The Clam has been graced with an awesome social media person and contributor in Brooke Welty, who at parties regales us of her life before moving here two years ago. We pleaded with her to share with the world her story of the vast expanse of America outside the cut bridge.
Not long after moving to Gloucester, I began to experience a strange sensation. It was a feeling of dread which I couldn’t place at first. It happened mainly on the weekends, when I didn’t have to work or go anywhere in particular, and then it hit me:
I didn’t want to go over the damned bridge if I didn’t have to.
The symptoms included audible groaning, procrastination, and desperate attempts to find what I needed elsewhere in town, even if that meant paying more. I know I’m not alone in this. For some reason, the city of Gloucester can suck away the willingness to leave, like a motivation vampire.
It’s ridiculous, really. My husband and I don’t even go anywhere on the weekends. We sit on the deck, look at our garden, and take bets on how long it’ll take the cat to vomit up all that grass he just ate. (The answer is as soon as he gets back inside.)
I can’t be bothered to drive my ass over the bridge. Which is why I’m doing a travel piece of sorts: so you don’t have to. Really it’s an opportunity for me to write another piece, but since I’m way less familiar with Gloucester than the other Clams are, I’m writing about the only thing I can.
WE’LL START WITH PENNSYLVANIA.
Before I get started, let me just get this out of the way: Pennsylvania has Dunkin Donuts, so DON’T PANIC. We love the Dunk just as much as you do.
When people up here find out where I’m from, the first question I’m usually asked is:
“Oh, Amish Country?”
I’m not from the Lancaster area, which is what most people mean when they say Amish Country. I’m from the northern central part of the state (and it is a pretty big state) near a “city” called Williamsport. But…yes. Pretty much all of Pennsylvania is Amish country, to be honest. You’ll be less apt to see Amish folks in places like Pittsburgh and Philly, but it would by no means be weird. The state is crawling with Amish, and you’ll realize this the first time you run over a pile of horse shit on a major highway or spend some time behind a buggy at a red light. The Amish are alright neighbors, really. If you need a barn raised or a quilt sewn, you’re all set. Something you might not know is that Amish kids get up to just as much trouble as regular folks, and tales of Amish kids raising quaint and adorable hell abound. (It’s the hats.)
Pennsylvania itself is gorgeous. Most of it anyway. The Northeastern part of the state (the Scranton area, for you fans of The Office) is pretty much an armpit, covered in centuries worth of coal soot and the dust from dried out, broken dreams of moving somewhere better. Even the ground there is on fire (Centralia. Creepy name, creepy place, mecca for drunken students and emo kids looking for that perfect “I’m a creature of the night” photo.) Seriously just avoid it all together.
Most of Pennsylvania (It’s so weird typing it out. People from Pennsylvania don’t ever say it. Really. We just say PA, as if it’s too much effort. No other state does this, to my knowledge. You’d never say “I’m from MA” but people from PA do it routinely, so there you go) is forest. Pausing the snark for a moment, I will just say, it really is gorgeous. Huge forests, rivers, lakes, wildlife…it really is lovely. I miss the scenery sometimes, when I’m driving through the endless suburb that is Eastern Massachusetts. Once you get south of Cape Ann, it’s just literally one unending town, with no breaks or pauses in between. It feels like one giant city with neighborhoods that were once independent towns.
That said, the possibility of death by deer is very real. Everyone I know from PA has, at some point, hit a deer, or has had a near miss. I hit one, with my dad years ago. We weren’t going too fast, and he just got up and gave us a scathing glare before running off into the field. Here’s the thing – if you’re driving at full speed, you can literally be killed, or seriously fucked up, if you hit a deer. Many cars have been totaled this way.
The list of animals I have hit, or almost hit, is impressive.
- Deer (hit – survived)
- Bear (almost)
- Racoon (almost)
- Fox (almost)
- Coyote (almost)
- Owl (hit – survived)
- Groundhog (almost)
- Sparrow (hit – deceased. I found him jammed into the grill of my car.)
- Turkey (missed)
Someone once said of PA “There’s Philly in the East, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in between.”
This is 100% true.
Trucks festooned with Confederate flag stickers (Often paired tastefully with a gun rack and truck nuts) are common, and you’ll see plenty a large rednecks dressed in the chosen garb of cammo with a Confederate flag t shirt or hat. We once saw a bumper sticker which read “DON’T RE-NIG IN 2012” It only strengthened our resolve to get the hell out of PA. There’s not really much more I need to say on that, is there?
The other important thing to know about PA is that we eat some weird food. Until I moved here, I had no idea that red beet pickled eggs were an oddity. I still get angry at the sight of a salad bar which doesn’t have a little vat of purple eggs and beets. And how could I mention PA without bringing up scrapple? What the hell is scrapple, you might ask? The answer is…well you don’t really want to know. It’s a meat based product (If you call snouts, ears, and offal meat. Maybe I should just say “animal based) which is baked in a bread tin, fried and then covered with maple syrup. But don’t let that scare you because you’ll see it on breakfast menus all over the state. And those Amish folks I mentioned before can be seen hawking their delicious produce and baked goods from little stands along pretty much any back road you take. I have no idea what shoo-fly pie is, other than a molassesy treat. Try it.
That pretty much sums up PA. Beautiful scenery, nice people, some really shitty people, Amish people. Visit PA if you’re a fan of the outdoors, casual racism, and shoo-fly pie.