Thursday, July 31, 2008

And I would be remiss as a progressive rural blogger if I didn't encourage y'all to read Mudcat's review of Rep. Cooter's new book. 

I fully intend to start a Tim Kaine watch tomorrow if he hasn't already been added to the ticket by now. In the meantime, here's a speech where he launches into nearly perfect Spanish at 2:45. We can discuss the details later.

Country Roads

(That title was inevitable. I thought with all the driving I'm in the midst of, I could at least make it somewhat topical.)

Today I started my first "grown-up" job going to a fiddlers' convention! Despite my father's fear that Clifftop is a Yankee, hippie-ridden place, it's a very nice convention. There are lots of Yankee hippies but they all seemed nice and I didn't hear one word about
Deliverance. I put up fliers for our KidFid contest at the Opera House in September, reconnected with some old friends (most notably Special Ed and the Short Bus), and listened to some nice fiddle and banjo music. 

On the way home, I stopped in gorgeous Lewisburg. A friend and I visited in the fall and I fell in love. I really think Lewisburg is one of the only places outside of the Eastern Montgomery/Floyd area I could see myself settling. Even though it's right off 64, Lewisburg has managed to hold on to their downtown and have lots of great shops (Robert's Antiques, an antique store cum wine cellar and Serenity Now Outfitters are two of my favorites). 

The drive from Lewisburg to home in Green Bank got me thinking, however. Just what does a fiddle contest for kids have to do with rural poverty? How has Lewisburg and Greenbrier County managed to remain picturesque and wealthy (one would think they'd have to give up some of their beauty to reap the rewards of a nearby interstate)? 

The first question is much easier to answer than the first, I think. According to the, coal directly employs about 40,000 people in this state and that number is shrinking.  Tourism employs about 40,000 people as well while it is the state's fastest growing industry. This number also doesn't include the number of people employed in ecotourism, state parks, and other recreation areas.  Marlinton, thankfully, isn't near a coal seam but logging has certainly devastated some of the forests here and this part of the state isn't immune from the previously discussed "brain drain." Cultural activities, such as KidFid, not only help people in this area to own their culture and see it as vital and downright fun, but it also brings money into the local economy without felling a single tree or blowing the top off any mountains. And I get to go to some fiddle fests in the process. Everybody, but King Coal and his friend the logging industry, wins. 

I'll have to think a little longer and get to know the area better before I can answer the second question. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Adventure Begins

Yesterday we packed up the family vehicles and drove over the mountains into West Virginia. My parents are gone now and I'm (mostly) unpacked. Today I met with my boss, oriented myself with beautiful Marlinton, cooked a little, wasted a little time, and now I'm sitting at the kitchen table looking out on some beautiful old-growth forest mixed with farmland. The farthest ridge I can see is in Virginia.

Tomorrow I leave to do some publicity at the fiddle fest Clifftop. Monday it's Galax, where I'll get to see some of my family. In the next few weeks, I hope to have many friends come visit as they head back to school and I start to get settled. My landlady is wonderful. She just brought me some snap beans and blueberries from her garden. Bekah's Mosey is going to come live with me once we get things all settled here and there. Tomorrow I'm going to begin a year's service dedicated to helping eradicate poverty in Appalachia. I'll try not to get too idealistic or too jaded.

So, here it goes. Deep breath.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

We Can't Afford No Education?

My dear friend David Moltz over at Inside Higher Ed had a piece a few days ago about the influx of first-generation college students at small liberal-arts schools. As hard as it may be for some of my friends in C'ville to believe, there is still a substantive portion of the US that doesn't even get a shot at a four-year education. 

David says Kentucky ranks 47th in terms of people with bachelor's degrees or higher. In case you're interested, West Virginia is dead last with 16.5 percent of the population holding post-secondary degrees. Virginia is 7th but I wonder what the ranking would be if you just included the Fightin' Ninth. According to the Census Bureau, the nationwide average is 27 percent.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Save the Environment, Abolish the DH!"

Sorry for the delay; camp doesn't provide much time or internet access but as I've been laid low with strep for a couple days, I found this gem at TNR.

In other news, we had a camper last week who could name all the World Series winners since 1903 (excepting 1904 and 1994, of course). He could also play "Smoke on the Water" on the guitar. He's nine.