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How am I not myself?

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dambrackas-nose-sm.jpg

When I was 15 years old, some special papers were signed and I had a nose job. I didn’t want to wait until I was old enough to consent. I wanted to get fixed like my mom had, ever since I was 10, when she told me that I could, “as soon as you’re old enough,” she said. For five years I was stuck with a face that was wrong and ugly. But it wasn’t ugly like my mother’s face had been; I always thought that her old nose was a good fit for her pretty face. I was on my way to having my father’s nose. To this day, it is the most prominent feature on his face. “A nose like that is OK on a man”, they would say, “but not on a girl”. My brother’s nose earned him the nickname “Beek”, and he seemed somehow proud. It was meant as an endearment, uttered by only his closest friends.

My new nose was a huge relief. I could finally turn any direction in pictures. I could look at people without worrying that they were staring at it. I destroyed any photographs that showed it, in its full glory.

I just used my photoshop skills on a picture taken just yesterday. Looking at what I would have looked like, I see an attractive, happy and confident woman, with a larger than average nose. “Maybe she’s Eastern European or something.”

The Deep Dive

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dive

It was 1999. This chick Michelle was staying with me for a little while, maybe a month, making collages out of old 50s magazines and drinking cheap wine, on most days. I was just going about my normal life, sort of accommodating her adult, artistic development and enjoying her company. One night, we were in the living room smoking weed. I knocked over the bong, or maybe she did. I panicked and recalled what my mother showed me once, in order to preserve the immaculate white carpet in her upper-middle-class home. I quickly gathered all of the supplies that I needed to save the stained, 15 year old carpet, in that shitty rental, which would later be leveled to build condos. I got down on my hands and knees, poured water over the spill and furiously began squeegeeing diluted bong juice into a towel that I had rolled up at my knees. I was just high enough to have zeroed in on this, my only mission. There was a sudden break in the action and I looked up at my friend, who sat on the sofa. She was just staring at me with a tilt to her head, like she’d never seen anything like it before. I tried to play it all off like every decent person that cares about the place they live in does these kinds of things. But inside, I was terrified that there was a neurotic force born into me, that I might never fully be free of.

Mishaps, perhaps!

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I have had what seems like a wild series of misfortunes in the last day and a half. I sort of love stringing these events together in my head, ready for the first chance I have to tell the story of everything that went WRONG. I have an impulse to tell the story to everyone and anyone. Why? To entertain them and to share… ok, to complain. And I do. I tell it in a way that it seems unreal. Storytelling gets me fired up, so in a sense, misfortune gets me fired up. And the craziness just keeps coming. And the story gets better and better.

In the midst of it all, there is also a noticing. I notice the kindness of strangers. I’m thankful for the privileged life I lead, money that shoots out of the ATM, my self employment that these mishaps have little impact on, my independence and lack of dependents and so much more. I notice the pleasantness of the moment. After all, when do I get to sit in the sun, interact with strangers, walk on East Colfax, take the light rail from Golden?

New neuropathways fire and form, creating that sense of novelty and adventure and causing a joyous break in the routine that is a regular day for me. Normally, I’m alone, sitting in the same room, day in and day out, staring at a computer screen, impulsively checking my Facebook feed for a little burst of dopamine.

I’m going to tell you what happened, but instead of complaining and instead of telling you only the good parts of what happened, I’m going to tell you the whole story, in short.

This is how I’ve been getting my jollies since Tuesday night.

Tuesday Night
Flat tire. OK, call a friend for a ride.
Friend has a gig at Larimer Lounge. OK, drive the van on ice to the birthday party!
Drive to 627 S. Broadway for Anja’s Birthday… right address, wrong city. OK go eat alone and do a drawing of the bar from the corner on a receipt and leave it with the tip.
All dressed up and no place to go. OK, spontaneously see Brett Harrison (who buys me a beer) play with “Alright Alright” at Larimer Lounge!

Wednesday morning
Take the tire to Big-O. Tire irreparable. OK, put the donut on the Golf and take it in for new tires!
The wait is really long. OK, walk a mile to Crossfit Parkhill and get an awesome workout!
Get back to find out that they won’t sell me 2 snow tires. OK, throw a small fit!
Call other stores who confirm that insurance companies have forced them to stop putting only two snow tires on cars. OK Drive to my long awaited car repair appointment in Golden on the donut!
… and get picked up by my friend Beth Heller, taken out for Pho and given a warm bed. Awwwwa!

Thursday morning
Beth’s car won’t start to give me a ride to the light rail. OK, walk to King Soopers to get cash for my ride, and have coffee from Starfucks!
Barista recommends Call-a-Ride instead of the bus. I call them and wait. OK, sit in the glorious sun and practice a lovely Buddhist meditation!
45 minutes later and Call-A-Ride hasn’t called me back. OK, call again!
The call back happens and the guy says walk across the street and take the bus. Fine… Beth calls and says my car is working now. OK!
Arrive at Lightrail via Beth and the train is there, but I don’t have a ticket yet. Sweet! Learning curve with time crunch!
Seat myself on comfy train and begin texting to plan a ride home from Five Points when the battery on my phone dies. OK, whip out the computer and write this lovely story about how mishaps = adventure, learning and joy!

Posted while seated in Union station while charging my phone, on the last leg of computer battery, because I brought the wrong computer charger. Maybe I’ll do a drawing while I wait.

You “should” Let it Go

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Letting go, maybe a little late. My office bookshelves have been filled with “shoulds”. I’ve never been a design intellectual. I felt like to be a good designer, I had to be. When I was offered over 100 books on design and marketing from an editor who was leaving town in 2002, I quickly picked them up and filled my shelves with them excited to become design smart, or at least to look that way to anyone who visited. They have since filled my office shelves along with a couple dozen newer books that I’ve bought and barely read since.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of gems in there. I did learn a few things from perusing them over the years. Some of them were awesome reference books when I started and ran a roundtable for graphic designers through AIGA Colorado, over 8 years ago. However, more than 3/4s of them have filled my visual landscape, for what they represented and who I am not. I would open some of those from time to time, but I wouldn’t read them. Instead I would scan the chapter titles and the pictures, in a trance of internal struggle between who I am and who I could be.

Now, 13.5 years later, I’m 100% willing to accept what I’m passionate about and release the rest. As I browse them for the last time, removing pressed flowers, photography test prints, doodles and some legitimate bookmarks, I can feel it in my body what I’m attracted to and repelled by. Ironically, that’s the thing that they had the most to teach me.

Life is too fucking short to not just delve into what you love. And if you love as much as I do, there’s not a lot of room for anything else.

Rainbows and Mud

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2015-05-23 19.24.16Yesterday, I got a bit stuck in the mud. I put sticks and cardboard under my rear wheels like some kind of a vanagon owning witch. No go. Help was promised and after waiting 2 hours, it didn’t come. By this time, all of the other 4WD trucks in the lot were gone. I got anxious. I decided that I might go backwards a bit and see if I could get any better traction. But that’s not the best idea, on hill and in a thunderhailstorm. In a worse way now, I decide it’s time to call for serious help. The tow truck was a 3 hour wait. I drank a beer for lunch, did a drawing of a tree and then saw a friend loading his car. I jump out to say hi. He and this other guy decide that they could push me to safety! It all happened so fast. I really didn’t want to go deeper into this marsh, but they were right, it was the shortest way to the road. This is where I knew better. The embankment was not passable. Now I’m deep in it. The tow truck arrives and tells me that he can’t help me. I hike back up to the house to charge my dead phone and figure out what’s next. One of the guests wakes up and says that he can help me, once the truck is done moving sound equipment. I help. I’m adamant that we need to either push my van back, or get a really long tow strap, because the ground is not stable enough to tow me from close range. Guys and their trucks!!!! So, what’s next? Their truck gets stuck. We call another tow company with 4WD. We think it’s over. 4 hours later, a third tow truck has to come and rescue the tow truck. I don’t even want to talk about the bill. I had a very bonding day with my new van. I even slept in her last night in my driveway. Canceled plans to go to the hot springs. Canceled plans to go rafting. Good thing that I’m one of those people that make the best of everything. So many lessons. Time to work in the garden!

Duality

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2015-04-16 17.27.45I painted this 18 years ago. It’s a self portrait that is almost always met with the adjective, “disturbing”. When asked who that is on my back, I’d say that it’s the real me; perhaps even more disturbing. I was onto my own game at 23 years old. I couldn’t really see from inside, how I’d become trapped, I just knew I was. I attacked this crafted version of self, imaginary guards standing by to make sure I wouldn’t break under my own critique, no matter how harsh. I was sure that I couldn’t truly express myself and the pressure was building. I can feel the pain of that in recollection. It’s easier now. These two have become close friends, despite their flaws.

Once forever love

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In considering a new painting, I revisited the memory, the poems, the drawings of an old lover. A young lover. The one I lost my virginity to. His ideas influenced my malleable young mind and educated a good bit of my reality. I thought he was a genius. I was in love. He discarded me after three loooong weeks. Years later he returned and our love was rekindled. He moved to Miami to “be with me” but also to escape the woman he got pregnant and the future he imagined would be inevitable, if he stayed. After a year and a half of what might have been the greatest adventure of my life, he left me, again. Of course this was a blessing in disguise; it turns out that a vagabond, alcoholic, writer was not who I was destined to spend my life with. For 3 years I wondered and imagined seeing him again. He tried to contact me once and I impulsively flushed his number down the toilet, in a moment of delirious self respect. And then he died. I just found his 22 year old daughter on Facebook. She has his eyes. I can tell that she’s the kind of girl that he would have been impressed by when he was her age. He would have been a proud father, had he ever accepted being one, or considered life a gift in the first place.

Future Wisdom

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I was just thinking about how I wish I could go back and offer my younger self some of the wisdom that I’ve gained. And then I thought, I can’t, but I can call upon a future, wiser version of myself to guide me today. And then She told me that I can actually do both!

Hello again

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About six years ago this neighbor of mine stole a bunch of stuff out of my house. He had been doing some yard work for me and had the code to my garage. Stuff slowly disappeared—at first from the garage—and he stopped waving to me, all at the same time. Seemed fishy, but I did, from time to time, leave my garage door open far too long. It could have been anyone, really.

One day, my laptop went missing from my office. Later I’d discover that my DVD player, hedge trimmer and a tool set were also gone. This was the last straw. I went over to where he lived and told his sister that I was terribly sorry for making the assumption, but that if my computer, the source of my lively-hood, didn’t show back up in the next 30 minutes that I was calling the police. 20 minutes later he showed up, with my laptop. It appeared that he was in the grips of crack addiction. He yelled to me that he had bought my computer “from some crackheads down the street”. I was pissed. I tried to shame him but he just held to his story. His sister bought me a new DVD player and kicked him out. About two years later, he moved back in… in a wheelchair. He had had a stroke.

He spends a lot of time on his porch, smoking cigarettes. When I’m outside, he seems to glare angrily in my direction. I imagined that he did this to avoid guilt or shame, by holding really tightly to his story about how I wrongly accused him of theft.

Yesterday, I was delivering the neighborhood newsletter. His house is on my route, the first house, actually. He was smoking on the porch when I stepped up, coming face to face with him for the first time in 6 years. I said “hello” and called him by name. He said “hi”. He didn’t have a free hand and I asked if I should just put it on the door. He said “yeah”. I asked him how he was. He said “good”. I said “have a nice night”. He said “thank you”. His voice and his face softened with every reply.

The rest of my route and my night I felt light and free. Where there had been a quiet bit of resentment, there was compassion for the whole world and myself.