Murray, KY – When I moved from New Jersey to Kentucky twenty-one years ago, friends sent me sympathy cards. They thought I'd be isolated, out of the main stream, and warned of the usual southern stereotypes: No more merlot, just moonshine. Toss out the business suits and replace them with flour sack dresses. Start using words like "yall", phrases such as, "I reckon." It wouldn't be long, they swore, that I'd be saying, "I'm fixin' to go Wal-mart."
Of course, they were wrong.
Still, there were some surprises as I settled into life in western Kentucky. One of them happened right after I moved here, when I ventured into a family-owned grocer and bought a few items. At the check-out counter, I watched in amazement as shoppers charged their purchases and the clerk made note in pencil on a scrap of loose-leaf paper. She even said please and thank you, acted as if she valued each customer.
When it was my turn and I was paying for my purchases, a boy picked up my bags and headed for the door. I rushed after him and snarled, "Where do you think you're going with my groceries?"
He stopped and turned to face me, blushing deep enough to make his freckles disappear. "I'm just carrying your groceries to the car, ma'am," he said. "Which vehicle is yours?"
Right then, I knew I wasn't in New Jersey any more.
There were other pleasant surprises in my new Kentucky home. People are polite, friendly. They greet strangers on the street with a smile. When I'm out jogging they wave "good morning" from their cars. In New Jersey, there are several hand gestures that are common to drivers, but as far as I know, none of them translates into "Have a nice day," or "Your mother is most likely a pleasant woman."
But my favorite thing about living in western Kentucky is WKMS, our Public Radio affiliate. I am connected to the world because of WKMS. I wake to news in the morning; savor the Writers Almanac at noon; enjoy Performance Today, World News, Talk of the Nation, Marian McPartland on Sundays, Ira Glass, Jazz, World Music, Click and Clack. There are too many good things to enumerate, but I feel compelled to add that -- during the ice storm this past winter -- WKMS was a lifeline, verifying information and broadcasting it through a dedicated team of staff, reporters, student workers and volunteers.
WKMS is truly the voice of the region, and we all need to make sure we support it. After all, what other media outlet would broadcast third, fourth and fifth graders reading their own poetry in honor of National Poetry Month?
WKMS needs your help to reach the spring fund raiser goal of $110,000 to continue great coverage of news, music, entertainment and poetry. Please pledge online or call right now.
Speaking for myself, this is Constance Alexander for WKMS in Murray, Ky.