WHAT GOOD AM I?

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/whatgoodami.mp3

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WHAT GOOD AM I?

Sometimes I ply my trade.

Sometimes I plod my trade.

The repetitive and redundant activities of daily living sometimes gang up on me and, even in the best of times, weigh me down and make me introspect my life, examine my routines, long for a refresher course in how to remain excited and engaged in what I do all the live long day.

Mary Pipher once said, “Most of the unhappiness in the world is caused by people who are 90 percent happy, going for the last 10 percent.”

Maybe that’s a quote I should place before me as I go about the rote treadmill.

If I’m so happy, why am I not happy? At times.

I’ll be keynoting an address to a gathering of Writers Anonymous scribes on Saturday morning, and this subject could resonate with attendees, since our very presence at the meeting will indicate that we’re still in the game, searching for the breadcrumbs leading out of the forever maze.

The primary questions I invite anyone—including yours mostly truly—to entertain are these:

What good am I? Am I contributing to the texture and richness so badly needed in the world? Am I using my art to advance goodness, mercy and kindness, or am I merely feeding my needy ego?

What good am I as a writer and bookdealer? What good am I as a husband and father and neighbor and kinsman and friend and helper? What will my writing mean to this and future generations? Am I just taking up space while eking out the days?

What still excites me about life, is learning how can I pass this excitement on to my readers, my customers, my daily fellow travellers.

Why write if no-one reads? Why write if my work does not enhance and make better the lives yearning to find hope and meaning?

What good am I?

What good is my work?

If I can cause you to react to my work, if I can engender laughter or concern or inspiration in you, does this count as evidence that I matter? That my work is useful to you?

This is a great burden to place upon you—the burden of making me feel that I matter.

But if I can take the time to notice you, to notice that you matter whether you know it or not, then maybe I can find some semblance of meaning in my plying and plodding.

Maybe I can tell myself that, well, maybe I do matter after all

 

(c) Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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O WHAT I WOULDN’T DO

O WHAT I WOULDN’T DO

Almost every job in the world is a job I would not voluntarily do.

For instance, I have no interest in being a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, a sanitation worker, a welder, a letter carrier, a plumber, a pest controller, a dog catcher, a bank clerk, a server, a janitor, a mechanic…and so on and so forth.

Ironically, I admire and secretly envy the professionals who do these and a million other jobs. Correction: I admire and envy those who do these jobs with dedication and zeal and skill, manners and good attitudes and smiles. I study them, interview them, write about them, converse with them…and I always learn something I did not previously know. Being in their presence is as pleasant as getting out of a grammar school classroom routine and taking a field trip.

I miss field trips.

Meeting and observing these professionals, honoring them, even immortalizing them, is a special avocation.

And the one thing I truly believe is, these special people are never respected enough, never reimbursed or recognized enough. Like parents and priests and caregivers and healers, they are taken for granted.

I at least fantasize about doing their jobs, at least in another life.

I can’t help imagining how difficult it must be to deliver newspapers at four in the morning on a dangerous, stormy day, how hard it might be to work a twelve-hour shift in an under-staffed emergency room, how demoralizing it is to be a prison guard or a process server or a repairer of sewers.

These professionals and a thousand more have my respect and awe. How they manage to keep a good attitude, stay the course, complete their assignments is a source of inspiration.

I’m also protective of my own profession, and I appreciate it when someone recognizes my work, be it as bookshop proprietor or entertainer or author or good listener. I hope I ply my trade with as much zeal as the best of all those other workers who (to paraphrase Herodotus) allow neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night to stay them from the completion of their appointed rounds.

Life can be hard, work can be hard, even play can be hard.

But those who manage to maintain composure and positive attitude and calmness in the throes of chaos…they are priceless and precious and at least deserving of a kindly nod or an appreciative smile now and then

 

(c) Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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TRACKING GOODNESS MIDST THE CREEPING HORRORS

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/trackinggoodnessmidstthecreepinghorrors.mp3

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TRACKING GOODNESS MIDST THE CREEPING HORRORS

Not being a warrior or a politician, there is only one way I can traverse each day and manage to find goodness and meaning in life.

The weapons and magic wands that I employ are my best defense against the purposeful meanness and fear promulgated by some of our highest-profile powermongers. 

As I scour the landscape, searching for good people who spend their time doing good things on behalf of others, I am thrilled at the amount of meaningful work that is going on in our fragile world.

Each day, I meet people who turn their anger into inspirational art, loving poetry, positive storytelling.

Each day, I meet people who refuse to bow to the mean-spirited rhetoric so easily accessed via overly-connected, overwhelmingly negative deconstructive pundits.

Each day, I find someone else who is learning to derail the fear train stoked by half the populace.

Each day, I find good people doing good things for good causes.

Each day, I run across those who do not exploit or denigrate the weak.

Each day I encounter gentle people quietly dodging the ranting bullets and missiles that feed the dormant despair in us, who raise us up with sunshine and hope-filled attitude, who replace hopelessness with helpful action.

Each day, I search for and discover that there are good people doing good things in a world that is filled with goodness, the goodness that simply awaits our attention.

Pardon my repetitiveness, but it is repetitiveness that tamps down the waves of illogic and horror-prattling all about us.

If the Negatories can constantly loop and repeat their rants, then we, the members of the Loyal Resistance, can double down and restate our kindly actions and soothing hopefulness till somebody begins to listen and take heed.

All it takes to counter the horrors is our constant refusal to bend or break.

All it takes is for us to re-state each and every untruth in a calm and positive way…and never, never stop.

Are we up to it, or shall we hide and hope it all blows over?

This is a conflict that is as old as our species. What’s amazing to consider is the fact that despite the whelming odds, some percentage of Loyal Resisters have quietly survived all these eons.

We’re still here. Our implacable optimism must be demonstrated and exercised lest it wilt away

(c) Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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CHAIRSAPOPPIN’

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/chairsapoppin.mp3

or read his story below:

CHAIRSAPOPPIN’

There are these skirted chairs around our dining room table, and it’s one of these I’m sitting on right now, only this chair is comfortable in just a couple of ways: the top part of the backrest is firm and soft and cozy, but the bottom part of the backrest is mushier than my spinal base can accommodate, so I’m slanting rather forward. In addition to this, the seat part of the chair is nicely firm and soft, but if I don’t get a pillow from the sofa and brace my lower back with it, I can’t sit here for long.

Let me get it positioned now. Ah! That is better! Now, I can write for a while in this nice orthopaedically-disciplined seat and ponder THE MYSTERIES OF CHAIRS.

Here goes:

Chairs from heaven, chairs from hell,

Chairs that make you feel just swell

Chairs that maim your rear and spine

Chairs that make you want to whine

Chairs that get you all aroused

Chairs that make you feel quite soused

Chairs that push you back too far

Chairs that give your skin a scar

Chairs that pull and hold you close

Chairs that rock and roll the most

Chairs too beautiful to sketch

Chairs with little room to stretch

Chairs that squeeze you till you’re dry

Chairs that want to pinch your thigh

Chairs that creak and moan and groan

Chairs that swallow up your phone

Chairs that suck loose change away

Chairs that lean too much and sway

Chairs so high your feet just swing

Chairs that make you want to sing

Chairs so low your bottom scrapes

Chairs with covers matching drapes

Chairs that make your fanny stick

Chairs that wear your trousers slick

Chairs from heaven, chairs from hell

Chairs bought from a ne’er-do-well

Chairs most comfy and divine

Chairs that almost cross the line

Chairs that make your thighs get creased

Chairs whose springs need lots of grease

Chairs to smooch on–I’ll not tell!

Chairs that dance a bagatelle

Chairs you stand on–grab the sky!

Chairs to hide from lest they cry

Chairs you flop in when you’re tired

Chairs you doze in when you’re wired

Chairs that make you sit up straight

Chairs too rickety to hate

Chairs that tip you when you lean

Chairs that envy and turn green

Chairs that just won’t budge an inch

Chairs that may give you a pinch

Chairs with seatbelts keep you safe

Chairs with three legs make you chafe

Chairs that scuff you on the shin

Chairs that kinda make you grin

Chairs that vibrate, chairs that shake

Chairs that really take the cake

Chairs from heaven, chairs from hell

Make me comfy! Make me well

(c) Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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THE T-TOWN FUDDY-DUDDY TIME TRAVELLER

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/thettownfuddyduddytimetraveller.mp3

or read his story below:

THE T-TOWN FUDDY-DUDDY TIME TRAVELLER

You don’t know a person really well until you’ve spent a few minutes riding around in that person’s time machine.

You might not want to know me well, but what’s the harm in peeking into the past with me for three minutes? Here, pretend I’m your guide and Uber driver. Take my hand and let me usher you to your seat inside a long-ago long-gone movie theatre in Downtown Tuscaloosa:

The Ritz Theatre: Stale and musty and smelly and run-down and ramshackle and the most exciting place to be in Tuscaloosa of a Saturday morning.

