Writers Got Ants in Their Shakers

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/writersgotantsintheirshakers.mp3

or read his story below:

Writers Got Ants in Their Shakers

Writers who use the shakers give me the shakes.

I’m reading a submitted manuscript to see whether there’s something worthy of publishing, when suddenly I get the urge to brush all those little black ants off each page.

Somebody has filled a salt shaker with commas and apostrophes and sprinkled them liberally throughout the piece…seemingly at random. The paragraphs are filled to the brim with improper tense and punctuation usage of their’s & theres’ and it’s and its’ and “the best city’s in the world…mens’ room…”I don’t do window’s”…package of Oreo’s…and on and on and on and on.

We are having an ant infestation in the kitchen at home, and it’s fun to watch the little critters energetically going about their infesting. And, yes, they do look like apostrophes and commas out of control.

Liz is an editor, too, and she finds the same plague in many documents. She passed the shaker analogy along to me, by the way.

I find it difficult to teach the commanists and the apostrophiles how to make their work grammatical and readable with just a few simple rules. Folks who have come far enough in life to write manuscripts often feel they know all the rules and do not require instruction. Or they just don’t get it. Or they are used to depending on the editors to clean up their mess.

Guess that has become a major codicil in the imaginary manual of editing these days—just correct the manuscript for the writer and get on with judging whether the piece has merit beyond the ants.

And don’t get me started on social media usage. The electronic ants are beyond recall. Even the brightest, most educated and otherwise wise “friends” get it wrong every few minutes, day after day.

Am I tilting at windmills? Should I just take E.O. Wilson’s advice and, instead of exterminating the ants in the kitchen, learn to observe and appreciate them?

Nah. Shakers got to shake, editors got to edit

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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Ruby’s Yacht Carries Me from Then to Now

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/rubysyachtcarriesme.mp3

or read Jim’s story below:

Ruby’s Yacht Carries Me from Then to Now

I stop by the potter’s shed to watch him thump his glistening, malleable clay, shaping it to his whim, perhaps not listening closely to what it speaks to him.

“Go gently, brother, respect who I was and make me into what I will be,” the clay pleads, shape-shifting slowly under the potter’s hand.

The potter works on, kneading and pounding and spinning the red clay mass until it begins to imitate an object he can recognize.

“I was once like you,” the clay continues. “I lived, loved, died, eventually turned to dust. And here I am, returned to your shop, filled with the juice of life, prepared to accept my fate as your next project.”

The potter pauses, barely sensing these utterances, then begins the process of finalizing this new life, re-birthing the mixture of fluid and earth, settling on its appearance and eventual usage, the puppet-master bringing to life a life already awaiting re-emergence.

As the eleventh-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam said, “For I remember stopping by the way To watch a Potter thumping his wet Clay: And with its all-obliterated Tongue It murmur’d—’Gently, Brother, gently, pray!’”

Omar, writing his Rubaiyat all those centuries ago, rides with me as I pass through life from dust to eventual dust. At the age of thirteen, I first read his many Rubaiyat—or verses—and never forgot the poetic images and ponderings about the wonder and silliness of life. I refer frequently to his wit and sagacity.

Omar asks the questions that we all ask of life: Why is some pottery misshapen or cracked or unattractive, even when created by the same Maker? Who makes those decisions? Who decides what is lovely and what is ungainly?

Khayyam admits he does not know the answers, and he ultimately decides that nobody else does, either.

His entire philosophy, basically, is, enjoy the moment, eat the chocolate chip cookie now, don’t worry about the before-now or the hereafter. You can make up theologies and beliefs and templates all you want, but it’s basically a conceit or a delusion to think that you know the Answer.

Reading Omar is kind of liberating. He lifts from you the burden of other people’s temporal and temporary ideas and allows you to do the right thing right now. Hug your family, lend a hand to someone in pain, stay out of other people’s belief systems and dogmas, look to your immediate circumstances for peace and kindness.

