the next missive, 8/22/3, atlanta, georgia

first things first. if you don’t want to know, please reply to this message and let me know, and i’ll stop sending these interminable missives to you. sometimes i feel kind of guilty dumping all over my friends, and i’d rather not annoy anyone i’m fond of.

second things second. the miracle list. i still need things if you’ve got them or know someone who does. i’m more than happy to pay for them with a painting, but what money i make ends up going to the bills immediately; i’m sure the story’s the same with you. so let’s barter. here’s my list:

a computer; i’m still borrowing peoples’ computers wherever i go, and i’ve got this dynamite printer that needs being hooked up so i can make my own prints. it doesn’t have to be fast, but it does have to run windows 98.

a new vehicle. i’m hoping for an rv, but a van or a station wagon would do just fine, a truck; something large enough to haul my stuff, something old, reliable, and not necessarily pretty. if a miracle were to occur around a vehicle, it would be so that i could actually live in it, which would obviate my next need.

a place to stay in september and october. i’ll be in the atlanta area doing art shows and teaching for 2 months starting august 25th, and then i’m off to other places for the winter. but while i’m in town, i need to stay somewhere that’s got enough room to paint in. it could be anywhere within a 2-hour drive of atlanta. the last time i was in atlanta, i stayed in a friend’s basement apartment (thanks again, julie), and traded interior decoration (faux painting) for the rent, but my usual payment is a painting of the house. if you know of anyone who needs a house sitter, or has a spare room in their house, or is looking for a renter and isn’t finding one, please let me know right away.

okay, that’s my miracle list. the best way i know to work a miracle is to tell everyone about it and wait for the miracle to happen thru someone. it’s been working so far, and i’m continuing to trust it. don’t take my requests personally, please, because i’m asking everyone, and being at peace with whatever comes of it.

so, on to the missive. sorry for not numbering the current missive. i’ve lost track. i’ve been travelling for 7 months now, and like breaking a mirror, my life has shattered and i can’t put together what or when or where or who or how anymore. the why part i’ve never understood anyway.

this is a good thing. okay, i have a slight tendency toward exaggeration, so let’s not quite to go to shattered. how about unglued? discombobulated? unravelled? anyway, it’s a positive factor in my life.

when i decided to completely remake my life, back in january of this year, it was because of my mindset. i was kind of freaked out by my world. just like all those entertainers who’ve passed recently, a number of my friends and acquaintances decided to leave the planet this year. i’d been seeing way too many of my friends sicken and die, and feeling the deadline of mortality looking over my own shoulder, i decided that living now is better than waiting to live, and tons better than waiting to die. (my philosophy argues for waiting until the absolute last moment to die, and if possible being late for that.)

i took a look at the people around me who were slaving their lives away, complaining that they’d do this or that if they ever got a break, and i looked at the people who’d died in the middle of their lives, and i looked at me, right in the center, and decided to do something about it. i’d already quit my day job (going on three years now, thanks), already freed myself up from ordinary constraints, but there i was still scurrying around with a daybook scribbled black with things to do. even with no day job, i was stuffed to the gills with meetings, phone calls, deliveries, commissions, deadlines. i was working 32×8, getting 3.5 hours of sleep, always harried, always out of money.

and that’s just not good enough. it just wasn’t good enough for me to be living the same life i was living as a corporate droid without any of the benefits of quitting my day job to live the life i love. so i quit my other ‘job’ as well, sold my possessions and moved out of my artist’s loft, and embarked into the wide unknown. and you’ve been following my exploits since january.

it’s a universal law that you take your baggage with you. the geographic solution is good for lots of things, but it’s not good for leaving your troubles behind. you’re still you, wherever you go, whatever you do. that’s the hardest part about being you to change. changing your attitude is the second hardest. but i’ve learned to abandon some of the traits i thought were mine while i’ve been out and about. i learned to be more comfortable with the way others have set their lives up, and what they think is normal. i’m not quite so overwhelming anymore (until i slip back into my old ways). i’m a little softer and gentler. a little older and wiser. and i’ve got just a tad fewer issues. perhaps i’m not as loud and obnoxious; it’s hard to tell.

this last 7 months i’ve been in barcelona spain and dublin ireland, holiday florida, decatur georgia, rural east haddam connecticut, charlottesville virginia, and now rabun gap, in the north georgia mountains. in every case but this i’ve been staying either with friends, or with artists who became friends. this is the very first time i’ve been alone by myself since january.

