In 2007, I lived in Charleston, WV while working on an archaeological project for six months. Partly for the undeniable natural beauty of the area, and partly for the great memories, I feel attached to this small city in the mountains. Some of the folks I met on the crew are still some of the strongest, although not the closest, friendships I have. I was chatting to a couple of those folks on my drive down to the city, which made it all the more emotional to roll into a ghost town. It was Sunday, not a busy day in places that push closer and closer to GOD’s country. Almost everything was closed. And what wasn’t closed was just as often an empty, abandoned storefront.
That’s one thing that comes up as conversation in a lot of arch crews. We roll in, in this crew, as many as seventy people at one time, with per diem checks to burn, a rate of pay probably significantly higher than the average laborer in town, and a cultural hunger that put us on that path in the first place. The impact we must have had on a town like this is probably as big as the impact living there had on me. When is the last time a mud covered bunch of folks rolled into Charlie’s and ordered beers by the case to play pool on a rain day?
Charleston has some of the best small town architecture I’ve ever seen. It’s a clean city (maybe because there doesn’t seem to be anyone around), with really interesting buildings and public art.
While I was looking for effective places to hang up posters, I a guy in what I think was a fake security officer suit starting chatting me up. “Yeah, you’re a lucky gal. I wanted to be a musician once upon a time. I had it all set up after high school. I was going to go on the road.”
This is the point where I start wondering if he’s going to ask me for money.
“I had everything lined up. I was going to be famous.
But then a damn truck came along and ran over my monkey. My music career was over.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that one before, but it still took me a second to get it after he started chuckling and walking away.
These trips are as much about visiting the folks as it is about the music and the places. Morning coffee in Alabama, New York with a friend from Nashville, and his mother, who is one of my favorite people ever. An inspiration of a woman who travels with her mind, and treats everyone with an open heart. Evening picking in Batavia with a multi-instrumentalist friend and then going out to watch his seventy-something year old dad play bass for a classic rock cover band. I’ve been so lucky this summer to be able to travel around and meet great new folks, and spend time with old friends all over the place. If only I could drive to Korea, we could get into some serious trouble.
At least somebody is dancing in Charleston.
On 64, right over the border from West Virginia, there is a giant factory, an oil refinery it seems, on the Kentucky side. I wasn’t able to really capture the magnitude of this place from the window of my moving vehicle, but it’s like a distopian factory-scape rising up out of hills. Another couple of hours past this, one of my longest running close friends, and a bunch of Chinese take out was waiting for me. Now that’s worth driving to Ky for. Today, it’s on to Nashville, baby.
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