I attempt to keep things simple in my daily affairs. I talk about spring, or the weather. In these times, with my crowd, however, discussions of the economic situation are unavoidable. Everyone I know is affected by it, and even in my job, unrelated as it would seem, it comes up. People need extra childcare, they are more inclined to trade, etc. It really makes me wonder how other places are doing. Talking to J's dad, he doesn't see the recession/depression affecting them. I think he's just used to an economy with higher general unemployment and a tendency to see the economy in negative ways. Since I was a small child in West Virginia, it's been a tough place to work. I remember the factories slowly closing down in my teens, and the place getting shabbier and shabbier. It doesn't look any better now. One of the recent times I visited, I tried to count the number of gambling establishments, and lost count around fifty. It was funny, and sad. Like inflatable furniture. (Thank you Simpsons. I will quote you till I die.)
I have a lot of love for West By God. I don't understand why the other people who live there don't. To let something like this happen is criminal, to my mind. I cannot understand why there aren't petitions to close them down. It's the populist in me, maybe, but I can't imagine sitting by why these places fleece the poor saps just fired from the plant. My father and I drove past some spots that used to be old mom and pop carry outs, now gambling joints with deceptive names like "WV Cafe." Granted, the little groceries often sold beer to rednecks who were at that moment driving fast on country roads without seat belts; but that's honest. I don't necessarily have to approve. The gambling dens are shady ways to take poor people to the cleaners. And not in the way they need.
I discovered these places in a great way. Jason and I were looking for coffee. This is extremely difficult in WV. We saw a place, seemed like a coffee shop from far off. It was called "City Perk." Kind of a coffee sounding place, right? Well, we got to the door, and it was a screen door. That was a little off putting. And it was locked. Okay, it was closed. We started to leave. "Wait, I gotta buzz you in," a man says. Okay, what have we gotten ourselves into? Is this a mafia movie? We go in, confused. Why is there a security system? What good would it do on a screen door anyway? "Do you have coffee?" we ask. He looks us up and down. "We don't have no fancy coffee." We look like two big city fancy boys, apparently. I didn't even have a carnation in my lapel.
It doesn't have to be this way, West By God! You're better than that. There is a hard-nosed will there that I love, and tons of natural beauty. I wish I could show the state that it could embrace the village model, start making local economies function again. The spirit of those little ma and pa stores is the wave of the future, WV!
But WV is stubborn, and change is slow. I wonder if they will ultimately do better than places like Seattle with this downturn. I think Seattle has a good head start. There is a vibrant local economy here. But if the stubbornness and willpower can be harnessed, West By God stands a chance too.
PS. Note the slogan on the City Perk sign. And the map of how West Virginians view the country is incredibly funny to me. I'm an odd sort of duck.