So Far Appalachia (Book)

On Clay County and the Census Worker (2 of 90)

Thing 2: Some of us are trying to raise kids here, and we’ve got plenty of cultural self-loathing to fight already, thanks.

comment from Techno-Files, or Why I Learned to Hate the Coast

There’s a certain Appalachian small townie-ness that has come to the Web, a place built on instant communication, community and conversation. It’s subversive.

I know this because I’ve had a front row seat to the massive chaos this interconnected, hyperlinked world inflicted on business. I know this because there are scores of books about the phenomenon of conversation, of reputation, or goodwill on the Web. I know this because I’ve watched gigantic industries – music, news, television, movies – crumble under the weight of the conversations that happen online.

I’ve reported from the front lines of this transformation: at Wired, at Wired.com, at Technology Review. Yet it’s always struck me as rather pedestrian, this change, because it didn’t feel much different than what I’d been experiencing for year.

Where I’m from, news always traveled fast. Bad news traveled faster. Scandalous news was like a wildfire. There was no stopping it. You might complain about it. But people know your business. And no matter what you say about that little bit, you know their business too.

These are not traits specific to Appalachia, or to my home town in Loveland, Ohio (Clermont County for those of you who want to argue my Appalachia heritage). It’s disingenuous for anyone to claim their region is particularly different than any other region, although it’s certainly something we do. I suspect as you read, you’ll be inclined to tell me stories about just how much better (or maybe worse) your home town is from mine. And I suspect you’ll be right.

But if we’re kindly about it, you’ll let me tell my story anyway. Humor a storyteller.

1.

This story starts exactly the way I hope no story starts. With an end.

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The Fabulous Baker Boy (1 of 90)

The southern part of the River has changed course many times over an area some 300 kilometers wide.

The key to these changes is the River’s natural tendency to follow the "path of least resistance," which is almost always the shortest route to the sea.

The Mississippi follows a single channel until gradually its channel fills with sediment. At that point, the River easily overtops its banks during periods of high discharge. When that happens, it is free to find a more direct route to the Gulf, until of course, the lengthy cycle begins again.

This cyclical shifting of the Mississippi has resulted in an ongoing battle to control the forces of nature.

— U.S. Department of the Interior: U.S. Geological Survey, Running Water II: Landscape Evolution

***

There are very few moments in life that will shake your existence to the core. We mostly try to avoid them. Feverishly. Fevorishly.

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Techno-Files, Or Why I Learned To Hate the Coast

**Greetings Gawkers who found me through this piece or this piece. Remember to tip your waiters and waitresses. And the 1030 show is always different than that the 8.**

I have buried the lede in this piece so I hope you’ll hang with me while I indulge in a little storytelling about why I’m a little pissed off tonight. It’s actually a story that starts a long time ago, in the part of the country that many people think is far, far away.

But I promise we’ll get there before too long. The point will be made and we can all move on from there.

To begin, though, we must return to the beginning. The very. I spent the better part of my youth in search of my voice.

I grew up in a little Appalachian town (or more accurately, I grew up in the Appalachian county – there were three and I lived in the “wrong” one – in our town) that pushed up against the farm lands of the midwest. The further I get from my childhood and the more I travel the globe, the more I realize exactly how amazing my life was. Open pastures of green. Lots of kids in the neighborhood. Room to run, play and explore.

For everything it offered, I never quite found my voice. So I packed up my car a few years after graduation and set across the country. The ins and outs of the journey aren’t important. What is, though, is that I eventually settled in Berkeley, the one place I’d dreamed for many years. Not the city, mind you. I never had much care for Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco (although if I did have care, it would be in that order).

I dreamed of the graduate school of journalism at Berkeley.

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