Home alone with quick unwholesome but eminently satisfying snacks

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Home alone with quick unwholesome but eminently satisfying snacks

I am a lucky, well-fed man, living with the best cook in Southside Birmingham.

When we’re home together of an evening, Liz prepares special meals much the way a jazz musician does  variations on a well-known ballad. They are always good and unique.

Liz prepares the food, then makes up the recipe. Like a Zen master.

On the other hand, when I am alone at home of an evening, I do my own jazz preparations for dinner.

Liz being away at a meeting, I’m faced with the instantly solvable challenge of finding something to eat. My approach to the prospect of dining alone is to grab food items at random, in the order I see them.

For instance:

Pop open a jar of pimiento-stuffed olives, try to hook them with a fork one or two at a time, and munch while I search for—what—a chunk of hard cheddar cheese, which I nibble along with the olives. When young, I would mimic my father, who liked nothing more than to open a can of sardines and reflectively chew them one at a time upon saltines. Note: I haven’t had sardines in years, so I’ll have to get some next time grocery-shopping occurs.

Another instant snack consists of greasy crunchy largest-size rippled potato chips, sinfully salty and topped with chunky salsa. As a kid, nothing could beat a peanut butter (crunchy) and mayonnaise and lettuce sandwich on light bread—never toasted—with crusts intact. A quick fix for any occasion. I should try that again some future night.

On an infrequent solo evening, just the thing would be a grilled cheese sandwich—whole wheat bread fried in butter with melted cheese atop and steamed tomato slices, dripping and hot enough to scorch the tongue. Haven’t done that in a long time. Maybe I should make a snack-bucket list.

One night, a can of cheap chili con carne mixed with crushed tomatoes, juice and all. Lots of ground pepper and sea salt added, and something crunchy to nibble on simultaneously, like Ritz Crackers. Note to myself: I can do that again one night when Liz isn’t around to watch.

OK, I could go on, but I think it should stop about here—right after I eat sliced cucumbers, skin and all…or one whole cucumber, peeled, which takes on the characteristics of a melon, which I guess it is, isn’t it? In the same category, at times just grabbing a large raw carrot and noisily eating it while dipping it into soft cream cheese or freshly made pimiento cheese is the perfect meal. Message to Jim: eat a balanced meal on all evenings that Liz is at home…and thank the unknown gods that she’s home most of the time.

For dessert, don’t forget dark chocolate-covered cashews. If you’re already full, save this for next time. Or save a handful for Liz, who deserves them after all these decades of imagining what I must eat when she’s not around.

All of these snack fantasies will evaporate from memory next time Liz makes meat loaf for dinner. Life will be complete for at least that evening.

Liz’s meat loaf, after all, is the Nectar of the Goddess

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



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The Solitude of the Long-Ago Diary-Keepers

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The small worn leather-bound diary on my desk offers up clue after clue about its owner, who lived way back in 1919. Whether I truly understand these clues is something that cannot be determined. So, I weave my profile of the diary-keeper, unfettered by fact and evidence.

Here it is. The title page of this 95-year-old diary says much, reveals little:

Bought at “Fowey”

Dec. 6, 1918

U.S.S.C. #352

Ray P. Rogers

The facing blank page states:

Belonging to Ray Rogers

Athens, Al



The first day of the calendar, January 1, 1919:

Stayed on boat all day

Stood 10 to 12 watch

Wrote some letters

turned in

An action-packed day for a man at sea

Skipping over to February 6, 1919:

Loaded depth bombs all day on Lake View

Skip to April 7, 1919

At sea between Lisbon and Azores.

At last I am able to give my thoughts

full sway. My friend has been at home with my girl

and pals all day. I seem to be bursting open with

pleasant thoughts of the things I am to do when I

reach the best place in the world—home.

You can read the rest in the actual diary at Reed Books.

What intrigues me most about forgotten letters and diaries and scrapbooks is the economy of words, the shorthand thoughts and, mainly, the unwritten reflections that rest between the lines.

As I read the words of people long gone, I begin to get an image of what they must have been like. The astounding revelation is that no matter how blustery or humble the entries are, each diarist winds up sounding like you and me.

Just folks alone with themselves, writing down what their fingers dictate.

Rilke called all of us Solitudes.

We diarists and poets and authors are all solitudes, no matter how many people surround us. When it comes to recording thoughts and feelings, each of us has to do it alone. Each of us has to face our own solitude as squarely as possible.

Each of us makes the Journey hand-in-hand with ourselves

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



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How the mensch stole peace and quiet

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My friend the mensch walks calmly to the nearby diner for his lunch break, newspaper under his arm, deep breaths beginning to relax him after a morning of doing business at a rapid pace.

The sounds of street and pedestrians and traffic and aircraft and construction workers swirl about him as he strolls. He is ready for twenty minutes of quiet dining and reading. As he munches his meal and scans the paper for news, he becomes conscious of something that has become a habit: He skips past stories of pandering politicians and dueling world leaders, averts his eyes when photographs of war crimes in progress appear, folds out of sight tales of corruption, rumors of pestilence, predictions of graft and injustices.

He is aware that nowadays he probes the news for evidence of hope. He tends to read articles about the wonder of spaceflight and the intrigues of new archaeological finds and the curious behavior of beetles and ants. And he searches for things that make him chuckle, pieces about ridiculous uses of language, wisecracks that crop up to lighten the load of gloomy news, features on the beauty of art and music, stories about insignificant people who do significant things, tales of other mensches who just live their lives without seeking credit or fame or attention or reward.

He finds that these little stories do still exist, but he has to look for them much as a detective searches for important clues.

The mensch knows that he cannot survive without all the noise of the ether to which society has become accustomed—dissonant music, snarky tweets, foxy TV exaggerations, over-the-top violent films and shows, gossipy factless interchanges within earshot.

He knows that this is his world and welcome to it.

But he is beginning to rebel in small ways that others do not notice. He carries earplugs in case he wants to drown out the loud unreconstructed disco beat at the diner. He is learning to disregard much of the hopelessly neurotic interchanges about him. He is turning off the car radio more and more as meaningless or repetitive messages are aimed at him. He no longer rushes to answer phone calls he can’t identify. When he does answer, he hangs up quickly should a brief silence occur before a salesvoice proceeds or when a pre-recorded announcement commences.

The mensch is also beginning to examine his own personal habits. He doesn’t always turn on the computer or television or cellphone when he arrives home after work. He is aware that the screens of these electronic objects are themselves a kind of hypnotic programming under the spell of which he has fallen.

So, thinking on these things, he completes his meal, places his paper under his arm, walks back to work, finishes the workday and heads for home.

Tonight will be different, he decides.

He walks into the house, finds a blank DVD disc, pops it into the player and sits watching the static play of meaningless electrons. He tosses the phone. Later, he plays a blank CD and blissfully listens to the quiet. Tomorrow he will lose the unopened morning newspaper. When he goes to lunch, he will carry a blank legal pad and write himself stories while munching.

Whatever he writes will make him far happier than anything else he does that day

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



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Poking about in some old guy’s emporium

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An unfamiliar customer is poking about the bookstore, sniffing at books, handling old magazines, picking up and putting down objects from the past, seemingly puzzled.

Eventually, this customer says, “Now what is it that you do with all these things?” A pause. “Do people buy these?”

All I can do is follow the immutable rule every decent bookseller should follow—I keep a straight face, suppress my incredulity, smile big and explain, “Yes, people travel from great distances to purchase these wonderful artifacts.”

“What do they do with these things? They’re old,” the customer wonders, imparting his muted disdain, his wonder at how people could be so stupid as to wander outside the Cone of Wal-Mart shopping experience.

This is my chance to proselytize, which I do at every opportunity. But I hesitate expending the energy. This person seems to have made up his mind that I’m just a crazy old storekeeper surrounded by useless crap that nobody wants, probably living off retirement or family. Maybe I’ll save the sermon for the next customer who, as it turns out, is just the right person to guide through the joys of collecting and selling collectibles.

So, I just minimize my response, make a light remark, and suggest that, once finished here, he might enjoy going next door, to Sojourns, to shop among new and exotic items. This is what he eventually does. My goal is achieved—he leaves puzzled but happy, since I have not treated him with the same disdain he aimed at me. We’re both happy for the experience, and we’ll never see each other again. Meanwhile, Melissa at Sojourns might make a sale, thus she will be happy, too.


