Take Me Home, Country Roads. 5 things to know about my home state.


Twas the night before the state of West Virginia validates itself as a solid component of Hillary’s remaining voter base.  That of course being white people who did not go to college (and are probably also racist and will end up voting Republican in the general election anyway).  Most of the Democratic voters are vestigal remnants from the days before Chuck Heston flew in to town and told them that the liberal sissies were going to take away their guns, force them to marry someone of the same sex, and then have free abortion clinics on every corner.  Unfortunately, many of the social stereotypes about West Virginia are based in some degree of truth.  And while its hard not to perceive some implied and outright criticism of West Virginians in my opening to this rant, I, like Bobby Huggins, truly do believe that the majority of folks from the mountain state are hardworking, genuine, reliable people that wave to you as they pass by, stop if you need a hand, and expect the same from their neighbors.  Unfortunately, the states economic troubles, rooted in fancy dressed folks from the Northeast   robbing the wealth from within the mountains from which the state draws its name and taking it back with them to Cape Cod, leave many of those great West Virginia folks without the infrastructure that affords them the opportunity to escape their stereotypes.  In fact, many of the West Virginians who do work hard to educate themselves end up heading to Charlotte, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh, following jobs that don’t exist in their own state.  But while it might not offer the best job opportunities for college graduates, or a metropolitan scene to support a younger population, there are some things about West Virginia you just can’t find anywhere else.  I’ll give you 5.
1. The Pepperoni Roll- Arguably the most important offering the state has (and this is by all means a compliment to both the state and the food), the pepperoni roll is one of those mysteries of cuisine.  Why is In and Out Burger restricted to the west coast?  Why do bagels in New York taste so good, yet Mexican food there is so weak?  Why are east coast cheetos cheesy poofs entirely different than west coast cheetos cheesy poofs?  All mysteries.  Just is that of the limited dissemination of the Pepperoni Roll.  It’s so simple, a well prepared white roll, stuffed with two 2 to 3 pieces of stick pepperoni.  Soft on the outside, grease soaked on the inside, this snack is perfect hot or cold.  To me, it’s THE West Virginia food (many would argue that the “west virginia hot dog,” about which is an entire cookbook that I own, owns this distinction, but to me its just not as unique).  And yet, no one believes me…until I prepare a batch for them.  Unfortunately, mine never come out as good as those from the bakery’s surrounding the fairmont area in which I was born.  In fact, the pepperoni roll really loses its magic within an hours drive in any direction from that place.  In Charleston, where my father lives, you can buy them, but they aren’t the same.  In fact, anywhere else you think you’ve found one, don’t be fooled.  It’s probably only “like fairmont guts”.
2. Bridge Day- 364 days out of the year it is illegal to jump off the western hemisphere’s largest steel arch bridge (1700′ steel arch).  However, once a year, hundreds of thousands of BASE jumping nuts descend upon the new river gorge valley and jump off The New River Gorge Bridge, which also happens to be the second highest bridge in the country (876′).  Bridge Day represents an interesting community of “part time” West Virginians that I hope will one day revitalize the states economy through promoting ecotourism.  While Bridge Day is the extreme of these extreme outdoor thrill seeker attractions in the state, the top notch mountains, white water rafting, forests, and fishing could serve as a selling point for the state, if it just did a better job managing and promoting it.  
3. Sports fan devotion-  Look at this guy.  He just says it all.  West Virginians live for their sports teams.  Be it WVU or Marshall, the lack of a pro sports franchise in the state doesn’t stop mountain staters from being avid sports fans.  Quite the contrary.  I have more informed conversations regarding sports (of all kinds) when I am in West Virginia than anywhere else.  It might have something to do with the ridiculous amount of top tier athletes the state produces relative to its small size.  From Jerry West to Randy Moss, the state has produced more than its fair share of top athletes. In fact, Randy Moss and Jason Williams played on the high school basketball team(also with another teammate who played football at Notre Dame and eventually in the NFL) and did not win a state championship their senior season.  You can’t say the same about OJ Mayo’s Huntington High School team, which is arguably one of the best high school teams ever assembled, with Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson and Oklahoma’s Chris Early also from the team.  I would guess that their generation of kids from Huntington, WV (the small town where Marshall University is) probably is the most ridiculous concentration of talent to ever grace a small American town at once (when you also consider that Kansas State’s Bill Walker is also from the town.  Anyway…I can talk WV sports forever, but in an effort to finish this post I’ll end this number with OJ Mayo’s high school career ending dunk. (set to explosions in the sky by some talented youtube film maker).
4. Senator Robert Byrd- To be honest, I really don’t know too much about Senator Byrd, except that he is really really really old.  This guy is the most tenured fella in the senate by quite some time, and he did get really upset at how mike vick treated dogs.  He was once in the Klan (a very uncool fact that might have some relevance to the opening paragraph of this entry, though probably not much), and has been in congress since Eisenhower was president.    He has done a lot for his oft-forgotten homestate, and I am convinced that if he ever does stop moving, West Virginians will continue to elect him.
5. Top Quality Hip Hop- So after my first year in Malaysia in 1994, my older brother was kicked out of our house by my mom and stepfather, sentenced to a year of high school at South Charleston High School.  There he met Sam…who let’s you know about the rabble razzlers in this urban tour of the West Virginia hip hop scene.  Only in WV does a rapper cooking crack whilst holding a baby make it into a music video.

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