Charlie Boots on the vagaries of sudden fame and wearing the mask

Charlie Boots accepting the Brandon Borchert Pop Art Award.
Charlie Boots accepting the Brandon Borchert Pop Art Award.

Editor's note: Artist Charlie Boots is part of the inaugural pair of PAIR residents at Denver's Powerhaüs Studio. As part of his residency, he and his fashion-designing counterpart will be reporting from the real world via Show and Tell, as they learn the ropes from studio mentors Mona Lucero, Lauri Lynnxe Murphy and Jimmy Sellars. Applications are now being accepted for the second PAIR residency; visit the website for details. Here's the next report from Charlie Boots.

See also: - Charlie Boots on his artistic process, Internet romances and why logos inspire him - Charlie Boots on light-rail adventures, being a poor artist and why he is like Jesus - The world according Charlie Boots: A newbie on what it takes to get noticed

If I'm dead by the time you read this, then the following is the story of how it happened. And as is normally the case concerning the events of my life, I'm not certain if the following is funny or frightening. It is, however, unmistakably fascinating. The story begins with a text message.

Charlie Boots on the vagaries of sudden fame and wearing the mask

"Hi Charlie."

This was an unknown number to me. The area code, "720," indicated that the sender lived in Denver.

"Hello," was my response.

"I like your paintings."

"I appear to not have your number registered in my phone. May I ask who this is? And thank you for the compliment."

"And courteous too! My oh my what a catch."

This is where the red flag was first raised in my mind. Danger, Will Robinson. Who the hell am I talking to?

As one well-versed in the art of the mind-fuck, I had to give credit where credit was due. I responded with a simple "Thank you" and decided to refrain from texting an engaging statement.

At this moment, I was at the Knoll Gallery on Santa Fe. I was waiting to receive an award from Dana Cain. She had decided that I was worthy of the Brandon Borchert Pop Art Award, an honor for which I would have been even more excited had I not been distracted by the potential that I now had a text stalker.

Put the smile on. Don't ask the crowd, "Is anyone here texting me like they are the Riddler and I am Batman?"  

Charlie Boots, "Dots."
Charlie Boots, "Dots."

The problem is that I live on a fine line. Whoever was texting me was either completely unaware, or entirely too aware, of this line. There are times when people ask me why I like to paint masks. I'm not certain of the answer, but I have a theory. There are times when I am convinced that I am not real. I mean this earnestly. I have a vivid memory of the farthest I've gone down this rabbit hole. I don't know what set me off, but I was walking along the Platte River, cursing my author.

"You think I don't know, don't you?! You think I don't know that I'm a character in your book! Well, I do know. You are not so clever, making me break the fourth wall like this, you know! You're probably a hack writer at best! The irony you interject into your story is so obvious and cliché that even your main character is aware that this is all just a work of fiction!"

I've since realized that this kind of rambling is utterly insane and at least mildly disturbing to passersby. I'm not a work of fiction. And yet, this has all gone to produce in me a peculiar phobia. I am afraid of events that feel like they could have been written.

"Care to play a game of guess who? I'll give you three hints. The first one is that you know who this is."

No no no no no no no.


This was too perfect a response. This is something that an antagonist would say.

I tried to keep my cool, but my brain began compiling a list of who this could be.

1. A long-lost friend who decided the best way to get back in touch with me was to freak me out?

2. A secret admirer?

3. An ex?

4. A political saboteur who has horrible aim and an even worse informant?

5. A robot sent back to the past in order to kill me before I become a prominent member of the humans' last rebellion?

6. A porn star?

7. An alien abductor?

8. A cult leader who had determined that my unique abilities were a perfect means of promoting their world conquering schemes?

9. Barack Obama?

10. A group of friends who utilized the phone of a non-mutual friend in order to get me paranoid before a surprise party?

11. A disgruntled professor, looking for revenge after a semester of challenging classroom participation?

Play it cool.

"I'm good at guessing."

Damn it! I meant to say, "I'm not good at guessing." No engaging statements! Why did I write that? Was it an accident? Was it a Freudian slip? Is the situation, the mystery, so fascinating that some small part of me forced myself to write that?

"I apologize. I meant to say I am not good at guessing. I have no idea to whom I am speaking," I texted as soon as I realized my mistake. "Bob Dylan?" I added for comedic effect. Perhaps a non sequitur would coax him/her out?


And that's the last thing 720 has written me. That was at 7:11. It is 8:40 right now, and I am aware that somewhere on the other side of a satellite is a person waiting for me to make my move.

Oh. And I am stuck on the light rail. Yet again, the light rail is experiencing difficulties and I have been sitting here for well over a quarter of an hour.

I had too much caffeine today to deal with this. I need more sleep. The other day, my hair bumped the ceiling of my car and I began panicking that someone was sitting behind me.

Some guy next to me is obnoxiously loud and is trying far too hard to be cool. "It be poppin'," he just said. "Damn. I wonder what be wrong with this train."

I can't deal with this.

We just had to de-board the train. If there is a good time to kill me, it is now. But that's not what freaks me out.

What freaks me out is my impulse to write this. People keep telling me I'm a good writer, and I am grateful, but the problem is that I write too much like a narrator. This is all happening right (write?) now, in real life, and yet it all feels like a lesser short story of an obscure Internet novelist.

I need to stop reading those books.

I don't know how this ends. 720 has yet to text me again.

And so that's where it stands. If I die, this is a horror story. If I live, this is a comedy. Regardless, I certainly hope it's a good read, wherever you are reading this from. I hope you are at home, in your bed, not looking over your shoulder, like I am.

Oh, wait.

I just got a text...

-Charlie Boots, July 24, 2013

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