Are you really there, and am I actually present here?


It’s taken me years to almost adjust to the fact that when

somebody seems to be in my presence, they often are not.


I walk into a fast-food restaurant and it comes my turn to order

from the menu. The fast-food woman smiles at me, wide-eyed

and focused on me…but not really, since I realize that she is

staring at a computer screen that is at eye level, she’s reading

off her questions, and she hasn’t once seen my face—nor will she.

The computer is me, to her.


I enter the living room to greet and chat with a grandchild, but she

only screams in protest when I innocently turn the TV off in order

to visit with her. I thought I was doing us both a favor by reducing

distractions so that we can actually visit with one another. She sees

only the screen and wouldn’t know it if I were wearing a monkey

on my head.


I’m being interviewed on a Cable TV show by an interviewer who never

once looks at me, since she’s staring at herself in the monitor and adjusting

her hair and angle the whole time.


After recording a number of my stories for broadcast on aTuscaloosa

radio station, I attempt to exchange pleasantries with the station manager,

but I suddenly notice that he’s staring at his computer and clicking away

the entire time he talks with me—he is responding to my comments with

generic quips but doesn’t know what I am saying. I slink away and he doesn’t notice.


The game-play kid looks at his lap as he visits with me, his thumb moving

the images around, never once looking at my face.


A texting teen stares enraptured at phone in hand and laughs at what she sees and

what she transmits while almost listening to me but never knowing when the

conversation has ceased.


The hospital orderly with pods in both ears looks at me but does not hear

my question because the music he hears is the thing. I walk away uninformed.

The hospital nurse talks as she enters and reads from the laptop before her,

never seeing me but appropriately answering my questions.


The man whose home I’m visiting watches his enormous television screen

as we chat. He doesn’t see me at all.


I am the interloper, the real flesh and bone person who is no longer needed in

these people’s lives.


In order to have them see me, I will have to become an entity on Twitter and

Facebook and blog and blast and text and email and video-record, I will have

to become a virtual being so that they will recognize me as being real.


I see their flesh, they see my virtual electronic self.


O brave new world. Uh, whatever

© 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed



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The thousands upon thousands of children’s storybooks that merrily surround customers at Reed Books/The Museum of Fond Memories count for nothing when pitted against the creative and spontaneous imagination of children left to their own magical meanderings.

I’m in front of this particular CVS store, one that sports those automatic sliding aluminum-and-glass doors, doors that open and close depending upon who or what triggers the electric eye that never blinks.

Only the small girl standing inside near the door has no inkling of what makes these doors open and close, so when she moves near them in order to go outside, they quickly and Star Trekkily whoosh open. She stands looking up at the doors in abject wonder and surprise and backs away to get a better look. This causes the doors to whoosh closed, thus making the little girl in the red dress freeze in her tracks in an attempt to figure things out.

She’s temporarily unsupervised, so at this exact moment, she exists only in her self-made world and must bravely use her own mind without the stiff intervention of adults. Her eyebrows go up, an idea pops like a light bulb above her head, and she decides that she possesses magical powers, just like those magical powers that characters in her storybooks use.

She waves her magic-wand arms toward the doors and they open. Now, she has proof that the Power is hers! She backs off to survey her tiny kingdom, and the doors close again. She jumps up and down, claps her hands and smiles Cheshire-like into the morning air.

The adults around her do not notice her drama, and she tentatively repeats it now and then.

Just as suddenly as it all began, the little red-dress girl is pulled by her adult companion towards the rear of the store, and the magical spell is broken.

Only she and I know that we just witnessed a miracle that nobody else will ever understand quite the way we understand it

© Jim Reed 2010 A.D.





 Nighttime jazzsinging event at the pub.

Lots of noise and folks eating and laughing and talking, waiting for music to begin, then hoping it will end soon so that eating and laughing and talking can continue.

The room is filled with clanking glasses and cubes and pftt opening fizzbottles and prowlers casting glances around the bar at other prowlers, and melancholy drinkers hunched over their fluids, and expectant fans waiting brighteyed for the next performance, and notetakers watching the people who are watching the people who are being watched.

The best choreography to watch is the unconsciously synchronized movement of the crowd as it wanders bumpercar-fashion around the spaces.

Everybody makes everybody else, if only in mind and fantasy.

These sensual ink-and-paper words will be translated into electrical impulses on cold screens for later publishing.

The jazz moveable feast/moveable fast depends upon the moon and the tide and the hormones.

The youth inside each of us disregards the wrinkling exterior.

We just move with and against gravity till sleeptime insomniatime encroaches

(c) Jim Reed 2010 A.D.




My mother took us kids to our neighborhood second-run movie theatre several times a week, back after World War Two. In that day and time, the only relief from raising kids and running a household full-time was ten-cent two-hour breaks provided by the movie house.

Mother couldn’t afford a sitter or a housekeeper or a nanny, but ten cents-per-adult at night would bring small ecstasies to her and us kids, too. We could lose ourselves in cartoons and previews and B-grade detective yarns and Technicolor musicals. As we got older, on Saturday mornings Mother could put us on a bus with three dimes each, and we would ride Downtown to watch a double-feature matinee complete with serial and cartoon and nickel popcorn, leaving her home to enjoy some peace and quiet while our father went down to the farmer’s market to visit his buddies. Five cents for the bus, ten cents for the movies, five cents each for drink and popcorn, five cents for the return trip…and we could stay and watch everything twice! A full day of babysitting for Mother, a full day of air-conditioned summer camp for us!

Since watching films was a major part of my reality, much of my idea of what life could be like Somewhere Else was formed early on. To this day, I wish life was like a movie musical, where regular people, for no reason at all, burst into song as their moods dictated.

I always wondered what it would be like to have a beautiful actress serenade me while staring me straight in the eye, wondered whether it would be difficult to stare back without flinching or blinking or giggling, like the actors on the screen did. I also marveled at how perfect the actors’ skin looked, particularly in black-and-white, marveled at how actresses could twirl their skirts high without ever embarrassing themselves with a too-revealing glimpse of underwear or flesh, wondered how actors could keep from lusting after their female co-stars after a romantic scene ended, wondered how actors could swing from vines or leap between buildings or punch each other without serious injury.

Why couldn’t life be like this? After years of comparing film life to real life, I came to suspect that they were two parallel universes, and it seemed logical that each world was unable to contact the other. Once I figured this out, I gave myself permission to lead a rich fantasy life that would never encroach upon my real life, lead a real life without its ever encroaching upon my fantasy life. I also realized that there were people in the world who could not tell the difference between what they imagined and what reality was—and that they were the ones who got in trouble more frequently than I.

When nobody was looking, I’d walk along the street in the pouring rain, umbrella folded, singing joyfully at the top of my lungs, happy all by myself, much to the chagrin of passers-by. I could act out my fantasy in real life without hurting anybody! On my best days, I still do this, here in my little world—the bookstore at the center of the Universe. Between customers, when no-one else is in the shop, I can sing badly as loudly as I please, make little graceless dance moves, pretending that I’m as good as Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind. And I can pretend that I’m the most happy fella, oblivious to the lopsided world outside, secure in the knowledge that, no matter how crazy things can get, I can still nurture my harmless fantasies and take good care of my spirit.

The only down side is that I don’t know how to impart this lifelong skill to you, so that you, too, can pull yourself up by your own inner goodwill and make a frown turn upside-down


© Jim Reed 2010 A.D.