Shaemarie Skaggs

Revival

By James K. Galloway

Shaemarie Skaggs
Tennessee artist Shaemarie Skaggs, cancer survivor, bites the filter off a Marlboro cigarette during a photo shoot at an industrial park in Clarksville.

Hoses dropped from a chemotherapy bag stretch around a rosary and into the blood-soaked needle-fed arm of Shaemarie Skaggs, whose hand clutches the withering flower of life.

It is just after sunset when I pull into the front yard of the budding Clarksville artist’s home. Clarksville, Tennessee is the worst town I’ve ever been to. The chance to interview an artist is a relief from the brown solitude that comes with living in a dry, burned-out military town. I wonder how creativity can flourish in a place like this. How can she?

As instructed, I call to inform Shaemarie that I have arrived and I approach her front door. It’s a beautiful McMansion nestled within a sloping subdivision. If I hadn’t seen the other homes driving in, I’d be inclined to believe it’s a real original piece of modern architecture. It is the same as the others if not slightly different. It is a floor plan. From up high, I can see the lights from Wal-Mart, Kroger and whatever else every town keeps along Commercial Avenue.

She says we can’t do the interview here – this is where she lives and takes care of her mother who recently suffered a stroke.

We drive around the neighborhood as I look for an exit out of Skaggs’ labyrinthine subdivision. Right away, she unfolds a picture of her arm with a rosary and chemotherapy supplies, and jumps right into explaining it to me.

“The bitch nurse fuckin' put a needle in my hand for painkillers – for morphine,” Shaemarie says, “And she didn't put it in my vein, so the morphine soaked in my hand and it would sting every time it pumped through. So I didn't have painkillers or I didn't feel right at all, and it hurt like a bitch.”

Pointing to her artwork, Skaggs tells the story as she’s told it countless times before. She says flatly during her chemotherapy treatments, this picture hung on her wall as an expression of her own humanity – but that she took joy from others’ reactions to it.

“The doctors would come in and freak out, and I thought it was really funny when they’d freak out and shit,” she says. “I like how I wrapped it around the cross because I just hate religion.”

Skaggs was diagnosed December 2009 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer originating from white blood cells. Shortly thereafter she drew a relatively simplistic self-portrait featuring peeled-back skin and decay of a long-haired vixen – a living corpse aware of her own mortality.

Shaemarie Skaggs
The lips, rotted away into a grimace of a smile, represent Skaggs' morbid imagination of herself as chemotherapy took hold.

“It was really bothersome, but that was the point,” she says, looking out the window of my truck as we sit at a stop light. Then came a long silence.

We are headed toward a spot with free wi-fi where Shaemarie says we’ll access more of her artwork. She changes the subject to me and my work. I oblige but keep it ground-level, explaining that I’m a writer and editor. While booming down Clarksville’s main drag to the finer cuts of Led Zeppelin II, the sexy young artist asks more specifically what else I do besides interviewing her.

I explain how I write politics and local government articles for the newspaper, which gets her onto the subject of President Barack Obama and the superficial similarities between his efforts and those of Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR’s New Deal may have gotten us out of the Great Depression, but Skaggs believes Obama is an actor.

He’s trying to make it look good and doing this whole cover on it, like, ‘Oh, everything’s going to be fine,’ but really it’s starting to suck. It’s a fake aspect that he’s making everything look good but it’s not.

-Skaggs, on President Barack Obama

“He’s trying to make it look good and doing this whole cover on it, like, ‘Oh, everything’s going to be fine,’ but really it’s starting to suck. It’s a fake aspect that he’s making everything look good but it’s not.”

She says her grandfather was a lawyer for a Philippine president while his daughter spied against him, causing controversy within her family and within the nation. She says her pursuit of liberal arts made her a black sheep when everyone else went into politics or has an “amazing job” as educators and government employees.

“It’s because we [Skaggs and her sister] are liberal and – ‘Fuck the government’,” says Skaggs, “And because we grew up in a stern family and we’re just like anti-everything.”

By now, we’ve reached our Internet source where Shaemarie discovers she can find specific Tumblr compositions through a simple Google search. She exclaims, “Google is a fucking creeper!”

