Category Archives: humor

Philly Gelato

GCA-gelatoRecently I had to go to Philadelphia (for my sins, and for a big national conference). Philly is a foodie town, and on arrival I realized one of its best offerings was gelato.

I LOVE gelato, real gelato.

It’s not exactly on the low-carb diet, so I made a bargain with myself. There would be only one. It would be on the day I ate eggs and veggies for breakfast, and cheese plate and veggies for supper. It would be my whole lunch. And it would be the best Philly had to offer.

Googling “Best Gelato in Philly” on TripAdvisor revealed that GRAN CAFFE L’AQUILA was within walking distance for my limited lunch slot. But when I arrived, a woman alone, wanting only gelato, the waiter didn’t want to seat me. A brief struggle ensued. I was given one of the high tables in the restaurant’s central section and pretty much told to eat and get out.

Never mind; there were 14 glorious choices on the menu, with names that implied honey, almonds, and chocolate in the most decadent menage a trois kind of pairings. (Yes, I know.)

I ordered via the glowering waiter. While anticipating the glorious delivery, I perused the room. At the normal-sized table below and in front of me sat four older men whose order arrived in small artistic arrangements on square plates. Little balls of things with sauces and caviar accompaniments. They were engaged in a business meeting, and from their clothes and the casual dismissive power exuding from their gestures, it was clear that these men could have owned Philadelphia if it hadn’t been a little beneath them to do so. They were more likely after New York or Tokyo.

People walking through the restaurant greeted them with deference, and at least one of these lesser men got blown off in a fairly public way. These guys were capital R rich.

Soon my two scoops, long spoon and wafer arrived, driving all people watching out of my head. I began, slowly, savoring, sucking down and trying not to moan out loud. A small mix of the two flavors for experiment, separate spoons of each, one bite on the wafer; it was lovely.

Amidst this creamy dream, as a bee’s buzz invades a summer garden sojourn, I became aware that the four Riches were talking about me. Furtive glances, small giggles, boyishness.

I glanced down at them. The one sitting opposite caught my eye, knew the gig was up, and smiled in a “we mean no harm” kind of way. Gesturing to his friends, who had now swiveled in their chairs to face me, he said, “We were enjoying watching you enjoy that.”

I smiled back. “Nothing like this in my small town. I’ve been dreaming of it for days.”

The nearest man (balding, cashmere jacket) spoke. “Well, I couldn’t have made that last like you are. I don’t have that kind of discipline.”

Blue blazer who blew off the supplicant earlier added, “That’s why they sat you at that high table, so people could look in the window and see how happy you are. That’s advertising money can’t buy.”

The fourth man said, with a bit of caution, “In the best sense, this is one of those ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ moments.” And looked relieved when I smiled and nodded.

In gentlemanly retreat they turned to their little round things on small plates and I went back to my beloved. The waiter stopped trying hurry me, now I had powerful friends, and I admit to being in something of a time-stopped sugar-glazed daze when the spoon at last found no more inside the glass. The line of people waiting to get tables was now out the door.

As I hopped off my perch next to the Rich Man’s table, I paused. They looked up from their now-intense meeting.

“Gentlemen, don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” With a slight bow I went out the door past the hopeful patrons trying to have what I was having.

There are a few places where society levels, where it doesn’t matter how much power you normally yield, all people are suddenly and truly equal. Parent-teacher conferences. Doctor’s appointments. I’m not sure gelaterias are one of them, but then, I wasn’t there for the guys.



Filed under humor, Life reflections, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Branches – –

Jack actually makes it in time –

This week has been a bit strange, what with Wendy being away for two weeks helping her parents and me keeping an eye on the (very hard working) guys trimming back the tree overhanging our house.


But then there was this –

My friend Dirk who engineers my radio show is also a video guy and he startled me a year ago with a proposal to make a documentary film of my life. As we worked on the radio shows he had become interested in all the things I mentioned, including why I moved the US, my various different careers and my musical life.

He started with a great number of videoed interviews with me and the original idea was to try to cover all of that. The first version I saw was an hour long and dived all over the place. Interesting to me but probably few others!

But once he decided to focus essentially on the musical side it all began to make more sense.

It was fascinating to see how he went about it, chasing after people who knew me and persuading them to share their observations then painstakingly transcribing their interviews. Busy folk in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and even in Scotland.