the changes that take place when i’m by myself are neither subtle nor earthshaking. i get very quiet inside myself. but this is pent up talking, because when i’m with people again i become a motor mouth and dominate the conversation until i run out of steam. my thoughts change when i’m alone for a few weeks, and i reach a well of more serious things to think about. not that my thinking becomes more cosmic, just less jumbled. there’s less noise; a few of my internal voices take a break and i can hear deeper thoughts coming thru. and my dreams change. i start getting powerful stories, the meaning of which are very clear.

the first few days of being alone is like quitting smoking. there’s that constant conscious need for a hit, the centering of my addiction and the revelation that everything i am is wrapped around it. i spend a couple of days struggling with this, with the negative feelings about myself that i normally cover over with the crumbs from feeding my addiction, with my self judgment that if i need a crutch then i must be crippled. but then i get over it. i go into action, and can feel all the junk sweating out of my pores. i can feel my brain clearing.

it turns out that a lot of my personality was borrowed from someone whose style i admired long ago, and while it’s a revelation to find out that my wide gestures come from my friend jim, and my laugh comes from this amazing woman i worked with years ago, it’s a bit mortifying to realize that i picked up my habit of dire predictions from someone i don’t like anymore, and my every-other-word-expletive habit from my years in ireland, and my attitudes toward makeup and clothes as a reaction to my sister the professional model. these traits are part of me now, but they weren’t always, and since they’re not me, i don’t have to keep them. so that’s a lot of what i’ve been trying to do this past half-year, get rid of as much as possible that’s not necessary to living my life the way i’d like to. less is better.

as far as art goes, i’ve been spending as much time painting as sleeping, and socializing, and sitting thinking, and working on “the best selling demotivational handbook, lazy is good – quit your day job”. the book in fact is almost ready to start handing around to people, and i’m going to call on some of you to give me your opinions real soon now. the table of contents and the proposal is almost ready to send out to prospective agents and publishers. it’s been so much fun writing it, wriggling in anticipation of how people are going to react. it’s written like one of my emails (oh no), has short little topics on everything from the fact that your employer is actually an alien vampire from hell, to how you can be lazy and still keep an orderly house.

as far as my art goes, back to the point, i haven’t been producing at my normal speed, given the circumstances. when i was living in atlanta, i was so busy that weeks would go by without my touching a brush (which meant that my brushes, already full of paint from the last time i used them, have done dried and gone to heaven, and i’ve got to spend the first full painting day getting all the gunk off them so i can get them full of paint again).

that’s part of the reason i left atlanta, so that i could set myself up in a place where all i had to do was paint. so, now, i have none of the obligations that used to drive me crazy in atlanta. i don’t have a daybook thick with appointments, i don’t have phone calls and letters and visits. i don’t have a huge support system of friends. i don’t have many physical needs, so i’m not always out shopping or eating somewhere. it’d be monklike, except that i don’t do monk anymore since that time in medieval france when i lived in a monastery (perhaps i’ve discussed this remembered lifetime with you already, but i can fit most of the people who are important to me in this life into a french medieval monastery. tell me where you must have fit it – were you a gardener, did you work in the scriptorium, were you a medic? and which of us was the abbott? it wasn’t me, but i wonder about these things.).

i wish i had the time or the space to write about all the little things that have happened since i went to connecticut in june for the current round of residencies. when i was in connecticut, i stayed in an old farmhouse with a bunch of other artists, each to our own room, with separate studio space spread around the farm. unlike some residencies, where everyone keeps to themselves, we made an immediate, close family there. everyone had their own personal issues and crises to work thru, and we all helped each other deal with whatever it was – love, betrayal, hatred, revenge, the cops, an apparent suicide. i’d love to write a story about the drama and the conflicts, but most eveyone concerned is still alive, so i don’t think i’ll chance it.

it was a time of intense drama. the tone of the house was so high that everyone but me sat in the living room and watched 2 episodes of the soprano’s first season every night in order to unwind. i’d be in my room reading, and would hear gunshots and screams every ten minutes. (actually, the only thing i really didn’t like about the sopranos was that horrible whiny manipulative mother. did they write her out in a later season? i hope so.)

it’s the only residency i’ve been on where the group dynamics were as important as the painting i was there to do. our friendship, the ability to empathize with someone else’s problems, the idea that artists put themselves out there to experience more than normal people and then turn it into art, the vast insecurity about doing what you want rather than what you’re supposed to do, the intense need to know you’re not on a dead end street – these were more important than isolating myself into my studio. some of the most incredible things happened around the kitchen table that month. if i could write, i’d make a novel about it. in fact, we had a writer there, and we were all set to figure out the bones of a murder mystery, but real life intervened, the cops came out, we all got arrested, and i’m writing this from my jail cell (okay, no).

in virginia, i stayed with an old friend of mine from college. the famous jim bianchi. he’s lived in the same student-type digs for the last 25 years, paying about the same rent, and modelling my ideal lifestyle. jim is as allergic to day jobs as i am, and has made a living having 37 irons in the fire and trusting to luck and his own brains.

i went to college in charlottesville, and dropped out with a year or two to go (my mistake: i took only the courses that interested me for 3 years, and when it came time to graduate, discovered that not only had i never declared a major, but i also neglected to take any prerequisite courses. in order to graduate, i was going to have to put in 18 months of 101 level courses. so i quit), and lived in charlottesville as a townie for the next few years, until my little jaunt to ireland when i was 22. jim was also a townie, and we became good friends, and kept in touch, and while i did the corporate day job thing, thinking perhaps i’d be accepted and some smart person would see my abilities and make me ceo, jim had no such delusions, and made himself a lifestyle that would support his artistic sensibilities.

jim’s is a dark cave of a basement apartment a stone’s throw from the university, the walls filled with canvases, clothesline strung up at intervals with painted canvases pinned up to dry, only enough space for a couch and 2 chairs, a computer, and a tv set. it’s a very comfortable cave, and jim is the consummate host.

the whole time i was there, i was served coffee when i got up, my comfort was solicited thruout the day, our days were spent painting and doing things jim thought i would enjoy, and everywhere we went he said ‘we’. it was ‘our house’, and ‘we’re going here or there’, and what were ‘we’ going to do that evening. this is extraordinary, because for 6 months whenever i’ve heard ‘we’ it always meant ‘they’. for 6 months i’ve been a visitor, a stranger, someone who was going to get up and leave any minute now, someone to only tangentially include in others’ plans.

but at jim’s i was so included that i almost forgot that i’m a gypsy road artist with no fixed abode. before my month at jim’s i hadn’t thought of settling down again. now i’m looking forward to it. even for a casual visitor like me, being made to feel so at home is overwhelmingly important. home is not just where your hat is. actually, my home is right here inside my body, but that’s kind of hard to decorate.

so imagine my shock when i got to the hambidge center in the north georgia mountains. it’s wonderfully remote; i don’t have cellphone coverage, there’s no tv, and there’s usually a line for the computer. i’m in a whole house all by myself, and when there’s a noise outside at night i know it’s a tree falling in the woods, and never have to think of prowlers or dangerous bad people types. it might be a bear snuffling at the door, but hey there’s no food here. there’s a cook, and she feeds us at night, so all the residents basically starve all day anticipating dinner. i’ve got a six of guinness in my fridge, some coffee single bags (not vile), and a couple of peaches ripening, but nothing for a bear to eat, so i’m fine.

there are 6 or so residents, mostly from georgia, but always someone from the southwest, or someone from europe. we’re all very isolated from each other, but we get together for dinner every night. it’s totally different from how it was in connecticut, with a farmhouse full of crazy artists rehearsing “peyton place chapter 2: the twilight zone on prozac”, or at jim’s, where it was just us artist buddies scheming our next painting session or bickering over colors and techniques.

it’s serious sensory deprivation here in north georgia. i have only my art for company. i have only half finished projects stuck at that difficult stage where it’s too done to start over, and too bad to want to finish (a common stage, it passes). i have only a half written book that needs lots of work to turn it from something that reads like this missive to something you actually want to read. i have only half a head of hair left because i’m tearing it out all the time wondering what i’m going to do about it.

but that’s beside the point. the great good thing about being in the north georgia mountains in august is that it rains every day, it gets cool at night, i’ve got a quilt on my bed that i wrap up in when i go to sleep, i can hear every raindrop, every twist of breeze thru the trees towering above me, and i can sleep all night, or work all night, or sleep all day, or stare out the windows. i can even hang out and paint naked, which is a really strange thing to do. it’s like swimming naked; everything is different about it, and it feels like i’ll get caught any second. however, i’m one of those kids who suffered with dreams about being in school in my underwear, so anytime i can take my clothes off and do something normal, i feel like i’m taking back my right to have skin. okay, more than you want to know, i’m sure. so i’ll shut up now.

anyway, my time here in the mountains is finished. i come home on sunday and step right out into a choral concert we’ve been rehearsing (i’ve been driving out of the mountains and down to atlanta once a week for a month now, just for choir practice). in september and october i’m teaching art, and am doing various art shows around atlanta, and then in november i’m off to housesit in france, and then in january i’m off to florida to do the art shows there. and then i’m back in atlanta for the spring season in april and may. after that, who knows? if i’m not settled, and am still moving around, i’ll be asking you if you know of anyplace to stay where you are, and will be thinking of painting alaska, hawaii, china, the desert southwest.

in the meantime, i’ve got a fabric painting to finish, 3 koi pieces (all very small and experimental), 3 commissions, and only 2 days to finish them before i have to pack up and leave on sunday morning. so, you all take the rest of today off because i’ve already worked too hard and you need a rest.

love jeanne


From: “exhusband”
To: “jeanne colin” <>
Subject: Re: the next missive
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2003 15:11:13 -0400

first things first for me too… an apology for blowing up so at you on your voicemail. this isnt to say that i dont feel that it was justified, but rather that i should have spent some time calming down before calling.


on to your missive. i do not mind receiving them at all, however i wish that you would send then to, as Linda and I share the same email client. It discomfits her somewhat that we still have more or less of a friendly relationship, and even moreso her children – a fact that I understand and sympathize with completely. All of our relationships here are quite happy, and getting even moreso over time and I have no wish whatsoever to disrupt them.

as to your miracle list, i have an old compaq laptop that requires an external keyboard cuz its built-in one is FUBAR. A new one is $99 and requires a Compaq certified professional to put it in, really. So if you wanna spring for the keyboard, order it off the compaq/hp website and i’ll get one of certified guys at work to put it in… otherwise, the external keyword worked just fine for me. I will be loading it with either W2K Pro, or WinXP pro, depending on whether or not i get my XP disk back before i get around to wiping and installing.

Re staying in Georgia, rent someplace in Hapeville… I know all the cops there and its a quiet town if a little seedy, save some $$ and pay in advance if theres a credit problem.

now its on to the unsolicited advice portion of our program.

in my view, your life is becoming increasingly less stable, and life in a cardboard box near some subway station is drawing ever closer. you must somehow begin to accept the fact that your lifestyle as it exists presently has lost or is losing its ability to serve you *at all*. you must accept the fact that rectifying the situation is becoming more and more critical, and will involve taking dramatic steps. while you’re busy poo-pooh-ing “corporate droidism”, you say in the very next sentence or two that you are simply not getting the things you need and want out of your life. you need to face some facts; you aren’t Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, or even Jack Kerouac and you’re never going to be. what you are is a highly competent artist who does sell, but not enough to pay the rent. this much should be fairly clear to you by now. it should also be fairly clear that because of your age and recent brush with cancer, that THE CLOCK IS TICKING.

remember, at one time you were a top admin assistant to one of the king shits of one of the top companies in existence — before deciding that you’re a “hippie” or something and with that created a conflict that disenabled you to keep your job. still, while at that job, you were finding time to go to school, create plenty of paintings (and better ones too as having a job gave you the luxury of time to produce better work), get married and raise a child. All this while earning a living that the top computer programmers of the era would be envious of and living on your own in an area that was at least fit for human habitation.

it saddens me deeply to see how far your life has fallen.

the way i see it, you have few practical ways out of your situation, but they do exist. in my view, this is the best path out of your current situation and a return to at least a facsimile of your former life. some of these steps may be abhorrent to you, but you may be surprised to learn that you arent the first person who has to do a few unpleasant things in order to get what you want out of life. dont be too offended by the following. i make a pretty good living as a systems analyst, so here is about $500 worth of free systems analysis designed to help get your life back on track.

1) somehow reconcile with you mother and get moved in while you begin. no relationship is friction-free and this one wont be either, nonetheless, you must do this. nothing good will ever start to happen in your life until you have a fixed address. period.

2) washington dc, as it turns out has a huge demand for secretaries, graphic artists and the like, a-la deloitte and touche. political interests (even yours) may be a plus.

3) speaking of d&t, contact someone (or some people) you’re still friendly with there, perhaps that almost-potential boyfriend and obtain a written letter of recommendation. the more the merrier – one from an executron, and a couple more from the folks you worked with on the line. repeat this process for every relevant employer from your past, particularly CSFB if anyone you know is still there (I think Ginette or whatever that French lady’s name is, is still there). try Annie too. Keep these on file.

4) write a resume, covering all of your relevant experience in secretarial and graphic arts. Dream up your reason for leaving the corporate world and a reason for your desire to return… Something like “I was making pretty fair money for my art, and wanted to try to strike out on my own… After the downturn in the economy I wasn’t making enough of a living, and it became clear that it was no longer worthwhile”.

5) Assemble a rolodex of every single potential employer in DC. Lobbyists, congressmen, senators, political consultants and the like all use the old MS Word/Excel/Powerpoint etc etc etc. You need a big rolodex just to start, I would say a minimum of 100 places, including contact names, phone numbers, primary line of business as the minimum info for each contact card.

6) Dont be shy about playing the “my mother is ill and i came home to take care of her” card. after all, she’s at least mentally ill.

7) order your rolodex by preference and send out one or two resume/cover letters a day (dont shoot your whole wad at once).

8) feel free to work at a convenience store or someting to collect spending money. if you’re “moving in off the street” you shouldnt consider anything as “too low” for you. after all its just until you get your break back into the big leagues..

9) get a makeover…. get back to being used to looking like a female.

10) try and help your mother organize her life and finances. it will get you back into the swing of doing that kind of work. if she is politically active help her put together handouts w/ Power Point or something. Helping the “wrong” political party isn’t immoral. Living in poverty on purpose is. It may even get you talking to someone who can help you.

11) During interview processes, if politics are brought up, be a centrist as possible.

12) Last, but not least, consider psychotherapy (talk therapy). Real psychotherapy, not some flake you found on the We’moon website. It will help you get some self control. Maybe they’ll even give you Paxil or Prozac. I’m on Paxil and I swear to god, I’m a whole new me. They should put that stuff in the water along with the flouride – really.

Moving in with your mother is going to suck, but I cannot stress enough how much you need to be near the Washington DC’s or the NYC’s of this world to get work. And also cannot stress enough how free or nearly free rent is the main enabling factor for this plan to work. If you follow this plan, you will be out of the shithole in one or two years, and back on top of the pile in 5-7 years. Or you try moving in with Bianchi and wait tables or some other shitbord job.

Though it sounds trite, the only barrier between you and success is you, and the only person who can do anything about it, is you.

Remember, the goal is to make money, not to make political correctness and hope that money comes with that. Only people who already have money have the luxury of making those types of decisions.

So there you have it – a detailed plan to get your life back on track…. If you never listened to me before or never listen to me again, at least listen to this before you wind up dying of pneumonia alone in a cardboard box which is the only outcome of your present lifestyle that i can forsee with any certainty.

All the best, Greg

P.S. I’ll have that ‘puter ready for you in a month…You can also buy Operating System-less computers at Walmart for about $200 for a desktop until and just snag a copy of Win2K Professional (trust me) somewhere.

From: “exhusband
To: “jeanne colin” <>
Subject: Re: the next missive
Date: Sun, 24 Aug 2003 17:24:39 -0400

you’re welcome.. It’ll be ready this week.

Well, if my previous insulted you……


As to the “ABC list”, it was not me expressing unhappiness with my life of weariness from the road, it was you… perhaps you might consider re-reading the attachment consisting of your original note. I was merely expressing concern for your physical and mental well-being, and thus offering a roadmap to get your real life back. “All roads lead to Rome” is was once said, referring the to predictability of outcomes of that time. In your case, as I said in my note, all the predicable outcomes, barring miracles, all roads lead to you living in a cardboard box outside some city, sick as hell or dying from something for lack of some treatment that you refuse to get because “its too “establishment””, or it exposes you to “rays” or “chemicals” some such bullshit.

Now I do like you, we having spent so much time together and all, and thusly I find it is incumbent on me to inform you that you are endangering your life, and therefore indirectly Allison’s life as well. On the other hand if you want to live as some kind of itinerant, begging for places to stay, doing whatever the fuck you do for food and spending money, thats all on you – I don’t really care all that much – my life is great. What you can expect of me as long as you are doing this, is to use every resource at my disposal to prevent you from dragging Allison’s life down the same toilet bowl that your own life is circling. So what I think I was saying is something on the order of “fix your life or expect to see a great deal less of Allison lest you damage her as well with this fruitiness that runs in your family”.

Like I said in my note… What I sent you was a clear, almost foolproof roadmap to get your life back. Use it or don’t, I dont really give a damn… I cared enough to send it, but not enough to deal with your family to make sure that you get the help that most or all of us feel that you badly need. (Read into that whatever you’d like).

So get up off of your ass, and quit blaming your drunk father, crazy mother, ax-murderer boyfriends, your brief sting as a masturbatrix, or asshole ex-husbands for your problems. You’re a grown woman now and the only person causing you problems right now is you. Thus the only person with the capability to fix your problems is…. Guess who??? You.

Regards, ex h.


  1. […] this is my missive, and my ex’s reply to my missive. he has never shared my belief in magic: Sent: Friday, August 22, 2003 11:30 AM Subject: the next missive […]


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