Tag Archives: Walmart

Bouncing off the Bars

People can get priggish or preachy about the whole “shop local” thing, but it really does have a positive impact. I bought a hank of homespun wool from a friend for $25; she spent $15 at the local craft shop and $10 buying books from me. I had supper at the buffet across the street; the craft shop owner bought cupcakes from the local bakery for her son’s birthday. “Follow the money” as ’round and ’round and ’round it goes, keeping us in business for ourselves–and each other.

What if I’d gone to Walmart instead and bought $25 worth of Red Heart–which would have been a whole 28 oz. more of crocheting material?

More yarn, less community. Thank you, but I’ll make my friend a scarf instead of an afghan for Christmas.

Jack and I shop local, but we once made a pact that we would not buy anything at Walmart unless we couldn’t find it after a week of trying elsewhere, and gave up after about 10 days. We needed a picture frame, and nobody sells them anymore, except specialty ones in Hallmark (a locally owned franchise).

So we’re not sticklers. Jack once read me excerpts from a book called The McDonaldization of Society, in which the author divided people into iron cagers, rubber cagers, and free-rangers. Iron cagers shopped for the cheapest or most convenient thing, without thinking of its impact or consequences except to them (money and time) in the short term. Rubber cagers tried to buy things from local providers before chain stores (local franchises are not chain stores in my mind, btw) and generally made purchases based on their carbon footprint and what they considered fair treatment of those who produced the item.

The sad point of the book was that free rangers–those who swear they will DO NO HARM, grow their own food, spin their own cloth, etc–cannot be completely free if they live in a developed nation. It’s impossible. (And if they live in a developing one, that’s just called “daily living.”)

Still, as that author pointed out, rubber caging is better than nothing, and every little bit helps–or at least slows the crash and tumble that economic or environmental disaster historically bring. So Jack and I aspire to bounce off the bars of uninformed choices every chance we get. Boing! It’s kinda fun, actually, to plot one’s way out of the path of least resistance, and surprisingly inexpensive. Bet you know a local crafter who doesn’t even have a shop; a little stuffed-to-the-gills “junk” store somewhere on your town’s side streets; even a service store that would do a gift certificate if you asked them.

Boing… this is kinda fun… boing….

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

Two Square Inches of Fame

This is PEOPLE Magazine from Oct. 22. It has a two inch square recommending my book as a Great Non-fiction Read. And while it doesn’t change much of anything I think about myself, it’s changed the way some people think about my book.

A couple of people who weren’t interested in buying the book when I was in their local bookstore hawking it saw that lying open on the table, and suddenly Little Bookstore got a whole lot more interesting. Same thing with Walmart; some friends found out the Big W was stocking me, and my life changed in their eyes.

Might we just dial back a second here? A book that talks about the value of community, how people can take charge of their own lives, not “rent inside their own skins” but really enjoy and examine the decisions they make about why, how, and where they buy books–is embraced by mainstream commercialism, and that makes people like it more?

Irony, thy name is marketing. It’s the small version of what’s on the front cover of the People my two square inches are in. Adele is pictured on the cover, and it says, just below her face on this 2-million circulation magazine, “How and why the singing sensation lives outside the spotlight.”

Ummm…..

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m more grateful than words can express that people are embracing this book (which they couldn’t do if they didn’t know about it via the media), that they like how it describes life in small towns, that some neighbors from down the street and across state lines have emailed to say “You’re describing what it felt like when I moved to a small town/ got a divorce and started over/ quit my job to start an art studio/ lost my daughter.” There’s just nothing like life in the slow lane to solidify watching the strangeness of mainstream media and its effect on what people think you are.

I am delighted that people identify with, take pleasure from, even repeat what I said about small towns, books, cats and life. And it pleases me no end that the quote people are starting to come up to me at book signings and reel off, with a big grin, is,”I’ll put the kettle on.” (Plus, they ask after Beulah. She’s well, thank you.)

But at the bottom of two square inches of fame, Walmart, Amazon and the rest of the pile-up, Jack and I run a small bookstore in a rural part of Coalfields Appalachia for people who like to read. We are happy. We like our friends, we like our church, we like our store, we’re lucky, we’re careful, and we work hard.

Good enough, gang!

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