We've been driving around the Eastern half of the country on our yearly pilgrimage to Jim's high school reunion pals in Michigan and family in Southern Indiana. With a pit stop in McDowell County West Virginia. Jim has been dying to see some of the places listed as the poorest in the nation.
I cannot even began to do justice to what we saw during our day in poverty-ridden West Virginia, where Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky meet, old coal country. Extreme poverty, houses rotting and falling in, thousands of closed businesses. It was like the land where time was forgotten. I will be posting photos eventually. I took hundreds. Would love to drag everyone in Congress and the Senate that opposes food stamps, WIC, unemployment or welfare by their hair through this area and challenge them to say that the people are just lazy or irresponsible. Hard to believe poverty this severe exists in America.
The first night out we stayed on the edge of Appalachia, in one of the few nicer hotels in that area. The only problem was that about midnight I was awoken by a presence in our room. Yes, after more than a few months of seeing no dead people I had an encounter. A guy in his thirties, balding on top with long black curly hair on the sides, a broad open honest looking face. I could not determine from the information I was getting if he was shot or stabbed, but I was in terrible pain to my left ribs and hip. Violent death. Spirit simply seeking someone to acknowledge their presence. The name I got was Shawn. When I have time I'm going to research deaths in that area with those parameters. Eventually he faded and I snatched a few hours of sleep. Did I mention that the hotel overlooked a cemetery? In the morning I went into the cemetery looking for any grave with the first name Shawn that might be him but only was able to do this for a few minutes. I hadn't planned on ghost hunting on my trip.
The next day we drove up to Jim's extended family in Rising Sun, Indiana. Uneventful day except it rained all day and driving through the Lexington Kentucky area there was a few mile swathe that looked as though a tornado had ripped through, uprooting trees and tossing what looked like ground up leaves all over the interstate. Turns out it was a severe thunderstorm with high winds. Very slow going.
The main noteworthy event of the day occurred as I was driving over the hwy 50 bridge over the Ohio river. I started suddenly wheezing and coughing and at first could not figure out why. Once we were at about the midway point on the bridge I saw the scrubber towers for two different coal burning power plants. I was having an asthmatics reaction to the burning coal fumes coming up the scrubber towers and out into the air.
By the time we got across the bright, turned right and drove less than a mile to our hotel I was barely able to breath. We rushed into the hotel with my meds bag, threw the credit card at the desk attendant and grabbed the keys. I took the elevator up to our room while Jim parked the car and started to pull the suitcases out. But...when I opened the room door a wave of old stale cigarette smoke hit me in the face and my asthma got much much worse. Back down to the lobby I was unable to talk, my bronchial tubes and vocal cords were closing. Right in the lobby I gave myself a shot with my epipen, plugged in the neb, lay on the floor and started a treatment while trying not to shriek and panic. Black spots started to appear before my eyes, I nearly blacked out. The hotel staff was freaking out, called the rescue squad, but by the time they arrived my attack was easing. The hotel moved us to a room on the ground floor, a better oom that had never been a smoking room. Six months ago all the rooms in the hotel had switched to non-smoking, but the smoke for years of that other room being a smoking room was in everything..
After a few hours of drugs, laying down and freaking out it started to finally lift.
The next morning we visited with Jim's cousin who's clearly dying of Parkinsons at the local nursing home. Carel was in good spirits, but, there's nothing more depressing than an old nursing home in a small town. It was good to see Jim's extended family, they have always accepted me as one of their own and shown me so many small kindnesses through the years. I was sad that we only got to see them for a few hours.
We drove up the western edge of Ohio after leaving Indiana and I was hoping to be able to see my NLQ friend Bruce Gerencser, but we were running late because of the asthma. My asthma was still pretty bad. Jim had to drive much of the day.
Bruce wrote a great blog posting about how different it is outside the Evangelical enclosure where friendships between men and women are so forboden because someone might slip and have sex. Screw that! They're missing out on so many great relationships by limiting them out of fear.
Last night after checking into our hotel we spent the evening with a few of Jim's old high school buddies at a local restaurant. I was worn out and just wanted to stay at the hotel, but I wanted to see a couple of our mutual friends. So I went and we were treated to the spectacle of one of them getting trashed on booze. Trashed! LOL... If this is any indicator of the reunion on Friday night it should be most amusing. I love to people watch.
Today I've hung around the hotel, sitting in the hot tub and reading, resting and I'm about to partake in my guilty pleasure, "Dance Moms". I really needed a day without a schedule and Jim is spending the day and evening with an old friend of his that smokes like he's a scrubber tower. The guy is pretty weird too. I have had enough weird for now.
Tomorrow we're moving on to friends in Detroit.