Tag Archives: Big Stone Celtic Festival

Joey Lightens Things Up

Joey and InkyYo, I’m Joey. (That’s me on the right, the white and grey guy.) I got here to the orphanage – the bookstore, I mean – about a month ago, and right away I could see things were not good. All the people were tired, they were talking about politics and festival stuff and needing doctors in the area, and they walked around like zombies.

So I asked some of the other guys who’d been here longer what was going on, and they said as near as they could tell, Jack and Wendy, the people who own the bookstore and run the place, were really tired. They had a lot to do and although a lot of people were trying to help them get stuff done, it took a lot of time to manage stuff. And they didn’t seem really happy. When the others first got here, Heathcliff and Hareton and Orange and Ginger and Simba, and little Harvey the baby, and Tooth, the only girl at our frat house, they said the people were fun and liked to play with them. But they just got grumpier and more tired as August wore on.

Well, if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s cheering people up, so I started right in.

First, I climbed on Wendy’s lap while she was frowning at her computer. She kept telling me “Get off” and “My edits were due yesterday!” and fussing about some “dark” book about foster care in the Coalfields, but I could see what she needed, so I danced around in her keyboard, changed the settings on her laptop to Spanish, turned the screen sideways, activated voice commands and then meowed until tech support came on and asked what I needed.

Sometimes it’s kinda hard to tell if a human is laughing or crying, but at least it got that scowl off her face. And she did get up from the computer. Which she hadn’t done all day. And I got tuna treats.Joey 2

Usually, I can get people calm just by snuggling with them. I have perfected looking innocent and adorable while asleep. But these two, they needed more.

One morning I walked in after breakfast to find Jack on the phone trying to figure out why some business in town had refused to support the festival a group was pulling together just because he was one of the people running it. Somebody even called him a “dirty foreigner,” which made him REALLY mad. And I can attest, for a human, he’s pretty clean.

He never did figure out what their problem was, but hey, the politics of humans are beyond even cat brains, and I could see he was fussing himself into a corner, so I pulled out one of my emergency go-to tricks. I stuck my head in their little ceramic milk jug and pretended to get it stuck, careening around the place bouncing off stuff. Jack had to hang up the phone and help me, and he was laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe.

Mission accomplished.

It wasn’t long after that, when all of us cats found out the real reason they were so sad. They had an old, old dog, a really sweet lady named Zora. She’d welcomed all of us to the orphanage, but you could tell she was kinda… loopy, y’know? She’d wander off mid-sentence. The guys who’d been here longer said she had doggie Alzheimer’s, and you could see from the way she walked that her legs hurt her really bad. And one day, she went away and didn’t come back, and Jack and Wendy just sat around the house crying and crying.

Well, grief is important, so we left them alone for a little bit, but I got the boys together and showed them what to do. When the time was right, we formed a parade. It’s my best party trick ever. I led them, leaping from the top of one bookshelf to another like lions in a circus, yelling, “And a ONE anna TWO anna …” It worked great, ‘specially when little Harvey fell to the floor on his second round. (He wasn’t hurt, I made him take the lowest shelves. There were enough of us to do two layers.)

Jack and Wendy rushed over and just watched in amazement as we fosters went four rounds. By then they were laughing so hard, I figured it was safe to stop.

Now I’ve done that “lions in the circus” routine a thousand times, but you know how it is working with amateurs. Heathcliff took out half a CD shelf trying to stop himself. I would’ve helped the humans clean up, but opposable thumbs, you know. I figured it best to take my team upstairs for a snack, and maybe practice some other routines.

Well a couple of days ago, the bookstore was full of people all day long, and lotsa noise, and some guy playing some bag and stick thing that sounded like a cat in heat, and yesterday Jack and Wendy just seemed to come back into their own bodies. They looked younger, they walked around faster, they seemed lighter.

Happier. Like they belonged to themselves again and not everybody else. Wendy is still working at her computer a lot, but Jack says she’s writing again, and that always makes her happier. He kinda took me aside for a guy-to-guy talk and said he appreciated my cheer up routines with her but now I really should leave the laptop alone, she was doing happy writing instead of deadline stuff.

I can respect that, so I just jumped in her lap and got her blood pressure down a bit while she stroked my head. Win-win.

Looks like my time here might be coming to an end, as I’m not needed to cheer up the sad humans anymore. Wendy says she’s going to get back into writing her blog and working on her next book, and Jack says he’s got some plans to get the bookstore tidied up, so I’d say I need to find someplace else that wants my special brand of cheering up.

It’s my calling. I don’t let on, but I like it. Who’s next?joey

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, Uncategorized

Coming Up, Rushing ‘Round, and all things ‘Twixt and ‘Tween

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in which Jack contemplates all that is to be accomplished between now and Thanksgiving…..

It’s that time of year again –  when Wendy and I take a deep breath before diving into the whirl of Fall and early Winter events in and around the bookstore and the country.

Coming up on September 25th and 26th is the 9th annual Big Stone Celtic festival which always means plenty of last minute arranging, checking and panicking. Before that, though, we MC the Sycamore Shoals Celtic festival this weekend over in Elizabethton and that’s much more relaxing and an opportunity to re-connect with old friends. The weekend between, we will be heading to the On the Same Page literary festival in West Jefferson where I will be singing and Wendy is a guest author.

Just a couple of weeks after Big Stone Celtic is Wendy’s yearly medical conference, Head for the Hills at the gorgeous Breaks Park, where I can relax (but Wendy cannot!).

Then we’ll be into the season of bookstore events: a house concert and traditional foods supper with storyteller Lyn Ford Oct. 30; a Nov. 6 eat with the author event featuring Willie Dalton, who wrote Three Witches in a Small Town;  and as-yet-unscheduled house concerts musicians Jamie Laval, Pete Clark and Ron Short.  We usually try to throw in an autumnal murder mystery,but this year we may have to punt.

A gifted storyteller and author, we remember Lyn most fondly from a house party in Ohio, when she ever so diplomatically persuaded another storyteller NOT to give a demonstration of ‘keening’ after we’d all had a few. We forward to a no less entertaining evening this time around as Lyn will have copies of her Afrilachian Folktales book for sale and signing.

Jamie is an old friend from our time on the staff of Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week. An award winning and very popular exponent of Scottish, Irish and Cape Breton fiddling (not to mention percussive foot tapping!), he will be with us for a full weekend so I can ‘try out’ as one of his guitar accompanists at his house concert.

Pete, from Dunkeld in Scotland, will be touring with accordionist Gregor Lowrie and also staying over a weekend. He is no stranger to Big Stone and will enjoy introducing Gregor to the delights of fishing at Lake Keokee. He has also toured and taught all over the world as the acknowledged expert in the fiddle style of Highland Perthshire.

Ron Short will be joined by Willie Dodson to provide an evening of immersion in the culture and music of this part of Appalachia. Strong connections link the cultures of my homeland of Scotland and this area – stories, songs and fiddle tunes as well as language and attitudes.

Somewhere in between all this we also need to handle the day-to-day requirements of running a retail business, which means relying on friends and neighbors to mind the store – we are eternally grateful to James Ryan, Erin Dalton, and David Hamrick for stepping into the Gap!

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

Coach Oliver Wins Through

We’re sorry about the off-timing of our blogs this week; most of the adults associated with the bookstore and/or the Celtic Festival are lying in darkened rooms with cold cloths on their foreheads. The Monday book will return next Monday, and we’re back on track now, we promise!

Jack and oliverAs the 2014 festival fades into the distance, our headliner Barbara Dickson and her husband Oliver Cookson are staying on for a bit of a holiday. We’ve sent them off to Nashville and have plans to hit Cherokee and Bristol before they fade into the British Empire sunset.

Among the simple pleasures they’ve enjoyed is attending our good Chef Kelley’s children’s soccer games. We walked over to one the Monday after the festival, after all the adults had slept 12 hours straight.

James, Kelley’s wee’un, plays on the Funky Monkeys for ages 4-6. Oh, the hilarity! The Monkeys had black shirts, the opposition purple. Purple showed up with fewer players than Black, resulting in rotations for the Black players. The first two put out began turning cartwheels beside the goal–not noticing when the teams came charging down to attempt to put the ball into said goal, or when said ball rolled merrily between them as they turned.

Next, one of Black’s players trotted off the field as his mates were running the other way, and said to his parents, “I’m tired. I don’t wanna play anymore. Can I have some cheese and crackers?”

One of the cartwheelers was quickly pressed into service.

Soon the ball was returned to some point in the field for a reason Jack and I didn’t understand, whereupon the clump of children surrounding it began to kick it toward a goal–regardless of shirt color–and the Purple coaches began to shout, “No, no, the other way!” A Black child looked up, shrugged, and started kicking the ball back the way they’d come. The Purple coaches shouted again, “NO, NOT YOU! NOT YOU!”

The Black player gave the Purple coaches an enigmatic look that suggested all adults were crazy and kicked the ball to score a Purple goal. All the children cheered madly as the Black coach shook her head in despair.

A few minutes later, time to rotate! But where were the extra Black players? After a quick search I heard the Black coach exclaim, “Come down outta that tree! It’s your turn to play!”

We thought our joy was complete, but about then, Jack asked, “Where are Oliver and Barbara?” We looked over at the sidelines between the peewee game we were watching and an older team…..

?????????? Oliver 2….and saw Oliver gesticulating with their goalie, demonstrating kicks while hugging a ball to his chest. The goalie stared up at him, enthralled.

No doubt a few parents were startled by the sight of a dapper man with a curly handlebar mustache beneath a straw boating hat, shouting, “Kick it, lad!” in a posh British accent. As we left the field, I heard some murmurs: “Nope, never seen ‘im before. Anybody know who that was?”

We’re all going back next week to watch another game. Who knew sports were such fun?!

 

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

You are Invited….

It’s that special time of year when tummy bugs, Celtic festivals, busy life syndrome and a host of last-minute “oh crap, is that due today” moments collide to produce….

exhaustionexhaustion. That’s me on the right, having just finished crocheting a pre-ordered SPAY AND NEUTER AFGHAN, a fundraising item to pay for – well, I guess you can guess what it pays for. See the rows of cat faces; that’s what you get if you don’t spay and neuter. (The cat face on top belongs to Owen Meany, who is quality testing.)

Elissa took this photo during the last Celtic festival meeting, held yesterday evening, just before the madness begins tonight at 7. And in the back of my mind as we discussed festival details and I put the last row on the blanket was “where can I get a birthday cake personalized first thing in the morning?” Friends-n-family thing we forgot to take care of.

Thing is, while I’d like to invite you to a pity party for five minutes of self-indulgent luxury, I know Jack and I are lucky to live in a community full of people willing to volunteer time and effort to run a Celtic festival. We’ve been fielding phone calls all week from Cincinnati, St. Louis, even El Paso, from Celti-philes coming to the event. It’s good for the town, it’s good for the musicians, it’s good fun.

(We’re also lucky to have friends who totally deserve really cool birthday cakes, and the fact that we forgot until last night is by no means a measure of our esteem for said friend…. you get that, Frank?)

And while no joint venture in a small town is without politics, if you just walk straight and keep your sense of humor, it doesn’t matter. Jack, Darinda, Elissa – all the members of the Celtic Festival committee – we know we’re having fun, and that other people will, too. So all those planning sessions (I think I crocheted that whole afghan at meetings in August and September alone) are worth it.

So is that look on my face. Go by, mad world. Actually, no: come here and share the mad gay whirl that is Big Stone Celtic. It’s gonna be a great two days.

bsc billboard

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Calm Chaos

It’s a bit weird, isn’t it, that bookstores are such calm places?

Because books make such good agitators. They change our points of view, our lives, the world. Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath terrified politicians so badly they dissed it and him. To Kill a Mockingbird literally changed the way we do justice in America (Gott sei dank). Speak, We were the Mulvaneys… they and their sister titles gave voice to a group the rest of society considered illegitimate and wanted to shut down.

You don’t need a thousand other examples of titles that have left a lasting impact on us as individuals and societies to agree that books are revolutions in bound covers, waiting to unbind us.

Yet bookstores and libraries, the places where we access these whirlwinds of the mind? Calm, quiet, classical music playing in the background, librarians at the gate waiting to shush at the drop of a pin…..

Just another of the great ironies surrounding bookstore life; on the one hand nothing could be more relaxing than shelf-lined walls keeping out the bad stuff; on the other, we all know how much bad stuff is dissected in those pages.

I never have satisfactorily wrapped my head ’round the idea that in the midst of a maelstrom of literature advocating for change, the bookseller in his or her store sits like the eye of the storm, placidly passing out pieces of the Great Undoing.

But I really, really, like sitting in that eye….. :]

And now for something completely different: Don’t forget that the annual Big Stone Celtic Festival is gearing up for its usual mayhem and merriment. Held across the greater metropolitan area of Big Stone (four blocks) the festival is Sept. 22 this year. Even now the sheepdogs (and their sheep brethren) are working on their routine, the little Shetland ponies cleaning their hooves in anticipation, and the committee is going nuts trying to advertise with no money. So if you enjoy music, dance, story and/or food from the seven Celtic nations (Brittany, Cornwall, Galicia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland, Wales) c’mon down. Southern hospitality meets Celtic swords. It doesn’t get any better than this!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized