My Old Kentucky Homesite

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The Humor Theory of Atheism: Laugh Your Way to Godlessness

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/25/2010

Fellow Lexingtonian atheist BrentH is a new friend of mine, and he has already left a number of funny and/or insightful comments on this blog. But some of his best stuff has come in private emails to me. So I’m going to give him credit for most of the ideas that follow. I agree with them, though, so if you think they’re ridiculous, don’t hesitate to attack either one of us. (Like I have to encourage you, right?) Brent can always say “fuck you” and leave the thread if you get too nasty. Or boring. I’m sorta stuck here – this being my old Kentucky (yikes!) Homesite – disproving by counter-example the myth of Southern gentility. So bring it on, you clowns. (At least, I’m guessing that you’re clowns. As you’ll soon see.)

Brent and I have been discussing the kinds of people who become atheists after having been raised in various specific religions. He grew up in a moderately Catholic home. I grew up in a household headed by a religiously indifferent mother and a loud-mouthed atheist father, but my neighborhood was heavily Jewish.

We noticed – through the filters of our own experiences – that in this country, ex-Catholics and former Jews do not usually seem to go through months and months, even years and years, of torturous angst after breaking free from their particular superstitions. We wondered why those groups were different from most Protestants, particularly, say, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and all those other Fundamentalist types. Some of those poor folks struggle agonizingly when they come to realize that they no longer believe.

My original thesis was this: For both of those groups, Catholics and Jews, regardless of how devout they are, the family at home is still the primary social unit. (That’s not always a good thing, as anyone with a Jewish mother can tell you.) For many Protestants, however, particularly those whose sects lean strongly in the Fundy direction, the church itself becomes the primary social unit. So, obviously, “leaving the faith” has tremendous interpersonal ramifications for those people, far stronger than it does for theists whose houses of worship are not life-encompassing.

Brent had a more profound hypothesis, which I’ll call “The Humor Theory of Atheism” (or HTA, for short). It may be easier, he said, for Catholics and Jews to “slide from being devout/observant” into atheism because both those groups have a tradition of comedy and humor. He noted that his family often mocked and satirized one another. That certainly was also true in my house, where it was difficult to survive a meal if you didn’t have a healthy streak of wiseguy, as well as a strong stomach.

We’re not talking about redneck guffaws here. Although Brent didn’t specifically say this, I think he meant that humor was used in his home as it was in mine, as a kind of intellectual challenge. You had to be alert, you had to be quick, and you had to be clever. Even the most innocent dinner-table pronouncements were always scrutinized for maximum comic effect. In my kitchen, we sat there shoveling my mother’s inedible food as we listened carefully to what one another said. All the while, our minds worked overtime to find an absurd connection, a weird association, a hilarious logical meander, or just a perfectly appropriate goofy face. We always knew that whatever we said was going to be examined, and we likewise dissected the statements of the others. We were under the impression that we were merely making jokes, but really, we were thinking critically.

Brent also pointed out that both Catholics and Jews tend to be found mostly in urban environments, places that are “edgy, irreverent, and even blasphemous.” Big cities are incubators for skepticism, particularly of the sardonically witty variety. What I learned to do at home, I did everywhere I went; and I’m guessing, from our short acquaintance, that he did, too.

Most of the funniest people I know are freethinkers, regardless of whether or not they’re out-and-out heathens. The kind of humor I’ve described is definitely not limited to only Catholics and Jews. But perhaps it comes a little more naturally for them because of their long traditions of derision, sarcasm, and even self-deprecation. In any case, whoever its practitioners are, humor is often an entry into critical thinking. Does that always result in atheism? Obviously, not. But without the ability and the desire to think critically, it may be impossible to break the mental chains forged by childhood indoctrination.

This is still a thesis in progress. So I’m asking: Do you agree or disagree with the following propositions?
(1) People raised as Catholics or Jews generally have an easier time acknowledging their freedom from faith than do those brought up in many other traditions.
(2) Humor is a very effective pathway to atheism.

Any (critical) thoughts?

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Once a New Yorker ... | 29 Comments »

Do You Want Cream and Chitchat with That?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/01/2009

Slowly, but not so surely, I’m getting acclimated to living in Kentucky.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found my niche yet. By “niche,” I mean hang-out, a place where I can grab a cup of coffee and stumble into an interesting conversation. Unlike in New Yawk – or Florida, for that matter – the Starbuck’s shops here have drive-in windows, so I don’t even have to get out of the car for my caffeine fix. On the downside, the only thing there is to talk about during my coffee run is whether or not I want whipped cream with that.

The local bookshops/coffeebars (or is it “coffeebars/bookshops”) are unsatisfactory as hang-outs. Lexington’s Barnes & Noble, one of the few places in town that’s actually an inconvenient distance away from my house,  may be the worst stocked store in the entire nationwide chain. The last time I was there, my discount coupon burning a hole in my pocket, four different books that I wanted were not available at that particular location. Of course, since I was not looking for Christian Fiction, Graphic Novels/Manga, or the biography of a famous horse, I probably didn’t stand a chance. Anyone acquainted with me knows how excruciatingly painful I find it to walk out of a bookstore empty-handed, particularly when I have an opportunity to save 40% off the purchase price of any hardcover. But empty-handed I was, although I think I fled the premises in time to prevent myself from becoming empty-headed.  Lexington’s B&N is not a bookish place; it’s a big box for semi-literates to shop in.

The other big Lexington book store is Joseph Beth, one of five in a regional chain. Its variety of merchandise is somewhat better than the Barnes & Noble’s, although you still can’t find every single Dickens novel or Shakespeare play amid the candy, totes, and sweatshirts. There is a very good selection of magazines, and a generous sampling of current books that are not best-sellers, but the politics section leans heavily to the right. Oh, well … it is in Kentucky, and the book-sellers do have to make a living. There are always plenty of people browsing, but the place is unusually quiet, at least to my Manhattan-trained ears. I’ve been there about a dozen times and have yet to hear any arguments about whether or not a particular author is any good. Perhaps Kentucky’s literati are more polite than the ones I’m used to back in New Yawk, but I haven’t been able to butt into a single juicy disagreement. And no one has snuck up behind me to look over my shoulder while I thumb through a volume on one of the sale tables. Back home, someone would surely say, “Don’t buy that. It sucks.” (Kentuckians, it seems, are too genteel to offer unsolicited literary advice.) However, there are seats scattered throughout the premises, and a terrific “bistro” that serves food good enough to make it a destination even for someone who would rather watch TV than read. But because it’s really rather restaurant-ish, with individual tables and booths that have plenty of space between them, there’s nothing on the menu for the chat-hungry.

Most of the people I’ve met casually in luncheonettes and delis are sports fanatics, folks who actually think it matters whether or not the local college team wins. The Lexington Herald-Leader, our alleged newspaper, often has a sports story above the fold. This makes perfect sense, because nobody here seems to care passionately about anything else. Except their religion. Everywhere I turn, I see a church. Forget going anywhere on a Sunday morning; the traffic is ridiculous. If I were a believer, the first thing I’d pray for would be a better city infrastructure. I’d also want more people who ask themselves, “How would Jesus drive?”

For the time being, I’ll have to keep hunting for that loud diner – the kind you can still find on many New Yawk street corners – where coffee comes in a cup that has pictures of Grecian urns and the words “We are happy to serve you;” and where you can easily join the discussion at the table behind you just by turning around and making a sarcastic comment.

Posted in Books & Bookshops, Food and Drink, New to Kentucky, Once a New Yorker ... | 4 Comments »

Whose Famous What?!

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/21/2009

OK, all you New Yawkers take a deep breath, because you won’t believe this.

So I was driving in Lexington today, and I passed a restaurant called Detroit’s Famous Coney Island. I was not tempted to stop and try it, though, because I’ve eaten quite a number of times at Coney Island itself, and I can’t see any reason that someone other than a gastroenterologist would want to import that experience.

I might have considered sampling a restaurant called Coney Island’s Famous Detroit, but what would they serve there? Cars in buns? How about Lexington’s Famous Coney Island? Obviously: Horsemeat and kraut.

By Googling, I found out that hot dogs in Michigan are frequently referred to as “coney dogs.” They’re usually served with a meat-laden sauce, which to me seems like gilding the piccalilli. Further research revealed that the custom has not spread across the border to Ontario, so what’s sauce for the Canada Goose is not necessarily sauce for the Michigander, and vice versa.

