After all is said, done, and launched

by douglas john imbrogno | | october7.2023

As David Byrne cries in “Born Under Punches”: ‘I’m catching up with myself!’ Below are some things I am catching up on, myself, after launching a world premiere in West Virginia’s capital that was very fabulous and very exhausting to birth, too. Starting with the first of this month, I have gotten back to my First True Wheelhouse — long-form writing — with an hour-long, morning ZOOM writing group each weekday this October. My peeved Muses, who have been grousing and bellyaching for years to get us back to our writer’s garret, have started to settle into the mellifluent writing rhythms they have deeply missed, becoming more un-peeved by the day.

PS: I look forward to checking in with Rev. Byrne at a WVIFF screening in Charleston. W.Va., this Saturday of a remastered “Stop Making Sense,” one of the greatest concert films ever made. It’s a return to the High Church of Talking Heads for us diehard adherents. PPS: Ask me about the time I almost introduced myself to Byrne at the Peppermint Lounge in New York, but decided not to fanboy him. Oh, wait, I already mentioned that


IN MY MORNING WRITING GROUP YESTERDAY with Diane Zinna, the prompt was to weave a fantasy or fairy-tale-like story around tattoos that might mean something to you, which then talk and argue back and forth. The illustration Diane used was a cropped closeup of an extremely tattooed man. Wait. I KNOW that illustration, quickly confirmed by a Google image search. Those of us deeply influenced by the epic and gorgeously written science fiction and fantasy writing of Ray Bradbury (Doug raises his hand high) will recognize the illustration, too. I did — viscerally — since I owned the paperback version of “The Illustrated Man” by Bradbury seen on this page. The short story collection’s lead tale features a vagrant former freak show carny and his body’s extensive tattoos, perhaps created by a time-traveling woman, which animate and move, each telling a different tale.

Above is the full cover from which Diane’s illustration of her prompt comes. It is hard for me to underestimate how much of my desire to become a writer and to weave worlds out of words came from climbing down barefoot from trees during the day as a boy, and then folding into chairs, sofas, and bed at night with the stories of this master.

Not for the wimpy

Some of the reactions from reviewers of “HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton.” For links to the complete reviews, see this post.

As I have mentioned elsewhere and detailed at the official website,, the high-wire act of conceiving, writing, revising, cantankerously collaborating upon, crowdfunding and then promoting, promoting and promoting an original, independently funded documentary is NOT for the wimpy. “HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS: The Artistic Life of Robert Singleton,” an AmpMediaProject collaboration between Bobby Lee Messer and myself, finally launched Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. The world premiere was a fabulous evening at one of the most glorious and prestigious performance halls in all of West Virginia. More than 250 souls showed up, including the eponymous artist himself who took part in a post-screening Q-and-A. (For more on the premiere, see: ‘House in the Clouds’ launches with a pretty classy shindig.’)

Yet I found myself thoroughly exhausted, exasperated, and deeply spent in the days and weeks afterward. I failed, perhaps, to correctly factor the accumulated stress and weight of not just creating the thing, but the worry over whether its birthing would mean anything to the folks who showed up at the premiere, especially after my months of incessant, no doubt sometimes annoying, social media hype and entreaty.

In the end, it sure seemed like the film landed. I was hoping for a smattering of emotional, visceral reactions on stage during this hour-long portrayal of the remarkable art and noteworthy life of an 85-year-old painter up in the West Virginia hills. As the film unstintingly depicts, Robert has suffered his share of grief, loss, and trauma and then some. He paints on, at the top of his game still, atop his mountain in the Allegheny highlands, a jovial soul and world-class artist to this day. Almost across the board there were deep, resonant, emotional reactions to the documentary. Very gratifying.

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Non e Abbastanza

Meme-ification by the Quote/Works of

My post-premiere collapse left me the human equivalent of a used dishrag. I am just pulling myself out of those doldrums. This time in the barrel included alternating storm systems with gale-force winds screaming ‘What-is-the-point-of-it-all?!?‘ And ‘Screw-it-all-now-the-hell-what?!?’ And just this free-floating angry, depressed angst. (There has got to be something in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describing ‘Post-Traumatic World Premiere Emo-Collapse Syndrome …’ )

At the tail end of my bout with this disorder, I recalled the Cardinal Crowe quote/poem above. So, I memed it. Because it’s true. Some days, art and being an artist is simply not enough. That is true no matter how much we creative souls preen in the spotlight when it finally, and rarely, lands upon us and our work. The culture lauds the singular role of art, in all its manifestations, and the role of the artiste, as if art were a potential salvation or reprieve, maybe, from the otherwise overwhelming human misery of the day’s headlines.

Or maybe not.

Or is that just the Emo-Collapse Syndrome speaking?

It’s a cat thing

‘The Whisker Sisters’ Family Portrait | photography

If we are good at living, we outlast the malaise that is, perhaps, its own form of self-centered, self-pitying egotism. We get by with a little help from our dearest friends, our lovers and partners (thank you, LRM!!!), our go-to holy men and women, and maybe some meditation, mindfulness and pertinent sayings. (‘Don’t just DO something. Sit there.’). Add in some streaming TV-binging on such superior entertainments as the whip-smart Reece Witherspoon/Jennifer Anniston vehicle ‘The Morning Show.’ Some good cigars. Some fuzzy cats.

I am now, at last, feeling rested, somewhat rejuvenated and less angstified (which the OED tells me is not a word, but which I hereby declare to be one). At the worst of it, even I couldn’t stand to be around me. Meanwhile, those of us who love ‘HOUSE IN THE CLOUDS’ are beginning to walk it out into the world beyond West Virginia’s capital city. We have two limited-seat screenings in a funky-cool collaborative art gallery in the too-cool-for-school mountain art town of Thomas, W.Va., on Saturday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 15. Two more are planned Friday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 11, at The Inn at Lost River in Lost River, W.Va. We are still on the hunt for a screening venue in Washington. D.C. (Your thoughts and contacts on that are welcome.)

And so I have successfully navigated to the other side of the Cardinal Crowe meme above. Some days art is enough.

The cats really helped keep things in perspective, too.

Thanks to Jeff Seager for editing feedback on this piece.

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Andy Ridenour says:

How about the Eastern Panhandle, Shepherdstown in particular…

Douglas Imbrogno says:

That might be possible, Andy. But every time we add one of these screenings — being a one-man promotion shop for the film — I have to ask myself: ‘Alright. Doug Self, can you stop your life for two to three weeks to hector, encourage and ceaselessly abuse social media to get a whole bunch of OTHER folks out to an art event in a town that doesn’t know you from Adam, Eve and Steve? Whaddya say, self?’ Our biggest Next Big Hope is to find a cool venue in Washington DC — perhaps an art gallery or offbeat film venue or society — to screen it. Especially one that has a built-in audience and promotion smarts. Stay tuned if Doug Self nabs that golden ring by free subcribing to the official movie site, Sir Ridenour!

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