Almost Heaven

Almost. Truly spectacular country. But definitely in a part of America that is a little less familiar to me. So far, everyone I’ve interacted with has been lovely in what is now 3 weekends in Greenbrier Valley. Two as owner of Black Dog Ridge.

I did see a few wife-beater T-shirts and teeth in need of dental care, but mostly the people are great. Well meaning and kind. Baptist churches abound and every little town has the requisite confederate statue. It’s its own place. Starkly beautiful but also a little haunting and mystical. Most small towns have a freshly polished and re-furbed historical district with a decent restaurant or bakery or coffeeshop and a few kitschy retail shops. Trolling for those easy tourist dollars to replace coal mining or manufacturing jobs that have long since gone away and will not be back.

But other parts of town look like there might be a thriving meth business in some ramshackle old homes. Not unlike just about any other town or city in America, it’s just that in small towns the transition between neighborhoods is often just a block or two.

In my first weekend, I stayed in Hinton because I had to meet the realtor and the previous owner to fetch the keys and get a tour of the property. I had dinner at The Market, which was surprisingly not bad. Tracy Chapman, CCR, Joe Cocker and Van Morrison played on the sound system. I relaxed with the NY Times and a bottle of Cab with pizza and wings. Derek Chauvin receiving 22 years was the headline–which pleased me. Other stories were less cheerful. Two stories of people in the south who refused to get vaccinated but then came down with COVID and their treatments cost over $2M. They did not have health insurance. Hospitals are back to squeezing suppliers to save every penny, even while they charge the highest health care costs in the world. So they save on one side and charge triple on the other.

GOP continues to minimize the insurrection and gut voting rights. Next person who tells me about corruption in another country or why socialism can’t work may get punched in the face.

We are a massively dysfunctional nation. We refuse to admit/acknowledge or teach our brutal history of racism and oppression at home and abroad, instead continuing to perpetuate this fairy tale of our benevolence for all. We continue to give tax breaks to the rich while depriving the least among us of the basic dignities of life (health care, a reasonable working wage, a functioning education system).

But I guess all topics for another day. Today is about Black Dog Ridge. What great times will be had here and what work must be done to optimize the property. I’ve already got ideas floating around in my head. An outdoor bathhouse and a killer outdoor firepit and an expanded bedroom and a sunroom. But first, structural things. Water; electricity; propane.

Brittany and I drove out last weekend and had a great time. Relaxing. Some driving around to see what could be seen, some sitting around, a hike and an excursion of getting lost in the woods and found a great bookstore and coffeeshop and German Biergarten in Lewisburg.

We sat on the ridge and watched fireworks–drunk, while our flimsy fold-up chairs were 12 inches from a 300′ sheer drop off the cliff. That was exciting. We held on to each other. Brit drank a beer called Unicorn Farts which amused her greatly.

Fireworks are not normally that big of a deal to me. Sorta like, if you’ve seen one fireworks show you’ve seen them all. But this was interesting because it was not one big show. Rather it was 11 smallish shows stretching from as far west as we could see to as far east. And the fireworks reflected off the river which heightened the experience. So very cool. Super glad I did not fall to my death.

Hinton has what I believe must be the only functioning pay telephone in the nation, although I did not check it out personally as I haven’t walked around with loose change for at least a decade–or however long debit cards have been ubiquitous. They also have a small shop, that has been closed for some time apparently, but is full of old sewing machines–which I found pretty interesting.

We ate and drank well all weekend; even starting at the Fairmount on Thursday before we left on Friday. I had a martini but Brittany cut loose with several multi-flavored, multi-colored fashionable drinks that were pretty damn good. We had flatbread and loaded fries and mac-n-cheese. All the good things in life.

At the cottage we had shrimp fajitas and grilled veggies and sausages and pork kebabs and dutch oven chicken with mashed potatoes on the final night. For breakfast blueberry pancakes and breakfast burritos and on the last day, sausage biscuits and gravy with our neighbors Karl and Shannon. Karl and Shannon came up Sunday evening to visit and we had a grand time, talking about all kinds of groovy shit. They even brought some moonshine which helped get us in a mood for some daredevil maneuvers at the edge of the cliff during fireworks.

I’m looking forward to more time at Black Dog. There are lots of projects and that will take time. The immediate priority is a water system and a proper toilet and bathhouse. That’s a sort of medium complexity job which require enlisting local help. I also want to build out the firepit area to something much nicer. Need to get a propane system in so I can put in a stove and refrigerator and a heater. That should all be pretty straightforward. Next year I want to extend the back of the cottage for a bedroom and extend the front for a sunroom and workspace. Finally, I need to run power up the hill to the place.

Karl, my immediate neighbor, will be a great help. He’s handy and a super nice and has a sawmill. I may even selectively take a tree or two off my own property and use that wood for the projects.

So, lots to do. But no real hurry other than my natural impatience.

Time is compressing on me for now. I need to get the house packed and ready for the movers who are coming next Friday. I need to get my motorcycles and the 1/2 built canoe moved and all my tools.

Meanwhile, we are in the final preparation and cutover activities at work, so long hours there. My last day at Brookfield is the 23rd and my first day at Ferguson is the 26th. I will need to be at the office all weekend of the 17th and 18th as we take down SAP and bring up the new systems. So not much time to get my new home office set up in Terri’s upstairs spare bedroom. But I will manage. I always do.

Jerry Jeff pretty accurately describes my view on life:

Just gettin’ by on gettin’ by’s my stock in trade
Living it day to day
Pickin’ up the pieces wherever they fall
Just letting it roll, letting the high times carry the low
I’m just living my life easy come, easy go

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