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American Road Trip Vol. 8

On the last leg of our American Road Trip, we had entered Ohio by way of Cincinnati. We have one more destinations in that state before we turn east, but we shall return to the northern parts of Ohio when we go west.

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Columbus, Ohio

champion ave

And here is where I take up Dane”s invitation for a cup of coffee (and while she is in the kitchen brewing it, I quickly borrow from her the song that will feature here). Dane is the exquisitely talented photographer whose blog All Eyes And Ears has inspired me to become ever more aware of the beauty in mundane things. Dane”s photos are all taken in Ohio, not a place you”d most immediately associate with photogenic qualities (see the great photo above, taken in Columbus). But Dane”s work persuasively argues that a rusty letterbox or disused signage can be as captivating as a Hawaiian sunset.

Anyway, Columbus. It”s Ohio”s biggest city and the state”s capital, with a population of 770,000. It is also smack-bang in the middle of the USA; according to Wikipedia, half of all US residents live within 550 miles (890 km) of Columbus. So why isn”t Columbus more famous than Cincinnati or any number of smaller US cities (such as, say, San Francisco)? Well, frankly, its history is a bit ordinary, and the city”s contribution to modern culture”¦well, there is Dane”s blog! OK, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk was born in Columbus, Dwight Yoakam grew up there, Rascal Flatts were founded there, and the sitcom Family Ties was set there. On the downside, Prescott Bush ““ the patriarch of the evil clan that gave us the two Georges ““ was also born in Columbus. Dane, the coffee was excellent, but we must be on our way”¦Goodbye Columbus, it”s a lucky day for walkin” a new road.
The Association – Goodbye Columbus.mp3

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Wheeling, West Virginia

Wheeling is on the Ohio river in Ohio County. So it makes perfect sense that this city of 31,000 should be in West Virginia. And Wheeling doesn”t just happen to be in West Virginia; it virtually founded the state. It was in Wheeling that those Virginians who did not want to secede with the slave-owning states from the Union instead seceded from Virginia. The good people of Wheeling were a bit upset with The West Wing a few years ago when the would-be assassins of President Bartlett (well, of Charlie and Zoey) were identified as having bought their weapons in Wheeling. Well, they had to buy them from somewhere.

songs_in_the_atticIn his song Billy The Kid (the version featured here is the excellent live recording from Songs In The Attic), Billy Joel has the eponymous character born in Wheeling, West Virginia. You don”t want Billy Joel teach your children history, because Henry McCarty (or William Bonney, if you must) was born in New York City, and was shot dead by the horrible Pat Garrett, not hanged and buried on a hill that bears his name. Still, cracking song.
Billy Joel – Billy The Kid (live).mp3

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Here”s why I love US geography: Wheeling, West Virginia is in Ohio County (and, if Family Ties is to be believed, kids from Columbus take trips there because of a lower legal drinking age), and is considered part of the Pittsburgh Tri-State region, which seems to be headquartered in the Pennsylvanian city. Pittsburgh has become almost synonymous with industrial decay, especially its steelworks. Yet, Bruce Springsteen managed to write only one song about the city. Apparently, the city has been able to revive itself since the dark days of the 1970s, and offers all kinds white collar services now. And it has been ranked the United States” tenth cleanest city, so screw you, steel.. There”ll be some fun to be had when the G20 summit is held there in September.

lemonheadsApart from the occasional shout-out in lists of US cities, Pittsburgh has inspired little by way of songwriting (certainly as far as my collection goes) ““ so little that a few years ago a radio station invited local musicians to submit their songs about the city. In the spirit of that dearth, I offer a 2006 song by the Lemonheads (whose newly released album of covers is said to be less than fantastic) which bears the title of the city and proceeds to make no mention of it. And a song from 1970s folk singer Sammy Walker”s Misfit Scarecrow album from last year.
The Lemonheads ““ Pittsburgh.mp3
Sammy Walker – A Cold Pittsburgh Morning.mp3

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Previously on American Road Trip

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  1. June 15th, 2009 at 06:16 | #1

    Thanks for stopping by, you’re always welcome, even if it’s only virtually. And by the way, you are way too kind, I’m practically blushing here!

    Anyway, it’s a mutual admiration thing – I only post links to the song for download because when I write about music, I sound like an idiot, not knowledgable and eloquent like you.

    I am pretty sure that I’ve got a picture of Prescott Bush’s grave somewhere.

  2. June 15th, 2009 at 07:42 | #2

    If we keep complimenting each other, people will talk…

    The grave of Prescott Bush is now a disco, I hope.

  3. June 16th, 2009 at 14:36 | #3

    I like that Sammy Walker song – cool how he rhymes ‘then’ with ‘mandolin’.

  4. W
    June 27th, 2009 at 00:32 | #4

    Pittsburgh is actually a pretty great city, though you are right that it hasn’t inspired its due share of music. W.

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