Thursday, May 18, 2006

What is "Peevish Advice"?

In July 1998 Ida B. Peevish, the often dee-vorced proprietress of Ida’s Salon of Beauty and Live Bait Shop (located in the little town of Rock Bottom, US of A.), popped into my head and onto the pages of the print edition of Blue Ridge Traditions. At that time, Jeff Foxworthy and redneck humor were hot. So were advice givers—Dr. Laura, et al. Female humorous redneck advice-givers, however, were few and far between. Hence, Ida B. Peevish and “Peevish Advice” filled a gap. "Peevish Advice" now appears every other week in the Smith Mountain Eagle.

Ida B. Peevish has plenty of opinions about such diverse subjects as love, education, fashion, etiquette, religion, politics, and home d├ęcor. She is always glad to enlighten the dim ones. As Ida B. always says, “You get what you pay for, talk is cheap, and my advice is free.” Of course, if you want your advice in a published format, the book Peevish Advice (ISBN 0-7414-0729-9), a compilation of the first three years of the column, will set you back $10.95. It makes a real good gift for folks you don’t like but are obligated to buy a present for anyhow.

Rock Bottom is a hard place to find on a map—it’s located where two folds on the map come together, so it’s the first place to wear off. Not far from Rock Bottom is Slick Water Lake, which formed when farm run-off filled one of the numerous sinkholes in the region and is inhabited by yankees who thought they were getting a good deal on worn-out land that nobody wanted. Most of the other inhabitants of rock bottom are agrarian professionsals. Rock Bottom isn’t like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” In Rock Bottom, all the men are wrong, all the women are good at cooking, and the kids—bless their little hearts—try real hard, but heredity and environment can be powerful forces to overcome.

At first I made up most of the letters to Ida B. Then writer buddies of mine started to ask for advice. Lately, I only have to do about half the writing I used to do. Here’s a little sampling of “Peevish Advice,” most of which has either been published in Blue Ridge Traditions or broadcast on or both. Without further adieu, here’s Ida B. Peevish:

Peevish Advice Sample

Howdy! Ida B. Peevish coming at you from Ida’s Salon of Beauty and Live Bait Shop in the heart of Rock Bottom, US of A, where things are pretty well froze over so nobody wants to go out. Consequently, we got plenty of openings for those of y’all what need hair work done. We also got plenty of bait that’ll be fine once it thaws out. Please note that if you are finding it difficult to buy that special Valentine’s gift for your sweetie, you can’t go wrong with a gift certificate from Ida’s Salon of Beauty and Live Bait Shop. We are running a variety of specials this month, mainly to get rid of all the hairspray that froze during the last power outage. We ain’t got a lot of letters lately, but that is understandable on account it has been so cold that most folks won’t risk chapping their lips by licking a stamp. Anyhow, here’s what we got (to make it easy for y’all, I have grouped my advice by topics):

Dear Ida B. I am an English teacher who is desperate to get her students to read the classics. All they do is open the book, say “Boooring!” and throw the book on the floor. What should I do? —Literature Lover

Dear Lit Lover: Well, first thing, you ought to be grateful they ain’t throwing the book at you. Next thing, do what they did at Rock Bottom High School. Order a set of the Down-Home Dumbed-Down Classics, which are wrote in a much more interesting manner.

For instance, the opening of that book “Tale of Two Cities” is just plain boring. You’d have a dickens of a time getting into “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” What the heck does that mean? The DHDD Classics version, which is called “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” starts out: “Sidney, as I done tole you, things is bad but they gonna git better once we git the roof outta that thar tree and tack it back on the doublewide, once Paw gits outta jail and rebuilds his still what the law busted up, and once them thar nice folks from Publisher's Clearinghouse figgers out how to git across the crick whar the bridge washted out in t'last flood so they can give us a big check.”

Now an opener like that can take a story somewhere!

You take how “Moby Dick” starts out: “Call me Ishmael.” Now, how interesting is that? It don’t tell the reader nothing. You just know everything is gonna be downhill from that opening. The DHDD Classics version, which is called, “A Big Fish Story,” starts like this: "I was named for my great granddaddy, whose full name was Abraham Alphonse Irving Emmet Ishmael McGillicuddy—and don't you know we had a heckuva time getting all that on his tombstone, which explains why he has the doublewide stone—but since it looks like we're gonna be sharing this cell for a long time, you can just call me Ishmael."

