I wanted to post this not only to share, but out of fear that Facebook has a tendency to make things disappear. Max wrote the most beautiful, heartfelt post right after we exchanged Christmas gifts this year. He really knocked it out of the park gift wise, but getting to read this was just as special as getting the painting itself. (click below to continue)

Christmas Painting

For Christmas this year, Molly and I had agreed to not go overboard on presents like we always do. I think this is our fourth Christmas together, and we pretty much have always both done an amazing job getting each other awesome and thoughtful gifts – typically spending too much money. Even before we met, we were both great gift givers.

She gets extra credit because I’m really awful to shop for – and I mean, REALLY difficult – yet she always knocks it out of the park with the gift giving. She’s had to get creative because the typical stuff people would buy for me I usually already bought it or else I’m just a picky asshole and have to have some very specific thing or whatever. I suck, and I know it. I’m the type of person people just get gift cards for once they’ve given up on trying.

One of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten from anyone was from her early on in our relationship – it was a box set of 7″ records from a record label that has been defunct for over 20 years. Shredder Records was this label started by one of the founders of Maximum Rock and Roll magazine as a passion DIY project to only release records that nobody else would put out if he didn’t.

This is the label that debuted my all-time favorite band in the late 80s – Jawbreaker. They also introduced me to another all-time favorite of mine, Crimpshrine. The music on these slabs of vinyl shaped my life growing up and saved me – quite literally. Discovering these bands for me was one of the most powerful and impactful and influential and memorable exposures to just about any artistic expression.

These were just other kids like me who were compelled to express themselves, and I connected with it more than just about anything else before or since. Most of my musical taste can be likened to what you may picture if you think of a nerdy comic book collector going from independent store to store thumbing through volumes and volumes of obscure comic books you’ve never seen or heard of in search of something that moves them – they don’t have a single issue of X-Men or Spiderman or Superman or Batman etc… Every book they show you comes with a story of their own and how they found it and connected to it and a backstory about the artists and is carefully handed to you wrapped in a plastic protective sleeve.

Being older now, I seldom gush over music I grew up on. I’ve told the stories before many times, and it’s just not that interesting for someone to hear about some band I liked in 1989. At some point when we were first dating, Molly and I were talking about music and I showed her my record collection – just the quick version – “love these guys… great band… the singer of this band is from that band…” I doubted she would retain any of it, but I figured she was interested in seeing the pretty various colored vinyl I had. It was something new to her – I didn’t even play many of the records for her either because I knew it wasn’t really her type of music.

Still, she managed to retain something about it because that year she procured the Shredder 7″ box set which was just the guy who started the label’s private stash that he kept from each run. Every release on his label only had anywhere from 500-2000 copies pressed. He held back 50-100 copies and kept them in his closet thinking someday he would release a box set. I bought some of them when they came out decades ago, and today they would probably fetch some decent money. The box set she got me has one of every record Shredder put out – and each box is hand numbered. I have 33 of 36. He only released 36 of these. Molly managed to snag it off ebay somehow.

Maybe she got lucky, or maybe she paid a fortune, or maybe the demand for the set just isn’t there because my taste in music is dumb – regardless, this was the most thoughtful thing anyone has ever given me because she somehow knew how much it would mean to me. I was blown away when I opened it. I cried – I ugly cried.

I haven’t played any of the records – I have just about all the music on them. It’s not even super display worthy – the label’s logo was composed in Mac Paint in 1988 after 20 minutes of learning how to use it, and it’s just the label logo on a sticker on a plain white box with all the records inside. And to be honest, even if my house burned down and I lost it in the fire, it wouldn’t be the end of the world or anything. What she gave me was the experience. She showed me that she knew me and loved me. It’s like she peered into my soul and found the map to my heart. I will always have that.

This year, I fully planned to stick to the plan of not spending a lot of money or going crazy with a lot of gifts. We had agreed on one or two gifts and put a dollar limit of something like 30 to 50 bucks. The money agreement went out the window pretty quick and I got her an expensive appliance, lifetime supply of panties, and some other stuff.

Then I got it in my head to see if I could commission a painting of her from Dump La Roc – many of you reading this know who he is, and you probably instantly recognized his work. I’ve always admired his paintings, and have wanted to purchase one (or two or ten). I’ve also just always wanted to own and hang someone else’s artwork rather than just my own.

Christmas was about a week away or less at this point, but I knew he usually produced these huge beautiful and colorful pieces in one sitting… he’ll pop one out in a dance club during a couple of dj sets. Even when I used to draw or make art, it would take me months to finish a piece. Plus, my style was realism, so it’s not much of a style. Once I started learning photoshop and graphic design tools on the computer, I pretty much stopped drawing – as a result, I’m pretty much devoid of whatever skills I used to possess.

I messaged Dump on facebook asking if he would be willing to paint my girlfriend and what he might charge. I figured it was a long shot at best. I mean, we’re friends on facebook because we have so many mutual friends and while I know of his work and such, I’m more or less a complete stranger to him. I didn’t even know if he did commission work.

He responded right away saying he would be happy to and that it would probably be ready by Tuesday. He squeezed me in between a few other commission jobs he was doing that day. It was like a Christmas miracle. I couldn’t even believe my luck. His price was super reasonable as well.

I told him I basically wanted a picture of my girlfriend’s face wearing sugar skull makeup with the artwork of her tattoo as the background all in his style. I had a few ideas of what pictures I wanted to suggest, but figured I would let him look through her photo stream (luckily, I’m dating someone who takes copious amounts of selfies so there’s an expansive library to choose from) and pick one himself – I thought it would yield the best results to have the artist select something he’s most inspired by.

He asked me about the colors on my walls, and I just said my walls are neutral and to go with whatever he felt would look the most awesome. I told him Molly likes lots of color, but for the most part, I didn’t really give him much of any instruction other than a vague idea of what I wanted.

What he produced was better than I could have imagined myself… certainly better than anything I could produce myself. The photo here doesn’t do it justice. It’s so beautiful. The canvas is huge – 30×40 – and it looks so good on the wall.

I picked the painting up on Tuesday night about an hour after he completed it. I gave him more than he was charging and a nice bottle of wine and a hug. I then raced back to wrap it up before Molly got home – I called her on my way to let her know I won at Christmas. I carefully and quickly wrapped it up and put it in my closet – from the moment I picked it up, I had a big stupid grin on my face.

I was far too excited to wait until Christmas morning, so when she got home I just had her sit on the couch and blindfold herself so I could give it to her. She cried when she opened it – she was genuinely moved and touched. She declared that I won at Christmas. It was the reaction I was going for. It was really a gift for me – that feeling you get when you get them an amazing gift and make them happy – the joy you feel watching someone being moved to tears because they feel loved and understood and appreciated – that’s the real gift.

I wrote all this because I wanted to say “thank you” again to Dump, and to spread the word on his artwork and The Blunt Club. He often has artwork for sale at incredibly reasonable prices. I also want to say that he’s one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever met.

I also wanted to say “thank you” to Molly for being with me and loving me with all her heart for all these years.

Thank you for everything, Molly. I love and appreciate you.