10 Reasons to Respect West Virginia

On this day in 1863, West Virginia became its own state. Since then, it has endured jokes about incest, dirtiness, redneck shenanigans, moonshine, NASCAR, stupidity, and much more. As my friends know, I grew up in West Virginia, and while I don’t love everything about the state, I can honestly say that it gets a far worse reputation than it deserves. Buckle in, do some reading, and have a little goddamn respect. You can make fun of Kentucky instead. (Just kidding.)

1. It’s the only state to carve itself out of the territory of another state…without that state’s permission. John McCain only wishes he could be this much of a maverick.

2. It’s also the only state to be created by Presidential Decree. Lincoln had our backs. Oh, and this was the Civil War, so we became part of the Union, and the rest of Virginia went on to lose. Because they were losers. Unlike us. Good timing.

3. We’ve spawned celebrities and major figures too. Do you like “The Andy Griffith Show?” We had Don Knotts, who played Barney Fife. Prefer drama? John Corbett, Brad Dourif. Comedy? Steve Harvey. Music? Brad Paisley. Books? Pearl S. Buck. Gymnastics? Mary Lou Retton. Tim Burton? He’s not from West Virginia, but Jack Skellington himself, Chris Sarandon, is. Breaking the sound barrier? CHUCK YEAGER.

Hell, even if your only interest in life is One Direction, we brought forth Morgan Spurlock, director of the upcoming One Direction documentary and previous writer/creator/director of…you know, much better things.

4. You can legally purchase 153-proof Everclear. The 190-proof stuff is illegal, much like owning semiautomatic weapons, because people are stupid and prone to killing themselves and one another with that much power. Basically, we’ve got your back in the booze department, and if you’re that dumb, you can find moonshine.

5. Do you like Golden Delicious apples? We made them, motherfucker. This helped bring about my favorite apple, Cripps Pink, so I approve.

6. West Virginia is Jay Gatsby approved. Raise a glass, old sport, and check out Leonardo DiCaprio wearing a West Virginia hat (with bonus, jealous Mick Jagger). Here he is again. Here he is doing so with a vuvuzela. He isn’t the only celebrity, but this should persuade a great many people.

7. It’s the only state completely nestled in Appalachia. That means we have awesome music from folk origins and aren’t afraid of a little fiddle, banjo, dulcimer, mandolin, and autoharp to go with our guitar. You might think Appalachia is lame. Tell that to Kevin Cosner after his career finally got a shiny new Emmy for “Hatfields & McCoys.” We’re a musical, storytelling culture set in some natural beauty you wish you had.

8. The Greenbrier Resort held more than a thousand foreign prisoners during World War II. This hotel was turned into an army hospital and place to keep diplomats and their families until they could be traded back to hostile countries. Later, the resort put prisoners to work around the grounds.

9. Speaking of the Greenbrier, there was a secret bunker built beneath it to shelter Congress in the case of nuclear attack. Is that James Bond enough for you? This was called Project Greek Island, and I’d recommend reading up on it. It was exposed by none other than my brilliant journalism professor Ted Gup, and you can read the article here.

10. You already get drunk and sing “Country Roads.” Admit it, you know all the words. It’s catchier than Rihanna. So kick off your shoes, pour yourself a bourbon (or all the bourbon), and let John Denver take you away.


sneezonal allergies.

Oh dear domain, I have been neglecting you. I do have my excuses reasons! First of all, I joined the team over at The Third Bar, so I’ve basically spent a lot of time learning just how much I don’t know about WordPress. (Also, if you like Snow Patrol, we’re awesome, I swear.) Second, I’ve had some fiction ideas brewing in my head, so I’ve been attempting to attend to those before they dissolve into dust. But mostly, I have had allergies. Props to my friend Allison for serving me some Targaryen realness and lighting a fire under my ass to write about the thing that is impeding me.

If you have never experienced seasonal allergies, I want to meet you. Not because I’m really interested in your smug face (“Clean living! Local honey to get used to the allergens! Desert air!”) but so I can go all science experiment on you and figure out how to be like you. I used to be one of you. I marked off seasons by wardrobe changes, not health crises. (This is a lie. I had bronchitis for several winters in my youth. Who wants to play in the snow when you can drink disgusting yellow liquid and cough for months?) Then I felt that tingle. Oh friends, you know it well: the tingle in your front teeth that says you have a sinus infection. Suddenly nothing is the same ever again. Even on “low pollen” days when it’s raining, the change in pressure outside will make your face the most uncomfortable part of your body. If only you could chop it off.

If you’re anything like me, and I imagine you are for finding this blog, then you relentlessly Google to find out how to treat these horrible symptoms every spring. (If you Bing, you aren’t like me, and please go away.) Fortunately I have done a lot of research into why the inside of my nose feels like a lead-filled balloon, and I’m happy to share a lot of bad tips in one place!

Take some medicine. This is my favorite. When I tell people that I am ready to carve out my sinus cavities with a letter opener, their response is usually, “Do you take anything for it?” For the low, low price of a pound of ivory and a bottle of children’s tears (unfiltered), you can get a month’s supply of indoor/outdoor allergy pills. Zytec, Claritin, Allegra. These are the names we swap with fellow sufferers like we are chasing the high of illegal drugs. Really we’re just trying to avoid the sinus headache that only kind of goes away when you’re on these drugs. That’s the best result you’ll get: almost functional. It makes you aware enough that you can articulately express how much pain you’re in.

Neti pot. If you’ve never seen a neti pot, it looks like a teapot that someone stomped on due to how stupid it is. It’s stupid. You put the spout up your nose and try to pour warm, salty water from one nostril to another like the world’s most humiliating fountain. In reality, my sinus cavities contain a tiny Gandalf forcefully declaring, “You shall not pass!” to the water, thus backing it up into my nose, down my throat, and all over me. Right to left? It’s gross but fine. Up the left nostril? It won’t come out the other side. I fail at neti potting. You can only snort warm salt water all over the front of yourself before you quit, a broken woman.

Elimination diets!!!: Shut up. Okay, some people have food allergies, and that’s fine, but I’m pretty sure broccoli isn’t the reason why maple gives me the facepunches.

Wear a mask. We all know that this works because Michael Jackson did it, and it was so effective that his nose shrank down accordingly.

Wear giant sunglasses. This is supposed to block the pollen from getting to you. Really it just irritates the bridge of your nose. I would go a step further and just wear a helmet, attached to a full body suit, at all times. Oh, fuck it. Just be an astronaut. There’s no pollen in space.

Alternatively, you could just never go outside ever. Hose down anything that comes into your home, especially if it breathes. It was probably breathing in pollen. Nobody can be trusted. They’re carriers. Look what happened in Contagion. Gwyneth Paltrow has like the most restrictive diet ever, and she still died (spoiler alert). Can I offer any real advice? Netflix. You will need the entertainment when you are drugged out of your skull by 9 PM every night but can’t go to sleep quite yet. Trust me, that “Rob Lowe in Stephen King made for TV movies” marathon was my personal highlight of last week. M-O-O-N, that spells “Is it August yet?”*

*That’s a reference from The Stand. It’s on Netflix. I couldn’t quote Rob Lowe since he was deaf, mute, and dumb.

Rules of the Road: How to Ride a Bus.

I’m taking a bus home for the holidays. The most efficient way to get from New York City to good old Wheeling, West Virginia is to fly, but since so many budget bus services have cropped up, it seems ridiculous to splash out four times as much when I can just lie to myself and pretend I’ll sleep through the night and wake up in my hometown. Also, I waited until November to ask for time off for Christmas. Also, I am an idiot.

So while you relish your schadenfreude and think you’re really clever to be the ONLY PERSON EVER to notice that country roads will be taking me home to West Virginia, mountain mama, I’m here to be useful. If you think that passing the time on a long bus ride is easy, then your definition of “long” must be around an hour. If that’s the case, you must be quite monied to afford plane tickets all the time. Please be in touch so I can give you my PayPal details for sponsorship. If you’re like me, or want to laugh at my existence, then please enjoy these tips for a smooth, pleasant journey.

DO: Wear something comfortable and arrive early to make sure that you get a good seat.
DO NOT: Mistake your seatmate for a pillow.

The last time I went home, I was stuck next to a Wall Street bro who was going back to Penn State for a party weekend. He struck up a conversation with me that revolved around his love for “A.C.,” and since it was July, it took me about an hour to realize that he was talking about Atlantic City. He and his hetebro life partner had smuggled a six-pack of Bud Lite (lite but never light!) onto the Megabus so they could party all the way. After two beers, the future of our fair economy decided I was a 5’5″ body pillow and fell asleep on me. As his stale beer breath struck me, I understood why I’m single.

DO: Prepare food and drinks that will get you through the trip. Know how many stops are planned.
DO NOT: Be a terrible human being.

When I was 18, I took a Greyhound to Florida because as the first paragraph says, I’m an idiot. Also, I was living on a college budget, so stop judging me. Anyway, I was somewhere around hour 25 that we picked up a man who decided to pull out a container of room temperature spaghetti. This was June or July. Sealed up tight in a bus, there was nowhere for the stench to go. I thought my torture was done, but no, my return trip home was worse. A man who was visibly intoxicated sneaked even more beer on the bus because, supposedly, he was a soldier celebrating that he was going home to his wife, who just had a baby. I could deal with him drinking all by his lonesome. I could not, however, deal with it when he stood next to me and began unzipping his pants so he could piss on me. My seatmate jumped up and forced the man into the bathroom at the back of the bus, where he promptly passed out until he was kicked off at the next stop. Pro-tip: pack moist towelettes for unexpected golden showers.

DO: Be prepared to entertain yourself a while.
DO NOT: Inconvenience everyone because your needs are most important.

I really do not need to spell this out to you. If you talk on your phone for four hours straight, you are an asshole. If you have to charge your phone because you’re spending so much time talking/playing games/watching movies at an obnoxious volume, you’re an asshole. If you don’t have a pair of headphones but won’t let that stop you because YOLO, you are doubly an asshole because you just made me type “YOLO.” May you rot in hell.

DO: Be flexible with your schedule.
DO NOT: Freak out.

Taking the bus can be awesome, especially when you get in early. However, you are at the mercy of the driver, other passengers, and the road. Accidents happen, but traffic’s even more frequent. I was on a bus to DC for a concert earlier this year when people were getting very testy about how we suffered an hour delay outside of town. Turns out it was a big, fiery car crash. How dare those jerks go and die ON THE ROAD rather than in a ditch, right? The fucking nerve. A notable exception to this “quit yer bitchin'” rule was when Megabus cancelled all of their buses out of DC during a “blizzard” that netted the city about half an inch of snow.

DO: Be friendly.
DO NOT: Be rude.

Don’t be overly friendly either. Creep.

Dear commuter, you are an asshole.

Hey, you. Yeah, you. You with your hideous trash bag resting on the seat next to you. (But it’s Marc by Marc Jacobs! you argue shrilly.) You leaning your entire body against the doors. You having a party on the platform because it’s Friday night, bitches!!!!!! Yeah, you’re an asshole.

I’ve never traveled abroad, so I’m not sure how other subway systems around the world compare. However, I can say without question that the New York City harbors an intense concentration of assholes. Perhaps they are oblivious, or maybe they just feel entitled. Regardless of the cause, residents and tourists alike seem to revel in making the uncomfortable experience of taking the subway even more intense. So, without further adieu, and because I get to look forward to taking the subway to work tomorrow morning, here are my top ten unsolicited tips on how to ride the subway in such a manner that you might actually be polite. Nobody will return the favor, but at least I get to vent.

1. Do not cross your legs during rush hour. When you’re packed to the gills on the subway, someone having his or her legs crossed means their legs jut out into open floor space. People can either straddle your legs and give you a free lap dance, or they can twist around you and get kicked in the shins but your thoughtlessness for the next hour. Just don’t do it.

2. Your balls are not that big. Every. Single. Day. I see a guy who has his legs spread apart like his knees both contain magnets that repel one another. Of course you’re the biggest man to ever man, but there’s no reason to deny another person a chance to sit down for the airy comfort of your nether regions. Likewise, if you have a bag between your feet, you don’t have to give it a foot of space on either side so your shins serve as bumpers.

3. Hold the pole with your hand, not your buttocks. Seriously? Yes, seriously. I have all too often seen people decide that the pole is the perfect size to wedge deftly into a certain bodily crevice. It’s not right. It’s probably not sanitary. And if you’re that comfortable with things going up your ass, maybe you should practice that hobby elsewhere. Additionally, do not hug the pole. You’re depriving other people a chance to hold on, and they really don’t want to hug you. Unless you ask, and then it’s okay.

4. Be aware of your stuff. I’ve never seen someone robbed on the train because they were oblivious. I have, however, seen and experienced being beaten by oversized bags, backpacks, umbrellas, musical instruments, breakdancers…you name it. I’m fragile, and so is my Kindle. I know because I just broke one last week.

5. The subway is not your stage. I’m cool with buskers in the subways, on the streets, you name it, but it seems that only the least talented are the sort who move from car to car, begging for money from a captive audience. If I’ve just been at work for nine hours, I really don’t want to listen to dreary accordion music while your sad wife walks behind you, carrying your child on her chest while her freshly bleached hair indicates that maybe you’re not that desperate for cash. Once again, breakdancers, you’re totally talented for being able to do what you do, let alone in motion, but STOP KICKING NEAR MY FACE. Children, you probably aren’t selling candy to fundraise for your school in July, and I really don’t want any overpriced fruit chews, so stop.

6. You do know other people can smell you, right? Never is this a more prevalent problem than in summer, when sweaty commuters raise their arms high to hold on. I’m unfortunately armpit height for many a natural, devil may care hipster, but natural body odors are not the only issue. People of all ages decide that they’d like nothing more than to smell like a giant ball of cotton, a poisonous flower, or a dress that’s been in an attic long enough to collect five generations of moths.  The bad smells on the subway come naturally enough, so there’s no reason to add to it with your chemical intervention. Bonus round! Never ever ever paint your nails on the subway.

7. I am not your pillow. I don’t understand how people can fall asleep on the subway. Yes, I’ve nodded off a few times, but it’s always been very late while under the influence of alcohol. It has never gone well. If you’re that sleepy, then maybe try to get more rest before you leave for work. I understand that some people are working two jobs or going to school at the same time. Whatever. The justified few do not excuse everyone.

8. Do your makeup at home. I do admire the women who are able to line their eyes without looking while in motion since I can barely manage while I’m sitting still and holding my breath. Still, what they do is obnoxious. They become distracted and don’t care what angle their elbows have to accomplish because that cat’s eye flick has to be just so. Also, how do they know that they’ll get a seat so they can actually do their makeup? God knows how many bodies have been stuffed into trashcans for the luxury. No wonder the MTA wants to get rid of the trash in the stations.

9. Get your iPhone out of my face. Most stations do not have WiFi yet. This hasn’t stopped many young professionals (and old professionals, and general lazy people) from having their iPhones/Blackberries/whatevers out on the subway, writing emails. Your email will not send. Why is communicating with the outside world so urgent? Would you be writing emails in your car during your commute home? No wonder so many people get into car crashes. Also, I don’t need to hear what you’re listening to as much as you do. If I can make out every word, how can you? Every time someone flips one headphone so the rest of the train can hear their music, a unicorn is disemboweled in hell.

10. Just be kind. Is that so hard? Apparently. When the conductor asks you to move to the center of the car, they mean everyone. Just because you’re getting off the train in five stops doesn’t mean that you deserve to be by the door, blocking everyone’s path. Stop standing up when you’re getting off at the next stop. You will still be able to stand up and exit the train when it stops, promise, and then you won’t be engaging in frottage. If you see someone elderly, stop applying your mascara and offer your seat. Ditto if you see someone pregnant, struggling with crutches, or even with really small children. If there’s a delay, maybe roll your eyes and grumble with a neighbor. Do not prepare for the impending revolution to overthrow the MTA, those assholes, why is the L train always fucked, I won’t have time to get my latte, the world is ending, etc. Don’t throw people on the tracks or shoot or stab them. Why do I even have to say this? We’re just people trying to get from point A to point B as cheaply as possible. Stop throwing elbows. It’s not a competition.

I’m sure all of this sounds completely obvious, but you’d be surprised. Unless you’ve taken the train in New York, in which case you’re either nodding along or brandishing your weapon because getting to and fro is tough shit, man. Feel free to share your subway pet peeves!