Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art

Character Study Part Deux (Guess Who’s coming to Lunch?)

“That phrase of yours, [Armed to the teeth with truth] should be on a T-shirt.
– Peter Petrisko

Hello Blogiteers!

It feels like forever since we sat down and really talked, doesn’t it? In my defense however- I have been crazy busy, I swear. But before I issue yet another literary bitch-slap upside Claire Lawton’s perfectly coifed hipster head- I give you this brief word from one of my more vocal critics.

This intellectually charming snippet was yanked from the PHX. New Times online forums in regards to an  article titled: “Yuma: “It City or Armpit?”. The story, a repost of an earlier online article, was a pretentious and rather immature hatchet job directed at the City of Yuma, thinly disguised as a travel review.

Offended by the overall tone and hipster smugness of the original article, I responded by writing a blog full of well-honed Artbitch snarkiness, as is my usual way.To my surprise, my previous blogs were heavily quoted by several “Yumans” on the PNT forums, and seeing those web links that I had referenced in regards to the walking horror show that is Amy Silverman reposted- was a high point, I must happily admit.


My dear Editorzilla along with her pet Claire Lawton, are force fed a huge helping of Yuma Humble Pie, and the almost 100 comments left on the forum drive the point home that Yuma’s citizens truly love their city, no matter what (or who) disagrees. Much to my delight, the City of Yuma has taken Amy’s so-called “review” and not only made lemonade out of lemons, they’ve added a bake shop and boutique as well.

Along with billboards. More on that in a bit. Now…let’s bring out the Intellectual Gimp for the kids, and per usual Artbitch policy, I have NOT altered any  of the text. So, from an anonymous Inter-Troll who goes by many names, I present PNT’s idea of a balanced and well thought out response:

Wayne (yikes, that name gives me the shivers), you are truly pathetic. Give it a rest. Nobody believes you. You are a joke. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!!!!!!! So stupid, such a pitiful retard. You know nothing! You are a player hater. You will never be a player mofo, you will never matter. You suck as an artist. New Times will never recognize you. Quit trying to get its attention. You are in love with NT; it’s obvious. It’s truly making everybody sick. Wretch!!!!!! Stop it, you little, insignificant twit. Go away! Please. Stop coughing up hairballs that nobody believes. You’ve never even been to Yuma, fool! This is all about going after New Times because it won’t love you. Won’t even notice you. Awwwwww. Poor little boo boo. Get a life. You have none. You only exist to hate New Times. Pitiful idiot.”

Now I know what you are thinking, and that is: OUCH! Is there blood leaking out of my head? Relax- you’ll be fine. Eventually. Tissue? I do however, apologize for the truckload of stupid I just dropped on you. But that’s what happens when you tick off the ol’ PNT. Their Trolls rally, attempt an attack, and then go hide under the Internet’s bed. And I couldn’t be happier about it. Truly, I couldn’t.

Why, you may ask? Well… if I’m ticking off people to the point they keep writing unhinged stuff like this, then obviously I’m making some sort of ripples, despite their feeble insistence that I’m not. While small, all dam breaks start with a flaw that eventually compromises the established structure- and I’m hitting that sucker with a twenty-five pound sledgehammer every chance I get.

It seems to be working. On every PNT forum that I’ve posted to as of late, there are at least two Trolls working the virtual room, and I send them home bruised and empty-handed. The screed above is fairly typical of the comments they post as a rebuttal to my words, and they hardly qualify as an intellectual debate of any sort. I haven’t been passive while this has been occurring, mind you. I’ve been writing back and deconstructing their rants line by line, forcing a logical argument while presenting evidence to bolster the issues I’ve raised.

And after that- I proceed to ram the whole yummy package back down their throats, in classic Artbitch style.

Evidenced by the degradation of the insults that they’ve been lobbing in my direction, I have to think that my flippant responses are just driving them up a wall.I’ve been accused of everything from being a drug addict to someone who apparently holds great sway over the citizens of Yuma on the PNT forums, and while I find them amusing, I also find them to be extraordinarily helpful in validating my arguments.

One of the best things about speaking the “Truth” is the fact that your claims can be verified or disproved with little effort, and it doesn’t matter how you present your argument- unlike an orgasm, you can’t fake it. Truth will win out. Every time. All the time. Until the stars burn out.

And NOTHING will change that, especially insults like: “Poor little boo boo”. Seriously. It’s like I’m being attacked by drunken third graders, but without the inherent intellect or motor skills. Trolls.They keep attackin’, I keep a-smackin’. There’s a saying that your success is judged by your enemies- if this is true, I definitely want, nay demand, some better ones.

Scratch that. What I actually want are some smarter ones. Maybe I should’ve asked for a jet-pack instead.

So what else has kept me off the grid these days? A lot, actually.After my last blog “Road to Yuma” dropped, my website was inundated with E-mails, and this time around the ratio was about 75/25 regarding what I had written.Not surprisingly, no one defended Amy Silverman [does she have any actual friends?] but there were a half dozen or so missives that came to Claire’s defense..

The overall tone of which was that she happens to be “very nice”, so I should lay off and cut her some slack.Three of her internet pals implied that Claire’s god-awful articles, reader’s charges of fabrication, and her seeming inability to fact check, were mostly due to Amy’s influence as her Editor. I will concede that they might have a few good points there, but despite all this- it doesn’t really change my opinion of her one iota.

Claire wasn’t hired to be PNT’s “Official Nice Person” the last time I checked, she was hired to be a journalist, and that exalted job description implies that said journalist will be ethical, competent, and most importantly, be infused with bravery of a sort. I’m not suggesting that she shows the mettle of Daniel Pearl, God rest his soul, but a hint of backbone would be nice, if not somewhat reassuring.

Maybe I’m expecting way too much, after taking her past history into account. I’ve previously noted that Claire has been accused [twice] by PNT’s readers of fabrication in regards to two of her published articles. Mocking the weak articles she had written previously, I re-posted the milquetoast responses she had offered as a salve to the deserved criticism that had been leveled at her, and I honestly thought my work was done. But then I went for coffee, and it all went sideways.

I’ll explain.

On my days off, I have a rather set routine: I wake up, take my insulin, eat some fruit loops, chug a diet soda or two, grab my camera bag, and head downtown to shoot random stuff- unless I’m working on a few new paintings or have a paid session, that is. I then visit the PHX. Public Library, run some errands, and end my day with a visit to my favorite coffee house. It’s been that way for fifteen years or so.

What can I say? I like having a rut. Like most long term relationships, it rarely offers up surprises anymore, and that’s just fine by me. But the chance of being blindsided is always there, and it usually arrives when you least expect it, and I sure as heck wasn’t expecting it at Jobot, that’s for darn sure. To those who don’t know, Jobot [http://jobot-coffee.com/ ] is an awesome coffee house located near downtown PHX.- owned by John Sagusta, it offers an amazing variety of crepes, great coffee, excellent customer service, and I highly recommend it.

So with all that inherent coolness, it was the last place I expected to run into any Artbitch related drama.

Let me clarify by way of explanation. I tend to keep my “Art” life and my “Normal” life in separate boxes and rarely do the two ever meet, believe it or not. It’s a very purposeful way that I live my life, and I work very hard to keep that fragile barrier as impermeable as the situation allows. When I’m in “Art” mode, I adopt the persona of a typical New York Artist: cynical, arrogant, sarcastic with a touch of black humor, and just a wee bit over the top.

Naturally, I enjoy every moment of it. Being paid to do what I already love to do- does it get any better that t that? I don’t see how.
Now, when I’m not in Showtime mode, the Artist coat comes off, and I get to be a very nice, very social, less tightly wound kind of cat. When my GF Ashley and I first met over two years ago, she was surprised by how fast I went from being an egocentric Artist to an uber-dork who was waxing poetic about his Star Wars toy collection- all in the space of five minutes.

