Pillbox

When I was 16 I was watching some local bands play in Lancaster, Pa. Gearing up for their next song, the singer of one of the bands said, “Here’s one you all know! Shoot it up and sing along!” I had no idea what the song was, and it didn’t seem like anyone else did either, but I still felt entirely uncool. That’s a feeling that I don’t miss, and it’s not because I’m so entirely cool now, it’s because I got to stop caring about that a long time ago. The song was “Pillbox” by The Joneses. It came out on a BYO records comp in ’82. Here’s the link: Pillbox

“Pillbox” introduced me to the idea of being able to tell someone to metaphorically fuck-off.  I liked that. Most of my writing was still so obvious and literal when it came to heartbreak. I enjoyed how a song that likened love to heroin could become such a gateway writing tool for me. What was severely lost on me, however, was the fact that what went into the pillbox was meant to make a figurative exit at some point. One either purged the contents of a pillbox or one let the contents kill them. Unfortunately, I had a proclivity for self-abuse. I use to think that my inclinations were limited to a chemical type of torture. Until recently. I was writing to an old pen-pal who asked me if I still had our letters. I got up from writing and sought out a box I hadn’t opened in a very long time thinking I may find some of our letters in there. What I uncovered instead was an apparent “Fuck You” box that I had made for my adult self nearly twenty years ago.

I found a legitimate “Dear John” letter hastily penned by the first person to ever break my heart. It was left on the kitchen counter of the apartment that he came home to with me one night and wouldn’t leave again for the next seven months. His clothes and guitars were all gone. He even took the beer from the fridge. He said it would be “easier now than later” and that he “missed me”. I was gutted. But, the most fucked up part? I saved the letter. I mean, who does that? Also in that box was an entire roll of film from a vacation I took with my first girlfriend when I was 15. My first Anyone. My first Relationship. While on that vacation, my father found intimate photos of us together that I had stashed in my closet. I was told to erase her from my life. I was threatened with a school transfer, and if Straight Camps had existed at the time, I’d probably have been sent packing. Looking at the photos 25 years later, I see a girl on the other side of that lens who loved me and who was entirely free with me. I see it in her smile and in her easy gaze upon me. I see the last time in my life that I was truly without some type of fear, guilt, or pain.

The box held a myriad of other decades-old scraps of discontent in the way of I’ll-see-you-after-work notes from old lovers, apologies, concert stubs, old house keys, and empty drug bags. That was my metaphorical pillbox. It brought up a question in my mind: How would I describe what goes into a pillbox in one word? The word I came up with is ‘Arsenal’. I also wondered how my pillbox of today differs from my teen-aged one. Because I sure as hell hope I’ve made some progress since then. The arsenal theme has stayed on. It’s still my finger on the trigger, but the weapons are wiser, and I work like hell to keep them pointed away from me these days.

My target has changed and has become many.  It’s Media. It’s Conservatives. It’s Dishonesty. It’s Arrogant Narcissism and Entitlement. It’s those who Fear Art. It’s Censorship. It’s Inequality. It’s Insensitivity and Exclusivity. It’s Hate. It’s War. It’s Injustice to Animals. It’s the Government. It’s our Poisoned Food and Water. It’s Oppression. It’s Monotony. It’s Homogeny. It’s the Unavoidable departure from Community that breeds our Hostility toward one another and creates a Separation of Self that too many of us refuse to mourn the loss of.

I choose to fight back with my words and my art. I choose to share my experiences in the hope that they will give someone else strength. I choose to lead by example as opposed to giving orders.  I know that there is room at the top for everyone. I wear my cape on underneath. I completely surrender when I meet others on my path. I embrace the weird, the afraid, And the unafraid as one. Fuck Acquiescence. Is that really how you want to go out?

Below you’ll find nudes I recently shot. It took less than 24 hours for an edited version of the last shot to cause the whole series to be removed from instagram. It took everything I had to blur her body at all. That is the last time that I censor my own art. I won’t give in to the idea of what’s acceptable. The story behind them is for another time, but to the model and her partner, I love you. Thank you for sharing yourselves with me. The guidelines of censorship will forever be the devil’s written playbook in my mind. Thank you for making art with me. Until we meet again…

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