Summer 2014

Page 1

summer 2014 one year anniversary

With so many humans, and so many hidden talents, I see everything as a

creative outlet. I am proud to say that

the people surrounding us within this

world, are the people who contribute to COLLECTIVE.

For artists of all kinds, all with forms of their own creation, COLLECTIVE, is inspiration from the inspired. __


Izze Rumpp

photo by Erika Astrid

contributors Peter Lovera Stuart Holland Shelby Sells Tara Morris Christian Winn Matthew Wordell Austin Kirkham Langley Fox Zack Evans Kara Haupt

logo created by Austin Martin cover work by Langley Fox

Peter Lovera

Boise, Idaho

The creative focus here is just to share with you some of my favorite moments from this summer shortly after my return to Boise from Maui. I am completely enthralled by light and contrast, texture and color. My aim is to realistically capture natural lighting at its finest, using a composition that delivers the moment as purely as possible. After all my camera is often times only getting in the way. This past year has reminded me what it feels like to be at home in my heart, and has instilled in me a deep reverence for Idahos’ wild landscape.

“ The Earth would die if the sun stopped kissing her.�

Stuart Holland Boise, Idaho

Shelby Sells Los Angeles, California

I photograph people and interview them about love, sex and relationships. I want to provide a platform for people to open up and share their experiences. By sharing, I believe we can all connect on a deeper level and gain a better understanding of love, sex and relationships. Everyone has a story and by opening up I believe we can help each other become more comfortable in our sexuality and our own skin. “You can’t control what other people do. All you have control over is you.” This last year has brought a lot of change. This is the first year I’ve really found an artistic outlet and I am so happy. It’s been an uphill battle, but ultimately I believe that everything has worked out for the best. As much negativity as I’ve received from people who are angry that I’ve finally found my passion (which I will never understand), I’ve received infinitely more positive responses from those who read my blog and participate in it. Everyone has been extremely supportive and I feel like I’m finally making a positive change in the world (achieving my dreams!!). I’m as happy as I’ve ever been and if that means I had to cut the negative energy out of my life, so be it. I’ve never felt more true to my work or myself.

Tara Morris Los Angeles, California

My name is Tara Morris aka: Terrible Moron, Hashball, & Karen. I’ve lived in Los Angeles my whole life and sometimes I get depressed about that, but then I eat a burrito and forget. I work at the Hammer Museum as a graphic designer. I paint in my spare time on an intimate, listen to Mary J Blige and drink too much wine level, and that’s more of a salutary practice, but right now I’m creating more on the occupational side of things doing graphic design. In that regard, I just want to be experimental with different mediums and keep things clean. Everyone has Photoshop and Illustrator now, and I think a lot of people do too much because of the amount of tools Adobe has. I just like to keep things neat as far as graphic design goes. On the contrary, my personal art is all cigarette burns, and spaghetti stains. Sup Freud? The last year I did some re-branding work for Magic Market Week, a few websites, and promotional work for the Hammer Museum. The latter being the most influential. I’ve learned so much about the print making process and the importance of traditional, institutional design, which I guess might sound boring to some, but I’m over the moon about it.

TUESDAY Christian A. Winn

In my bedroom Lyla held the morning paper close to her eyes. The light was a gray, heavy. I lay wrapped in blankets, half-sleeping on the bed as she drank coffee from a squeaky Styrofoam cup. She’d been up for a time, but it was still early. Above me Lyla looked upset, not as pretty and irascibly charming as I’d thought she must always be. I knew Lyla from the bar. She was twenty-five, thin and freckled and eight years younger than me. She worked up Main Street at the Thai restaurant, came in after shift ready to drink and talk shit and unwind. We’d been flirting at the bar for months – making eyes, buying rounds, lighting cigarettes. This was the first night we’d spent together, and though not much had happened in bed – some kissing and groping, then we both passed out – I was pleased to have her there that morning. It had been a long time since I’d held someone through the night. Lyla was a friend of Ranniger’s, the bartender, a man I’d known for years, from way back in high school. He was the reason I went to that bar at all. Most of my drinks were free because back in 10th grade I’d once talked my older brother out of kicking Ranniger’s ass. Ranniger was still grateful, plus he liked leaning over the bar’s worn veneer and telling me stories five nights a week. Lyla ran her pinky finger over the front page newsprint as she sat on the corner of my bed. I lay still, trying to watch her through half-shut eyes, wanting to sleep for weeks. The smell of Lyla’s smoky skin and curly perfumed hair, mingling with the coffee, it made me hungry. I shifted, and sat up. The space behind my eyes hummed. My brain

was a fist. Lyla and I both liked bourbon a little too much, and last night had been no exception. Lyla looked at me, smiled plainly, and it took me a long moment to remember her name, to let it rise through my throat then float across my lips, and I think she knew. “Lyla.” “That’s right, Carlton.” She held the newspaper toward me. It was still folded perfectly. “Isn’t this sad?” I didn’t know what she meant, but my heart dropped. I believed her slow morning voice. The headlines blurred, and I rubbed the dry itch of my eyes, thinking, this is going to be a lazy day, I have nothing to do until it’s dark again. “The picture.” She pushed the paper closer. The newsprint smelled like mud. “The elk. They all drowned, or froze, or froze and drowned.” There was a color photograph across the page – ice blue, dotted brown. It looked like seeds in a sno-cone. “Where?” “Up at the reservoir.” Lyla turned the photo back toward herself, lifting it into the dim light eking through my blinds. “They were migrating. Heading for low ground. The ice was thin, and they fell through.” She unfolded the paper, pushed it back my direction.

“How many?” I crooked my neck, and could almost translate the photograph.

Outside a diesel truck clamored up 8th Street, pounding over winter potholes. I flinched. My nerves were stripped. For a confusing moment, from where I lay half-dressed beneath the stale sheets, all the elk in the photo looked like neck ties wadded up and thrown in the snow. “Count them,” she said, sighing, sipping at her coffee loudly. I began counting the brown smudges, and as I did the photograph came clear – what it was, and how it could have happened. Ten elk half-submerged in the coldest water. Twisted and misshaped. Mid-step. Gape-mouthed. They had run miles. “Isn’t it called bugling?” I said, reaching to touch the turn of Lyla’s hip. “The way they talk?” “There are ten of them. It’s awful.” Lyla lifted my hand from her body, dropped it on the bed. “They shouldn’t put pictures like this in the paper.”

Half an hour later we were at the corner 7-11. I was buying Salems and a tall cup of coffee from Darren, the crooked-toothed clerk who saw me in that bland florescent space each morning. Lyla stood beside me waiting to buy a little plastic bag filled with vitamins. Darren winked at me, gave Lyla a look. I think he knew her from the bar, too. “Need a little pick me up?” Darren asked Lyla. “Late night with Carlton?” He winked at me again, and I felt proud and awkward as Lyla stepped forward shaking her head. “Do these things work?” she said, holding the bright little pills in front of Darren’s face. “I’ve got plenty to do today.” “Supposed to,” Darren said. “People buy them all the time.” “They work fine,” I said. “If you believe in them.” “Did you see the paper?” Lyla asked Darren, then reached down and grabbed a copy from the rack beneath the counter. She slapped it in front of him. The vapid sound

bounced the room. Lyla handed him a twenty, and he began to make change. “Those elk,” I said. “She’s very concerned.” “I’ve seen it already,” Darren said. “I was here when you bought a paper earlier.” “It’s a travesty,” she said, poking her long, pale finger into the photo. “I should write a letter.” “Animals can be stupid sometimes,” I said, and Lyla shot me a hard look that reminded me why I’d spent so many hours sitting in front of Ranniger waiting for Lyla to get off work and burst into the bar, ease onto the stool beside me, order a Jack neat and a Coors back. We’d give her a minute, let her light up a Camel and take a few long drags, then we’d talk like friends – Lyla, Ranniger and me – telling half-truths, espousing undercooked philosophies that we completely believed in for the hours before midnight, the time I usually left to go try and make my money playing backroom poker in a rented house south of downtown. “Jesus, Carlton,” Lyla said. “I thought you were a humanitarian.” Back at my apartment we stood on opposite sides of the kitchen, smiling and sizing each other up. The refrigerator hum wound the still air. Lyla slipped a cigarette between her freshly pink lips and asked me if I remembered why she’d stayed the night. “Because I wanted you to?” I hoped I was right. “You remember where my car is?” I shook my head, looked down at my scuffed wingtips. “Impound?” “The shop. Over in Garden City. I knew we shouldn’t have had those last three.” “Did I drive you there last night?” “And back here.” She shook her head, grinning complicitly. “Promised to take me out to my brother’s, too.” She swept

her arms across the room. “Jesus, Carlton. What kind of lives are these?” I looked where Lyla was pointing – dust-spotted windows, cobwebs shifting above the pale yellow cupboards, two dead bulbs in the chandelier. I needed to clean the place. “Well,” I said, shrugging, “here we are.”

The heater in my Plymouth was beautiful. It may have been the best thing I owned – the heater, not the car. The car ran fine, but the heater, on cold, gray February days like this, was reliably brilliant. By the time Lyla and I got half a mile up State Street, on our way to pick up Jack, her brother, the heater was shoving 85 degree air across our shins. This was a dull winter comfort. “Why haven’t I heard about this brother?” “Because I don’t talk about him at the bar,” she said, tapping the cracked plastic dashboard. “And I really only know you from the bar.” “Not any more, I guess.” “Nothing much has changed, Carlton.” Lyla looked right at me as I stared ahead through the windshield’s smear. “Sorry. I mean, it might, but it hasn’t.” “Sure.” “I do like you,” she said. “At least it seems like I do, you know.” Those were nice words. People didn’t really say things like that to me, and I drove quietly up State letting them linger in the cloistered warm air of the Plymouth. After a few minutes I said, “Did you know I had a brother who was still-born?” I steered us through latemorning traffic. The fact that I might have had another brother to play with and share stories was something I thought about every once in a while, usually when I was feeling a little ragged and lonely, wanting to be honest and confessional in small ways. “I’ve talked about it with Ranniger. It comes up sometimes.”