Think of my life as that of an artistic Batman- two distinct personalities, with separate agendas. But sometimes they do merge, and it’s never good. This brings us back to Jobot. On this particular day, I had already shot some awesome graffiti in downtown PHX, booked a model for an upcoming shoot, closed out a bunch of errands, and I was all ready to grab a quick drink and head back to my artistic lair.

So I headed to my favorite coffee house, and as I walked into the courtyard that is in front of Jobot, I was delighted to see that Lee Berger [http://www.leebergerart.com/] a fellow artist and the owner/operator of the sadly now defunct art & performance space, “PHiX” was sitting at a table engrossed in a conversation with a cute, petite, elegantly dressed blonde who was radiating a hipster vibe.

Guess who’s coming to lunch? I knew, right off the bat- as did she. So as I walked up to the table, Claire looks at me, and her face instantly registers a look I’ve come to recognize from those of weak minds as: “Oh God….it’s… you.”

Ignoring the obvious frostiness being glared my way, I say “Hi” to Lee, who responds by informing me that he and Claire are having a private conversation. Cheerfully, I bow out and tell him that I’m going to grab a drink and be back in a few minutes. As I walk inside, I can only assume the conversation behind me takes a slight turn, given the iced hatchets I swear I could feel hitting my back.

But since I’m an eternal optimist, I looked forward to coming back out, sitting down and having a pleasant conversation with Claire about all sorts of things- starting with that Email she didn’t have the so-called professionalism to return last year. But as I said earlier, maybe I was expecting way too much.

Especially from someone who has consistently proven she possesses no actual spine.Then again, maybe she would have been braver if Mommy Amy had been there.So I grabbed my drink (a Jarrito’s Lime!) and headed out the door to have a friendly little chat with my favorite hipster journalist. But alas, much like my ever dating Milla Jovanovich, it was simply not to be.

I pull up a chair, and as I do so, Claire quickly pops up out of hers and says icily: “I was just leaving- you can have mine.”– to which I breezily respond: “Awesome… a pre-warmed seat!” She gives me a look that could freeze lava, then turns to Lee to wrap up their conversation while handing him her card, [making sure that I could see it] and informs him that she will be “in touch” soon. 

As she walks away, I say cheerfully: “It was nice meeting you.. albeit briefly”. Her response is to show me her back as she walks away. Ouch. And from another point of “view”… not bad. That’s what I get for being friendly. Settling in, I ask Lee what was up- he informs me that Claire was working on a story regarding certain aspects of the PHX art scene, to which I may have uttered a less than complimentary remark.

Lee just shakes his head and quietly laughs. When I ask why, he says: ”She said some things about you… some of them were…. accurate.” He goes on to note that he did defend me, informing her that while I may sometimes come off as an implacable hard-ass, my heart was in the right place regarding the state of the Arts in PHX., and that she should talk to me.

Further, he nicely (and adamantly) demurs to repeat what Claire actually said- the implication being that I most likely would get annoyed if he did. Admittedly, while there is a small grain of truth to his theory, I wouldn’t lose sleep over anything that this vapid bubble-head might possibly say about me. We spend a few more minutes talking, after which I take my leave and start driving home. And that’s when I had time to give serious thought to what had transpired.

There I was, no more than twenty feet away, and she couldn’t tell me what was on her mind, but… she could bitch to my friend? Hardly the stuff of a journalist, more along the lines of a spurned shop-girl. Using someone else to deliver your message? Quite frankly, that kind of cowardice just pisses me off.

She can co-write an article that degrades an entire community, who then rise up as one, and metaphorically call for her head- but she can’t talk to an Artist wearing a Toy Story LGM tee shirt?

[It’s the one with the 3 aliens going “Ooooohhh” on it, and it’s freaking adorable, let me tell you.]

Amy Silverman may be an arrogant, ignorant, petty cow of a woman, but she’s got rocks. Granted, they’re mostly in her head, but at least she has them. You want to be a journalist, then you have to be able to face your critics, sometimes literally. Claire has proven more than once that she isn’t up to the job, unless Mommy Amy steps in and helps.

Fortunately, I’m all about second chances on first impressions, so I decided to put my money where my mouth was, and extend an olive branch of sorts. My medium? Good old email. Again.

So I drafted the following letter:

“Ms. Lawton-

It was good meeting you at Jobot, (albeit momentarily).

Lee has informed me that you are deeply interested in the various issues that face PHX’s art community, and despite what you may think of me or my strongly worded opinions, I too am passionate about the State of the Arts in PHX.

I wish we would have had a chance to discuss our mutual concerns today, but perhaps another time.

Wayne Michael Reich”

And you thought I couldn’t be nice. It’s OK, I forgive you. But apparently, Claire is still holding a grudge against this Artbitch. To date, I haven’t received a response, nor do I honestly expect to.

C’est la vie.

It does bring to mind an interesting parallel, however. Not too long ago, I bagged on Kara Roschi (a PHX based performance artist, and co-owner of Practical Art) in one of my blogs, and the drubbing she endured was way worse than anything Claire has received so far.

And yet, when I offered an olive branch by way of an apology, Kara did two things I never expect Claire to do- she accepted it, and furthermore: didn’t beat me about the face with it. I’m not suggesting that I’m wrong about Claire. I am suggesting that she has no grace. Ouch, you say- aren’t you being a tad bit harsh?

Um…no, actually.

For proof, we return to where we started- Yuma. Or more specifically, Claire’s thinly disguised hatchet article on Yuma that she co-wrote with Amy. As noted earlier, this article generated close to 100 comments when it appeared in the “print” version of New Times, but when previously available on the “web” only, it garnered over 300. It also created an uproar in Yuma, where shockingly, the community didn’t appreciate some of the elitist and ignorant generalities stated about their hometown.

Of course, this prompted New Times to do what they do best- double down on the controversy. So they reprinted the whole steaming pile of tripe in the weekly print version, preceded by this statement:

“Editor’s note: A March 11 post on our culture blog, Jackalope Ranch, got so much attention in Yuma — a front page story in the Yuma Daily Sun, airtime on the NBC television affiliate, talk of a billboard in downtown Phoenix — we decided to share it this week in print.”

They decided to “share” it… ain’t they just the sweetest? Naturally, I just had to respond on the PNT forums by posting the following: “Close to 300 comments blasting New Times on the original post wasn’t enough of a “hint” for Editorzilla and her loyal pet- they needed to do it one more time.

Not a statement or an apology, this reprint is nothing more than an arrogant stand against an increasingly dissatisfied readership base who has been complaining vehemently as of late, due to the lack of quality writing, inaccurate reporting, and unprovoked attacks on the people, communities and culture of Arizona.”

So as you can imagine, some major heat came New Time’s way, and how did they explain themselves? In a statement to KSAZ FOX News TV 10, they explained their arrogance with this craven backpedal:


“Our issue is with Sunset Magazine, not Yuma. Yuma is what it is. While it might be a nice place to live, we haven’t ever viewed it as a tourist destination and after visiting last week, we still don’t.” – Claire Lawton and Amy Silverman, Phoenix New Times”

Hmmm. Something rings false here… what could it be… I know! Maybe it’s the small fact that they only insulted Yuma, and NOT Sunset Magazine? Go ahead. Read the article again. Seems to me like Yuma is the only one getting the crap kicked out of it, and amazingly, I’m also not getting that whole “might be a nice place to live “ vibe from this article either.

Odd that no other travel articles by Sunset came under the same PNT scrutiny as the one they wrote about Yuma- maybe the PNT thought no one would notice? Good call on that one, Amy. Not to fear however- out of lemons comes some kick-ass lemonade in the guise of one proud “Yuman”, the Media Director of Yuma’s Tourism Board: Mrs. Ann Walker.

Within 24 hours of the original article, she was spearheading a homegrown ad campaign to promote Yuma Tourism, and here’s where that whole billboard thing becomes relevant- f
rom the Official press release:

“YUMA, ARIZONA – Even though it debuted on April 1, it’s no joke that Yuma is touting its status as the “It City” on a highway billboard in Arizona’s capital.

The campaign was a home-grown response to a “review” on the website of a Phoenix publication that trashed Yuma as an “armpit” rather than the pleasant day-trip destination described in the March issue of Sunset magazine.

Proud Yumans didn’t take the bloggers’ assessment lying down, with hundreds posting positive comments to the website and Yuma’s state representative Lynne Pancrazi even making an appearance on Phoenix TV to defend her hometown as a “gem of the desert.”

The whole thing created such a stir that the Yuma Visitors Bureau decided to channel the local energy into a new marketing campaign.

“I see a silver lining to all of this,” YVB Executive Director Susan Sternitzke said at the time. “After all, the bloggers themselves said that ‘suddenly, inexplicably, Yuma is the It City.’ We say, bring it on – Yuma deserves the attention.”

She cited as examples that the Yuma community in the past year rallied to save two state parks from closing and launched a new agritourism initiative. The riverfront projects spotlighted in the Sunset article – part of a master plan developed by the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area – earned the Governor’s Arizona Preservation Award in 2009.

Now, tangible evidence of all that Yuma pride – and more than $4,000 collected from businesses and individuals — is on display on I-10 downtown Phoenix, and on two other billboards donated by Del Outdoor. Yuma’s North End Studios contributed the design.

With money still coming in, a committee has been formed to determine how to best spend the extra donations, including events to support the businesses bashed by the bloggers. Yumans can still take “It City” to the streets with bumper stickers available at YVB’s Visitor Information Center (201 N. 4th Avenue) with a donation of $5 or more.

For continuing updates on the effort, Sternitzke suggested that supporters “like” Yuma Visitors Bureau on Facebook follow @YumaArizona on Twitter.

“Despite this teapot tempest, Yuma is moving forward,” Sternitzke said. “Visitors love Yuma’s authentic experiences and the generous and interesting people who live here.”

That’s the way you do that, I think. You make a Positive from two poseur Negatives. I was also invited by Mrs. Walker to come visit Yuma, and I hope to do so soon, since I have never been there, and am honestly quite curious about the city.

While I most likely will be going with Ashley, it does seem a shame to have those extra two seats going to waste in the rental car, so I came up with an idea: I could invite Claire and Amy to go with us, and this time- they could actually get out of the car before they write their review. I’ll put some sodas in the cooler, load up the stereo with all my ABBA cd’s, and make a whole mess of my famous bacon-bit and ranch dressing sandwiches for us to snack on.

Out of respect for Amy’s strict diet, I’ll leave the Costco chocolate chip cookies at home.
Having sent both of them an invite last Friday, I’m making it officially public right now. I wait for their official response with every fiber of my being, although I’m not hopeful for the successful completion of our wacky road trip foursome, due to their well established lack of character.

Attitude? Check. Integrity? Not so much.

Well Blogiteers, we finally have reached the end of this blog, and you may have some strong opinions now that you didn’t have before. You may believe that the rules should change just because Claire’s green as it gets, and therefore- I should cut her some slack. You may also think that I’ve been unjustly mean to PNT’s unofficial nice person, despite the valid concerns of  accuracy and integrity that have been raised by her readers, as well as myself..

I would say no to both. Strongly. After all, she’s supposed to be a journalist. Shame that she’s allowed herself to forget what core value that job actually requires… and being nice isn’t the most important one.


“Artists are here to disturb the peace.” –Anonymous