Where’s Everybody Gone





GONE: Power Rangers for Christ Child Center on the Bessemer Superhighway


              Honest! It was there for years, each time I drove from Arkadelphia to the

              Fairgrounds for the monthly flea market. Where is it now?

              I loved it for its name.


GONE: Hawthorn Gallery on Third Avenue North


               Then you saw it, then you didn’t. Keith disappeared in a cloud of remorse.

                Did he ever look back?


GONE: Five-dollar overtime parking citations.


              Poof! Suddenly, it’s a $30 fine if you spend money Downtown for more than

              two hours. Doesn’t the City need that extra shopping dough?

              Do the folks who passed the ordinance even know what it’s like to park and shop



GONE: Safari Cup on Richard Arrington Boulevard/21st Street North


              What th–?  Overnight, Dave pulls up stakes, says no good-byes, and heads Up

              Yonder to Neverland. Whazzup?

               Did we Downtown loyalists mean anything to him?


     GONE: Tony’s Terrific Hot Dogs on Second Avenue North. Tony’s was real,

                   simple,direct, efficient and plain-dealing. What more could you ask of a

                   diner? No pretentions, just good quickie lunch fixes.

                   Does Tony still mix the sauce in his dreams?


GONE: Birmingham Magazine. Joe O’Donnell was Birmingham Magazine.

             Do the Chamber folks realize this or even care?


      GONE:  Saturday afternoon live music from the Metropolitan Opera in New York.


             WBHM lost a lot of supporters, who subsequently started donating their money 

             to the live theatre broadcasts. No-one was polled or asked–WBHM just dropped

             the broadcasts, ignoring their base and dismissing their first-years promises to

             those who campaigned to establish the station in the first place.

             Years of support and goodwill gone for good.


GONE: The guys at Catch-Out Corner 

             Where are they now?

              Is their disappearance good for us but bad for them?

STILL BOOKING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: Reed Books Antiques/The Museum of Fond Memories is still going strong 29 years later. Come cherish us now, just in case we are suddenly teleported away one day. www.jimreedbooks.com

Christmas 1988



What was that that just whizzed by and left us breathless, heavier, broker…and did we get anything out of it?

What it was, was Christmas.

Thought we had gotten the latest Christmas out of the way, but its vestiges are everywhere apparent, still.

On the road back from Fort Payne, Alabama, this weekend, a plastic mailbox wreath blew tattered in the warm wind. On the baby grand piano in our foyer at home, a few wind-up toys and an electric train remain partially dismantled, and soon the small ceramic houses and latex Santas will take their long winter’s naps in tissue-padded gift boxes.

The toys and trains and holly plastics are little jabs into the past, small probes I issue each year in an attempt to regain an old feeling or two that I can safely identify as the Christmas Feeling. I no longer feel self-conscious about it.

The word has gone out: don’t get Daddy (me) anything but toys for Christmas.

I don’t care for clothes, don’t need a screwdriver, don’t want a gift certificate, have all the books in the world. Just get me toys, toys that are simple and whimsical and inexpensive.

After years of proclaiming this, the extended family has gotten the hint, and toys R me!

The toys do help, and each one opened is one played with by adults around me who haven’t gotten a toy in years. I went around asking each adult I ran across before and after Christmas: are you getting toys for Christmas? Did you get a toy for Christmas? Each time, the same response: a defensive twitch followed by something nameless crossing the face, and then an almost forlorn, “Well, no, I guess I didn’t get a toy.”

And I watch visitors to our home at Christmastime. They are first taken a bit aback by the toys I pull out and put on display each year. And within minutes they’re fiddling with them self-consciously, then, later, they sneak back to the piano, and we’ll find them winding and switching and playing by themselves with little grins of private satisfaction they probably haven’t had for a long time.

Allow me $15.00 to spend on a gift for you and I’ll find a toy that meets all the requirements of a Christmas toy: it’ll puzzle you, delight you, make you chuckle out loud, and if all is according to schedule, it’ll break before the day is through. But that’s OK. Part of the joy is taping and pasting it back together and making it work again—gives you an excuse to take it apart to see what makes it tick.

Of course, I can’t diddle like this all year, or folks will start thinking up reasons to put me away safely.

So, I’ll store those Christmas toys away some time this week, just minutes before my wife is finally exasperated beyond all patience, and I’ll give her a hug she may not have time for and assure her that her foyer and her piano are all hers again for another eleven months.

And I’ll gleefully think of the day next December when I’ll casually say to her, “Why don’t we get the toys out this year for the kids to enjoy?” knowing full well that kids will pay little attention to them—after all, kids are used to having toys around all year.

It’s the kids abed within us who want so badly to have their toys back and around them just one more time


–Jim Reed (c) 2009 A.D.



Misreprehensible Pronounciations

Kay Ivey, speaking at her good-ol’-boy deliberative mushmouth best in a broadcast interview this week, talked straight-faced about how heart rendering the situation was. I don’t remember now what the “situation” was because I was giggling too loud to hear the rest of the story. Her rendering of heart rending was one of those dozens of misunderestimations of the English language I hear daily.

These grating but funny language misuses and mispronunciations give me hope.

NOO-(rhymes with boo!)-kuh-ler physics

NOO-kuh-ler FIZZ-ist

REEL-uh-ter (actually pronounced that way by two realtors I know)


PATH-us (it’s PAY-thoss, dadgummit!)

A-(rhymes with say!)-rab, Alabama (actually, this one is correct)

HEE-nee-uss crime (HAY-nuss, I tell you!) That’s a heinous way to pronounce this!

“The data is overwhelming.” No, the data are overwhelming!

“The media is biased.” No, the media are biased. Or not.

“It’s color is bright.” No, its color is bright. Please!

“Its high time.” No, it’s high time. Pleeze!

Ann-R-tic (no, it’s ant-ARK-tic)

FIZZ-uh-cull year (FISS-cull year!)

Miss-CHEEV-ee-us (It’s MISS-chev-vous)

And so on…

Why do these gaffs give me hope? Well, they distract me from the truly disturbing rants I hear from people who inject themselves with Type A LimbaughBeckPalin serum before leaving the house. I don’t mind their addictions, I just wish they’d button their lips when I’m trying to hold a normal conversation.

Our neighbor-across-the-alley’s car was vandalized overnight, and all he could say to Liz was, “One of your Obama voters broke into my vehicle last night.”

My customer searching for the book The Nazi Doctors urged me to read it, “because that’s where Obama got his plan for health care…they’re gonna get us all, you know.”

Another customer wants to purchase the Anarchist Cookbook because he’s preparing for the big revolution.

And one customer wants books on witchcraft so he can get rid of all those (fill in the blank) who are ruining this nation.

And so on, again…

Actually, I know that most folks have a box marked “crazy” under their beds (to paraphrase Jon Stewart), which they bring out on special occasions. But a little restraint would be appreciated by those of us who just want to laugh at a few mispronounced words. We’d rather not hear the misguided ideas that seem designed as code language for racism, bigotry, intolerance, hatred and mean-spiritedness.

Just bring a mispronunciation into the shop and make me laugh!

Or not

Jim Reed (c) 2009 A.D.



Customer walks into a bookstore and asks, “How much do your books cost?”

Customer walks into a bookstore and asks, “How do you know where everything is?”

Customer walks into a bookstore and asks, “Is this a liberry?”

Customer walks into a bookstore and asks, “What do you have all these old books for?”

Customer walks into a bookstore and asks, “Have you read all these books?”

Customer walks into a bookstore and asks, “Do you actually make a living, doing this?”

And so on.

Well, the bookstore is Reed Books Antiques/The Museum of Fond Memories, and these are representative questions asked us practically every week for more than twenty years.

I never know what to answer.

When I’m feeling Bugs Bunny-ish, I make a wisecrack—just to entertain myself (“Yep, I’ve read every book here–except for that one!”).

But I’m learning over time (maturity is highly overrated) that a lot of people don’t have a sense of humor—or they don’t have my sense of humor, and think I’m just being a wise guy, which, after all, Bugs Bunny is, right?

Besides, many of the questions are asked by customers who don’t know what to do, once they’re inside the store. Some of them have never been to an old bookstore, some have never voluntarily read a book from cover to cover (no kidding—they brag about it), some actually mis-read the sign and think it says Free Books (thus the library question), others have been told by librarians that any book more than seven years old should be de-acquisitioned (thus the old books question), others don’t see lots of folks lolling about drinking coffee and eyeing other customers (thus the make a living question), others don’t associate computers and databases with old books, thus the know where everything is question.

I try to assist these folks and am sometimes successful in making them feel comfortable.

I do enjoy the anthropology of it all, but I’m also grateful for folks who come in and get excited about the fact that we are a wonderful emporium of memories, dreams, reflections, thoughts, feelings…a bumper car-turned-rollercoaster kind of place where anything can happen, where anything can find you and beg you to adopt it, if you’ll only just stop and listen for a mo’

© 2009 A.D. Jim Reed



Jim Reed’s Red Clay Diary


Insomnia can bring the proudest the mightiest the most arrogant to their knees since there seems to be no magic solution to having a drug-free good night’s sleep, the kind of sleep you used to have when you were young and without responsibility.

Back then, you just had to wake up, signal that you wanted to be fed, signal that you wanted to have your diaper changed, signal that you wanted to be cuddled, signal that you just felt restless and wanted to make sure everybody was paying exclusive attention to you and you alone, signal that you were once again ready to sleep the sweet-dreamed-sleep of the innocent.

But nowadays when you can’t get a good night’s sleep you spend the next day wandering around wondering whether you should just lie down on the floor when you feel like it and catch a few seconds of snooze to build up collateral for tonight when sure enough at the exact moment you want to go into deep sleep you become once again more wide-awake than you ever are in the daytime and you lie there trying to find just the right position just the right attitude just the right soothing slumbering thought to make you doze off but then you just snap right awake and find yourself meandering around the house eating ice cream working jigsaw puzzles reading partial chapters and finally dozing off in the most unlikely of spots–never of course in the genuine pre-approved guaranteed spot that they always made you believe you should be occupying during sleep.

In the wee gigantic hours of the morning you almost want to take medication hit yourself over the head into unconsciousness learn Zen so that you can meditate yourself into oblivion run laps till you’re so tired you can at least lapse into exhaustion if not sleep but none of that ever seems to come about so you find yourself going through the daylight hours being distracted and almost completely forgetting that you should be dreading the fact that tonight you once again won’t be able to sleep during the appointed hours and isn’t this somewhat metaphorical or something or maybe you should just stop whining and get on with appreciating the fact that you don’t need as much sleep as others.

You after all can get mucho stuff done like this here diary entry

(C) Jim Reed 2009 A.D.




“I haven’t read a book since high school, when they made us read Silas Marner–and I hated that book,” one of my lunchtime compatriots told me recently.

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that said, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. Many people just give up trying to read because of the way in which reading is taught. Too much criticism, too much handed-down dogma about what a book means, what an author was trying to say. Not enough attention is paid to reading for the sheer pleasure of it, reading to find one’s own meaning separate and apart from what the author meant to say. Indeed, do we ever really know what an author intended to say? Does the author even know, most of the time?

Besides, it’s not true that this compatriot doesn’t read books. He happens to be one of the great sports fans of all time, and he knows as much about his special sports and his favorite players as Ken Burns knows about the Civil War! In other words, he’s read Sports Illustrated cover to cover this week, read the sports page in the paper every day, and read other fanzines to keep up with his field–not to mention having watched a couple of dozen ball games on TV, when he isn’t busy listening to one on the radio. If you place all the pages of material in a pile, all the transcripts from the broadcast shows in the same pile, then place hard covers on the top and bottom of the stack, you’ll find that this fellow has read the equivalent of War and Peace in no time at all.

Yet he refuses to call this reading a book.

My only point is, this reader finds something off-putting about the term book, so he doesn’t use that term. Perhaps we booklovers and scholars have done something to make him shun the word books. Maybe we’ve made bookie things sound too elitist or effete or affected. That’s too bad–because if it’s true, we’ve also painted him into a corner about wanting to write something about his life–in other words, if he won’t read a book, he certainly won’t write one!

“I don’t know any poems, and of course I don’t read poetry!” another diner companion vows.

This diner is denying the obvious: that there are literally hundreds of poems rattling around in his head, and he knows damned near every one of them by heart: They’re called songs! Songs are just poems with some background noise thrown in. This guy drives around the city listening to all these poems and even reciting them aloud.

Have we turned him away from poetry, too?

No wonder the average American doesn’t donate to the fine arts or go to libraries or frequent bookstores or write family reminiscences. Something has spooked the average American away from the printed word. It just ain’t cool.

Your turn to rant.

Comments, please

(Adapted from How to Become Your Own Book by Jim Reed)

© 2009 Jim Reed