Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Inmate and the Institution

A day beyond the half-way point of arguably one of the more energetic and purposeful writers' conferences and the pattern begins to emerge: the management tends to behave like the inmates and the inmates, so tentative at first, appear to have taken on managerial qualities.

Earlier this evening, I was able to slip away for a leisurely dinner with a man with whom for twenty years I cohosted a fiction-writing class and produced, directed, and acted in dinner theater mystery productions. He has moved some distance away, to Provo, Utah, making this week-long conference our only chance to visit during the year. We are completely unalike in temperament, making our limited partnership even more valuable for our students and clients. Although we rarely socialized as such, scarcely a week elapsed during those twenty years of his residence here when we did not meet for some activity. He is one of the best good men I have ever met, his intelligence, humor, and honesty making him a joy to associate with and reminding me of the part of life and profession associated with loss by passage of time and agenda. Students come and go, my favorite coffee house is a hub workplace for a number of remarkable young men and women of university age who have passed through, matriculating at the local university, then gone to a promising destiny.

A few moments of nostalgia for the privilege of seeing these remarkable ones, moments of gratitude for friends. Every time I have my auto serviced at the Toyota agency here, I manage to have a meal at the Sizzler, a restaurant where I would frequently lunch with McNally, a huge, enthusiastic bear of a man, my first real friend here in Santa Barbara. The Sizzler chain is largely mediocre, but there was nothing mediocre about McNally, whose friendship I can now enjoy only in memories or dreams.

It--life-- is all about how we celebrate the passage of time, with friends, with writing, with music, with acting and theater. Nostalgia means wishing Leonard wasn 't keen on leaving for Provo on Friday, right after the awards brunch. Nostalgia means being pleased enough to know and having been associated with such a man.

Is it possible to reach a point in life where you can send nostalgia forth the way you send shirts to the laundry. On hangars. No starch, please. Ready Monday after five.

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