Wayne Michael Reich

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Wayne Michael Reich

Author: Darkreich

A Bugg’s Strife Pt. 1 (Paar for the Coarse)

“Nothing’s more disgusting than a guy who steals another person’s ideas and tries to claim them as his own.”  -Joe Rogan

 Hello Blogiteers!

Things have gone seriously awry as of late, let me tell you. The great John Lennon once famously stated that “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”, and boy- did he ever hit that nail on the proverbial head.

With Thor’s hammer, no less.

Originally, the subject of this blog was going to be my favorite go-to punching bag, a local artist whose catalogue raisonné makes the work of Jeff Koon and Damien Hirst come off as deep by way of comparison. A person that at best, is the closest Phoenix will ever get to having it’s very own artsy Kilgore Trout*.  

[*It’s a Vonnegut reference- Google it. And then go read all of his books- I highly recommend “Bluebeard”, as it’s chock-full of really artsy stuff, and the main character has the best name ever: “Rebo Karabekian”- a moniker which by the way, I have been informed by my GF Ashley, is not allowed into the baby name lottery if we ever decide to have kids… which we’re not, so don’t start picking out those play-dates anytime soon.]

For those of you who are regular readers of my humble little screeds, you probably already know who that person is, for much like the rules set forth in Highlander, there can be only one, thank Odin for small favors. I am of course, talking about an individual who on more than one occasion, has “paid homage” to somebody else’s idea and claimed it his own, while simultaneously adding nothing of substance* whatsoever [*allegedly.] No matter how you slice it, the term “homage” is artist code for “I have no original ideas of my own, but hey… that already established one over there looks nice.”

So Blogiteers, please give a warm welcome and show your love to the Master of Mimicry, the Ambassador of Appropriation, the Chancellor of Copying, the Hamburglar of Homage, SMOCA’S very own in-house Artsy Shoplifter- you know him, I loathe him, the one, the only,…

PETER BUGG!!!! {sound of crickets… a lone tumbleweed rolls forlornly by…}
Um, loyal Blogiteers? It’s customary to clap right about now. Sigh… never mind, I’ll just dub it in.


ARE YOU READY TO ROCK, DETROIT?!?!?!? Ooops. Sorry, I accidentally grabbed my 8-track copy of LIBERACE PLAYS LIVE. My apologies. However, this swanky album still rocks… sure, it cant touch Thompson’s Twins “A Product of (Participation)”, or even come close to the sonic awesomeness that was Sigue Sigue Sputnik, but what can, really?

A question for another time, I guess. As I said just a moment ago, the original subject of this blog was going to be my favorite go-to punching bag, the aforementioned Mr. Bugg, due mainly to his recent career move, covered here by my favorite bestest buddy, the Phoenix new Times.
[Link: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/arts/scottsdale-museum-of-contemporary-art-hires-peter-bugg-and-christina-davis-7648310]

For those of you unwilling to read the slopfest that continues to constitute the “journalism” in our local Pennysaver with Porn these days, I’ll give you the high notes: basically, Peter has been hired by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art [AKA: “SMoCA”] to serve as their new curator of programming, a full-time position that will allow him ample room (if tradition holds) to refine other people’s ideas, while simultaneously dropping the ball.

Sure, I’ve bagged on both before, but when I read the following statement, I found that for a brief moment, I was almost overcome with a happily familiar and unadulterated feeling of pure rampant snarkiness, akin only to my discovering a cache of refrigerated Ding Dongs safely tucked away inside my sock drawer- not that such a thing has ever happened, mind you, I’m just speaking metaphorically. And optimistically. Oh, sooo optimistically.

From the NT article:“We are very pleased to begin working with Peter,” Sara Cochran, SMoCA interim director and curator, says in the announcement. “His knowledge of contemporary art, experience in museums and with docents as well as his concepts for new and innovative programming really set him apart in the interview process.

He presented an impressive number of original and exciting ideas for connecting with SMoCA’s loyal audience and reaching out to build new audiences who may not yet know that they need contemporary art in their lives. We are anxious and thrilled to expand our efforts in this area under Peter’s direction.”

If I were to be brutally honest, over-inflated statements like this, bursting with a preponderance of sycophantic narcissism, typically inspires me to spend an entire day writing, chuckling to myself as I craft yet another literary Lemarchand’s box*
*Lemarchand’s box is a fictional puzzle box or lock puzzle appearing in stories by author Clive Barker, or in works based on his original stories. The best known of these boxes is the Lament Configuration, which features prominently throughout the Hellraiser movie series. You’re welcome.]

As per usual, I took to my ASUS laptop to get my initial thoughts down on the pixilated page, and almost as soon as I did, my screen flashed, turned three different shades of enhanced grey, and went black. If I were a superstitious man, I’d almost believe that the Writing Gods were trying to tell me something- a celestial sign, as it were.  (And just in case anyone’s curious, there are only three Gods of Writing: Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, and that bad ass motherf***er who wrote “Good-night Moon”.)

After a few days of almost near-frenzied panic, it turned out that my motherboard was defective, which when all is said and done, will not have cost much more than a few days and some stinging (but not horrendous) pocket change when I eventually get it back from the repair facility. Fortunately, I had saved my draft to a thumb drive, and in an even better stroke of luck, I still had my 13 year-old IBM Thinkpad mothballed away in storage, on which this blog is at present is being produced. Running XP, no less.

Seriously. This thing is a tank, I kid you not. It’s Wolverine with a hard drive. However, after I started editing my draft, there was unquestionably something tangible missing, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t perceive what it was.

Let’s see…. snark? Check. Colorful language? Check. An “Arcade Fire” reference? Check. Insults involving skinny jeans and the intellectually skinnier ass that wears them? Check. A quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment that reads: He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animated abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarize it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely.” ?  

Most definitely check. Oh wait- he’s a Russian author, so that should actually say “проверить”.
Most definitely проверить.

An actual point? Surprisingly, check.
Continued interest in finishing it? ……….. not so much.

As you might imagine, I spent some time wondering why this was, and the conclusion I eventually arrived at was this: I think I’m just sick and tired of constantly rehashing the acts of certain lauded idiots as they quicken their pace toward an inevitable destiny with insignificance. In the end, what would truly be accomplished by my notations?

Despite Bugg’s troubling history of well-known and obvious plagiarism, he’s still considered to be a valuable asset- granted, it’s at an institution that also considers pyramids of stacked fruit to be art, so take it as you may, but he’s still held in high regard, nonetheless.

And its not just pathetic- it’s farcically pathetic. So much so that writing about it would just seemingly add further inanity to an already preposterous situation. SMoCA has already shown it’s lack of ethics, which I’ve noted in previous scrawlings, now it’s lack of common sense in their hiring practices has come home to roost as well, and I for one, applaud their commitment to complete absurdity.

After all, it’s not everyday you get to watch an already troubled institution gleefully commit suicide, via an ironically dada-esque approach, and it’s even rarer that I would merrily sit back and watch without commentary, but in regards to my lack of remarks, it does make sense, nevertheless.

To quote the NT article: “In May 2015, museum director Tim Rodgers resigned following rumors that the Scottsdale Cultural Council, a nonprofit organization that oversees SMoCA, Scottsdale Public Art, and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, was looking to eliminate the directorship positions at each of the institutions.

These rumors of course, have been denied by Cultural Council CEO Neale Pearl. Cochran, who had been working as the museum’s associate director since February 2014, stepped in as interim director, and no plans to hire a permanent replacement for Rodgers have been announced as of yet.”

Given the (at this time) cautious direction set against a turbulent sea of administrative changes, how would my pointedly harsh comments affect the outcome one way or the other? In a nutshell, that answer would be a resolute “not in the least”, so for once-  I’m sitting this one out.

That’s right- the claws are going back into their zebra-print lined carrying case, and this here Artbitch is gonna kick back and watch the inevitable clusterf**k / Phantom Menace / train wreck from a safe and comfortable distance. There’s nothing that makes a professional snark happier than their vision proven correct, and I think my odds for being so are pretty high, considering how all the factors are lining up.

But given the crueler aspect of Fate, my odds for being miserably wrong could be astronomically high as well, so there’s that. And I couldn’t be more excited, in fact. See, I actually really enjoy it when I’m dead wrong, because it means that things aren’t as bad as I thought they were. That’s the inherent beauty of being a cynic- you’re either always being proven right or being happily surprised.

Putting it bluntly, I think I’m going to be proven right in the long run, but I’m a gambling man, so let the dice roll, and we’ll see who lands on black.  But I will ask SMoCA one metaphorical question as I leave the situation to unfurl itself as it will, and it is this: What exactly does a guy with a penchant for alleged intellectual theft and lazy-ass presentation bring to the table exactly? The ability to cement SMoCa’s rep as a prime example of what art isn’t?

I for one, cannot wait to see what will be foisted upon the unsuspecting public by the guy who brought us sugar-encased magazine covers, culturally vapid day of the dead prayer banners using other artists unaccredited photos, along with a series of “borrowed” internet pictures of celebrity vaginas glued to paper plates.

If I were still a child, this contemplation would rank right up there with Christmas.                                              Oh, who am I kidding? It still does.

But I do want to be helpful, so here’s some wholly original, completely fresh, artistic ideas that Peter can pay “homage” to: Dogs playing cards. Soup can paintings. Multi-colored silk-screen portraits. Drip paintings. Portraits of big-eyed children. A picture of a cat dangling from a branch with the phrase “Hang in there Baby”. Clown paintings {everybody loves clowns! After all, SMoCA hired one* *[allegedly} Black Velvet paintings of Matadors. Smiley faces. The Mona Lisa as a Punk. Barbarian Warrior Queens holding Swords. Anything with a Disney logo…

I’m begging you, Peter- take out Walt’s Kingdom of Treacle before they make the “Frozen” TV Series. That abomination needs a lit tiki torch shoved right through its blue icy heart, Van-Helsing style, and with your gift of sucking the ccreativity out of anything you touch, our collective nightmare could end once and for all. And relax… you don’t have to thank me. Even if you used my ideas, we all know that you’d just claim them as yours anyway, so let’s just cut out the middleman and move on, shall we?

2000 words exactly to let you all know that I wasn’t going to say anything- that kids, is how you pad an essay, the thesaurus be damned. Heck, I use 300 words just to say “hello”, so you can just imagine how refreshing this is to let my fingers run amuck after some well-deserved time off.

Amuck, amuck, amuck.

But despite that brief foray regarding an entertaining, if not outright absurd cultural benchmark, the real reason why I’m writing after a several month hiatus is due to an unforeseen, yet oddly familiar, problem presenting it’s obscenely grasping palm yet again. For the third time in less than a year, I find myself in the mire of the medical backwoods looking for a competent doctor once more.

Sigh… compared to this unending aggravation, going to Peter Bugg’s house to view photos of his most recent vacation would be a joy- due mainly to the fact that they probably would’ve been shot by somebody el…  NO!!! I AM NOT DOING THIS. As delightful as it would be to take one last swipe at the Regent of Replication, I’m gonna stick to my guns. Besides… by the time he inevitably death-spirals into the giant fruit pyramid, I’ll have had plenty of time to write up a whole new slew of jokes and compliments that come with knuckles.

And if he doesn’t, there’s still always his “art” to make fun of. Ahh… long-term planning can be fun.
Moving on.

To be honest, I really thought that after my last two blogs [see the archive] regarding an unfortunate series of experiences with two less-than-useless doctors, I truly felt that I had at last achieved traction in the battle against my Type 1 Diabetes, bolstered by the following- I’ve had a massive amount of dental work done over the last four months, removing several areas of necrotic tissue that were definitely compromising my ability to stay healthy, This is a huge problem for most Diabetics, something I was ashamedly unaware of. Three root canals, four cavities, and two post and caps, all leading up to an embarrassment of even more procedures in the near future.

[PS: My Dentist, Dr, Randy Smith, (602-996-3993 for your information) absolutely ROCKS. Call him for your dental needs and feel perfectly free to drop my name. Plus, he has the best magazine selection I’ve ever seen- it’s almost orgasmic, and that’s not a word I put out there often, if at all.]

I’ve also severely tightened up my blood testing and insulin protocols, have pretty much (finally) managed to cut soda out of my diet, and have even exorcised certain trigger foods to the seventh ring of the foodie Gulag, and yes… that does mean that Ding Dongs are now the Holy Grail of Snacks, versus their previous status as the communion wafer of snacks. Sigh….

But even all that pales into comparison in regards to the biggest lifestyle change I’ve made, and that is this: after 8 ½ years, I walked into work one day and quit my job. My awesome, creative, slowly-strangling-the-life-out-of me-by-degrees, boss-created unnecessarily high-stress job.

And while it was terrifying to do so, mainly since I had no future employment lined up at that time, I still would consider it one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, next to my dating Ashley and buying that really bitching Jack Skellington mug two weeks ago. [Apparently, you can drink from it too, but why would you?]

See, right after I finished serving up my last piece of snark ala mode, I, (on a trusted friends recommendation) started seeing a new doctor, one named (wait for it) Gypsy Faith Paar– who’s affiliated with Paradise Family Medicine, a place I’d strongly recommend that one avoid like the clam special at Long John Silver’s on a Monday. I can’t speak for the other doctors at this particular practice, but in the case of “Dr”. Paar, I can only state my opinion that she’s a Doctor much in the same way that Dr. Pepper is- exceedingly bad for your long term health, completely overpriced, and chock-full of sugary acid.

Naturally, I’m kidding- Dr, Pepper by way of a side-by-side comparison, actually fares much better, and unlike my now former doctor, it at least doesn’t present itself to the public as something it isn’t. In my experience, that would be competent, professional, and concerned. My first clue that she wasn’t truly genuine should have been the fact that she’s named “Gypsy” and yet looks as if she should come with a best friend named Skipper, a pink Corvette, and a Dream-house play-set.
(Sexually ambiguous “boyfriend” sold separately. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Regretfully, I need to take that analogy back, as it was very rude (if not inaccurate) of me. Barbie by all accounts, is an amazing doctor, whereas my newest ex…. well, lets just say that her middle name implies what you’ll need plenty of to believe she’ll get the job done.

Some context as usual, is necessary I see, so I’ll try to provide it per my customary gentle and kindhearted approach. But I think before we engage in any further ruminations, that a recess of sorts is required- not just to give your eyes a break, but to make sure you’re rested enough to climb the mother of all medical molehills turned Himalaya.

And trust me… it’s gonna be epic. Not grand spectacle epic, but pretty darn close. So…

When we return, I add yet another twit to my personal “smite” list, allegorically wrestle with the sub-Paar, meet a bureaucratic stone-walling Renfield immune to both logic and rugged charm, and discuss why being sold to Gypsies is still better than being treated by one.

“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity..” – Hunter S. Thompson









Paging Dr. Feelbad PT. 2 (What’s Behind the Green, Kapoor?)

I think there is a sort of box-ticking mentality. Not just in the teaching profession. You hear about it in medicine and nursing. It’s a lawyer-driven insistence on meeting prescribed standards rather than just being a good doctor.” – Richard Dawkins

Greetings, Blogiteers!

What a beautiful day this is- I have a box of chilled Ding Dongs, a pitcher of ice-cold skim milk, and Big Hero 6 lined up in the ol’ DVD player. Can it possibly get any better? Hells to the yes, says I.

In fact, it’s been a stellar couple of weeks overall- my new doctor is kicking serious ass, the overdue re-organization and selective culling of my reference library went off without a hitch, and while cleaning my studio space top to bottom [so that’s where that egg salad sandwich went…] I even managed to find an assumed lost to the ages relic from the bad old days when I used to date nothing but strippers.


Photo Credit: (C) http://www.WayneMichaelReich.com
Model Credit: Aemelia Mc Morbid / http://www.modelmayhem.com/1850742

I’m sorry… did I use the term “strippers”? What I meant to say was that I used to court independent contractors of adult entertainment as a means of relaxation and fostering personal growth. My bad.
[Granted, it’s not the prettiest of shirts, but trust me… I earned that sucker, and it’s super comfy.]

On the art/professional side of my life, it’s also been pretty darn swell too- I had a great time hanging out with graffiti legend Such Styles [ http://i.instagram.com/suchstylez/ ] and his equally talented son CHAMP [ http://i.instagram.com/champ_styles/ ] at the Mon Orchid Gallery Street Art show a while back,  

and scratched a huge “to-do” off my artistic bucket list by finally meeting one of my creative idols, the one and only Derek Hess. [http://www.derekhess.com]

And as an aside, he was also nice enough to name-drop me on his website a few days later, much to my squealing eternal fan-boy delight. They always say you never want to meet your idols, because their feet may be made of clay, but in regards to Derek, that dude is speed-walking around in some seriously hardcore admantium* boots. *[Google it. You’ll be happy that you did.]

Factor in that my gig writing a monthly AOM column for PHOENIX Magazine has been a blast so far, and you can see why I’m all shades of hyper-mellow these days. Let me tell ya- in regards to my writing and it’s particular POV, nothing fuels my feelings of vindication better than being paid. Granted, it would be awesome if I could get compensated for this particular body of work, but ya gotta take the bitter with the sweet, I guess. I don’t know… maybe if I created a line of Artbitch related merchandise, I could see a return on my labor of snark. Just imagine the possibilities…

T-shirts. Mousepads. Inspirational posters. Coffee mugs. Pens. Refrigerator magnets. Dinner plates. Drink coasters. Underwear with Artbitch quotes instead of the days of the week. Bobble-heads. Pajamas. Ding-Dong scented car fresheners. Fannypacks. Novelty hats. Water wings. Body glitter. Phone cases. Kazoos. Yo-yos. Board games. Construction helmets. Bike helmets. Helmets in general. Watches. Soda cozies. Whatever the name is of that weird abomination blanket with sleeves whose infomercial you watch at 2 A.M.

Wait a minute, I’ve got it- the ultimate product: Life size inflatable replicas of me that you could punch in the face! Seriously, how awesome would one of those be? My detractors for one, could finally be able to do in the privacy of their mom’s garage what they’ve been claiming would happen to me if I they ever caught me alone in a dark alley- something I find to be truly laughable, as most of these internet bad-asses strike as the type that would hang out in the woods behind a child’s playground, rather than in a well-lit urban center.

And I, literally could talk to myself in those rare moments whenever I needed confirmation that my opinion was right. It’ll be a huge win-win all around. But my viral marketing will have to linger on the back burner, for a tale awaits, and that right quick. When we were last gathered around the metaphorical campfire, I was trapped in an ugly beige room at my doctor’s office, putting my mad Jenga skills to the test by constructing Parisian landmarks from tongue depressors and cotton balls. Good times for sure, but it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my day off, by any means.

Keeping in mind that at this point, I had already experienced a terrifying “low”, was still in some truly horrendous pain, and was invested to the amount of $251.00 for office visits without having seen any positive outcome, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that my nose was a wee bit out of joint in regards to my then current situation.So to recap… pain on a molecular level. Financially strapped. Feeling extorted into taking expensive tests before ANY of my necessary meds will be released. Disinterested doctor. Bottle- blond nurse who apparently drinks the dye rather than apply it to her hair.

And there was this: during my not-worth $151.00 consultation with Dr. Kapoor, she mentioned once or twice that I should take Cymbalta, a drug used to primarily treat depression, and occasionally fibromyalgia. To be fair, I was experiencing some epic melancholy, but when you haven’t slept good in months and your skin is so sensitive that even wearing a t-shirt hurts, it’s not too shocking that you’d be down in the dumps about it.

However, when I’m not in soul-shredding pain, I tend to be a rather darkly upbeat if somewhat cynical kind of guy, so taking an anti-depressive medication is complete overkill, to say the very least. In other words, help me get rid of the pain, and I’ll be singing as if I were competing on American Idol.

[It’d be epic… mainly because I don’t think anyone’s ever covered the Motorhead catalogue in the fashion it truly deserves.]

But here’s the rub- Cymbalta is not only expensive, but it also has some seriously unpleasant side effects: nausea, dry mouth, constipation, diarrhea, [seems contradictory] fatigue, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Given the knowledge of what could possibly happen as a result of taking this drug, I say “screw that“- I’d rather be depressed, thank you very much. Ding Dongs may not necessarily be the best way to treat a deep blue funk, but at least they don’t back you up like rush hour in Detroit. The question I have is this- why would she suggest an additional drug [that’s she’s never mentioned before] when I already have one that’s been working almost flawlessly for the better half of a decade?

Granted, my dosage obviously needed a tweak of sorts, but why mess with a regimen that’s already proven, when the perceptible priority was to reduce my pain? You’ve got something that already works, stick with it, and just increase the dosage already. Keep in mind, she had a 150 mg additional “tweak zone” to work with, so it wasn’t like I was maxxed out in regards to this particular drug.

And this got me thinking as to why that was. I’m not going to go as far as saying somebody’s palms are getting greased by a sales rep, but it does seem odd. Just a random thought.

Now, when last we were together, I had just called Nurse Shaun’s direct line and left a detailed message reminding her not to forget to fax the financial paperwork along with each filled out application, of which there were three. Overall, a directive that even a mentally-handicapped baboon should’ve been able to follow, am I right?

Well, let me just make a mental note that next time I need this done, to go and find said baboon, because there’s no way they could have screwed it up as badly as this blonde stereotype did. Not only did she did forget to do this for two of the most crucial medications, she then claims that she never got my message, because she’s “new here and my phone inbox is screwed up“.

Believe it or not, I’m actually a realist, albeit a cynical one. People and sometimes things, make mistakes. I DO get that, really I do. But the fun part is a comin’, and it’s a doozy. After this snafu of epic proportions, during which I had to redo the application process, I make a decision not to do the tests, due to the fact I couldn’t afford them- a problem that Dr. Kapoor never even attempts to help me resolve.

On a related note, my new doctor was able to steer me to a program whose testing costs were 90% less than Labcorp’s- a program that St. Joe’s has apparently either never heard of, or can’t divulge due to having a contract with Labcorp. Either way, non-insured patients like myself get screwed in the end.

Yep- that’s some serious Hippocratic dedication to your client base right there, isn’t it?                                 And don’t kid yourself- we’re cash cows first, patients second.

Naturally, I call Dr. Kapoor’s office to tell her this, and they direct me once again to Shaun’s inbox, where I leave yet another detailed message regarding my decision. Roughly twenty minutes later, Shaun returns my call and asks if the message I had just left was the previous one telling her to send the financial info, to which I say no, it wasn’t.

I then ask her if she had listened to my most recent message, and she says: No, because I still can’t get into my inbox“. No pun intended, but hold the phone. Does anyone else besides me see the truly glaring problem here? She’s claiming that she can’t get into her inbox, yet she knew that I, and I alone, had left her a message. This, despite the fact that I called from a “restricted” number- IE: that number doesn’t show up even on lines equipped with Caller ID.

As one might expect, being the curiously playful child of the stars that I am, I just had to ask that if she was unable to access her voicemail, how in the Great and Terrible OZ was she able to ascertain that: (A) It was me calling, and… (B) that she had a message in the first place? Grant me this small tangent- since it’s initial discovery, scientists have stated time and time again that Hydrogen, due to its copious abundance, is the basic building block of the known Universe. I would strongly disagree. Stupidity is seemingly in much greater profusion than Hydrogen, and that, on the face of it, is what the Universe is apparently comprised of when studied in greater detail.

And there I was, phone in hand, speaking with it’s chosen representative. Fortunately for that moments entertainment, after a somewhat lengthy, if not awkward, pause, her response to being caught red-handed in a blatant (and no longer convincing) lie was simplicity itself: Um… I’m new here.”

Seriously. That was her entire explanation, and it was sheer genius.

That phrase, “Um… I’m new here” could and should, replace the standard: “you can’t blame me, I was drunk” excuse for the entire Millennial generation. No details to remember. No witnesses. And best of all, no defensible way someone could get mad at you for not knowing the ropes- after all, you’re new there, right?

What kind of jerk would be mean to you just because of that? Donald Trump, for sure, but everybody else? They would just get with the program and chillax, trust me on this. The perfect alibi. Granted, I don’t think it would totally work if your wife walked in on you having a marshmallow and chocolate syrup three-way with Angeline Jolie and Milla Jovovich, but she wouldn’t be able to later claim at her trial for killing you that it wasn’t an original excuse, now could she?

Of course not. That would be ridiculous.

Let’s see… I’m almost 300 bucks in, still suffering, have no pain medication, my paperwork is screwed up beyond belief, and I’m currently dealing with a woman who by way of comparison, makes Sarah Palin look like Nikoli Tesla. Yep. I’m officially done with this- it’s high time to get out the big guns and talk to a boss/supervisor.

My initial contact in the beginning of this process, was Nicole- who while professional and bubbly, couldn’t get past her script. No offense to her, as she was very nice, but I like my women to be more akin to the Groundlings and less like the Royal Shakespearean Academy. In other words, able to actually communicate without a physical libretto.

So, after some adorable back and forth, I find out that the office manager in charge of my doctor and her denser than depleted uranium nurse, is one Veena Dhillon, so I start touching base with her, bringing forth my grievances, assuming that things will soon get back on track and rolling forward.

Oh, eternally wretched optimism, when will you ever learn? Sometimes it’s like watching a kitten chase a laser pointer- you really want it to capture that insolent red dot, but you know in the end, it’s just wasting it’s energy trying to do so, and all will end in tears. Let me give you some context.

I’ve often been told that I have a tendency to be fairly (and uncomfortably) direct when I’m in the midst of addressing a complaint, as I don’t believe in skirting around the issue at hand, nor do I think that the application of treacle is an effective way of settling a problem either. Now, where I’m from (NYC) this is a fairly standard way of communicating- we all do it, and we do it rather well.

However, west of Texas and the closer you get to California, this method is considered somewhat intense, if not downright threatening, despite there not being one iota of threat or malice implied. The acronym for this form of horribly misconstrued perception is BATCA, which in layman’s shorthand, translates as “being a thin-skinned candy-ass”. Sufferers with BATCA have feelings of persecution, inability to think outside of their scripted box, and show an almost pathological capacity for rejecting common sense in the face of obvious facts and/or evidence.

In essence, I found Ms. Dhillon to be BATCA-crazy. When she and I get to discussing my concerns, she’s immediately dismissive, stating that she doesn’t “appreciate” my complaining about her employees, and despite my catching Shaun in an obvious lie, doesn’t “really see the need” to continue our conversation unless I adopt a “nicer” tone.

Oh for the love of Ding Dongs, was she serious?

For the record, I wasn’t yelling. I wasn’t using foul/vulgar language. And at no point did I suggest even remotely that her mother serviced longshoremen in between sets at the local strip club. I was firm, I was slightly sarcastic to be sure, but considering the amount of horrendous pain I was in [which had been thoroughly described at this point] it would have been ludicrous to expect me to be full of rainbows and unicorn glitter, would it have not?

But hey… I’m all about making friends, so I gave it a shot, nonetheless. Switching my tone to that of a prizewinner from The Price is Right, I finished off my listing of her staff’s incompetence and professional errors with enough sprinkles and icing to drop a diabetic at twenty yards. After I wrap it up, Veena’s measured and professional response was to jump right in and get all sides of the story in order to establish a baseline for a thoughtful course of action.

Well, that’s what should have happened- in a logical universe, anyway.

Instead, I am haughtily informed that the “doctor/patient relationship has been irreparably broken” because I dared to complain, and that in her [non-doctor] opinion, I should be discharged as a patient because she (once again) didn’t appreciate my tone when I dared to suggest that her perfect staff was anything but.

Off tangent: you ever meet anyone who makes you think to yourself: “This person will be the reason I buy a chainsaw and rent a large wood-chipper someday.”? Obviously, reassigning me to another doctor (as I suggested) was just too crazy an idea, as was  apparently her fully investigating the validity of my criticisms in the first place. See, there I was, naively assuming that an office manager actually manages an office, versus the reality where they play a game of cover thy incompetent minions’ asses.

To threaten complainants with the loss of their health care is a unique, and I might add, truly creative way to keep those negative quarterly numbers down. It’s almost downright Republican, to say the very least, and if I were a normal person, it might have worked.

Fortunately for you, my loyal readers, I am as far from normal as you can get- especially when you make a situation as personal as this. Throw my pain on top of my need for justice, and you can just imagine how far I’ll go in regards to acquiring personal satisfaction. If there is one thing I can modestly brag about, it’s the fact that I’m exceedingly good at getting to who’s really in charge of things- I don’t usually deal with the cubicle monkeys, I go straight for the biggest kahuna I can find.

Once discovered, I then make their life a living Heck, while simultaneously letting them know that all could have been avoided if only the people beneath them had done their jobs with just the merest hint of professionalism and personal interest. Not too surprisingly, this has generally resulted in my getting satisfaction, while also seeing some positive changes occurring within the power structure.

The ends justifying the means, as it were.

An amusing aside: several years ago, I had a minor problem with a cel phone bill, had called one of  my then-phone company’s Pakistan/Phillipine/India- based call centers, and by hook and crook, had ended up getting into a shouting match with the zombie on the other end. I finally wound up slamming down the phone, because I was getting nowhere, despite having asked for a supervisor several times, which is what had led to the argument in the first place.

Within minutes, vulgar text messages started appearing on my phone, all seemingly sent to myself from my own number. It wasn’t too hard a stretch to ascertain where they were actually calling from, so I did what one would be expected to do, and called the 1-800 service number to formally lodge a complaint. Over the course of a week, the messages kept coming, and despite my dealing with everyone from the phone jockeys to the physical store, the flow was relentless.

No matter who I talked to, the buck was passed, and excuses were rampant. BTW, I loathe rampant excuses, absolutely loathe them. Even more than I hate stale PEEPS, which is a hatred that burns with the heat of a thousand suns. But getting back to the point, it morphed into a crusade for Truth, Justice and the Wayne Michael Reich way, which comes not only with Ding Dongs, but awesome cartoons as well.

After just a few more days of phone calls, I hit the mother-lode: a retiring [and fed-up] secretary to the afore-mentioned Really Big Kahuna. She not only gave me this persons direct office number, but their private cel and home numbers as well.

Which of course, I did not use, as I am an honorable man…. until the following Sunday that is, when I called them at nine o’clock at night to explain my particular situation. Shockingly, they were actually somewhat upset, but after a few awkward minutes where my lineage was questioned repeatedly, I eventually managed to convey just why it was that I was talking to them- their lesser employees had passed the buck, and here I was, humbly attempting to deposit it.

At that point, this individual became very interested in just who I had been talking to, and I cheerfully gave up all the names of the various managers that had been blowing me off for the past two weeks.

Unfortunately for my newest Kahuna bestie, I couldn’t for the life of me remember exactly who it was that had given me their private numbers in the first place- darn, that squidgy memory of mine. I’m still all shades of broken up about it.

Regardless, the promise of swift and ferocious action was made, my number was grabbed, and I was informed that it “will be taken care of” ASAP. Darn, I just love a good conversation with stimulating people, don’t you? Anywho… the next morning I was called by no less than three different managers, their apologies were made (one through obviously gritted teeth) and I was given a “credit” which reflected several months of my average bill.

That my loyal bitches, is how you drop the mic. BOO-YAH.
So why should this have been any different?

Well… complaining about medical related care is kind of difficult, and purposefully so. You can complain to the BBB, which isn’t going to do squat, or to the Board of Medical Examiners, which reviews complaints and issues judgments. However, since it’s doctors reviewing other doctors, unless you kill someone [3 seems to be the magical number where BOMEX wakes up and yanks your license] you can guess what the outcome will most likely be.

SPOILER: the patient loses, and BOMEX by law, will not/cannot tell you the course of discipline taken, or if any actually was. Isn’t that helpful?

So where is a ticked off Artbitch to go when he needs to complain about what he feels is a pressing issue? In my case, that would be the one and only Saint Joeseph’s Patient Relation Board, staffed by an amazingly friendly woman named Denise Bludis. To be fair, Denise also followed a script in how she dealt with me, but at least she wasn’t a rudely condescending cow like Veena had been, nor was she dismissive about the concerns I had brought forth.

All in all, a lovely person to deal with, given the situation.

However- if I did have to speak poorly about interacting with the “board” as it were, I would definitely suggest that the process itself really needs to be sped up. It took almost two weeks for my calls to be returned [I blame that on inter-office miscommunication, not her] and at least two more before a resolution was even discussed.

If there is an upside to all this, it’s that St. Joseph’s does take complaints like mine seriously- the only problem being that they take it so seriously that they won’t tell you, the patient, a damn thing, or even allow your complaint to be made public. All shades of a mini-BOMEX, where an unethical whitewash takes place under the guise of looking out for the consumer. Think about this for a minute: the average citizen has no idea how to find out what complaints their doctor has, or what, if any, action has been taken against them in regards to the same. It’s easier to find out how many health code violations your local Mc Donald’s has, versus being able to see whether your doctor is competent or not.

I’ll hazard the theory that when St. Joes is paying out a settlement for a severity of health issue or an actual death occuring from one of these incompetent lapses, they’ll give pause to rethinking their pre-established policy, but the jury’s still out on that one so far. During the time this brief dialogue occured, I also had the joy of receiving a certified letter from Veena wherein she whined about my nerve in complaining about her impeccable staff, accused me of using “verbally abusive” language, (told ya she was BATCA crazy) and then discharged me as a patient, without so much as a referral for a new doctor.

Yep. That’s who you want making medical decisions for you- an unprofessional ass-covering troglodyte who gets offended when you don’t belch rainbows.So to recap: $251.00 in, still in hideous pain, tests required to get vital medication, and now- no doctor. Back to square one. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00 Start from scratch. Best of luck, here’s your hat, bon voyage, arriveaderci. 

Naturally, I took all of this in with an even temper and good humour- the two things that are my stock in trade. Granted, if I was able to have my druthers, I’d like to take that letter, deep-fry it, roll it in powdered sugar, drizzle it with honey, and have a team of rabid gerbils hand-deliver it up Vreena’s overly generous rectum sideways. You know. Like you do.

Up until that point, all I wanted was to make sure my complaint was taken seriously and on the books- no careers ruined, just a course of some minor disciplinary action taken, that’s all. After the receipt of that bitchy little missive however, it became exceedingly personal. Nobody has the right to impact your health just because they don’t like your “tone”, and nobody has the right to keep money they didn’t earn for services that they didn’t provide.

In other words, I was now going out for metaphorical blood, and I was going to get it, come Hell or high water. The one thing I have noticed after dealing with so many different levels of the medical industry is this- there’s a huge disconnect between patients and the staff/doctors in most offices.

Think about all the times a doctor has kept you waiting with no explanation, or their office screwed something up- have you ever gotten a credit for your inconvenience? I didn’t think so. But if you’re late or have to cancel….  do you get where I’m going with this?

I can’t think of any other industry where filing a simple complaint is this much of a pain in the ass, can you? Well I for one, wasn’t going to just bend over and take it like I was the new guy in the prison shower, I was gonna get back what was mine- in this case, all the money I had spent on fruitless office visits.

The lingering question: how exactly was I going to do that? To be honest, I wasn’t really coming from a position of strength- sure, I was convinced that I was right, but I also feel the same way in regards to how Milla Jovovivch should come over to my house for a massage, and we all know that hasn’t happened……yet.

As I stated earlier, I tend to be a rather darkly upbeat, if somewhat cynical, kind of guy- there’s generally a lot of criticism directed at cynics, but it’s only because people don’t “get” us, and as to what brings us joy. That’s right- I said “joy”. Cynics at their core are ALWAYS happy. Not because we view the world through ash-colored glasses, but because we’re consistently being proven right or being pleasantly surprised, all the time. And I am a cynic’s cynic, thank you very much. I understand how the world works, and I comprehend exactly how it’s worker drones react when placed under pressure. The answer is simple. They crack like Kim Kardashian’s makeup when she smiles. And at it’s core, St. Joeseph’s is staffed by worker bees, not Queens.

Therein lies the exploitable chink in the armor. One of the major flaws in forcing people to stick to a script is that it doesn’t allow the drones independent thought- they have to get every decision approved beforehand, which is maddening when you’re dancing around a resolution. One step forward, two steps back, as it were. Fortunately, I’m German-Sicilian. We don’t dance so much as we march, forward and usually through, a roadblock.

As my Father once said to me: “German efficiency mixed with the Sicilian thirst for revenge… yeah, that’s a great combination.” There was no way in Hell these fraudulent and incompetent nimrods were keeping my money, for one simple reason:


Now by this point, I thought that I had defended my case pretty well with Denise- seemingly genuine in her sympathy, she nonetheless held fast to the corporate line in the sand, albeit without being haughty or unprofessional. But regardless of what she actually believed, she was forced to defer to her so-called superiors, who so far as I could ascertain- just wanted me to shut up and go away without the money I felt that I had wasted.

Clearly, my devastating charm and ruggedly good looks weren’t going to cut it over the phone, so whether I liked it or not, it was evidently time for me to dig deep in the dark corners of my soul, pull out that dusty steamer trunk, open it up, and unfurl my inner Machiavelli. placed there many years before. Fortunately for me, it still fit perfectly, and all false humility aside… my ass looked great.

Sensing that I had nothing to lose, I suggest that perhaps the time had come for me to file a lawsuit  via small claims court as a means to get my money back- after all, I had gone though the proper channels, and was getting nowhere [no fault to Ms. Bludis, mind you] and that if I were forced to do so, would use my considerable self-promotion skills to bear, letting everybody know about their business practices.

As you might imagine, threatening a small claims lawsuit for an amount that was less than the cost of an I-phone went over just as well as Steven Hawking telling Mike Tyson he was about to get the beating of his life. Don’t quote me, but I’m pretty sure I heard Denise yawn- or maybe it was just a passing breeze… taking place inside her closed-off office. Stranger things have happened.

So I pulled my trump card, and casually added that there was always “Artbitch“. Just as casually, the response was: “I’m sorry, did you say Artbitch?”

“Yes. Artbitch. The infamous blog that covers a wide variety of subjects as long as it falls under the Phoenix-based art scene or my life? Artbitch. The blog that took the Phoenix New Times over it’s metaphorical knee and spanked them until they started covering the Arts more like a newspaper and less like a home-schooler’s pamphlet?

Artbitch. The screed that regularly reminds Phoenicians that Peter Bugg is our artistic version of Adam Sandler minus the charm, talent, and originality? Artbitch. Written by an amazingly talented, yet oddly humble visual artist who’s single-handedly changed the perception of Ding Dongs as an after-meal snack?

Artbitch… you know… the blog that…”  In the distance, the sound of crickets, and then: “I’m sorry… who, again?” Regardless of the fact she had never heard of me [how that is I have no idea- I am so talking to my PR department come Monday] I still felt I was on to something, and decided to roll the dice. After all, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain- in this case, that being two and a half Benjamins, and one sawbuck.

That buys a lot of Ding Dongs, by the way, and more than a few gallons of skim milk. Just putting it out there, that’s all. Undaunted however, I pressed on: Sigh… never mind- anyways, the point I’m trying to make here is that I have a very select set of skills- in my case, that happens to be creative writing. People are always telling me that I’m a damn good writer, and at this point, I don’t think all of them are just trying to be polite. I’m thinking that maybe I need to write something about this whole mess.”

“Well, that is your right, Mr. Reich- and if you want to say someth-“

“In fact, I’ve been getting a lot of attention lately in regards to what I’ve previously written, the New Times slap-down being chief among them, so I’m thinking that if I could take on a major publishing chain and emerge not only unscathed but better known after the experience, how hard would it be to take on one unprofessional doctor staffed with a bevy of incompetent minions?

I’m no mathematician by any means, but I like my odds here. In fact, here’s where it gets interesting- there’s this major publication that seems really interested in my stuff, and I want to make my bones with them, so I need to come in strong, know what I’m saying? And I just had this wonderful idea… How about I pitch them a story regarding patient dissatisfaction with doctors and how complaints are kept hidden from the general public?

I could name names, give dates, really get into the facets of the narrative, which would be easy since I’ve kept really detailed notes… is that a story that you think people would like to read? I sure as heck do, and like I said earlier, there’s always my blog if that doesn’t pan out. Granted, it doesn’t have the reach of a major magazine- what does? However, what it does have is a  readership base who passes it around like cigarettes in prison. So at the bare minimum, I figure I could inform a few thousand people about why they should avoid you guys like the plague.”

What followed was a looooooooong pause. So long in fact, that I thought she had hung up on me. But like I said, Denise was nice. Professional. And definitely not stupid. That inherent intellect led to what I believe was a spur of the moment command decision, that being the following: “Mr. Reich? Upon looking at the situation, I think it would be in our, I mean your best interest to refund your money. You obviously feel that we acted in bad faith, so I’ll get it moving as soon as possible- you should see a refund in check form sometime in the next four to six weeks.”

[It actually got to me in six days. Imagine that!] And all it took was eleven phone calls, five messages, two veiled threats, and playing on the fear of everybody thinking that your business (and it IS a business long before it’s a calling) reeks of unethical behavior to get it done. But I wasn’t quite finished yet.

Yes, I had achieved satisfaction and gotten my money back, but the people responsible for this cock-up were pretty much gonna skate on by, a theory borne out by the letter that I received from Ms. Bludis a few days later which summarized the investigation of my complaint. Basically, it goes through everything I claimed very thoroughly [nice job, Denise!] but by and by, allows Dr. Kapoor, Shaun and Veena off the hook.

I think. Or it doesn’t. You know what? I’m not really sure, since after all, I the patient, don’t need to know or am allowed to know, what consequences (if any) they face. Wouldn’t want anyone to feel bad about themselves, you know- it’s very damaging for the professional confidence.

At the end of my conversation with Denise, I told her how much I appreciated her help, and how nice she was throughout this entire process, but could I possibly ask one last small favor, to which she easily says: “Yes“.

“When you talk to Ms. Dhillon and Dr. Kapoor, let them know this if you would… tell them that despite my getting my money back, I’m still going to write about this.”

Well… that is your right… I guess.”

“Thanks, appreciate that. Also please tell them that I’m going to make them famous. And you… you have a lovely day.”

Once again, that is how you drop the mic. BOO-YAH.

Whenever a doctor cannot do good, he must be kept from doing harm.” – Hippocrates





Paging Dr. Feelbad. PT. 1 (What’s Behind the Green, Kapoor?)

“When the doctor said I had diabetes, I conjured images of languishing on a chaise lounge nibbling chocolates. I have no idea why I thought this.” – Mary Tyler Moore

Hello Blogiteers!

Diabetes can be a real bitch. No… I take that back. Diabetes is the bitch.

Sure, my claws are sharp, but they might as well be made out of papier-mâché in defense against  the wellspring of pure evil that Diabetes can call to arms at a moment’s whim. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that this disease is seriously trying to kill me. I know, I know… it sounds completely paranoid, but I’m starting to think that I might just be right.

Over the last few months, I’ve suffered a puzzlingly random escalation in my blood sugar numbers, an almost crippling bout of peripheral neuropathy, which in turn, has led to a painfully heightened skin sensitivity that makes accomplishing even the smallest of tasks exceedingly difficult at the best of times.

The best analogy I can think of to describe this sensation is that of a T-Rex with a bad sunburn trying to make a bed that’s full of hyperactive kittens… while standing in a lava pit. For those of you who are unaware what peripheral neuropathy entails, here’s the rough definition: “Peripheral neuropathy, is a result of damage to peripheral nerves, and often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in the hands and feet. It can also affect other areas of the body. The pain associated with peripheral neuropathy is generally described as stabbing or burning. Often, there’s tingling.”

Ah, yes… tingling. That would be a definitive upsweep in joy if that were only the sole symptom I was currently experiencing. For sake of clarity, imagine vengeful demons repeatedly stabbing you with red-hot knitting needles as you try to tie your shoes with your legs, arms and hands sheathed in fire, and you’ll get a much clearer understanding of what I’ve been going through recently. And yet… I’m still feeling fairly optimistic about this, the relatively new year of 2015. Sure, I could easily give in to my obvious discomfort, but I’m the Artbitch. I dispense pain, I don’t suffer from it.

In fact, it’s currently a quarter after midnight as I write this newest screed, and while it’s true that the only reason I’m up this late is because my bed-sheets feel like barbed wire on my skin, I’d like to call attention to the fact that I’m taking this particularly sour batch of razor-lemons and making 100 proof hard lemonade out of them.

If I have to be up half the night, I might as well be productive, and despite the fact that I’ve had to fire two doctors for refusing to follow their sworn duty to the basic tenets of the Hippocratic Oath*, I’m still soldering on. Throw in all the medical marijuana recipes that I’ve received from friends wanting to help ease my pain, and I’m pretty sure that I could open my own cannabis-based bakery. The wonders of modern science. It’s so much more than just Velcro and Shrinky-Dinks.

[*Seriously. Avoid Dr. Jatin B. Daas of Arizona Primary Care like the freaking plague. He won’t return messages, doesn’t “believe” in prescribing medication that you’ve been taking for over three years, won’t follow your pre-established protocol, has quite possibly the worst magazine selection that I’ve ever seen in a physician’s waiting room, and as an added bonus: possesses (in my opinion) the bedside manner of Dr. Mengele at a B’ani B’rith pot-luck*. [*Allegedly.]

And while we’re on the subject, I’d recommend that the office of Dr. Smita Kapoor at Internal Medicine Health Center at St. Joseph’s is also best avoided as well. Taking care of, and listening to, their patients isn’t seemingly something that interests them, so do yourself a favor and just visit a voodoo priestess instead.

That way you know they’ll be some tasty bomb-ass chicken soup waiting for you in the end, and let’s be honest here- who doesn’t love themselves some tasty bomb-ass chicken soup? Pasty-faced Vegans, that’s who. More on her operation in a bit.]

Minus my ongoing pain issues, it’s been relatively low-key here at the Lair of Snarkitude- the day gig framing art for galleries and their clients is humming along, my social life is fine, and I was tapped to write a small article for PHOENIX Magazine which should see publication sometime in the next few weeks, as well as being assigned two additional Q&A commentaries- overall, it’s shaping up to be an interesting year, to say the very least.

What hasn’t been interesting or fun has been the amazing amount of hoops I’ve had to jump through recently in regards to my medical care and the ongoing maintenance of my health, which as you may have already surmised- has been exceedingly problematic as of late. Some context- being a diabetic is a lot of work- you’re constantly micro-managing every bite you eat, endlessly testing your blood sugar, and let’s face it, constantly whining about the travails of being a diabetic  is known to consume up more than it’s fair share of energy as well.

You just can’t win.

If all goes well, hopefully one dies of old age before this disease kills you in all sorts of interesting, yet terrifying, ways. Heart attack/strokes. Liver failure. Low blood sugar. Kidney failure. Retinal failure. Circulatory system failure leading to the amputation of fingers, toes, and even your legs. Good times.

Let me tell you something from my unique point of view- if you have to pick a disease to be cursed with, get one that they write operas about. Granted, tuberculosis is always a solid choice, but I’m also highly partial to the route of wasting away via alcohol as well. Sure, it’s tragic, but at least it’s singable. In fact, I’m in the midst of writing one myself.

Working title: “Sweetblood, or hey- I’d love to have a Ding Dong, but… you know.”

The dancing Snickers bar dream sequence by the way, will be the show stopper, hands down. All creative diversions aside, the majority of my free time these days seems to be focused on battling my disease, and that, at times, can be just downright exhausting, both physically and mentally. I sometimes get panic attacks when I see a white lab coat, which to be honest. has really put a heckuva kink in those times when my GF Ashley and I like to play “naughty scientist and pizza delivery guy“.

One of the other irritants of being a diabetic is trying to find a doctor that actually understands the complexities of Diabetes, and all that condition pertains to, as most GP’s (general practitioners) don’t have the background knowledge to make a viable difference in your health, and when it comes to dealing with specialists who do know, AKA: Endocrinologists, it’s been my sad experience that they don’t really earn the over-inflated fees that they charge.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but if I’m paying $250.00 for ten minutes of someone’s time, it at least better be with an Asian dominatrix wearing thigh-high boots who gives an amazing lap-dance while  letting me know that I’ve been a very bad boy and need to be punished.

What can I say… I’m a simple man who enjoys simple pleasures.

Fortunately, at one point I did have such a doctor- the aforementioned Dr. Smita Kapoor. I started seeing her several years ago after my previous physician started cracking jokes to my girlfriend about me “milking” my neuropathy pain for sympathy, rather than performing the job he was being paid an exorbitant amount to do.

Like all relationships, it was great in the beginning- my pain levels went way down, I was on top of my condition for once, and as an added bonus, she was easy on the eyes. Granted, that sounds incredibly sexist, but if you have to be poked, prodded, and examined constantly by a stranger, it might as well be an attractive one. But all things eventually come to an end, whether we like it or not. I lost my medical coverage, which led to my not seeing her for over a year, mainly due to the cost of the office visits- this in turn, led to the failure of my health, resulting in my most recent and unwilling hospital stay, where I once again discovered that the ICU ward at John C. Lincoln has some dope-ass vanilla pudding.

