Ahem and Moo Travel the Bessemer Superhighway Separately Together

Listen to Jim’s podcast: http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/ahemandmootravelthebessemer.mp3

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Ahem and Moo Travel the Bessemer Superhighway Separately Together

I almost hurt my neck the first time I see Moo Cow beside the Bessemer Superhighway. I guess I’ve seen Moo lots of times, but today I really pay attention.

My name is Sollie. I’m too young to have a driver’s license, so I can only see Moo now and then when I’m a passenger in somebody else’s car. My Father says that girls my age should never ride a Birmingham bus alone, so I am not yet able to stop and see Moo up close. And I haven’t worked up the courage to ask Dad to pull over and let me pat Moo on the head. Would he laugh at me?

By the way, Sollie is a nickname. My real name is Solitude—from a poem by my father’s favorite poet, Rilke. Solitude fits me, I guess, because I spend most of my time alone, and I like it that way. Most of the time.

To entertain myself, I collect Dependable Friends. They are called Dependable Friends because I can count on them. They never look away or ignore me. They never fight or make fun of me. They Listen.

Here are some of the Dependable Friends I write about in my red velvet diary:

1. Moo Cow. Moo Cow is this huge brown and white statue of a cow facing the Bessemer Superhighway on the left as you head toward Midfield. I really would like to pet Moo. Maybe when I’m old enough to drive.

2. Little Vulc. Little Vulc is a statue that looks sort of like Vulcan, the old Roman god who stands on Red Mountain. Little Vulc is big, but not as big as Vulcan. You can see him on the side of the road to your right as you head toward East Lake on First Avenue North.

3. Big Guy. Big Guy is this big statue of a man that stands beside the road to your left as you head through Tarrant on the way to Jeff State College. He is about as big as Vulcan, but he’s down on the ground where you can get a good look.

Want to see the whole list? There are lots of other Dependable Friends on my list. As I tried to explain, they are Dependable Friends because I can always count on them to be there whenever I pass by. They are Dependable Friends because they don’t mind that I like to be alone most of the time. They understand that my name, Solitude, fits me just fine. But they would definitely call me Sollie if they could talk—because Dependable Friends respect my wishes. Dependable Friends don’t call me names or shove me or shun me.

By the way, I’ve been thinking about Moo’s name. I don’t really know whether Moo is called Moo by anybody else. I just came up with that name because Moo is the sound that cows make. Based on that idea, I think Moo should call me Ahem instead of Sollie.  Moo is the sound that cows make. Ahem is the sound that people make. I notice that cows moo a lot. I notice that humans say Ahem a lot. Fits, don’t you think?

Anyhow, I’m still making a list of Dependable Friends. Here are a couple of others:

4. Miss Electra. Miss Electra is this twenty-foot-tall golden statue on top of the Alabama Power Company building Downtown. She is so beautiful, and she has this great hat. I hope you get a chance to see her. I would like to meet her in person someday.

5. Brother Bryan. Brother Bryan is a statue of a famous old preacher. He kneels at the intersection of Five Points South. The thing I like about him is that no matter what is going on around him, he stays peaceful and just stares up at the sky as if he would prefer to be alone, just like me. Maybe he doesn’t like to be shunned, either.

That’s enough for now. Maybe I’ll share more of my red velvet diary list some other time. I like to think that there are other people like me who would like to be named Solitude. The funny thing is, we don’t get to know each other because we stay to ourselves.

I had a new thought, so I’ll place it in my diary: If all those other Solitude-type people start making their own lists of Dependable Friends, maybe, just maybe, when they get their driver’s licenses, they might show up at one of the statues at the same time I do. Maybe we would meet and become Dependable Friends.

Wouldn’t that be awesome

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.



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The Protective Gait Matters in the Old New World

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The Protective Gait Matters in the Old New World

The graceful, slow-progressing elderly couple, husband and wife, extricate themselves from a large and  shiny Buick, then wend their purposeful way toward the front door of the local cafeteria.

In movements perhaps puzzling to anyone less than thirty years of age, the man walks beside the woman, gently holding her elbow in a gesture of support, guidance and gentlemanlyness. He takes one step ahead of her and opens the door to usher her in, then follows. The door squeaks shut and the scene ends.

This brief but elaborate ritual has been repeated so many times during a fifty-year marriage that it is barely noticed. Simply taken for granted, it is mandatory in a generation taught to subtly display silent respect and concern. We older denizens might call it good manners.