By extension from “coney dog,” the term “coney island” is any Michigan greasy-spoon joint specializing in franks, burgers, french fries, onion rings, maybe fried fish, and other assorted Prilosec-friendly foods. I found Web sites for George’s Famous Coney Island, Johnny’s Famous Coney Island, and Angelo’s Famous Coney Island, as well as the American Coney Island, which, actually being famous, doesn’t need to include that word in its title. The American’s Internet page lists the names of about twenty celebrities who have eaten there, a fact that would have been more impressive if I had heard of at least ten of them. I’m guessing that the unfamiliar folks are probably sports stars or local politicians. Maybe both.

In any case, to return to Kentucky: I’m going to keep my eyes open for other Lexington restaurants with either “New York” or one of its venues in their names. In my last post, I mentioned Stanley J’s New York Style Deli (the name of which, because of the word “style,” is commendably honest), but there’s also Giacomo’s New York Delicatessen and the Brooklyn Sports Grill & Pizzria (that’s not a typo). I’ll now be on the lookout for eateries with other boroughs or New York City landmarks in their titles, but a quick peek through the phone book portends that I’ll have no luck. We do have a street named Broadway here, so that word wouldn’t count, even if there were a restaurant that used it, which there isn’t.

Of course, not to be too one-sided, I feel compelled to point out that there’s the Lexington Candy Shop in Manhattan, statues of jockeys in front of the 21 Club, and nearly fifty restaurants throughout the city that are called “Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

Posted in Food and Drink, New to Kentucky, Once a New Yorker ... | 7 Comments »

It’s Never Cloudy in Kentucky?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/17/2009

In 1853, a New Yawk sheet music company published a song called “Poor Uncle Tom, Good Night!” by Stephen Foster. The first line of that song was:

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home.

Whether or not Foster had actually seen a Kentucky home, old or new, is disputed, but the song was a hit. It was the “Thriller” of its day, minus the zombie outfits.

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom,
While the birds make music all the day.

Seventy-five years later, (in 1928, for those whose arithmetic is shaky), the Kentucky legislature adopted Foster’s work as the official state song. The first line was transformed, not officially, but by most singers, to:

The sun shines bright in my old Kentucky home.

Suddenly, the place was no longer some vague edifice; it was the singer’s very own house. He or she might even try to buttonhole you, grabbing your attention at the very beginning:

Oh, the sun shines bright in my old Kentucky home.

That’s the way I always heard it. Until I moved to Kentucky, I hadn’t really thought much about that song. What I didn’t know was that in 1986, the Kentucky legislature voted to remove the offensive word in the second line, changing the lyric slightly to:

‘Tis summer, the people are gay.

Fair enough. That worked for about twenty years. But recently, the song has run up against the legislature once again. The social conservatives, not wishing – even indirectly – to appear as if they support marriage between homosexuals, are urging another change to the problematic phrase. They want it to read:

‘Tis summer, the people are cheerful.

Well, that ruins the rhyme scheme and scansion of the verse, doesn’t it? So the further suggestion has been made to change the last line to:

While the birds make music all the yearful.

However, a science professor at the University of Kentucky has pointed out that (a) the year has other seasons besides summer, and (b) in most avian species, only male birds sing. As a result of these observations, a group of academics at U.K. is lobbying to change the second line to:

All seasons, the people are cheerful.

And the last line to:

While male birds make music all the yearful.

This, as you can imagine, does not sit well with everyone. Some people think that all birds – males, females, and transsexuals – should get equal time in the state song. So, given that Nature has not seen fit to make all creatures equal in their music-making capabilities, the egalitarians insist that the fourth line should be:

While birds of every gender make merry all the yearful.

That should be an end to the controversy, but a consortium of allergists is concerned about the third line. The doctors point out that many Kentuckians have sensitivities to either corn, or meadows, or both. It doesn’t seem right, the allergists say, not to warn citizens about possible dire consequences of cavorting around near potentially hazardous plants. So the allergists have posited the following third line:

You may need to take Claritin if the meadow’s in the bloom.

OK. That would seem to be that … if the song had just one verse. But unfortunately, it doesn’t, and the second verse is dynamite! A number of evangelicals are up in arms over its first line, which they claim encourages sinful behavior in teenagers:

The young folks roll on the little cabin floor.

As soon as the preachers come up with an alternative, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I hope you’ll excuse me if I just whistle “I’ll Take Manhattan.”

Posted in Music, New to Kentucky, Once a New Yorker ... | 6 Comments »

The Rake’s Lack of Progress

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/07/2009

For weeks, my wife and I have been tracking botanical detritus into our house. Wherever we walk, there’s a crunch, crunch, crunch underfoot. It’s not an unpleasant sound, in and of itself, but I find myself always checking to make sure I haven’t stepped on some unusually crispy bug – or the cat.

So today, for the first time in my life, I began raking a front yard full of leaves. Growing up in New Yawk, I never had to do that. Magical powers (namely, the super) always made sure to keep the sidewalk in front of the building footloose and leaf-free. During my exile in Florida, no one had to rake because, as I’ve told you, there’s no Fall there. The few leaves that do drift down to the ground can be picked up by hand, or left for dead to become mulch. Actually, in Florida, everything becomes mulch if you leave it around in the sun long enough.

My understanding of raking comes from three sources: (1) paintings by the Great Masters, in which the rakers are young women, seemingly happy, communing with Nature as they gather the hay; (2) 50s sitcoms, in which kids had to do their chores – outdoors!; and (3) one of the great all-time sappy songs, “The Autumn Leaves,” particularly the instrumental rendition by Roger Williams, in which you can actually hear the leaves pianistically drifting by the window. Nobody – not Van Gogh, not Opie, and certainly not Roger Williams – ever complained about the crackling noise as they walked from the foyer to the bathroom.

Anyway, here in Kentucky, it seems as if every leaf in the universe has found its way to my house. Most of them are not red and gold, as the song would have it; they’re just kind of a crinkly dead-looking brownish yellow. They certainly don’t remind me of summer kisses, because I’ve never dated a zombie in any season.

But I figured: Hey, if that young Winslow Homer girl can do it, and if that all-time screw-up, the Beave, can do it, I ought to find it pretty easy.

Ha. I guess Bruegel’s women and Nat King Cole didn’t have allergies. Bud Anderson couldn’t beg off raking because it would make him sneeze; his father knew better. In fact, in my entire leaf experience, I never heard of anyone getting a runny nose while he or she raked around the house. Perhaps Edith Piaf sniffled a little when she sang “les feuilles mortes,” but I can’t tell for sure because I don’t know the French word for “ah-choo.” (I’m guessing that there is no French word for such a bourgeois expression. After all, it has nothing to do with cheese.)

Today is a pretty nice Fall day, comfortably cool, but I actually worked up a sweat. In about three minutes. The perspiration dripping into my already itchy eyes, combined with my sneezing and a developing blister on my left thumb, did not make for a happy me. Suddenly, I knew why Brueghel, Rubens, Van Gogh, and Winslow Homer depicted females doing the raking; they, themselves, didn’t want the job. I’m not saying that they felt such a chore was beneath them – although where else would the leaves be? I’m just pointing out that they probably used their artistic ability as an excuse: “Look, you ladies rake, and I’ll paint a beautiful sofa-sized picture. OK?”

My wife – Kentucky native that she is – is an old hand at raking. She was too smart to fall for that artist baloney, maybe because I’ve never painted a picture in my life. But she did give me some advice: “You’re holding the rake backwards. Don’t push the leaves with it; pull them. Gather them into piles. It’s a waste of time stopping to shape the piles into perfect pyramids. Don’t forget to go under the bushes and all around the plants. And check behind your ears, while you’re at it. Try not to break the rake on the stone walkway in the garden. Or under your foot. Why don’t you have any Kleenex with you? Am I gonna have to get you a surgical mask, for crying out loud?”

When there are sufficient piles all over the yard, I’m supposed to rake them down to the curb, where the city promises to do something with them. I’m hoping that the town of Lexington is going to collect all those dead leaves and mail them to Roger Williams.

Posted in New to Kentucky, Once a New Yorker ..., Unpleasant Jobs | Leave a Comment »

The Revenge of Johnny Kucks

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/05/2009

I probably have ADD, although when it comes to staying on-task, I think of it more as “SUBTRACT.” In any case, even though I haven’t written it yet, I’m already bored with the story of how I happened to move to Kentucky. For three or four months before the fact, I’d been telling it to everyone I know. Repeatedly. So they’re sick and tired of it, too. Yeah, I promised I’d “explain how I happened to make the big move,” but the tale seems like a yawner. Suffice it to say that my wife got a great job here in Lexington, and – since my cat and I are both capable of doing whatever it is we do regardless of where we live – we tagged along. I can’t speak for Woody, but I hated my thirteen-hour drive trapped in that little box. Who can stay entertained for so long with nothing but a fuzzy mouse?

What I want to talk about today is spectator sports. I hate ‘em. That’s because I don’t see how my life is affected at all by whether my home team wins or loses – unless I happen to have a bet going. If I want to brag about something, I kind of feel like it should involve my own accomplishments, rather than those of some guys I don’t know and probably wouldn’t be pals with even if I did. It’s hard for me to imagine sitting down with a person wearing a number on his back, and having a discussion about Dickens, or Darwin, or Miles Davis’s fusion period, or 50s TV cereal commercials, or who’s funnier: Woody Allen or Mel Brooks, or which wines go least badly with Chinese food, or is it really possible for any news organization to be fair and unbiased, or … oh, any of a thousand other subjects that interest me. (In fact, I can think of only three subjects that don’t interest me: (1) sports, (2) Bob Dylan’s musical oeuvre, and (3) whether or not I should eat more fiber.)

Given my normal attitude about spectator sports, I was surprised to find that, deep down, I actually gave a rat’s ass about whether or not the Yankees won the World Series. I didn’t follow the team all year, and, in fact, I haven’t followed them since 1961, when I was twelve, and Mantle and Maris were trying to break Ruth’s record.  Even then, I didn’t much care whether or not the team won; I just liked the freedom of going to the ballpark “alone.” “Alone,” by the way, means: in a group of at least fifteen other rowdy twelve-year-old boys, without any evident parental supervision, although sometimes a stray dad would sneak into the pack.

On a game-going day, I’d grab my unused baseball glove (just in case a ball was hit directly into it, because there was no other way I would ever catch anything), join a gang of similarly accoutered friends, ride the bus up the Bronx’s Grand Concourse for about an hour to Yankee Stadium, pay my half a buck, and head for the bleachers, which were the hottest, most uncomfortable location in the world. Then I’d spend three or four hours eating ballpark hotdogs oozing with yellow mustard, drinking Yogi Berra’s Yoo-Hoo (which my mother made me take with me from home, in a thermos), and yelling whenever and whatever I pleased, even if a dad was around.  Some of us gambled for baseball cards between innings, but nobody ever wanted mine, because I carried only a few that I’d inherited from an older cousin. I had no current Mickey Mantles or Roger Marises, or even Moose Skowrons and Clete Boyers; my cards were a couple of years old and had players like Eli Grba (you read that right), Jerry Lumpe (pronounced “Lumpy”), and Johnny Kucks (feel free to provide your own junior-high-mentality joke).  During the action, I kept the most anally perfect scorecard I could, because it was clear to me that my scrawl would be the only permanent record of the game – even though I could never remember if the outfielder positions were counted 7 to 9 from right to left or left to right, and, hey, which side is right field, again? FYI: Mickey Mantle, whose uniform number was 7 but whose position number was 8, did not hit 61, but Roger Maris, whose uniform number was 9, and who, as right fielder, was in position number 7 or 9, did. But with an asterisk.

Anyway, before the playoffs began this year, I couldn’t have named more than four or five current Yankee players, mostly the ones, like Jeter and A-Rod, who had been in the news for sleeping with famous women. I’d never heard of anyone named Melky or Joba, and although I’ve known some people called “Swisher” (back when I still had that junior-high mentality), it was not a name I usually associated with baseball.

But there I was, sitting on my couch in Lexington, Kentucky, rooting through all the play-offs and the World Series for the Yankees. I yelled at the television whenever an umpire made a bad call against “us,” and high-fived the air when “we” scored runs or turned a neat double-play. Every four or five minutes, my wife would come into the living-room and ask, “Is that stupid thing over yet?” And then, “When did you all of sudden become a baseball fan? What’s next? Am I gonna hear you singing ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ (Please, not the whole thing!). Or wondering what you can take to fight irregularity?”

Not likely. (I’m nothing if not regular.) I’m certain that my fleeting obsession with the Bronx Bombers has a lot to do with my move from New York City (via Florida) to Kentucky. But I also fear that there’s something more pathetic, maybe even sinister, involved: a yearning for lost youth.

Posted in New to Kentucky, Once a New Yorker ..., Yankee Baseball | 4 Comments »

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 »