Why do I deal with such a variety of visitors in such a pleasant way? Well, partly because I am a writer, a writer who sees each person as a source of ideas, inspirations, ponderings.

If I were to write my mantra about this, here’s what I might compose:

Each person I encounter each person who comes across my field of vision each person who enters my store or talks to me across the counter or serves me or waits on me or ignores me or bypasses me or dismisses me or smiles at me, each person who seems interested in me for a matter of seconds, in me and my existence…each person is bringing an unconscious gift to me…and if I ignore the gift, if I don’t pause (if just in my mind) later and open the gift, I’m abandoning a fascinating Christmas tree with lots and lots of beautifully wrapped packages scattered about.

Why would I not want to open each one carefully, preserving the wrapping paper, cherishing what is inside, shelving for eventual poetic examination?

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Y’all come by and poke around a bit


© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



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Romancing the Book

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This book resting easily in my hand is a singular object of desire. It desires me, I desire it.

Rocking the book to feel its heft is a special pleasure.

Warning to non-book-lovers: your instinct is to avert your eyes, because this is just a book. The following words may induce curiosity, could make you want to touch the same book I am touching, might force you to expand your definitions of love, your ideas of history and family, your philosophies regarding the importance of living and legacy.

This book has a front cover that beckons to me. Its ancient binding struts and brags, instructs and cautions me to respect its very existence.

The leather in which this book is bound serves to protect inner pages and hold together  contents. Opening the book is a revelation. Look—there are words within. Even before the typeset words begin, there are handwritten names and inscriptions that mark the book’s one-time ownership, record the day the book was given or purchased, impart affection for both book and recipient.

The paper, oh the paper. The paper is textured and supple and serves to absorb and secure the words thereon.

The paper has its own story to tell.

Who made this paper? Whose idea was it to make it this lightly tanned shade of white? Who decided how thick it should be, how long it should last, how resistant to the elements and the owners it should be?

The book has its own fragrances. The paper has frozen the smell of pipe tobacco within, so that a century later I can still recognize its brand.

Thumbing through the book, there are hidden treasures and surprises to be found if I pay attention. There’s an old mustard stain, which tells me how one owner liked to snack and read simultaneously. Two pages are folded at the corner, which inspires me to scan the words to see what the reader found so important. A margin note shows me more about the reader than the author.

Between other pages, I find a pressed four-leaf clover, something that takes hours to locate and put away for another day to remind the owner how simple life used to be in a day and age when you could spend so much effort on one solitary pleasure.

And further on, a folded note falls out, a century-old message from somebody to somebody else—as it turns out, it’s a love note written in secret and secured for the recipient to find later, on a day like today when small joys are needed to raise the spirits.

The underlined words in the book make thoughts jump out at me, make me pay more attention to them, force me to respect the author and the previous owners.

Then, suddenly, a butterfly twirls from within the book and lands lightly on a chair. It was preserved many years ago within safe pages. It has returned to life, if only in imagination.

The book has pictures and a beautiful cover design and a Victorian bookmark and evidences of slight misfortunes—a bent spine, a page almost separating from its fellow pages as if flying to freedom, an indelible ink stain from a time when inkwells and nibs existed.

And most amazingly, this book also contains all the essences of people who once  touched it. Dust from fingers, oils from skin leave DNA set in place for future microbiologists and archaeologists to examine and test.

Knowing all this makes me vow never to throw away a book, for in so doing, I am throwing away genealogy, history, stories told…I am throwing away evidence of a culture…I am throwing away the readers themselves.

Just can’t do it. Can’t throw a book away. Ever.

That’s why I spend my days here at the Book Orphanage nurturing my adoptees and foster children, keeping them safe till someone who cares comes to give them safe haven on a lovely shelf in a loving home.

Message to non-book-lovers: It’s safe to come out now. I won’t force you to listen to my ramblings about books and readings. You can be on your way, now. And, just for being here, why not take this one volume with you for a test drive? You can always return it if it doesn’t work out

 © Jim Reed 2014 A.D.



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