Where the hell is Parkersburg?

James McAllen
5 min readMar 16, 2022

Why Parkersburg you ask?

Well. I’ll tell you.

It’s 1999, and Elena is pregnant. Only, the child isn’t her husband’s, and she knows it. She can’t bring herself to tell him, so she hides the pregnancy until she can hide it no longer…
And then she leaves him in the middle of the night.
She hops a train to D.C, and then takes a bus west, to the quaint little town of Parkersburg, West Virginia, where she will raise her daughter by herself, until she can figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

That’s how my latest attempt at the great American novel starts. Why Parkersburg? I just picked it off a map. The only problem of course, is that I’ve never been to Parkersburg, West Virginia. I’d never even heard of it, so rather than just make up stuff about a place I’ve never been, I put it on my list of places to visit, and since it was halfway to Dayton, here we are.

But let me backtrack a little bit. We woke up in DC to a glorious day. It was Sunny and 50 degrees, on its way to 60, when we got up for breakfast. We ate in the hotel and for the 3rd time in three tries, Val’s meal was less than satisfactory. Her burger on Saturday was too greasy, her Sheperard’s pie was a dud on Sunday, and her Eggs Benedict on Monday were dried out. All of my meals were home runs, so I kept my opinions to myself.

The drive from DC to Parkersburg is…
Well, it was long. 5 hours.
It was a pretty drive; lots of hills and mountains, and there is still a lot of snow on the ground in these parts, but life without Sirius XM is pure misery. I was under the impression that all cars had it installed at the factory. I’m spoiled, I’ve had it for 10 years. Neither one of us keeps a lot of music on our phones, so we had to deal with static radio for a while until we figured out how to get Spotify to work in the car. It was better, but still not ideal.
I blame millennials for this.
Friggin millennials.

When we arrived at the hotel to check in, Charles at the front desk was there to assist me. He asked me for my ID and Credit Card to check me in.
I gave him my drivers license, and I looked thru my Kramer roll for my Amex.
Then I reached into my pocket to see if it was there.
Then the other pocket.
Then the back pocket.
Then the jacket pocket.
At this point, panic began to set in.
I checked the car.
I checked the luggage.
I checked the laptop bag.
No Amex.
I took a minute to try and remember where I used it last.
The night before, we ate in an Irish restaurant, and we were in a rush to meet some friends, so I might have left it there. I called, and lo and behold, they had my card.

Normally, this would be cause for a major explosion; a foot-stomping curse fest, but this is vacation Jim. He got 10 hours sleep the other day. So I calmly asked them to cut up my card, then I called Amex like an adult and had the card cancelled, and then we went to a bad Mexican chain restaurant for dinner.
Vacation Jim is unbowed by these setbacks.
Brooklyn Jim… not so much.

After dinner, we took a cruise up the main thoroughfare of Parkersburg. Doesn’t seem to be a lot here; lots of strip malls and suburban sprawl. I may have to rethink this as a locale for my next tome. I’ll know more tomorrow.

TUESDAY MORNING —

I awaken at 6am after a smooth 7-hour sleep, sans C-pap. If nothing else, this is going to be the best sleeping week I’ve had in years.
I made myself a promise that I wasn’t going to worry myself over whether the kids got up on time to get to their jobs, but it’s 6am, I’m up, and one phone call isn’t going to hurt.
No Answer.
A 2nd Phone call at 6:15.
No Answer.
I call the other nitwit.
Right to voicemail.
I call the house phone. It’s got a loud ringer. Maybe the cats will pickup.
No Answer.
My blood pressure starts to rise, but I quickly engage in my Lamaze breathing exercises.
(I never actually took Lamaze, I just went for the joke)
I call again.
No answer.
I get dressed and head outside. It’s still dark, and it’s still winter. I head inside to the hotel gym. It’s pretty good; it has some dumbells and an elliptical, so I’m pretty happy.
When I get back to the room, Val is up, and she’s on the phone with one of the offspring. They are awake. My blood pressure returns to normal.
Vacation Jim is ok with lost credit cards; not so good with oversleeping man-children.

Notes on Parkersburg WV
1. This place has more fast food joints and chain restaurants than any place on earth.
2. If you have construction skills or automotive skills, you can make a living in Parkersburg WV. — Senior Unix Engineer — Not so much.
3. Whatever image your brain can conjure up at the words “West Virginia Walmart”, the reality is worse.
A LOT worse.
4. This hotel is built directly next to the local cemetery. What are the chances that it was built ON the actual cemetery? Poltergeist anyone?

After our mid-day nap (Jim still naps on vacation), we decided that we were going to take in The Batman at the local theatre, but first we needed to refuel our bodies. Not wanting to suffer another sub-par meal, and hoping to avoid any of the chain restaurants, we asked the google for the 10 best restaurant in Parkersburg, and two different lists had the same name at the top, “Chams Lebanese restaurant.” So we did what the google machine told us to, and headed to downtown Parkersburg. (Side note — for some reason, downtown Parkersburg is COMPLETELY deserted at 5pm on a Tuesday. I didn’t ask why.)

Chams was a home run. The place was quaint, but immaculate, and the food was excellent; terrific homemade hummus, dynamite schwarma, and the best Lamb kebob’s I think I ever had. Plus, they had their own brand of imported olive oil (at $21 dollars a bottle), but the best part was the owner, a tiny little old lady named Chams. She came here with her brother from war-torn Lebanon in the 80’s and despite not speaking english, she made her way to Parkersburg, West Virginia, where over the protestations of everyone she knew, decided to open an authentic Lebanese kitchen. That my friends, is the real American Dream. As we were leaving, she said to me, “Life is good, if you’re honest, nice to people, and smile a lot.”
I’m going to take that with me wherever I go, and hopefully, practice it every once in a while. For now, we’re off to see The Batman. We’ll talk about that some other time.

Next time you hear from me, we’ll be in Dayton, Ohio.

Take care Parkersburg, you were a good time.

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