140 CHARACTERS 100 DEGREES

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

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GOOD FATHERS ABOUND

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/goodfathersabound.mp3

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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

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DO THE RIGHT THING

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/dotherightthing.mp3

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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

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The Hornswoggler Swoggles Another Swashbuckler

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/hornswogglerswogglesanother.mp3

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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

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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

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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OBSCURE LOCAL AUTHOR TURNS OUT-OF-TOWN CELEBRITY

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/obscurelocalauthor.mp3

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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

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow. No Humor Intended.

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 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/hairtodaygonetomorrow.mp3

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HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW. NO HUMOR INTENDED.

I miss my hair.

I don’t miss barbers.

Yep, one day many, many moons ago, I had a full head of hair. Now, though, I still have lots of hair, it’s just that it’s everywhere but atop my head.

I have alarmingly fast-growing hair in my ears, my nose, on my face, on my back, on my chest, and, well, just about all over. And its rate of growth is not full-moon dependent.

Nature has a sense of humor–most of us start out bald and toothless, and we end up…dead.

Now, I know lots of guys who still go to the barbershop, or even the hair stylist, long after their heads are virtually bald. Guys with a little fallen halo of hair rimming half the head from ear to ear, still go and get it trimmed. I guess they’re holding on to every shred of dignity they can.

I don’t blame men who have enormous comb-overs. Others laugh at them, but I laugh at the laughers, who will begin losing hair long before they’re prepared to. I don’t even mind guys with ridiculously obvious toupees, since they, too, are living in the same fantasy world occupied by large-beehived women.

So, does not having any hair mean you’ll never again go into a barbershop or hair salon? I asked one hair stylist in the Big City that question and gave her the challenge.

We brainstormed together.

If you are baldheaded, what can you get at a hair styling place?

1.  You can get your beard shaped and styled.

2.  If your baldness extends to the face, you can ask for a trim–of your nose hairs and eyebrows and ear hairs and that weird hair growing out of the top of your beauty mark.

3.  You can get a therapeutic massage and stop worrying about baldness for a few minutes. The best massages include: deep tissue, Swedish, neuromuscular. HEAL, you baldheaded man!

4.  You can just have your bald pate buffed and shined or powdered. Flaunt it! Move from Captain Kirk to Captain Picard and get some class!

5.  Maybe the most fun you as a baldheaded man can have is to bring family–kids, grandkids, cousins and spouse or friend–to the hair place and sit there and thumb through the pages of beautifully coiffed models in the magazines, and just watch and enjoy the banter  and fun.

Full-head-of-hair guys, beware: an experience like this could make you want to shave your head and join the rest of us sexy devils.

Incidentally, I haven’t been to a barber since 1985, nor have I had a professional hair cut since then. But if I do start going to hair stylists/designers, I’ll let you know. Well, actually, you’ll know because I’ll smell funny for a few hours. What I really like about hair salon places is that, unlike barbers in my day, they don’t discuss politics and sports and hunting and fishing and a thousand other things I have no interest in. They DO gossip, but it’s more like entertainment–more interesting that watching television, funnier than facebooking, less effort than texting,  and much more visual.

By the time you leave the joint, you look better than you are.

What more could anybody ask?

Just asking

© Jim Reed 2016 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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Everything Has Value, Except Money: The Immutable Rules of Real Life

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/everythinghasvalueexceptmoney.mp3

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Everything Has Value, Except Money

 My Red Clay Diary is safely hidden from harm within my Book of the Thousand and One Amazements, deep within a bank of red clay, covered over by kudzu.

 Each day, new amazements occur. I tend to   notice them.
IMMUTABLE RULES OF REAL LIFE
1.    Things don’t sell for what they are worth, they sell for what they go for.
2.    An outgoing smile is no indication whether there will be an incoming smile.
3.    Smile only if it makes you feel good…don’t expect it to be returned. Appreciate it if it is.
4.    A fake smile is almost always detectable.
 5.    If you find it hard to smile, just think about what is worth smiling about in your life and go with that.
6.    A smile may not be your umbrella on a rainy rainy day, but it can help you have fun getting soaked. Imagine Gene Kelly, who was running a fever the day he filmed the famous rain scene in Singin’ in the Rain.
7.    If you’re afraid you’ll lose face, trying to smile when you don’t feel like it, just sneer and turn it upside down. Post this sign in front of you at all times: SNILE!
8.    First-rate people associate themselves with first-rate people. Second-rate people associate themselves with third-rate people.
9.    Do nice unto others as you would have them do nice unto you. But if they continue not doing nice unto you, drop them and associate only with those who do.
10.  Smile a lot, at nothing at all. It will make people think you know something they don’t. It will drive your enemies crazy. It will draw nice people to you and help you identify people who are not.
11.  Those who are tardy do not get fruit cup.
12.  Those who do not find their mittens do not get pie. Even if they do find their mittens, they still may not get pie.
13.  Sometimes, the sky really is falling.
14.  Every good idea eventually backfires.
15.  Everything has value, except money
16. Even if it cannot possibly go wrong, it might.
Want to hear more?
Stay tuned

Gentle Insurrectionists Who Surprise Us with Sudden Wisdom

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Gentle Insurrectionists Who Surprise Us with Sudden Wisdom

 The elderly man with slight stoop, dancing Bernie hair and plastic bag filled with newspapers and notes and odds and ends, walks into the shop and, not looking right left up or down, focuses on one small row of books that has captured his vision, intensely examines several titles and picks up a couple.

  

Entering just behind him are two young people inhabiting their creative Charles Addams costumes and tattoos and piercings, their quiet demeanor both gentle and sweet, their intelligent book selections telling me more than their appearance.

  

The Bernie-haired customer speaks loudly and intelligently and insistently and feels he’s the only person in the room, as he inquires about titles he would like to order.

  

Then, it being a busy Saturday, other carnies begin to pour in, creating an instant social event, a cocktail-less party of disparate personalities who ordinarily would not associate one with the other in a backyard barbeque.

  

Some are lonely, alone and wanting to be noticed at whatever price, others are suburban loft tourists checking out the city life they consider to be curious but fascinating, trailed by couples, cross-dressers, trans everybodies, quiet insurrectionists…all here to instruct us how to be  better people, how to treat each other with respect, regardless of size, shape, color, fragrance, attire, attitude, beliefs, limitations.

  

These Solitudes are acting out their off-duty personas, being or pretending to be who they are or who they would like to be, forgetting for a few whiles their restricting but necessary day duties, expressing their cultural and counter-cultural uniqueness in the safe environment of an old book store.

  

No-accounts who, within these walls, do count, do matter.

  

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood

 © Jim Reed 2016 A.D.

AMAZEMENTS AND STICKY NOTES 1 OF 2

people who begin every sentence with, “So…”
backtiming life
you have to buy these books?
twinney
hornswoggle       cheat, deceive, hoax
comiconomenclaturist   collects funny names
dontopedalogy   science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it
I hand off my emptied cart to a small girl and turn down her quarter. Her father grins and tells her, “We’ll pay that quarter forward!”
Tiny girl within shopping cart unloads groceries piece by piece with full energy and enthusiasm. Her parents return my smile.
congeries
tomurken
City councilwoman: “Neglection.”
How can this moment be appreciated?
How can this person be appreciated?
How can this idea be appreciated?
How can this anger be appreciated?
How can this joy be appreciated?
You can upset somebody just by telling them they look like they’re losing weight.
Every medium is judged by its own standards–a group of local actors transported to a movie screen would be totally unacceptable to the audience (used to seeing a certain kind of casting-call beauty).
Time is like an accordion.
Women are for waiting for.
Hitting the head on the nail…..
The nails are too long to handle the tasks at hand.
The loud rhythmic laughter of the laundry clerk makes the visit to clothes cleaning world worth it.
Sometimes, just re-reading something makes it brand-new.
How many ouchies make a boo-boo?
Museum of one-time-use objects: toilet seat strip; coffeeholder band; adhesive-protective strips on Netflix envelopes; self-adhesive labels on fruit; band-aid strips
What is the relationship between duct tape and Velcro?
Why is Saran Wrap out to get me?
Why aren’t all batteries the same size and shape?
Why aren’t LPs and CDs and mp3′s all the same size?
Is there a special place where liner notes wind up?
A writer doesn’t say, “Oh, no, what terrible thing is about to happen?” A writer 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?”
When you stop wondering, dogma begins to set like concrete. Then, the cement begins to bind. Your imagination freeze-frames.
MOTIVATION VS JUDGEMENT
Radio announcer: “Discurged.” and “DUB-yuh.”
The tell-tale UV washout vs carbon dating.
I’ve never seen carbon dating.
Lowe man on the totem pole.
Periodical vs occasional afterthought
For some, freedom of choice means freedom for me to do as I please…
THE BACKWARD/FORWARD TABLET
THE EVERY OTHER PAGE NOVEL
**********
hatless hat guy
poet lariat laureate
loud and unselfconscious
not self-correcting but definitely you-correcting
lonely, alone and wanting to be noticed at whatever price
loft tourists
couples, cross-dressers, trans everybodies
gentle insurrectionists
all here to instruct us how to be  better people, how to treat each other with respect
the Loud Lonelies and the quiet inquisitors and the grandiloquent innovators and the shy activists doing their counter-culture day jobs
suburbanists exploring
no-account customers who shouldn’t count but do
Gay Talese looking for his book
Fred Bonnie looking for his book
Pierced lower lip girl talks choppy a mile a minute about everything she’s not going to buy.
Chet Huntley just winked.
Guy with goofy hat and loud talk

“Americans love to drink coffee all day because it keeps them awake until it’s time to get drunk.”

–Argus Hamilton
*
*
*
*

“Religion will not endure when it endows God with whiskers.” –Walter Karig “The following preface to this book should be skipped entirely. It is boring, full of irrelevant details and allusions to persons and places (most of them perished) nobody ever heard of,  and having nothing to do with this story.” –Walter Karig   Milking the quarter udder at the thrift store. Sticky bag, licky fingers up too high for the short clerk No-one is watching the world around them. They are all absorbed, focused, imbedded, part of the devices they hold in their palms. That leaves the rest of the world unobstructed for those of us who like to NOTICE… Totem pole person… I now wear the metaphor of my father’s tweed coat…     I attended an important NAACP fund-raising event. I was chatting with someone when a man approached and said, “Nichelle, there is someone who would like to meet you. He’s a big fan of Star Trek and of Uhura.” I turned to greet this “fan” and found myself gazing upon the face of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was stunned, and I remember thinking, “Whoever that fan is, he’ll just have to wait.” The man introduced us. Imagine my surprise when the first words Dr. King uttered were, “Yes, I am that fan, and I wanted to tell you how important your role is.” He began speaking of how he and his children watched Star Trek faithfully and how much they adored Uhura. At that moment the impact of my decision really struck me. Nevertheless, I replied, “Thank you, Dr. King, but I plan to leave Star Trek.” “You cannot,” he replied firmly, “and you must not. Don’t you realize how important your presence, your character is?” he went on. “Don’t you realize this gift this man has given the world? Men and women of all races going forth in peaceful exploration, living as equals. You listen to me: Don’t you see? This is not a Black role, and this is not a female role. You have the first nonstereotypical role on television, male or female. You have broken ground–” “There have been other black stars,” I countered. “In TV?” he replied. “Yes, Beulah, Amos and Andy. Do I need to go further?” “No,” I answered softly. “You must not leave. You have opened a door that must not be allowed to close. I’m sure you have taken a lot of grief, or probably will for what you’re doing. But you changed the face of television forever. You have created a character of dignity and grace and beauty and intelligence. Don’t you see that you’re not just a role model for little Black children? You’re more important for people who don’t look like us. For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen, as equals, as intelligent people–as we should be. There will always be role models for Black children; you are a role model for everyone. “Remember, you are not important there in spite of your color. You are important there because of your color. This is what Gene Roddenberry has given us.” All that weekend Dr. King’s words echoed in my mind as I weighed every factor. Perhaps he was right: Perhaps Uhura was a symbol of hope, a role model. And if that were the case, did I not owe it another chance? Granted, Uhura’s full potential had not been realized, and, sadly, probably wouldn’t be. But she was there, wasn’t she? And that had to count for something. When I returned to work on Monday, I went to Gene’s office first thing and told him about my conversation with Dr. King and my decision to stay. A tear came into Gene’s eye and he said, “God bless that man. At least someone sees what I’m trying to achieve.”  –Nichelle Nichols * * * * * empty parking lot billy bob bumper car open to the public…what does that mean police car passes me on the interstate, one rear tail light not working…should I cite  him conversations…one way with other drivers…shamings, grumblings, comment miss liberty is trudging along past the ‘bama hotel on 1st ave north moral turpentine valentime’s day…wal-mark…k-mark chilren multi-cart woman long long purchasing of clothing people just talking about the storm that brought down trees and smashed cars, more important to them today than fascist takeovers and … today at the apocalypes diner blind spot…shadow car following me truth is we agers stay a little bit stunned it’s lonesome through the day, but o the nights this heart of mine…sinatra parenting is tough…the parenting assistance line…good parenting approaches saintliness everyone is approaching 80 making predictions…how do i know that is singular? ghost dancers of 3rd avenue north marriage proposal among the love letters…titters and secrets exposed engagement pix with old book background note from paper ephemera box, on a small sheet of folded paper, typed on old serifed typewriter: “Please announce in your class– Student Union’s ISSUES and COFFEE series will begin this year on Thursday, October 24. Dr. Kofmehl of the Political Science Department will start off the series speaking on “Electoral College Reform.” Since this is election time, the Union feels that this issue will be of special interest to all. Come and join the informal atmosphere of the South Union Ballroom from 4:00 to 4:30 pm. for coffee, and then listen to the issue from 4:30 to 5:15 pm. Following the presentation, the audience is free to approach Dr. Kofmehl personally with questions.”   Wheelchaired diner at the art museum leans into his plate and slowly arranges his food, suppressed coughing, glasses askew. His caretaker sits patiently or vacuously. “Is the tea any good?” “Not sweet enough.” Invisible register girl BMA & LANEY’S in one week! This program contains mature content. Marriage or partnership is routine  ritual repetitive comfortable mutual goals but none of that translates necessarily into intimacy or a full knowledge of one another. I spent the day shooting my guns, he said happily. As a teenager I didn’t want to get up in the morning…I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to get up at 6 in the morning, like my father, who got up at 5 or we schoolkids who had to get up at 6 thirtyish to get to school on time. I just couldn’t imagine it. Then, I had to work one summer as a common laborer, getting up very, very early on Monday morning to drive a couple of hours to the work site…I guess from that experience I found out it is possible to get up that early…and then, wonder of wonders, when I became a radio announcer, by 1960 I was signing on the radio station, again getting up at 5, getting to work by 5:30 and switching on the transmitter…it became a part of my routine. I still didn’t want to get up, but I WAS IN RADIO…I WAS ON THE AIR…MAN, that was a great feeling, so I kind of figured out how to survive that and, like my father, I was always on time or early Who invented parallel parking? Not suitable for younger listeners. Transferring ice from one glass to another with a teaspoon…chicken wings for breakfast…Fife’s Christmas Eve…grumpy register lady…everybody hoping for a tip. “I wasn’t even close to the front, you know, they was shooting them with a hose…I got wet…they carried me back there…I sure got wet. Blind man gives to Salvation Army bell-ringer in front of KMart I’ve experienced losing, but have I ever learned to lose? Jessica seems lost to the family. :D id I finish my job with her when she was very young? Did I have no influence upon her at all? Margaret is so far away and she’s in crisis and I don’t know what to do. Have I given her everything I can give her? Am I redundant? Does she yet need me? I’ve got my little to-purchase list for Family Dollar or Dollar Tree for Kleenex, Qtips, hand soap, whatever else I can find but don’t really need. Everybody wants to change the world. Or rather, everybody wants the world to change in their favor without having to exert any effort.Here I am in my little 15-year-old black blazer, comfortable as an old sock, with my little lapel pin that says SHOP SMALL…yep, I guest wearing this pin will change the world. Knit-hatted man in blazer crossing the street, eyes cast downward, talking to himself–no ear pods, no device, just talking to himself. You know, the way people used to do before everyone started using bent-neck devices. Fresh fruit picked from the tree…wash it…bird poop, particulate sediment, animal germs…Margaret’s surprise. Bubbaburking bubbaburping DON’T signs everywhere. Rampant apostrophes. Open signs when closed & vice versa The constants in my life include CHECK ENGINE LIGHT …DOWN HOME DINERS …AMBROSE BIERCE …MONTY PYTHON SHOW .,..LIZ FIXING HER HAIR …MORTIMER ADLER …JOHNNY CARSON…STEVE ALLEN …People I always return to: H.G. Wells,Ray Bradbury, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Shirley Jackson, People I really appreciate each week: Frank DeFord, When do jokes cease being funny, as in mother-in-law jokes I averted my gaze from your eyes for fear that I might tumble into them and never find my way out             in the out door out the in door two doors per entranceway, only one of which is unlocked push pull signs open when closed closed when opened sorry we’re open unescalating escalators all quiet on the western front in western novels section     Jack Reacher movie. “Naw,” I would never see that. Reacher is tall. Tom Cruise is 5′ 6″” 1/6 of the amount needed in 2 weeks.     2 out of 3 biopsies ok. It’s all in my head.   Diane McWhorter and Jean Marie Finch–are they the same person? Don’t we always live in a post-apocalyptic world? Don’t we always? The shrouded parking meter.       “I’ve always been terrified of getting used to something that is actually killing me—a relationship or a job. But in those cases, you can count on a friend to say something. The Internet is different, because all my friends are in the same relationship.” –Miranda July “Thus through half-belief, we are often doomed to repeat that very past we should have learned from.” –Ray Bradbury “We have had to take on faith the unproven events of unproven years. For all the reality of ruins and scrolls and tablets, we fear that much of what we read has been made up.       Artifacts may be no more than created symbols. Artificial skeletons thrown together to fit imaginary closets. The reality even of the immediate past is irretrievable.” –Ray Bradbury   I can do things for kids that I never had a chance to do with my children and grandchildren…at the shop At the shop I can pontificate and wax wondrous…at home, nobody wants to hear   Memories of New Orleans…nude waitresses with small dangling frontal pouches to hold order pads & tips…dead turkey on the tracks during the train trip from bham…cross-dressed man sidling up to me from behind…great food everywhere…urine fragrance near the curbs…cobblestones…one-way streets…avoiding dark alleys…noting the drunks throwing up in the shrubbery…seeing the church commercialized by the money changers…tiny overpriced apartments with no windows…hotel rooms at your own risk…barkers barking away…hands out for money for donations for overpayment for tips for nothing…kids tapdancing badly for quarters…boozed breath…hustlers everywhere…rustic jazz…food odors…morning streets quiet and bright…sunlight unmasking what the night hid away…old bookstores filled to the brim…getting locked in during the owners’ lunch break, and not knowing it…trolleys driven by rude and attitudinal drivers…cabbies with all the power and wisdom of the streets…time limits on McDonald’s seating…wandering around for souvenirs…sitting in 18th-century theme bars that are actually 18th century!…people watching people watching people…everything costs something…humidity pushing down on my shoulders…women in scanty clothing…men gazing at women in scanty clothing…diversity galore…overlapping languages and slangs…train station straight out of a movie…the Big Difficult always wins, always ejects me in the long run…above-ground tombs by the thousands…authentically directionless objects of art…everybody who declares a role becomes that person—musicians, artists, tailors, dancers, singers, strippers…if you are clumsy, rhythmless, off-key, all you have to declare is that you are real native New Orleanian, and you become the Real Thing to the tourists…play The Saints badly and it’s high art, high jazz, here in this town…Authentic is whatever the tourists will pay for…the waterfront scary and exciting and mythological…the city always ready to sink, never ready to sink…preachers blamefully asking for guilt donations..hardened police officers used to everything but amiability…hustlers hustling whatever talents they possess   The magic of words is that they outlive you, they persevere even if you don’t. Watch your children (thrift store) “You go down here and turn left at the Sonic.” Shaming is bullying. Judging is bullying. I grow weary of the shaming and judging so prevalent in our little world. Athlete gender guy supported…white woman who identifies as black is shamed. Am I making you a victim of my thoughts? Cupcake day. Section 8 hat guy. Annoying people…diane k…tommy willis fabric of the cosmos refund if you don’t like the book’s ending the author sits and imagines the lives of people within his field of view she was aged to imperfection   She was as pure as the driven sludge. Tap-dancing on shag carpeting. The sound of three hands clapping. Dog talk: HEY HEY HEY What I got right I found the wrongs all by myself tsk tsk tsk ahem ahem ahem snort snort snort The iceberg lettuce sandwich AHEM MEETS BUB BELCHER Milo’s bad breath AGED TO IMPERFECTION wiping top of opened Coke bottle JAYCEES GIRLIE SHOW i had the evening to kill but it didn’t want to die, and fought back…jack benny “We shouldn’t retire, not in our profession. There’s no such thing. We want to drop dead onstage.” –Christopher Plummer “I have a hard time recognizing that I’m 84. I’m in complete denial, which I think is extremely useful.” –Frederick Wiseman   “I’m still trying to grow up, bit by bit by bit. I  kid you not. Even at the age of what it is I am, I’m still trying to grow up.” –Jim Reed     Cathedral of Pain notes: time loss via anesthesia & sedatives is a clean edit from one moment to another. All between is lost. Forever? Residual effects…bones reshuffle, bruise marks linger, slight haze hangs on, less pain…now attention shifts to other aches and pains that the back pain up-staged Comparing notes is very helpful. As much as I don’t like to depend on the kindness of others, I learn to share and listen…helps get through the whatever that I’ve just experienced and prepare for the next episodes of the Life of Pain. lowest park of black…epidural block…little op procedure…live xray machine…inject medicine with one needle…1 shot may do it but 2 more may be needed…lot of people get relief after just one…multiple levels of arthritis…with pt you can strengthen your back…unless you do something crazy you can live from this…bulging discs…lower discs are bigger…after 10 days, see slappey again…don’t have to stop daily activity…don’t do anything real physical for 10 days…mallenpati…physiatrist who does block Many women and men and children getting out their cars, parents elaborately extracting squirming kids from car seats lifting the ones who still like to be lifted and grumbling back at grumbling kids who like to grumble Now i am slapping my bare feet into a mud puddle feeling the damp red clay mixed with black dirt oozing up between my toes and thoroughly embracing my feet in a most pleasant and cooling manner My hands pressed wide into the sandbox…clinging grit, glistening pure crystals So many people not watching, not looking around to see what’s what…so I, the writer, am IT, unless I’m missing something. Macy’s…Acapulco Bar & Grill…Spartan Fitness…Mediterranean Foods…Springleaf Finance…Domino’s…pho que hong Vietnamese restaurant…infinity spa…Savings and Loan…Shoe outlet…crown jewelers…american physical…aldi…midas…green springs center…u haul it…nissan… The foggy man treks the blue roads my baby she’s a good-looking thing you know…she’s the one who spins me round and round, one who turns me upside down I just saw some train cars that did not have graffiti Thanks, NPR, for providing me with a jazz and classical music week. Back when smoking was non-cancerous Wearing a striped dark 3-piece suit, a fedora, a cigarette…he’s cool…cooler than you and me Sports terrorism wage peace The de-car-seating mom has a chubby kid under her left arm, a green bag over her left shoulder, a big bag on her right shoulder, and 3 other kids of very very similar age, walking along, shoving each other, racing each other to see what chaos is in the aisles of the grocery store One of the things that makes me say, “This is love. This is true love.” I quote my baby brother, “He’s part of the THAT GUY franchise.” My baby, she’s a good-looking thing, you know The no-nonsense mindset of the wet haired clerk. Manifest Density Cranky horn blower in south Alabama small town responds to Liz’s bumper stickers: PROUD LIBERAL and The inconsequential street flies by. Does the street fly by my idled car or does the car fly by the static street? I like the way women’s skirt hems flutter up slightly in the back as they walk away from me You could feel the SMACK OF THE KISS on the corner bench at the corner of 20th and 3rd. You can feel the heat of the wilted woman walking from Reed Books to Doubletree. I like the way the backs of women’s skirts flare in the breeze Red Skeleton A diversity of people wandering the park looking for looking for looking for… I’m beginning to understand why people identify more with pets than with other people. Pets are not political. Pets don’t sass back. Usually. And you can always get rid of a pet that you don’t like. This is something to do while I’m not doing anything. If you wear earplugs, you’re suddenly stone deaf. You can’t hear when people come up to you from behind. What was that after-shave perfume barbers used to use in the 40′s & 50′s? Why did we tolerate it? Powder took away the sling of the shaved neck.  I guess you would not have felt like you’d had a good haircut if you couldn’t smell the lotion and the power. The experience was not complete will somebody took a whisk broom and briskly brushed you back and shoulders. The she shine was extra. Nobody ever tipped, except for the shine. Literalness. Guy at stop sign. Orange juice carton, concentrate. Walking the long hard journeys of the street in un-mass-transited Birmingham. I will tell you that it is wrong to do that so that, even if you ignore my words and go ahead and do it, deep down inside you will still know it is wrong. Pretext and pretense. Buger King Hell story…5 times is the magic number It is fun to watch middleage and older couples accompanying each other, the protective manner of the male, the prance of the woman…that they are proud to be seen together in public, “See, I’ve got somebody taking care of me…I’m a real person.” “OK, what did they have….that’s it…what else did they have?” Foresight, hindsight, website. Mastering the art of French kissing. Levels of kissing learned early on… Close your eyes, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, take a deep breath…and listen…just listen. EYES WIDE SHUT Stereo means nothing to a person who is deaf in one ear. 3D is meaningless to a person who is sightless in one eye. BIG BOY in field marker 161 hwy 31 south of Montgomery. Age trumps vanity. When traveling, I always knew I could buy a book along the way…I didn’t have to carry one, since they were so available.   Orange marmalade morning over the kitchen counter of love Pepsi Cola archives Sing it over…FROSTY MORN Coca Cola hits the spot… Be prepared, that’s the Boy Scout marching song All the world seems in tune on a spring afternoon Lady of Spain I adore you… I’m late, I’m late… The time has come, the walrus said… Poor little Percy… My favorite hobby after dark… If I give my heart to you… How can I ignore the girl next door   ………………….. I can’t play the guitar… I can’t play the guitar Lordy knows I try and try But I can’t play the guitar I looked up and there it was Sitting on the chair I walked on over and looked at it It wasn’t goin’ nowhere I picked it up and embraced it in my arms Took my hand and raised it up high And made it dip right down To where the strings lay real tight Gleaming under the lightbulb light My fingers started moving My fingers started moving My fingers started moving But I found out something I found out something I found out something real fast I found out that I can’t play the guitar I can’t play the guitar I can’t play the guitar No matter how hard I almost try I just can’t play the guitar I can’t play the guitar I can’t play the guitar No matter how hard I try I can’t play the guitar ……………………………….. Segues in my life Hooked ! Shot. Slaughtered. Bludgeoned. Reading a Kindle is as satisfying as eating one stalk of celery at a meal. Separating verifiable from imagined Midfield the CONVENIENT CITY Granny’s Little Angels Day Care Center Cancelling the chicken salad order at Waffle House on a loud Sunday morning My pocket in my pants started talking to me. The man popping the popcorn in the old skillet…the young kid taking the lid off the skillet to see how it’s cooking.   The fresh air smoking dog walker Family Dollar still sells clotheslines! I just saved the life of a book. Virulent “Burger King sign says Open 24 Hours. That’s it? They are only going to be open 24 hours? How can you make money from a business that closes after 24 hours?” –Jim Reed   I am integral to the daily routine of the dog-walker. The man man with no appointments. Resist the impulse to be helpful. The man with the boy’s face carrying a large child. HOOKED! SHOT! STABBED! SLAUGHTERED! Participation award facebooks…bet you can’t name a city with the letter A in it. There is a human story in every crack of a brick. Almost all stories are human stories. Emerson said history is just biography. He is bright has good eye-contact, has a ready smile is joyful and friendly…but when I see him walking outside his environment unnoticed down the street there is something slightly obscure and unsure…his head is slightly cocked to the side, he looks down, he is serious, he is in a hurry as if he’s afraid someone might spot him. DRIVE THROUGH DIARY In mysterious places, highly trafficked,  somebody somewhere has forgotten to put up a sign telling th ename of the street or the name of the intersection thus depriving people of knowing where they are. When did hand-cranked retractable awnings slip out of style? “We do not remember days. We remember moments.” –Cesare Pavese “In bed, she was ungirdled and unbridled.” –From my own hard-boiled detective thriller, “Hammer Gat and the Too-Too Girl”     CLIT-uh-rus or CLY-tuh-russ but never clit-OAR-us BIG PEOPLE IN SMALL WORLDS HOAGY CARMICHAEL AND FRED ASTAIRE LEAKY SHOWER REPAIR…DRIP PROOF FAUCETS ONE BLOCK TEN STORIES PAR-luh-men-terry (PAR-luh-MEN-terry) AUTENTIC MEXICAN FOOD Does food misspelled taste as good? Robert H. Heinlein made me think that I could actually file things away in my mind and retrieve them at will. THE CHRISTMAS CARD DOOR TO DOOR SALES CAPER THE MOON MAP ESCAPADE…THE WANT ADS ON WJRD…MY SCIENCE PROJECT AND THE PLASTER MOON SURFACE The significance of Dagwood’s couch. Jo Stephens’ black eye at WJRD Editing your life, winnowing down everything to basics. BRIDGE MAY ICE WHEN COLD. BRIDGE MAY NOT ICE WHEN HOT. BRIDGE MAY MOISTEN WHEN RAINING. I’m not sure that service people know how important their lives are to those of us who depend upon them…how they in some ways are part of our family, part of the web of life we live, how we can’t get along without them, how we almost never remember to thank them.   Whatever you’ve got, flaunt it. Learning to tickle yourself to put somebody down. NPR reporter, “This one also looks inwards…” hobbles: bonds to prevent freedom of movement cayuse: a native range horse * * * “Don’t Fence Me In”–Cole Porter

Don’t fence me in
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above Don’t fence me in Let me ride through the wide open country that I love Don’t fence me in
Let me be by myself in the evening breeze Listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees Send me off forever but I ask you please Don’t fence me in
Just turn me loose Let me straddle my old saddle underneath the Western skies On my cayuse Let me wander over yonder ’til I see the mountains rise
I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences Gaze about the moon until I lose my senses Can’t look at hobbles and I can’t stand fences Don’t fence me in
Just turn me loose Let me straddle my old saddle underneath the Western skies On my cayuse Let me wander over yonder ’til I see the mountains rise
I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences Gaze about the moon until I lose my senses Can’t look at hobbles and I can’t stand fences Don’t fence me in
Don’t fence me in Don’t you fence me in
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THE WALL OF SHAM Those condos could go up like a tinderbox…no reader under 30 knows what a tinderbox is…those condos are so frail and wood-based that they would go up like burning newspapers…wait, noone will know what a newspaper is…those condos are so fragile that if a spark were lit they’d go up like a meth lab…light a match…an entire generation won’t know what a match is, just those flicky plastic lighter things the smokers still use It might have been a funny reference at the time of writing but by the time a next-generation reader reads it it might have no meaning at all. How to make your stories last and stand the test of time…CONTEXT… The Widows Might FiATS FIXED Paul Applebaum…central shoe store Morris Friedman…actor…black friedman & winston the pizza sign dancing guys should be in a peacenik demonstration…or in front of a bookstore? lost in the middle of somewhere planet weekly: invention of the telephone cord I see your gait and my gait and I know we are the same THE INVENTION OF THE OFF-ON SWITCH I think therefore I stink hello son, how are you…hello dad, sorry i haven’t seen you for 40 years…come on in, but first i need your username and password I first became aware of my toes from inside out by reading about auto hypnosis or mesmerism “calling from some important sounding (irs)…by tomorrow morning or you will be arrested…PHONE CALL from Indian-accented person we have the power to watch people 6000 miles away being killed or abused or hurt but we do not have the power to pretect these people from harm…what would happen if you spent the same amount of money creating devices on something that would prevent over the top behavior? We can create a smart car that will stop short of kiling somebody…could we create a mechanism that would prevent us from doing something really bad to somebody…we probably have the technology, controversial as it might be We primarily believe in the notion of vengence or revenge…we do not believe in forgiveness (look at our mythologies and stories and theatre) we believe in control, manipulation and power over… We enjoy the notion that we could kill and hurt someone if we really wanted to…it’s that right to protect onself or right to avenge one’s self attitude that we have… “What are these?” clerk at thrift store ringing up 2 LPs  ”They are records.” “What are they?” Roy…up by mid-afternoon, wandering around at the museum, running up charges…he would say, “Shit! I need a job, man.” That was his way of applying for a job. He had no social skills…THE CHRONICLES OF ROY…he would join other people’s conversations because no-one would converse with him…uninvited… he would simply walk into and out of a conversation as if he were part of it… Egyptologist and Reboundologist THE FOLLICLE…name of hair place in west end picking your fight…it’s more than your life…you’re risking family, many roles teach a little something, cause the reader to think anew, to say “oh, I’ve thought that lots of times, I could have written that…” writing about ugly is a beautiful thing to do…I try to amuse inspire bemuse… the longer you live the more putting things off makes sense… the beauty marks of aging BOOKS CHANGE ME BUT I CHANGE BOOKS…I CHANGE THEIR MEANING EACH TIME I READ THEM   songs for one-man show: LIZZIE BORDEN…PERCY…MY GUITAR…PETTING IN THE PARK… Shop forman is Luke Bizzy (Car Talk) Is being a bigot as bad a thing as being a promoter of bigotry? Jesus Way Kingdom of God Apostolic Church The Leeds Gazebo downtown The man who came down with a case of unconditional love Only one thing matters–holding and being held closely by those you love who love you The needle goes all the way to 20% before all the way. “If you or somebody you know is legally blind……”   A woman pats the brown and white cow on the Bessemer Super Highway   Does evil lurk behind your romantic eyes? Road Closed….but it isn’t. The not really caring crossing of the 5 points intersection. Attitude! “The workers will get no pay rise…” NPR reporter NO JAKE BRAKE   sign on West Oxmoor the wage peace woman with the stoking cap holds the dayglo sign in her hands and tries to straighten it as it rolls in the wind city of trees? louis somebody highway? the turtle diary moonpie lady running leashed pet dogs and the privileged white people in charity run at the inconvenience of everyone what they once were what they once did…is all some people have what does she think, standing there staring, will we change the way we live will we merely smirk at these shaggy people who stand quiet holding handmade signs?   as i leave the yard sale and i look back at the books in my hand…cat hairs! the unpronouncable meets the barely spellable…the country that gave spelling a rest look at that old junker…someone once proudly bought that brand-new! how is it possible for a guy with no guts to have such a gut? one BLT without the B best way to predict the future is to create it  –abraham lincoln   His idea of cool was never to pay exact change. Making change is the clerk’s job. If you know everything, why are we bothering to converse? THINGS THAT UNFOCUS US…LIGHTING A CIGARETTE & NURSING IT WHILE WALKING TEXTING PHONE CALLING’ MP3ING LLISTENING TO MUSIC His clouded vision only became clear and precise when he spied the beauty of a chipped teacup, the history in a torn page, the telltale signs of life represented by a bent fork, the singular individualism of an ink smear. Everywhere he looked among the lockstep rows of identical doughnuts identical cutlery identical automobiles identical lampshades…everywhere he looked, he looked hard for the uniqueness of a tattered binding a leaning chair an untucked shirttail a crooked tooth a skewed lope a rusty spoke. Everywhere he looked he saw only the beauty of flaws…the flaws that reminded him of the wonderful and mysterious imperfection of life. I remember yesterday like it was yesterday. The notepad pittypatted across the floor of his pad. He resolved not to use the word resolved more than two times in this line. On the notepad atop the kitchen counter the man who tended to write on notepads wrote these words: On the notepad atop the kitchen counter the man who tended to write on notepads wrote these words.when I look at young and up and coming community leaders I can see in their eyes the not-yet-shaken belief that they can make a difference zombie color-leeching sports coat in the car UVs spring housecleaning is hanger management listening to rice crispies & pepsis the charles atlast cours and why I am built the way I am today how many more waitings rooms will I occupy between now and Then? a medical selfie at dox office I fill out everything twice, then am asked the same questions orallly my ark: one copy of every book one copy of every unpublished manuscript one man wrestling a black green umberella in the wind finally gives up & walks with it by its side   papers with the polio guy…

whenever i return to Alabama I feel differently….you know, different (as if I could tell his meaning by listening hard)…
decorator loves the visualness of it all
a tall beautiful woman wants to see fore-edge painting, wants to purchase but never returns…

goofing off vs productivity…me! shapeshifting a day no sun could hide day of worship…commonplace jesus holiday god’s day off communicates but is boring seventh day of creation holiday that comes once a week i want you to do this over, do it right you got to do it right you just can’t heat it over you got to do it over it just ain’t right would not want the server’s job we don’t have small…we just have medium and large i enjoy being around people who just call things out…sometimes ******************************************** BOOK BLUES I would even settle for an annoying customer right now. ******************************************* On-air name: Mel Mellifluous   One CNN reporter talks about the bad weather that’s clabbering the east coast this weekend. Each person I encounter each person who comes across my field of vision each person who enters my store or talks to me across the counter or serves me or waits on me or ignores me or bypasses me or dismisses me or smiles at me, each person who seems interested in me for a matter of seconds, in me and my existence…each person is bringing a gift to me…and if I ignore the gift, if I don’t pause if just in my mind later and open the gift, I’m just abandoning a beautiful Christmas tree with lots and lots of beautifully wrapped packages…why would I not want to open carefully, preserving the wrapping paper, cherishing what is inside each of these presents?   The great arias are really the great arias! “The budget shrunk dramatically.” NPR announcer White lab-coated texting guy leans into the tilt…ahead of him a white lab-coated person leans into the tilt pushing a gurney. Is the texting person actually operating the gurney guy by remote control? There are more amazements on the frozen streets of Birmingham than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Your business philosophy is not the same as my business philosophy. She is 22 years old old. Can a 22-year-old even have a business philosophy? One student, hynotized briefly, shows up with boyfriend to ask whether she can hang out to learn about the business. I ask her to return on Friday or Tuesday, when I might have time to discuss this with her. She does not show up. She flunked her first test. The vampire wind tries to nip a pedestrian beneath her scarf. She tries valiantly to clutch the cloth to her throat. She successfully keeps the bite away, thus forcing it to search for her skin elsewhere. She has to face this again on the way home. Unable to taste her tender neck, the wind finds other ways to get at her. Cold day surrounding us tells its own story, while we attempt to tell what it is like to be within the belly of the cold and icy beast. College students sit around the Arthurian table to see what I have to say, or to see what the teacher wants them to hear me say…or perhaps my only audience is the teacher. Atlanta bookdealer braves bham to see what’s in the store…to see what’s in store. 7th and 8th grade writing students storm the store to see what’s what, to pick the bones, to relocate the well-thumbed pages of all we will ever know. Circumstantial evidence of life on earth. Everything I know is anecdotal…anecdotal always trumps science and data. Goldilocks and her forebears. ALL LESSONS LEARNED LATE There is a darkness behind her eyes. You can see it flicker now and then when she doesn’t think you’re watching. He wore clothing so arranged that his gut would not immediately announce itself. When you drive on a blue road, you feel like you’re actually doing something, seeing something, you feel like there’s content to your driving experience… when you are on the interstate you’re just another bumper car in line behind the lemmings Words are not so precious that they cannot be replaced. Jokes that cease to work when you pass a certain age. The loud and large woman talks to herself so that you know she’s in the room…she asks rhetorical questions and does not listen for the answers…she never, ever purchases anything but always tries to get you to put stuff on hold. Years can go by. She loudly announces that she has to “pee.” I want to hide from her, but it’s my shop and I can’t leave. Wish she would. Her bulk tends to make things fall down to the floor when she passes. Having a personal experience that inspires or excites is great. Only problem is, when it happens, you want to share it with others, thinking they will have the same reaction. This almost never works. Time traveller…don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today…vice versa. Benny Hill. What is this thing called, love? The hope tax service. Is a clean conscience better than a clear conscience? Deciding what to remember and what to forget…averting road kill…only thing is, you can’t get rid of the image of yourself trying to get rid of the image of the road kill. Accredidation….npr Mine and yours his and hers Liz and I are in the process of creating a marvelous estate sale for our kids. Searchers and browsers develop habits and blind spots. Who makes the rules? Shortcuts: when somebody falls to the ground with eyes frozen open, we the moviegoers know without being told that that person is dead. Lectucs max load 42 pounds. Georgia O’Keeffe. “It is only by selection, by elimination, and by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things.” feel NPR fee-AT for FEE-aht miss-CHEEV-ee-us for mischievous My parents caused me. CATHY CRISS ADAMS DALE SHORT MARK CHILDRESS FANNIE FLAGG DENNIS COVINGTGON VICKI COVINGTON CHARLES GAINES WINSTON GROOM HOMER HICKAM CASSANDRA KING ROBERT INMAN GAYLE WILSON ROBERT MCCAMMON GIN PHILLIPS JAMES REDFIELD FANNIE FLAGG CAROLYNNE SCOTT ANITA SMITH MIKE STEWART   “A snowstorm clabbered the east coast.” –CNN weathercaster   Starting to purchase things that will outlast my life. Really. Dangling feet from high chairs…instability in midair…liz’s sitting pretty high chair Five good things for every bad thing… The balloon of the moment hides everything in view cause it’s right in your face Cindy Riley…A truh-VESS-tee of justice….”If you can’t stand the heat, turn the other cheek.” I’m at the Homewood Post Office. As I enter, I check with one woman to see if she’s ahead of me in line. She smilingly insists I go ahead of her. I walk up to the shorter of two clerks, who is wearing blue latex gloves and a deep frown, complete with no eye contact. As always, I say, “Good morning!” She mumbles. I hand her the two small packages and as always say, “These are media mail, with tracking, please.” She asks the usual questions about whether there is dangerous material in the packages and I say, no, just books. Then, staring at the scales to the side of her–and still not at me–she grumpily says, “Now, is there written material or anything else?” I say, “Nope, just books–media mail.” She says “Are you sure?” I say, I know the rules–been doing this for forty years. Books are media mail. She weighs the first book, then for some reason shoves it across the counter to my side. I automatically pick it up, thinking she’s handing it back to me. She reaches over and snatches it from me. I grin and say, “Sorry, I thought you were finished.” She snaps, “No, I’m not finished,” and places a self-adhesive label on the package. She weighs and labels the second package. I get my Amex card out and swipe it–prematurely. She says, “It’s not ready!” I say, “Oops!” Then, is it ready now? She says yes, so I do a successful swipe, then, as always–usually for grateful clerks who appreciate being able to see the security number themselve–hold the card up for her to see. She looks at it and say, “Say the number.” Now I know that this is not my imagination–I have an annoying clerk on my hands. Without thinking, and because all other clerks for the last twenty years have expressed appreciation for my showing them the card close up, I tell a lie. I say, “Sorry, I can’t read this (as if I need reading glasses).” She, looking at the line of bemused customers behind me, sighs and takes down the number I’m displaying. The charge goes through, she literally tosses the receipt at me and gets ready for the next customer. I automatically say, “Thanks,” even though I regret it. I turn to go and notice the wideeyed looks of the folks behind me. All I can say is, “Ah…the Christmas spirit. Geez!” I get a laugh. I leave peacefully. STICKY NOTES: absorb and investigate and learn—not study! observe without annoying clerks & servers fresh-laid plans start to ripen and spoil the unannounced good mood the pleasure of reading in your own lap—not at a library table how many xmases have i walked to aisles of the shop between customers…left with the dead and absent authors for company what various writers would be like at dinner together…browning & dickinson & tennyson…dickinson would have gone to the ladies’ room and ducked out it’s no vice to rattle some feathers now and then…novice & ruffle hot meals matter? where’s the science on this? waiting for the food line and trying to joke with the speaker in the drive-through…surprise me 8’6″ warning easy to say somebody smells bad…these folks don’t know they smell bad and i don’t know how i smell to them this particular post office stamps each package with a warning message…other p.o.’s do not do that   post office differences…stamps…receipts…attitudes…single clerks are nicer clerks who eat up your time by carefully straightening up and placing in proper slots the folding money, then cracking open a roll of change and drawering it, then disposing of the paper…then answering a phone, all while i’m standing there waiting for change and receipt. their time is special to them, my time is of no concern…swipe, then hold card up for clerk to see… how do I actually spend my day…what i really do as opposed to what i think i’m doing…down the tubes mister books’ neighborhood meets mister reed’s neighborhood fashion for men 1970 & bon ton hatters and body art The unlit wagging cigarette girl talks and talks barely noticing the bobbing wand between her lips. when I shop i simply wait for something to find me…to reach out to me…something I don’t already know about 3 Sunday newspaper day minus ads & add-ons & inserts and place them side by side…bham news has no news, just some ballgame photo…tuscaloosa news has some news and featurew What an epitaph: “He was the cute one!” fast & furious Mother knew the secret of never taking your smile, only borrowing it…she would borrow it and then make sure to give it back to you in such a way that you had to pass it on to someone other than her “Oh come, lettuce, adore him.” “Round John Virgin…” “We three kings of Orientar.” Where is Orientar?   book on libraries and bookstore: I AM FORCED TO FACE AND DEAL WITH EVERY SORT OF HUMAN YOU CAN IMAGINE–AND SOME YOU CAN’T–SO THAT IT SOMEWHAT HUMBLES ME AND MAKES ME FACE MY OWN FRAILTIES… YOU DON’T WANT TO OFFEND VOLUNTEERS SO THAT THAT THEY WILL NOT WITHHOLD ITEMS FROM YOU…SO THAT THEY WILL POINT YOU TO BOOKS….DONATE SO THAT THEY WILL KNOW…NO CREDIT IF YOU DON’T LET THEM KNOW YOU’RE DOING IT…INCLUDE VOLUNTEER MANTRA…THE LIBRARY FRIENDS STORE THAT WON’T TAKE ANYTHING BUT CLEAN HARDBACKS IN JACKETS, WHILE THROWING AWAY EVERYTHING ELSE…LIBRARIANS WHO TOSS THINGS WITHOUT SENDING THEM TO THE BOOK STORE…LIBRARY BOOK STORE THAT HAS NO REGARD FOR LETTERS DIARIES SNAPSHOTS SCRAPBOOKS DOCUMENTS PAPER EPHEMERA ETC and POSTCARDS AND OLDER BOOKS AND PARTS OF BOOKS AND TOSSES THEM…..stores DIFFER DAY BY DAY…NO UNIFIED ENFORCED RULES…SOME OFFER TO PICK UP ESTATE BOOKS…ALWAYS ONE VOLUNTEER WHO GETS FIRST CHOICE ON EVERYTHING…CUSTOMERS WHO TREAT VOLS NICELY GET TREATED NICELY, SOMETIMES…LIBRARIES THAT STAMP “DISCARDED” ON DONATED BOOKS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SELL THOSE BOOKS…PREPARING FOR BOOK SALE BY HIDING BOOKS FROM LOYAL CUSTOMERS WHO WON’T COME TO THE SALE BECAUSE THEY LIKE THE QUIET AND PRIVACY OF BROWSING… 1st hamburger & last hamburger at Jack’s Salvation Army on greensprings…smoking employee won’t open up till she smokes her cigarette… wacko postal employee returned mail caper when you ask a clerk a questions you’re asking them to make an actual effort rheostat came from my planetarium instructions exhausted came from radio serial front page farrell invulnerable came from superman comic books prerogative came from edgar beatty punctuation came from mother she’s got freckles on her but she’s pretty…and timing and pacing british colour & american color antidisestablishmentarianism biophilist…each dictionary has different content palpable came from the rainmaker by n. richard nash bucolic came from looking it up repeatedly…sounds like the croup or a cold shorthand came from signs: NO U TURN spelling variations fascination…ketchup, catsup (where’s the h?) political correctedness little moron jokes into radio rumania jokes or polish jokes…unconscious racism old phrases out of nowhere…my get up and go done got up and gone fascination with dore etchings from dante’s inferno by john ciardo…writhing bodies suffering in hell…birmingham book and magazine oversize 1890 science…relativity…george gamow & asimov & einstein & lincoln barnett…made me imagine for about 2 seconds that I actually understood relativity…i hoped wishing hard would make me a revealed genius potato & potato…tomato & tomato silhouetted figures waving from the interstate overpass…flashback to dirt road alabama of my youth           A life-sized  human skeleton grins and plays piano at Joey McClure’s office. With the opening of rr park we were at last able to see the forbidden trains. People fun themselves and sun themselves and run themselves at the park. Sunshine, beautiful sunshine. Hundreds of sq feet of merchandise and no apparent organization and no-one to wait on you. Red and purple streaked hair clerk. Classical music on the staticky Tuscaloosa station. Nice morning drive. brick & tin…trattoria….freshfully…bistro…quizno’s…roly poly…pita loco…john’s…magic city grille…surin…fife’s…urban standard…collins bar…rogue tavern…pale eddy’s…lyric hot dogs… The car calmly drives through the red light at the intersection in front of me, its driver unaware because of cell & text.   “that’s all she wrote.” suddenly I just used it appropriately! USE OTHER DOOR side by side with USE OTHER DOOR does DNA have a sense of being alive? is there a soul inside each atom?   hen house consignment shop outside cullman gardendale funeral home is next to mormon church…transfer terminal for all souls? film: old saint nick can’t explain self & can’t defend self when very emotional about a subject “While there is one soul in prison, I am not free.” –Eugene Debs ink spots & sonny james & sunny side of the street the things that no-one talks about are the very things that are most on their minds   Amazement #54   A suit and tie guy leans into the wind at Richard Arrington and Third North, getting ready to cross with the light, holding down a small tuft of all the hair that remains at the top of his forehead…the wind must not win.   Amazement #55   A redheaded woman in a red car munches on something and peers up at the traffic light just above her windshield…waiting for motion.   Amazement #56   The coffee shop at University and 20th North always looked closed, even when it was open. Tinted windows, muted signage, no parking spaces, but still the coffee fans came and put their money down. If your branding is strong enough, it doesn’t matter whether you advertise. The hashish house never needed neon…the customers always found it.   Amazement #57   The life sized Santa lies face up, arms folded, in the back of the white station wagon, on its way to the antique shop…a Christmas hearse.   Amazement #58   The yellow sign at California Fashion Mall shouts Ears Pierced While You Wait…best not drop them off.   Amazement #59   The car turns abruptly in front of mine, no warning, no sign. Would Jesus have used his turn signal?   Amazement #60   The clerk at the copy place is one clue short of conscious.   Amazement #61   The after-hours panhandler leisurely tries all the locked doors as he walks the avenue…playing the only lottery he can afford.   Amazement #62   The leaf-blower man smokes a dangling cigarette as he moves your detritus over to my detritus…flavoring the air with his blue mist.