Category Archives: humor

Miss McLeod, meet Uncle Joe

Jack missed his Wednesday deadline again – –

We have a pretty disparate group of friends that have many different interests, some of which I share. One of these, of course, is music. Every now and again some of us find some overlapping time when we can get together and can do some picking and singing.

Today was one of these days, and it was glorious!

For a couple of hours all the cares of the world disappeared and three of us threw everything else aside, forgot our cares and lost ourselves in bringing together our very different music to a common ground.

Tony had just heard that his brother had suffered a heart attack (but was recovering), while Leroy is still dealing with the death of his beloved Jenny and Tyler is trying to balance the life of a professional musician with balancing his budget. Me? I’m just juggling all the logistics of buying a new house and moving there while keeping my marriage on an even keel!

Tony is our guitar playing Presbyterian Pastor buddy who is seriously into ‘middle-of-the-road’ anything goes kind of music. Tyler is our local deep down traditional and very well informed banjo playing expert on the local music. I sing Scottish songs and ballads and play a pretty odd guitar style.

But the dark horse in all this is Leroy.

He’s very capable at playing everything from Simon and Garfunkel to James Taylor and everything in between – and he does it very well. He talks about things like diminished minor 7ths and such like.

So, for two hours we shared songs and did our best to follow each other as we sang, and every so often really got it together. We chatted about our musical preferences and veered off into lots of other things. We laughed and got more serious sometimes. And we got some renewed energy for life’s challenges.

I have to admit that I wondered if getting together at eleven on a weekday morning in the bookstore with a group of folk I’d never played music all together with before was such a great idea. But in the end it was just what we each and all needed.

One of the customers that came into the bookstore as we were getting started spent a long time “browsing” and finally said he expected to pay extra for the excellent entertainment.

Nah—we got more out of it than we put in, and that’s worth everything. Take a look here.

 

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

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday

strong-women-quotes-entity-3-800x720Jack and I arrived in Nameless Small City HANGRY. A breakfast bar each had sustained us through a fraught day of meeting deadlines progressing up the I-81 corridor.

Next door to the hotel sat a Ruby Tuesday. While we prefer more adventurous local eating, opportunity overcame adventure. We left bag and baggage in the car and went to eat before checking in. A nice relaxing meal would see us back to cheeriness.

Ever walk into a place and just SENSE that something was going wrong? We stood at the podium for a few minutes as red shirts (that’s what they wear, just so you know) went around, past, perhaps even over us. But never near us. We grew… annoyed. Meanwhile, the podium phone never stopped ringing.

Finally a little waitress with enormous glasses and a red ponytail came from the back and saw us. With a slightly guilty look, she picked up the phone, dropped it back into the cradle, asked if we’d been helped.

“No.”

With a sad little nod she turned to another waitress and said, “Get a manager so I can get this computer open.” Then she picked up the ringing phone, said “stop” into the mouthpiece, and dropped it again.

We must have looked startled, because she gave an apologetic smile. “It’s an Ex. He won’t quit calling one of our waitresses.” She led us through to the bar and seated us in a booth near an emergency exit, filling us in on the angry ex as we walked.

She’d broken up with him but let him stay because he had nowhere to go, and he’d just told her he got another girl pregnant. His landlady girlfriend walked away from the conversation, all the way to work–with the keys to her truck in her pocket and he wanted the keys, as well as to talk to her. She didn’t understand, he was a nice guy, what was wrong with her not understanding him? Etc.

We rolled our eyes and pointed to the emergency exit. “He comes in, you let us know, ’cause we’re going out this door.”

Red (as we came to think of her) smiled as she handed us our menus. “Nah. We called the cops. They’ll arrest him if he shows up.” She glanced out the window. “Her mom’s out there now, too. Even though she threw Pam out of their home and that’s why she and this guy hooked up in the first place. Guess Pam’s mom feels guilty now. Finally.”

Off she went to fetch our drinks. We were beginning to think we’d need them.

At the bar sat two hipsters, one in grey, one in neon green. Our first awareness of them was when Neon leaned across and belly surfed the bar, pointing out the next bottle he wanted. The bartender, about the same age as Red, rolled her eyes–and scratched her breast in a strategic location. Her shirt rode lower. Neon got off the bar and sat back down, entranced and compliant.

Hey, don’t judge. It worked for her.

Our food came, and with it more of the story. Ex was aggressive. Could we use the word abusive, I asked Red? She waggled her head. “Well, Pam has bruises sometimes. I told her she could come stay with me if her mom didn’t take her back in.”

