that night, the eve of the big battle, chrisopher rilke, a boy of eighteen, frolicing with his comrades, at the tavern. outside the sun had set red. the night was long, filled with wine women and song. young rilke was a soldier, a coronet.
he fell in love with a girl that night and lay with her in an upstairs room. cannons thundering woke him up. the tavern was on fire. in his night shift he ran to the barn, grabbed the flag and galloped to the battle. in his eagerness, he outdistanced his own attacking army.
the standard bearer wore no weapons as he entered the enemy camp. they closed in on all sides and the noble youth died of multiple wounds from lances and sabre cuts. he was dragged from his white destrier and trampled beneath the hooves of the charging cavalry.
that's a synopsis of a lyrical poem by rainer maria rilke the poet. rilke wrote it in one sitting at night by candlelight after reading an account of the hungarian war with turkey in the 17th century. a certain 'cornet rilke' was killed. the hero, if you can call him a hero, was rilke's ancestor. the account of his death stimulated rilke's imagination. read it someday. it's a beautiful romantic poem.
s. painted the epic scene as he saw it in his mind's eye. the moment of glory. it was his second anti-war painting; 'protest' being the first when he was fifteen. and it was time for a new statement of the horrors, stupidity and waste of war. s. painted this scene twice. only fragments survived in black and white photos of it. the second one's whereabouts are unknown.
s. wasn't getting much painting done and julie was pregnant again. so when s's father offered the winter park house rent free, s. jumped at the opportunity. (bob and anita had moved to houston. he had been working for nasa for a few years; recruitment films for the engineers at martin marietta, all about bullpup missles and other instruments of war, which he hated. he was happy to be transferred to the space program.)
s. left everything behind and hitchhiked with julie and demian to winterpark, fl.. not without putting brother bobby on a plane to houston where he could get the help he needed. (he dried out and got a job as an inhalation therapist. he met a girl and got married.)
s. had to get some money coming in right away or they would starve. the house was in a development about three miles from town. s. bought a used bicycle. the only job he could get was south of orlando.
demian's first birthday on lake howell rd.
s. got up while it was still dark and rode his bike seven miles to the orange grove where he watered the grove of trees all day long. this required moving sections of a sixty foot metal tube. turn the water off, detach 12 foot lengths, move them to the next row, attach them and turn the water back on. but there wasn't just one line, there were many to move. about eight men worked the irrigation perpetually through each day. a half hour lunch break and back to work. it was alright but the ride home was hard.
he 'fought the bulls'… that is where you push a wheelborrow up a plank full of concrete debris. you have to duck down to get through the hole into the light. he did that for a few days. then he dug ditches for an architect in the sand and sun of the atlantic coast. these kind of jobs the first few days you don't think you can go back but after a week you get used to it.
s. had hoped there would be a market for his paintings in winter park. the gallery that used to sell his paintings as fast as he could paint them wasn't too happy with his more developed style. besides he only had a few paintings. at night and on the weekends s. worked on a few new paintings. the sidewalk festival was coming up. he hoped that would jumpstart his making a living by his art.
old john dunathan, who had collected four of s's earlier works delivered a bed and a few tables and chairs. the house was unfurnished. one of the neighbors donated a crib for demian.
this is one painting in the new style.
then walt wirth got him a commission with ramada inns, one hundred oil paintings in ten different styles. he did op art, pop art, impressionist, cubist,surrealist, abstract expressionist, realist landscapes and seascapes, figurative realism and primitive paintings. the advance money was very generous but the project fell through somehow. he never knew why. but after painting five of each style when he asked for more advance money, walt was nowhere to be found. if you consider the cost of materials alone, he might have made a dollar a day. a great disappointment. no contract, just a handshake.
another disappointment was the sidewalk art festival on the pretty streets of winter park. he sold nothing at all. julie was getting fed up with summer in muggy central florida.
by this time john dunathan had loaned s. his third car. jonathan was born on august third.
a month later julie went around the house one day and broke all the mirrors and had a nervous breakdown. she wanted to go to san francisco. s. argued that they would do no better anywhere else than in winter park where they had a whole house for free. julie cried and cried. s. gave in. they loaded a few things in the car. with a rope s. strapped a few bundles and their big bed on the roof and off they went. s. called dunathan from new orleans. the cops had pulled them over.
s. had no drivers license and no registration. dunathan was superb on the phone with the police, saying that he had loaned the car and s. could do whatever he wanted with it.
it was two in the morning and the captain of the police was dragged out of his bed. the captain just said. "let 'em go."