My favorite things Virginia

It feels like an eon since I have traveled, plus I have been at home with the sniffles and a nasty cough.  So here goes:

1. Music: Right off the bat we are in trouble.  Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News but she is overrated (overly mannered and too self-consciously pandering to the crowd).  We do have Patsy Cline and Maybelle Carter, the latter was an awesome guitar player and a precursor of John Fahey, not to mention the mother of June Carter.

2. Writer: There is Willa Cather, William Styron, and the new Thomas Wolfe.  Cather moved at age ten to Nebraska.  Some of you might sneak Poe into the Virginia category, but in my mind he is too closely linked to Baltimore.  If you count non-fiction, add Booker T. Washington to the list.

3. Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Person: I have to go with Helen Keller.  If you choose her for "20 Questions," no one will hit upon her category.

4. Movie, set in.  The first part of Silence of the Lambs is set in Quantico, Virginia.  No Way Out, starring Gene Hackman and Kevin Costner, is set in DC and around the Pentagon.

5. Artist: Help!  Can you do better than Sam Snead?  George Caleb Bingham was born here, but I identify him with Missouri.

6. The Presidents.  I’ll pick Washington as the best, simply because he had a successor, and Madison as the best political theorist.  Jefferson’s writings bore me and Woodrow Wilson was one of the worst Presidents we have had.

The bottom line: Maybe you are impressed by the Presidents, but for a state so old, it makes a pretty thin showing.  It has lacked a strong blues tradition, a major city, and has remained caught up in ideals of nobility and Confederacy. 


Maybe this is a good assignment for Tyrone.

Helen Keller is a native of Alabama, and is most closely associated with that state. She even appeared on Alabama's quarter! If Helen Keller is a Virginian, then Robert E. Lee is from Vermont.

I'm not sure no major city is necessarily a negative. This reflects the Jeffersonian ideal. Also, had the south won the war, Virginia would have a very major city in Richmond.
Ironically, this morning I heard a song featuring a Virginia musician who had some success in the '80s - Bruce Hornsby. Not a great musician, though. By the way, Bristol was home to the first country music recordings made for national distribution and is officially designated as the birthplace of country music.
By the way, you left out favorite Virginia university. I can guess what your choice would be, but the state is home to some great schools.

OK, so yes Virginia has presidents. But California has the Beach Boys and a whole host of West Coast Jazz people - plus all other kinds of music; Writers from John Steinbeck to Gertrude Atherton; best Deaf, Dumb and Blind person - pick almost any of our politicians (wait that does not make us special); movie set in (this is the place where 60% of the movies the rest of you watch are made) - plus we have to live with the Hollywood community - shouldn't that give us points; Artists - again a whole slew; Presidents - Nixon and then although he was not born here he certainly was identified with us - RWR - perhaps the greatest president of the 20th Century. And then an incredible diversity of opinion, backgrounds and people. Sounds to me like no contest.

Artist: OK, I'm from Maryland, but living in Virginia (see my work at

Best things virginian: UUNET (now a Verizon brand), one of the first Internet service providers (founded in 1987). Add to that the revolutionary MAE-EAST Internet peering point in Tyson's Corner, as well as AOL.

Dave Matthews and the ever-adorable Lauren Graham have to find a way on to the list somehow.

Surprisingly, few good baseball players.

Best position player is probably Willie Horton or Paul Hines. Others of note are Tony Womack, Billy Nash, or George McQuinn, Granny Hamner, Al Bumbry, Steve Brodie, and Todd Hundley.

Best pitcher is Eppa Rixey (1912-1933, 266-251), who is in the Hall of Fame but has a marginal record for a Hall of Famer; also Billy Wagner (1995-present, 284 saves).

Music: The Stanley Brothers - Blue Grass band from the deep SW.

Presidents: Washington is the best President. Not for what he did, but for what he did not do. He did not stick around. He walked away from power. I imagine our country would be far different he had stayed on an treated the office as his personal or familial right.

Movies: 'Patriot' with Mel Gibson was set in the Tidewater. I think 'Sommersby' was set in VA. Although perhaps it was just filmed here.

I stand corrected. It was in SC.

And good god does Fairfax ever suck, I don't know how you guys stand it. Moving back to Denver was the best decision I ever made.

Overrated??? If Ella Fitzgerald singing Cottontail with Duke Ellington's band in Stockholm is "pandering to the crowd," then pander away, baby.

I like Ella Fitzgerald alot too. Even though she was a crowd-pleaser in Big Band era, I think it paradoxically takes more listenings to get used to her singing for people more used to the dionysian rock/soul tradition.

I'm sorry, but Woodrew Wilson was one of our worst presidents ever? I don't know too much about him, but I never gathered the impression he was a poor president, rather just the opposite. I'm curious, could you give your reasoning?

Got to defend Ella. Try the studio recordings she made with Duke Ellington and with Count Basie. "Solitude" and "Shiny Stockings" are two of the great tracks of all time. She was called "Lady Time" for good reason.

Dave Matthews isn't from VA... from South Africa... move to VA and bartended in Charlottesville... so perhaps you could add the other members of the band (who each possess as much talent)... you all forget perhaps the best and most beguiled VA athlete - Allen Iverson... he is perhaps one of the best guards of all time, won't ever receive that accolade by the greater press... but just look at the injuries he has played through in his illustrious career (over 30)...

as for the prettiest state east of Rockies - close second to Arkansas... and you should have the politics in the bag as all of the old slave owners who founded this country were from VA... take a weekend drive down plantation row...

if you know dave or any other artist, have them drop me a line if they want to make more money from their Intellectual Property ===

Another point of contention would be historic sites - Virginia has a lot of them, ranging from Washington's birthplace (in the northern neck) and home (Mt Vernon), Williamsburg, Roanoke Island and Jamestown, Monticello and the University and the civil war battlefields (Manassas and elsewhere). Many, certainly, come from the revolutionary and colonial periods, but they do deserve a mention.

Seconded on Smithfield ham. Also, Virginia Gentleman bourbon - good for the southerner on a budget.

As for music and athletes I don't think I really have to mention anything that the others haven't mentioned. Lack of a major city? Look at the Arlington and Alexandria areas. Look at the Hampton Roads area. Virginia Beach is larger than the actual City of Atlanta (not counting surrounding areas) the whole Hampton Roads area is home to almost 1.5 million people. The area is home to major businesses as well as tourism and the military. The area might not have a major pro team yet but has several minor league teams, major music venues and art centers. Plus you can't beat sunrise on the beach.

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