Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Research Request

Meanwhile, back to real life...

I am working on a script project that is set in West Virginia. It's a comedy. I have done a lot of research, but am still looking for funny or weird or interesting things about West Virginians. Short anecdotes about any quirky regional traits would be most welcome. You know, I need the stuff that doesn't get put in history books. I love this kind of detail in a movie, and I think it serves a huge role in providing the audience Aristotle's "logos" - or smart factor - which makes an entertainment project satisfying for the audience.

By way of example of what kind of details I am looking for, have I mentioned that I am from RI?

Rhode Island, or, as we defensive smallest staters with an inferiority complex like to call our home, "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." Betcha didn;t know that we have the longest official state name. Huh? Huh? Big state louts.

On the "Welcome to RI Signs" that fall along the only highway in the state, all of us RI'ers mentally add in small print, "And keep your little jokes to yourself."

About the highway...A friend once remarked to me that everyone who gives directions in RI always starts with, "So, you get on 95..." and that we should adopt a law that just lets us all stop saying it and assume it.

Oh, and laws, when I was in high school and dedicatedly serving in the RI Model Legislature, I learned that teency tiny RI generally has about 3,000 bills introduced in every three month session of our ridiculous little legislature. Passing laws is a kind of smallest state "We Can Do Important Things" therapy for our people. (Nearly half the laws that are introduced every session are basically to repeal/amend other laws that were passed in prior years.)

How to be an object of complete irrelevance in a RI setting: Be clueless about what makes RI clam chowder (ah, CHOW-duh) RI clam chowder. And if you said "quahogs!" well, shua, this is true, but, my Go-ahd, you ah still a wicket clueless loosah.

I know this because I learned it at the South County Country Fair. And the Kent County Fair. And the Washington County Fair. And the Newport County Country Club Fair..... all of which happened within an forty-five minute drive of my house.

You know you are with RI'ers when you make a reference to "who's in power on the Hill," and they all think you are referring to Sicilian bakery canolli wars.

Power-politics in Rhode Island? Try and imagine a place in which any gathering of more than ten RI'ers becomes a place for politicans to gather in the midst of them. So, our Governor came to my first communion. I met our U.S. Senators probably twenty times in small settings. (And you have no idea the achievement of actually remembering an encounter with Claiborne Pell and John Chafee.) My Bishop came to my junior ring day in high school.

Rhode Island... where the only religious denominations are Catholic, really Catholic, ex-Catholic, and angry ex-Catholic.

Evidence of systemic racism in Rhode Island? That's whenever an Italian applies for a job in Newport.

And then there is Cranston... How can you describe it? A community that is barely five-miles square that has it's own language - which is bizarre even to the rest of RI'ers with their strange dialect.

Anyway, you get the point. I need some regional West Virginia stuff.

P.S. I LOVE being from RI. It's the best place in the world to be.


Anonymous said...

West Virginians say "I don't care to," when they mean "I wouldn't mind doing that for you."

Regional restaurant: Tudor's Biscuit World.
Food: ramps (a kind of onion like a strong leek.) They're seasonal. "Ramp Festival."

Feud mentality is very real.

Cool town name: Hurricane (pron. HUR-ah-c'n).

Highways that are part of the Appalachian (pron. app'-a-LATCH'n)Development Highway System are called "corridors." Corridor G, Corridor D, E, H, etc.

When you call customer service for a national company or an airline or something from WV and give your address, they often ask you "where in Virginia?" and you have to say "WEST Virginia. The state?" People complain about this a lot - "didn't they go to high school and learn the states?"

Regional differences - the northern panhandle relates to Pittsburgh and is more northern. Eastern panhandle to DC, more mid-atlantic. Much of the rest of the state is fairly Southern-feeling.

Lots of people don't drink because of Christian convictions, and I have seen a patron in a restaurant who asked what a particular drink was like scolded by the waitress, "I wouldn't know. *I* don't drink alcohol."

- B, who lived in WV for a few years, honest, but doesn't want to post a name for fear of her former neighbors feeling like a research project

Anonymous said...

Of course, all West-By-God-Virginians, pronounced as one word like D*mnYankee, have one leg shorter than the other so they can walk on the steep hills. This applies to the cows as well.


julie said...

First of all, other than the not drinking part, "B" aka "anonymous" is DEAD ON. But,let me elaborate. Ramps are always collected in the wild in early spring, are commonly sold at roadside stands and while they ARE delicious, they are known for their smell when cooking and the DEVASTATING effects they have on your breath for days afterward. they are cooked with fried potatoes and eggs all together in an iron skillet.

There is also a culture of spring morell hunting. Morells (sometimes called molly moochers) are a higly prized mushroom. they can be black or white and the black ones are most desirable. and its true

deer hunting is a sacrement. On the first day of rifle deer season you will NOT be able to hire any sort of blue collar labor and they close the schools because all the males will be absent. Alcohol and firearms. if youre not one of em, dont go in the woods.

West Virginians are outwardly real "friendly like" but if you didnt grow up there its extremely hard to establish relationships. The question "whose your daddy?" is not rhetorical. They NEED to know.

OK youve GOT to use this! For vacation, West Virginians flock to MYRTLE BEACH like lemmings running off a cliff. Its known as "The Beach" they dont even clarify which one because Myrtle is the defacto beach the ONLY beach. they go to the same place every year. theres even a bar there called the mountaineer. AND everyone goes to the tanning bed to get tanned BEFORE they go to The Beach so, every other little hamlet has a tanning bed. you may not be able to but milk in the town you live in - but you can get a tan.

If someone asks where your from, you can answer them with the name of your county.

One MAJOR HUGE thing that Anonymous left out is COAL. Coal country is generally the south. (There are parts of southern West Virginia that are like a third world country.) The southern counties or the southern coal fields are primarily Logan, Mingo, Boone and Mc Dowell (say MAC Dowell) These are also the counties that the rest of the state feels they have the right to make fun of - and do. All these counties feel they have the right to make fun of each other - and do.

Beans and cornbread is the state delicacy - you can get it at Tudor's Biscuit World.

Chewing tobacco is ubiquitous. It isnt considered odd for a professional, say, an engineer to enjoy a wad and a spit cup at his desk or a meeting.

People live in the "hollers" almost all the flat land suitable for building is in the floodplain so if YOUR house (trailer) hasnt been flooded one of your "kinfolks" has.

Im really just getting warmed up but i will leav with these last two words. JESCO WHITE.

- Julie, who currently lives in Hurricane, WV and despite any real or percieved bitterness above, actually likes it.

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Anonymous said...

Hi. I am from WV. One thing most WV'ians know about that most "outsiders" do not know about is the biological map of West Virginia that practically everyone has: if you take your right hand, palm facing towards your own face, and you draw down your index, ring, and pinky fingers (leaving your middle finger up, like you're flipping the bird), and with your thumb still kinda sticking out (it works especially well if you've got the "hitchhiker's thumb, but it still works otherwise), your hand will look just like a miniature model of WV. No joke, try it yourself. This comes in handy when a fellow WV'ian asks where you're from if you're out of town, etc., b/c you can just do this hand trick and point to whatever various region of the state you're from.