Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art


Month: August 2014

You Only Live Twice PT. 3 (Bugg off, would ya?)

“I am as I’ve said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary”
– Billy Joel

Hello Blogiteers!

Isn’t today just an absolutely wonderful day? The birds are singing, the sun is shining, puffy clouds drift lazily in the sky, and in a very short while, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Agents of Shield” and “Antique Road Show” will have all new episodes for me to completely geek out to.

All hail Headless Hydra who collects 19th century porcelain.

Yes, I can honestly say that Life is sweet. Sure, I’m still having some slight health issues, money (as always) is still super tight, and I still can’t find any adult size Buzz Lightyear Underoos, but overall- I really can’t complain. As my dear sweet departed Oma liked to say: “every day above ground is a good day“, a sentiment that depending on the situation I find myself in, can rank anywhere from adorable cat poster wisdom or outright hokum.

Today, I’m going with the cat, as all around me good things are happening, and some of it is actually happening to the right people for a change. I recently sold two pieces of my photographic art after a long drought of sales non-activity and the client is interested in seeing the rest of the series, so let’s all cross our fingers and hope they spend enough money for me to acquire a black on black decked out Hemi-cuda with matching Asian masseuse. However if that does happen, I’m also going to have to get my GF Ashley her own South American cabana boy and purchase a pool, otherwise we’ll just have a swarthy 20 year old with killer abs hanging around our apartment for no reason. What can I say? I’m all about the balance.

And let’s be honest- providing job opportunities for Antonio Banderas look-alikes is what made this country the powerhouse that it is today. America. F**k yeah.

In current blogvella news, I still have to finish my tale of being hospitalized back in July of 2009, because I know you all are just riveted by my latest opus, but to be honest- I need just a little space to share the rest. Sure, I know this comes a a shock, but it’s somewhat difficult to make an ICU stay an uplifting tale. I will get back to it, but for now, I’d like to make a small course correction by addressing an issue I also want to talk about if that’s ok. 

It is? You guys just kick ass. And you’re looking good too. I can tell from here you’ve lost some weight, and those abs of yours are just smoking. I’m the luckiest blogger in the world to have readers like yourselves. Yes sir, things are pretty nifty, even if they’re somewhat stressful at times.

Granted, I’m still trying to line up all the ducks in relation to my career, but I’ve been in valleys before, and this is just part of the gig, aggravating as it can sometimes be. Speaking of aggravating, it seems my favorite artsy car wreck Peter Bugg is in the “news” again, this time as a finalist in SMOCA’s annual Good and Plenty artist grant competition.

The grant is being chased by five other finalists, all of whom get to pitch their ideas, after which a decision is made based upon the strength of one’s concept and to a lesser degree, the code of the Highlander, which clearly states “there can be only one“.
[The Live event takes place at SMOCA on August 29th if anyone’s interested.]

If only a quip-filled sword-fight leading to a spectral decapitation with backing music by Queen was on the menu. I would definitely pay to see that. Hell, I’d willingly front the grant money if that were the case. And before you jump to conclusions*, this is not a bitter grapes issue, this is the eternal question I’ve always asked myself: what’s allowed to pass as art these days, and how does it gets funded?

*Full disclosure: Fortunately, my art has always been self-supporting, so I’ve never had to apply for grants of any kind, which is how I like my career- no strings attached or hoops to jump through. However, due to several people suggesting that I should, I am contemplating seeking grants related to writing as a means to further my literary reach, which so far- entertains many but has yet to pay the bills in a truthfully effective fashion.

And while I do agree that funding of the Arts is important, most grants seem to fall into the “sustenance” category- that is, it’s just enough to get your project started, but not so sufficient that you can totally concentrate all your energy on whatever it is you wish to accomplish.

If I were to be brutally honest, it also seems that for every gifted artist that gets funded, there’s also an army of highly untalented Damien Hirst / Jeff Koons clones who get access to all that sweet cash as well, a factoid I’ve never really understood.

Just my two cents. Back to the rant.

As I stated earlier, there are five other artistic teams going after the same prize and in the interest of fairness, here are their proposals (and my take on them) before I mention Peter’s.

1) Julie Akerly and Matthew Mosher: “nueBOX”, which is described as a performance and installation residency program for artists.

My POV: Great idea- Phoenix needs more programs like this actually, especially to foster our up and coming talent, as long as it doesn’t turn into an Obi-Wan and Anakin type of cluster-f**k. It’s easy to blow up a Death Star (thank you, incompetent government contractors) but a lot harder to superglue Alderrann back together, if you know what I mean.

2) Dain Quentin Gore: “Exquisite Corpse Hootenanny”, which will involve artists creating puppets using “corpse methods” for performances at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater.

My POV: To be honest, I have no bloody idea what a “corpse method”* is, but I’ve seen Dain’s performances in the past and they’re always a blast. Tack on the knowledge that he’s also an incredible painter as well, and odds are good that he’ll bring something solid to the table. Besides, possibly zombified puppets having a “Hootenanny” is something I’d never thought I’d see until the End of Days, and I’m not going to pass that golden opportunity up, no siree Bob.
*[It was just brought to my attention by fellow Artist Cindy Schnackel* that Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled.

Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed. The technique’s origins are widely credited to the Surrealists and are similar to an old parlor game called Consequences (AKA: “Prims”) in which players write in turn on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for a further contribution.

Thank you Cindy, much appreciated.] 
*Check out Cindy’s work at: http://www.redbubble.com/people/cschnack

3) Mimi Jardine: “Mobile Remittance Unit”, which according to her description, is “a faux government office that processes and collects litter in an artistic and light-hearted way.”

My POV: Something that cleans up Downtown Phoenix and does it with a sense of humor?
Who couldn’t get behind that? Idiots and Conservative Republicans, but then again… I repeat myself. As long as circus clowns and silly hats aren’t involved, I just might be all in. Oh, who am I kidding- I’m in especially if there’s the possibility of silly hats.

4) Ashley Naftule: “The Rides of March”, an interactive Shakespearean bike tour which would take place on the Ides of March and entertain riders with plays performed throughout the tour.

My POV: Simply inspired, along with being elegantly understated as well. Ashley is not only a genuine and amazingly nice guy, he’s also a truly brilliant writer, as anyone who reads his “Tales of the Bus” series on FaceBook will willingly attest to.

Culture, exercise and literary enlightenment- three things Phoenix also definitely needs. Seriously- if Terran-eating space aliens ever invade this city, they won’t bring laser guns, they’ll bring butter, for all the non-reading barely sentient human couch potatoes that this town seemingly has a disturbing overabundance of.

Meh. Gotta take the bitter with the sweet, I suppose. I for one, would warmly welcome our newest and I might add, benevolent, Evil Earth Overlords, as I happen to be in fairly good shape (ie: not worth eating) and fun at parties too. In other words, I’d be fine, but there’s a lot of y’all that would be seriously screwed ten ways to Sunday.

5) Steve Weiss, Leslie Barton, and Katherine Simpson: “Terreno Baldio Country Club”, this concept would turn urban vacant lots into desert golf courses designed by artists.

My POV: Just twisted enough to possibly provide not just entertainment for the PAS and it’s various sub-groups of patrons, but if marketed right, could also be a consistent source of income for the same.

In the grand scheme, everybody could come out a winner- the vacant lot owners who could take a pre-negotiated cut of the profits as long as they agree to re-invest it back on some level, the downtown denizens who would no longer have to see such sterile eyesores, and don’t forget the PAS community, who just might see a theoretical upswing in the fortune of the local economy being fed by the spending habits of patrons who could be lured downtown by the hopefully ongoing and changing face of the project.

Think about it. An interactive art display that changes yearly, if not monthly, for some of the more manageably sized lots. That’s how you build local as well as national interest. Personally, while I’m fond of all of the above concepts, I like this one a heckuva lot.

Finally, we come to Peter Bugg’s project: “Equal Scouts”, which aims to get Eagle Scouts to wear Human Rights Campaign symbols in place of their usual American flag badges to raise awareness of the Boy Scouts of America’s infringements on gay rights. Here’s an unforeseen surprise… I actually like the idea behind this concept, but as usual with most of Peter’s artistic aspirations, it falls flat.

In the past I’ve noted his disrespectful appropriation of other peoples’ work under the guise of creating an “homage” and lashed out at his consistently puzzling (and truly irritating) inability to cross the artsy finish line while trying to make a creative point, whatever that may be. In fact, I wrote a little scribe* about it, back in April of 2012.

If there’s one thing that gets under my skin, it’s the public display of poorly executed work- whether that’s in the construction or the presentation, it makes no difference to me if it’s done half-ass, and that seems to be the one aspect of his work that’s seemingly consistent. In fact, Peter strongly reminds me of the character that Kurt Vonnegut featured in several of his novels, that being the persona of Kilgore Trout. So who is this fictional person exactly?

You ask, I deliver: Kilgore Trout is a fictional character created by author Kurt Vonnegut. He was originally fashioned as a fictionalized version of author Theodore Sturgeon (Vonnegut’s colleague in the genre of science fiction- Vonnegut was amused by the notion of a person with the name of a fish, Sturgeon, hence Trout), although Trout’s consistent presence in Vonnegut’s works has also led critics to view him as the author’s own alter ego.

The character of Trout has supposedly written over 117 novels and over 2000 short stories, which are typically used only as filler material in pornographic magazines. Trout is consistently presented as a prolific, but unappreciated science-fiction writer, the main criticism of his work being “if he could only write!”. This rather dismissive view of his life’s labor is due to Trout’s puzzling aptitude to come up with great ideas for stories, but his lack of ability to actually execute them into a viable work is what keeps him nothing more than a literary footnote.

And that’s what I’m apt to be reminded of when it comes to Peter’s work: “if only he could create!” I will give the guy credit, as he does have really good concepts to start with, but then when it comes to their execution, it’s like he’s decided that all the hard work is done and he can just phone it in from where ever he’s currently hipstering. Heck, half the time it’s like he sent it in via cuneiform, which I as an Artist find almost maddening, and this latest concept to open a discussion about the way that the LGBT community is treated is really no different than the rest of his previous works that I’ve seen.

Now before you get all up in my grille and start lighting up torches and sharpening your pitchforks, I completely support Gay Rights 100%, and I’ve donated my time, my money, as well as my art to help further the cause. For the record, I find it appalling that we’re still having to debate this issue in the year of 2014, and in a related aside, weren’t we also promised that we’d have jet packs and flying cars by this point too?

However, I’m willing to forgo those luxuries to assist Humanity in it’s quest to become that much smarter and stronger by granting the same civil rights to all. It’s our unique diversity that makes this country better, whether it’s form takes that of faith, gender, or even one’s personal sexuality, which to be blunt, is nobody’s business, save the people who are involved.

Keep in mind though that the moment LGBT marriage is legal in all fifty states, there better be a radically sweet flying car parked under my carport with a flamed-paint jetpack in the trunk like yesterday, or I’m gonna open up a case of whup-ass on whatever science-fiction writer is within the closest vicinity for getting my hopes so high.

I’m looking at you, Piers Anthony… just a heads up. And don’t even get me started on my own personal transporter and TARDIS- we’ll be here for days. So what issue could I possibly have with a sorely needed awareness campaign that champions equal rights? Well, it’s not so much about the campaign as it is about it’s execution, or lack thereof. On the surface, it seems like a solid concept, but as an OCD afflicted and somewhat cynical Creative, I see my share of flaws. I know… it’s a curse.

And as one of my friends recently asked in regards to my bitching: “Well, if you’re so smart, why didn’t you come up with the idea first?” A fair question, to be sure, but I do have a ready answer for that… um… well… you see… I… ah… oh heck, it’s just not the way my brain works in relation to sparking up the Creative Method. I know, I know, it sounds like a cop-out, but it truly is not. I’ve just always been very good at taking a weak concept and girding it with class 4 armor, no matter how frail the internal structure is.

Even back in Kindergarten, I kicked ass in this particular arena-  just ask my teachers. If any are still alive, that is. Flavored paste? Totally my idea. Waking up from nap time to green tea and soothing sitar music? Booyah- all this boys’ doing. And let’s not forget my successful and widely popular helming of Monkey Bar Monday.

Seriously. Never forget. So how would I go about taking Peter’s idea and making it that much more effective? Well, let’s start with the issue at hand: the BSA’s maddening ban on gay scouts / leaders- an action they justify by citing their “Christian” beliefs. Mind you, this is also the same line of bulls**t that was employed when they practiced segregation back in the day, so in the end- their whitewash refuses to stick.

Let me be clear, I have no specifically personal axe to grind with the BSA other than their inherent and ignorant homophobia, but given their reluctance to be progressive, mirrored against the current century we live in, I find their assertion of being brothers with Christ to be both hypocritical and absurd. Granted, if I were to address a fashion note, their uniforms do remind one of the Sturmabteilung- minus that whole Aryan master race thing of course, so I do empathize with Peter’s desire to shake it up a bit.

But there’s a small problem in implementing such a process, and it starts with the Eagle Scouts themselves, who lets be honest- might not be comfortable being publicly 100% on board with the whole acceptance thing. Even if Peter could find some Eagle Scouts that share the growing world-view of inclusion and tolerance, there’s still a small hurdle he would have to circumvent- it takes years to become an Eagle Scout, and it requires a massive amount of hard work to do so. Despite this, they can still be stripped of their accomplishment if that person goes against what the BSA deems that they shouldn’t do- in this case, publicly standing up for Gay Rights.

When petty retribution is meted out as a means of control, It’s not hard to see why so many choose to keep their own counsel. While there have been several public outcries from former BSA members regarding the ban, I think we can all agree that as a whole the majority of the organizations’ more influential members have remained silent, at least in public. If you’re going to compel change in one’s attitude, then you almost need to rebuild them from scratch- especially if your program contradicts what they’ve chosen or been forced to believe.

I for instance, was raised Catholic, and despite my inherent love of crucifixes and candle-lit statues, my inclination was to become a fierce and proud Liberal, with some Conservative shadows in my psyche. As an example, I despise most authoritarian structures, yet I also believe in gun control. I’m also Pro-choice, a feminist, anti-Republican, anti-Tea Party, and I think that it’s perfectly fine to eat anything and everything that’s made out of meat. If God wanted us to be vegans, he wouldn’t have created the wonder that is bacon, enough said.

The point I’m trying to make in a roundabout way is this: despite the public pressure that they have been placed under, by both the news media and the social networks, they’re still sticking to their guns, and the odds of the BSA’s entrenched elite changing their minds anytime soon are probably akin to the prospect of me meeting Milla Jovovich while she’s wearing a whipped cream bikini. So given that realistic outlook, I think we need to attack this problem from a different point of view.

If we take an honest look at the average American, they’re really not that observant, which has nothing to do with their level of their intelligence- it’s just that most people don’t pay attention to what’s generally around them. I once watched a segment on some news show (20/20?) where a group of behavioral research scientists plastered  “missing child” signs all over a mall’s entrance- these posters prominently displayed an image of a very young boy, who was in fact, part of the social experiment.

Here’s the interesting part: the so-called “missing child” was standing right inside the mall entrance in a highly visible area wearing the same clothes as in the poster… and was completely overlooked or ignored by the majority of the people walking in. If my memory serves, the ratio was around 85%, and some of those people had actually taken a minute or two to read the poster. My theory is that if something doesn’t affect one personally, they tune it out. Social blinders, for a lack of better explanation, if you please. And that’s where I think Peter’s concept hits the metaphorical iceberg, the quandary being that of social blindness.

Let’s look at this realistically: in an average day, how much stimuli are you unwillingly exposed to? Garish and invasive advertising, loud noises, obnoxious people who have full blown conversations on their I-phones in public, the constant barrage of social media, telemarketers, bad drivers, rude and disinterested customer service, corruption of the fifth estate (looking at you, FOX “News”), and the general coarsening of our society, to name just a few.

As a rule, we all try to filter this out. Some days we can, other times we cannot. Given all this, I don’t think it’s out of bounds to suggest that if Peter did manage to find a few like minded Eagle Scouts who were willing to risk the very real probability of being stripped of their rank, that the overall impact of adding a few new patches to their uniforms would be nil at best, due to that whole “social blinders” thing I mentioned earlier.

If they did choose to wear these new patches, would anyone [other than their fellow Scouts] really notice? I seriously doubt it, unless they’re also manning a booth at Gay Pride as well, something I really don’t see happening. I couldn’t tell you what a BSA Eagle Scout uniform looks like other than they’re beige, maybe have a kerchief, and somehow make your posture look fantastic. So how could one go about and give this concept the gravitas it needs to have the social impact it requires?

My idea: reach back into past History. The LGBT community has always had to deal with exclusion, harassment and persecution in regards to their lifestyle, and even with all the progress that’s been made in the last few years, it can still be very dangerous to be “out” in certain parts of this country, even now.

In fact, I know personally three people who’ve been physically attacked here in Arizona for being gay, the most recent being less than three months ago. It has always struck me as strange that it seemingly always takes three “straight” guys to beat up one gay person- a weird factoid that if truth be told, consistently pisses me off.And despite all the ad campaigns attempting to change the animus that exists towards the LGBT community, I sadly know people who think it’s still okay to judge others on a lifestyle that doesn’t affect them directly at all.

I not only support Gay Marriage, I support gay adoption, gay families, gay puppies (as well as gay kittens) and even the sport of gay Curling, because seriously- that Scottish game needs a fabulous makeover and that right quick. But getting back on track, here’s my take on how to do it- use the most ubiquitous symbol of gay rights, that being the singular pink triangle and it’s ability to capture the eye as the basis for a new approach to raise awareness. But before I explain my concept, a brief History lesson:

The pink triangle, currently rendered in hot pink as a gay pride / gay rights symbol, was originally used as a Nazi concentration badge to denote homosexual men. Depicted in a more subtle shade of pink than the one used today, it was typically displayed on prisoners uniforms with the pointed end facing downward.

Unlike male homosexuals, lesbians were not generally regarded as a social or political threat. Even after the Nazi rise to power in 1933, most lesbians in Germany were able to live relatively quiet lives*.
*[Source: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005478]

Here’s where my idea splits off from Peter’s- I think it would be safe to assume that the whole point of this is to encourage an open and civil dialogue about equal rights for all (see: 14th Amendment) something that you and I already have, and take for granted on a daily basis. In order to accomplish this, you have to make people stop and ask the questions that your approach hopefully raises- if there’s no serious interaction, then there’s no forward movement in changing anothers thinking, hence the reason why I think the gay community embracing what was once a symbol of defamation as a pure icon of inner strength (by literally and figuratively turning it upside down) is truly inspiring.

One of the difficulties that exists in establishing civil discourse is to humanize yourself to someone who only views you as nothing more than a a label- take the world of Politics, where the common tactic to besmirch someone you disagree with is to mark them with a negative connotation before the conversation even starts, as a way of not having to see your opponent as an equal. This tactic has also been employed with great success against the LBGT community, as a way of marginalizing both their existence and their contributions to our culture, which are way too numerous to list here.

So here’s where I take a page out of Peter’s playbook and origami it into existence. Peter’s work has always [weakly] taken it’s cue from POP culture, and despite his tendency to appropriate other  people’s work for his re-fabricated world view, I have to give him points on one thing: he is quite good at employing the carnival-like atmosphere of Shock to promote his otherwise unremarkable body of work.

As I once stated in a previous blog about his then current gallery show: Although I wonder how many hours went into the “research” of this odious piece of faux artistic detritus, the idea of scanning the web for shots of Britney Spear’s vagina as a creative endeavor leaves me cold. Call me a prude, but if I wanted to attend a gynecology exam thinly disguised as art, I’d go to the Great Alaskan Bush Company.

As an Artist who’s never used Shock as a marketing tool, I’ve always taken the position that if you have to offend/disgust/anger/ someone as a means to move your work, rather than stirring up such emotions as a way to enact social change, you’re cheapening both yourself and your craft by taking the huckster’s way out. Personally, I’m no huckster. Peter, on the other hand… well, I’ll let you be the judge of that.

But this may be the one time where his modus-operandi may actually be the best approach to get the point across- that’s right, what we need here is pure, undiluted, over the top, full on gonzo, Shock.

Five words: Bright Pink Eagle Scout Uniforms. Stay with me… I’m going somewhere, oh yes.

This is what I’m thinking: use the past to help move Humanity forward a few notches, by taking authentic Eagle Scout uniforms, dyeing them bright pink and in place of their standard patches, attach the more subtle pink triangles in their originally used connotation- now that would definitely stop the blinded herd, I think. If you can find actual Eagle Scouts to don those uniforms, great. If not, then fill them with people who can civilly (and clearly) discuss the issue, the history, and the significance of LGBT rights in this country but are also able to put a face on the discussion, no matter who they happen to be engaging.

The key as I see it, is that the uniforms will pique passersby’s’ attention to the point of their opening a dialogue, something I can’t see a few swapped (and subtly underplayed) patches doing with the same efficiency. Overcome their pre-formed labels by literally shocking your targeted audience into civil focused discussion, and hopefully you’ll also change a few minds as to how they view the gay community.

And while the uniforms are figuratively [and literally] in your face, the discussion should not be.
I’ll explain.

Sadly, one of the tenets of our society that finds itself marginalized due to the 24/7 news cycle and the proliferation of the Internet is the concept of non-polarized discussion. These days we don’t talk to each other half as much as shout our opinions loudly and into the sky, usually to no avail. We claim to be truly civilized, yet act like slavering barbarians while we hide behind keyboards and our virtual avatars.

And I’m just as guilty as everyone else, thank you very much. I do try to use these claws for good most days, but when you’re constantly dealing with people who regard facts in the same way as Superman views Kryptonite, it sometime tends to pop your diplomacy cork more often than not. No matter where you stand in regards to the issue, gay rights can be a “hot button”, even to those who feel that we’ll eventually be proven correct in our view that equality for all is the only path for us as a society to take.

Some respectfully disagree with this point of view, others move straight to taking their Books of Holiness and beating others about the face with it. BTW, the King James version of the Bible doesn’t leave bruises, but it does pack one heckuva wallop. Just saying. And let’s not mention the Torah, cause that sucker comes with handles. But when it comes to my take on Peter’s concept, I really do believe that respectful discussion of this issue is possible, no matter what side of the fence you find yourself next to- but only as long as the debate is courteous right from the start.

There are none so deaf as those who refuse to hear, so equal respect must be given to each side’s POV, otherwise there’s no reason to attempt changing their attitude.

An “agree to disagree” approach as it were. Now, given that optimistic outlook- I think that this project could even be taken one step further using the Internet as a viable means of education. Perhaps there could be a corresponding website not only full of oral histories that might help chronicle/explain the repression, un-warranted violence, and social harassment that the LGBT community has experienced over the years, but also additional links that lead to further information or support groups for those who might be undergoing such discrimination at this time as well.

Remember- my angle is all about humanizing the cause to people who necessarily don’t see the LBGT community in the same way as they see their own, by making them stop and confront whatever prejudices they carry by replacing their labels they carry in their head, with actual people in their stead. [Hey- that rhymed!] Would my beefed-up distillation of Peter’s original concept work?

I’m pretty sure it would, and with far more effectiveness, I’d like to think. But what do I know… I’m not even smart enough to fill out the paperwork to take other people’s money. And when we come back…

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

You know… all that stuff I promised you last time.

“It happens; incompetence is rewarded more often than not.” – Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter


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

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

Hello Blogiteers!

Welcome back to the Snarklands.When last together, I had just started to expound upon my near-death experience back in June of 2009, after engaging in a one-sided battle of wits with the human equivalent of a house plant, an internet twit who went by the name of “Uniquesparrow”. Despite all my best attempts, it never did rise above a minor annoyance, leading me to speculate that if this is the level of adversary that’s available in the PAS these days, I might just have to outsource to Pakistan* to acquire the type of antagonist I’ve grown accustomed to.*

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

Say what you will about former Artbitch scratching post Amy Silverman, PHX New Times’ Mangling Editor and her innate talent for being a triple platinum-plated bitch, but at least she had claws and knew how to use them. Granted, not to any real effect, but at any rate, that shriveled black lump of coal she carries around in her chest and wittily calls a heart was in the right place. There’s an old saying that you judge your success by your enemies, and if we were to get brutally honest, I think it’s fairly obvious that I need to upgrade right quick and get my hands on some better enemies.

A Sherlock to my Moriarity, as it were. Skywalker to my Vader. Batman to my Joker. Skinny jeans to Kim Kardashian. Reality to the Tea Party. Sobriety to Lyndsey Lohan… you get the idea. When the finest someone can throw back at me is the threat of an imaginary lawyer, that’s when I know it’s definitely time to look for a better class of detractor. But as I stated in my last blogvella, there’s been a disturbing development when it comes to my efforts to remain a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, and that is this- everybody lately has just been so damn nice where I happen to be concerned, and quite frankly… it’s kind of freaking me out a bit.

