torture and execution device designed in Greece. The bull was said to be hollow, made of bronze, and designed with a door on one side to allow the placement of condemned prisoners, who were locked inside the device, prior to a fire being set underneath it, thereby heating the metal until the person inside was excruciatingly roasted to death. There are several opinions as to whether the Brazen Bull ever really existed, dismissing the stories to gossip and propaganda, but I really wish I had one now.]

In more exciting news, I still find myself currently tussling with a slew of Trump-twatbots via my Twitter and IG feeds, as they miserably fail to defend or advance the agenda of their Klansberry Cocktail, which has led to a whole new vanguard being unwillingly drafted into my ongoing postcard project which I discussed in a previous blog. Trust me, there's nothing more satisfying than metaphorically punching holes through these inbred losers, and it never gets dull, let me tell you. Personally, I don't consider it a productive week unless I get at least two serious death threats, a wide smattering of "libtard" slurs, and an acidic assessment that I must surely be gay because I believe in equality for all.

Amusingly, that last one hardly dings in this day and age, especially when you consider it's obviously based on nothing more than their sheer jealousy of my fantastic ghetto booty, which let's face it, could stop rush hour traffic in Los Angeles. And as to the numerous physical threats I receive, the only way the majority of these deep-fried larded idiots could ever actually pose a physical threat is if they accidentally tripped and landed on me, so it's not like I give any credence past the occasional minimum thought. If the majority of these petroleum-pissing dinosaur incels fight as well as they "debate", not only will I be safe as houses, but I'll also have enough comedic material to tweet until my Ding Dong addiction finally does me in.  

Speaking of being done in, I have a ton of doctors I'll be seeing over the next three months out here in relation to my past and ongoing health issues, despite having yet another one of my extended episodes of white-coat fatigue syndrome. I now have a surgical consultant, a dietician, a general practitioner, a podiatrist, an endocrinologist, and a nephrologist, so all I need now to have my very own medical-themed Funko POP collector set, is to acquire a cardiologist and a pulmonologist, ASAP. And if I can somehow score myself one of those awesome limited-edition immunologists mint in the box, I'll really have something to brag about in my diabetic support group, let me tell you. At this point however, I'm just really tired of being poked, weighed, inspected, and processed as if I were a piece of snarkily sentient fruit. Especially when none of it seems to be having any culpable effect as to how I feel, or putting the weight (35 lbs+) back on that I've lost thus far. Don't misunderstand, as overall, I'm very happy to be gimping along such as it is above ground, but there are days where the consistency of being and feeling sick and tired all the time drains my batteries something fierce.

I can handle the concept of getting older, it's the reality of becoming quickly decrepit that's actually getting on my nerves, almost to the point of obsession. Granted, neuropathic pain, balance issues, and unexplained fatigue and weight loss are not the best topics to spark up a conversation with, but just imagine that you're the person who's afflicted with the symptoms to begin with. If you think you're bored with my referencing them persistently, just envision how fatigued I am living with them 24/7- no breaks, no mercy, no chance of reprieve... EVER. Gah. Sorry. I really need to learn how to bitch less about my medical stuff, as it is what it is, and that would definitely fall under the charitable description of "annoying", lol.

But as with all things, there are always positives- it's just that the truly bad sometimes outweighs the good, no matter how much I try to maintain a brave face. When it comes right to the heart of the matter, it will forever be a day-to-day battle to maintain and keep the high ground, and to make sure not to lose any of it to my internal monster. and on that particularly uneven note, I think it's time for a break.

And when we come back...

I give up the reins and let someone else do my art framing, endeavor to find out if I'm still hirable whereas my writing career is concerned, and see if I still have the chops to create kickass art with hands that are as useless as JPGs would be to Helen Keller.

"If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
- Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country