not as pretentious as the header image suggests, but just as awesome

Art Conquers All with Ellen Booraem

PrintI’m delighted to share another true love story, this one about art and love, and, eventually, inspiration. Ellen Booraem is the author of The Unnameables, Small Persons with Wings, and Texting the Underworld, which Publishers Weekly called “Affecting, funny, and provocative”. Enjoy!

In December 1979, a young artist in Newton Corner, MA, got a call from his friend Despina. It was the day after one of her lively parties. “Hey Rob,” Despina said, “I have good news and a question. The question is, can I borrow your Skilsaw? The good news is that Ellen called and asked all about you.”

The young artist did what he always did: picked up a brush. Summoning up an alter-ego cartoon character he’d been painting for friends since art school, he painted a postcard of himself dressed as Santa, titled it “Medford Runyuin plays the Claus,” and wrote a message on the back complimenting me on being able to hold my bourbon “like an old Cape Codder.” Then he mailed it.

Charming, right? Well, I thought so.

Our first date should have been New Year’s Eve — I invited him to meet me at a party in Boston (I lived in Providence, RI). His car was dead, so I told him to call our mutual friend Despina for a ride. He did call her, but he said, “So I guess Ellen and I will be seeing you New Year’s Eve.” Somehow this did not convey to her that she was supposed to pick him up. On the night, he sat in his kitchen and waited for the universe to solve everything, then gave up at midnight and walked down the street to another party.

At this point, another woman might have wondered what she was getting into.

But I hung in there because he was smart and funny and because on our third date, when our change was a dollar bill, he ripped it in two and handed me my half. (I still have the half-dollar in my wallet, and so does he.)

And then there was my Valentine, another painted postcard showing Medford’s sidekick, the Goatman, stealing my heart, rendered as a big candy box. It was followed by an Easter card on which Medford and the Goatman chased a giant, befuddled bunny with butterfly nets.

By the time my birthday rolled around in August, he was packing to come live with me in Providence. He made me a larger painting, on which Medford and Rob’s dog, Saffron, took flight from Newton Corner on a glider, the Goatman sprawled on the wing. The title was The Goatman’s Scheme to Split the Scene on Medford’s Dream.

We live in Maine now. I stole Medford and the Goatman and put them in my first book. He framed the postcards to keep me from sticking them on the Christmas tree — our friends kept reading the backs and giggling. You can see them and The Goatman’s Scheme here.

Happy Valentine’s month!