Ahem and Moo Travel the Bessemer Superhighway Separately Together

Ahem and Moo Travel the Bessemer Superhighway Separately Together

I almost hurt my neck the first time I see Moo Cow beside the Bessemer Superhighway. I guess I’ve seen Moo lots of times, but today I really pay attention.

My name is Sollie. I’m too young to have a driver’s license, so I can only see Moo now and then when I’m a passenger in somebody else’s car. My Father says that girls my age should never ride a Birmingham bus alone, so I am not yet able to stop and see Moo up close. And I haven’t worked up the courage to ask Dad to pull over and let me pat Moo on the head. Would he laugh at me?

By the way, Sollie is a nickname. My real name is Solitude—from a poem by my father’s favorite poet, Rilke. Solitude fits me, I guess, because I spend most of my time alone, and I like it that way. Most of the time.

To entertain myself, I collect Dependable Friends. They are called Dependable Friends because I can count on them. They never look away or ignore me. They never fight or make fun of me. They Listen.

Here are some of the Dependable Friends I write about in my red velvet diary:

1. Moo Cow. Moo Cow is this huge brown and white statue of a cow facing the Bessemer Superhighway on the left as you head toward Midfield. I really would like to pet Moo. Maybe when I’m old enough to drive.

2. Little Vulc. Little Vulc is a statue that looks sort of like Vulcan, the old Roman god who stands on Red Mountain. Little Vulc is big, but not as big as Vulcan. You can see him on the side of the road to your right as you head toward East Lake on First Avenue North.

3. Big Guy. Big Guy is this big statue of a man that stands beside the road to your left as you head through Tarrant on the way to Jeff State College. He is about as big as Vulcan, but he’s down on the ground where you can get a good look.

Want to see the whole list? There are lots of other Dependable Friends on my list. As I tried to explain, they are Dependable Friends because I can always count on them to be there whenever I pass by. They are Dependable Friends because they don’t mind that I like to be alone most of the time. They understand that my name, Solitude, fits me just fine. But they would definitely call me Sollie if they could talk—because Dependable Friends respect my wishes. Dependable Friends don’t call me names or shove me or shun me.

By the way, I’ve been thinking about Moo’s name. I don’t really know whether Moo is called Moo by anybody else. I just came up with that name because Moo is the sound that cows make. Based on that idea, I think Moo should call me Ahem instead of Sollie.  Moo is the sound that cows make. Ahem is the sound that people make. I notice that cows moo a lot. I notice that humans say Ahem a lot. Fits, don’t you think?

Anyhow, I’m still making a list of Dependable Friends. Here are a couple of others:

4. Miss Electra. Miss Electra is this twenty-foot-tall golden statue on top of the Alabama Power Company building Downtown. She is so beautiful, and she has this great hat. I hope you get a chance to see her. I would like to meet her in person someday.

5. Brother Bryan. Brother Bryan is a statue of a famous old preacher. He kneels at the intersection of Five Points South. The thing I like about him is that no matter what is going on around him, he stays peaceful and just stares up at the sky as if he would prefer to be alone, just like me. Maybe he doesn’t like to be shunned, either.

That’s enough for now. Maybe I’ll share more of my red velvet diary list some other time. I like to think that there are other people like me who would like to be named Solitude. The funny thing is, we don’t get to know each other because we stay to ourselves.

I had a new thought, so I’ll place it in my diary: If all those other Solitude-type people start making their own lists of Dependable Friends, maybe, just maybe, when they get their driver’s licenses, they might show up at one of the statues at the same time I do. Maybe we would meet and become Dependable Friends.

Wouldn’t that be awesome

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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The Protective Gait Matters in the Old New World

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The Protective Gait Matters in the Old New World

The graceful, slow-progressing elderly couple, husband and wife, extricate themselves from a large and  shiny Buick, then wend their purposeful way toward the front door of the local cafeteria.

In movements perhaps puzzling to anyone less than thirty years of age, the man walks beside the woman, gently holding her elbow in a gesture of support, guidance and gentlemanlyness. He takes one step ahead of her and opens the door to usher her in, then follows. The door squeaks shut and the scene ends.

This brief but elaborate ritual has been repeated so many times during a fifty-year marriage that it is barely noticed. Simply taken for granted, it is mandatory in a generation taught to subtly display silent respect and concern. We older denizens might call it good manners.

Later, I am approaching the entrance to an office building when I notice that a young woman is briskly walking up to the same doorway, guaranteeing that we will both arrive at the same moment. Without thinking, out of seven decades of practice, I step forward and gallantly open the door for her. Without blinking, her ear pasted to the hand-held electronic device she is loudly conversing with, she breezes through the door, looking neither left nor right, as if the waters have parted just for her. No acknowledgement, no thank-you, no friendly smile.

Recalling my mother’s lessons in childhood, I remind myself that good, “gentlemanly” deeds must be done without any expectation of reward, so I have accomplished my unselfish act, and I try to suppress my self-centered desire to be noticed. I decide that my constant attempts to Matter in this lovely but dispassionate world may well go unheeded, not only by other people, but by the ethos itself.

But it is good to recall that there still remain ladies and gentlemen among us. The proof is in the observation.

The lesson I must teach myself is that acts of unostentatious kindness must be invisible if they are truly sincere.

As Spike Lee reiterated, a true lady or gentleman, rather than wringing their hands because the world isn’t perfect, must instead remember and constantly repeat the words of Da Mayor (Ossie Davis): DO THE RIGHT THING

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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The Day Nothing At All Happened

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The Day Nothing At All Happened

 Here at the center of the universe, in the heart of beautiful historic Downtown Birmingham, Alabama, I, The Bookie, ply my trade.

I call myself a Bookie because virtually everything real to me resides upon pages. I write true stories and books, help edit a quarterly literary/arts journal, produce a weekly blog/blast (we used to call them “columns”), place online a weekly podcast (in the formerly non-virtual world we called them “spoken-word stories” or “audio tales” or “columns you can close your eyes and listen to”), and serve as judge to several literary contests.

I also go forth from Downtown and deliver messages of goodwill to writers’ groups, civic clubs, schools, and anybody else who will invite me to share my six decades of experience as a whatever it is I am.

Oh, and I also own and run one of the last “real” bookstores in the country, a shop that carries books and paper ephemera that extend back some 500 years. In fact, this is where I spend the majority of my time—mostly because most of my income depends upon this five-day-a-week endeavor.

So, today’s question, addressed to the Dispassionate Universe at Large, is this: If I have all these activities going on in my life—in addition to being a husband, father, grandfather, brother, etc.—why do I feel like I’m wasting my time? Why do I lie awake at 3 a.m. wondering how to find meaning in my existence? Why do I feel as if I never do enough to feed my Muse?

The answer to this and many other angst-filled inquiries is written in the stars and won’t be decipherable for a few millennia. But I keep asking anyhow, hoping for magical revelations but knowing that there is no magic at all in the cosmos, just the Feeling that there may be magic.

I actually am aware that this is what keeps me going, this constant thirst for answers to unanswerable questions. If you walked up to me and gave me The Answer, my life would go into shock—because it is the adrenaline-filled neurotic search for things that are just out of reach, just over that next horizon…it is this search that keeps me placing one foot in front of the other, one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, one step back, never knowing whether I’m getting anywhere.

In case anybody is curious as to what my epitaph will be, I’ve already recorded it. Here it is:

“This is not exactly what I had in mind.”

Should some passerby see this granite-inscribed sentence on my tombstone a hundred years hence, my hope is that an uncontrollable chuckle will issue forth into the quiet mist.

If that happens, my mission will have been accomplished—only I won’t be around to notice.

But it is nice to imagine that I may get the last laugh

 

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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Meet Jim Reed, a Fictitious Character Created by Liza Elliott

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Meet Jim Reed, a Fictitious Character Created by Liza Elliott

At last, I have become part of the plot in a mystery novel.

Being a fictitious character is never something I would aspire to. I tend to think that the simple act of writing stories and books means that somehow the essence of Jim Reed is implied in each tale, since I the writer write only from real life.

It is important for me to write straight-out experiential truth, so that I don’t have to make anything up out of thin air.

But now, in addition to being a real person in real-time stories, I have also be come a fictional character within a work of fiction. It’s all because of author Liza Elliott.

Liza used to drop into my life once in a while, whether at writing events or at Reed Books. She would sometimes jokingly tell me that I ought to be a character in one of her books. I would laugh, make a wisecrack, and dismiss the idea, never knowing she was quite serious.

One day, Liza walks into the shop and hands me a copy of her new mystery novel, 30-A SUPPER CLUB (Red Camel Press), an adventure that takes place along Alabama’s coastline, in the Panhandle, and in Birmingham. She inscribes the book to me in glowing terms, then points out that I am within the pages of the story.

No kidding—I am actually part of the book! Liza thankfully describes the shop and me in wonderfully entrancing ways, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. The book is a fun read.

As Liza departs the store, I ask her whether there’s a sequel in the works. “Yes, there is, and you are in that story, too,” she beams. Being smart of mouth I quip, “Do you think you could throw in an episode in which I have a harmless flirtation with someone, say, Scarlett Johansson?”

She says she’ll think about it.

Now I can’t wait till the next 30-A SUPPER CLUB comes out. What adventures will I have that I have never had?

Stay tuned

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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The Great Unblizzard of 2015 A.D.

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The Great Unblizzard of 2015 A.D.

 Well, we manage to survive this day more or less in one piece.

Oh, there are adventures, setbacks, challenges, puzzles to solve, barriers to cross. So much of daily life has to be placed on hold till the crisis passes.

The morning starts with The Warnings: DON’T DRIVE ON THE ROADS, WATCH FOR PATCHES OF ICE.

Fully dressed and ready to go to work, I hesitate at the door, noticing that there is no snow on the ground. Hmm…better test the air. I walk onto the porch and down the steps to retrieve the morning paper. The air does feel a bit icy, the humidity warns of what might come.

I remember that during the Big Snow last year, I ignored all warnings and went to work. The snow appeared with gusto and I barely made it home at the end of the day.

But, today, I realize how risky that was—driving on ice, dodging other motorists, getting stuck behind indecisive characters, and taking two hours to drive two miles home.

So, today, I want to DO THE RIGHT THING. I’ll wait till I know it is safe. Don’t want Liz to worry about my trekking through another blizzard. Don’t want to wind up in the hospital or in the obituaries.

I decide to wait another hour. Just let the shop open late for a change.

Then, the adventures begin.

In the process of bringing in the paper, I’ve managed to step in dog poop that has not been managed with little plastic t-shirt bags by our dogloving neighbors. I dutifully remove my shoe and try to wash away the fragrant evidence. Turning on the hydrant, I hear a moaning sound, the sort of sound that only comes from eccentric plumbing. Oops! Add dog cleaner and plumber to my list of honey-do’s.

Then the restlessness begins. I keep checking the clock and the Spann reports to see if there’s an all-clear. I read the entire paper, learning disturbing things about the world I usually try to ignore. I start nibbling, since I don’t have a working project to attack with this newfound time to expend. A freshly-peeled boiled egg slips through my fingers and explodes into the garbage disposal machine. I start obsessing over the large ceiling stain in the kitchen, wondering how much money that I don’t have it will take to get it repaired.

Time moves more slowly when you are suspended within it. The heck with it. I’ll just go to work….but what if I get stuck in the blizzard and can’t be home to care for Liz and the house?

Suddenly a loud, excruciatingly loud alarm goes off. Assuming it is the new burglar repellent system we’re been trying to install for several weeks, Liz and I punch numerous buttons to make it stop. Nothing works. She calls the alarm company and rants while I rave, then raves while I rant. Surely these people have sold us a defective product! The calm operator stays the course and tries to help. Then, realizing that the alarm must be coming from some other source, I get ready to attack the smoke alarm, then the older retired alarm box that’s still stuck in the wall. The sound is all-consuming. In panic, I finally yank the box off the wall and rip out a couple of wires with my bare hands. Ah, relief and silence! Listen to the–Real Silence! For some unknown reason a defunct bit of electronics has decided to raise itself from the dead one last time.

By now, the afternoon is here and I still don’t know whether I’ve done the right thing by staying home during a still-threatening-but-snowless day.

I nibble some more, pace, read, semi-doze, and otherwise expend time unproductively. I really am hooked on work!

By late afternoon, the snow hasn’t appeared. We start looking for something entertaining to do, like watch a couple of Netflix shows. For two hours we are absorbed in TV land, thus settling our brains for the long winter’s nap we will soon attempt.

After video saturation occurs, I arise to glance out the window. There it is! The moonlessness on the breast of the newfallen snow is still kind of fun to see, even though we are well beyond the age at which it is safe to frolic in this poetic feathery substance.

Tomorrow will be another day, and I plan to make it to work regardless. My attention Spann is worn out, the adventures have been tucked away, and I am ready to dream bookie dreams, all snug and ready for sugar plums

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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Macy’s Ghost Clerks Invade the Aching Feet Treatment Center

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Macy’s Ghost Clerks Invade the Aching Feet Treatment Center

I used to be an unreconstructed creature of habit, but now that I am of a certain advanced age, a new realization has come upon me.

Now my habits have habits.

And speaking of habits, even the clothes I don each day look something like nuns’ habits—-dark blazer over dark shirt above dark trousers anchored by dark shoes. I don’t have a particularly wise and witty reason for wearing black all the time. It just seems easier to match everything, easier to minimize my blobby girth. I don’t have to expend energy and time figuring out what I will wear today.

Anyhow, eventually even I—the guy who pays no attention to clothing—realize that my jacket is looking frayed and feeling poorly. So I make the long-dreaded trek to Macy’s to see whether the chain still carries a clone of the coat I’ve worn to a frazzle.

My fantasy is simple: I won’t even have to try on anything. I’ll just walk briskly to the Men’s Department, show the lining label to a clerk, and say, “I’d like to order two more of these, please.”

But you know and I know that nothing is ever as simple as it is. Everything is more complicated than it is. Everything costs more than it does.

I enter Macy’s and suddenly feel as if I’m in a haunted-house movie. Well-dressed clerks are scattered about, each maintaining a post in a specific department, each customerless, each staring straight ahead with pleasantness frozen on their faces just in case a supervisor wanders by for a pleasant-expression inspection.

What daydreams may come to these clerks, what soreness of foot and aching of back syndromes do they endure?

After a lifetime of encountering clerks from every walk of life, after decades of chatting with them and listening carefully to what they say aloud to one another, I have learned this: No matter how pleasant or dismissive or distracted they look, each one is glancing at the clock in anticipation of the next recess, the lunch break, the shift-ending hour. Each is hoping to be somewhere else as soon as possible.

The male clerk destined to assist me is pleasant, business-like, and robotic. I’ve never yet had a salesperson say, “Gee, that looks like crap on you. Don’t buy it—people will laugh.”

The clerk knows this silent truth, I know this to be so, thus I have to make my own judgement about whether I should purchase this jacket or that jacket. I’m always fortunate when Liz is able to accompany me and provide some feedback. Left up to me, I would buy the first thing I see (and I often do that), just to escape Robotics Land.

I make a selection, in the process learning that men’s clothing departments no longer offer alterations. I have to take my three-inches-too-long-sleeved blazer to another store that specializes in tailoring. The entire process takes an hour, not counting the return visit I will make to pick up the altered item.

See? As Liz Reed always says, “Everything takes longer than it does.”

In my 3 a.m. wide-awake insomniac meanderings, I add to my TO DO LIST: Send each Macy’s clerk a gift packet containing Epsom Salts, dark chocolate, aspirin and a thank-you note reading, “Be of good cheer. We’ve all been there, and you will get through this.”

