Category Archives: blue funks

To See Ourselves as Others See Us

“O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!” — R Burns

I don’t write about politics. It’s a rule of mine – make some people mad and other people smug, for what purpose? BobDewardrawing

Jack and I just got back from his annual tour taking Americans to Scotland, my first return in a few years. When we lived there, I used my bi-annual trips to the States as yardsticks, measuring how things were progressing for me and for my country. Living in Scotland as an American back in the 2000s could be tricky. US-ers weren’t popular.

This year, taking nine guests across familiar territory, it was almost unfamiliar. Edinburgh’s High Street has become Myrtle Beach. The smaller towns and hidden gems we led the group through are still hidden and lovely, but the people in them went out of their way to speak to us, to ask where we were from, tell us of their relatives Stateside, wonder how we were enjoying the holiday. Warmth, not patronage. (Well, except in Edinburgh, but that’s expected in a tourism Mecca.)

The “puir wee souls, how ya gettin on there” attitude continued across the Southwest of Scotland, the edge of the Highlands, and even Ulster in N. Ireland. I said as much to Colin, the long-time family friend who is our driver, as we sat in the hotel bar one night.

He gave an eye-averted smile. “The Trump Effect, we calls it,” he said.

A lengthy conversation ensued I won’t bore you with, but the jist was that America had shifted in the minds of most Scots, from “country voted most likely to drag Britain into a war” to a thoughtful consideration that we had outed our true values with the result that your basic poor sod on the street was screwed.

Money. America was always a corporate raider in the minds of Scots, its embodiment less Lady Liberty than a sharp-eyed man in a tailored suit, legal brief in one pocket, gun in the other. A country that talked about Democracy and played shell games with cash.

Now we had voted, in the minds of others, for a guy we thought would make us rich again. But not two-chickens-in-every-pot rich, just get-us-out-of-this-grindinng-poverty rich. Honestly, I never put Scots down for having a lot of good insights into America, their views being largely shaped by Channel 5 TV. If you watch enough reruns of Dallas and The Wolf of Wall Street… but Scots were now explaining to me how sad it was that America’s middle class was shrinking, its wealth consolidating.

Brigitta, the hotel hostess, paused to listen to our conversation. Brigitta had become a hospitality diva in our eyes because of her sweet efficiency, non-stop motion, and natural kindness. A native of Poland who had married her Scottish chef husband twenty years before, she often spiked her English with metaphors to make her meanings clear.

“America, its roots are showing.”

We looked at her, inviting more. She set down the water pitchers in her never-still hands and gestured to the part in her hair.

“Women, you know, we hide the grey, we color, here. Sometimes you don’t have enough money, you don’t do it again, it grows, so. Then roots show you are not who you show you are.”

“America is such. Says one thing, is another. Wants money. But poor people, no blame, of course want money. NEED money. Desperate makes you hope rich man helps. Is mistake, thinking rich man get them money. No. Money from, not for. Why they think rich man wants help anyone get money?” She clicked her tongue, picked up her pitchers, and disappeared.

Colin, Jack, and I stared at one another.

Finally I said, “That is what I have been trying to get to grips with for some time now. It’s that Burns poem come to life, to see ourselves as others see us.”

Colin turned and gestured for the bartender. “Then you’re gonna need another drink, lassie,” he said.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Hero

HH13I got Jack up early this morning, and we headed for Hazel House in order to catch the six vestal virgins (as we incorrectly call them; three of them have had litters) therein. I overturned furniture and explored new ways of stringing invectives before he cleverly used geometry to project the exact ricochet of the last capture-evading cat off the wall, straight into the waiting carrier.

I get home from a hard day’s adulting involving talks with a lawyer and other fun stuff to find that some jobs that volunteers were doing for Appalachian Feline Friends, didn’t get done. One of them not getting done has caused a rift with some very smart, very kind people. I am unhappy.

Jack reminds me that adulting is hard, and an organization made up of volunteers has to roll with the punches. He then tells me to go ahead and work on the lawyer-and-jobs things while he cleans the guest room–which is a nightmare because we’ve been storing everything we needed to get Out Of The Way for the past month up there. But now we need it because a friend is coming to town. A friend we’ve been looking forward to having with us for three months or more.

Then Jack comes downstairs and makes us supper. I rise from my computer blitzkrieg to eat, and then take leftovers out to the garage to freeze.

The garage is underwater.

Jack waded into the water, turned off the machine, got me to pull the breaker, and then found the problem. The hot water hose to the washing machine has broken. Since he was knee-deep in getting out information to those going on the Scottish trip, we agreed that tomorrow was another day. About ten minutes later, my long-suffering husband said, “I think I have the part I need for that….” left his computer and went back to the garage.

And fixed the washer by 8:30 pm.

Sod you, Monday. I have a superhero for a husband!

 

 

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

I’m Going to a Spa to Lie Down

Friends and I have been plotting our escape for months. Grove Park Inn in Asheville, home of a spa full of mineral pools and a restaurant full of fine wines. Susan, Beth, and I are going to go be Women On Vacation there for three days.

We are taking extra wine, and some Polar Water (soda of choice for those as don’t drink soda) and coloring books and our bathing suits. We are leaving behind our cell phones and our Adulting hats.

Viva la irresponsibility!

Beth has an incredibly responsible job. She is the vet for Appalachian Feline Friends AND the entire town of Big Stone Gap. People drive up to her home at midnight with owls they hit; they phone at 3 a.m. to ask about a coughing dog. Being a vet in a small town is hard work, 24/7. Her phone will be off this weekend.

Susan reads x-rays to tell people whether or not that have incurable diseases. No pressure there….. and she is herself the survivor of a difficult health history that has left her with some enduring ouchies. Plus she looks after a herd of eldercats, including some adopted from AFF. Her phone will be off this weekend.

And me, I run around between the medical world, the bookselling world, the cat rescue world, and general adult responsibilities, trying to shuck them all onto other people so I can carve out time to write. My clinical office is moving and turning itself into a 501c3, with resultant steady politics. The cat rescue is coming into season. And I have final edits due at the end of the month that haven’t been started. (Umm, if you’re reading this, Nancy, I’m on top of it, I swear.)

We are going to a spa to lie down. Preferably in salt water pools while handsome cabana boys bring us drinks with fruit in them. Actually, skip the fruit and put in extra chocolate syrup and vodka.

And yes, we will certainly enjoy the trappings of a ritzy weekend, but more we will enjoy just being together, doing nothing but being together. Scottish folksinger Ivor Cutler wrote a song that English singer Nic Jones made famous in pubs across Britain. Jack and I often sing the lyrics when we’re stressed, and in fact since The Election in America a quote from it has been my banner picture on Facebook.

I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Green grass, green grass, growing  beneath me
There’s the green grass growing beneath me
I’m going in a field to lie down
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Blue skies, blue skies up above me
There’s the green grass growing beneath me
I’m going in a field to lie down
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Yellow flowers, yellow flowers growing all around me
There’s blue skies up above me
Green grass growing beneath me
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Susan, Beth and I are outta here. Y’all have a good weekend, ’cause we’re sure planning to.

 

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Filed under animal rescue, between books, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing

– – You don’t know what you’ve got ’til – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest blog post –

I consider myself lucky for having had a comfortable and relatively untroubled life. A happy childhood unmarred by any obvious parental disputes, although I’m sure there were some. An adolescence troubled by the usual small matters of growing into oneself and not getting anyone pregnant, but nothing more.

Wendy’s latest book ‘Fall or Fly’ is about fostering and adoption in Appalachia and got me to thinking about the contrast between my life, growing up, and the stories she unearthed during her many interviews that informed the final draft. As usual I was her initial ‘reviewer’ and I have to admit I was by turns shocked and inspired.

There’s a real problem around here with prescription drugs and that’s mainly down to one company that makes a painkiller they swore wasn’t habit-forming but is now proven so. It is also widely available both above and below the counter. Big profits for them of course – – –

I never had any exposure to drugs growing up and never had any interest in them. Once I tried marijuana but it had no effect whatsoever. I even listened carefully to the lyrics of ‘Mellow Yellow’ and like many others tried everything with bananas—which I loathed then and loath now–to no effect!

So, I think of myself as one of these balls that drops down through a game machine and just keeps going in the right direction, although I’ve little doubt there’s always the equal chance it can go the other way (I once studied probability factors).

I’m telling you this on behalf of the young people we come across who haven’t been as lucky as me or maybe even you. One of them is close to breaking my heart right now, and I don’t know if I can do anything for the child.

So, what can I say? This lovely young person, so intelligent, so competent, so lost. What to do, how to help, where the line between enabling and assistance?

Who to blame for taking away what never got used? The drug companies, the high school seller, the “friend” at the party who said, “C’mon, just try it?”

What to say, what to do? With other friends, we make sure the Temporarily Misplaced Youth has enough to eat, and eventually the wherewithal to see through the fog to the Light. And we pray, and we wait and, perhaps, sometimes, we weep.

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

…And Then You Sneeze

For weeks, I have been writing on Little Cathouse (the working title of the next fun book) finishing up edits on Fall or Fly (the foster care and adoption journalism storytelling book with Ohio University Press, less fun than intense) and moving offices at the college, where the Graduate Medical Education Consortium I run is headed to the local hospital to operate as an independent 501c3. All good stuff, but busy.

So I had kind of set my clock that the second week of April, as soon as the big conferences were over and I’d sent the final edits of Fly and the working draft of Cathouse, I would get to putter around the bookstore. The Classics room looks like someone threw a keg party. The Mystery room appears to have been the scene of a crime. And the Children’s room looks . . . well, as though kids were in there.

They all need straightening. It’s good Zen. I like to have my hands on the bookstore even when other things call me away. So I was so looking forward to this weekend….

….and then the sneezing started. I’ve gone done with one of those “I don’t care what happens next” illnesses, where your hair hurts and your brain curls in on itself and you can hear the blood in your ears. What isn’t flowing is waiting for its chance, and there isn’t much in the universe of interest.

So the shelves will wait another week. Right now, the shop could tumble around my ears, the books start their own major league baseball teams and head out on a bus, and the cats take over the cooking–and I wouldn’t notice.

