yesterday, we came over from cumberland/benham/lynch, kentucky, to appalachia, virginia on the vertigious switchback road rt 160. this is the very epicenter of american coal country ("it's a long way to harlan/it's a long way to hazard, just to get a little brew": "nine pound hammer." no: it's not far at all.) coming into virginia, you see a whole ridge chopped away, collapsing into the hollows in heaps of infinite slag. everywhere here trucks are hauling coal, the trains run often and full. i think this story is really complicated, as you can see from the simultaneous sense of trauma and nostalgia that surround the coal industry here (e.g. at the coal mining museum in benham, where the most moving little piece was probably about trapped miners' last words; but of course also in the music of the region etc). but the idea that we're literally going to blow these mountains apart: that can't be acceptable, can it? one would think that coal can't really be the solution anyway. but what would happen, even now, to the tenuous economies of this region, without it?