WATCH LIST: Here are some things to look at, West Virginia-wise

A sled where you’re the reindeer …

Josh Lewis is a fitness guru/monster, founder of Grindtime Fitness in Charleston, W.Va., and rising videographer. He recently added drone capabilities to his fitness video productions. This one he just released, madly pulling a heavy metal sled around Charleston, West Virginia, is pretty hilarious and well-done. It should come with a caveat: “Kids! Don’t try hauling a heavy metal sled around your capital city unless you’re in really, really, REALLY good shape!”

A very brassy “Country Roads”

One day, I may revive a feature from my first West Virginia blog, in which I scoured the web for offbeat versions by performers, bands, and strange people of John Denver’s “Country Roads,” possibly the single most recognized song globally. There are some pretty screwball versions out there like this syncopated hoedown and this one by Toots and the Maytalls — which substitutes “West Jamaica” for “West Virginia,” seriously messing with one’s GPS coordination within the lyrics. (Here are 313 different other versions to explore).

The version below has a real Aaron Copland vibe to it, and is a genuine pleasure. “Almost Heaven: Variations on ‘Country Roads,'” was composed by Delford Chaffin and performed by the Kanawha Valley Community Band at Kanawha State Forest on June 19, 2022, as part of the group’s 23rd Anniversary FestivALL Concert, while also honoring West Virginia’s 158th Birthday, Father’s Day and Juneteenth. The concert was dedicated to the memory of Karen Winter, a longtime member of the bands’ flute section who recently passed away.

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‘Spring-based Performance Art’ Revealed

The short video “Slinkers” is a well-done mockumentary by Brainwrap Productions and directed by Michael Valentine. It was the winning short film of the 2021 Localization Film Festival, which screened at the Localization Pop Up Show on October 15, 2021, at West Edge Factory in Huntington, WV. See more work by Brainwrap at:

Washed away by the River of Time

Coming to grips with the fundamentally impermanent nature of existence is a key teaching in Buddhist mindfulness and meditation. This is not meant to be a depressing insight, but a freeing one. Once we wrap our minds around the insubstantial nature of all those things we hope will lock in lasting happiness — beauty, wealth, constant pleasure-seeking and on and on — we glimpse the possibility of freedom from the endless pursuit of ultimately passing phenomena. As a purveyor of creative works, I wrestle constantly with my hungry ego’s desire to see its work as having lasting significance, a hedge against mortality. Yet such works, too, will melt away, swallowed by the river of time. Here’s a video-poem about that from the “Poems to Go” series, an production:

Open hearts, helping hands

Yet even as things inevitably pass away, that is no excuse for inaction when we can make the world — and other people’s existence in it — a gentler, kinder place. For 10 years, the dynamic duo of Barbara Steinke and Sue Julian brought the benefits of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness into the West Virginia prison system via the Laotong Prison Project. They retired recently, turning over the reins of the project to a new generation of helpers. This 2017 video below that a couple of us Laotong supporters crafted underscores the radical difference we can make in other people’s lives — especially lives troubled by loss, pain, and error — just by showing up with an open heart and helping hands.

~ Compiled by Douglas John Imbrogno


1 | EDITORS/NOTE: About our ‘Memoirs of Daily Life’ Issue : To devote so many pages and pixels to writers, poets, and memoirists, and their dispatches from the front lines of their lives — or the imagined lives of characters — is not to step back from More Important Things. Poetry and prose are no less a form of truth-telling than the best investigative reports.

2 | FIRST/PERSON: Turtle Rescue Out on Pluto Road | by Joseph “Billy” Corduroy : “The first time I tried to save a turtle on the move it peed — or pooped, I’m not sure which — in my truck. I had stopped when I saw a box turtle in the middle of Pluto Road one afternoon maybe ten years ago. I hit my brakes right there in traffic. Fortunately, there was none ….”

3 | 5 QUESTIONS: For Two Poets Who Keep Running With Whiskey : How did West Virginia’s longtime Poet Laureate plus an MFA Creative Writing professor-poet-musician end up “Running With Whiskey” around West Virginia and the world? We have questions, they have answers. Plus, of course, poems.

4 | SHORT/STORY: “Salena” | by Jay Brackenrich : “Salena had never had anything beautiful, certainly never anything perfect. The nuns wrapped her in perfect clean blankets. She had a little cotton shirt, perfect. They asked for the name of the father. She said, “I don’t know.” They entered ‘Unknown’ into the blank box.”

5 | READINGS: “Montani Semper … Snapshots from an Appalachian Family Album” | by Ty Bouldin : Take a read on a experiment in publishing longish excerpts from worthy, well-written books with a West Virginia connection, like “Montani Semper …”


6 | POETICS: 3 Poems by James Cochran : ‘She says Jesus / has spoken to her, told her not to drink coffee / or Redbull, that black tea is okay. / I feel jealous of such direct communication / with a higher power, then wonder if I would / stop drinking coffee if Jesus told me to …’

7 | FIRST/PERSON: A few highly personal words on choice | by Anonymous : “Three pregnancies. No choice in any of them. I have never chosen to get pregnant. I was foolish, I was sucker-punched, I was surprised. I was naïve, I was savvy. I wasn’t ready, I was ready. Such a basic right that everyone deserves. CHOICE.”

8 | POETICS: 3 Poems by Marc Harshman : ‘A fiddle tune bearing, rough-shod, / the memory of the village: / sunlight on stucco, / leaf-plastered paths in autumn, / spectral sheep / in moonlight and bracken, / the lilt of the market tongue, / ancient beyond telling …’

9 | MEMOIR: Why trappers with bloody hides wanted in my house | by Connie Kinsey : “One morning, I stumbled down to the kitchen when I heard a noise. There standing was an unkempt man holding bloody hides and smoking a cigarette. “Excuse me?” “I’m looking for Frank …”‘

10 | POETICS: 3 Poems by Doug Van Gundy : ‘These are the hours I love the best, / when the golden light of summer has climbed / to the top of the abandoned building next door / and all of the neighborhood / cats have come out from the woodpile / beneath the back porch to carouse and fight …’

11 | PICTURE/SHOW: Traces of Faces in West Virginia Places | by Douglas John Imbrogno : Here is a selective round-up of people snapped doing their thing on the streets, in the alleys, and in the cigar bars of of West Virginia’s cities, towns, and outback.

12 | WATCH LIST: Here are some things to look at, West Virginia-wise | Check out this version of variations on “Country Roads” by the Kanawha Valley Community Band which channels Aaron Copeland; plus a video of a crazy fitness guy sledding around Charleston WV; and more.


  • admin

    Thanks and oops! Will fix that. The older I get the older my memories seem! Peace.

  • Barbara Steinke

    Great issue as always! Loved all of the different perspectives. The Slinky was pretty fun!
    Minor correction – Sue and I started Laotong Yoga 10 years ago rather than 20! It was transformative. Thanks Doug. Barbara

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