It’s baby season. Again.
The second round of buns in ovens is upon my various social circles, so I’ve been traveling a lot to celebrate with moms-to-be and sometimes dads, too.

This means seeing my closest friend, all of whom are finding their ways in the world. Many people are leaving Shepherdstown–the place where we lived, studied, created, found each other and started to find ourselves. I’m so proud.

Here are some images:

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(Liz did this. I’ve been letting go of my camera more lately. More reason to keep it up.)

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I recently had to travel to Davis, W.Va., for work (oh, darn.) and decided to make a short weekend of it.
After a long day of listening and writing, this hangry vegetarian stopped in Thomas at The Purple Fiddle–a great restaurant, music venue and hostel–to grab a bite. The falafel sandwich is wonderful, so be kind to yourself and order it if you’re ever there.
I also made a stop at TipTop, a coffee shop with food and spirits that came highly recommended by some of my coworkers. TipTop is distantly related to Shepherdstown’s own HypnoCoffee, and had a brew just as bangin’.

Here are some images:

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This Fiddle cat is always ready for love from visitors.

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Nikki Talley, a singer-songwriter from Asheville, N.C.

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The Mulligan Brothers, from Mobile, Ala.

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TipTop

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Rebecca, killer artist and barista

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Oh, and First Aid Kit has a new album out. Peep this vid:

Last year, my Gazette colleagues and I put together a report on the impact of methamphetamine production in West Virginia, particularly Kanawha County and the surrounding areas. Since then the stories–which appeared over the course of two days in the Gazette–have been recognized by numerous organizations. “The Meth Menace”–part 1 and part 2–won a National Headliners award and was a finalist of an Investigative Reporters & Editors award. Reporters Eric Eyre and David Gutman were given a first place Green Eyeshade award for their investigation.

Here are some images, published and unpublished, I took for the report:

Simms13The one-bedroom apartment at 623 1/2 Simms St. in Charleston, which sits behind two homes on the city’s West Side, was condemned after a meth lab was found there last June.

Simms6An employee at Simon Environmental pulls a garbage bag through a window at 623 1/2 Simms St. in Charleston. Because methamphetamine labs create hazardous conditions, the entire contents of a meth-positive space must be disposed of.

Inn2A car seat is turned over outside Room 217 at the Economy Inn in Nitro. An 18-month-old boy was found in the room where officers arrested two women for cooking meth last November.

KCSO4Sgt. L.S. Dietz — a Kanawha County meth lab technician for nine years — said there’s nothing that smells like meth. “It’s just a unique odor.”

Simms2Alan McClanahan, of Simon Environmental, picks up a bag of contaminated trash from 623 1/2 Simms St. in Charleston.

Simms9Simon Environmental spent several days from July through November cleaning and decontaminating the apartment at 6231/2 Simms St. on Charleston’s West Side.

Inn3Rooms were condemned at the Economy Inn in Nitro after two women were arrested for cooking meth in November.

KCSO5“The officers that are there are automatically exposed to the chemicals that are there,” said Sgt. Sean Snuffer of deputy response to meth tips.

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Just one truck full of several of remnants from 632 1/2 Simms St. in Charleston. Clandestine lab cleanup crews take the refuse from meth-positive homes to landfills in the area.

Upwards of 300k are without potable water in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley after a chemical spill was detected Thursday. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a state of emergency that night for 8 counties and a town in one other.


Great recap of the situation by Elaine McMillion.

**We first reported West Virginia American Water’s ‘do not use’ advisory Thursday night/Friday morning. At that time details were scarce as to what the chemical — 4-methylcyclohexane menthanol — used in coal processing does if consumed or inhaled. That’s still unclear, as reported here.

More than 24 hours after the leak was reported, the press and public heard from Freedom Industries President Gary Southern, who gave few details on the situation inside the facility, which sits along the Elk River above the Kanawha Valley’s water intake.

The presser was short and interrupted by Southern walking away from reporters. Watch this video to see WCHS reporter Kallie Cart call him back.

Freedom Industries has been a company in its current form only since the start of the year, according to this article.

It hasn’t been determined yet when water for these customers will be determined safe. For now, several distribution sites have been set up throughout the region.

Here are more headlines on the spill from my colleagues:

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow updates and conversations on the chemical spill by searching for #wvchemleak.

**Full disclosure, I write for this paper.

My move had me feeling super positive and enthusiastic about life. But, as leaves fell from trees and this silly polar vortex moved in, I lost a lot of my oomf. Let’s reflect for a moment.

2013 handed me a lot of big changes and challenges.
- One of my oldest and closest friends passed away much too soon. I still find it difficult to understand and accept that.
- I was fully immersed in my job, started to feel unsatisfied with said job and left with, basically, no plan other than “further my freelance career.”
- I learned in D.C. I don’t blow in the wind as much as I thought.
- I moved back to West Virginia for a new challenging job that already has me learning. But, I still feel awkward and insecure about my capabilities.
- My hometown is much different than I thought it’d be. I now know what it’s like to feel lonely when you’re surrounded by all your friends.

A new year has me thinking the tides are right to change. (Again.)
- I’m entering my quarterly “ick, boys” phase, feeling more creative, motivated and less like a barfly.
(Can this just become a way of life? Let’s channel Christine De Pizan for a sec.)
- A recent project at work made me realize there’s one thing that makes me happy without fail: Photography.
- I have a new goal: Photograph until the day I die. (But how?)
- Ask more questions, listen.
- Have this space evolve to become a place for images and reflections.

Weekends here haven’t been filled with much. I’ve been on some photo excursions, and I’ll share those soon enough. For now, here are images of how I frequently spend my weekends.

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Red curry soup with rice and purple kale.

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Herbed omelette.

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Pickles and brie grilled cheese.

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Boozy banana bread.

I recently headed back to Wild & Wonderful (Did you know, I moved to NoVa for a hot second?), and thought I’d spend my first Saturday celebrating an old standard: our bigass bridge and the people who like jumping off it.

Bridge Day is an annual event during which adrenaline junkies from all over the world can release some of those endorphins by BASE jumping or repelling from the New River Gorge Bridge. It was once the highest arch bridge in the world (Thanks, China and AZ/NV). It’s more than 850 ft tall and makes me feel like puking when I look over the edge.

View from the bridge

The festival, held in Fayette County, allows thousands to walk across and hang out on the bridge for something like 8 hours every October.

Despite having spent much of my childhood in Raleigh and Kanawha counties, I have never been to Bridge Day or, really, many of the other annual fun days West Virginia has to offer.

I was amazed by a number of things on our trip:

The drive was beautiful. With a stop and Kanawha Falls and frequent photo stops, I thought we might never make it to the event.

Kanawha Falls

 

Houses

 

Kudzu dinosaurs

Access is outstanding. Spectators aren’t limited to one holding area. People are free to move up and down the bridge as they please, though you can’t hang where the jumpers chill post-fall. If you want to talk to a crazy (I use this term with the utmost respect and envy), they’re all around. Just look for someone wearing a helmet and a backpack.

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Kettlecorn. Seriously. How have I only now awakened to the glory that is this sweet and salty snack? Is this real life?

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