Monthly Archives: September 2008

Get This…

As many of you know, I was born in Wheeling, West Virginia and spent most of my life in and around the Upper Ohio Valley region of the state. I have a strong connection to W.V., mostly because of the time I spent hiking, camping and generally enjoying the mountainous terrain – most notably that terrain which lies within the Monongahela National forest and the Allegheny Highlands. This might help explain the outdoorsy theme to this blog.

This post, however, is not about the outdoors. It is about the absurd story behind a particular video I found on YouTube. You might be wondering what a YouTube video has to do with my introduction to this post or with my life in Australia.

Let’s start from the beginning…

My first real adventure away from home led me to Cincinnati, Ohio, where I spent three years of my life (2005-2008). Upon moving to Cincinnati, and still feeling a longing for home, I quickly discovered a place where fellow West Virginians met to watch West Virginia University sports and talk the motherland.

Cincinnati is not a big city, so suffice it to say, there was not a huge contingent of West Virginians – but it was nice to retreat to a place where I could find at least one person with the familiar love for home. Similarly, my friends in Washington D.C. found a place where they too can enjoy a nice friendly conversation with some Wild and Wonderful natives of the Mountain State (i.e. West Virginia).

I thought to myself “If Cincinnati and D.C. have W.V. hangouts, then why can’t Sydney?” So on a whim, I Googled “West Virginia Sydney.” I was surprised by one of the first results. It was an article about a singer named Neil Sedaka who apparently had a number one hit in Australia called “Wheeling, West Virginia.” Sedaka, a Brooklyn-born singer, apparently wrote the song while in staying in Sydney, and it became a huge hit for him here – though it didn’t do so well in the US.

Of all the years I spent growing up in the Wheeling area, I had no idea such a song existed. Neither did any of my friends. Maybe it was because it was overshadowed by John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads. Or maybe it was because the song was never a hit in the US. (Or maybe it is because the dated sound of the song forever relegates it to AM radio.)

Whatever the reason, I forgot all about my search for West Virginia hangouts, and my new project became to find out more about this song. A trip to YouTube quickly led me to a recording of Neil Sedaka’s “Wheeling, West Virginia.” Here it is (Dad, turn on your speakers and click on the video screen):

If you listen closely to the lyrics you will find out that the story is told from the point of view of an actor living in Hollywood (“racing his MG down to MGM“) who is troubled by the fast-paced and fictitious lifestyle of acting. We find out that this man is originally from Wheeling, West Virginia where he left his previous (and presumably less-worldly) self behind. On  the way to the movie set he asks himself “Where is the guy from Wheelin’ West Virgineeeea? Thousands of miles from hooooome.”

The big-time actor misses his small-town self.

I bet you are wondering, why am I listening to this song? Why do I really care? Why are you wasting my time with this nonsense, Brad?

Just think back to everything I’ve told you so far about this song and its singer. Does anything sound a little strange? Let me just tell you how my brother put it after I played the song for him. He posited…

“So its a song written in Australia by a guy from Brooklyn about a guy in L.A. reminiscing about his life in Wheeling, WV?”

So, there you have it folks. A wonder of a song. A song that inexplicably defies all rules of geography and physics.

Kind of like when John Denver said West Virginia’s most famous landmarks are the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenendoah River.

A Rare Sight

Two weekends ago, I was able to enjoy one of my favorite hobbies – camping.  One of my colleagues knew that I was interested in camping and got me in touch with a friend of his who was planning a trip to the Yalwal area of New South Wales.

Yalwal is the site of an old gold mining town, which is about 184 km south of Sydney. Today, Yalwal is buried beneath a lake formed by the damming of the Danjera Creek/Shoalwater River. According to the Yalwal visior information site, the only remnants of the old town of Yalwal are a graveyard and some leftover mining facilities. The land is now owned and managed by the City of Shoalhaven.

I caught a ride to the old town with two of the seven eventual campers – Krishan and Andrew. To get to Yalwal, Andrew drove us from Sydney down the south-west coast of Australia for about 131 km before turning inland for about another 60 km or so.

The last notable town before heading into the mountains is a town called Berry, which is a sort of boutique mountain town where city-slickers can escape for the weekend and feel like they are being active (when in actuality most of them are probably doing nothing more than sipping gourmet coffee on the sidewalks of a little boutique mountain town).

My crew and I, on the other hand, were doing the real thing. We hurried through Berry and soon found ourselves winding up long gravel roads until we reached the top of a mountain – at which point we winded down again until we came to rest in the quiet little valley formerly known as the town of Yalwal.  Our camp set upon a ledge overlooking Dangera dam and the lake it created.

The lake way behind me is where we camped.

The three of us were the last to arrive, and we rounded out the crew of seven. Attending the trip were two Brits, two Sri-Lankans, an Indian, an American (me) and only one Australian (who is 100% Greek).

It was a nice, fun, laid back trip. We sat around the campfire Saturday night and took a hike down to the lake the next day. However, the highlight of my trip (besides meeting a bunch of cool new camping buddies, er…mates) took place before we even made it to the campsite on Saturday.

A few twists and turns before hitting the campsite, while still in the car, Krishan pointed out an animal that was grazing in another campsite off to our right. Andrew stopped and I got out of the car to experience my very first proper Australian wildlife sighting! I saw…

Wombat

…three kangaroos and three wombats!!!!

Live!!! In the wild!!!

Scared of us humans and ready to run away!!!

Before the animals took off, I was able to get a picture of one of the wombats. The best way I can describe the wombat is that it looks like a groundhog the size of a full-grown pig with the face of a black bear.

When I mentioned the sighting to people back in the city, they all told me that I was lucky to see a wombat in the wild, because apparently they are quite  rare to see (they are nocturnal).

I told ’em that’s what I do.

They don’t call me the Koalablogger for nothing!