When I moved from Marquette Park to Bridgeport, I really missed having a bookstore a mere block away. Bridgeport had the reputation of being the center of city politics, rather than being an incubator of intelligence. So, needless to say, Bridgeport had no bookstores at all! Even their Salvation Army lacked a book section!
One day in the early 1990s, I was shocked when I saw an empty storefront on the 3100 block of South Halsted Street open as Modern Bookstore. For a neighborhood bookstore, it was very big. I was there the very first day it opened. The woman who greeted me let me browse for a while. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this bookstore, especially for one in the heart of Bridgeport. Imagine my surprise when I saw that most of the books were about socialism, communism, and labor unions. The woman asked me if she could help me find something. I asked to see the fiction section, but there was none. Then, even though I was sure that she would say no, I asked if they had a foreign language section. I told her I was interested in buying books in Spanish. Would you believe it? They did have a Spanish section that was actually bigger than most of the others in Chicago bookstores I had visited. And they actually had books by authors and biographies of political figures that I had actually heard of.
I bought a poetry anthology by Nicolás Guillén. Later, when I read the book, I discovered that the book was published in La Habana, Cuba, and probably shipped to the U.S. violating at least one embargo law. But wait, I also bought biographies about Diego Rivera, Benito Juarez, Benardo O’Higgins, and a few others that were written in Spanish. Much later, I realized that the books were written by Russian writers and later translated into Spanish. All these books were published in Moscow, Russia. I wondered if there would be any trouble if our local politicians had actually visited the Modern Bookstore and realized what kind of books the bookstore was selling there. But then I realized that’s why there wasn’t bookstore in Bridgeport in the first place. No one in Bridgeport reads!
Since my retirement, I’ve been trying to re-create a lot of things from my previous lives. That is, things I had prior to my marriage and children, things that I had to sacrifice for the sake of being a good husband and father. Now, I have the opportunity to regress a little and so I am trying to recreate my writer’s garret. Back in 1981 BC (Before Children), I had a nice little apartment all to myself that served me well for all my writing purposes. I actually wrote a lot back then, but nothing very significant like the Great American Novel or the Declaration of Independence. However I did get published in some local publications. Even though these bylines impressed no one but me, I was proud of my writing and myself for achieving another one of my personal goals. Furthermore, I also earned enough money to say I was a paid, published writer, even if it wasn’t enough to earn a living. But I was in my glory as an aspiring writer!
So now, in my retirement, I’m trying to write again. To finish the play that I started 25 years ago and have been finishing up for the last nine; to start the novel I’ve been meaning to write since I was in grade school but never actually started writing; and just to write everyday just to be able to say that I am a proficient writer. (Only real writers know how to use semicolons!)
To that end, I realized that I need my very own writer’s garret where I can feel comfortable expressing my most inner thoughts as a writer. I decided that I must create this writer’s space where I can agonize over the mot just and play the long-suffering writer who lives under squalid conditions that will induce great literature. I need a place where I may rendezvous with my muse, but she better bring some help because she’s really going to need a lot of reinforcements with me.
And so, I have been constructing my writer’s garret. Only, I’m not too much for playing up the suffering part. I’d rather focus on the creature comforts now, especially now during these warm summer months. Therefore, my “writer’s garret” is air-conditioned and has a ceiling fan. How am I supposed to write the Great American Novel if I’m hot and sweaty? Would you like to read a hot, sweaty novel? Plus, I need music to inspire me. Ergo, I have a high fidelity sound system in my garret, along with a cordless phone, a fax machine, Internet radio, and a television. Don’t laugh! So far it’s working. What you just read is a product of my writer’s garret!