A Rhymer’s Guide to the United States
California’s weather is pretty good.
It must be, to entertain the folks in Hollywood;
Because they all enjoy a little sun,
And always have a lot of fun,
The like of which cannot be had
When the weather’s really bad.
But I should say, right at the start,
This only holds in the southern part.
For Hollywood is in LA,
And this is where the film stars stay.
But in the North you’ll find, if you should go,
The great city of San Francisco
And its bay.
And here there’ s often fog by night and rain by day.
But in general the climate’s finer
Than Maine or than North Carolina,
Because it lies on the Pacific
Where, although the storms can be horrific,
The temperatures are always kinder.
California used to be a part
Of Mexico before the start
Of settlement by whites who came
Over mountain, swamp and plain
To set up camp and stake a claim.
Because the Rockies were so high,
And no one knew, then, how to fly,
The place was rather isolate
And hence a somewhat lonely state.
Before they found a way to cross
This continent by land and horse
They used to take three months to sail
Around the continent’s southern tip
Which was a very dangerous trip.
When they got there, thin and pale,
About the only things they found
Were trading stations and unmapped ground.
But many people who would love it there
Don’t move out although the weather’s fair,
because they fear
That something awful’s going to happen here:
That California’s going to take
A hit from a rather large earth quake.
You see it sits on a long fault line
So it could happen any time.
San Andreas is this fault line’s name
And it’ s achieved world-wide fame.
But residents are inclined to stay.
They build tall buildings in a special way
So when it comes, they won’t fall, they’ll sway,
And the inhabitants will live
To see another Californian day.
On Florida’s Eastern coastal side
Lives something that is hard to hide;
You see it if you’re driving by,
Climbing up into the sky.
It leaves behind a hazy trail
Of burning fumes and smoke so pale.
It is the most bizarre of things:
A space rocket complete with wings!
The shuttle is this space craft’s name,
And it deserves its worldwide fame.
What it does up there, you see,
Is check out space for you and me,
And determine all kinds of crazy stuff
Like how to deal with gravity
And why humans float like fluff,
Or whether it is really all too rough
For human beings to survive
Where there is nothing else alive.
But long before the shuttle came
Florida had a different kind of fame;
Its beaches were the main attraction
To people looking for some water action,
And the fact that it is hot all year
Makes many old folks move down here.
They come in droves from New York State
Looking for a better fate
Than the kind of ice and cold
Which is insufferable when you get old.
So if you want to think of space,
Or seek a warmer winter place
You should visit here one day,
But pack at least one extra case—
For you might just decide to stay.
They say Kentucky’s grass is blue,
And I never thought this to be true.
But driving through the state one day
I saw a turquoise kind of hue.
The grass, indeed, was not the green
That you and everybody else has seen
On lawns and fields across the land.
There was a weird bluish sheen.
Having seen it I could then relate
To Kentucky as the Blue Grass State.
The grass is important to
Others besides me and you.
For horses live here by the score
And grass is what they like to gnaw.
In Louisville they run a race
Which is famous almost every place
For having the fastest animals around,
And they eat vegetation by the pound.
The owners of these horses are
Richer than most of us by far.
They travel from far and wide,
And pay others large amounts to ride
Their steeds around a grassy course,
And lay huge bets on their favorite horse.
During the race they sit in luxury,
Eating cucumber sandwiches and drinking tea,
Or from time to time enjoying a sip
Of a Kentucky drink called a Mint Julep.
But such is not the life of normal folk
Who tend to think such things a joke,
And like instead to shoot the breeze
Under elegant Magnolia trees
And throw a steak onto the grill,
And watch it sizzle and burn until
The sun goes down on Louisville.
The Atlantic Ocean borders Maine,
So you can get there straight from Spain
On a little fishing boat,
But don’t forget to take your coat,
For life at sea can be quite chilly,
And to catch a cold would be so silly.
They carry animals aboard some ships,
Ducks and geese, on longer trips,
So don’t be shocked if you should note
Your companion is a bearded goat.
But if you dislike life afloat
You can always go by plane
Which will get you faster
To the coast of Maine
Than any ship or express train,
And its probably quite true
That you’ll get there feeling much less blue.
Although Maine is a seafaring state
The water is not its only fate.
So when its time to disembark
Find the nearest national park,
And there you’ll see all sorts of things,
Mountains, woods and babbling springs,
To entertain you night and day
And improve the pleasure of your stay.
But if you hike into the hills
Hide your sandwiches and sleeping pills;
The bears can smell a meal for miles,
And will use their charm and all their wiles
To extract food from your backpack,
And have developed an amazing knack
Of chewing through the toughest sack
To find the morsels they like the most,
Such as peanut butter, jam and toast.
