I think one of the later images of the day sums it all up nicely, a few graying men at the back of the crowd snapping pictures with their digital cameras. Didn't notice them until after the first two dances, when I'd run out of partners and had to sit down. The five of us didn't think of that before we got there, 3 men and 2 women; the proper gender balance is of paramount importance in these things (unless you're a 10-year-old-girl dancing with her sisters).
We were at the Carcasonne community center in Eastern Kentucky, near Whitesburg, for the first square dance of the summer season. Lisa had driven up the mountain, past Old Regular Baptist churches and outhouses -- a winding road, with no room for two cars to pass, we had to run off the road in our minivan few times to get around people coming down. We were as far into rural America as you can get, and stereotypes sometimes held true but more often not. Those digital cameras represented that for me, you could notice pictures printed out on inkjet printers posted around the ancient building, once a schoolhouse.
We started out the day with fusion of another sort, I suppose: Scott and Jenny, Lisa's friends, cursing like sailors and serving up breakfast bowls of rice, spinach, eggs and Vietnamese chili sauce, in a cozy hollow next to a creek, down the street from Jenny's three sisters. Sisterville, they called it. Jenny spent the morning reading Scooby Doo in the world's most unaffected voice to their 3-year-old son; I wonder how old he'll be when he notices the Penises of the Animal World chart in their bathroom.
Morning spent with various organizations we're interning with this summer. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth are, from what I can tell basically two amazing grassroots organizers who organize against the environmental, health, and economic impact of coal mining. The Center for Rural Strategies organized the campaign against CBS' Real Beverly Hillbillies show, far thinking strategists with whom I'll be working, though they're hung up on using me only for computer work -- that'll change fast, I'm sure. Appalshop, is the paradigm of a community media organization, they do amazing work and lots of it. Every last person though, an amazing organizer, brilliant, and left as all get-out, another great surprise.
Lunch at Ramey's Diner, one of three places to eat in the area besides fast food -- though the third depending on whom you listen to, is owned by an evil oil baron who only pays minimum wage. After lunch we head up the side of a mountain, off-roading in our rental minivan, to visit a strip mine. I'm no great descriptive writer, but imagine Mount St. Helens without trees growing back, or the Moon, sprayed over with water until it becomes muddy and sparsely dotted with bits of sprayed-on topsoil and grass seed, with drainage ditches running through the whole thing. And that's what it means for an area to be returned to its natural state after the mining company has left. If you live in Florida, this is what Tampa Electric Company has wrought. We all took souvenir pieces of coal -- there was so much left after the mining. Headed back to the Super 8, one of two places to stay in the area. Marina and I went down to the local Food City, bought watermelon, cheese, that cheap, airy Italian white bread that supermarkets sell for $0.99 a loaf, and something called an Oreo Delight which looked simply too fattening not to be good. Passed on the numerous cheese logs though, after explaining what they were. We made a mental note to bring Tahini.
As mentioned, I'm going to be living with 3 other amazing kids in Whitesburg, KY for the summer. Any noders in the area? We'd love to meet up with you sometime over the summer, msg me if you're interested.