HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Heading North On 53? Make A Stop at Annz Boutique and Books, Chetek



Last week my amazing marketeer, Liz Fischer, whom I have watched work her marketing skill and charm - she could sell cement blocks to a drowning man - e mailed me and wanted to know how I would feel about making a personal appearance at Annz Boutique and Books in lovely down town Chetek, Wisconsin.

It had been a while since my last jaunt to a book store to promote my CD's and since I now have a new one,"Living On The Edge" produced entirely by Ms. Fischer (it came out magnificently if I may say so myself) and getting the news that Ann was somewhat of my vintage, only younger and in much better condition, and in addition, a "fan" of mine, it was really easy to say yes, load up a small amplifier and the venerable Gibson J45 guitar, steep a thermos of strong java and hit the road north.

Arriving at 526 2nd Street (okay, so I missed it on my first swing through town and embarrassedly had to stop at the grocery store to ask the clerk exactly where it is - she was obviously a voracious reader as she said "I think it's the place with the fence in front -- that's the only place with books that I can think of") I walked in the front door which is in actuality the middle section of three and the focal point of Chetek's version of Starbucks, but with much more small town charm. I was immediately greeted by one of the on site artists with a hearty good morning.

I took a right and went into the section pictured and encountered a woman in a red sweater and matching hot red shoes, who fixed exclusively on my Packer jacket, exclaiming how beautiful she thought it was, wanting to know where I got it, and how she wished she had her camera because her son needs to see it. I explained that it was a jacket I bought some 15 years ago and have sort of built over the years with various patches representing the history of the team.

I then asked her if she was Ann and when she said that she was, I extended my hand and said "Larry Heagle". This made her very happy. She told me of how she had been one of my "groupies" for some 34 years (not so -- I've only been at this for THIRTY!) and that she was very happy and honored to have me at the boutique.

It turns out that Ann. like both Kim and myself, is a former educator turned book store owner and that she really has found her little corner of the world in Chetek.

After taking some photos of the jacket with my camera, I began bringing in my equipment to set up and be ready to go by 11AM. About the time I was making the second trip out to the Scion, I noticed a youngish, suited man with two gals in tow making their way into the store. Two things stood out -- he was the first male to arrive in a store full of women and he was wearing a dark suit. I thought the suit was a bit much for Chetek on the first saturday of deer hunting season but dismissed it -- as an elderly woman once dismissed me way back in the day when I used to wear ruffled shirts to my gigs and walked into the chiropractor's waiting room and plopped down next to her. She gave me the once over and said loudly: "IT TAKES ALL KINDS."

At 11 AM, being a punctual Catholic boy, I launched into the show, explaining that I would be running the gamut of all three CD's, doing some serious tunes from Irish Heart, some bawdy stuff from "Rude, Crude, and Poor" and some of the monologues from "Living on the Edge", all the while vamping in G and then belting out (as best I could at this "early hour") "Rocket Action Oldsmobile".

I followed this with the monologue about teaching eighth graders which naturally leads into "The Vasectomy Song". I no sooner launched the intro to "Vasectomy" when the suited gentleman and entourage purposefully got up and beat a hasty exit. Ann was in the other section at the time, waiting on a customer and when she returned I told her that I had already cleared the store of three of her patrons.

She explained that this was not a problem. Turns out he is the local Jehovah's Witness.

This tickled me much more than probably was appropriate at a book store in a small town but truthfully I received this news with a great amount of glee. Before I let my addled brain think it over, I blurted: "Hey! That's great! Finally justice for all those early mornings when his ilk rang my door bell, waving The Watchtower in my face!"

Other highlights of the morning: together we celebrated a great elderly man's 89th birthday, albeit a bit late, as John's birthday was November 6th; the school secretary from my days of teaching at DeLong Junior High showed up with her daughter, who had been in one of my 8th grade classes, and there were even a couple more men who showed up, shunning deer hunting and the call of the wild to instead listen to me -- the guy that as one of the men who came in right in the middle of the Vasectomy monologue and was warned of what he was about to participate in, simply said "Don't worry about it -- I'v already been told -- you're crazy."

Another great moment - when the Lutheran minister and his wife arrived shortly after I had finished my presentation, and upon overhearing their conversation with Ann and seeing the disappointment on their faces for having missed the show, decided they would buy one of my CD's. When he picked up "Rude, Crude, and Poor", Ann headed him off with: "You probably don't want that one."

That's when I stepped up with a copy of "Irish Heart" and told them to please take it home with them as an early Christmas present as I am most proud of the poetry and music on that CD.

The wife was genuinely touched by the gesture and said: "A man who understands how very little a minister makes in a small town!' Thank you."

Liz called me earlier this evening to see how it went. I told her it was a great day of justice. I chased out a Jehovah's Witness and gave of myself to a religious family.

Cd's sales upon conclusion were brisk and I somehow managed to not succumb to the Olson's Ice Cream that was available in the coffee section -- even now that I had some actual money in my pocket.

How embarrassing is this? I had to use my credit card to get a sausage, egg and biscuit on my way out of Eau Claire in the morning!

Still in all, a great day!

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