A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Jack fails to make it in time – again – – –

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Well the latest big surprise yesterday was an email telling me that ‘Tales of the Lonesome Pine’ was voted one of the top three bookstores in SW Virginia by readers of a Virginia wide tourism magazine.

I thought to begin with that it was some kind of scam, but after exchanging a series of emails with a nice lady it became clear that it was genuine.

This immediately raised a few questions –

The bookstore closed over a year ago and the building is now a private dwelling again, and the new owners probably wouldn’t want hordes of folk knocking on the door or even just walking straight in.

There again – who voted and how did they not know we’d closed?

To be clear, we had the best time running that bookstore for fourteen years and made it into a real community hub. We made many friends along the way. The only reasons we sold up and moved was that Wendy’s job could be handled more easily from where we are now in Wytheville, it felt like time to move on and the building needed more TLC than a seventy-eight-year-old guy could contemplate.

I tried to find out whether we would have been first, second or third, but for understandable reasons we couldn’t be told. I also asked if our votes could be transferred to our good friends at Oracle Books in Wytheville but no dice there either.

 wendy-welch.com/2012/08/28/a-virtual-tour-of-tales-of-the-lonesome-pine-used-books/

Sometimes life is just weird – – –

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The Monday Book: THE BEST DOCTOR IN TOWN by Amelia Townsend

IMG_8952This is a local story for a southwest Virginia, about a doctor whose idea of a pain-free life is rather permanent. The only people onto him are themselves a bit tarnished of reputation: a junior doctor under suspicion of theft, a police officer with one too many “this is your last warning”s, and a reporter who got fired for manipulating the truth.

So you can see why no one really takes them seriously. As much as this book is about a bad man who sees himself as one of the good guys, it also has some funny bits. Observations about human nature, ways of seeing the world, and also some predictable “see it coming a mile off” bits that twist into humor.

Townsend is a playwright and musician who works with regional productions in DC and this area, promoting Appalachian and Coalfields culture. She’s got a good ear for how people talk and a fun way of seeing how we live.

If you are looking for a local story, this has plenty of ethnographic detail. One of the patients is raising his grandchildren because their mom is on drugs. Some of the patients are stretching paychecks and Medicare, unable to retire. And the language is rhythmic to the mountains.

The book is available from Jan-Carol Publishing and the usual suspects.

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Love is all Around – – –

Jack makes it with time to spare for a change – – –

NI marriage

The first same sex marriage in Northern Ireland yesterday.

As we approach Valentine’s Day –

Wendy and I write a regular column for Living Tradition magazine on topics common to the American and British folk music scenes. Our most recent one was about same sex relationships in the ballads and songs as well as between the performers. It got me thinking about how these relationships were viewed as I was growing up in the Presbyterian culture of Scotland in the 1950s and 60s. I found that I couldn’t remember ever hearing anything. I suppose that it was probably hidden under the cloak of ‘female companions’ or ‘good friends’. I do know that my Grandad stopped attending Church because the minister berated two women in front of the congregation and I always wondered if that was what it was about. But I never found out the reason – if that was it then kudos to Peter Ferguson!

This got me thinking about what we consider ‘normal’, and then about the different ‘normals’ I’ve encountered over the last seventy eight years.

Living now in a fairly conservative and rural part of the United States which, until relatively recently, would have also shunned same sex couples, I see a big change. It seems like there’s an attitude of ‘sure, they’re gays but they’re OUR gays’. It’s a combination of unremarkable and un-remarked upon.

Of course it may just be because we move in particular circles, but in both Big Stone Gap and now in Wytheville we count ever more such couples among our friends.

But my ‘normal’ has changed as well over the years. Not just my personal circumstances, but the world in general. I went from a naïve apprentice house-painter to a businessman, to a college professor, to a bookstore owner. Along the way I was folksinger on the side, moved from Scotland to the US and from one marriage to another.

As I changed, learned and developed so did the world. As my ignorance was challenged so has the world’s.

There’s a ways to go yet but, but we’re getting there I hope – –

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The Monday Book: The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

The Tortilla Curtain

Apart from today, the 1990’s were perhaps the most disputatious time for immigration in America. Ronald Reagan had signed a controversial amnesty bill in 1986, and in the nineties, Bill Clinton commissioned a study of the immigration problem chaired by former Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordon. Immigration was at the forefront of the national conversation. Against this backdrop, T. C. Boyle wrote The Tortilla Curtain image(Penguin, 1995).

The story juxtaposes the lives of two people: Delaney, a white suburban middle-class California writer, and Candido, an illegal immigrant with his pregnant wife. The two lives cross paths when Delaney hits Candido with his car on a winding California canyon road. Candido is seriously hurt but refuses medical attention, as he is illegal and subject to deportation. Delany gives him a $20.00 bill as compensation for almost killing him.

The book is quaint in some ways, prescient in others. It takes place at a time when the term “wetback” was still used in polite conversation; before sanctuary cities, before MS13, before the Wall, before the movie Sicario, when immigrants were actually “in the shadows,” forced to hide from the law and doing  stultifying and often dangerous odd jobs for slave wages to scrape by.

Though Boyle has a knack for laying out both sides of the argument, there is no doubt where his sympathy lies. There’s no mistaking the allusion to Madonna and child, as Candido and his pregnant wife wander around the California canyons seeking shelter. Instead of a barn, she has her child in a tool shed. Candido is more Job than Joseph, as nearly all his efforts to support his wife are either fruitless or end in catastrophe.