But then he had to turn it into a narrative that made sense, where one interview meshed with others and where various musical interludes contributed.

It finally went public a few days ago.

I think he did a wonderful job. I hate to use words like ‘humbled’ and ‘honored’ but this time I have to. I’m so grateful to him and to all my friends who took the time and trouble to contribute so thoughtfully.

I’ve been emailing today with my sister about an audio interview with our mother that Wendy helped me do twenty years ago and it reminded me how important a legacy these seemingly fleeting things can be.

The video can be seen here –



Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

My New Year’s Resolutions

I try not to make too many NYRsNew year concept, because type A personalities like me tend to overburden the spirit of the thing, and then sink beneath our own weight. So, here are my three (ish) resolutions:


1) Return to blogging three times a week. Come hell or high water, I am GOING to get this back on track. It’s fun to blog, and when people honor you with their reading time, you should honor them. So, three times a week. Help me, people. Make this work! Send Monday Book reviews! It’s easy; 300-400 words on what it’s about and why you liked it. We tend not to publish “why I didn’t like it” unless the book is so bad, it’s art. Y’all help me with Mondays, and Jack and I can get Wednesday and the weekend together.

2) I wrote some fiction that’s set in West Virginia. Gonna get that signed with somebody in 2020. Where there’s a laptop, there’s a way. It’s in serious rewrite now after a few beta readers had their way with it. I love editing. The original writing is harder. Editing is the best part of writing. Having fun!!!

3) Learn to make poached eggs. In Philly recently I must have had five different kinds of poached eggs, on top of every conceivable form of veggie platform. I’m not much of a cook, but they’re fun, nutritious, diverse, and low carb. Eggs are our friends. Imma learn to make poached eggs this year.

Things I am not making resolutions about: playing the harp. I have finally taken my beloved instrument up again, after we closed and sold the bookstore. There was nowhere to keep my harp in the shop where it was out of the case and safe. People mean well, but no one can resist plucking a harp string when it’s sitting out. And our basement apartment was not a good climate. So it waited–until now. Now it sits in our library, atop its box, happy, healthy, and played every day. Having a good time with that, I am.

I’m not resolving to lose more weight. Since being diagnosed as pre-diabetic, I’ve lost 11 pounds. Goal: 7 more. It has taken me a year and a half to lose those 11, but they have not come back. Slow loss is permanent loss, and built into our lifestyle now. Substituting cauliflower for rice, zucchini for wheat, and sweet potatoes for those moments when nothing but a potato will do, I have come this far with God and His better vegetables’ help. I don’t understand how a potato can be a whole food, a vegetable, easy to grow, and super-cheap to buy, all while being so freaking bad for us. Sigh…. But I have learned to make them treats rather than staples. All of that to say, it’s a journey that will never end, experimenting with tasty ways to eat wisely and still have fun.

This is one of those places where life is unfair in my favor, though; it’s fun for me because I can afford to buy the kinds of food that are good for us. It’s hard work staying away from corn syrup without blowing a budget. God bless and stretch grocery dollars for everyone trying to do the same on a tight salary. And remember: zucchini is cheap and not hard to make into noodles. Cauliflower I’ve never seen cheaper than $2.29 per head, sadly.

I have one more resolution, but I’m not telling anybody what it is. If it works out, I’ll let you know. :]

What are your resolutions this year?


Filed under humor, Life reflections, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Power ain’t Necessarily – –

Jack gets way over his deadline but pleads Christmas recovery  –

I noticed that Christmas has become a very ‘on-line’ thing over the last few years and that got me thinking.

Random thoughts – – –

I got my first computer around 1998, just after the college where I worked began to introduce them. Prior to that I hand wrote memos, handed them to my secretary, who typed them, copied them and then sent them to the designated recipients. There was a whole protocol around memos including who was ‘CCd’ and how that could be used as a weapon! I learned – – –

Back then there was hardly an internet as we now know it. There was eventually an ‘intranet’ within the college, and on my personal computer at home (with great difficulty) I could eventually connect via ‘dial up’ with the college.

Ah – dial up! One of the guys at the college could imitate that sound perfectly

I joined ‘America on Line’ (AOL) and got an email address, which I still have. Back then, in Scotland, you connected to your email via dial up. They had three numbers for the whole of the UK and Ireland! So getting your emails was sometimes a frustrating experience. But that was just to get your mail and not to surf the internet. There wasn’t really any internet!

When I assumed the position of Head of Construction Trades, I found by accident that the Department had ten computers. The trouble was I couldn’t find them. After a search, I was told that the computer department had pauchled fifty by attributing them to other departments! So eventually ten Commodore Pets briefly were in my department as they were wheeled to the dumpster – – –


The final story is much later. I had been promoted again, had gained my MBA and was teaching management classes. Like everyone else I had great difficulty getting any kind of urgent response from the IT team to fix any problem (check out ‘The IT Crowd’ on YouTube Nicola was their manager and was in one of my evening class programs. That night we discussed the different forms of power within organizations – hierarchical, fiefdoms and expert. Expert was the one! As soon as I had explained expert power to Nicola I never had an IT problem again.




Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

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.)


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

The Monday Book: THEIR HOUSES by Meredith Sue Willis

their housesI got sent this book as I was leaving the Book Editor position for the Journal of Appalachian Studies. It was a wild ride (the book, although so was being editor).

Wells sets up a bizarre but plausible set of circumstances, and rides the wild waves from there: an old guy who struck it rich as a conspiracy theory revolutionary wants to reconnect to sisters he knew in childhood. All of them had weird childhoods, in the Jeanette Walls sense. The girls used to build little matchbox houses for their toys and called them “safe houses,” and kept them in a trunk–the same trunk where the younger sister hid drug money she stole from her older sister when she started running them….

That’s partly how the old rich guy got rich, and partly why he has a panic room. And partly why he loves the sisters, particularly the older one, so much. She turns in later years to religion and marries a preacher with a shady past that reaches into the present every now and again, with no complaints from him. (Every character in this novel is complicated, but not deep, is the best way to put it?)

Each chapter in the novel features one of the six main characters, and you will find this featured in the book group questions at its end: how do these different perspectives give the reader any sense of what’s going on inside all this chaos?

Good question. This book is chock full of things that don’t make sense, except, well, contextually they do. If you like Vonnegut, you’ll like Wells. Anything goes. Including the rather satisfying ending.

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

Another Tale of Tails – – –

Jack makes it over the line – woohoo – – –

I never had a dog or a cat when I was a kid. There was my Grandad’s budgie but that hardly counts!

Fast forward and my marriage to Wendy. Before we even wed, she required a cat and a visit to the Leith cat and dog home resulted in Valkyttie who was with us for seventeen years. Shortly after tiny Valkittie arrived we had another visit to Leith and Rabbie, our border terrier joined the family.

They were with us in Scotland, England and the US and when Rabbie mysteriously disappeared along came Zora the black lab and Bert – mini Rabbie look-alike!

Zora and Bert reached their allotted span and left us a year apart not long before we moved house here to Wytheville. As usual when pets depart there’s a period of mourning and time needed before the time is right to adopt again.

But the time was right a couple of months ago – –

Enter Bruce!


It was time and Wendy found him at a local rescue. Described as a four-year-old bulldog/pitbull mix we fairly quickly found he was mainly pitbull and definitely older. There’s a good reason for that, though and we completely understand. Pitbulls have a bad rap and dogs over five are harder to find homes for. We were told he was being treated for heart-worm and were happy to take that on-board.

Bruce was afraid of everything when he arrived. When his water in jug gurgled, he ran away. When a cat approached, he ran away. He once ran from his own tail when he caught its movement from the corner of his eye.

We quickly surmised that he had had a chequered and probably unhappy past, being so nervous of people, vehicles and unfamiliar noises. But he equally quickly settled down with us and proved to be very relaxed and happy to spend most of his time hanging close by.

We recently noticed he was limping and an x-ray revealed a torn ligament -which explained some of his past; he was obviously a linebacker in high school – so that will be the next priority. While he was being checked for that and getting the last heart-worm shots our vet (the sainted Beth) estimated his age at closer to seven years, which seems about right.

So we are looking forward to giving him a better life in retirement than he seems to have had up to now. His golden years will be golden.

Why Bruce? Well all our male dogs have been some version of Robert; we had a Rabbie and a Bert, so Robert the Bruce seemed right. Besides his previous name, apparently, was Brutus and Bruce with a Scottish accent sounds much the same. He seems to like it!

And we like him just fine. So that’s all right then.


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Filed under animal rescue, between books, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch