0064 My 7 years in Chambersburg (USA 031—revisit)

Chambersburg Travel Blog

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In Scotland I realize I can’t be this close and not continue on to Chambersburg, a town that I know will bring back LOTS of memories.  I’ll only have time to drive to the fountain square and take a quick clip with the courthouse as a backdrop.  But that will be enough to bring back an flood of memories of the years when I lived here.

 I remember moving here in September of 2000 after 18 tumultuous months of wandering around the world trying to find myself and figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  When I came here I still hadn’t found all the answers, but I was out of money and I felt I needed to get my grounding back.  So I came, found a job—two jobs to be precise—got an advance on my first paycheck and rented an apartment right in the middle of town.

 It was a run down but history rich apartment overlooking the county courthouse and fountain square where I’d sometimes here music from the parades, festivals and concerts held there in the square.  From my back window I could hear the drunken yells of my white trash 40 year old neighbour whose mother pays his rent for him, and the cheerful chatter of my downstairs neighbors talking to each other in a Mayan dialect.  My hallway would sometimes be blocked by some guy sleeping who had been kicked out of his house by his wife.   A colourful place to start my life in America.

 I remember riding my 20 dollar bicycle to my morning job 7 miles away in the snow and the rain to a tire packing plant.  There I worked alongside folks a lot of folks who had done time in prison and had a lot of interesting stories to tell.

   This was my crash course in the underbelly of American culture and learned that not everyone in this country is pursuing the “American Dream”

 “I can work three days and it’s enough to pay the rent” one fellow boasts. “anything after that is just beer money”.

 That seemed to be the general attitude in this crowd, which would look for any excuse to leave work early on Friday to be the first the hit the bar.  It was a fascinating glimpse into an American subculture I’d never really had contact with before.

 At 3:30 I’d race home, eat and shower at the same time and the head off to my second job running the drive thru at Taco Bell.  There I mingle with an entirely different crowd:  American teenage boys who I found had a wicked sense of humor and who welcomed me into their little club.

   There I learned a lot about the fascinating and sometimes disturbing things that teenagers have to deal with these days.

 That was my immersion in the American culture seven years ago.  It was interesting, but I never really bonded with it or felt the desire to make this place my permanent home.  Which is a little bit strange, as after all I am American by birth. 

 Five months after arrival, I had already saved up enough money to spend another month out of the country.  And from then on, it seems like the time I spent in Chambersburg was little more than preparation for my next trip abroad.  I eventually moved to a better neighbourhood, got a car, and started enjoying some of the comforts of modern American life but I never found myself really “connecting” with any of the various subcultures I came across during my stay there.  

 But I will always be grateful to Chambersburg and my various employers there for giving me the opportunity to make some fast cash, work a lot of overtime and finance my chronic travel addiction.   

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photo by: nathanphil