How Can I Freak You Out Today?


I’ve said in the past that I’ve always been an excellent judge of character and that those I keep in my small, close-knit circle of friends – online or IRL – deserve to be there. There might have been a few mistakes along the way but deep down inside I always knew something wasn’t right.

And those who get cut from the circle? I have no problem cutting them off because they proven themselves to be not worth my time and therefore, I have zero emotional investment in them. In other words, it doesn’t hurt to say goodbye. You might even say I welcome the departure – one less problem.

I’m talking about emotions and feeling here, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m a strange duck. Granted, “strange” is a subjective term but the strangeness I embrace is on an artistic level. Again, emotions and feelings.

For the past month, I’ve been doing a little research on empathy and while I don’t have all of the most common characteristics (read: introversion), I do have most. And I have a few examples of that.

Last week, I decided to walk through downtown Long Beach during lunch and take pictures as opposed to my usual bike ride near the beach. This alone was unusual and it sets up the rest of the story.

While walking past Hamburger Mary’s, one of the many LGBTQ establishments in the city, I noticed an addition to their outside wall:

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It seems every city has a pair of angel wings somewhere and these were completed in time for Pride Weekend. Not satisfied with just taking a picture of them, me and a coworker Neena went back the next day so that I could pose in front of the wings and have a new social media profile picture.

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(Why yes, I’ve lost 10 pounds!)

I was pleased with the result but decided to add some effects to it before I made it my ubiquitous profile picture. It reminded me of my friend Ray’s profile picture, the last one he would post. He passed away unexpectedly in July 2017 at the age of 43. I miss him.

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Where is this going? We’re getting there.

Later that same day, after posting my picture everywhere, I get the following Facebook notification.

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You’re reading that right. On the day I took that picture, Ray and I had become Facebook friends seven years prior. And if I had not taken a walk instead of going for a bike ride the previous day, I would have never seen this or made the connection. It seems I knew, or felt, this and had to act upon it.

Moving forward to today. During my Sunday morning bike ride yesterday, I decided to do something completely out of the ordinary. Instead of riding down the bike trail, I made use of the city’s many bike lanes. I had no itinerary; I just went wherever I wanted to go.

My adventures would take me 18 miles down streets I’ve never been down and even some alleys I never knew existed. It was while riding down one alley that I came across a bunch of dumpsters along the rear of a shopping center. Exciting stuff, I know.

But my coworker Neena sees them as art. Her Instagram account is filled with abstract images that were mostly on dumpsters we’ve discovered around downtown. At any rate, I saw one dumpster in particular that I figured would be a good fit for her account. I took this shot and sent it to her.

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She didn’t see it until this morning but when she did, she immediately said it looked like a pastel she did about three years ago.

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If you’re not entirely sure if they look the same, here’s a side-by-side.

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The big, black splotch. The diagonal lines on the right. The dominant yellow-and-red theme. The fold on the bottom left of her pastel and the black on the bottom left of the dumpster picture. Note that this is exactly how I composed the picture – I did not crop it at all.

There are definitely lots of similarities that again, if I had not had the urge to try something different, would have never been tied together. Something told me to do it. This is the result.

And yes, she slightly freaked out.

So when it comes down to it, yes, I consider myself in many ways an empath. There’s just no other way to put it. I acted on instinct and it turns out I was picking up someone else’s vibes, and the proof is all up there for you to see.

As for that vivid dream I had the other night of the plane crashing near my neighborhood? Let’s hope it remains that. (It was about a mile away from my house but I can still see it.)

That’s a wrap for this one, folks. You didn’t think I was this deep, did you?

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2017: My Year In Review


Happy New Year, all two of you! Glad you’re still around reading my infrequent posts.

I’ve decided to go ahead and keep my tradition of Year In Review posts going for yet another year with  pictures of the most memorable things that happened. Let’s go!

January 2017

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I rang in the New Year right by going for an early run/walk. Seeing the sunrise on January 1st was pretty metaphoric – highly recommended. Personally, I think sunsets are overrated. Sunrises are where it’s at.

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I bid a fond farewell to my Yamaha Zuma 125 which was damaged beyond repair in my accident of October 2016. Bummer.

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The family went to the Norton Simon Museum. Seeing actual brushstrokes on canvas by the likes of Picasso and Van Gogh is nothing short of mesmerizing.

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Took the kid to another Dodger Fan Fest where organist Dieter Ruehle played the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore Show since she had passed away a few days earlier. Very nice.

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I reminisced on the inauguration of Barack Obama (seen here at my employer at the time in 2009). Now we have to deal with daily shitstorms of tweets and a strange obsession with Hilary Clinton from our current “leader” as well as ending everything 44 did while in office. I’m not bitter. I’m pissed. And please remember to vote.

February 2017

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I celebrated one official year with my new employer! (The last list of anniversaries has me as being hired in August 2015, though.)

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The family had a group birthday outing to Benihana to celebrate all of our birthdays since they fall so close together. It’s a nice experience but I don’t think the prices justifies it – even with a $30 birthday voucher it was still over $100!

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I saw this couple wandering near the office and held one of the reptiles for a moment. Some people are freaked out by snakes but I find them amazing creatures, and it was cool to hold one this size.

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Speaking of the office, I didn’t realize how close I worked to some of the locations used in the classic movie It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Here are some then-and-now shots, literally walking distance from the job.

March 2017

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Ann’s real birthday!

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Anthony’s real birthday! I’m officially the father of a teenager (and yes, it’s everything you’ve heard it was).

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I took Anthony to a Breakfast Club Cruise-In at the Petersen Automotive Museum. So many great cars.

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We went to the beach in San Clemente after outlet shopping. Note the length of my hair. Ahem.

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In another non-blogged story, I found this little hummingbird outside the office lying on its back with feet in the air and wings spread out. Thinking it had died, I picked it up and looked for a place to put it. Then I noticed its eyes still moving so I stroked its little chest for a bit and it perked up, rolled over and stood in my hand as you see it here. I also removed the feather stuck it its eye. I then placed it in a planter outside the office. Hopefully the little guy (or gal) turned out okay.

April 2017

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Grand Prix time! The office is almost deserted on Free Friday for practice and qualifying.

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I participated in a local Beach Streets event, my first one ever. It was a lot of fun, plus the exercise didn’t hurt.

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In March, a twist of an ankle during a playground football revealed a fracture, but that didn’t stop Anthony from enjoying a Las Vegas vacation! We had a blast and visited quite a few places.

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The flower display at Bellagio was spectacular.

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Nelson Ghost Town is as picturesque as you want a place to be, but load up on gas before you go – there’s none for miles and it’s very remote.

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And because Anthony likes Tanked! we had to visit the place where it is filmed.

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Standing on the bridge overlooking Hoover Dam. Strangely, despite my acrophobia, I didn’t mind being up here. And that hair…

May 2017

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We visited JPL and just nerded out. Also, Anthony spotted Kevin Sussman, aka Stuart from Big Bang Theory, while we were there and took this selfie with him. He’s real good at that it seems.

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While riding my bike on lunch, I came across a nice VW van that looked familiar. Some quick research confirmed it belonged to comedian and Long Beach resident Gabriel Iglesias. So I sat and waited for him to return to it so I could get a picture with him, and hair…uh, here it is.

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I discovered a Friday farmers market near the office. It’s a happening place.

June 2017

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A coworker upgraded to the iPhone 7 Plus and wanted to know how Portrait mode worked so I willingly posed for them.

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The Dew Tour skateboarding event returned and I took tons of action shots. Parking wasn’t an issue – I walked from the office.

And Ann and I celebrated 24 years of wedded bliss!

July 2017

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I finally took the leap and got my long overdue dental work started. You can read about it here, here, and here.

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A new family member! The Kitten Formerly Known as Prince became Benny, or Bento as I call him. Notice Monte in the background not having any of it, although now they are best buddies.

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You just can’t prepare yourself for some things, and the passing of a friend is one of them. Ray was just 44 when he passed away in his sleep of a pulmonary embolism and it was a shock to all of us. I miss him dearly, especially our discussions about our beloved Dodgers. Vaya con Dios, amigo.

