“buying cocaine for **** *******” by Scott Laudati

i was just about to quit for good.

it was another day carrying bags

up and down stairs

while guests stood

in front of the elevators

and complained that they

were taking too long.

guests who had just gotten done

bitching about the lobby,

that the air conditioning

“was too cold,”

that new york had

“too many rats.”


usually i skipped the elevators

and hoofed it up the stairs

with their luggage strapped

to each shoulder.

it gave me five minutes without them.

and if they’d already pissed me off

i might accidentally

drop their bags a few times.


i wouldn’t even wait for them

at their rooms.

it was the same story every day.

they had no cash

or they only had euros

or they would pretend

to forget my tip altogether.

but that night i didn’t

punish the bags,

i just left them on the floor

and decided

“i’d rather be homeless.”


there were always windows

you could open

and step out onto fire escapes

for a quick leap,

or empty rooms

with fresh sheets and

high rafters.

but that night was the first time

i realized you could just walk out.

it wasn’t against the law yet.


i thought about it on the way

down the stairs,

and i probably would’ve done it

but then i saw her in the lobby –

a famous actress i’d had a crush on

since the days

we bought tickets for

singing animal movies

and then slipped into

the r-rated theater

when no one was looking.


i grabbed her bags but i didn’t

take the stairs,

i stood right next to her

the whole way.

“how’s your day going?”

she asked.

“terrible,” i said. “i was just about to quit

and then you walked in.”

she smiled.

i had said the right thing.

i couldn’t believe it.

i looked back at my coworkers.

they couldn’t believe it.


when we got to her room

i asked her if she’d ever been

to new york before.

of course she’d been to new york.

hell, she was the girl i thought of

when i thought of new york.

but she laughed.

everything that came out

of my mouth was stupid,

but it was coming out right.


“what else do you do?” she asked.

i told her i was a writer.

“what are you working on?”

“i just had a book published,” i said. “would

you read it?”

“a real book?” she asked. “sure.”


i kept about 30 copies of my book

in a locker

downstairs for just this reason.

i went to get one

and there was some crisis

in the lobby.

my manager asked me for help

but i shook my head.

there was more at stake

than keeping my job.


when i handed my book to her i said,

“they’re poems, but they don’t, like, rhyme.”

she gave me a $10 tip

(the most i’d ever been paid for my writing)

and i left,

wondering about this world i had entered,

always surrounded by

fame and money

and none of it ever crossing over.


we never had a lunch break

at that hotel,

you just left

whenever you wanted

and when you got bored

you went back.

this was down on ludlow street

so i walked to the cake shop

and ordered a budweiser.

it was happy hour and the bartender

slid two in front of me.


i was pretty drunk after

an hour of that.


my phone was buzzing the entire time

but i ignored it.

when i got back the girl

at the front desk jumped up.

“where have you been?”

“working.” i frowned.

she called down!” the girl said. “she wants you

up in her room.”


i rode the elevator looking at myself

in the reflection

of the brass doors.

this was my moment.

she’s read my book, i thought.

she’s going to take me away from

all of this.


her door was open when i got there.

a guy was sitting on the floor

strumming a guitar.

he wasn’t good.

she introduced us and i could tell

by his indifference he was some

la kid,

born rich,

and all he had to do

was be at that right club

on the right night

and now she was his.


“you’re a great writer,” she said. “that’s why

i need your help.”

i was a bellman,

i would get fired

if i didn’t do what she wanted,

and usually, this meant

i would get arrested

if i got caught.


“i need to finish a script,”

she said. “can you get me a bag?”

i swore i’d never do it again,

but what the hell?


“how much

do you want?” i asked.

the guy with the guitar was

finally interested.

“get two,” he said.


she handed me $300.


it was a new hotel and

i’d never bought coke

in that neighborhood before.

janis was my favorite cocktail waitress

and she was running

the lobby bar by herself.

but janis was a soldier.

i told her what i needed

and she left her customers and

took me to another bar.

“i know a guy

with the best coke,” she said.


i looked at her nose.

i watched her inhale a cigarette.

janis had a beauty that ran so deep

all her hard work

couldn’t betray it.


she took me to max fish and

her guy charged $100 a gram.

that was a crazy price

and the bag looked really light

but janis had done me a solid

so i gave her $50

as a thank you.


when i got back into the lobby

ben stopped me.

“we’ve got to try it out,”

he said. “you can’t give

her a bag of shitty blow.”

we went up to the manager’s office

and did a bump.

then another.

