Caffeine Overload

A drawing from last year.

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Missing Fiona Apple

I recently tried to do business with a record-of-the-month club called Vinyl Me Please. It was their idea, not mine. They sent me an email telling me about their featured record of the month. It was Tidal by Fiona Apple. She was all over the radio and MTV when I was a teenager. She’s a slender goddess with sullen blue eyes and large, sensuous lips. I loved her. I still do. “Shadow Boxer” is my favorite Fiona Apple song. It’s a slow, dark, dreary piano ballad. I listened to it on an airplane in the summer of 1998 while I was soaring over the Atlantic Ocean in the dead of night on my way to Germany.

Sweet, sweet memories.

I grew up listening to tapes and CDs, not records. My first CD was Higher Ground by UB40. I got it for Christmas when I was 12 years old. I listened to it in my bedroom while eating miniature Reese’s Cups. I still have most of those tapes and CDs from my childhood. They’re precious. They’re like dear old friends.

A few years ago, Jack White released Lazaretto on vinyl. The surface of the record features an angel hologram. The angel twirls in circles as the record turns. It’s beautiful and bizarre. Like so many other people, I fell in love with vinyl after seeing YouTube videos of the angel hologram. Records amaze me. There are no microchips or laser beams involved. Just grooves and a needle. It’s like magic. Not only do records actually work, they sound deeper and sharper than CDs. It’s like watching a movie in IMAX. Since I grew up listening to my favorite music on cassettes and CDs, it’s amazing to buy those same albums on vinyl and listen to them again.

When Vinyl Me Please sent me the email telling me about the Fiona Apple record, I eagerly rushed to their website to sign up.

But I couldn’t sign up. After inviting me to join, Vinyl Me Please rejected my credit card number. Over and over again. There’s nothing wrong with my credit card, mind you. I want to make that clear. I order items all the time from eBay, Amazon, and Third Man Records. They don’t have any problem taking my credit card. But Vinyl Me Please persistently rejected it.

Do you know what it’s like when you’re thirsty and you slide a dollar bill into a vending machine … and the vending machine spits the dollar bill back out at you? No matter how many times you rub the wrinkles out of the dollar bill, the stubborn machine refuses to accept it. It’s a nerve-wracking feeling. Makes your blood pressure surge. Makes you hate the world.

That’s exactly how I felt when Vinyl Me Please rejected my credit card number.

Finally, I sent an email to customer service. I explained the situation.

A couple of days later, they replied. They said my credit card number had gotten caught up in their “fraud system.” But the problem was all sorted out, they said. My payment had finally managed to get through.

Actually, two of my payment attempts had gone through. Unfortunately, both of those payments went through after the monthly deadline.

So now Vinyl Me Please is sending me two records in the mail.

But neither one of them is Fiona Apple.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the kitchen now and hurl plates at the wall.

Lost in Germany

We found an auditorium where a heavy metal band was playing. Thick smoke floated above our heads. Red laser beams flashed in the air. People danced with their eyes closed, waving their arms in slow motion, grasping at imaginary objects with their fingers. I watched them with nervous curiosity.

After the show was over, I stumbled into the street with Greg and Jesse. It was time to return to the youth hostel. We walked down a staircase in the sidewalk, into the concrete labyrinth where the subway trains lived. We boarded a train and rode through the tunnel a few minutes. Then we stepped off and climbed another set of stairs.

When we reached the top of the stairs and looked around, we didn’t recognize the signs and buildings around us. We had gotten off at the wrong stop. We didn’t know where we were. It was almost eleven o’clock. And we couldn’t call our teacher on our cell phones because we didn’t have cell phones. It was 1998.

So we rambled through the streets, asking strangers for directions to the youth hostel where we were staying. Most of them were friendly and polite, but they had never heard of the Jump In Youth Hostel. We even found a black taxi cab parked indiscreetly on the sidewalk, a common practice in Germany. The driver sat behind the wheel, sipping coffee and listening to the radio. We eagerly asked him to take us to the Jump In Youth Hostel, but he shook his head and started pointing, giving us directions in German. None of us understood German well enough to know what he was saying. We mumbled “danke” and walked away, disappointed and discouraged.

We walked through the subway and found a group of policemen playing cards in a small, dirty room with pictures of naked women plastered on the walls. We explained our predicament to them. They also gave us helpful directions in German.

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You’ve been reading an excerpt from How to Make an Artist Miserable. The Kindle version is free May 19-23. The paperback version is $5 plus shipping and handling as always.

You can click here to order a copy.

Copyright 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Solitude

I hate it when people stand behind me, staring down at my paper and invading my personal space. I don’t know how other artists work, but I spend a long time building the basic shape before I flesh out all the little details. If I’m sketching a face, I might spend ten minutes forming the outline of the head and the curves of the hair around it. But if spectators are gathered around me, I feel obligated to hurry up and work faster in order to keep them entertained. This hasty scrambling always leads to a sloppy picture.

People also love to yell out brainless comments as I draw. If I’m drawing a face, for instance, I will loosely sketch the eyes, make some rough marks representing the nose, scribble in the lips, and then return to the top of the face to add detail to the eyes. As soon as I direct my attention to the eyes, some bonehead will blurt out, “You forgot the give her nostrils! She needs nostrils, don’t she? Are you not gonna give her no nostrils?”

They don’t understand that I’m building the picture in layers. They just think I’m forgetting important details, so they like to point at the paper and remind me to add this and that. Sometimes, they’re deliberately being rude. Sometimes, they’re truly ignorant. Whatever their motivation, it drives me insane. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t open your mouth and spew criticism.

This is why I prefer to draw in the privacy of my apartment, spinning a Miles Davis record on my turntable. Or sitting in a cool hotel room, drinking coffee and listening to the soothing music of The Weather Channel.

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How to Make an Artist Miserable is free on Kindle May 19-23. The paperback version is still $5 plus shipping and handling.

You can click here to order a copy.

(Copyright 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.)

Dentist

I went to the dentist today to get some fillings. Then I ate lunch at Krystal. Before the novocaine wore off. I didn’t know I had bitten a hole in my lip until I looked down and saw blood on my cheeseburger. It’s been a rough, messy, awkward day. But the new fillings are really nice.