16 February 2005

"When you're a celebrity, it's adios reality. No matter what you do, people think you're cool, just 'cause you're on TV..."

It's not often that I actually admit to being from West Virginia. Even though I lived there for the first 25 years of my life, more times than not, I claim to be from Texas. Of course, the fact that I just made the admission that I was, in fact, hatched in the small town of Madison in West "By God" Virginia, means I most probably can never use Texas as my point of origin. There goes THAT ruse.

Having said that, West Virginia isn't completely without a few charms.

OK, so nothing immediately came to mind, I took a few minutes and composed a small list.

Fun-filled Facts About West Virginia...

West Virginia is considered the southernmost northern state and the northernmost southern state. In other words, neither the north or south particularly wants to accept blame for... er, rather, wants to boast about claiming WV as part of their region. One could look on the positive side and say, "Wow, those WV'ians are nonconformists - how cool!", and that's a very nice spin, but it's like my saying I'm from West Texas - it's not quite true. This may also explain why West Virginia's State Motto is "Mountaineers Are Always Free". No one is fighting for possession. I guess it's a lot like being a wall flower, or maybe just a wild, wonderful dandelion.

Mother's Day was first observed in Grafton, WV on May 10, 1908. If you're reading this, you obviously have or have had a mother. You may even be a mother yourself. I'm all for celebrating mothers so I think this is a good thing, especially when my kids have cash and are feeling a rare sense of sentimentality and generosity right around the 2nd Sunday in May. Just because my kids have never felt a particular sense of sentimentality and/or generosity does not mean it can't happen. One must never lose hope.

The New River Gorge Bridge is the second highest steel arch bridge in the US. The bridge is also the longest steel arch bridge (1,700 feet) in the world. Every October on Bridge Day, the bridge is open for bungee jumpers (i.e., folks not particularly thrilled with celebrating their next birthday), and insane people who are allowed to own parachutes, to jump 876 feet off the bridge. This event usually attracts about 100,000 people each year from around the world, which is proof that WV does not have the market cornered on "eccentrics". And we'll just leave it at that.

Over 75% of West Virginia is covered by forests, which probably explains why I fell in love with the unobstructed horizon of West Texas and the magic of seeing for miles in every direction without ever having to look up. For years, I thought the sun slipped behind a mountain EVERYWHERE. I had no idea that a horizon was actually a flat line. I'd heard rumors but...The first time I flew into Amarillo, Texas in August, 1985, I had never seen such a huge sky. In fact, I used to refer to it as "skies" because to me, at least, it looked so massive that it almost demanded to be referred to in the plural tense of the word. I still say "West Texas Skies" and rarely apologize for it. I love wide open spaces. Forests make me feel claustrophobic.

On July 1, 1921, West Virginia became the first state to implement a sales tax. Why they haven't made bumper stickers boasting of this I have no idea. Who wouldn't want to proudly, and rightfully, brag about such a trail-blazing (pot holes notwithstanding) first? Maybe something along the lines of, "WV - First State Sales Tax - Worst State Roads". Nah, probably not an idea that would catch on.

The mean altitude of WV is 1,500 feet making it the highest average altitude east of the Mississippi and this probably accounts for the reason that I have such a huge fear of heights. What better place to find heights? MOUNTAINS! I think I'm seeing a pattern here...I have no hard data on this, but I can't help but wonder if it also leads the nation in per capita sales of Dramamine?

On September 8, 1798, Daniel Boone made his last survey of Charleston and in 1799, he left the state. What did he discover in his survey and what made him leave? If you thought about this long enough, it could prove troubling.

According to the crime index for 1997, West Virginia actually had the lowest crime index of any state in the country. You may get car sick and heights may make you queasy, but you'll feel safe when you're tossing your cookies.

Martha Stewart is currently serving her sentence at the first federal prison established exclusively for women. That's noteworthy, but I'm not sure if it's something to brag about or deny?

West Virginia has the oldest population of any state with a median age of 40. I'm five years over the median age so I suppose one could extrapolate that I would be in good company if I were again a resident of The Mountain State, but I have changed my ways, I now try and live a balanced life, commit several random acts of kindness a year and I keep hoping that if I strive to do "the next right thing", I will not find myself living there again. It's a nice place to visit and I have some interesting relatives who wouldn't consider residing anywhere else.

The most dangerous hobby any West Virginia Native can pursue is Genealogy. I regret to report that my father loves adding twigs to our family tree, but every now and then when his preternatural sunny disposition seems a bit off, it's a clear sign that he has stumbled upon something that really would best be left buried. This usually results in a day or two of his walking around trying to make sense of the unimaginable, softly repeating the name of individuals listed as brothers, uncles, cousins and fathers who are, quite sadly, all the same person. After a couple of days spent tending the garden or devoting his time to alphabetizing his filing cabinet, he shakes off the shock and gets right back in the root cellar. He is a wonderful man, but I fear his tenacity may someday get the best of him.

On a more positive and less painful note, some famous folks got their beginnings in "The Mountain State". Deputy Barney Fife aka Don Knotts, author Pearl S. Buck, pioneering test pilot Chuck Yeager and Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton are all natives who, through death or good sense, no longer reside in the state.

One really famous mountaineer is currently making waves and, though I never thought of myself as some kind of Country Music Fan, I do appreciate a sardonic sense of humor and this guy has it going on...

Of course, I am talking about none other than Brad Paisley...

He's talented, plays a mean guitar and he's very easy to look at...

Check this video out - it has it all...Reality Show References, Jason Alexander throwing a fit in Starbucks, Little Jimmy Dickens (also from WV - now that might make it onto a bumper sticker), American Idol spoof, William Shatner - not over-acting for once in his life, Rehab References, hope for everyone working at the Dairy Queen and last, but by no means least, Brad Paisley living large and looking fine. I think I almost have a lump in my throat and I do believe I might be feeling just the tiniest bit proud to be from West Virginia. That might be stretching it, but I'm going to go with it for now.

NOTE: Viewing this file does NOT necessarily make you a fan of this particular genre of music, but for some strange reason, this video can make me laugh when nothing else will and lately, I have needed a few giggles...

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to see if I can find a MOCHA SOY LATTE. And then I'm going to settle down and watch Brad Paisley hop around with that fine looking...guitar of his. :-)

I have been politely asked to make the Brad Paisley Video "Celebrity" a link rather than just assume you want to see and hear it. Apparently it is lingering in the head of a few people who, quite frankly, should be pleased to at least have SOMETHING up there to take up the space but, being the nice person that I am, I will make this into a link.

Happy now? Click here to see Brad Paisley hop around with his BAD guitar!

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