Remodeling #10

 

Jack’s weekly guest post –

Since we moved in here ten years ago we (and that means mostly I) have carried out some serious building projects. Some were simply needed because of the age of the building (built in 1903), some we chose to do and others were needed to meet certain legal requirements.

The first was redecorating most of the upstairs to make that area pleasant as living quarters, then I walled in the open car port to turn it into a garage complete with a window and an ‘up and over’ main door. Next was building a disabled ramp at the side of the porch and then re-shingling the roof. The upstairs bathroom got a complete make-over and shortly after we got a grant to completely renovate the front porch. We had earlier built a fire escape stair from upstairs which doubled as access to the yard for our dogs Zora and Bert, which turned out to be handy when we opened The Second Story Café.

Before we opened the café I had turned our dismal and cobwebby basement into our new living quarters (that’s chronicled in an earlier blog post) but I also had to install additional sinks and an extraction system in the upstairs kitchen. We had never had a separate heat and air system upstairs, so the advent of the café meant fitting a heat pump in the attic, running ducts to all the rooms and cutting holes in all the ceilings (very messy!).

Most of these jobs were interesting and challenging and I felt a definite sense of pride in my contribution to them although confirmed in my nervousness about plumbing and electrical work.

However, the latest jobs I had been putting to the end of the queue for years. The downstairs kitchen and bathroom both had old worn and curling vinyl flooring and I had been dreading fixing them. The first to be done was the bathroom and I used a floating planks system that proved much easier than I expected, so then it was time for the kitchen. We had divided this room with bookshelves as well as installing more along the walls on one side, so all the books had to be boxed and stored wherever we could find a corner followed by removing all the shelving into the garage. My good friend David Hamrick had arrived on Friday to help me and Wendy began boxing books on Saturday. By Sunday lunchtime we had all the books and shelves out and had started laying the new floor – more floating planks. By Monday afternoon we had the floor finished and the shelves back in place and this morning the last of the books were back.

DSCN1685

The old floor

DSCN1686

– and the new one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m absolutely sure of one thing though – there’s another job just waiting around the corner!

 

2 Comments

Filed under bookstore management, home improvements, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

dear-committee-membersWarning: Do not drink liquids while reading this book. Laughter makes this dangerous.

Schumacher’s novel is written in the form of letters from a beleaguered professor of English to a cast of thousands. Normally I don’t care for epistle fiction–too cut into bitty pieces–but this one has a narrative arc! And (spoiler alert) a poignant ending. I laughed until I cried.

The attention to detail in these funny, zippy, ripped-from-reality letters is so perfect. I loved the subtleties of how the prof (Jason Fitger) signs each letter, the understated sarcasm interspersed with blow-ups so honest no one in real life has ever done them–but we’ve all fantasized. Oh, how we’ve fantasized.

Among other places, Jason writes letters to assorted entry level places his students will go to work–funny in itself if you were an English major. Food service. Retail. Computer places.

My favorite was his letter for a girl who’d received an F for plagiarism. I’m not quoting it here, because you have to read it in context. But I taught that girl he describes so perfectly – five or six times, under different names in different years. Schumacher’s depiction is flawless.

Here instead is a letter in its entirety:

“October 16, 2009 Avengers Paintball, Inc. 1778 Industrial Blvd. Lakeville, MN 55044 Esteemed Avengers, This letter recommends Mr. Allen Trent for a position at your paintball emporium. Mr. Trent received a C– in my expository writing class last spring, which—given my newly streamlined and increasingly generous grading criteria—is quite the accomplishment. His final project consisted of a ten-page autobiographical essay on the topic of his own rageful impulses and his (often futile) attempts to control them. He cited his dentist and his roommate as primary sources. Consider this missive a testament to Mr. Trent’s preparedness for the work your place of business undoubtedly has in store. Hoping to maintain a distance of at least one hundred yards, Jason T. Fitger Professor of Creative Writing and English Payne University (“Teach ’til It Hurts”)”

Now go read the book. If you’re not in Academia, it’s still funny. If you are, it’s funnier than life. And good therapy.

