News from Union

Amazing Strangers

Amazing Strangers Wendell icon

As you can see, I’ve been going through old footage again, realizing that I’ve not only got A LOT of it, but much of it is still very interesting! Quite honestly, there we’re many times at the end of a day at Union I’d go home saying to myself, “Not now, but this’ll be something I want sometime down the road.” So I expect to continue doing this for as long as I keep running across stuff I find interesting. Which reminds me, if you’re a musician and especially if you have music inspired by NYC, Union Square or Amazing Strangers, I’d love to use it in the videos I’m editing. Nothing inspires me to find more of this footage and post it up into creatively edited vids than music. I’ll give full credit and link you up if you got anything. Some of my best music vids were from fans who wrote songs inspired by what they saw on the channel.

Inna
Inna clean & sober April 2016

Big news that I thought I’d never be hearing I heard yesterday! Inna is clean and sober. Including alcohol. And she looks great. She insisted I spread the news that she’s super fucking hot now, and she says she’s never going back. Most of the time I’d take a claim like this with a grain of salt, but Inna’s always been pretty blunt about her drug and alcohol usage (among other things) and never before has she committed to cleanliness like she is now.

One of the most watched videos of mine is this one of Inna, just as a reminder of how bad it got.

It’s been a year, and she told me to tell you “It takes pride to step out of the gutter.” And she’s through “acting bizarre and looking ugly.” I’m happy to hear this, and her latest photos speak volumes. You can see for yourself on her Facebook.

I spoke to Shaggy a few days ago and he tells me Union’s changed. It’s not the crazy madhouse it used to be in springtime. He thinks a lot of the people used to come to get filmed in some way or another, and the others came because of those. I don’t entirely think that can be judged this soon in the year, so I won’t believe it until I hear news like this when summer gets here. If however it’s true, it’s pretty shocking to me.

Jesus Dressup

This week my Star Wars Jesus Dressup (2nd printing) arrive and I’m terribly excited! Because of the sensitive nature of this product the image of them won’t be displayed in the store, and they’ll be listed as “Jedi Jesus” so as not to infringe on any copyright problems they could spark. I strongly suggest not waiting too long to purchase them for yourself, because the first printing of these sold out pretty quickly.

As for anything else, I still have no plans to return to NYC. I might be headed to Philly later this month, so if you know of anything out there I should take my camera let me know.

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Why I Left NYC

Union Square NYC
My last year in NYC

I’m realizing I never fully  explained why I left NYC. And it’s 7:30 Wednesday morning and I just woke up from a nightmare that reminded me of exactly that.

I dreamt I was back in Brooklyn and had just been told by my landlord we had to leave our apartment. The television was on, I had food cooking on the stove, and I even had my plans for the day to go to Union and work on art projects. The dream was so vividly real. Then suddenly the landlord was at the door.

He came to explain it was too nice of an apartment for us and he’d been offered more money for it. He told me we could move into the studio apartment that was there adjacent to ours, but we had to be out of this one in 2 weeks. So I began moving all the furniture trying to make it fit into a place 1/4 the size.

The dream concluded with me standing in between the two separate living quarters in a cold sweat, realizing there was no way this could work, and I had to tell my roommates. I was asking myself “how did I get myself into this situation again?” I was looking out the window at the city skyline contemplating going out to wander the streets, but instead I had this nightmare to deal with, again!

When I woke up, which was about 20 minutes ago now, I was in that cold sweat and thanking Christ Jesus it was all just a dream. I thought maybe I could go back to sleep, but no dice. I was haunted. So I might as well write what happened.

My last 8 years in NYC (2007 – 2015) is the window of time it took place in. It was in ’07 that I was leaving a loft apartment I had with roommates in Williamsburg and moving to this nice 3 bedroom apartment in Bushwick. I found two new roommates, and over the course of 7 years I made that place a home. It was the first place I’d ever lived where I actually painted the walls, hung cookware above the stove, bought sofas & furniture and really settled in to stay. Business was good, I liked who I was living with, and I had an amazing view out my bedroom window. We were on the 3rd floor of this building, and my window pointed east, looking out over the roofs and steeples of Brooklyn. I loved this place.

Livingroom – Xmas 2010
Livingroom – Xmas 2010

Then in October of 2013, just around Halloween, we were told the building was being sold and we all had to be out by New Years Day. It completely broke my heart. What hurt even more is it wasn’t a typical landlord/tenant relationship. He was a friend who’d hired me to do freelance work for him in the past. He owned this building, which is how & why I moved in in the first place, and now it made being treated like a number even more spirit-breaking.

In NYC you don’t start looking for a place a month or two in advance to weigh your options, then pack, arrange movers, and simply have the normal difficulties that come with moving. No. In New York moving happens in a panic, and you don’t find the place you’re going to live until a week before your move out date. And when you’re packing you’re forced to pare down to the bare minimum because it’s thousands of dollars to hire movers. Flat out, we were told to cancel Christmas and that’s what we had to do. Looking back I now realize this was the beginning of the end for me.

The three of us ended up finding a new place together, deeper into Brooklyn, slightly smaller, same cost. Not long after we moved in we realized we had a terrible landlord. It was a building owned by a place called “Management Solutions” and they had letterhead with a different name on it “Rental Solutions NY,” and their phone number wasn’t included on documents, and other shady warning signs. Being rude to their tenants was a normality, and when we’d complain about anything they had no problem responding “Hey, I forgot. When is your lease up?”

The place started accumulating, at first roaches, then mice, and my last week there we had maggots crawling up through the cracks in the kitchen floor. I discovered later we were literally weeks away from bedbugs when we finally left. We found out talking to a cleanup crew in our building that the neighbors below us had them in the ceilings. In this new environment we started to each get depressed and on each others nerves.

We’d signed a year and a half lease New Years Day 2014. So when June of 2015 rolled around and we were asked to sign another lease, reality hit. My trips to visit my folks in Michigan had increased over the last year and a half to escape these surroundings. I used to come visit 2 or 3 times a year for a week at a time. Then it started to become 4 or 5 times a year for a couple weeks each visit. In 2015 I was visiting every other month with plans to stay for two months this winter. That’s when I realized I no longer loved living in New York and it was time to leave.

I made very good use of that city in the 13 years I was there. I was productive, adventurous, made a name for myself, and accomplished things I never could’ve if I hadn’t. I met some wonderful people and made friends I was lucky to even meet. But fact is I have nightmares about it now. And when I wake up not there I am relieved.

I’m very content here helping out my folks, and building up my Jesus Dressup fridge magnet empire again and prove it can indeed be a thriving business. I’m quite confident I can do that and have the freedom to pick where next I should go when I’m ready. I’m not sure how long it will take me to get over my NYC-PTSD and feel like visiting again, but I know at the moment it’s not in the books.

Happily Issolated

Jesus Dressup

I’m very pleased to announce I’ve just put in an order for a new Star Wars Jesus Dressup set. I was inspired, to say the least, after seeing Episode 7. Keep in mind however that I will not be able to display this on my site, for what I think is an obvious reason. They will be available in about 2 months (possibly 3). So if you’re a diehard fan like me, you’ll just have to keep an eye out for “IMAGE NOT AVAILABLE” item in my store. They’ll be slightly less discreet than this in stores that’ll carry them for me.

Normal Bob in Bowie shirt
In 1987 my friend Elizabeth’s sister Kathy was drawing David Bowie on shirts for $50 a pop. I’d seen the one Liz had and had to have one for myself. So my friend Travis & I each gave her $50 so we could each have one.

David Bowie’s death sucked. I thought, and hoped, it could possibly be a prank when I first read it. But after a bit of looking around I realized it was real. I found an old picture of me from 1987 of me wearing my hand drawn shirt I paid a friend $50 to make for me. She only drew David Bowie on shirts. I wore it all the time, and I still have that shirt to this day. I bring it up because it also gave me an idea for a Bowie-theme Jesus Dressup set. That might be next on the list.

Amazing Strangers

union square crew
Spidey, Shaggy & Roman reunion

I spoke with Shaggy yesterday, and it sounds like his antics haven’t slowed down in the least! He’s got a Starbucks apron which you might have seen in one of the videos from years ago, and he’s been throwing free-loaders out of Starbucks this winter with it! He told me after work he walks in there with the apron on and shouts, “Folks, welcome to Starbucks! Let me warn you, if you have not purchased a coffee or food item I am going to have to ask you to leave!”

He said that immediately after his announcement the place goes quiet, but nothing really happens. Then he gets his coffee and sits down and notices people start to slowly clear out, and the only people sitting at tables and hanging around have coffees.

He sees some employees shake their heads when he does all this, and once one of them came over and told him he can’t come in with the apron on. He responded, “What are you going to do? Throw me out? It’s a free country!”
After that they seem to have left him alone.

So beware. If you’re going to Starbucks to sit at a table without buying anything, Shaggy might be there to call you out!

I have to admit I do with I was there to film him doing that this winter.

As for me, at the moment I am really enjoying the isolation. Whatever it is I’ve been doing these last 20 years in the big, crowded cities of NYC and Chicago, getting away from it is just what the doctor ordered. Everyone keeps asking me if I miss NYC, and the answers still no. Ask me again in spring.

Holidays Upon Us

Jesus Dressup fridge magnets available

Zen with Jesus Dressup magnets
Zen with Jesus Dressup magnets

Fridge magnet sales are rolling in & reminding me that I’m still the manager of a website. Those orders are being shipped out next day despite my lagging on all other activities on the site. I am however at the lowest selection I’ve had for a long time.
Here’s what I’ve got.

Officially I have 4 sets of Jesus magnets available: BDSM, Final Justice, Halloween & Lady Gaga Jesus. I also have Mohammed dress up games as well. And if you wanna know the facts, sales for these are indeed coming in, from Europe mostly. So anyhow, that’s 5 – Officially.

Unofficially I also have special sets available. Like for instance the first print of Final Justice Jesus from 2006. This has always been my personal favorite, and I have one and a half boxes left of these. They are for sale until I feel like I don’t want to lose any more of them.

browning on jesus magnets
This is the last year for Christmas JDU because now, after ten years, they’re starting to “brown.” The muddiness is most noticeable in the yellow part of the cross.

The Christmas Jesus Dressups are beginning to “brown.” They’re just not looking as bright as they did in 2005 when they first arrived at my door, and I’m not even offering them to the stores I sell to any more. That means this’ll be their last year. Same thing happened to my last boxes of the Original sets, so they had to be tossed as well. But if you can deal with their slight aging (see sample) they’re just $10. And if you email me after you’ve purchased them and request I fit as many as I can into your Flat Rate envelope (about 4 or 5 I think) I’ll happily do so for no additional cost, because I will never produce these ones again. Too limited of a sales window!

I’ve still got the “All 7 for $77″ offer up that includes many of the unavailable sets. I was reminded of this when someone a couple days ago purchased it, and I had to come to grips with what I had available. So as it turns out, if you put in that order I’ll just dip into the sets I’ve got tucked away in my lockbox to fulfill it. You heard right.

I have plans after the holidays to start restocking with new selections. Immediately I’ll be getting both Batman & Star Wars sets made. I’m quite excited. Now that I’m out of NYC and where I am I have more space for storage so I’m able to begin building up this aspect of my business again. It’s a beautiful & satisfying process.

Jesus Dressup App

I’ve been given another shot at making the Jesus Dressup app. This’ll be the 4th attempt at making it! The three that failed before this all stopped short for a different reason each time.

The first time it got made was a guy who after it was complete and Apple posted it for people to purchase, decided to not hand it over to me and just keep the profits for himself. I had to threaten him to take it down.

The second one (read about it in left sidebar) I paid a guy to make, and he did a beautiful job with it, but this time Apple rejected it because it was offensive content. That really killed my spirit on trying to make it again.

The third time was from another person who said they’d make it for no charge, and after a year passed he realized it was too big a job and bailed.

So a couple weeks ago a guy in Italy said he’d do a Droid app for free as long as his name was in the credits for making it. I’ve agreed, and he’s already shown me samples of how it might play, and it looks sharp! But I also have a grasp on the plausibility of it.

Amazing Strangers

As for the Amazing Strangers of Union Square videos, I think those’ll just have to wait. I’ve tried several times to go in and start putting together some of the unused videos I’ve got stored away, but my heart’s not in it. And quite honestly, the best footage has been posted. If I were to start posting the stuff you’ve never seen before your first thought would be “Yeah, I can see why he didn’t post this before.”

Normal Bob answers question about God – Aug 28, 2005
Normal Bob answers question about God outside Verb Coffee in Bedford Mall

In 2003 when Neil Abramson came out and filmed me for his Bob Smith USA movie, he interviewed Shaggy & I and followed us around the city with his camera, then never used the footage. I realized that when I finally do put together this Union Square movie (or whatever it’s going to be) including that footage of Neil’s is my dream. It just has to be there. I’ve sent him a couple requests, but I also know he’s a busy man, and that footage is buried somewhere. Anyhow, that’s the goal, and until then, I am just not feelin’ it.

My plans

As for what I’m planning to do from here? That has yet to be determined. I know what I want and what I don’t want but I have no idea where this place exists. For now I’m completely content here in Michigan looking forward to a country Christmas winter, playing with the dog, helping my folks in their daily lives… and just a little bit of Grand Theft Auto V.

Artist, Atheist, Anthropologist