But apart from ships and bears and toast,
Some famous people live on Maine’s sea coast.
Here you find the highest rents
Paid by rock stars, and ex presidents,
Who stare out at the ocean’s blue
When they have nothing else to do.
And who could blame them—wouldn’t you?
In Nevada in the olden days
Silver was the only craze
Which had folks rushing
Across the plains, in wagons, on
Horses, in covered trains,
To hit the mountains topped with snow,
And set up camp on lake Tahoe.
The rivers, too, were settled there
(To the native’s great despair),
And people sifted day and night
To find that special silver light,
That nugget of valuable metal
Which put more beans into the kettle.
But the silver quickly disappeared,
Which is not particularly weird,
When you consider for a while
How silver was so much in style.
Then people wore it round their necks
And many folks of either sex
Wore it on their fingers and in their ears,
And this continued through the years.
When Nevada’s rivers were are all picked clean,
And every brook, creek, branch and tiny stream
Had surrendered their glittering stones,
With occasional, painful protest moans,
Then people searched the hills for signs,
And soon began to dig enormous mines
Looking, as you might have guessed, for more
Silver, gold, or iron ore.
Today if you find yourself in Reno
Inside a mountainous casino,
Just remember as you place your bet,
Next to an aging Vietnam vet,
That whatever made Nevada great
Really, is not over yet,
And listen while you ask yourself:
Is life always a desperate search for wealth?
Texas is an independent place
With a very different kind of face.
With cowboys, sheep and southern belles,
It sits atop a thousand oil wells
Which pump out money noon and night
And make the locals feel quite bright.
This money was not always there,
In fact they didn’t have a cent to spare
Until some lucky country dude
Found a lake of untapped crude
And straight away began his drilling
With results which were quite thrilling.
Now rich Texans drive around
In trucks five feet above the ground,
And cover such enormous distance
With the most remarkable persistence;
They’d drive for miles to dance a jig,
Because their state’s so very big,
And think nothing of an hour’s jaunt
To the nearest steakhouse restaurant,
Careening through the Dallas fogs,
Avoiding all the prairie dogs,
The reason, it is plain to see:
They care much more than you or me
About the things they like to eat
Like steak-fried fish and blood red meat.
But if vegetables are all you like
Be prepared to take a hike
To Dakota, Maine or California
Where the folks will likely warn ya
That red meat does the heart no good,
And in Texas this is misunderstood.
But Texans do not really care
For they pump oil like you breath air.
About a hundred years ago, or more,
A group of people packed their bags
And left Illinois by the score,
Heading west with skinny nags.
They never made it to the coast
But stopped along a salty shore
With little left of which to boast;
Their clothes were rags, their feet were sore.
The Mormons, as they were known, came far
And settled in that valley in Utah,
Before the advent of the plane or car.
The lake they found was full of brine
And had been so for quite some time.
But they thought themselves in paradise,
Because they thought the place was nice
(Although in fact the soil was bad
For growing crops like wheat or rice).
They soon built Salt Lake City here
And made it through another year,
Though other people thought it best
To move to California, further west.
The Wasatch mountains look upon the lake.
Unlike the plains, the mountains do not bake,
Because they rise to quite considerable heights,
A home for eagles, hawks and kites.
In winter people come for Utah’s snow
From places like New York, St. Louis and Chicago.
They wonder how it must have been
In former years, when times were lean,
To walk across a continent
And to be quite so intent
To build a life on this rough shore
Without so much as a convenience store.
New Jersey, from a very early date,
Became known as the Garden State;
One could find there with some ease
Many different kinds of trees,
And flowers in great abundance too,
Such as Primrose, Lilly and Morning Dew.
But this is not to say (oh no!)
That New Jersey never gets an inch of snow,
For the winters there can be quite cold
Yet in spite of this the plants are bold.
But, so as not to overstate the case,
It is not by any means the only place
With shrubs and bushes and flowers and trees
(In fact many other states have more of these),
But before these other states were named,
And before the Wild West was tamed,
New Jersey was a good candidate
To be called the Garden State.
It might also be interesting to note
The Statue of Liberty (which can be seen by boat)
Is in New Jersey, not New York
It stands hundreds of feet above the sea
And welcomes people into port.
But these days people come by plane
So arriving here’s not the same
As it was in olden times, when they all came
By boat across the vast gray sea
From Italy, France and Hungary,
And many other countries too,
From Morocco to Katmandu,
From Irish bog and Scottish highland
To find themselves on Ellis Island.
On the island a museum now stands,
Where immigrants arrived from foreign lands.
They used the place as an arrivals gate,
Built upon the island’s many sands—
An entrance to the promised Garden State.