Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Things Lucia Should Know About Her Birthplace

I have mixed feelings about this place. Sure, the blog is called living in misery and I often complain about living here, but I also point out the positives no matter what some claim.

Like all places, there is good and bad. I'm reporting on both here. I'm reporting on what is. Lucia should know something about her birthplace. So, like I did for my own home state, here are the most important points about Misery/Missouri.

1. Misery is known as the "show me" state. There are a couple of stories behind the state's nickname. One is that Congressman Willard Vandiver was quoted as saying,
“I come from a country that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri, and you have got to show me.” Of course, I prefer to cite the story of a pit boss in a Colorado mine where several laborers from Misery were hired. One supervisor turned to the other and said, "They're from Missouri. You'll have to show them," referring to their inability to complete simple tasks.

2. Misery was a slave state. As I described Ohio's great history in slavery and abolition, Misery too has some ties. However, MO has a less savory past. It became a state in the Missouri Compromise in which Maine also received statehood but as a free state so as to keep things even in Washington between slave and free states. Misery was such a proud slave state that they sent a militia over to Kansas to "talk them into" being a slave state as well.

3. I know of two movies set in Misery that both describe what it's like to live here. The first is Roadhouse with Patric Swayze as the outsider brought in to clean up a barn-turned-bar (slash roadhouse) in Joplin. He deals with hot ER doctors and crooked rich guys as he tries to make the roadhouse a respectable establishment where folks can drink Wild Turkey and listen to a blind dude play the blues in peace. The Wild West-meets-Midwestern Sensibility aesthetic of this Swayze epic encapsulate the Missouri ethic to a tee. The other film is Jesus Camp. Just know that this film is about giant mega-churches and even bigger crosses. I don't think it needs much explaining beyond that.

4. Yakov Smirnoff now calls MO "home". The former Soviet Union's greatest comedian ever now resides in Branson, Nashville's somewhat retarded stepson. I hear his show is really a hoot. We have yet to make it down there, but it is on our bucket list.

5. The University of Missouri at Columbia, a land-grant university, is a great source of pride for the residents of Misery. The university brought us here for R's job and they employ me as well. Did I mention they are a land-grant university? I want to make sure I get that in there since it has been mentioned to us nearly every day since we arrived. People are very proud of this fact. I'm not exactly sure what "land-grant university" means, but I wonder if it has something to do with calling it "MU" instead of "UM" even though it's the University of Missouri.

6. If you don't like the weather, wait a while longer for it to change. I know that this is an old adage used everywhere, but it is actually true here. One can never predict what the weather will do from day to day. There have been days when it is one way in the morning and completely opposite in the afternoon. Tuesday's high is expected to be in the nineties, but it will be in the mid-seventies by Thursday. How does that work?

7. Jefferson City is actually called "The City of Jefferson". This is more of a trivia item, but one should know the true name of our capital. Of course, we'll still just call it "Jeff City".

8. Misery has a rich political history. It's not the "mother of presidents", but MO has a rather interesting place in American politics. John Ashcroft (no relation to Richard) did some damage here as Governor and Senator. Mel Carnahan famously beat Ashcroft posthumously, sending Ashcroft to do "God's work" as attorney general for the US. The two current senators Kit Bond (no relation to K.I.T.T.) and Claire McCaskill have also made their fair share of splashes on the Washington scene.

9. Langston Hughes is from Misery. There have been many famous Missourians, but this is the one who always surprises people. I know that Hughes is most famous for the work he did in the Harlem Renaissance, but a bunch of his poems describe his life growing up in MO. "
What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun?... Or does it explode?" - Langston Hughes No matter where you come from, that's some good stuff.

10. The state's most famous river is known as "Big Muddy" for its high silt content. It's not the Seine, but Missourians love them some Big Muddy. The Missouri marks the many routes to the West, particularly during the great expansion. Even though the Gateway Arch is in STL, near where the Missouri meets the Mississippi, many of these routes began in KC, MO's other city.

That's all I have for now. I'm sure I missed something. Someone who hates my blog will complain about how many great things I forgot. Oh well.

For my Misery/Missouri readers, what do you think is important to know about this place? Let me know in the comments.


Erica Kroll said...

missouri is the cave state. The Ozark mountains are some of the oldest mountains on the planet and the region is one of the most ecologically diverse. The current river has some of the largest springs in missouri and in the world.

Breathing Is Overrated said...

A couple of random responses~

1) The blind musician in Road House was Jeff Healey, who has since died. He was actually quite good, though I doubt that particular film did too terribly much for his credibility as an artist.

2) Langston Hughes.... WOW. That is something for Lu to be proud of. He took the written word and made it better, stronger, more exciting.

3) Ohio State is a land grant university too..... though I am not terribly sure why being one is important.

Rachelle said...

let's not forget Brad Pitt, Sheryl Crow and the infamous Enron dude ... yep .. all from MO

Telebastard said...

Don't mention Jesus Camp to Lu until she's like 18 because that shit is nightmare inducing.

Ask Lucia if she wants to start a band with this 2 year old (my niece): http://vimeo.com/6242415

Pizza Cottontail said...

Road House is the best Missouri movie ever. Waiting for Guffman is #2.

Also, the Mormons believe the Garden of Eden is in Davies County. Missouri plays a big part in Mormon history.

Oregon Trail, arguably the greatest game of all time (educational or not), starts in Missouri.

Missouri has a proud history of great people leaving the state, beginning with Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden, through the Lewis and Clark and the Pony Express which got the hell out of the state as fast as they could, and Dred Scot's noble but ultimately constitutionally fucked stab at leaving, all the way up to a mass exodus of literary titans, including Langston Hughes, TS Eliot, Mark Twain, Jonathan Franzen, et al, and the Arizona (nee St. Louis) Cardinals, of course.

Donna said...

Yes, I was also going to point out that Ohio State is also a land-grant university. Land-grant universities were made possible after the civil war by the Morrill Act. This is quite an important moment in the history of higher education because it shifted emphasis from the traditional classical curriculum to one that responded to the needs of the time: agriculture and industry. Some land grant universities bear this emphasis in their name (like Texas A & M). Others are distinguished by the inclusion of "State" in their name (yes, like Ohio State). What's distinctive (but not unique) about Mizzou is that it was founded before the Morrill Act but benefitted from it. It's like having the University of Michigan and Michigan State in one institution! (Well, sort of.) But, yeah, they do tend to emphasize the land grant part, which sort of undermines the distinctiveness. But that's why Mizzou was against Southwest Missouri becoming "Missouri State." They thought people would get confused and think it was the land grant university.

So, yeah, strange that it's the big thing that people mention. I'm not sure that people who talk about it so much really know why they're talking about it so much.

But now you know. Aren't you glad that my sickness-addled brain found it important to share this with you?