It’s really something to sit next to your San Francisco ex watching YouTube videos of yourself acting crazy just two short months ago.
My ex was known in the original Devon’s Diary as the gay Malcolm X, causing some readers to believe he was African American. The nickname stemmed from an argument we had during our five-or-so-months-long relationship: Some political discussion we were having had me taking a position that he said was the conciliatory gay Martin Luther King position, while he, in turn, was the gay Malcolm X. I wish I could remember what the issue under dispute was. Anyway, the gay Malcolm X is a blue-eyed white cantankerous artist who used to come to do the door with a pistol — a Lady Derringer, I believe.
“I got rid of it,” he said. “After awhile it just made me nervous having that in my house.”
When I was racing along the East Coast in summer 2004, running on the last vapors of what meth resin I could find clinging to the pipe, I left a rapid-fire, blisteringly incoherent tirade on the gay Malcolm X’s voicemail. (Others got theirs live.) Where he had previously only skimmed the diary for references to himself, the gay Malcolm X became hooked and followed its sketchy report of my hospitalization and subsequent descent into depression. He never held the tirade against me and came to relish telling me about it. And the time I wrote about screaming “I llllllllooooove it!!!” while I was in restraints later prompted him to tell me, “That was art, puta.” (The performance got favorable reviews from my fellow patients, although some complained about its 2 a.m.-ish timing. It was, as I wrote in another entry, a labor-intensive way to have to go about being given Benadryl.)
Point being, the gay Malcolm X has never shied away from my crazy side, and he high-fived me during certain highlights of my guerrilla action on The Art Guys’ tree at the Menil Collection, but even he was looking at me as if to say, “What happened?“
I watched it again with one of my oldest San Francisco friends whom I’ve known since moving here in 1997 and his ex, and they really reacted to how crazy I looked. And I was, as I noted at the time, in a sleep-deprived delerium. Watching it two months later with friends drives home how the dark circles under my eyes and the exhaustion drown out what I was actually saying in the road-trip introduction.
The thing is, I still agree with what I actually said, even if it was during some kind of breakdown, which affected my inhibitions — that is, it removed them — much more than the content.
Moreover, if that episode was what launched this journey, the journey was also the “cure.” I recovered pretty quickly on the road by taking my time, getting adequate sleep, eating nutritiously and exercising, and seeing art and enjoying the landscape along the way, including the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Even my mother noted the improvement in an email urging me to get counseling, among other things.
Still, people are persuaded by what they see, so most criticism has focused on the videos. I enjoyed this riff by Buffalo Sean, which made me nostalgic for our occasional critical skirmishes when we were both blogging, I for the Houston Chronicle and he independently. But he joins the general rush to put the whole thing behind us and fails to take the Menil to task — or to note who’s ultimately responsible for that the fact that “the Chronicle has no art critic and will not get one for the foreseeable future.” It’s one thing to blame the artists first — “The art guys are stupid, you’re stupid, blah blah blah” — but b.s. continues the Houston tradition of attacking artists exclusively and giving institutions a pass. Naturally, his dismissal of me stems mostly from the videos, not from my writing of the same period.
I guess ultimately I’m glad they’re there for what documentary evidence they provide of my mental state at the time. I got out of the habit of making them because people, even most readers, weren’t watching them, but maybe it’s time to do a new one in order to have a less crazy version of me floating around YouTube.
Watching the videos Ari, my friend since 1997, registered a look of “oh shit, you’re unemployable now” early on but before long was saying we should find somewhere in San Francisco to play them on an endless loop. Then he took a sample of me talking gibberish while mimicking my 2004 craziness and looped it. That cheered me up to no end.