As It Turns Out, Happening Just Happens

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As It Turns Out, Happening Just Happens

My Red Clay Diary just fell to the floor and splayed itself open to one particular page. From twenty years ago, these thoughts presented themselves to me.

I wonder whether these insights will endure another twenty years.


Life just seems to happen to me…or is it that I happen to life? Would life even Be if I were not happening to it?

And if it is the case that life is happening to me, rather than I to It, does it make one whit of difference in the universal schemelessness of things?

Where was I?

Oh, yes, about life in the hereafter and the herebefore. Is life happening to me or am I happening to It? Want to know the answer? And if so, what good would it do to know the answer? Is it better to muddle along and be surprised by the Next Big Thing, or it is better to know all the answers and know all the formulae and have infinite knowledge about everything and everyhappening? Is knowledge necessarily a good thing, or is it better to know very little and guess even less and just roll with the dice of the universe, hoping it will all come out to the good?

When Aristotle was asked what a person could gain by uttering a falsehood, he replied, “Not to be credited when he shall tell the truth.”

Shall I tell you the truth about life?

If I lie to you in this diary entry, you will not credit me when I finally do say something true. On the other hand, if I tell you the truth, you could be in danger of not being able to tell when I eventually lie to you.

Might be best to drop this treadmill quest for Truth and simply do this:

Take stock of each precious moment this week, and allow the dice of the universe to roll on.

Remember that the dots facing down on the dice are just as important as the dots facing up.

Being kind and loving and caring really matters. The truths constantly change and disguise themselves, but being kind and loving and caring always counts

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

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Entering the Out Door and Exiting the In Door

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Entering the Out Door and Exiting the In Door

 Clunk! Rattle. “Oh, PUSH, I see!”

This is a customer in the shop, attempting to exit,  making a big noise, then muttering to himself.

Clunk! Rattle. “Heh, heh. Uh, PUSH! OK.”

This is a customer in the shop, attempting to exit,  making a big noise, then muttering to herself.

This occurs several times a day.

See, the front door of the shop opens outward onto the sidewalk—perhaps an idiosyncrasy of the way buildings were constructed back in 1890. But the average customer assumes you’re supposed to PULL the door open, causing the thick wooden frame to slap against an immovable jamb. The action results in a THUD, then a rattling of the loosely glazed glass.

Even though there is a large square plate stating PUSH, right at the handle, the unwritten rule is PULL first, read PUSH later. It’s a cheap amusement.

Wherever I roam or shop, I see the PUSH PULL syndrome acted out in odd ways. Two-door entranceways always sport one locked door and one hinged door. This is an unsolved mystery of the universe. Nobody can explain to me why an establishment with two doors unlocks only one at a time.

The customer has to gamble every time. IS THIS THE LOCKED DOOR? Nope, it swings outward, offering no resistance and throwing the patron off balance. IS THIS THE UNLOCKED DOOR? Nope, I slam against it, having miscalculated its status. IS THIS THE UNLOCKED DOOR THAT SWINGS OUTWARD? Nope, I run into the glass, having had a fifty-fifty chance of being right.

Is there a hidden employee having a good laugh at my expense? Does the Cosmos snicker at my bumbling? Is there a building code that requires establishments to use just one door at a time?

Maybe it is all about entertainment, whether intentional or accidental.

I recall the car detailing shop on Second Avenue South. Its main claim to jokesterism  was a shiny quarter prominently beckoning from the concrete floor. Leonard and crew would spend much time watching as each customer, attempting to be a good-manners custodian, would stoop or bend down to pick up the quarter. Since it was securely glued to the floor, the good Samaritan would react differently—abashed, amused, confused, embarrassed, philosophical. Much of the time, nobody was caught watching the charade, thus helping folks save face. The silent joke was the day’s prime entertainment.

At Reed Books, the PUSH PULL door situation is not intentional. It’s just the way the doorway is built. But it is entertaining to see how each person interprets the doorway. A harmless bit of distraction for both browser and audience.


There it goes again


© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

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Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

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Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

Way back before The Storm, I am walking the avenues of the French Quarter, sniffing around the edges of everything to see past the seductions being flaunted before me. Back in these days, New Orleans is the Big Difficult, a strange jambalaya of history, fiction, lies and legends. I am just another tourist peeking at the sideshow, but I am also the writer who wonders what is real and what is carnival.

The Quarter, as it turns out, is a series of glimpses.

I weave through the meandering crowd, glimpsing through an open door a waitress, nude save for the small dangling frontal pouch that holds order pad and tips and pencil. Does she imagine herself all dressed up for work?

Wonderful fragrances of spicy food being cooked and served mingle with faint urine smells from a narrow alley. There are still cobblestones about, causing an inebriant to sway even more as he walks by holding onto a wall.

The enormous old church oversees moneylenders and moneytakers who are quick to pose for pictures. Tiny overpriced windowless apartments are available everywhere, and no matter where I look, there are children tapdancing in their bottle-capped sneakers, hoping to magnetize a quarter of two from my pockets.

Dixieland music collides in midair with re-worked folktunes, and everything is played full volume as each venue vies for attention. Everybody smokes tobacco and other musty substances. The air is one hundred percent fume and flame and exhalation.

I learn to enjoy the Quarter by ignoring that which does not lend itself to change.

During the day, I visit brimming old bookshops, scan the wares of street vendors, eat the most delicious foodstuffs and frequently escape the drear humidity to bask beneath a hotel air-conditioner.

