War of the Disease 1

Whatever I believe my notion of God is, which changes daily, it is not necessarily always pretty.

If I let it, my day can be sketched in by angry defiance.
I sometimes believe this to be a form of prayer.

This disease mires itself into every aspect, I feel driven to dig it out root and branch.

If you're not behind me, if you're not going to help me, then I want you to stay the fuck out of my way.


Overcoming Toxic Shame

"Toxic shame and its imposed displacement affects not only people in recovery from addictions, but those whose brain chemistry has a different rhythm and pattern than others who meet the cultural norms. i.e. artistic and intuitive types. Modern western civilization favors the left brain (logic) over the right (imaginal, intuitive and artistic nature)."

--Tova Gabrielle (the rest of the article here)



Because her brother and her mom have the flu at her house, and because her daddy’s been out of work all week, May-may came over yesterday to make art. I roll out another five foot worth of paper and cut it to length. I grind up a piece of charcoal in a tea cup with a big three-eights allen wrench, wishing for a mortar and pestle. She watches me, asking questions, I get her to take off her shoes. I tell her this one is for her friends Kelly and Kevin, who moved to Texas. She doesn’t remember them, I say Kelly with the giant blue eyes that she loved, and she says Oh yeah. I spread charcoal out on a cutting board, lift her up by her arms and stand her on it. She stamps around in the stuff, and then I put her on the paper. She hops and runs all around, trailing jet-black foot prints, laughing. I attempt to guide her where I think marks should go, but it’s mostly useless. I suppose it is a form of letting go. I’ll hang the paper and draw something on it afterward, trying not to obscure her footprints too much. For some reason I’ve been thinking about the Mariana Trench again lately, seven miles deep, and swimming elephants. I have no idea why I do things the way I do. After May has tracked all over, we go straight into the tub before she gets the funny idea to hop into my bed or something. Some days I feel like a passable father, like I’m not handing down what I got to them. As I scrub the bottoms of her tiny feet I feel like maybe we’re going to be okay.

I’ve been told lately then when I feel the panicked rage coming on I should concentrate on my feet, where they are, what they are doing. This is useless on the days when I’m not even sure how exactly it is I happen to be walking. I’ve also been told that it helps to close your eyes and say to yourself, I am standing on the earth.

Back before I had any clear idea of what it was that I had, I’d find myself most nights in an immense warehouse downtown called the Shot-house. I could lie to you and say that I went down there to stare at my friend John Deeds’ painting, but mostly I went to keep the drunk going. The D.J. booth overlooked the dance floor, and just under it was a place darker than the rest, where sat a thing called the “Heroin Couch.” One could sink into it and stare at the fast movers out on the floor, but I mostly would drink my beer and study John’s painting.

It was immense, at least twelve by sixteen feet and it climbed right up the huge walls of the place. It had an exquisitely rendered rhinoceros in the lower left corner opposite a Porsche Nine-Eleven in the upper right. Thin straight lines connected various areas of the two entities like a technical drawing. In the middle of the piece was a great white streak of paint with foot prints leading away from it. I got loaded with John one night and got him to tell me all about it. I had thought he painted it off a ladder but he informed me that it was done on the floor of his studio, sometimes laying down on the canvas. I think he said it had something to do with class and art. The only other part I remember is how he said he got drunk one night, dumped a bucket of gouache onto the middle of it, took a running leap into that, slid out and ate shit and then walked off the canvas, leaving a trail behind with his Chuck Taylors. The crowning Fuck-it-all moment. I think I may have been trying to recreate this painting since nineteen ninety three.


After a month, I’ve been at it long enough that the oak I’m working with has etched its' grain pattern into my head, so that when I close my eyes at night to sleep, or not sleep, its' heavy red figure dances up before me. The garage gets over ninety five by noon, it is my sanctuary. I’m lucky, building furniture, however it’s almost exactly six hundred miles from home. Just before this job, a friend gave me three albums by a band named ISIS, which I’ve just about worn out, listening to the point that it no longer resembles music but more of a colored texture lining the jumbled sanctuary between my ears. Violet. Reds and Blues. The days run together.

People have been telling me about ISIS for ten years. The music is huge, complex and lush. It is metal, but not the same kind we had growing up, the music has grown up with us it seems. I skulk daily around my machinery in the garage and let it wash over me.

For the better part of a month the song that encourages me most is one called Hym, the last on their second album, Oceanic, and it sounds to me like exactly that, a hymn. It ascends, it climbs and then it breaks. One day I’ve had it, homesick and covered in sweat, so I turn this song up as loud as I can take it and walk out into the sun and the heat. Daydreaming, I imagine the group set up on a hill near sunset playing at the foot of a mountain range. They are playing music at the mountains. The guitars wind around each other. The sound the singer makes is less like a roar than usual. It sounds as though he is howling at God. This is what has not changed since our adolescence; the thing most rooted in this music is pain.