REPRODUCING THE IRREPRODUCIBLE

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

 or read his story below:

REPRODUCING THE IRREPRODUCIBLE

What would my life be like if I only heard everything once, only experienced everything once, only saw everything one time?

What if Playback had never been invented? What if there were no snapshots, selfies, cameras, recording devices, image reproducers?

What if echoes were the only evidence I had that my voice existed?

What if each moment in time was complete in and of itself, never to be reviewed except in memory and imagination?

My idea of a perfect day is one in which nothing is repeated to me or regurgitated in my direction.

This cannot easily occur.

Maybe this attitude is driven by my short attention span. Once I experience something, enough is enough. I don’t need to synthetically experience it again. Unless it is really, really important.

Fireworks? They are lovely, but why do I need to see them more than once? I cherish the memory of their sound, their piercing beauty, the awesome effect they have on viewers. As a writer, I can weave tales about fireworks, I can examine them again and again from every angle, through the lenses of different philosophies, right here, inside my mind. I can appreciate a fireworks display and hold it in memory for a lifetime.

Another way of explaining this: Why would I need more than one wedding ring? The one I received is the only one I will ever need to contemplate. I don’t need to be given a new wedding ring several times a year. Memory and affection suffice.

Watching a news or sports event, I wish to see it once. I do not require several dozen re-plays of every single play, pounding away at me until all life is wrung from it. I only wish to view that home run as it happens, then I can go away and contemplate it. I need watch a horrible disaster one time—it loses all meaning after battering my senses repeatedly through re-play.

My point, if I have one, is that the purity of a single moment is so much more powerful when it is allowed to exist on its own intrinsic terms, when it is not rendered listless through endless repetition and yadda yadda yadda commentary.

Of course, there are moments in life worth re-viewing. These are the big, important, life-changing moments. These I would keep. They are worthy enough.

For me, the way to watch an athletic event is to mute the punditry and avert my gaze during the repetitions. The way to appreciate a book is to read it once, then contemplate it for a few months until it settles itself and becomes part of a continuing self-assembling jigsaw puzzle in my heart. The way to appreciate you is to listen to what you have to say, observe your presence, savor your being, then wrestle with what I have learned and silently assimilate it into my life.

Meanwhile, I hope to find pleasure now and then in spending just one day avoiding visual addiction—that modern-times need to view hundreds of times an image of something that only happened once and is important enough to merit silent appraisal, deep within

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

 Twitter and Facebook

WRITING THE UNWRITTEN

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/writingtheunwritten.mp3

or read his column below:

WRITING THE UNWRITTEN

 There must be fifty ways to export a thought from mind to page. Writing words is the easy part. Editing and polishing and making the words more powerful, more meaningful, is where the real work lies. Editing must be done.

For instance, here’s what first comes out of my head and into my fingers and then onto screen or page. As I say, tossing words into existence is effortless.

Now comes the craft, then the art, of editing.

This is a small train-of-thought exercise:

FIRST DRAFT:

“If something is not written, it is still, nevertheless, awaiting the blank page. The unwritten exists, even if it is never written. My job is to write the unwritten, forcing its visibility upon the reader.” –Jim Reed

SECOND DRAFT:

“The unwritten, though unwritten, nevertheless awaits the blank page. I the writer make visible the unwritten.” –Jim Reed

THIRD DRAFT:

“The unwritten always awaits the blank page. My task is to make the unwritten visible to the reader.” –Jim Reed

FOURTH DRAFT:

“If I never write something down, you will never know it exists. But it does exist, simply because it resides within me.” –Jim Reed

See what I mean? There must be fifty ways to write any thought. As I work on drafts of this thought, it alters itself. The end result might take years. Stay tuned.

One of my many diversions consists of collecting and studying concise, perfectly honed thoughts and meaningful insights. I am constantly amazed at how few Great Thoughts emerge from the thousands that I collect. In my small world, a collectible quote must make its appearance without notice, execute its sting, then disappear, allowing the reader to massage and digest it.

And in rare but special moments, a great set of words can uplift you, change your day, detour you from chaos to bliss, or at least make you chuckle.

For instance:

“Not to decide is to decide.” –Harvey Cox

This grand but simple utterance could take many pages to develop and make public, but Cox reduces it to six words. You’ll never forget them.

Another example:

“Jesus is coming. Look busy.” –bumper sticker

Entire volumes of theology and studies on human behavior and ethics could be written to explain and examine this thought, but the unknown scribe reduced it to one startling and funny set of five words.

And here’s one more quote that contains an entire human life:

“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” –Samuel Beckett

Each morning, I lie abed and wrestle with this thought. Then, I hop up and head to the shower. Before I know it, I’m going on

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

 Twitter and Facebook

CEREMONY OF THE GRADUATES

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/ceremonyofthegraduates.mp3

or read his story below:

CEREMONY OF THE GRADUATES

Somewhere, USA:

The arena is a vast civilization all enfolded with its personal ethos.

Chatting herds of families and extended families and kin and friends and neighbors and bonded groups and stragglers and roaming restless kids and huggers and bussers and handshakers and symbolic gesturers and signalers and pre-graduates and tenured instructors and security guards and parking lot triagers and clusters and loners and hand-phoners and players and playuhs and gigglers and speechmakers and organizers and wanderers and handicapped trudgers and screamers and whistlers and program-fanners and howzyermomenemers and school-spirit-commercial-product-consumers and…

Those who stiffly strut, who wobble forward, who stumble the concrete metal stairs, who flip and search the commencement program pages, who double-hop the stairs, who carefully navigate one step at a time, who cling to steel banisters, who slide banisters, who descend while dreading the eventual ascent, who seek their companion group, who gaze with intimacy only at a flat screen, who can’t wait for lunch, who can’t wait for the new world they will enter timidly and bravely, who sit forlornly midst a sea of orange plastic folding seats, who await the pomp and circumstance created solely for this impending momentary moment…

At last, the ceremonies are concluded. Circumstances have reduced the pomp to a dull roar. The real, the important, the meaningful can commence. Now it’s all about friendship and family and love and camaraderie.

What else could possibly be more important at this moment in time?

The next graduation ceremony awaits

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

 Twitter and Facebook

 

The Kerouac Thelma Margaret Road-Thrill Joy Ride

Listen to Jim:

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/mp3/kerouac.mp3 

or read on…

THE KEROUAC THELMA MARGARET ROAD-THRILL JOY RIDE

When I was young and knew nothing but what my imagination dreamed up, I thought it would be most amazing if one day I could muster the courage to Hit the Road, Destination Unknown.

Lying abed late at night, the moaning whistles of passing trains would feed my fantasy of hopping a freight and hobo-ing it to the Next Place Thataway.

Books such as Robinson Crusoe and Toby Tyler or Ten Weeks with a Circus made it seem possible to run away and self-survive, prove my manhood—to whom?—and come back to town a seasoned hero.

Later literature kept up the pressure: I could run wild like Kerouac and Cassady…go pell mell like Thelma and Louise…get to know mysterious people like Steinbeck and Charley, take the blue highways like Least Heat Moon.

And, true to my metaphorical destiny, I did go on the road…but solely in baby steps. To this day, a visit to Pratt City or Columbia, South Carolina or Victor, Idaho or Gardendale are equally fun and adventurous. As soon as I press the pedal, I’m off and running, seeking material for the Museum of Fond Memories, material for my blast/blog/tweet/facebook/books, material to riffle through in old age.

When she was a teen-ager, my daughter Margaret and I occasionally took to the road—off to a reunion or a visit or a flea market, racing along and loving every minute of it. Back then, Margaret, being psychically connected to me, abandoned herself to my goals—those goals being to enjoy the moment and not worry about anything else at all.

First thing Margaret and I did at the start of every journey was stop at a convenience store—any convenience store—and load up on all the junk food we weren’t allowed to eat at home. Crackling cellophane, popping cola tops, outrageous belching and lots of laughter drowned out the rest of the world. We would end each trip happy and satisfied, having tossed care to the winds if only for a few hours. There were no negatives to these adventures, if you don’t count the inevitable indigestion.

It was inexpensive therapy.

To this day, Margaret still has adventures, having been all over the place, from the top of the Tetons, to Paris, to England, to Jackson Hole, to Costa Rica, to Cuba, to Tanzania, to China, to Panama, to the Snake River. I can’t go with her, but I live every moment vicariously, traveling in mind and heart with my long-ago companion. She always reports back to me and we always laugh in memory green.

I still journey throughout the world and to corners of the universe, but I do it the best way I know…each day showing up at the Museum of Fond Memories and passing artifacts on to you and others—artifacts from the past 500 years and the far corners of the planet.

Come in and take a road trip around the shop with me

SOUTHSIDE BAR-B-Q PAYBACK

Listen to Jim’s podcast today:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/southsidebarbq.mp3

or read his story below:

SOUTHSIDE BAR-B-Q PAYBACK

A tattered page from my Red Clay Diary…

I am on the last leg of the day, trying to get into and out of the Southside grocery store and make it home for some after-work peace and quiet.

As I pass the in-house buffet line en route to the dairy section, a clerk asks whether I want to pick up supper. I brusquely tell him “no” without pausing, then glance quickly at the prepared food and see that there are three small barbecue ribs left floating in their burgundy sauce. They are calling out to me.

We need to eat something fast-foody, so I say, “Uh, sir, I think I just changed my mind.” He walks over and I point to the ribs. “Can I just buy what’s left, and nothing else?” I figure that Liz and I can have a nice meal of leftover cole slaw and the ribs before collapsing into our post-long-day stupor at home.

While the clerk is weighing and pricing my order, the pleasant woman who usually works the counter walks up.

“Long day,” I say. “Yes, long day,” she says. We always exchange pleasantries. A woman and man pass behind me, heading for the produce section, and the clerk’s eyes flash. She looks at me knowingly and says something I don’t quite understand, nodding toward the couple. I ask for a repeat, she says the same thing, which I still don’t get, but it’s obvious she’s had an emotional PING and wants to share an opinion and a confession. It’s her body language that tells me this.

“Nobody’s going to do THAT to ME,” she says. I turn around but can only see the backs of the couple.

“What do you mean?”

“Her eyes all wide like that, it’s not right,” she says.

I finally figure out that she means the woman has two black eyes.

I say, “That’s terrible,” acknowledging the fact that she thinks the woman has been abused.

“No man will ever do that to me,” she confides with set jaw.

I cluck sympathetically and mouth some platitude in empathy.

She goes on.

“My ex-husband beat me up.”

“That’s terrible,” is all I can say again, and I mean it.

Her words tumble over the counter.

“He beat me with a hammer,” she continues.

“Holy Moly,” I say to myself and lean forward to learn more.

“But I got him good,” she brags.

I wonder how a small woman like this could stand up to an abusive male probably twice her size.

“I taped him up and set him on fire when he was asleep,” she says, proudly. “He’ll never do THAT to anybody again.”

I can only do what any writer might automatically do. I ask what happened next. There’s always a sequel, since no story ever really ends, you know.

“Did they do anything to you?” I ask. Both of us know who the They is I’m referring to.

“Heck, no, why would they?” she says.

I can only nod sympathetically again, mumble something about how glad I am she lived to tell me the story, and walk on over toward the dairy section for the half and half for Liz.

I pass by the couple and see the woman’s battered eyes for the first time. I know why the sight of them triggered the cook’s story. I wonder if this is what happened to her, too.

Later, writing this down for you to read, I wonder about barbecued wife-beaters and barbecue ribs and what kind of celestial relationship they might have to one another in this enormous and rather puzzling universe

 

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

 Twitter and Facebook

LIVING UNDER THE DOME, WITHIN THE WALL

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/livingunderthedome.mp3

or read his story below:

LIVING UNDER THE DOME, WITHIN THE WALL

My world is bordered by an oddly-shaped wall and sheltered by an infinite dome. An Alabama wall that extends from one special point in Tuscaloosa to another in Peterson to another in West Blocton to, finally, my current home in Birmingham. The dome is always above, itself a kind of enclosure that, with the assistance of gravity, does not allow escape.

I was raised on Eastwood Avenue in T-Town, visited and played with McGee relatives on Pat McGee Road in Peterson, and with Reed relatives on Rose Lane in West Blocton. Now, 55 miles from Eastwood Avenue, I live on Birmingham’s Southside and work on nearby 3rd Avenue North, Downtown.

That’s about the size of my world. Small, isn’t it?

But within that compound, under that dome, I can go anywhere, do anything, in my imagination.

Guess I was destined to be a writer of words, a teller of tales. And mainly, I more and more find myself preaching the gospel of Paying Attention. I enjoy pointing out the wonders and perplexities of life to help fortify my hunch that no matter how small the compound, no matter how fettered the body, this world is bigger than I can ever imagine. The dome is immeasurably high.

Whenever I seek consolation or protection or sanctuary from daily travails, I turn inward. Inward is the only peaceful place, the only constant I recognize in a shifting and sometimes shifty world. And Inward is all mine, a place protected from insurrection, a special community of one that I take with me wherever I go. A place I will take with me on the day that I finally Go.

One more meandering thought:

I no longer proselytize or try to tell others what to do with their lives.

I no longer rail against the way things are, for they are what they are.

I no longer think I can change the world or even alter the course of impending train wrecks I spy all about me. Instead, I now attempt to be the best side of me.

I now believe that it is important to observe those around me and simply be available when needed.

I believe in treating each encounter as if it is the best and final encounter.

I believe in leaving a trail of goodwill and kindness.

I believe that now and then this trail will provide solace to those who are ready to notice it.

I believe in all the great and wonderful times I’ve experienced within the wall and under the dome.

I believe in saying “I love you” to those I love, each and every time I encounter them–just in case they are in doubt.

And finally, as a writer who has learned a few lessons, I believe in shutting up in order to listen to you while you tell me about your life and feelings.

Go on, I’m listening

 

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

 Twitter and Facebook

PASSING FANCIES ON THE JOURNEY TO IN-BETWEEN

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/passingfancies.mp3

or read his story below:

PASSING FANCIES ON THE JOURNEY TO IN-BETWEEN

On the Kerouac Least Heat Moon Steinbeck road to somewhere that’s not Here, parts of my mind are rattling around in an effort to remain awake and alert.

I’m driving a certain distance, watching the highway the cars the drivers the signs the markers the passing foliage, all in an effort to arrive safely and in one piece at my destination. But this bundle of alertness doesn’t take up all the space in my head, so part of me just keeps on writing and making notes, marking notations, taking imaginary selfies of both world at large and thoughts internal.

Having never driven behind myself, I don’t know what my car and I look like to someone approaching from the rear. But I do know what the rear driver and car look like because the three rearview reverse-image mirrors in my vehicle reflect scenes from a life distantly lived, distantly imagined.

The Tastykake glazed cherry pie I’m munching on provides refreshment accompanying my three-screen viewing of this rear-approaching person, and I can’t help recording details. She is dabbing at her nose with a tissue while glancing at the reflection of a car behind her. She is talking animatedly to an invisible friend, or to a small child I cannot see, or to a phone buddy…or to herself. Diagnosis of schizophrenia is a complicated thing these days, it being the case that everybody talks to the vacant air just about all the time.

The great challenge of our species is how to fill the times in between with something worthwhile, or at least something non-damaging to others. What do I do with myself during the times in between? Observing what goes on around me, fore, aft, left, right, below, above, inside, out, is something to keep me busy and out of trouble.

The Tastykake is crunchy and dribbly, the roadway running beneath my car is potholed and patchy, the sky is cloudy and gray, the car behind me is mottled and old, I the driver am also mottled and old. But the neverending road leads on, the overlapping thoughts and feelings and imaginings continue unabated.

The reverse-image driver’s rounded face is unreadable. Her eyebrows point up, like a theatre drama/tragedy mask. Her expressions alternate between wonderment and pain. But she stays the course, managing the endless highway and the endless chatter and the runny nose and the hundredfold additional sadnesses and thrills with which she must deal.

I pass by a vacant Hamburger Heaven with an enormous CLOSED sign. I wonder whether this means Heaven is closed to all hamburgers, whether there are hamburgers in Heaven, whether Heaven itself has shut down, whether the neverending road is all there is.

At last I approach the City and watch as it absorbs the sunrise morning into its cement glass metal concrete brick self, only to reflect back at me its ambient light and heat. It is familiar and comfortable. It is my Kerouac Least Heat Moon Steinbeck Tastykake destination.

I dab cherry syrup from my beard, house my rusty metal steed in its stable, grunt my way to a standing position and continue the few steps leading to today’s next adventures

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

 Twitter and Facebook

 

EXPUNGING WHAT DOES NOT COUNT

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/expunging.mp3
or read his story below:  

EXPUNGING WHAT DOES NOT COUNT

On a windy sunny morning Downtown, I’m strolling along Third Avenue North, as usual keeping to myself while covertly observing everybody and everything around me.

It is cemented into my daily behavior, this passion for paying attention to tiny things and tiny lives, tiny things and tiny lives that might otherwise be ignored or expunged from memory.

Suddenly, reality walks right up to me and snarls, causing me to shift focus from the important to the unnecessary.

A young woman stands on the sidewalk, staring off to the west at oncoming traffic, as if waiting for someone or something. She looks neither left nor right.

Off in the distance, I see the Screaming Man approaching. The Screaming Man is a Downtown regular. He haunts the landscape so much that we denizens pay little attention to him…until he gets out of hand.

The woman leans over the curb, again seeming to be searching—perhaps hoping to hail a ride.

I know the habits of the Screaming Man, so I instantly feel protective of her. He is going to walk up to her, ask for money, scream epithets if she turns him down, maybe knock her purse out of her hand. I’ve seen it happen before.

I say, “Good morning” in a cheerful voice, hoping to engage her so that the Screaming Man will decide to pass on by and not take on both of us. This sometimes works.

“Uh, good morning,” she mumbles, surprised that anyone would speak.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” I continue, glancing at the Screaming Man, who is trying to decide whether to stop.

“Are you trying to hail a cab?” I ask—you can’t hail cabs in Birmingham, and many visitors do not know this.

“Yes, but I don’t see any.”

The Screaming Man wobbles past, talking to himself and hollering at the windy towers.

I give the pedestrian the number of Yellow Cab, since I’ve never used Uber. She is grateful. I continue my stroll.

Now, back to tiny things and tiny lives and tiny moments and tiny kindnesses.

It’s all in a morning’s stroll, a morning’s effort to expunge the bad and focus on small wisdoms, hidden comforts, unexpected joys

 

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

 Twitter and Facebook

 

 

REMEMBRANCE OF PAST ECHOES

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/remembranceofpastechoes.mp3

or read his story:

REMEMBRANCE OF PAST ECHOES

Love of books often has little to do with the books themselves but with the surroundings, the time, the associations, the feelings, the fragrances and the adrenalin rushes.

Each booklover brings into a book a special burden, a special package of memories and expectations, a special preconceived notion of what a book is and what it will do for them.

One of my favorite customers repeatedly recaptures her childhood by purchasing all the books she remembers and therefore all the memories associated with them. She recalls with a glowing smile how her father read to her when she was small. He lay on the edge of her bed and read stories aloud while she snuggled close to his side and felt the warm vibrations of his voice through his chest.

Her memories include the wonderfully secure feeling she had during these childhood times, and she can call them up whenever she is reading in bed at night, those loving and just-right notions that children have that nothing bad is ever going to happen in life.

I can vividly remember what it was like to lie on the floor of the bedroom my brother Ronny and I shared and, while Ronny was outside methodically searching for four-leaf clover, I would read and re-read my favorite stories from our set of JUNIOR CLASSICS or our volumes of CHILDCRAFT.

The room was painted dark blue–at our request–and the curtains were filled with stars, so it wasn’t hard to take a trip outside our bodies whenever we pleased, into another solar system, over to the other side of the world, or deep into the innards of the earth, places where stories in books had already been.

My dog Brownie would lie there staring at me, waiting impatiently for me to get away from those books and come play with him, and he always enjoyed the game in which I stared intensely into his eyes from a distance of about six inches until he would finally snap at me to break the spell, never coming close enough to bite but always making me flinch back just in case.

Brownie himself has become part of my stories and he is thus now in existence both as a great memory and as the subject of tales that will someday be in books and blogs and podcasts. Perhaps someday Brownie and I will exist only as books, since all those people who have known us will have long passed.

My greatest hope is that the books Brownie and Ronny and I shared will survive us long enough to be enjoyed centuries later by kids who are finally coming back around to discovering these marvelous artifacts with pages and stains from little boys’ fingers and small dogs’ sniffings

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

 Twitter and Facebook

SPIDER AND SPIDER MAN COME TO TERMS

Listen to Jim’s podcast:
or read his tale:
*
*
SPIDER AND SPIDER MAN COME TO TERMS
*
*
Three-year-old Jimmy Three is stooping low, almost squatting, here on the front lawn of his parents’ home. His head is inches above the base of a holly tree, and he is peering intensely at a spiderweb.
*
The fresh, dewy summer morning sun warms his back while he waits for signs of the spider’s arrival.
*
Jimmy Three remembers being taken to a sawdust circus just weeks ago, a canvas-tent cathedral filled with playful clowns and glowing tigers and pretty acrobats and lithe jugglers, all existing for the moment just to please J. Three and other admiring kids.
*
But the memory he treasures most is the one where a safety net topples to the ground just before a limber trapeze artist does his airborne triple-somersault feat.
*
Earlier, the acrobat flips through the air and effortlessly flies above the gasping crowd, safely rescuing himself at the last moment in the clutches of a fellow performer. Then, for a suspenseful tick or two, he stands high up on the small suspended ledge, stares down, then free-falls down, down, down to the waiting net, where he lands, bounces, and forward-flips himself safely to the ground.
*
The crowd and Jimmy Three are happy and satisfied. But the acrobat has just begun.
*
At the holly tree, a gangly black spider cautiously appears on the web, making it quiver a bit. Jimmy Three doesn’t move, doesn’t blink.
*
The circus crowd applauds, then suddenly freezes. That’s because the trapeze artist is now knocking aside the metal posts that suspend and secure his safety net. In seconds, the net is flat on the ground. The acrobat glances up at the high platform and begins ascending the ladder.
*
The spider begins its eight-legged journey to the center of the suspended web. Jimmy Three wonders what would happen if the web fell and the spider fell with it. Do spiders survive such falls? He picks up a nearby twig.
*
Now the circus acrobat is back on the ledge. The trapeze is freeswinging, teasing him with its closeness, penduluming back, out of reach. The artist’s companion is at another ledge across the tent, waiting to swing and catch his partner should he decide to do a netless triple flip.
*
Before the crowd has time to gasp, the act is in motion, the rapid muscular flips are done, the actor securely rescued, the finale underway, and the singular moment permanently recorded in the imaginations of every child present.
 *
Jimmy Three smiles to himself at the memory, waves at the safely bouncing spider in the morning web, puts aside the stick he was about to employ, and goes on to the task of finding four-leaf clovers in the dusty yard
*