Skaggs is exceptionally proud of one of her pieces of writing, which was reblogged by a website called The Whiskey Monologues and subsequently reviewed by its followers. The piece is about a drunken night of indiscriminate sex with an unnamed lover, notable for its sensual, emotive language and highly-revealing self-analysis midway through the exposé on passion itself.

Shaemarie Skaggs enjoys a cigarette
While shooting at an abandoned industrial site, Skaggs informs me that she is in remission and healthy, in spite of a nasty cough acquired as a result of her smoking habit.

Shaemarie is forever affected by cancer, emotionally if not physically. Skaggs’ friend, Cara Roman, who she called “a fiesty little thing,” died July 2010 after a four-year battle with leukemia.

“She was my friend before I got cancer, I used to visit her all the time. And then one day I showed up to her hospital room and told her I have cancer. We both cried. I was the only one who spoke at her funeral. She was the closest person I had. She was so alive.”

Shaemarie says she will seek a liberal arts degree from Austin Peay State University but for the time being cares for her ailing mother at their shared home in suburban Clarksville.

Like a flash in a pan, the blinking of an eye, a star’s lifespan and all the time in the sky – Shaemarie Skaggs taught me that expression is only as beautiful as the time we have to appreciate it. That memories last as long as we can remember them, lest we mark them down.

On a long enough timeline, all things are finite, no matter what efforts we as human beings make to archive, categorize and chisel them into stone. On a short-enough timeline, all things last forever.

So do we.

Tennessee Man: "I once punctuated a whole sentence"

Jacob Tamme is a TIGHT PUSSY
Harold Buckhauer, punctuated a sentence one time

Nashville, Tenn.–An area Titans fan made headlines Sunday when he held up a sign reading “Jacob Tamme is a tight pussy” at a home game against the Indianapolis Colts in LP Field.

Jacob Tamme plays tight end for the Indianapolis Colts, and rejects all assertions that he is a human vagina “of any elasticity or resistance.”

Harold Buckhauer, 30, held the sign up high for at least three hours, chanting the slogan. He was beloved by his neighboring spectators, and even hailed as a hero by one man who said he believes Buckhauer’s message “needed to be said.” The man reportedly purchased Buckhauer three beers to provoke more outlandish drunken behavior, such as singing with one foot up on the back of the chair in front of him, a claim he denies.

Language scholars have jumped on the sensation to condemn the Tennessee Titans enthusiast for his gross lack of punctuation that leaders claim “contradicts” the presentation of the man’s clever idea in the context of his drunkenly-constructed sign.

Buckhauer, a plumber of 10 years’ experience, defended himself, saying, “I once punctuated a whole sentence,” but intimated his distrust of “funny” characters on a page, saying he doesn’t know why it exists anyway.

“Harold-Hymen ain’t never used no hyphen.”

When questioned about a rare, documented instance where Buckhauer attempted punctuation, he failed to recall whether it was a period or an exclamation mark he used, because memory of his mistake was immediately overshadowed by the “distinct” memory of his friends using a rhyming female anatomical word to describe him as “Harold-Hymen, who ain’t never used no hyphen.”

A string of Google searches reveals the “punctuation” to which Buckhauer referred was used on a wrestling forum, and was not punctuation at all, but capitalization. In 2009, Buckhauer wrote, “batista is purdy good but he aint gt shit on the Edge”

Cecil Dillard, pastor of Midrow Baptist Church defended Harold Buckhauer’s lifestyle, devoid of punctuation, saying, “Harry’s a trustworthy, God-fearing American who don’t need no punctuation because it ain’t holy. Punctuation is misleading, saying things that letters don’t. Now do you want your kids to read punctuation, or do you want ’em reading the truth?” he asked, tapping the Bible.

This message is brought to you by Lebal Drocer, and:

“Now do you want your kids to read punctuation, or do you want ’em reading the truth?”

-Cecil Dillard, Pastor

Intervention Letter

Some friends and I recently watched a neighbor have a complete psychological meltdown. Everything a normal person does, simply quit happening in this person. Rational thought, personal hygiene, common decency, all went out the window. You couldn’t talk to the guy, because his brain had ceased to function normally, and he was in complete denial about his situation. So, we decided to write him a letter outlining everything he had done……….a sort of intervention by letter. I thought I would share this letter with our readers, so they can see what happened to this guy. I don’t want to say his name, so I will simply call him C. Hart. No……..I don’t like that. I’ll call him Calvin H., so you won’t know who he is.

I hope hearing about how this guy hit bottom is as much fun for you, as watching it was for me:

Calvin,

After seeing firsthand how you’ve failed miserably at accomplishing the most basic activities of daily living, we felt like we had to be pals and point out to you what you can’t see for yourself……that your life is a train wreck that just won’t grind to a halt. We all want to help you, and think that we need to point out to you the things that your obviously unable to see yourself that you’ve done up until now, so here goes. And keep in mind that this is just a few of things that you’ve done which demonstrate a pattern of mental illness. To name them all would require more time and paper than we have.

1. The alcohol and drugs. You put your use of alcohol and drugs before EVERYTHING else…..including your personal hygiene. When someone has trouble thinking clearly, as you obviously do, using substances which impair your thought processes is the last thing that needs to be done. And yet, you’ve made using these substances your primary goal in life. You’ll sit around drinking beer, smoking pot, and doing cocaine, while you have no job, no power, no water, and a house that’s in continuous danger of foreclosure. The foreclosure attorneys are probably on a first name basis with you. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

2. The complete lack of maintenance of everything you have….including your body. Your stark refusal to maintain any of your property is puzzling to say the least. You seem completely satisfied to live in your own squalor, while everything you have deteriorates due to lack of even the most basic maintenance. You let your central heat and air unit filters become so clogged with filth that your unit quit, and then you simply took the filters out and let the unit run, which fills the ductwork with dust and filth. The bathroom floor under your toilet is rotten because your toilet has leaked for four years. You won’t even fix that. Your car, your furniture, your clothes, your house, everything you have is filthy, broken, and completely useless. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

3. Your refusal to work and be a productive member of society. If you go to the nearest fast food store, you see people working. If you look around downtown, you see people working. If you look across your neighborhood, you see people working. If someone looks at you, they don’t see a person working. You pretend to have a computer business; but in reality you’re not qualified to do anything but go to someone’s house and remove a broken computer to throw in the trash. Your content being poor, and a welfare case, begging for money from everyone there is to beg, when you’re healthy and able to work. You even go so far as to steal bill money from your friends. Stealing money that your friends need to pay their bills; that’s low. And using it to buy drugs is even lower. You’ll do anything to avoid working and being a productive member of society. We all know that your now taking a gas can to gas stations and begging for money, telling people that your on your way to work and ran out of gas. Your begging for money based on a lie – which is what we working, law abiding citizens call a scam. How pathetic! You’re officially a bum now. Just how low are you going to sink? You have no pride, or shame, do you? This is not a sign of mental soundness.

4. Your inability to conduct yourself in a decent manner when in public. Not only are you unable to interact with people in a normal manner, you’re not even able to be around other people without acting in a manner inconsistent with normality and common decency. This was evidenced by your being thrown off a plane for acting in a disturbing manner. All you had to do was get on the plane and sit down. That’s it! Just sit down and ride. But you couldn’t even do that, could you? You had to moo at the top of your lungs like a big mentally defective cow until the crew had no choice but to throw you off the plane. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

5. Your inability to have a normal relationship with your own family. Your own family has felt it necessary to remove you from their lives. You only embarrassed them with your refusal to work, begging for money, lack of hygiene, living in your own filth, and general abnormal behavior. You go without power and water for months at a time, and therefore are unable to bathe or use the bathroom indoors. You just walk around stinking, like a stray dog. You even have to use the bathroom outside, like a dog. The last thing I want to see when I look out my back door, is you squatting down, taking a dump in the back yard. Do you think anyone wants to say that they are related to you, or are friends with you? This is not a sign of mental soundness.

6. Your continued viewing of disturbing pornography. We all know you enjoy watching your videos of horses having sex with young ladies. We’ve all caught you watching that sickness. Why you enjoy watching young ladies being tortuously screwed by farm animals is something we are unable to comprehend. That’s disgusting, if not illegal. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

7. We all know what you did to the Thunderbird. Tony let you borrow his brand new Thunderbird, which is a prized possession of his. That was VERY generous of him. How did you repay his generosity? You wrecked his Thunderbird, left it sitting in your yard with the top down while it rained all day, and then returned it to him without telling him that you wrecked it and that the wheel was damaged and could potentially break while he’s driving it. You repaid his generosity by endangering his life. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

8. We all know what you did to the bicycle. You couldn’t even be trusted with a bicycle for a couple of days. You destroyed someone else’s bicycle that was left at your house overnight. We don’t know why you destroyed it. You just did. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

9. We all know what you did to the dog. You took a dog home with you, tied it up in the 110 degree sun without water, and killed it in a matter of hours. It deserved to live, but you sentenced it to death by bringing it to live with you. This too is disturbing, if not illegal. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

10. We all know what you did to the rabbit. You found that little baby rabbit, put it in a bucket, and painted it with orange engine paint. Your justification for doing that was so that you could see it when it grew up and would know which one it was, since it would be orange. We don’t know which was less intelligent; the fact that you didn’t know that animals SHED their fur, or that you didn’t know painting that newborn baby rabbit would kill it. All we could do was look at that poor little baby rabbit, with its paint filled eyes and paint bubbling out of its nose, and think to ourselves “Calvin is one stupid son of a bitch”. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

11. We all know what you did to the boat. Even a child knows better than to raise the engine cover on a boat, take the cover off of the carburetor, and let it sit that way for two years with rainwater, snow, and leaves going straight into the engine. Yet, this is what you did. And you let the
boat sit uncovered until it rotted away into worthlessness. Then, when the boat was junk that needed to be hauled to the dump, you refused to take 1500 dollars for it, even though you were in jail, and your house was going into foreclosure. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

12. Your continued refusal to obey the law. You drive while under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs, and have your license taken away. This has happened on multiple occasions. But instead of learning from this, you just continue driving around with no license, no insurance, no tag, no registration, and no idea why you keep going to jail for driving on a suspended license. You’ve gone to jail three times in the last few months for driving on a suspended license. Even a dumb farm animal eventually learns to stop touching the electric fence. But not you. You just keep getting yourself put in jail for the same offense. You don’t comprehend the consequences of your continued illegal activities. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

13. You went to jail, and brought jail home with you. When most people go to jail, they use it as a learning experience. But not you. You had to bring a bunch of criminal’s home with you to help you peddle drugs. You saw these inmates, and thought these guys belonged in your house, and in our neighborhood. The result was the theft of property in your house, as well as the theft of property around the rest of the neighborhood. The drug traffic you brought into our neighborhood is something the neighbors are still mad about. You single-handedly turned a good neighborhood into a bad one. This is not a sign of mental soundness.

We could keep going, but there’s no reason to. We all felt that if we pointed out to you what a train wreck your life has become, you might be able to see for yourself what we have seen for years, and do something about it. We are only trying to help you. Unfortunately, you don’t seem to want advice or help from anyone, unless they are handing you money. So you may just toss this in the trash, instead of trying to see what we see and doing something about it.

If you don’t listen to those around you, and continue going down the disgusting, pathetic, ignorant path your on, you are going to end up homeless. Go get some psychiatric help. You may need to be institutionalized, so you can have a guardian to look after you on a daily basis. Your clearly unable, or unwilling, to do it yourself. It’s time to start living the life of a normal, law abiding, productive member of society.

Update:

The last I heard, Calvin’s house had been condemned, because it was deemed to be unfit for human habitation. But he snuck back into it, and was burning trash downstairs to stay warm, when the house caught on fire and pretty much burned down. Since he hadn’t paid the insurance, it wasn’t repaired. Calvin is now homeless, and mooching off of other people full time. He is now, officially, a bum.