Words of Wisdom – –

Jack apologizes for missing last Wednesday completely but makes up for it by being on time today –

Used-book stores are great. Wendy and I have always managed to find one wherever we went in the early years of our marriage. So it wasn’t surprising that we wound up opening one when we moved to the town of Big Stone Gap in the very southwest tip of Virginia, some fourteen years ago. We quickly made it a ‘hanging out place’ where disparate (and sometimes desperate) folks found a haven. If you haven’t already, you can read all about it in ‘The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap’.

All things have their seasons, and for various reasons we moved to Wytheville, moving into our new home in early January 2019, in an 1890s sort of farmhouse meets French chateau. We’re still in the southwest edge of Virginia, but just closer to the interstate (that’s motorway for Scottish readers).

To our great delight we found that a used bookshop known as Oracle Books had opened a few months earlier on the main street. We quickly made friends with the owner, Randy, and the place turned out to be just like all the best bookstores we’d ever visited!

Up until the pandemic lockdown kicked in we were able to work with Randy to help introduce mini concerts of Scottish music some evenings, within his wider musical offerings. But, more importantly, we made many more friends and Oracle Books turned out to be the same kind of community center as all the best bookstores we ever experienced.

And then, as if things couldn’t get any better, Randy started a record section…..

 He set up an area for LPs – yes vinyl! Here we are in very rural southern Appalachia and whenever something he thinks might interest me shows up he messages me. In among the bluegrass and country albums the most amazing and rare traditional Scottish albums also turn up. Since I present a weekly Celtic music radio show on a couple of local NPR stations as well as one in Scotland that’s a real bonus!

So here’s to used-book stores where e’er they may be – – – and here’s to Randy at Oracle!

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

Iron Grey Ponytails Flying

It’s been a hellacious week, so Nora had to drag me to weekend exercise class. This month it was called KICKIT and I anticipated some BS about women’s empowerment and a few knee twinges.

Marshall, our instructor, came around and showed me where to stand for best balance, and how to pivot in a tennis shoe. He started the music, and off we went.

I had the time of my life.

Two minutes in, we all smelled bad, and some of us were yelling names at the bags. He showed us how to punch harder, protect our faces, use the whole foot, and some other fun stuff.

And as he showed us the culminating exercise of the first half of class–throwing one-two punches followed by “the groin kick”–Pretty Woman started playing. The five of us, grey ponytails flying, came alive. We slammed our hands into the bags, we threw our whole bodies into the high knee that didn’t so much tap the bag as take out an aggressor, and all I can say is I never felt so feminine in my life.

Mid-class, Marshall had us take a break, drink water, walk around. Just stay loose. I leaned against the window of the exercise studio, which looks down onto a basketball court. Little girls, maybe 8 years old, were donning knee pads and picking out balls. They all had ponies like ours, theirs with sparkly bows rather than iron grey streaks. Their instructor, wearing a tight hot pink warmup jacket, blew a whistle, and from O to 60 the girls started in. Dribbling and yelling and throwing their bodies in the air like fearless warriors. Some of them came down hard, jumped up, and threw themselves in the air again.

You go, girls. Do it for all of us. We’re counting on you.

Marshall called us back to order, showed us a few more moves, and congratulated me on a particularly well-placed kick. The fact that I was screaming a name at the time, he suggested, was not essential but if it made me feel more empowered, go for it. At the end of the class, one of the women apologized for letting an f-bomb fly, and we began a spirited discussion of the many ways the f-word could be used in appropriate contexts.

I’ll be going again next week.

This is not us. I just like the picture.

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Filed under humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Wendy Welch