When All is Said and Done

Bruce2

When the Michael Vick controversy heated up, I listened to the claims of racism and laughed. We’d always been here, we animal rescuers. We yelled about Amish people and horses for slaughter and Michael Vick with equal ferocity. Don’t try that racist card on us, I thought.

I still think that’s true, but with caveats. When I joined a group working on boycotting the companies sponsoring Vick for NFL honors and endorsing him, well, suddenly there were a bunch of people there I didn’t recognize. People using slurs and suggesting punishments containing racial overtones.

The moderator of the group held the line; he threw off people who referred to Vick’s skin color as part of his crimes. In every sense of those words. And he banned people who referenced political parties or the protests where black athletes knelt during the national anthem. The moderator worked hard to remind us we were there for the dogs.

Still, in the end I had to leave that group. Vick deserves no honors – and don’t tell me America won’t forgive a black man. Forgiveness is between Vick and God. HONORS is between the NFL and all the people who will boycott them because he is being honored. Vick also deserves no racial ugliness, and it is disappointing that the two have gotten mixed up.

Because when the freeloaders and the users and the fast-action racists have gone, we animal rights activists will still be here, fighting for those who cannot speak for themselves. I’m sorry it seems racial. For those of us who were here before Vick and will be here after him, it isn’t.

And then there are people saying that if we care about X but not Y, we’re doing it wrong. Two white evangelical males asked why I didn’t invest this amount of energy into fighting abortion. Because God made me an animal lover, so that’s what I do.

Animal activists get this a lot. A friend gave me $3000 to save the life of a kitten with a corrective surgery. I thanked her on Facebook. And suddenly I was on a list of people being hit up for donations for kids with cancer, and told that if I cared more about cats than children, I was a bad woman. Not a bad person. A bad woman.

Nice try. Outrage belongs to those who hold it. Maybe some of us rescue animals because we think the human race is doomed. Maybe because we feel innocence from animals we don’t from people. Or maybe because that’s our decision. It doesn’t matter, in this divided America.

I am sorry, sorry, sorry, that friends with black skin could interpret our decisions on fighting animal abuse as racist. That evangelical white friends might see it as putting animal life above humans.

When all is said and done, I help the animals because that’s where my strengths are, this is how God made me, and they deserve it.

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Filed under animal rescue, Life reflections, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Pies Have It!

Jack scrapes through – – –

People often ask me if I miss anything about Scotland. Well, of course. But when I go back every year the thing I really go straight for is the food.

Full Scottish breakfasts with bacon, eggs, black pudding, haggis and baked beans – great Indian curries – steak bridies (think calzone, but Scottish) – fish and chips – and Scotch pies.

I do my best over here to get close to all these. Recently I learned how to replicate Indian restaurant base curry sauce and make a big batch to freeze regularly. I can manage an occasional full Scottish breakfast. Fish and chips requires the secret batter and lard, but I can do that when the planets align.

A steak bridie would be the ultimate challenge though – imagine a savory turn-over with small chunks of steak in a delicious brown sauce, a bit of savory onion in the mix….mmmmm. The only folk I know who make them are Stephens of Dunfermline and they are rightly famous for their recipe. My next big challenge will be to try and replicate it.

What about the pies, I hear you ask?

Over here pies are usually sweet – in Scotland these would be called tarts. Over there a pie would have meat of some kind, and a ‘Scotch pie’ would have minced beef (ground beef) along with onion and a variety of (secret) herbs and spices.

Just recently my friend Trevor finished a year at St Andrews University and came home with the recipe. He made a batch while I was bunking at his place, and I was instantly back there. Of course I had to give it a try, and with some guidance from him I managed to do no’ bad.

It’s messy and time consuming, and there’s no guarantee of success, but I’ve made two lots now and they’re worth the effort.

The pastry is flour, frozen butter, ice water and egg. Freezing the butter is key. The filling is a secret. We will be having them along with haggis and other delicacies at the Burns Supper on January 25th at Oracle Books here in Wytheville.

pies

 

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Filed under between books, bookstore management, crafting, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Thyme brings a’ things tae an End

Jack gets over the line with time (thyme) to spare – – –

Scotland_American_flag

I’m in the throes of organizing my final group tour of Scotland right now and it’s at the point where everything starts getting complicated – which is why it’s the last one. By the time it’s over I’ll be seventy-eight years old and ready to stop!

I use a really good agent in Scotland to book hotels, ferries and tickets for ‘attractions’, but inevitably there are always timings that don’t work or hotels we’ve used before that didn’t appeal. So negotiations – –

This time, because it’s the last, I have more folk going including many past customers, so for the first and last time – two minivans instead of one – so negotiations – –

Like every year there are folk who sign up, pay their deposits and then, for perfectly good reasons, have to cancel. Other folk come along looking to join – so negotiations – –

When I first started doing this twelve years ago I was very naïve and never thought that anything could go wrong or that I could be held accountable for anything. That’s another reason to stop!  I’ve had two customers with emergency dental appointments, an oxygen cylinder chasing us unsuccessfully from hotel to hotel and an overnight hospital visit by a customer in Perth.

Despite all I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute, because of the joy of sharing my country of origin and discovering corners I’d never visited.

What I think made my tours unique are down to three things –

1) Persuading great musical friends to entertain along the way

2) Having my old friend Colin both drive the bus and add fascinating insights

3) The sheer luck of having groups including close friends and complete strangers that all got on well

It’s been a whirlwind and I won’t be sorry to stop, but it’s also been a great series of journeys.

The final tour will not only have lots of old friends, but will also be one of the few ones that Wendy will also be on – and she is the shopping expert!

 

 

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

THE MONDAY BOOK: Alas Babylon by Pat Frank

Thanks for the week off, everyone. We really enjoyed spending time with friends in a remote location. And now, back to business as usual. We appreciate Paul Garrett sending a review for this week’s Monday book.

Alas, Babylon

Alas, BabylonYoung Greta Thunberg was catapulted onto the world stage a few weeks ago when she addressed the United Nations General Assembly about the “existential threat” of climate change. Those of us who lived through the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties remember another “existential threat,” that seemed at the time to be more ominous and unquestionable.

Pat Frank’s novel Alas, Babylon (Harpers, 1959) was one of the first of many books, like Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Liebowitz and The Fate of the Earth, by Johnathon Schell that attempted to come to grips with the looming threat of nuclear war.

A writer friend mentioned this book to me a few months back when a particularly prickly situation with Iran was playing out in the Persian Gulf, a place with which I became intimately familiar back in 1988. Apparently, the book was required reading in some high schools back in the day, while I was forced to read A Separate Peace and The Red Badge of Courage, two other anti-war novels, which begs the question; were all English Teachers pacifists back then?

Written in the heat of the cold war (pardon the pun) a few years before the Cuban missile crisis, the premise is that an errant missile fired by an American pilot devastates a Soviet base in Iran, launching the world into an atomic conflagration. Virtually all the major American cities are devastated, leaving a small backwater town in North Central Florida relatively unscathed. As the novel unfolds, the residents are forced to deal with the after-effects of the calamity, when they are cut off from what is left of the world.

Frank’s novel was written in an era when people were expected to be relatively well-behaved. Most of the looting in the book takes place off the page and the lone set of thugs who threaten our heroes are dealt with swiftly, despite some collateral damage. This was before things like hurricane Katrina, the Mad Max franchise, and Cormac McCarthy’s desolate novel The Road demonstrated what the end of civilization could really mean.

There are some quaint passages, as when a woman’s abortion is referred to as “a mistake she will never make again.”

Alas, Babylon avoids the preachiness of other anti-nuclear books of the age, perhaps because in the 1950’s, when school children regularly practiced hiding under their desks, home fallout shelters dotted the landscape, and Civil Defense air raid drills were carried out on a monthly basis, nuclear war was a foregone conclusion.

Pat Frank died in 1964, a good twenty-five years before the Soviet Union collapsed after rotting from the inside, and the threat of nuclear war was put on the back burner. One can’t help but wonder what he would have thought.

Nowadays worries over the horror of nuclear war are all but forgotten along with many other bugaboos and jeremiads about things that could really happen and are just around the corner and threaten life as we know it. It seems the end is always near. Nor is chronophobia a recent phenomenon, as pointed out in what is reported to be an old Scottish prayer: “From ghoulies and ghosties and long leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us.”

While we know that over 250,000 people were incinerated or left to die a slow excruciating death at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there is little direct evidence so far that anyone has been killed by climate change.

It seems that whether it is nuclear war, acid rain, the ozone hole, the coming ice age, global warming, creeping socialism, or the threat of a second term for Donald Trump, powerful people are always trying to scare us into doing their bidding.

As it turned out, it wasn’t nuclear annihilation that threatened to bring us to our knees but a sneak attack from an unexpected quarter, or as Toby Keith famously sang; “A mighty sucker punch came flying in from somewhere in the back,” on September 11th, 2001. So, while it may be true as the aphorism says, “Ninety percent of the things you worry about never happen,” we might add, “…but beware of those things you never see coming.”

 

 

 

 

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Behind the Microphone – –

Jack’s guest post is another sad one –

I started recording and broadcasting my radio show Celtic Clanjamphry some twelve years ago at the studios of WETS fm in Johnson City, Tennessee. From the beginning it was normal for Jim Blalock to be in the next-door studio preparing his classical music shows.

jim b

When I finished recording my programs Jim would always chat with me and often commented on something he’d heard on ClanJam as he had been driving somewhere. I discovered that he had wide musical interests that extended far beyond his specialization.

At this time WETS was broadcasting solely as an fm station but changes were afoot. Coming over the horizon was HD radio, and our station was preparing to pioneer this format in the area. It wasn’t clear what the implications would be for existing shows and rumors abounded. Some months before the start of three HD channels the fm schedule was changed and all Jim’s classical shows were dropped. Although I was relieved that ClanJam was retained and even moved to a much better time, I felt bad for him.

However Jim was switched to continuity and news links and did local interest interviews. I was very impressed with the dignified way he handled what must have been a difficult time for him. Eventually, when the HD channels began, one of them was largely dedicated to classical music, so Jim was back with even more air-time than before!

Jim was back next-door and we began planning a special program that would examine how classical composers had been influenced by traditional music. He gathered some CDs with examples from the classical music perspective, while I lent him some showing the crossover from the other direction. We continued to discuss this for months but sadly could never find a mutually convenient time to record it.

Then Dirk Wiley came along with an excellent home studio much closer to me and a willingness to support WETS, so my connection to Jim became more fragmented and distant. Finally he moved to Knoxville and I discovered he was fighting cancer. But still he broadcast for a station down there right to the end.

He and I had a similar approach to the making of our programs, with minimal notes and no script – just calling on our knowledge and memories as we went along. He frequently spoke to me about this and how authentic and refreshing it was. In other words he was a mentor, an example, a supporter and a very valued friend!

RIP Jim Blalock

 

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Kira Gives her Point of View

kiraRight, my name is Kira, and I own a house in Wytheville. Some other cats and humans and one big dog live there, too. It’s like foster care or something. So here’s what happened.

I’m sitting there in the sunbeam minding my own business, just finishing up a spit bath, and WHAM without so much as a by-your-leave I am hoisted into the air and carried to a carrier.

I do not like carriers. They usually end in a journey someplace where you get poked and prodded and maybe lose a couple of parts. Not that I begrudge the parts. Never wanted kids.

So I start vocalizing my opinions on this piece of skullduggery but I am carried IN SUBZERO TEMPERATURES  *editor’s note: it was 42 degrees* out to a car, and I think yeah, here we go. And go we did. We went, and went, and went. It coulda been days. *editor’s note: it was three hours*

Finally, the car stops, and my people and the dog get out, again there’s a freezing trip through the air, and inside this overwarm house there’s this nice lady and this guy.  The lady wants to make a fuss, but I’ve had enough of not knowing what’s going on and I bolt for the nearest closet.

It’s a nice closet. Fuzzy sweaters hanging up and one conveniently knockable to the floor. Whadaya know ’bout that? (I don’t know nothin’, see. It was there when I get there, I says.)

A few hours of sleep, some restorative wet lunch (I think that was the lady’s way of apologizing) and I’m right as rain. Ready for some of that loving the lady wants to send my way. She’s got a nice lap. My human lady keeps calling this lady “Mom” so I figure I better be on my good behavior. A little eye batting, a little purring… yep, worked like a charm.

From this vantage point I can eavesdrop on their conversation. Turns out, this whole trip is for the dog. THE DOG??!! He has to have knee surgery. Old football injury or something. All this inconvenience to me, for the sake of the house canine? He isn’t even on payroll, just an accessory. Sheesh.

Well, there’s gonna be extra wet supper, I can tell you. I did tell my human, vocally, several times. She got the hint.

That night I snooze with the guy and the lady from the house, and next morning my human slides the door open to let the precious invalid dog out, and I take my shot. I like outdoors, visit it pretty regular back home, so it’s not like I’m stupid and not gonna come back. I know which side my foodbowl sits upright on.

So like I said, out I goes and—

–what the hell? Is this the Apocalypse?? WHAT IS THIS STUFF???!!!

I kid you not, fellas, the ground was covered with this cold white dead ash. I guess somebody finally sent the bomb up? Is this gonna affect my food supply? Back in I go, everything normal in there (well, at least as normal can be when a family prioritizes the dog) and I warn them. I warn them loudly and well. Truly, I tell them the end of the world is upon us and they need to go the store RIGHT NOW and buy ALL the tuna. QUICK.

And my human, she LAUGHS at me. “SNOW” she calls it. “It’s just snow, pussytuddums,” she says, all prissy sweet. I HATE it when she calls me… that name.

Anyway, I milked it. Got second breakfast out of the whole deal. kira 2

So that’s my story, and you can see it was an easy mistake to make. Never seen the stuff before, y’know? How was I supposed to know?

But they did buy me tuna. So it’s all good.

 

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The Monday Book: THE LEISURE SEEKER by Michael Zadoorian

leisureTwo senior citizens hit the road for a last hurrah. She has cancer. He has Alzheimer’s. They’ve been married almost sixty years. They’re sharing a Leisure Seeker Van, and a lot of memories.

She packed the slide carousels featuring their lives, and a gun. He didn’t pack enough clean underwear, because he doesn’t care about hygiene much anymore. In fact, he’s having a hard time remembering her name, although he always calls her the love of his life.

This book made me laugh and cry. There is little dignity in American aging, but then again, dignity is where you find it. Like when a flat tire strands our two seniors alongside a deserted road, and the two men who approach them with a tire iron aren’t there to help. That’s when Ella gets her purse out of the camper and her gun out of the purse, and threatens to blow the boys away if they don’t leave them alone.

That kind of dignity.

Also, there’s the dark humor that Ella can’t drive their 1978 camper, so her dementia-driven husband does. When she forgets to take the keys, he drives away.

Zadoorian writes snappy dialogue and sarcastic sentences with style. They’re short, they’re smart, they’re fun. Sometimes you go from sob to laugh halfway through one.

And there’s the lovely symbolism running through the book of Route 66 versus the highway, and how they choose convenience or high life, or adventure over convenience, as we have all been doing all of our lives.

The ending is inevitable. Trigger warnings may apply. If you live life on your terms, that includes how you decide to go out. Disneyland may be a good destination, but it’s not the final one.

Highly recommended – these characters aren’t just driving the plot; the plot is driving. I loved this book. (Do yourself a favor and DO NOT watch the film. Trust me on this.)

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Filed under book reviews, humor, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing