I lean the sign in its Kinko’s bag against the inside of my apartment
door. I do this every night. If I’m lying in bed in the dark and remember that
I forgot to do that, I get up and move it there. I don’t want to forget it
somehow and walk out the door in the morning without it. I wouldn’t do that of
course. It’s a long habit now. But I honor the sign and my luck to be the one
who gets to hold up its message by propping it right there. I have a Tibetan laminated holy
saying above the door that I got at a Buddhist fair once. I don’t remember what
it says, but it is a protection of some kind.
It’s been up there for more than a few years. I’m used to it being
there. I like the colors. I have no faith though that it will ward off evil. I never
think of it at night or in the morning like I do the sign.
I’ve been a schoolteacher. Right after college in 1969, like a lot of guys, I taught school as an alternative to serving in Vietnam. I was married with a week-old daughter on graduation day. I taught grade school English in Cleveland, Ohio for six years. After that, I ran, eventually owned, a longstanding bookstore in downtown Cleveland. It felt something like Three Lives in the West Village. I went on to found an alternative weekly paper like the Voice, also in Cleveland. It lasted 12 years. Twenty-one years ago I moved here, armed with an idea and a prototype for a national book magazine. Like a Rolling Stone for books. I never raised the huge amount of money I needed. I then worked for a media company, editing a couple of neighborhood weeklies, more than once using my editor’s space to talk about city kids and reading. Between the editorial jobs, I taught English for a year here in Manhattan at a Catholic boys’ high school with mostly minority kids. I was terrible at discipline. But sometimes when we found a book or a story we liked, it all came together.