Tag Archives: Ali Fisher

Cookie Extortion

Jack returned shopsitter Andrew Whalen to his ancestral home on Sunday; Andrew’s mom drove down US 23, and Jack drove up it. It was a painless and swift swap.

Except now we have this hole in the bookstore. . .

The dogs lie about with doleful expressions. “Where’s that guy who rubbed our ears and plied us with chewy sticks?” their eyes ask.

Owen Meany, staff kitten, has never been the sharpest pencil in the pack, but even he has figured out that someone’s missing. This morning he stood on my face with an alarmed expression and informed me that the guest bedroom was empty. Then he bit my nose.

Meanwhile, without our steady, sensible shopsitter, Jack and I have braced ourselves for the boxes of books that come in during Christmas clean-outs. Lots of people trade over the holidays, in large measure because we have a “Boxing Day” tradition of giving out little boxes of shortbread as part of the deal, Dec. 26-31.

Which brings me to the mean thing I did to Andrew’s mom….

Tammy Whalen runs a company, COOKIE GLASS, that makes the most exquisite baked goods. Little flat ones with butterscotch chips, big thick ones with oatmeal, melty chocolate chunks . . . these babies are GOOOOOOOOOD.

When Andrew’s parents showed up unexpectedly about a month into his sojourn with us, she brought a dozen or so with her. My friend Elizabeth and I promptly sent Andrew to fetch a bucket of steam, and ate our way through the bag, moaning in pleasure. I think the poor kid got two.

That’s how we knew any amount of subterfuge was worth it to get more of these beauts. (They’re not expensive. And she ships. Check out COOKIE GLASS on FB, but make sure you get the company; there’s a couple of people by that name. Heh.)

Shamelessly, I composed a ransom note to Andrew’s mom, explaining that for one dozen cookies, her son would be returned unharmed. For two dozen, he would be returned without any rescue kittens stuffed in his hoodie pockets. (The bookstore fosters shelter cats.)

She bit; Jack and I are now guilty yet proud possessors of two dozen cookies in a beautiful green box with a gold mesh bow. We will be taking them to our friends Ashia and Witold’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, and the Whalens will be remembered fondly amid eye-rolling estatic bites.

In all honesty, I suspect anything this family does is done right. The cookies are brilliant. Andrew was brilliant. Having spent his early career in children’s television production and independent film-making, he will return to Brooklyn after Thanksgiving–during which, he informed us, the family gets to eat all the broken cookies during holiday production, so he didn’t begrudge our ill-gotten loot–to seek new employment, having packed in his Asst. Producer job in search of more challenges.

Jack and I have no doubt he will be snapped up by someone who recognizes that a sensible mind able to isolate and solve problems, keep order, create community and offer excellent customer service is rare and valuable. Wherever they go, Andrew and his equally steadfast female friend Ali will come right in the world–and do good in it.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, publishing, shopsitting, small town USA

All The Stars

I knew there was a problem when I first brought the physicist out to the bookstore’s backyard. Lucian Undreiu, Associate Professor of Physics at UVA-Wise came to lead a bookstore stargazing night. But as he lugged his telescope tripod around the yard and looked more and more disappointed I could see that all my plans were falling apart.

I don’t know about the rest of you humans, but I am exquisitely sensitive to contaminants and pollution. The slightest whiff of scent and I’m crawling around my apartment, searching for gas leaks. Litter in parks makes me bonkers. Is that a plastic bag or a jellyfish drifting there? Either way, my day at the beach just got a little worse.

But despite all these sensitivities I rarely notice light pollution.

In New York the sky is a red haze all night long. If I see a star, any star, I usually point it out. A single star is a noteworthy event. So when I went into the backyard of the bookstore, looked up at the stars and then looked down to the two streetlights and the lighthouse beacon at the car dealership across the street I shrugged, this’ll do. But as Professor Undreiu’s frown deepened I knew that this would not do, it would not do one bit.

As people started arriving for the event Ali and I stalled. Wendy had driven Lucian out into the night, out to find a place suitable for his telescope. We passed out cups of hot cider and printed off stargazing sheets (sounds simple… but was its own saga, involving incorrect charts, poor contrasts, kitty interference, and a cartridge change). I started sweating on my upper lip, like Richard Nixon. This was turning into a disaster!

But then Lucian returned and began his talk. He started with basics, but soon expanded into cosmic ideas, covering vast distances and spans of time. Instead of asserting knowledge he walked the audience through the steps scientists took, sharing the process of discovery. By the end of his talk everyone was ready to see some stars… and had a decent idea of what they are, how they act and how humans know what we know about them.

After getting everyone situated in a vehicle, the convoy went a half-mile down the road to a dark field. Lucian’s telescope begins with manual searches for specific stars. After a few points of input have been fed to it, the telescope can then process where it’s pointing in the night-sky and find new objects on its own. A very cool gadget. Lucian also had a powerful green laser that shot a beam into the night sky, so he could point specific constellations, planets and star clusters. We took turns peering through the lens at Jupiter, the Andromeda galaxy, the Pleiades star cluster, and a binary star system with each a different color. People chatted, asked questions and kept an eye on the sky for shooting stars.

While everything felt like it was falling apart before it had even started, the night ended with a cup of hot cider and complete satisfaction. Thanks to Professor Lucian Undreiu I think everyone had a great night and learned a bit about our universe… I know I did.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, shopsitting, small town USA