Seriously. You have no idea how freaking good that stuff is. It’s like creamed crack. On steroids.

So when I finally got back on my feet, I decided that it was time to bite the financial bullet and start getting back to seeing my doctor on a monthly basis as a way to wrest control of my life back from the fiery grip of Diabetes. That was the plan, anyway.

Sadly, when I contacted my doctors office, I discovered that she was in the process of leaving the group practice, and any further details as to where she was going to wind up were not forthcoming.

Son. Of. A. Bitch.

Chagrined, I decided that since I couldn’t do anything at that time, I’d just accept the physician who took on my now former doctor’s patients- that being the aforementioned Dr. Jatin Daas. Going in, I wasn’t worried, as there was a multi-year treatment history for him to reference, and being the eternal optimist that I am, I naively assumed that he would just follow the pre-established protocol.

One day, I have to really apologize to my gut for not listening to him like I should. I’m not sure in which manner this will occur, but I’m definitely going to have to get him something nice for all of his attempts at keeping me from being a complete idiot. When I finally get to meet my new doctor, he takes all of eight minutes to establish our new working relationship, and proceeds to re-up my prescriptions, one of which is a fairly low-dosage of the narcotic known as Oxycodone.

Currently, I take the following drugs daily for control of my Diabetes and neuropathy:
Novolog (fast-acting insulin taken by injection)
– Lantus (slow-release insulin taken by injection)
– Pregabalin AKA Lyrica (for nerve pain)
– Oxycodone (pain control)
– Amitryptyline (a non-addictive sleeping agent)

Now, when it comes to the Oxy, it’s essentially a back-up medication to take the edge off my pain when the Lyrica isn’t cutting it, which is rare- in other words, I normally can make a 30 day supply typically last three months. But as of recent that hasn’t been the case, due to the hellish bout of neuropathy I’ve been battling.

Unfortunately, it’s been trying to become an essential part of my daily routine, and since my day gig involves the handling of expensive art while using sharp and stabby tools that can take your hands off if you’re not careful, I can’t allow myself to be too doped up either. Therefore, I generally “tough it out” and take the Oxy at night, as a means to help me stave off the ever-present pain, which if timed right, lets me grab two to four hours of sleep before the fire in my skin wakes me up again.

Even sleeping naked can be too much where my skin sensitivity issue is concerned, and if my GF happens to move, accidentally dragging the top-sheet across any part of my body, it’s a sure bet she’ll find me hanging from the ceiling, man-bat style come the dawn of the new morning. So, as I leave my new doctor’s office, I make the follow up appointment for a month later, and I go about my day, running errands, accomplishing tasks, and occasionally killing the random circus clown here and there.

You know… like you do? Granted, I was still in a lot of pain, but I did have the Oxy, and after all, I was going to talk to him about upping my dose of Lyrica during the next visit anyway. See, I have a theory- after five years of taking this drug, I’m convinced my body has become acclimated, and that the dosage needs to be “tweaked” a few milligrams upward in order for it to continue working as effectively as it has been.

But there upon the sunny My Pretty Pony horizon, a spanner in the works was thrown.

Roughly a week and a half before my appointment was to occur, I discovered to my horror that I was going to run out of the one medication that kept me from peeling the skin off my own face by seven days- that of course, being the Oxy, a drug that I had been taking without incident for the past half-decade. So, like any responsible adult, I called his office and left a message explaining the critical situation… and didn’t hear anything back for three days.

Thus began a game of phone tag that would make the Gods of Olympus themselves weep. Despite the fact that I had a well-documented medical history of neuropathic pain going back five years, Dr. Daas seemingly couldn’t care less about the discomfort that I was going through, or the hellish pain that I was on the cusp of experiencing.

Let me be clear- at no time whatsoever, did he even bother to return any of my messages personally, leaving that sensitive task to his head nurse, who to her credit, became more and more agitated by his unethical refusal to render any sort of aid regarding my situation. Not once did he offer to move up my appointment or recommend an alternative pain killer, but he did let me know (via his nurse) that he wasn’t “comfortable” prescribing narcotics, a small but important fact that I feel should have been told to me when we first met.

Forgoing an actual solution, he offered up (via his nurse again) the name of a pain specialist who charged $250.00 for the first office visit, couldn’t see me for three months, and then, to top it all off, didn’t actually treat diabetic neuropathy… AT ALL.

In fact, their practice was based on what their receptionist referred to as “Erector-Set” pain- the analogy being that if you were more metal than flesh due to an accident, then they were your go-to guys for said treatment in regards to the same. While she was truly sympathetic, there wasn’t really anything that they could do to help me whether it was in the short or the long term.I tells ya- sometimes, I really wish that I was a jazz musician, so that I could go do some heroin without anyone giving me real grief for it.

But as my circumstances seemingly became bleaker, there was a flash of white light on the horizon, a joyous trumpet-call from over the hills, the sound of a crash between a truck full of chocolate and a truck full of peanut butter- my GF Ashley using all of her redheaded Google ninja skills had found my old doctor, the one and only Smita Kapoor!

God, what an amazing feeling that was- not only did I have my old doctor back, I was able to get an appointment on the very same day that I was supposed to see the schmuck that was refusing to follow my treatment protocol- certainly, this was Fate dealing me it’s finest hand. It’s closely akin to an old high school buddy calling you up and saying: “Dude… my parents let me move back into the basement- so come on over and let’s get that wicked surf-punk ska house-mix Def Leppard cover band project going, and we’ll make some rock and roll myths happen!

So, after setting up my new appointment with my old go-to girl, I then called up Dr. Daas and proceeded to fire him as my physician- granted, I had to do this via his head nurse, but she seemed more than happy copying down my thoughts on his inability to follow the tenets of his chosen career. And as an aside, she did this with an inordinate amount of personal glee, I’m happy to report.

You think that I’m a bitch on the pixilated page when you piss me off? You should really hear me on the phone [or see me in person] when I get going, as I’ve made Teamsters weep for their mamas, and yes… I AM that good. As for his difficulties in following my pre-established care, I’d normally state that “It ain’t rocket science“, but it might as well have been, since reading what was in my file was apparently a parallel to NASA being able to land the Space Shuttle on top of one of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s lawn gnomes.

But no matter, for I was about to get back on track while wearing black, and I was looking forward to it- picture a Christmas morning inside the Willy Wonka Factory while all around you the gathered Oompa-Loompas dance in their native and festive garb, and you’ll be close to the joy I was feeling at just the mere thought of getting my pain issues finally settled.

And when the blessed day finally arived, it went great. She seemed genuinely thrilled to see me, and even re-upped my pain meds, all the while chatting about how “we” were going to get back on top of my condition. Who-hoo. Yipee. Yowza. Sure, there was one small issue- that being I was told the office charge was going to be $100.00, and it turned out to be $151.00 instead, but at least I was getting to see the person most responsible for my continued health, so that seemed to be a small price to pay in the long run overall.
[Side note: this practice of adding additional fees after the fact for a standard office visit seems to be the newest way the medical profession attempts to gouge it’s hostage client base- I would love to see if any other business could get way with this, wouldn’t you?

“Yes, normally it’s two-seventy-nine for that Big Mac, but our counter-person did have to hand you a receipt, so now it’s four-fifty-five.”]

But back to my narrative. When I came in for the follow-up appointment a mere two weeks later, that breezy attitude had been replaced with the countenance of someone who had previously dated me and had the misfortune of seeing me naked. Clinical. Calculating. In a word, just plain frigid. As I describe how bad my pain is, she seems distracted, and I observe that she and her nurse (a bottled-blonde named Shaun) are taking subtle glances at their watches as if they had somewhere else to be.

Cutting me off in mid-sentence, Dr. Kapoor informs me that she wants me to get my blood drawn for a series of tests- one will be a full blood work-up panel (over $300.00) a urine/drug test ($200.00) and then she wants to see me in another two weeks for another visit. ($100.00-150.00) For those of you keeping score, I haven’t had any real cessation in my pain levels, plus that’s at least $650.00 at the bare minimum, and I don’t have any health insurance.

Not because I’m irresponsible or anything along those lines, I’m just still working my way through the tepidly bureaucratic mess that is the Affordable Healthcare Act- and while I can’t speak for you, I generally don’t have that kind of cash on hand at any given point, a detail which I made particularly clear to Dr. Kapoor. Several times, in fact. Brushing that aside, she informs me that I will need to find a way to raise the funds, as she cannot (and will not) re-up my pain meds without a current urine test, and as to my request for “tweaking” my Lyrica dosage, she states rather haughtily that she is, and I quote: “not in her comfort zone” for doing that either.

Let me clarify. She wouldn’t prescribe me the low-dose narcotic that she originally approved as a side drug to ease my pain, nor will she alter the dosage of the non-narcotic drug that is obviously not working like it used to. And for this, I get to pay her $150.00? I would have been way better off giving that money to the aforementioned dominatrix- if I have to be in severe pain, I’d rather that it be served to me while it’s wearing a black leather corset. Once again, I’m a simple man with simple appetites. Excusing herself, she gathers up her laptop and exits the room with Shaun, leaving me sitting there… for 45 minutes.

Interesting side note: when you’re stuck in a room with no magazines save for Good Housekeeping, [Happily, I did learn how to make cookies that are moist and deliciousthe secret is butter.] and your phone only has 50% of it’s battery left, you’ll find it’s truly amazing what you can make out of tongue depressors when you’re tragically bored beyond belief.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the Leaning Tower of Pisa! All kidding aside, I cannot even begin to tell you how infuriating it is to hear someone mewlingly complain that their “comfort zone” is being compromised when all your zones (and I do mean all) are in sheer f**king agony. Aww… poor baby- you feel uncomfortable.

Well, guess what, you self-absorbed bitch, when I wake up in the morning, my goddamn eyelashes hurt. So f**k your comfort zone, and f**k you as well. And as an aside, here’s a heads up: when a patient of yours is diabetic and you abandon him in a room for 45 minutes and he hasn’t had a chance to eat yet, he’s apt to have his blood sugar drop, so next time please make sure to leave him a glass of OJ or a peanut butter sandwich before you decide to go see the other six patients that you all cleverly scheduled for the same time.

Once again, I’d love to see any other profession that does this: “Hi, I’m from the cable company and I see you have a one o’ clock appointment, so I’m also going to be installing the other five houses on your block at the same time- this could take a while.” That’s right- I experienced a “low” when I was there, due to having to wait so long for them to get back. Fortunately, I always carry sugar pills and fast-acting glucose gel to stave off such an event. Thank the Lord, that I do, because when Shaun returns, she dismisses what could have been a very bad thing and doesn’t even once to think to check my blood sugar*- instead, she just blathers on about how Dr. Kapoor will “return soon”, because as I think I’ve established by now, I obviously have nothing but time on my hands.
*[When we did check it almost 30 minutes later, it was 114- which means I probably dropped into the low 60’s. That’s pretty bad, and could have led to my passing out.]

Granted, this is all occurring on my day off- what better way to spend my excess time than being trapped in a beige room with nothing but cotton balls, six month old magazines, and tongue depressors to amuse myself? If I only had access to a roll of bubble wrap and a box of packing peanuts… I could have kept my inner child amused for days.

Attempting to make the most of the down time, I at that point handed Shaun the other reason why I was there, that being my medical aid paperwork. The drugs that I require to function and stay upright, (namely the Lyrica and my two Insulins) are bloody expensive, and because of their prohibitive cost and the fact that I’m uninsured, I’m more or less forced to be on aid programs to receive them free of charge.

Each box of Insulin pens and a 30 day supply of Lyrica runs about $268.00 each, a price that has only been rising since the new insurance laws went into effect. Mind you, I don’t blame the AHA, I blame the drug manufacturers who saw it as a golden opportunity to gouge it’s client base. For instance, a vial of Lantus used to be around $90.00- not cheap, but also not break-the bank expensive either.

Heck, even without insurance, I could afford that. But now? Try $250.00 for a drug that I could buy from Mexico or Canada for less than twenty, the only difference being the zip code it’s located in. That’s what I love about this country- if you’re rich, you’ll be just fine, but if not- well, just pick out what suit you’d like to be buried in and what song you’d like to be played at your service.
[By and by, my choice would be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” as covered by Sid Vicious- it is a train wreck full of awesome.]

Overall, the process for receiving this medical assistance isn’t that complicated- it typically requires filling out a one page application, providing proof of your financial status, and per the federal requirement, your doctor’s office faxes the whole shebang, along with a prescription for whatever drug you’re applying for, directly to the company who manufactures said drug.

Normally, a five minute procedure at worst- two if you’re firing on all eight cylinders. Now as a rule, I tend to keep things highly organized where personal paperwork is concerned, as it’s a combination OCD and German thing, and this was no different. Each application was individually binder-clipped together, and the areas that my doctor needed to fill out were highlighted with one of those neon yellow marker thingamajigs- in short, a masterwork of neurotic compulsiveness that even Helen Keller could have easily followed.

With her hands tied. So naturally of course, it got all shades of bolloxed up. Shaun exits the room once more, paperwork in hand, and when she returns almost 45 minutes later… none of the paperwork is filled out, which for some reason, she did not notice. Mind you, I could see this from across the room, but apparently, when it comes to the fine details, Shaun is far-sighted.
[For those of you keeping track of the time, we’re close to almost TWO hours for what should have been a half-hour visit at worst.]

Giggling, (I kid you not) she suggests that I should leave, and states that “they’ll take care of it”- not to worry. Note to self: whenever anyone offers to do this in the future, remember this day, and how badly they screwed the metaphorical pooch with a sandpaper condom.

After I reluctantly depart, I call Shaun’s direct line and leave a message reminding her not to forget to send the financial info for all three forms- granted, it says to do so right underneath the fax number printed on each application, but since she had already shown me signs that she was possibly three beans short of a burrito, I felt I should hedge my bets, and make sure, nonetheless.

Speaking of burritos, it seems that now would be a good time for me to take a pause from my tale and go microwave one, and then hit the sack. And when I come back..

I get a Dear John letter, have a showdown with Marshall Dillon’s incompetent sister, dance a tango with a nice (but scripted) St. Joseph’s patient relation flack, and show the bitches who I be, using nothing but the power of positive thinking and my melodic voice.

“I don’t trust doctors. It’s not to say there ain’t some good ones, but on a general level, no, I wouldn’t trust ’em at all.”- Keith Richards



The Art Spaces of Tommorrow? (Mesa rising) Part One

“In every artist’s life, it is inexorable that environment play a determining part”- Eric Walrond

 Hello Blogiteers!

I’m feeling pretty good these days. My blood sugar is slowly getting under control, I’m putting back on the weight I lost during my brief sojourn at John C. Lincoln Hospital, and I finally got to see “White House Down” via my newest and bestest buddy Netflix. It rocks, by the way. Just suspend your common sense regarding how the terrorists gain control of the White House, and you’ll be perfectly entertained.

Ten words: presidential limo gun battle, on the White House front lawn.
Life in a word, is just kick-ass.

And speaking of the subject of kicking ass, my last humble rant generated a slew of emails, most of them centering on my take in regards to art galleries versus art-spaces. As I expected, there were a few angry missives criticizing my devotion to fervent capitalism, but I still maintain that in order to be seen as a world-class art destination, it’s absolutely crucial that we present ourselves as total professionals when it comes to the marketing and fostering of our base talent.

But there was also the following comment left on my personal FB page, and it’s remarks like this that inspire me to keep writing: “Thank you for your words about art spaces and selling art. I’ve had some negative experiences, alongside some really positive ones. Sadly I let the negative ones carry more weight and Ive been treading water on my art lately. But after reading a bit of your blog I want to get back to some of my work.”

Years from now when this guy rules the art world, I’m gonna ask him for a favor. A big one. Most likely involving Milla Jovovich and a tub chock-full of marshmallow fluff. And people say it doesn’t pay to network? Pshaw, says I.

Back to the issue at hand.

To quote myself: “Picasso wasn’t discovered in a coffeehouse.” If we want to run with the big dogs, we need to get our lazy asses off the porch and actually get our shit together instead of endlessly talking about it. I’ve often (and publicly) stated the need for a subsidized mentor gallery program within the PAS, and if we’re ever going to make Phoenix a serious contender along the lines of cities such as New York and Los Angeles, it’s definitely one of the numerous things we need to implement, and that right quick.

If we want our metaphorical art-forest to continue to grow and prosper, then the need to make sure that for every tree that’s cut down, two saplings take it’s place is not only logical, it’s essential. All hail artsy HYDRA, as it were. Sadly, when it comes to the PAS, it seemingly feels that for every Eric Cox and Christine Cassaro we’re lucky to have, there’s six Peter Buggs, and they just keep reproducing like rabbits mainlining Viagra.

The inevitable poseurs and wannabes aside, we still have a long way to go before anybody of note sees this burg as an art mecca worth investing in. It’s not for lack of talent or passion, but the lack in marketing and leadership that continually sinks our ship before it evens get to unfurl it’s sails. As time goes on, I’m becoming less interested in the nuts [Joe Brklacich] and dolts [Peter Bugg] that comprise the inner workings of the PAS, and instead have been trying to visualize the long-term subsequent end goal- Phoenix becoming the go-to spot for serious art patrons.

While that may seem overly optimistic and perhaps even a little naive in relation to the reality we find ourselves currently in, I do believe it is possible. Still have doubts? Keep this in mind: Ben Affleck can’t act his way out of a brown paper bag, and now he’s freaking Batman. If the universe can let that happen, surely we can make our little art-scene commercially viable. And personally, I feel the universe owes us a big one, especially after letting that monstrosity of casting become a tangible fact.

I’d never thought I’d say this, but I really miss George Clooney.

My fellow artist and respected colleague Pete Petrisko recently opined over coffee that it was time for me to take on a more expansive worldview and concentrate my snark-fueled energy at those who are really to blame for the lack of the PAS’s progress- in other words, bigger and badder targets, and I’m inclined to agree.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always found it highly cathartic to metaphorically flay alive those who’s ignorance goes right to the bone, but I also think it’s time I take this knack for creative writing and kick it up a notch. I’m not going to be one of those people who name drop, as I’ve always perceived it to be both tacky and somewhat embarrassingly self-serving, but in the last eight months I’ve had no less than four professional writers (and one highly respected magazine editor) inform me that they think my writing is, and I quote: “solid and damn good”.

Let me tell you, nothing makes me feel pretty inside like sincere compliments. In fact, I’m going to be applying for a Warhol Grant in relation to creative writing later this year, and if I don’t get it… well, there’s always that management position at Cracker Barrel to fall back on, I guess. Priorities over personalities is the tack I’d like to take over the course of 2015, as I’m getting slightly topped off having to deal with the seemingly never-ending barrage of human speed-bumps that infest the PAS, much akin to an artsy version of Lyme disease. And in retrospect, I feel I’ve done a lot for starting the discussion of what course the PAS should take for the future.

That’s me… your basic conversation yeast. But I’m also the guy who bitch-slapped the Phoenix New Times and it’s Mangling Editor Amy Silverman so hard and so publicly that they actually started covering the PAS almost like a real newspaper. Granted, their writing and coverage is still uniformly terrible, but at least they’re doing something, even if it’s only partially beneficial in the end.

Throw in my recent shaming of the equally unimpressive* (and wholly unethical*) art entity SMoCA, for their past rewarding of shameless outright plagiarism, and one could easily surmise that getting in my crosshairs is not the wisest decision that one could make. Especially if you’re unprincipled or by the dint of your actions, you impede logical progress. *[Allegedly.]

If truth be known, I loathe roadblocks, and when I encounter one, I tend to do one of the following: go around, go under, or more typically- go right through the middle of that f**ker like a chest-burster straight out of Alien. Truly diplomatic subtlety has never been my modus operandi, and I see no real need to start now. If there’s a crisis that arises, you don’t stick your head in the sand, you grab that sucker by it’s greasy little throat and make it your… well, I’ll let you chose your own metaphor.

People who tend to sugarcoat obvious (and solvable) problems have always been one of my major pet peeves, as there’s only two ways you can go when faced with an issue- the right way or the path so well traveled by the PAS, that I’m surprised that we haven’t trademarked it yet. Living in the 5th largest city in America would make one naturally think that we’re at least on par with other cities where community infrastructure is concerned, and for the most part, you’d be right.

We have a rapidly expanding transit system, new businesses are springing up like dandelions, and our convention center can hold an entire Comicon’s worth of Princess Leias and Thors, with room to spare. And let’s not forget all of the public art, whether it’s the Calle 16 project, Third Street’s murals, or that god-awful sky-condom mesh monstrosity that’s hanging in Downtown. Which, by the way- I would love to see aflame, if it wasn’t for all the public money that’s already been wasted on it.

Where are all the truly dedicated arsonists when you really need them?

Due to my hatred, I’m even open to suggesting the idea of giving Peter Bugg a shot at creating something new to hang there, but as we saw with his obviously plagiarized* [and sadly winning] entry at SMoCA’s Good n’ Plenty grant awards, I’d have to believe that he’d just take the original sculpture, turn it upside down, add glitter, and call it a day.*[Allegedly]

Sorry. That was just a tad bit rude and highly inaccurate. Peter would never use glitter, as it tends to possess more substance than his entire body of work thus far. Gah. I’m trying to take the high road, honestly I am, but the snark wants what the snark wants.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the subject of art, most people tend to regard it as more of a want, rather than as a “need”, a position that I’m obviously biased in regards to. If I were to engage in a debate with someone who was advocating this POV, I’d start by illustrating the financial impact that a successful art community can bring to the table, such as increased tax revenues, along with the sometimes overlooked benefit of the revitalization of previously depressed neighborhoods.

Think about Roosevelt Street some twenty odd years ago, and I’d have to strongly suggest you think harder about whether it’s truly a “need” or not. Without foresight, would anybody have built those overpriced condos there at that time? Definitely not. But all of this boils down to a pointless exercise in theoretical academia unless there’s a structured framework already set in place to support the development of an economically viable arts district. To construct a successful arts community, you also need the built-in convenience found in most major American cities, and that’s where Phoenix is constantly dropping the ball.

Deaf to the sound of opportunity knocking. Missing the boat. Arriving a day late and several dollars short, for lack of a better analogy.

Along with the myriad of previously discussed concerns, the PAS also suffers from another uniquely urban malady, that being the issue of sprawl. If you’ve ever been out on a First Friday, you’re acutely aware that seeing all that’s to be seen is quite the Herculean task. Forget the lack of convenient parking, the human lemmings gumming up the sidewalks, and the ongoing issue of half-ass presentation combined with limited hours that are to be found in most of our art galleries, and you could easily argue that one of the major thorns in the art community’s side in regards to progress is that it’s footprint is huge- not in presence, but in distance.

For those of you who are familiar with the layout of the PAS, think about walking from Modified to the Icehouse. In July. See the inherent issue? For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, it would be the artsy equivalent of the Bataan death march… with hipsters. I get chills just thinking about it. Unlike many metropolises, Phoenix is not, nor has it ever really been, a walkable city. There are some limited areas where this is not entirely true, but as a rule, you really do need a car if you’re ever going to get anywhere in this town within what passes as a reasonable time.

Call me crazy, but if you’re going to support the arts, then you need to be able to easily support all the areas, not just the one over-gentrified street.

While I’ll acknowledge that Roosevelt has become a central location for the PAS, I’ll also state that I find it as edgy as a glass of warm milk. I’m a traditionalist. I like my art and my artists the same way I like my great white sharks- hungry and slightly dangerous to the status quo. I’ll take gritty (IE: Grand Avenue) over white-bread any day of the week, and I’ve always felt that you can be both professional and cutting-edge without having to placate the white and uptight patron brigade. Gritty doesn’t mean that you have to phone-in your approach, in my view it means that you’re willing to take chances others would take a pass on, either out of fear or ignorance.

Come to think of it, they’re two sides of the same coin, but I digress. While RoRo and Grand are part of the PAS for all practical intent and purposes, they may as well be on separate planets given their unique nature and amount of space between them. Keep in mind that between these two art anchors are several various galleries, art-spaces, and artist studios, the majority of whom are off the beaten path, and you’ll see why I say that ours is a highly fragmented art scene, in terms of both leadership and location.

To be frank, it’s exceedingly detrimental to establishing a solid base of patrons who actually buy art, rather than photographing it with their I-phones. In addition, it’s also a tough haul for the artists as well, since unless you’re lucky enough to have enough room in your house/apartment /garage/cardboard box for a dedicated studio, you’ll have to rent a space- and in Phoenix that usually means a small (and overpriced) rat-hole, typically situated in an area that could be charitably described at best as a demilitarized zone.

Speaking from a wealth of precedent experience, most of what passes for studio space in this city could be considered an exercise in personal suffering that would make the most ardent of Catholics weep. My old space had no air conditioning, save for a 30 year old swamp cooler, one window facing away from any natural light, and was home to an ever-changing roster of field mice, assorted weird spiders, and roaches that I swear on all that’s holy, would just laugh in my face whenever I pulled out a can of RAID.

Good times. The rent for this slice of Lucifer’s paradise at the time was $425.00- which even then, was way steep. But I was an artist, and an artist had to have a separate studio space, and who was I to go against tradition? An idiot, that’s who. But then as now, the options open to artists seeking an artistic creation space were limited. If you look at successful art markets around the country, the trait they all seem to share is that the artists and the spaces that show their work are integrated into a concentrated area, which makes perfect sense in regards to both business and convenience. Phoenix, on the other hand, has no such cohesion when it comes to it’s art community, and that lack of planning is proving to be quite the hindrance for serious patrons and artists alike.

Some measures towards this problem have been taken- the Oasis project on Grand for instance, which provides low-cost housing for artists, and also possesses an on-site gallery to showcase the work of said Creatives that live there. However at this time, it’s still overshadowed by the entity that is the RoRo District, so at best, it’s a baby-step in the right direction. I’m not smack-talking the Oasis, mind you- I for one, think it’s a great concept. It’s close to downtown, the views of the city are terrific, depending on what side you live on, and it’s three minutes away from Grand Avenue Pizza, and that’s always good.

But at this particular moment in time, it’s a wolf without a corresponding pack, and if this model were pushed even further and harder throughout the PAS, I think there’d be a definite up-sweep in revenue and exposure for our art scene overall, and I can’t see anyone having an issue with that. Except of course, for our local contingent of art-hipsters, who most likely, will kvetch endlessly about how much cooler Phoenix was before it “sold out” and went all commercial.

Now in order for this to work, we definitely need to pattern ourselves on a system that seemingly has all the kinks worked out. We could look to the successful platforms that are already established in art centers such as LA or NYC, but pick only those parts that would work for us. However, as much as I would love to see this city become an art destination, I also want to make sure that we don’t become a weak-ass clone of either one of those cities. Granted, I’m not really certain what Phoenix’s true artistic identity is, but it sure as hell isn’t the detached coolness of New York or the toxic plasticity of LA.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be to guarantee our long-term success, and in fact- there’s a project that’s currently under development that Phoenix could emulate, and the beauty of it is that it’s literally in our own back yard. So where is this small, yet brilliant, beacon of artistic development?

Mesa (crickets chirp…. a lone tumbleweed rolls by… somewhere, in the twilight distance, a dog barks.)  Yes. I said MESA, the ancestral home (as the joke goes) of Mormons, meth, and morons.

I see by your slack-jawed expressions that some form of explanation is required- fair enough. I live to bring enlightenment, if not clarity, to the masses as you know. However, my explanation is also going to be a tad bit awkward, especially when you take into account that Phoenix should be the one setting this particular bar rather than a city I’ve always compared to my Oma’s 1957 Hoover vacuum- grey-colored, completely industrial, and sucking like Ben Affleck in Daredevil.

Sorry. I still can’t believe that they gave him yet another super hero to completely screw up. Is it too much to ask that Hollywood stops screwing around with the things I love? What’s next? Jonah Hill as Wolverine?

And don’t even get me started on the new Star Wars movie- if JJ Abrams f**ks that up, I swear on my light-saber collection that I’ll take a cue from Jabba and toss him in the Saarlac Pit.

Oh yeah… I went there. Moving on….

As I was just saying, it seems that Phoenix’s ugly stepsister is apparently making some serious moves in regards to upping it’s artistic game by developing a true artistic presence, and as usual, we’re the ones who once again, are lagging a step (if not two) behind. I wouldn’t dare speak for you, but I for one, am getting really sick and tired of watching the other kids get the Evel Knievel Action Set while we’re stuck with a metaphorical lime-green sweater that we’re supposed to grow into.

Seriously. We’re the cute one- why can’t we have the nice things too? If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say part of the issue would be the puzzling attitude that Phoenix is somehow not deserving of such artistic amenities- an ignorant stance that personally, I find highly infuriating.

Let me clarify this point. Some time ago, I made the unfortunate decision to attend a presentation at the Mesa Arts Center, an absolutely gorgeous building, in Mesa’s quickly burgeoning Arts District. The speaker that night was promoting a self-help program (of sorts) aimed at artists who wanted to achieve a stable financial base in regards to the selling and promotion of their art- for the working artist, as it were. As someone who is all about the Capitalism, I can get one hundred percent behind the concept of educating Creatives in regards to how the big scary machine works- forewarned is forearmed, after all.

But as a rule, I’ve always believed that most self-help books and the like are typically nothing more than repackaged self-indulgent twaddle. If you can get something beneficial out of these types of programs, that’s great, but you shouldn’t have to pay for information that with the merest of research you could glean for free at your local library. That’s just my humble opinion, but if you’re one of those people who wants the legwork done for them, then feel free to open your checkbook and have at it. I, on the other hand, have always believed that personal growth requires both inner focus and even perhaps a little private discomfort to be truly trans-formative in the end.

As I sat there listening to this person’s saga about how they got to where they were now, two things became highly apparent- first, they weren’t an Artist in the traditional sense, their foundation was in the marketing and sale of art (which had been lucrative) and second, they were just a slight bit out of touch with their target audience, a fact which became even more crystalline as they described how exactly their self-help program came to be.

Most Artists aren’t in this gig for the money, shockingly enough. We usually have to chase it down like Cujo going after a bus full of pre-schoolers, and that’s on a good day. The option to relax and engage our sense of inner contemplation is usually not in the cards, typically due to lack of money and/or time. How to pay the electric bill gets my contemplation more than my career, for instance. Being a professional Artist myself, I’m painfully well acquainted with being under the thumb of both of these constraints, so when I’m in the presence of someone who waxes poetic about how they got their head together by taking a year off and going to Europe to sit in the ruins of an ancient keep, while pondering the meaning of it all, I tend to get somewhat… let’s call it touchy, and leave it at that.

Most artists can barely afford to sit in their own house, much less a 16th century fixer-upper, but I digress.

All their hard-earned success aside, it’s easy to talk about getting one’s career and life on track when you’re blessed with an abundant bank account and sitting in a castle- just saying.

But the best was yet to come. After the talk and subsequent “buy my stuff” sales pitch, the remaining crowd gathered outside by the cash bar, where I demurred the opportunity to buy a three dollar can of warm soda, and as our host walked by, I managed to grab a few minutes of conversation with them. After a little shop talk, the discussion eventually turned, as it always does when my dialogue involves art, to the ongoing problems with the PAS and the difficulty of advocating for it outside it’s defined borders.

Certainly, this highly successful former Scottsdale art sales pro and self-help entrepreneur would have some sage advice for me, a lone artist hoping to make a difference, right? As I made the case for the ol’ 602, she rather directly states that “Phoenix is a lost cause” and that I should “just get off the sinking ship while I still could.”, finishing up with the implication [I’m paraphrasing here] that all my efforts were tantamount to spitting in the wind.

Sigh… one day, please remind me to definitely sit down with my sense of optimism and talk some sense into that naive little bitch, cause if that doesn’t work, I may just have to fire her altogether. If there’s a sure fire way to get on my dark side almost immediately, it’s to suggest that something I’m truly passionate about has no inherent value, especially when I know it’s not true.

This outlook doesn’t apply to the “Xanadu” movie or any of ABBA’s albums of course, as after all- while I may be fervent about them, I’m also not completely crazy. I don’t think for a New York second that the PAS is a lost cause.

And to be brutally honest… if it is, then it definitely needs all the help it can get. In my humble opinion, lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for. Well those… and any that involve the overthrowing of our Evil Lizard Overlords. All half-joking talk of freedom aside, I found their short-sighted point of view to be highly insulting, and despite the fact that my first instinct was to unsheathe my razored tongue and metaphorically peel them like a sentient potato, I did not.

I do have some social graces after all, and besides- I like that place and don’t want to be banned for life over what at best, could be considered a matter of difference in perspective. I’ve never truly understood why certain people are so willing to write this city off without a second thought before getting all the relevant information first. I’d be the last person to say that we’re running on all eight cylinders, but I’d also take the position that given the right mixture of leadership and marketing, this city could be one of the heavyweights, hands down. And a true believer in the dogma of self-empowerment would see that potential and want to support the effort to make it so, not deride it from their ivory tower.

That’s just a personal thought, mind you. Take it for what it is.

Now, before I get back to talking about Mesa’s artistic leap forward, I think it’s time for a break.

And when we come back… I venture into the wilds of Mesa for some artistic research, learn about the difficulties of navigating state bureaucracy, and discuss having to pick my 3 favorite symbolic children in order to apply for a Warhol Grant.

Good times.

“Culture is the Arts elevated to a set of beliefs.”- Thomas Wolfe.





at given the right mixture of leadership and marketing, this city could be one of the heavyweights, hands down. And a true believer in the dogma of self-empowerment would see that potential and want to support the effort to make it so, not deride it from their ivory tower.

That’s just a personal thought, mind you. Take it for what it is.
Now, before I get back to talking about Mesa’s artistic leap forward, I think it’s time for a break.


And when we come back… I venture into the wilds of Mesa for some artistic research, learn about the difficulties of navigating state bureaucracy, and discuss having to pick my 3 favorite symbolic children in order to apply for a Warhol Grant.

Good times.

“Culture is the Arts elevated to a set of beliefs.”- Thomas Wolfe.



A Treeo Grows in Phoenix. (The Consonant Gardner)

“Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.”- Benjamin Disraeli

Hello my loyal Blogiteers!

It has been a rough couple of weeks, let me tell you. My previous screed wrapped up a six part story arc regarding my hospitalization back in 2009 from the complications of diabetic ketoacidosis while simultaneously celebrating Artbitch “turning” fifty.

Middle age never read so good, in my humble opinion. To be honest, writing it was both emotionally exhausting and spiritually cathartic, all within the same moment. Finally getting the tale out of my psyche is something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, but I needed to find myself in a good frame of mind to be able to adequately spin the story of my near death experience into something palatable- something I truly believe was accomplished in the end.

Oh, the sweet sweet irony- see, for the last few months, I’ve been under some incredible personal pressure, mostly in regards to helming various artistic projects as well as my day gig, and it finally blew one of my health gaskets in a major fashion. This in turn, landed me back at John C. Lincoln  Hospital as an unexpected guest of the ICU… again. With an elevated blood sugar and brain swelling. Again. Furthermore, despite all my valid attempts to avoid tangoing with my old nemesis [AKA: the Tube Snake Razor, or Catheter for short] I was coerced back into an unholy four day partnership… again.

Let me set in stone right now, for eternity, and for all to understand and hear, this simple, yet direct statement: if there ever arises a need for me to have one of these inserted into my body ever again, please do the following: just buy a bulk of Deluxe Sham-Wows and lay me on top of them. And if those are unavailable, feel free to substitute a case of NERF footballs. Either or. I tend not to be too picky when I’m in a medically induced coma, so have at it.

Obviously, I’m on the medical mend, albeit slower than I’d like to be, but that’s always been one of my major issues- I can be a truly unrealistic son of a bitch when it comes to achieving personal goals, and if truth be known, the list of what I want to do is monumental. Setting aside that whole whipped cream weekend I want to get into with Milla Jovovich and my girlfriend, most of them are actually obtainable, if only I had six lives and didn’t have to sleep in any of them.

Near and dear to my heart [after my personal artistic endeavors] is the unceasing promotion of the good ol’ 602, an action that thank God, I am not alone in attempting to accomplish. While some tend to strut their hour upon the stage as full on unicorn-glitter-fueled cheerleaders, I’ve always fallen into the role of a curmudgeonly (and somewhat jaded) distant uncle of sorts who tends to speak his mind, much to the chagrin of certain thin-skinned detractors, the largest part of whom feel that sniping anonymously online or behind one’s back is what constitutes a direct approach.

In regards to said cheerleaders, my respect for them varies depending on their effectiveness and the purity of their approach. This translates directly into what they truly represent- are they in the game for the betterment of the Phoenix Art Scene, or are they really just here for the plaques and random scrapbook clippings? I’ve always been of the mindset that the pep squad needs the quarterback more than he needs them, but they do serve a purpose nonetheless, even if it’s just to remind everyone as to who really wins the game.

Fortunately, my viewpoint on what the not so subtle differences are between a true cultural warrior and an ego-polishing artsy succubus is well enough known that I rarely have to go about restating it, which as you might surmise- saves a boatload of personal time and energy. Now before you think I’m engaging in rampant cynicism, let me defend my perspective by saying that I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic- an outlook that seems sadly lacking within the arts community, and one that needs to be adjusted to the veracity of the particular issues that the PAS faces on a daily basis.

I’ve waxed poetic many a time and at considerable length in regards to what the PAS needs to do in order to become a stable and profitable entity, and sometimes I get to feeling that all my efforts are for naught- when you are constantly banging your head against the wall to no end, it does have the tendency to shatter your resolve, regardless of the strength of your will or the clarity of your vision.

Factor in the element of human speed bumps [a consistent plague within the PAS] and one could easily surmise that the path for Phoenix becoming a world-class art destination is going to be dark and difficult at best. Personally, I’ve always felt that something given has no value- if you want respect you have to earn it, and that applies to both people and the cutthroat world of business, which when it comes right down to it, is easier said then done.

To paraphrase John Wooden: “Character is what you do when no one is watching.” At the end of the day, all you really own is yourself and the perception that people have of you. Despite my vitriolic and acidic take on the PAS, I find that within the community itself, I’m generally respected for taking a definitive stand and staking out my territory as candidly as possible.

In other words, my reputation for skin-stripping honesty by and large usually arrives before I do. Sure, I spin a good yarn every now and then, but the truth is paramount above all. Luckily, on those atypical occasions when I do wander into the ether of the realm of artistic license, it’s glaringly easy to separate the lone dishonest cow from the rest of the noble herd. For instance, if my tale starts off with Motley Crue and I in the back of a limousine full of strippers, odds are pretty good that I might be stretching the truth just a tad.

A wee bit, mind you.

Conversely, if my saga involves the PAS, it’s always dead on in it’s accounting of whatever situation I found myself in. There’s an old maxim that there’s three sides to every story- yours, theirs, and the truth, which is usually somewhere in-between. Granted, the crux of my writing has always come from my perspective alone, but even so- I’m a stickler for accuracy when it comes to documenting my interactions within the community.

As you might imagine, having a well-defined set of opinions is not a popular accessory within the PAS these days, and despite the support that I do receive, there are times where my presence at a show can be mildly divisive at best. In general, I tend to avoid those events where my arrival can cause the natives to break out the pitchforks and flaming torches, but on the whole, Phoenix is a small town in relation to it’s art scene, and you can’t watch every step, no matter how much you try.

By way of example, my recent interactions with a passive-aggressive twit known as Joe Brklacich underscores this point succinctly. Joe has had a massive mad-on for me the last few weeks in regards to a piece I had written about SMoCA and to a lesser degree, it’s outgoing PR flack Lesley Oliver, and apparently has decided that he’s the one who’s going to try and settle my acidic hash.

That’s my special talent. Making friends and leaving an impression.

When it comes to my detractors, Joe stands alone- mainly due to the fact that he actually got in my face physically, something that if hadn’t come on the heels of a threatened assault I could have actually respected. It does take stones to tell someone to go f**k themselves eye to eye, and if it had stopped there, I probably wouldn’t think as little of him as I do now.

See, it’s fairly transparent that Joe wants nothing more than to goad me into throwing the first punch, thereby allowing him the freedom to mete out what more than a few in the PAS would regard as overdue karma, but that’s just not going to happen. I’m 45, and I’m not going to get in a brawl over what amounts to a difference in artistic opinions like some drunken 22 year old.

Granted, someday maybe there will be someone who beats my face flat over something I’ve written, leaving me a battered heap, my teeth scattered on the ground like Chiclets, but that day is not today, and Joe will never be that person. In retrospect, he strikes me as almost a caricature- his anger is so out of proportion to the situation at hand that it’s almost laughable. And while I do try to give the proper amount of respect due to each personal interaction my writing sometimes brings to the surface, I just can’t this time.

In fact, I pretty much giggle every time I hear his last name, for as God as my witness, it reminds me of the minor Superman villain Mr. Mxyzptlk, whom like Joe, has a moniker that he apparently bought at a used consonant sale. Never mind saying it, I literally have to look it up every time I type it out, and disregard using spell-check, it just says “screw you” and then shuts down. I know, I know, I’m a terrible human being, but seriously- can you spell “Brklacich” off the top of your head? I didn’t think so. You’re all brilliant, and even you couldn’t do it.

It’s bad enough that I have to peripherally deal with this twit, who’s akin to a mosquito in a sealed tent, but you’d think that I’d eventually luck out and acquire a stalker whose name I could actually write out on a restraining order. Sigh… down the road, I guess. A boy can dream.

As I said earlier, at the end of the day, your character and reputation are all that you truly own, so I’ve always striven to make mine as clean as possible. While I may have the rep for being an arrogant son of a bitch, it’s also a general opinion that I’m also pathologically honest when it gets right down to the brass tacks. What can I say? I prefer an uncomplicated life. Why is this a topic I’m focusing on, you ask? Well, despite my penchant for sporting a chipped shoulder, there are actually very few things that can get under my skin faster than having my integrity questioned- especially when it’s done by persons of lesser and flawed character.

But I already mentioned my good buddy Joe, so let me give you the context. Surprisingly, it’s folded inside something that as a proponent of the 602’s development, I can support fully, without any of my characteristically inherent sarcasm or cynicism implied. One of the exceedingly important facets in the 602’s future success that’s sometimes overlooked is the proliferation of local small businesses. This in turn, helps build a financially stable and attractive community. I’ve often said that if you want people to come Downtown, you have to give them the following: a place to sit, a place to eat, a place to drink, and a place to take the family, if applicable.

So anytime a new business opens up in the Downtown area, it’s a cause for celebration, no matter what it happens to be. Granted, I’m not too thrilled when it involves pretentious baristas, but that’s only because I loathe hipsters, and besides- those damn kids wouldn’t know good music if it bit them on their wool caps.

All partial joking aside, I completely support a majority of the economic development that’s been happening and look forward to seeing how the PAS will fit in over time. To be frank, I do have a few misgivings in relation to how some of it has been handled, but I’m trying to maintain an optimistic and forward-thinking outlook, despite my typically pessimistic nature.

And you thought I couldn’t be all upbeat? That just hurts.

Getting back on track, the newest business to open it’s doors in the bubbling stew that is the 602 goes by the name of Treeo. Located inside a reconverted house at 906 North Sixth Street, it is home to the offices of Harder Development, FenSource & Champion PR and Consulting. The space plans to host monthly art exhibits and community events alongside it’s normal day to day commerce. The persons involved with the running of Treeo are real estate agent Ashley Harder, public relations guru/community organizer extraordinaire Stacey Champion, and my former FaceBook friend, Joe Brkkal… Brllckkk… Brakkxla… oh screw it- I’m just gonna call him Joey Consonants from now on.

Let’s be real for a moment, shall we? It sounds cooler, and it’s way easier to pronounce. Besides, if I have to be the one who has to put with his passive-aggressive yet wholly ineffectual chest-thumping, then I get to be the one who names him. It’s only fair.

When it comes to Joe’s partners in this, his newest business venture, I can honestly say that I know zilch about Ms. Harder [whom I’ve heard is quite successful from various sources] but when it comes to Ms. Champion, I do know a little bit more. Stacey is one of those 602 cheerleaders I mentioned earlier, and she is probably one of the most effective. Between organizing events, and shining a light in regards to issues ranging from the feminist struggle to AZ’s inbred legislature, Stacey is a PR juggernaut, no doubt about it. If any facet of Treeo will do exceedingly well, my money would be on her branch, hands down.

I’ve previously openly wondered what it was that Joey Consonants did to make ends meet, since as far as I could tell, it wasn’t his “art” that paid the bills. After all, his website hadn’t been updated since 2012, and I couldn’t recall ever seeing his work at any local show.


More telling was the fact that every time I walked into the Lodge, the studio he shares with fellow artists Abbey Messmer and Rafael Navarro, all I ever did see of his work were the same three pencil sketches that have hung there for the last ten years. Heck, I haven’t had a full-blown show since 2008, but even still- you walk into my work-space, and you’re going to see something different every time. Not always good, but different. So when I heard that Joey was part of Treeo, my curiosity was piqued as to what exactly he was bringing to the proverbial table, and it this: fenestration.

Now I know what you’re thinking, and all I have to say is the following: shame on you for thinking such impure thoughts. Despite what it sounds like, fenestration is not some bizarre sexual kink involving ferrets and latex, but is defined by Webster’s as the arrangement, proportioning, and design of windows and doors in a building, which is ironic, since that’s three things I’d like to toss Joey’s candy-ass out of.

As the son of a contractor, I’m pretty familiar with this industry, albeit on a minor level, so my first thought was that no wonder Joey can get to play at being an artist, he’s part of an industry that’s fairly lucrative in nature. If the tables were reversed, I probably wouldn’t try either if I had a bankroll to peel my life off of.

Mind you, that’s not jealousy. After all, I knew he had to do something, since it’s obvious he isn’t an actual working artist. I just wouldn’t have pegged him to be a guy who designs windows. Washing windows, yes. Designing them? Not so much. Fortunately for my fragile ego, I was half-right. Turns out that Joey is actually a recruiter for the industry, and his company matches top fenestration talent with top-level clientele. [Feel free to insert your own fenestration joke here.]

So how do I know this factoid? The internet.

In researching this screed, I happened upon Joey’s website* for his business, also known as FenSource, and was immediately impressed by it’s clean and efficient design. Most companies would typically bore you with a navigation menu and actual things to see, but not Joey- he’s a maverick.

Go ahead. Take a look. I guarantee it’ll only take a second. *[http://fensource.com/]

I’m no web designer, but even I know that page looks awful. Speaking as someone who’s entire life revolves around self-promotion, I can say that if I were a potential client who came across this, I’d keep on surfing until I found someone whose online pitch appeared to actually give a damn. All that aside, lasting 25 years in any industry is impressive (I’m coming up on 23 myself) and given that his field is so specialized, I can’t really see him having a lot of competition here in Downtown Phoenix, so one could assume he’ll be able to continue having success for years to come, so long as his prospective clientele doesn’t have access to the world wide web, and that his predilection for passive-aggressive behavior doesn’t get in the way.

More on that in a bit. As I said earlier, anytime a new business opens up in the Downtown Phoenix area, it’s a cause for celebration, no matter what it happens to be, and Treeo was no exception. It’s grand opening was going to feature an exhibition by an artist I’m friends with and whose work I really like, so I was stoked for it on many different levels.

Good art + colleagues + new white collar business opening + free wine = happy Artbitch.

Having been invited by the artist and Stacey Champion herself, I assumed that even though Joey had an issue with me, he would act professionally at the very least, since the event was not only going to be packed with colleagues, there were possibly potential clients as well, a reality which I felt would curb any possible hostilities if I made an appearance. Believe it or not, I did take into account that things could go south if Joey decided they should, so I had a rough game plan: show up, find my artsy friend, get a quick guided tour of the art, compliment Stacey on the space, and then vamoose. In/out ten minutes, tops.

I figured if I showed up relatively early, my plan would work with nary a hitch, banking on the number of people present and social pressure to keep Joey in line with what is considered mature adult behavior.

Remind me one day to tell you about my sense of unfounded optimism- that bitch ain’t bright.

So, dressed in my Artbitch finest- crucifix t-shirt, black jeans, motorcycle boots, and a complement of silver jewelry, I jumped in my graffiti-painted Isuzu Amigo, and headed out. Parking behind Lotus Contemporary, I walked the half-block to Treeo, and as I crossed into it’s front courtyard, caught a glimpse of a solitary figure to my right, half hidden in the twilight shadows…the one and only Joey Consonants.

[See? I told you it sounds cooler.]

And he looked gleeful.

Now for the record, there are many shades of the emotion known as glee. There’s the type where one comes across a friendly kitten that wants to play, and the day is made better for it. There’s the one where your girlfriend goes and buys you the KISS Compendium, a collection of all the KISS comics ever published, which just goes to prove that Gene Simmons will literally put his face on anything, and then there’s the abomination that takes great rock songs and turns them into choreographed sack-less wonders.

All perfectly acceptable, if that’s what you’re into.

And then there’s the kind that you only see on two faces: those of used car salesmen, and axe murderers who’ve just spotted a lone prostitute on a dark corner. Granted, I was tarted up a bit, but even so, no one should ever look that happy when they see me arrive somewhere. What struck me as odd was that he was just standing there, not talking to anyone, not smoking a cigarette, not having a drink, just hanging out in the shadows… waiting.

I wonder for who.

As I head towards the front door, he quickly pulls up alongside and sarcastically asks if I want a tour, an act of selflessness that I refuse as politely as possible. Undeterred, he follows me in, and as I find my artist friend, stands on my right side two inches from my face, saying that “he’s already talked to Stacey” and that if I make him feel uncomfortable, he can have me thrown out, despite the fact that both Stacey and the artist showing invited me there in the first place.

And here I was, thinking I had juice. I guess my rugged good looks can only carry me so far.

He rambles on, muttering about how I “came for him and should just admit it” and that I’m there “to start trouble“, an assertion that I found laughable, considering that in the 20+ years that I’ve been working as an artist in Phoenix, I’ve never thrown a scene at a show, nor have I ever been thrown out of one, either. As the old saying goes, there’s a first time for everything, I guess.

Now, most people would have turned and punched him in the face for breathing down their neck, but I’m not most people, and to be honest- I was more curious as to whether he was going to give me a shoulder rub or dry-hump my leg, given his proximity. Ignoring him, I continue talking to my friend and his female companion as Joey continues to grumble passive-aggressive nothings in my ear.

As I introduce myself to her, atypically using only my first name rather than my full name, Joey cuts across my outstretched hand stating: “He normally goes by Wayne Michael Reich” and while she seems a little freaked out by his aggressiveness, all I could think was how successful my viral marketing actually was.

You know you’ve done good when your detractors do the name-dropping for you. At last having my fill, I turn to my friend and say that I’d like to stay longer, but Joey was chasing me out, to which he replies: “You know what? You and I have never had a picture together.” and throws his arm around me. Puzzled, as I have about half a dozen pictures of us together, it takes me a full minute to realize what was really going on.

Smiling widely, I respond by saying that he was right- we never had taken a picture together, and that we needed to rectify that unfortunate happenstance now by finding someone to take it for us. As we walk away from Joey, he grouses that I always say I’m nice in person, but that he doesn’t see it. Retorting over my shoulder, I respond by saying that it depends on both the context and the person I’m dealing with. Ducking into a back room, my friend’s companion and I have a brief discussion as to why Joey has such an axe to grind with me, much to my delight.

Finally taking the obligatory pic with my artist buddy, I decide that it’s time to take the 12:15 out of Yuma. As I walk out, Joey bird-dogs me every step of the way, obviously concerned that I may trip and fall. I pause briefly at the door to tell Stacey that the space is lovely, and the moment is marred only by Joey’s sputtering out yet another veiled utterance. Walking through the small courtyard as I make a beeline to Mon Orchid, the phrase “what a jackass” may have escaped my lips more than once, but overall, I found the whole thing to be humorously pathetic.

In my humble opinion, what I witnessed was a supreme embarrassment- not only to the business itself, but the artist showing there, and in the end, Joey’s business partners as well. Not too surprisingly, some didn’t see it that way. That’s one of the many quirks in regards to the PAS- you can always find a rationalization to justify behavior that would be considered highly unprofessional anywhere else. In this case, the very next day someone close to Treeo’s operating structure cynically implied online that I had in fact, engineered the whole situation with Joey as to cause a deliberate scene, so that I would have something and I quote,:

“To write about”.

Let that sink in for a moment. After five years, over 210,000.00 words, fifty stand-alone pieces of writing, and establishing myself as the PAS’s go-to snark, I all of a sudden, out of the blue, have run out of things to talk about in regards to artists, ego, business, and the ongoing struggle for Phoenix to be taken seriously as an art destination, not a pit stop on the way to a better and brighter one. If I had the opportunity to talk to this narcissist, I’d have to ask the question that I’m sure regular readers are also thinking of, and that is this: how high were you when you posted that?

Seriously. Break out and pass around whatever you’ve been taking, cause that stuff makes cocaine look like a cheese danish. At the time of this screed, I have an idea list as long as my arm that I’m currently staring at, and to be fair, not all of them will make the cut. Some fail because there’s not enough gas in the tank to carry them over the line, others because they’re too specific to be truly interesting to a wider audience.

But all of them typically will have a nugget or two I can glean for other stories. That’s the beauty of the PAS, it’s pretty much a self-sustaining entity. And if I were to engage on a more personal note with this obviously confused individual, I’d point out that if I were to make a scene, something that I’ve never done publicly* in the 20+ years I’ve been involved with the PAS, that people would have heard me in Jakarta, since I ain’t exactly the silent type.*[Go ahead. Check. I double dog-dare ya.]

I often get accused of yelling when I’m whispering, so it’s a pretty safe bet that if I were pitching a fit, there’d be a lot more witnesses than the one guy who’s got a mad-on for me. In fact, I did tell my cynical critic to ask my artsy buddy (who has no dog in this fight) what happened, which is not something I would have done had I been in the wrong, but as far as I can tell, that suggestion was ignored in favor of their   pre-formed and erroneous opinion.

In all fairness, it’s his business (partially) and he can do what he wants in relation to how he handles interlopers he has issues with, but there’s a mature way to deal with it, and then there’s Joey’s way, which apparently involves tactics that I personally left behind when I graduated kindergarten. As one of my fellow artists [and one of Joey’s friends to boot] said to me as I made my artistic rounds later that night: He’s mad at you? For something you just did, or for something you did ten years ago?” which to be quite frank, strikes me as both hilarious and sad all at the same time. I’ve been known to hold a grudge or two, but at least I don’t store them like Box from Logan’s Run*.*[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiyPqbyHXIg]

Whenever I can make a reference to a dystopian 70’s sci-fi movie filmed almost completely inside a shopping mall, you just know it’s been a good day. That said, Treeo’s potential success will depend on both the economy and the cooperation of it’s partners, and that’s where I see a possible issue. Given Joey’s general hot-headness, the question arises: keeping in mind that he’s pissed at me for what amounts to a minor literary trifle, what would happen if a client Joey doesn’t really like walks through the doors?

Feud for thought, as it were. Personally, I hope that Treeo has a long and prosperous future, and I say this with all due sincerity. Nothing would make me happier than seeing a white-collar business succeed where so many have failed. However, it just wouldn’t be true to form if I didn’t have at least one semi-related thing to kvetch about, and the topic that I’ve chosen to sink my admantium claws into this time is the idea of yet another “art-space” in the 602. For the record, I’m not singling out Treeo, but what the concept of an art space overall entails.

As an artist myself, I’ve benefited from several different versions of the art-space business model, so it’d be hypocritical (at best) to advocate that they have no merit whatsoever. But even so, I’ve never been entirely comfortable with them in general principle. At my core, I tend to be a capitalist. For me, once the art’s been made, it’s all about selling it.

But how does one do that in a town where the running joke is that yogurt has more culture than this city?

Simple answer: alternative art-spaces, which can be found everywhere: bars, cafes, book stores, hair salons, retail shops, restaurants and the like- the list is virtually endless. If it’s an established business, odds are good that art can be shown there. Granted, not every business is suited for the display of artistic works- Circle K’s for instance, would be a terrible location for high-end paintings, but if your niche was custom-decorated coffee cups, you may just have found a new home base.

Typically, first exposure for an up and coming artist is usually to be found in places like these, but many established artists use them too, especially in a city like Phoenix, where professional galleries are not exactly commonplace. While the diversity of such places adds to the opportunities of artists, it can also hurt those chances sometimes too. What a lot of struggling artists tend to forget is this: the majority of art-spaces do not exist to sell the art they display. Whatever type of business they specialize in is where their priorities are placed, as it should be.

Personally, I’ve always looked upon the concept of hanging art in one of these spaces as providing interior decorating services for free, but that’s just my cynicism talking. What really counts is what caste their clients fall into- are they serious art buyers with a budget, or scenesters who think it’s perfectly okay to snap a shot of your work with their I-phone and use it as their screensaver? In my experience, it’s usually the latter, more often than not.

It doesn’t matter how many people see your work if they don’t buy it, and as a rule, someone popping in and grabbing a latte to go isn’t generally focused on adding to their personal art collection. There are exceptions to this of course, but in order to move your art in such a venue, you need to hit the nail on the head in two places: impact and price. I’ll explain. Impact means that your work has to grab a hold of your potential buyer almost immediately, and make them want to take said work home, no matter how awkward or inconvenient it might be to do so. Price is pretty much self-explanatory, but I’ll clarify my point nonetheless.

In order to coax anyone into opening their wallet or purse, you need to make sure that just like your work, your asking price for it is just as attractive. Knowing what to charge is a skill refined over time, but it is crucial- too low, and you hurt yourself, too high, and you discourage sales. But here’s the rub- most buyers of art like to have a personal connection with the artist, something that most art-spaces cannot provide on the spot. Unlike galleries, art-spaces are open all times of the day or night, so your odds of being there to encourage sales and make introductions is dim at best. You’ll literally have to hope that your work speaks for itself.

And speaking of your work, what will it turn out to be in the end? Will it be a true statement of artistic expression, or will you have truncated it to fit the policies of whatever retail vanity gallery you’ve decided to hang in? The freedom that one typically finds in a gallery setting does not as a rule, carry over into most art-spaces. If your work is fairly benign, then freedom of expression won’t be an issue, but what if it isn’t?

Easy. You’re screwed. There’s nothing worse than self-censoring, but if you expect to show in most art-spaces, you’d better get used to it. The majority of patrons who frequent these places prefer art that isn’t threatening, so if your work has a dark edge, anticipate having to lighten it up a little. And like most things that you do frequently, eventually it becomes a habit. I can’t think of a better kiss of Death to an artist’s vision than having to tailor it to popular taste.

Think about being Thomas Kinkade for a moment, and you’ll understand where I’m going with this.

Like it or not, in order for the PAS to succeed, it’s going to need a much more professional face, and that’s where the real art galleries come in. If we want to be taken seriously, then we need to be just as equally serious about how we present our talent. Picasso, by way of example, was not discovered in a coffeehouse.

If I were to use yet another of my famous analogies, I’d liken the difference between art galleries and art-spaces to chocolate milk and my other serious addiction, Yoo-Hoo. Both are yummy. Both have essential vitamins. Both come in easy to pour packaging. Both taste like chocolate. Sort of.

But only one has to be labeled as a “drink” by law, and it isn’t the one that’s from a cow.

While the need for art spaces in Phoenix is great, I would also argue that the need for professionally managed art galleries is even greater. For every Pela Contemporary we have, there’s six amateurs groping blindly in the metaphorical dark. Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being truly passionate about running a gallery, but if you don’t have a cohesive and practical business plan, you’re going to find yourself coming up short in the end.

So, what’s the solution? Given the nature of the problem, the answer is going to require a multi-level approach. Other than the economy approving, I would opine that what’s needed is more promotion of the art events downtown, and maybe even some city funding as it relates to economic development- I’m thinking of possible and expansive subsidies that could kick-start a new wave of artistic re-growth in the arts community. Roosevelt Row was recently named as one of the top ten art districts in the United States, it’s about time the rest of the arts district looked like it.

So with that, I think it’s time for a break. In future blogs I’m going to attempt to address these issues a little more in depth, and hopefully offer some viable solutions. And if that fails, I can always fall back on the snark.And as for my good buddy Joey Consonants?

He’s cordially invited to go fenestrate himself.

“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.”- John F. Kennedy







You Only Live Twice PT. 6 (Nifty Fifty)

“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”- Virginia Woolf

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

“When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”- Stephen King

Hello Blogiteers!

Today marks a milestone here at the Lair of Snarkitude, and I couldn’t be happier about it. In fact, I’m in such a good mood that I even let the minions take out the Snarkcopter for a joyride. Sure, gas is expensive and those surface to air missiles don’t replace themselves, but sometimes ya just got to party like it’s 1999. Minus the purple satin jackets, of course. I do have some standards, after all.

Oh, what the hell, it’s a party- free satin purple jackets with matching headbands for everybody!

Tell you what- I’ll even throw in a chance to play with the giant Death Ray Laser as well, but only if you pinky-swear not to blow up New York. Glendale, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable to use as a target, so long as you promise me that the first shot takes out my Mom’s house.

Come to think of it, hit that sucker twice. She’s a lot tougher than she looks. So, what grand event are we celebrating, exactly? Well, Artbitch officially “turns fifty”, with this being the milestone blog. Since I started writing these here screeds back in 2009, the very nature of the truth I like to think I tell has added up to a heckuva lot of text. Minus this piece, the word count for my previous scrawls stands at 207,975.

To give you some perspective, opinions vary wildly on what an average blogs’ word count should be, but most of them (on the face of it) concur that it’s commonly around 500. When it comes to short stories,1500 words is seemingly the base standard, and 50,000 is the typical count for a novel. What this basically means is that at this point, I’ve written four books already. Oof. No wonder why I curse so much. I’ve apparently used up most of my accessible lexicon. The breakdown by year is also kind of interesting when I see it with the benefit of hindsight, as it shows exactly when I was most ticked off.

It is as follows:
2009: 5.625
2010: 38,477
2011: 61,374                                                                                                                                                                           2012: 27,187                                                                                                                                                                           2013: 46,735                                                                                                                                                                           2014: 34,202 (thus far)

Obviously, I was really fired up in 2011, that being the year where both my public drubbing of The Phoenix New Times and a whole slew of craven and usually anonymous online detractors was firing on all cylinders- this led to my cranking out fifteen blogs like clockwork, a rate that fell to one third the next year, due to my then feeling of being totally burned out.

When you take into account all that I have written and you do all the math that’s required for a true dissection of the last five years, it comes out to an average of 10.4 blogs per year, an integer I can live with, considering my normal word count per blog is 4077.94 bits of linguistic fiery finery.

And you thought I talked too much.

In comparison, it seems my hands are keeping a pace to beat the Devil, but the really funny thing in regards to this blog is that it was never supposed to happen like this in the first place. My success, if I were to give it a name, is primarily due to two unforeseen things- the first being illness, and the second being the direct involvement of the Phoenix New Times, via the personage of it’s Mangling Editor, Amy Silverman.

In retrospect, they’re the flipped sides of the same coin, but I’ll digress for the sake of moving our story along, and the fact that at this time, there is no vaccine for the willfully petty ignorance that she inflicts upon others. Sure, being smarter and more refined does help, but that’s the organic route, and it’s way more expensive in the long run than just taking a swig (or six) of Tequila.

While I don’t recommend being drunk when you have to deal with her directly, it certainly couldn’t hurt, and theoretically- it just might make her seem far more interesting to talk to, what with your diminished capacity and all. Hey, if it works in regards to ordering from the late-night menu at Jack in the Box, it may be just crazy enough to be implemented as a rule of thumb.

But I’ll get back to Editorzilla in a moment, as my getting sick back in 2009 is what really started the whole razorball of snark rolling. Since I “gave away” the ending in my last missive, there’s really no point to play coy with what happened, despite the fact that I’ll be finishing up the story arc in this blog nonetheless.

Think of it as a flashback, even though it comes after the story ends. That’s me- screwing with the laws of verse and spacing. I’m like Captain Kirk, except I come with a sleek laptop rather than a warp engine and a Scottish engineer who sleeps with green women- not that there’s anything wrong with doing that, mind you.

Feel free to taste the rainbow, if that’s your thing. I won’t judge.

The Cliff Notes: after I left the hospital, I was in physical recovery for about five weeks. Thirty-eight days. A month and a week. With nothing but healing and trying not to die as the two main priorities on my day to day “to do” list. Until this happened, I didn’t really think that there was such a thing as watching too many zombie movies.

Trust me here. THERE IS.

I had previously been dabbling on MySpace with the writing thing prior to 2009, and it was okay, but ultimately read like an eternal whine of “woe is my life” as I was going through a highly public break up at the time, and apparently had no way of dealing with it other than unloading on the community.

Good times. It did however, allow me to get comfortable with the practice of being honest on a routine basis, which is one of the things I’m proudest about in relation to my writing- I don’t pull punches, and I don’t hide, either. One of the great unforeseen things about forcibly accruing several weeks of personal introspection is this: it allows you the opportunity to make changes, whether for the better or for the worse, and I like to think I’ve taken full advantage of this particular quirk in the end.

So, after becoming sated on zombies and daytime TV, while being unable to read due to corneal distension, I started putting my thoughts to pixels regarding something I did know about- that being the travails of a working artist in Phoenix. Originally designed as a quasi-sort of journal entry for me and weekend reading for the six of my friends who followed it, Artbitch blew up after some of my pieces tweaked off a few of the so-called “journalists” at the good ol’ Phoenix New Times (AKA: “The Pennysaver with Porn”) and they mewled their discontent to the failed bartender who runs the place, a walking horror show* who goes by the name of Amy Silverman. [*Allegedly]

Her petty response was to publish a soulless online “hit” piece about yours truly, which led to a major increase in both my readership and artistic street cred, which, let’s be honest- I already had in buckets. The street cred, that is. Readers? Eh. Not so much.

However, her attempted bitch slap failed miserably, as all she succeeded in doing was inadvertently embarrassing herself, her position, and the lap-dog milquetoast she sent to dispatch me. With any luck, that particular person has gone on to greener and hopefully more professional pastures, where they don’t allow their journalists to write their articles in crayon. After several pro-me comments were posted on New Time’s website, Amy, flying under the guise of “extending the dialogue“, suggested that we meet, and the rest as they say, is Artbitch history.

Which you can read all about using the archives.

Seriously. If you haven’t, you’re missing out on some comically epic carnage. If there’s one thing I truly enjoy, it’s metaphorically slicing up insufferable cretins with my switchblade tongue. Especially when they willingly provide the pre-sharpened cutlery for me to do so. Sadly, the number of willfully ignorant people seems to be rising in this country, much in the manner of an unstoppable plague which is slowly leading to the detriment of culture overall.

When it comes to the Phoenix Art Scene, there are a limited (but dedicated) number who stand as artistic bulwarks to protect what the PAS is attempting to build. In my own snarkerific way, I’m trying to be a force that helps stem the tide of this inanity, and bars the door against those who would impugn our talent and craft. When it comes to calling it, I’m usually pretty spot on in my observations, an opinion backed up both by email and personal interactions with my fellow Creatives. For all the judgments that have been passed upon me by my traditionally anonymous detractors [IE: I’m arrogant, overbearing, intense, condescending, over-opinionated, etc.] the two words I have yet to hear with any regularity which would stop any argument I might have in it’s tracks is this: “You’re wrong“.

You’d think that if I was so off-base it would be fairly easy to prove, but this particular phrase has yet to come up, regardless of what form the dialogue takes. They’ll attack my tone, my ponytail, my art, my beard, [Have they no decency?] my photography, my love of clog dancing and my ongoing addiction to Ding Dongs- yet when it comes to their being able to launch an effective counter-debate, it’s like I’m facing a room full of empty chairs most of the time. Welcome to Phoenix, where talking behind one’s back could be considered an Olympic sport, if it wasn’t for the fact that nobody here is really any good at it.

What we do have in abundance as an offset against this plethora of thin-skinned and petulant cravens, is artistic talent. Raw, gritty, largely undiscovered talent. And it’s long overdue that we get our collective s**t together and let the rest of the planet know what the f**k we’re about. In a perfect and just world, Phoenix would be on the same level as NYC or LA- and while I will give a nod to the fact that RoRo was recently named one of the 10 best art districts in the United States, it’s all for naught if we don’t know how to effectively market what we do.

But that’s a rant for another time I think, as today is all about celebrating what has changed for the better since I started screaming from this humble little soapbox. To begin with, there’s more arts coverage, and even though it’s still uniformly terrible, at least it exists. There’s more appreciation for public art, thanks to our pro-art and more importantly, pro-Phoenix mayor, not to mention a whole slew of independent stores, cafes, and restaurants, which have invigorated Downtown Phoenix.

And let’s not forget all these new galleries and art spaces that when it gets right down to it, seem to be trying really hard. Granted, truly effectual marketing, standards of presentation, and a coherent business plan are seemingly abstract concepts to the majority of them, but at least they’re making an effort… two nights a month. Gah. Sorry. Even when I’m celebrating I can’t enjoy myself. But at this moment, I’m not gonna be a negative Nancy, heck no- today I’m going to be an upbeat Ulysses, or maybe even an optimistic Orville. I know, I know, that’s just crazy talk, but that’s how I feel.

Plus, I have a tale to finish, let us not forget that, so I think I’ll just sum up my feelings on the first fifty thusly-

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them, and I hope that in some way, they’ve at least furthered the dialogue as to what we need to do to in order to make the PAS a world-class artistic entity. If you’re one of the people I’ve given props to, I hope it helped.

And if you’re one of the chosen who for whatever reason landed within the reach of my swift and terrible admantium claws, I hope you’ll be comforted by this heartfelt sentiment as to why you were singled out for my special, if not focused, attention: it was something that you and you alone did, that got you what you deserved, and if you were offended, that’s just too damn bad.

Want to stay off the radar? Then don’t be an unethical talent-less twit. Easy as that. And if you’re upset about my opinion, take to the Internet and bitch freely- it’s worked out pretty good for me, and it can work out well for you too. Maybe that’s what recent Artbitch scratching post Joe Too Many Consonants In His Name really needs to fuel his inner calm- having access to a keyboard and possibly a puppy.

Come to think of it, that seems like a really cruel thing to do to the puppy.

Speaking your mind typically won’t win you any friends, but it will get you the right ones, and that’s what really counts. When all the chits are totaled, if the worst thing they can say about you is that you’re a truly honest (if sometimes disliked) son of a bitch, consider it a win, and move forward.

I know I do.

And with that, lets get on to the end of my tale, before I start weeping like Jude Law in The Holliday*.
*[Netflix. Rent it. Seriously, it’s a freaking adorable movie, and Cameron Diaz is funny as hell in it.]

Where were we? Lemme hit the bullet points. Let’s see…

– In the hospital ICU after a near-death experience? Check.
– Mother showed up for five minutes and hasn’t been heard from since? Check.
– Watched enough about Gangsters on TV to easily write the script for Goodfellas 2? Check.
– Discovered why catheters will not be the new fashion must? Check.
– Watched enough Michael Jackson videos to front a Jackson 5 cover band? Check.

Nice. We’re all up to speed.

At this point, despite the fact that I was bouncing back with an almost Wolverine-like velocity, I was still in the ICU, due to complications from the original infection that landed me there- in other words, they were having difficulty finding the source, and were extremely concerned that I would pick up a secondary infection by remaining where I was. If you’re not familiar with basic hospital protocol, I’ll share this: bacteria in a sterile environment morphs into some seriously weird and lethal combinations. Thus, the decision was made to transfer me to a semi-private room as soon as possible in order to avoid my experiencing directly just how strange those unholy partnerships could get.

As I’m being transferred out, my day nurse Eric says the following: “It’s been a pleasure, I hope to never see you here again.” Aw… I guess that underneath all that sadism thinly disguised with cartoon scrubs, beats the heart of a really decent person. Mind you, this really decent person was the one who pulled out my catheter on the count of “two” and not on the agreed count of “three”, which sort of negates that whole warm fuzzy feeling I should have had in regards to this moment.

Settling in, I take stock of my new surroundings: a window view of rooftops, a flat screen tv tuned to Cartoon Network (sweet!) and a heavily tatted young Latino guy sleeping in the bed next to mine.

Embarrassingly, I don’t remember his name, so for the sake of our story, let’s just call him Jaime. And I’m not stereotyping here, his name certainly wasn’t white-bread, like Tom, or Bill, or anything like that, so no need for angry e-mails or burning pitchforks, ok? As I was still weak as a kitten (but improving) I almost immediately doze off, and wake up to a very sweet looking, somewhat elderly woman wearing a stylish black turtle neck and a huge crucifix around her neck sitting next to my bed.

I’m talking a 1984 Like a Virgin Madonna cross here, the kind that you could use to stop a mugging, if you wielded it like a bat. And in the lingo of the rough upper middle-class streets that I hail I’m from, that screams “NUN”.

Fairly quickly, the realization that I, the lapsed Catholic, am currently in the presence of a totally dedicated God Squad member hits home, and I start sweating bullets, because nothing on God’s green Earth is scarier than a nun. Especially one that has a keen sense of fashion.

Who also wants to chat. With me. Gulp, I say. Gulp.

This is so not good, as I am a very bad Catholic, even by the modern standards of the day. My past trip to New Orleans in 1994 alone could (and most likely will) send me straight to H-E-double hockey sticks, so as you might surmise, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the idea of conversing with one of God’s ticket takers, no matter how stylish she was. But since I’m also not a rude vulgarian by any measure, I did open our dialogue by politely letting  her know that while yes, I had been thrown for a loop spiritually, I was also not open to the idea of discussing my personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, which at that particular moment, could have been Pierce Brosnan for all I knew, given my somewhat frazzled mental state.

Barry Gibb, by the way could also be considered, due to his awesome hair and love of super tight pants. It’s almost like we’re brothers. We did however, have a brief (but pleasant) discussion about art, and talked about the continuing media frenzy over the King of Pop fizzing out, and as she leaves, she ends our discourse with the statement that if I do need to talk to someone, her metaphorical door is always open.

After a few minutes of contemplative silence, my bunk-mate finally introduces himself and inquires as to what I was “in” for. I explain about how my jaw infection led to my kedoacidosis, which in turn, has led to my laying in this hard as a rock bed in this lovely post 1970’s room with two IV lines in my arms. After acknowledgement of how “rough” my situation is, I casually ask him why he’s there, and given the detail that the majority of his tattoos are seemingly of prison quality, [a fact he admits to later] I assumed it had to have been a fight or something of that nature that had landed him here.

In fact, nothing could have been farther from the truth. What had really dropped this former gang banger (found Jesus, had a kid, cleaned up his act) was far more insidious, the knowledge of which led me to regard my health issues in a much better light: kidney stones.What are kidney stones, exactly? Well, I’m no doctor, but I have seen my share of the white coat brigade, so here’s the info you seek:

Kidney stones (AKA: renal lithiasis) are small, hard deposits that form inside your kidneys. The stones are made of mineral and acid salts. Kidney stones have many causes and can affect any part of your urinary tract — from your kidneys to your bladder. Often, stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and that thought is mother-f***ing yeouch. The pain issue alone is bad enough, but the way you purge the stones is to pass their pulverized remnants through your faithful spam dagger. That is just so wrong on so many levels, and I won’t even touch on the fact that unlike women in the process of giving birth, our unassuming manhole doesn’t have that amazing ability to elongate like a freaking Stretch Armstrong doll.

But despite his obvious pain, I still felt that I had the sympathy vote all wrapped up- after all, I had just come from the ICU, survived a near-death experience, chatted with a nun, and suffered the indignity of a catheter. As far as I was concerned, the empathy jackpot was mine and mine alone to wallow in as I saw fit.

Kidney stones? Oh bitch, please– I gave Death a metaphorical wedgie, and survived. I am badass, hear me roar. Clearly, I was having a Lifetime Television moment, but I was still going to suck it dry as if I were Paris Hilton working a DJ gig in Ibiza. After all, I’d cheated Death, taken his prize, and while I had come out physically and mentally weakened, I was alive, and that’s what counted. Clearly, his ailment couldn’t possibly compete with my touching of the Bunny Slippers of Death.

Or so I thought.                                                                                                                                                                  

See… managing one’s Ego is a tricky and slippery business- once you think you’ve got it all figured out, your Ego throws you a curve ball… that’s moving at Mach 1… towards your face… while on fire.

Snug in my personal kingdom of self-importance, I ask “Jaime” how he’s coping with his obvious pain, and he responds by telling me that overall, he’s okay, but that it’s his other issue that’s really killing him.

Naturally, I inquire about his other issue, and instantly come to regret it. Not because I’m a jerk, oh heck no, it’s that I had just asked one of those questions you really don’t want the answer to, no matter how curious you might be. Come to think of it, some of my more sensitive male readers may actually want to skip a bit ahead, cause what’s coming up isn’t pretty, and I really don’t want to ruin your lunch.

That’s one of the great things about hitting rock bottom- it always has a sub-basement filled with rats. In retrospect, I should have just stayed on the topic of kidney stones, as it can be fascinating. Did you know you can actually make jewelry out of those things? I didn’t, and I like to believe that I’m a master when it comes to the field of arcane knowledge, no matter what the subject is about. See, normally, I’m one of those people who like to know a little (if not a lot) about pretty much almost anything that exists.


That is, anything except the newly introduced topic I was on the verge of learning about, that being the medical condition known as “Testicular Torsion“. Some of you just went green guessing what that might be, and if you’re off, I guarantee it’s not by much. To be technical, it’s usually described as such:

Testicular torsion occurs when a testicle rotates on the spermatic cord, which provides blood flow to the testicle. As a result, the flow of blood is stopped causing sudden, often severe pain and swelling. Prolonged testicular torsion will result in the death of the testicle and surrounding tissues.

Generally, testicular torsion requires emergency surgery. If treated within a few hours, the testicle can usually be saved. However, waiting longer for treatment can cause permanent damage and may affect the ability to father children. When blood flow has been cut off for too long, a testicle may become so badly damaged it has to be removed.

Testicular torsion is most common in males 10 to 25 years old, but it can occur at any age. About 65 percent of cases occur in adolescents between 12 to 18 years of age. It occurs in about 1 of 4,000 males before the age of 25.”

re… don’t you all feel better now?

I’ll bet dollars to donuts that no matter what is going wrong in your life right now, given that perspective, it just became all excellent across the board. As he was describing his unimaginable pain to me, all I could think was this: “You know what? I’m good. Perfect, in fact. Top notch. A-ok. Feelin’ fine. Okeley-dokely, for lack of a better word. Come to think of it, I’ve never felt this good, and in retrospect- nothing in my life up to this point could truly be counted as a solemn hardship.” And I was dead serious. Sure, I was flat on my back, barely able to walk, and couldn’t stay awake for more than a few hours at a time, not to mention the roughly 12 feet of IV line I had running out of my arms, but at least my boys were still in their right place, tucked under the ol’ love silo, where nature intended them to be. And with that, moving day ends, and I fall asleep.

The next morning, after Jaime has his successful surgery, a small but steady flow of visitors arrives to see me, my mother not being one of them, as that would involve her having to actually fake interest, and she’s so not about that. However, the first two friends who do show up bring me a specially requested illicit gift: Taco Bell.

I’ll explain why that was so.

If you’ve ever been hospitalized, you’re aware that most hospital food traditionally lacks a few things, taste being paramount above all. At the time of my stay, everything I was eating tasted like wet cardboard, which I attributed to the theory expressed above. So when my friends announced that they were coming, I asked them to smuggle in some “food” as a saving grace against the hospital’s kitchen.

Mmm… wet cardboard topped with weak hot sauce and tasteless cheese. Perfect.

And I’ll get to be reprimanded later by my day nurse for casually spiking my blood sugar by eating non-documented carbohydrates? Super sweet. However, the hospital did have one thing that rocked my mouth, and that was the most amazing vanilla pudding that I have ever had in my life.  It was as Aphrodite herself came off Mount Olympus. and decreed that I alone should experience what was essentially a joy-gasm of vanilla. Sorry if you’re visualizing that right now, but on the upside, you can always substitute your favorite celebrity instead of me, so it’s all good.

I’d recommend Milla Jovovich, but that’s just my fondness for zombie killing chicks talking.

Believe you me, that stuff was amazing, and it was literally the only thing I could taste. As it turned out, the lack of flavor in my meals wasn’t because of anything the hospital kitchen had done, it was due to the amount of antibiotics the medical staff had used while battling my infection- it had suppressed my ability to actually taste anything that wasn’t super sweet, spicy or salty, and I was later casually informed by my doctor that this condition could possibly be permanent.

Gee, Doc… I didn’t get yo anything. Boy, is my face red, or what?

Fortunately, this effect only lasted for a few weeks after my being discharged, which led to the incorporation of chocolate chip mint ice cream, pretzels and jambalaya as main-stays in my diet for a brief period of time. While this may sound unhealthy, it did help me put back on the thirty pounds I had lost, so there is that. But on top of the frustration in regards to my taste buds, I also had to deal with an awkward social situation as well- two of my friends had recently broken up with each other, so I had to schedule their visits so that there wouldn’t be any conflict betwixt them, or more specifically, the one who couldn’t act like a grown up for ten minutes.

Spoiler: It wasn’t the girl. It never ceases to amaze me how petty people can get when they’re no longer the main flavor for someone. Here’s some gentle advice- if you’re aware that you haven’t brought anything to the table, you don’t get to act surprised when your partner pushes their chair back and walks away from you. And let’s face it, if there ever was a moment for me to act completely self-absorbed without guilt, this would be the one. After all, you’re visiting someone in the hospital who nearly died, so your drama, I’m sorry to say, needs to be shelved for the duration of your visit without question.

Yes, at that moment, it literally was all about me, and for the first time in my life, it was completely justified beyond reproach. Despite all this potential aggravation, the rest of the visits go off without a hitch, and I spend the rest of my day alternately napping and watching TV. Sadly, Michael Jackson remained dead, and according to the news, “Thriller” was apparently the only album he had ever recorded.

Does no one remember “Off the Wall“? Because that album rocked.
Question for another time, I guess.

Mid-afternoon of the next day, a doctor I’ve never seen before comes into my room and asks me if I want to go home, as they’re still worried about my catching a post-infection, and they collectively think that I’m far enough along to be discharged safely. Naturally, I say yes, and naturally, he later bills my insurance company $150.00 for his “consultation”. Which by the way, I’m happy to announce he never got to pocket, as I eventually get it cleared from the final bill, which originally stood at $118,000.00. For the record, if you’re going to charge me $150.00 for answering a simple question, there had better be soft music and candlelight involved beforehand.

Just saying.

And if you can’t do either, I’d better be seeing a case of chilled Ding Dongs come my way, and that right quick. So, after waiting a few hours to clear all the medical paperwork hurdles, I’m officially discharged, looking like a meth camp reject- bruised, pale, wobbly as a drunken aardvark, and extremely sensitive to sunlight. And here I was, thinking it could only get better.

But as I stated earlier, I was on the mend and that’s what really counted in the long run. Granted, the next five weeks were transforming in their own way, but here’s where our story stops for now, I think. Looking back, I can honestly say I’m very grateful to be alive, and even more so now that I get to opine on the PAS with such brutal transparency after years of playing it quiet. I can’t even begin to tell you the sensation of freedom that comes with openly and plainly stating where you stand on something, albeit it about art, politics, or your fellow human beings.

People may not like what I say/write, but they know exactly what I believe in, and no matter how many anonymous internet cravens pop up spewing venom or threats of implied violence, I’m not going to be varying my approach anytime soon. If I’m partially responsible for changing some attitudes within the PAS, that’s for others to decide, as I’ve got bigger fish to fry. When it gets right down to brass tacks, if someone’s nose gets bent out of joint, so be it- it’s on them, as I’m only accountable for what I say, not how it’s interpreted.

At the end of the day, if I can get a few people to discuss openly what most needs to be discussed, I’ll consider that victory enough, and I move on to the next issue at hand. What truly matters is the end goal, where the PAS is fostered into becoming an economically viable and stable art market, where galleries and their artists can not only make a living, but also get the respect that their talent is worthy of.

So in closing, my sincerest thanks to those who’ve read, those who’ve complained, and even those who’ve spent their free time hissing at me from under the Internet’s bed- you’ve all helped make the last five years of my life creating this body of work some of the best.

And when we come back with number 51….

a Treeo grows in Phoenix, I attend a laughably passive-aggressive art opening, theorize about a possible new Superman villain, explain why an “art-space” isn’t the same as an art gallery using an analogy involving chocolate milk, and cast a critical eye on the  fair weather that blows within the PAS.

“No legacy is as rich as honesty” – William Shakespeare



























And when we come back with number 51….

A Treeo grows in Phoenix, I attend a laughably passive-aggressive art opening, theorize about a possible new Superman villain, explain why an “art-space” isn’t the same as an art gallery using an analogy involving chocolate milk, and cast a critical eye on the fair weather that blows within the PAS.

“No legacy is as rich as honesty” – William Shakespeare



You Only Live Twice PT. 5 (Is that a catheter or are you just happy to see me?)

Diabetes is a lousy, lousy disease.”- Elaine Stritch

Hello Blogiteers!

Do you hear that? Those are the forceful, yet calming, Winds of Change. Granted, they’re a bit tardy in getting here, but it’s nice to see them eventually show up, nonetheless. With all that’s happening in the PAS, I’m hoping they hangout a while, and keep things on track to a better and shinier future.

Besides… those bitches owe me a fitty, as 50 Cent likes to say.

Speaking of owing somebody, I offer my apologies to those of you I haven’t got back to in regards to your Emails. I was crushed by the reaction to the last three blogs I wrote, so I’m a bit behind the metaphorical 8 ball, as it were. But I promise to address whatever you’ve written me about- I just need to either stop time, or find a way to take two weeks off, which I can assure you, will not happen anytime soon. But I’ll get those last missives squared away ASAP, no matter what.

It has, to be honest, been a very draining couple of weeks- the last three pieces of writing comprised a total of 13,701 words, which let me tell you, is a LOT of freaking vocabulary to issue forth. So it should come as no big surprise that I’m a tad bit on the burned out side, and looking forward to finishing up my tale of being hospitalized back in 2009. In fact, I can’t wait to get started. Seriously chomping at the bit, as it were. Raring to go. Full of hellfire and brimstone.

Once more into the breech. Up and at them. Geronimo. *Allons-y! *[Dr. Who fans will get this.]

But first… I have to touch base on a few things. Seems the Peter Bugg/plagiarism thing just keeps getting more interesting the longer time passes. I’ve been wondering why SMoCA didn’t even bother to do the merest of checks in relation to what I wrote or the troubling question I raised of his “alleged” plagiarism in regards to his winning a SMoCA grant. As it turns out, there’s a rumor that I’m attempting to vet that Peter Peter the Idea Stealer from time to time actually does work for SMoCA, photographing their events and the like, which if proven to be true, would sort of make him an employee, albeit one that might be classified as an independent contractor.

I know I may be splitting hairs here, but wouldn’t having someone who works for you being allowed to compete for a grant you’re sponsoring constitute some version of a conflict of interest? Hear me out: if you work for the state lottery for instance, you’re generally disallowed from winning the Powerball, and while the SMoCA Good N Plenty grant is only $1000.00, would it be ethical to allow an alleged employee to compete for it?

I’d say no, but I’m kind of an old school stickler when it comes to rules. However, if this rumor does turn out to be accurate, it could explain why SMoCA [in the personage of Lesley Oliver] blew me off with a boilerplate politico’s non-answer. A protection of one’s own, as it allegedly were. As she stated in her letter, “we consider the matter closed” a stance which strikes as odd, since doesn’t the matter at hand have to be actually open first before it can be closed?’

I’d say yes, but then again- I happen to be a straight to the point kind of guy, something that seems to be a rarity in this town. And since I am, I’m planning on firing off an Email to SMoCA’s top kick in the next couple of weeks or so, to see what he has to say about this topic. I’m sure it’ll go one of two ways: either he’ll ignore it [what I expect to happen] or he’ll dismiss it (also a distinct possibility) as curtly as Ms. Oliver did.

Although her tacking on a sales pitch at the end of her Email [the section which I didn’t publish, because
{really?] was brassy as f**k, I still consider her position to be cravenly due to two things, the first being her lack of even attempting to acknowledge or debate the obvious similarities between Peter’s “concept” and the Artist he “allegedly” stole it from, and the second: if I was wrong in my original summation, why not just flat-out say so?

Granted, you can only say so much as a representative of a so-called professional arts organization, but even still, wouldn’t it be easier (and smarter) to prove me wrong? Once again, I’d say yes, but there’s a whole lot of wobbly happening where SMoCA’s unofficially official position is concerned. Keep in mind, I asked these questions first on SMoCA’s Facebook pages, and was met with stony silence for two days. After the blog dropped, they were removed [with no comment given] and I was “blocked” from all their sites. Let me tell ya, nothing says “we got nothing to hide” better than refusing to answer a few simple questions and hiding under the Internets’ bed like a 13 year old girl.

Thank God for Yelp and Travel Advisor, where I gave a short but sweet summation regarding their lack of interest to address this issue and advised those who might be curious to see one of SMoCA’s attempts to redefine Art for the worse, to perhaps spend their money elsewhere. What can I say? I’m all about helping out the occasional wandering traveler. Besides, the PAS could use that money so much more than a faux-arts temple that charges a fee to see pyramids built out of slowly rotting fruit.

Hint from me to you: save the ten bucks, and go visit your local Safeway. On the upside, they have reasonably priced beer and sandwiches, as well as a totally bitching candy aisle. And some additional advice: do not start drinking and eating before you pay. They just hate that.

Getting back on track, if there isn’t anything “allegedly” shady going on, then why delete my rather tame comments at all? I wasn’t vulgar, heck, I wasn’t even rude- I was direct. And if you’re going to claim that you serve the community, shouldn’t you, then? Keep in mind, I received over 200 total emails and FB messages in regards to this issue, and there were only six negative* responses.

*[And one fake FB profile created to attack me anonymously. On a related note, I miss you so much, “Gordon Bradford”… why don’t you call? I promise I won’t get too clingy.]

Remember this- I’m not the one that noticed the similarities in the two projects until one of my readers brought it to my attention, so I can’t (and won’t) take credit for that, either. And if someone else noticed this, it’s not an unreasonable stretch to assume others probably may have too, they just haven’t commented on it, due to either social fear, politeness, or not knowing what to do.

Speaking of comments, this little gem was FB messaged to me recently, and it made my week: You are forthright with your opinion & that is admirable. That means people always know where you stand. It’s the wishy-washy fuckers you have to keep an eye out for.”

Damn straight. I despise wishy-washy people too, as I do get that not everybody is wired like me, willing to go to the wall for what they think is right- most people sit down and wait for somebody else to do the hard lifting first. So in that regard, I’d surmise SMoCA does know it’s audience- that being people who think that 3 canvases painted the same unbroken shade of white that’s virtually indistinguishable from the wall they hang on is truly the pinnacle of pure artistic expression and enlightenment.

You know… morons, idiots, blockheads, dunces, ignoramuses, simpletons, halfwits, imbeciles- in a phrase, stunted cretins who think they’re art savvy. Call me a snob, but if your “art” can be easily duplicated by a toddler having a colic attack, or a gibbon in a zoo, I’d suggest that perhaps your ass needs to get back to art school/the streets/the public library/a real artists’ studio to see what art actually is, and maybe this time, let the relevant info stick.

And on a correlated note: f**k Richard Serra too. Preferably with Damien Hirst’s skull. Either the diamond-studded sculpture* or his real one. I’m really not gonna split hairs over which.
*[Link: http://www.damienhirst.com/for-the-love-of-god]

Gah. Done with this. For now, at least. So…. what else is on the table?

Ahh, yes- Joe Brklacich, my fellow artist who implied that he wanted to “punch me in the f*****g face” for what he perceived as my insulting his good friend Lesley Oliver two blogs back. Fortunately for me, there wasn’t a playground nearby, so I was able to stave off his grade school chest thumping with a flippant chuckle and the turn of my back. But if there had been a swing set in the vicinity, rest assured that I’d have been morally obligated to get my best kindergarten poker face on, something I haven’t had to do since… well, kindergarten.

So, what’s been going on with that situation? Well, just like the inside of Joe’s studio and his all too familiar art hanging on the walls, nothing. Nothing at all. Figuratively, metaphorically, and literally. Simply zilch. Zero. Nada. Sorry. I did my best to see if I could get his head to implode, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s been distracted lately by a particularly shiny set of keys, so I guess we’ll just to have to wait and see how it all turns out in the end. My take? If he throws a punch as well as he debates, then I’m fairly confident that I’ll be in my grave two decades before his fist ever reaches my ruggedly handsome face.

Gah. Also done with this. For now.

So then, what ever shall we talk about? Wait a minute, I have an idea- how about I finish my tale of touching the Bunny Slippers of Death? Trust me, it’s gonna be a really good read, and the ending will be both touching and infuriating. However- despite my love of being an earnest yarn-spinner, I find myself forced to reveal one major spoiler about my narrative due to an unusually thick email I received in regards to it, which in it’s pure essence asked me this: “So what eventually happened? Did you ever leave the hospital, and come out okay?” Let that sink in for a moment. Savor the level of the density, and know that this person is allowed by the laws of this great land to have the right to both vote and breed, and yet you still wonder why I sometimes think that Noah and the Ark needs a sequel.

Unless Heaven has one hell of a Wi-Fi, I think the answer is quite apparent. Now here comes the standard boilerplate: if you hate knowing major plot points before the end of a story, I’d skip ahead a few paragraphs and pick up my account there, lest ye be tempted to foresee the end of my tale. I’m only adding this disclaimer because what I’m about to reveal is such a twist that knowing what it is might just ruin the story for you, and I would never want that.

Here it goes. You still have time to skip ahead, you know. Last chance before I open the box and let Schrödinger’s cat out of the metaphorical bag, which raises the question: why would he be in a bag when he’s already sealed inside a box? Question for another time, I guess

Back to the spoiler!

The spoiler that is about to be revealed, the secret of my tale, the ending to my narrative is this: I DON’T, AT ANY POINT, DESPITE HOW ILL I WAS, DESPITE HOW CLOSE I COME TO BEING DEATH’S ROOM-MATE, DESPITE BEING IN A MEDICALLY INDUCED COMA FOR FOUR DAYS, ACTUALLY DIE.



I know, I know, I just gave away the ending to the movie, and I’m truly sorry. But let’s face it, you’re not here for the all-singing, all-dancing Disney ending, you’re here for the pathos, the drama, the reality of my tale. The Lifetime mini-series, as it were. I’ll try not to disappoint you, but remember… you’re getting all this for free, so you’ve got very little room to bitch.were we? Where were we? Ah, yes- the Hospital.

At this point, I was starting to slowly come out of the med-induced haze they had been keeping me under, but I was still not out of the woods yet- not by a long shot. I was legally blind, due to the amount of high blood sugar distension my corneas had suffered, could barely raise my arms above my waist, and my favorite man part was attached to a catheter.I have previously mentioned the catheter, right? Sorry, but it’s just this: while the rest of my physical symptoms were definitely no bowl of chilled Ding Dongs, that whole catheter thing just sucked.

As I stated in Part 2 of this tale, that in the future, let it be widely known that if given a choice for what method to use for voiding my bladder, I’m perfectly fine with a bedpan. Or an open window. Or a pickle jar. Or the mouths of any of the GOP’s top politicians.

Just saying. However, I was at least on the road to making a full recovery, and that’s always a good thing. On the downside, every channel was seemingly blasting “news” about the death of Michael Jackson, so I’m now way more informed about his life than any skinny straight white boy should be. Don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely one of my top five for Entertainer of the Century, ranked just slightly below Freddie Mercury, but for a go-to babysitter? Not so much.

Please don’t make me explain why.

I kid you not, one station showed an aerial shot of the hearse parked outside the funeral home on and off for almost two hours straight, all while the anchor-people repetitively discussed their love of the iconic “Thriller” album over looped clips of the “Thriller” video.
[Ok. That video is still a creative masterpiece, but even so… give it a rest, would ya?]

Know this: if there’s one thing more painful than watching really elderly people trying to figure out how to program an I-phone6, it’s watching over-bleached versions of Ken and Barbie wax poetic about an album that came out while they were going to high school back in November of 1982. Plus… did he really have to die that week? He totally stole my thunder, and I just hate that. Sure, CNN in all probability might not have covered my stay, but now we’ll never know, will we? And it’s all thanks to that amazingly talented moon-walking schmuck picking the wrong check-out date.

*Sigh* Some days you just can’t catch a break.

Conversely, the “History Channel” was playing a marathon of documentaries that focused upon the colorfully vibrant [AKA; violent] era when organized crime was just starting to come into it’s own. Now we were cooking with gas, let me tell you. And a fair amount of bullets, as well. Genteel businessmen these Thompson carrying mooks were not. After three days of exposure to all this trivia, I’m fairly certain I could easily kick Alex Trebeks’ ass when it comes to gangster related questions.

Go ahead… ask me anything.: the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre? A Capone fronted attempt to kill his rival, Bugs Moran. The out of town hit=men dressed as police missed Moran due to his arriving late, and his seeing the faux cops pull up [whom he thought were real] led to him quickly hiding in a close proximity coffeehouse- but they did succeed in killing off most of his gang and their mechanic, whose dogs name was “Highball”.

How did “Lucky” Luciano get his nickname? He was taken for a “last ride” by rival mobsters in the 1920’s which he survived, despite being severely beaten and having his throat cut. As an aside, he’s also considered the most powerful American mob boss of all time, and is credited as being highly instrumental in developing the National Crime Syndicate, which is not to be confused with the Mafia, as they are two distinct things.

And people say you can’t learn anything by watching TV. Pshaw! Says I. But in between the hysteria concerning Michael Jackson’s death and learning the art of how to smuggle Canadian Whiskey into Chicago, I was making small steps in regards to my health. The first hurdle I had to overcome was the loss of strength overall. You wouldn’t think that being in bed for four days would affect your weight and stamina that much, but oh golly gee, it seriously does.

I could barely sit myself up, let alone stand, and when you take into account that I had also lost close to thirty pounds as well, I was in no shape to do virtually anything physical. I pretty much looked like Iggy Pop after a four day bender in Thailand. True story: I exhausted myself taking a drink of water. Seriously. Took a sip, and it felt like the glass weighed 300 pounds. Almost immediately I fell asleep due to the strain, and woke up to an unexpected visitor looming in my hospital doorway- my estranged younger brother Chris, whom I hadn’t seen or heard from since my Opa’s 100th birthday party in New York City back in 2005.

As you might have surmised, we ain’t exactly close. The Reich clan is scattered far and wide, and when people talk of us, the term “touchy” would be the most likely used by way of description. We’re not warm and fuzzy, nor are we the kind of family that likes to hang out with each other on a regular basis. Let’s just say emails and phone calls are the main way we stay in contact with each other, and leave it at that.

So seeing my brother in the flesh (of which he has a lot) was, to be fair, a bit of a shock to the ol’ system, as you might imagine. Also, seeing how Chris is not known as being the “funny” one in the family, his opening gambit was surprisingly witty, especially for him. To quote: “Yes, it’s me… and no, you’re not in Hell.” Immediately followed up by: “If you wanted a family reunion, you could have just called, you know.” That kids, is pure comedy- I don’t care what anybody says. He then settles in, as we proceed to catch up for the next thirty minutes or so, until my GF Ashley shows up and not surprisingly, is stunned to see him sitting there.

After he introduces himself, he then proceeds to converse with her “rack” the entire time, staring with an intensity I’ve only seen in people who cut diamonds for a living. Yep. That’s my family. When we decide to give you the worst first impression, we go full throttle. Don’t get me wrong, my girl does have a great rack and all, but it’s usually not what I’d refer to as a conversationalist, and if I were to get all caveman here, I’d have to point out that I happen to be renting it with an option to buy hopefully soon, so please keep your eyes to yourself, ok?

After this awkward conversation ends, Chris leaves, followed by Ashley, as she had a long day at work, leaving me alone with my day nurse, whose name was Eric. Now by all outward appearances, Eric seems like a nice guy. His scrubs are usually adorned with cartoon animals, and as a rule of thumb, he’s quite upbeat- all of which hides the fact that at his core, he’s actually a sadist. A cartoon clad, mildly perky, somewhat amusing and relatively easygoing sadist, to be sure, but a sadist nonetheless.

All that’s missing is the dungeon and standard issue leather-clad gimp play=set. How can I say this with such a degree of certainty? Because while I was hovering on the edge of life and death, he made me exercise. No offense, but typically when given the choice between dying and working out, it’s usually a coin toss for me. I loathe working out- not because of the truly physical challenge, but because of all the idiots you have to put up with at the gym.

And believe you me, Spandex does have a limit as to what it can safely contain.

See, here’s the deal- one of the perks of being in the ICU ward is that people don’t expect much from you in general. You get to lay around, watch tons of TV, and sleep quite a bit. It’s a lot like being a government employee, minus the pajamas and IV saline drip. So, because I was getting comfortable with this setup, I obviously wasn’t expecting to be doing any Tai-bo or working out to a Richard Simmons DVD anytime soon. By way of example, my night nurse would come in, give me a shot (or two) of morphine, and leave me be.

Eric on the other hand, wants me to be up and about, and goes to great lengths to make sure that I am. He sets up chairs every ten feet or so all around the perimeter of the ICU ward and tells me he wants me to walk at least one full circle, no matter how long it takes, which at the time, was forty-five minutes for me, versus three minutes for a healthy person. Naturally, I tell him I’d love to do so, especially since I can barely move, but gosh darnit.. this dang catheter is in the way, so I guess I’ll just have to take a rain check on that whole exercise thing, which I just feel terrible about.

Really. You have no idea the guilt that was eating me alive. Unfortunately, this isn’t Eric’s first time at the rodeo, so he just looks at me and says: “Oh, I can take care of that.” And then gives me a smile….

A big, way too happy, shark-toothed, James Bond villain stroking a white cat kind of smile.

Future note to self: learn how to keep your mouth shut, especially when you have a tube running up your spawn hammer. Charitably, I don’t remember them putting in the catheter as I was really out of it when I was checked in, but now I’m fully aware and conscious of what’s going on. Oh, great goody gum drops of freaking sunshine, am I ever aware.

As I’m laying there in my bed, weak as a kitten, Eric tells me that he’ll remove the catheter “on the count of three“, so I start psyching myself up, secure in the knowledge that I’m in the best of hands and that he’s a true professional, even if his SpongeBob scrubs are somewhat disconcerting. Know this- I’m a real man. I may be intellectual and urbane most times, but I can take whatever is thrown at me.

Go ahead… pour boiling water down my throat and I’ll belch ice cubes. Bad Pizza? Bring it. Circus clowns? I’ll drink mead from their severed skulls and mount their giant floppy shoes in my den. The Tea Party? Since logic is like kryptonite to these people, I’ll just read the Constitution out loud and watch their heads explode. A PAS wannabe dares to get up in my grill? Oh please. I’ll climb up inside and hollow them out like a chocolate Easter Bunny. I’m not afraid of much, to be quite honest, and as proof of that, I also eat at Taco Bell… on a regular basis.

Like I said, I can handle anything. Everything that is, except a certain back-stabbing, under-handed, black-hearted, treacherous, soulless, deal-breaking bastard pulling the tube out on “two“, and not “three“. To be fair, the removal didn’t hurt nearly as much as the insertion, which apparently required my having to be strapped down to a gurney [so I’ve been told] but it’s not something I ever want to repeat in my life. As a rule, that’s one part of my body I’ve tried earnestly not to expose to anything boiling, sharp edged, sparking, freezing, sizzling, metallic, burning or internal.

I know, I know… I’m way too boring. But this cautionary approach has served me well, and I’m not abandoning it anytime soon.

As I traverse through the ICU’s version of musical chairs, hell-bent on getting back to my not so comfy bed, I take notice of the other rooms within, and recall a conversation I had the evening before with my night nurse, whose name was (I kid you not) Angel. She comes in, checks my vitals, administers my regular dose of pain killers and sleeping agents, and then tells me how she was just bragging in the nurse’s lounge that as her patient, I was going to survive and eventually walk out. Noting my somewhat shocked reaction, she states: “We usually don’t have a lot of wins- in the ICU you take the victories where you can.”

Granted, I can see the logic behind this unique worldview, but at the time, I was just hoping she hadn’t placed any bets on me, as I really don’t perform well under that kind of pressure. Especially when it’s fairly obvious that I’m not going to see a cut of the vig in the end. I think I need to get a better agent to handle these details.

There were 12 rooms (AKA: “pods”) in the ICU unit that I was convalescing in, and at that particular time only I and one other person [a car crash victim] were expected to leave under our own power, versus being carried out in a human-sized Ziploc bag. As you might imagine, there’s not a whole lot of joy to be found in a land that has a perpetual death watch, so I came to interpret the nursing staffs black humor as a self-imposed form of protection from the depressive aspects of what the job demanded. It brought to mind something my dear departed Oma might have said in relation to the overall vibe of the place:

It feels quite a bit Catholic in here, doesn’t it?

Oddly, I’m at my best in a place with that sort of attitude, as I tend to deal with stress by being sarcastic, so I fit right in with nary a hitch. Just like when I travel, I try to be a good and gracious guest. You know the basic rules- keep your room neat, clean off your plate, and don’t be a pain in the ass to your host, no matter what the situation is. And if the circumstance calls for you to don lederhosen, I say go for it.

Sorry. Let’s get back to the story.

As I was slowly traversing what was the great circle of the ICU, the reality of all those families hoping against hope that their loved ones might just survive their personal trauma was humbling. In retrospect, I got damn lucky, and the only reason I survived what should have killed me was a simple luck of the draw- no more, no less. I don’t believe in miracles. I’m too much of a realist. If I can’t see it, touch it, or rub it all over my body in a fugue of joy, then it doesn’t exist.

Understand that I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. I credit the fact that despite his arrogance and lack of verticality, my doctor knew his chops and had one hell of an ICU team behind him to aid in my recovery. Add in the fact that God apparently needs me to serve as a bad example, and you can see why I’m not planning on checking out anytime soon.

Speaking of checking out, I believe this would be an excellent time to take a break, as I and most likely you, are starting to nod off. And let’s face it, a well-rested reader is a happy reader.

And when we come back…This tale concludes with gang-bangers and kidney stones, visits from warring friends, I finally explain my obsession with John C. Lincoln’s vanilla pudding, enjoy some illicit Taco Bell, and discover the true cost of wanting to go home.

“It’s no longer a question of staying healthy. It’s a question of finding a sickness you like.”
– Jackie Mason









Sorry. Let’s get back to the story.

As I was slowly traversing what was the great circle of the ICU, the reality of all those families hoping against hope that their loved ones might just survive their personal trauma was humbling. In retrospect, I got damn lucky, and the only reason I survived what should have killed me was a simple luck of the draw- no more, no less. I don’t believe in miracles. I’m too much of a realist. If I can’t see it, touch it, or rub it all over my body in a fugue of joy, then it doesn’t exist.

Understand that I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. I credit the fact that despite his arrogance and lack of verticality, my doctor knew his chops and had one hell of an ICU team behind him to aid in my recovery. Add in the fact that God apparently needs me to serve as a bad example, and you can see why I’m not planning on checking out anytime soon.

Speaking of checking out, I believe this would be an excellent time to take a break, as I and most likely you, are starting to nod off. And let’s face it, a well-rested reader is a happy reader.

And when we come back…This tale concludes with gang-bangers and kidney stones, visits from warring friends, I finally explain my obsession with John C. Lincoln’s vanilla pudding, enjoy some illicit Taco Bell, and discover the true cost of wanting to go home.

“It’s no longer a question of staying healthy. It’s a question of finding a sickness you like.”
– Jackie Mason









You Only Live Twice PT. 4 and a 1/3 ( Where there’s SMoCa, there’s Whiners )

“It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that.” As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. “I find that offensive.” It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘”I am offended by that.” Well, so f*****g what.”
– Stephen Fry, The Guardian

Hello Blogiteers!

I’ve got to be honest- there are times, if the truth is to be told, where I really enjoy being a self-styled Artbitch. I get to speak my mind, clear the way for progressive debate, skewer a cretin (or two), and generally walk around with a feeling of a job well done, if not snarkily.

Then there’s the days where I’m really happy. Usually, it’s because I’ve found an extra pack of Ding Dongs that I didn’t know I had, or sometimes I’ll be flipping through the ol’ cable TV and find out they’re playing all of the Resident Evil movies back to back with limited commercial interruptions. You know… the simple pleasures. Granted, the pay is non-existent, but the hours are great, and the perks make it all worthwhile.

No matter what might be happening in my day gig existence, the world where my art-life resides is usually never boring, and that’s just the way I like it. Surprisingly, despite my once being described by a colleague as “saturnly venomous“, I rarely run into what i would consider any concrete repercussions in regards to what I write. Sure, there’s the occasional vulgar e-mail or sporadic sideways nasty glance when I’m out and about among my art peeps, but at worst- these are annoyances akin to a gnat flying in front of a wind machine.

In other words, no sweat, no sleep lost, no actual f***s given, no matter what. I know, I know. I’m a Hell-bound, supremely arrogant, self-righteous, intensely focused bastard of monolithic proportions. And oddly, I’m perfectly okay with this. Do you have any guesses as to why that is? It’s simple, really. Because as long as I can remember, I’ve always been “that guy”- you know, the one that says what everybody else is thinking but refuses to articulate, due to their being either too afraid or too polite.

Fortunately, I have no such hang-ups, and I refuse to apologize for not suffering fools, just because outdated social restrictions and one’s lack of personal spine says that I should. Plus, there’s always this type of comment that I get occasionally via e-mail, which also helps keeps me motivated:

“I give you props! Not many people in this wretched arts scene/state are brave enough to speak up. Go along to get along is the norm. It’s why I stay on the “outside” and travel elsewhere. What you do is valuable and I applaud you.”

The unforeseen side-effect of being honest, other than a clean conscience and unburdened soul, is the amount of simplicity that it brings to your life- for instance, the amount of holiday cards that I have to mail out every year just keeps getting smaller and smaller, and at the rate it’s going, pretty soon I’ll only have to spring for two kinds: my girlfriends card that I spend time looking for (the $3.00 and up kind) and everybody else’s from the year-end clearance sale box.

You know the type: generic, derivative, and completely devoid of any actual sentiment, emotion, or creativity. Its what all cards will be if Hallmark ever decides to make a Peter Bugg product line.

Speaking of my favorite allegedly plagiarizing insect, my last little screed where I gave both he and SMoCA equal drubbing, hit way harder than I expected. And by that, I mean my personal e-mail and FB messages lit up like a Christmas tree on acid at a Pragha Khan concert.

This time however, there was more than the usual one or two negative pieces of correspondence that I’ve become used to as of late. There was six. Yes, six! Not to mention the one fake FaceBook profile created specifically to comment on my anti-Bugg posting located on the Arizona Artists page.

How did I know it was fake?

Well, they had no photo, no info, and no friends listed on their profile at all, yet somehow zoomed right in on me and my comments right off the bat. So given that… and the fact that they fell off the Earth after being called out on it, made me and several others a tad bit suspicious.

But let it be known, “Gordon Bramford”, that we all miss you something fierce.

On the upside, between emails and FB insta-messages, the positive responses numbered over 150- somehow, I can force myself to live with that. The best line in regards to Peter was this:

“You know, he did something that I liked once… now I’m wondering who he stole it from.”

Classic. The last time I can recall getting this much feedback on something I wrote was when I took on the Phoenix New Times, and that seems like forever and a day ago. Ah, good times… no pun intended. It seems that many of my fellow Creatives share the same dim view I have of Peter’s “talent” and SMoCA’s artistic “vision”, even if they don’t always (or ever) agree with my views on anything else. See, there’s always middle ground, you just have to forge ahead and find a commonality that bonds you as a team.

But as usual, there’s always going to be those who get their Underoos in a bunch over something I said or did, and I can’t help that. And even if I could, I probably wouldn’t, anyway. When it gets down to it, I’d rather be right than liked, and it’s been my experience that people who usually have a real problem with me and my opinion are typically the type of people I wouldn’t want to be trapped in an elevator with.

Yes, that’s actually the acid test I use: would I be okay being trapped in an elevator sans Ding Dongs with this person? If not. then us being friends is gonna be a long shot at best. Given my nature to speak my mind candidly, it’s not too surprising that becoming my friend only requires two things: loyalty and honesty- two qualities for membership that I generally don’t waive for anybody.

This Artbitch does have standards, after all.

Shockingly, it does take a modicum of effort to get onto my spit list- I may be somewhat aggro at times, but I’m not that aggro, if you know what I mean. Despite what some of my critics might think, it’s not like I walk around cracking skulls and slicing up people with my tongue on a 24/7 basis.

Sure, recently somebody asked me how did I eat with that switchblade folded up in my mouth, but I’m pretty certain that they meant that as a compliment. And on a more realistic note, who has that kind of time? And more importantly, the energy?

Not me. I’m way too lazy to go on an unchecked smiting spree, and when it comes to the PAS, let’s be honest- it would be a full time job given all the candy-assed human speed bumps we’re presently dealing with at the moment. Speaking of which…

As it happened, I was out and about last First Friday with my GF Ashley, taking in the local gallery offerings: Pela Contemporary had a strong showing with painter Jason Hugger and sculptors Brad Konick and Thad Trubakoff, {9} The Gallery was showing Artists Dino Paul and up and comer Mikey Jackson, and Braggs Pie Factory was host to “Consumerism” an exhibit by members of Phoenix’s Eye Lounge Artists’ Collective.

All in all, fairly solid shows, and a pleasant night was being had, until we decided to drop in at The Lodge Art Studio, located at 1231 NW Grand Avenue in industrially interesting downtown Phoenix. The Lodge is home to Painter Abby Messmer [http://abbeymessmer.blogspot.com/], Painter/Sculptor Rafael Navarro [http://www.rafaelnavarroartes.com/] and sketch artist Joe Brklacich, whose website I won’t link here due to what I’m about to share.

Now, I’ve known all three of these artists for the last few years or so- Abby’s extremely talented and very nice, but we’re not what I would consider good friends, not due to any personality conflicts or anything like that, mind you- we just don’t hang out in that context. It’s along the lines of she’s a much more talented colleague who knows this snarky Artbitch kind of deal. Rafael on the other hand, I know a little better, we get along relatively well, and I’m a huge fan of his work, which is both innovative and stunning. One day, when my income improves, I plan on knowing several people who can afford to collect him.

Rafael is also possibly one of the mellowest Artists I know, being so laid back that if you bottled him, you could market him as liquefied Zen. And yes, I do mean that with complete and total respect.

Joe Brklacich on the other hand, I can’t really tell you anything about. Over the last few years, I’ve never had more than a handful of conversations with the guy, have never seen his work outside the Lodge, and really have no idea what he believes or represents. I can tell you his website hasn’t been updated (at the time of this blog) since December of 2012, so obviously he’s exceedingly busy with commissions or juggling kittens- whatever it is that he actually does to make money.

But more on that in a bit.

As I said, Ashley and I dropped in at The Lodge, where I chatted with Rafael a bit about his newest work currently on display and other various sundries, until Joe walked in and asked to talk to me “outside”. Some insight: as a rule, whenever anybody asks to see me “outside”, I already know that it’s going to be most likely a conversation in regards to my writing/attitude/opinion/tone/ or possibly my love of Swedish pop group ABBA.

Either/or. It’s a toss-up.

Now, before I start telling you what transpired, be informed that I will also be engaging my standard line by line deconstructionist technique not seen here for quite some time, due to the inherent amount of arrogant stupidity I have to dissect. Much like arsenic, it’s best when taken in small doses, so that one can build up an immunity.

So, with that explanation off the table, let’s carry on. As I step outside, Joe proceeds to puff up and ask matter of factly: “You know what your problem is?”

– Wow. I have only one? And here I was, thinking that I was just rife with issues. Thanks, you big sweet-talker, you. I feel better about myself already. And damn, if I don’t feel prettier too.

You take everything personally.”

– Um… yeah, I actually do. It’s both a curse and a blessing. Unlike a lot of my contemporaries, I’m actually trying to make a difference by not sitting on my ass waiting like an artsy Rapunzel for my super studly prince to come. Perhaps it isn’t obvious, but I’ve been writing these first-person narrative blogs for roughly five years now and it’s ALWAYS BEEN personal. I see what I regard as obstructions or ethical lapses within my field of Phoenix-centric vision, I say something about it, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon… if ever.

When I bring attention to an issue to someone [in this case, Lesley Oliver] who is in a prime position to either address it or kick it upstairs for a management looksee and I’m dismissed like a servant at the Playboy Mansion with a trite and condescending politicians’ response, you’re damn right I’m going to take it personally.

Focusing my knowledge and personal energy towards the goal of starting a conversation that hopefully changes the playing field, that’s what I do. This process involves having to put your own self-interest on the shelf, which is why I can see how it might confuse and enrage you, Joey.

“That’s why I un-friended you on FaceBook the first time.”

– Yep. You read that right. He actually said that. The mind reels. Two things: first, I’m not a thirteen year old girl, so shunning me on FB is hardly what I consider a banishment to the social Gulag, and second… I wasn’t actually aware that we were friends on FB in the first place.

What’s next? Going to read my diary and kiss my BGF?

“It happens that Lesley Oliver is a friend of mine.”

– As an aside, anytime anyone uses the phrase “So and so is a friend of mine”, it’s a sure bet that it’s a self-righteous rationalization to engage in behavior that otherwise would be called out as dickish at best, asinine at worst. This may come as a shock, but I too, have friends. More than I need, less than I’d like to have, but they all benefit from one thing in common- I stay the f**k out of their personal business unless specifically requested to dive in. See, here’s the deal: I automatically assume that as an adult, they can handle their own battles- I know, I know… I’m weird that way.

And when one takes into account that Lesley is a professional PR person, it’s even more ridiculous that Joey assumed he could try and threaten me on her behalf. With all due respect, if that’s her chosen field and if I’m the worst person that she’s ever dealt with in regards to someone being a bitch to her, then she should just cash in her 401K and become a macramé artist, to the benefit of all parties concerned.

To clarify, I don’t believe for one second that Lesley asked Joey to get involved, as it’s fairly obvious he took it upon himself to engage me. The level of anger he was dramatically and chivalrously overacting [phrase appropriate] was so ridiculous, I thought for a few seconds there that it was a performance art piece. If anything. I’d like to think that she’d be truly embarrassed by his high school-esque display of hairless Gorilla chest-thumping.

On a more personal note, I guess I should be more impressed, since after all- it is the first time I’ve ever seen him on a First Friday without a drink in his hand. But to be fair, I was probably blocking the path to the beer cooler.

“And if you had said what you said about her to her face and if I had happened to be there, I would have punched you in the f*****g face.”

– Can I ask you a personal favor? Would you please? Because a punch to my shockingly delicate face couldn’t be nearly as painful as that run-on hot mess you believe to be a sentence. All snarkiness aside, are you f*****g serious? Somebody says something about your arrogantly craven buddy and your approach to debating/settling the issue is to threaten them with an act of violent assault?

I just have to ask this simple question Joey- how high/drunk/overconfident are you right now? First, your unfounded optimism that I would let you attempt to inflict harm on my person without pinning your f*****g empty head to the sidewalk is adorable at best, delusional at worst. Don’t get me wrong, your forced faux chivalry is cute and all, but a little absurd- especially when you consider that you’re going to need those hands to make art, which you can’t do if they’ve been snapped off your wrists and jammed up your ass sideways.

Just saying. Given the acidly contentious nature of my writing, I’m not shocked that someone finally threatened me face to face, I’m just surprised that it took this long for somebody to finally do it. Granted, I’ve always hoped that if and when it happened, it would be by someone more impressive than who I got.

But qualified people are hard to find in the PAS, so it’s not too scandalous that I wound up being threatened by a person who has no love for the craft. If you’re going to try and scare me, you need to focus on those things that I find bone-chilling. Normally, I wouldn’t offer up that information, but when it gets right down to brass tacks, I truly want to see the old ways preserved. So in that vein of openness, I put forward this list of what scares the bejesus out of me.

Here goes: The mere thought of President Sarah Palin. Skinny jeans. Paris Hilton as an actress. Stale Ding Dongs. Earwigs. Clowns. All clowns. Dolls- you know the ones with the dead stare glass eyes and the Linda Blair countenance? People who believe that Jesus rode dinosaurs. People who think science is a conspiracy. The Tea Party. Anyone who is in a “militia” and thinks that they can overthrow the Government with camo and ammo. Cockroaches. Bad pizza. AXE body spray. Nickelback. Sharks in my bathtub. The Boogeyman. My mother in a bikini.

My ex-fiance moving in next door. The Tooth Fairy. The Sandman. SMoCA being held in high regard. People who dress up their dog. Waking up naked in a Walmart. Buying something at Walmart. Walmart in general. Zombies. Vampires that sparkle. Lightning. Hellfire. Militant Christians. The upcoming Superman versus Batman movie. Waxing. Constitutionals who’ve never actually read the Constitution.

Diplomacy. Compromise. Pat Robertson and others of his ilk. The Lifetime Network.

But what I find even more disturbing is this- despite the fact that I made a valid argument in regards to SMoCA’s failure to use due diligence where Peter Bugg’s outright plagiarism was concerned, his issue [essentially] was that Lesley was butt hurt, and that was why he was mad.