See? Isn't that a whale of a lot better? You just know the story is gonna get even more interesting.
Dear Ida B. I am thinking about attending Rock Bottom Community College next year to major in cosmetology and fishing so I can be just like you. I guess I will minor in psychology and philosophy, too. However, I have heard that Rock Bottom Community College is cutting some of its programs. Is this true, Ida B? Please advise. —High School Senior

Dear Smart Cookie: I checked with Matt Triculate, dean of RBCC, who told me that RBCC is indeed cutting back on some of its less popular/more expensive offerings. (Note: Matt is affectionately called “Tricks” by the students, so if anyone in Rock Bottom asks, “How’s tricks?” they are inquiring as to Matt’s health.) He says that RBCC will no longer be “liberal arts”; it is downsizing to “conservative crafts.”

For example, he says they are getting rid of all math classes because anybody who wants to do math can just use a calculator. Algebra is just too hard, so no students sign up for it, plus there ain’t no algebra jobs to be found in Rock Bottom.

English will no longer be offered on account of everybody already speaks it. Foreign languages ain’t necessary, since no foreigners ever come to Rock Bottom and if they did, nobody would talk to them anyhow because we tend not to associate with folks what ain’t from here and/or who we ain’t kin to.

Cosmetology, being a popular class since everybody wants good hair, is staying. Ditto for Fishing Practicum, which is the most popular physical education class on account it don’t require an expensive gymnasium, don’t require much physical activity, don’t require cheerleaders, and only goes into overtime when the fish ain’t biting.

The Law Enforcement program has been dropped because a lot of students found that it caused a conflict in family values when they graduated, got a job, and had to arrest kinfolk. Also dropped is Distillation Arts, one of the most popular classes that many students would deliberately flunk just to take it again. When the instructor is paroled, it might be offered again.

The only philosophy class left is NASCAR Appreciation, a real popular class wherein the students mainly sit around and speculate on who is going to win the next race and why. This is what they’d most likely do anyhow, so RBCC decided why not make a little money off it. There has been some talk of offering Automotive Reincarnation, so folks will learn creative uses and practical applications for all the junk car parts they got cluttering up their yards, but the college ain’t found an add-junk faculty member to teach it yet.

Psychology has been dropped since it is mainly common sense, and all you got to know to succeed as a psychologist is how to say, “And how do you feel about that?” of “How is that working for you?”

There ain’t no sociology classes left since nobody could ever figure out what “sociology” was anyway, and students can socialize on their own time without the school having to provide a room and pay a light bill for it.

Some of the hands-on classes—mostly in the agrarian science department where every hand is needed to shovel—are intact. Enrollment is really piling up in those classes. However, another popular class, the figure drawing art class has been discontinued on account too many students told the instructor they couldn’t see good and that’s why they had to put their hands all over the models, which made it hard to find enough models to pose nekkid, especially during the winter term when students’ hands tend to be cold and the art studio is unheated which raised some concerns as well as chill bumps.

I am real thrilled you want to be just like me, but that will be hard to do since I am one of a kind. Most of my customers, as well as my readers, think one of me is plenty because they are all the time saying, “Ida B, you are too much!”

Dear Ida B. I went to a pep rally over at Rock Bottom High School, but the cheerleaders couldn’t get it together. What is going on? —Sports Fan

Dear Athletic Supporter: According to Rock Bottom High School Principal Alma Motter, political correctness forced them to change the cheer from “Fight, Team, Fight! Win With All Your Might! Fight, Fight, Fight!” to something that didn’t provoke violence, didn’t emphasize winning, and did encourage more kids to play so everybody would feel included. So they changed the cheer to “Participate, Students, Participate! Win or Lose, Accept your Fate. Whatever You Do, We Think You’re Great!” The cheerleaders are having trouble coordinating the shaking of various body parts to the words of the new cheer, but sooner or later they’ll get it together.

Dear Ida B. I understand that Rock Bottom High School didn’t have a good football season this year. What happened? —Out-of-Towner

Dear Outie: Somebody cut down the goalposts for kindling again, so the team couldn’t tell if they scored or not. Finally the Rock Bottom athletic supporters replaced the goalposts with a couple of deer stands. Since a lot of the games occurred during deer season, members of the Rock Bottom Road Hunters Association, most of which are major athletic supporters, decided that they could sit in the stands and help keep score while keeping their eyes peeled for any deer in the nearby woods. This was a win-win situation for just about everybody except the team who never got the ball anywhere near the stands without it getting shot up.

Dear Ida B. Some guy named Francis Bacon said something like, “Some books are to be tasted; others swallowed; and some to be chewed and digested.” I know you wrote a book. What category does it fall into? —Bookworm

Dear Wormy: Folks in Rock Bottom generally know better than to chow down on books. However, a few folks have told me that Peevish Advice ought to be coughed up and spit out. I don’t know this Bacon feller, but anybody named after hog meat probably ain’t qualified to discuss books.

Family Problems

Dear Ida B. I don’t know what to do with my kids. They keep going in and out all day long and letting flies in. They complain they’re bored. They keep after me to get them some interactive toys, like those computer games where the object is to see how many aliens you can kill. I think them games waste electricity. And I think them kids need to get some exercise. What do you think? What should I do? —At the End of my Rope

Dear Hanging On: You can solve your problem cheaply and easily. Buy each kid his or her own fly swatter. They can get exercise swatting the flies they let in. They can compete to see who kills the most. If that don’t keep them entertained, I don’t know what will. Plus it will save electricity on account you don’t need to plug the fly-swatters in.

Dear Ida B. I hear folks talk about using duct tape and plastic sheets for security purposes. Can you give me an example? —Into Security

Dear Insecure: Sure. Let’s say you got to take your rambunctious toddler to town and your hubby has got the transmission out of your car again and you have to use his truck what ain’t got a kiddie safety seat in it. All you got to do is take a dozen or so winds of duct tape around the kid and the truck seat, and that kid is securely restrained until you get where you are going. Secure the plastic sheet under the kid in case you can’t get him cut loose in time, especially if he’s the type kid who waits until the last minute to tell you he has to go.

Dear Ida B. My husband recently retired, and now that he is around the house all day, he is running me crazy with his demands. What should I do with the old coot? —Desperate

Dear Desperate: The best thing to do is run your vacuum cleaner as long as it takes to run him out of the house. Most men cannot take being vacuumed around for more than a few minutes. If he demands you get him a beer or make him a sandwich, just say “As soon as I finish vacuuming.” The trick is, don’t finish. Eventually he’ll get the idea and quite asking. If he approaches you with a gleam in his eye, I have it on good authority (from O. L. Buzzard of Buzzard’s Taxidermy & Day Care who was complaining about this very situation the other day) that nothing turns a man off like turning a vacuum cleaner on. Not only will you run off the old coot, you’ll have a cleaner house, too. But just in case the vacuuming don’t work—for instance if he is hard of hearing, you need to get out of the house yourself, so come on down to Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop and take advantage of our Get That Man Right Outta Your Hair special.

Dear Ida B. My husband has gotten real inattentive lately when it comes to basic rules I have set down for him. How can I get him to wipe his feet, pick up his dirty clothes, take out the garbage, not leave the refrigerator door open for extended periods, change his underwear on a regular basis, let the dawg out, and put the lid down? —Desperate

Dear Desperate: We here at Ida’s Salon of Beauty and Live Bait shop have worked out a system that we call CARP, although it don’t have nothing to do with fishing. What it means is that your nagging has to be Continuous, Assertive, Repetitive, and Proactive. If you spend the next week or so CARPing at your husband—while continuously running your vacuum, you should either see improvement or he will give up and leave. (If he leaves, change the locks.) At any rate, by that time you will have a clean house but be worn to a frazzle, so come on down to Ida’s Salon of Beauty and Live Bait Shop to cheer yourself up by getting your hair fixed.

Dear Ida B. How does that old saying go about giving a man a fish? I can’t remember it. —Forgetful

Dear Senile: You must be thinking about “Give a man a fish and he’ll forget to put it in the refrigerator until it has stunk up the doublewide; teach a man to fish and he’ll have a good reason to come into Ida’s Salon of Beauty and Live Bait Shop and spend lots of money on bait. Plus, he’ll need to buy a boat, all sorts of rods and reels and other fishing doo-dads, a set of waders, a trailer to pull the boat with, a lake-front cottage, etc. Teach a man to fish and you will go a long way toward improving the economy.”

Beauty and Fashion Advice

Dear Ida B. I am getting married in an outdoor ceremony in November. What color wedding dress should I wear? — Bride-To-Be

Dear B2B: There are only two colors appropriate for November weddings: camo and blaze orange. The camo will make you fade into the background and possibly get you shot if your wedding takes place near the woods. Therefore, put your bridesmaids in camo and you wear blaze orange. That will make you stand out on your special day, plus you can go right from the reception to your deer stand and not have to change clothes first. Remember, if you have your bridal bouquet attached to your rifle, it is a good idea not to toss it into the crowd unless you first check to make sure you have the safety on.

