I have always had these little rituals that kept me going. Want a couple of examples?

For instance, for thirty years, I watched the opening monologue of the Johnny Carson Show, just so I could go to bed with a smile on my face, regardless of how bad the day had been. Johnny always made me laugh, especially when his jokes fell flat.

For many years, I timed my Saturday morning shower to coincide with the NPR radio broadcast of Scott Simon’s chat with Daniel Schorr. I came to admire Schorr, because he was one of the few remaining on-air journalists who actually knew of what he spoke: he had Been There…been on the scene when wars started, when presidents were disgraced, when dictators strutted. In his 93 years of life he covered just about everything that happened, with skill and humor and accuracy. Daniel Schorr never let me down. Now that he’s gone, I’ll have to come up with another ritual to get me through the day.

By the way, Dan Schorr actually made a personal appearance in one of my stories, some years back. Here it is–hope it reminds you of The Days when good music and good reporting still mattered:


I used to have this recurrent fantasy. In my daydream, I am driving along, heading down Birmingham’s 20th Street, windows down and radio turned up full-blast. Bliss is written all over my face. I pull up to a traffic light and in the lane beside me is a man whose radio is turned up full-blast, too. His radio is playing emotion-laden, scatalogically robust hip hop music, full of profanity and violence. And it’s real loud. Attitude Bliss is written all over his face. My radio, on the other hand, is playing emotion-laden, violence-ridden, over-the-top grand opera. Suddenly, for a split second, he realizes that my music is his music. I realize that his music is my music. Each music in its own small universe is the music of nightmares and reality and deprivation and hopefulness, love, lust, and celestial warfare. The driver looks me in the eye, raises an eyebrow, and nods, then speeds away. I continue my trek through Downtown, a moment of revelation and wisdom filed away for later.

At the age of 17, I became a radio announcer at a public radio/classical music FM station just like WBHM, only this station was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and it was called WUOA. Back then, in 1959, there were only a few such stations in the country, but they set the standard for what really good public radio stations would be for the next forty years. On our Tuscaloosa station, we concentrated wholeheartedly on classical music, opera, music from the theatre, ballet…with a smattering of jazz, stand-up comedy, folk and experimental music.

And on Saturday afternoons, there was the Metropolitan Opera.

I had never heard entire operas before, but as the newest member of the announcing team, I got to work the shifts nobody else favored–and that included Saturday afternoons. While other students were attending football games and going creek-banking, I was trapped inside the control room, listening to opera. While I did all those things announcers were expected to do on duty–file recordings, cue up tapes, read transmitter gauges, fill in program logs, write narratives and promotional announcements for future shows–I was exposed to the wonderful dulcet announcing tones of Milton Cross, the host for the Texaco Opera. Cross always sounded as if he were the world’s greatest and most well-informed opera buff, and he told me way more than I ever had planned on knowing. At first, I felt like the nerd that I was, listening to all those great singers. But it didn’t take long for me to immerse myself in the music, appreciate the enormous voices that opera singers always possessed, and eventually feel very incomplete if I didn’t get to hear an entire opera at least once a week.

It was an incredible education, and I was being paid to obtain it!

And, so, for more than thirty years, I found myself arranging life so that I was a captive audience of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. I worked the Saturday shifts at Reed Books, and I did all those things that bookdealers have to do–catalogue new acquisitions, file and arrange books, pay bills, greet and assist customers, answer the phone–but mainly, I got to listen to a full opera each Saturday all by myself.

It was a wonderful ritual till WBHM abruptly and without public discourse, took the opera off the air. Silenced were those voices that are a dozen times bigger than the voices of hip hop artists, orchestras a hundredfold larger than hip hop bands.

Why, if they could take the opera off the air, what could happen next? What if they decided to remove Daniel Schorr from the airwaves? That would be like taking the wisest, most experienced journalist in radio and locking him inside a padded room.

In another daydream, I’m actually in a padded room with the late Milton Cross and Daniel Schorr, and we’re having a great time, listening to the music and chatting between acts. And the hip hop radio guy joins us now and then, listens knowingly, then plays us a cut or two of his music. And after awhile, we begin to appreciate and understand one another, and the diversity that all forms of music and words can bring to the world, if we’ll only keep listening together

(c) 2010 A.D. by Jim Reed




Listen to Jim: or read on…



Most people don’t “get” us Southerners, most don’t “get” the South and the way we live in this part of the country.

No, this isn’t one of those diatribes we Southerners are prone to spew, in which we talk about how Down Here the writers are better, the people are always Right, the belles are prettier, the footballers are ballzier, the patriotism is patriottier…this ain’t about that at all.

What this message is about is that the climate and the pace and the social intercourse Down Here are all different from other parts of the country. The best aspects of this are admirable, and we won’t talk about the dark side at all.

Down Here, when we say the weather is hot, we mean really hot and most definitely really humid. Folks in Wyoming don’t know about humid—which makes everything seem twice as hot or twice as cold as it actually is. In the South, we know all about hot and humid—we’re the experts. When we hit that wall of wetness, going from an air-conditioned room to 101 degrees heat index outdoors, we are not surprised!

Now, about social intercourse. Each part of the country sports its own style of manners, and those who visit here are amazed at how we treat each other in public. We tend to say “sir” and “ma’am” and “thank yew” and mean it, whereas some Americans who live elsewhere think those terms are sarcastic or disrespectful. Believe me, they are not. When we say “sir” and “ma’am,” it means our Mamas taught us to act polite to everybody, regardless of age or sex or race or religion or goofiness. We are instructed by example to keep our opinions on these subjects to ourselves in public, so that you can’t tell how we really feel. You just know it feels nice to have somebody verbally respect you.

Patiotism extends itself into all sorts of areas in the South—pulling for Auburn or Alabama is patriotic and the right thing to do. Paying homage to our Confederate ancestors is respectful, regardless of whether we approve of their attitudes on race and sectionalism. Bragging about the town we live in is expected, even if we think our leaders are loopy or crooked, and even if potholes crack our teeth. Patting the head of a toddler or offering a nibble to a pet or taking the elbow of an elderly person crossing the street—these are things that we do, things that transcend our prejudices about “the kids these days” and dog poop and annoying old folks.

In some other parts of the country, people can feel threatened when youhold a door open for them or offer them a seat on a crowded bus or signal to them that they have an under-inflated tire. They tend to think you are criticizing them or looking down on them or patronizing them. But Down Here, it’s the Right Thing to do.

In other words, Down Here, when somebody advises you to do the right thing, you know exactly what that means.

I pity folks who were brought up not knowing these genteel ways of behaving in public.

We Southerners have many faults and many social problems, but at our best, we at least know how to make you feel right at home.

And when we say “Y’all come back, you hear?” you know that we really and truly mean it


© Jim Reed 2010 A.D.






Blue Rooster Press’s second edition of my book, How to Become Your Own Book, is at the press.

Here’s the new introduction:



This is a pick-me-up book.


Like most of my writings, you can start anywhere in the book, you can skip around, you can thumb through…every page has something you can use when you are ready to use it.


The first rule is, mark this book up, turn down pages, attach sticky notes, tear pages out that you can use, tear pages out you don’t need. Write in the margins, allow the mustard from your sandwich to stain a page. All of these mutilations become part of the history of the book.


The second rule is, don’t show the exercises to anyone at first. This book is designed to help you re-boot, re-start, jump-start, initiate, fast-forward your writing life. It’s your dirty little secret. It’s your joyful little secret. Take your pick.


The third rule is, never, ever throw this book away. It is part of your life’s index and can be a hilarious and scary reference guide to your evolution. Once you’ve filled in the book, buy another copy and start filling that one in. They will be two entirely different books. Won’t that be amazing?


Get to it. Why are you lingering over this page?


–Jim Reed

Birmingham, Alabama

2010 A.D.