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

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

After years of being marginalized, it’s still feels a little odd to have people ask me for advice, whether it happens to be personal or theoretical. I don’t consider myself smarter than the next guy/gal, nor do I think I truly have a lock on what’s really cooking behind closed doors either. To quote Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors; “Maybe God has just been around a long time and knows everything” an apt analogy as to where my point of view is concerned. After two decades of carving out my niche, I have picked up a nugget or two of sometimes useful information, which occasionally does come in handy.

This small aside: a while back, I was asked by a fellow Creative out to coffee so they could “pick my brain” about their next career move, and as to how they might/should go about it. Naturally, since this was an opportunity to talk at length about my favorite subject hat being me and all the wondrous things pertaining to such, I took them up on it. Plus, to a lesser degree, there was also the fact that someone else was going to be picking up my soda tab, and as an artist, I can never pass up the possibility of free food or drinks.

Actually, come to think of it, I believe that might actually be an actionable clause of my artist union membership. Anywho… after about two hours of thorough and intelligent questioning, I asked why of all the people they knew, they decided that my brain was the one to mine for info. Their response?                 

Dude- you’ve been around forever…  you’re like an artsy dinosaur “

In their defense, they did follow up that with: “I mean that as a compliment.” Ouch. If that is indeed a compliment, I’m sure I don’t want to be around for an insult, as it probably involves the application of both fire and rabidly feral weasels to my favorite body parts.

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

Just saying.

Granted, I may have taken his words a little too hard, due not to what was actually said with good intent, but as to what was stated to me a few days later when I had lunch with a fellow colleague who had started his career at about the same time as I. After hearing my complaint, he merely nodded and said: Well, when you look at it… you kind of are standing right next to me in the tar pit.” Excuse me…Tar pit? Tar pit?!?!?!?

Sure, I may be getting somewhat long in the tooth, but I’m still one of the cool kids, right? You know, the ones standing on the grass, with their Walkmans, and the spiced clove cigarettes, rocking the acid-washed jeans and the British flag t-shirt? Oh, holy ****… I am a dinosaur. A sad point driven home when he followed up with:Ok. You’re not technically IN the tar pit, but at the very least… you ARE standing on my head.”

Great. Now I’m depressed. And I’m all out of Ding Dongs, so I can’t even eat away my emotional pain like I normally would. I seriously need a vacation, and I need it right quick. However. I have a job to do, as I just can’t leave you stranded in the middle of a story, and when it comes down to the brass tacks, seeing it through to the end just happens to be one of my better character flaws. Lately I find myself on the brink of a conundrum, and it’s been a bitch hacking through the jungle with only a metaphorical spork to aid me. The problem is this- recently my health has taken a few knocks due to my Diabetes, and if one were to be honest, I’d have to admit I’m nowhere near fully recovered from my near-death incident in 2009.

By all outward appearances, I look fine, but even though I’ve bounced back from Death’s door, the battle isn’t over yet- not by a long shot. When I finally checked out of the hospital’s ICU, I strode out (gratefully) with my life, but I also left carrying multiple diabetic related issues as well, the two biggest being neuropathy and some serious short/long term memory loss. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to give you the textbook definition of what memory loss is, but when it comes to neuropathy, it’s likely there’s more than a few of you wondering just what in the hell that is, so here goes, straight from the dictionary:

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

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

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

There… doesn’t that sound like fun? Not too shockingly, it really isn’t, as the effects of said condition affects my life in a number of ways. On a good day, it feels like I have a bad sunburn, and on the worst- it feels like I’m being fed feet first into a wood chipper. I also suffer random stabbing attacks in my legs, chest, and sometimes in an area that personally, I feel should be off limits to pain in general as clearly stated under the rules of the Geneva Convention.

A Forbidden Zone, as it were. Strictly Forbidden. Verboten on all levels. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. Recently, the decreased sensitivity in my feet [another side effect] led to a rather worrying incident- I woke up in the middle of the night to grab a drink, experienced an intense onset of vertigo (aka: a “head rush”) and wound up almost passing out.
[Which BTW, has happened almost a half a dozen times in the last two months. Why? Not a clue.]

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

Sadly, the toe still lacks Funk.

What’s truly upsetting is the fact that I didn’t [then and now] feel it at all, which as you can imagine, could become quite problematic in the long run. If I inure myself unknowingly and said wound goes untreated or septic, then not only do I run the risk of illness, but I could also be facing the very real risk of amputation in the not too far future. Personally, I don’t know about you, but I’d like to keep all of my parts- for all I know, there could be a trade-in policy regarding your body when you die, and I’d hate to have to tell God he’s not getting back a pristine model because my foot got taken out by a pitcher of lemon-flavored Crystal Light.

The end result of all of these maladies is that for the last few years, I’ve been relatively dormant as an Artist, and have turned most of my personal energies towards the dual role of being a highly vocal arts activist and writer- not because I don’t still feel like painting, but because I now suffer from some severe physical challenges in regards to producing work. Besides random hand spasms, which usually manifest as uncontrolled tremors, I sometimes also undergo severe pain in my right hand which directly affects how well I can control a brush and/or pen. Considering how vital focused control is to creating an original work, you can see why this is a huge problem where producing new ones are concerned.

Fortunately, I do have an artsy backup with my archive of original photography in regards to my painted and illustrative work, but I still have a troubling issue- my eyes. My Diabetes can alter my corneas to the point [depending on my blood sugar] where every now and then my vision is akin to looking through a vibrating set of lightly tinted sunglasses, while riding a roller coaster, on a boat that’s sailing the English Channel… holding a seasick cat.  And when you’re handling a medium sized camera, the hand tremors certainly don’t help in keeping your focus steady, either.

So given all that, it’s no wonder why I turned to writing to burn off some of that backed-up creative energy.
But as usual, I am getting ahead of myself. I really need to stop doing that, methinks. So, let’s start where it all began- late June, 2009.
And like most things that go South in my life, it all started with my mouth.

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

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

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

Obviously, I needed to have it pulled, so I cashed Ashley’s check, and after ten or so calls, found a dental clinic using the Yellow Pages [For our younger readers, it’s like Google, but in book form] and made an appointment to have the offender yanked out of my mouth hopefully faster than Sheriff Joke can get in front of a camera crew. Ashley had been visiting relatives in Salt Lake City while this process was going on, and when I went to pick her up at the airport, it was fairly apparent that I was really sick- I was listless, in great pain, and physically exhausted. [The rest of my tale is cobbled together from the unaffected remembrances of my GF Ashley, translated into Artbitch snark by yours truly.]

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

So that night, all is relatively well- granted, my mouth still hurt and I was feeling slightly nauseous, but I wrote that off due to the fact that I had taken a large amount of aspirin for the pain, and as someone who doesn’t generally take painkillers of any kind, I unwisely assumed this feeling was normal. The next day, Ashley goes and picks up my prescriptions for me, and after taking the first dose, I started having flu-like symptoms, which led to my throwing up said antibiotic a few hours later. Once again, I just assumed that was a normal reaction, which in retrospect, was a big mistake. Turns out that I was deathly allergic to the antibiotic proscribed, a rather important detail which was clearly listed in my medical history, but more on this later.

Ashley and I were supposed to attend a party that night, but I demurred due to my being under the weather and the continuing feeling of being physically exhausted. When she returns later that night, I’m still suffering the flu-like symptoms, pain, and in an even more concerning development- I am starting to show signs of not remembering whether or not I had been adhering to my insulin routine. Over the weekend, my symptoms get even worse- I’m throwing up almost everything I eat or drink, and I’m so disoriented that I have to arrange for someone to drive me to the dentist the following Monday.

Stupidly, I’m still of the opinion that I’ll be right as rain once I get my tooth pulled.

So, Monday finally arrives, and I am picked up by my former artist rep, who later describes my countenance to Ashley as  “that of a homeless person”, due to my uncharacteristic rough-looking appearance. Never let it be said I don’t know how to dress to impress- thank God I clean up nicely when it really counts. The extraction goes quickly and smoothly, and despite the fact that I’m having issues with my medication. my dentist offers no additional information or recommendations towards the betterment of my symptoms. In fact, the extraction took longer than the consult.

But here’s where the fun really starts- within several hours of the procedure, my symptoms become more severe, and I find myself experiencing what one could tactfully describe as apocalyptic delusions- think visions of Hell on steroids, and you’d be in the right neighborhood. That’s one of the downsides of being a Creative- when we hallucinate, it’s a full throttle, balls to the wall, over the top, completely gonzo, THX Sound, chock a block Michael Bay experience.

Initially, Ashley suggested I call my Mom for help, as she lives less than 15 minutes away from me, so after I had a really good laugh about the idea of my Mother doing something that required an act of selflessness, I emphatically put my foot down and said that no, we weren’t going to be doing that anytime soon. I’ll flesh out this particular razor-ball later on, but for right now, let’s get back on point. Now, for some unbeknownst reason, my visions of seeing Satan riding a pale horse while strumming Stairway to Heaven on a lute freaked Ashley out to the point where she called in my best friend Cale Richardson to ask for his assistance in getting me to the closest hospital, which in this case- turned out to be the John C. Lincoln located at Third Street and Dunlap Avenue.

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

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

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

Apparently, it seems that in this day and age, having a fairly lucid conversation with Elvis in regards to Southern cooking while laying on a hospital gurney makes you “out of it” from a medical point of view. That’s the problem with doctors… no imagination. Until it comes to the bill, that is- then it’s like you’re stuck in an elevator with the animators from Fantasia. Seriously… if telling me “good morning” is considered (and billed) as a medical consult, then my response of “f**k you” should count as a one night stand.

Now to give you some perspective of the overall seriousness of the situation I was facing, a blood sugar reading of over 500 can affect mental processes, and once your numbers hit where I was, well… it’s best to probably not make any long term plans for the weekend. What can I say? I like to set the curve for the rest of the class. Essentially, I was suffering from severe (and life-threatening) ketoacidosis, which is defined as:

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

From an outsider’s POV, it would seem that with those symptoms, I’d share much in common with a slightly addled, undernourished, narcoleptic apple with poor bladder control, but I digress. I know what you’re thinking…  I’m in the hospital, a crack team of dedicated professionals is working on me, and at this point, it’s clear sailing ahead. That’s why I like you people- you’re all eternal optimists. I did happen to mention that I was pretty delusional at this point, didn’t I?

