On being cold and stranded and in love with Birmingham

On being cold and stranded and in love with Birmingham

Listen to Jim:


or read on…

Last week seems like a week ago. Wait—it actually was a week ago.

Remember how uncharacteristically cold it was in this Deep South city? How blindsided we all were when the Sunny South became a deep freeze? When short sleeves and toeless shoes suddenly seemed precisely the wrong things to wear?

Here are crumpled notes I found in my pockets, once the temperature rose into the 60′s:

The cold day surrounding us tells its own story, while we attempt to survive being within the belly of this icy beast.

Babies’ rosy cheeks become chapped.

Out-of-shape adults walk the Tim Conway walk to avoid sprains and breaks.

A woman sheds tears and wrings her hands out of fear that she won’t make it home to warmth and safety.

Helpers appear magically out of nowhere, making themselves available to those of us who feel helpless.

The snow cushions sounds and makes the world seem tranquil, amid the chaos.

Some stranded drivers decide to remain calm. Others panic. Others curse.

Others just take notes for later stories.

The Southern tradition of going barefoot suddenly seems a laughable concept.

Visiting snowbird tourists wonder at The Sunny South they are seeing.

Heroes abound: hospital and nursing home workers, firefighters, self-sacrificing motorists, teachers and school staff, good neighbors, police officers, 911 and Crisis Center operators, little kids rescuing little birds, city street workers.

Caring instantly trumps Selfishness.

What lessons did we learn from the Great Disruption?

1. It doesn’t take much to bring out the best in some of us.

2. It’s nice to know that people can be kind when given the opportunity.

3. Strangers can became lifelong friends in just a few hours.

4. Whether we like it or not, we do depend upon each other.

There were more lessons learned. Can you add to this list?

Perhaps it would be an uplifting exercise for all of us to compile a list of lessons learned.

It could always be referred to next time we wonder what this world is coming to

 © Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



Twitter and Facebook






Circumstantial Evidence of Life on Earth

Listen to Jim:


or read on…

There are more amazements on the frozen streets of Birmingham than are dreamt of in all philosophies.

The vampire wind tries to nip a pedestrian beneath her scarf as she scurries to work. She tries valiantly to clutch the cloth to her throat. She successfully keeps the bite away, thus forcing the carnivore air to search elsewhere for her skin. She thinks: I have to face this again on the way home tonight.

Ignoring the temperature and all parental precautions, a group of seventh graders and eighth graders invades the shop, writing students from the Alabama School of Fine Arts who hope to pick up new ideas in well-thumbed pages. They warm their hands and minds with ideas burning inside each volume. They think: This is great, but what’s to eat?

I visit for an hour with students at Birmingham-Southern College, spreading the gospel of reading and writing and thinking outside the hum of the hive. They sit around the Arthurian table to see what I have to say, or to see what the teacher wants them to hear me say. Perhaps my most attentive listener is the teacher. She thinks: I wish class could be this much fun every day.

The college room walls are lined with books locked inside sturdy cabinets, longing to join their freeranging comrades but resigned to the concept of Waiting. Waiting for someone to unlock the shelves and touch them once more. They think: I have all this wisdom. Wish I could share it.

Back at the shop, an Atlanta bookdealer braves the weather to stroll and examine my paginated orphans, to see what’s in the store…to see what’s in store. He thinks: How can I make some money off all this stuff I’m purchasing?

Outside the shop, the coldness becomes mundane. We’ve all talked about it too much and want to go on to some other subject. But the vampire wind will remind us who’s really in charge, when we brave the sidewalks once more, with only large warm books hugged tight against the chest to keep the heart warm and the mind afire

 © Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



Twitter and Facebook


Where silence reigns, all is calm and bright.

Listen to Jim:


or read on…

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

–Hans Christian Andersen

That seems true, Hans. The opposite also seems true. What’s that about?

In other words, one might say:

Where words fail, music speaks.

Where music fails, words sing.

Where silence reigns, all is calm and bright.

The world is so full of highly pumped sound, over-the-top words, whispers corrupted into shouts, noise filling every possible solitude. So full. So loud. So chock-full.

Do you recall what non-sound sounds like?

Do you ever listen to the quiet?

Do you long for a Cone of Silence to descend over you once in a while?

Would you like to spend an hour inside a bubble of solitude?

Some will say, “Yes, bring me a reflective, soundless interval, away from everything that is being pushed at me. Make me a non-consumer for an hour. Pretend I’m not anywhere you can get at me for a while. Eventually, I may return to you refreshed and invigorated.”

Others will say, “Whattayatalkingabout? Who wants to spend one minute without music and commercials and texting and tweeting and continuous conversation and television talk and unreality shows? Who wants to be bored? Silence is disturbing!”

Still others will say, “There’s no solution. Sequential, aggressive, repetitive sound is everywhere and impossible to escape. Everybody embraces it, so it must be right.”

And those who are up to the brim will say, “There is a solution. I can take charge any time I wish. I can stop abruptly, pull the plug, remove the batteries, throw the circuit-breaker, run and hide from the wordy and the wired, close my eyes to the horrorsayers and vulgarians, resist the temptation to see and hear the Next Thing Up.”

Looks like three alternatives are presenting themselves to us.

Ready to chose? What’s behind Option Number One. Or Two. Or Three?”

And am I prepared to open the door and take the consequences?

Here I go

 © Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



Twitter and Facebook



What has value, what is worthwhile?

Listen to Jim:


or read on…

“Everything has value, except money.”

–Jonathan Gash

 ”Can you tell me the value of this book?” says the walk-in customer at the shop, carefully removing a moldy bible from its Saran wrappings.

“How much is this worth?” asks the caller, after telling me the date of a book—but failing to mention the title.

“The guy at Mike’s (pawn shop) told me you can tell me what I can get for this,” the customer says, proudly holding up what’s left of an old comic book.

“They told me you buy old newspapers,” says another walk-in, never mentioning who “they” might be.

My days are filled with encounters like these, and each of my replies sounds like a smart-aleck retort. But there is no smart-aleckness intended. I’m just doing my job. My job is to show each person that I’m telling them the truth, that I am providing, free of charge, a reality check, saving them much time and effort and speculation, and hopefully protecting them from unscrupulous traders.

Customer: “What’s this worth?” My reply: “It’s worth a million dollars. But, then, all books are worth a million dollars to me.” (This is the truth.) “If you’d like to know how much it would sell for, the answer is, ‘about a dollar, if you can find a buyer for it.’”

Customer: “Can you tell me the value of this?” My reply: “It’s priceless. So much went into its design, creation and publication…there’s a story behind every item in the shop.” Then I have to break the news, gently, “However, it has no monetary value, so there are no customers waiting to purchase it.”

Of course, once in a long while, something really is special in terms of the “market.” Sometimes, the object of desire is saleable. In those instances, I am happy to inform the object’s owner of what money can be realized from its sale.

This means two things:

One: I disappoint a whole lot of people who, because of their devotion to Antiques Road Show and Pickers and other such shows, enter the shop already believing they are holding a fortune in their hands and have only to learn when they can get paid.

Two: Now and again, I have good tidings of great joy and can help the customer make some money.

The would-be customers are either thrilled or saddened, but they do leave with more information than expected.

Customers react in different ways. Some are not satisfied with my evaluation and continue visiting other dealers to see if anybody has a different tale to tell. Some are relieved to know the facts and can now move on to other concerns in life. Some are convinced that I don’t know what I’m talking about—unfazed by reality, they keep on hoping to find a buyer. They remain filled with hope and expectations. This winning-the-lottery kind of dreaming can be described as the receiving of unearned riches just by wishing real hard.

What’s a book worth? To me, that’s like asking what your child is worth.

I look forward to meeting the next customer who brings in a treasure to peruse. I learn something every time. But I also try to remain level-headed, because I know that not everybody feels the same way I do about found objects. To me, they are precious because of the silent stories they tell. But to many, the objects are just Ebay fodder waiting to be sold to a high bidder.

If I had my way, I’d purchase every relic offered me and place it on display in the world’s largest Museum of Fond Memories. To do that would require lots of money. And, as Jonathan Gash and his fictional character Lovejoy well know, unlimited amounts of money have no value.

It’s the things that have value that I most value

 © Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



Twitter and Facebook

Sitting Pretty High

Listen to Jim:


or read on…

In the foyer of our ancient home stands a very tall red-and-yellow chair—too high for humans to sit on.

This chair is a piece of art created by Liz Reed—lovingly made of wooden stars and wooden crescent moons and wooden legs and wooden spheres, and decorated in simple, primary colors.

The name of this piece of art is SITTING PRETTY HIGH.

When you first see the chair, you’re a bit disoriented—good art often causes such an effect—and you find yourself either dismissing it to gaze at something more immediately understandable, or stopping cold and examining it for its meaning.

Sometimes, there’s a small figure sitting on the edge of this chair at eye level—a glittery soft mermaid, maybe a Pee Wee Herman doll, perhaps Mister Bean’s Teddy—just to demonstrate that dangling is part of the chair’s meaning.

If you dare ask Liz what this object is, she’ll tell you a story that only people who are short of stature will absorb.

You and I don’t know this, but petite people have challenges that are not always apparent. Sure, they see more bellies up close then we do, they have to tiptoe at lecterns, clerks lean over registers to see them, there’s trouble finding fitting garments, and so on.

But what this work of art told me that I did not know, is that petites have to deal with dangling legs. When you and I sit in the average chair, we take for granted that our feet will be planted solidly on the floor. We are accustomed to the stability and security this provides.

Liz and others her size have to compensate for this lack of stability. When you can’t plant your feet, you tend to sway or wobble when you reach out. Disconcerting to say the least.

So, as a tribute to shortness in our society, Liz created a chair that pays respect to dangling limbs. A chair that makes you want to learn more about what it is like to be Liz, a person who seems larger than life in personality, humor, wisdom and talent. She’s spent so many years compensating for and overcoming this gently ignored handicap that nobody notices a thing. She’s just that remarkable woman who can do just about anything she tackles better than you and me.

Watching her function inspires me to plant my own feet firmly in my mind, even when there’s nothing solid to stand on.

As a result of living with Liz, I’m always sitting pretty high

 © Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



Twitter and Facebook