 

 

http://www.julieschumacher.com/writing/novels/dear-committee-members/

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing

The Best Laid Plans – – –

– sometimes go very well indeed

We had our annual Burns Supper on Friday evening, celebrating the life and works of Scotland’s national poet Robert (Rabbie) Burns. Everyone agreed it was one of the best we’d held over the 10 years we’ve been doing it. Well attended, excellent speakers, wonderful food and smoothly flowing throughout.

shuttle pipes

Randy Stanley – our resident piper

memory

Alex Long delivered ‘The Immortal Memory’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lassies

Sandy Huguenin proposed the Toast to the Lassies and Chef Kelley Pearson responded.

songs

Wendy and I sang some Burns songs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

haggis

Chef Kelley excelled with Cock-a-Leekie soup, haggis, tatties n’ neeps and shepherds pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dessert

The ‘piece de resistance’ – Scottish cheesecake on a shortbread base topped with cranachan and a raspberry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to next year – y’all come – – –

 

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Iman Bowie Says Hi

DSCN1640Well hello there – my name is Iman Bowie, and although that may sound superstar lucky, my beginnings were anything but, let me tell you.

I won’t go into the early months, but let’s just say I’ve been looking after myself for some time now. I gave birth to two lovely boys a month or so back, and although times were tough, I did my best. We were living in the parking lot behind a department store, near a heating vent. Not a lot to eat, but I could keep them warm. Two ladies came by with food from time to time, and that helped a great deal.

So you can imagine how I felt when Tom and David disappeared: beside myself. Temperatures were plummeting and I was out there searching everywhere, calling them, and suddenly SWOOP! Some sort of net cage fell over me and, well, I figured that was it. I’d never see my boys again.

But my captors were the ladies who brought me food! They took me to some sort of facility, and wouldn’t you know Tom and David were there–just leaving, but so long as I knew they were safe and happy. Both have been adopted into loving families, as it should be. I’m so pleased to have done right by them.

Just in time, too, because after a few hours at the hospital, I began to feel woozy. And then–ehm, we needn’t go into details here; let’s just say there were many things inside me that needed to come out. And they did.

As I lay there in my hospital bed, groggy and nauseous, a face appeared. Wearing one of those Queen Cone collars. A white cat, squinting at me, asked, “Feeling better, ducky?”

imanThat’s how I met Sweet Pea (Queen Bee, as I call her, because of the collar, you know). She showed me around the hospital when I was back on my feet again, introduced me to the staff –such nice girls– and gave me pointers on where to get extra blankets and what to do if I wanted more food.

You know how it is, one minute someone is showing you the ropes, all business and efficiency, and the next you’re sharing cups of tea and talking nine to the dozens and you can’t remember a time you weren’t friends.

SPQB (sorry, my little joke) is such a sweetheart. You know, she can barely see. Her own life was even harder than mine; some of her kittens died of preventable illness before they reached the hospital, and she’s not sure what happened to the rest. SO hard for a mother to bear. Plus, her eyes. She caught a virus–and yes, it would have been treatable, but when one has no resources…. ah me. The long and short of it is, she’s left with a permanent squint and some vision loss.

She isn’t blind, of course; you should see Ms. Pea Bee bat a jingle ball! (We are Lady Cats, but perhaps when the staff aren’t looking we’ve been known to kick a few field goals.)

So really, my life improved in ways I couldn’t imagine since coming to hospital. My fur is long and silky again – with the children and the cold I just didn’t have time to care for it properly; the boys are set for life; and I have a new best friend.

I couldn’t imagine not being there for Sweet Pea. To separate now would break our hearts, and besides she needs me to help her find her collar in the mornings, and sometimes she thinks furniture is people, silly old girl, so we are counting on a home together. Surely someone out there wants two confirmed bachelor girl cats (still beautiful so celibate by choice, I hasten to add; we’ve had it with Alley Cat promises and stale catnip bouquets). We’re not much trouble, fastidious about our toilets and perfectly content in each others’ company. We love a head rub and a cuddle now and again; it’s lovely to sit together in the same lap.

So if you’re interested in us, please drop by Powell Valley Animal Hospital and ask for Mandy or Kendra; they’ve been our primary care team here, such sweet souls. We look forward to meeting you, Queen Bee and I. Now I think she’s got the cards and the teapot out, so we’re going to play some Speed Poker. (I don’t know who taught her, but she’s wicked good at it.) I must go, but I’ve enjoyed this little chat and look forward to meeting you.DSCN1664

Leave a comment

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

book-mathematiciansshiva-rojstaczer-cvr-200So if David Lodge were Jewish….

This is a comedy of errors and misfits that isn’t all that funny, but it runs through so many kinds of worlds in its multi-layered unfunniness that sometimes it is. It’s not the way he writes the book but what he writes about that kept me going. On one level it’s about a guy who doesn’t really like his mother although he’s required to love AND admire her because she’s a brilliant mathematician. On another level it’s about what humans want (yes, that broad) and what it means to be in survival mode versus conquer mode. And on another level it’s just plain mean fun about math geeks.

It wasn’t a “can’t put it down” but it was an enjoyable bedtime read. The characters are well-drawn, and we all know I’m a sucker for those. If some of the humorous antics were predictable, well, it was still funny.

The plot premise is that Rachela, the mom who dies at the beginning of the book, has solved an unsolvable math problem, but hidden her papers out of pique. Enter Three Academic Stooges trying to pry up her floorboards.

This isn’t so much dark humor as grey, and if you like math, it’s a bit weak in that department. But if you like comedies of human errors and foibles, it’s fun.

3.14159265359 stars? :]

2 Comments

Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Uncategorized

Snowed Into a Bookstore

snow roadWhen the all-powerful “They” announced it would start snowing Thursday night and not stop until Saturday evening, I went into supply overdrive. Since I was in Richmond doing the annual advocacy for rural meetings, while I careened down I-81, Our Good Chef Kelley was drafted into buying:

  1. two boxes of wine (don’t knock it until you’ve tried the Malbec)
  2. Three bags grain free cat food, two 32-packs can boxes, and some tins of Ol’ Roy (yes, the dogs are hard done by)
  3. chocolate – dark for Jack, milk for me. Easier on the marriage that way

The rest we could take care of for ourselves. Jack stepped across the street to the liquor store and laid in two bottles of the cheap and one of the finest. You know, just in case company came by. (And no, we didn’t buy this house because it was across the street from the liquor store, but it’s worked out well.)

Then we started trolling the bookstore shelves. For me, eight of the new arrivals I’d not handled coming in, ranging from historic fiction to a couple of memoirs to a cheap romance and one history volume. Plus a couple of recorded books, so I could get some crocheting done.

Jack pulled Scottish politics, a couple of conspiracy theory books on assorted points in history (pick one) and – wonder of wonders – a sci fi. When I pointed that out to him, he frowned, “1663 by Dave Weber is fiction? Never mind, then.” He put it back.

Oh well.

And when we woke up Friday morning, snowpocalypse in full fall, we checked our emails, posted our Facebook cats, put on another pot of coffee, and settled in to enjoy the treasure trove.

Yes, being snowed into a bookstore is exactly what it’s cracked up to be.

Go by, mad world.

8 Comments

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, publishing, reading, Scotland, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table

Jack’s weekly guest post.

In which Jack moans about the weather –

Well – I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow, it hasn’t stopped yet and there’s more on the way. You would think that, coming from Scotland, I’d be used to it!

The trouble is that I come from the lowlands and not only that but most of my life I lived close enough to the Forth estuary to get the ‘salt water effect’, which usually kept the snow away. That changed when Wendy and I got married and moved to higher ground that was a bit further inland. Almost every year after that our village got snowed in good and proper for a couple of weeks every January or February and we weren’t a high enough priority to warrant early attention from the county snow plow; and since we lived up the only side road, when the plow eventually went through it created an even bigger bank of snow across the end of it!

That pattern seems to have followed us to Big Stone Gap and this is shaping up to be the third winter when we will replay our experiences of New Gilston.

Last year we had a series of storms every couple of days that eventually dumped nearly three feet of snow and had the whole area shut down for weeks. The town administration eventually ran out of grit and salt so their best efforts (and they were mighty) were eventually in vain.

It’s not so bad as we live below the shop, we have plenty of supplies in, the liquor store is across the street and the supermarket is within walking distance.

However, Wendy’s job required her to drive to Richmond and remain there until Friday, which is when an even bigger snowstorm is due and forecast to last through Sunday, so she is very likely to be delayed getting home.

Meanwhile I am preparing to make a big batch of Chicken Madras curry which is my comfort food of choice and will keep me happy and warm me as I watch the snow piling up outside.

curry

Y’all take care out there, dress warm and don’t drive if you don’t have to!

4 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized