At last! Magic fingers behind the scenes have been hard at work and have repaired my blog. Let’s pick up on “Rinaldo’s Art Project.” Alexander Wainwright, Britain’s finest landscape artist, has been hunting for the conceptual artist, Rinaldo, all over Venice. Rinaldo’s been leaving clues for him and now Alex sits waiting for him at Harry’s Bar. If you’ve missed any episodes, they’re still posted. Pretty soon you’ll be asking if Rinaldo is really crazy or just malicious?
At six o’clock, on the dot, I entered the Vivaldi Museum looking for Rinaldo. The building and the display of instruments were quietly impressive. Only a salesclerk, hidden behind a rack of postcards, was there.
While I waited, as patiently as I could, I read a good number of signs. Apparently, the museum is located in the orphanage where Vivaldi taught music. Certainly the composer gained much recognition for his work, but when he died, he was given a pauper’s burial.
How quickly one can fall from exalted status to the grave of abject poverty! Again, I thought of all of society’s outsiders. This great man–still enchanting listeners with “The Four Seasons” centuries later– was buried in a pauper’s grave.
Suddenly, a man approached and shoved a note into my hand. A camera flash went off no doubt recording my surprise. Without a word, he turned on his heel and marched from the museum. I squinted in the dim light to read the note:
Alexander! Meet me at Harry’s bar just around the corner at 6:30. You know where it is. Cheers, Rinaldo.
Suddenly, I was weary. I sighed deeply—so much so that the clerk looked up in alarm. I crumpled up the note and headed off for Harry’s Bar.
Indeed, I knew exactly where to find the bar, fortunately close by. I walked back to San Marco and within a few minutes I was standing at the door of the bar. I entered.
Harry’s Bar has a very welcoming atmosphere! But Rinaldo was nowhere in sight. I took a table against the wall and sat facing the room. Rinaldo is not a man to be trifled with. In fact, I wanted to maintain my guard and so I ordered a Perrier water and waited—and waited.
If you ever go to Venice, I highly recommend a visit to this restaurant. I was there once and the owner, Harry, a truly distinguished elderly gentleman, shook my hand warmly and cleared the table for me. Later I thought—that is the hand that has shaken the hands of such literary luminaries as Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote. It has also shaken the hands of famous artists like Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp. Probably a few minor Kings and Queens as well.
I have been in Harry’s Bar a number of times before. Some occasions have been most pleasant but one—on my last trip—was a near a disaster. I have a very good friend, Peter Cummings, who is a famous novelist—in fact the winner last year of the Man Booker Prize for his wonderful novel, The Paradox of Perception. By chance, we met one night at Harry’s Bar. He was with his parents and I was with Daphne.
I had not seen Peter for almost a year and he was still very angry with me, feeling that I had deserted him at the moment of his greatest need. For a great writer, that often comes just after the completion of the first draft.
He had wanted me to read it, but I refused. Why? I just knew Peter had to travel the road to his wonderful creation—alone. My input would have been a serious mistake. It would have muddied everything. But my refusal did serious damage to our friendship for a long while.
Peter, because of his father, has lived a life filled with fury. A child who is beaten and humiliated becomes a man glowing with rage.
As I sat in the bar waiting for Rinaldo, Peter’s face rose up before me, contorted with fury, as it was that night. That evening, my last words implored him to let go of his anger.
“Only you have power over your anger. But without your anger, you would not have written that superb novel. Someday, when you are able and ready, you may replace that driving fury with something else. Then you will write all the other books still within you. You must cherish your talent and insight—even though it causes you the greatest pain.”
It was an exhausting evening. Peter and I did not mend our friendship until almost a year later. But I still believe that I was right in what I said—at least, in the daytime, I think so, but at night…I wonder.
In The Drawing Lesson, my creator, Mary E. Martin, sets out everything that happened that evening. The events concerned Daphne greatly. Because I may have appeared cold and callous, of course, she wondered what sort of man she had found in me.
Remember! You’ll be wondering if Rinaldo is crazy or malicious OR maybe he is completely and utterly brilliant!