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

Despite Ashley’s assurances that I led a life of clean living and even with my established medical history, the doctor in charge of the unit (a pint-sized twit named Dr. Idriss) was adamant that I had to be a heavy drinker or drug user due to my symptoms. Now, I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but when it came to the “diabetes” classes offered at whatever online med school he graduated from, I can only assume that he was too tired from his shift at the Wonka Candy Factory* to pay attention, as he seemed relatively ignorant as to what the widely documented effects of an insanely high blood sugar can do to one’s psyche.*

[The Wonka Candy Factory staff is comprised solely of Oompa-Loompas, a race of vertically-challenged people, in case you missed the joke. Not that I have anything against Oompa-Loompas, mind you- their noble culture based on morality tales delivered in the form of catchy songs is truly inspirational, and their traditional native dress which incorporates Joker green hair, orange body-paint, and snazzy striped socks is truly a visual smorgasbord for one’s eyes.If you ever have a chance to share a Snozzberry with one of these  fine and I might add, dignified people, I’d advise that you take it- you’ll have stories for days.]

Shortly after being admitted into the ICU, I started slipping deeper into a delirious state, leading to my being severely sedated and restrained against my will, [an action I agree with in retrospect] as I was becoming combative due to my ongoing suffering from further apocalyptic delusions. And on top of it all, one has to remember that I was still fighting the original infection that had landed me here in the first place.

When I eventually regained consciousness, my nurse informed me that my blood was so septic that if we had delayed my visit to the hospital another 24 hours, I most likely would have died- a condition that might help my art sales, but would definitely limit my future plans of becoming the ballet dancer I always knew I could be. I remained sedated for the better part of the next three days, during which time a staff psychologist informed Ashley that they wanted to do a psychological evaluation regarding my mental state, to which Ashley asked her how that was going to happen, as I was still delirious and so heavily medicated that I was unable to speak. 

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

*[For the record, I don’t consider weed an actual drug, as I see it more along the lines of a conduit to help keep local musicians employed via the pizza delivery industry. Speaking of which, I actually have a joke that relates to both pizza and hospitals, so here goes:: “A man wakes up and finds himself in a hospital room, one with only himself in it. He has no recollection of how he got there. While pondering it, his bedside phone rings, and he answers it.

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

Stunned, the man asks “Well, what’s next!? What are you going to do?” The doc replies: “Well, for starters, we’re putting you on a strict diet of only pizza.” 

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

“No”, the doc responds. “But it’s all we can fit under the door.” ]

Wahahaha!!! Um… I’m sorry. Let’s get back on track. Giving her my business card, Ashley suggests she go to my (then) web site and look at the media interview that was originally on the front introduction page, as a means to observe my normal demeanor. Ashley is later informed by my daytime nurse Eric that she did so, and after that, she is not asked again about my behavior by anyone. So the message here is this: give good interviews, as it might just improve the perception of how others see you.

Despite her glowing assessment, the ICU staff under the direction of my Smurfesque doctor still have me under heavy sedation and are inflicting endless MRI’s and spinal tap procedures upon my person, which leads Ashley to break down and call my mother, who to her limited credit, informs the hospital that she objects to them keeping me sedated and states that if it comes from Ashley, the staff is to follow what she says as Gospel from my family. As you can imagine, Ashley immediately orders them to lift my heavily medicated veil, and that is when I start slowly coming back from the land of hellfire and gauze. Several hours later, I come to, my first recollection of hearing the beeping of an EKG machine next to my bed.

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

Just saying.

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

Remember my mom? Well, when Ashley calls and tells her I’m conscious and that she needs to come to the hospital, my dear sweet mother states that she would like to come and visit, but her car has two bald front tires and then goes on to say that one of her very good friends had died the night before, so could Ashley come and pick her up? Here’s why this particular moment has become such an issue with me- she can get to her job halfway across Phoenix, but she cant take a cab or bum a ride to a hospital less than 25 minutes away to visit her son in the ICU who came within 24 hours of dying?

As one of my friends who has a gaggle of kids told me later: “If one of my kids was trapped in a bank vault, I would chew my way through the door to save them.” Apparently, my mom never got that memo. But it only gets better. That “friend” my mother claimed had died? After I get out of the ICU, I ask my mother about them, and within the span of a few hours of our conversation, her close friends name changes… twice. And as for those so-called bald tires, she claims not to know what I’m talking about.

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

So, for those of my really close friends who’ve always wondered why I never mention my mother, there you go. Ashley did pick her up, but after visiting less than then ten minutes, [another void in my memory] she asks to be dropped back off at her house. In her limited defense, people have told me that at the time she seemed concerned, but after she leaves, I don’t hear from her for almost three weeks. But I’ll talk about that later, near the end of my tale. So the next day arrives and I’m feeling slightly better- granted, I’m still weak as a newborn kitten, almost 30 pounds lighter, and thanks to the massive amount of antibiotics they had to pump into me, everything I eat tastes like wet cardboard.

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

Seriously… how lucky can a guy get?

But that’s for the next installment, I think. And when we come back…

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

Well… the three songs I know anyway.

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