We’re talking late 1940’s, early 1950’s, my fellow traveller. We are back there now, so sit a spell with me and my buddy, Bo Riley. Bo and I just got off the bus and paid our way past the box office and into the balcony.

Now, Bo Riley looks like Huckleberry Finn-—straw hair, freckles, lean and lank, and thoroughly outdoorsy. His greatest talent is being able to spit between his two front teeth without unclinching. Me, I am more Tom Sawyerish, short, timid but conniving, and thoroughly in love with movies and cartoons. My main talent is observing and taking notes.

Back in these yesterdays, there is no television in our neighborhood, so the only
non-book visual stimulation to be had is on the big pockmarked silver screen at the Ritz-—you know, the picture show place right next door to the seedy pool hall (we are forbidden to go there) and H&W Drugs (where you can get the best chicken salad sandwich in the universe).

The Ritz is on the Wrong Side of the Street. Just across main street is the elegant Bama Theatre, a miniature facsimile of Birmingham’s Alabama
Theatre. We go to the Bama with our parents to see family movies, but our parentless Saturday morning lust for laughs and action takes us straight to the Ritz.

Every Saturday, there is a double-feature-—say a Roy Rogers western, a Lash LaRue western, a Superman serial installment, and two animated cartoon features, not to mention a live-action “short” by Pete Smith or the Three Stooges, plus lots of teasing trailers promoting upcoming movies.

All this for the price of one ticket—and back in these days you are allowed to sit through everything twice without being thrown out.

I love all these dreamlike adventures where you can pretend to be braver and stronger and wiser than you will ever be in real life. But I guess the most fun is the animated cartoons, starring Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker, Tom and Jerry, Tweety Pie and Sylvester, Goofy…but, mainly, Bugs Bunny.

Bugs Bunny is bigger and better and funnier than all the other cartoon stars put together.

Bugs Bunny is my hero.

You see, Bugs Bunny knows how to get out of a tough situation by using his wits and his wisecracking mouth, just like another cartoon character, Brer Rabbit. I secretly think that maybe Bugs and Brer are cousins, since nothing can defeat them.

Anyhow, I model myself after Bugs—to deflect the dense bullies who stalk kids like me, I usually say something that makes them roll over laughing, thus forgetting to beat me up. Meanwhile, I disappear before they can come to their senses.

One thing I can do well is run for my life!

My smart-mouth approach to life follows me up till now, often getting me into trouble, sometimes getting me out of trouble, at times making me misunderstood-—not everybody has a sense of humor, so I’ve learned to keep my trap shut now and then.

But my memories of the menacing Elmer Fudd, devoted to the idea of  wabbit stew, persist. Elmer is always wanting chaos. Bugs is always wanting to be let alone, left alone. And, unlike me, Bugs always wins.

Down all the years, I fondly recall the antics of Bugs and Elmer. Elmer still stalks Bugs with his dreams of wabbit stew. Bugs artfully dodges Elmer and imprints himself on the memories of all bully-dodgers like me.

And I try each and every day not to become just another elderly Elmer Fuddy-Duddy chasing windmills and wabbits

 

(c) Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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THE PURITY OF LONG-AGO SNOWS

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/thepurityoflongagosnows.mp3

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THE PURITY OF LONG-AGO SNOWS

Saturday morning. Snow and ice abound. I clamber aboard my iced vehicle and carefully, CAREFULLY make my way through Southside, sailing to work at the whim of nature and chance.

I actually arrive at the bookshop Downtown, unscathed, un-snowbound, the only denizen in sight, the sole survivor of a species huddling indoors.

I stoke the furnace, say g’day to the books and facsimile Santas, and begin my workday.

Yes, there are booklovers out there for whom snow and ice are mere challenges, not barriers. A few trickle in, have enjoyable browses, make their purchases and continue their explorations of a winter day of sunshine and slippery.

As I prepare to close the shop at closing time, I recall a day long, long ago, when I was a mere tad experiencing my first and best snowfall.

Here’s an entry from my Red Clay Diary:

PURITY

One day when I was seven years old, the world got all cleaned up and everything got a chance to start all over again.

Overnight, the multi-textured earth became one smooth, soft, icy texture, the world of colors and hues became one wonderful multi-shaded land of whites and off-whites and cream-whites and shadowed whites and faintly pinkish whites.

The world overnight cleansed the landscape and allowed clapping children to remold everything in their own images.

Snowmen and snowwomen appeared quickly, playing guardian to our delight. Makeshift sleds materialized mysteriously out of old siding, ragged boards, large tubs and pans.

Footprints showed us who had been where and from where and where to, leaving traces of their makers—something that could never happen during ordinary times.

Mother took the whitened landscape that our Father had gathered from the yard and shrubbery and, waving her large magic wand of a serving-spoon, created the sweetest, sloshiest ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

Large multilayered men came outside to pretend they were younger in the deepening creamy banks, and little stuffed-slug kids meandered about in pelts made of nylon and dacron and cotton and leather.

Though we could barely make out each others’ faces under all those makeshift scarves, we recognized everybody instantly, because they were our transmogrified neighbors and playmates running amok upon the unfamiliar terra-infirma.

All human routine was suspended, and during that 24-hour period so many years ago, nobody seemed to hold a job, nobody had homework to do, nobody had to be anywhere else but right there on our block on Eastwood Avenue right down from McArthur Avenue and Patton Avenue and 15th Street.

Some celestial force had taken over our little village for a day and, like Brigadoon, it would not repeat itself in our lifetimes but would save itself for the next hundred-year generation that needed a quick and gentle cleansing so that the next day, when all was back to normal texture normal color normal temperature normal firma, everybody who had experienced this whiter-than-white washing of the spirit would have a memory to cherish in old age, a memory of things being just right and just magical and just totally real all at the same time 

(c) Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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IN CASE WE EVER NEED A BOOK

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/incaseweeverneedabook.mp3

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IN CASE WE EVER NEED A BOOK

“This is a book store?” the new customer asks in surprise.

“I was just looking at the doodads,” she’s referring to all the collectible and cherished items scattered about to keep the books company.

She pauses thoughtfully, “Well, it’s good to know you have books, in case we ever need one.”

Her husband responds when I ask him what his kids are reading these days, “Well, they don’t read. Except on their phones.”

It’s New Year’s Eve at Reed Books and the Museum of Fond Memories. Lots of browsers are combing the aisles and examining my foster children, the books. Some shoppers are just along for the ride with family and friends, some are here to dive into other worlds, other times, other lives through the page by page surprises awaiting them.

Some shoppers don’t get why anybody would read a book. Others cannot imagine living without a plethora of reading matter…because, well, reading Matters to them.

I cherish customers who have fallen in love with reading. I cherish those who are beginning a flirtation with literature. I cherish readers who are returning to reading after years of distraction, decades of losing their way. I even cherish this rural husband and wife who do not read at all. I hope they have found something as thrilling and mind-boggling as reading, to while away their years. I can hope, can’t I?

I am beginning my 37th year as curator/owner/founder/janitor of Reed Books. I operate this lovely business out of sheer hope, sheer enthusiasm, sheer refusal to imagine a world that does not know what true love of reading is like.

To paraphrase Henry Standing Bear, It’s another beautiful day at Reed Books’ continual soiree. Come on down and drink deep of the Pierian Spring.

Convince me that you might be the visitor who just found out that you could use a book.

And tell me where else in the world  such characters as Alexander Pope and Henry Standing Bear would hang out and find excitement in just rubbing elbows with literati and illiterati with such ease

 

© 2017 A.D. by Jim Reed

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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THE MORNING AFTER THE MORNING BEFORE

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/themorningafterthemorningbefore.mp3

or ready his story below:

THE MORNING AFTER THE MORNING BEFORE

Solstice celebrations are packing December, and O what fun they are.

But the day after the joy, the day after the close of this wacky year, what will the world be like?

After overstaying my mortal welcome and journeying forth into the netherlands of geezerhood, l can speculate all I want. Because who’s to stop me?

My hunch is that Earth will continue spinning a few billion times, Old Sol will fume and glisten for a trillion or so, humanoids will come and go and come again and go again, mice and mosquitoes will prevail to the inconsequential end, and the darkness of space will keep on sparkling with stars and other glowy objects, and large rocks will orbit and collide right on random schedule.

Now that the science lesson is concluded, what is left upon which to focus our attentions?

It’s always the same. As long as we are bumbling about, birthing and suspiring, we might as well do something worthwhile…something bigger and better than acquiring wealth and power and status and property. We might as well take care of each other.

Each other is all we’ve got.

In my case, I can only do what I can only do. Hug my family. Hug a friend. Hug someone in need. Hug someone who simply could use a hug.

What else could I do? Listen instead of blabbering and bragging. Look someone in the eye instead of avoiding them altogether. Imagine what it would be like to be that other person. Slap myself each time I throw out an entertaining but hurtful remark. Remember what it is like to be on the other end of that remark.

If I behave according to these precepts, will I become inert, wimpy, useless…or will I morph into someone better, someone wiser, someone worth respecting, someone to be trusted?

It would be a brave new world, the world that would allow all of us to behave, to embrace, to acknowledge, to share, to support, to assist.

Sometimes I want to grab a large canvas bag and stuff it with all the useless ideas that rattle around me. This bag would be filled with negativity, pessimism, criticism, violence, careless remarks, snobbishness, condescension, smirking, and all I’m-better-than-you-isms. Perhaps NASA could gather all these bags and launch them toward the Sun, where they would evaporate and for a moment illuminate our better selves.

Just another idea. What you do with it is all on you, my fellow traveller

 

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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TALLYING THE SWEET MOMENTS LEST THEY GO AWRY

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/tallyingthesweetmoments.mp3

or read his story below:

TALLYING THE SWEET MOMENTS LEST THEY GO AWRY

“Wow! Look at all the shoe boxes!” Sweetness exclaims as she opens the rear passenger door of my bookmobile to retrieve two heavy bags from the seat.

The bags are filled with clothing and multi-textured cloth products ready to be laundered.

It is Tuesday morning. I’ve just pulled up to the front of the laundromat and Sweetness has popped out of the entrance to grab the bags as an extra service to me, the regular customer. What she sees are two re-purposed shoe boxes filled with Christmas goodies packed and headed for the postal service. Shoe boxes deserve an afterlife, and this is it.

I call Sweetness Sweetness because I don’t know her real name, and because she’s always chipper and smiling, a friendly flower child. She makes my Tuesdays a little sweeter.

I wish her a great day, she reciprocates, and I’m off to my next adventure–getting those packages mailed at the UAB postal station where, again, my morning is flavored with the good will of my favorite postmistress. We exchange pleasantries and gossip, she processes everything like clockwork, wishes me a great day and smiles when I wish her right back. I know her real name, but I label her Postmistress in honor of my late Aunt Gladys McGee, who was postmistress of Peterson, Alabama, when I was a child.

I pull up to a pump at the convenience station, obey robotic instructions, fill the tank, retrieve my credit card, and enter the store. I take one Diet Coke and a sin-filled calorie-loaded pastry to checkout, where Ms. Convenient grins and makes change. We banter, I grab my goodies, I head for the door. I don’t know her name, either. But she is so nicely convenient to my routine that the improvised title seems just right.

The bookmobile then pushes workward, but first I stop at Family Dollar to pick up store supplies and chat with another clerk who always seems happy to see me. She is Family Lady. We are three-minute friends every few days.

Then, I wend my way to the commercial parking lot where the bookmobile will slumber all day. I trade friendly and newsworthy remarks with the lot attendant, who, like me, is always grateful for our dialogues. He is Park Man, my mini super-hero.

Then, I tread the short block to the bookshop, forever waving to the bank clerks on the corner, sharing a smile or a puzzled look, depending on who’s on duty.

I grapple with the shop keys, dive into the store, and meet my daytime buddies, the books, the books, the books. They, too, add sweetness to my day and prepare me for the diversity of customers and clients I will face. They all have names.

By the time I’m ready to lower the drawbridge and welcome visitors, I’ve completed a full cycle of pre-work activities.

I am now ready for my second shift

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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A WHOLE SLEW OF PONDERING HAPPENING HERE

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/awholeslewofpondering.mp3

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A WHOLE SLEW OF PONDERING HAPPENING HERE

Can’t stop those beautiful thoughts from creeping in between the ghastly ones, the ghostly ones.

Lots of reasons to think grimly these days, but eventually something interrupts the flow and spoils my morose prattlings.

For instance, something like a Beautiful Thought.

Yep, the beautiful thoughts just well up and take over now and then when they find an opening. I usually have to insert myself into an in-between moment in order to give those beautiful thoughts a chance to creep in.

Before I know it, though, the Uglies sneak around and start chomping at the Beauties and the war is on, the war between Ugly and Beautiful.

The good news is that, given time–that is, you can’t “give” time, you have to stop, back up a pace, and observe the fact that time goes on with or without your permission–given time, the war seesaws. No matter how much ugliness chomps away, beauty will most likely sneak back in when you least expect it.

It’s those beautiful thoughts, those beautiful minutes, that seem to make things worthwhile again. If you’re lucky, you’ll live long enough to experience a whole slew of these beautiful thoughts, enough of a whole slew to make you almost believe that it’s all worth it–whatever It is and whatever Worth It means

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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(For all concerned grammarians–the word “slew” as used above simply means “multitude.” From old Gaelic. Just so you know that, as an idiot, I am still incomplete.)