I'm walking with an acquaintance back from a restaurant when we pass a sidewalk news stand, one of those great sprawling things with fluorescent lights overlooking eight or ten bookshelves jammed together.
I stop, naturally, because I can't remember if I picked up this month's Esquire or not and for the same reason that you'd stop if you saw a baby panda wandering the streets of LA; it's endangered, savour the moment. And I'm perusing the shelves (mindful of the MAX BROWSING 15 MINUTE signs written in marker and package-taped to the shelves) when-
I point. On the rack, nestled between a shelf devoted to variations on Guns & Ammo and another comprised entirely of cycling magazines, is a section devoted to Literary Magazines. Lapham's Quarterly. Tinhouse. The New England Review. I stop, for the same reason that you'd stop if you saw a baby panda wandering by riding sidesaddle on a unicorn.
I grab Poetry, and The New Criterion, and a bunch of others (the New Yorker, for fuck's sake I'm so excited) and walk over to the bored kid behind the register. He tallies from memory with surprising speed.
I hand him the money, and suddenly, I'm curious. I gesture at the magazines.
"Hey. Gotta ask. Do people actually buy this?"
He grins, and one of his teeth is silver in the light. "Oh yeah, bro. All the time."
"Man." I bow slightly and he laughs. "Thank you. That just made my day."
James Moore graduated from Middlebury College with a major in Poetry and Dance. He lives in Los Angeles.