Two weeks ago I was at the Sundance bookstore in Reno for the official launch of The Short, Short Hitchhiker by Stanley Gurcze. As ill luck would have it, the event coincided with an uptown ceremony hosted by the University of Nevada, where Silver Pen Awards were being handed out to writers of renown. Evidently I ‘m not a writer of renown, nor was the late Stanley Gurcze.
I thought about Stanley as I roamed South Virginia Street on a cold, blustery evening. It was not yet Thanksgiving Day, yet Christmas carols already blared from a speaker mounted above the deserted patio at Starbuck’s. Across the way a neon sign blinked GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS as Elvis lamented an impending blue Christmas sans whoever it is who wasn’t going to be on hand to make his holiday merry and bright. What a perfect setting, I thought, to celebrate the life and times of a man who more than once navigated Commercial Row on his knees and without a penny to his name.
By and by I turned toward the bookstore, favoring a sore right foot thanks to what is either fasciitis or a bone spur—I’m not sure which. My mother would say that I’m suffering from asthma, as in “Asthma foot goes down, it hurts!” She would have prescribed a mustard plaster—a pungent poultice complicit in the premature demise of just about every one of my hard rock mining forebears.
But what is a sore foot compared to no feet? I counted my blessings and pressed on. Arriving at the bookstore fifteen minutes early, I was greeted by Joe McCoy, co-founder of Virginia Avenue Press. Joe was clearly concerned because no one had showed up, but I told him not to worry. I had invited some shills, and lo and behold! All three came. Presently we were joined by Joe’s publishing partner Caleb Cage and two of his shills. That left about twenty chairs unoccupied, so what we did was rearrange the occupied chairs into a circle. We then proceeded to conduct a séance of sort, whereat Stanley Gurcze, dead now for 22 years, was the guest of honor. Had a Silver Pen Award been available, we would have awarded it to Stanley posthumously.
Do I feel bad? Absolutely not! I’m very pleased that Stanley’s book is at long last in print, and I’m honored to have played a part in making it happen. Already The Short, Short Hitchhiker is garnering rave reviews. One critic has declared Stanley Gurcze a greater genius than Steve Jobs; another rates his book better than Into The Wild and On The Road.
Historically, most of our great writers weren’t discovered until long after they were gone. Most were underfunded in their lifetimes, or not funded at all. Many suffered hardships and multiple setbacks. But each and every one had a vision, and a steely determination to not go gentle into that good night.
As I limped off into the gathering gloom I thought again of Stanley, inching his way ever so slowly along neon lit Virginia Street. Stanley may have had no feet, but his book, I’m confident, has legs.