“Before you, or after?” “I was five – four or five – I guess.” A wet snow began to fall, slapping the windshield in a broad, intricate design. “I remember the pregnancy, Mom crying for a few months after. We had a funeral, this little tiny coffin, a service. I forget about that most of the time.” “How shitty would that be?” Lyla directed me to turn right at the light. “I mean, my brother has troubles, but still. I’m sorry, Carlton.” “My older brother remembers it better than me. He brings it up every once in while, but my parents, they never talk about it – maybe once or twice, that’s all.” “My brother,” Lyla said. “He had an accident. Back when we were teenagers.That’s why he’s living up here now. He hit his head pretty badly, and it confuses him now. He needs to live here.” “I didn’t know.” “I know you didn’t.” We rolled off State, sloshed and hissed along some side streets, then we were parked in front of a long, institutional single-story building. “I’ll be back in a minute,” Lyla said, pointing. “You can park over there if you want.” “This is where your brother is?” “Duh.” Lyla rolled her eyes and shut the door hard. The snow continued falling like soggy little napkins. I parked beside the building, slipped a cigarette between my lips and rubbed at my temples.

Sitting in the Plymouth watching that rush of snow made me feel like I was rising, like the whole car was lifting straight into the sky. It made me a little nauseous, and I began really imagining what my dead younger brother might have been like now. I looked over at the

empty passenger seat, felt the vinyl still warm from Lyla. I thought of him sitting there, my brother. My parents had actually given him a name. Garrison. This was my mother’s great-grandfather’s name. Garrison Allen Haley – Our Son. That’s what it says on his headstone. I stared into that weird drape of snow focusing and unfocusing my eyes, just sort of zoning out, letting the heater shove warm air over me. I felt real lonely, maybe lonelier than I ever have, but sort of proud of that loneliness, like it was what was holding me together. I thought for a minute about leaving, just driving somewhere through that snow, maybe up into the hills and the mountains where I figured it must really be dumping and covering everything evenly, but I wanted to see Lyla again, and I wanted to meet her brother. I opened the side window and lit another Salem, then said, looking up into the maze of sky, “Garrison, it makes you wonder who thought this up, doesn’t it?” I didn’t look over at where I imagined him, but what I saw in my head was a handsome kid, kind of burley and shaggy-haired with bright blue eyes and a genuine smile, a smile that let the world know that yes, things would go well, eventually. This was maybe how I wished I were. Yes, this is exactly how I wished I were. “What do you think of Lyla?” I said, a little jarred at what I was doing, but very willing to continue. “A cutey. More your age than mine. But fuck, I don’t mind. I need something, you know that.” Then a hunched little old man came scooting through the snow and up to my window, tapping loudly and breathing his sour breath through the gap I’d left open. “Do you know where you are?” he said. “What?” “Were you talking to me?” “Now?” I shrugged, begun to roll up my window. “No, I don’t think so.” “Some ugly weather, isn’t it?” he said, and walked away to get into a maroon Cadillac.

I waited for Lyla maybe half an hour. I hadn’t brought a book to read or anything. I was getting fidgety and bored,

plus I was wasting a lot of gas keeping myself warm there beside the slate-blue building. The Plymouth was not an economical car. I finished a third Salem, and went to find her.

The lobby was empty and dank and painted a salmon color, almost pink. It was like a student health center, or a Planned Parenthood office – lumpy vinyl furniture, Muzak songs filling the antiseptic air. It immediately made me uncomfortable in a knowing manner. I walked to the front desk where there was no nurse, or doctor, or attendant. I rang the little chrome bell, and I heard the quick swish of a nurse’s steps. I asked for Lyla and Jack, and the nurse led me down a quiet hall past bedrooms decorated with Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky and Tom Cruise posters. In one of the rooms a grown man played Space Invaders on a little black and white. In another a younger woman painted her toenails green and hummed a radio song. It all smelled like brown sugar and burnt coffee – misused and neglected somehow. The nurse was stoic, never once looking anywhere but straight ahead, like she was mad I’d asked her to guide me through that cinderblock maze. I had to admit, though, those bright halls would be a hard place to pass the hours, especially on a cold gloomy Tuesday in February.

In his room Jack was crying. He was a big, smooth-faced young man with rounded shoulders and a full chest, a foot taller than Lyla who stood beside him holding his meaty hand, stroking at his arm, telling him it was going to be fine. He looked something like I had imagined Garrison might have. Jack was a handsome man, which was off-putting and not quite what I expected, though I couldn’t say just what I was expecting. Jack’s head was bowed as he heaved long, heavy breaths into his warm, quite pleasant little room that smelled like incense or spray potpourri. The nurse walked away, and I stood in the hallway watching them. My heart jumped for Lyla. She looked so pretty there taking care of her brother. I wished she’d take my hand that way sometime. Lyla looked up at me as I stepped through the door. She may have been crying, too. “Carlton,” Lyla said, letting go of her brother’s hand and pointing at me. “This is Jack.”

“What’s going on, Jack?” I smiled, looked over Jack’s shoulder and through the picture window where thick snow fell and melted into a cement courtyard fountain. I extended my hand, but he didn’t take it. “I told him about the elk,” Lyla said, shrugging as Jack rubbed at his eyes. “Stupid me.” “It’s alright, Jack,” I said. “She made me look at it them first thing this morning. Gross stuff.” Jack stopped sobbing, and his eyes widened. He raised his head, but wouldn’t quite look at me. He gazed around his low-ceilinged room – at his pc and little boom box, at his plaid flannel bedcover and nightstand photograph of a smiling Lyla – like it was all brand new to him, like it had appeared magically. I wondered how it might feel to see things in that brandnew way. I stepped to Jack and put my hand on his shoulder. Lyla crossed her arms, shifted her glance from Jack to me, and I wondered, too, just how it was to be her watching a guy like me stand in that warm little room with she and her brother. I felt tight-chested and out of place until Lyla smirked and winked. I wiped little beads of hangover sweat from my forehead, bowing my head. “He wants to go see them, Carlton,” Lyla said. “The elk.” This sounded like a good idea to me. Jack turned, and his eyes were a shock of blue. He looked at me like we’d known each other for years. “Can we? Can we please?” he said. “Frozen elk are very super neat.” And he laughed wide-mouthed, almost silently. “I told him no way,” Lyla said, “and he starts bawling like a little kid.” “I’m sorry,” Jack said. “Carlton, let’s go see the elk.” “The reservoir’s not far,” I said. “They’ll let us take him, won’t they?” “I don’t want to see those dead things, plus I’ve got to be at work in two hours.” Lyla looked at her watch. “Showered and ready to go.”

“We can make it,” I said, and Jack started clapping. “It’s just up the hill, what, two or three miles.” “Jesus, you guys,” Lyla said, poking at Jack’s wide chest, making a little fist and punching at her brother playfully. “Get your stupid coat, Jack. I’ll find the cool nurse, tell her the story, get us a day pass. Carlton’s gonna have to bring your monkey ass back here, though.” “I can do that.” I winked at Jack. “Not a problem, whatsoever.” Lyla leaned out into the bright hallway. “So, buddy boys, come on. If we’re going, we’re going.”

The snow let up as we drove back down State Street onto Warm Springs Avenue and began climbing into the foothills. Lyla sat next to me, Jack in the back seat. “We don’t even know where they are,” Lyla said. “We’ll find them,” I said. “Right, Jack?” “Of course we will,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we find them?” “And shit,” she said. “It’s getting icy. I swear if we slide off the road.” “We won’t,” I said, though the snow had stuck to the road up the hill climb, and it was rutted and slick. “The Plymouth drives like a champ.” “I swear I can’t be late again,” she said, rubbing at her temples. “I need this job.” “Lyla, this’ll be good,” Jack whispered, reaching to set his big hand on her shoulder. “Snow bunny. Snow monkey. Snow Leopard. Snow elk.” The Plymouth did fine. I drove it slowly up the rise, around the easy bends that followed the river. There was very little traffic. Soon enough we were to the dam, driving over and stopping in a small parking lot on the

other side. We got out and walked to the cyclone fence that lined the water side of the lot. The spread of the reservoir lay flat and white at the base of the treeless hills. A slow sharp breeze crept in. “It looks frozen to me,” Lyla said. “You have a smoke?” I handed her a Salem, took one for myself. The stepped white banks of the hills were dotted brown and gray. “Smoking’s no good for you,” Jack said. “Don’t you watch the TV? Gum disease. Heart disease. Lung disease. You really shouldn’t do it.” “We can go now,” Lyla said. “We can get out of here any time, buddy boy.” She blew smoke at Jack’s face, and he waved it away. “We have to see the elk, Lyla.” “I bet they’re up around in the cove.” I pointed. “There’s a cove over there. We swim it in summertime. We should come in a few months.” I looked at Lyla, and she was smiling up at me, her freckled cheeks blanching pink, looking a lot like she did nights outside the bar, leaning in to hug me and say goodbye. “Skinny-dipping, Carlton?” she said. “Dirty boy.” “Yuck,” Jack said. “Let’s check the cove.” We piled back in the Plymouth. “It’s half a mile away,” I said, and we rolled, ice snapping beneath the tires.

The dead elk were in the cove, and there were more than ten of them. There must have been fifty, maybe eighty contorted, stiff bodies. Forty yards from shore. We stood on a landing above the frozen lake where we could see them very clearly – half-submerged, sprouting from the ice like dead black weeds. I don’t know what exactly I’d expected. Maybe that it would have been fun, and cool, and kind of morbidly entertaining to go up there and see those elk with Lyla and Jack. Maybe I was thinking that it was just nice to drive a little, get out and above town, be with people who seemed to want to be with me. Whatever it was I’d expected to feel, it was not what I

felt. What I felt was despair and age and an odd openended joy. I felt that I would die soon, maybe that night, or the next, or that something awful would happen to someone I knew – and that that all was okay. I don’t know, as soon as we stepped out of the Plymouth to stand there above the frozen cove and beneath the slate wash of sky to stare at those dead animals, I felt grateful and bottomless. It was nice, though. A good thing, really. Maybe it was just the hangover breaking, or the brace of wind that slipped off the hills and against my dry winter skin. Maybe it was Jack who stood next to me and began counting the elk, pointing his long index finger out over the slant of shore, whispering, “Fourteen, twenty-five, thirty-two.” Maybe it was Lyla, who asked me if I was going to the bar that night. “I imagine so,” I said, as Lyla came over and tugged at my pant pocket then put her arm around my waist. “Ranniger will want to hear about this.” “I’ll buy,” Lyla said, looking over at her brother. “And we’ll tell old Ranniger all about it.” “That’ll be good. I’ll like that.” I set my hand across her cold fingers hooking my beltloop. “Seventy-three elk, Lyla,” Jack said matter-of-factly. “Seventy-three dead elk, Carlton.” He rubbed his strong hands together, making a fist and punching the air three, four times. “Okay, Lyla? Yes, okay. You can go to work now.”

Matthew Wordell Boise, IDaho


TWO WEEKS IN BLACKFOOT I forgot how to live. Couches were for comfort and laziness was for coping. Excuses, poor behavior and more excuses. Baked lays and ginger ale, sometimes an episode of Doctor Who or Coed Confidential if I was feeling frisky. Uninspired, without motivation, I festered in stagnation. Chocolate was the color of my pipe, tobacco flew about like confetti. (I set fire to it) People don’t smoke for the head highs or for the relief, or for the escape They smoke to be close to death. The continuous clicking of a keyboard, the fake lives in fiction on television,

the self hatred of a man enamored by excuses led to my many deaths. Friendships devolved into hurtful titles, ‘The abusive ex boyfriend I never had’. Vehicles exploded and tuition payment was delayed. This stranded me in a distant town called Blackfoot, Summer classes had all too short a date and I was certain they would be akin to myself Failed. Mind you, this was week one of two. In the weird land of desert sage and snake rivers I was condemned to a jail sentence with my mirror for a cellmate. No one to talk to, with guilt starting to fill my lungs for I had left my pipe at home. Walks were frequent, challenges just continued piling on; A lack of work, a lack of money, A lack of friendship, meeting a long lost ex. Broken vehicles, forgotten hearts.

The climax came about when the sky was purple with night, and speckled by shining stars. My brown longcoat hugged me as I walked to the Snake River, my pockets were filled with nearby stones, and I was ready to become one with Virginia Woolf. Yet, God shot a star out of his galactic revolver and the bullet flew across the sky so brightly that all I could do was write about it, because some words must be said. Life is pain. It is the challenge and the struggle which our youth, myself included, has come to forget.

Technology broke children and molded them anew. With the drive to find all the answers, without any of the work, and the common complaint: “I have to walk?” Inspiration came in the form of laziness quelled and though I look at a harrowing future wherein everything looks so intense, so foreboding, I grab my margaritas, my paper and pencil and I say to that oncoming storm: “C’est la vie.”


who would have thought?

I live in college pizza joints, where vending machines are painted with stickers that make references far above my head.

Skepticism was everywhere.

Glass coke bottles and potato bacon slices, Lana Del Rey cursing and mesmerizing above, and a table you can play Pac-Man on: This is fucking heaven. July 4th is tonight, but I’m a bitter anglophile. Give me pizza instead of patriotism. It’s much easier to swallow, and has a lot less fat. Lumberjack Walrus by Austin D. Kirkham In my license I look like a New York queen, with a colorful scarf and hair far too long, for a nineteen year old man. On my eighteenth birthday I ordered a pipe, it came with free tobacco and I smoked as the old man I wanted to be. Class was everything. At nineteen I decided it was time to be young. As such I grabbed my awkward license and wallet, making way to the closest Chevron, hunting for a beautiful distraction named Camel. Three inches taller than tall, the attendant I met was a lumberjack among a forest of people tiny, green people too thin to be worth chopping. He looked like a walrus; his mustache was black and thick and his folded skin seemed almost grey. Tired eyes of cerulean seemed misplaced and he held the face of a man too tired to care, usually. Apparently I was unusual,

It was on his face, clouding up the air, and probably festered in the bitch behind me. Hunched over as the result of some physical defect he began canning over the card and sometimes he glanced at my hairy face. A frown was formed and with it came something unusual. Disappointment, that was pretty unusual too. The walrus lumberjack gas attendant spoke and his voice was a charcoal grill of exhaustion tinged with that word, disappointment. Sincerity spoke out with a tone I can only describe as broken and this man told me nearly everything he needed to say about the effects of carcinogens and that a kid like me knew better. Intrigued by the cautionary tale, likely inspired his own tragedies, I found myself reflecting for a moment. For a moment I pondered his frightful warning, a mental image of grey masses swelling and throbbing in my lungs or of a hole boring itself into the soft skin of my neck. I was still young. My card was swiped and I simply said some witticism about living once and how knowing better was some kind of shield. Afterwards I ignited one of the nicotine wands in my black Subaru and sighed in the smoke of contemplation, choking occasionally on words of warning which weren’t spoken. Shame crept in and I have yet to return to Chevron. When I drive by, I spy the stoic walrus and can only hope someone else listens, because he seems interesting if not absolutely heartbreaking. Sincerity should matter more.

WHAT’S NEXT? I walk the wasteland cold; where beauty erupted green and where beauty melted red and now all is grey. Gargantuan concrete pillars with glass broken by loud blasts that echo epochs later on the earholes of blackened burned skeletons and the tanned leathers of extinct little creatures who never had a chance in Hell, this is what remains.

others see the middle, but what comes next? My eyes shall not see the answer, I will scrawl the question with my eyeballs upon the rough concrete pillars nearby as a warning to those dying, those at the end of humanity. Answer that which I missed, prove to me all was not lost and the voices are real and that laughter is all there was.

Brown trees smoldered to the stump, cut short by the flame, with no more oxygen to give as life has come and gone again. Seems every day is an apocalypse: sometimes nuclear sometimes zombies sometimes disease - regardless, it all ends the same. I am a pair of floating eyeballs, consciousness among the departed and these brown orbs watch it all, tear ducts not intact. Perspective is tricky, is there anyone else out there? I should think so, for the whispers are not my own; I am just eyes in the ruins, not a mouth. Some days I hear laughter, other people do not cry though. I try my best to let the saltwater flow, but anatomy will not have a sniffle of it. My perspective is the end, others see the beginning,

LOST TO ATOMIC FIRE This wasteland of mine, it is all I love or have, is marked by men wearing torn tires. The sky is emerald smog, lost its periwinkle to the crimson, golden warheads of a bitch named Mother Russia. Vodka seals my throat, protects it from radiation burns. It is my last companion, for my friends are shadows on frayed wallpaper. This day I drank far too much, I know this as I’m asking a new question: Where is my old America? My eyes turn to ruined skycrapers, hanging concrete towers, grey buildings with cracks like spider webs, and lines of halted white Studebakers. Why did I press the big red button?

Langley Fox Los Angeles, California

I am an artist who mainly draws photorealistic illustrations using all different weights of graphite or ink with the occasional hint of watercolor paint. My pieces lean towards a more mystical eerie vibe with a feminine hand and an innocent twist. I love portraits, animals, feathers, arrows, and things that take me out of my comfort zone and allow me to learn and improve my skills. My drawings are here to stimulate your mind into creating your own story around them. They have imagination and fantasy about them but also technicalities. What once were my thoughts can now be taken over by your thoughts. This last year as been a world wind of traveling from coast to coast and continent to continent. I had the pleasure of making new beautiful friendships, working hard, playing hard, laughing hard, and enjoying this ongoing crazy life I have been given. My drawings have improved, my social skills have also, and my mind is listening to its own advice.


“Please, Sylvia, give me a moment to think.” Nobody but Peter calls me Sylvia anymore. When I took my job, I was given the option of going by my given name or coming up with an alias, and I had absolutely no hesitation in deciding that a new name would probably make the whole thing a bunch easier. I chose Sapphire, but Lenny, my boss, told me it sounded too much like a stripper’s name and, despite common misconceptions, that was not the kind of thing they were going for. He said I should choose a name that I would be happy with outside of the strange alternate reality that existed within my job. So I chose Amelia.

short of actually going there. The best description for it I have ever heard is that it feels like therapy and support groups moved into a closed strip club where half of the customers refused to leave. At Crybabies, there are multiple rooms, each with a performer and a theme. These themes describe the performance the performer gives. Each of these rooms is customized to create an atmosphere that is conducive to the theme that the performer works with, but in each of them, the customer sits down somewhere and watches the performer as they put on a display of emotions that go with the theme.

I took the job at Crybabies two years ago after leaving college because I was totally out of money. Peter and I had just started dating and everything was still in a very casual place between us, so he pretended to be totally fine with my decision about this because he assumed right that he was more into me than I was him and didn’t want to fuck things up.

It wasn’t my best timing, but I just told Peter that I don’t think the plan we’ve had the last year for our lives isn’t going to work anymore. The basis of this plan is that I would spend one more year working at Crybabies to save up some money for us then we would move away somewhere. When we made this plan we didn’t know where that place was going to be, but each suggestion that either of us came up with was always somewhere pleasant and quiet like Salt Lake or Omaha or upstate New York. Peter has always been a terrified man, but

Crybabies has been described in many different ways, but none of them really seem to do it justice

the longer he lives, the more power this fear has over him, and I think he is most terrified by the idea that his life, and me as a part of it, will change in a way that he has no control over. “Where is this coming from? I thought we agreed on this Sylvia.” “I don’t think either of us is the same person we were when we made that plan Peter. I just don’t think it will work anymore.” Peter must know that this is right but he would never admit it. Though he has always been scared of things he has no control over, there was a time when he would use this fear as motivation, but now he sinks to the bottom of it. When we started dating, I was actually drawn how emotionally Peter would react to things. It came off as some type of raw passion and I thought it was incredibly sexy. Now, however, this passion has disappeared and been swallowed up by self-loathing and apathy. While this change has happened in him, I have been forced to be strong for the both of us. I am used to this role and have been performing it for almost my entire life. My mother died when I was young and my father was left with the responsibility of raising me. He was a good man, but he was broken to his core. He sacrificed any chance he had of personal improvement in order to give me the best life he could, and every day he was on this Earth became more of a defeat of his soul than the previous one. Every day at work I see men just like Peter or my father come to Crybabies looking for a sense of control over the sadness that has taken over their lives. I have sympathy for them, I really do, but each time I see a new one, it makes it harder for me to come home to a man with the same defeat in his heart. Peter doesn’t even reply to that, but instead looks at me with an expression that says that he heard what I said but wishes he hadn’t. Every day he looks more tired than he did the day before and today is no different. He looks like he could pass out from exhaustion at any moment and it would be a better fate than staying awake. I walk over to him and kiss his forehead. I still love him, and it’s moments like this when I can feel sympathy for him again, but it is getting harder to.

With that, I walk out the front door of our sun-faded lime green apartment and down the narrow stairs to the parking lot and get in my ’93 Ford Explorer, which is in slightly worse shape than our apartment, but in the same general neighborhood of shabbiness. My drive to work is always exactly long enough for one cigarette. I light it as I start the car and roll down my window and flick it onto the pavement as I drive into the parking lot. I always park in the spot next to the towering purple sign spelling out Crybabies in neon lettering because no customers park that far out in the parking lot, and I’ve always heard it’s safer to park under a light of some kind to deter break-ins. When you walk inside, there’s a front room filled with lounge chairs, couches and tobacco smoke drifting up to the ceiling. In here they give you a menu so that you can order drinks or food, but the main purpose of the menu is actually so you can decide how you will live out the bulk of your Crybabies experience. I walk around to the back entrance and push open the door into a dimly lit dressing room. I don’t actually need to change at all for my performance because I like to have the whole “girl next door” thing going on for me. I’ve been told it makes the whole thing more convincing to my customers. I walk past the other girls back here and say hi to a few as I pass them, but don’t stop to talk to any until I see Natalie, whose real name is Vivien, but that comes off as way to sophisticated for the performance she gives. Natalie’s theme is “HE LIKES ME TOO!” which entails her acting out the feeling of the first time you find out your teenage crush feels the same way about you. On stage, she perfectly demonstrates an almost idiotic, bubbly happiness that only idiots would think was real, but she has lots of regular idiots who come in whenever she is working. Backstage, however, she is the most cantankerous twenty-eight year old woman I’ve ever met, and the fact that she makes a living pretending to be happy has always made me feel like there must be a god out in the void and he must think he’s the funniest guy around. “Hey Natalie, how are you doing tonight?” I sit on the counter where she is going through the finishing touches of her makeup.

“Just fucking great, Amelia. I think I slept three hours last night and I’m so excited to be here instead of my bed.” Natalie is in the MBA program at the nearby college, which is funded by working at Crybabies. She frequently talks about how she was running on fumes constantly from the conflicting schedules of school and our place of employment and I am always amazed how it never seems to have a single effect on her performance once we exit the dressing room and are among customers. She puts down the bubblegum colored lip-gloss she just finished applying and stands up and looks at me. “Well, ready to get this shit over with?” We walk out of the dressing room into a room filled with large red leather chairs and couches, arranged in small groups around coffee tables adorned with classy looking drinks, almost all of which are made out of some dark-colored alcohol like whiskey. There are around forty people, probably five women and the rest men, scattered around the room, mostly sitting down, but some of them standing in small groups or by themselves. This is always my least favorite part of the job. We are supposed to mingle among these potential customers and find ones that might be interested in our performances. I never really struggle to find enough people to watch me, so this step in the process always feels extraneous to me. I scan the room and see the familiar faces of previous customers, a few of them regulars. I can tell it will be a pretty busy night just by seeing the number of these regulars here tonight, and I know that there are even more waiting in their seats in my performance room already, not wanting to socialize at all before the performance. I think if I came to Crybabies as a customer I would be one of those people too. I have never quite understood people who have a need to talk to strangers just because they’re in the same physical location as them. I see Hector sitting in one of the leather chairs, staring up at the ceiling, holding a glass in his right hand with only a few sips of whiskey left and is now mostly ice, a Marlboro held between two fingers of the same hand. I knew he would be sitting here exactly like this before

I even saw him because he is here every Friday night following the same routine. I walk over to him and sit on the arm of the chair and touch Hector’s face softly. To anyone looking at us, this must look like I’m flirting with him in the typical “Hey baby, want a dance?” sort of way, and I want it to look this way because this is how we’re supposed to act with the customers, but Hector and I have gained an understanding over the times he has been coming to see my performance. “Hey Hector, how are you today?” “It’s been a year now, Amelia.” “Oh shit, I’m sorry Hector. How are you holding up?” “I don’t know if you could qualify it as ‘holding up,’ to be honest.” Hector had lived with his father in a small apartment over the family’s auto shop since his girlfriend had kicked him out. It was far from an ideal situation for either of them, but according to Hector, it was actually working out quite well. The two of them were closer than they had ever been, and Hector actually really enjoyed helping out in the auto shop when it was needed. Hector’s father would go to bed early after a long day working in the shop, and Hector would use this opportunity to sneak down to the shop to smoke weed. He would sit down on the ground with his back against the wall and roll a joint then smoke it. The morning after one of the first times Hector did this, his dad remarked that it smelled a bit like weed in the shop the next day, but figured it must have been coming from one of the cars they were working on. After this, however, Hector would do his best to conceal the smell by lighting a few scented candles when he smoked. He figured that, at worst, this would just smell like an air freshener the next day. One of these nights, Hector got a phone call from a friend that Hector had not seen in a long time, who was in town for the night, and Hector left to meet up with him. The two of them went to the bar they would frequent back in their glory days and stayed until closing time. After goodbyes were exchanged and Hector finally made his way home, it was around four in the morning. As he drew close to home, he could

tell something was wrong. He saw the flashing lights of multiple fire trucks and police cars closing off the street, but he didn’t see the shop anymore. As he got closer, he started sprinting until he was restrained by a cop. After some frantic yelling, he explained who he is, which is when the cop told him that the shop had burned down and his father never made it out. “You know, Hector, don’t even worry about paying for anything tonight. It’s all on me.” “Thanks, Amelia, but I wouldn’t feel right. I appreciate it though.” His voice is cracking. By Friday, when Hector comes in every week, he’s a bit of a mess, but this week it’s different. He normally holds it together outwardly, but has obvious signs of being absolutely exhausted under his eyes and in his voice, but today nothing is held together at all. He looks up into my eyes, “I come to you because the only time I can stop thinking about how bad I fucked up is by thinking about the times when my dad fucked up, but that doesn’t seem quite right today.” My performance usually draws in an interesting mix of people working through a wide range of issues. I knew I had a winner the moment I thought of the title for my performance and scribbled it on a bar napkin a few weeks into working at Crybabies. “MY DAD’S DUMB FUCKING FACE.” I see that I only have a few minutes until the performance is supposed to start and stand up next to Hector. “Hey, I’ll see you in there.” I smile at him and walk to my performance room. My performance is usually an angry one, where I act out feelings of rebellion and angst by stomping around in a circle while the customers look at me and usually turn red in the face thinking about their own fathers and how he has sorely disappointed them through the years. I walk through the heavy metal door into the room and proceed to a stool in the center of the room facing a semicircle of fold up chairs, which is meant to replicate the feeling of a support group in some church basement,

and sit down. There are already a few people sitting in some of the chairs, and as it draws closer to the time my performance is set to start, more customers, including Hector, file in and fill the chairs, sitting quietly, staring at me and waiting for me to begin. Normally I begin by standing suddenly with a groan or a sarcastic humph or air. Today though, I just sit and stare straight ahead. I want to start, but I am frozen. For as long as I have been doing this performance, I have kept it purely fictional. I have never let my actual father enter my mind while I do this, but today I am thinking of him. I think of the days he would come home beat and broken from his factory job. I see him smoking a cigarette in a chair on our front porch and how he invited me to join him on my eighteenth birthday. He was a broken man, but a good one. Finally, I think about Peter at home, and how much he resembles my father. He is not completely broken, but it is starting to happen, and I’m sure that I have done it to him. I know he won’t leave me and will accept what we talked about before I left, but a part of me wishes that when I get home his belongings would be gone—replaced by a note taped to our bedroom door. I sit in my chair staring blankly, and I begin sobbing softly. There is complete silence from the customers watching me except for uncomfortable shifting in seats the longer this goes one. Eventually one stands up and walks out, then another followed by the remainder of those still seated until I am alone except for Hector, who silently walks up to me and softly puts his hand on my face.

Kara Haupt Portland, Oregon

“Kara, I believe in you more than I believe in anything else.�

Babe Vibes

How did Babe Vibes come to be?

Babe Vibes is a name I came up with near the end of 2013. I had no idea what it was or what I wanted to do with it — other than it was about women. I began making art journal pages with feminist themes and tagging them with #babevibes on Instagram. Over the course of the next seven months, I would write about and talk with other women about my ideas, to try to get to the heart of what I was doing. In July I debuted the site! Also, personally, Babe Vibes was propelled by a lot of situations in my life that caused me to feel disempowered. I came face to face with myself and the all the wrong things I had been taught by society — of how to be a woman and how to fight — and wasn’t okay with how I was made to feel. Babe Vibes, and working on it, is a huge reason I’ve consistently stood up and fought for myself this year. It’s been really incredible.

What is the Babe Vibes mantra? Call yourself babe!

How do you feel Babe Vibes influences others? Babe Vibes, from the beginning, began to be a thing I wasn’t controlling. Women and girls would use the #babevibes tag on Instagram and post selfies of themselves. It was fucking awesome. I started to realize I was making something that resonated with other women and that was a really amazing feeling. There’s a lot of rad-as-fuck feminist media out there, but none that specifically address empowerment and the vulnerability and sisterhood that are necessary to survive as a woman in a patriarchal society. I think Babe Vibes offers relief. Sometimes we just need a “I feel that too.”

Is Babe Vibes focused on empowering women specifically? Or are men apart of the Babe Vibe influence as well? ...

...How can others get involved? Babe Vibes is for women. Men don’t need empowerment. Men can read it, I don’t care. I just don’t want to hear their opinion, because it’s entirely irrelevant to what I’m doing. Babes can get involved in all sorts of ways! I’m always looking for contributors for essays or even product collaboration. I’m interested in representing the variety of babe identities and artistically interested in figuring out compelling ways to do that beyond just photos + text on the web. Mmm, describe your perfect day as a Babe. Up early! Coffee at the corner coffeeshop with my friend Mei. Working on Babe Vibes or other things. Adventure out of the city, with another cup of coffee and all my babes. And then just hanging out and drinking and laughing with my friends. Simple, productive, important. That’s the perfect day.

How the last year has changed you and your art? I think I hinted at this above, but the last year was rough, but also incredibly positive in figuring out my vision and work ethic. I talk about this in the (free!) zine we created for Babe Vibes about self-care, but this was the first year of my life where I took my negative self-talk about my work and my work ethic (my ability to accomplish and create) and turned it on its head. I used to be really hard on myself, thinking it was the “tough love” I needed to experience. Except it wasn’t loving and it wasn’t productive. I did a project at the beginning of the year where I wrote myself a pep talk every day for 45 days, called 45 Pep Talks, and it was there I realized I needed to speak to myself more constructively. Awhile later, I bravely cut people out of my life that were hurting me. I don’t know if I would have been able to do that if I hadn’t started practicing listening to myself and my needs. When you make work about yourself and your experiences, being in tune with your boundaries is absolutely necessary. I think feeling more empowered has significantly improved the quality of my work, and also the output.​ Prints for sale: or

Contact instagram: @theinspiredcollective

In Babes We Trust

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