Category Archives: small town USA

A Husband’s Work is Never Done….

clean-houseIt’s deja-vu all over again – –

Wendy often returns from vacation with, shall we say, bold ideas and extra energy. When she decided that half the furniture in the basement apartment needed to go three floors up to the guest room and vice-versa, I got that old sinking feeling. Combine that with the ritual culling of books from our personal stash and a chore becomes a nightmare!

We needed to reduce the number of books in our basement apartment as, despite our best efforts, they were beginning to draw dampness. No matter how often we do the book thinning thing, it never gets any easier., even though the rules don’t change: if they’re of sentimental value or are important reference sources, they stay; otherwise they go into the shop. (And of course Wendy and I each still try to sneak interlopers past the other.)

All of this reorganization has to be accomplished without messing up the cafe or the bookstore, so has to take place outside of opening hours. Meanwhile we continue to deal with incontinent kittens, ailing cats and shelter rescues that are just too far gone. (We lost two kittens this week, and the mom is in ICU with Saint Beth up the road.)

In a classic Wendy move, as we hauled bookshelves around via the back garden from the basement to the second story, we passed an old cookstove and some shelving I’d…. er, stashed out there a while back.

Okay, a year ago.

She was suitably outraged, and decided–as we walked past carrying a wooden book case, mind you–that it was also time to deal with the accumulated (and heavy) junk that had gathered at the side of the garage. But how to move it and where to take it? Wendy asked online, and five minutes later, enter Bob Pettry (the guy who got locked in the kids’ room and had to phone for rescue) with assorted young men. The stuff was gone the next day; score one for the team (and crowdsourcing on Facebook)!

In the middle of all this we paused to hold a ‘Pizza and Poetry’ event with local author and poet Rita Quillen. Working hard to appear calm, organized and relaxed to begin with, I found Rita’s poetry very quickly achieved that for me in reality. It was a great night.

And now, back to the book culling, furniture toting, and “yes dear”-ing of a husband’s life.

I wonder what Wendy is dreaming up next, and how much heavy lifting it will involve—-

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

The Monday Book: Death with all the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette

burdetteLucy mailed this book to me so I could blog it. I like cozy mysteries, and this one is food-based. It is set in Key West with her recurring detective Haley Snow, a food writer. Hayley has been assigned to interview Edel Waugh, chef/owner of Key West’s hottest new restaurant. But off the record, Edel reveals someone’s sabotaging her kitchen and asks Hayley to investigate.

It all goes downhill from there, with some funny bits about ex-husbands and love interests. This is a great beach read, seeing as it takes place over Christmas and at a beach. The dialogue is quick, the action straightforward and the humor cute. If you happen to be a foodie (I’m not) you will have extra special fun with some of the humor and descriptions. Since I was reading it on a plane while starving over their $8 cheese plate (two slices of cheddar and half an apple) some of the funnier bits may have been lost on me.

Context is everything.

Death with All the Trimmings is part of a series, and since there is some character development based on prior relationships, you may want to start at the beginning. Check out Lucy’s web page for the books in order: http://www.cozy-mystery.com/Lucy-Burdette.html

And have fun!

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

The Monday Book: A SMALL FURRY PRAYER by Steve Kotler

I got this book because my agent recommended it. (We have somewhat similar reading tastes.)

Kotler fell in love with a woman who rescued dogs, and he liked dogs, so he became a dog rescuer. And dog philosopher, because this book is chock full of ethnographic and philosophical divergences into how dogs see the world, and how humans think dogs see the world. Those were pretty interesting.

The story is less a story than journalism, because Kotler is a research journalist. If you’re looking for “this puppy was SOOOOOO cute,” this isn’t the rescue book you’re looking for. It’s got a lot of depth to its analysis of why people rescue, but even more on why dogs (and all animals) matter. When you get to the part about Kotler getting in the cage with a mountain lion, you know you’ve having fun.

I wouldn’t say this is a book only animal lovers will love. Actually, Kotler’s love for his wife, which drove him to move to New Mexico and run a household dog rescue, is the unexamined force behind all the research he does into why dogs matter. And his observations of what it takes out of her to do this work are very astute. I’d almost recommend this book as a spousal manual for those who love rescuers, rather than rescuers themselves.

Still, it’s a wide ranging read, and New Mexico itself is an interesting (perhaps hysterical) character in the plot overall. The plumber won’t come on Thursday because the earth energy forces are bad. That kind of thing.

I was entertained, informed, and moved by this book – a rare triple crown. If you’re driven by stories, maybe this won’t interest you so much, but if you like journalistic storytelling, you’re gonna love it.

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Filed under animal rescue, book reviews, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Happy Families

Jack’s weekly guest blog is on a happy subject this week: family reunions!

vickiMy niece Vicki and her daughter Elle are here for a week’s vacation from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, continuing in the footsteps of Scottish friends who have availed themselves of our guest-room over the last few years.

 

It’s always good fun introducing them to our friends, to the town and to the area. This time is a bit different, though because it’s family! When you are separated by thousands of miles from your family, then a visit like this is very special (when I do my annual Scotland tour I rarely have time for family visits).

vickiSince they’re only here for a week it’s been hard to decide what try to fit in, but we are definitely including a visit to a local drive-in movie theater and the famous tour of the coal camps and mining areas conducted by our good friend Gary. Last night we took them along the riverside greenbelt walkway as far as Johnny’s enigmatic carved faces in the trees bordering his camp ground. Right now they’re out discovering the magnificent Victorian mansions on Poplar Hill and the quirkiness of ‘Vintage on Main’ (our favorite local store).

There’s something very special about re-connecting with family and especially in these circumstances. Facebook is no competition with sharing the same space!

But the highlight of their visit will probably be Saturday night when some of our closest (and craziest) friends will gather for a ‘games night’ to play Cards against Humanity. These nights are always outstandingly funny and a great way to cut across cultural boundaries.

Unsurprisingly, Vicki had read ‘The Little Bookstore’ and said yesterday that one of the stories in it had particularly grabbed her. I thought she was going to talk about one of the stories of our odder customers but I’d forgotten about a family story in there. She meant the story about the death of my mother (her Grandmother). She was unprepared for it and found it very affecting.

So the bookstore, its story and the stories of the customers and friends who support it is now joined in the most concrete way possible to my family.

 

I couldn’t be happier!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

The Monday Book: Hot Cripple by Hogan Gorman

This book is hysterical. It’s a righteous indictment of today’s fragmented health care system AND our “buy your way out of justice” justice system. But it’s also so very, very funny.

Hogan Gorman is a model who get hit by a car. And her life goes to hell in a handbasket. And she pretty much swears her way through it. One of my favorite parts was when she lists the best eight swear phrases to deal with excruciating pain, in descending order.

Not for the faint of heart, and not a “happy ending” book, if foul language bothers you, don’t read it. But this book is so very, very funny, and her crises are so very normal that you can’t help but feel like you’re there with her as she realizes she can’t get off the toilet, is going to eat nothing but rice and ketchup for three days, and meets a succession of civic employees ranging mostly from bad to worse.

This book is hysterical. An enthusiastic two crutches up.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing

Did you Rescue Bob Yet?

Jack’s weekly guest blog on the merry chaos of the bookshop….

grandpaThere’s absolutely no telling, when we wake up in the morning what the day in the bookstore holds in store (ha!).

Once we’d dealt with the obligatory phone call at 8 am from the guy who stumbled across a stray kitten while walking his dog, things seemed calm – until – – –

Regular customer Bob and his grandson came in to exchange books and use up some of his credit. Since he always heads for the ‘mystery room’ and the kids’ room lies beyond it, I warned them to close the mystery room door as we have a couple of older foster cats in there and we didn’t want our bookstore moggies messing with them.

They were in there a long time and I’d actually forgotten about them when the phone rang. It was Bob, whose grandson had managed to lock Bob in the kids’ room while remaining unsupervised in the mystery room. Both spent some time shouting to each other through the locked door trying to get the door unlocked, but to no avail. And the wee lad couldn’t manage to open our mystery room door and toddle out for help from me. Although he had his cell phone, Bob couldn’t remember the bookstore number, so he phoned his wife to get it, then phoned me to come and let him out.

Meanwhile his wife put out a plea on FaceBook to get her husband rescued. She messaged Wendy: “Did you rescue Bob yet?” Wendy saw the message and thought Bob was a kitten that needed fostering, so sent back, “Which one is he? We adopted out four Bobs this year.”

Thus began a completely different and erroneous wild goose chase, as Sylvia is allergic to cats and couldn’t figure why Wendy was trying to foist one on her when she needed her husband out of the kids’ room! While that was going on I rescued Bob and everyone had a good laugh–including the couple from Buffalo NY who made the trip down to get Wendy’s signature in their copy of ‘The Little Bookstore’.

Hey ho. another day, another adventure.

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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, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel

wolf hallThis book caused quite a stir when it came out, and has recently been made into a Masterpiece Theater mini-series, so probably most of you have already heard of it. I’m a sucker for historic fiction, but too often that means a thinly veiled bodice ripper in the hands of lesser artists.

Not here. This is a tough, sardonic, wickedly funny underneath and terrifyingly brutal on the top portrayal of one of the most confusing and dangerous times in political history. You weren’t going to get killed in the breakdown of government, but BY the crazy, inhumane government itself.

Hmm, maybe that’s why we in the early 2000s are so fascinated by King Henry’s court, when two almost equally powerful factions were smashing into each other trying to reign, with the end result that no one knew at any time what was right and wrong to be doing in the eyes of the law, or whether they were going to go to work tomorrow.

This book uses sarcastic wit, historic accuracy, and the filling in of a few personalities, to present a novel without heroes, from a time period that might have been the same. Everyone believed in something, but nobody believed in the same thing–unless the king wanted them to, in which case they either did believe it, or died in some horrible way. Ho hum…. The genius of the writing is how well Mantel makes then feel like now: the animals are going extinct; modern times are too fast to keep up with, now the printing press has been invented; the rulers are fickle; the parliament can’t get anything done. Etc.

Mantel’s good at description, and I’m not such a fan of dense descriptive books when it comes to room settings or wooded copses, but she does make you feel as though you are there. And when she gets to describing the tensions in the room at any given meeting, suddenly less is more. She conveys so much through dialogue, you wonder how she manages to write up settings so descriptively well. Usually a writer is better at one than the other, but she’s great at both.

Two hats in the air for WOLF HALL. If you like historic fiction, you’ll love it. If you like politics, you’ll love it. It’s kind of a THRONE OF CARDS game. :] (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing