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WFMU Record Fair Recap, kind of.

(Disclaimer: Before I say anything let me just say that the actual production, operation, etc of the record fair was excellent and if you're reading this asking if you should sell records at it or not I am in no way disparaging the organization or their operations.)

"The sooner you write this thing the better you will feel."

That's what I heard myself thinking a few minutes ago, sitting in bed in some midtown motel room, feeling extremely depressed and alone.

Today is Tuesday and I'm flying back to L.A. today to begin work on my next project.

I arrived in New York a few days ago to be greeted with a migraine. After a full day of sleeping I got to work on my big dream of having a table and selling my own work at the WFMU record fair like one of my favorite artists Steve Keene. I'd seen Steve selling his paintings there most years for about twenty years. It seemed like if you're ever going to do this kind of thing this was the place to go about doing it.

I don't like that last paragraph but I'm just going to go with it.

Anyway, with the help of a small army of friends I built and maintained the booth for three days. Chances are if you're reading this you already know everything that I was selling and went into it, so I'm not going to go into that. It's kind of irrelevant to my need to get all of this out of me right now.

Let me just preface by saying I was the ONLY artist there selling records they had made themselves. Everyone else was a reseller of new and used records. One of the three days a small record label also set up shop but they weren't the artists, they were just the label. Also important is that WFMU is a freeform non-commercial radio station (which is why it is my favorite). Nobody is going to get famous or make a lot of money from WFMU airplay, this is very much a station for people exchanging feelings and ideas. I went into this project knowing that even if every single item on the table sold I was still going to lose money.

This is more about me feeling lonely and detached from society, making art to communicate with the outside world, and hoping that it connects with people to the point that they reach back out to me in some way.

So Friday Morning I sat there. My friend Paul was sitting with me but left after two hours. I watched a line of people stand in the rain for a couple of hours to get into the expo center so they could spend $30 just to shop early.  The doors open, the customers ran in like vultures and attacked every table but mine. I sat there for around twelve hours. I sold one record. The man who bought the record bought it because his daughter thought the cover was funny. It was a copy of "Los Angeles Sucks And I Want To Die". It was 4:32 in the afternoon, it was my first sale. I started to get a little more optimistic.

By 8pm I had sold nothing else. Barely anyone had even glanced at the table let alone approached it.

I retreated to an especially shitty Airbnb that was a block or two away.

I sat in bed, looked out the window, pressed play on The Replacements "Don't Tell A Soul" and cried the most primal cry I've cried in a very long time. My best friend since 4th grade texted me. He said he was proud of me. Another best friend called me, we talked about everything for an hour. I walked out in the dark to get a sandwich because I had barely eaten all day. I broke down sobbing in a bodega.

On the walk back I put on the Talking Heads "More Songs About Buildings and Food" which is what I do when there's a creative problem that needs solving. I decided to go about this issue in two ways. First I made a low-rent knock-off version of the signage they use at Rough Trade in London. Each record they sell has an index card's worth of notes about the record placed in front of the sleeve. So I got some post-its with lines and wrote about each record. Then I wrote a full day's worth of Instagram posts, spaced an hour apart, with excessive detail about each item for sale on the table. I tagged them all #wfmurecordfair and set the location for the expo center.

I passed out at two in the morning.

When I went back to the record fair Saturday I felt great. I was ready, we were going to get them this time. But we didn't get them. I stood, I sat, I said hello, I didn't say hello. It didn't matter what I did.

In three days I had only ONE customer walk up to the booth, look at everything, understand what I was doing, and immediately make a purchase of one book and one record. One person.

A friend of mine who was my friend long before I ever got into making music is a DJ on WFMU and has played my music there before. He stopped by, I gave him a record, we caught up. That was nice.

Otherwise I watched as WFMU DJs that I admire, whose shows I listen to, whom I follow on social media and see how much effort they put into looking for new music and creating their playlists just zipped past my table and didn't even glance at it. I felt beyond disheartened. Had I once again fallen for some pipe dream? Was the whole thing a sham? I don't know but that's how it felt and it was soul crushing at that moment.

Some more friends showed up and hung out for a while on Saturday night. That was nice. It did nothing to help find new people to connect with but it quelled my loneliness which honestly was just as important in that moment.

Sunday was pretty much just as bad. Some more friends stopped by later in the day, but it was quiet, no one bought a single thing on Sunday. I started giving stuff away. One volunteer from the station showed up and knew all about me and my work. I was shocked. I gave him a record and thanked him. When it was time to clean up for the day I threw 99% of the table in the trash.

I thought a lot about the record fair. It's mostly older white men who are sexually frustrated buying old records to recapture moments of their youth. There's clearly a sexual connotation to the whole thing. This is where it really began to sting (and only got worse).

I've half jokingly but half seriously posted about the fact that I'm so lonely I haven't been on a date in five years and I haven't had sex in three years. I mean I feel like a leper. Here I was essentially being rejected to my face en mass for 36 hours in three days. IT HURT. IT HURT A LOT. Like it still hurts and it's Tuesday. Like it hurt so much that I had to start writing about it before it completely consumed me. How fat, ugly, awful, whatever it is can I be? Like I think I'm ok, but clearly I'm not ok because nothing is working. I'm still waking up alone and going back to a place where I basically have to pay people to hang out with me. Something is very wrong here.

In the middle of this drama was more drama. A female friend who I thought had a crush on me, whom I've spoken to most days for the last several years, is going through a divorce. She is here in New York so I made time to hang out with her. We always have fun when we hang out, always. But not yesterday. Yesterday was sort of awkward and terrible as I watched her ignore me in person to pay attention to a bunch of guys she was talking to on dating apps.

Last night after she texted me again I outright asked her if she was into me or not and she said she was not. Normally I might have been more upset (like Cure discography upset) but after three straight days of rejection by thousands of strangers I was in a uniquely numb state about it. She rattled off a list of guys she had lined up dates with.She mentioned another guy she's known for 10 years that she's hoping to date. She described his apartment in intricate detail. She's barely been single for two weeks. Was I that stupid? I mean she would go off on romantic vacations with her husband and get drunk and text me. She paid a lot of attention to me all of the time. Just last week she was asking if we could go on vacation together. Like that's not platonic friend shit in my book.

What her rejection did set off was memories of practically every woman I've ever been attracted to rejecting me, my entire life. And what do all of these people have in common? Me. The problem is clearly me, and I still feel as hopeless as ever as to how I'm ever going to fix that.

I'm going to go home, I'm going to work on this show, I'm already having low expectations for it's turnout after inviting 15 people I know and only getting two responses. Shit is really bad right now. The art is great. I mean, the more rejection and the more loneliness and the more depression the better the art gets, that's for sure.

I have 300 flyers and 26 billboards between New York and Los Angeles. They read "SAM POCKER LOVES YOU". He does, he really does. He just wishes you would love him back.


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