I was a year or two out of college, miserable the way only an English major can be miserable when he's working a job that offers no daylight for his dubious talents.
That job was running copy at the New York Post -- bringing coffee to editors, running layout sheets to the composing room, and distributing hot-off-the-presses editions to a staff of chain-smokers working against crippling deadlines.
Rupert Murdoch had recently acquired the paper, so the stakes and the pace were higher and faster than ever. Hero cops! Killer bees! Terror From The Midtown Sky!
(Remember that last headline? Seems an air conditioner had fallen from a ledge, and almost hit someone. ALMOST.)
I'd watch these highly-caffeinated people put together a newspaper, thinking: No way I can ever be a part of this game. No way.
One of the guys on my paper distribution route was a soft-spoken gray-haired guy with big black-framed eyeglasses. He occupied an office far from the epicenter of the newsroom, poring over copy with a thick pencil.
Politeness was a rare thing at a place like The Post, and this man always thanked me when I slapped the latest edition down on his desk.
Jerry Tallmer was also a rare thing -- a true gentleman whose achievements were staggering. He was a founding editor of the Village Voice, the creator of the Obie awards, and the author of more stories for more publications than anyone could possibly count.
He was in charge of the paper's delightful and pensive "Week In Review" section that ran every Saturday, and I had an idea for a story.
"Uh, Mr. Tallmer -- "
He lifted a hand black with pencil smear to interrupt me. "Jerry," he insisted.
"Right, Jerry... could I show you a story you might want?"
"Sure. Write it up on a book."
He held up a three-ply sheet -- white, pink and yellow pages. "A book. This is called a book. Don't type it into a computer, I like to edit on paper."
I can still remember that story I wrote in the summer of '79. It was about a substitute outfielder on the New York Yankees named Darryl Jones who got to play when one of the stars got hurt, and delivered some big hits.
But it was really about luck, and fate, and making the most of it when you get your chance.
I stayed late at work to hammer it out on a manual typewriter and dropped it off on Jerry's desk. The next day he tracked me down in the midst of my copyboy errands, a tiny smile on his craggy face.
"Good story," he said. "It's going on Saturday."
My blood suddenly felt as if it had become carbonated. I was tingling from head to toe. I'd done it. I'd broken in with a story Jerry headlined: "Moment In The Sun."
I ran out at dawn on Saturday to buy 10 copies of The Post, and as I read my words I detected a pinhole of light in what had been a dark sky.
It was hope. Hello, stranger. And thank you, Jerry Tallmer. Don't think I could have gotten started without you.
Writing for Jerry was one of my life's greatest joys. Another was reading Jerry's stories. The English language was a ball of yarn and Jerry was the kitten, playfully teasing it this way and that -- often funny, always interesting and relentlessly fair.
By the way, Darryl Jones's "Moment In The Sun" turned out to be exactly that -- he played just eighteen games in the Major Leagues.
Jerry Tallmer died this week at age 93, writing to the end.
That's a lot more than a Moment In The Sun. I'd call it Making Every Moment Count.
Charlie Carillo is a novelist and a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition." His website is www.charliecarillo.com