New home, both good and bad from Chicago Suburbs to the middle of absolutely NOWHERE, PA.

York Travel Blog

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I've had eight years to reflect on how York, PA has changed me. Eight years seems like a lifetime. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, with a gas station and a McDonalds on every other corner. Dominicks, Osco, Piggly Wiggly, Amoco, Thornton... The communities in the 'burbs were judged in size by just how many McDonalds there were. There were bus stops, taxi cabs, train stations... two major airports, and traffic that I can hardly imagine anymore. Everywhere there was a person dotting the endless concrete sidewalks at every hour of the day. Grocery stores sold liquor... beer and wine along with the mixings and even the celery, limes, lemons, or any other thing you wanted to throw in a drink. Every here and there was a small osha-approved park with a couple of oak or pine trees, and a whole mess of gnats or mosquitoes in the spring time near the rivers. I'd be hard pressed to come up with an area where the streets weren't paved with curbing and gutters.

Then came the year 2000.

I moved from the Windy City suburbs with access to countless museums, cultural attractions, movies, plays, planetarium, the Buckingham Fountain, skyscrapers, and of course the Lake... to a tiny little podunk town on the outskirts of York, PA. Yes, York as in York Barbell and York Peppermint Patty (which is no longer made here.) I wasn't even in "downtown" York, which is about the size of ... oh, heck, none of the suburbs of Chicago seem small enough! I was in this tiny little place called North Codorus Township, which had a mailing address in Seven Valleys, and a telephone exchange of another neighboring township, Jacobus. To give an idea of just how isolated from civilization I had become, the nearest business establishment was a tiny little bar (about the size of a double-wide trailer... if that.) called "The Boondocks."

I once ventured into the bar. Thankfully, it was not on a "male review" night. There was one pool table, one bar with stools, a juke box, and a makeshift kareoke stage. I could count the good folks with more than five teeth that were in the bar on one hand. From the Chicago suburbanite's perspective, I had landed in a scene from Deliverance.

That being said, I have stayed in the area for the past eight years. Granted, for the past five, I've lived in suburban bliss just outside of York, rather than on the top of a hill where my nearest neighbor had a predaliction to polka dots and said, "Moo." I can now, if I need to, walk to the nearest grocery store instead of driving fourty minutes round-trip for a gallon of milk. (From the honest to goodness dairy farm. Moo cows and cow patties and methane included.)

What really startled me to learn is that the folks back home are much more condescending than I had thought the liberal-minded sophisticates to be. They look down on the people with three and a half teeth as if they're less human. In retrospect, I did, too. There's a depth to the tri-teeth that you will never get to know if you're afraid to tolerate some bigotry. There's the outside, there's the lived here all their lives, and there's the transplants who either resent the locals or embrace them. Sometimes a little bit of both.

This community is largely white scotts-irish or german. Here and there are pockets of Puerto-Ricans or African-Americans. There are asians working in the Chinese food buffets. Outside of the allotted neighborhoods, it's rare to see the cultural boundries crossed. It happens. I'm proud to be one of those people who tries to cross them. I rarely succeed. The Scotts and Germans tend to warm up to me eventually, because I'm white. I'm still big city, so they figure I'll never really understand. The Puerto-Ricans... I tried to date one, but apparently I, along with the rest of the world, is out to get him. I figure that's only one, so I imagine I'll try to cross that boundry all over again. It does depress me to head to the part of town that is their cultural center. It's hard to breathe in the oppression. In my daily life, I rarely meet and talk to those in the African-American community. Mostly I know they exist because I watch the local news, and they tell me so. Sad, isn't it?

But these are mostly negative things that stick out like a sore thumb. The things that hold me here... those are beautiful. When my father passed away, the neighbors rallied together and kept us fed and our driveway plowed. They checked up on us. When my neighbors noticed I hadn't been coming and going for a week, they called my mother to check on me. (I was in Chicago) Even I have been infected with neighborly love. When a firetruck showed up in front of my neighbor's house, I was right there checking on her. We share vegetables. They gossip a bit, but that's alright by me. This community provided me with the best friend I've ever had, who's there whenever I need her... and often when I don't THINK I need her, but really do.

The mountains... well, hills to the locals, but they're mountains to the flatlander's eyes. I learned real quick that if the road disappears in front of you, there's either a sharp turn or a decline, but usually both. It's one of few states where the road signs posted for cautionary speeds are really the maximum speed you should be going. If there's a breath of snow in the air, school is cancelled or delayed. In 2000, there was a massive ice storm that coated late winter trees with an inch of ice. In the morning sunrise, they sparkled like gems winking off every branch. There are single-lane covered bridges here, gravel roads, virtually no roads have curbs, and sidewalks are even more rare. When I visited Chicago this year, I had to stop and walk on bare grass outside an apartment complex because I was so overwhelmed by so much concrete. Everywhere here in PA seems to be green or flowering. The sunsets are some of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen. Even the flat land sunrise in Dekalb county, IL... where there is nothing but flat land and corn fields to obscure the view... isn't quite as magnificent as the pink-orange ball rising in purple-blue fog over Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania.

I'm sure I'll have more to say, but that's enough for today.

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photo by: esterrene