Category Archives: humor

What has it got in its Pocketses?

golumnPeople who own bookstores wind up with the most amazing things in our pockets at the end of the day. Here is an inventory of mine from yesterday:

a broken cat toy – Saw it on the floor, didn’t want a dog to swallow it, picked it up just as our first customers walked in, so stuck it in my pocket until I could get to a trash can.

guitar picks – Jack is often asked to spontaneously entertain bookstore guests, and he leaves these everywhere after.

wood screws – Ditto. I don’t complain; he puts up shelves every week, just about, or does some other repair. Sometimes I think he leaves the screws so I’ll know he was working there….

a crochet hook – This is the only thing I deliberately put in my pocket that morning. Because you never know when you’ll have spare time.

various receipts and school photographs – People are forever leaving these in books. I’m pretty sure I never bought “vg lmn ast 2pk $4.99″ from a place called “Far and Away” in Levington, MT. (IS there a Levington, MT?)

a mangled paperback cover – Our foster kittens sleep in the mystery room. Usually they understand the rules of correct behavior, but yesterday they’d had a go at poor Herman Wouk. I grabbed the shredded evidence from the floor because I was on my way to showing customers where Sue Grafton’s books were, and I didn’t want them to see what the kittens had done.

a lettuce leaf – We had several people eating buffet style yesterday. I don’t help serve, but was up there getting a glass of water and the leaf was just sitting, enigmatically, on a low shelf of food-themed murder mysteries. I picked it up, intending to throw it away, but someone was in the bathroom so I stuck it in my pocket until I could get to a trash can.

two pencils, a pen, four paper clips, and a pencil sharpener – Straightening a couple of shelves, I noticed some books didn’t have prices, so grabbed a pencil. Apparently about an hour later, I did the same thing, plus the sharpener. I grabbed the pen to tally a customer. I don’t know how the paper clips got in there.

a child’s sock – I found it in the children’s room, on a shelf. I don’t know why. I don’t know what to do with it.

two business cards – People come in; they tell you about their services; you tell them they can put a flyer up in the “local business” section by the door. They thank you, give you one business card, and leave. They never bring flyers. I don’t know why.

assorted bottle caps – Customers who come into the store with soft drinks or bottled water are usually very taken with the kittens, and give them the caps to play with. No problem, everyone likes this, but throughout the day I tend to rake in quite a haul.

a 500MG Tylenol – I meant to swallow it surreptitiously in our private kitchen, but when a customer asked a question, I pocketed it for later, and then it got mixed up with the pencils and the lettuce leaf, and the sock…

So, what’s in your pockets?

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections

Michael Reno Harrell on Bookstores

Today’s guest blog is from Michael Reno Harrell, storyteller, on Why I’m a Big Fan of Independent Bookstores. Michael will be with us for a concert August 29th, and is storytelling in residence in Jonesboro that week.harrell

 

I’m a storyteller. I write songs and tell stories, mostly about the Southern experience, which I perform all across the United States and the British Isles. I have written for magazines and newsletters and blogs, have had my work published in books and recorded fifteen CD’s. I’m lucky that I have an agent that likes for me to be working. I don’t have to pay her 20% or even15%. She gets it all. She’s my wife, Joan.

I find that most of the folks who are interested in folk music and storytelling tend to be avid readers as well, so I look at everything I do as one in the same, storytelling. I remember as a teenaged Woody Guthrie want-to-be going into record stores and coming out two hours later, having perused minutely every folk album cover in the store. What a wonderful way to spend some Saturday afternoon time.

 

A good bookstore is the same. We each have our own personal analogies, for me it’s, like entering a favorite restaurant where the staff knows what you like and only suggest things that they know you will enjoy. And I know that I will leave an hour later sated. There really is something so right about sliding a finger along the spines of a row of books until it stops on an intriguing title. There is that moment of ponder, then the volume is slid from its place in line, opened and the first page is scanned. This process is repeated until one finds oneself on page three. A small voice in the head says “Yes” and the book is tucked under an arm and a new friendship has begun. Or maybe you simply want to stop in and thumb through a periodical about a new field of interest.

In the last few years Joan has become a gardener. Now the gardening section in bookstores and the magazines on the subject are where she heads first, then to cycling and health stuff. For me it’s motorcycle magazines, fiction, autobiographies, DYI, a good chair, coffee and a blueberry scone. It is the experience, the colors and the smells and the lighting and all that information and entertainment just waiting for me to hold in my hands. Try that on a laptop.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, reading, VA

The Monday Book(s): Moomintroll Adventures by Tove Jansson

moomintrollsMoomintroll isn’t the name of a book, but the character created by Jansson. Moomin, as the little white hippo-like troll with the tail is known, lives with Moominmamma and Moominpappa in a valley, but the little guy gets around.

The books are full of gentle illustrations of the trolls and their friends, particularly Snufkin and the Snork Maiden (Moomin’s love interest). Although a cheerful little guy, Moomin can be quite moody and wax philosophical over small events–like discovering seashells.moomin2

I loved these books because the trolls were adorable and nothing threatening ever really was allowed to get out of hand, despite the sometimes rather dark story lines and illustrations. As an adult, I go back and read them when times are tough. You just can’t have angst when you’re catching up with the Moominfamily.

If you want to start at the beginning, it’s Moomintroll and the Great Flood. Young Moomin does a fair bit of growing up throughout the series, so it does kinda make sense to start at the beginning.

The Moomins, despite the baby boy’s growing up, can be counted on for consistency in a world of chaos. That’s why I like the books – well, that and the adorable drawings. Moominpapa says things like, “I only want to live in peace and plant potatoes and dream!”

What’s not to love? Papa also likes his whiskey. Don’t get the idea that these little guys dance through fields of flowers never saying anything meaningful.  Here’s their take on the arts:

“A theatre is the most important sort of house in the world, because that’s where people are shown what they could be if they wanted, and what they’d like to be if they dared to and what they really are.”

They’re really quite advanced in their philosophy.

moominphilosophyCheck out a Moomintroll. Your library will have them in the children’s section.

moomin3

 

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Filed under book reviews, humor, Life reflections, out of things to read, YA fiction

Of Hookers, Husbands, and Wives

I like to crochet while minding the bookstore, and joined an online crochet forum a couple of months ago. It turned out not to be much fun. A few days in, people were fussing about announcements of imminent grandchildren “disguised as crochet posts with plans to make a stupid hat or something.”

jack hat afghanWhen I posted a pic of Jack wearing a needleworker’s bag on his head after a crochet-and-knit meeting at the bookstore, the message came from a list administrator that the pic had been removed and I should review the rules.

Everybody knows it’s hard to work with wool that’s too tightly wound—stuff stretches out of shape—so I got off the list. But a few days later someone (I don’t know who or how) joined me to a much bigger group, and over time they seem to be less apt to felt their fibers into itchy knicker twists.

What’s really fun about the list I’m on is how much husband-wife adorability comes up. A few weeks ago a woman went into false labor and was sent home from the hospital to “absolute and complete” bedrest. At seven months, she figured she’d be bored out of her mind, but when she reached the bed, her hubby had stacked on it several skeins of yarn, a five-pack of assorted hooks, and a boxed set of DVDs of her favorite TV show, seasons 1-5.

Now that’ s manning up, ladies and gentlemen.

Another lady’s husband got hurt on the job and has a six months recovery to endure. Depression set in and she despaired. His second week at home, he picked up one of her hooks and some yarn (which she needed for a work in progress). She kept her mouth shut and watched him produce the world’s most lopsided dishcloth, which she told him was perfect; she then photographed it and slammed the thing up on the list with a brief backstory. List members cheered his bad edgings and suggested projects, and several posted pictures of manly men crocheting. He’s about halfway through a very nice granny square afghan, after asking his wife a few days ago, “Hey, how do you change colors?”

A woman’s husband woke her Saturday past with a “get your crap out of the living room today; I’m tired of looking at it.” She gave him a baleful stare and went to see what on earth he was talking about, since she considered the living room “his mancave”—and found he’d paid $230 at an estate sale for about a ton of yarn and several boxes of hooks.

Husbands can be very sweet. So can crochet lists, if you find one where a little humanity keeps the edges in line.chickens

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, crafting, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Books a Bazillion

In which Jack returns to writing his weekly blog post, and sighs patiently over a subject known only too well to bookslingers everywhere.

garbage-landfill Yesterday one of our cafe regulars asked if we bought books. I explained that we didn’t, but gave store credit if the trade-ins met our needs and standards.

“Oh, I can just donate them,” he said, and headed for his van.

That seemed like a clue that these weren’t going to be top of the line, but I went out to watch him struggle up the front steps with an enormous TV box–the kind I advise folk not to use, as they weigh a ton when full of books.

