Four-letter words

Hope appeared to be gone this week. Most mornings, I drove past hope on the way to work.

I mean this in a literal sense. The word “hope” was tagged on a rear wall of the Lithia dealership in Sparks. It had been there for weeks. And every morning, after dropping off my daughter, Stephanie, at Dilworth Middle School, I’d drive down the street that passes behind Lithia.

Until this week, I’d pass the graffito—just the word “hope,” spray-painted in loopy cursive letters. Some lovelorn boy, I imagined, had written the name of his new girlfriend, maybe. Or some girl had just wanted to leave her mark on the world.

“Hope” wasn’t the only graffiti that I’d see in the mornings. In early September, the word “hate” had been painted on the back of a white panel truck parked along Greenbrae Drive, the block just east of McCarran Boulevard. The letters were sharp and angular. I was going to take a picture of both words, “hate” and “hope,” as some kind of photographic project. But I never did. And one morning not long after Sept. 11, I noticed a change on the truck.

“Hate is gone,” I told my 16-year-old son, Eric, as we drove past the truck on the way to Reed High School.

“Nah, it’s not gone,” he said. “It’s just painted over. You can never get rid of hate.”

It’s been an odd week for me. As you might see from reading our news briefs, I became editor of the Reno News & Review this week. So from now on, the direction and quality of the paper are on my head. That feels huge.

Yet change can be good. The staff here is fantastically supportive. And I’m sitting in Jimmy Boegle’s chair, which isn’t a bad place to sit once the height is fiddled with. Before Jimmy left the RN&R last week, he told staffers that being here was the greatest privilege he’s ever had—to be the editor of a newspaper in his home town.

While Reno isn’t mine by heritage, it’s been my family’s home for almost a decade. We really do love this place. Still, I was feeling disconnected early this week. And driving past Lithia, I noticed a freshly painted rectangle where “hope” had once been.

When the going gets tough, like the bumper sticker says, the tough go shopping. So I went to Mervyn’s in search of black boots. I found a pair I liked in my size—and on sale. Mervyn’s lists the “model” names of boots on its sale price cards. Some shoes are named after women, like “Liz” pumps and “Nachez” loafers. So I checked the name of the boots I liked to see the how much I’d have to put on my credit card. It’s kind of hard to believe the four-letter word I saw printed inside the chosen footwear.

Today, though I couldn’t drive by it on my way to work, I felt OK. I laced up my new boots and walked around contentedly. Who’d have guessed that Mervyn’s sold "Hope" in a size 7 1/2?