Sunday, April 19, 2009

So Here I Am

“You should have a blog.”
“A blog? What the hell is a blog?”
“It’s a place where you write stuff.”
“But I’m a writer, I already write stuff, and I have a website.”
“You still need a blog.”

That conversation never happened. Well, it sorta did, but only in my head. In looking around I saw that other writers have blogs, so apparently I should have one also. So I went to a website and got a blog. Having a blog is a bit like going to a pet store and buying a boa constrictor; once you have one, what the hell do you do with it? I explored around and looked at other peoples’ blogs and found out what they were doing. Basically it’s a kind of journal where you post your thoughts and ideas, and other people come to read them. Oh…ok. I guess that’s all right. Years ago a television or radio commentator, and I’ve forgotten his name unless it was Andy Rooney, used to do a commentary he called “Things I think I think”. This blog will probably be something like that.

I live on an island. Really. An island surrounded by water and connected to the mainland by bridges. When you tell people that, they automatically get an image of palm trees, sandy beaches, and natives in colorful clothing. Not this island. It’s not Greenland either where people live on a chunk of ice and rock and eat caribou meat. My island is about halfway between those scenarios. In the eastern United States, the state of West Virginia has a northern panhandle, a tapered sliver of land between Pennsylvania and Ohio. The western side of that sliver is bounded by the Ohio River, a large, very commercialized river that is formed by the joining of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers at Pittsburgh, PA, and flows southwest to eventually join the Mississippi River. The city of Wheeling, WV sits pressed tightly between the river and a range of hills. The river is probably a half-mile wide at that point, and Wheeling Island, a large, football-shaped island, sits in the river close to the Ohio border. And you thought geography was dull.

The Island, or "Da’ I-lan" as it’s known locally, is a lovely place actually. On one end is the iconic Wheeling Island Casino, Racetrack, and Gaming Center. This complex has effectively put Wheeling on the map and is its best-known feature. Also there are Wheeling Stadium and Godfather’s Gentlemen’s Club, which are much less well known, and one of these allows aging perverts to oogle naked and perky twenty year olds without being subject to arrest. The streets are wide and tree lined, and there are many beautiful houses, some that date back to pre-Civil War. There are elegant Victorians, some American four-squares, and a collection of eclectic styles and sizes. The whole bloody island is a designated historic area, and there is a certain appropriateness that I live there. Like many older areas, a high percentage of the older houses have been broken up into multiple apartments or have fallen into disrepair. This is sad but unavoidable as repair and operating costs begin to exceed the value of the properties. Enter into this mix your most humble and obedient servant who was looking for an escape from the cultural and fun wasteland that is southwestern Pennsylvania, and a match made in heaven was consummated.

Wheeling is an old American city. Its rich history goes back to the late 1700’s and the end of the Indian Wars. Its location on the Ohio River and the construction of the National Road (US 40) provided access to raw materials and markets spawning industrial development. With the addition of railroads in the 1800’s, Wheeling became a thriving industrial center and grew like a mushroom. In the 1900’s, the glass, nail, steel, tobacco, china, and commodities businesses gradually fell like dominos and the boom times were over.

But Wheeling wouldn’t die. Like a fighter who gets up again and again, Wheeling remains a vibrant and active town that is the envy of cities twice its size. It has a thriving cultural center focused around the riverfront amphitheater called Heritage Port. The Wesbanco Center hosts minor league hockey and arena football teams between concerts, expositions, tournaments, and a myriad of other uses. Live Vaudeville theater is still presented on weekends and the famous Capitol Theater is being restored as a performance venue. More than twenty miles of paved bike trails follow the river and an old railroad bed, and are used by bikers, hikers, and skaters. The restaurants…don’t get me started. Wonderful restaurants and dance clubs where people my age (and that would be old) dance along side the kids. Shopping, movie theaters, magnificent parks, and I didn’t even get to the Casino. You might guess that I like this area, but even more so, I am captured by the life and spirit that is here. More later.

No comments:

Post a Comment