Things we find cleaning house

I had an unexpected burst of ambition yesterday. I suppose it was excess adrenaline from Friday’s mad dash to get materials off to a prospective agent for Saturday delivery. So much is bubbling up on the screenwriting front right now–all good–that it’s been a little crazy.

The result was that, while Robbye was at her jewelry party, I cleaned. And cleaned. I mean, not that the house was a terrible mess or anything. But a week away with no one paying attention to the dog fur that collects on the floors alone is enough to throw anyone over the edge. And it was stifling. I felt like we were wading through it.

After I put the main floor and the majority of the top floor back in shape, I just couldn’t quit. What the hell? I was on a roll, and Robbye was running errands. So I decided to tackle my office. Which was a terrible mess.

The last week or so before we left for Austin had been hard on my little office. During that time, I was pretty much a maniacal freak, and I could neither find nor keep track of anything. It sucked, and it was kind of unnerving. So I basically threw stuff around my office like a madman. That whole “looks like a tornado hit the place” thang? Yeah…I had it going on. Big time.

But now all of that is fixed. Everything is put in its place. Everything is wiped down, and I even Febreezed my chair. Yay!

And when I was putting away some files, something fell out. It was an unfinished stageplay I was working on–gawd!–way back in…1990? I don’t know. I think. No matter. A long time ago.

For those of you who don’t know, I have this thing about the painter, Renoir. He pretty much rocks in my book. He is my favorite artist, hands down. There are reasons for this, but I will not bore you with them now, as I am working really hard to keep these blog posts to a reasonable length. You know…under 3000 words.

Back in the day, though, I had just read a really cool book called RENOIR: AN INTIMATE RECORD by a gentleman named Ambroise Vollard. For those of you who are familiar with the Parisian art scene of the late-19th/early 20th Centuries, you recognize the name. He was arguably one of the most significant art dealers of his time and helped launch more than a few big-name artists during his career.

Yet, he was more than a mere dealer. He was simply in love with art. And artists. He was their biggest fan, their best partron, and, to many of them, their best friend. That certainly was the case with Renoir.

Vollard wrote other books, including one about Degas and even his own memoir. But none of them feels as tender and loving as the one about Renoir. Even though the book is pretty much just dictated conversations between the two men, you can absolutely sense Vollard’s affection for Renoir, who was quite old by then, his hands wracked with arthritis and confined to a wheelchair. But nonetheless alive. Quite alive.

I used to think a lot about Vollard and Renoir, and their great friendship. So one day, I decided to write a play about it, I guess. The idea behind it was to explore the chasm between the desire to be a great artist and the ability to actually become one. (No latent symbolism there, eh?) The story was centered around a fictitious series of encounters where Vollard engages Renoir to teach him how to paint, himself. The only problem is, of course, that Vollard can’t paint for shit.

Anyway, I got about 20 pages in and then quit. I don’t know why. Probably because…I don’t know. That was a dark time for me, particularly with respect to anything writing-related. Looking at it from this end of the telescope, I was probably scared more than anything else. Scared that I was Ambriose Vollard.

But I read it now, and I wonder why I was so afraid. I mean, it ain’t great, but then again, it was a first draft. Right? The five scenes I wrote all had a pretty good voice and a neat subtextual undercurrent. And a certain charm. I dunno. I can’t remember why I thought the state of writing affairs was as dismal as I did. Why I was so hard on that guy.

I hope one day I hope I can go back and work on this project again. I would like to finish it. Maybe even see it on stage. Perhaps next year, if I can get a little breathing room. Who knows?

Meanwhile, I thought I would share this. It’s a scene between Renoir and his wife, after one of Renoir’s sessions with Vollard. Thought y’all might get a kick out of it.

Click here to read it.

Okay…I gotta head back upstairs. Robbye’s wondering why the hell I’m writing at 4:00 in the morning and not cuddling her. Frankly, I am wondering the same damn thing. See ya.

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