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027: The Joshua Tree
Wherein I discuss a tragic story and cautionary tale for artists...
Welcome to week 27 of the Draw or Die Newsletter. We have a lot of new members (Welcome aboard!) thanks in part to the excitement around our #Promptober Drawing Challenge. If you hadn’t heard yet, we’ve teamed up with some great brands for sponsored prizes. You can get all the info over at promptober.com Or here’s a recap of how it works!
And we don’t forget PROPSTOBER. I really need your help with this too, if you’re drawing or not! In October we will ALL rally to support other artists out there who are taking part in drawing challenges like #inktober and #drawtober by leaving nice comments and “props” on their art. Something like 80% of Artists QUIT during the October Drawing Challenges, and we want to combat that and support artists everywhere. We’re all in this together!
On The Road Again…
I will be in Los Angeles, CA from Monday 24th-Thursday 29th, attending VidSummit for my day job. I would invite any local L.A. list members over to the Sheraton Gateway Hotel (by LAX) in the evenings/night for impromptu Drink-n-Draw. Drinks on me. You might even meet some famous Youtube stars I know.
If you’re interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Now on this week’s topic…
Death, the reminder… the motivator.
Odd that it just so happened that my new “Memento Mori” worry coin came from J.L. Lawson today, and then shortly after I got word of a death in the family, a very shocking story.
Before I go on, I just want to preface, just because I have a skull for a logo and collect coins with them, doesn’t mean I have some morbid fascination with death. I’m a stoic, so I see death as the end of a story. And the ultimate motivator and reminder that our time here is limited. I wrote about this back in week 6.
I listed there some names I often think about and now I add another name to the list.
My cousin Brian. A cautionary tale.
Let’s start at the end of his story.
Brian was apparently on a lot of drugs, tried to rob a gas station with a fork.
And when police arrived, they told him to stand back and drop what he was holding (a fork) and he charged the police officer.
They shot him dead on the spot.
Or so that was the story that was told to me today through the family grapevine.
Now the beginning…
The first time I met Brian was when he came to visit with my Aunt from Southern California in the late 1985 or 86. (Stranger Things Times!) Now, we lived in Southwestern Pennsylvania, my Dad was a very blue collar auto worker at the Volkswagen plant. We were not poor by any measure, but Brian and my Aunt rolled into Southwest PA like they were Hollywood royalty.
I like this version of Brian. My rich cousin from California! I was showing him my world. Adventures in the woods. Fishing in the cursed Youghiogheny river.
He was too afraid to hop trains with me. Yes, I was 10 years old and hopping trains.
My imagination was on fire when I was kid. He didn’t want to leave. His life was “boring” in the desert where he came from and all he ever knew.
Middle Story… the young jerk
My family had to move to Southern California after the Volkswagen plant closed in Pennsylvania in 1988. And while we got our house in order, we stayed at my Aunt’s house and I slept in Brian’s room. It was not the Brian I remembered. He treated us like we were poor and beneath them. Like we’d never experienced “wealth” or fine things. He was the spoiled little rich kid. It was weird.
The Side Plot…
The only reason they were actually “rich” was my other cousin, Patrick, had been hit by a Power truck when he was a kid, and the family got this huge settlement. Patrick as an adult had to use a cane. He once picked us up from school in a Maserati that had a very loud muffler and I remember feeling embarrassed.
Patrick moved to Los Angeles and lived big in a Penthouse. He contracted AIDS and battled with that a long time before succumbing to the epidemic. And that was the end of Patrick’s story.
Pretty early on in living in California, my Dad had a massive heart attack at the age of 44. He survived, thankfully. When the family was gathered at my house and worrying, and I was pretty upset, I was reminded to day how Brian stood in a corner and quiet laughed and pointed at me when I was crying. It enraged me. How could you be happy that my Dad almost died?, I thought.
I hadn’t spoken to him since we were teenagers. I’m not very close to my distant or estranged family. I heard through the old family grapevine that Brian went on to a local film school. Got a job at the local TV station in the desert. Got married and had a daughter. Good for him! Life goes on.
And then things got REALLY crazy…
In 2013 Brian started messaging me on Facebook. We exchanged some pleasantries. It seemed like his life was normal?
Then a couple weeks later, I got a strange call while I was at work and he was babbling incoherently that people were out to get him, and there was a man at his fence with a chainsaw. I was concerned and reached out to my Aunt who was also very concerned about his welfare.
Somewhere in Brian’s story, he turned to Meth. The drugs kind of melted his brain. And I was informed he was also at the right age where men can have psychotic breaks.
His wife had left him, and stopped him from seeing his Daughter after this.
The calls got worse. When Brian called me to tell me he knew I was behind a plot to give his brother AIDS and accused me of murdering him, enough was enough. I full blocked him out of my life. I alerted my Aunt and the local police to do a welfare check.
This is why I’m not close with my extended family 😂.
Why am I telling you all of this???
Here we are, 10 years later. And I’m told this story today.
And it makes me think of how delicate each of our own stories are.
Brian should have had it made. A rich white kid from SoCal? And somehow his story shifted to drugs, a psychotic breakdown, and death by cop.
At some point he had dreams and ambitions. He yearned to be creative. His interests on Facebook say “portrait art”, “songwriting”.
He didn’t WANT it to be this way. At some point he made his facebook url: “love.hope.forgiveness.eternal”
Brian died at the age of 44.
And that was the end of his story.
I don’t know where Brian’s story went wrong. But I can’t help but think, how close are we all from turning a page in our own stories and falling into some sad ending like this? It seems unbelievable. I’m sure he would have thought so too.
Surround yourself with GOOD people.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Tomorrow is NOT promised.
The Weekly Drawing Prompt
This week’s prompt is… A Joshua Tree
“Joshua tree forests tell a story of survival, resilience, and beauty borne through perseverance. “
Don’t forget we have Daily Drawing Prompts to keep your pencil and mind moving. Try it for free.
See you soon…