Later, I am approaching the entrance to an office building when I notice that a young woman is briskly walking up to the same doorway, guaranteeing that we will both arrive at the same moment. Without thinking, out of seven decades of practice, I step forward and gallantly open the door for her. Without blinking, her ear pasted to the hand-held electronic device she is loudly conversing with, she breezes through the door, looking neither left nor right, as if the waters have parted just for her. No acknowledgement, no thank-you, no friendly smile.

Recalling my mother’s lessons in childhood, I remind myself that good, “gentlemanly” deeds must be done without any expectation of reward, so I have accomplished my unselfish act, and I try to suppress my self-centered desire to be noticed. I decide that my constant attempts to Matter in this lovely but dispassionate world may well go unheeded, not only by other people, but by the ethos itself.

But it is good to recall that there still remain ladies and gentlemen among us. The proof is in the observation.

The lesson I must teach myself is that acts of unostentatious kindness must be invisible if they are truly sincere.

As Spike Lee reiterated, a true lady or gentleman, rather than wringing their hands because the world isn’t perfect, must instead remember and constantly repeat the words of Da Mayor (Ossie Davis): DO THE RIGHT THING

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.



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The Day Nothing At All Happened

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The Day Nothing At All Happened

 Here at the center of the universe, in the heart of beautiful historic Downtown Birmingham, Alabama, I, The Bookie, ply my trade.

I call myself a Bookie because virtually everything real to me resides upon pages. I write true stories and books, help edit a quarterly literary/arts journal, produce a weekly blog/blast (we used to call them “columns”), place online a weekly podcast (in the formerly non-virtual world we called them “spoken-word stories” or “audio tales” or “columns you can close your eyes and listen to”), and serve as judge to several literary contests.

I also go forth from Downtown and deliver messages of goodwill to writers’ groups, civic clubs, schools, and anybody else who will invite me to share my six decades of experience as a whatever it is I am.

Oh, and I also own and run one of the last “real” bookstores in the country, a shop that carries books and paper ephemera that extend back some 500 years. In fact, this is where I spend the majority of my time—mostly because most of my income depends upon this five-day-a-week endeavor.

So, today’s question, addressed to the Dispassionate Universe at Large, is this: If I have all these activities going on in my life—in addition to being a husband, father, grandfather, brother, etc.—why do I feel like I’m wasting my time? Why do I lie awake at 3 a.m. wondering how to find meaning in my existence? Why do I feel as if I never do enough to feed my Muse?

The answer to this and many other angst-filled inquiries is written in the stars and won’t be decipherable for a few millennia. But I keep asking anyhow, hoping for magical revelations but knowing that there is no magic at all in the cosmos, just the Feeling that there may be magic.

I actually am aware that this is what keeps me going, this constant thirst for answers to unanswerable questions. If you walked up to me and gave me The Answer, my life would go into shock—because it is the adrenaline-filled neurotic search for things that are just out of reach, just over that next horizon…it is this search that keeps me placing one foot in front of the other, one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, one step back, never knowing whether I’m getting anywhere.

In case anybody is curious as to what my epitaph will be, I’ve already recorded it. Here it is:

“This is not exactly what I had in mind.”

Should some passerby see this granite-inscribed sentence on my tombstone a hundred years hence, my hope is that an uncontrollable chuckle will issue forth into the quiet mist.

If that happens, my mission will have been accomplished—only I won’t be around to notice.

But it is nice to imagine that I may get the last laugh


© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.



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Meet Jim Reed, a Fictitious Character Created by Liza Elliott

Listen to Jim’s podcast:  http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/meetjimreedafictitiouscharacter.mp3

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Meet Jim Reed, a Fictitious Character Created by Liza Elliott

At last, I have become part of the plot in a mystery novel.

Being a fictitious character is never something I would aspire to. I tend to think that the simple act of writing stories and books means that somehow the essence of Jim Reed is implied in each tale, since I the writer write only from real life.

It is important for me to write straight-out experiential truth, so that I don’t have to make anything up out of thin air.

But now, in addition to being a real person in real-time stories, I have also be come a fictional character within a work of fiction. It’s all because of author Liza Elliott.

Liza used to drop into my life once in a while, whether at writing events or at Reed Books. She would sometimes jokingly tell me that I ought to be a character in one of her books. I would laugh, make a wisecrack, and dismiss the idea, never knowing she was quite serious.

One day, Liza walks into the shop and hands me a copy of her new mystery novel, 30-A SUPPER CLUB (Red Camel Press), an adventure that takes place along Alabama’s coastline, in the Panhandle, and in Birmingham. She inscribes the book to me in glowing terms, then points out that I am within the pages of the story.

No kidding—I am actually part of the book! Liza thankfully describes the shop and me in wonderfully entrancing ways, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. The book is a fun read.

As Liza departs the store, I ask her whether there’s a sequel in the works. “Yes, there is, and you are in that story, too,” she beams. Being smart of mouth I quip, “Do you think you could throw in an episode in which I have a harmless flirtation with someone, say, Scarlett Johansson?”

She says she’ll think about it.

Now I can’t wait till the next 30-A SUPPER CLUB comes out. What adventures will I have that I have never had?

Stay tuned

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.



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The Great Unblizzard of 2015 A.D.

Listen to Jim’s podcast:  http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/thegreatunblizzardof2015.mp3

or read Jim’s story below…

The Great Unblizzard of 2015 A.D.

 Well, we manage to survive this day more or less in one piece.

Oh, there are adventures, setbacks, challenges, puzzles to solve, barriers to cross. So much of daily life has to be placed on hold till the crisis passes.

The morning starts with The Warnings: DON’T DRIVE ON THE ROADS, WATCH FOR PATCHES OF ICE.

Fully dressed and ready to go to work, I hesitate at the door, noticing that there is no snow on the ground. Hmm…better test the air. I walk onto the porch and down the steps to retrieve the morning paper. The air does feel a bit icy, the humidity warns of what might come.

I remember that during the Big Snow last year, I ignored all warnings and went to work. The snow appeared with gusto and I barely made it home at the end of the day.

But, today, I realize how risky that was—driving on ice, dodging other motorists, getting stuck behind indecisive characters, and taking two hours to drive two miles home.

So, today, I want to DO THE RIGHT THING. I’ll wait till I know it is safe. Don’t want Liz to worry about my trekking through another blizzard. Don’t want to wind up in the hospital or in the obituaries.

I decide to wait another hour. Just let the shop open late for a change.

Then, the adventures begin.

In the process of bringing in the paper, I’ve managed to step in dog poop that has not been managed with little plastic t-shirt bags by our dogloving neighbors. I dutifully remove my shoe and try to wash away the fragrant evidence. Turning on the hydrant, I hear a moaning sound, the sort of sound that only comes from eccentric plumbing. Oops! Add dog cleaner and plumber to my list of honey-do’s.

Then the restlessness begins. I keep checking the clock and the Spann reports to see if there’s an all-clear. I read the entire paper, learning disturbing things about the world I usually try to ignore. I start nibbling, since I don’t have a working project to attack with this newfound time to expend. A freshly-peeled boiled egg slips through my fingers and explodes into the garbage disposal machine. I start obsessing over the large ceiling stain in the kitchen, wondering how much money that I don’t have it will take to get it repaired.

Time moves more slowly when you are suspended within it. The heck with it. I’ll just go to work….but what if I get stuck in the blizzard and can’t be home to care for Liz and the house?

Suddenly a loud, excruciatingly loud alarm goes off. Assuming it is the new burglar repellent system we’re been trying to install for several weeks, Liz and I punch numerous buttons to make it stop. Nothing works. She calls the alarm company and rants while I rave, then raves while I rant. Surely these people have sold us a defective product! The calm operator stays the course and tries to help. Then, realizing that the alarm must be coming from some other source, I get ready to attack the smoke alarm, then the older retired alarm box that’s still stuck in the wall. The sound is all-consuming. In panic, I finally yank the box off the wall and rip out a couple of wires with my bare hands. Ah, relief and silence! Listen to the–Real Silence! For some unknown reason a defunct bit of electronics has decided to raise itself from the dead one last time.

By now, the afternoon is here and I still don’t know whether I’ve done the right thing by staying home during a still-threatening-but-snowless day.

I nibble some more, pace, read, semi-doze, and otherwise expend time unproductively. I really am hooked on work!

By late afternoon, the snow hasn’t appeared. We start looking for something entertaining to do, like watch a couple of Netflix shows. For two hours we are absorbed in TV land, thus settling our brains for the long winter’s nap we will soon attempt.

After video saturation occurs, I arise to glance out the window. There it is! The moonlessness on the breast of the newfallen snow is still kind of fun to see, even though we are well beyond the age at which it is safe to frolic in this poetic feathery substance.

Tomorrow will be another day, and I plan to make it to work regardless. My attention Spann is worn out, the adventures have been tucked away, and I am ready to dream bookie dreams, all snug and ready for sugar plums

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.



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