Wednesday, April 29, 2009

About Stinger

“Stinger’s Country Kitchen” was a diner in Ashford Hollow, 10 minutes south of Springville. It is one of many mom-and-pop businesses closed now, as we as a nation have become chain-restaurant oriented.
Stinger managed the restaurant for two decades, until poor health made him give it up. His given name was Richard, but when he opened the restaurant, he gladly laid claim to the nickname “Stinger”. ‘Stinger’ is slang for the electrode holder used while arc welding, Dick’s previous occupation.
Early on, trucks plied the route past the diner, Dick installed a Citizens Band radio, and his CB handle became “Stinger”. This further solidified the name he was widely known by, for the rest of his life. Truckers called their orders in from the road, via CB radio and breakfast would be waiting for them when they walked in the door.
The restaurant was Dick’s long-sought vision. He bought a fancy high output rotary oven with shelves that moved like a Ferris wheel. He served homemade bread and pies and sold baked goods for “take out” as well. Several restaurants used his products on a daily basis.
Stinger’s breakfasts were known for their abundance and quality and he had many ‘regulars’.
On busy mornings, Stinger would work the huge flat iron grill behind the counter. Often, from six until ten AM he wouldn’t have an open chair or table. A dozen or more orders and a mountain of home fries would be on the grill at the same time.
Stinger liked working the grill; it put him in close proximity to the patrons. He cracked eggs and jokes and scrambled insults in with morning small talk, never missing a beat while he flipped pancakes and sausage.
His business was lucrative, people returned to listen or join in with their own good-natured insults and bawdy retorts.
The subject would often turn to Stinger’s lack of hair; he had a litany of comebacks, many implying that his brain was so active, his hair couldn’t sprout, often saying, “Grass doesn’t grow on a busy street.”
Stinger was my brother; he passed away in early April.

Dick and I worked at a welding fabrication shop before he opened the diner. He was an artist in his own right and created toy tractors, windmills and conceptual pieces of art from heavy chunks of scrap metal. He made toys for my two young boys. I use “toys” loosely, no one wants to see a four-year-old play with a fifty-pound toy tractor, made from heavy steel square tubing and expanded metal.
Throughout, we were both competitive and cynically agreeable. We wheedled each other for the past thirty years over who was the better welder, he or I, that and who had more hair. He was bald but accused me of “combing over.”
I never did tell him he was the better welder, but he knew it. He never admitted I had more hair.
Joni Mitchell wrote, “…Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till’ it’s gone...”
That’s true about the mom-and-pop restaurants and it’s true about Stinger.
Comments? or

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


This was a column I wrote, gleaned from my experiences at Arts and Crafts shows..