As I sail the Rubaiyat—or Ruby’s Yacht—through life, I can still find shards of peace amid the turmoil, largely because of Omar and Ruby

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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The Man Who Lived Happily Never After

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/themanwholivedhappilynever.mp3

Or read his story below:

The Man Who Lived Happily Never After

I am inhaling the early-morning sunlit air of the city. All around me, objects of every size and mass reflect the early-morning sunlight back at the sky, back at me. There is glorious light everywhere, and I am the center of the glorious light.

SWAT!

Suddenly, the swat team of the negative brain arises to bring me up short and assure me that not all is beautiful sunlight and glorious reflection. The internal swat team swats at my sunny thoughts and reminds me that all that light brings sunburns and blisters and drought and thirst.

SWAT!

I shake my head and watch the graceful people of the sidewalk trot their aerobics, walk their pets, whisper into their phones, strut their stuff, show off their running shoes. They are lovely and mysterious, these graceful people of the sidewalk. I smile.

SWAT!

The swat team of the negative brain smirks and reminds me that some of these passersby could be looking for recreational pharmaceutical contacts on the street, might be silent victims of abuse, could be thieves seeking their next victims.

SWAT!

I brush away the swatty thoughts and prepare breakfast, enjoying the sensual pleasure of buttering toast, folding eggs and tomatoes and onions into a steamy, tasty amalgamation of nostalgic fragrance. The morning paper awaits my perusal.

SWAT!

Again, the warnings arise. Is all that butter going to kill me? Is leaded ink from the paper seeping into my fingers? Is the gas bill from cooking all these breakfasts going to be insurmountable at end of month? Will I remember that millions of people elsewhere are not able to afford breakfast?

SWAT!

To win this morning’s battle against the swat team, I begin a regimen of distraction and inspiration. To chase away the creepy negatives that abound, I begin my day, setting out to find books and treasures for the shop, sharing stories and harmless lies with other storytellers and liars, exulting in the sheer forward energy it takes to submerge myself into the joyful activities of writing my stories, selling the books, finding unfindable books for people,  jotting down notes for future books and stories and speeches. The swat team disappears into the mind’s dark corner to sulk.

SWAT!

The swat team says, “Let me tell you what a rotten person you…” but I swat the team down, laugh in its presence, ignore and suppress it.

SWAT!

This beautiful day has finally revealed itself unashamedly, and, finally, I, the man who often lives happily never after, get to savor the day, savor the life I lead, cherish the people I love.

But I always keep my swatter handy, just in case

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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Stragglers of the Orphanage Open House Day

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

or read his story below:

Stragglers of the Orphanage Open House Day

The library basement room is filled to overflowing with wandering patrons searching for books that librarians want ousted from their shelving.

Every kind of person you can imagine is here tonight, roaming the aisles, searching for just the right volumes to take home or to auction on Ebay or to re-gift or just to collect but never read, or simply to place on the coffee table to look pretty…or perhaps even to read and cherish.

Here at the book sale, I am wending my way through the throngs, looking for a niche that everybody ignores, a corner bereft of shovers, space hoarders and aggressive acquirers. Ah! The Humor Section. Nobody looks there, so it’s the perfect spot to seek treasure. I am alone in a sea of grabbers.

Wham! Plop! Wham! Plop!

What th- Where is that noise emanating from?

Wham! Plop! Wham! Plop!

I peek around the corner of the next aisle to spy an intense woman who is stooping down to knee level, ignoring titles and subjects and authors and simply methodically grabbing one book at a time, scanning the back cover with a hand-held device, then slamming each book aside loudly and messily to make room for the next scan. Oblivious to others attempting to examine and open each book, she is working hurriedly, unsmiling and avid.

Wham! Plop! Wham! Plop!

I get it. She’s working from a Want-List of books that are sought by the hundreds on the Internet. She’ll use ISBN numbers to fill some boxes, then ship them out of state to humongous used book entities that will sell them at the rate of thousands per day.

Wham! Plop! Wham! Plop!

Most people here are having a grand time. Kids sit on the floor and read, anxious moms grab titles they hope to read in their spare time and other titles they hope their kids will read, cookbook collectors search for their favorite recipes, history buffs search for Churchill and Durant and Ambrose and Herodotus, donors look for beach reads, teens seek vampires and zombies, nerds all have their specialties…

Then there are these two guys who have cordoned off a corner of the room, where they accumulate stack after stack of books and guard them from examination by others. These are out-of-town dealers who are not purchasing these stacks of books. They are simply roping them off so that they can leisurely pick out the few they want to take with them, leaving a jumble of volumes behind. First come, first served.

Now things are thinning out a bit and I can pick up a few more books to read.

Now, as the books disappear, I look at what is left.

I am the only one who spends time in the philosophy section, so I silently converse with the oldies and make my selections.

Then, when most of the assertive customers have left the building, I carefully look for the wonders they missed, the special books with intrinsic value that cannot be detected by tattooed numbers or overly zealous grabbers.

I find them and am pleased.

I eventually leave with my trove, bidding farewell to those straggling books that will never, ever sell, those orphans who are passed over again and again…books that once meant much to someone but now are passe or outmoded or untrendy or battered.

Where will these orphans go now? What will be the final book that no-one will purchase?

When I return at the end of the sale, I will spend some time with these volumes, searching for special traits hidden to the untrained eye. I’ll find something worthwhile about them, mostly because nobody else took the time.

It’s one of my guiltless pleasures, a game I play all by myself, taking a second and third look at these foundlings to see what they have to offer an uncaring world

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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Pondering the Pit and Listening to the Cereal

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

or read his story below:

Pondering the Pit and Listening to the Cereal

It is way back in the 1940′s right now, and I am the I who is living in these times. At the moment, I am communicating with you from here, which is a great distance, timewise. I’m in the 20th Century, you are in the 21st Century.

Interesting how the distance can be bridged in seconds, merely through these recorded words.

Anyhow, just wanted you to know where and when I am coming from.

I’m a kid and I am doing what most pre-television kids do each morning. Breakfast. Breakfast can include things like eggs, cereal, bacon, grits, cream of wheat, oatmeal, toast, biscuits, jelly, butter (oleo margarine), salt, pepper, cane sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, sausage, flapjacks…

But breakfast is also blended with everything and everybody around me. The food is just food without the flavor of family and laughter and mumbling…and stuff you can read on the sides of containers.

While the family swirls around me, I escape into the world of various packages that contain the fixin’s. I get to read about the adventures of Snap, Crackle and Pop who live at Rice Krispies…famous athletes grinning muscularly from the Wheaties box…Hopalong Cassidy looking intense at the end of a loaf of bread…Aunt Jemima smiling from a pancake mix box…Little Miss Sunbeam eternally munching on a slice…frighteningly serious doctors recommending Post Toasties as ruffage…

And then there’s the prune box. Prunes are not very exciting, but they do make a nice treat now and then. And the pits are fascinating, sporting a planetoid texture and totally inedible. But the mystery of the prune goes deeper. Inside each prune pit is a kernel, some kind of secret nut. When you bust open the pit, there’s that extra treat to munch—just like a Cracker Jack prize.

And examining prune kernels is just the beginning. While reading and chewing, I get all kinds of fun out of pondering other breakfast mysteries:  Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Why do Rice Krispies have their own language? How can eggs be so easy to break yet so durable in their long journey to my parents’ kitchen table? What is the difference between jelly and marmalade and preserves and syrup and molasses and honey? How do you get gravy out of coffee grounds? What happens to the pit and the kernel when pitted prunes are produced?  Who decides which is the butter knife and which is the slicing knife?

As I glug my orange juice and break my fast, my metabolism and brain start racing, and I am preparing for a day of school or play—either of which will produce more questions and just a few possible answers.

By the time I’m racing for the bus or the backyard, I am already a scientist, adventurer, athlete, vizier, poet. There is so much to learn about, so much to test, a million would-be solutions to the world’s problems…and I am the one who is going to start addressing them, at least until late morning when I rush to the kitchen or school playground for Kool-Aid or a carbonated drink to get me through till lunchtime.

For the rest of my life, I continue to gaze at all things new in much the same way I gaze at prune pits. What’s inside? What’s behind? What’s the story? What was the journey? What will happen next?

There is always one more thing to examine.

That’s what keeps me going every day to this very day

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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