You've indulged me long enough. Here's an excerpt from "34 of 86 Stories" which ran in Passages North this year, a piece I dedicated to Alfred Kazin who wrote A Walker In The City, one of my favorite books. I take some measure of my own, dearly-held adolescent walks through my hometown; some locations appear in this photo. It's nice to have as a document against my fading memory.
Into Wheaton Newsstand with its two, narrow, dimly-lit aisles and aromatic blend of cut-rate cigars, Farmer’s Almanacs, and baseball cards, across busy Georgia Avenue and a stroll down the alley to Barbarian Bookstore where I’d devour a Mack Bolan Executioner novel (while keeping an eye out for the store owner—when he’d duck away I’d fearfully check out the stack of 1960s and ’70s Playboy and Penthouse magazines), peek above the rush of traffic on Viers Mill Road toward Wheaton Plaza, head back to High’s for a cherry or a raspberry Slush Puppie and sit on the low-brick wall along Hickerson Drive and slowly, deliciously open a three-pack of Topps baseball cards, then head next door to Planter’s Peanuts to gawk at the rows of chocolates and peanut brittle and adult-only gag gifts, stroll the comic book and gift aisles of Wheaton Pharmacy, avoiding the school supplies, and, heading back home, throw a nervous side-glance into Rose’s, the shadowy old-man bar at Amherst and University, while listening happily for the dings chimed by the cars rolling over the black hoses at the Shell gas station across the street. I was heady with the aroma of oil and gasoline which brought back family trips to far-away, exotic Ohio and the rest stops where we’d eat a packed lunch on picnic tables next to the rumble of idling eighteen-wheelers and the distant roar of Interstate 70. Maps and legends. An expedition. An afternoon.