Guest post : Who says there’s nothing to do in West Virginia?

liveonthelevee

Here’s the third in a three-part series in honor of West Virginia. Thursday’s guest post was about leaving West Virginia. Here’s a post about staying, by my friend Dave Humphreys:

Ever since my teenage years, I’ve heard people close to my own age talking about how they “couldn’t wait to get out” of our state because there is “nothing to do here.” My response to that has always been “why not stick around and make it better?” West Virginia has to be one of the most exciting places in the country to live right now because, thanks to those that chose to better it rather than evacuate, we’re left with a rare and valuable type of younger generation that is concerned with both preserving history and progressing forward.

Charleston is working hard to become an artistic hub, and as a result, you’d be very hard-pressed to find a place full of creative opportunities that are more easily accessible. It’s almost impossible to overstate how fortunate we are in that regard. There isn’t the sense of exclusivity you’d find elsewhere; our people are as welcoming as they are talented. Today’s Charleston is a place where any visual artist with the will to create is blessed with numerous opportunities to have their work publicly displayed and seen by anyone who passes through our city. We’ve got a great live music scene that, again, is highly accessible, and a world-class concert series in Mountain Stage. In a city that supposedly never gets any good concerts, I’ve discovered a ton of great artists playing less than ten minutes from my front door.

I’d also like to mention an area of impressive growth that isn’t brought up often enough. One of my favorite things in the world is attending comic and various other pop culture conventions. It always drove me nuts that we live in an area where people are so passionate about their interests, but the closest cons were in Columbus or Pittsburgh. Within the last few years, not only have we gained the ability to complain about Michael Bay while flipping through longboxes with guys dressed as Stormtroopers without leaving our borders. Now, we even have conventions in many different subgenres – Comics (Tri-con, Huntington), Steampunk (Vandalia Con, Parkersburg), Horror (ShockaCon, Charleston), Anime (Tsubasacon, Huntington), general pop culture (WV POP, Morgantown), and more I’m sure I’ve left out.

Speaking of Vandalia Con, I can’t think of an experience that better sums up my love for the state. While staying in the historic Blennerhassett Hotel, I was fortunate enough to befriend quite a varied group of people who live here – sideshow performers, fire dancers, war re-enactors,  storytellers, and a couple of magicians. I toured the catacombs of the Smoot Theater- a 1920s era Vaudeville palace – with them, played cards for coal mining scrypt, and swapped stories over drinks while watching impromptu bluegrass jam sessions until the sun came up. To me, this is exactly what West Virginia is.

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There’s nothing to do in this state? This weekend, I plan to visit the Mt. Zion Drive-In, one of our last remaining drive-in theaters and a beautiful and surreal place that, despite being only an hour outside of our capitol city, sets under a starry sky that has to be seen to be believed. The following morning, I’ll head to Capitol Street for the kick-off parade of FestivALL, our city’s annual week-long celebration of the arts. Then I’ll throw on my proton pack and the rest of my Ghostbusters gear to join the Causeplayers – a West Virginia-based group of superhero re-enactors for charity who visit children in hospitals – in a fundraiser for statewide foster care and adoption that’s sure to be a blast.

 

Suffice to say, there’s a lot more to see than the things we learned about while studying for the Golden Horseshoe test. I couldn’t be more excited to see where we go next.

Dave Humphreys is a graduate of the Marshall University School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He has worked as a production assistant and makeup artist for the Huntington-based film-making group Brainwrap Productions. Dave is also a history buff, pop culture fanatic, guitarist, and lover of all things retro. He lives in Charleston, W.Va. 

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Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

The West Virginia State Capitol. June 2014.

Happy West Virginia Day, my friends. As promised, here is a list of some of your favorite things about West Virginia. Thanks to all who shared their thoughts and love for our great state.

  • Honeysuckle and the smell of fresh earth drifting on the breeze during Spring planting.” —  Carrie L. , Topeka, Kansas
  •  “Coming home to WV (which I do every few months) restores what that hustle and bustle takes away from me. As soon as I hit those mountains, I feel refreshed, at peace and like I can breath again…For me, West Virginia brings a close-knit family both blood, friends, and neighbors. West Virginia accepts me with open arms as if I have never left. West Virginia provides the most breathtaking scenery I can imagine and it makes you feel lucky to be part of it as a West Virginian. All in all, West Virginia brings me happiness that no other location in the world could provide. Oh yeah, can’t forget the most important things, WV gives us Tudor’s and Huskeys!” — Megan P., Washington D.C.
  • Hot dogs.” — Dustin T., Columbus, Ohio
  • “The history, which is still playing out, for good or ill. And it is one of the areas in the US that still has its music.” — Paul G., Tango, West Virginia.
  • The people. There are kind, humble, helpful, wise, and honest people everywhere, but I met far more of them back home. Pepperoni rolls. And hearing my alma mater West Virginia Wesleyan College’s song “My Home Among the Hills,” which I think is far and away the prettiest song about the state.” — Molly M., Aurora, Illinois
  • “As someone who grew up along the Ohio River and has spent his life in both Ohio and West Virginia, I’ve long felt sad that so many West Virginians are so quick to put down their home state. It’s something Ohioans rarely do. Our small group of old friends has spent 3-6 days every summer camping in the Potomac Highlands for 28 years now. Most of us make additional trips to the mountains as well.  Every year we experience the same phenomenon. Upon returning from the mountains to Parkersburg-Marietta, our hometowns feel like we are breathing mud and sound like we are in downtown Pittsburgh. It takes days to get reacclimated and leaves us yearning to get back to the mountains. To me, West Virginia is about peace and quiet, solitude and reflection, nature and friendship. If you’re asking for the “best parts” of West Virginia, my vote is for the entire eastern third of the state. ” — Michael Cullums, Marietta, Ohio

Seneca Rocks

  •  “Ramp dinners in Helvetia, summertime floats trips (pick a river), The Palace of Gold, mineral baths of Berkeley Springs.” — Vasilia, Charleston, W.Va.
  •  “Festivall,” the Festivall Twitter account.
  • “Dolly Sods, Seneca Rocks, the New River Gorge — all the natural beauty. Wheeling, Point Pleasant, Martinsburg, Lewisburg…” — Adam H., Charleston, W.Va.
  •  “Young Chow’s in Beckley. Not typical buffet dreck; a great restaurant that happens to serve Chinese. Fave rest. in WV.” — Chris J. , Huntington, W.Va.
  • When I step out of my parents’ front door (Monroe County) at night, and I see stars that I’m pretty sure you can’t see anywhere else…there must be more stars there than anywhere else in the world!  And the first glimpse of the capitol building when I round the curve on I-77 after I’ve been out of town…I always greet it with a sigh that says, “I’m home!” — Monica W.,  Charleston, W.Va.
  • “Food! Sunsets over gentle mountains. Tradition and culture.” — Katie C., Evans, W.Va.
  • “The women.” — Doug D., Charleston, W.Va.
  • “The mountains.” — Drema W., Charleston, W.Va.
  • “The mountains. The food. The people. There’s no place like home.” — Summer J., Sissonville, W.Va.
  • People, Capitol building, weather (all four seasons ), pizza bread, pepperoni rolls and so much more!! Oh, and slaw and chili on a hot dog!!” – Christina J., Elkview, W.Va.
  • The freedoms we enjoy that other states rob from their citizens. We trust our people with allowing them their rights to own and carry firearms for one. We also don’t limit the size of their big gulps.” — Michl L., Sissonville, W.Va.
  • Freedom to pass from the city to the wild with ease.” — Tye W.

Bridge Day

  • I love the music of West Virginia. I love seeing 90-year-olds teach and learn from teenagers at Old-Time Music events around the state. I love that almost everyone I know plays or sings. I love that so many people in this state create. Whether it be needlecrafts, quilting, knitting,  pottery, knifemaking, music, etc., so many of our people create beauty! I love walking in the forests, swimming in the streams, and just experiencing the beauty of our fine State. I love what I call, ‘That West Virginia Thing’: that when you meet someone from West Virginia for the first time anywhere in the world, you will almost always find a connection, mutual friends, family, or at least places! And I love the deep connection so many of us have with the place we live. We know the sights, sounds, and history of where we are from.” — Paul D., Charleston, W.Va.
  • Whippoorwills on misty evenings!” — Sarah S., Sissonville, W.Va.
  • Does Tudors Biscuit World count?” – Joey H., Mount Vernon, Ohio.
  • “The people.” — Chad C., Parkersburg, W.Va.
  • “I complain about the grass and weeds but when we traveled to New Mexico, I really missed the green that we have here. Of course, that’s not exactly unique to WV. Also here, for the most part, people are friendly. I’ve done experiments in Albuquerque and northern Va., saying hello to random people on the street. People in Charleston are more likely to respond in a nice way.” — Gary K., Sissonville, W.Va.

 

Did we miss anything? Feel free to leave it in the comments!

Guest post: On West Virginia

dollysods

Note: I asked for your thoughts about the best parts of West Virginia and you didn’t disappoint. This will be the first of three posts for West Virginia Day. I liked this one, from my brother Daniel Kersey, too much to edit down to fit in a list. Check back tomorrow for a list of what you all said are your favorite parts about West Virginia and Friday, for another guest post.

Having moved away three years ago, my opinions might not fit well with some residents of West Virginia that stayed but being away allows for a different perspective.

I spent my childhood to my mid 20s roaming those mountains hopping from Summersville to Richwood to Marlinton to Snowshoe then to Canaan Valley and back home. I’ve tramped among the virgin hemlocks of Cathedral State Park in Aurora and swam in the cold waters of the New under its bridge. Studying at both West Virginia University and Marshall University, I was able to see a mountain town proud of its team and its history and also a town trying to get back to its glory years prior to the 1950s.

As a child, I was fortunate enough to ride in a Ford Model T through the streets of Ripley on the Fourth of July during America’s “Biggest Small Town Fourth of July Celebration.”

I’ve witnessed billions and billions of stars over Dolly Sods give way to our closest star as it rose above the mountains to the east over round, wind-shaped, rocks.

My friends and I have been followed by river otters (If my memory serves me well, a friend mistook it for a platypus) as we floated down the Greenbrier River in kayaks during some of the hottest summer days that I can recall.

West Virginia is a beautiful place and I am fond of all my memories I have of it stored up.

And then there are the bad parts. West Virginia has one of the highest (if not, the highest) drug overdose mortality rates in the nation and a pair of cities that continue to land in the top 5 of the most unhealthy or unhappy cities in the United States. Fifty years after the start of the War on Poverty, many West Virginians are still waiting to see how this “war” will affect them by ridding hunger or alleviating the crippling depression caused by year after year of hardship, but nothing changes.

Coal and oil companies move in, promise a few hundred jobs, lobby Washington to change the laws to fit their needs, pollute the waters and lands, remove mountains, fill in valleys, cover up streams, take a bulk of all earnings to other parts of the country and then leave the place a mess for someone else to deal with.

Big corporations promise low prices which may seem like a good idea but the cheap products need replaced sooner than later and the wages generated are marginal at best and really do not help the employees get out of the cycle of poverty.

I simply cannot argue with anyone who says they want to leave the state in order to find a better life. Ask me three years ago, just as I was driving that U-Haul truck out of town and toward Cincinnati, when I would return to live in West Virginia again and I would have said “as soon as possible.” Ask me now and I may ignore the question as to not upset any of the great people from West Virginia who have labored and endured their entire life in hopes of a better tomorrow.

I do not feel like I am turning my back on my state (yes, I still consider it “my state”). Ask my wife, I still get excited when I see a WV license plate on a car here in Cincinnati. I love West Virginia. I love the Herd and the Mountaineers. (Tell me I can’t love them both. Try it).

I love the mountains, the streams and the wildlife. I also love that I am not living there being forced to flush my water pipes in my home because a chemical company decided that my health was not worth plugging a hole from which hazardous chemicals leaked into the Elk River and straight into the water supply. To me, West Virginia has become a getaway. I am glad that I do not have to deal with the issues that plague the area but my heart still aches for those struggling there among the beauty.

Daniel and I grew up in Sissonville, W.Va. He now lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Gabby, two cats and two dogs. The image here is his own. See more of his work at http://www.kerseyphoto.com/.

A few of my favorite (West Virginia) things

A couple weeks ago a friend and I were having a drink at a Charleston bar. We were minding our own business, when an argument between a couple other bar-goers caught our attention. An angry drunk man was arguing about West Virginia with a couple other people. Angry Drunk Man had apparently grown up here, moved away, and was visiting from Florida.

He was essentially berating the other people because they still lived here rather than move away. It was your typical West Virginia complaints: “there’re no jobs here,” “there’s nothing to do,” and the relatively new but well-established, “they poisoned our water.” He talked as if Florida were the freaking Promised Land and we were still wandering in the desert. It was kind of amusing until he turned his attention to us, and picked the same argument.

“You’re obviously educated people,” he said, after hearing what we do for a living and noting our choice of drinks. “Why do you stay here? Get out of this place.”

Whether or not you run into Angry Drunk Man (and I hope you don’t), we West Virginians are used to hearing negative things about our home.

In honor of West Virginia Day coming up next week (She’s turning the big 1-5-1) and to spite Angry Drunk Man, I’m compiling a list of the best things about West Virginia. I’d like to hear from you. Whether you’re a lifelong resident,  you moved away years ago, or you’re new to the Mountain State, what do you love about West Virginia?

You can leave them in the comment section, on Facebook, or email them to lorithebrave@gmail.com. I’ll post the responses Friday, June 20th.

In the struggle (on writing)

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been a writer. Not a fantastic one, but a writer still. 

Under my bed there’s a lock box filled with old diaries from my childhood and teenage years. I’ve long since stopped caring about the secrets there but part of me still wants to protect the heart of the little girl who wrote them, so I keep them under lock and key.

My first works were made-up stories about the squirrels in the trees by my house and biographies of my late hamsters. I’d staple together their pages and call them books.

As a news reporter for the past six years I’ve had an outlet, even if it was just writing about the days’ happenings. I lost that when I became an editor a few months ago. But it seems like lately I’ve lost more than an outlet, I’ve lost the ability to write altogether.

I go to all my usual writing spots and try to string words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, to no avail. It’s not even that I don’t have stories to tell; I do. They say ‘write what you know,’ but sometimes what you know is too heavy to lift off your shoulders and put on a page.

So I struggle. I sit at the keys and type a little before letting my mind wander, back to the days when what I knew were squirrels and late, beloved hamsters. When the news was what I wrote about and it was enough.

I think maybe that’s what writing is about, the struggle. The discipline of getting into the trenches with your thoughts and these building blocks we call words and trying to make something reflective of your subject matter.

So I’ll stay a little longer, keep my fingers hovering over the keeps, or pushing a pencil across the page.

And wait for the words to come.