“never forget,” ben said, “they’re paying us

to snort this right now.”


i went up to her room and

she opened the door, drunk.

“do you have a dog?” she asked.

i knew she was one of the

adopt or die types

so i said “yeah” but

i didn’t elaborate.

she told me a whole story

about white people

and how they’re the first

ones to get rid of their dogs

when times get tough.

“i hate everyone,” i said. “people

don’t deserve dogs.”

she liked that.

she took the coke and kissed me

on the cheek.


the next day she told me

she was getting an apartment

around the corner.

it sounded like an invitation.

“i’m leaving new york,” i said. “why do you

only get the girl

after you buy the plane ticket?”

the la guy parked a convertible

against the curb.

“that’s too bad,” she said. “it

could’ve been fun.”

then she walked past me

and threw her suitcase

into the backseat.

she blew me a kiss as she sat

in the passenger side

and put her feet up on the dashboard.

“it could’ve been fun,” she yelled.


the staff looked at me,

waiting for an explanation,

so i gave it to them.

“all the poems in the world won’t buy you

a convertible,” i said. “i don’t know

how many times

i have to learn that lesson

before i stop




Scott Laudati lives in NYC with boxer, Satine. His writing has appeared in The Stockholm Review, The Columbia Journal, and many others. Visit him on Twitter or Instagram @Scott Laudati

Thick Paint and Heavy Thoughts: Art Collection

By Liza Julia Dennis, Spring 2019 Art Editor

The Carly Simon Album – oil paint
Creamy Skies – oil paint

A message from the artist:

With everything going on in the U.S., I just want to say that maybe it’s time we put our phones down for longer. Maybe it’s time we see the ones we love more often instead of texting them. Maybe it’s time we enjoy life for every second we have here instead of wasting it unthinkingly and carelessly. Let’s be genuine. Let’s be strong for the ones who are weak. Let’s be the voices that these kids deserve. Notice that the things going on in your life are temporary, so drive a little slower, use more caution, hold the door for others, and look up and smile when you walk around. Don’t get so mad when something goes wrong, remind yourself that someone always has it worse, refrain from using negative words, and forgive easier now so you can love harder later. Everything will always be okay. Get your head out of your devices and live this life with raw emotion and joy. Stop saying offensive words like “retard” because we can easily make the difference that others want to see, as they are capable of making the difference we want to see. We are born to adapt and with that comes the ability to make others feel more comfortable. Ask people how they are, because this is important. Do at least three selfless things a day. We must work together to make this world safe and bring peace. And on my last note, our generation has this tendency to say things like “fml” and “kms” often and nonchalantly. We need to understand that this life is the longest thing we will ever experience. Don’t wish for it to end; don’t joke about it. Don’t fail to recognize how precious every second is and how lucky you are to be exactly where you are at any given time. Know that you are breathing, have shelter, and are loved. So forget the cliché “life is short.” Your life is long. So breathe, relax, inhale and exhale, take things one at a time, and, most importantly, slow down. Make sure you are happy and continue to live, not just merely exist. 

With much happiness,
Liza Julia Dennis

Great Spots for Baltimore Book Lovers

Rachel Villa, online nonfiction editor

Normal’s Book & Records – Waverly

This quirky bookstore in Northern Baltimore is a bookworm’s dream, hosting dim nooks of floor to ceiling books, an impressive collection of vinyl records, and, most notably, a mouse pad with a blown up photo of Nicolas Cage’s face sitting on a shelf next to the register. Normal’s is one of the only places in the city that back stocks periodicals, so you can stock up on old issues of lit and art mags after browsing the adjacent local artists and writers section.

Atomic Books – Hampden

On Falls Road, just off of the charming 36th street that constitutes the main drag of Hampden, lies Atomic Books. This local favorite stocks new books and cultural tchotchkes alongside an extensive comic and zine collection. Crack a fresh spine and enjoy a cup of coffee at the cafe through the back.

The Ivy Bookstore – Mt. Washington

This book store does a lot to contribute to Baltimore’s literary culture, hosting frequent readings from authors and acting as a collaborator with Artifact Coffee to curate Bird in Hand, another entry on this list. The Ivy’s pretty storefront promises what’s delivered inside: a comfortable browsing experience, a vast array of titles, and friendly staff to guide you to the right book.

The Book Escape – Fed Hill

The Book Escape has all the nooks and crannies necessary for book hunting and the low prices on used titles to make the search feel like a victory. Some of my favorite tomes from my personal collection found their way into my hands from the shelves of this store. I’ve spent many Saturday afternoons lounging in an armchair tucked away in a corner of The Book Escape, flipping yellowed pages and reading handwritten inscriptions (“with love”) on inside covers.

Bird in Hand – Charles Village

This bookstore and cafe is settled right next to the bustling area of Johns Hopkins’ University, an impressive college with a busy literary scene. This small shop is the perfect place to scrawl in a Moleskine or tap away at a Macbook to the scent of roasted coffee and the tinkling sound of spoon against ceramic, and it hosts an impressive lineup of writers reading from their published works.  

Bluebird – Hampden

This swanky bar just off of Hampden’s 36th street serves fancy (and delicious) cocktails outlined in “chapters” on their menu. Stacked books and reading lamps line the long tables, and the ambience plus the liquor equals a reading room you won’t want to leave. Check it out on Sunday or Monday for all day happy hour.

The Book Thing – Waverly

A weekend wonder that seems too good to be true, Baltimore’s generous The Book Thing is a bookstore that’s only open two days a week – and all the books are free. Nestled right behind Normal’s Book & Records, The Book Thing offers free used titles to anyone who stops in, as long as they get there between 9 and 5 on Saturday or Sunday.

Barnes and Noble – Inner Harbor

No, this isn’t a cool indie bookstore with readings or local titles, but the book giant’s location on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor boasts beautiful architecture, two floors of browsing, and a Starbucks upstairs with outdoor seating and views of the harbor below.

Read Greedy in Baltimore

Rebecca Wesloh, marketing and publicity director

A small independent bookstore opened in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore in March of 2018. Greedy Reads sits at the corner of Aliceanna and Ann Street, two blocks from the water. Narrow red and blue stained glass windows run the two exterior walls and cast shadows across the beaten hardwood floor. Wide windows are filled with books facing the street, and a wrought-iron gate swings wide to welcome you inside. 

The owner and sole operator, Julia Fleischaker, is a Maryland native. After working in New York City in the publishing industry for 20 years, she wanted to come home. But it wasn’t until she walked past the space on Aliceanna Street that she knew she was going to open a bookstore. It was the perfect space. As Fleischaker points out, “the beautifully weathered floors, the stunning stained glass, the huge windows…sometimes I stop and look around and still can’t believe I landed in such an amazing space.”

The space is spectacular. Walking in feels like arriving at a picnic with friends you didn’t know you had; so many stories that you want to catch up on, so many voices you need to hear. It’s warm, welcoming, and cozy. Somehow it’s both small and expansive. The floor is weathered, worn but not broken, giving you the delightful feeling of all those who must have walked here before you – a sense of community and shared experience. 

A table by the door is stacked with paperbacks. A small A-frame bookshelf houses a colorful collection of feminist and children’s books. An aisle is formed by two tables and the benches that fit neatly beside them. There, the larger books are displayed, the ones that will eventually find their way to coffee tables, sparking conversations. One wall is lined with built-in bookshelves housing fiction, memoirs, cookbooks, signed books, comics, and a sorted offering of others. The other wall has children’s books and a small selection of literary-related gifts. 

Large windows let in the light and offer a view of the neighborhood. It’s an ideal escape from the snow or the rain. It’s a place to browse books, become taken in by their worlds, and forget about whatever the weather is outside. And if you visit on the right day, a labrador-greyhound mix may just come over to greet you. That would be Audie, the friendly and lovable store dog who eagerly accepts any affection she’s offered.

The bookstore is personal; it has a voice and a personality. The selection of books is not determined by a computer but by Fleischaker and the recommendations of the community. It’s hands-on, heartfelt, and purposeful. As she says, “It’s my hope that anyone who lives in or around Baltimore can come into the store and find a welcoming environment and a book that speaks to them.” She makes a point to offer a diverse collection, highlighting authors of color and female writers. 

It’s a small store, but enough books are there for you to find, on each trip, at least one new one that you didn’t know you wanted to read. Last year’s bestseller was Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and other top reads included Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. Handwritten “Why I’m Greedy About This Book” tags offer recommendations and give a sense of who the community is and what they’re reading. 

Fleischaker loves the books, but she also loves the community she gets to share that passion with: “I’ve gotten to know so many of my customers, and honestly, most days it feels like friends just dropping in to visit.”

It’s a place of beauty: the words in the books, the people who frequent the shop, the light that filters through the stained glass windows and falls upon the paperbacks. Stop by to give Audie some love, join the book club or hear an author talk, and find the next book you’re greedy to read.