Looking Back
From Down the Highway:
a new preface / memoir written in 2003

     Whatever 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 afford that!
     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 asked.
     "A book of poetry I just finished writing!" I said proudly, holding up my beautiful cover.
     "Wow!" he said. "May I read it?"
     "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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