If only forever lasted a moment, if only a moment lasted forever

Listen: http://www.jimreedbooks.com/mp3/ifonlyamomentlasted.mp3 

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If only forever lasted a moment, if only a moment lasted forever.

Things I have learned that don’t make common sense but seem true all the same:

1. There’s no such thing as a moment that lasts for just a moment.

It’s been sixty years since I last rolled myself around the back yard inside an oil drum, but that moment plays itself back to me whenever I recall the good times of being a child who had nothing to worry about but mosquito bites, Orange Crush colas and the next playmate’s visit. That moment has lasted nearly a lifetime.

2.  Time never proceeds at an even pace.

Waiting in a soundproofed dentist’s office while frowning people disappear through a doorway and later come hobbling out, transmogrified, is a time-altering experience. Ten minutes seems like ten  hours. But one sweet first and only kiss from a girlfriend you’ll never see again occurs in an instant, and you wish it had lasted an hour. In green memory, it’s still going on.

3.  If you lose your car keys, it will only happen when you’re late for something really important.

The more frantically you search, the longer the keys stay lost. It’s only later, when you don’t need them at all, that you find them sitting in plain view, just five inches from where you’re used to seeing them

4.  When you’re old, you still refer to old people as old people, as if you’re the exception.

Even in her 80′s, my mother hated to hang out with “those old people,” because she never took a nap in her life and didn’t understand why anybody would…there was so much to do that could only be done while conscious. I’m always shocked when I find that that old person over there is actually ten years younger than me!

5.  I’ll always be twenty years old.

No matter what age I attain, I never feel that I’m over twenty. When I glimpse myself in the mirror, I mutter, “What alien being has thrown my body away and replaced it with this Halloween costume?” Holy Moly! Nature is some jokester.

 6.  I’ll never get it all said.

I’ve been writing at least one personal column or story a week for 35 years now, not to mention all the stories and columns I wrote during earlier decades when I had to write what my bosses required. When I began writing solely what I wanted to write, I assumed I would write myself out, that all my thoughts and stories would be told, that there would be nothing more to say. But each time I sit at the keyboard, apply pencil to pad, ink some thought on a wayward napkin, I am amazed that, once again, something gets said. What’s this all about?

7. Even if I don’t think it’s important, you just might…and vice versa.  

Writing down thoughts and feelings and inspirations—if done honestly and spontaneously—just might mean something to somebody who reads them…so it’s important that the writers of words refrain from making judgements about what is written. You and I are not competent to determine what is important and what is unimportant, so we should get out of the way of what we write and allow other readers and other generations to conduct the critiques. We are merely taking dictation from our innards. Let it happen!

That’s all I have to say at this moment, but beware of the next moment, and the next

(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed



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If I Were a Camera…

LISTEN: ifiwereacamera.mp3 


If I were a camera, I’d snap images of the dozens of merrily poetic scenes that run by me each day. They happen so fast, they are so overlapping, that I can’t get them all written down in time to capture the flavor.

If I were a camera I’d be snapping all the time.


An energetic, tiny puppy runs past the shop, pulling a woman in her wheelchair as she shops the streets.  I rub my eyes and realize this pup could not possibly be pulling such a load—the wheelchair is battery-powered, and he’s just doing what opportunists have done since time began: find out which way the masses are heading and run ahead to make it look like they’re leading the pack. The puppy is leading his source of nurture retroactively and having a merry time of it. The puppy really is pulling the chair! As Charlie Chan once said, “Sometimes the impossible makes itself happen.”


“Will you buy me a candy bar?”  It’s the voice of the checkout clerk, and I’m the only customer at the counter. First, I think she’s talking to herself via one of those earpod phones—that is, until she repeats the question, looking straight at me. I realize she’s trying to get me to add a dollar to my purchase so that she can legally pluck said candy from the display and eat it, free of charge. I’m so taken aback—so in a hurry—that I comply. She thanks me. I leave the store knowing that I’ve been smoothly and legally panhandled. For some reason, I don’t mind. Her bosses will never know.


This happened once when I was very young…and I learned a valuable lesson from it:

In the throes of a very busy day at the shop, a street person enters, toting a heavy box. He wants to sell me the contents—a bunch of books, the likes of which I normally try to find, familiar titles I can always use. Without taking time to examine them, I hastily offer him a few dollars and proceed to help three customers, field one phone call request, search for a book I just know was here a few minutes ago…you know, the multi-tasking kinds of things you do to run an efficient shop. Later, when things have settled down, I  go through the ritual of pulling volumes from the box in order to examine, clean, price and shelve them. It’s right about then that I realize I’ve just purchased my own books. The street guy has gone into my basement storage area, stolen whatever he saw there, then entered the shop to sell them to me. I’m amused at my carelessness, I admire his aggression, I roll my eyes at the silliness of the incident, and I file away yet another anecdote to pass on to you on a day like today.


Again, it’s a long time ago at the shop, and I am plying my trade like any other rare-book dreamer surrounded by centuries of words and bindings and paper. A smiling, middle-aged man and a small, pleasant, elderly woman enter together, bearing a brown bag—hopefully containing goodies for the shelves. He has brought her to me, and she has a story to tell. She reaches into the recesses and brings forth a small, thick book, places it in my hands, then waits for my reaction. This calfskin-bound volume is obviously old, very old, an artifact from another time, another life, another continent. The paper is stiff and white—whiter than last week’s newspapers. As I leaf through the hand-written pages, I recognize Latin and some other language, names from ancient Greek and Roman times. Markings and stains indicate that this book has been through times of war, peace, times of good, times of bad, somehow surviving long enough to come to rest in my Museum of Fond Memories in Birmingham, Alabama. Objects this old have their own distinctive vibration, a buzz not quite of recent yore. The small woman wants me to have it—the many volumes it once accompanied have been sold at auction in New Orleans, and this is the last she owns. The man has told her I will be the one booklover who will respect and savor the book, not abuse it, not send it to an undeserved fate. I pay her what I can, she is satisfied, and she and her companion disappear into the morning, never to return.


It’s years later. “I heard you got a 500-year-old book around here,” a good ol’ boy says, as he wanders about the shop. “Sure do,” I say. His eyes widen and he is silent. “Want to see it?” I ask. “Can I?” he answers. I unlock the display case, pull the ancient relic from its hand-made box, and hold it before him. “Man oh man!” is all he can say. “Want to hold it?” I ask. He laughs nervously and declines, afraid he might cause damage. “No, please,” I insist. “Everybody should hold a 500-year-old book at least once in their lives…just to see what a real book feels like.” He caresses it, turns the pages and is satisfied and awed.

This is a routine I repeat many times over the decades, in a feeble attempt to share my awe of the past, the wonder that old things engender, the realization that artifacts help awaken our senses and our imaginations—our appreciation of all that has come before us. Visitors who experience the past in this hands-on act carry with them the visceral memory that you can never get in a museum. Museums, after all, never allow you to touch or get too close. But here, in this one museum in the world, I insist upon touch, and you can attain the shock and awe that comes from sharing in the palm of your hand that thing that hundreds of people before you have held and cherished over many, many years. For a split second you are linked through the centuries to ancestors you can only know through touch and sense.

Can’t get this from a Kindle or a history textbook.

Quick, where’s my camera? Wait—it’s right here, all the time, just inside my observing heart

(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed



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CAN’T STOP MY BRAIN flashthoughts #835

LISTEN: cantstopmybrain.mp3


Things happen when you’re sitting all alone in the airport cellphone parking lot in your transportable solitary cell, waiting for the call to do a drive-by at the baggage area to give your wife a ride home.

Yes, things happen when your brain won’t be idle,

even though you’re on idle and your car is idling.


1.  When a fugitive, would you rather be at large or on the loose ?

2.  Does the poor grammar of the song Live and Let Die bother anyone but me? “…but in this everchanging world in which we live in…”

3.  Did you run your car off the road when the local public radio station interviewer and interviewee simultaneously and repeatedly pronounced Pythias as PIE-thee-us?

4.  Do you love the passionate poetry of this passage from a Howlin’ Wolf song, “…this bad love she got…makes me laugh and cry…makes me really know…I’m too young to die…” ?

5.  Why do I obsess over the fact that Gene Autry mispronounces Santa’s reindeer’s name as Donner ? It’s Donder, I tell you, Donder. See http://donder.com/  (I learned it at the annual Donder party.)

6.  Do you find it inexplicable that the more Ahmad Jamal or Dimitri Shostakovich or Miles Davis repeat a musical phrase or note imterminably, the more it grows on you and becomes a powerful statement?

7.  Isn’t it remarkable how drummer Joe Morello’s burst of laughter and relief at the end of Dave Brubeck’s tune Unsquare Dance makes the piece just about perfect? You have to turn the volume up real high to hear it.

8.  Notice that if you think real hard about it, there are at least eight (maybe more) museums within quick walking distance of Reed Books/The Museum of Fond Memories? Tourists already know this. Here they are: Sports Hall of Fame/Museum, Birmingham Museum of Art, Radio Museum (at the Alabama Power Company building), Birmingham History Museum, McWane Center exhibits, Ullman Museum, Reynolds Library Medical Museum, Civil Rights Institute/Museum, Museum of Fond Memories... I’ll let you fill in the rest.

9.  As Shel Silverstein said, “This town grows old around me…” but as it grows, it only gets better and better. Brigitte Bardot commented, “It’s sad to grow old, but nice to ripen.”

As the center of the Universe, Birmingham is ripening and ready to burst into a new future. As the bookstore at the center of the center of the Universe, Reed Books, too, becomes more beautiful.

Those are my fragmentary momentary thoughts. Just can’t stop my brain…


The Heavens Declare Themselves

When young, I used to lie nights on the roof of my parents’ home and listen to the stars.
You can hear stars, you know. It just takes some patience.

All you need in order to listen to the stars late at night on a roof is a ladder, a quilt or blanket, a notepad, a pencil, maybe some binoculars or a small telescope, perhaps a penlight, possibly some long sleeves and pants to deter the biting and stinging critters.
If you can’t find all these objects, you will discover that you don’t need them at all.
All you have to do is find a way to the roof and hope against hope that ambient human-made lights won’t occlude your view.
Just lie flat on your back face-up, cradle your head in your hands, and spread yourself open to the immediately viewable universe.
Don’t expect to be overwhelmed at first. It takes a couple of dozen minutes for your eyes to adjust to the night.
Then, hold on to the sky and traverse the heavens with ears and eyes and all operating senses.
There will be color. You will see every fine shade of color you can imagine, colors you never knew were there all along.
If you lie still long enough, you’ll see meteors—tiny instant streaks of literal stardust that etch the view. Now and then a lone and steady aircraft will arc from horizon to horizon. On really lucky nights, you may glimpse an earthling-crafted satellite scurrying above to the nearest available rabbit hole.
During special times, you can spot a comet floating solid against the turning sky.
Sometimes the Moon grins at you, its mystic reflection of the Sun often so bright you can’t see the surrounding sister suns. Once the Moon has gone away, on another night, the points of light will reappear, even though they never went away at all.
If you’re fortunate, an hour or two of this ancient practice of staring up will set everything in life in proportion, make daily annoyances seem petty and time-consuming, make you humble and grateful all at once—humbled by the incredible expansiveness of it all, grateful that you bothered to stare somewhere besides at the consistently pervasive abuse of the spirit caused by activities of daily living on the small planet.
Once your eyes begin accepting the handiwork of the heavens, you’ll begin to hear the stars. They will speak to you, tell you stories, impart their philosophies and ideas, cause you to grin ear to ear, make you shed a tear in wonder…and maybe, if you are among the fortunate few who are not afraid of words, you will want to start taking dictation, becoming the scribe of the night, passing forward your wonder and wizened knowledge.
Maybe you will write down something so ancient and perfect that some reader somewhere will be inspired to sneak outside on a clear evening and play hooky to life…
On a roof under the dome
(c) Jim Reed 2012 A.D.

A word here, a word there—it adds up.

Listen: http://www.jimreedbooks.com/mp3/awordhereawordthere.mp3 

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Some are born editing, some try to become editors, some need editing, some editors need editing.

It’s in my DNA, I suppose. I’m in the born-editing category, and most of my family have this affliction, too.

Possessing the editing syndrome means I’m never bored. Everywhere I go, there are wondrous words, signs, sentences, paragraphs, tomes, graffiti, names, phrases—and each has its own story, its own mysterious genealogy and chronology and biography.

I’m in the Middle of Nowhere, Georgia, reading a local weekly newspaper in the lobby of an unnamed motel. It’s graduation week and all the local graduates are listed by name and photograph. This is big news in a small town, and I wish it would once more become big news in big towns, too.

Graduate names include Destiny, Arvestus, Kadijah, Gabriel, Chetavious, Ecstasy, Markenique, and a plethora of additional traditional and made-up monikers. Only name missing is Moniker Lewinsky, but that’s another story—and a bad joke, too. Anyhow, the smiling faces of these graduates emanate from such places as the Gatewood Academy for Sparkly White Kids, the Nathaneal Green Academy for Privileged Caucasians and the like, plus a healthy sprinkling of public schools with eclectic and diverse blends of students. It’s a merry mix, a cross-section of America that reveals itself in alphabetical relationships. Lots of students who probably would never be seen next to each other in real life are juxtaposed side by side in this graduation ritualized order. Hope it’s not the only time they will be stirred together in friendly amalgams. Some even get to be valedictorians and salutatorians, words I’m certain they will never, ever use in casual conversation for the rest of their lives—not counting bursts of bragging. I’d love to have been the class stentorian announcer.

Continuing my journey from neverland to somewhereland, I listen to an old pre-TV radio mystery show with the wonderful line, “She was wearing a gown that started at the floor and ended unexpectedly.” What a great piece of writing! Appears in a story “The Big Money” by Phillip Andrews. I would not edit that sentence one whit—or even two whits.

I miss the old writing. Notice how nobody every slakes a thirst anymore? Maybe they quench, but slaking is definitely out of fashion.

Then at the airport I see a sign that includes the usage VEHICLE OWNER’S and in the same sentence, VEHICLE’S OWNER’S. Stretching a point, both are actually correct—just clumsy. It’s a true American tradition to misuse apostrophes in liberal amounts, but these accidentally are almost OK.

 Anyhow, I’m always stimulated by words, and I’m forever grateful whenever leaving behind yet another Motel Hell I’ve been forced to occupy—this most recent one with the slanted squishy-bottomed shower for the balance-impaired and the complimentary continental breakfast which was efficiently removed (perhaps shipped back to the Continent) a few seconds after I entered the dining area to break my fast…and the side-entrance doorlocks that never worked.

Free at last, I’m on the highway again, reading the signs and listening to the words, words, words that frame my life

(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed



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