Category Archives: Hunger Games

I didn’t Finish with GISH

gish

Thank you, all my sweet friends who helped me get GISH (Great International Scavenger Hunt) tasks done last week. (If you are unfamiliar with GISH, there is a good Wikipedia article linked at the bottom of this post.)

Many whose names I fear leaving off here did amazing things. Sylvia went to Niagara Falls with her husband on a date just so she could play “Carry On My Wayward Son” on a recorder at sunset. Adrienne organized a barbershop quartet BY COMPUTER to sing protest songs outside the Rayburn Building in DC. Lynn made Beyonce out of stained glass and enshrined her in the Temple of Arts and Sciences, while Lisa and Beth helped me hoist a “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR” banner over an immigrant detention center hidden two hours from my happy home. There were others, too; thank you.

I didn’t finish out the hunt; events overtook and some quirks of conscience sent me back into rethinking why I’d wanted to do it. (Because for the past two years I had.) The team I was on were super-capable and had been together a long time, so communication between them was a kind of incredible shorthand this newbie never learned. Add in my confusion over some of the tasks being meaningful, others treating animals or people in vulnerable situations like props, and it just wasn’t for me.

For instance: dress a team member as a bull and have them brandish a GISH flag with a real matador in a real bullfight ring? No, nyet, never set foot in such a place, for shame GISH; fight BS not bulls. But actions sung to a children’s song, showing how to know when someone is having a stroke? Yes please. Taking day-old produce begged from a local shop to a homeless family out by the viaduct? Yeah, okay, but then let’s not worry about the quality of the photographs documenting the event. In fact, photographs are kinda rude. Saggy banner over the detention center? That’s because we thought we were going to get arrested. Someone was coming toward us and he was NOT happy.

The dynamics of the whole large hunt were weird. It was almost like being a wind-up toy set in motion for the amusement of some rich people who had nothing better to do than think up faux adventures. They would have had to be rich, because one of the tasks was to get en pointe ballerinas in tutus to paintball each other. If you REALLLLLLLLY want to piss off a dancer, ask her to dance en pointe for free. You don’t even have to add, “and by the way your shoes are going to get ruined” for good measure.

Life holds many real adventures. It’s a rich thing to know them for themselves. And yet, the hunt showed me new things. I now know where my local women’s shelter is (had to donate toys there, and we’ve been back since.) I know which of my online never-met-in-person friends are romantics, who the pragmatists are, and which outright quirky souls who will do anything for a laugh. It is very gratifying to have friends who will do anything (safe and legal) for you–or with you. The nice couple running Mason wing-walking school totally did us a huge favor for no other reason than being kind.

So it was a mixed blessing, participating in GISH. I won’t do it again, but it was a check on the bucket list that will never be matched. And I will cherish the feeling of lifting that banner for the rest of my life.

Read about the hunt’s origins here.

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Filed under home improvements, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Uncategorized

Wendy and the Furries

big bad wolfThe National Rural Health Association held its annual conference in Atlanta (that most rural of American localities) this year. On Tuesday we started lamenting the state of rural health infrastructure and planning our dire futures.

On Wednesday, two giant skunks appeared in the lobby of the hotel. Whispers rippled around the place: the furries were coming.

The 800 attendees of the health conference divided: a third of them googled furries, a third fled to their rooms, and the rest staked out seats at the bar and watched the luggage parade.

More than 6,000 furries descended. The number of sparkly unicorn heads on luggage carts, the inflatables trapped inside plastic, eyes always looking out with pleading expressions, and the unflappable Atlanta red cap bellmen, pushing carts with dignity as leopard tails fell over the sides, moving little pink fuzzy claws just before they got trapped in the wheels. Oh, the photo opps.

 

 

That was nothing compared to Thursday night in the bar–and the lobby, and the restaurant, and the main plaza, and the escalators…

 

Turns out, furries are really nice, ehm, people? If you ask they generally enjoy having their photos taken, or saying a few words to friends back home who love their particular species. Witness Mr. March Hare, who waved to my friend Willie, the first woman I know to decorate her kitchen using an Alice in Wonderland theme.

Friends back home who know me as that nice buttoned-up author who crochets and rescues cats, and doesn’t make trouble for the neighbors, sent polite private messages when I began posting Furries on my FB feed. A fellow musician and Rennaissance Faire enthusiast summed up the gist of these, “Umm, Wendy, did you go there on purpose?”

 

 

 

 

 

toucansFalling into the furry convention also coincided with my birthday. Friends had promised to take me to the Atlanta aquarium, but we just parked ourselves ringside and watched the lobby fill with fur–and scales, and a trio of inflatable toucans (maybe?) who stole the show. From Facebook, friends flung advice: Give them cookies! They love cookies! Don’t step on their tails, they get surly. Don’t worry, they only bite if you ask nicely.cookie furry

 

 

And the furry jokes, which we will gloss over. These came down to a bunch of friends asking, “But what is the point of this” with others more in the know sending some iteration of “cosplay with benefits.”