Beside us the hipster brothers began yelling loudly at the game onscreen, something about who did and didn’t have balls. The patrons along the row of booths behind us began disappearing. Red noticed us noticing.

“They keep asking to get moved. Y’all are the only ones who haven’t complained about them.” Her eyes flicked behind her. I’ve never seen anyone point with a pony tail before, but Red could. I had the impression this kid could do a lot of things besides run Ruby Tuesday single-handed.

Despite her subterfuge, the boys seemed to sense they were now part of our conversation, because they began yelling for Red to come serve them something.

The scratching bartender appeared. This time, as she bared all in an effort to reach that pesky itch, there was no mistaking the offer being made. Even Neon Drunk got it. The pair headed for the parking lot.

Red smiled at us. “Dessert?”

Something in the way she stood, brave and vulnerable, made me reach out my hand and place it on her arm. “Are you okay? You seem awfully sensible. Do you know what to do if your friend needs help?”

Her answer: “I live out in the country, but I have a knife. If he shows up at my place, I’ll gut him.”

Yes, okay, but I’d been thinking more about women’s shelters and how to get baby formula, etc. Oh, that. No she didn’t know anything in the area.

I’m a member of an amazing group of non-profit directors working on everything from ending gerrymandering to safe housing. I got online and typed, “Long story short, our waitress needs a women’s shelter in Nameless Small City. I’ll google but what else do I need to know?” Five minutes later I had the name of the shelter and its director, plus a list of questions they would ask at intake.

These were passed to Red, who put the info into her phone. She was profuse in her thanks. We smiled at her in turn as through the door at the far end of the room Neon and the Scratcher returned, both having apparently satisfied their itch. Red did not look, but that child had eyes in the back of her head. She rolled them in dismissal.

“Thank you for being so nice,” she said. “Everybody else asked to leave.” She indicated the now empty section in which we sat.

I had to confess. “Just so you know, I’m a writer. And this is so going into a book or blog. No names, promise!” This I added as her eyes flew wide, then went to her name badge. “No one will know it was you, but thanks for helping your friend.”

“Thanks for helping me help her,” Red answered, and went into the kitchen. We never saw her again. The next night we visited Ruby Tuesday, but only Scratch was working. She laughed when she saw us.

“Figured we ran you off for good between those drunk boys and the boyfriend,” she said.

Nah, honey. Life is life. We all have ways of coping. Just don’t let yours land you in Red’s kitchen, looking for baby formula.

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

The Unsung Bookstore Heroes!

Jack makes it over the bar with the Wednesday guest post – –

This place is BIG! The odd thing is that it’s gotten bigger over the last fourteen years, as we’ve made less livable spaces more so –

It takes a bit of looking after and keeping clean, and we’ve tried various strategies to deal with that over the years. To begin with we tried to keep on top of things ourselves but later we realized that wasn’t too practicable. So we had a couple of good friends who stepped up to help. The first was Heather, who can be seen in this video jokingly using our cat Owen Meanie as a duster. Heather was an awesome cleaner, thorough, efficient, and with a wicked sense of humor.

But she moved to Colorado so then we had Anne, who not only cleaned but brought posters and knick knacks and little colored baskets to make the shop more cheerful. Eventually health issues meant she had to retire (she’s also in the video as ‘Becky’ in the needlework group). Both of them were painstaking and highly skilled and we missed them—even more as we tried others with mixed results and also went back to trying to handle things ourselves. It was clear that we needed to find someone to take the place on –

Enter Judy!

She already cleaned for our vet friend, the sainted Beth and we had heard some stories that seemed pretty far-fetched. For instance, we were told she only would agree to clean for folk she approved of, and also she did all sorts of stuff that wouldn’t normally be considered ‘cleaning’. Seemed a bit odd, but we sent out a feeler to see if she was interested.

We’re not sure how she assessed our suitability but apparently we passed the test!

Judy is absolutely amazing – she has taken us on as her extended family. She really DOES do far more than we’d expected. Just recently I asked her to mop the front porch deck – she turned up with a power washer and did the deck, the railings and the furniture! Then there was the time she dug up an overgrown bush in the back yard and then brought here truck into the yard and hauled the roots out with a chain. She loves the cats as Heather and Anne did before her, and she once used her mop to physically repel a man trying to dump kittens in the bookstore.

Do not mess with Judy. She is the stuff of which mountain families are made. Also, don’t leave your coffee cup on untreated wood without a coaster. She’ll take you out.

