tyler c. gore


It was four o’clock in the morning, and I was walking through the creepy underpass on Third Avenue that always seems like it should be full of prostitutes, or at least junkies, but disappointingly never contains either, and I was drunk, but if I am honest, I was not very drunk. I was sober enough to know that my wife was going to be either angry or scared, and possibly both, when I finally got home, and I was also sober enough to know that the impulsive idea flitting through my head as I entered the underpass was not a very smart one.  I was mildly drunk — not so drunk that I had forgotten I had three cans of recently purchased Krylon spray paint in my messenger bag, and I was standing in close proximity to an ungraffitied wall and there was no one around, not even junkies or prostitutes — but drunk enough to say, fuck it, why not.

I took out the can of Canary Yellow spray paint, shook it vigorously, and positioned myself at the far end of the underpass, and spray painted a giant D. I stood back, looked at it, looked at the length of the wall, looked at the anonymous third avenue traffic passing intermittently through the tunnel, and I once again thought fuck it, and I spray painted an R.  And I felt pleased with myself, and knew that I if I chickened out and didn’t finish, it would somehow be something I’d turn into an unhappy metaphor for middle age, or marriage, or my mediocre career.  So I got to work.

It actually took a lot longer than I’d anticipated. It was cold, and the nozzle kept clogging, and the letters were big, and there were a lot of letters, but I finished the whole thing. I walked across the avenue to the other side to look at it.  The letters were all crooked and different sizes and badly spaced, but it was perfectly legible.


I could not stop looking at it. It was almost quarter to five, and my overcoat and gloves were covered in Canary Yellow, and I was standing right across the avenue with the dripping can in my hand, but God, I suddenly felt that I had finally done something right, that I’d somehow kicked open a door that had been stuck shut for years, and I was not going to close it again.


So do we start with my friend Paul’s rock tumbler, or with the student who had been in my 200 level Painting Techniques class two years ago, who I’d been close friends with until last semester, which was also my last semester? Or do we start with my mom’s broken hip right before Christmas?

Let’s start with the summer of 1978, when I was 10 and we lived in the old house in Teaneck, New Jersey and my Dad decided he wanted me to meet his mother, my grandmother, who was 92, and lived in Arcadia, Louisiana, a place he had not been since he was sixteen and ran away from home.

If you are from Arcadia, Louisiana, and you are over the age of forty, you might know something that I discovered when I was ten and never forgot. There was a popular local soft drink that was sold in a bright yellow can that contained a beverage — my father told me — was essentially composed of root beer flavored with prune juice, and this soft drink was called ADVENTURINE. 

My father has been dead for over twenty-five years, but I think he would be surprised to find out that Adventurine is probably the only thing I’m grateful to him for.


Tyler C. Gore's fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines. He is the Senior Editor at Literal Latte, a venerable journal of arts and literature based in NYC.  Tyler has been listed as a Notable Essayist by the Best American Essays annual series several times, and he is the recipient of a Fulbright Grant for Creative Writing.  His collection of personal essays and short stories, My Life of Crime, will be published by Sagging Meniscus Press in 2019.