I knew about furries peripherally, because Jack and I play Celtic music, because of being at book festivals where cosplay might come into view, and because some of the crocheting I do has been, I think, bought by a furry or two who didn’t self-identify.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I never got to meet any before this weekend. We had the time of our lives, my friends and I, watching the furries walk past the erstwhile posters intended to save the world with their statistics and dire warnings of hospital closure. Which will save the world first, do you think, people trying to get stuff done, or people trying to make sure everyone has a good time?

A partnership would have formed if we could have found him in time: one furry was dressed as a large mammal (authorities differed as to lion, wolf, or dog) in a doctor’s coat, complete with stethoscope. The Virginia delegation hunted him after our awards ceremony for a photo opp, but alas it was not meant to be.

Gracias, furries, for reminding us that having fun is healthy. And, well, fun. We had the time of our lives, watching y’all possess and enjoy that hotel. Thanks! Have a cookie.60197676_2540615052616210_5072177147590737920_n

 

 

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Filed under animal rescue, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, Uncategorized

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

cookiesDear Ashley–

We meant well. I just want you to remember that….

You know how your college roommate Beth and I are the best of buds, and sometimes we rope you into schemes from the edge? Being a people doctor we get how busy you are, community dignity needs and such, so we try not to involve you in every hairbrained scheme. 5% seems about right.

I cracked my next percentile down in weight, the three-digit scale number ending in 0 finally ending in 9. SUCCESS! CELEBRATE! Yeah yeah, 11 more pounds to go but after losing the same three for six months, it felt GOOOOOOOOD.

And I knew you’d be happy for me because 1) you’re my doc and 2) anytime a patient in SWVA gets out of the pre-diabetes diagnosis, where the cheapest-available potatoes and biscuits like Grandma used to make are the worst thing we can eat, there will be popping of corks.

Which is what Beth and I did, of course, because she makes wine. She is, in fact, the reason my HDL cholesterol is superhuman high: reds got the goods on that fat stuff.  We have discussed this.

Now Beth and I know you can’t tell us about each other’s health, that hippo in the room, but we talk to each other about our hypochondria and what you said about it all the time. Like most of your patients, we respect your advanced learning, etc. etc. but take advice from each other, because, SWVA. Right? Yes, just nod. We know you know.

Beth had her own reasons to celebrate, you and she negating the stress connection to her physical prowess, so we figured what more American way to mark weight loss and harm reduction than cookies and alcohol? The only reason we didn’t call you is, we know you have small children and buggering off to get drunk with us would have raised questions in the home.

Instead, we figured on giving you some of the cookies. After all, you helped make us what we are today: thinner and pain-free. Plus, we could show off the wonder of chemical sugar replacements posing as plant extracts, and ricotta. The cheese made them the perfect pairing for a pinot.

To add extra burn (in the GOOD sense) we did aerobic dance while baking, aided by shouting at Alexa anytime a song crossed our minds that had a great beat and you could stir to it. There was a sipping game involving the resolution of jazz triad chords, I seem to recall….

Several dozen cookies later, the products of conceptual baking appeared flatter than we expected because we had confused three cups of red wine with four cups of almond flour, but hey when has reducing carbs ever hurt anyone?

And the cookies were really soft and they fell apart as we tried to spatula them off the pans but once we discovered how good they were rolled up and mashed into balls, that didn’t matter. Cookie count went from like five dozen to three, and we like to think they honored Beth’s profession cutting testicles off cats. Still, we resisted the urge to name the cookies after any medical procedure; we were thinking of you on this point, dear Ashley.

Except, next day, after Beth duly labeled a Tupperware container with her return address a la Southern Baptist women everywhere, and we shoveled some of the flat and balled cookies into it, I forgot to deliver it to your office. See, I had a slight headache, and there was this tinnitus ghost music in my ears…..

So Jack will bring the now-frozen cookies to you next week, dropping them by your office Monday, and we just wanted you to know, we had such fun and hope you did too, being the third party at our party. Let’s do it again sometime soon!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, crafting, home improvements, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

An Intense Week for All the Wrong Reasons

I'm fed upHi Y’all – It’s been an intense week. Many things have made me busy and most of them have been driven around opioids and healthcare needs in SW VA. I don’t want to talk about most of them.

For those of you unaware, April 8 JD Vance (HILLBILLY ELEGY) and I went head-to-head in a discussion of “Are We Losing a Generation?” about opioids and KinCare. The fallout from this panel has been about whether the venue that invited us (Appalachian Studies Association) should have invited him. None of it has been about the topic of the debate. Moral: when asked to participate in a debate with a famous figure, be sure of the trap that’s being set before you enter it, and decide if the platform to get a message out is worth the lunacy of the fallout. I’m not sure it was. I’m knee-deep in people who want to talk about Elegy, not opioids. Screw that.

So here, in heart-breaking simplicity, is the reality of what drugs do to sweet, kind, smart people who are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons. The message that was meant to be part of that debate. Please be warned, if you are tender-hearted, don’t watch this five-minute cartoon in a public place.

Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUngLgGRJpo

And perhaps next week will be better. Or at least more honest.

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Filed under Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

PAUL GARRETT’S MONDAY BOOK

Mary Coin by Marisa Silver

maryIt is one of the most iconic photos in American history. You’ve seen it, I’m sure: The black and white image puts the figures in stark relief; A mother holds a baby who is barely visible, bundled in a thick blanket against the wind.  Two of her other children, half Cherokee on their mother’s side, hide their faces as if, like some Native Americans in the 19th century, they are afraid the camera would steal their souls. Their hair shows the results of what was once called a “bowl cut,” wherein the vessel is placed upside down on the head and the hair trimmed to fit the rim.

And there is the mother, exhibiting what approaches the “thousand-yard stare;” the look that appears on the faces of soldiers after long periods of intense combat.

Look closer: See the torn fabric of her threadbare dress? Closer again: Notice the dirt caked around her fingernails? What the photo doesn’t show, can’t show, except for the after effects manifested on her face, are the conditions of her squalid life. She has been in close combat with that immutable enemy, starvation. She is sitting at a “pea camp,” where she came to eke out a few cents a day picking peas. But there are no peas to pick.  A freezing rain wiped out the crop the night before she arrived. They have been surviving by gleaning produce from the ruined fields and eating what birds her children can kill.

She has just sold the tires off her car to buy food.

In her book, Mary Coin (Penguin Group, 2014) Marisa Silver takes a very close look at this woman, whose real name was Florence Owens Thompson, and also Vera Duerr (Dorthea Lang), the woman who took the photo while working in FDR’s New Deal. The photo was colorized for the book cover.

Vera is handicapped, as was Dorthea, with a limp due to a bout of polio as a child. Mary is handicapped by being poorly educated, widowed, pregnant with her sixth child, and left to follow the crops as a migrant worker across the West.

The picture and its provenance form the heart of the story, which closely tracks the real lives of the two women. Not much is made about how their paths crossed. In the book as in life it was more-or-less accidental, or, one might say, providential.

After a somewhat confusing start the story picks up speed in the middle and races to the end with a surprising and somewhat disquieting plot twist.

The book poses questions about what constitutes one’s identity in a technological world, and what a mother may sacrifice for the sake of her children.

Neither Dorothea nor Florence were ever remunerated for the photo. Since Dorthea was working for the government, the picture is in the public domain. When Florence, who spent her life doing menial labor, had a stroke in 1983, her children tried to use her notoriety to solicit contributions to help pay her medical bills. They garnered $35,000. Florence died the same year.

Mary Coin, in the end, is left to contemplate who she is, what she has lost, and what her future holds.

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Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Uncategorized

1960, 1991, 2018

Today is the day students are walking out of schools to demand tougher gun legislation.

On January 17, 1991, General Norman Schwarzkopf addressed a different group of young people, many of them also 18. Those young people were armed to the teeth. To those kids, marching into a fierce battle that opened Desert Storm, he said some words that have a strange resonance now.

“You are a member of the most powerful force our country has ever assembled,” he began. He meant the military. The military is strong. Grassroots are stronger. Have you ever tried to pull up grass by its roots?

“You have trained hard for this battle and you are ready….I have seen in your eyes a determination to get this job done…My confidence in you is total! Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our country.”

This isn’t Desert Storm, when we called on young people to be brave and scary and inflict shock and awe on another country. This is students fighting for their own lives, inspiring shock and awe within their country.

Every battle is different. Every battle requires courage from those on the ground.

Go kids. Go.

 

 

 

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Filed under Hunger Games, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Inspiration vs. Perspiration (or, The Games Writers Play)

The time when inspiration is most likely to strike is twenty minutes before you have to be somewhere, while you’re brushing your teeth. You will not be dressed for this event, nor will any household dependents be in progress toward getting out the door or setting up to stay home.

This is why God invented notepads. And cellphones with that voice dictation function. Depending on which is easier for you in your time crunch, jot down the idea, or grab your phone and send yourself a voice email. “JoAnne, self-protection, dogs and doctors” is one I just sent myself at 8:50. I was due at 9 am to help the local churches pack for the food pantry distribution, a thing I have wanted to do since arriving here in Fayetteville.

28235827_1906944399316615_289168906_nI’m in Fayetteville because of a wonderful program at Lafayette Flats, run by Shawn and Amy. You can look it up with that link. The point being, at 8:50 the link to how Chapter 14 related to the rest of the story so far, the way it could be shoehorned in to being a part of the whole, not a side journey, flowed into my brain as I brushed my hair.

Those key words will get me back to where I need to go (as soon as I finish writing this blog). They will not get me past the BS games writers play with themselves that “if we only had time, what glorious things we could write.” Now I have time, and now I have the note that says how to do it. Now my butt and the chair need to be best friends for awhile. Writing is 90% butt sloth and finger exercise, 10% inspiration. This is why many writers have big bums and you should never offer to thumb wrestle with one. The wrist of a writer should be registered as a deadly weapon.

Big bums, strong fingers, notepads (or iPhones) and time: that’s how writing gets done. Plus a little human interaction now and then. I loved helping the team at the food pantry.

Back to writing now….

 

 

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Filed under bookstore management, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing