Category Archives: small town USA

Toilet Yarn Bombing is Da Bomb

whoville-2016-035It’s not often that one gets to yarnbomb one’s own toilet.

Now that I have your attention…. :]

Jack and I took yesterday to get into the Whoville Spirit of things for the holidays here in Big Stone. The whole town has a Who theme going – I keep waiting for someone to display an album cover of Roger Daltry, but so far, everyone is behaving.

who-bugThere were days when one could join the cutout painting brigade, but with our crazy schedules, Jack and I had to handmake our contribution. So naturally it involved yarn.whoville-2016-036

Welcome to the Bookstore Whoville 2016, ladies and gentlemen! Flash photography allowed. And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Since I live with a Scot, it’s a somewhat mixed bag here.

horton

 

 

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

Juanita Tries to Figure out Humans

15134332_1371938282817232_41046199_n-copyHi! I’m Juanita, and I am staying at the bookstore with my friends until my forever family arrives. We are having a very nice time. There’s Milky, she was found on the streets. And Frosty, he was from the shelter, like me, but he was later. And there’s Delight, nobody’s really sure how she got here. And Pear, her family moved and left her. And then there’s some kittens from the work farm at the prison; the warden asked if they could come live here.

We all live here together. We look really different and we’re all different ages and even purrsonalities. Delight is really shy and Pear doesn’t like to be carried. Me, you could carry me into next Christmas and I’d be okay with that. I love to snuggle and sometimes Milky and I have to share spaces when the humans sit down. There’s only so much lap space in the world, but we work on it together and we always fit. It’s not hard.

So the humans here, they’ve just had an electric-nation, I think is what Dad said, and they’re all worried. It must be hard to be a human; there’s a lot more to pay attention to than just eating and sleeping and playing for them, I guess. That wouldn’t be any fun.

Mom and Dad  say that it’s hard to just be yourself these days, because maybe some people are going to be mean to others, and you have to be nice to everybody, but if you’re nice to everybody, you’re nice to the mean people and the nice people, and that means no matter what you wind up being mean to somebody.

I don’t understand any of it. Mom and Dad are nice to cats, so I guess they’d be nice to people too, and since people are in charge of stuff–you know, like tuna, and where the sunbeams are–they have to be nice to each other, or some people won’t have enough stuff. I remember at the shelter, when cats didn’t get enough stuff, it went from friendly to mean real fast.

The world has a lot of room in it, Mom says, and some of it is for me, and some of it is for the other cats, and we’ve got enough room and stuff for everybody as long as nobody says only certain cats can have it. But why would anybody do that?

So I hope the humans can learn to get along. Mom says sometimes it has to do with what color you are. Which is like the dumbest thing ever. I’m black and white, and Pear is striped, and the kittens are all solid orange. But we don’t have any trouble. Mom says I have to think of it like one cat saying only orange cats are good, and the others have to do what he says. And I think, weird. If you don’t like a cat, you stay away from him. Mom says that it doesn’t work that way for humans, but I shouldn’t worry. And that I’m gonna get adopted soon.

I hope so. I got plans for sharing my space with other cats in a big happy family. Come see me and maybe we can talk about that.15174405_1371938066150587_670575587_n-copy

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

Nothing is Scarier than a Blank Page -except maybe an Untold Story

blank-page1Jack and I are holed up at the cabin this weekend so I can get back to my book. It’s been so long, it feels like starting over in some ways. And it’s true, there is nothing scarier than a blank page.

The good thing about the cabin is, no Internet. Which means I don’t fritter time “checking facts” and otherwise pretending to write when I’m really online. The only way to get online is to drive five miles down the road to the Lonesome Pine Grill, buy a cup of coffee, and piggieback on their wireless. Which we do once per weekend only.

Now is a good time to be off the Net anyway, as post-election vitriol turns into fingers that point, names that fly, and tit for tat that makes kindergarteners look mature. It’s all over but the shouting used to mean something was finished; now it’s just descriptive.

Never mind. I’ve gone back to writing. The world may or may not be going crazy. Books to sell, cats to rescue, safety pins to wear, life goes on. What’s scaring me is that damn blank page.

I’m trying not to  make it a metaphor for America. For all the people who felt they weren’t listened to before the election, for all the people who fear their voices may be drowned out after.

There’s just this blank page in front of me, one I need to write on, to tell my story. That’s what comes next. Tell my small, sweet, simple story: cats, books, Jack, life.

Because we’ve all seen the power a good story wields. And what happens when stories go untold for too long. Tell yours. Nothing is scarier than a blank page. Fill it.

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

Stand and Deliver!

 Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

Tricking, treating or guising?

