Mr. Zesty Pants Rides Again

Listen to Jim: http://jimreedbooks.com/mp3/misterzestypants.mp3

or read on… 

MR. ZESTY PANTS RIDES AGAIN

 

I haven’t been many places and I haven’t done much,

compared to lots of other people. But in my mind,

everything I’ve done and everywhere I’ve been manage

to take up volumes of space and produce endless

stories and reflections. Each tiny moment of my

life is a tale that must be told, even if nobody’s

paying any attention.

 

For instance…

 

It’s New Year’s Eve eve at the bookstore.

 

One non-book-reader customer is trying to find

something inexpensive or free to take with her.

She spies the basket of lollipops I keep on hand.

“How much are these?” she asks. “They’re free,” I

say. “OK, then,” she says, and begins downloading

the entire basket of candy into her purse, a generous

handful at a time. I freeze for a moment, because I

don’t want to make a scene in front of other

shoppers…but, dang it, it’s my store, so I have

to say something. “Uh, they’re free, one to a

customer,” I say firmly and pleasantly. “Oh!”

she says, and throws a few back into the basket

before going her way. At Halloween, there’s always

that one trick-or-treater who will grab half your

treats if you don’t say halt.

 

It’s one of those days when customers trickle in

just frequently enough so that I don’t have time

to take a bathroom or lunch break, so I wind up

eating out of my lap in between waiting on folks.

Today, I’m dining on leftover salad covered with

Liz’s zesty dressing, which I end up dumping into

my lap when two patrons ask questions at the same

moment. I have to police the floor and discard the

entire meal, unable to get the dressing out of my

britches. So, the rest of the day, I smell like Mr.

Zesty Pants…aromatic but unfulfilled and unfilled.

 

Marie gives me a break later on, so that I can go

search for some to-go food. Moe’s next door is closed

today, O’Carr’s bit the dust sometime back, so I rush

over to Pete’s Famous to get something quickly. The

line winds out the door, so I peer into Subway’s window,

where the always-slow service is sustaining a long line.

I try to enter Seafood D’Lite, but they have this funny

entrance that reads EXIT, and another unmarked door that

is the real entrance, only it just goes down a long white

hall with no signage, sort of like a Twilight Zone episode.

Daryl sticks his head out of the blank door and invites me

in, whereupon I learn in excruciating time extension that

Seafood D’Lite has a policy of cooking everything from

scratch—nothing is quick or ready to go. I decide to be

Patient Zesty Pants Guy and relax, visit with Daryl and

learn something from the experience. After the cook tells

Daryl he’s too busy stirring something to prepare a

hamburger, I wait while the cow is raised, stalked,

slaughtered, butchered, shipped and cooked. Or maybe

it just seems that way.

 

Anyhow, I finally get back to the store, relieve Marie,

eat my burger in big bites in between duties, and within

90 minutes, I’ve finished my meal and am ready to go home

to another one.

 

And that very night, we have zesty dressing again

 

© 2011 A.D. by Jim Reed

INTERVIEW WITH THE BOOKLOVER

Q&A for Reed Books’ owner, Jim Reed
Q: Reed Books will soon begin its 33rd year of operation. 
Looking back, why did you create this business?
A: I had no choice. My previous career had me stalled out and burned out. 
It was time to do something good for a change.
Q: I sense that you do not consider Reed Books to be a business.
A: You sensed correctly. This job is literally a calling for me, as corny as that might sound. 
I feel I’m providing a public service to the community and to the world at large.
Q: How so?
A: I am rescuing orphans (books and artifacts) from certain perdition, and giving them new life. 
I adopt them, clean them up, put them in a safe place and house them comfortably until new 
adoptive parents come along to find and purchase them. Somebody’s got to do it, so it may as 
well be me. I could have become a priest or an activist or a true believer, but this, it turns out, 
is what I know how to do best.
Q: You must have a lot of energy to spare. I notice that you also write books and columns and 
stories about your life in Alabama.
A: I don’t know whether it’s called energy, or just a continuing and compelling need to tell my 
story, my stories—just in case somebody’s paying attention. All my writings are about my life and 
the lives of those around me, and my mixed feelings about these lives.
Q: Where do these stories show up?
A: I do a “blast” each week, for anybody who wishes to receive it; I write a blog for fans; I tweet 
whenever I feel it’s appropriate; magazines occasionally print my pieces; I publish a book now 
and then when it seems the best way to communicate to a particular audience; and I speak to 
any group of people who will have me, about my excitements—my love of writing and collecting 
and communicating. That does sound like a lot of activity, doesn’t it? 
Q: It’s hard to keep up with…so let’s focus on your love of Downtown Birmingham and your 
simultaneous love of Reed Books and the Museum of Fond Memories. Where does that come from?
A: I’m not sure I can answer that question in a traditional way. I write poetic prose because 
I see things poetically. So, for what it’s worth, here’s the gist of it: I am the center of my 
Universe. Each of us is the center of our own personal Universe. Therefore, Downtown 
Birmingham is the center of the Universe, because that’s where I spend most of my time. 
Now, stay with me: In order to survive in my personal Universe, I have to take care of it, nurture 
it and respect it. I do this because my Universe is Me and I am It. I’m passionate about this 
Universe and everything that it contains—customers, friends, fellow Downtown denizens, 
the streets and avenues, the traffic, the chaos, the laughable politics of it all. This is my world 
and it is most entertaining!
Q: So you disagree with those who have given up on Birmingham, those who tell us to turn 
out the lights and leave it to its own fate?
A: Of course I disagree with this. That would be like giving up on yourself, your Universe. 
I’m disdainful of those who criticize without celebrating the beauty of the city and its people, 
when we could all be standing together and protecting this gorgeous creation, this Magic City
Q: For someone who has never visited Reed Books, exactly what is it that you sell?
A: We sell memories, and we sell the objects that evoke those memories.
Q: Can you give some examples?
A: When you see our display of elementary school readers, the moment you spot the ones you 
had as a child, you will be transported back into time. For instance, we carry original Dick and 
Jane (and Sally) readers, Blue Back Spellers, McGuffey Readers, Elson Readers, Landmark series 
books, Childhood of Famous Americans books, and so on.
Q: What about non-school books that grown-up children still love? 
A: Sure! We have original books starring Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden 
and Five Little Peppers and Bobbsey Twins and Boxcar Children and Uncle Wiggily and the 
Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland and Tom Swift, and on and on and on.
Q: I thought those books had disappeared forever.
A: That’s part of the fun of being Reed Books. Everything you thought your Mother had thrown 
away, we carry! If you believe it’s out of date, it’s here—because we believe that nothing is ever 
out of date. It’s at the shop, waiting for you to re-discover it.
Q: You can’t possibly carry everything that’s no longer popular!
A: Try us! We have new books and old books—some dated as recently as 2011, some 
dated as far back as 1579. And the beautiful thing is, we’ve been in business for so long 
that we can obtain any old book that’s not on our shelves at the moment. We know where 
all the other old-time bookdealers are, and they provide us with loads of goodies. We live 
in the past and love it!
Q: OK, so you really do have every book known to humankind, or you can obtain it by request. 
But what about all the non-book items in the store? Why do you carry them?
A: Everything in the store serves as a memory-stimulator, a fantasy-evoker. 
When you find an old dial telephone, you are immediately reminded of old times 
and old reading material that surrounded that phone. When you see a Roy Rogers 
comic book or a photograph of Birmingham’s old train terminal building, you get the 
urge to go back in time and regain your old teddy bear or your copy of A Child’s Garden 
of Verses. All these objects serve as time machines, and Reed Books is a safe haven you 
can use to travel back and forth in time.
Q: I understand remembering the past, but how do you wax nostalgic about the future?
A: We have great science fiction and fantasy fiction and adventure fiction, much of which 
takes place in the future—authors such as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov and Robert 
Heinlein and Shirley Jackson will escort you to alternate futures, utopias and dystopias…the 
kind you read about when you were young. 
Q: I think I get it. You’re saying you’ve invented a shop that can take you anywhere your 
imagination, your memory, allows you to go?
A: I’ve been tempted to place an arched sign over the doorway that read
Q: For someone who has never visited Reed Books, 
exactly what is it that you sell?
A: We sell memories, and we sell the objects that 
evoke those memories.
Q: Can you give some examples?
A: When you see our display of elementary school 
readers, the moment you spot the ones you had as 
a child, you will be transported back into time. 
For instance, we carry original Dick and Jane 
(and Sally) readers, Blue Back Spellers, McGuffey 
Readers, Elson Readers, Landmark series books, 
Childhood of Famous Americans books, and so on.
Q: What about non-school books that grown-up children 
still love? 
A: Sure! We have original books starring Nancy Drew and 
the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden and Five Little Peppers 
and Bobbsey Twins and Boxcar Children and Uncle Wiggily 
and the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland and Tom Swift, 
and on and on and on.
Q: I thought those books had disappeared forever.
A: That’s part of the fun of being Reed Books. Everything 
you thought your Mother had thrown away, we carry! If you 
believe it’s out of date, it’s here—because we believe that 
nothing is ever out of date. It’s at the shop, waiting for 
you to re-discover it.
Q: You can’t possibly carry everything that’s no longer 
popular!
A: Try us! We have new books and old books—some dated as 
recently as 2012, some dated as far back as 1579. And the 
beautiful thing is, we’ve been in business for so long 
that we can obtain any old book that’s not on our shelves 
at the moment. We know where all the other old-time 
bookdealers are, and they provide us with loads of goodies. 
We live in the past and love it!
Q: OK, so you really do have every book known to humankind, 
or you can obtain it by request. But what about all the 
non-book items in the store? Why do you carry them?
A: Everything in the store serves as a memory-stimulator, 
a fantasy-evoker. When you find an old dial telephone, 
you are immediately reminded of old times and old reading 
material that surrounded that phone. When you see a Roy 
Rogers comic book or a photograph of Birmingham’s old 
train terminal building, you get the urge to go back in 
time and regain your old teddy bear or your copy of 
A Child’s Garden of Verses. All these objects serve 
as time machines, and Reed Books is a safe haven you 
can use to travel back and forth in time.
Q: I understand remembering the past, but how do you 
wax nostalgic about the future?
A: We have great science fiction and fantasy fiction 
and adventure fiction, much of which takes place in 
the future—authors such as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov 
and Robert Heinlein and Shirley Jackson will escort you 
to alternate futures, utopias and dystopias…the kind you 
read about when you were young. 
Q: I think I get it. You’re saying you’ve invented a shop 
that can take you anywhere your imagination, your memory, 
allows you to go?
A: I’ve been tempted to place an arched sign over the 
doorway that reads SANCTUARY. We are sanctuary to all 
who dare to enter.Surprise yourself and give us a try.
 
 
 
 
Q: Reed Books will soon begin its 31st year of operation. 
Looking back, why did you create this business?
A:I had no choice. My previous career had me stalled out 
and burned out. It was time to do something good for a 
change.
 
Q: I sense that you do not consider Reed Books to be a 
business.
A: You sensed correctly. This job is literally a calling 
for me, as corny as that might sound. I feel I’m providing 
a public service to the community and to the world at large.
 
Q: How so?
A: I am rescuing orphans (books and artifacts) from certain 
perdition, and giving them new life. I adopt them, clean them 
up, put them in a safe place and house them comfortably 
until new adoptive parents come along to find and purchase 
them. Somebody’s got to do it, so it may as well be me. 
I could have become a priest or an activist or a true 
believer, but this, it turns out, is what I know how to 
do best.
 
Q: You must have a lot of energy to spare. I notice that 
you also write books and columns and stories about your 
life in Alabama.
A: I don’t know whether it’s called energy, or just a 
continuing and compelling need to tell my story, my 
stories—just in case somebody’s paying attention. All 
my writings are about my life and the lives of those 
around me, and my mixed feelings about these lives.
 
Q: Where do these stories show up?
A: I do a “blast” each week, for anybody who wishes to 
receive it; I write a blog for fans; I tweet whenever 
I feel it’s appropriate; magazines occasionally print 
my pieces; I publish a book now and then when it seems 
the best way to communicate to a particular audience; 
and I speak to any group of people who will have me, 
about my excitements—my love of writing and collecting 
and communicating. That does sound like a lot of activity, 
doesn’t it? 
 
Q: It’s hard to keep up with…so let’s focus on your love 
of Downtown Birmingham and your simultaneous love of Reed 
Books and the Museum of Fond Memories. Where does that come 
from?
A:I’m not sure I can answer that question in a traditional 
way. I write poetic prose because I see things poetically. 
So, for what it’s worth, here’s the gist of it: I am the 
center of my Universe. Each of us is the center of our own 
personal Universe. Therefore, Downtown Birmingham is the 
center of the Universe, because that’s where I spend most 
of my time. Now, stay with me: In order to survive in my 
personal Universe, I have to take care of it, nurture it 
and respect it. I do this because my Universe is Me and 
I am It. I’m passionate about this Universe and everything 
that it contains—customers, friends, fellow Downtown 
denizens, the streets and avenues, the traffic, the chaos, 
the laughable politics of it all. This is my world and it 
is most entertaining!
 
Q: So you disagree with those who have given up on 
Birmingham, those who tell us to turn out the lights 
and leave it to its own fate?
A: Of course I disagree with this. That would be like 
giving up on yourself, your Universe. I’m disdainful of 
those who criticize without celebrating the beauty of 
the city and its people, when we could all be standing 
together and protecting this gorgeous creation, this 
Magic City.
Q: Do you consider yourself to be a retiree?
A: Land O’ Goshen! I’m not retired, nor will I ever 
retire willingly. I’ll keep going till they drag me 
off to the assisted living center or the morgue. I’m 
from a workaholic family--my father kept on working, 
career after career, and I can’t see myself sitting 
at home and watching daytime television. I haven’t 
found time to retire. Besides, I have to make a living!
 Q: Do you have plans to expand or transform Reed Books 
and the Museum of Fond Memories?
A: I’m planning a number of exhibits in the future, 
just to spice things up and gently “educate” folks. 
The first show begins in March, 2011. We’ll be exhibiting 
300 or so miniature books from throughout the world, 
ranging from tiny bibles to leatherbound children’s books. 
These are a delight to examine…some even come with their 
own magnifying glasses! Stay tuned. 
Q: What else is in Reed Books’ future?
A: I’ve always wanted to do a Dead Writers signing, 
since most of the writers we sell lived long ago. 
I haven’t gotten any replies to my e-mails, though.
 
Q: What’s the most exciting item in the store?
A: The latest artifact I acquired is the most exciting 
one. Each acquisition gives me a new rush and teaches 
me something I didn’t know.
 
Q: Why would I want to purchase an old book or a used 
one, when I can obtain a freshly-printed one at a chain 
store?
A: I actually don’t know why you would want to do that. 
An early printing of a book has gravitas, its pages have 
absorbed something of its previous owners, it now possesses 
character and lovely battle scars. When you hold a used 
book, you are communicating with the past regrets and 
future fears of its owners, their joys and sorrows, 
their lives, for goodness sake. And you’re not really 
a green advocate, an environmentalist, until you’ve 
learned to pass your book on to its next readers. 
Trashing or throwing a book away instead of bequeathing 
it to a new reader is a sin. Period

 (c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

 Twitter and Facebook