Arts, culture, ideas & expression of a few wild art monkeys living in an arts loft in Jersey City.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Shameless Plug

I've been very busy working on a lovely piece of Independent theatre lately put on by Parlour Productions called 'The Family Jewels'. I'm gonna get the plug for the piece outa the way...

Saturday April 2nd at 8 pm and Sunday April 3rd at 7 pm
Located at 32 Jones Street (near Journal Square) Jersey City, NJ 07302
$15 donation, tickets online now!

Its a very elaborately staged reading because JC List (where we advertised) decided to collate all the small theatrical productions in the area that don't have the funding to produce them at large 'legit' venues, and send all of our details to the fire chief. The fire chief then shut us down, as well as a number of other small productions in the area. This leads me to the question: What the fuck JC List? You seriously made a conscience decision to NOT support small local theatre. Isn't that what JC List is about... getting community events out there? Being a message board for people in the area to communicate with each other? Apparently JC List is trying to kiss someone's ass high up there, or they are just complete wankers. Either way I'm not impressed.

Please do come support us, the proceeds go to Hudson Pride Connections Center, The LGBT Alliance of NJCU and the Times Squares Prom Committee.

I'll be there singing and acting away (if you want to see more of me I suggest sitting House left... ie the further side from the entrance)


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Peyote, Starjumpers & Iceskating the spice boxes.

This weekend marked a day I finally got to consume PEYOTE a hallucinogenic substance I've wanted to try ever since I saw the first Young Guns movie, when I was 12 years old. I had just recently turned 35 and when a friend offered to get me in on a Peyote Tepee Ceremony during this years SUPER MOON and I felt like it was the perfect time to do so.
Let me first acknowledge I have tried Ayahuasca once before with some success but did so on my own in my apt with no instruction or sacred ritual in place. A friend was able to procure some and tell me how to prepare the brew with some Syrian rue as the MAO inhibitor. My experience was intense but short. I had locked myself into a tiny meditation room and found myself believing I was communicating with other worldly spirits that warned me that I was not ready despite my enthusiasm to endure the drug, or as the Native Americans endearingly call it ="the medicine" or "Grandmother".
The spirit guide as I will call the voice that I communed with was both benevolent and generous despite being clearly dissatisfied with my arrival into the "spirit world". That's what Emilio Estevez's character calls it in the Young Guns movie. I walked away from my experience with what I considered to be valuable information and insight that I otherwise would not have figured out for myself had I not taken the brew. I was kindly asked to not come back until I was ready and I decided that even though I wasn't sure this was all in my head or not, that I would not take the medicine again unless it was done properly. The fact that I puked or "purged" as its aptly named like a fire breathing dragon also had something to do with it, I'm sure.
The story really begins on Jan 29th when I received a small note from a a friend named Rachel which mentioned that she had taken the medicine recently and had a message for me. The message was for her to give me a wolf ring that she had recently purchased that we both wanted and that the medicine told her that I needed to work on my compassion for others. This would just have been a cute gift had it not been preceded by another friend Cris telling me he had done some energy work on himself and had a similar message for me. Were my friends just cooking up elaborate ways to tell me to be nicer to them or is there any merit to these messages??
Well about 6 weeks after the first message from Rachel comes the 2nd message this time from Grandfather.. Grandfather= Peyote and Grandmother = Ayahausca. Turns out Grandfather requested or suggested my appearance and provided an image of me running up and down the stairs in a focused attempt to manage the tedium of a particular chore. This wouldn't be all that special had I not been told this message on a day where i was literally running up and down the stairs of 660 Grand with a hammer and tools multiple times from the basement to the 3rd floor. I took the 2nd message as a sign. Why not? Maybe this means I'm ready and am welcome back to the spirit world.
Fast forward to the day; We leave shortly before 11am to head out to Allentown PA to participate in a Tepee Ceremony sponsored by a Brooklyn based group that throws these ceremonies.. Much of the day was leisurely getting the area prepared on the farm which we were allowed to perform the ceremony on. This meant people were clearing areas, cooking food, preparing the medicine, building the tepee and getting the fire stoked for the hot sweat lodge stones. At 35 I finally had begun feeling like I was grounded and had my feet firmly planted on the ground and now here I was on some hippie farm base camp about to take hallucinogenics and perhaps find my power animal. Jeez.
We didn't finally enter the tepee until we had all gone through the sweat lodge atleast once, the women proving their strength by going through three times! My experience in the lodge was harrowing. I hate saunas so a sweat lodge is hell. Literally hell for me as I lay on the cold wet earth clenching my hand in the dirt to have a modicum of coolness on my body. I laid on my side in my under ware with a towel over my head like a new born baby wishing for it all to end soon. I chanted when I could I sang along at times but mainly I just tried to dream up happy places while I lay on my side drenched in sweat and barely able to breathe.
The tepee was fairly large but became quickly crowded with the 48 people that paid to endure the ceremony on the night of the super moon. I say "endured" b/c this experience was certainly an endurance test. Even without the sweat lodge prior we all crowded around a fire in this tepee to endure hours on end of sitting on our haunches or cross legged "Indian style" while partaking in our Peyote experience. It was hot near the fire and cold against the back wall of the tent.
The first many hours were spent with formalities and consumption. I personally was expecting to see dragons rise out of the fire and my demons to materialize before me. I wasn't alone in my feelings that there could have been more rounds of medicine over the 12 or so hours we spent in that tent, but all in all my experience was pretty profound. Once I had gotten over the fact that I wasn't going to be hallucinating dragons and snakes monsters from the other side I found myself experiencing the power of the medicine as it had been described to me earlier. I was told as opposed to the strength of Ayahuasca; Peyote has a gentle honesty, straight forward and right to the point. My internal dialog was accompanied by subtle images arising out of the fire and from the sounds of Indian drum music with messages of love, kindness and compassion going on all around us.
One of the most compelling features was in watching Manuel; the playful and sweet medicine man that works with the Brooklyn group, receive his "white feather" one of the highest honors a medicine man receive from an Indian Chief. I think this honor was just as unexpected for Manuel. This moment felt like such a treat for a lay person to get to witness and honestly was worth the $ with or without the Peyote. Once Manuel was honored with the white feather he went right into action. I mean he literally turned around and started blessing the chief with the feather and then those in the tepee. First his helpers like those that cooked the medicine, sang the songs, managed the fire etc; It was so spontaneous and quick that it dawned on me just how humble a medicine man need be and just how great the responsibility is to be a true healer. Never for yourself and always for others. This seemed to be the underlying message of Chief Turtle who educated us on the loneliness of the medicine man and how important it is to give back to those that heal and lead you. This prompted Manuel's fire man to sing an impromptu song to his master while shaking the rattle and being accompanied by a drummer. Many that evening showed their great gratitude for the man that not only blessed them with protection during their passage into the spirit world but also introduced them to Chief Turtle whom traveled from his home out West to educate this band of mixed race white people in the ways of the Navajo.
The Chief was a tall kind man with a character face you'd see in movies. His one eye always squinted, his hair long and braided and his presence strong. His wife had an equally powerful presence and laughed in such a way that it made everything feel like it was going to be alright. When she spoke about the medicine, she cried. She loved the medicine and its role as a teacher. She loved her heritage and that so many people of diverse cultures wanted to learn so much. She loved Manuel's heart and the Chief and herself made mention of this many times over. I honestly have never been present in a place where so much genuine intimacy and accolades were passed back and forth with eye contact, tears and love. Its almost like the Tepee Ceremony experience was about creating an honest intimate environment to ensure while under the power of the medicine we would witness such authenticity, reverence and history so that the profundity would carry with us when we got back to our regular lives.
Ok, so for all the starjumpers out there, yes you hallucinate, but I'm sure you've had heavier trips on your street drugs in highschool. This experience was different. As they say; the medicine is straight forward and you find yourself open to the truth of your own story and what changes need to be made. Images and words were conjured up in my mind or would rise out of the fire that would instigate thoughts and feelings and send me on a ride inward that would last minutes, but feel like hours. I'd come in and out of it while I sitting there wondering if the medicine was even working one minute but then see the shadows on the walls of the tent and wonder if it were the shadow of the drummer making the drummer drum in the first place. The medicine went around only a couple of times in a few forms. I ingested about 10 buttons, a table spoon of some awful tasting Peyote mush and then a tea which was quite nice. All in all the flavor is not pleasant, but I never purged like I did on my solo trip with Ayahuasca. Rachel on the other hand seemed to purge for the whole tent. I did not envy her to say the least. Her purging looked painful and I was happy that atleast I was able to process my thoughts without the interruption of puking in the dirt. I'm sure her experience was more intense then many of ours though.

The medicine stayed with me all day and having not slept made the whole 2 day experience feel like one long trip into another time space. Even now as I write I'm still wrestling some of the ideas that popped up in my head, some of the things I witnessed in the tent or the things the Chief and Manuel had said that day, either about the medicine or life in general. It was something I'd like to do again, but would not recommend to those who haven't wrestled their inner demons before. This isn't a fun ice skating ride through kaleidoscope land, it's a harrowing ordeal that will leave you speechless, educated and aware of both your strengths and your weaknesses and accept them in totality. Perhaps when I've breached the first level of change I will have more to say on this subject...for now, I will just say; WOW that tepee ceremony was the real deal and Peyote is not as spooky as Ayahausca.
(but be careful nonetheless)


Friday, March 18, 2011


A Perfect Soup: John Fathom & Rock Soup Studios Create a Jersey City Art Scene Fixture at 660 Grand

Head west on Grand Street from Downtown Jersey City and about a mile after the Brownstone Diner, past the dividing line of the highway, you’ll come to a great hulking building next to a towing service. Nondescript, minus its address, 660, written large in black paint, the building’s exterior gives no clues to what’s inside.

This is the geode known as 660 Grand, a rock that opens to reveal jewel-like color and beauty. Its enormous size and mix of reasonably priced artist studio space is reminiscent of old New York and rare these days in Jersey City, and makes John Fathom, an artist and the building’s manager, feel like one very lucky man.

Fathom, along with John Ruddy and Nyugen Smith, runs the artist collective Rock Soup Studios, which coordinates exhibitions and events. The line between the building and group has blurred over the years, to the extent that Fathom named his blog 660 Soup.

“Rock Soup is the force that kind of pushes the building,” he says. “It’s artistic expression via whatever vehicle. A lot of the time it’s about having fun and making art but generating buzz in the process.”

Fathom has had his studio at 660 for eight years. Or “eight winters,” as he describes it, maybe because that is the most memorable season for a guy who used to live in Miami. There is heat, but not enough. (“It’s WAYYYYYY TOO COLD to work in the studio,” he wrote on his blog in February. “It’s TOO COLD to NOT work in the studio.”)

Over time, he has expanded his influence over the building, finding tenants, collecting rent payments, and helping with repairs on more and more of it. He now manages three floors of studio and gallery space — 10 studios and a dozen renters.

But more than that, he has helped to create a fixture in the city’s arts scene, one that has stuck around despite its location — far from PATH trains and the arts hub Downtown — as well as encroaching development.

Fathom was sure late last year he would lose it. For one thing, the building is listed for sale (asking price $1.7 million). And an inspection last fall by city fire officials spooked him.

There had been inspections before, but this one felt different.

“He told me, there’s a chance that this is going to be the end,” says Fathom’s longtime friend Brian Brunette, who roasted him at his 35th birthday party at the space earlier this month.

But inspectors were satisfied the artists were in compliance with zoning rules, according to city spokesperson Jennifer Morrill. She says there are no plans to inspect again anytime soon.

Still, the name of the sprawling gallery on 660′s ground floor is the Ark, “because the flood waters are rising,” says Ruddy.

Another concern of theirs is Jersey City Medical Center, which moved to its new location on Grand Street at Jersey Avenue in 2004 and has been expanding, building a five-story addition on Jersey Avenue for medical offices, renting a building across from the diner, and recently adding the Siperstein’s Paint building near the highway as well.

“Because we need to grow, we’re always looking at spaces,” says hospital spokesman Mark Rabson. However, “we don’t have any plans right now to grow further.”

And the city has put pressure on other DIY venues such as 58 Gallery, which has been issued tickets by police for “maintaining a nuisance” and operating without an entertainment license.

It’s one of the reason there aren’t more shows and big parties at 660. “The more events you throw, the more problems you have,” Fathom says.

Installation artist Maggie Ens had a studio at 660 after leaving her space at 111 1st Street when that building was shuttered.

660 Grand “is similar in that it’s a raw, creative space where we could create our own venues and share great ideas,” Ens says. “It had this kind of energy, this feeling like you were making something happen that seemed very vital.”

Actors, filmmakers, musicians, painters and sculptors all have shared the space at one time or another, an eclectic bohemian crew.

Fathom still is not sure what happens next.

“Grand Street is under gentrification, and a lot of people say to me, aren’t you worried about gentrification?” he says. “I got here eight years ago when there were hookers outside this building and high school kids having street fights, and I am gentrification.

“In some ways, maybe I kind of am the cause of my own undoing, but I think artists are pioneers. Artists’ roles are to go into dilapidated buildings, dilapidated neighborhoods, get ‘em all worked up, and then the city comes in and kicks you out. That’s what happens. And then we move to another city and we build it up.”

He does not want to leave, but has been thinking about where he would move if it came to that.

Probably someplace warmer.

‘You Can’t Help but Want to Make Stuff’

As an artist, Fathom believes in reincarnating stuff — old wood, hinges, latches, knobs and doors, pretty much anything he can get his hands on. When he lived in Queens, he would pick up his canvas — damaged or graffiti-tagged plexiglass — from the guy who switched out the posters at the Middle Village train station.

His everything-is-beautiful aesthetic helps explain the look of 660′s interior, which feels like one giant mixed-media artwork. On the painted-white brick walls of the Ark are Ruddy’s paintings in their sparkly gem-covered frames, Fathom’s glowing lightbox sculptures, and work by many of the artists who have passed through over the years.

“If you’re there all the time, you can’t help but want to make stuff,” says Smith, a sculpture, multimedia and conceptual artist who teaches art at St. Peter’s Prep. The walls “are like a timeline of everyone who’s come through.”

It’s a lot bigger than the gallery Fathom, Ruddy and another friend ran for less than a year near the corner of Erie Street and 8th Street (the space is now occupied by Parkside Bistro), named 001 because it was Rock Soup’s first gallery project.

There is plenty of space for performance at 660, and Fathom put on a short play with another tenant, actress Kit Vogelsang, at his birthday party. A few bands played that night as well.

For fun, there are a swing, fire pole, punching bag and climbing rope, and on one of the 18-foot ceilings, a gray and red tent pitched upside-down.

Fathom’s own space in the building is massive and filled with his artwork and handcrafted furniture. Renter Robin Souma uses her space for her photography work. Ryan Iozzia, a singer-songwriter, plays his music. The band Thomas Francis Takes His Chances left a few months ago, making way for a new band now using the in-house recording studio.

And the building has yet another unusual draw, a private skateboarding club making use of two indoor half-pipes. Plus Jersey City Screen Printing, a T-shirt company.

Abstract painter and photographer Mark Finne describes his studio at 660 as cluttered but organized. Finne, who paints wearing ChromaDepth 3D glasses he got at a Pink Floyd laser light show in the ’90s, has had art studios all over the city. He likes this one for the camaraderie and the constant feedback he gets from his peers.

“If you’re out of art school, your chance for a critique is really only during exhibitions,” Finne says. “With a space like this, you have people say all the time, ‘What do you think of this?’ ‘I’m thinking of this color, this material.’ John [Fathom] and I have a very regular critique of each other’s work.”

Fathom likes that there’s still an air of mystery about the place, even after all this time. He still gets questions from local residents and passers-by about the building and its changing crew of artists. It reminds him of the Tom Waits song “What’s he Building?” — What’s he building in there? What the hell is he building in there?

At the same time, he wants to get the word out about the space — just in case.

He wants people to know this is not just some building sitting in squalor at the end of Grand Street. It’s a petri dish, a place for his friends and collaborators, who rank among his favorite artists in Jersey City, to make work and inspire each other.

“This has been a building idea,” he says. “The theme started small and it’s been growing and growing. We want this building to be iconic in the history of Jersey City’s art, the way 111 was, on a smaller scale.”

He wouldn’t mind creating some mythology about the space: the Ark, the studios, the entire building.

“If we stick around five more years and we don’t have mythology,” he says, “what the hell are we doing wrong?”

Jennifer Weiss -Jennifer Weiss is a contributing editor for the Jersey City Independent and NEW magazine. She works as a freelance documentary producer and has written for the Star-Ledger, New Jersey Monthly, New York Times and others and produced video stories for the Wall Street Journal online and

Saturday, March 5, 2011

With friends like these..

WOW. I don't know where to start. Lets just say that my friends are really fuckin funny. Most of em anyway. lol Where does it all start? I don't know which beginning is the best beginning to begin with but let's begin anyway.
As the story goes I used to be one of those "nice guys" and then I realized there was no progress in being a pushover, so started becoming more assertive, aggressive and opinionated and thus began the evolution of my dooshbaggery. (yes thats how we like to spell it) Along the way I've picked up other dooshy friends and we've all enjoyed quite a few laughs at the others expense whether it be through quick quips or elaborate ways to tell eachother to fuck off.

I turned 35 yesterday and decided I would now put an end to some of the traits that characterize the dooshiness of which I speak, because clearly I embody more then some.

Last year Christine Goodman, director of Art House Productions made an offhand comment that on my 35th birthday she would roast me. Knowing my friends would travel far and wide for the opportunity to make fun of me, I got excited at the hysteria that was possible. Life being what it is some things came up that prevented Ms. Goodman from actually roasting me, but due to a series of recent events that had friends questioning my compassion I thought it was time I roasted myself so to speak and take accountability for the whys and hows of my personality that apparently had become quite offensive. About a month ago I decided I would write and perform a one act play that called attention to these qualities in a performance entitled ;Super Ego IDiot Man. The play was my way of taking myself to task for the offensive qualities I had enjoyed emboldening over the years amongst my friends. "Vogel" otherwise known as Kit Vogelsang played my inferior self and I played the superior self trying to convince this other part of me that many of his traits had become obsolete and now at 35 it was time to be a better man, better person.
covered here by Summer Hortillosa of the Jersey Journal.

The whole play lasted only 10 minutes and was well received but was trumped by a surprise roast from my friend of 22 yrs Brian Brunette who flew in from Miami to make sure I wasn't simply roasting myself and in his own words, wanted to make sure I didn't leave anything out. He arrived out of nowhere dressed in military fatigues and a skimask, staying in the theme of my after party which was "Soldiers & School Girls". After an uncomfortably long confusing wait he pulled off the mask revealing himself and began his true roast which was a Dr Seussy rhyme where he takes me to task and lets people in on everything from my psychological makeup to my carpentry skills. His performance so good I almost didn't want to perform our scheduled piece.

BUT Brian's roast wasn't the only gift I received. As part of an ongoing prank between myself and Luis Vera Luis; whom is currently traveling south, Luis created a travel blog called the JOHN FATHOM GO FUCK YOURSELF TRAVEL BLOG. A blog where he has my image plastered on the blog in meme form as well as a hilarious video where he acts like a bootleg British/Gilbert Goddfried type infomercial salesman hocking a new product called; The Fathom Go Fuck Yourself Wonder Spray which can do everything from increase your penis size by 1/4 inch to super powers like elemental transmutation. The video is fuckin hilarious. I kid you not. Luis and I have been going back and forth with creative ways to tell ea other to fuck off but he really outdid himself with this one. In the past I've made Luis go fuck yourself T-shirts and a fan page as well as a song by Colin Comstock which he premiers at the end of his video, but this video steals first prize and is growing I'm sure. There really aren/t words to describe this comedy gem so you must watch it and please share and repost it as you wish. It can be found at this link
and Brians hilarous roast video will be posted on this article soon.
Thanx guys, you proved to me that when you have friends that enjoy watching you suffer as much as mine do, what can your enemies inflict upon you that you havent already been through while laughing hysterically. However I wish I would have known I was gonna actually be roasted or I wouldnt have spent a month writing a one act play. Then again Im sure they enjoy making me waste my time.
Thanx guys.