Of the non-visitors, most everyone has an attitude. Many are rude or abrupt. All wish for tips and gratuities and favors. But, strangely, this curious mixture of impoliteness and commerce helps make the Quarter authentic. I put up with behavior I would never tolerate back home.

The next-morning streets are bright and free of hustle. I wind up so absorbed in examining the shelves of an old bookstore that when I am ready to check out, I startle the owner. “Wow! We didn’t know anybody was here, so we locked up and went to lunch for an hour!”

I didn’t know I had been imprisoned. The perfect incarceration.

Back on the street, I amble along, watching people who watch people watching people. This is before the time when each person has a small device sutured to a palm. This is back when some of us actually gaze at one another and converse pleasantly.

It is a city filled with short-term emigrants from everywhere, and for these few hours we all get along with one another. Languages and slangs overlap. Even megaphoned preachers and zealots are tolerated here.

As I head toward the train station to return to Alabama, I wonder whether or when I will ever return to this potpourri, this overspiced porridge of a town.

Somewhere on the way out of Louisiana, just past flagrantly decaying cemeteries, the train comes to an unscheduled stop in the midst of nowhere. After a while, a porter walks through the cabin carrying a very large and quite dead turkey. “We ran over him on the tracks. We’ll cook him up for supper,” the porter grins.

So, even though I’m escaping the Big Difficult, a little bit of its traditions and primal rites return with me. Fresh turkey served on the tracks on the way to the shuffle of the big city of Sweet Birmingham


© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

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Sollie Cracks Some Eggs and a Couple of Smiles

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Sollie Cracks Some Eggs and a Couple of Smiles

It is just Dad and me today, tooling around in his truck, looking for something fun to do.

My name is Sollie, and thanks for reading this story, copied just for you from my red velvet diary.

Today goes like this. Since I’m too young to drive, Dad gets to decide where we will go and where we will not go. Just between you and me, I know that I’m his favorite daughter, mainly because I am his only daughter. So, actually, Dad will take me just about anywhere I ask, unless it’s too far away or too dangerous.

“Let’s go to the Museum of Fond Memories and see what’s there today!” I act more enthusiastic than I plan, because, even though I pretend to make a tough decision, the old book store is where I want to go all along.

Dad grins and turns the car toward Downtown. It’s Saturday and I don’t notice much traffic, so basically Dad has nothing to grumble about.

Now I’m rushing into the book shop, the Museum of Fond Memories, trying not to show too much excitement. But I am excited, even though I try to keep it to myself. I go down the aisle of the old store, speaking to Mister Reed, who owns it and who always smiles a big smile when he sees me. He and I have a secret. We can read each others’ minds. We both love all these old books and toys and statues and strange objects. We can tell just by looking at each other.

Now I have arrived at my destination, an old metal tub filled with “doodads,” according to the sign. It’s the doodads I love the most. I’m scraping away layers of key chains, bottle openers, marbles, small dolls, tiny shoes, billfolds and all kinds of collecting kinds of stuff. The great thing about the tub is everything in here is fifty cents each! I know I can get an armful of loot for a few dollars.

Dad is wandering around, looking at an ancient book, examining an old bookend, reading the sleeve of a vinyl recording. Me, I’m just digging for loot.

Today, the old tub is different. Inside, among the toys and keepsakes, some large plastic colored eggs are scattered. Really. These are oversized eggs, and they have been sealed up so that you can’t open them right there in the store. I pick one up and shake it, holding it close to my ear. Something is inside. I grab another egg and shake it, and I notice that each egg feels differently, some heavier, some lighter, but all of them definitely filled with things ready to be taken home.

I have got to have these eggs.

I walk up to Dad, holding four eggs and grinning up at him. “Dad, this is what I want.”

Dad says, “That’s it? That’s all you want?”

“Yes, yes.” What I don’t tell him is I want to take the eggs with me and open them in the truck, just to see what’s inside.

I show Mister Reed the eggs. He charges me two dollars, raises an eyebrow, and says, “There is treasure in each egg. Are you ready for it?”

I nod and smile and wish him a good day.

Inside the truck, Dad helps me peel the tape off each egg. I begIn to open them. All kinds of surprises and prizes fall into my lap. A necklace. An earring. A polished rock. A bouncing ball. A toy soldier. A tiny baby shoe. A small wrench.

And so on.

I open all the eggs and start organizing the contents into Baggies. When I’m through, I look at Dad. He looks at me. Finally, he says, “Want to go get some more?”

I squeal and dash back into the shop, where Mister Reed seems to be expecting me.

“Glad you’re back,” he says.

I start picking up more eggs to buy. Dad helps me. Pretty soon, we have decided to get them all, all seventeen of them. I know I won’t be satisfied with less.

Mister Reed looks at me, fills a bag with my loot, and tells me to come back soon, that maybe, just maybe, there may be more treasure eggs by the time I return. Why do I have the feeling that he packed these eggs just for me?

Dad and I sit in the truck until all the eggs are emptied and their contents sorted.

I look at Dad. “How will Mister Reed be able to sell me more eggs if I’ve bought them all?”

Dad frowns, thinks, says, “Why don’t we give him the egg shells?”

Sometimes dads have great ideas.

Mister Reed and I stare at each  other for a second while I return the eggs. We don’t have to say anything because, as I said in my red velvet diary, he and I can read each others’ minds.

“I’ll be back,” I yell to him as I head for the door.

“I know, I know,” Mister Reed says, as he starts helping another customer at the Museum of Fond Memories


© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

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