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Pow! Wow! Long Beach returned and I spent my lunch hour visiting the local murals and speaking to a few of the artist, including “Bryan” Blue seen here with his work in progress.

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Promo shot for my new album. Not. Hair level: near the shoulders.

August 2017

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The Great Partial Solar Eclipse! Hair official longer than Ann’s.

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My second biking event, CicLAvia ran from my hometown to San Pedro. Read about it here.

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Dodger game.

September 2017

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Look! Another Dodger game!

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Ray.

October 2017

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I took over Depeche Mode’s Facebook page for a day which included attending a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live! You can read about it here.

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Year 8 of the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour and Year 3 of the combo 5k went in the books.

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Local wildfires made for an eerily beautiful backdrop but the air quality meant not going outside for an extended period of time.

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Our annual family picture at the local pumpkin patch! We started in 2004.

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Yeah so…Halloween at the office went a little something like this.

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My Dodgers made it to the World Series!

November 2017

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We went to a local event and saw some planes up close. That’s Anthony and his grandfather who, at age 80, will still run circles around you – even after a quadruple bypass years ago. The plane in the background is the Boeing C-17, one he helped build.

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Anthony wanted to see firsthand what the Black Friday fuss was about so we took him to Target. This was the line to get in.

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He wasn’t impressed.

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My Dodgers lost the World Series but stocking up on merchandise from their amazing season at deep discounts was fun. Wait ‘til this year…

December 2017

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I stood where Jim Morrison stood.

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I took a few vacation days and did a little photo essay of Los Angeles or the Theatre District at least. Going solo, I had all the time in the world to take well over 350 shots and not worry about driving (Go Metro!). Images sans descriptions can be seen here or feel free to scour my Instagram account for them. The highlight was getting kicked out of a theatre I wasn’t supposed to be in but hey, if you give me and open door…

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I bid a fond farewell to Pat DiNizio, singer/songwriter for The Smithereens, who passed away suddenly. While not a household name, this New Jersey band rocked with the best of them and put on one hell of a live show. We’ll miss you, Pat.

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I got to meet legendary DJ Richard Blade at a book signing for his autobiography World In My Eyes. This guy got Depeche Mode their big break in L.A. and has hung out with just about every mover and shaker of the ‘80s New Wave movement. If you love music from that era or interested how he got started then you must pick up this book. I’m the proud owner of a signed First Edition!

And that hair. Mine, not his.

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Last and most recently, I took Anthony with me on another photo excursion to Los Angeles while on Christmas vacation. This is a view from the observation deck of Los Angeles City Hall and it’s one of the coolest things you can do while visiting the city. Bonus: totally free. Just pass through a security checkpoint manned by LAPD’s finest and head up to the 26th floor.

That’s a wrap. What’s on the slate for 2018?

  • Surviving this joke of a presidency if we don’t get nuked first
  • Getting my rear back in shape, although running is getting more difficult (which I attribute to the added weight)
  • Not a lot of traveling, just staying local
  • Trying new things
  • Enjoying the last year of my 40s

Oh, the hair. Did I mention that at all? The reasons for letting it grow are simple:

  • Because I can. Most guys my age are either dyeing what’s left of theirs, bald, or shaved.
  • I don’t work for the Walt Disney Company where grooming standards are ridiculously strict (yeah yeah, it’s all for show). My employer is filled with creatives, most of whom are very much into individual expression via colored hair, tattoos, dress, art, etc. We’re free spirits so being different is part of our culture and perfectly acceptable.
  • I’ve never done this before so I thought I’d give it a shot.

And there you go. Happy 2018!

Preparing for the New Year


Now that it’s December, I’m sure that many people are starting to think about their New Year’s resolutions. But I’m not.

That’s because I don’t make resolutions. To resolve to do something means that you are determined to do it, to settle something, etc. It’s a nice little word but it’s not exactly one I’ve used over the past few years and it sounds like a short-term solution to a lifelong problem.

Instead of making resolutions, I make commitments. One is committed to their religion, to pay their bills on time, or to their job. It’s something that you hold in high regard because it needs to be done, much like my weight loss and maintenance over the years. No, at this point the scale isn’t exactly where I would like it to be but I’m still nowhere near my starting weight of 300 pounds. That’s because I made a commitment to change my life by eating right and exercising.

Compare that to the resolutioner who will buy their gym membership in January and stop using it by March because it was more than they could handle. Running is always a kick at the start of the year because my running route and the bike paths are really populous but in a few months they are empty again. I’ve seen it happen every year.

Anyway, I’ve committed myself to doing at least three things in this upcoming year, my 46th year on this material sphere. They are as follows.

Commitment 1: Stay Active and Eat Better
As I had mentioned, the scale hasn’t been in my favor recently so I’m going to change that in 2015. No, I’m still not springing for a gym membership because I really don’t like the environment: parking, sweaty machinery and equipment, the loud boots-and-pants music booming from the usually awful sound system. Just not for me. Instead, my plan is to start eating better and getting much more exercise in. I’ve already started by simply walking rather than running and by eating right, that means not falling for those snake-oil cleanses sold through MLM people who knew nothing about nutrition before signing up for their scheme but now promise to help you lose ridiculous amounts of weight in a short time with their overpriced product (only to gain it all back just as quickly if not sooner). I may run a few miles while I’m out but walking is a welcome change, and change is good. I’m currently averaging 8 miles per walk which is good for burning at least 1,300 calories. This boosts my recommended caloric intake to early 3,500 so if I eat less than that, the weight will start to fall off again. That’s exactly what I need.

Commitment 2: Find a New Job
Working at the ol’ grocery store has been a good time but I’ve decided that I won’t make it to my one-year anniversary in the middle of February. The lethal combination of part-time hours and minimal pay are simply not the way a family should live and we’ve resorted to using credit cards again as a result. That’s not what we wanted to do but when you need a microscope to see your paycheck, you gotta do something. Additionally, the company is looking to hire 1,200 people. I don’t know where those people are going to get their hours if the ones currently working aren’t getting any themselves. Oh, and I found out via a random Google search that the location is up for sale because, as the description states, the company has “not achieved the desired sales at this location and has indicated that it may close the location or sublease the store.” In short, it sounds like our days are numbered to begin with. It would be nice if our management would maybe give us a little insight on this matter but nobody has said anything about it. In other words, it’s time for me to fly.

Commitment 3: Vices
We all have them. Perhaps my most painfully obvious one was my penchant for diet sodas which I know aren’t good for me, but my liking can be compared to Oscar Wilde’s thoughts on cigarettes.

“You must have a cigarette. A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?”

I’ve tried to kick the habit in the past and failed miserably but when I decided to lose weight, I committed myself to avoid them and I did. Well, it’s time to do that again and replace it with water and tea. In addition to diet sodas, I have already taken the proper steps in kicking another of my vices to the curb. Without saying exactly what it was, I will say that it was not an addiction to chemical, tobacco, or alcohol nor was it entirely harmful to myself or anyone else. It was not damaging my health or illegal yet it was something that was slowly taking over me and got to the point where I had to think about what I was doing and put a stop to it immediately. In the end when I really think about it, it’s just silly and pointless and something that none of my lifelong friends would probably expect from me. Either way, I’m done with it and you’re not getting me to tell you what it was.

Commitment 4: Zen
I’m currently reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living, a book that covers the ins and outs of what zen is and isn’t. It’s yet another way that I’m trying to incorporate peace and a spiritual awakening in my life, something that I’ve been trying to achieve for a few years. Meditation is still working as are simple Buddha quotes (the ones that are real, at least). Buddhism and zen are extremely complex yet in the end, they come down to simple philosophies that I can adhere to more than any religion I’ve read about. Who knows? I may even commit myself to becoming a Buddhist by the year’s end and visiting temples to see what it’s like. And no, Buddhism isn’t all about reincarnation. It’s much more than that.

Whew, is that enough? Looks like I have plenty to take care of in 2015.

Haunted


I Ain't Afraid Of No GhostFolks, I’m going to come right out and say it: our house is haunted.

