You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?

Listen to Jim: 

or read on, dear reader…

Just who are you talking to when you talk to me? Who are you looking at?

Just wondering.

You used to think of Santa Claus when you saw me. Up till a decade ago, people would stop to say, “Anybody ever tell you you look like Santa Claus?” or “Have you ever been asked to play Santa Claus?” or (via a young child, in awe) “Are you Santa Claus?”

It used to be fun, being asked those questions. It gave me a chance to practice my wisecracks, which, funny or not, I still like to make. My answers depended upon my mood or on whatever was floating to the top in my mind at the time: “Yes, I’ve been asked to play Santa, but that would be disingenuous, since I really am Santa!” or “Yes, people ask me whether I know I look like Santa, and the fact is, I really would like to be Santa—not a fake Santa with a fake beard, but the really honest-to-goodness one and only Santa!” or “No, I’m not Santa Claus, but I know Santa…and he’s asked me to make a list and check it twice, and find out just who is naughty or nice.” (This used to impress kids and make them tiptoe around me.”)

Just a few years later, you would think of Ernest Hemingway when you spied me in the shop among all those dusty, daring books. “Anybody ever tell you you look like Ernest Hemingway?” you’d ask. I’d often reply, “Maybe Jed Clampett, but never Hemingway.” or “You mean do I look just like a geezer with a beard?” or “Who is this Ernest Hemingway of whom you speak?”

Then, during the most recent past, you think of George Carlin when I pass by. “Anybody ever tell you you look like George Carlin?” or “Did you know you look like George Carlin?” or (before Carlin died) “Are you George Carlin?” or ”Can I have your autograph?” or ”Oh, you’re just kidding—I know you are George Carlin!” Some people just make up their minds and can’t be stopped.

You talkin’ to me? You lookin’ at me?

And what will you be reminded of when you see me years from now?

Maybe “Anybody ever tell you you look like the Cryptkeeper?” or “Did you play the Cryptkeeper?” or “Didn’t I see you in that movie…oh, never mind.”

I don’t know why people think of someone else when they see me, but I’ll take it as a compliment, since I am someone, and so are you! It’s just that I’m not someone else, I’m just who I am. And so are you.

Next time you see me, ask me who I think you remind me of. Let’s get creative and make sure we stamp each other with the gentle recognition that we are…well, maybe we are everybody, and everybody is us

(c) 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

Twitter and Facebook


How to Re-charge a Book Overnight

Listen to Jim: 

or read on, dear reader…

I’m beneath my mother’s old quilt, flashlight pillow-propped and back-up D-cell batteries at hand, so that I can read into the post-curfew night without interruption. The book I am absorbing is The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt, and it has already captured me by inspiring the first full-color dreams of my subteen life, here in the ‘burbs of old Tuscaloosa in the 1950′s.

A. Merritt is good, very good, at making me suspend day-to-day logic and supplant it with the newly-formed logic of science fantasy. He’s taking me by ship to ancient South Sea islands and en route injecting those wonderful dreams into my imagination.

Part of me, obscured beneath the limp pieced fabrics, part of me knows things like this can’t really happen in the textured surfaces and cold interiors of everyday life; but another part of me, free-falling with the book’s characters into a bottomless cave pit, part of me knows that reality is just another way of living life. I know early on that I can live my life on many levels at once, and that reality is just one way of getting through the day. This is my nighttime reality—the supercharged but harmless-appearing book that I hold in my young hands.

Abraham Merritt, under his pen name, A. Merritt, beckons me to a world into which I can utterly lose myself, but, strangely and paradoxically, a world from which I can escape at will, simply by closing the book—which gives me time to catch my breath and ponder on the activities therein.

Passages like this keep me turning the pages, night after night:

The tinkling music was louder still. It pierced the ears with a shower of tiny lances; it made the heart beat  jubilantly—and checked it dolorously. It closed the throat with a throb of rapture and gripped it tight with the hand of infinite sorrow!

Came to me now a murmuring cry, stilling the crystal notes. It was articulate—but as though from something utterly foreign to this world. The ear took the cry and translated it with conscious labour into the sounds of earth. And even as it compassed, the brain shrank from it irresistiblly, and simultaneously it seemed reached toward it with irresistible eagerness…

This pulp fiction tome and others of its time stretched my vocabulary, multiplied my ideas, focused my desire to tell my own tales someday. It made me aware of how harmless little marks called alphabet and numbers could act as magic wands, spewing forth images and abstractions that in no way existed if you blinked and stared at them one by one. How remarkable, that tiny black and white symbols could metamorphose into microscopic and macroscopic essences without ever leaving the pages!

Hiding under my mother’s quilt, reading the words of A. Merritt and hundreds of other writers, I educated myself—or, rather, I allowed the constant imaginings of others to educate me— about the possibilities of life  and storytelling.

And I never for a second forgot that each symbol, each word, each sentence, thought, paragraph, chapter, each book, came out of practically nothing—just marks on pages.

Thinking about this through the years makes me realize even today that I make up my own existence, I interpret each symbol in my own way, I myself am in charge of whether I am happy, frightened, sad, ecstatic, critical, mad.

Reading a wonderful book was and is like splattering my face with ice water, awakening me to the plain fact at hand—the fact that, no matter how I’d like to blame the cosmos for my problems, I myself am responsible for the outcome. I can slam the book shut any moment, or I can peek at its contents a bit at a time till all is digestible and accepted.

And I can re-charge any book, re-read any book, any time I choose. All it takes is an old quilt, a flashlight, and a willingness to drop out of this reality for a brief excursion to sometime else

(c) 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

Twitter and Facebook


Being Grand Pooh-Bah for a Day

Listen to Jim here:

or read below:


I wonder what the world would be like if I could be in total charge for a day? If everyone paid attention and followed my instructions, my dictates, for a day?

What would happen during that magical hiatus, you ask?

Well, the list is humongous, but here are a few highlights.

If I were in charge for one day:

Everybody would get enough to eat.

Torturers would have to release the tortured.

No unfriendly shots would be fired.

Wars would truce themselves up and enemies would party together.

Bullies would treat their victims with kindness.

Snarky social media comments would become gentle and loving.

Abusers would shower the abused with favors.

Smokers would visit and console lung cancer patients.

Bigots would do lunch with people they hate but have never met.

Dog owners would not allow their pets to poop on my lawn.

The unforgiving would be forgiven and would also learn how beautiful it is to forgive.

Criticizers would see the wonder in only complimenting.

Shopping center parents would have to restrain themselves from slapping their kids.

Each of us would pick up and discard just one piece of trash we’d ordinarily avoid.

…and so on and so forth, as my neighbor Margaret Selman always used to say.

It wouldn’t be such a bad thing, you know, living in a world controlled by me—for a day. Mainly, because things could go back to the way they were in just 24 hours, no harm done. If people didn’t like my idea of a break, they could just go back to living their lives, forgetting what just happened.

But what if some folks liked what occurred? They just might make a few adjustments and find some better way of getting through it all. Maybe? Just maybe?

It would be an experiment designed to give pause for thought, let folks off the hook and off everyone else’s case for a few hours, lift the burden of hardship or responsibility or hopelessness for a moment.

It would be nice to see whether the one-day hiatus would help people realize what life could be like, if only

 (c) 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

Twitter and Facebook


Exterminating those pesky Martians

Listen to Jim:

or read below…

“…across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those beasts that perish, intellects vast and cold and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

–H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, 1898

The child I once was and now remain, always plunges into each encountered book as if it is an entirely new world in which to live out an alternate life. Can’t help it. It’s the way I popped into existence and the way I now exist.

Reading the above H.G. Wells passage was scary when first experienced many decades ago and is equally ominous now. The metaphor is clear: Not everybody likes everybody. Many earthlings find reasons to hate and disdain and conquer other everybodies, and many lack the empathy to feel the pain of others. Thus it was with the Martians. There was no “war of the worlds” in Wells’ novel—the title was a trick to get you to read it. The Martians did not come to earth to make war, they came to exterminate, much as a commercial exterminator comes to obliterate cockroaches in order to make a building habitable. Ol’ H.G. was trying to shock us into looking beyond ourselves in order to protect the honorable traits we do have. He was saying, even if you stop warring with each other, you must still band together to repel all the other endangerments to life that are out there—pestilences, meteors, earthquakes, tsunamis, Martians, warming, solar flares, major storms…the list does go on.   

Wars, be they political or virtual or actual, are mere distractions when it comes to pondering the future of humankind and animalkind. We have so much to do. Perhaps it will take a few more centuries to abolish war. Perhaps those then surviving will have the good sense to realize that the true obstacles to life on earth are bigger and more powerful than any standing or sitting army, any nuclear arsenal.

So, maybe the next book I fall into will be about a future when we’re all done with squabbling and are ready to tackle the really important issue of surviving all that Nature can dole out.

After all warring is spent, there will still be Martians and meteors to deal with. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could band together, forget boundaries and barriers, and start thinking about humanity itself?

Oh, well, it was just an idea

(c) 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

Twitter and Facebook