This weekend I, inadvertently but unmistakably, stumbled upon the six essentials for a Writer’s Perfect Weekend. I swear, it was like having a dragon fall out of the sky and land on me.
It was exactly the way the Climactic epiphany of all great fiction is meant to be:
One minute I was just sitting there reading a book I was loving more and more every page.
utterly, impossibly inevitable
The next minute I was wondering how I could never have seen this before, how I could have been on this planet for half-a-century already and never known. . .
And I’m going to share those six essentials with you.
That’s how much I love you guys.
Carlos Santana playing Samba Par Ti
So first click right now on Santana playing his classic, heartbreaking Samba Par Ti (Samba for You, Love) so you can listen to it while you read the rest of this.
I promise it will make sense.
Because the dragons are dancing to Santana.
I bought those dragons seven years ago at our local garden store—I know, weird, I guess they’d thought about importing woodcarvings, but they didn’t sell, so my beautiful dragons sat on a shelf accumulating dust until they went on sale half-price.
And then I came along.
I bought the big dragon. It’s just too beautiful, carved all of one single piece of starwood. Every scale is hand-carved, every tooth, every delicate, curling whisker. All of a piece.
I went home, mightily trying to resist its little matching pal.
But I went back the next day and bought that one too.
And now, after seven years, I just yesterday discovered the song they’ve been dancing to all along.
Homemade chili verde in homemade flour tortillas
Fortunately, of all the things the deer demolished in our garden this summer, the volunteer tomatillos were not among them. So as I was staring in amazement at the dragons showing me what they’d been dancing to all along, my husband made homemade chili verde from the tomatillos and homemade flour tortillas, and we ate them with sour cream and. . .
Because my husband has also gotten into brewing his own beer this summer, and the stuff he bottled a few weeks ago is really—I’m telling you—amazing. As our son likes to say, “Everything tastes better when it’s homemade.”
I want to name this new beer Dragons Samba Par Ti.
File 113 by Emile Gaboriau
And. . .and. In the middle of the dragons dancing to classic Santana and the most extraordinary homemade lunch you can possibly imagine, I was also reading the final act of one of the seminal detective novels of the Western mystery genre, File 113 by the brilliant Emile Gaboriau.
I was in a state of near-hysteria, because the dragons were dancing so gorgeously, and the chili verde and beer were so good, but I couldn’t stop reading because Gaboriau—it turned out—had anticipated my every guess about his novel and was in the middle of devastating me with his lush, gothic expertise with the written word.
And these are my antique hardbacks! That I bought as a set, published in 1900! I couldn’t get chili verde and beer on them!
But I couldn’t stop doing any of the things I was doing even long enough to decide between them.
So instead I took just a moment to calm myself with a reminder that, on top of it all, our wonderful POTUS is still leading the electoral college by miles, just as he has been for weeks throughout the debates. . .while the neo-cons’ talking-head clings by his fingernails to the slipping edge of all those expensive TV ads with which the neo-cons hope to buy the American country right out from under its people.
But they won’t buy our country.
Because they can’t.
Because Americans aren’t stupid.
We may not be perfect, but we know our Constitution is based upon “truths” our founders took to be “self-evident,” among them “the Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
So when the neo-cons’ talking-head tells the top 1% of the wealthy of this country—when he thinks he’s in secret, behind closed doors—that 47% of Americans are lazy, irresponsible bums who feel “entitled [his emphasis] to food, housing, and healthcare” (all covered under just our first Constitutional Right: “Life”), that this means “these 47% pay no income taxes. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income taxes”. . .an impossible, bare-faced, shameless lie, only because these 47% (“48%, 49%,” he says suddenly, throwing numbers wildly because he knows they’re meaningless) are that half the entire popular vote who can be absolutely counted on to vote for our President Obama, not even including the swing voters (most of whom are registered Republican voters, whose last GOP President was such a blatant neo-con that he taught them to hate him). . .
We know perfectly well that Obama can count on that incredible amount of support because in only four short years he has:
turned around the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression
brought our loved ones in danger home to their families, after nine years of war instigated by that President so infamous even Republican voters hate him (the majority of those troops from Republican families)
saved Detroit (the mostly blue-collar jobs of mostly Republican voters)
signed the most significant women’s rights bill we’ve ever had since the neo-con puppet talking-head Phyllis Schafley shot down our Equal Rights Amendment when I was a teenage girl (leaving me to spend my life working just as hard as my male counterparts without fair or equal pay)
Even against the worst obstructionism in Congress ever seen in my life—
Practiced across-the-board by neo-con talking-heads against our President for the sole purpose of being able to claim, now in 2012, that the President hasn’t accomplished enough—
We get it.
The neo-cons are talking behind our backs to rich people about us—Democrats and Republicans and Independents, liberals and conservatives, all alike—about buying our country right out from under us for a few measly millions by using their television-ad dollars to make fools of us.
All around us the dragons are dancing—both the infamous and the fabulous, the demonic and the magnificent. They always have been, and they always will.
And while the dragons dance to the beauty of what we have, and what we are, and what we are right this moment claiming as our own. . .our hearts break with sheer poignant gratitude for it all.
Get our of your seats right now, people. Step into the maelstrom of your life.
Go dance with the dragons.
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MILLLICENT G. DILLON, the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles, has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb.
LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth.
SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway.
STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited his second novel, Memory of Water and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water.
ANIA VESENNY is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny's debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights.
TERISA GREEN is widely considered the foremost American authority on tattooing through her tattoo books published by Simon & Schuster, which have sold over 45,000 copies. Under the name M. TERRY GREEN, she writes her techno-shaman sci-fi/fantasy series. I am working with her to develop a new speculative fiction series.
CHRIS RYAN drew acclaim from the New Yorker for the hook to his novel Heliophobia. He is the author of poetry collection The Bible of Animal Feet from Farfalla Press. I edited Ryan’s debut novel The Ishmael Blade and worked with him to develop Heliophobia and his work-in-progress Pogue.
JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with her to develop and edit her memoir of reconciling her liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland.
In addition, I work with dozens of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this literary art and craft.