Listen to Jim:

or read on…


Reed Books Antiques/The Museum of Fond Memories…a day unlike any other day, but curiously familiar…


It’s like a bolero out there, everybody choreographing their unique dances to life…

Remon grabs another of his many daily smokes outside my shop, on the way to the smoking parking lot, where so many others leave their cigarette filters…relics for future archaeologists to uncover and puzzle over.


Everybody brings baggage, everyone has a story—even if unconsciously so…

Geoff drops by and donates a brass-and-velvet stanchion, so that I can place some psychological boundary between myself and the occasional hovering customer.

Carolynne picks up copies of the latest Birmingham Arts Journal to spread the gospel of art and lit.

Randy decides to read Hemingway and Faulkner and Fitzgerald. There is hope!


I can see the parallel businesses and activities going about their cycles…

Rhonda soaks the cooling sun and smiles her wisdom, surrounded by shoes and artifacts.

The Maid of Metering carefully prepares penalty notices for people who don’t know the rules and mysteries of Downtown Parking.


The imaginary reality of each customer swirls around them, influencing the way they see the shop…

Kid customer purchases an enormous football-shaped balloon.

A grown-up attorney takes the life-size Marilyn Monroe home with him.

Another kid customer buys a flashing red disco light for his room.

One woman ogles the Leg Lamp and Mortimer Snerd and Piggly Wiggly head in the display windows.

Yet another purchases a wind-up bunny astride a tricycle.

One customer selects old postcards and comes back for more.

Somebody else stays in the front corner for five hours and reads ancient love letters and cards from my grandfather’s old post office boxes. Her bliss is unmistakable. The names of my relatives in Peterson, Alabama are on each box.

A Regular ushers and tours her friend through the shop.

Giggles emanate from the back of the store. Collectibles entertain them.

One girl seeks and finds Gulliver’s Travels and carries her smile home with her.

And so it goes.

You go climb Mount Everest.

I’ll remain here and have much more fun

© 2010 Jim Reed


Most of us don’t get a chance to select our given names, mainly because, as infants, we can’t articulate the words needed to make a suggestion for a good name. So, we live with what’s given us. My name is James Thomas Reed, III, which means that my father and paternal grandfather had the same name. It just kind of trickled down to me. My grandfather was called Jim, my father was called Tommy, and I am Jim.

My grandfather bought a house in the tiny coal mining town West Blocton, Alabama, around the turn of the century. On Easter Sunday in the year 1909, my father, Tommy, was born in that house. Since there were seven or so brothers and sisters ahead of Tommy, my grandfather Jim placed the infant in an Easter basket and announced to his brood that the Easter Bunny had delivered this pink, noisy package.

Back then, kids believed that sort of thing.

Now, to know my father, you’d have to know the people he admired, since men in his generation weren’t much for sitting around telling you about themselves. No, you just had to look around and pay attention to the men whose lives they emulated.

In my father’s case, I can remember who some of his heroes, both literary and real, were:

Sergeant Alvin York, who never accepted a dime in trade for the heroism he’d shown for his country in World War I.

Preacher Josiah Dozier Grey, and Uncle Famous Prill, the heroes of Joe David Brown’s Birmingham novel/movie, Stars in My Crown, men who never wavered from belief in family and neighbors and principles. They were forerunners of Atticus Finch and other strong Southern heroes of fiction and non-fiction.

Harry Truman, who dispensed with nonsense and tried to do the right thing, even when it was not popular. He was in a long line of no-nonsense leaders, such as John L. Lewis and Eric Hoffer, people who thought for themselves and never followed a posse or a trend.

Jesus Christ, who, like my father, was a carpenter, and a principled man.

And so on.

Now, it’s important to understand this one thing about my father—to look at him, to be around him, you’d never know he was a hero. He was a working-class, blue-collar, unassuming person you’d probably not notice on the street, unless you noted that he limped from an old coal mining injury received when he tried to save another man’s life. It was his very invisibility that made him a true hero, because he did the kind of thing that nobody gets credit for: he loved unconditionally and without reward. That’s right. He was a practitioner of unconditional love for family, the kind of love that seeks no return, no attention. You would have embarrassed Tommy Reed if you had tried to thank him for his acts of kindness, because you were not supposed to notice.He gave money in secret to relatives in need. He grimaced and bore silently the abuse of those who forgot to appreciate or thank him. And he never announced his good deeds. You just had to catch him now and then in an act of kindness.

His heroes were all men who didn’t need adulation.

What my father needed was a hard day’s work at an honest job, a few moments of privacy after a good meal, time to read a book or watch television with a child or grandchild on his lap, and an occasional hug from his 50-year wife, my mother.

You could do worse than have a father like Preacher Grey and Joel McCrea, Uncle Famous and Juano Hernandez, Gregory Peck and Atticus Finch, Eric Hoffer, John L. Lewis, Harry Truman, Sergeant York and Gary Cooper, and Jesus.

Do they make ‘em like that any more? You bet they do, but you won’t know about it for a while, because they don’t have press agents. What they do have is the appreciation that takes years to grow and make itself known, the appreciation we come to have after we, too, have been called upon to commit an occasional act of unrewarded kindness.

Take another look at your father. Who are his silent heroes? Who are yours

(c) 2010 A.D. by Jim Reed





“Poppy, there’s a rainbow in your glasses!”


The tinny voice of a small five-year-old redheaded urchin focused my wandering mind. I stopped at the door, looked down over the armchair in the living room at Jessica, who was smiling cheek to cheek.


“What?” I asked.


“There’s a rainbow in your glasses!” Jessica repeated.


I looked beyond her at the morning cloudless sun beaming in and realized that my Coke-bottle-bottom eyeglasses must have been picking up the sun and tossing its rays into a prismatic wonderland for Jessica’s eyes only.


I grinned and beamed her smile back at her, enjoying the moment.


Then, it was out the door and to the car, a toddling lunchpail-carrier at my side, her fist tightly holding a damp quarter for milk.


Some mornings Jessica can’t seem to remember how to strap herself into the seat, other times she defiantly does it herself and don’t you try to help her. This time, just for a test, she claimed she didn’t know how and I had to lean over her jelly-mustachioed face to grab the strap and pull it over her lap.


The radio shot war words at my belly, and I decided to turn it off for a while.


“Why’d you do that?” Jessica again.


“What?” Me again.


Jessica: “Why’d you turn off the radio?”


I grunted and listened instead to the sunshine and watched closely the asphalt whooshing under the car, humming a song about the sunny side of the street.


Jessica looked over me and beyond my shiny pate to the sun that was racing alongside the car, making the east all yellow and white.


“The sun is on the sunny side of the street,” she remarked with hand-clapping delight.



So it is, so it is.



How can you maintain an early-morning bad mood when there’s so much sunshine coming at you from inside the car, as well as from without?


We maneuvered the cool white vehicle to the front of the school, I punched the button to release Jessica’s seat belt, yelled “I love you!” to the red streak, who turned for a second, repeated what I’d just said, and disappeared into the sunshiny morning air.


Here’s hoping your grumbly morning finds you with a rainbow in your glasses

(c) 2010 A.D. by Jim Reed







How much is there left to think, or think about?

I’m beginning to believe there are just a few original thoughts in the world, and that everything else is mere repetition, regurgitation, re-interpretation, mythologization.

What is there in life?

Well, you have your birth, from a womb or a tube.

Then, you have your expanse, all the way to death.

In between birth and death, there is activity, most of which is designed to avoid facing the reality that, well, we all begin and end the same way. There’s no getting out of this.

Activities between birth and death include automatic experience (breathing a millionfold breaths, feeling a billionfold heartbeats, uncountable blinkings, etc.) and somewhat controllable experience (laughing, ingesting, believing, disbelieving, ranting, relaxing, accepting, etc.).

Controllable experience sometimes disguises itself as uncontrollable (having faith, being cynical, being realistic, being a smartmouth, etc.).

Uncontrollable experience can make you think you’re really in charge when you’re not (waving a wand to make the sun hide at the exact moment an eclipse occurs, seeing the face of Jesus in a potato chip, pretending not to itch—which is one of the most profound things to accomplish, etc.).

The one thing hardest to face or believe or realize is that you’re in control of a lot more things than you can possibly imagine. You can decide not to act like a smartmouth (you can stifle a belch if you really try, you can hop one more inch than you think, you can look an unattractive person in the eye and see something really beautiful, etc.).

As meek and unimportant as you and I may be compared to the universe at large, we can be and act a lot more powerful, with effort and concentration. It is possible to make a difference, once we accept the notion that difference comes in many  sundry incarnations, mostly small and at first difficult to recognize.

Are there a million examples I could cite? Yes. But I’d rather describe just one thing and leave the rest of the metaphor, the figuring-out, to you—being as how you are so powerful and all.

Try this one thing:

Find someone who could use a smile or some cheering up. Pick someone you’d ordinarily ignore or dismiss or even dislike. Decide that you are far too powerful to miss this opportunity to step outside your small private cone of silence, that you will do this one thing. Leave a thoughtful and hopelessly cheerful gift where this person can find it.

Then, follow the immutable rules of true selflessness: Never, never let the person know who gave such a thoughtful thing. Never, never take credit for your act. Never, never write or tell about it. And…the hardest but most humane thing to do, learn to live without credit or reward for this special act.

Once you become comfortable with committing an anonymous and loving deed, the number you can continue to do will always be ten more than you imagine.

Just an idea

© 2010 A.D. Jim Reed