Not because yet another local Arts organization screwed over the PAS community once again, not because situations like this make us [as a whole] look like unprofessional amateurs to serious patrons, no- he was upset that a grown ass woman whose entire job is dealing with sometimes difficult individuals got tagged for what was at best- a spineless rejoinder to a valid question. It’s always been my conviction that it’s perfectly fine to get upset- but if you are going to, you should at least endeavor to get mad at the right thing.

As I’ve said many a time before, there’s a reason why “candy-assed” is my favorite euphemism to describe certain members of the PAS, and it only seems to be getting worse with time. I’ve made note that there exists a specific demographic within this community who don’t want to shoulder the burden, but have expectations of reaping the end benefits, nonetheless.

To quote the original Avon Lady, AKA Shakespeare: “This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

And Joey’s twisted testes hissy-fit just underscores that point. When the opportunity arises to clear the air or have a serious and well-measured debate regarding the crucial topics at hand that afflict our scene, more often than not- this is how it typically unfolds.

Back to the argument at hand…

Chuckling, I then inform Joey that “we are done”, as I wasn’t going to attempt civil conversation with someone who just threatened me. Granted, there was the qualifier of “if I had been there” to be sure, but at that point, you’ve lost whatever right you had for me to fake interest in whatever topic you’re babbling on about. Wait a minute, you’re asking- aren’t you the guy who always says that if you have a problem with something I said or did, to come and find me?

Yes. Yes I am.

But there’s a subtle crowbar difference between talking to me and talking at me, and I don’t cotton to that. If you want to debate some point that I’ve made, that’s great. If you feel the need to open up your conversational gambit with an insult about my Mother servicing random sailors, even better- especially if it’s one I haven’t heard before and can use next time she condescends to call me.

In addition, if your opening involves magic or card tricks, I’ll willingly stay for days. But when threats are issued, be they real or theoretical, that’s only going to go one of two ways… either I walk away, or I’ll make damn sure you remember my name every time you use a mirror. You want to debate? Here I am.

Gonna act like a Neanderthal? Go pound sand. I’ve got better uses for my energy and intelligence, and they don’t involve getting into a fistfight over what is, essentially an argument in regards to my writing sharply constructed words about Art.

Back to the argument, still in progress: (raising his voice incredulously) “We’re done?!?” 

 – Um… yes. Done. Finished. That’s all she wrote. Over and out. Long gone. That’s a wrap. Completed. That’s all, folks. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Comprende, dipshit? Oh and by way of additional information, when I turn and start walking away from you, that’s what we in the educational business like to call a “visual aid“- it means that no matter how entertaining I may find your rant, I’m off to go converse with a much better type of person. As I turn to retrieve Ashley (who’s still inside the Lodge), he screams at my back:

“Well you can just get the f**k out of my studio, then!!”

– You do see the issue inherent within that statement, do you not? Of course you do, as your brain actually works. In order for me to “get out” of his studio, I’d actually have to be “in it” at the time, don’t ya think? If one were to get technical, I’d opine that at that moment we were in God’s studio, as we were nearly in the parking lot, and without sounding too arrogant- Jesus happens to be my homeboy, so I’m fairly sure I had more pull with his dad at that moment than Joey did.

God may love babies, children, and the drunk- but I’m pretty confident he hates when all three are combined into one mediocre melange of moronicness. Yeah… I said it. Mediocre. When I think of the term studio, I think of this definition: the working place of a painter, sculptor, or photographer. What that means to me is this- it’s a place where inspiration leads to new works being visualized and then produced, on a consistent basis.

This begs the obvious question: what is Joey using the space for exactly? In all the years I’ve been going to that particular location, I have never seen any work of his except the same three pencil drawings that have hung there since God knows when. The other two Artists that he shares space with [Rafael and Abby] seemingly have new work* to look at every time I walk in there, but when it comes to him, it feels like it’s been the same weary offerings for every week, month and year of the last decade.

*[Heck… Rafael probably just finished two new paintings and carved four sculptures in the time it took you to read this.]

To be fair, I could be dead wrong about this observation, but I call it as I see it. Literally. Now I do know that he’s connected with a lot of artists in this town (as am I) but I still can’t recall seeing anything else he’s done… ever. Anywhere. Not Chaos, not any solo show, not any group show I’ve either been in or attended.

That just cannot be right, even as much as I’d like it to be for the sake of my own personal amusement.

Who knows? Maybe he draws under a pseudonym that we can actually spell, or perhaps his commissioned career doesn’t require his having to show in galleries, so that’s one of the ways it could go- but here’s the rub: if that were the case, wouldn’t his website reflect his success? I haven’t had a full show in a long while, but my site gets updated at least every two months, and even my diminutive in-house studio has several examples of my work laying around to impress guests when they come over.

When I look at Joe and his one third of space, I don’t see a studio, I see a mausoleum.

Regarding his banning me eternally from the Lodge, I will have to admit begrudgingly that his plan to enforce it is fiendishly clever in it’s simplicity, as I’m pretty sure that his third of the studio just happens to be where the only door is.

Curses! Thwarted again.

In the end, I guess you’ll have to make the final call on his significance to this scene, as I’ve already established what I think of his level of maturity in how he voices his opinion. And while you may not always agree with me or mine, I still wouldn’t take the position that issuing threats is the most effective way to resolve conflicts of the Ego or the remaining problems lurking within the PAS.

But what do I know? I’m just an adult trying to school the kids.
And BTW Joey, integrity just so happens to be a friend of mine.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
– Albert Einstein

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” -Isaac Asimov












2014 09 You Only Live Twice Pt. 4 ( The Plagiarism of Saint Peter )

“To use for our exclusive benefit what is not ours is theft.” – Jose Marti

Hello Blogiteers!

May I have the envelope please?

And the first winner of SMoCA’s 2014 Good N’ Plenty grant is… Mimi Jardine for her project “Mobile Remittance Unit”! This project as you all surely recall, is “a faux government office that processes and collects litter in an artistic and light-hearted way.” I’m not sure what this entails, but anything that helps makes our beloved 602 look as clean as Downtown Toronto can’t be nothing but good in the end, am I right? Of course I am. When have I ever been wrong about what the people can truly get behind? Rarely.

Sure, I backed Disco and ABBA, but I was totally on David Lee Roth’s side during that whole Van Halen meltdown thing, so as a whole- my ledger balances out just fine when you get right down to it. In fact, I have an excellent track record of calling it right- so much so that I usually win bar bets, can call out the right elevator to take if you like them empty, usually avoid traffic accidents, and when I’m really on, I’ll crush the occasional Nostradamus-themed Halloween party betting pool.

That’s me… Captain Correct. Good old Admiral Right as Rain. I tells ya, some days it just gets so boring being right all the time, but what are you going to do? I guess it’s just a curse I’m going to have to learn to live with. Sigh…. what’s that? There’s still one winner to go? My bad.

May I have the second identical envelope please? Wait a minute… I’ve always wanted to do this- I’m going to predict the next winner simply by placing this sealed envelope to my head in the manner of Carnac the Magnificent* and using nothing but my God- given power of being always correct, I will tell you who the last winner (or winners) are. [*YouTube it. :D]

Here we go…. it’s coming to me… just a sec… that’s strange… all I keep seeing is fuzzy outlines… you know- it’s almost like I’m looking at a copy of a copy… it’s not as sharp. And for some odd reason, I’m also detecting the slightly pretentious and somewhat cloying odiousness of gathered hipster. Sorry. I guess my ol’ mental mojo must be on the fritz, so I’ll just have to make an educated guess.

Since our first winner’s project was a socially relevant one, it makes sense that the runner-up just has to be one that’s more fun and/or cultural, right? So keeping that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, it’s fairly obvious that the second winner of SMoCA’s 2014 Good N’ Plenty grant is and can be none other then… (rips envelope open, reads enclosed card) the one and only…. PETER BUGG!!!

Um… (stops speaking, stares icily at card in hand) I’m sorry. I must have read that wrong. Let me read it again, ok? (reads card for the next 45 minutes) Well, that’s just great. Here I go and rip the guy a new neck hole, and Karma comes along and hands him not only a pony, but a full ride ticket to Disneyland and an ice cream sundae as well. And who wants to bet he got a free t-shirt too?

But in the end, that’s not the worst part of all of this, no siree Bob. The worst part is this makes me look wr… wor..urk.. wrah… wroooon… it makes me look less than accurate in the long run. Sigh… I just hate getting things wr… wor..urk.. wrah… wroooon… (hrrumph) less than accurate. But I’m a mature adult, and as such, I just need to accept that every now and then I’m going to make mistakes in regards to calling people out for what I perceive to be their personal bullspit.

Besides… it was the audience at the public event that voted for him, and it’s obvious that they felt his project had merit, otherwise somebody else would have gotten the nod, right? Granted, his project would theoretically accomplish nothing in the end, as it seemingly has no structure in place that would help facilitate an open dialogue to move the issue of gay rights forward, but maybe that’s just me- I’m an “end game” kind of guy, after all.

Screw this- you know what? I’m just gonna lick my wounds and move on. In fact, I’ll even take the high road and congratulate Peter on his win using that wholly original and unique idea that he came up with all on his own, which at it’s core, was somewhat creative to say the very least. Yep. even though I thought his idea was a little weak in it’s execution, I’ll give it full points for it’s originality, which let’s face it- is what separates the boys from the toys.

Damn. I actually feel better, I admitted he was more correct and that I was … wor..urk.. wrah… wroooon… um… less correct, and yet I’m still upbeat. I can totally see why people like to apologize every now and then- it’s apparently good for the soul. Who knew I had one? The things that you learn about yourself when you look inward, I guess. So with that off the table, let me check my e-mail real quick and we’ll start towards the end of my tale regarding my hospital stay in 2009. Let’s see…

No, I don’t need any help with my mortgage, nor do I have a need to see nude pics of Jennifer Lawrence, and I’m quite certain that yes, while it might be nice to meet a hot MILF, I’m also pretty sure I don’t need one to talk dirty to me either. I have a girlfriend after all, and other than the fact that she’s intellectual and hot, she also makes really good pumpkin cookies.

Can an Internet MILF do that? I don’t think so. Oh wait a minute… here’s a few messages regarding my last blog- let me just skim these real quick and see how the wind blows, metaphorically speaking. Hmm. Seems most are in my favor, at least in regards to my take on how to beef up Peter’s totally original, wholly innovative, and completely inimitable idea.

Well, that’s strange. This e-mail just says: “I saw that you gave Peter props on coming up with original ideas, what do you make of this?” and it has a link to a New Times story:


Interesting- it’s about last year’s GnP winners… seems like a nice little article, wonder why anyone would send this to me, as it has really nothing to do with what I just recently wrote. Maybe it helps prop up SMoCA’s judgment call that Peter really deserved to be a finalist for that grant, based on nothing more than his truly original concept. If so, I’ll really have to double down on that whole sincere apology thing.

What the heck, I’ll just read it real quick, and then we’ll get back on the path, ok? Oh, that’s kind of cool, it seems my former antagonist Ryan Avery won a grant at this event for his project “Related Records” which would serve as a way to “document some of the more fleeting musical/art/performance acts in the downtown Phoenix scene. He already has plans to record long-time local act Treasure Mammal in the upcoming months and says he wants to start doing more with vinyl in the next year.”

That is awesome. A Phoenix-centric recording concern? I can totally back that 100%, since there’s a lot of local talent here that could benefit from a serious marketing campaign. But Ryan and I have been chill for quite some time, so I still don’t see how this article factors into our past disagreements, do you?

Let’s check out last years’ first place winner Stefanie Francis. Her project, “The Happy Camper”, is “a series of Girl Scout-esque patches for the LGBT community. (There’s an “I-survived-Mormonism” patch with an  image of Mormon underwear, to give you an idea). Francis says she wants to use humor both as a means of overcoming adversity and celebrating shared experience.” Ok… once again, I still don’t see what that has to do with Peter’s project- after all, it’s Girl Scout based, involves contradictory patches to be placed on uniforms, and it’s main focus is to seemingly open a dialogue in regards to the LGBT community.

Why would the writer of this e-mail think I’d be interested in her proj….  NO.

No way. Not after I praised him. Not after I celebrated his originality. Especially not after I apologized. Particularly that. No. No. No. No. I’m just reading the situation wrong, because at my core, it’s fairly obvious that I’m just a mean, bitter, hateful, misanthrope. Yes, let’s run with that. I’m just seeing it all wrong.

However… if I were to play Devil’s Advocate, what was the description of Peter’s project again?

“Equal Scouts” 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”

Come to think of it, when you lay them out side by side… is it just me, or does Peter’s “idea” seem like a feebly re-worked retread of Stefanie’s original concept? Certainly, this can’t be the case, right? Nobody could have that much Chutzpah. Even Amy Silverman, the Godzilla-esque Mangling Editor of New Times doesn’t, and she’s basically a singing, dancing, jazz-handing, sparkly shoes wearing,  modern-day P.T. Barnum when it comes to the art of marketing the truly sub-par.

Of course, I infer that description with nothing but respect. Allegedly.

But other than raising the question of outright plagiarism, one also has to wonder: who the hell judged this obvious reconstitution as worthy of inclusion? Ah, here we go: the judges were Ashley Hare, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture’s arts learning director, New Times‘ Katie Johnson, Lindsay Kinkade of Design Republic, and artist and Navajo/Laguna Pueblo cultural attaché Steven Yazzie.

Wait a minute. Minus the random New Times blogger who writes glorified press releases, the rest are individuals that I actually know of or have respect for. Did I, and to a much more worrying extent, the judges at SMoCA- just get Rope-a-Doped ala Damien Hirst style*?

Son of a camel-humping, Libertarian-voting, skinny-tie wearing, Arcade Fire listening, bitch. I think they (and I) just did. Now, I know what you’re all thinking, and normally you’d be right: this humble Artbitch is gonna fire up his old nuclear-powered buffer, polish up his Admantium claws, and make a Peter Bugg salad all over again.

But you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. Kind of like Peter’s approach to creating an original project.

When all is said and done, I find his weak appropriation not to be infuriating, so much as just completely pathetic. Here’s the deal: I may not qualify to legitimately call myself one of the best artists working today, but when it gets right down to brass tacks, my work at the very least is honest.

I shoot my own reference for the majority of my painted acrylic works, come up with my own artistic concepts, and when unforeseen circumstances force me into having to use other sources, I’ll cop to the fact in a heartbeat, if I haven’t already gone and mentioned it myself, that is. And while I do regularly photograph both graffiti and architecture (IE: other’s work/art) I have never claimed those two elements as my work- the composition of the photograph is what I lay my name on, and my composition skills are kick-ass, if I do say so myself.

The key here is this: I might not make the cut as the world’s best Artist, but I also won’t go down as a pretender to it’s artistic throne either, and I’m perfectly fine with that possible gravestone comment. Let me be blunt- unlike Peter and others of his ilk, I have never relied on the gullibility of charity to fund my predilection for calling myself an Artist. Yes, grants are necessary and in some cases, they’re the only way that certain artistic endeavors are ever going to see the light of the day, so as a rule, I’m behind them 100%.

In theory, that is.

I’ve consistently believed that something given has no value, but something earned always does- this doesn’t apply to gifts or free Ding Dongs of course, but to anything that comes from a place of hard work and ethical decisions, two innate qualities that Peter and his body of work have sadly and constantly, lacked. In the final tally, all I can state is that it’s a sad day when we casually reward the act of copying somebody else’s notes, and doing it not just brazenly, but without shame. In the interest of fairness, there are quite a few of my fellow artists who do not share my point of view, but that’s to be expected in a scene this small and concentrated.

Mediocrity is a disease, and it should be eradicated as if it were a cockroach. My detractors like to throw around the “commercial” label in regards to my work, but it hardly registers as an insult at this point in my career, and why should it? My so-called commercial work is what funds both my personal projects and the charities I donate to, regardless of whether that donation takes the form of cash, art, or time.

As one of my past artistic mentors said to me quite some time ago: “If you want to be Picasso, you’re going to have to draw a lot of tap-dancing wedding cakes first.” And boy golly, was he spot on about that. In my career, I’ve been (with varying degrees of success) a freelance graphic designer, a muralist, a cartoonist, a screen-printer, a sculptor, a photographer, a POP artist, and at present, I find myself labeled a writer. And it’s all been a gas, no matter what. I’m an Artist, and it ain’t never been a half bad way to live a life.

By it’s very definition, the term commercial implies that one has achieved success, so I guess I can’t really complain when somebody hurls that particular invective grenade at my life’s work- besides, it’s not like it’ll do any real damage in the long run, as after twenty some-odd years, my metaphorical skin is thicker than Paris Hilton’s eye makeup, give or take a layer.

In general, I tend to engage my critics head on, whether it’s in person or typically- on the world wide web, where everybody is ten feet tall and a certified bad ass Constitutional lawyer as well. Not too surprisingly, most of these Internet interactions are usually filled with vulgar language and sadly obsessive remarks about my hair/beard/clothing, rather than an intelligent discourse about what I’ve either said or wrote.

However, there are the rare few that actually take the time to craft their e-mails and ask the tough questions. These people I like- they start with an “agree to disagree” attitude and run with it until the allegorical wheels fall right the hell off. If you look hard enough, civil dissertation isn’t dead, it’s just been knocked over the head and locked up in a dark basement, much to the degradation of all.

But calmly sitting on my hands while Rome burns has never been my style. Depending on the situation, I’m either the one setting the conflagration, or the one making campfire S’mores, utilizing the flaming ruins of what used to be a Starbucks. In other words, I just can’t wait for something to come to a head, I almost pathologically have to make stuff happen. With that mindset, it was obviously time for me to approach this issue from another angle, and get the perspective of someone more closely associated with SMOCA’s process for inclusion- someone who unlike me, actually had the inside track in regards to how the candidates were selected.

So, seeking that knowledge, and in the spirit of free and honest communication, I extended my hand across the wilds of the Internet, and sent an E-mail to Lesley Oliver, Marketing & Public Relations Manager for SMoCA, (AKA: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art) that said the following:

From: Wayne Michael Reich [mailto:darkreich@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2014 7:02 PM
To: Lesley Oliver
Subject: Regarding Peter Bugg’s Entry for SMOCA’s GnP Awards.

Ms. Oliver-

My name is Wayne Michael Reich and I write a Phoenix-centric blog known as “ArtBitch”.
[Link: https://www.waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com]

The reason for my contacting you is that I am currently writing a new piece that regards Peter Bugg’s recent win at the GnP awards. I was informed that you were the person on point to talk to. If not, I would appreciate being steered in the right direction, if possible.

I’m curious as to know why an almost identical entry of last year’s winning concept was judged to be qualified for this year’s inclusion, as these grants are seemingly deemed to highlight creativity, originality, and above all- community outreach.

For clarity’s sake, let’s check out last years’ first place winner Stefanie Francis. Her project, “The Happy Camper”, is “a series of Girl Scout-esque patches for the LGBT community. (There’s an “I-survived-Mormonism” patch with an image of Mormon underwear, to give you an idea). Francis says she wants to use humor both as a means of overcoming adversity and celebrating shared experience.”

And now let’s compare Peter’s project.

“Equal Scouts” 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.”

According to the voluminous e-mail I’ve been receiving, the general consensus is yes, Peter did appropriate her original concept. I’m looking to publish by this Thursday, so any official statement would be appreciated, and I give you my word that whatever you write, it will be published in full, with no editing, if you wish to make any form of rebuttal.

If you choose to just offer a “No Comment”, that is also acceptable, and will be noted in the new piece.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Wayne Michael Reich

I’m actually impressed with myself here- I think I come off as professional, not snarky, and if I would dare to use a term not normally associated with yours truly, I seem almost downright diplomatic. So naturally, I thought that this approach would easily foster a mature and focused discussion on how to refine the selection process so that this type of obvious plagiarism could be weeded out in the future.

Have I ever mentioned my unfounded optimism in regards to people doing the right thing? Good. Because that sunshiny world view is about to be stomped like a narc at a biker rally.

Here’s SMoCA’s response, via Lesley Oliver:

“Dear Mr. Reich,

Thank you for writing and sharing your feedback. The Museum has no further comment regarding Peter Bugg’s project. The Good ‘N Plenty process is an open one and it has reached its conclusion.

We wanted, however, to provide you more information about the Good ‘N Plenty program so that you would fully understand the event:

Each Good ‘N Plenty cycle features completely different community jurors who select up to six presenting finalists and it is the audience at each event who votes to decide upon the “winners.” The voting audience, obviously, changes from cycle to cycle as well. Please see the parameters for the program below.

We hope that you will consider attending future Good ‘N Plenty events.

Attached at the bottom (of course) was a description of the Good n’ Plenty event, which reads like standard marketing boilerplate. Yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah. What was missing was one small, minor, almost insignificant detail- an answer to the question I actually asked.

There are few things that are as galling as the “non-answer” answer- typically, I’ve always regarded it as a sanctuary for persons who lack the strength of character to be honest about what they really believe, but in this case, I’ll make a rare exception. She’s probably not allowed (by policy) to say what she really thinks, but at the very least, she could acknowledge what is so blatantly obvious to everyone, couldn’t she?

What amazes me is the total lack of concern regarding the impropriety of the issue I raised; “oh, this makes us look bad? Well, let’s just ignore it then, and send this guy the standard letter where we don’t actually say anything of substance.” Granted, I’m not the only person who’s noticed this act of weak-ass plagiarism, I just happen to be the one who’s currently the loudest about it. And keep in mind, this was brought to my attention by somebody else- I did not discover this on my own, otherwise I would have definitely noted it in my last blog.

But as I said, she’s probably not allowed (by policy) to say what she really thinks, so a metered and thoughtful response was clearly in order. So, keeping that compulsory set of standards in mind, here’s my response:
Ms. Oliver-

Thank you for your response.
Sadly, it was exactly what I expected.

On a related side note, if plagiarism is an acceptable form of creative expression, then I am afraid I will have to demur your highly generous offer to attend future events.

You know. Personal ethics and all that.

In closing, I wish you much success with next years event.

Respectfully, Wayne Michael Reich

There you go- when it’s absolutely imperative, I can be devastatingly charming, if need be. No vulgarity hurled, minimal snarkiness, and even a upbeat message wishing for personal good fortune at the end- that’s how you tell somebody in the most genteel way that the organization they work for has the ethical strength of wet tissue paper. However, this lily-livered response shouldn’t come as a shock to those of us who’ve watched SMoCA for years, as any museum that would tout a pyramid of oranges as art really shouldn’t be taken seriously in the first place.

And no… I am not kidding. If there exists any question as to why Artists don’t get the respect they deserve, all I have to say is this: Oranges. Stacked. In. A. Pyramid. are being touted by some with the same fervor as work by Michelangelo. I’d take some aspirin for this oncoming headache if it weren’t for the fact that my bottle of Tylenol was taken from me upon entering and quickly put on display.

If truth be told, I’m thinking that next year, I should do the same project as Peter did, but this time I’ll go one notch better and add glitter to the patches. Because everything’s better with glitter. Everything. Even plagiaristic homage.

To give credit where credit is due, I will admit that their “5 Senses” exhibition featuring an indoor waterfall was pretty cool, but I wouldn’t regard it as art so much as a triumph of engineering over indoor plumbing, and Lesley’s duck and cover response fits perfectly with their well-worn and somewhat weak methodology of promoting half-baked Koon-esque installations as the pinnacle
of Art. I guess in the end, what’s important is that the right people got to keep their jobs, and our art scene took yet another hit to its already shaky and corroded reputation. You know… the usual standard operating procedure.

Gah. Sick of this. Between the spineless morality of faux Museums, and the artists they shelter from valid criticism, I’ve had my fill of the pretentiously untalented this week. Thank God for Vonnegut.*
*[Which is somewhat ironic, because he was a Humanist.]

But there is an upside to turning my back on this wretchedly pathetic affair- we can finally start down the path to finishing up my belated tale of being so near Death I could smell his cologne.*
*[Shockingly it’s “Paco Rabanne”- never let it be said Death doesn’t have good taste.]

So, without further ado, let’s get back to the reason we originally came here, to read about me and Fate’s thwarted attempt to shuffle me off this, the mortal coil, back in 2009. Now, where did we leave off? Ah, yes- I was talking about my Mommy issues and waxing poetic about cable TV.

However, It’s late. And I am really tired from being a cultural warrior this week, so I think we’ll take a break here and return to the final arc of this tale in the next episode of Artbitch, or as I like to call it- Mastersnark Theatre.

“Time will inevitably uncover dishonesty and lies; history has no place for them.” – Norodom Sihanouk