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The old burgundy Subaru bookmobile knows the trolling route so well that it actually drives itself. The ancient pale and pasty bookieman sits in the driver’s seat and watches the world go by while he and the self-driving vehicle head toward just another roadside junkstore, sharing high hopes of finding nice old books for customers back at the bookstore.

I am the bookie, the car is the bookiemobile.

Our journey is as interesting as the destination.

By the side of the road in the western shambles of the city, I spy the gigantic WOW sign. It’s been there for decades, and it actually had an original purpose–that of selling bundles of socks for just a few cents. Now it’s a lonely WOW sign, a mileage marker on the way to a bookquest.

The prankster side of me wants to sneak up to the sign and turn it over one night, thus affording passersby a comforting memory of MOM in our ramshackle lives. Being conscious and in the present, I don’t really need to carry out the prank. The sign is permanently affixed to my mind as a thought about MOM and all good moms past, present, future.

  After all, I have, in addition to MOM thoughts, a need to forever replenish my trove of wonderful old volumes so that customers will always find some surprise among the plethora of packaged words in the store.

Back at the shop:

“I hear you’re an authoritarian on used books!” a customer proclaims, presenting a waxed paper package like a swaddled baby in her outstretched arms. “Can you tell me about this?” She means that she wants me to unswaddle the book and tell her whether it’s worth a fortune.

“Well, I guess I am an authoritarian, at that,” I say, but not aloud. I attempt to keep my smart remarks to myself now and then.

I look at the book, which is disbound, dusty, stained and missing pages here and there. It is what her family has kept for a century, waiting for a rainy day when they can cash in.

My task is to let this customer down easily but share a reality check at the same time.

I turn the tattered pages, smile, and remark, “This is a nice book, well worth reading. Unfortunately, people who might want to purchase it will only accept it if it looks brand-new and is in almost perfect condition.”

“But this is an old book…old books don’t look new,” she protests.

I lead her to a display case and show her my copy of this exact book. It looks new because it has been well tended and respected all these years.

She gets the point. “Well, I guess somebody didn’t take care of this one.” She laughs and thanks me for taking the time to advise her free of charge.

I’m done with travels for the day and here I am at the bookshop, arranging orphans and adoptees and fosters, displaying them so that perhaps customers will take them home and love them.

The morning’s journey was worthwhile. I have additional company on the shelves. My MOM is safely ensconced in memory, a memory of her love for books and her love for a son who could not keep his hands off books or his mind off the beauty of words and stories.

Can’t wait till the old junker and I head out once again on our periodic field trips to scan the countryside and dig for treasure for the sheer satisfaction of it

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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In case you haven’t brushed your teeth yet, please read this column carefully.You do not want to mistreat your teeth.

As the philosopher Soupy Sales once said, “Be true to your teeth and they won’t be false to you.”

Here’s how to care for your teeth: “Brush teeth thoroughly after meals or at least twice a day,” according to the sacred text of Crest, imprinted on each tube of toothpaste.

If you are new to the teeth-brushing ritual, you may have questions: 1. “Can I get it over with first thing by brushing my teeth twice in five minutes?”  2. “If I forget to brush after meals, can I brush during or right before meals? After all, I have seen more than one person floss in public and feel this practice might not be unacceptable.”  3. “If a toothbrush is not readily available, may I substitute a hairbrush or whisk broom?”  4. If  I brush on the run, is it permissible to forego toothpaste and substitute whatever is available, like bourbon or Diet Coke?  5. “How long do I brush? Can’t find any Crest instructions about this. Is one hour sufficient?”  6. “When there’s no convenient way to brush, can I just use a toothpick? I see all kinds of people walking out of restaurants, toothpicking away and making those TSK sounds.”

You may have many other questions, but perhaps you should pause and make a list.

Speaking of pausing, I heard this on NPR the other day, ”The players were taking a moment to pause.” Can’t get my mind around it, since this sentence seems to be saying the players were pausing to pause. Maybe they wanted to floss.

Well, to tell the tooth, I don’t have that much to talk about today, do I? I feel that somebody needs to address these issues, so it might as well be me.

One more grammar thought. There are signs everywhere that refer to parking violations. Can  you tell me which is correct? Is it, “Prosecutors will be violated,” or “Violators will be persecuted,” or what? It would be fun to see a posted sign stating, “Violators will be mob-flossed.”

Oh, just one more grammar usage that scrambles my already scrambled mind:

“This program contains adult content.”

What does this mean? It seems to be saying, “This program contains content.” Can a program contain content? Would it be more proper to say, “This program contains language and subject matter suitable only for grown-ups or prodigies?

I would settle for, “This program contains images of people flossing, picking and brushing.”

This is one program I would avoid

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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Listen, kiddos, and I will impart knowledge to you in a slightly oblique manner. Should you decide to pay attention, you might even learn something you didn’t know you needed to know. And even if you retain nothing at all from my imparted wisdom, you will at least exhibit the highest manifestation of human behavior–a chuckle.

Today, it starts with noses.

The grandiloquent comedians Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding gave us the gift of chuckles embedded with insight and palatable Aha! moments. Bob and Ray once said, “Keep your nose clean so you can smell a phony.” How much more succinct can you get when you are attempting to tell someone how to lead an alert and sagacious life? Just keep your nose clean so you can smell a phony.

Speaking of noses, sometimes they get stopped up, disengaging our ability to spot fakes. At those times a good sneeze helps. As another comedic team, Homer Haynes and Jethro Burns once reported, “Scientists have finally found the answer to the common cold: ‘Gesundheit!’”

Now and then the only way to get past a sticky situation or a morose thought is to sneeze, yell Gesundheit! and sally forth as if the world is A-OK once again. Homer and Jethro spent many decades spreading the goodwill of silly humor.

Are there other techniques for swatting away the phonies in our lives, the phony disinformation splattered over us, the snarky gossipy ill-informed comments that are hurled our way? Chuckles might help. As Mel Brooks has been preaching for a lifetime, the best way to send the enemy back into a squirmy black hole is to face the mean-spiritedness full on, laugh a healthy laugh, and go on about your business as if you have no use for such blather.

Don’t deny the enemy’s existence, just show the ethos that the enemy does not matter, has no effect, exerts zero control…over your ability to chuckle.

If you don’t pay attention to snarkyness, it becomes marginalized and of no importance to those of us who just want to lead good and sweet-natured lives.

The nose knows.

Keep the laughter alive, keep the nose clean, eat a banana, avoid slipping on the peel, yell Aha! or Gesundheit! once in a while.

And, when you want to share your kindness, your chuckles, keep me in mind

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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Here am I, heading southwest toward Taylorville, and I do not know whether I am coming or going.

Well, actually, I do know whether I am coming or going. It is just something I say to get the story jump-started. I am both coming and going. All the time.

While I write this, it is Saturday night, but by the time you read it, it will be Sunday at the earliest, and I will be on the road to Tuscaloosa.

I am leaving the comfort of my Southside home in order to pay respects to the life of Doreen, my late mother’s best friend and next-door neighbor. Doreen died the other day, and I am joining my sister, Barbara, in visiting Doreen’s son and daughter-in-law, Gregg and  Lyric.

Leaving B’ham and arriving in T’town. Going and coming.

My Mother, Frances, loved nothing better than to chat over the back fence with Doreen. Together, they conducted one continuous, overlapping, neverending, stay-tuned-for-tomorrow’s-episode conversation that lasted for years.

And, who knows? They may still be at it right now.

At the services, I hope to meet people who knew Doreen better than I ever could. I hope to visit with Barbara, various nephews and nieces-in-law, and offspring galore.

I will not know exactly what to say, will not know exactly the right thing to say, but I have now lived long enough to know that there is no right thing to say. I just hope that being there a little while will mean something to those present. I know that seeing these longtime-interconnected people will definitely mean something to me.

And so it goes. Much of my life is spent paying it forward or making amends. The present does not have much heft, since it is either immediately in the past or immediately about to happen.

We birth, we stumble about, we have a few laughs, a few cries, we love, we puzzle over it all, we come, we go, maybe to come again. Who knows?

I do not know whether arriving is more important than leaving, I just know both are part of some mysterious process.

I do know that letting life gently flow over me is a lot more satisfying than cursing the darkness or resisting the light


© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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I have this bumper sticker at the bookstore, O WHAT FUN IT IS TO WRITE.

This bumper sticker serves as a litmus test for the eyes of wandering customers. The slogan attracts certain browsers; others do not even notice it. Some lift the sticker, frown at it, don’t quite absorb the arrangement of words, replace it, cruise on to the next curiosity.

Now and then, a gazer brightens up, chuckles in delight, and asks, “Can I buy this?”

I wonder which visitor spends some of each day writing, which is entertaining the idea of writing but never gets around to it, which wants to learn what it takes to be a writer, which dismisses the entire idea of writing, which admires writers, which disdains the concept of writing for pleasure.

I don’t have to wonder for long, because folks often tell me exactly what they think about writing.

“I used to keep a diary, but I finally threw it away. It wasn’t any good.”

“I’d like to start writing someday. Maybe when I retire.”

“I know a lot of stories but I’m not a writer, so I guess they won’t get written.”

“You know, don’t you, that writing doesn’t matter anymore. Computers can do it for you.”

Once in a while, a customer will be ready, willing and able to stop, listen, maybe even learn something. That’s when I jump in with my gently avid rant about the importance of diaries.

The reason many people begin their writing life by keeping diaries, is that nobody will see what’s in the diary until the writer is ready. And diaries can come in so many forms! A Dollar Store blank book is just as easy to write in as a leatherbound gilt-edged volume with acid-free paper.

A diary is simply a Message in a Bottle.

Humans have been placing messages in bottles ever since they were, well, humans.

And even before there were bottles!

Cave dwellers wrote picture stories on walls thousands of years ago. Cuneiforms–messages in red clay–have been in use for just about that long.

Like many people who write in diaries, I am screaming silently to the ethos that I MATTER!

Like other diarists, I hope that somebody somewhere will someday connect with my words and find something meaningful in them.

When I squirrel away a diary, I am saying to its unknown finder, KILROY WAS HERE. Jim Reed once existed. Jim Reed wants you to know that you matter, too…your words matter…your life in words matters. Your diary is worth the effort.

I like to think that my writings will be placed safely deep in a bank of Alabama red clay (it’s everywhere!) and discovered by a better civilization thousands of years hence. They may still know what red clay is–they may even still have kudzu (it’s everywhere!) growing in the red clay! They may even take heart in learning that those of us who lived so long ago were human, too.

When my time capsule The Diary is opened, I hope these future folk will think kindly of us, will recognize the evidence that despite all our flaws as a species, there are among us some good, helpful and gentle people.

Perhaps they will be inspired to continue the long, arduous but hopefully rewarding trek toward the idea that it could be that humans are worth saving and cherishing after all


© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

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