West Virginia 2006 (and Pennsylvania)

Mary Wade's article originally ran in the Sept. 12, 2006 edition of the Times West Virginian in Fairmont, W.Va.

In real life, a ďWrong TurnĒ can lead to fun

By Mary Wade Burnside

After three long years, I finally got to see "Wrong Turn." Just in case you need a refresher, thatís the 2003 film with this classic review blurb: "Six people find themselves trapped in the woods of West Virginia hunted down by cannibalistic mountain men grossly disfigured through generations of in-breeding."

For some reason, I just didnít make it to the theater to see that one. Could it be that I donít want to pay full sticker price for a movie that I canít even sit through that also maligns my people?

Did I mention I didnít really watch the movie when it was on TV the other night? I just channel-surfed back and forth out of morbid curiosity, usually hitting the clicker as the tension mounted. Even when a movie is ludicrous, I donít like seeing people hunted, killed and, well, you know... Letís just say the film gives new meaning to the phrase, "Stick a fork in it." It really was silly. The cannibals grunted and walked like cavemen and generally made the bad guys from "Deliverance" look like Frasier and Niles Crane. Whereís a good old intellectual cannibal like Hannibal Lecter when you need one? And it took a really long time ó 84 minutes ó for those city slickers to outwit the beasts.

Not that they all did...

The movieís TV broadcast was really good timing, as it came on the heels of a visit by my friends Ken and Lisa.

Lisa actually grew up near Campbells Creek in Charleston and is no stranger to West Virginia. Her man, Ken, however, is an urbane city type, having grown up in the Los Angeles area, where the two of them live.

Whenever Ken goes anywhere ó and heís quite the traveler, having just had returned from Ecuador a week before coming here ó he takes detailed photos and posts them on his Web site.

Getting to see West Virginia through their eyes ó even Lisaís, after living in Los Angeles for 15 years ó is always interesting.

For instance, we went to the architectural masterpiece Fallingwater one day. OK, thatís in Pennsylvania. But instead of stopping by Nemacolin Woodlands Resort for lunch, as I suggested, they had other ideas. Anything having to do with the Civil War, crafty-gifty shops or selling fruits and vegetables by the roadside were of interest to them. Lisa was very disappointed when a Civil War re-enactment group had broken camp at Fort Necessity National Battlefield by the time we got there.

There is a down side to all of that. If I never go into a store again that sells angels made out of dish towels, I think Iíll survive. But on the other hand, itís a reminder of whatís appealing about this area, especially to someone living in a big left-coast city. To them, a 1950s dinette set is an antique.

I e-mailed all this to a former co-worker who also lives in Los Angeles, and that sounded like a fine day to him, too. Fallingwater actually is on his official list of things to do, and everything else appealed. Frank Lloyd Wright? Check. Civil War battlefield? Check. Hog farm by the side of the road and deer grazing grass at Fort Necessity? Check, check.

Not that Los Angeles is boring. Lisa and I once took a tour in a chauffeured hearse that showed us notorious spots around the city, like where Marilyn Monroe used to live and where Fatty Arbuckle died. They gave us a map in case we wanted to check out the locations of the Charles Manson murders on our own.

But thatís not where the battle for America took place. Although we joked about it. We came up with the Battles of Malibu and Rodeo Drive, the Taking of La Cienega, and the Last Stand at the La Brea Tar Pits.

Ah, if only it really happened that way.

On the same day I saw "Wrong Turn," Ken finally posted his photos, at www.elevenshadows.com/travels/. OK, so he used coal cars to click on to advance the pictures (probably inspired by their trip, without me, to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine). And maybe he lingered a bit too long on the details of an old church. Still, it was interesting for me to see their meandering return trip to Charleston to visit Lisaís parents. I knew they had gone to Jacksonís Mill, but I had never seen Blakerís Mill, a building reassembled on the grounds there. Ken caught it in two clear, crisp pictures, one in which itís reflected in a pond along with trees and clouds, in a photo fit for a calendar. Or even a poster. And that house in Weston? My grandmother grew up in that town, but I never really paid attention to the Victorian architecture. Itís easy not to when youíre surrounded by it.

Now, I canít wait to check out Hillybilly Hotdogs, a new southern West Virginia eatery with an addictive-looking menu ó and Web site. (The owners met ó get this ó in Hollywood. Iím beginning to see a trend).

So in one day, I got two takes on West Virginia. Both from Los Angeles, and each from different ends of the spectrum. One was ridiculous and the other made me want to get in my car and go exploring. Oh, and the picture of Lisa on the front porch of a log cabin at Jacksonís Mill? She had Ken take that so she could show it to folks back in Los Angeles and tell them thatís where she grew up.

Even if they just saw "Wrong Turn," I donít think theyíll believe her.

E-mail Mary Wade Burnside at mwburnside@timeswv.com.

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