There have been at least three things that have happened over the course of about a month that have convinced me that such is the case and no, they have not been ordinary. If they were, then obviously I wouldn’t be going out on a limb and writing this post.

And before you ask, no, I’m not going to call in Zak Bagans and his idiot Bro Crew from Ghost Adventures. That show is a joke and Bagans is about as bright as the guy who bagged your groceries today.

Wait, what? Anyway, here we go.

Incident 1: The Flyer
We’re those kind of people who get more junk mail than anything else. No honestly, we get more than you. It’s a fact and there will be no arguing over it, mister/ma’am.

One day, Ann had gone through the daily pile of junk mail and kept a flyer for some reason. It was made from a heavy card stock and was sitting on the kitchen table. I wandered into the kitchen to grab a snack of some sort. My back was leaning against the countertop near the sink and I was facing the kitchen table – and the flier went flying off the table and landed on the ground near the pantry. It wasn’t the fact that it flew off the table that caught my attention; it was the manner in which it did.

The flyer took off  like it was tied to a string that was yanked very hard and while in flight, it had absolutely no rotation. You know, like how an index card would spin if you flung it across the room? Yeah. This was nothing like that. It took off at a speed that couldn’t have been attributed to any breeze that may have been going through the house at the time. It was sheer force that made it take off like that and in a straight line to the floor. I have no explanation for how it happened but I saw it with my own eyes.

Incident 2: Early Morning Footsteps
When I’m not blogging or sitting at my drawing desk, I’ve made it a habit to relax in my huge lounge chair in the den, kick up the leg rest, pop in my earbuds, and listen to some white noise to lull myself to sleep. Even if I don’t feel like sleeping, the white noise also helps to mask my tinnitus which can he downright unbearable at times.

And sometimes I fall asleep in the chair and Ann will leave me there, knowing I’m perfectly comfortable, while she retires to the bedroom to go to bed. This is what happened the other night when I woke up around 4:30 am and took my earbuds out (they had been in my ears since around 10:30 pm the previous night). Shortly after I took them out and started rolling around in the chair, I heard the sound of footsteps going into the kitchen.

We have two cats and a dog that like to walk around the house as they see fit, but the sound was not like any they can produce. We know when Arliss (dog) is walking because we can hear his claws clacking on the hardwood floor and the cats, well, they are pretty light on their feet and don’t make much sound, except when they run. And even then, it sounds nothing like when any of the humanoids in the house walk.

And that’s what this sounded like: human footsteps going into the kitchen. I stayed in my chair and looked over in the direction of the kitchen and didn’t see anyone. I got up and checked on Anthony and he was sawing logs. I went into the bedroom and asked Ann if she had been up a few minutes ago. Nope, everyone was asleep except for me, but I know what I heard.

Incident 3: The Purse
This happened just yesterday. I was in the kitchen – I really need to stay out of there – to get a drink. Just as I was leaving to go into the living room, Ann’s purse (resting on the chair) fell onto the ground.

But like the flyer, it didn’t appear as if it was just gravity that made it move. The purse looked like it was pushed hard off of the chair and, get this, did a complete 360 in the air before landing right-side up. Seriously, it made one complete rotation before hitting the ground and nothing fell out of it.

So far these are the only things I’ve seen happen around here and haven’t actually seen any shapes or forms nor have I captured any in the background of pictures I’ve taken in the house. As for who we might think it could be, well, we do have an idea.

Ann’s grandfather was a neat freak. The house we live in was his, and it can be quite messy at times.

Needless to say, Ann and Anthony spent the day cleaning it up while I was at work.

I’ll keep you posted if anything else happens but until then…

The Mind of An Artist


I draw. I take photos. I write.

For all intents and purposes, I am an artist.

I see things differently. I will be the one people stare at as I take a photo of something they can’t immediately understand, like a hideous doll at the thrift shop complete with sparkly rainbow Hammer pants. I find personal amusement and that respect, as much beauty in the awkwardly mundane as I do in the purest of nature.

My mind is not wired like a non-artist. It is always going at a rapid pace, writing scenes to an imaginary movie that nobody but me will ever see. The movie’s soundtrack is composed of incidental music that doesn’t exist outside of my cranium, and the confines of my head are my little theater with my brain as the screenwriter who doesn’t care about treatments, pitches, or character arcs. This is my movie, and I am the director, producer, and both best boys.

