As a kid I used to call the local radio station and dedicate songs to the girl I had a crush on and pray that the romantic power of "I Swear" by All 4 One would make her fall madly in love with me. It did not. Nevertheless, '90s R&B holds a special place in my heart. So I'm gonna dedicate the classic hit by Salt-N-Peppa (ft En Vougue), "Whatta Man" to my wife. Just swap "man" for "woman" and ignore the line "a body like Arnold with a Denzel face." Love ya darlin!
Those little annoyances that seem to always happen at the worst times? No one is exempt from them. Remembering that may not make them less frustrating in the moment, but at least you'll have perspective that it's just part of being alive.
I'm not really a social person. It's not that I don't have the ability to socialize, it's just that it takes work. Like a muscle that I have to consciously keep tensed. For the most part I find myself retreating to the safety of solitude. When I was a kid I had my mom sign me up for little league. I've never been very athletic, which is not a big deal if you're not on the best little league team in what seemed like the history of planet earth. I apparently was. I played the crucial position of inventing plausible reasons for why I didn't catch whatever was hit in my direction. "Agh, man- it's these damn shoe laces!" or "my glove, I think it's broken!" When it came to batting, we'd literally go through the entire team roster- I'd be the first strike out, then the second, then the third. At the post game victory parties at Pizza Hut, I knew what a sham it was that I was even allowed to be in the same restaurant franchise as my teammates, let alone partake in a slice of triumphant pepperoni. They'd be recalling their amazing, instant replay worthy catches and their bat shattering home runs. And I'd be that small voice muttering as the cheers faded "Damn shoe laces." The thing is, the greatest disappointment of it all wasn't really my lack of skill, it's that it wasn't anything like The Sandlot. I had gone into it thinking I was like the shy kid in that movie who discovers not only a love of baseball, but a group of life-long friends who truly make him feel like he belongs. Where he's wanted. What a crock. As I've gotten older I realized it's important for me to feel wanted. Since I have no qualms (and often prefer) being alone, I only ever want to be somewhere if the people really want me to be there. It's not that I need to be the center of attention, it's just that I've spent a fair amount of my life feeling extraneous and vulnerable to one kind of rejection or another. When I'm alone I feel safe. I'm unshackled from self-consciousness and in that freedom, I find a productivity rarely encountered in groups. Einstein once said "I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity." He probably sucked at little league too.
This strikingly beautiful model (my wife) is wearing a t-shirt I designed for the suicide prevention organization Hope For The Day who are selling the shirts for 15 bucks at www.hftd.org
All proceeds go to benefit suicide prevention and I think that's pretty dang cool.
Yesterday brought the tragic news of the loss of Robin Williams. Having not known him personally, the most difficult part for me (as I imagine so many others) is coming to terms with the loss not only of person he was, but the person I'd created him to be from the patchwork of characters he'd invented. I just kept thinking- "No, John Keating from Dead Poets Society doesn't kill himself, Will Hunting's therapist doesn't kill himself, the Genie doesn't kill himself!" and then I'm faced with the truth, which is that the hero we create is often quite a distance from the spirit that inhabits their bodies. Depression can be like an addiction in that, in the thick of it, it's difficult to know just how to crawl out of the ever deepening pit, but like addiction it's important to create mental weapons for yourself with which to battle with. It's also vital to have people to reach out to that can bring you down, give you perspective and help pull you out of the pit. I recently created a slogan that says "despair is a thief that shall steal our days no longer", never forget that it's also a liar- trying to convince us that the fight's not worth it. But it is. We lost a brilliant, kind, generous person who gave the world so many different people to love and cherish and learn from- I only wish he knew he was one of them. Maybe he did. Only he and his close loved ones will ever be able to answer the questions filling all of our minds with any degree of certainty. For us though, the ones left picking up the pieces of a childhood dream of who this man was and how he made us feel- strong, safe- as though we could fly like Peter Pan, we're only left with that strange hollow feeling that something is missing now. Sometimes the heroes, the ones we count on, they need help too. It's in those moments that we receive their greatest gift, the realization that we have the strength to rescue them back. That all along, we had the power to be knights in shining armor ourselves. And in the times we fail to, we must know that there are still ways to be of service- I've worked with some wonderful organizations that help to prevent suicide. ImAlive.org and HFTD.org are both great. You can also visit Suicidepreventionlifeline.org to see how to help as well. One thing seems certain though, we may have lost the man who created them, we haven't lost what he created. The roles that gave so many joy and hope and endless laughs- they're still with us, still part of us, still rescuing us. And they always will be. "O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done; The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won."
A Morley Man who landed in the New York subway. He was very worried about being confused for a terrorist and quickly arrested and taken to a New York jail and questioned for hours before confessing to a long series of unrelated regrets, like Chunk in Goonies.
Luckily it didn't come to that.
"If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears."
- Cesare Pavese
Ah the follies of youth.
Too often in life we find ourselves saying "not quite yet" or "I'm waiting until the moment presents itself." Being wise with one's decisions is important, and yet, I truly believe that there are times when we must take the leap without the knowledge that these wings of ours work. It's as though something is waiting for us to find the courage to risk our comfort before we are worthy enough to receive what we're looking for. We can claim that we just want to be sure that if our wings fail us, that there is a safety-net below, but it's as though the more you want something, the higher you are and the more difficult it is to see the net- or be sure that it isn't just gonna rip anyway. I say jump- because there will NEVER be a net- if you're lucky there will be a few people there, arms outstretched, ready to catch you- but just as likely, ready to watch you soar. I know it's kind of a cheesy analogy (any analogy with the word "soar" usually is) but it's the best I could do.
New canvas pieces at the Streets Will Never Be The Same event. I was also slinging books, posters and stickers- but MOST IMPORTANTLY: I did my six and a half hour interpretive dance rendition of James Joyce's modernist classic "Ulysses."
Props to anyone who thought to bring a folding chair!
I'm back in LA but this was a piece I posted in New York during my trip. I hadn't been back to New York in almost 10 years. I had lived there for four years while I was in college. Visiting was an interesting experience. A bit like seeing an old ex-girlfriend at a party after you've both long moved on. While you can rationally understand why you are no longer with that person and wouldn't want to be with them now, it's difficult to ignore as easily accessible an emotion as dormant love. There's also the sense that the person you once knew and loved doesn't exist any longer. There are hints- she cut her hair, her outfit reflects the era she exists within, rather than the clothes featured in your memory. But above all else, it's the knowledge that the world doesn't stop turning when you close your eyes and people (and places) grow and evolve even when you're not there and have stopped thinking about them. To them, the change is imperceptible. They've seen the gradual evolution but ten years between those who were once as intimate as I was with New York, I was struck by the strange emotion of betrayal. How could she have moved on so easily? Had New York missed me at all? Had I ever mattered to New York in the first place? I like to think so, though I suppose we only run ourselves down worrying so much about things we knowingly left behind. New York is a magical place and I'm so happy I got to revisit it, and perhaps like the ex-girlfriend at the party, I'm glad I went over and talked to her, found out she's happy with her new job, her new boyfriend and yet, I could tell that there was some small part of her that missed me, that also accessed those memories of adventurous nights 10 years ago, when I would walk with her, my heart so full of hope and expectation for an exciting future. Then as the party winds down, we each go our separate ways. But our eyes linger for a moment in the other's as we say goodbye and wonder just what could have been. But only for a moment- and then it's gone.
Chris Meloni posted this photo next to one of my pieces on his facebook page.
I responded in the comments by thanking him for the love and that if he ever "took a crap in a superhero costume at a Halloween party, I would totally take the blame." This was a reference to his performance in "They Came Together" but I just realized that for anyone who hasn't seen the film, I must seem like a complete freak.
All rights reserved.
Every single one of them.
There has been a debated concept that a broken bone, once healed, is actually stronger than it was before. I did a bit of research and found this quote by Dr. Tim Skerry: "As bones heal, a sort of cuff of new bone forms around the fracture. So when that's healed and stuck together, the clinical union, which is a few weeks after it’s broken, there’s actually a big thick load of bone where the fracture was, so that would be stronger than the original bone. But over time, that thick piece will remodel away." For me, the poetic nature of this reminds me of heartbreak- after you suffer, it makes you stronger, for a time. Your resolve deepens, you discover who you are through the trial. Eventually though, you have to go back to being vulnerable. Because to truly love again you have to either knowingly put down your guard or just suddenly discover that you are at risk again. I think the difference is how long that process takes for each person. I say take the leap. Love again. You may actually find that sometimes being weak is the best part.
Left some Morley Men around Union Square yesterday. I figured this guy could use a friend.
This is me in a New York state of mind.
Oh and also in the state of New York physically.
Created this piece for Horizon Media after a brief talk for their United State of Story series. The pages surrounding the piece are from some wonderful autobiographies I recommend reading on Patti Smith, Frederick Douglass and Shirley Jones.
As a younger kid I moved around a fair amount. My parents had gotten divorced when I was five and so my mom, my sister and myself tried a few different places before settling down in Iowa City. It took me until around 6th grade before I had any actual school friends to speak of. One problem I may have had was my inability to decipher the moment when kids were laughing with me, laughing at me and just tired of me. In school I fancied myself the class clown. As a kid I saw movies like The Breakfast Club and read books like Catcher in the Rye and fantasized about being a quick witted rebel who managed to "out clever" every authority figure with some hilarious retort that took the piss out of them in front of a class full of my peers, all enamored with my rapier wit and keen ability to detect BS from adults. So I made a lot of jokes in class. Like… a LOT of jokes. Instead of one or two, well timed comments, I'd go with the "Will Ferrel movie" method of comedy and tell a million jokes in a short span of time and hope that a few of them would make somebody laugh. Mostly though, it just made my teachers and fellow peers exhausted and frustrated. Eventually the few laughs I'd get would turn into sighs and awkward silence. I'd always wonder how I missed the road signs- how the moment when I should have wrapped up my schtick for the day managed to elude me. I couldn't tell that from the start, the kids were probably laughing as much at my desperate need for approval as anything I was actually saying. That they could innately sense that my entire school day was just one long audition for acceptance. The truth is, I'm not sure it mattered to me. I just needed to be acknowledged. I just needed to feel like someone was listening. These days, it seems that little has changed, except that now- there are people who actually like what I have to say. But for everyone who does, I'm sure there is someone with a distaste for street art or my work specifically. Their reactions vary from ambivalence to annoyance, from hostility to outrage. When I first started putting up my posters, I had no real way of knowing what the reception would be. It was like I was in school all over again, and each poster was a joke, a petty rebellion, a harmless jab at authority, or maybe just one more desperate display of need. For the time being, it seems what I'm doing is having a positive effect and the response has been better than I could have hoped for. But I can't say I planned it or could have known that people wouldn't find my work much more than a nuisance. I guess I just got lucky. Often I post these stories and I worry that they're taken as me fishing for compliments- because they're not, they're really just me meditating on my past and explaining my work a little bit. I'm not expecting you'll shower me with compliments, rather my hope is that those who relate to what I'm saying will find some solace in knowing they're not alone. That maybe that lonely kid who wanted to be John Bender from The Breakfast Club was never as isolated as he thought he was- that there were (and are) people just like him all over- and that even though they might be hundreds or thousands of miles away, we are all laughing together, for the right reasons, in unity, as one.