Hillbilly 101

In keeping with my current theme about misconceptions, I thought I would offer a little clarity to those of you out in Readerland who think you know what a “hillbilly” or “redneck” is.

I was born, raised, and still live in the greatest of all hillbilly states–West Virginia.  In the course of my life I have heard every stereotype, generalization, and outright prejudice you can imagine.  True story: when I worked at a state park which is just a few miles down the road from me, a couple was checking in to stay at one the cabins, and they asked me–I swear I am not making this up–if I had dirt floors at my house.  Another true story: when I had my daughter in Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic, one of the office staff did not know that West Virginia was a separate state from Virginia.  I can’t make this stuff up, folks.

If I’m going to be honest, I have to tell you that we have our share of problems in this state.  Here’s the thing–every state, region, or population has their own set of problems.  It’s always easier to point out other people’s trouble than face your own, I guess, but crime, drugs, and general immorality are ubiquitous.  I’ve seen white trash in every state I’ve ever been.

So in the spirit of education, allow me to present you with some facts that may help you adjust your thinking about the Mountain State.

  • Yes, we mine coal.  It’s dirty and dangerous and doesn’t usually require a college education.  But guess what–those lights you are sitting under in your office?  They probably come from a power plant which makes power by burning…..coal.  It’s the backbone of our whole economy and culture.  Every day they are trying to find ways to get coal out of the ground in more environmentally friendly ways.  You may love the environment, but I bet you love your electricity, too.  Also, it’s hard for me to take anyone seriously who is complaining about mountain top removal from the front seat of their giant, gas-guzzling SUV.
  • You may think our accents make us sound dumb.  That’s okay.  We think your accent makes you sound like an asshole.  Bygones.
  • The media perpetuates the whole “white trash” thing.  They really do always find the white trashiest person to interview on TV.  Guess what?  They do it to you, too.  We get a big kick out of the crack ‘ho giving an interview about a robbery in her neighborhood.
  • We like trucks.  Guess what?  It snows here.  Sometimes, a lot.  And we can actually drive in the snow.  Also, we just like trucks.  We can haul stuff and move stuff, and let’s face it–you never know when you might need to get through a really big mud hole.

  • We don’t have dirt floors.  We don’t all live in mobile homes, although if someone does, so what?
  • West Virginia is a whole other state.  To clarify, we considered changing our motto to: “West Virginia–NOT Part of Virignia.” Somehow, it just didn’t stick.
  • It is quieter here, and some of us live in the middle of nowhere.  We have to drive forty minutes to go to the grocery store.  We’re okay with that.  If you don’t like it, that’s okay, too.  That’s why we live here and you live there.  We don’t want to live in the city any more than you want to live in the country.
  • Speaking from experience, we are more polite than people in other areas, which I won’t name, but I will tell you they rhyme with Few Cork and Lew Kersey.  We hold doors for people and say excuse me.  Yes, there are rude people here–I won’t kid myself into thinking there aren’t, but like I said, I’m generalizing.  This is my blog, so I’m allowed to do that.
  • We don’t get some sort of weird satisfaction out of pointlessly blowing our car horn.  We might not be as smart as you, but we have at least figured out that blowing the horn won’t make the traffic jam magically disappear.
  • We don’t marry our cousins.  I would go so far as to say a lot of us don’t even like our cousins.
  • We wear jeans and tee-shirts, and to us, a lot of those fashions trends that are so popular in big cities just look silly.  The guys wear hats, but they take them off to pray, and to listen to the national anthem (at WVU football games and NASCAR races, for example.)
  • There are some who feud with their neighbors, but for the most part, we help our neighbors out, and they help us.  You look out for their houses when they are on vacation, and maybe even feed their dog or their chickens.  We take food to families when they have lost a loved one.  In short, when times are tough, we pull together.
  • We wave at people.  I don’t know why.  When we pass people on the road or standing on their lawn, we nod or throw up a hand.  It’s just a thing we do.

So forget your stereotypical opinions of West Virginia.  It’s a beautiful state (mostly located outdoors) with lots of amazing things to see and do.  While you’re here, take your time and enjoy the scenery.  We know how to make a guest feel at home.

And if it makes you feel better, we’ll even honk our horn at you.

 

A Hillbilly in New York, Part 2

     Well, we made it back.

     I think the trip went remarkably well.  It’s taken me a few days to get this post up because I’ve been in recovery since we got home (at 4:30am!)  Also, I think I’ve spent some time digesting what all we saw, and fielding the questions that my son has fired off to me almost non-stop since our return. He didn’t have the time or energy to ask me while we were actually there.

     We saw some truly amazing things, one of the best being “The Lion King.” If you ever have a chance to see a Broadway show, do it. It’s worth the money.  There really aren’t any words that can adequately describe what it was like–just a long string of superlatives that make it sound cliché, which it certainly is NOT.  I saw what New York looks like at twilight from the top of the Empire State Building, ate lunch from Fluffy’s Cafe in Central Park, watched a performance in Carnegie Hall, walked through the immigrant registration station on Ellis Island, and stood at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. In short, I knocked about half the items off of my bucket list.

     Ellis Island was especially fascinating.  There was a quote on the wall there from a Lithuanian immigrant about how her mother said watching her get on the train to the coast was the same as watching her go into her casket. They never saw one another again. That young woman did that because of the golden opportunity she thought was waiting for her in America.  It’s an odd thought.  So many of us complain constantly about our government and our country, but some viewed it as the promised land–a place they would literally give up everything to come to. Interesting thought.

     Mostly, as usual, my son and I were both fascinated by the people.  We heard as much foreign language as we did English. And as for the New Yorkers themselves, well, I’m still undecided.  We hear that they are rude and overbearing, and upon first glance, you might take that as the truth–certainly upon entering a vehicle everyone in the city transforms into some sort of homicidal lunatic–but I’m not so sure. To me, it almost seems like something more, something different than what we “southerners” call rude.  They have become immune to tourists, and really to themselves as well. 

     When we were travelling, we wore matching tee shirts. So, we stood out.  Our commander-in-chief would ask some random person waiting on the train if we were picking the right one to get where we wanted to go, and immediately that person would become very helpful and courteous. They would sort of look around at us like they hadn’t noticed us before–which I fully believe to be the truth. It’s not so much that they are rude, it’s just that you have to penetrate beyond that cocoon that they have enveloped themselves in to find the real person underneath.

     I guess you’d have to be  a little immune to it–there are umpteen billion people there bustling about, tourists and locals alike, and at times you are literally squeezing through crowds. There’s no way you could say “excuse me” to each person you nudge or bump.  I’m reminded of Crocodile Dundee when he went to NYC, and he tried to greet everyone and be polite. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll give you the answer–it didn’t work. So everyone just goes along with their own lives, headed to wherever they are headed.  Another point–I don’t know where they are going, but boy are they in a hurry!

     Don’t get me wrong–there were rude people there just like there are everywhere, including right where we live. Business Bitch Barbie, for example, ran right over our friend Lucas, and rather than say sorry, she had an expression on her face like she stepped in something stinky. To add insult to injury, she ran over his foot with her Business Bitch Barbie rolling briefcase accessory.  I called “Excuse us!  Have a nice day!” after her, but I didn’t get a response, of course.

     So, there are rude people in New York, and there are nice people, and mostly there are just regular people doing what everyone does–working, shopping, going to school, just living.  It was an awesome trip–so much so that I want to go back on a private vacation so I can explore a little more. The city impressed me, and I can see why so many not only flock there, but thrive there.  I recommend it highly to anyone who is looking for a vacation destination, just listen to a little advice–take plenty of spending cash, wear your walking shoes, see “The Lion King,” and watch out for Business Bitch Barbie. She’s hell with that briefcase.

A Hillbilly in New York, Pt. 1

     Yep, you read that right–we are going to New York City.  A friend of mine is a music teacher, and she is taking a group of her kids to perform in Carnegie Hall (practice, practice, practice) and she invited us to go along! How cool is that?

     I am VERY excited.  Now, I’m not what you would call country.  (I’m actually coal camp.)  We’ve travelled a quite a bit–Philly, Atlanta, DC, Birmingham, Knoxville, Pittsburg, Charlotte, Baltimore, and a few others–but still…..this is New York City we are talking about people!  We are going to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, just to name a few.  We’ll leave Tuesday evening and be home late Friday night.

     I am also VERY nervous.  Not about the trip–like I said, we have been to a place or two, and the only part that makes me nervous is the bus ride. What I am nervous about is walking away from my life for four days.  I’m sure to most people that sounds a bit drastic, but that may be because you don’t know how anal retentive I can be about certain things.

     Primarily, I’m nervous about leaving my daughter. My sister is in good hands, and she’d rather be where she’s going than with me anyway, so I’m not really worried about her, but Evelyn doesn’t really understand why we just sort of disappear for four days.  I don’t have any way to explain it to her.  She’ll be with her dad and The Grandparents, but I worry.  It makes me wonder if she is maybe a little bit more aware than I give her credit for, because now, to make me feel even better, she is sick.  Her teacher called from school today to inform me that she was running a fever and lying around. I picked her up early and she has slept in the chair ever since.

     Thanks, Evelyn.

     I know all of my guilt is self-inflicted, but that doesn’t make it any less.  No matter what, in my mind, no one can care for her the way I do.  No one.  No one can read her and understand what she wants the way I do.  I’m just going to hop on a bus and be hundreds of miles from her, which is bad enough, but now I’m going to do it while she is sick.

     Don’t get me wrong–I’m going anyway. I’m nervous, not stupid.  I have WAY more separation anxiety than Evelyn ever did (I still cry on the first day of school. Really.) I imagine every possible thing that could happen or go wrong, and I have a great imagination. I miss her so much that sometimes I lay in bed in night when I’m away from her and cry. I’m just a great big girl, right? (I miss my husband too, by the way, but I know he can feed and clothe himself with minimal assistance.)  I just have to suck it up and have a good time.  This will be the farthest I’ve been from her in a long, long, time, and the farthest I’ve ever been while she was mobile and able to get into a lot of trouble.  The last time I was far away from her, she was basically like a potted plant.  She couldn’t even crawl. Now she’s like a damn cat–just five minutes of not watching her and all hell could break loose. So you see how my mind works.

     But anyway, I’m very excited.  We will never have another opportunity like this again.  My OCD acts up a little when I pack, and I always remind myself a little of Melvin Udall in “As Good As It Gets” when he’s packing for the trip to Baltimore. I even have a list. (People think the fact I make lists and keep things organized is because I am organized, but really the opposite is true. If I didn’t keep things in order, I would never find anything again. Ever.) Anyway, we are all packed up and ready to go.  Evelyn and Matt will drop us off at the bus tomorrow afternoon, and I’ll laugh and joke and wave frantically as we pull away.  I’ll save the tears until everyone else is asleep. I do have my reputation to uphold, after all.

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