 

 

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

A Poem for Bert

Our friend James watches the bookshop fairly often when we run about for this or that. James is a gifted poet and he sent us this in honor of our fuzzy guy. (His loss is why there have been no blogs this week. It’s just hard right now.)

So here, from James Ryan, is the poem

BERT

Bert the bookstore Terrier was really quite a guy

He did his job with great aplomb although he’d lost an eye

He inspected all the corners of the bookstore every day

Then he’d take the time to watch the kittens at their play

He greeted each customer as they came through the door

Unless, of course, he was asleep then you’d hear him snore

Watching the bookstore was a fun but never-ending task

The loving he received for this was all that he could ask

He knew his job and did it well whenever there was need

When there wasn’t he would sit and watch the kittens feed

To them he was their Uncle Bert a kind and gentle soul

Who watched them play and laughed when they’d trip and roll

He loved them all and treated them as if they were his own

And celebrated every time one got a furrever home

Now he’s crossed the rainbow bridge with a leap and run

Where his friend Zora is waiting to play and have some fun

He’s in a happy place now where he’ll never take a hurt

So, we celebrate the life of the Bookstore Terrier called BERTBert fostering

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

This is your Brain on Blue Cheese

blue cheeseI’m not gonna say I’m stressed. No, I choose this life of writing and cat rescue and advocacy for Appalachia. When the writing leads to a whirlwind schedule of book promotion, this is definitely a first world problem. No complaints. When the cat rescue is super-busy with special opportunities to make a difference, that’s what we’re there for. When Appalachia takes center stage in a national debate, step up to the plate and swing hard.

If all three are happening at the same time, ride the wave, answer the e-mails, smile pretty when you feel like strangling someone, and get a little sleep and some fresh green veggies in there someplace.

That leads me to my current problem…..

Because it’s been a busy time, I have been eating lunch while driving or at my desk. This is not a bad thing, but my office at the hospital (whence most of the advocacy stuff is plotted) is so small I have to step outside to change my mind. No room for fridge or microwave, which means I mostly grab things in Tupperware and eat them cold, or bring things in bags from Trader Joe’s and munch them piece by piece.

One of my favorite comfort foods is those little round Tamarind crackers and a nice blue cheese. One morning about two weeks ago, knowing the day would be long and diverse, I grabbed the leftovers of a bag of crackers and a wedge of cheese and threw them in my office desk drawer. About 2 p.m. I hauled out these delectables, ravenous, and devoured half of each. I put the rest of the crackers back in the drawer and the cheese into my bag.

That’s the last I’ve seen of that blue cheese.

Believe me, I’ve looked for it. I figured at some point it would be more easily found through smell. But the stuff has disappeared. Is it in my bookstore where a customer has run screaming after discovering the elusive bag fallen behind a shelf? Is it in the basement flat I am rumored to share with my husband, that I haven’t seen for 8 days because of the traveling? Is it in my car, which has become a large purse that I drive? Is it somewhere in my hospital office, crushed under stacks of files yet to be filed, waiting its chance?

The cheese is gone. I mourn its loss because it was the good stuff. But more, I mourn the symbolism of losing it. Because I never really wanted blue cheese to become the metaphor for my brain. Swiss cheese, maybe, but not the blue stuff. The jokes are too cheap and easy.

So there it is. If you see my lost mind anywhere, please round it up and keep it safe until you can gently shepherd it back to me. It’s far too small and defenseless to be left out there on its own. As for the cheese, if you find it, please keep it. No, really. Please.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

BIRDIE SPEAKS HER MIND

birdie 2

I wasn’t feeling so great, had a kitty cold or something, so I went to get a drink from the puddle. It’s by the road and I’m drinking and WOOSH everything goes dark. I come to and this lady’s got me in her lap and she’s stroking me and crying, “It’s gonna be okay, sweetie, gonna be okay.”

The stroking was nice but the moving, I’d never been INSIDE a car before. The other cats always said to avoid them. But these nice people, they took me to this place full of white light and barking dogs and I thought, Nonono, but it was true. This was that VET CLINIC I’d heard about.

They’re poking and prodding and I’m still not feeling so great, but nothing hurts, the car went over me and I passed out. Gave me a fright. Don’t tell anyone.

And while that vet’s looking, I give a mighty sneeze an’ damn if she don’t start talking about Youth Nation Services. I don’t know what this is but the people what brung me, they start crying harder. And I’m racking my brains for what the other cats back there in the woods said about Youth Nation, and it hits me….

