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  • “This is the story of Danny and of Danny’s friends and of Danny’s house. It is a story of how these three became one thing, so that in Tortilla Flat if you speak of Danny’s house you do not mean a structure of wood flaked with old whitewash, overgrown with an ancient untrimmed rose of Castile. No, when you speak of Danny’s house you are understood to mean a unit of which the parts are men, from which came sweetness and joy, philanthropy and, in the end, a mystic sorrow…”

    When I finished the first paragraph of Tortilla Flats, I wondered which of the mortal trinity – Travis Daniels, Raymond Weyandt, or Daniel Bridgefarmer - Steinbeck met before reincarnating him in Danny. The alchemy of these three produces the same spirit as Danny and his friends – the last stand in the Round, the last head upturned and indignant toward the city’s surf, the sound in the fury… the last trembling glass of carlo rossi.

    That was over five years ago. When I first met Danny and his friends, Bridgefarmer and I were headed toward Daniels and away from Weyandt’s surprise birthday weekend in Texas’ hill country. Some of the finest souls, each tightly woven instruments of talent and insight, each devoted to a craft capable of making this strange world a bit brighter (and stranger), met there together. Thanks to Love’s near divine orchestration, Weyandt, seemingly driven by a muted state of perpetual shock at life's wonders, was genuinely surprised. We all were. We battle royaled on the river. Listened to one another’s songs. Experienced the person five years of love, loss, and strife forged.

    As we drove from the rolling and blooming tree topped hills into the sparse plains of central Texas, trying not to corrupt the rental’s interior with smoke and worse (boy we’ve come a long way), I read the book aloud. With each tale of Danny and his friends’ adventures, we paused to remember the summer of our own young blood – confounded conventions. disciples without a lord. a crew that still hears their murdered captain. the wealth of poverty and the value of unlocked doors. Cowboy ethics. boots on the hard wood floors and lyrics on the tongue. Sometimes, nostalgia's stink settles pleasant in the present.

    The stuff of our remembrances led us here. We loved and sang together so that we would each believe in our own voice. We settled on the wonder that it worked and on the wonder that our summer was not unique. It was not some mystic or salient state of mind one falls upon or conjures from corners forgotten by modernity. It always was and is lived all over. We had our time. “Danny” and his friends had theirs and Steinbeck too, not long before our kin grew thick its branches and the unit became greater than, but completely dependent upon, its parts.

    “You must sing to be found, once found you must sing.”
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