All that said, to me, art is about being different and eliciting a response, which is perhaps I didn’t think 1987’s Piss Christ was a big deal. On its surface the print appears to be of a crucifix submerged in a substance that could be urine yet the artist, Andres Serrano, only alludes to it in the title. The viewer is left to decide. It’s also worth noting that at the time of Piss Christ, I was slowly drifting away from my Catholic upbringing which could have led to my nonchalance about the work.

As a result, I “got” it unlike those whom it offended, those who based their offense on religious grounds even though the artist himself was unclear as to what the crucifix was submerged in. Those whom it offended, were offended by themselves.

Serrano did his job.

So, moving on. At this point I’ve established that my mind is always working overtime, that I’m the one people might think is weird, and that my mind always open to and looking for new ideas. It’s all true, even at work.

I am an artist – an artist who bags groceries for his weekly notes and coins. And it was at my job a few nights ago when I was feeling a little worthless about my work situation. A part-time cart monkey, banana bagger, spill picker-upper, trash-emptier. At age 45, That’s what I do.

To make matters worse, on this particular night I had been resigned to working with a cashier who, for the lack of a better description, has taken her job and all that it encompasses to levels I can’t begin to comprehend. Scanning bananas, and enforcing the rules that come with it, seems to be her livelihood. And with me being the newest person on the job, she’s often pointing out the most obvious things just for the sake of doing it.

She’s also one who has no sense of humor and whose thoughts can’t stay inside her head. I don’t need to know when you’re going to the restroom, why a label is not affixed to a can of beans properly, or that the ties on your apron are too tight. If you’d complain a little less and do more, then perhaps the job you’re working hard at perfecting would go a lot smoother.

Maybe this is her art.

But I digress. I needed a break from bagging for this person and told my supervisor that I was going to go outside and “clear the lot,” grocery store lingo for “be a cart monkey and gather up all the shopping carts.” I went to the office to don my reflective orange safety vest and made my out into the cool of the evening.

I had cleared about half of the lot and was picking up trash along the way because, for some, grocery store parking lots are also magical. They are places where they can indiscriminately dump trash and *POOF*, without a murmur of protest from anybody, it will be gone the next day. And that trash can be anything from cinder blocks to pizza boxes to lottery tickets. I’ve seen them all.

But you can also dump your old beverage from your coffee tumbler in a grocery store lot. I see it all the time but unlike standard trash, I don’t clean it up. The liquid will eventually dissipate after being walked through, run over, etc. which makes my job *this* much easier.

I seem to have gone off on an entirely different tangent here, haven’t I? How did I go from art to my job to spilled coffee? How are any of these related?

Because this.

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A microcosm of this post is now before you: art, the weirdo who takes pictures of odd things, an unknown liquid, my job, a spilled beverage. It’s all there, right above this paragraph.

When I saw this heart-shaped spill, I knew I had to grab my phone and get a picture of it because it meant something to me. I couldn’t start questioning things like my favorite cashier does much too often; I just had to capture the moment and take it from there. And that’s exactly what I did. The artist in me accepted it for the shape it represented and nothing else. Who spilled it, why they did it, what the liquid was…none of it mattered. The heart is what mattered.

I went back inside to my station with my favorite cashier. Fortunately, I was told to take a break soon afterward and did just that.

While on my break I looked over the photo again, still admiring the complete randomness of it all but wasn’t too happy with the quality of the image so took it into a photo editing app and started messing with contrast, colors, etc. After a whole slew of adjustments, I found one that pleased me more than any of them.

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I had transformed it from a random spill of unknown liquid and origin to something that could resemble blood, with the heart-shape only lending to the message.

What message? It looked nice but that wasn’t enough, so I kept messing with it and ended up with this.

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And so I had.

This is how the mind of an artist works. It’s not the easiest to understand but the artist doesn’t expect you to. It’s the result that must elicit a response.

By the way, that doll I mentioned was no joke.

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I told you my mind was different than yours.