EDITORS/NOTE: A ‘ninety-something’ issue

‘Neighbor’s Front Yard.’ Huntington WV| Filtered photo. | april16.2021

It was only after I got the answers to this issue’s “5 QUESTIONS” back from a 90-something Buddhist monk in the West Virginia outback that I realized I was running an inadvertent theme issue with this April 2021 edition of WestVirginiaVille.com.

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Bhante Gunaratana (or Bhante G, as the abbot of the Bhavana Society Buddhist monastery near Wardensville, WV, is known worldwide) just turned 93 this past December. That same month, Earl Goodall, a Korean War vet and Huntington WV resident profiled in this issue’s cover story, turned 90 at the other end of the state.

I swear I don’t go seeking out people that old in West Virginia. We did, though also pay homage to another notable 90-something, upon the death in mid-March of a tiny, 99-year-old force of nature, Sister Mary Pellicane. (SEE: PASSAGES: Sister Mary Pellicane Moves On at 99).

But the people are part of the charm and sustenance of toughing it out in the Mountain State.

Earl Goodall, age 90, and Bhante Gunaratana, age 93, featured in the April 2021 issue of WestVirginiaVille, call opposite ends of West Virginia home.

West Virginia is currently in detention in the national psyche and media of America. That is what you get when around 7 in 10 of your voting citizens, not once, but twice, decide that The Former Guy’s shame-proof strategy of lies, lies, and yet more lies was just the thing to rescue the Mountain State from its long and painful doldrums.

If you only know West Virginia by how it’s depicted by helicopter journalists, who rappel into coffee-splashed diners and onto rural porches and are gone by dinnertime, you’d think the state should really be renamed the state of Hate.


Or maybe not.

Exactly why West Virginians lost their minds in the last two elections is a complex subject, not given to the caricatures careless reporters come seeking to confirm on deadline.

After all, this is a state which once thrilled to the cadences of Mother Jones and helped to midwife the modern labor movement. West Virginians also helped to drive John F. Kennedy to the White House (even if Joe, his Dad, sprinkled cash around the state to grease the gears.)

But enough about politics. I come not to bury The Former Guy — although I look forward to the anti-eulogies — but to praise the non-hateful, soulful people of West Virginia.

People like my friend, Earl Goodall. And my longtime kalyana mitta (‘spiritual friend’) Bhante G. Plus, we share an elegy to a West Virginia native, Giancarlo DiTrappano, a force of nature himself, except in the publishing world, who left way too soon.

‘Color Palette.’ | Huntington WV | april16.2021

It’s true there is much messed up about West Virginia. The state is currently misruled by a hapless Republican supermajority which can’t shoot straight, and led by a governor who wouldn’t seem out of place tumbling from a clown car after crashing it into a wall.

News at 11. Or on Twitter, all the time.

Thank goodness, independent media outfits like Mountain State Spotlight are on the case. We routinely reprint the essential coverage that this hard-news and hard-hitting non-profit newsroom produces. We’re glad to be able to share Erin Beck’s roundup of the recently concluded 2021 West Virginia Legislature:

Meanwhile, those of us who’ve settled in for the long haul seek to balance out the steady diet of dystopia with the better stuff of life in what Larry Groce, host of “Mountain Stage,” likes to roll off his tongue as: “The MOUN-tain State of WEST Vir-GIN-ia.”

Consider, for instance, the sequential drama of the glorious Mountain State Spring we’re living through right now. Cranberry-colored magnolia blossoms explode into being. Redbud trees (which are actually more the color of purple jellybeans) flip on like Christmas lights along the state’s roadways everywhere.

‘Roadside Bloom.’ | Cabell County WV | april12.2021

The trees are matched in enthusiasm by colonies of sunshine-colored daffodils, sprinkles of violets and other multicolored growing things, hither and yon.

Early Spring in West Virginia. It doesn’t get much better, Nature-wise.

Help Keep WestVirginiaVille Going

This May, 2021, will mark a full years-worth of existence for WestVirginiaVille.com, as an online feature-n-news magazine. Or something. We are still finding our way into the brave, constantly changing, evolving and confounding world of digital media. I feel strongly the need to offer a bigger picture and a rounded portrait of life in West Virginia, in addition to all the legitimate reasons for outrage, volcanic political ire, and the ever alluring beckoning of roads out of the state.

As a longtime feature writer and editor for the Charleston Gazette, I sometimes felt like the red-headed stepchild off to the side of the newsroom as the Gazette — thank the state’s lucky stars for such a newspaper in its heyday!— did what it did in seeking truth, rooting out injustice, and taking names.

But not really, in retrospect. We need to look at all angles of the mud-encrusted diamond that is a place like West Virginia. I was — and am — happy to do my part in telling other tales of why it’s worth it to stick it out in this place. And to figure out how to strive and thrive, in the— speaking of confounding— state of mind that is the state of West Virginia.

All that is to say if you appreciate what WestVirginiaVille is doing, susbcribe to our free newsletter. Support our initial sponsors (If you use CBD oil for physical discomforts, as I do, I very much recommend you experiment with John Farrell’s WVPure-brand organic CMB hemp oil, grown and hand-harvested deep in West Virginia hills on a Greenbrier Valley family farm.)

And become a supporter/sponsor of this site, though we are finicky with sharing our developing brand with business and organizations whose mission, aims and/or products we can stand behind.

Plus when I get finally around to rolling out an IndieGoGo, Patreon or Substack subcription, please sign on and help out.

And do read and watch on. Feedback, insights, and suggestions are most welcome. Just click over to our Contact page.

PS: A man behind-the-curtain who deserves a shoutout is Jeff Seager, one of my oldest friends in West Virginia and a former Charleston Gazette colleague. Jeff has been serving as a front-line copy editor and feedback-ist on rough drafts. He not only rescues me and the rest of the site from split infinitives and run-on sentences, he improves our copy and makes my writing flow smooth as an undisturbed West Virginia river. I always look at his suggested changes and wonder: ‘Now, why didn’t I think of that?!”

A Spring Song

I will leave you with the sounds and sights of a recent West Virginia morning, while standing on my front sidewalk. Not pristine, as nearby car traffic undergirds the birdsong at the end. But the birds have the final say. Be well, stay safe. Continue to mask up. This tting’s not over quite yet.

“SPRING SONG: A WestVirginiaVille.com Short Video”: Click to view

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