NOTHING LIKE TURNING OVER A NEW BEEF

NOTHING LIKE TURNING OVER A NEW BEEF

Are vegetarians the only folks who know how to turn over a new leaf?

Are the rest of us capable only of turning over a new beef?

Don’t ask me where such thoughts come from–they just insist themselves into my writing, searching for space in which to thrive and insinuate.

Why am I pondering the prominence of beefs? I keep tamping down this prominence but it continues to raise its fluttering hand. It seems everybody has a beef these days, including you and me.

Griping and whining can be fun and tribally satisfying. But griping and whining also sucks all the time off the clock, eats up space, leaves us little room to ruminate, contemplate, meditate…little time to feel the awesome, surrounding presence of the Universe.

I was never a sportsman, never an athlete. But in my swirling imagination I am great with a baseball bat. When I’m feeling the better part of my DNA, I can take that bat and swing at the beefs and whines and self-deprecating illogical annoying stormtrooping negatives and CRACK! send them shattered into dust. Then, some kind of metaphorical leaf blower is employed to delegate that useless dust to the imaginary ethos in which they were birthed.

All this talk about whining and beefing is really another way of contemplating all those philosophical writings about whether a glass is half full or half empty. You know–are you a pessimist if you see the glass as half empty, are you an optimist if you view the glass as half full?

Unfortunately those whines and beefs rear their uglified heads and won’t allow you to feel good till you’ve found something negative to say.

Is the glass half-full or half-empty? DEPENDS ON WHETHER YOU ARE DRINKING OR POURING.

If you see water spots on a glass that’s half full, ARE YOU BEING PESSIMISTIC?

If the glass is half full, DO YOU WORRY ABOUT WHO DRANK THE FIRST HALF?

And so on.

Any good idea can be twisted into a bad one by the snarkies of society.

It’s up to you, it’s up to me, to take up our bats and knock those negatories into a ballpark far, far away

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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ANOTHER HAPPY SAD DAY

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://jimreedbooks.com/mp3/thanksgivinghappiestsaddest.mp3

or read on…

Here is a true story I re-tell every Thanksgiving, just

to remind myself and you that everything that really

matters is right before us, all the time. Here ‘tis:

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THANKSGIVING:

THE HAPPIEST SAD DAY OF THE YEAR

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The saddest thing I ever saw: a small, well-dressed elderly woman dining alone at Morrison’s Cafeteria, on Thanksgiving Day.

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Oh there are many other sadnesses you can find if you look hard enough, in this variegated world of ours, but a diner alone on Thanksgiving Day makes you feel really fortunate, guilty, smug, relieved, tearful, grateful…it brings you up short and makes you time-travel to the pockets of joy and cheer you experienced in earlier days…

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Crepe paper. Lots of crepe paper. And construction paper. Bunches of different-colored construction paper. In my childhood home in Tuscaloosa, my Thanksgiving Mother always made sure we creative and restless kids had all the cardboard, scratch paper, partly-used tablets, corrugated surfaces, unused napkins, backs of cancelled checks, rough brown paper from disassembled grocery bags, backs of advertising letters and flyers…anything at all that we could use to make things. Yes, dear 21st-Century young’uns, we kids back then made things from scraps.

We could cut up all we wanted, and cut up we did.

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We cut out rough rectangular sheets from stiff black wrapping paper and glued the edges together to make Pilgrim hats. Old belt buckles were tied to our shoelaces—we never could get it straight, whether the Pilgrims were Quakers, or vice versa, or neither. But it always seemed important to put buckles on our shoes and sandals, wear tubular hats and funny white paper collars, and craft weird-looking guns that flared out like trombones at one end. More fun than being a Pilgrim/Quaker was being an Indian—a true blue Native American, replete with bare chest, feathers shed by neighborhood doves, bows made of crooked twigs and kite string, arrows dulled at the tip by rubber stoppers and corks, and loads of Mother’s discarded rouge and powder and lipstick and mashed cranberries smeared here and there on face and body, to make us feel like the Indians we momentarily were.

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Sister Barbara and Mother would find some long autumnal-hued dresses for the occasion, but they were seldom seen outside the kitchen for hours on end, while the eight-course dinner was under construction.

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There was always an accordion-fold crepe paper turkey centerpiece on display, hastily bought on sale at S.H. Kress, just after last year’s Thanksgiving season. It looked nothing like my Aunt Mattie’s turkeys in her West Blocton front yard. And for some reason, we ate cranberry products on that day and that day only. Nobody ever thought about cranberries the other 364 days! And those lucky turkeys were lucky because nobody ever thought of eating them except at Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were home free the rest of the year!

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Now, back into the time machine of just a few years ago.

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It is Thanksgiving Day. My wife and son and granddaughter are all out of the country. Other family and relatives are either dead or gone, or just plain tied up with their own lives in other states, doing things other than having Thanksgiving Dinner with me.

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My brother, Tim, my friends Tim Baer and Don Henderson and I decide that we will have to spend Thanksgiving Dinner together, since each of us is bereft of wife or playmate or relative, this particular holiday this particular year.

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So, we wind up at Morrison’s Cafeteria, eating alone together, going through the line and picking out steamed-particle-board turkey, canned cranberries, thin gravy, boxed mashed potatoes and some bakery goods whose source cannot easily be determined.

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But we laugh at our situation and each other, tell jokes, cut up a bit, and thank our lucky stars that this one Thanksgiving Dinner is surely just a fluke. We’ll be trying that much harder, next year, to not get blind-sided by the best holiday of the year, Thanksgiving being the only holiday you don’t have to give gifts or reciprocate gifts or strain to find the correct gifts.

Left to right: Tim Reed, Tim Baer, Jim Reed lining up for Thanksgiving.

Don Henderson is behind the camera.

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On Thanksgiving holidays ever since, I make sure I’m with family and friends, and now and then I try to set a place at the table of my mind, for any little old lady or lone friend who might want to join us…for the second saddest thing I’ve ever seen is a happy family lustily enjoying a Thanksgiving feast together and forgetting for a moment about all those lone diners in all the cafeterias of the world who could use a kind glance and a smile

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© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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CRY FOR HAPPY

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/cryforhappy.mp3

or read his story below:

CRY FOR HAPPY

If you are reading this, you must be hanging in there despite the fact that you and I are survivors of yet another Election Day.

Yes, Grasshopper, people do live through times like these–perhaps with great caution, maybe with a dab of apprehension, but certainly with a healthy dose of goodwill and humor.

The world around us swirls with disjointed factoids and fictions, mythologies and truths. It is our job to bear it all, to make sure we take care of our loved ones and seek the good in each and every person, the good in all the peoples living on this small spheroid afloat in a directionless galaxy.

The all-consuming media clog our sensibilities with the good, the bad, the uglified, the uplifting. Awash with all this debris, we who have survived the election–all of us–must get on with making security and love and kindness our topmost priorities.

The uglified stuff must be stared down, confronted, humiliated, marginalized…the beautiful stuff must be accentuated, made prominent. The bestial must be attenuated.

Our fellow travelers are watching us, so we must set inspiring standards of behavior. If we fail to do this, what good are we?

It’s the only path that makes any sense.

As Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Living a kindly life is difficult. Difficult is the only way anything good ever gets done.

Ray Bradbury said, “Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.”

If we wish to be fondly remembered by future generations, we must behave each moment at the top of our genetics.

We must build our wings whether descending or ascending

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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THE PERFECT DAY OF TRUE GRITS AND SALTED BLACK-EYED PEAS

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/truegrits.mp3

or read his story below:

THE PERFECT DAY OF TRUE GRITS AND SALTED BLACK-EYED PEAS 

Bill, the guy from Up North, is visiting Alabama for the first time, and he is poking at his food as if it might be hiding a live squirrel.

We’re having an expense-account dinner, trying to entice him into moving down south by introducing him to our exotic food, our southern hospitality culture.

Bill is making a effort to slow down and sync up with our slow southern rhythms.

Finally, he reaches down into a serving of black-eyed peas, picks one up, examines it closely and says, “Is this a grit?”

At this moment, we realize this is not going to be easy, this baptism-by-food initiation.

Earlier, looking over the menu, Bill asks, “What is this OCK-ruh dish?” We know he’s never known the pleasures of okra. As James Dickey once said, “If God made anything better than okra, he held it back for himself.”

Just for the record, here’s how you eat black-eyed peas, assuming they have been carefully and correctly prepared:

First, you shake lots of salt on the peas, followed by ground pepper and maybe even some pepper sauce. Then, like all true Deep South connoisseurs, you shake a heap of catsup upon them.

Don’t laugh. Everybody in my family does this, and the result is delicious. Try it.

What we try to get across to Bill is the fact that it’s not the plain-and-simple southern food that tastes great, it’s the stuff you add to it in correct proportions.

For instance here’s how you eat grits, assuming they have been carefully and lovingly prepared:

Make sure they are piping hot. Salt and pepper them. Add a dollop or two of butter, some cheese, even a touch of garlic, then vigorously stir them. Prepare ye for a transformative experience.

Something not to do if you want to immerse yourself in true dining ecstasy:  Never, never eat grits plain, with no flavoring. They will taste like steamed particle board and you will never go near them again. Lots of visitors to the south have done this, and they are now lost souls, condemned forever to living on Ovaltine and non-iced, non-lemoned iced tea.

Ever gone to a Chicago diner and ordered iced tea? You’ll get that blank stare reserved only for aliens from far planets.

Down Here, there are things one does not do. We don’t put gravy on good steak. We will tolerate hash browns only if you have run out of grits. We know the difference between flavorless raw spinach leaves and hot, pork-flavored over-cooked tasty spinach.

And so on.

After all, what Bill needs to understand is that the South is a wonderful, friendly and warm place to live, but you must learn the rules about good food in order to truly enjoy yourself.

And the correct way to prepare barbecue is an entirely different story for a later time.

Does Bill “get it” and learn to relax around southern cuisine? Er, southern eating?

Don’t know. He disappears and is never heard from again.

Which means we get to divide up his servings

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

Twitter and Facebook