While Candido and his pregnant wife dig for food in dumpsters, Delaney is planning his sumptuous Thanksgiving meal. Meanwhile, his neighbors complain about the Mexican invasion. They even build a wall to insulate themselves while at the same time leaving out food for the coyotes who eat their neighbor’s dogs and cats.

Through a series of coincidences Delaney and Candido cross paths several times, ending in a final cataclysm where Boyle seems to be saying that no matter our differences, we are joined by a common humanity.

The book is a sobering reminder that, as anyone who has recently watched a re-run of All in the Family knows, even after a quarter of a century we are still arguing about the same things.

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I Finishes my Book, I Cleans my House

f2f262695ba52a8387ccb4c57703b3daIt is as inevitable as it unexplainable. As soon as the book is finished, I clean house. Perhaps it’s because there’s a lot of build-up while one is ignoring all the little surrounding things during that last push of editing and adding things.

Whatever the reason, the day after I push send, I’m in the bathroom with a toothbrush, tackling grout-esque problems.

Perhaps this ritual marks the passage from writing to marketing; you finish the part everyone thinks is cool, and you start the part that makes people edge away from you at parties. Make lists of festivals, make a nuisance of yourself on Facebook, Vimno, Instagram, and whatever other platforms somebody invented over the weekend.

But it never fails: Push send Friday, spray every surface in the house down Saturday, rip out contents of closets and cupboards, and dusty corners, stack your t-shirts by color, alphabetize the pantry, everything.

It’s like reclaiming space, but with benefits. My spice rack is organized by genre: Indian top shelf, Italian center, and the fundamentals at the foundation. Purged packaged food  lines the counter. “This is what I couldn’t fit back in after I separated the boxes by size, so this is what we’re eating this week,” I tell Jack.

He nods and smiles and finds an outdoor project. He’s seen it before and knows how this plays out.

Call it ritual, or clearing the path for what comes next, call it what you will, because it will happen. My home will be shiny-tidy this weekend and there will be a purge of useful boxes that weren’t and squished plastic containers that didn’t survive storage.

It doesn’t last long, but it’s fun while it lasts.

HIGH HOPES: Prescribers and Therapists Explain how they Fight Substance Abuse comes out from McFarland Press this summer. The title is still in edits, so if you have a suggestion, let us know.

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Freewheelin’ Doon the Brae

Jack creakily creeps over the line to get his guest post in on a Wednesday – –

So I turned seventy eight years old today (Wednesday) although it may be Thursday before this appears!

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As far as I know the only two members of my immediate family to get beyond that are my Mum and my sister Margaret.

So I see eighty coming over the horizon and that’s quite a sobering thought. All the folk I know around my age are ‘old’, but that’s not how I feel at all. Despite smoking and drinking most of my life I seem to continue to be fairly healthy.

When I look back I’m surprised at how my life turned out and the twists and turns. When I was a house painter I never expected to become a lecturer in management studies or to gain an MBA from one of the most prestigious Scottish Universities. When I started singing in a skiffle group I never expected to make seven albums and contribute to three others.

Today I was equally surprised to see more than a hundred birthday greetings on facebook, which reminded me of how many friends all over the world I’ve made. Some are from way back and some not so far, and some only on line.

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But the odd thing is that I’m very aware of friends and family who haven’t made it this far, and they’re actually the ones I’m thinking of today more then any. Among them are Margaret, Colin, Mike, Davy, Jim, Gordeanna, Anne and Maureen.

Since I do seem to be fairly healthy, though, I guess I should just get on with it and be lucky that I continue to make new friends and have a wife that despite twenty one years of sparring, somehow sticks by me –

Onwards and upwards!

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The Monday Book: The Dylanologists by David Kinney

Jack gets to write the Monday book post because Wendy is deadlining-

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Wendy had some meetings a few day ago in Johnson City TN, so I tagged along. We had an excellent buffet lunch at Sahib Indian Restaurant in honor of my birthday, and then I hit some thrift stores after dropping her at the first appointment.

For our Scottish friends that’s charity shops. You never know what you’ll find, although the book sections tend to be predictable and not particularly exciting.

But in one of them I found a happy surprise! Regular readers will know I am an avid Bob Dylan fan, and here was a book I had not read.

The Dylanologists is a delightful examination of a slew of ardent fans of Bobby Zimmerman, and although I am a big fan myself, I’m not in their league. These are folk with extensive archives of memorabilia and bootleg recordings, some of whom run blogs and websites. They trek to Hibbing (Dylan’s hometown) to New York City and to anywhere else that has any connection to their hero.

Given the number of books about Dylan, including his own ‘Chronicles’, I wasn’t sure what to expect but Kinney has produced a fascinating and well researched book. He manages to negotiate a trail between the fans, their obsessions, and the known history of the man himself.

Of course Bob is notoriously reclusive and is well known to protect his privacy while continuing to re-invent his public persona, so these obsessive fans can never hope to end their various quests. Some are trying to find the ‘real’ Dylan, while others seem to use him to find their ‘real’ selves!

If you’re a fan, like me, and have read all the other books, like me, then this could maybe broaden your understanding of Bob Dylan and possibly yourself too.

 

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