That week was also the moment I became friends with Robert Wilder. He was a writer and high school teacher in Santa Fe, who often co-taught with Natalie. When she spoke to the group, she was extremely open and giving, but during the breaks, it was clear she had to put up some walls to ward off the hordes of needy would-be writers. I could see the wariness descend when I tried to approached her for a one-on-one follow up. She'd seen my kind before. I understood and kept my distance.
I was there on my own, in a different context without my more known partner and film touchstones. I wanted to see what that was like. But then I heard Rob speak. He was hilarious and a great storyteller. Highly energetic and entertaining. And clearly a movie nut. Everything he said was peppered with movie references. I couldn't resist making the connection. "So you like movies, huh?" as I set down my lunch tray next to him. And the name dropping began. The communion clear. We talked through the week and we've been emailing ever since. Writing, movies, NM, our kids, it's been easy and fun and rich.
Some months ago Rob wrote out of the blue asking if I knew of the film Chalk. Well of course I did. It's an Austin film about a year in the life of some novice high school teachers. Not a doc, but very real. And very funny, (and now available on dvd). Turns out Rob had written a book of essays called, "Tales from the Teachers' Lounge" and thought they might have common ground.
Months later, Rob was invited to the Texas Book Festival.