Did you see that Virginia is looking for a new state song? Did you see that all of the surviving entries tritely trumpet the state's natural beauty -- purple mountain majesties, that sort of thing?

One of the eight finalists will fail to lose, as my old buddy Tom Lyon used to say about such lackluster contests. A bit harsh, Ro-bare? Not at all. The Virginia entries are lackluster to beat the band.

One has the pulse-pounding title of "Virginia." Another is called "Oh, Virginia." Clearly, we aren't dealing with major surges of imagination here.

Or major surges of honesty. How can you glory in Virginia's natural beauty if you can't get to any of it by car because of traffic snarls, or see any of it because of air pollution?

So I started doodling on a pad (always dangerous).

Here is Levey's entry. Yes, it's a little late (only by a year or so). But I say it reflects Virginia the way the Old Dominion truly is.

To the tune of "America The Beautiful" . . .

Virginia Real

O beautiful for Newington,

Where tractor-trailers burst,

For 66, whose HOV

Cannot prevent the worst.


Vir-gin-ee-uh, Vir-gin-ee-uh,

God shed some roads on thee

And crown thy sprawl with big-league ball

To ace out old D.C.!

O beautiful for Dulles lots

Where parking is sheer hell,

But high-tech still expands like fire

We worship AOL.

O history, it's there to see

At Williamsburg you may

Spend 50 bucks to get inside,

Bring credit cards to pay.

The politics are Byzantine,

A state completely cleft.

North almost wins, while Jim Moran's

A sure thing on the left.

A state of 'burbs, strip shopping malls

Where Muzak spews soft rock,

In every one, a Blockbuster

Foot Locker for the jock.

In Charlottesville, dear U-Va.,

The home of study nooks,

But parties are what Wahoos crave,

Budweiser outpolls books.

Oh, say, what makes Virginians tick?

The roadside signs give clue:

"For lovers" says the famous line,

So THAT's what locals do!

So, Old Dominion, fair and dear,

We have one wish for thee:

A heliport at Tyson's II,

Efficient way to flee.

What's that? I didn't win?

Maybe I should have promised a car-tax cut or something . . .


Her name is Janice, and she has homed in on one of the oldest truths about summer camp:

The reversible cry.

"I remember going to Camp West River every summer from the time I was 9 until I was 13," Janice writes. "Although I cried the first two years, I got used to it." In the final two years, "we cried when it was time to come back home."

Reversible crying still happens at camp, Janice. And in the case of the kids we send to camp each summer, it's sometimes a long way from the first cry to the second.

Our campers are from troubled backgrounds. They tend to hide behind a tough front. Many have not had much fun in their lives. Many resist the idea of going off to some strange place in the country.

But if you ever doubt that camp has value for even the toughest-to-reach youngster, stand beside the bus on going-back-home day. You'll hear the tears that Janice remembers.

It isn't that kids are reluctant to go home. It's that kids are reluctant to leave a place that they've come to love.

Janice contributed $25 to our annual Send a Kid to Camp campaign. The money will help us toward our goal of sending 1,000 Washington area kids to Camp Moss Hollow in Markham, Va., this summer. It will buy tears -- in the best sense.

Our goal by July 30: $550,000.

In hand as of July 10: $222,931.89.


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.


Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.