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10:43 a.m. - January 09, 2007
Know Your States - Part One
Greetings and salutations, and welcome to the first of many installments of "Know Your...", where we examine locales and places all around the globe, and I drop some knowledge and wisdom as only I can about each of these places. These will happen periodically, usually when I have left the material at home that I was going to use to write my normal essay. But these will still be essays of quality and distinction, and not some lame filler like when Joan Rivers or David Brenner hosted the tonight show instead of Johnny Carson.

So for the first installment, it's Know Your States (Part I)- where I take a look at the first 10 states in alphabetical order. Shall we begin? Yeah, let's do it.

(Oh, and denizens of DC - I'll get to you later. Technically, you're not a state, and that's demented and sad and wrong but it is what it is.)

Alabama - Alabama was one of the last states I visited. In fact, Liz went out to visit her family and I just took off and went south for a weekend drive. I thought it was a neat and pretty state. The second time I went through there, I was on an interstate (ick) but it was still pretty scenic and the waitron at the Cracker Barrel was pretty nice.

Alabama is the Yellowhammer State, which is also the state bird. But the state game bird is the Wild Turkey, which may or may not be the state drink as well.

This state has a quite checkered history, with George Wallace making his famous stance about segregation, and the freedom marches and bus boycotts that led up to that confrontation. Yet I don't want to judge a state or its inhabitants based on the misguided thoughts of the past generation. However, I do judge them on the amount of money the University of Alabama is paying its new football coach. You know, you may want some money left over to EDUCATE the players he's going to coach up, right?

Oh, wait, this is college football in Alabama -never mind!

Alaska - This was state #49 for me. You know, it's a long long way up there. But it is peaceful and scenic, you just need to watch out for loose gravel on some highways, and also remember that female firefighters up there are tough cookies.

I had dinner and some drinks in a local watering hole in Fairbanks, and I decided to call it a night when there was a bit of daylight afoot, and it was 11:00 PM local time, and this was the end of July.

The state sport of Alaska is 'mushing' - so yeah the Iditarod is a pretty darn big deal up there.

There are a lot of tourist traps up there, believe it or not, but when you get away from them the scenery is gorgeous and you really get a sense of peace and belonging in the world. Let's just hope we don't screw it up.

Arizona - I went to Arizona a few times as a kid as my Uncle Don and his wife lived out in Phoenix. He had to move there because of health reasons. He caught a bullet in the chest during D-Day and they couldn't remove it, so the dry air would help it better.

Liz's sisters live in Scottsdale, so I've traveled there a couple if times.

As a kid, I did the normal touristy stuff in Arizona - the Grand Canyon, The Painted Desert, The Petrified Forest, The Cheap Motel on Route 66 - but the last time I was able to travel around the state (and not beholden to family) I took a US highway up towards Las Vegas and really liked the scrubby desert view. I also liked Highway 60 coming into the state as well.

The bolo tie is the official neck wear of Arizona, and it's not a true bolo tie unless it has a scorpion in amber.

Arkansas - I’ve been through Arkansas a few times on the way to Texas. My mom had a family friend who lived in Dallas and one in Atlanta, Texas, so we passed through.

Some of Arkansas is pretty, and if I recall the people were friendly. But they need some spelling help, pronto, down there. The first sign on the road that I saw off of US 67 the last time I went through the state was a roadside market selling "Canaloap". Of course, my superiority complex was dashed when I saw a sign on US 231 just south of Crawfordsville advertising "Cannelope". Damnit, people, just say you have a MELON.

The state tree is a pine tree, which I didn’t think they had a lot of pine trees there, but I'm no botanist. I do remember in the MST3K'd movie Boggy Creek II: And The Legend Continues that the state really didn’t come off too well.

California - Ah, the state of the Governator. Believe it or else, this was one of the last states I visited, and the first time I went there I just hopped over the border to Needles and grabbed something to eat. Since I spent money in California, I counted that. Then I had a conference in San Diego and that was neat. I really want to go explore Northern California and drive on the Pacific Coast Highway. But I want a lot of things right now.

Does it seem apropos that the state animal, the California Grizzly Bear, is extinct?

California takes a lot of flack for being a state of loons, tree huggers, conspiracy theorists, nutballs, and celebrities - and sometimes they're all rolled into one. Well, they have elected their fair share of actors as Governor, and they do seem to come up with some 'interesting' members of Congress. But I don't know of a state where it seems that each member of congress is either hard hard left or hard hard right. Can't we all just get along?

Colorado - One of my favorite states! I love it, and if it weren't for a fairly high cost of living I would consider living there. Yes, I do realize that there's about 291 metric tons of snow on the ground, but still, the mountains are exquisite.

One thing I learned in Colorado is that Liz needs to have a guard rail on a road for her to be secure. I was consulting out in Denver and she flew out for a weekend. We took a road trip and I decided that we should go up to Mt. Evans, which was about 13,000 feet on a state highway. On the way up, Liz got carsick because she kept looking down and guard rail. I had NO idea she was afraid of heights like that.

The first time I was in Colorado, I took a drive down US 24. There was a town off the road, Gilman, totally blocked off without any access. The EPA shut the town down. It's kind of spooky to think about.

The gem of Colorado is the aquamarine, and I have no clever, pithy saying for that. But I have seen a Molybdenum mine, and that's funny to say three times fast!

Connecticut - I've traveled a bit through this state. Yes, it's small and a lot of it is urban, but I found some nice, peaceful areas along US 44 - that is, when I wasn't being led to tourist trap heaven.

They have a state insect, the European Praying Mantis. And I'm sure that all of the New Yorkers who have summer homes in Connecticut welcome that insect with open arms. "Come on in, European Praying Mantis! Scotch and soda?"

The most intriguing thing to me is that little notch that's cut out of the state, south of Southwick, Massachusetts. I wonder what the dealie is with that?

Delaware - Hooray, we're in Delaware. Yeah, it's from Wayne's World, but you know, it's fairly accurate.

The University of Delaware's mascot is the Blue Hens. Now, how's that, a men's team being called a Hen? Hmmmm. The state fish is the weakfish. Oh, come on, you can do better than that!

Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, so they are state #1, and garnered the first state quarter. They also have very friendly business rules, so 60% of the companies listed on the NYSE are incorporated in Delaware, even though most all of them have no operations in the state.

Florida - I do believe that Florida is now gunning for the title of "state with the most whackjobs", wresting the title away from California. I mean Fark has an entire tag for Florida. All you need to know is that this state allowed Katherine Harris to determine a national election. Yes, Cruella deVille lives! Or at least she did until she got her clock cleaned in the US Senate race.

I got my money's worth in Florida, for sure. I spent a lot of time there during one vacation. We went to Disney World, and then to Miami to visit family friends. On that excursion, we went to the Everglades and took a ride in an air boat, and also went driving out to Key West, which was cool.

The horse conch is the official shell of Florida, and I think Jimmy Buffet smiled when he heard that.

Georgia - This is a state that has pretty scenery, and a ghastly infrastructure in its largest city. Just try to get anywhere in Atlanta, quickly. You can't do it. Not going to happen.

I've spent time in Atlanta, Savannah and Columbus. Most everyone was quite friendly and decent and kind. The folks in Columbus were nice enough to tell us Hoosiers not to go south of a certain street when we went bar hopping after a hockey game. And one of my compatriots at that game met the girl of his dreams - a Japanese-American girl with a raging southern accent. Oh, he was in heaven! Her mother was the manager of the bar we were in though - and she was a tough cookie. So he didn't mess with her.

This state was first formed as a colony where the 'worthy poor' could re-establish themselves as productive citizens. So, yeah, just cast them into a wilderness thousands of miles away. But, at least it wasn't Devil's Island.

The state fossil of Georgia is the shark tooth. The shark tooth, that's it? Certainly, there must have been something else roaming around Georgia back in the day? Right?

Well, there's a look at the first 10 states in alphabetical order. Stay tuned during 2007 as we continue this riveting look at places around the globe. I know, you're all agog...I can see the drool forming in the corner of your mouth as you quiver with antici...pation.


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