My Old Kentucky Homesite

Archive for November, 2009

Not the Most Direct Route

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/04/2009

In all honesty, I must confess that I didn’t come to Kentucky directly from New Yawk. I was in exile for 17 hot, sticky years in Daytona Beach, Florida, where I was the only person who didn’t salivate at the mention of NASCAR. Many New Yawkers don’t drive – they don’t need to, because public transportation and feet can take them wherever they really care to go (which is usually, as you’ve probably guessed, other neighborhoods in the city). Most Gothamites who do own a car, pay to keep it in a garage because it’s dangerous to leave a vehicle in the street, what with thieves and alternate-side-of-the street-parking regulations. Renting space in a garage for a car is like getting a second apartment for a child who always forgets to honk at you on your birthday.

Anyway, I could never see the point of so-called motor sports. Where’s everybody heading in such a big rush? Nowhere, right? The drivers just go around and around for hours and hours. New Yawk drivers without garage spaces have to do that every time they need to find a parking place. You want to see fast and dangerous in an unbearable climate? Watch people race for a seat on the Number 6.

Florida is a great place to live, but only if you bite. It’s best if you’re an alligator, a  mosquito, or a habanero pepper. Even if you happen to be human, you’re better off with a toothy grin, so you can smile away the fact that there’s absolutely zero sense of the passage of time. Years fry by with no Fall, no Winter, no Spring. There’s nothing but Endless Summer, regardless of what the calendar says. The only way you can identify what month you’re in is to check out the decorations at the mall.

OK, it’s not completely true that there are no seasons in Florida. There’s Fire season, followed by Hurricane season, followed by Tornado season, with maybe a couple of weeks of “Hey, it finally cooled off; where are my long pants?” thrown in.

Every single day that I spent in the Sunstroke State, I woke up thinking, “In six months, I’ll move back home, when I’ve saved enough to afford a Manhattan rental again.” In recent years, as prices climbed, I began to think, “In six months, when I win the lottery.” Or, last year: “In six months, if Obama wins.” I longed for a different environment, and wasn’t he the candidate of change?

I’m not saying that nothing good ever came of my sojourn there. Not long after I’d moved to Florida, I met my wife (although we were not married at the time). About half a minute into our first conversation, I commented on her southern “drawl.” For a true New Yawker, any woman who speaks English better than Ruby Keeler did is considered to have a foreign accent. My wife-to-be told me that I was imagining things, that she didn’t sound a bit southern. She said she was from Kentucky. Well, I told her, New Yawkers consider Kentucky to be part of the south, even though, yeah, it didn’t officially fight against us in the Civil War. But Tennessee did, right?

The next thing I asked was if she was related to Daniel Boone. She countered by wondering aloud if I was descended from Woody Allen. Then we both complained about the heat.

It’s essentially because of the success of that conversation that I wound up, many years later, moving to Kentucky. Obama’s election had nothing to do with it.


Posted in Florida, New to Kentucky, Once a New Yorker ... | 2 Comments »

Actually, It’s My NEW Kentucky Homesite

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/03/2009

If anyone had predicted a few decades ago that, at sixty years old, I’d be moving my seventy boxes of books and my one-and-a-half plastic bags of clothing to Kentucky, I’d have said, “And I suppose I’ll be rooming with Daniel Boone?”

Because, really, most of us parochial New Yawkers can think of only two famous Kentuckians: Daniel Boone and Man O’ War. If you press us for another, we might come up with Jim Beam.

To the average New Yawker, Kentucky is in a whole nother solar system. To tell the truth, half of us get it mixed up with Tennessee. Maybe that has something to do with Fess Parker having played both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Whatever the reason, to a New Yawker’s mind, Kentucky and Tennessee are two names for the same place. They’re both mostly mountains and trees, so what’s the difference? Everything is high and green and represented by Fess Parker, definitely not green but maybe high, in a coonskin cap.

We New Yawkers tend to dismiss as unimportant any people who come from places where most of the trees don’t grow up through the sidewalk. That’s because we believe  we live in the center of the universe. Oh, we might give a nod of recognition to a few other intergalactic specks, like London or Paris, L.A. or D.C., perhaps Yonkers if we’ve spent any time “upstate.” [Note: “Upstate” is any city in New York State that lies north of the Bronx, unless you’re a Manhattanite, in which case “upstate” includes the Bronx.]  We know that somewhat south of the Battery is a place called Florida, and west of Riverside Drive is Jersey. But we’re not too concerned about elsewheres. A pianist friend of mine from Iowa was once asked – by a female New Yawker concert-goer – where he grew up. When he told her, she asked him to repeat the name of his state. Then she said, “Wow, I always thought it was pronounced O-Hi-O.”

Anyway, I’m in Kentucky now, and this blog is going to be about how I adjust. Or fail to. In my next post, I’ll explain how I happened to make the big move. In the meantime, I’ll be staring at everyone I meet, looking for descendants of Daniel Boone. So far, I haven’t seen a single person who looks like Fess Parker. Actually, that’s not so surprising, since he was born in Texas.

Posted in New to Kentucky, Once a New Yorker ... | 11 Comments »