free statistics

Archives Posts

Doin’ It All For A Baby That Can’t Love Me Back

March 29th, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

gavin
(I see a lot of traffic coming in to read this post – in the event that some of you are interested in seeing the performing that I’m talking about, you can see that this Wednesday in NYC, just click the link.)

Five of my friends have had babies in the last two weeks. The birth of a baby is supposed to be a happy thing, but it can also be a funeral for a friendship.

It’s great that everyone I know is immediately, rapturously in love with their child, and I wouldn’t wish anything else for them. I see the joy and happiness that my sister and her husband feel now that my nephew is here, and I genuinely want everyone I care about to feel that, too. But it’s not like I stopped needing someone to hang out with, talk to, commiserate with about the crushing grind that is art and performance in NYC, get super baked on pot cookies and watch sci-fi flicks together.

I’m not suggesting that the emotional needs of a 36 year old man should never come ahead of a baby’s, either. If any of my friends kept hanging out like everything was exactly the same, that would be even worse. I’d hate to find out that a close friend was so into our friendship that he was willing to become a deadbeat dad just to keep our train on the tracks.

I think a lot more kids are accidents than people let on. After a certain age, people just go to a different doctor when they find out they’re pregnant than they did in their twenties. I think so, anyway. But after my run-in with testicular cancer a few years back, I’m not going to be surprising anybody.

So while I grieve for my lost – or suddenly, drastically changed – friendships, I’m also jealous. Not like, snatch-a-baby jealous, but with the option of sudden, natural conception behind me, it makes me a lot more conscious of my choices. And I don’t feel like my life is in a place where I could drop everything and support a new life.

I’m really, obsessively focused on writing and performing now. It takes up almost every waking hour, and it pretty much has to until further notice. It’s crushing and exhausting, but sometimes it works out.

For example, I was honored to be the only white guy in a tribute to Richard Pryor at BAM last month. I grew up listening to Richard Pryor records in my room, mimicking his cadence and timing and trying to learn how he could conjure so many characters in a story. Not imitating them, but just becoming them. I’m a storyteller, Pryor was too. And I’ve got a story about a guy who pretty much is the living embodiment of his “Mudbone” character. It was a perfect lock, and such a thrill to be there.

The room was packed, standing room only, maybe 300 people or so. I went on second, after a guy who just crushed it. He’s brash and sharp, grew up incredibly poor in Washington, D.C., and the crowd loved him. Then I went on, and things changed.

They weren’t trying to hear anything from a huge white dude that looks like most people’s boss, dressed in a cowboy shirt. Especially not if the story was a complex story about a friendship with a schizophrenic black man. A large Caribbean woman sat right in front of me, frowning a hole in my skull with arms crossed in front of her like two giant pythons guarding a gateway to laughter on the far, opposite side of an echoing room. I saw dates look at one another and mutually decide to wrap it up early and claim they had an early meeting the next day.

Some people laughed here and there, but I knew in 30 seconds that it was going to be a fight. Comics can go to backup material, but when you’re telling a story and it’s going bad, you’ve got to land that burning airline no matter what happens.

Phones were coming out and lighting up all over the place, and I could hear the audience start to chatter. I swear I heard someone say, “it’s cool, we can talk over this guy.” I zeroed in on a friend’s face and just started talking to her, just to get through it.

And then, also in the front row, I saw this:

A haggard, middle-aged woman pulled a sharpie out of her pocket, and drew a mustache onto her face with a very practiced motion. Then she reached into her coat and took her shirt off completely, unfurling her boobs like faded, trusty flags she’d flown a million times before.
Read the rest of this entry »

Archives Posts

Found Art Nostalgia: I Miss My Old Brain

November 26th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

I found this painting that I made in college on the wall at some old friends’ house in Richmond, VA this weekend. I haven’t seen it in years.

I actually got into writing and storytelling through visual art – when I was majoring in painting, I was obsessed with comics, Southern folk art and outsider art, Congolese power figures and sacred Voodoo and Santeria art. In voodoo and Santeria (as I understood it at the time), practitioners go into a trance and become the spirits they’re communicating with, and create altars in the home that are both doorways to a particular orisha and a living representation of the orisha itself, made from found objects.

I got really into writing stories on my work, making comic book pages out of junk I’d find in the woods and getting into a sort of trance-like state in the studio I had in my barn and letting whatever voice was talking take control of my hands until the thing was done. Eventually the words took up more and more of the the work and I just started writing. Then, telling a story wasn’t necessarily a craft so much as a thing that came out of a state, like a ship sliding out of a rip in the universe.

I think this was done on an old road sign that I found deep in George Washington National Forest. I know I got that image from an old comic, and I definitely recall writing all of this in one go, with a Sharpie. No drafts, no revising, crossing out, no wondering what the audience would think or trying to be likable. Just moving forward.

Here’s the piece:

sarah_painting

The text reads:

“On that dark day when the Sun rises in the West and decides to set in the East, these gargantuan striped giants will appear suddenly from ??Elsewhere?? and set to the business of devouring the earth. Neither animal, vegetable, nor man-made machine, they are insatiable, and know no reason or moral code. They only know that they must perform the impossible: fill their ravenous GUTS.

The Fantastic Four and the entire Marvel Universe subscribe to the belief that GALACTUS is the eater of worlds, but I tell you with the straightest of all straight faces that GALACTUS is a mere DUST MITE compared to these black-and-white beasties.

We could, and probably will, head for the hills or lie screaming in storm cellars with paper sacks over our heads during that fateful time, but it will only make our moment of consumption more frenzied and embarrassing.

We may as well die picnicking as pleading to a recently discovered God. Mankind will finally realize what the insects knew all along: Nature knows no right or wrong.

Our constant struggle with good and evil set us apart from the animals, but on that day, we will finally be free from that boring struggle and I just hope that more people than just me have the sense to enjoy it.

This used to have two bicycle fenders painted to look like the creatures in question, glued to the top. They broke off pretty quickly, though. When I look at this, I feel a blast of nostalgia for a time when I could disappear into a barn for several hours, sure. But I also miss having that degree of concentration, and that practiced flow. It’s take me about 90 minutes to write this post, and half of it is simple transcription.

Mostly, I miss my old brain: the one that knew when to think and when to get out of the way and let the art fall out.

Archives Posts

Social Media Is Depressing as Hell

August 2nd, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

I saw this at the Lafayette stop on the C train heading into Brooklyn last night — just chalk on a black painted rectangle. It’s true, too:

social_media_done

For Google, e-readers: the text reads “Social media is depressing as hell.”

Archives Posts

Discount Rainbow Lady Liberty at Columbus Circle

July 25th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

Productivity experts (whatever that even means) will tell you that it’s important to get up from the computer sometimes and take a break, let your brain reset a little. I usually eat my lunch at my desk, hunched over and chewing through Daily Show reruns and then around 3PM feel my brain start to separate from the walls of my skull as I daydream about being a lumberjack or hopping freight trains through an America that doesn’t exist anymore.

I went out and ate my lunch in Central Park today, and brother am I glad I did. Otherwise I wouldn’t have seen discount rainbow Lady Liberty here riding a tiny pink bike around and trying to fist-bump tourists:

lady_liberty

Here he is again, riding toward a bunch of adolescent girls, who screamed and scattered like pigeons when they saw him:

riding_away

This city never gets old.

Archives Posts

Dream Suit

June 4th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

I took this photo at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville over Memorial Day weekend. I want this suit (and shirt) so badly that I can taste it:

Dream Suit

I’m not sure if it would detract from a story, though. I kind of try to be as relatable as possible, and this might push it. On the other hand, if Porter Wagoner, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton and pretty much every other country star can pull off a brain-burning suit like this one in contrast to an “aw, shucks” personality, who’s to say someone else can’t?

Here are a two shots of Gram Parsons’ infamous Nudie suit, just for kicks:
Read the rest of this entry »

Archives Posts

Wise Words From Tom Waits

May 9th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

This doesn’t require much in the way of explanation. But if you want to feel bad as HELL, think on it while listening to this live version of “Goin’ Out West.”:

Tom Waits Inspires

Archives Posts

Cool Guys, 1992

April 5th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

Somewhere around the spring of 1991, my friend Frank Benson played the Cramps for me for the first time. He said “hey, check these guys out, I’m going to take a shower real quick.” By the time he came out of the bathroom, my head was full all kinds of sweet and rotten mutant fruits.

A year later, his mom took me and him and a date to see the Ramones at the Boathouse in Norfolk, VA and nothing was ever the same again. My glasses got knocked off and ground back into sand during the first 5 minutes of the show, and I took a boot to the face by the second set. The next day, I was half-deaf and limping around the house, clutching the walls to feel my way to my bedroom and all I wanted to do was get up on a stage and be Joey Ramone.

A week after that I quit the rec league soccer team by throwing my shirt in the coach’s face. During a game.

Something didn’t add up, though. Me and Frank were scoring acid from drag queens at the Rocky Horror Picture Show and had a direct line to all the best music this new burning world had to offer. With all this newfound punk rock swagger and the confidence of finally being down with the coolest guys in school, we figured girls would finally start paying attention.

Cool Guys, 1992

As it turns out, it took a little while. We had no idea why.

Frank Benson has hit his stride by now, and I guess I’m okay, too.

Anyone who tells a teenager that “these are the best years of your life” is only telling half of the truth. In my experience, we got to taste the potential that the world had — but actually feeling it fall into place day by day and year by year is even better. Frank and I hang out now. We both live in Brooklyn, but we’re both busting ass on our own art careers.

We don’t see each other as often as people who live three miles away from each other might. But every time we do hang out, one of is getting the other one really excited about some cool new stuff. We’re still kicking each others’ doors wide open.

Archives Posts

Psychedelic Robocop iPhone Art

February 27th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

Made this on my iPhone on the train this morning – started with this photo of a Robocop action figure on my phone and ran it through the usual bash of filters. I’m trying not to obsess about the upcoming show at Union Hall and the SXSW tent – after spending a weekend navigating the murky, weird world of Facebook advertising I just need to create something instead of promote stuff for a little while.

Hope you guys dig it:

Psychedelic Robocop

Archives Posts

Beauty is Embarrassing : Wayne White Documentary

February 3rd, 2012 by D.Billy

Sweet jumping Jeebus, I love me some Wayne White.



He makes beautiful, funny typographic additions to found oil paintings, he designed sets and puppets for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, he art-directed the Smashing Pumpkins’ gorgeous, Georges Méliès-inspired “Tonight, Tonight” video, and he generally embodies the kind of artist that I want to be.

And now Wayne White is the subject of a documentary entitled “Beauty is Embarrassing”, which is premiering at SXSW 2012. Here’s the trailer:



I want to watch this film with all of my heart and soul. (And also my eyeballs.)

Archives Posts

Geologic Paint Formations On the Subway at 4th & 9th

January 13th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

I saw these doorways on the subway at the 4th and 9th streets in Brooklyn – with layers and layers of paint chipped away so that workmen could get to the padlocks holding them shut. I thought they were just breathtaking, like a micro-geologic event in slow-motion action. The paint looks like steppes or a canyon slowly eroded by wind and time, doesn’t it? Kinda like another planet where people have to hike down those paint layer steppes into this treacherous valley with a gigantic ceremonial padlock in the center, like some sort of ancient alien ship.

And like, every million years a giant hand yanks the ship away and rips the planet apart, shaking everyone off to drift into their deaths in the cold wilds of the outer atmosphere.

In case you were wondering, I was, in fact, late to my destination. And yes, I do find psychedelic drugs to be redundant. Enjoy the pics:

Geologic paint layers on the subway

Subway paint geology

« Previous Entries