I’m going back to bed. Next week.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Timing is everything

Jack’s (fairly) regular Wednesday guest post –

On Sunday we had the third Clanjamphry Live concert at the beautiful Lincoln Theater in Marion Virginia. This is a twice a year link-up with my Celtic music radio show ‘Celtic Clanjamphry’ and we were delighted that our friends Alan Reid and Rob van Sante were touring over here and available just when we needed them.

The trouble was that we had originally intended to hold the concert on Saturday night but at the last minute the theater had a request from their long established ‘showcase’ – Song of the Mountains – and couldn’t realistically turn them down. In the end we opted to move to Sunday afternoon, but had absolutely no idea if that would work. Was there an overlap of potential audience that would choose one or the other but not both? Would anyone come out to a concert on a Sunday afternoon?

alan_rob

As usual we peeked out from the wings and were somewhat nervous when, with five minutes to go, saw a pretty sparse crowd. However we then had to get organized as Wendy and I were starting things off. To our surprise and great relief when we stepped out onto the stage we saw that we had just as big an audience as we’d had for the previous concerts in the series.

Even better than that it seems that we may now have a loyal audience that trusts us to give them an experience they value.

But, despite everything, I suspect that we should try to avoid Sunday afternoons in future!

Alan and Rob got a standing ovation and an encore, which didn’t surprise me and was richly deserved. What the audience didn’t know was that they had just completed six gigs in six days with lengthy drives between and were pretty exhausted. Luckily we had booked a cabin at nearby Hungry Mother State Park for Saturday and Sunday night, so they could get some R&R before and after our concert. That meant we could also share our gigs from hell stories too!

Celtic Clanjamphry airs on WETS.fm on Sundays at 9pm, WETS HD2 on Mondays at 8pm and Saturdays at 10am. It also goes out in the Marion area on WEHC.fm on Sundays at 5pm. http://www.wets.org

Alan Reid and Rob van Sante can be found herehttp://www.reidvansante.com/

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, Uncategorized

Nellie Flies Away

nellie-1When you start rescuing animals, you know the day is going to come when they break your heart by leaving you. It is a clock that ticks through the background of the 10 or so years you get, measuring sweetness.

Our friends Joe and Elissa are in mourning this week for the loss of Nellie, a dachshund of such meanness, elegance, and grace that to try and confine her with words is as difficult as holding her still in real life proved to be.

nellie-2Nellie had a spinal problem common to many dachshunds, resulting in paralysis of her back legs, but Joe and Elissa are not common dachshund parents. With years of fostering experience behind them, they never considered putting Nellie down. In fact, they adopted her a cart sister, a little girl named Hope.

Not that Nellie wanted company, or challenges for her preferential treatment. Queen of the realm, Nellie never let anybody forget she was not Crippled, but In Charge. Nor did she let them believe that inconvenience was reason enough to release a dog to the Rainbow Bridge. Passionate about her status as Poster Wiener for the disabled dog community, Nellie rode her little pink cart through the streets of many a town delivering her message: Live life to the fullest and if it’s on wheels instead of legs, go faster!nellie-4

My husband Jack painted her cart pink when the high tech metal version first delivered to Joe and Elissa didn’t suit The Nelligator’s sense of feminine command. He would have added flames if there had been enough space; Nellie was Hell on Wheels canine-ified.

Nellie crossed the Bridge due in part to a bad drug response, and it is fitting that her final days on Earth were yet more instruction to the rest of us on how to take care of ourselves. She was given Flagyl, a common antibiotic for “gut issues,” and had an adverse reaction. Turns out, many people and dogs have such complications, but it’s not widely recognized. Nellie’s story, posted by her faithful Mama online, helped other people on Flagyl recognize the symptoms and switch.nellie-3

Now it might be sweet to think of the Nelligator trundling her pink hotwheels across the Rainbow Bridge, but no, this never would be Queen Nellie’s style. Rather, she will unstrap her cart, adjust the butterfly wings she wore for her photo shoot on disabled dogs, and lift off. She will fly straight and true to the other side, notice the cats crossing, and turn back to dive bomb them. (Our sweet Nellie could be a real arsehole when she wanted to, and she wanted to pretty often.)

Then she will point her nose toward the sun, a doggy Icarus sans fall, gaining power with each flap. At full height, she will execute a corkscrew dive straight toward the nearest Great Dane. Size only matters to a dachshund when you’re measuring chutzpah.

nellie-5Once the Dane is cowering in terror, Nellie will be satisfied that her power has been recognized, her rule established, and she will flap off to the Dachshund Shoals in search of the Blue Bell Ice Cream Van. They will have added extra cups of her favorite flavor, vanilla bean, in anticipation of her arrival.

Joe and Elissa will miss their girl, but they will continue to show the same love and conscientious care to their herd of eleven other special needs babies. When they think of Nellie, they will accept the new normal of her departure, and smile at the image of her somewhere over the Rainbow Bridge, surveying her new kingdom from a benevolent six feet above. The animals there will also accept the new normal, and wave up to their Queen. They’ll have to. She won’t have it any other way.

nellie-6

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