Told there would be a dance, I tried not to get too excited. The crowd is mostly white, and writers are pathologically tangled in their heads. Yet at the first sign of music, several white haired ladies are dancing all around like they’re at Woodstock. Then more and more folks. The DJ loves Stevie Wonder. Gee. I danced with him (the DJ, not Mr. Wonder)– he knew how to twirl, spool out and back, and narrated the process (let’s send you out, and then you do this), which was as odd as it was appropriate, in this town.
My main partner in crime was a woman from Argentina who was lusciously beautiful, simply dressed and robust and loosely postured, as we always imagine exotic, cultured women. She was a short story person. I had to write down my name so she would understand it. “Ah, Lis, like from Aylissabet.” Seeing us together, someone asked me, “Are you from Buenos Aires, too?” Uh, not exactly. One of my classmates teased me for chatting up the only black guy there. I corrected (even better!): Egyptian guy. I did not find out if Egyptians dance. He pleaded injury.
A few of us chatted after DJ closed up the laptop. I am old enough to contribute: classical musicians are really uptight. Don’t try to be like them. You can’t judge your own work. And: you can’t worry about making yourself create something great, all you can do is keep yourself in shape, and churning things out, and do the best you can with what you are given. You may not be given what Shakespeare was given, but that doesn’t mean your little work, or your mediocre book, won’t be critically important to someone else on the planet. Lots of mediocre books, books somewhat clumsy in the writing or problematic or predictable of plot, are precious to me. You just never know.
A younger writer brought up some of these issues, and it was again nice to see what I have learned, and how I’ve lived like I believe it. Also: if you’re in the arts to feed your ego, you’ll only get more and more unhappy as time goes on. If you’re in it to shave the ego down, you’ll get happier and happier.
We walked down to the river, and around and around, crossing and crossing, chatting easily. There were four of us, two women, two men. The younger couple split off to look for fireflies. I hoped that he would kiss her. I thought he might. I walked back with the older guy–who is coupled anyway– so nothing was at stake. We had a great talk, and the comfort I’ve gotten here from talking with so many people who are so much like me is almost, almost better than falling in love. It’s less scary, that’s for sure, and almost as exciting.