State By State: Returning Home

Today is a day to give thanks, and a lot of people are returning to their home state to meet with family and friends. Matt Wieland, the co-editor of a new book entitled State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America talks about the project, along with contributors Susan Orlean and Randall Kenan about what they love about living in Ohio and North Carolina.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. But, I am from New Jersey, the most densely populated and most paved state in the nation where the revolution neither began nor ended but which saw much of the fighting and two cruel winters for George Washington's army. Patterson, New Jersey lays claim as the origin of America's Industrial Revolution. Menlo Park is the home of Thomas Edison's invention factory, and it's the place Bruce Springsteen was born to run from. Its industrial wastelands, the pine barrens and the backside view of the Statue of Liberty cannot be found anywhere else; USA. Any and every one of the other 49 states can boast its own unique scenery and warts, which is the idea behind a new book that assigned portraits of each of the 50 states to 50 different writers.

So today, if you are back in your home state for a visit, call and let us know about the one thing that makes you glad you're back or glad you left; 800-989-8255 is the phone number. Email us talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org, and click on Talk of the Nation. Later in the program we want to hear your stories about who is not at the table this year for whatever reason. You can send us an email about that now, talk@npr.org and of course, we'll also keep an eye on the situation in Mumbai.

But first, Matt Weiland joined us in the phone from his home in New York City. He's one of the editors of the book, "State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America." Happy Thanksgiving, Matt, and thanks for taking some time out of the celebration.

Mr. MATT WEILAND (Author, "State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America"): Hey, thanks a lot. I'm really pleased to be there with you.

CONAN: And you wrote in you introduction that you'd actually had three writers who vied for the honor of writing about New Jersey.

Mr. WEILAND: We sure did, that New Jersey pride, weird to say it's wonderful. We ended up giving it to the food writer Anthony Bourdain, who I think wrote a magnificent piece. But, we were sorry to miss out on some of the other writers who were so keen to write about New Jersey.

CONAN: And I read Anthony Bourdain's piece in turn. He in turn - he in fact, grew up in the town next to the town that I grew up in and had this wonderful - well, among the many wonderful lines. As far as I was aware, no one in our world had a tennis court, much less a pool, had affairs with one another, or committed suicide. That kind of un-we was beyond our means.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WEILAND: Capturing the truth of New Jersey. He also writes wonderfully about the childhood, the escapade of chasing the truck that sprayed for mosquitoes.

CONAN: That's down on the chore. All of these wonderful stories as you describe it, not just the great places, you know, the river gorges of Colorado, the greats fall in New York State. But, as you described it, the half-dead towns too alive to be ghosts, the rusting historical markers buried in the weeds, the anonymous bits of land with their own hidden histories and surprising beauties and grace, those with the stories you were looking for?

Mr. WEILAND: That's exactly right. I mean it's a book, of course, that has some of the writers visiting very famous places in America. You know the Alamo or Mount Rushmore. But, I think some of the pieces that moves me most are the pieces about undistinguished places, or places that aren't celebrated so often. I think of the young novelist Josh Ferris, who wrote about his youth in Key West and working in a kind of scummy diner there. And, all the things he learned from the waitresses and the guys washing the dishes, and how that place made him, and formed his view of the world. And, I think that's true for all of us.

CONAN: There's a banner across the iconic picture or emblem on your - the front page of your book - on the cover of your book, "Take pride in your country." Well, you're making a point that if we want to take pride in our country, we have to remember the mosquito spraying trucks, and the swamps, as well as the Empire State Building.

Mr. WEILAND: That's absolutely true. I mean, I think, you know, patriotism is one of those words that somehow, you know, people feel uncomfortable use sometimes. And, we wanted to reclaim it a bit, to be proud of all the little things that go into making us and the places, you know, that we come to know as - in our youth and beyond that even things that we don't love at that time, I think, come to - we identify with and become part of us, and we wanted to rescue that.

Also, to defend a little bit the country from, you know, just over weaning forces of homogenization. Anyone who takes a drive on the interstate or flips around commercial radio or goes to a big-box superstore can come to feel like that the whole country is the same wherever you go. But I think we all know that's not true. That the country remains surprisingly varied in accent, in temperament, in sense of humor. You know, in all sorts of things. And, we wanted to remind ourselves to take pride in all of that.

CONAN: Well, you also had a great opportunity, this is an idea based upon an old works progress administration project back in the 1930s which did a lot of things but including state guides. And, you had the same opportunities those editors had of, well, assigning commissioning pieces from well-known or struggling authors.

Mr. WEILAND: Yeah, that's right. Of course, the original federal writers project employed more than 6,000 American writers at the heart of the depression in the mid-30s. You know, writers like Saul Bellow and Ralph Ellison, Studs Terkel, Richard Wright, on and on wrote for the American Guide series. And, they took as their mantra, this wonderful phrase I've always loved, to describe America to Americans. A very, very simple, but I think a noble ideal. And so Sean Wilkie(ph) and I took that as our own.

And you know, we assigned some of the pieces to writers that I think everyone knows or many will and love. Writers like Jonathan Franzen and Jhumpa Lahiri and Perry Hannath(ph), and S.E. Hinton the great author of "The Outsiders." But, we wanted to go beyond that too, and that's why we assigned some of the pieces to, you know, Anthony Bourdain, a food writer, or Alexander Paine, the great film maker, writing about Nebraska. And, even some writers that maybe, you know, who's names aren't familiar to readers yet, but who will be in time.

CONAN: Well, we've asked some of our listeners over the past week to send us some essays about their states, where they live. And we have Ellen on the line from Tallahassee, Florida who wrote this about the sunshine state: My state is Florida - North Florida, not the white sand and Disney Florida people usually imagine. When I am kayaking down a quiet, lazy river watching herons, turtles, hawks, mullet, manatees, and beavers following my path under a canopy of live oaks and Cyprus trees dripping with Spanish moss that shades the clear spring water, I remember the giant python that exploded after eating a 6-foot alligator. And I think this is Florida. Ellen joins us now on the phone. Ellen, that's wonderful. The python exploded.

ELLEN (Caller): Yes. Didn't you remember that story? It's from just a couple of years ago, but it was a photo that circulated on the Internet, because it was so striking. The exploded snake with the - you could still see the alligator's body in there.

CONAN: You know, this is something that's going to appeal to a lot of people on Thanksgiving Day.

ELLEN: Right.

CONAN: As they're sitting down to dinner. And Ellen, this other scene that you write though, that's beautiful stuff.

ELLEN: Right, exactly. In North Florida, it's beautiful and some people don't imagine how natural it is. They think of the sort of glamour and ritziness of South Florida with Miami Beach and everything. But, North Florida is definitely the Deep South, and it's quiet and beautiful, and it's nature.

CONAN: There are parts of North Florida referred to as I understand it by some of the natives as Baja, Alabama.

ELLEN: Right. Exactly. We're Southern Alabama.

CONAN: And this is - you grew up there. Do you still leave there?

ELLEN: I didn't grow up there actually, I'm from Massachusetts originally. But, I've been here for several years.

CONAN: And do you intend to stay?

ELLEN: Yeah, I love Florida. I don't know actually. You never know, but I do love Florida, and I'm having a really good time here. I've been here for several years and you can't beat the weather. We have all the doors and windows open today. It's quite different from my family who is celebrating Thanksgiving in Massachusetts so.

CONAN: Ellen, have a happy Thanksgiving dinner.

ELLEN: Thank you for having me on. I love your show.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Appreciate that.

Mr. WEILAND: What an excellent piece of writing that was.

CONAN: Really nice piece of writing. And you sort of envy her both the experience of the kayak trip, and the picture of the exploded python.

Mr. WEILAND: That's right. That speaks of something that ran throughout the book. That is, early on we felt as though, you know, place like California might need two different essays because Northern and Southern California are so different.

CONAN: Hey, North and South Jersey too.

Mr. WEILAND: Well, exactly, and we felt the more we worked on it, we realized every state contains multitudes, and that's why we asked each writer to just, you know, to not try to be comprehensive, but to tell us one good story. Particularly one that captures something about a state that we may not already have known. And as Ellen, as the caller said, you know, that is what she described is so Florida even if it's different from every other story you could hear about the state.

CONAN: Let see, we get a caller on the line. If you're back home visiting your state, tell us one thing you miss about it or are glad you're missing about it when you live elsewhere the rest of the year around. Lee is on the line. Lee calling us from Silver Springs in Nevada.

LEE (Caller): Yes. The Northern part of the state.

CONAN: And.

LEE: On the rim of the Great Basin High Desert.

CONAN: And, are you back there visiting? Or, is this where you live?

LEE: This is where I live.

CONAN: And what do you love about that part of the state?

LEE: Aside from the abounding beauty of the desert and our gorgeous skies. Nevada only state that I know that actually celebrates its statehood with a paid holiday and a big parade in our capital of Carson City. It features, well, I'll get a little alliterate here - big gambling, brothels, burning man and born again. All are marching down the road together.

CONAN: Under the battle born flag.

LEE: Under the battle born flag of the newly blue state.

CONAN: Of the newly blue state. We do have to say that of course, I believe the state of Massachusetts does celebrate its own Independence Day.

LEE: OK. Well, and deservedly so.

CONAN: And deservedly so too. They wear pilgrim hats and run a fairly well-known marathon race, and I believe the local baseball team plays an early day game that day.

LEE: Well, given that we have burning man and brothels were more scantily clad often.

CONAN: I believe they may have both those things in Massachusetts but not in public.

LEE: Well, thanks, I love the show.

CONAN: Lee, thanks. Thanks very much for the phone call.

LEE: Sure.

CONAN: And Matt Weiland, you must be hearing a thousand stories you wish you could have come in.

Mr. WEILAND: I'll say, I'll say that was one of our hopes with the book, you know. We wanted to elicit these sorts of reaction. I think people take much more pride in their own state than we usually realize. You know, it's the way we come to define ourselves most often, especially when we're traveling abroad. You say where you from, first and foremost.

CONAN: Well, Matt Weiland. Thanks very much we're going to let you get back to your celebration and to your family.

Mr. WEILAND: Well, thanks very much. Happy Thanksgiving.

CONAN: And Happy Thanksgiving to you. Matt Weiland, co-editor of "State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America" with us today by phone from his home in New York City. We're going to continue taking your calls if you're back home visiting, what was the one thing you really missed or the one thing you're glad you got away from? 800-989-8255, email us talk@npr.org, and we're also going to talk with a couple of Matt Weiland's contributors about the states they wrote about - Ohio and North Carolina. As it happens, who could figure this? The states where our two producers today happen to hail from and, well I guess we talked a lot about New Jersey, I can't whine too much. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation, I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Later in the program, we're going to talk about those who are not at the table for Thanksgiving this year for whatever reason. You can send us an email now and tell us your story, talk@npr.org. We'll take some phone calls later of course. But, right now we're talking about a new book, "State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America." And asking you to tell us what makes your home state special or not so special if you're back visiting. What are you glad you saw that you normally miss, what are you glad you miss any more, 800-989-8255, email talk@npr.org.

We have two emails about the state of California, this one from Elizabeth. Hi, I just wanted to share my own personal portrait of California. I work on a huge ranch and it's amazing to be completely alone - except for the grasses and oaks that I study, plus the occasional deer, rattlesnake, coyote or bobcat. The beauty changes with the time of day, soft, warm colors in the morning, brilliant blue skies and hot sun midday, and purples, blues and blacks in the evening. Thanks, Liz (unintelligible). And this is from Amanda." moved to Northern California 14 years ago and every cliché I'd ever heard proved true. Within weeks, my hair stylist discovered - disclosed rather, that most civil servants are actually aliens. A mother in my play group shared about her out-of -body experience ,and everybody but everybody talked about their spiritual journey. Ludicrous perhaps, but 14 years later, I still prefer to have conversations about the weight stations on my own spiritual journey rather than one, what university I went to. Or two, how much money I make?"

Well, joining us now is Susan Orlean, a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine who contributed an essay on Ohio, her home state to the book. She's with us from her current home in Columbia County in New York. Susan Orlean, nice to have you in the program today. Happy Thanksgiving.

Ms. SUSAN ORLEAN (Staff Writer, New Yorker Magazine): You too, and I'm happy to be here.

CONAN: And you wrote about a state which you say, does not live up to many of the myths that we hold about it.

Ms. ORLEAN: Well, I think a part of the challenge of writing about a place is seeing through the received wisdom about that place. And, when I started working on the piece I thought well, the thing about Ohio is it's nothing like what you're told it's like. And, when I first left Ohio and was in college and later, when I say the people that I was from Ohio and occasionally somebody would say, oh, do you live on a farm? And I would think, a farm? I live in Cleveland. It's one of the most industrialized places on the planet, realizing that this notion that Ohio was a flat cornfield - endless flat cornfield. So, I had fun with the piece thinking, let me think of all the things that you assume about Ohio - about Ohio and methodically dismantle them.

CONAN: Including my favorite that the Cuyahoga River burns regularly.

Ms. ORLEAN: Right, well this is of course one of the things that was a double-edged sword. Some of the things about Ohio that made it distinctive were not very appealing, like the fact that it had such bad pollution, that the Cuyahoga River was set on fire. And, was set on fire, most famously by one of the mayors of Cleveland. And, of course for a good reason - and knock on wood, that's happens not be true anymore.

CONAN: And that...

Ms. ORLEAN: Lake Erie has been cleaned up. Cuyahoga River, you still wouldn't want to go swimming in it, but it's a lot cleaner than it was when I was growing up.

CONAN: Well, you should be glad, Randy Newman saw the fire. He wrote a great song.

Ms. ORLEAN: Oh, I think this whole piece was basically a rebuttal to Randy Newman. I think that is what my impulse was. To both say, a lot of what you say about Ohio is simply not true, but secondly grappling with the slight inferiority complex someone from Ohio has.

CONAN: So inferior that you used to tell people that your mother dated Sam Shepherd, the famous killer who was the inspiration for the "Fugitive."

Ms. ORLEAN: Yes, well, let me explain before it makes me sound like a complete psycho. But, yes I did claim this and the reason I wrote about it in the piece was - being from Ohio always made me feel - when I was around kids from New York and California and other states - it made me feel like I was so generic. There was nothing about Ohio that seemed exceptional, everything - excuse me, I have a little laryngitis here - but everything about Ohio seems so normal and so regular. So, I would seize on anything that seemed extreme. And now Sam Shepherd, the famous murderer, did grow up and live in Cleveland, and had his practice in Cleveland. And my mother knew someone who knew someone who knew him. Somehow, I conflated this to a statement that my mother had dated Sam Shepherd.

CONAN: And clearly, just barely escaped with her life.

Ms. ORLEAN: Absolutely, and that this by definition made me a quite exceptional person rather than just another nice girl from a nice state.

CONAN: Let's get to someone else from - a nice girl, from a nice state on the line. This is Pam. Pam with us from Arcanum in Ohio.

PAM (Caller): Hi.

Ms. ORLEAN: Hi, Pam.

PAM: Hi, one of the things is I'm lucky, because I live in dark - I live in Darke County. And that's the land of Annie Oakley and (unintelligible) Thomas. But, one of the things that I, while I was in seminary and living in Boston that I missed, was the smell that rain was coming on snow was coming on, because you don't get that on the coast.

CONAN: A-ha.

Ms. ORLEAN: Yeah.

CONAN: My producer grew up in Akron and say she missed the smell of rubber. So...

PAM: Oh, well...

CONAN: Not sure you get that in Boston either.

Ms. ORLEAN: That's right. In Cleveland, I can't say that we had distinct smells of steel mills, but we certainly didn't have the smell of salt in the air as you do get it in Boston.

PAM: No, that's true. That's true. I took that for granted when I left to go to seminary there and kind of came home. After I was finished, I was like I am never leaving the Midwest again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ORLEAN: Just to let you know what, the Midwest is unfairly overlooked and it was a great place to grow up. And actually my piece about Ohio is meant to be desperately affectionate. It was a wonderful place to grow up and in a way a wonderful place to discover in retrospect, what it gave to me in terms of character. A sense of not being defined by some strong character trait but rather that I kind of was a person with my own character place that I felt strongly about. And, I think it makes you very open and very enthusiastic about wonderful experiences if you're from a place that just gives you a nice solid background.

PAM: Oh, absolutely. It's just like, you know Darke County is very rural. It's about farming. God-fearing, and corn-feds folks, and it's just you know, we still have the county fair that lasts for 10 days. And...

Ms. ORLEAN: Yeah.

CONAN: We'll all go there for the butter cow, Pam. Thanks very much for the call. Have a Happy Thanksgiving to you.

PAM: You guys, do the same. Have a blessed day.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And Susan Orlean, thank you for your time today. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Ms. ORLEAN: And to you too.

CONAN: Susan Orlean, a staff writer for the New Yorker joined us today from her home in Columbia County, New York. Her essay about Ohio, appears in "State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America." This email from Mandy Schilling in Wichita, Kansas. The part of Texas I am from is really flat which I never liked growing up. Then after living in the mountains of New Mexico, it seemed even flatter. However, because you can see forever there, the sunsets are spectacular. Another listener, Ryan form Anchorage, Alaska sent us his essay about then land of the midnight sun, and Ryan joins us now by phone from Anchorage in Alaska. Ryan nice to have you with us today.

RYAN (Caller): Hey. How is it going, Neal?

CONAN: Could you read the essay you sent us?

RYAN: Can I read it to you?

CONAN: Yeah, go ahead please.

RYAN: Sure. I wrote, Alaska - home of the world's largest oil pipeline, most corrupt political figures and coldest winters. If you're just visiting, there are plenty of opportunities, be more mauled by bears, to watch the Northern Lights, and to see the ice sculptures. Alaska is special because of its vastness. Alaska has mountains, glaciers, and wildlife that the lower 48 hasn't seen for thousands of years. Alaskans can scale up mountains on snow machines and descend just as quickly on skis or snowboards. But, what I think makes Alaska truly something else is its women. Alaskan girls will out hunt, out fish and out camp anyone. Yes, Alaskan girls are what make Alaska truly special, because they know to take care of themselves. Nowhere else will you find girls that can ride ATVs, play hockey, or look as good in down jackets as Alaskan girls.

CONAN: And you're going to find - that's going to generate a lot of controversy but hey, I'm from New Jersey, most corrupt state in the Union.

RYAN: Yeah. Well, yeah.

CONAN: Now, just recently this is a new thing for Alaska. We go back deep, and we're going to get calls from New Orleans in Louisiana suggesting that, well, I don't know from nothing about corruption.

RYAN: Mm hmm.

CONAN: Well, this is a great essay. How long you have been in Alaska?

RYAN: Oh, I lived here my whole life.

CONAN: Really? That's unusual. Most people come to Alaska.

RYAN: What was that?

CONAN: Most people come to Alaska.

RYAN: Yeah. My parents were from the lower 48 and moved up.

CONAN: And, are celebrating Thanksgiving there today?

RYAN: Well, actually, it's only 11:30. So, we're getting to it but.

CONAN: Well, have a caribou pie or whatever it is for us?

RYAN: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RYAN: Thanks.

CONAN: Have a Happy Thanksgiving Ryan.

RYAN: You too.

CONAN: Ryan from Anchorage, Alaska joined us today from the last frontier and we thank him for his time. And, joining is now is Randall Kenan, who teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina, and wrote an essay about his home state North Carolina for the anthology. He joins us from Hillsborough, North Carolina. Randall Kennan, nice to have you with us, Happy Thanksgiving.

Professor RANDALL KENNAN (Creative Writing, University of North Carolina): Happy Thanksgiving to you, delighted to be here.

CONAN: And you wrote a story, an essay about pigs and neo pigs and barbecue.

Prof. KENNAN: Yes. Yes. At first, I thought I might do something on banking or biotech, that's what the future of the state looks to be but hogs and pork seemed to capture that past, the present and the future.

CONAN: You tell an absolutely hilarious story about growing up the street from, was it your uncle's farm?

Prof. KENNAN: Yeah. Well, my cousin yes, yes, yes.

CONAN: And his kids and all of you learning about, well the facts of life from hogs.

Prof. KENNAN: That is one of those facts of being a farm boy is that you learn early and often right before your eyes.

CONAN: And, then you go on to tell us the neo-pork story about how one who man grew up not very far away from where you grew up has change that face of the state?

Prof. KENNAN: Yes, it was in the same county Duplin County, in south eastern North Carolina. A man who would go on to make a billion dollars on pork. A man named Wendell Murphy. He sort of turned a pork production into a something like a factory operation.

CONAN: And, then you go on and talk about how - well, you suggest - speaking of corruption, that he may have influence the state legislature to overlook certain problems that his industry has created.

Prof. KENNAN: Well, it's an ongoing story, and he - his aren't the only hands. I mean, the state legislature - it can be implicated is certainly now for not enforcing the laws. But hog waste in particular, it has become a huge problem at the state let affecting our ecosystem in a really awful way.

CONAN: And finally, you write and I'm quoting here, "I am as partisan as they come and do not apologize to any man, woman or child, the best barbecue in the world comes from North Carolina, and not just anywhere in North Carolina from the eastern part of the state."

Prof. KENNAN: Well, I think that is a signal part of being a North Carolinian is that you have to take part in the barbecue wars. And the east, the Piedmont, and the mountains, we all have our particular type of barbecue. And coming from the southeast, I have to you know, claim my loyalty and my tastebuds are in line with that.

CONAN: You write that those who come from the other parts of the states are heathens on such matters, and should be attended to as one way to attend a young child. They know not what they do.

Prof. KENNAN: God bless them. God bless them. They you know they'll learn one day. One day they'll learn.

CONAN: Pork and hogs are - the - more, more pigs than people in North Carolina. I didn't know that.

Prof. KENNAN: Well, in fact, I recently found a statistic that in my home county which is quite small, they're over two million hogs. That's 40 hogs per person.

CONAN: 40 hogs per person.

Prof. KENNAN: Exactly.

CONAN: That's a lot of barbecue.

Prof. KENNAN: That is a lot of pork. Yes sir.

CONAN: Randall Kennan, have a happy - are you having a barbecue for this Thanksgiving?

Prof. KENNAN: A barbecued turkey and a few other pork products.

CONAN: Thanks very much. Have a great holiday.

Prof. KENNAN: Thank you.

CONAN: Randall Kennan, a professor of creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill, his essay on North Carolina again in "State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America." He joined us today by phone from Hillsborough, North Carolina, his home. And we should add, there are of course 50 states to choose from. Those we picked reveal some bias. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And, now let's see if we can get another caller on the line and this is - let's go to Vincent. Vincent with us from Salem in Oregon.

VINCENT (Caller): Hi. I'm actually not a Oregon native originally. I'm originally from Maui in Hawaii, and unfortunately Hawaii s just kind of pushed off to the side on the holidays, because it's the 50th state. We're out in the middle of the ocean.

CONAN: And nobody has, you know, barbecued ne-ne (ph) for a Thanksgiving.

VINCENT: Oh, thank God no. There's always about 1,500 of those birds left. So I mean you got to watch for them, but we do have turkey, and we do have yams, and we do have all the other things that you would expect. But, we also have things that you wouldn't expect like barbecued o peehee(ph), so this little cone shaped mollusks. That you put a little garlic and some butter on, and you eat those as kind of an appetizer. Or, lomi-lomi salmon and right next to the cranberry sauce and the turkey. And so, I mean, it's very different. I mean, I remember going up to my uncle's house. And he lives in a place on Maui called Bolinda(ph). And you're surrounded by eucalyptus trees and pine, and you just got this real woody forest smell, but every once in a while you get this wafted(ph), salt ocean smell too.

CONAN: We hope the ne-ne will grow and thrive, and develop into great flocks but it will, no matter what happens, live forever in crossword puzzle clues as Hawaiian goose.

VINCENT: Exactly, and what's really funny those, it's not a native itself. Actually there's - it was a Canada goose that got lost and so, it's kind of how it got there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, I guess every bird that got out to the islands one way or another is something that came from somewhere else and got lost along the way.

VINCENT: You're absolutely right and actually something that I've always loved about Hawaii is that, we are truly America. I mean, you have people from everywhere in the world that have been living there since time and memorial, you know, you can't go anywhere without meeting somebody who's from Russia or from Asia, or from the east coast or west coast. I mean, you know, Hawaii is literally a cross section of the countries you know, on a collection of rocks in the middle of the ocean, so.

CONAN: I don't mean to be stereotyping Vincent, but at this time of the year, you're in Oregon where I suspected cloudy and raining.

VINCENT: Oh absolutely. I'm looking out and we've got a sheet of slate gray. So, no rain yet, thankfully.

CONAN: Well, it's early there yet. But, we hope you have a great Thanksgiving dinner today.

VINCENT: That will and hopefully you'll get one yourself.

CONAN: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

VINCENT: Bye-bye Neal.

CONAN: This email from Jeff, who's writing us as it happens from Portland, Oregon. Cold he writes. I miss the cold. I'm from Wisconsin and now live in Portland, Oregon. I gush about minus 20 degrees or colder. How I used to love being out in the weather extremes. People think I'm nuts, but give me cold, sunny and dry over 40 degrees and damp any day. Well, thank you very much for all your contributions describing your pride in your state, its beauty and its warts. And again the book, "State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America." Coming up, tell us about those who are not at your Thanksgiving dinner table this year for whatever reason. Our telephone number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-8255, or send us an email if you will talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's that Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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