I assist my spouse Emmy Lou with selling her jewelry at Arts and Crafts shows. I enjoy the shows, her bead and leather creations provide supplemental income for us. There are drawbacks; we work many hours on show weekends, often missing other events. I skipped my high school reunion recently because I didn’t want to leave Emmy alone at a “too busy” Columbus weekend show in Letchworth State Park.
Working closely together brings out some interesting facets of a relationship. Emmy and I sometimes discuss issues in what we would call a friendly “spirited fashion.” Others might call it “bickering.” It works for us.
Like many small businesses, most of the venders at the Art shows are committed couples or families working toward a common goal. There are decisions to be made, lots of room for differences of opinion.
A while back, Emmy and I set our booth up next to a very nice woman in her sixties. ‘Marie’ (her name changed to protect me), was set up when we got there.
Marie sold among other things, chakra stones in soft cloth bags. Her business name was similar to, ‘Gentle Yoga Stones.’ I don’t remember the actual name.
As usual, Emmy and I were ‘spiritedly discussing’ while setting up. The walls of our booth (a 10x10 tent) stop no sound so we keep even our most severe disagreements relatively quiet. If our ‘discussion’ becomes too heated, we change the subject. I try to interject some levity and Emmy comes up with a fake chuckle or two. We come back to the disagreement later. We fear becoming “those people”. A shrink would have a field day with us, I’m sure.
Emmy was interested in the chakra stones as something she could incorporate into her jewelry. I swear she would bead around a live turtle if nothing else were at hand.
Over the weekend, many people stopped at the ‘Chakra’ booth. Emmy and I eavesdropped and learned about Chakra and its related stones.
Chakra means wheel of light in Sanskrit. The Chakras are seven power points in the human body that circulate energy.
I don’t think us veering away from a loud ‘discussion’ during setup fooled Marie. When few people where visiting our respective booths, she would come over and explain improvements a certain chakra could have on a person and their relationship with others.
In her soft and gentle manner, she explained how the proper use of the stones would lead to more balanced physical and mental health. They could also help with spiritual development. She was calm and centered, kind and gentle.
As the two-day show ended Sunday afternoon, Marie’s husband showed up to help her dismantle her booth and displays.
The two of them worked quietly together for a few moments inside their booth. All of a sudden they began arguing. Soon, the gentle yoga lady was screaming. She was unhappy with the way he packed merchandise. He was sick of her complaints about the way he packed.
Their argument escalated, she wanted him to stay with her at the booth more often. He wanted to relax after working all week. They could be heard all over the park.
Even after the protective cloak of the tent walls came down the fight raged on.
The last time I saw Marie and her husband, they were in the parking lot, a teetering load on their flimsy four-wheel cart. At that time, the fight was about keys to their van and who had handled them last.
We never did get any Chakra stones. I don’t think they help.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I have not posted in a long time, I've had a few nasty weeks. On the Friday of our Greensboro show, just as we were closing down I got a call from my nephew- my brother passed away. Because of the difficulties in tearing down a show booth and because we couldn't do anything about it anyway we stayed for the rest of the show and got home Monday night. Dicks funeral was Tuesday and since then I have been playing catch up with bills and auto repair and the minutua of everyday day life. I've been in a fog of depression since, day by day realizing how close we were everytime I think to pick up the phone and call him about a recent news event or just what is a good substitute for molassas..

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why make this stuff??

Set up day.. We don't do inside shows as a general rule, so the thought is it must be a lot easier when you don't set up a tent. It didn't seem much easier when we did the first couple as 8x10 and now that we have gone to 8x15 it seems down right complex.
The producers of the show offered Betty a corner booth and a half for nothing. All we had to do was move down 10 feet (to the corner). I was making a trip to the camper for some poles. Had I been there I would have jumped on the chance.
Betty had spent the better part of three hours figuring out how to lay out our space and we had just gotten all the major components (shutters) fastened to one another and she didn't want to figure out a corner, or tear apart what we had done. I don't blame her.
There is always things you think you should do a bit differently- move this shelf here, that display there. What is going to help sell best?? We will know Sunday afternoon..

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Baby Steps

It started like any other day, just a few chores. We stayed overnight on the Collosium complex grounds in Greensboro- a definite no-no. No one questioned us about it and we paid for tommorow to Saturday night for electric only and water at a hydrant that they have put a pressure valve on. At forty dollars a night we don't want to stay there any more than we have to.
Betty wanted to get more material for her display and there was no Goodwill stores in Greensboro. We went to what was supposed to be a thrift shop and it is now a bridal shop, Out side by the back door were some used building materials one piece of which was a 36 inch full louvered door. Our display is mostly louvered shutters.
Betty started to drool over the door and of course wanted it for our display. I asked and the door was ours. We put it in the camper and that left little room for us.
I needed a haircut desperately so we stopped for that (I listened to four woman chatting away in barely perceptible English for half an hour-) and then we did enough laundry to get us through the weekend and headed home. Each time we stopped we had to take the door out and lean it against the out side of the camper.
I started to take off the hardware and when I screwed one of the door knob backing plates off just a little, tiny ants started to swarm out of the door. I put the screw back in.
We stopped at a hardware store and got some "piss-ant" spray then went back to the Coliseum to take off the hard ware and put the door in the utility trailer. I had to constantly spray the little ants dead. I was able to slip the door sans hardware across the ceiling of the trailer on top of everything else. If we had to move the trailer it would destroy a bunch of other stuff. It will have to be pack differently to go home with us.

Betty started an Etsy site four months ago and never sold a thing till a week or so ago. All things she had listed on Etsy (Ebay for crafters) can be put in a suitcase. She has sold three items. We just dig them out and find the nearest Post Office and send the stuff from the road. I think if we wanted we could live on the road..