Category Archives: Uncategorized

– – – Work for Idle Hands

Jack’s weekly guest blog post –

February (and just imagine a Scotsman’s pronunciation of that word) is always a quiet time in the bookstore as far as customer numbers is concerned. But don’t let that fool you!

This is the time when bookstore owners take care of all the jobs that there’s little space for during the busier months. That’s why we chose now to lay the new floor covering in the bookstore kitchen area.

It’s when we give the place a good clean from top to bottom, look at whether the shelving is appropriate or any repairs are needed, fix that dribbling toilet tank.

Then there are the books we have listed on-line to be re-checked to see if the prices are still competitive and whether any need to be culled and re-shelved in the shop. While we’re doing that we need to check whether customers have also re-shelved any books inappropriately and move them back to their rightful places. This is also a good time to check the alphabetizing by author in the various sections – we don’t have a computerized database of our stock, so that makes it much easier to find things when customers have a specific request.

One of the reasons why this month is quiet is because it’s just so damned cold out, so this is also when we check all the windows and doors for draughts and proof them where necessary.

But just because there are fewer customers doesn’t mean there are none at all, so we still have to make sure that the shop is accessible. The room where all our Westerns are located lies beyond the area that we re-floored and, of course, two customers specifically came looking for Westerns as we were in the middle of that!

Finally, just because there are fewer bookstore customers doesn’t mean there are fewer café clients looking for lunch, so the menu gets tweaked to suit the weather with hearty soups and warming chillies and we create more evening events with themed dinners.

How many other bookstore owners out there are following a similar regime this time of year?

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: WAITER RANT by Steve Dublanica

I really like memoirs that are casual, chatty, and detailed enough that you feel like you’re there, fast enough that you skip the parts you’d not have liked about being there.

So I liked this book. It got repetitive in parts, and it wasn’t so much a “how I learned to balance my world” story of growth as a “wow, it’s really crazy working in restaurants” ride. Which I enjoyed.

Dubalanica’s humor is dry, sarcastic and irreverent. I loved it. Like his comment about  a customer who pulls out a Black American Express card, very expensive, and asks if he’s ever seen one before, kid.

A black Amex feels like a piece of tile. They say you can use it to buy a yacht. I see at least one every week.

“No sir,” I gush. “I don’t. They’re very exclusive.”

Then he shakes the guy down for a $500 tip on a $1200 dinner and wine tab with his prostitute date – who he’s hooked up with spaghetti and meatballs because she doesn’t recognize anything on the menu and he feels sorry for her.

The compassionate bits between his loutishness make for a rollocking ride. Dublanica’s stories range from philosophical to bordering on mysogeny, but what I really liked about this book is that part of it is about writing the book. He doesn’t pull back from talking about why he wanted to or how he set about doing it. Or the people who encouraged and discouraged him. That was fun to read about.

A full 20% for WAITER RANT: Thanks for tip – confessions of a cynical waiter.

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SOLVE THE MYSTERY!

OK team – a new contest. This picture gets posted to my timeline weekly. After two years of this, I decided to trace its story via GoogleImage. No info. Can’t find anything other than first circulation date and that it appears to be Dutch.
So, the first person to bring the correct full story (who are they; who made the stuff; was this a dare, a charity, for fun, etc.) wins a free Spay and Neuter afghan, colors of your choosing (you pay postage only). Let’s get to the bottom of this. It’s kinda making me crazy.
crochet guys

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

Remodeling #10

 

Jack’s weekly guest post –

Since we moved in here ten years ago we (and that means mostly I) have carried out some serious building projects. Some were simply needed because of the age of the building (built in 1903), some we chose to do and others were needed to meet certain legal requirements.

The first was redecorating most of the upstairs to make that area pleasant as living quarters, then I walled in the open car port to turn it into a garage complete with a window and an ‘up and over’ main door. Next was building a disabled ramp at the side of the porch and then re-shingling the roof. The upstairs bathroom got a complete make-over and shortly after we got a grant to completely renovate the front porch. We had earlier built a fire escape stair from upstairs which doubled as access to the yard for our dogs Zora and Bert, which turned out to be handy when we opened The Second Story Café.

Before we opened the café I had turned our dismal and cobwebby basement into our new living quarters (that’s chronicled in an earlier blog post) but I also had to install additional sinks and an extraction system in the upstairs kitchen. We had never had a separate heat and air system upstairs, so the advent of the café meant fitting a heat pump in the attic, running ducts to all the rooms and cutting holes in all the ceilings (very messy!).

Most of these jobs were interesting and challenging and I felt a definite sense of pride in my contribution to them although confirmed in my nervousness about plumbing and electrical work.

However, the latest jobs I had been putting to the end of the queue for years. The downstairs kitchen and bathroom both had old worn and curling vinyl flooring and I had been dreading fixing them. The first to be done was the bathroom and I used a floating planks system that proved much easier than I expected, so then it was time for the kitchen. We had divided this room with bookshelves as well as installing more along the walls on one side, so all the books had to be boxed and stored wherever we could find a corner followed by removing all the shelving into the garage. My good friend David Hamrick had arrived on Friday to help me and Wendy began boxing books on Saturday. By Sunday lunchtime we had all the books and shelves out and had started laying the new floor – more floating planks. By Monday afternoon we had the floor finished and the shelves back in place and this morning the last of the books were back.

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The old floor

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– and the new one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m absolutely sure of one thing though – there’s another job just waiting around the corner!

 

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Filed under bookstore management, home improvements, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

dear-committee-membersWarning: Do not drink liquids while reading this book. Laughter makes this dangerous.

Schumacher’s novel is written in the form of letters from a beleaguered professor of English to a cast of thousands. Normally I don’t care for epistle fiction–too cut into bitty pieces–but this one has a narrative arc! And (spoiler alert) a poignant ending. I laughed until I cried.

The attention to detail in these funny, zippy, ripped-from-reality letters is so perfect. I loved the subtleties of how the prof (Jason Fitger) signs each letter, the understated sarcasm interspersed with blow-ups so honest no one in real life has ever done them–but we’ve all fantasized. Oh, how we’ve fantasized.

Among other places, Jason writes letters to assorted entry level places his students will go to work–funny in itself if you were an English major. Food service. Retail. Computer places.

My favorite was his letter for a girl who’d received an F for plagiarism. I’m not quoting it here, because you have to read it in context. But I taught that girl he describes so perfectly – five or six times, under different names in different years. Schumacher’s depiction is flawless.

Here instead is a letter in its entirety:

“October 16, 2009 Avengers Paintball, Inc. 1778 Industrial Blvd. Lakeville, MN 55044 Esteemed Avengers, This letter recommends Mr. Allen Trent for a position at your paintball emporium. Mr. Trent received a C– in my expository writing class last spring, which—given my newly streamlined and increasingly generous grading criteria—is quite the accomplishment. His final project consisted of a ten-page autobiographical essay on the topic of his own rageful impulses and his (often futile) attempts to control them. He cited his dentist and his roommate as primary sources. Consider this missive a testament to Mr. Trent’s preparedness for the work your place of business undoubtedly has in store. Hoping to maintain a distance of at least one hundred yards, Jason T. Fitger Professor of Creative Writing and English Payne University (“Teach ’til It Hurts”)”

Now go read the book. If you’re not in Academia, it’s still funny. If you are, it’s funnier than life. And good therapy.

 

 

http://www.julieschumacher.com/writing/novels/dear-committee-members/

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The Best Laid Plans – – –

– sometimes go very well indeed

We had our annual Burns Supper on Friday evening, celebrating the life and works of Scotland’s national poet Robert (Rabbie) Burns. Everyone agreed it was one of the best we’d held over the 10 years we’ve been doing it. Well attended, excellent speakers, wonderful food and smoothly flowing throughout.

shuttle pipes

Randy Stanley – our resident piper

memory

Alex Long delivered ‘The Immortal Memory’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lassies

Sandy Huguenin proposed the Toast to the Lassies and Chef Kelley Pearson responded.

songs

Wendy and I sang some Burns songs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

haggis

Chef Kelley excelled with Cock-a-Leekie soup, haggis, tatties n’ neeps and shepherds pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dessert

The ‘piece de resistance’ – Scottish cheesecake on a shortbread base topped with cranachan and a raspberry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to next year – y’all come – – –

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Iman Bowie Says Hi

DSCN1640Well hello there – my name is Iman Bowie, and although that may sound superstar lucky, my beginnings were anything but, let me tell you.

I won’t go into the early months, but let’s just say I’ve been looking after myself for some time now. I gave birth to two lovely boys a month or so back, and although times were tough, I did my best. We were living in the parking lot behind a department store, near a heating vent. Not a lot to eat, but I could keep them warm. Two ladies came by with food from time to time, and that helped a great deal.

So you can imagine how I felt when Tom and David disappeared: beside myself. Temperatures were plummeting and I was out there searching everywhere, calling them, and suddenly SWOOP! Some sort of net cage fell over me and, well, I figured that was it. I’d never see my boys again.

But my captors were the ladies who brought me food! They took me to some sort of facility, and wouldn’t you know Tom and David were there–just leaving, but so long as I knew they were safe and happy. Both have been adopted into loving families, as it should be. I’m so pleased to have done right by them.

Just in time, too, because after a few hours at the hospital, I began to feel woozy. And then–ehm, we needn’t go into details here; let’s just say there were many things inside me that needed to come out. And they did.

As I lay there in my hospital bed, groggy and nauseous, a face appeared. Wearing one of those Queen Cone collars. A white cat, squinting at me, asked, “Feeling better, ducky?”

imanThat’s how I met Sweet Pea (Queen Bee, as I call her, because of the collar, you know). She showed me around the hospital when I was back on my feet again, introduced me to the staff –such nice girls– and gave me pointers on where to get extra blankets and what to do if I wanted more food.

You know how it is, one minute someone is showing you the ropes, all business and efficiency, and the next you’re sharing cups of tea and talking nine to the dozens and you can’t remember a time you weren’t friends.

SPQB (sorry, my little joke) is such a sweetheart. You know, she can barely see. Her own life was even harder than mine; some of her kittens died of preventable illness before they reached the hospital, and she’s not sure what happened to the rest. SO hard for a mother to bear. Plus, her eyes. She caught a virus–and yes, it would have been treatable, but when one has no resources…. ah me. The long and short of it is, she’s left with a permanent squint and some vision loss.

She isn’t blind, of course; you should see Ms. Pea Bee bat a jingle ball! (We are Lady Cats, but perhaps when the staff aren’t looking we’ve been known to kick a few field goals.)

So really, my life improved in ways I couldn’t imagine since coming to hospital. My fur is long and silky again – with the children and the cold I just didn’t have time to care for it properly; the boys are set for life; and I have a new best friend.

I couldn’t imagine not being there for Sweet Pea. To separate now would break our hearts, and besides she needs me to help her find her collar in the mornings, and sometimes she thinks furniture is people, silly old girl, so we are counting on a home together. Surely someone out there wants two confirmed bachelor girl cats (still beautiful so celibate by choice, I hasten to add; we’ve had it with Alley Cat promises and stale catnip bouquets). We’re not much trouble, fastidious about our toilets and perfectly content in each others’ company. We love a head rub and a cuddle now and again; it’s lovely to sit together in the same lap.

So if you’re interested in us, please drop by Powell Valley Animal Hospital and ask for Mandy or Kendra; they’ve been our primary care team here, such sweet souls. We look forward to meeting you, Queen Bee and I. Now I think she’s got the cards and the teapot out, so we’re going to play some Speed Poker. (I don’t know who taught her, but she’s wicked good at it.) I must go, but I’ve enjoyed this little chat and look forward to meeting you.DSCN1664

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