Listen to Jim: or read on…



I’m plugging in the neon “open” sign in the bookshop window, preparing to begin the day’s business.


As I struggle putting the $2-book-and-record racks out on the sidewalk, I see Rhonda, just across the

street at Goodyear Shoe Hospital. Her red hair glows in the sun as she swishes her broom and spreads

the leaves and dust over the curb.


When was the last time I saw a banker sweeping up in front of his own bank?

I see Melissa next door at Sojourns hauling her A-frame sign and balancing it on the walkway, her smile

adding to the sunlight.


When was the last time I saw an attorney putting up a sign in front of his own office?

I pick up the many cigarette butts in front of my shop, left there by my customers and the employees of

Remon’s Clothier and the Massey Building.


When was the last time I saw a smoker dispose of a cigarette in the enormous City trash can on the



I politely brush off a salesman who wants to examine my phone service records and credit card terminals

to give me a “better” deal.


When was the last time one of these salespeople actually took time to shop at the store? Do they realize

that I’ll give the time of day to any sales rep who will try to learn a little about my business and actually shop

here? The income they are missing!


A self-published author wants me to sell her new book in the store. When I show her my latest book, she

sniffs at it, puts it down and continues her sales pitch.


Will she ever understand why I turn her down?


The publisher of a small “literary” journal wants me to purchase copies for the shop but doesn’t bother to

open the Birmingham Arts Journal I proudly show him.


Has he ever heard of tit for tat?


I go about opening up and operating my sidewalk shop in much the same way each day, pretty much repeating

my motions—with variations. Since some kind of civilization began, I suppose the rituals have been similar—we

bazaar vendors have our routines, routines that keep us grounded, routines our customers come to expect of us.


And we also have always dealt with non-customers who want a favor given without giving a favor.


Much of each day is spent providing free advice and consultation to people who want to know the “value” of a

book or those who want me to research and find an obscure title—then turn me down, saying, “Oh now that

you’ve helped me find it, I’ll just go online and order it myself.” No kidding!


Much of my social life is spent listening to folks promising me that they will someday visit Reed Books—they’ve

heard so much about it, you know—but who, year after year, never come in.

I just chuckle and go about my business.


What sustains me during all this rejection?


You do. You sustain me.


You are the customer who shops and enjoys and purchases. You are the customer who returns to the shop,

bringing friends and family. You are the customer who gives me thumbs-up reports on Facebook and Twitter

and other social media. You are the customer who “gets” it—you get the fact that I’m here providing a service

that only 60 years of experience can provide.


You are the customer who remembers to thank me for Being Here, just after I thank you for Shopping Here.


You are the customer who appreciates the fact that I’m still in business.


You are my sustenance


© 2011 A.D.


Listen to Jim: or read on…


Spinach was the un-coolest thing I could imagine placing in my mouth,

way back when I was a whippersnapper.


Adults would tell me all sorts of things that made spinach even less attractive:


“Eat your spinach—it’s good for you!”

I don’t want to be good because I eat spinach. Aren’t there lots of other ways to be good?


“Why, spinach will give you loads of iron to make you big and strong.”

I don’t want to eat anything filled with chunks of iron. What if they

rust? Besides, I’ll pass on being big and strong. Small and wiry and

elusive sound more survivable to me.


“You just love Popeye the Sailorman—and he eats his spinach!”

What’s Popeye’s mailing address? I can send him my serving.

Besides, Popeye is kind of creepy—it’s Olive Oyl I lust after.


“Here, let me cook the spinach with slices of boiled egg—that’ll make it real good.”

Great, now even boiled eggs taste like spinach.


And so on. My silent protests and unspoken wisecracks rose up whenever

anybody tried to force an idea on me. Actually, I’m like that to this day.


Then, one day, when no-one was looking, I decided to actually try some

spinach—just to prove to myself that I really hated it. The empty can of Popeye

brand spinach lay hidden in the garbage pail. One serving was left on the platter

at the family dining table, the table that I was in charge of clearing off (back then,

kids actually had chores to perform). I grabbed a forkful of the mushy, over-cooked

substance and stuffed my mouth.


It tasted good!


Holy Smokes, I thought. What have I been missing!


From that day forth, I ate my spinach, but, in order to save face, and in order

to smugly lord it over my younger siblings, I never explained how I had discovered

that spinach was edible. I relished it while they sat staring at me as if I were a brown

shoe floating in a punch bowl.


Being a natural-born contrarian allows me to learn new stuff every day. Right now

I’m eyeing that serving of sushi that’s on the menu. Gulp.


Well, maybe, at least for today, I’ll skip the contrarian thing


© 2011 A.D. by Jim Reed


Listen to Jim: or read on…


 Closing Time falls on the City and creeps into the haunted bookshop.

As the Security Guard at Reed Books/The Museum of Fond Memories, I roam the aisles

and crannies now and then, looking high and low for books in need of attention.

Just under a high ledge, near the large poster of  Martin Luther King Jr., a copy  of 

Up From Slavery slants  too much—if you leave it  in that position for long, you’ll

get a warped  sense of history—so I straighten it.

Across from Dr. King, on a high shelf, Sir Walter Scott lolls about, his volumes

fairly bursting at the seams with conflict, violence, passion and mystery. He stays
high up  because his leather bindings are fragile.

A few feet away from Dr. King and Sir Walter grins Fannie Flagg, just waiting

to be howled at, her stories of too-real people too funny to believe—unless you

live Down Here. Wonder if she’s kin to the Sweet Potato Queen? The Queen’s

poster and books are on the far side of the store, as are the Far Side books.

Three books in the Alabama section have been rudely displaced, their spines

turned toward the backs of the shelves, making it annoying to have to turn them

outward to see their titles. I just sigh and become the Lone Rearranger.

I move Judith Krantz out of the Philosophy section, where someone has

abandoned her, and I make sure Philosophy is visible before the customer

can locate the nearby Equestrian section. (I always put Descartes before the horse.)

The old Life Magazines with cover photos sporting the faces of Marilyn Monroe

and Charles Manson and Winston Churchill and Tony Curtis are re-stacked neatly

so that I at least can find them again.

The Mystery-Thriller shelves are author-alphabetized these days, broken only by

a section devoted to Bondage (books and other material related to James Bond).

Louisa Mae Alcott and Anais Nin are kept separate, as are the Hardy Boys and

Dracula, Ronald Reagan and Karl Marx, Daffy Duck and Jerry Lewis. What

could go wrong if they all partied when I’m not around?

Anyhow, I, the Security Guard, do a little dusting, shelve a few more orphans,

pack something up to take home and read, dampen the 40 lights, secure the

door, and head for my own little literary nest, giving the enormous variety of

personalities and doctrines and misspent lives and productive thoughts and

humorous outlooks a chance to breathe on their own, for at least a series

of moments in time

© Jim Reed 2011 A.D.