Dear Ida B. Summer is over and I still haven’t got a tan. Do you have a tanning bed at Ida’s Salon of Beauty? —Pallid

Dear Pale Lids: We don’t have a tanning bed on account it takes up too much space and heats up the bait tank which causes some popular species of bait to get a little too crispy to appeal to the average fish. However, we do have a tanning tank. The water in Rock Bottom has a high iron content, so it tends to be a little on the rusty side. Hence, if you bathe in it long enough, you acquire a nice bronze glow. However, if you sit in our tank for a while, you should not go immediately to the airport. The last gal who did this set off all the metal detectors and got herself arrested and missed her flight, so she didn’t make her wedding to the man of her dreams who noticed that her maid of honor was kind of cute, so by the time the tanned gal got out of jail she had lost both a husband and a best friend. Then she had the nerve to demand her money back because I was busy giving advice to somebody else and forgot how long she was in the tank.


Dear Ida B. What is with all these folks rearranging their houses? —Keeping Up

Dear Up-Keep: Mavis Peabody, who is always trying to be a trendsetter, had Dee Zyner, from the Rock Bottom House of Fung Shui & Cement Lawn Art up at the mall, redecorate her doublewide. The first thing Dee did was tell Mavis that all the “chi” was flowing out because her double wide faced the wrong way. Well, even though Mavis didn’t notice anything leaking out—and she wasn’t about to admit she didn’t have a clue what “chi” was, she got a bunch of her relatives over and they turned the doublewide about ninety degrees. Now the “chi” isn’t flowing out, but a lot of sewage is because the septic tank line ruptured during the rearrangement and Rock Bottom plumber Seymour Flushing is all backed up on account of all the pipes that froze and busted over the winter that he ain’t got around to fixing yet. (Note to customers on Mr. Flushing’s waiting list: He promises to get your pipes fixed in time for them to freeze over again next winter.) Consequently I can’t recommend rearranging your home, but if you want to rearrange your looks, come on down to Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop and we’ll see what we can do.

Dear Ida B. I have just started driving and getting interested in girls. My grampaw keeps saying I have to take the bitter with the sweet. What does he mean?—Kid

Dear Kiddo: He means that all blessings are mixed blessings. For example, he might mean that the shady parking spot you find when you decide to park with some sweet young thing means that all the trees are full of birds that will decorate your windshield while you and your girl give each other your undivided attention. Or it might mean that the sweet girl you’ve been dating will soon turn bitter when you park under those trees and forget to put the roof up on your convertible.
Rural Etiquette

Dear Ida B. I wonder what your concerned advice would be regarding drivers with “Farm Use Only” cardboard plates and those with Rock Bottom stickers clearly emblazoned on their windshields who can’t figure out that a double yellow line means “Stay on your own side!”—Waiting in a Ditch

Dear Ditched: As our area is heavily populated by agrarian professionals, “farm use” describes most Rock Bottom vehicles, even them what ain’t roadworthy, as they make handy stock feeders, storage containers, and/or lawn decorations. As for your other concern, many Rock Bottom drivers have not yet determined what their side is and find that they are less likely to slip into a ditch if they take a middle-of-the road approach. If they meet another middle-of-the roader head on, they just stop for a spell and visit. It ain’t like anybody has got anywhere interesting to go around here.

Dear Ida B. I am an expatriated Northerner who recently re-rooted into the Slick Water Lake vicinity. I love the long views here of mountains and pastoral farmland but can’t believe that nearly every picturesque scene is obstructed or at least outlined by power poles, electric lines, phone lines, and cable. Back up north, all that linear junk went underground back in 1988. What’s the Rock Bottom viewpoint on obstructing the view and tranquility of an outstanding landscape with an ugly, environmentally hostile power grid.—In Need of Some Perspective

Dear Yankee: Most of Rock Bottom ain’t got no scenery worth lookin’ at, so all them things you mentioned sort of fill in for the scenery we ain’t got. Plus, a lot of Rock Bottomites consider electric lines strung on their property as a sign to all that they can afford electricity, so it is a status thing. The Rock Bottom Roadhunters Association finds that the lines make convenient places for birds to roost, so they don’t even have to get out of their trucks to get a good shot. And most folks here sleep good at night knowing that any furrin’ terrorists ain’t gonna parachute in without getting theirselves severely electrocuted, so all them wires also function as the Rock Bottom security network.

Well, that’s it for this little sample of “Peevish Advice.” I take you you didn’t get too offended by what you read or else you would have quit reading a couple minutes ago. Remember, you get what you pay for, talk is cheap, and my advice is free. However, should you want to pay for my advice, keep in mind that you can buy my book Peevish Advice from or or or from assorted places in Rocky Mount and Smith Mountain Lake, VA.