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: http://instagram.com/wayne_michael_reich_art# ]
[**Link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyM8G23CJN0   ]
[***Link:
https://twitter.com/DarkreichAZ  ]


And since I'm practicing shameless self-promotion, let's throw in my Tumblr as well:
[Link:
http://waynemichaelreich.tumblr.com/ ]

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.
However.

"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.

But...
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








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