The West Virginia Chronicles, Vol. 1: Defeated by WV
It’s a small, intriguing territory known for coal, chemicals, college football, skiing, rafting and killer cannabis. I’m talking about West Virginia. Some of you may have driven through Charleston and seen the office towers and gold-leaf dome on the state capital building. Some of you may live in the peaceful, largely-affluent D. C. suburbs around Martinsburg. Some of you may have saved up for a getaway at the four-star Greenbrier resort. These areas of the state are largely-progressive, economically-viable and diversified. They have decent schools, well-surfaced roads and, most importantly, hope. But the lower coalfields, which begin in the southeastern suburbs of Charleston and go right down to the Kentucky and Virginia state lines, are quite a different story…and it’s a story I know well.
I was born in West Virginia. For that matter, so was Bagel. (My family had a far-too-brief break from the Mountain State in the suburbs of Atlanta, then Toronto, but we eventually returned.) And, like so many young West Virginians, we each beat the fuck outta there at the first window of opportunity. Bagel went to Kentucky, then New York. I went anyplace there was promise for work. Sometimes, I face north, shake my fist and shout, “Alright, dammit! You won–you defeated me, West Virginia. I was no match for your bleakness, your Third-World standard of living, your barren, soul-sucking existence. I hope you’re happy!”
Of course, West Virginia is happy. Happy to lay back and allow her lovely hills to be ravaged by robber-baron coal operators. Happy to be neglected by the purse-string minders who know they can count on her residents to deliver predictable, one-party elections, regardless of what politicians actually deliver for them. Happy to imprison her residents (well, the ones south of Charleston, anyway) in a socio-economic prison of her own design. Of course, West Virginia is not happy when someone escapes her prison–she’s just kind of indifferent about that.
Bagel’s note: My momaw used to sing this song to me.