JC Schildbach, LMHC
So, I was at a family dinner over my niece’s wedding weekend—not a specifically wedding-related event-meal, but that’s why we were all there—when I overheard (parts of) a conversation between my daughter, and my nephew’s significant other, about artist Patrick Nagel—he of Duran Duran Rio fame…or, as my daughter put it, “Hair Salon Art”. I might refer to it as Playboy Advisor art, but I wouldn’t want to have to explain why I would know such a thing. Hey…it was the 80s, alright?
At any rate, the random combination of a pre-wedding get-together and artist Patrick Nagel kicked me in the head with a bad memory…or rather, a personal embarrassment barely shared with anyone outside of my own head…until now. Okay, I shared the story with at least two people…my closest friend of 30+ years (now—10+ but almost 20 years then), and a writing professor I admired.
Neither turned out to be all that impressed by the…er… competency of the writing, or the craft of the story.
To clarify, back when I was (playing at) writing short fiction—not counting the fugues I occasionally yield to on this particular platform—I completed an exercise in dialog-based storytelling, which, along with most of my other efforts in that particular arena, belie a certain lack of ability to capture how real-live people speak…or at least how real-live people might speak in totally contrived situations. (I still have a frightening recall of actual conversations…except when I deliberately try to forget…but those often seem unlikely and bland when written out as fiction).
The Nagel-involved story I wrote, or rather, dribbled out onto the page, involved a frustrated-artist-turned-housepainter, on the eve of his ex-girlfriend’s wedding to another man, trying to express his love for ‘the one that got away’—on a golf course, in the rain—or some such. I don’t remember a lot of the specifics.
Or, rather, I’ve tried to forget a lot of the specifics. I can safely say I have no idea how the golf course came into play.
And, fortunately or unfortunately, a Microsoft update on a Dell computer shunted the file containing that story out into some undiscoverable place. I don’t dare dig through my ‘hard copy’ files to see if that embarrassment still exists, for fear I might feel obligated to share it here…or revisit the personal nightmare by reading said hard copy. Although, if it does exist, I know exactly where it would be.
But we’ll leave that to a day when I am feeling more up to facing my personal demons.
In the sound and fury of the particular tale under consideration, our angry, young, male protagonist laments how the public ignores his latest works—an attempt to utilize the style of Patrick Nagel’s work while capturing “real women’s” bodies, in all their perfect imperfection. So, he was basically using a style of highly-defined lines and an art-deco sensibility to show something that didn’t fit into clean lines and an art-deco sensibility…or some stupid crap along those lines. Thank the maker I didn’t try to do any illustrations or samples of the alleged works, or get into any more detailed explanations of them than I did.
As I write this, I realize I still remember too many of the specifics, even if the golf course piece doesn’t make any sense to me.
The idea behind the art aspect of the story was that our protagonist was trying to make a statement, to convey his understanding of women and how women are objectified, and—well, I suppose the idea was about men who are passionate and supportive of women who are then left by women who move on to men who aren’t so passionate and supportive. It was, to my thinking at the time, some kind of feminist statement—in spite of the clearly patronizing message.
Ultimately, it was just a dramatized version of the “nice guy’s” lament, (‘why are women always choosing bad guys, and not nice guys like me when I’m so much more understanding?’) but with a ridiculous art-criticism angle to it. Or, to put it another way, it was pretentious in the dumbest of ways.
Did I mention that I was working through some of my own crap at the time, involving a failing relationship? And that I was maybe 20 years old, and knew exactly nothing about relationships? (Which is not to say I know that much more now, but…)
What might have made the story marginally more functional in its intent would have been to have a female character that wasn’t just a vague object of the angry young man’s affection—having a character that was more fleshed out than just a guy’s desired woman. But even that wouldn’t have saved the story, since, at base, it was just a story about a guy whining to his ex-girlfriend about how he can’t understand why she wants somebody else instead of him…all while continuing to pretend to be just a nice guy.
What might have made the story marginally more functional in its intent would have been if I understood, or even tried to understand, the person who the female character was based on. But it was a selfish, self-indulgent complaint of a story. Self-reflection? No, I’m a writer–arrogance is my birth-right!
Looking back, though, I realize that I had set the bulk of the story on a golf course, in stormy weather—just like the scene in Caddyshack, where Bill Murray’s character, Carl Spackler, caddies for “The Bishop” in a nighttime thunderstorm, until the Bishop is struck by lightning, and Spackler sneaks off, leaving him for dead.
My protagonist was essentially Spackler—clueless and self-centered—living in a fantasy-world where he is the center of attention—just a Cinderella story of flower-decimating, golf-club-swinging, muttering foolishness.
But played for drama, rather than comedy.
In the course of all of this kicking myself in the head, I realized I could maybe go back and re-tool the story, to actually make it Caddyshack fan fiction—turn it from pathetic to hilarious—Carl Spackler’s back-story…the crisis that pushes him out into the world where he makes contact with the Dalai Lama, who promises Spackler he will achieve “total consciousness” upon reaching his deathbed.
But then, the Nagel element began causing problems. Would Spackler, in 1980, have been aware of Nagel’s art? In the short time between Nagel’s rise to prominence, and Nagel’s death in 1984, would Spackler have tried to connect with the Dalai Lama about consciousness, and women’s issues, and art, and all that? As a back story, the timeline wouldn’t work out?
Could I substitute a different artist for Nagel? Leroy Neiman, perhaps? (Sorry, just thinking, of Playboy-affiliated artists for no reason in particular.)
Of course, when I think of the effort and the potential embarrassment involved–no matter how private–I’m not gonna go back and write any Caddyshack fan fiction—not after spending a few decades trying to forget about the story that would form the basis of that fan fiction.
But, hey…anybody else out there itching to create some Caddyshack fan fiction?
If so, feel free to submit here in the comments section.
Happy fan-fictioning, y’all.