F.W. Woolworth socks it to me

Listen to Jim: http://jimreedbooks.com/mp3/fwwoolworthsocks.mp3

or read on…

I don a fresh pair of socks each and every morning of my life, always wondering when I’m going to run out of the really good ones.

That’s right—I go through fourteen clean socks a week. I’m an Activities of Daily Living guy who uses routine and ritual to contain my excited and artistic impulses. If I didn’t subscribe to certain repeatable and comfortable exercises, I just might wander off absent-mindedly while imagining my next story, my next speech or performance, my flights of fantasy that allow me to compose and edit and manage the Muse who tracks me, my acquisition of rare and unusual reading material for longing customers.

So, wearing clean socks is part of the act.

This particular morning, I find two holes in the right sock and, since no-one in America has darned a sock since 1959, I reluctantly toss it into the trash. The abandoned sock is one of the last really good ones I’ll apparently ever own. Can’t find soft, durable and comfortable ones anymore.

I’m about to run out of the last F.W. Woolworth socks in the known universe.

A sock is not just a sock, you  understand. These socks were purchased at one of the final real variety department stores, purchased decades ago when stores still had clerks who knew where things were, and who gladly assisted you in finding them, making sure they were right for you and checking to see whether you had an enjoyable experience in the process.

Wonder when the last real store clerk disappeared from view? Looking around, it’s hard to see any evidence that they ever existed except in the minds of geezers of a certain age.

For instance, at the library, librarians sit staring at computers and don’t voluntarily look up. You have to stand over them and clear your throat loudly to get them to tear their gaze from the screen. Even then, they only know how to vaguely point directions without removing seat of pants from seat of chair.

The branch bank on the corner seems equally bereft of eye contact. Employees sit and stare at screens or bow their heads in religious adoration of hand-held devices. They not only find it hard to look at me, but there is impatience in body language and demeanor. Just let me get back to the real virtual world! they seem to be saying. They don’t seem glad to see me.

It’s hard not to feel guilty, interrupting these clerks who have learned to respond warmly to electronic messages and images. What an annoyance we real people are!

Anyhow, I miss the days of one-on-one real-time real-presence social exchanges. I’m adjusting to the lonely world of sock-hunting on my own.

There’s proof in the message—if I tried to tell you this sad tale in person, you’d be fidgeting and creeping toward the door, longing to get back to texting or youtubing or facebooking snarky comments about other people’s lives. But the fact that you read this story online simply means that I’m already on your side, despite my whining. We are virtual people communicating virtual information in a virtual world.

Wonder what the real world is like? Maybe we’d better look up once in a while, just to get our bearings.

Now that the F.W. Woolworth socks are depleted, I wonder what virtual socks will feel like

(c) 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed



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The Disembodied Book Re-animator Strikes Again

Listen to Jim: http://jimreedbooks.com/mp3/disembodiedbookreanimator.mp3

or read below…

The corpus delectable lies before me this morning, waiting for my re-animation skills to kick in.

It’s a book.

It is splayed open to the title page, begging me to bring it back to life. It is missing its hard covers, the tattered spine needs stabilizing, a few spots of age decorate its interior…but the words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs and chapters are all intact and awaiting the touch of a reader or a collector or a hoarder.

There are many ways to resuscitate a book.

I can read it, thus infusing it with renewed vigor, donate my interpretation of the printed words to its 95-year-old collection of memories, turn its pages and admire the four centuries of trial-and-error printing craftsmanship that brought this object to this moment in time, marvel at the reproduction of the Edgar Allan Poe portrait facing the title page, ponder the life and times of publisher Charles C. Bigelow and Company, study the copyright year 1918 and determine what else of significance was happening in the world right about then, think on the near-century this book lay dormant and ignored in an attic of detritus, trace the route it took to arise from storage and wend its way into my hands this very moment.

I can also read its contents and marvel at the words that cause the imagination to become excited and nimble.

I can pick one story at random from this book, “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade,” and then imagine what the thousand-and-third tale might be, fantasize whether Scheherazade had another unpublished thousand-and-one tales within her, admit the fact that I, too, might have as many stories to tell if only I’d get on with telling them.

Upon further examination, I notice that the Scheherazade story has never been read by the owners of this book—the pages are still uncut, meaning that the avid reader of the day would purchase a book, take letter-opener in hand, and carefully slit the closed pages open so that the contents could be properly read.

This means that I could be the first person to read this story within the pages of this book. I will become the explorer, the adventurer, the first-ever enjoyer of these pages. Cheap thrills, but thrills, nonetheless!

What happens next to this tome? I might take it home and read it in lone silence. I might have it rebound and reinforced for its next 95-year journey, I might share it with another booklover, I might shelve it as is and hope that those who someday scrounge around the remains of my estate will do something more meaningful than send it to the dumpster.

For now, it is a foundling and must be protected from society’s thrower-awayers, society’s censors, society’s bookburners, society’s illiterates, society’s unappreciaters of the Past, society’s disapprovers.

How many booklives have I saved in a long lifetime? How many will I rescue from bookhell, how many more orphans will you and I conceal from the enemies of books?

The disembodied book re-animators of the would could be Us.

Or, if you don’t want to embrace the task, perhaps I’ll have to do it all by myself. But just think of the fun you’ll miss

 (c) 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed



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My Red Clay Diary continues to write itself each day. Here are a few things that flashed across my path this week:
Third Avenue North in front of the shop (Reed Books/The Museum of Fond Memories) has been barren but fun today (Friday). The Jackie Robinson film “42″ is being shot—in part—in Birmingham.
I’ve met film crew members who became customers (thank goodness! since regular customers were not allowed on the set)…strutted down a street bereft of traffic (going the wrong way on a one-way street—legally—is akin to walking naked down Madison Avenue)…eaten a hotdog prepared by Rhonda at Goodyear Shoe Hospital (Goodyear has been Downtown since 1919 and is still going strong)…discussed Birmingham and its beauty and style with the movie’s artistic director (these folks work really hard—they’ll be filming all night)…been dismayed by the rude attitude of a city employee (no matter how much the City attempts to bring wonderful things like moviemaking and sports to our area, the message never seems to trickle down to most workers, since they are just plain mannerless and humorless)…been delighted at how out-of-towners love our city (“It’s green, architecturally lovely, friendly, and the site of great eateries.”)…been happy to acquire some great books to add to our shelves (a carload came in today and another is due tomorrow).
And Saturday night, the entire experience was enhanced one degree by John Marc Green, the director of a new short film (Lippidleggin’), who hosted a screening at Five Points South. It was strange and exhilirating to see myself and fellow actors Whit Russell and David Seale on the big screen. They did a great job! Guess you’ll have to wait till film festival time to see the flick yourself. Stay tuned!
So…what’s a Red Clay Diarist to do next? The dilemma is always there—each time you see something fun and artistic and inspiring on the streets of the City, there’s often something that doesn’t quite fit with the rosy picture.
The good news is, the moment you get over your annoyance at those folks who just don’t care about Birmingham, there’s always something great and positive to note and ponder on.
Thanks goodness for the ponies we find among the haystacks of detritus. They keep us coming back for more
(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed

Those who love are always around

Listen: http://www.jimreedbooks.com/mp3/thosewholove.mp3 or read on…

I can’t seem to rid myself of all the long-ago formerly-living people who have filled my life, fleshed out my life, enriched my life.

You’d think that, once people you know die, you’d be able to put aside your memory of them and get on with meeting new people, having new experiences.

Just doesn’t work that way.

There are many dead folk who continue to influence my life:

Helen Hisey, my 8th grade speech teacher, taught me not to be afraid of speaking my passion in front of audiences. She taught me that it’s OK to slow down and respect the crowd, have faith in their ability to absorb worthwhile information when it is delivered to them with  zeal and humor and love. Helen still guides me, all the way from my starring role in the play Tom Sawyer  (at age 13) to my role as Gabe in the new John Marc Green film Lipidleggin’  (at age 70).  

Sadie Logan, my 2nd grade teacher, brought me up from a very deep and fearful place to a position of importance. She never, ever stopped believing in me and letting me know that I was the most special kid on earth. Fifty years later, I learned that she made virtually every student she’s ever taught feel the same way. We are all the offspring of Sadie Logan.

Jon Charles Palmer and Elmo Riley and Pat Flood were my childhood playmates who just plain accepted me as their friend and never had any reason to harm or dismiss me, no matter how stupid I acted, no matter how far away and out of touch I became. I still hang out with them in memory ever fresh.

Frances Lee McGee Reed, my mother, always laughed at my corny humor, always knew I was special, never let me get away with a lie or an exaggeration or a misdeed, forever believed that I was Number One in her book—even though my brothers and sisters felt the same way. She taught me that the greatest entertainment there is, is people-watching, and I spend most of each public day doing just that, with her invisible presence setting me straight.

James Thomas Reed Jr., my father, taught by quiet example. He was clumsy aloud, but his image as a learned and wise man was powerful without words. He was my earliest example of what a real family man does—earn the living, bring home the pay, sit silently in an easy  chair after supper, reading books great and books seedy and books wise, from Mickey Spillane and Zane Grey and Edgar Rice Burroughs to Eric Hoffer and Harry Truman and Ogden Nash. A most educated man, though never a graduate, he set the example of steadfast tranquility.

Other dead people who look after me:

Pawpaw Burns was my elderly neighbor who showed me that if you really pay close attention to children, you can get through to them by simply noticing, simply respecting them for where they are at the moment. They can always tell.

Adron Herrin and Jack McGee and Brandon McGee and Pat McGee and Annabelle Herrin and Evey Hartley and Effie McGee and Georgia McGee and Gladys McGee and Matty Wooten and John McGee and Dinah Hassell and Elizabeth McGee and many other kinfolk accepted me, warts and all, and treated me with respect and good humor, making me react in horror when anybody tells me they are separated from their kin, cut off from the nurturing care that can come from kindly people who share your blood, if you will only let them.

There are crowds of dead people in my head and in my life and that’s OK.

Even better news: there are scores of living people who have helped me, too, many without even knowing it.

I see living people.

And, because of the wisdoms and comforts and joys left me by the deceased, I am better prepared than most to carefully weed out the unwise and hang only with the people who trust and accept me and make no judgements.

Thanks to those long-ago-passed, I have become a good student of life, and the lives they lived help me manage the bad days well, and enjoy the good days even more

(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed














The Six-Smile Double-Grimace Tapdance Trek to Fond Memoryland

Listen: http://jimreedbooks.com/mp3/sixsmiledoublegrimace.mp3 or read on…


Wending my way from abode to workplace each morning is an experience roughly like driving a bumper car down the freeway or tapdancing around hidden land mines. I’m so relieved and happy to arrive unmolested that I have trouble remembering what it was that made the trek such an adventure.

Let me go back ten minutes in time and examine what happened:

I’m grateful for the smiles. The clerk at the pharmacy is so pleasant and anxious to please that I just can’t help smiling right back. She always asks if anyone ever told me I look like George Carlin. I always reply that she’s the only one, but that I’ll take it as a compliment.

A close-cropped-hair young man stands at the corner outside the pharmacy and begins his panhandler routine. I just say no and wonder how he affords the cigarettes and cell phone if he needs to solicit.

There’s a sign at the corner, FUNKY FISH FRY, which is three days out of date. If I’m to enjoy the fish, I’ll need to re-tool the time machine.

At the post office, the clerk is all smiley and friendly today, primarily because I drew the one who knows how to converse. We have a good, informative time. Yet another smile.

I drop my laundry off and have a pleasant interchange with the employee, who by now knows way too much about me, since she’s been cleaning my clothes for decades. That’s yet another smile.

Driving on toward the shop, I have a revelation—one that I can share at a speech I’m giving this evening. My generation says DUH (pronounced DUUUUUHHH, as in stupid). This generation says DUH (pronounced sharply, DUH!, as in disdainful). There must be some metaphor there. Another smile, this time from me. 

