Tag Archives: money

“Dear John…”

At the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul, Jack and I looked at clay tablets bearing letters from 1200 or so BC, and gravestones from sometime between then and 300 BC.

There is nothing new under the sun. One letter informed a man that the woman writing it was marrying “the farmer” instead of him. One stipulated that the wages for performing an exorcism were two sheep: one male, one female. Another extolled the virtues of Hypodia’s parties and invited the recipient to one. A gravestone erected by one Olympios suggested that, although he died a civil servant, he SHOULD have been elected provincial leader, and would have been had it not been for the jealousy of others, and he hoped the guy who’d gotten it rotted in hell. Hades, actually, but you get the point.

There is nothing new under the sun. From the time we’ve been able to write, we’ve focused on just a few things. People want love. We want a life that we feel fulfills the talents we believe ourselves to posses.  And we want good stories.

Beside the gravestones–some of them very sweet and touching, actually, like the one from the woman who said she was “weeping, wailing, and mourning for her dear departed”–each sarcophagus in the museum had a tale told in figures around it: Psyche and Eros; how Apollo got married; the death of some guy I’d never heard of in a drunken brawl.

Then and now, 2000 BC or AD or whatever system you use, there is nothing new under the sun. The names change from Mahmud to Matthew, the hats morph from turbans to ball caps, and the women’s dresses get shorter or longer, but we people go on, chasing love, money, and a good job. And telling stories about ourselves and each other.

Kinda reassuring, ain’t it? Although I think exorcisms cost more like twelve sheep now.

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Filed under folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, Uncategorized

Passing the Buck(s) Along . . .

Every once in a while, someone pays at the bookstore with a hundred dollar bill. It used to be kind of a thrill, but, you know, $100 is the new $20, so we don’t get worked up about it.


Ours is a small town. Several businesses don’t accept cards, because our daily volume makes the transaction fee unsustainable. Plus credit card companies “helping” businesses are nicer than bar girls when selling you something, about as friendly as bears on hiking trails in March when anything goes wrong. So a lot of us are based on cash, and that means we need healthy change drawers.

You’d be surprised how much time a small town merchant spends obsessing over quarters, singles and fives. A hundred dollar bill will suck your change drawer dry fast. You get down to the ones in no time flat, and next thing you know you’re handing a customer back three dollars in quarters. That kind of thing gets around in a small customer pool; folks pull out their phones and tweet “don’t come to the bookshop the rest of today; they’re out of change again!”

The other day a hundred nestled in the bottom of our otherwise quite light change drawer, and I was headed out to pick up some yarn at the nearby craft shop run by my friend Mendy. This presented an ethical dilemma; knowing what I wanted would be about $15, should I take the $100 and make her suck it up, or text her first to see if she had change. I messaged; she asked me to bring a check. Well,  it was 10 a.m. on a Saturday. Get hit with a hundred that early, and by 3 pm you’re shaking your kid’s piggy bank down and demanding that your friends drive by with change from their cup holders.

So I didn’t make Mendy break the hundred, but I did get a devious idea. I took the hundred, initialed it and wrote the date on the side. You’ve all seen the “where’s George” tracking stamp on dollar bills? Well, my theory was that this hundred was never making it out of Big Stone Gap. (Not that I ever have a hundred bucks around long enough to get intimately familiar with it, mind.) Trapped by the mountain bowl that surrounds us, it just keeps circling and circling, from florist to grocery to bookstore to craft shop to the bakery….

I took the hundred  to the furniture shop a couple of days later, when I bought some chair frames to cane. While paying, I told the owner what I’d done and she grinned. As I left, she was pulling out a pen.

About ten days later, the hundred came back to me, with three dates on it. I can’t read the initials next to the last one.

On the plus side, this game of hot potato money means that we’re all shopping local…..


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