Last night we finished up Chapter 8, and we estimate we’re about a third through.  This
has definitely gone on longer than we anticipated, not because we get stuck or aren’t
being productive – it’s because different aspects are constantly popping up, begging to be
included and expounded upon.  It’s a fascinating process and has worked out very well,
much better than I expected it, and I imagine a large part of it has to do with the fact that
we’ve managed to eliminate the stress associated with having to go work for someone
else every day.

In 1992, when I was working for South Carolina Educational Radio and Dave for Capitol
Records, we took our first trip to Ocracoke Island.  Dave is a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic,
but when that ferry started the trek across the Pamlico Sound, it was as if some spirit had
possessed him, and this same phenomenon continues to this day.  It’s not that he’s a
different person – I’m not sure how to explain it.  He’s more at ease with himself and
with the world.  He was fascinated with the story of Blackbeard, and he likes to describe
this change as the Old Man speaking to him.  And it seems it was this first trip where the
seed of Thatcher was planted in his mind.  He returned to Los Angeles, and the seed
began to grow.  After we were married, he went through a period of near-obsession,
researching the known history of Blackbeard and the events surrounding the estimated
duration of his life.  Through an off-hand remark I made, another branch was born, a
secret link that will be revealed when the book comes out – which of course led to
another series of research.  These notes, along with a lengthy timeline, the prose of
Prologue and Chapter 1 which he managed to peck out in, what was it, 1994 or so, and a
few related resource books are here with us.

The general process is this:  as the girls are being put to bed – much too late, certainly, for
little girls, pampered with readings of Pooh and whatever before being hugged, kissed and
tucked –  Dave goes through his routine of washing the supper dishes and brewing a pot
of Uruapan coffee.  He plugs the desktop monitor into the laptop, so he can see what I’m
typing without having to look over my shoulder, and gathers his reference materials.  I
come downstairs and take my place at the laptop, into which I’ve attached a full-size
ergonomic keyboard – I would go bonkers trying to type on that tiny laptop keyboard.  
Often we’ll have a bowl of pistachios between us (note to self:  go to Chuchos tomorrow
for a king-size bag of pistachios).  Then we begin.

Dave must have a million threads floating around in his head, revolving around this story,
criss-crossing, diverging, running parallel.  It’s an amazing thing to contemplate, and in
fact we’ve had a few times where we’ll have to defrag the process a bit here and there.  
He picks up where we left off the previous session, narrating the action or dialogue or
perhaps waxing philosophic in a section describing the history of the moment.  I want to
make it very clear that this story is from the mind of Dave, following as realistically as he
can with actual historic record but definitely not regurgitating it.  Lest one think that I’m
simply a stenographer in this project, I will admit that I do manage to serve some purpose
in both the architecture and engineering.  I pay close attention to continuity, sometimes
stopping to say, “You’re saying they sailed from Surabaya to Trinidad in two months?  I
don’t think so!”  I try to keep an eye on grammar – subject-verb agreement, split
infinitives, incomplete sentences – but work hard not to pick on these items at this point,
nor to question the wording of a particular sentence.  The point right now is to transfer
this from grey matter into bytes, and the awkward passage or misplaced comma will be
dealt with in the redline.  I sometimes bite my tongue, intent on getting through a section
and avoiding disagreement on a certain issue – don’t get bogged down in the details, that’s
my axiom.  As I get caught up in the story and the characters – characters I’ve not heard
of in these years of living with Thatcher, peripheral figures who keep expanding and
delighting or disgusting me – I have to laugh and every once in a while make a comment
that, from time to time, becomes yet another part of the story.  

So you see, this is turning into even more of a team effort than I ever expected.  Yes, I
suppose Dave could have found some other typist to take down his words, but the end
result would not be exactly the same, and I suppose it’s quite possible a less resolute
person might have walked out on him weeks ago!.  And that’s neither good nor bad, it’s
just the way it is.  It reminds me of a scene from the movie
Irreconcilable Differences,
where Shelley Long and Ryan O’Neal write this hit screenplay – he’s walking around the
room talking and she’s typing, piping in from time to time, Of course, they end up
splitting up because of their selfish disagreements, and it’s our hope that our book will be
a success but that we’ll not allow the trappings of it to make us stupid assholes!  So far,
we’ve managed not to descend into petty arguments, for the most part, which is
something of a small miracle when one considers the hours we keep and the lack of sleep
I sometimes experience ... then again, we’re both night owls.  Occasionally I take an
afternoon nap, often beset with some of the strangest dreams ... but that’s another story.  

Tonight we take a short break, then it’s on to what Dave has dubbed the Second
Trimester (
see his blog).  It’s time to strap on the big gear, buckle down and push it
through.  Our hope is to get it done by October 20, when my friend Kristen is flying into
Ixtapa, and we’re planning to spend a few days at Zihuatenajo (if you’ve ever seen
Shawshank Redemption, this is the place Morgan Freeman talks about, where they end
up) where I’ve located an affordable lovely 3-bedroom bungalow right on the beach
(though I don’t yet know if it’s available!).  We’ll spend some time relaxing and then gird
ourselves for the final push.  And then the redline battles begin!

And finally, I suppose what is making Thatcher come to life is the fact that we’ve
managed to make this labor our jobs.  It’s not paying us anything at this point, but we can
always dream!  I know this is a story I’d like to read, which is what I will keep in mind as
I go through the redline.  And we’re hoping it will be one that many will want to read.  
You will, won’t you?

#   #   #
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Pen's Essays - 8
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