The clerks won’t know what the heck that means, but at least I’ll feel better

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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Mario Lanza Almost Live and in Person

Listen to Jim’s podcast: http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/mariolanzaalmostalive.mp3

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I found this twenty-year-old entry in my Red Clay Diary. Though it happened long, long ago, it feels like yesterday. And it helps me recall my Mom, and a good adventure I had with my brother, Tim.

MARIO LANZA ALMOST ALIVE AND IN PERSON

Somewhere deep in the bowels of the city of Philadelphia, on the second floor—or is it the third?—of a music school, reside the paper-and-cloth remnants of a pre-Pavarotti superstar, a man who died in 1959, still remembered by a few aging fans who celebrate his Philadelphia-ness each year.

I am here with my brother, Tim, who is busy showing his whimsical art at an enormous civic-center show. I take a break to have an adventure in a town I know little about.

The Mario Lanza Institute and Museum, I learn, is listed as a tourist attraction by Triple-A and, of course, this is the natural place I want to visit first if I ever get to Philadelphia.

This kind of attraction appeals to me most…the dusty little out-of-the-way corners of the nation that are ignored by crowds waiting to get into the Benjamin Franklin Institute or who drive 90 miles to see the home of Edgar Allan Poe. Besides, my mother is a  longtime fan of Lanza, so I think it will be a great gesture to bring her a souvenir or two from the Institute.

The Angolan cab driver has no idea how to get me to the Mario Lanza Institute and Museum, so we have to stop several places—at my expense—to ask various uninformed and usually indifferent citizens for directions. We finally find a woman, standing in front of a theatre, whose child has actually attended the music school and who thus provides directions for me—certainly not directions for the cab driver, who has no idea where anything is and whose wife was trying to get through nursing school so he won’t have to spend the rest of his life driving through a city he fears (“No cabdriver wants to drive after 5 o’clock in this town.”).

 So, after scrunching up our shoulders to make it through the narrow streets, I at last tell the lost driver to just let me out. He does, and I find myself in an alien land—shabby,  overcrowded and oversqueezed buildings, trash in the streets and loiterers eyeing passersby with thirsty curiosity.

Just can’t figure out where I am, so I enter a teeming neighborhood laundry to ask the Chinese owner for directions. He can’t understand anything I say, and the hangers-out in the establishment are beginning to crowd uncomfortably close to me, the bearded London-Fog-overcoated bald guy who just doesn’t seem to come from these parts. One rather large, sullen man looms over me, staring.

From behind, someone taps me roughly on the shoulder. I freeze, hoping the contact is accidental. The tapping continues, and I turn to find the smiling face of a woman who speaks English and actually knows where the Mario Lanza Institute is.

Just a block away, behind high metal fences, stands an aged building with high ceilings and run-down plaster-walled offices. Inside, even though I call ahead to make sure the Museum is open, nobody can tell me how to get upstairs to see the Museum (“The elevator can be operated only by key–and you’ll have to talk to the people in the office.”). The people in the office are tied up with personal phone calls, so I stick my head into a side office, interrupting the casual chatter of two denizens, who send me back to the desk I’ve just come from.

 ”Here, I’ll let you on the elevator with my key,” a grizzled, limping elderly man smiles. He leads me down a narrow hallway to a stale-smelling tiny elevator and sends me on my way, alone and claustrophobic, to the floor where I might find Mario Lanza’s scraps and pieces, if I am lucky.

Once the door clangs open, I am inside another narrow corridor which leads eventually to a high-ceilinged dimly-lit hallway on the walls of which Mario Lanza himself PR-grins himself silly for visitors and photographers around the world.

There are yellowed newspaper clippings, a framed letter to Mario from Jack Warner, another from Sammy Cahn, a Mario Lanza dinner jacket with the faint yellowing you associate with rental outfits (his arms were incredibly short, it seems), various audiocassette tapes comparing Lanza to Caruso, tabloid papers reporting on the annual Mario Lanza Festival, dingy scrapbooks and press-clipping binders available for Lanzaphile research, a sample copy of a book about Lanza (“We’re out of these, so we can’t sell this copy,” the bored clerk who staffs the Institute says.) and various fan club materials on the cracked-plaster walls of one small room.

And that is it.

The Mario Lanza Institute and Museum is about to close in the middle of the afternoon, and I am the third and final person to sign the guest book this day. I purchase a cassette for my Mother, pick up a few freebie photocopies and pamphlets for her, and make my way downstairs to the main door, dodging young musicians and their parents.

Outside in the cold winter air, I cannot find a cab, but two tourists do stop to ask me for directions. I wander toward what is called the Italian Market, smelling wonderful cooked-sausage and pasta fragrances, and trying to look as if I know what I am doing in this strange and unclean neighborhood, trying to look as if I can handle myself.

Finally, a cabdriver idling his GM car in front of a small store says he will take me back to the Philadelphia Civic Center as soon as his mate is through shopping. His wife, a petite and polite woman, chats with me a bit as we drive through the incredibly narrow streets of another planet and head toward someplace I can call familiar in this best and worst of all possible cities where once a tenor spent some time making fans of people who are beginning now to forget both him and the hopefulness that once welled from within his lungs…a hopefulness that thrilled my mom and a million other moms whose lives in the late-1940′s and early-50′s were so much harder but so much purer then

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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You Load Sixteen Quarters and What Do You Get?

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/thesixteenquartershopping%20spree.mp3

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The Sixteen-Quarter Two-Hour Beautiful Historic

Downtown Birmingham Shopping Spree

Through the window of my wonderful old bookshop, I can see the city streets, the city buildings, the city people, and the city Shopper Zappers.

They are all there for my viewing pleasure each day, these historic structures, these diverse and fascinating people. The privilege of watching day to day history unfold before me is one of the reasons I love this old city.

But watching the Shopper Zappers operate is akin to watching a zombie movie—each visitor to our neighborhood is stalked by these annoying and off-putting mechanisms that are designed to kill all traces of goodwill and good humor in folks who otherwise are trying to have a nice experience during their time here.

The Shopper Zappers—otherwise known as Parking Meters—are designed to give each shopper a bitter taste, a lingering impression that the City does not welcome nor encourage Downtown shopping.

Just join me at the window and let’s see what happens:

An elderly couple emerges from their carefully parked vehicle, glancing around at the fun they are planning to have—a visit to Reed Books and Sojourns gift shop and the Goodyear Shoe Hospital. The driver approaches the parking meter, digs into his pocket for a couple of quarters, and deposits the first one. Then he does a visible double-take when a mere eight minutes registers in the little meter window. Thinking the meter is broken and did not record his quarter, he deposits another. Now he knows he’s in trouble, because he sees that he has only 15 minutes to do all his shopping and sightseeing.

Now the driver has several options. He can try parking in another space that might have a working meter, he can keep putting quarters in the slot till it reads two hours, or he can become upset and drive away, vowing never to return to this apparently cold and ruthless place.

In this instance, the visitor stays calm, knowing that his wife has been planning a visit to the City for some time. While she waits beside the car, he enters the shop and asks whether I can give him a dollar’s worth of quarters for the meter in exchange for a dollar bill. Of course I can, but I know from my experience with dozens of other customers that he has not done the math. In order to put two hours on the meter, he is going to need 16 quarters—and who carries 16 quarters around at all times?

I make the same decision I have been making each day for weeks: I hand him a big handful of quarters and tell him to fill the meter. In other words, I will pay this man to park and visit my street and my shop.

He wonders why I would do such a thing.

I want these customers to leave Birmingham feeling that somebody really cares whether they shop Downtown. I want them to know that Birmingham is much more than the mere City Bureaucracy that extracts penalties and fees while discouraging all visitors from returning.

I want them to feel welcome in Birmingham.

So, periodically, I stroll to the corner of Richard Arrington and 3rd Avenue North and pick up more rolls of quarters from the friendly bankers at Iberia. They spend a lot of time doling out quarters to other merchants and professionals who, like me, are trying to counteract the ill will that these prohibitive and punitive Shopper Zappers exude.

Yep, it’s come down to this.

I pay people to come to my shop. I pay people to tour and visit and appreciate the City.

And I pay people to return home with the knowledge that we merchants and professionals care about them, that we are quite different from the Shopper Zappers and their attendants who seem invisible and insensitive to what it takes to promote a really fine and beautiful historic Downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

Y’all come to Reed Books and grab some quarters

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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Improbably Erratic Adventures of the Light Bulb Thief

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Improbably Erratic Adventures of the Light Bulb Thief

The tiny 60-year-old flashlight bulb has never burned out. It still powers the Spitz Junior planetarium that splatters stars and constellations across my bedroom ceiling and walls, thus allowing me to sleep under a nighttime sky sans mosquitoes and unpredictable temperatures.

My nights are star-filled and constant, even though life itself is erratic.

One of the mysteries of day to day existence is, why do some bulbs burn interminably, while others flash and fail?

This meandering path to the need for artificial illumination causes millions of us to become light bulb thieves.

I’m cozying up with a late-night book abed, preparing to read myself aslumber. One flick of the bedside lamp switch sidetracks the evening. The bulb stops working. There are choices to be made. I can arise from my comfy pillows, don shoes and clothing, and wend my way downstairs to Liz’s studio, where reside light bulbs galore. I can pore through dozens of multi-sized multi-watted Edison rejects for just the right bulb—and risk not finding anything at all, thus disrupting my submersion into the nighttime literary daze—or I can quickly barefoot it to the next room and sneak a bulb from another lamp. Wonder which option I will choose?

Payback. There is always payback. Two nights later, I’m sitting down to read the paper. I reach to turn on the chairside switch, and nothing happens. This is, of course, because there is no light bulb in the lamp. It’s in the bedroom.

Decisions, decisions.

After several weeks of rotating and snitching light bulbs, there comes a day of reckoning. I really will have to make a cranky effort to bring fresh light bulbs into my life, else adjust to perpetual darkness.

Now, to gird my loins and get on with it

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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The Neverending Stories Await the Sidewalk People of the Book

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The Neverending Stories Await the Sidewalk People of the Book

The old book shop is filled with charm and aroma and ambience and centuries of culture, all pressed together in comfortable intimacy and familiarity. This may be one of the few places you’ll ever visit where diversity is no longer an intellectual talking-point or an impossible dream.  This old book shop is a gathering place for all ideas, a place where diametrically opposing philosophies co-exist with a smug sense of humor, a smug sense that all philosophies are worth no more than a palm full of puns sifting through the fingers.

Old paper scraps and chips and shards and cuttings and flakes cover the floor of the shop, reminders that paper is vulnerable to age and wear. Among the ironies of the confetti scatterings are the ancient books, the books with pages still intact and white and durable. Old-time paper endures, these-days paper often consumes itself in acidity.

One more irony. Even the fragile paper survives if it is nurtured and kept safe from ultra violet rays, deep humidity and heated dryness.

So, what do we have here in the shop? Everlasting books, crumbling books, archival paper, disregarded paper. It’s a merry mishmash.

“Oh, I love the smell of books. Isn’t this great?” a customer extols the virtues of the time-travel vault I call a book shop. I hear this exclamation several times a week from wandering nomads who cherish the past and the preserved present and the predicted future.

So, each day I place a bit of book fragrance behind each ear, don my bookie demeanor, and spend the hours receiving books, searching for books, sprucing up books, researching books, cataloging books, pricing books, shelving books, answering questions about books, selling books, collecting books…and, once home, reading books and writing books.

And, should I dare to visit the darkened shop in the wee hours, I can listen to the books breathing and resting and committing the act of simply being available and open to examination by those whose mysterious quests will bring them to the sidewalk in front of the shop door just before opening time, anxious to continue the neverending tales

 

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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