Two large ladies, lawfirm employees, never see me, though I walk past within inches of them outside the shop each day. All they can concentrate on are the cigarettes they’re frantically puffing on, and the gossip they are loudly sharing. All I can concentrate on is not inhaling, since secondary smoke is inescapable on my block.

I finally arrive at the front door and get a special, gigantic smile from the Piggly Wiggly mascot head in the show window. Within seconds, I’ll be safe from dread, boredom, addiction, neediness and superficial patter, all of which I’ve experienced between home and store.

For a few seconds, I’ll be peaceful and secure.

Then, I’ll roll the stone from before the entrance and open myself again to the World, the friendly shoppers, the saber-tooth tigers and the constant surprises that I later can write about on my little computer screen, just for you

(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed


Notes in Bottles Float to the Center of the Universe

Listen: http://www.jimreedbooks.com/mp3/notesinbottles.mp3 or read on…

Some days at the shop, my visitors remind me of notes sealed in bottles.

Each customer brings a message to me. Often, the customer is not even aware.

But I see the message and treasure it.

Some examples of messages plucked from bottles that floated to the center of the Universe, which is what Reed Books/The Museum of Fond Memories is, most definitely:

1. One reader tells me how he discovered his first John D. MacDonald book by accident, while staying at a rat trap motel back in the 1980′s. Since MacDonald was so good at describing the underbelly of Florida night life through the eyes of its movers and victims, it was the right time. I sell the customer a bio of MacDonald, wishing I had read it first. Travis McGee was one dude.

2. A good ol’ boy browser noses about with his wife, and manages to do something any ventriloquist would envy. He talks without touching his lips together. You’d have to be there, if you don’t already know what I’m experiencing. “All right” becomes “awe ITE” and “yeet yet?” is actually “Have you eaten yet?” and so on. He was a cool cat back in high school. His ducktail has thinned.

3. Another junkin’ couple cruises the shop, and the male partner expounds on his store of imcomplete knowledge: “See that Ray Bradbury book? You know, he created Star Trek. He’s dead now.” 92-year-old Bradbury is not in great health but he’s still happy to be alive, according to all reports. Don’t know whether the late Gene Roddenberry is happy.

4. One more curiosity-seeker walks around with his pal and is heard to say, “With all them computers, people ain’t even gonna need books no more.” Employee Marie Peerson overhears this and reports back. She, too, is entertained by messages in bottles, even if the bottles sometimes leak and make soggy the messages.

5. A large baseball-capped man is awed by the life-size stand-up of Elvira, Mistress of the Cleavage, or whatever her stage name is. “She got me through my formative years,” he chuckles.

6. One silent customer forces me to read his mind, as he looks at an old publicity photo of Lauren Bacall. “Does she feel as pretty as she looks?” and, studying a Rolling Stone Magazine with Tina Turner thereon, “Does she do it like she dances?” I distract myself from further mind-reading. As Bugs Bunny said, “Enough is enough, and too much is plenty!”

7. One enthused customer is everywhere at once, overwhelmed at the variety of literary treasures she’s unexpectedly finding in the shop. Her shoes defy gravity, and she finally purchases more than she intended. I wish for a moment that I possessed a remote control that would allow me to replay her energy for the inspiration of other customers.

8. A happy young man picks a leatherbound Robert Louis Stevenson collectible book for his library and is already looking forward to the next visit. Yet another collector spends the entire day carefully deciding upon which century his next selection will time-travel from. He loves it all.

9. A Lincoln-conspiracy scholar has me order two more obscure assassination study volumes for his collection. He and his wife are always smiling and satisfied when they leave. Wish I could bottle them, but they are already bottles, and I their opener.

So it goes.

Anybody anywhere anytime who claims the old-book business isn’t fascinating and educational and riveting just hasn’t dared to take the time to come in, spend an hour or two, and allow the tomes of yore to whisk them away to better lands and imaginations

(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed