The State of NoVa: Live with Tom Jackman

Apr 12, 2011

Post reporter Tom Jackman will be online to discuss his beloved native state - Northern Virginia - and its mind-shattering traffic, diverse people and quirky customs as he launches his new blog, The State of NoVa.

Hello everyone, and welcome to the State of NoVa. I plan on hammering that metaphor deep into the ground, in case you hadn't noticed. I'm Tom Jackman, and like many many of you, I grew up here. I like it here. I'm staying here. I've been covering NoVa since 1998, mostly on the cops and courts side, and am now branching out to the rest of the world. Hope to drag a few of you along.

Hi, Tom. As did you, I grew up in "a place called Reston" and graduated from Herndon High School "in another century." I also lived abroad for 20 years after college graduation and, upon my return visits to my family's home in the Lake Anne area of Reston over those two decades, I mourned the fact that the revolutionary ideas of what Reston was about in its infancy-- live, work, play -- have been replaced by an "Anytown, USA", what with "big box" stores, poor schools (gang problems at South Lakes HS), and, of course, traffic congestion. The question: "How close/far from Robert E Simon's original view is 'A Place Called Reston'?" I realize that Mr Simon isn't here to present his own views and that my views on Reston are based on a sentimental angle from when my family moved here over 40 years ago, but your interpretation, please.

Reston had to deal with reality, unfortunately. You have to have traffic lights. Not everyone could work in the same place where they lived. People wanted Best Buy and Hechinger's. (Poor old Hechinger's.) So Reston tried to work the middle ground, and stay green-ish but still appealing to people looking for someplace to shop and play. They're still figuring that all out. Great question.

I believe Bob Simon is turning 92 this week. He's around, and I will get him on the blog to talk about exactly this stuff. He has a lot of thoughts about it, I know.

The Foo Fighters "may be America's best rock band"? Please defend.

They simply rock very hard. Dave Grohl writes funny, great lyrics, his love of the Beatles shows up in his melodies, and their live shows are full-blown powerhouses. I think the tribute paid to him by Prince when he played "Best of You" at the Super Bowl showed what high regard the Foos are held in the musical community. Just off the top of my head.

And did you know that "Foo Fighters" was a term used by World War II pilots to describe UFOs? There were apparently quite a few sightings of flying things that the pilots couldn't recognize. The Internets told me so. Dave Grohl once said if he knew the band was actually going to be big, he wouldn't have given them such a goofy name. Their new album hits today. Or "drops" as the youts say.

Just curious, did the folks who grew up in Northern Virginia always not haven Southern accents or is it more recent? Like it I meet folks from Falls Church or Mount Vernon in 1871 or 1936, what would their accent be?

It is part of our distinct heritage that we do not have the southern accents of the people outside of NoVa. Probably because so many Yankees invaded this area and overpopulated it. There really is an us-vs.-them mentality in Virginia, and folks in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk see themselves as real Virginians. Those people in NoVa are just more Yankees. 

We already have "West Virginia" why not also add "North Virginia" to the Union? We can get away from Richmond taking $.80 of every dollar we pay in taxes and sending it elsewhere. We could easily fund our transportation, security and education needs with the current levels of local tax revenue. It sounds rebellious...but so did 13 colonies telling the King of England to stay on his side of the Atlantic. Once you get past that it starts to make a lot of sense...I'm just sayin'...

I was going to wait a couple of weeks before launching the campaign for secession. But with all this Civil War chatter going on today, I'm getting kinda itchy. But seriously, this matter of NoVa tax dollars going to support the rest of the state is something that more people up here need to realize. I would have thought that with the latest census, we'd grab more power in Richmond, but it looks like only +3, which ain't enough.

Since you know where all the cool hangouts are, tell me a couple in Fairfax?

I'd start out with JV's Restaurant, a true honkytonk in Falls Church with live music and affordable beer. For great ambience and cheap beer, you can't beat the Vienna Inn on 123 in Vienna.

I am scanning my mental databases for more.

A NOVA blog is a great idea. When I finished college, I moved to Reston and worked in - guess what - defense contracting. I returned to Charlottesville after three years because the traffic became a trauma. However, I did like Reston. I miss the trips into Georgetown. There is one area or topic I wanted to mention because I'm hearing more and more about it. That topic relates to painting the defense industry along the lines of "beltway bandits" more than engineering service contractors. Will your blog step into such an area, perhaps interviewing analysts who aren't quite up to whistleblowing; but who can offer some insights? Such as.... the turn around rate in this company is 40%, or the mgmt of this company is all retired military so you don't get a chance to move up....

I think this is a great area for us to explore. The contracting industry is huge here, and accounts for our abnormally low unemployment rate and also the high median household income. (Falls Church rated #1 wealthiest "county" in the nation by Forbes; Loudoun #2; Fairfax #3)

I'm definitely planning on talking to these folks, and hope to explore their impact on NoVa, and the ups and downs of their biz. Thanks for asking.

How come Fairfax, with 1/8 of the Virginia's population does not have a single judge on either the Supreme Court of Virginia or the Court of Appeals of Virginia?

Because the rest of Virginia hates us. Because they use their disproportionate political power to impose such injustice on us. I think it's a real sign of the resentment of NoVa, by the Rest of Virginia (RoVa?), that even after many years of allowing NoVa to be fairly represented, they've now taken that away. It's nothing but wrong.

Who's your favorite local band and where are they playing next?

Odell's Knife is a very talented cover band that is playing at Payne's Downtown Saloon in Leesburg on Saturday. Go and you won't be sorry.

You hit the nail on the head -- as the original question states, we already HAVE West Virginia. North Virginia becoming its own state would essentially turn Virginia into another West Virginia. That's NOT what this country or this area needs. I do agree with you, though, that we need more local representation in Richmond. I see no reason why we can't raise our own funds for roadwork, for example.

I do think we at least need our own flag, though.

Aside from Grohl, Jim Morrison and Dave Matthews, what other rock'n'roll greats have NoVa connections? I remember being blown away a few years ago when I saw Wilson Pickett died of a heart attack out in western Fairfax or Loudoun. Something about the Wicked Pickett living his retirement out on a noVa cul-de-sac just seemed off kilter. Would have been cool to have as a next-door neightbor, though ...

Mama Cass Elliott was from around here somewhere. The great drummer of the NY punk band the Dictators, J.P. "Thunderbolt" Patterson, is from Reston. He's now playing with Richard Lloyd, ex-Television. I will come up with some more. Anyone else? 

There are a few places in old town Fairfax that are fun -- Auld Shebeen and Hard Times come to mind. Any of the Fast Eddies in the area are good if you're looking for a dive. For a meat market, PJ Skiddoo's. Buffalo Wing University on weekends for the younger set or more sports-oriented. Amphora in Vienna, of course. Denny's in Fairfax for the late-night nosh. Tons of fun places.

Those are all on my list, but JV's and Vienna Inn have the old school feel.

I didn't realize Falls Church was a county. There's City of Falls Church, and the rest of Falls Church which falls under Fairfax County.

You're exactly right. It's not a county. It's got 12,000 people. It's 2.2 square miles. I don't know why Forbes included it. It's nice, and has its own great hangouts -- Bangkok Blues is terrific, and there's no place better than the State Theatre -- but it's not a county.

This guy is making South Lakes sound like Eastside High from "Lean on Me." I think it's quite a stretch to call any Fairfax County school "poor."

South Lakes did have its rough times, and it did have some serious gang and drug issues at one time. But you're right, it's NoVa. It ain't East LA.

I follow state politics a bit, and I'm a bit shocked at the number of times I see a bill come up that essentilaly tries to punish NOVA for it's success, mainaly by redistriubuting resources from NOVA to the rest of the state. Have you seen any of this in your reporting?

Constantly. If NoVa got its fair share of the transportation money, to cite one easy example, we'd be feeling a lot different about traffic these days. (Well, maybe not that different. But some different.) The disproportionate representation of judges on the statewide courts is another. And by disproportionate I mean none.

I grew up in McLean and I am proud of the diversity we have.. For all the jokes from DC, they are a far more segregated society than we are. We are a major home to the armed forces throughout the state, and have some of the best universities in the country. Yes the rest of the state takes a lot away from us, but they do provide something too.

Hey, stop bringing your sanity and even-tempered nature in here. You are exactly right, obviously. Thanks for reminding us.

Where does NoVA end? Is it just Fairfax, Loudoun Arlington & Prince William counties plus Alexandria & Falls Church? Does it go farther south or west?

Personally, I believe that it ends at the Loudoun and Prince William county lines. I don't think Stafford or Fauquier folks want to be considered part of NoVa. They're still old school Virginia. We're the obnoxious nouveau dough. They've got the horses. We've got the horsepower. And beyond Stafford or Fauquier -- forget it. They don't want to know NoVa. 

Tom -- Virginia Kitchen in Herndon or Havabite Eatery in Fairfax? Or the former for breakfast and the latter for lunch? Amphora does it all but it's really sort of meh, ya know?

Have to go with Virginia Kitchen for breakfast, a quick artery cleansing at the hospital, then to Havabite. Amphora is meh, yes, but it is EXCELLENT anytime after 2 am.

Accomack and Northampton Counties comprise the Eastern Shore of Virginia, part of the Delmarva Peninsula. Is that considered Northern Virginia since it's techincally the northern most part of the Commonwealth? Certainly wouldn't be Southern Virginia, right?

Not NoVa. Maybe EaVa. Or EVa. Or ShoreVa. 

Told you I would pound this metaphor into the ground.

If your homeland did success from Virginia, would it named the State of Northern Virginia or the Commonwealth of Northern Virginia?

Enough with this "commonwealth" stuff. England is so OVER. Maybe Stonova. (State of No.Va.). But probably just Northern Virginia. Like Northern Ireland. But with less orange and green.

Tell me if this comparison is apt: RoVa: Nova::USA:Inside the Beltway. Sure seems like it sometimes, doesn't it? I grew up in NoVa and went to school at Virginia Tech. Man, a lot of the rest of the state just despises us.

You got dat right.

I am impressed with Ken Cucchinelli's willingness to animate the Sunday services with a little gun play, but I do wonder if people are allowed to carry loaded weapons into the Attorney General's office in Richmond. I am reminded that Justice Scalia's eviseration of gun control in the District said that places like courts were places were guns could be barred. is Cucchinelli on Scalia's wave length?

I think the attorney general likely is a very kindred spirit to Justice Scalia in many ways.

Isn't new White House Press Secretary Jay Carney originally from somehwere in NoVa? You wouldn't happen to know which part?

Don't have an answer to this, so putting it out to the masses. The Googles say he grew up in NoVa, but went to prep school in Jersey. Anyone?

Thought you'd get a good laugh at this one. A couple years ago two friends got married -- one from up here and one from Richmond. The one from up here moved to Richmond, and they bought a house together. When looking at houses, my friend in Richmond put a restriction on it of "As long as it's within a 15-minute commute. That's the longest I'm willing to go." Heck, up here that's usually the LOW end of things! It was a bit of a culture shock for the girl moving down there.

If they lived here, he would definitely blow his mind out in a car.

Tom: Do you, like me, fear that you will not live to see completion of the Dulles Metro project? If nothing else, I'm pretty sure that the concrete barriers, traffic cones and dubious signage around Tysons might someday literally be the death of me. Who am I kidding? Even if I do live to see it, I'm a Northern Virginian; I'll still probably drive and park :)

I think it's going to be very close on whether I make it to the Dulles underground Metro station or that Big Dive Bar in the Sky first. 

I will say that they do seem to be making some good progress along the toll road. But there's a whole 'nother stretch of stations that they haven't started yet -- heck, they just decided where they were going to put the airport station last week.

And then, what will a Metro fare to Dulles cost in 2025? Will man still be alive? Troubling questions. Yeah, I'll drive too.

Who is a bigger rival/source of contempt for Northern Virginians: the rest of Virginia or Maryland?

It's easier to dislike Maryland. They get more attention from the local media, we see their drivers and their institutions more often. And they certainly dislike us. It's more of a foreign land. At least RoVa is part of Va, and came from the same noble origins. Until they decided to take all our money and leave us with non-navigable highways.

While I wasn't born here, I moved here when I was five (in 1978) and have been here since. I grew up in the lovely subdivision of Greenbriar, walked to elementary and middle school, and would have walked to high school if I went to the public school. I've watched the departure of Hechinger's, High's, Geno's, Roy Rogers (though it's coming back), People's (now CVS), and many more. I watched Greenbriar Town Center turn from five stores into a monstrosity. I recently went home shopping for my first home with my new bride. We looked at townhomes in Reston, because we'd heard such good things about it. How much is Reston hurt by the fact that the homes are just butt-ugly for the most part? It was a great community, and there are certainly some jewels in there, but wow -- we found it hard to find houses we liked, and then when we did they were out of our price range because everyone else liked 'em too. Because they were one of the few "pretty" Reston homes.

So not everyone likes Reston...

Smoothie shops and cupcake bakeries seems to be popping up all over DC Metro area. Sustainable, or micro-niches w/ no chance of survival?

The smoothie shops I've seen seem to be struggling in NoVa. Have the cupcake shops even made it out here yet? Seems like a city thing.

To the previous poster that claimed that Accomack and Northampton Counties are the northernmost part of Virginia: Please look at a map, they're nowhere near the northern part of the state. Also, Mama Cass was a Mount Vernon HS grad.

Thanks for that.

Stewart Copeland was born in Alexandria as his father worked for the CIA. He didn't live here very long though but I still count it! Also Patsy Cline has connections but a little west so that doesn't really count since we're focused on NoVa.

Yes, Stewart Copeland. We are definitely taking credit for him. Patsy Cline was from Winchester, but we can steal her when we need her. 

Wasn't Emmylou Harris from around here somewhere? 

Aquia Creek is the divider. Northern Va is north of Aquia CReek, so Quantico is in Nova, but Stafford is not.

Yes. We need a body of water, even if it's a creek, to separate US from them. Thank you.

Way, way back in the day, like just post-American Revolutionary War days, Eastern Tenn. tried to become its own state. It even picked the name "Franklin" to suck up to Benjamin Franklin. Eastern Tenn. is a bit more liberal then the rest of Tenn. (hench why Tenn. was the state Deep South state to succeed from the Union during the American Civil War). In the end, there was a mini-war and Franklin was near but forgotten, but it's worth google search when you have a moment. It was because of Franklin that the rule setting up how a state enters the Union were created. Not exactly a hopeful example for your campaign for the state of Northern Virginia.

But now there's Facebook, and they use that to overthrow whole countries now.

Hi Tom, My family and I moved to the NoVa area in 1987. I went to a local HS (Mount Vernon), state university (VT), and current live in Merrifield. I consider myself a Virginian first, so I don't want to secede (transportation $$$, OTOH, is another topic). However, it seems the rest of Virginia lumps us with Yankee states. I remembered talking to another kid during Boy's State, who was from the "Moonshine Capital of the South" on the VA/NC border. Anyways, he kept referring to anyone from our area as Yankees.

See, I didn't just make this up. Thanks.

I'm wondering if there's some phrase that, once spoken, would identify a Northern Virginian in the absence of an accent. I can't think of one off hand but maybe that's because I've been here pretty much all of my life. Any ideas?

How about this: People from NoVa say Seven-Eleven. People from RoVa say Semlem.

I've been asking this question for years, but I really want to know what percentage of taxes paid to the Commonwealth return back to Northern Virginia.

There are people who know the definitive answer to this -- one poster earlier said 80% -- and I am going to get that and post it prominently. Maybe on the secession flag.

"95%-5% or fight!"

I say we STAY Virginia and call the REST of the state Southern Virginia, SoVa.

Force secede them.

You said, "Like Northern Ireland. But with less orange and green." You forgot to mention - less IRA and British Soldiers. It has to be "North Virginia" - the "ern" part would imply we are still part of RoVa. NO state with a compass point in it's name uses the "ern."

Yeah, semantics are key. Good point.

There's a Cupcakes Actually at Fairfax Corner. Right next to PinkBerry, actually, a hip California-based frozen yogurt place that's teeming with teenyboppers.

I would like to invite anyone who ever sees me in a place called PinkBerry to please run me over with the largest available vehicle. For Cupcakes Actually, a punch in the nose will suffice.

Mary Chapin Carpenter, of course

I am ashamed and humiliated by my forgetfulness. Yes.

The folks down in Charlottesville, Blacksburg and Williamsburg need that extra cash because one of every three new freshmen come from NoVa and those areas need to house, feed and accommodate all the additional cars they bring.


Traffic sucks.

The perfect summation. I'm out. Thanks for checking in, and return often to The State of NoVa

In This Chat
Tom Jackman
Tom Jackman was born in Northern Virginia, grew up in the fledgling planned community of Reston, graduated from Herndon High School back in another century and is unapologetic about his suburban pedigree. He has been a reporter covering NoVa for The Washington Post since 1998, and is a dedicated follower of the Nats, Skins, Caps, Wizards and United. He likes live music, late nights and lazy Sundays. He knows where and how the wheels of power grind up your hard-earned cash, what’s happening in your ‘hood and where all the cool hangouts are. Or almost all.
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