Oh Hell No, honey, not this little black cat. I start meowing and going crazy and one of ‘em from the clinic speaks Cat. Kendra’s her name, and I’m pleading with her and she says, let her take care of me for the weekend and come Monday they can “reassess.”birdie 1

Reassess my ass, kiddos. I’m getting outta here, but Kendra, she puts me in a cage and it’s got a soft bed and all I want to eat, and a private toilet, and, well, I get some shuteye and she’s standing there with some nasty stuff I gotta swallow. Bitter, ick, but she’s nice about it and you know after a day I’m feeling a little better. Kendra learns quickly how I like my food served and where to fluff my pillow so it’s working out.

Come Monday I’m showing ‘em every trick I got, the cute belly roll, the pathetic meow, the “PLEASE DON’T EUTH ME” big green eyes, and it works! The little one says to my new best friend Kendra, “Call Wendy.”

Great.  I gotta break in another human? But this chick comes and then I’m in a moving cage, and another car ride, but there’s no mention of Youth Nation, so I figure I got this.

BOY HOWDY do I! You shoulda seen the place we went to: ceilings to the sky, everywhere I looked a cat toy, and there were THREE places to eat and TWO toilets!

So I’m thinking I landed on all four paws when around the corner comes this tiny kitten. Really cute. Cuter than me. We can’t have that, so I go to take care of it, and this Wendy woman acts like I’m an ax murderer. What, this place doesn’t operate on the law of the jungle? Is there a sign anywhere that says, “Please do not take out the competition?” There is not.

But she explains it properly so I leave the little brat alone, and here come two more kittens! One’s got stitches in her neck and she’s real pretty, so I call her Frankenkitty. It’s hard on us black cats. The other one’s black like me, but turns out he’s the baby’s brother, so he’s kinda cautious about my motivations. He explains we’re all here to get dropped; we get a family that looks after us forever and a place to live like this one, and staff to do our bidding.

I cuff him once in thanks and we play a little. He’s a nice kid but he has to get dropped with his sister, so he’s still competition. Frankenkitty bursts into tears if I so much as look at her; she says her name is Andromeda and could I please call her that. As if. COMPETITION puddy tat, that’s what you are.

So now I’m waiting for the right sucker to walk through the door, someone who understands my sensibilities and special needs. I’m in charge. Don’t mind if it’s dogs or cats, don’t mind how many people live in the house, but if you got little kids who are scared of having their knuckles chewed, maybe I’m not the kitty for you. I never break skin, but chewing, it’s like my signature way of saying I love you. Some people use flowers, I’m told. That’s just weird.

Come visit me. I’ll bite your knuckle and see if you taste like forever. Pay no attention to the cute brats under the bed.

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“It was Twenty Years ago Today”

Jack’s post is a day early for once – –

Twenty years ago today Wendy and I tied the knot. We had known each other just two years and when I asked ‘the question’ I immediately said “take time to think about it’! After all, I was foreign and older and she wasn’t as impulsive as me. Actually that’s not true – time has proved that she’s the impulsive one and I’m much more resistant to change.

But when we were introduced by our mutual friends, Wayne and Jean Bean, in Greeneville Tennessee I was the impulsive one for once.

wedding

We were married in the beautiful old stone house of Aileen Carr in Auchtermuchty in Fife. August 14th 1998 was a Friday (you can check) and was the day before the annual traditional music festival. That was an incentive for our storytelling and singing friends to come from ‘a’ the airts’ and come they did. Some of them have passed on now, but most are still around and in particular – Aileen Carr who provided the house, George Haig who was best man, Donna-Marie Emert who was best maid and Linda Bandelier who officiated as well as Jean Lockhart who laid on the wonderful food.

invite

I marvel at the last twenty years, starting with Wendy’s ‘run of the arrow’ as an American interloper into the Scottish storytelling scene and then our move to Lancashire in England where we were both a bit out of place, then Florida where we were VERY out of place and finally here to Big Stone Gap where we’ve made our home for twelve years, running Tales of the Lonesome Pine bookstore and becoming part of a real community.

It’s sometimes been difficult and there have been times when she has had to ‘explain things to me properly’, but that’s probably true of every meaningful relationship. We’ve been lucky and fortunate to have each other and to have so many good friends to help us along the way.

biltmore

She watches after me and makes sure I’m OK in every way – –

I loved her the first minute I saw her and still do!

 

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