Tag Archives: Jack Beck

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.

DSCN1685

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 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

Jack’s weekly guest post.

In which Jack moans about the weather –

Well – I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow, it hasn’t stopped yet and there’s more on the way. You would think that, coming from Scotland, I’d be used to it!

The trouble is that I come from the lowlands and not only that but most of my life I lived close enough to the Forth estuary to get the ‘salt water effect’, which usually kept the snow away. That changed when Wendy and I got married and moved to higher ground that was a bit further inland. Almost every year after that our village got snowed in good and proper for a couple of weeks every January or February and we weren’t a high enough priority to warrant early attention from the county snow plow; and since we lived up the only side road, when the plow eventually went through it created an even bigger bank of snow across the end of it!

That pattern seems to have followed us to Big Stone Gap and this is shaping up to be the third winter when we will replay our experiences of New Gilston.

Last year we had a series of storms every couple of days that eventually dumped nearly three feet of snow and had the whole area shut down for weeks. The town administration eventually ran out of grit and salt so their best efforts (and they were mighty) were eventually in vain.

It’s not so bad as we live below the shop, we have plenty of supplies in, the liquor store is across the street and the supermarket is within walking distance.

However, Wendy’s job required her to drive to Richmond and remain there until Friday, which is when an even bigger snowstorm is due and forecast to last through Sunday, so she is very likely to be delayed getting home.

Meanwhile I am preparing to make a big batch of Chicken Madras curry which is my comfort food of choice and will keep me happy and warm me as I watch the snow piling up outside.

curry

Y’all take care out there, dress warm and don’t drive if you don’t have to!

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

The Monday Book – –

Jack’s guest Monday book post –

We Almost Lost Detroit – John G. Fuller

We get lots of older paperbacks into the store pretty regularly and I often find myself dipping into one or two when I’m looking for something to read.

This caught my eye as soon as it came in because I’ve always had pretty mixed feelings about nuclear power and, of course, it’s not so long since the Fukushima ‘incident’!

The book was written specifically about the building of the Enrico Fermi plant back in the 1950s but really goes much wider and examines the dilemma surrounding the whole subject. I should admit right away that my inclination is in favor of renewable energy – solar, wind, wave and tidal, and I’m proud that my homeland of Scotland pioneered hydro-electric power and is very close to being completely self sufficient in renewable energy. I should also say that I was born and grew up in a coal mining area and live now in another one – another piece of the dilemma!

For anyone who has followed the stories of Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima this book will prove somewhat depressing. That’s because everything that happened in these places is clearly foretold in Fuller’s book. What the book sets out very clearly is that no nuclear power plant is completely safe. They are subject to human error at every stage from design through operation and cannot be completely guarded against natural disasters or malicious attacks.

What I’m actually really surprised about is how even handed Fuller is. He is clear that he believes even the private industry leaders who were pushing forward with plans to build the plants were motivated by the best of intentions. He suggests that they also wanted to balance the fear engendered by the atom bomb with a more hopeful peaceful use for the same source of energy. But he goes on to paint a picture of government and corporations caught up in a self generating spiral involving insurance, construction and power companies as well as the usual very shady politics!

The book details many very scary episodes where mere seconds made the difference between a few deaths and thousands and involving tales of distorted metal rods and poor welds.

Finally – part of this story is about arguments over how much the public could or should be told. Some things never change – – –

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Filed under book reviews, Life reflections, Uncategorized, what's on your bedside table, writing

The Tossing of Couches

love seatEver have one of those marriage moments? Jack and I were divesting the upstairs landing of an old loveseat we picked up cheap someplace. The overstuffed seat, useful at first outside the Second Story Cafe for customers waiting on pick-up orders, was now in prime time bookshelf real estate. Time to say goodbye.

But nobody wanted the ancient paisley green thing, not at a yard sale, not donated. We’d have to carry it out to the trash. It was a solidly-built piece in its day–as Jack and I discovered once we’d eliminated the cushions, taken up the spare change, and unscrewed the solid wooden legs. Thing STILL weighed a ton.

Threading it down our 100-year-old staircase, past the rabbit tunnels of bookshelves between us and the front door, seemed unwise. Too many delicate pottery items and squishable foster cats. So we opted for the back staircase and the long, cold hike across the yard in the dark; we started the whole operation about 7:30 pm.

That probably has a lot to do with what happened next. I’d had a stressful day at the college trying to get some paperwork finalized, and Jack had been alone all day in the rather swamped bookstore – not that custom is a problem, you understand, but we were both feeling a bit hard done by and underappreciated.

So by the time we got The Great Green Monstrosity of Paisley Demonhood (as I may have called it once or twice, because remember by 7:30 pm I’d had a glass of wine on an empty stomach) onto the upstairs landing, I was pretty fed up. Jack standing with his back to the open stairs, the couch aimed at his midriff, yelling “Push, dammit!” was just too much temptation. I set my end down and peered over the railing into the front yard.

The front yard, about twenty feet down as the crow falls, would have to be reached by us carrying TGGMOPD all the way around the side of the house. Unless…..

I looked up. Jack was looking at me. “I will if you will,” he said.

Together we ensured all cats were accounted for behind closed doors downstairs, and that the outdoor flap available to our dogs was closed with them on the correct side. We then maneuvered TGGMOPD into a seesaw position on the railing. I can only imagine what the neighbors thought as we shouted “CHALKS AWAY!” and let go.

Sucker went straight down, taking one branch from our apple tree but no further collateral damage with it. We peeked over the side; the sofa lay on its back like a turtle on the half-shell, implanted in the ground. Jack and I gave each other a high-five.

As Quakers, we practice non-violent solutions and problem management. But perhaps once every ten years or so, tossing a really heavy piece of furniture off a second-story balcony is most satisfying.

 

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

New Tech Tricks for an Old Radio Dog?

In which Jack is pleased with himself for getting his home studio going

I’ve been presenting Celtic music radio shows for more than twenty years now, in Scotland as well as here in the US, but I’ve always had the luxury of someone else handling the technicalities. Back at Heartland FM in Pitlochry in Scotland (of blessed memory) it was the ever-patient Alan Brown who sat across from me, running cassettes and dropping the needle onto LPs.

Yes, it was a long time ago.

Later Alan and I tried to get to grips with those new-fangled CD thingamajigs. That show went out live and was often built around a guest who brought favorite pieces of music. I interviewed them about why they had chosen them while poor Alan cued up tracks and cut over to two mics, all the time knowing that we were going out live!

These shows went out monthly for ten plus years, and wound up being re-aired as part of a weekly series of Celtic music shows on WETS in Johnson City, Tennessee – first with Keltik Korner and then in Music from the Stone Circle. So the shows were recorded (again on to cassette) as they were broadcast and mailed to the States.

Alert readers will have worked out that these were now (at least) second generation cassettes; those were the days, my friends…..

Wendy and I moved to Big Stone Gap following the untimely death of Denise Cozad, who had presented Music from the Stone Circle, so WETS no longer had a ‘home-grown’ Celtic music show. So once the bookstore was up and running (or tilting or walking or crawling, those first years) I emailed Wayne, the station manager, and within a week I was back on air. That was eight years ago and throughout that time I have always had someone else handling the technical stuff – all I ever had to do was talk.

Remember last winter? The one that had us snowed in for two solid weeks, no one driving anywhere?

I began to explore recording my shows completely here at the bookstore instead the three hour round trip and the hassle of pre-recording CD tracks to another CD in preparation. I downloaded Audacity, but being a bit of a technophobe just couldn’t make head or tail of it, going back every few months to work through the instructions but always giving up. Renewed impetus came with the discovery of DropBox and motivation from my pal Fiona, who constructs Thistle and Shamrock on a kitchen table in Scotland. She told me she used Dropbox to upload a complete program to a filing cabinet in the sky!

I now salute the wonders of Google, carefully constructed search terms and Youtube, for their assistance in unlocking the mysteries of Dropbox. Last night I was able to make the break through and do everything that I need to do to finally (I hope) schedule my radio time completely to my choosing! Wendy says I came downstairs on Old Christmas night with my face beaming as if I’d seen the Epiphany!

Maybe not quite that, but I was happy, yes.

PS – Although delighted at my new self-sufficiency, I must give most grateful thanks to the glittering array of true professionals who have sat on the other side of the desk over the years keeping me teched up – Alan Brown, Wayne Bean, Denise Cozad, Nick Roosa, Bob Hoffman and Wayne Winkler.

If you want to hear Celtic Clanjamphry, visit their facebook page for times and playlists.

 

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch

Never Try to Recreate a Great Party….

Back in the mid 1990s when I was still working as a college HoD, I managed a number of European Union funded environmental education programs. They were all trans-national in nature, so we worked with a number of partners in other European countries. Each project lasted around four years and there were usually one or two conferences each year hosted by different partners.

building

On one occasion The Dublin Institute of Technology was the host and I found myself being taken to all sorts of interesting places including a visit to the ‘Green Building’ in the city center Temple area. The building had just been completed, was pristine and featured lots of cutting edge ideas focusing on energy conservation in particular but also on air quality and the use of re-cycled materials. I was so impressed with the place that I have often spoken about it to people over the years since first seeing it.

 

Finding myself in Dublin this week for the first time since that conference in the 90s, I was keen to go back and see the ‘Green Building’ again and show it to Wendy and our friends David and Susan (the friends we’re vacationing with here.)bldg 2

 

Trying to establish exactly where it was located was hard as there was hardly any reference to it on the internet – puzzling – – –building 3

 

We finally found that it was less than ten minutes walk from our hotel and we set off with high expectations this morning. Alas I was sadly disappointed!

 

The door was locked and the outside of the building was grimy and neglected. As we stood outside the door opened and a man came out who, it turned out, lived in one of the apartments on the upper floors. Once he knew what our interest was he said it would be fine to go in. Oh dear! The once magnificent full height atrium that had housed magnificent gigantic giant leaved rubber plants employed to convert Co2 into Oxygen was also grimy and neglected with just the stumps of the plants to be seen. The more we looked around the more this story was repeated. I expected at least a plaque somewhere obvious telling people the building’s history and all the innovative ideas incorporated within it’s design. The way everything was computer modeled ahead of time, the things that worked exactly as designed and – – maybe the things that didn’t! But there was nothing, nada, zilch, nary a scribbled note.stairs

 

I felt sad and depressed and I wonder what the team of architects, designers, artisans and artists that created such a glorious building must think of the way it’s been treated.

And I suppose I felt a twinge for us all – that every good intention ends, every great plan has a jumping off point, every “wave of the future” returns to shore someday. Sad, that this one ended so badly, when it held such promise. A warning to us all, perhaps, as the New Year brings promises to keep.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch