THE GERM MAN MANIFESTO

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THE GERM MAN MANIFESTO

Thanks to a nurturing upbringing, I have always been aware of germs and their place in my life. This awareness can be troubling. Or a bit silly.

At a local restaurant, I take a men’s room break. At the same time, an aproned server hastily enters a stall, performs his necessary bodily function and rushes out the door. He doesn’t flush. He doesn’t wash.

Now, as I prepare to re-enter the diner, I have to touch the same door knob he has just touched. And me without my surgical gloves. I return to the table, wiping right hand on  jacket in some kind of leap-of-faith hope that the germs will leave my skin, grow bored of the jacket, and magically disappear.

I’m ready to order a meal and look up to find the very same server politely awaiting instructions, pencil and pad in hand. This is the person who will serve my food, the same one who earlier brought in the place settings and coasters and napkins and handed my granddaughter crayons and coloring book. My wife wonders why I’m just sitting here, staring at the waiter’s hands, temporarily unable to speak.

I finally do what I usually do. Rather than cause an unpleasantness that would be the only thing my family remembers about the evening, I take a deep breath, pretend I’ve seen nothing, and place my order. Everybody has a good time, but I can’t help recalling those glory days way back when our favorite restaurant is El Gringo’s on Crestwood Boulevard. El Gringo’s sells a lot of iced tea each day, so a large tray table of pre-filled glasses sits against a wall. When we arrive to dine, a busboy quickly directs the five of us to a table. While we are being seated, I gaze over Liz’s head at the busboy, watching him go to the iced tea cart, stick all four fingers and thumb a couple of inches into each glass, pick the five of them up, and bring them to our table. He does remember to dry his fingers on a filthy cloth hanging from his belt. Ah, another local meal at another local restaurant. Family bliss comes in small doses.

My life with germs is not an easy one, but I do remember some things I’ve been taught, some of which might actually be true.

Germs are everywhere all the time.

Some germs are germier than others.

You can’t get rid of germs.

Germs are inconvenient.

You can see germs. At least in your worst imaginings.

You can get on with daily life by ignoring germs.

You can lower the germ population in certain instances.

Germs can be moved out of one place and chased to another place. The Leaf Blower process.

Germs R Us.

Aside from these thoughts, I find that avoidance is a wonderful coping tool, so my attacks on germs are only spasmodic. I fight the good fight by quickly retrieving a dropped chip from the floor, hoping that a three-second rule applies. When a friend sneezes into his hands and then reaches out to shake mine, I try to smile through it and then head for the Purell. When an uncovered dish lolls about overnight after a party, I quietly dispose of its contents before anybody comes to claim it. And, when in the dental chair, I just close my eyes at the infractions all about me.

Germ warfare is important but largely ineffective unless you pay very, very close attention.

But if you constantly do that, you  won’t have any fun at all

 © 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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THE SEARS ROEBUCK DOUBLE DIPPED CHOCOLATE COVERED PEANUT CLUSTER RUSH

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THE SEARS ROEBUCK DOUBLE DIPPED

CHOCOLATE COVERED PEANUT CLUSTER RUSH

Very busy day at the bookstore. Arrive home afterward. Grab snack and peruse newspapers. Avoid any article or media blast about disturbing news of the day, which pretty well encompasses any and all news. Succeed at this. Liz arrives home and we discuss her just-completed enjoyable presentation at the Alabama Writers’ Conclave. We decide to skip the Conclave dinner because she is tired and I am agoraphobic. A great match.

After dining and cleaning up, she slips off to her social media and I slip upstairs to don jammies and discard shoes. After staring glumly at part of a streamed melodrama I sneak downstairs to see what’s what in the refrigerator. What’s this? Half of a six-ounce bag of chocolate covered peanuts! I ascend the stairs and begin munching on this delicacy, a pale representation of what chocolate covered peanuts once were.

I’m teleported back to early-teenage time in Tuscaloosa, riding my second-hand thin-tired bicycle over curbs and along railroad tracks on the way home from the old Victorian home housing the public library. I head for Sears, Roebuck and Company down on 15th Street, park the unchained bike (who’s going to bother stealing it?) and head indoors for the Sears candy counter.

You don’t remember how the Sears candy counter is structured because you aren’t around when I am a teen. It is a free-standing island in the middle of the store, a blocked-off area surrounded on four sides by glass display cases filled with every dentist’s dream–tons of sweet confections. The ritual is simple. I slowly encircle the rows of candy displays, gazing carefully at each and every item, imagining the taste and texture and heft of all these wonders, until I return to the spot where I began. Then, invariably, I do the exact thing I’ve done a hundred times before. I approach the counter wherein the double-dipped chocolate covered peanut clusters beckon. 

I wait patiently for the candy counter clerk to notice me, never once removing my eyes from the peanuts, afraid someone will buy them up before I get my shot. The clerk comes over, stares down at me over the scales, and asks, “May I help you?” I try to contain my excitement and say in a steady if sometimes cracking voice, “Yes, I’d like some double dipped chocolate covered peanut clusters, please.” “How much do you want?” she asks. I look at the per-ounce price and quickly count the change in my pockets. “Uh, two dollars’ worth, please.” The clerk opens her  side of the case to access the candy, fills an aluminum scoop with just under the correct amount ordered, and places the peanuts in a white paper bag. Then, she does a most remarkable thing, a thing few clerks know how to do these days. She weighs the bag, notes that it needs just a few more peanuts to rise to the two-dollar mark, scoops those up and bags them, folds the top of the sack, collects my money and hands over the goods.

The  other clerk, who is absent today, is the one no-one wants to deal with. She is the clerk who scoops up too many peanuts at once, bags them, then tilts the bag to empty the correct number down to the two-dollar mark. The first clerk makes me feel I’m getting something extra, the second clerk appears to be taking something back from me.

A life’s lesson I carry with me to this day.

I love going to Fife’s Cafeteria these day in downtown Birmingham for precisely the same reason I used to go to Sears. The servers in the line always add a little something to each serving, as if they’re slipping me an extra treat.

Back in the shop this week, I attempt to treat each customer as if there’s something extra in the book bag. I throw in a bookmark, give a modest discount, add a smile and a “hope you have a great day,” hoping that here and there, a customer will “get it” and appreciate the small attentions I try to pay.

Even if the customer doesn’t notice, I do…and I go home feeling just a wee bit better about the world.

And, now and then, I search in vain for some great double dipped chocolate covered peanut clusters served in a sparkling white paper bag

 © 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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Watermelon Road

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WATERMELON ROAD
There’s this photograph Scotch-taped to the front of my desk where I can see it while I’m working. It’s a color snapshot–color slightly off-register with a tinge of flashbulb green–and it looks like this:
*
There’s a white-paper-clothed table loosely place-set with an opened Diet Coke can, an opened Sprite can, a clear plastic iced-tea-size handleless cup, three styrofoam plates, a wadded-up white paper napkin, thin and fragile little white plastic forks and various remnants of food on the plates.
*
To the left of the table is a folding wooden chair upon which sits my placid daughter Margaret, who is leaning forward toward my wife, their elbows touching.
*
Margaret is not eating and is trying to ignore the camera, but my wife has this enormous fried-chicken breast at her lips and she is diligently gnawing away while staring at the picture-taker.
*
At her other elbow is tiny granddaughter Jessica, whose eyes also stare at the camera while immersing her mouth into a small styrofoam cup. Behind this trio is a green blackboard (why are they never called greenboards?), complete with eraser and no chalk, and a couple of other wooden folding chairs.
*
This is a typical scene from a long, long-ago family reunion, one that used to take place each year in the Bethel Presbyterian Church basement on the Watermelon Road in Tuscaloosa County, just fifty miles from my shop and home in Birmingham.
*
The food is always varied and good and often real home-cooked, and relatives and in-laws and out-laws always do the same thing: they huddle together as families and look around to see which other families are present today; they struggle to remember names and lineages, and frequently fail; they always look forward to attending the reunion, always wonder why they bothered to come, and always look forward to attending next year’s gathering.
*
We are forced to imagine another reunion taking place at the same time, an imaginary reunion that would be even more interesting than this one: that’s the reunion attended by all the relatives who will never come to this reunion, plus all the long-passed relatives who used to have such a good time here.
*
Wouldn’t it be nice to go to such a gathering, one that unites at once the reluctant and secretive relatives with all the favorite long-gone relatives?
*
Oh, well, whether these absent or dead kin are here or not in body, they are certainly here each time in spirit, since we who attend can never forget them. In essence, we pull them from their graves and their secret places and bring them in for a couple of hours to enjoy or puzzle at their memories, then we release them till next year and try to get on with our lives, the lives that produce and groom more relatives to attend future reunions, reunions as mysterious and sad and happy as anything else you can do of a Saturday Noon on the Watermelon Road
*
 © 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

THE KING OF QUEEN CITY TAKES THE BUS

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THE KING OF QUEEN CITY TAKES THE BUS
I’m running lickety-split through a tunnel while being sprayed on all sides with jets of stinging water.
*
The involuntary and mandatory shower is one way the managers of Queen City Swimming Pool in Tuscaloosa have of making sure I wash before entering the large, chlorine-reeking body of water.
*
In the 1940’s and ’50′s, the pool is open to all us white kids, just as most public facilities are. I never see black kids at the pool, so I suppose they aren’t allowed in. But at least the Queen City Swimming Pool is diverse in other ways. Poor kids and rich kids, backwoods kids and city kids, boys and girls, bullies and nerds, handicapped and fit, can all get into the supervised green lagoon and splash about as much as they please. As long as they follow the rules.
*
I’m very young, now, in this flashback to childhood, and this is SOMETHING TO DO–get soaked, sniff chlorine, attain a sunburn, play with friends and family, and maybe grab a snack afterward. When I get older, it will be a way to meet girls, even if I can’t bring myself to talk with them. I can at least gape. Funny how no girl I ever meet at a swimming pool or swimming hole or at the beach ever looks the same, fully clothed, as she does in a bathing suit. In fact, I can barely recognize these girls with their clothes on–guess it goes to show I’m not always concentrating exclusively on their faces.
*
I don’t know how to swim–in fact, nobody in my family can swim. Guess it is because our visits to bodies of water like this are infrequent and we can’t afford to attend summer camp or employ swimming instructors.
*
But swimming isn’t the point, anyhow.
*
Splashing and jumping and holding my breath for as long as possible and inhaling tart water through my nose and nearly strangling and showing off and watching other kids and fending off bigger kids and helping little kids stay afloat–that is what’s important. Getting all shriveled up and tired is the point. Having BEEN SOMEWHERE AND DONE SOMETHING is the point.
*
Later, wet-haired and clutching a bag of soggy towel and damp bathing suit, I ride home on the public bus. Catching the bus is another adventure. Back in these Tuscaloosa days, everybody rides the bus. Most of us don’t live in families who can afford more than one car–or even one car–so the bus is part of daily living. Buses do allow black children to ride–they are not excluded like they are at Queen City. But, of course, the black kids have to ride in the back of the bus and the white kids have to sit up front. Never the twain shall meet.
*
When I’m grown up, I’ll be so glad we can all mix and ride together, because I get to fulfill my childhood dream: I sit at the very back of the bus, where I can get a three-sided view of where I’m going and where I’ve been, and I can watch all the rest of the riders. It’ll be a feeling of power, a way of being alone while being part of the crowd. People won’t be able to see me, but I’ll watch out for them and record their behavior.
*
I’m going to be a writer, you know. Writers are always watching–it’s their way of participating without getting involved. I’ll understand this by the time I grow up.
*
But for today, back here in the nearby past, I am a happy kid whose only responsibility is to play and pretend and absorb the bits and pieces of my small world so that, generations later, I can re-visit, recall, re-smile, regret, cherish, understand, wonder, regurgitate the experiences.
*
So that I can file a report on this fragment of life, for your eyes only.
*
So that you, too, might be inspired to re-tool sweet memory and hitch a ride to your favorite long-ago getaway
*

140 CHARACTERS 100 DEGREES

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/onehundredfortycharacters.mp3

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140 CHARACTERS 100 DEGREES

Stepping into the morning, I hit an all-encompassing wall of 100-degree heat and humidity, SPLAT! just like Wile E. Coyote slamming into a brick wall. Wow!

I catch my breath and wade into the scorching mass like a ghost seeping through a closed door.

How will people behave on a day like this? I wonder. How will this affect their attitudes?

I soon know the answer during my amazing encounters with some 140 characters.

Won’t list all 140 encounters in this story, but will share a few with you.

CHARACTER 1

BEEP! The Roadrunner in the bubba jeep behind me taps his horn in the split second it takes the light to change and my foot to switch from brake to accelerator. My reaction is to remove foot from pedal and slow down a bit, a simple act of aggression exacerbated I suppose by the heat of the day…but eminently satisfying to me and doubly frustrating to the bubba jeep guy. He whizzes past and gets on with the journey, I resume my forward trek and smile a bit.

CHARACTER 2

I’m peering into a chest-high used-book bin at the thrift store to see what’s what, when a longsleeved arm curls around me from behind to grab a volume I’m examining. I turn to see who would do such a thing and just miss observing a different arm snatching a book from the other side of the bin. I sigh, count to eight and a half, and decide not to protest. These are just books and those are just locusts doing what they know how to do. I move on to a section of the store where nobody is hovering. My fun comes from silently–and alone–reading the titles and imagining the contents.

CHARACTER 3

The building I’m about to pass sports a long staircase upon which four orange-hard-hatted men wearing orange vests sit and chat next to four orange traffic cones. They don’t notice the heat of the morning because this is what they experience all day every hot day that occurs. They aren’t whiners like you and me. They are enjoying each other’s company.

CHARACTER 4

I’m at the car radio store standing by while a perspiring clerk lies on his side on the passenger seat of my vehicle, surgically probing for the top of a Flair marker that has leapt into the bowels of my cassette player and clogged the works. He’s a good sport and doesn’t mind the challenge. I’m proud of the player, ordered brand-new from Japan, where it is still manufactured. It gives me pleasure whenever I drive, because I can play all those wonderful old cassettes that have piled up over the years. EUREKA! he shouts as he displays the culprit he has just fished for and caught. He doesn’t want to charge me anything, but I feel it’s worth every cent of the twenty-dollar bill I slip him. He’s a good Samaritan.

CHARACTER 5

That hot evening, we are dining at our favorite Peruvian restaurant, being served by a brusque but efficient waiter who clicks into Polite as he brings the tab, making a little joke and hoping to engage us. We show our appreciation and actually do leave a nice tip.

CHARACTER 6

At the shop earlier in the heat of the day, I assist a customer whose face is remarkable–expressive dark eyes, soft lips, soft smile, pleasant and easy to deal with. As she prepares to leave, a shadow flickers over her countenance for just a second and some distant pain reveals itself. By the time I react, she is gone, like so many others whose sequestered lives remain out of reach. But I remember her face.

Back to the 100 degree day: These are just a few of the 140 characters with whom I engage or disengage. There are so many, so many. I appreciate them all, I wonder about them all. If you like, I’ll take a few at a time and describe them to you now and then. It’s important to record them somewhere, somehow, since daily life will distract them from ever getting around to writing it all down themselves.

Maybe you can help me archive all these lovely sad and happy people

 

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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GOOD FATHERS ABOUND

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GOOD FATHERS ABOUND

Today is Good Father’s Day. Tomorrow is Good Father’s Day. Every day is Good Father’s Day.

Good fathers come in many forms and packages.

Here’s my toast to:

motherless fathers

fathers who’ve lost their children

fathers of sons, fathers of daughters

fathers whose children have been taken from them

fathers of mothers

fathers of grandmothers

absentee fathers

honorary fathers

mysterious fathers

fathers who are always there

poster fathers

flawed fathers

step fathers

adoptive fathers

bad-example-but-still-trying fathers

adopted fathers

fathers in name only

clueless fathers

clumsy fathers

fathers we wish we had known better

fathers we know only too well

highfalutin’ fathers

humble fathers

welfare fathers

imprisoned fathers

hugging fathers

distant and cool fathers

dream fathers

dreamy fathers

fathers we would give anything to see again

creative fathers

fathers who do what they can do, just for us

brilliant fathers

caretaker fathers

sacrificing fathers

storybook fathers

protective fathers

biological fathers

test-tube fathers

guardian fathers

only-in-their-imagination fathers

good-pal fathers

uplifting fathers

grandfathers

great grandfathers

fathers  both great and grand

not-so-grand-but-still-trying fathers

foster fathers

stand-in fathers

well-meaning fathers

wanna-be fathers

to-be fathers

long-gone fathers

faraway fathers

gentle fathers

good example fathers

gay fathers

straight fathers

not-quite-sure fathers

surrogate fathers

trans fathers

black fathers

brown fathers

red fathers

pale pink fathers

pasty complexioned fathers

swarthy fathers

fathers we wish we had

fathers we wish we had back

fathers and grandfathers who serve as mothers

fathers on bail

disenfranchised fathers

hospitalized fathers

fathers in nursing homes

fathers who never ask for thanks

funny fathers

fun fathers

sad fathers

sacrificial fathers

attentive fathers

AND ESPECIALLY: fathers who always take the time

In a way, I love them all, these disparate good fathers, mainly because we never appreciate them enough and they never feel they give enough.

I just want them to know that I thought about them for a few special moments, that I wish them well for all they’ve done or hoped to do for us, their babies old and young

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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DO THE RIGHT THING

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DO THE RIGHT THING

Sometimes, I want to halt the traffic in my life and simply Do the Right Thing.

When I’ve had enough of the rambling, sometimes vicious, often hopeful, seldom unconfused thoughts and feelings that rain down upon me each and every day by way of directionless and fearful mass media, social media, over-the-back-fence palaverers, walk-by/drive-by criers and whisperers…I tend to shut down for a time.

Yep, I can only take so much of the ricocheting, emoting, subversive and uplifting chatternoise that has become our way of communicating with each other. Once in a while, I just want to sit quietly with a friend or two, unplug the devices that tell us how to act and purchase, close out the intrusive distractions, and simply have an unagenda’d conversation.

You know–I’d like to have what we used to call a dialogue, a brief period during which no-one talks over someone else’s talk. A moment when no-one shouts a dogma or bullies a subject flow or attempts to “win” a round.

My favorite times in life usually involve peaceful jiffies when I can learn a little more about you and who you are and who you wish to be and who you don’t want to be, a jiffy when you may actually ask me about my innermosts–and really listen up.

Sigh.

In reality, these moments seldom occur in my social life. The best times are still the times when Liz and I quietly share thoughts, feelings, experiences, laughter. I cherish these times above all others.

I suppose all I want in life is something to live up to, something to aspire toward, something that makes me want to get up in the morning…because it’s always possible that this morning will be slightly better than yesterday morning.

I take my inspiration from two works of art. If only I could make them my mantra, my template for getting through each tick tock of the day:

 “Do the right thing.”

–repeatedly spoken by “Da Mayor” (Ossie Davis) in Spike Lee’s film.

and

“Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

–written by Henry James

Hey, wouldn’t it be a nicer world if I could just spread the gospel of DO THE RIGHT THING and BE KIND?

Do you think we’d get along better if we could espouse this gentle gospel?

Oh, well, I do have peculiar thoughts now and then. Thought I’d share them with you

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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The Hornswoggler Swoggles Another Swashbuckler

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The Hornswoggler Swoggles Another Swashbuckler

I am sitting half-hidden in the tall grass of our back yard in 1952 Tuscaloosa, swatting at flies, clawing at red bugs on bare legs, tying tight a red bandanna to dam the rivulets of sweat pouring down my neck, day-dreaming about swashbucklers and hornswogglers.

I am quiet and vigilant, awaiting the appearance of brother Ronny.

I have a plan.

“Hey,” Ronny grins as he trots over to my nest, short pants, no shirt or shoes, perfectly attired for this hot summer day. Being a younger brother, Ronny is still willing to go along with just about anything his big brother comes up with.

“Okay,” I say. “Let’s play like we’re Scaramouche and we’ll sword-fight to the death!”

We’ve just seen the Stewart Granger movie and assume for the moment that we, too, can learn to conquer evil with trusty swords in hand, given the chance.

“You be the bad guy and I’ll be Scaramouche!” I love saying the name—Scaramouche!

Of course, Ronny is almost always relegated to being the bad guy or the sidekick, and for now he doesn’t complain. When we play Tarzan, he’s Boy. When we play Lone Ranger, he’s Tonto. If it’s Roy Rogers, he’s Gabby Hayes.  If it’s Captain Marvel, he’s just Billy Batson.

Today, we can’t remember the name of the evil swordsman in Scaramouche, but that doesn’t much matter. Ronny knows he’ll have the honor of being defeated by Big Brother.

We find two semi-straight sticks of equal length and begin our idea of fierce swordsmanship. Knowing that our all-seeing all-knowing mother will know whether we’ve behaved, we are careful to knock sticks together without knocking heads or busting knuckles. We leap over the splintery hand-made saw horse, roll over a rusty oil drum, pole dance around the swing supports, wallow atop ant beds, all the while pretending to sword fight to the death.

After a while, the heat gets to us and we run to the kitchen for cold Pepsi and crumbly cookies.

Down all the years, I can’t help recalling all the wonderful fictitious sword fights I’ve witnessed on screen, in imagination most vivid. But the one sword fight to which all subsequent sword fights are compared is locked into memory.

Even  back then, we kids of summer know that there is something special about the Scaramouche fight. It is long and fierce. Very long. Very fierce. And daring, too. Between them, the dueling Mel Ferrer and Stewart Granger destroy an entire stage set, slash props, mangle a piano, leap over balconies, swing from velvet ropes…and all this with no musical background. Decades later, I learn to appreciate how dramatically loud silence can be. This sword fight is so ferocious that accentuating music is not needed in the least.

Nowadays, I get to check out my childhood impressions by re-viewing that marvelous battle. And sure enough, it still holds me in thrall.

I love many movie sword fights, including the one between Danny Kaye and Basil Rathbone in The Court Jester and, of course, the great conflict between Inigo Montoya and Westley in The Princess Bride. In all of these battles, the viewer is simply lost in the passion of the moment. We really believe these people are fighting for their lives, or at least their honor!

But the best sword play in all memory is the one between Ronny and me. For at this one special moment, we really are Scaramouche and the Marquis de Maynes. We really are caught up in the most glorious of all battles—the one where imagination and hope win out over red bugs and itchy grass on a hot summer day in the long-ago, far-away land of pre-Buttercup Tuscaloosa

 

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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Turnstile DAWGGs form a Posse and Go After Me

Turnstile DAWGGs form a Posse and Go After Me

“You never remember who I am, no matter how many times we meet,” an unsmiling woman says to me at a social gathering last night. She does not make eye contact. She wanders off. I still do not know who she is.

“Oh, I follow your blogs and love your writing,” another woman says after my speech to a writer’s group last Thursday. She doesn’t seem to mind whether I know her, she just wants to let me know that she knows me.

“No, I don’t read books!” a dismissive customer snaps at the shop last Friday. She makes it clear she’s just along for the ride with a group of booklovers who are having so much fun roving the aisles. She does not want to engage with me, and she makes clear her disapproval of my existence.

“Oh, my God, this is so enchanting,” a tourist exclaims as she enters the store. “I think I want to live here!” She likes me just the way I am.

And so on.

In unguarded moments of rumination, when I least expect it, I seem to be under scrutiny by all the individuals who have happened to me, who are happening to me, in these many decades past and present.

I’m on the run most of the time, trying to make sense and order out of the progression of washed and unwashed masses who people my daily life, attempting to sort out and understand each of these sometimes peculiar, often attractive, mostly unleashed folks who invade my memory and my daily moment to moment progress.

I’m not sure that I can stay ahead of the posse.

Sometimes I’m happy to be the center of attention. Other times I’d like to run and hide. In almost all instances, I am not quite sure what to say to the DAWGGs (Damned Angry Wailing Guys and Gals), so I just smile or pretend to be distracted.

Lying abed in the early morning, these disparate folk queue up on their side of a turnstile, and I attempt to examine them one by one–but you know how turnstiles work. Sometimes someone will leap over and go for me, sometimes someone will not know how to work the turnstile and will stall the entire line, sometimes people will calmly pass through and allow me to converse and learn more.

The best thing about memory-time is that I have some control over the posse. I can shut it down at will. But, once in a while, as I am dozing off, the posse will re-activate and all the DAWGGs will battle all the Lovelies for my soul

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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OBSCURE LOCAL AUTHOR TURNS OUT-OF-TOWN CELEBRITY

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or read his story below:

OBSCURE LOCAL AUTHOR TURNS OUT-OF-TOWN CELEBRITY

I will be addressing an annual writers’ gathering at the Huntsville Country Club Thursday night, and I can’t wait to hear what I’ll have to say.

Yep, it is an interesting phenomenon, this out-of-town expert thing. Here in Birmingham, I am your average obscure author, hardly known outside an erratic circle of acquaintances, readers and friends. But take me fifty miles out of town in any direction, and I suddenly become a small-time celebrity to unsuspecting audiences.

This is kind of nice, when I think about it. In the City, I can hide out behind the doors of Reed Books, plying my trade, engaging with customers, going home to my quiet life after hours, primarily unmolested, hopefully un-annoying to others.

But place me before an audience and I suddenly have license to pontificate on all kinds of ideas and subjects…and, unlike real day-to-life, I am actually listened to! People even take notes. Some folks approach me afterwards, asking my opinion and obtaining my autograph. And through it all, I always wonder, “What in the world makes me seem important to others for an hour? Why me?”

The wonderful thing about all this is that I truly enjoy my exchanges with audiences. For just a while, they become my students, I become their teacher or vizier. I learn from them, they take something of me with them, however fleeting.

So…what do I say to an unsuspecting audience?

Maybe I’ll explain my ideas on how a truly dedicated writer interacts with an inner voice. I might say something like, “A writer doesn’t say, ‘Oh, no, what terrible thing is about to happen?’ Instead, a writer doesn’t anticipate and instead says, ‘I wonder what will happen next?’ or ‘I wonder how that happened?’ or ‘I wonder what she is really like?’ or ‘I wonder what’s up?’ or ‘I wonder why I wonder?’ or ‘I wonder what it’s all about?’”

Pulling back from the subject at hand and allowing the story to tell itself is a grand experience. A story that is preordained is pretty much a leaden story. A tale that has the freedom to weave its own magic and simply dictate itself to the author is a tale as exciting as a roller coaster ride. Or at least a bumper car excursion.

So, unless something else occurs to me between now and Thursday night, perhaps this will be my approach to the audience of writers I will face.

Knowing my past behavior, though, something different may dictate itself to me on the drive to Huntsville and my own brain could surprise me by blurting out things I do not know that I know.

Can’t wait to hear what I have to say

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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