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I never went to war.

At least, not the kind of war you think of when you hear the word.

The kind of war we imagine on Memorial Day is the CNN-Al-Jazeera-Hollywood action movie war, where there are lots of explosions and bloodlettings and widow-makers and much camaraderie and cussing and-us-and-themisms tossed about.

War by definition is a horrible thing. Those who declare war let loose the dogs and, whether right or wrong, whether winner or loser, they have the lives of us at the mercy of their hands.

Those who actually fight the wars, whether conscript or volunteer, whether victim or aggressor, are doing work that the war-declarers have failed to prevent.

There are other kinds of wars being waged since the beginning of our genetics—wars of words, wars of ideas, wars of subjugation, wars of powermongering, wars of pettiness, wars of territory, wars of belief systems, wars of defense, wars of intolerance. These wars only represent the inability of those in charge to talk and discuss and compromise and settle for less than conquest and more than obliteration.

I never went to war.

But I am the victim of all wars, and you are, too, whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not.

Are we as humans capable of avoiding war, or are we predisposed forever to draw chalklines and establish doubledogdares and respond to resistance as if we always know we are right and they are wrong?  Ask the few real thinkers and viziers of the world who can see us as we are. According to the best of them, we have war locked within our DNA. The only way we can ever go warless for a period is to find and follow great leaders who are wise and kind and charismatic and who set sterling examples for us through their behavior both private and public. During our all-too-brief episodes of great leadership, we have peace. The bad news is, once we lose a great leader, we sink right back into our predisposed fears and intolerances and bigotries and aggressions. The only hope we have is to forcefully seek those potential great leaders and, leaving behind our hilarious and disturbing small-mindedness, look to them to keep us all from killing and banishing and mistreating and mocking one another.

Where are these potential leaders? As H.G. Wells said, we know who we are and what our weaknesses are, but we must find a way to live each day as if they did not exist, as if every moment of life is worth living, as if the fate of the entire universe depends upon every kindly act and thought we can muster.

A mad plan, but perhaps the only plan that makes sense in a senselessly chaotic cosmos

(c) Jim Reed 2010 A.D.



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Listening to jazz. Cool jazz. What a way to go! What a way to remain! Listening to jazz.

Here’s a red clay diary note from a jazz session I attended a couple of years ago, the kind of note that writes itself. The kind of note that makes me want to go listen to some more jazz. Mo’ better jazz, that is:


Dancing in

my head,

my feet

tapping, my

body unmoved

except inside

my gut, my

gut feeling,

close to

my heart.

Within the



what the

Void would

feel like,

if bereft

of the

beat, the

sound, the


of  the


and their


their cyborg


so much a part

of themselves

they don’t know where

they begin and the

instruments end

(c) 2010 A.D. by Jim Reed



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Want to know the right way to organize a book store?

So do I.

Only, I know that, so far, I’ve learned from experience and from other armchair experts, a hundred ways not to organize a book store.

1.     You can arrange all the books by color. This would please the customer who insists that she wants oversized old children’s nursery books, but only if they fit in with the color scheme of her expectant daughter’s baby-to-be room. I do my best to help, and she seems pleased with the results.

2.     You can arrange all the books by size. Years ago, the Salvation Army Thrift Store book section manager did just that. The books were shelved by size. It took me years to realize that he was an adult illiterate—that he, by his own admission, could not read a word. This obviously qualified him for the job. I encouraged him to take an adult reading course, but have no way of knowing whether he took the advice.

3.     You can arrange the value of the books by weight. Many’s the time I’ve taken a stack of books to a flea market dealer to be priced and bagged. He carefully holds each volume in his hand, testing its heft and size, before giving me a price. Heavier books are more expensive than light ones.

4.     You can arrange them alphabetically, but this often backfires. For instance, if you are a customer looking for all books about Marilyn Monroe, it would take you a long time to find them in the show biz bio section, because they would be spread throughout the alphabet. Or you can arrange the books by the name of the subject of the bio—mainly, placing all Marilyn Monroe titles together, regardless of author or heft or color or size. This backfires when someone asks for all books by Norman Mailer, for instance. You’d have to go to many different sections of the store to find them all—since he wrote books about all kinds of subjects, including Marilyn Monroe.

 5.     You can arrange books by series name—for instance, placing all Pollyanna books together, but in this and many other cases, the Pollyanna books were written by more than one author…if you were looking for all books by one Pollyanna author, you’d again have to scurry about the store a long time to find them.

6.     You could arrange books by geographic location, but this can get complicated, too…

     Anyhow, you catch the drift.

     Next time you’re looking for a specific book at Reed Books and notice me running about, looking in different sections, you may be more tolerant. An example: “I’m looking for Ray Bradbury books.” Well, Bradbury writes in practically every genre, so where do you look? His enormous lifetime output is only ten percent science fiction/fantasy. He also writes grand opera, poetry, plays, architectural columns, mysteries, autobiography & biography, children’s books and science commentaries, to name a few. I know where they are in the store, but it may take me some time to make a stack for you to peruse.

     Go ahead—make a better book store, one that’s perfectly arranged so that you can find anything instantly. If you can also invent a backpack or purse in which you can locate exactly what you want at the push of a button, you could make a bunch of money. But that’s in the science fiction genre, isn’t it? Where would you file the instructions?

 Let me know

(c) Jim Reed 2010 A.D.



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Sunday afternoon was Mother’s Afternoon. I dined with a maybe-someday- mother (granddaughter Becky) and Becky’s mother, Paula and Paula’s mother, June…and assorted fathers and fathers-who-may-someday-be. Later, I saw our neighbor, Katie, on the occasion of her first Mother’s Day as a mother, talked with another maybe-someday-mother (granddaughter Jessica), and with two current mothers, wife Liz and daughter Margaret, plus neighbor Robert, who’s about to marry a maybe-someday-mother, and I heard the musical voices of other someday-mothers and current-day mothers, and I thought about all the mothers I’ve known who are no longer around but ever present in memory most precious.

And I thought about all the kinds of mothers there must be in our town, including motherless mothers, mothers who’ve lost their children, mothers whose children have been taken from them, mothers of mothers, absentee mothers, mysterious mothers, mothers who are always there, stepmothers,  

adoptive mothers, adopted mothers, mothers in name only, clueless mothers,  

clumsy mothers, mothers we wish we had known better, mothers we know only too well, highfalutin’ mothers, humble mothers, welfare mothers, imprisoned mothers, hugging mothers, distant and cool mothers, dream mothers, dreamy mothers, mothers we would give anything to see again,  

creative mothers, mothers who do what they can do, just for us, brilliant mothers, caretaker mothers, sacrificing mothers, storybook mothers, protective mothers, biological mothers, test-tube mothers, guardian mothers,

only-in-their-imagination mothers, good-pal mothers, uplifting mothers,

grandmothers, great grandmothers, mothers both great and grand, foster mothers, stand-in mothers, well-meaning mothers, wanna-be mothers, to-be mothers, long-gone mothers, faraway mothers, gentle mothers, good example mothers, gay mothers, straight mothers, not-quite-sure mothers, surrogate mothers, black mothers, brown mothers, red mothers, pale pink mothers,

pasty complexioned mothers, mothers we wish we had, mothers we wish we had back, fathers and grandfathers who serve as mothers, mothers on bail,

disenfranchised mothers, hospitalized mothers, mothers in nursing homes, and

mothers who take the time




In a way, I love them all, 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


(c) 2010 A.D. by Jim Reed

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