A better man would have helped, but I admit to you my moral failing: I knew what was coming and just didn’t care.

A quick glance established that most of his donations were older Grishams and Pattersons; to add insult to injury, they were minus their dust jackets. After explaining as gently as I could that  these were pretty much useless to us, I raked through to find eight acceptable hardbacks as well as more (useless) battered paperbacks. At this point he shrugged and said he’d got them from a friend.

(So – a friendship wall?)

This was the third time in as many days we’d had much the same experience, having to explain that we don’t take hardbacks minus their jackets, torn or stained paperbacks, romances including Danielle Steel or kids’ coloring books already colored in. It’s the law of used book shops: people don’t want to dump, so they donate. And they mean well for the most part, but a couple months of that, and customers will have a hard time differentiating your shop from a dump site.

Surveying our store the other week, with its spiraling pinwheels of shelves moving toward the center of every room, eking out the final frontiers of space, I resolved to become even more choosy about what to accept. And perhaps instigate a cull.

After all, folk are generally pretty sanguine when I explain our policy. What I hope is that people will begin to weed out themselves before bringing stuff to us, but in the meantime, I’ll stifle a sigh. And maybe help with the box next time.

Perhaps I can build a garden wall somewhere with all those jacketless Grishams and Pattersons? Wendy would like that….

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, book repair, bookstore management, crafting, humor, Life reflections, reading, small town USA

The Monday TV Show?

snobsRegular readers know my passions (besides Jack and books) include rescuing cats and crocheting, often combining these in projects such as the SPAY AND NEUTER AFGHAN. (Thanks for the generous support so many of you have shown!)

The calming repetitive muscle movement of crocheting begs for intellectual accompaniment. Alas, I’ve gone through the entire Lonesome Pine Regional Library System’s collection of recorded books, and the fastest way to fall asleep while crocheting is listen to music, so….. hello, Netflix.

Jack and I don’t own a TV, but if he’s busy with a fix-it project around the bookstore – and since our house was built in 1903, he often is – I wind up sitting in front of the computer screen, whipping out kitty butt coasters while binge watching some quality network programming.

Given that readers won’t always admit they even watch TV (bibliophile elitism is not a big social problem, though) it startled me when I put out a call on Facebook for some potential watching, and got 50+ responses.

Here are the winners of the “bibliophilic snobs recommend” thread, with a few snarky comments from me:

BEEN THERE, SEEN THAT

Cadfael, House of Cards (US and UK), Downton Abbey, Bletchley Circle, Call the Midwife, Vicar of Dibley, The IT Crowd – LOVED ‘em all

Sherlock  – hated it, watched just to see how they did the Doyle do-overs. Best part was Season 3 playing with itself over Reichenbach Falls. Dear Networks: Please note that decorative men are no substitute for substance.

Jericho and Revolution – post-apocalyptic shows, both cancelled mid-storyline. The well-written Jericho was saved by a fan campaign, while Revolution -heh, who knew 15-year-old boys were writing Hollywood scripts? To paraphrase Mark Twain, of 357 possible plot failings, Rev committed 350.

Orange is the new Black – by all accounts, Season 2 is better than 1. To which my usually gentle husband Jack responded, “That wouldn’t take much.” Oh well….

Wallander – Jack and I tried the Swedish version and gave up halfway through Episode 1. We hear the English version might be better.

Law and Order (original) – not so much watched as memorized. I’m a huge LnO fan.

Northern Exposure – Remember liking it live, may have to try it again as a binge watch

Borgias and Tudors – Historical characters that interesting did not need added sex and violence.

TED talks – I like TED talks, but find the bundles available on Netflix tend to lead with celebrities, segue into duds, then finish with really thought-provoking ideas. So I’ve started skipping to the last three of any bundle. :]

MAYBE, HECK YEAH, and HELL NO

Dexter – Lemme get this straight: you want the Quaker bookstore owners to watch a show about an assassin who only takes out people as need killing, and is really a nice guy despite a couple of problems? Yeah. Everybody has some of The Light inside them…. Pass, thanks.

Hell on Wheels – We might try this. We’d never heard of it and lotsa people recommended it.

Sons of Anarchy – Poor misunderstood lost boy motorcyclists? Sounds a bit like Peter Pan for grown-ups, but okay, we might try it.

Walking Dead – Just say no to Zombies–at least until someone makes them sparkle. Which will happen, mark my words.

Treme – Sounded interesting; gonna try it.

The White Queen – I liked Gregory’s book, and it’s clear that Elizabeth Woodville is her favorite historical character, so I’d like to see it, but Netflix doesn’t care.

LOST and Twin Peaks – Confusing worlds where nothing is as it seems? This is diversion? Sounds like an NPR broadcast.

Sex and the City – Insert penis joke here. NEXT!

The Following – A cult that worships a lit professor? Sign me up!

Hemlock Grove – Look, anything Netflix is pushing that hard just has to be garbage. Plus, I don’t like it when bad guys leap out of people’s stomachs. Gore makes my stitch tension too tight.

Game of Thrones – Ooooh, you say there’s a fantastic new  fantasy world out there where women get the shit beat out of them and raped and can’t hold onto power? WOW! Gotta check that out;  sounds like real escapism to me…..

Justified – A show that treats Appalachians like real people? PLEASE Netflix, get this for streaming!

Okay, we’ll go back to books next week and pretend this little interlude never happened. But now we know; readers watch, too. And it’s not all bad.

spay and neuter afghan

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Fifteen Adults Laughing very hard Together

We’d been plotting the Cards Against Humanity game for a long time. Susan and David Hamrick, some of our favorite people on Earth, had recently lost Hazel, the beloved eldercat who sparked public outrage in Southwest Virginia when her owner surrendered her to the shelter at the age of 20; Hazel’s plight birthed a webpage for eldercat advocacy.

David and Susan also adopted Mal, the high-expense, high-care kitten with the cleft palate who crossed the bookstore lawn about a month before. So planning the CaH game was a chance for Hazel’s ashes to return to her hometown, Mal to see his adoring public now his feeding tube was out, and us to see David and Susan.

The participant list grew. Local doctors looking for a fun weekend (I work with regional medical recruitment); our sainted vet Beth, who diagnosed both Mal and Hazel free of charge; her husband TNB (we call Brandon That Nice Boy Beth Married, TNB for short); and a plethora of others, most of whom have adopted a cat from us. Being adult professionals, we had salad and vegetarian curry, black bean chili, and – in honor of Beth’s recent birthday – Peanut Butter Chocolate Reese Butterfingers Eight-Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Health care professionals know how to party.

And then the CaH came out, with the expander pack. Beth put bottles of her homemade Merlot on the table, and David set out his carefully hoarded Ben Nevis single malt.

But the fun started before the drinking, because the first card out of the gate was something like “How do you get laid?”

After Brandon won with a card that suggested certain specific activities in very precise anatomical locations, I turned to him and said, “I’m never calling you ‘That Nice Boy’ again.”

It all kinda took off from there.

There is something wonderfully healing about 15 adults sitting around a table acting like adolescents who have a deep background in politics. People literally snorted whisky out their noses, we laughed so hard.

And about every 15 minutes, someone shouted “Kid!” and the room went silent as the four young boys hanging out downstairs in the children’s room, playing with kittens under the supervision of a teen, came up and helped themselves to soda.

(Susan and I sent David and Jack to the store for children’s drinks before the party. They returned with a bottle of Mountain Dew. We sent them back for ginger ale.)

In the silence of an early “not in front of the children” moment, David said, “Did everyone enjoy the lovely weather today?” and we all died laughing again.

And again a minute later, when the winning response to “What are Jack and Leroy doing in the basement?” (there are blank cards for making up your own question) turned out to be “Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II.”

Jack’s praying for Scottish Independence, come September. He and Leroy were downstairs sorting a quick plumbing problem before joining the game.

Yeah, it’s raucous and raunchy and irreverent, but CaH is such good steam-valve-release fun. We play by the “everybody gets one veto” rule. Donald refused to play a Holocaust card; I put back “The Blood of Christ”; Kelley doesn’t allow the one about a pool of children’s tears. Everybody has limits.

But few and far between, for the most part, and sitting there watching 15 adults return to high school in their brains while eating vegetables and drinking responsibly, laughing themselves silly in good company, I couldn’t help thinking, “This is why Jack and I started a bookstore.”

Sitting around that table: two cancer patients, the mother of another, a cancer survivor, three medical professionals who make life-and-death decisions every day, a government employee, two professors, a couple trying to get pregnant, four people who lost parents this year, and two newly-fledged adults launching into the world. This world.

To have these moments, this place, where you can stop being the Responsible Adult, cut loose, and enjoy life is a rare and wonderful thing. We’re so lucky to be able to do this.

 

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