my "inner literary critic" may say today, YOUNG
MAN GONE WEST was a true labor of love. I had hitch-hiked to Denver
from Cheyenne to visit my old buddy, Ed Luck, after my wife had left
Cheyenne with the car. I felt a mixture of thrill at the prospective
exploration of a new city, and confusion about my direction in life.
Those were the days when I was discovering
self-help groups. My daily routine consisted of going to meetings, exploring
the city, writing, and for a time, being a street minstrel at the new
outdoor downtown mall..
The minstrel days ended when the weather
turned. An angel whispered in my ear a possible new project: "Put
a book of poems together!"
I realized a number of my recent efforts
would work together and kept writing until the same angel said,
"This much is the book."
Then came the "high tech" part.
High tech meant, in those days, taking
busses and trudging repeatedly in blizzards to Kinko's, the new little
shop near the university where you could make copies, collate, and even
create a "book cover" out of colored card stock. There was
no other way to put my book together except to make the lengthy journey
again and again from my apartment on Colfax Street.
I also needed a work space for writing
and editing, and set about the hopeless task--given my paltry means--of
finding an "office" to rent. Checking the bulletin board at
Rainbow Foods, the "new age" grocery store around the corner,
was a good beginning.
Miraculously, I soon stumbled upon an
old 5-story building that was owned by a progressive proprietor who
rented space cheaply to the Sierra Club and various other liberal organizations.
Incredibly, a tiny room was available for $35 a month! Even I could
I bought a used desk and somehow lugged
it up the freight elevator. Tipping it on its end, I pulled it through
the office door.
By now, YOUNG MAN GONE WEST was almost finished.
A little more writing and a couple more trips to Kinkos, and I was riding
home on the bus cradling fifty copies of my baby in my lap. The first
copies had gold covers. They felt like pure gold.
I brought the books back to the office.
The late November evening was cold, windy, and delicious. Deep snow
lay on the ground. As I entered the building, a man about my age was
walking in the hall.
"What have you got there?" he
"A book of poetry I just finished
writing!" I said proudly, holding up my beautiful cover.
"Wow!" he said. "May I
"Sure!" I told him. "Here,
you can have a copy."
"That's so kind of you. Will you
autograph it?" he asked.
Soon I was walking toward my own little
space, eager to make a cup of tea and go over YOUNG MAN GONE WEST one
more time. I pulled my keychain from my pocket. It was heavy with keys
to several churches I opened each week for self-help meetings
Closing the door behind me and putting
the books down on the desk, I suddenly felt completely naked, as if
my entire psyche was getting x-rayed.
"What could be making me feel this
way?" I wondered. As far as I knew, I was completely alone and
had been filled with nothing but expansive feelings.
Then I knew. The young man downstairs
had opened his book and was reading. He was reading my soul. That was
what poetry was: the book of one's soul, shared.
"But this book only
skims the surface of what I have to say!" I thought, savoring
this delicious taste of the writer's secret life, shared only by God.
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