Tag Archives: Coyote Run

Music Hath Charms – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest blog post –

We just had a weekend away and enjoyed a great time with musical friends in Williamsburg VA. We went to join the farewell party for Mick and Neva Mikula who are headed permanently to Florida. Mick is an ex-member of a great Celtic rock band called Coyote Run who split up a couple of years ago and the company was composed of other ex-members and associates of the band.

At the last minute I discovered that there was to be a wedding on Sunday and I was invited to contribute to the musical accompaniment. To my astonishment I encountered a fine fiddle player who launched into Niel Gow’s ‘Farewell to Whisky’, which confirmed for me that behind the kilts and leather gear favored by ‘Coyote Run’ lay an unusually deep (for that particular musical scene) appreciation and understanding of real traditional Celtic music.

We first encountered the Coyotes a number of years ago at the Sycamore Shoals festival in Elizabethton TN, where Wendy and I had started to MC the main stage. We found that we shared a mutual quirky sense of humor and over the succeeding years our paths continued to cross. In their final year we were able to book them as headliners at Big Stone Celtic. I was always impressed by their combination of musicianship, stagecraft, visual effects and sheer exuberance. By comparison with the other regular and much shallower bands on the circuit they clearly had listened to the ‘right stuff’ and that was reflected in their repertoire.

 

Over the weekend, in conversation with the fiddle player (Paul Anderson) and Mick and the others I was astonished to find how much overlap there was in the singers and musicians we all admired.

However, there was another amusing occurrence before we headed home. Wendy went on a shopping spree with the others as I recuperated from a very late night and found a bookstore – Mermaid Books. She happened to be wearing one of our bookstore tee-shirts and the owner asked her if she’d ever visited Tales of the Lonesome Pine. She said that she had. He said that there was a great book about it that he really enjoyed, to which Wendy said “I’m the author”. Cue much hilarity and exchanging of bookstore stories!

A final big thank you to our hosts, who I suspect didn’t originally intend to have so many house-guests just as they were about to box up their possessions ahead of their departure. They treated us and the other ‘lodgers’ like royalty and we were fed delectable Indian and Middle-Eastern delicacies, not to mention haggis for breakfast.

it’s a hard life over here – – –

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, Uncategorized

Our David, Shopsitter

david hamrickI am home after more than a week away at various events and conferences. Stumbling in the door, I find the place looks immaculate and smells of peppermint and lavender. Our shopsitter David did some wonderful organizational innovations to the shelves–like alphabetizing, and sorting the memoirs by category. The whole place looks brighter, cleaner, cheerfully non-neglected. (Not how it’s looked the month previous, let me assure you.)

This is why we love having shopsitters. David, a Celti-phile friend from Jack’s Scottish trips, who with his wife Susan rescues cats in their North Carolina home, stepped in, looked around, and did stuff that we have either a) meant to get around to for ages now or b) never thought about doing because we are domestically impaired.

The kittens (four from the shelter, two from drop-offs, and one I found during my road trip and brought home) are playing amiably on their new seven-foot cat castle, assembled by Uncle David. The staff cats have had their fur brushed. The one-free-with purchase books have been reshelved by height and color.

Arriving home more brain-fried than a Walking Dead extra and planning to be in bed by 8 pm, I walked in to bookstore vibrant with the loving touches of someone who value books, cats, and people. That is a glorious thing. Thanks David!

(And thanks Susan for lending him to us and for coming over to help on Saturday!)

 

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

Fifteen Adults Laughing very hard Together

We’d been plotting the Cards Against Humanity game for a long time. Susan and David Hamrick, some of our favorite people on Earth, had recently lost Hazel, the beloved eldercat who sparked public outrage in Southwest Virginia when her owner surrendered her to the shelter at the age of 20; Hazel’s plight birthed a webpage for eldercat advocacy.

David and Susan also adopted Mal, the high-expense, high-care kitten with the cleft palate who crossed the bookstore lawn about a month before. So planning the CaH game was a chance for Hazel’s ashes to return to her hometown, Mal to see his adoring public now his feeding tube was out, and us to see David and Susan.

The participant list grew. Local doctors looking for a fun weekend (I work with regional medical recruitment); our sainted vet Beth, who diagnosed both Mal and Hazel free of charge; her husband TNB (we call Brandon That Nice Boy Beth Married, TNB for short); and a plethora of others, most of whom have adopted a cat from us. Being adult professionals, we had salad and vegetarian curry, black bean chili, and – in honor of Beth’s recent birthday – Peanut Butter Chocolate Reese Butterfingers Eight-Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Health care professionals know how to party.

And then the CaH came out, with the expander pack. Beth put bottles of her homemade Merlot on the table, and David set out his carefully hoarded Ben Nevis single malt.

But the fun started before the drinking, because the first card out of the gate was something like “How do you get laid?”

After Brandon won with a card that suggested certain specific activities in very precise anatomical locations, I turned to him and said, “I’m never calling you ‘That Nice Boy’ again.”

It all kinda took off from there.

There is something wonderfully healing about 15 adults sitting around a table acting like adolescents who have a deep background in politics. People literally snorted whisky out their noses, we laughed so hard.

And about every 15 minutes, someone shouted “Kid!” and the room went silent as the four young boys hanging out downstairs in the children’s room, playing with kittens under the supervision of a teen, came up and helped themselves to soda.

(Susan and I sent David and Jack to the store for children’s drinks before the party. They returned with a bottle of Mountain Dew. We sent them back for ginger ale.)

In the silence of an early “not in front of the children” moment, David said, “Did everyone enjoy the lovely weather today?” and we all died laughing again.

And again a minute later, when the winning response to “What are Jack and Leroy doing in the basement?” (there are blank cards for making up your own question) turned out to be “Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II.”

Jack’s praying for Scottish Independence, come September. He and Leroy were downstairs sorting a quick plumbing problem before joining the game.

Yeah, it’s raucous and raunchy and irreverent, but CaH is such good steam-valve-release fun. We play by the “everybody gets one veto” rule. Donald refused to play a Holocaust card; I put back “The Blood of Christ”; Kelley doesn’t allow the one about a pool of children’s tears. Everybody has limits.

But few and far between, for the most part, and sitting there watching 15 adults return to high school in their brains while eating vegetables and drinking responsibly, laughing themselves silly in good company, I couldn’t help thinking, “This is why Jack and I started a bookstore.”

Sitting around that table: two cancer patients, the mother of another, a cancer survivor, three medical professionals who make life-and-death decisions every day, a government employee, two professors, a couple trying to get pregnant, four people who lost parents this year, and two newly-fledged adults launching into the world. This world.

To have these moments, this place, where you can stop being the Responsible Adult, cut loose, and enjoy life is a rare and wonderful thing. We’re so lucky to be able to do this.

 

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Haste Ye Back!

As the year rolls around we have personal ‘seasons’. For me that includes ‘Festival Prep Season’ when I spend a month or so going around with little post-it-notes on every surface of the bookstore plus virtual ones in my head, all for the sake of Big Stone Celtic, our annual celebration of all things Celtic.

Now in its sixth year BSC, as it’s affectionately known, aims to make the connection between the ‘Scotch-Irish’ of Appalachia and their Celtic forbears. It’s unusual for two big reasons: modeled on traditional music festivals in Scotland, Ireland and Brittany it takes place downtown, using a variety of venues all within 5 minutes’ walk of each other; and it incorporates music, song, stories, workshops, dance, games and food to reflect the culture of all 7 Celtic Nations – Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, The Isle of Man, Cornwall and Galicia.

This year we are introducing an evening concert on Friday Sept. 27 up at Mountain Empire Community College, and then a full day of events on Saturday Sept. 28. Saturday kicks off as usual with a 26 mile bike race (The Tour de Crackers Neck). There are five music venues (up from three last year!):¬† The June Tolliver Theater, The Farmers’ Market, The Presbyterian Church, The Mining Museum and The Fox House.

Coinciding with the bike race is a gentler ‘fun bike’ for kids around the town Greenbelt, following the two rivers and meandering past the faces carved into the trees at our local campground. Workshops will be in our bookstore and samples of Celtic food (including Haggis, Cornish Pasties and Irish Potato Pie) will be served at the Presbyterian Church hall.

As if that wasn’t enough the library will also be hosting children’s activities throughout the afternoon, as will Miner’s Park; the ones at the park involve tossing lightweight cabers and getting dirty; the ones at the library involve crayons and music.

Everything is free except the food at the church hall, which is our festival’s biggest fundraiser; food is $5 per plate. Outside this, we are dependent on donations to pay for everything and are especially grateful to the many businesses and individuals who have donated once again this year, economic up-down swings and all.

All the flags in one!

All the flags in one!

The latest iteration of our schedule is up on the festival website but continues to be subject to revision – www.bigstoneceltic.com

Our main guest this year is Iona, a wonderful and very authentic group who play music from all the Celtic Nations. (And we are very grateful that a regional arts organization, PRO ART, has sponsored them!) As usual they will be supported by a wide range of other artists, including our ‘house-band’ Sigean and Doug Bischoff (of former Coyote Run fame). Doug’s wife Heather will be giving a workshop on creative writing.

Finally – not many people get the joke in the festival’s name. Most of the Celtic lands have ancient stone circles or individual ‘standing stones’ dotted around the countryside – big stones!

Y’all come. It’s going to be grand!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing