Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Delaware: Small Wonder, or Woot, Woot! No more, "What state's that in?"

My sister called me the Saturday morning Obama picked his running mate. "Turn on CNN!" she said breathlessly. "Can you see me?"

Luckily, I knew that our Delaware homeboy, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, was in the mix for vice presidential nominee, or I would've about crapped my pajamas, imagining her amid a terrorist attack or somesuch.

But my sister inherited from my father a gene that carries a rabid interest in politics. I knew where she was, all right. She'd gone to Joe's house.

Oh, she's not a stalker or anything -- lots of people were there. Because that's what you can do in Delaware -- just traipse on over to the vice presidential nominee's lawn to wish him good luck.

And in fact, I did see her. I took a picture of the TV to prove it. That's right -- there she is taking a picture of the CNN camera, which is taking her picture, and there I am taking a picture of the TV. Do you feel all Escher yet?

I continued watching CNN, for Obama's introduction of old Joe (my brother as a state trooper had served as his body guard), and Biden's speech, and I have to admit feeling some pride in being from the Little State That Could.

And so it was that after scheming for summers with my girlfriends about how we could escape the First State, and spending years carefully listening to my speech so as to rid myself of the accent (trust me, there IS an accent), I promptly wrestled that cute little state into a Blue Hen bear hug and squeezed its toes (and that would be pronounced with a long, nasally "o").

If you are among those for whom Delaware conjures a memory of 10 minutes on I-95, here's what makes the state special to me -- aside from the fact that it had so little going on that it jumped right on in and became the first state to ratify the U.S. Consititution way back when.

Know the Heimlich Maneuver? Sure you do. But you wouldn't had it not been for Delaware Dr. Henry Heimlich (who really needs to share credit with Maryland and Pennsylvania, because you perform the move in Delaware, that's where the dislodged food ends up).

Among other Delaware natives you might have heard of: Elisabeth Shue, Valerie Bertinelli, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ken Burns (who lived three houses away from mine when his dad taught at U of D), Robert Mitchum, Ryan Phillippe and George Thorogood.

Delaware has one area code. How damn cute is that?

And with a population of roughly 850,000 (just about 100,000 more than the city of San Francisco and nearly 200,000 more than the entire state of Alaska), the DMV hasn't yet reached the need to add letters to its license plates. Drivers even have a decent chance of scoring a vanity license plate that says simply, "nurse" (or, in the case of an erstwhile high school chum, "Halen," but that's another story).

There is no sales tax. It was such a foreign concept to me growing up that as an elementary school student on a trip to Amish country, I thought the cashier was charging me a personal penalty when she announced that the tiny green rubber elephant I wanted to buy at the gift store would be a few more cents than the price sticker. (Don't ask why the Amish were trucking with green rubber elephants; I just remember I quickly lost interest in it after Bryan Amoroso promptly pulled off its trunk upon our return to our second grade classroom.)

And did you know that every fallen U.S. serviceman returns through the Dover Air Force Base? It's the country's only continental mortuary for the Department of Defense.

So let's give it up for this Small Wonder and my 15 minutes of feeling like I'm from a state where, like, people visit on purpose.