We had three hundred kids plus their supervising adults through the bookstore last Saturday. They were ‘trick or treating’ as these Americans say. They filed in over three hours, snaking through the place to the kids’ room to choose a free book, getting handed a cafe cookie and having a photo taken of them in costume before leaving for the next port of call.

trick-treat-crowd

A small number of the 300 waiting to enter

I wondered about that American tradition so I did some investigating – it turns out that it means “give me a treat or I will play a trick on you”. So, in other words, what would be described in an English or Scottish court as ‘demanding with menaces’!

There’s been a fair bit of discussion on facebook over the last few days about the different Halloween traditions on the opposing sides of the Atlantic, and even about the various names for the vegetable that gets carved into a lantern for the occasion.  I was forced to take part, if only to promote the correct name for the said vegetable.

In Scotland the festival was, for me, always ‘Guising’ (dressing in disguise) and the lantern was carved from a tumshie (a large turnip) and the kids had to perform a poem, song or joke in return for their gift. It was always a family event too, with games – dookin for aipples or trying to snare a treacly scone dangling from a string by mouth with your hands behind your back.

The name of the vegetable? I’ve heard Turnip, Swede, Neep and Tumshie (rutabaga over here) . It was always a tumshie in my youth. But when I grew up and became a responsible adult I was once asked to join an EU funded international environmental education project led by a Danish organization that had a license to grow hemp (don’t ask!). They suggested various Acronyms for the shared undertaking and one of them was NEEPS! I immediately agreed – of such is inter-cultural understanding achieved, although no-one understood why we’d agreed so quickly and enthusiastically.

Long may these weird things continue to confound us, and I can still remember the smell of a candle burning inside a hollowed out tumshie or neep!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized

Delight is Not Happy

delightOkay, you people, listen up because I have just about had it, do you hear me?

I came here as a kitten with my brother Oreo after my mom died, and a week later he disappeared. They told me he’d been “adopted.” Sure. They killed him and stuffed his body somewhere.

So time goes by – I don’t know how much, okay? I’m a cat; it’s not like we wear watches or anything – and they’re feeding me wet stuff and there’s lots of cats here to talk to, although none of them knows where my brother is beyond that “gone to his forever home” thing, which sounds ominous to me. Still, being here, it’s not all bad, is what I’m saying. Or it wasn’t.

They kept trying to touch me. Some weird human fetish, I guess, they wanted to “pet” me, which means they bothered me when I was eating. Although I admit that spinal swipe thing feels kinda nice.

Anyway, one day they put down the wet food like always, and I start in, and suddenly the chick is behind me – there’s two chicks and a guy do most of the cat stuff here; don’t ask me about the relationships; humans are weird – and she grabs me. Hard. Tight. Scary.

I scream and struggle but she stuffs me in this box, and then we’re moving, and then I’m in this place full of barking dogs and this other lady has this needle – like two feet long, I’m telling you – and she STICKS IT IN ME!!!!

Next thing I know they’re all dancing around saying “she tested negative” and telling me how great this is, but I’m back in the see-through box with the hard sides, and my leg is killing me, and I’m just plotting how I can take them all down in one good karate bite-kick-chop. I’ve got moves these girls haven’t seen yet.

But I let it go, because they take me back to the place with all the wet food and cats, and the other cats, some of them got stuck too, so we’re all limping around trading war stories, and I’m a little more careful after that. No more unexpected grabbing.

And then….. and then…..

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, right? This morning when the chick puts down wet food and gets all sweet and sneaky standing nearby, I know something’s up. I don’t bite. Literally. No wet food for me. And I think that’s the end of it.

Do you know what that bi–chick did? She waited until I was IN THE LITTER BOX. Is NOTHING private any more in this hellhole?

She grabs me – mid-stream, mind you – and I’m fighting for all I’m worth but the other chick appears from nowhere, and it’s back in the hard box with the see-through sides, and we’re moving again, and I think I’m going back to the barking dogs and scary smells place but after a LONG time (and I can hear other cats as we’re moving, but none of us know where we’re going) suddenly we’re in this bright room, and it’s again with the needle, but instead of it hurting the room starts spinning, and then it’s dark…

..and I wake up on this soft mattress and this lady with red hair is saying I was “so brave” and “everything’s fine” and I’m thinking “you don’t know for fine, bitch, just put your face a little closer to those bars.”

The other girls who came here with me, they’re all waking up too, and we’re exchanging notes, and we’ve all got sore tummies and little scars, and one of ’em, she heard from her mom, this is called “spraying.” We’ve all been sprayed.

I did not sign a consent form. That said, I don’t object to the idea I’ll never have to worry about raising kids. I saw how Mom struggled with Oreo and me before she got sick, how she worried about us as she was dying. All she wanted was for us to have it better, so no, I don’t want that responsibility. Still and all, it would have been nice to be asked. And that litter box scoop? No. Just, no.

Goes to show, you can’t trust anyone. Think I’ll be letting my guard down, that human hands will ever touch me again? Ha. No. Nyet. Not this little tuxedo cat. Nope.

I’ve got my eye on you, people.

Editor’s note: it is assumed by the staff cats and humans of the Little Bookstore that Miss, ehm, “Delight” will be staying with us indefinitely. While we welcome inquiries into her adoption, we recognize that it would be difficult to catch her in pursuit of such an option. Also, her personality is… challenging. Thus she may spend her days in our basement, eating, sleeping, and coming and going as she pleases. We have been advised by Owen Meany, esquire, that she has sought his legal counsel and an injunction has been filed against further caressing, touching, or medical procedures.

Good thing we got her spayed. That’s all that matters.

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

Strangers in the day

 Jack’s Wednesday (just) guest post –

For some reason that I can’t fathom we’re getting a lot of out of town (and out of State) visitors to the bookstore and the cafe just now. It’s not the season for school reunions or vacations, and although some folk have deliberately detoured this way because of reading ‘The Little Bookstore’ many of them haven’t.

It seems to be a completely random thing – just passing through or maybe here for a funeral or family visit.

Quite apart from the welcome business, it adds to the busyness! I love it when strangers come in when we have local loyal friends of the place just hanging out and everyone ends up swapping stories.

Two examples from today –

1) A couple drove for five hours from Elkins in WV yesterday because they had read the book. They visited yesterday afternoon then came back this morning as soon as we opened and stayed on for lunch. As they were leaving they said they’d be back soon. Of course they had dinner in town last night then stayed overnight in a local hotel and had breakfast before heading back here and encountering the hanging out crowd.

2) A gentleman drove up from Johnson City simply because he heard a repeat broadcast on the local NPR station of an interview with Wendy about the store. As soon as he heard my voice he said “you’re the guy on WETSfm that has the Celtic show”. I’ve been presenting Celtic Clanjamphry every week for almost ten years as an unpaid volunteer and, in return they now count that as sponsorship by Tales of the Lonesome Pine, so we get a mention on air as well.

banner

Nobody can spell Clanjamphry!

Just two examples of how new customers arrive at the door. Of course they are, for different reasons, already pretty well primed to be ‘on side’. The challenge for anyone who runs this kind of shop is to try to read the personality of the completely ‘cold callers’ and respond appropriately. As I said at the beginning we had a good few of them as well. One couple were quiet and focused and I simply responded to their occasional request while another guy started like that, then encountered a kitten and became much more engaged. On the one hand you have to like people to do this job, but on the other hand you have to be able to quickly read people too.

It’s still great fun!

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

The People in 306

Every year, Jack and I emcee the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival, in gratitude of which they give us a small stipend and a big room in a grand hotel.

For the past four years it’s been the Carnegie, a nice place in JC that features huge bathrooms, glorious hallway chandeliers, and paper-thin walls. Last night Jack and I settled into our room with the requisite Indian take-out meal from Sahib’s, mid-term grading for me and Scottish political sites for Jack.

About half an hour later, we glanced at each other. Strange noises were coming from the hallway. It sounded as though a child were throwing up.

“No, that’s the room beside us,” Jack said, as I started to open the door leading to the hall. He indicated the wall with a flick of his head.

I stood at the point where the noise seemed loudest and listened again. The soft, ah-ah-ah gasps escalated to something like crying.

“This kid is in pain,” I said to Jack. “Do you hear an adult in the room? Should we knock?”

At that moment a male voice said, “Good girl, do it again” and my whole assessment of the situation shifted. Jack and I shot back from the wall as though, well, shot.

The voices continued, rumbling, mumbling, giggling, and that high, heated shrieking the gasps had turned into. There were sounds of spanking, and choking. “Are you all right?” “Oh yeah, that was amazing!”

Jack and I glanced at each other, at the clock by our bed (10:45), at our empty, neatly made bed, and busted up laughing. At some point marriages turn into “Let’s get a good night’s sleep” instead of “I’ll have what she’s having.”

And that’s okay. Don’t get the wrong idea; sex shared with the right person has no equal. But it also has no need of broadcasting. Sex just doesn’t sound like much fun at all when you’re not the one having it. Erotic asphyxiation is definitely off my list. She sounded like a poodle with asthma.

So is the Carnegie Hotel, perhaps. Next year we’re asking for the Comfort Inn. Fare-thee-well, paper thin walls that bring more than someone else’s TV into your life.

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