1. Nothing happens here. Philly and Pittsburgh can be entertaining cities; Philly has a pretty decent drinking and music scene and Pittsburgh is simply just a comfortable place to be. But in between is a wide swath of recession-ruined nothingness. Central Pennsylvania is one of the most astonishingly boring spaces in the country. Want to know what a big night is out here? “Hey, everybody! The Amish soft pretzels are on sale at a flea market! Let’s all get up at 7AM and look at overpriced Fix-A-Flats while raising our blood pressure!”
2. We’re broke. Pennsylvania has some of the poorest towns in the country. Reading, Harrisburg, and Allentown had their last booms as cities in the 1950’s. In Harrisburg, they’re still bragging about the “City Beautiful” movement from the 1910’s, in which people decided to stop just launching their shit into the Susquehannah (most people anyway). Some areas of Harrisburg flood if too many Senators fans spit their chew out at the same time. The biggest industry in Pennsylvania is keeping its aging population alive, which is a bit like drinking your own sweat to stay hydrated while you run.
3. The climate is unbearable. So if you live in a heavily-wooded state, you’re familiar with the relief a strong summer storm can bring to alleviate the suffocation of humidity. We hear get what I’ve termed “The Tease”. So it’s a triple-digit day with 80% humidity? But wait! Some dark clouds to cool us down! Followed by effing nothing. The rest of the country can be underwater and the best we get is a downpour whith the lasting cooling power of someone breathing on your neck. Combine that with the snow, which isn’t as bad as the way people behave in the snow. I’m confident people wait on their porch for the first pecker of a flurry than swerve into a grocery store parking lot like they’re running out of Cabbage Patch Kids. Oh, sure. The oldheads will brag about the Blizzard of ’96, but does a 17-year-old storm really justify buying ten loafs of bread and 20 gallons of milk because the plows won’t be out till morning?
4. It’s completely too conservative. James Carville once famously said Pennsylvania is “Pittsburgh on the left, Philadelphia on the right, and Kentucky in between.” While other states are decriminalizing pot, we can’t buy liquor on a Sunday. Time to cut budgets? Best close the libraries, because what good are those book-thingys? And perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this culture is it isn’t common amongst the general population. Pennsylvania has a lot of very enlightened people who don’t vote and a few extremely close-minded people who do, leading us to have a leadership that is dumber than the population at large–typically the reverse of what a government should be.
5. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. This is relatively true of anywhere with cheap rent, but Pennsylvania is home to a thoroughly stoic homestead culture. I’ve met very few families here with even distant relatives living outside the state. In fact, most live within a half hour’s worth of driving. And perhaps this is true in equally destitute and dull states, like Missouri or Ohio or New Mexico, but it seems Pennsylvanians are particularly subject to a Stockholm Syndrone, whereby everyone hates the place yet no one ever leaves. We have a massive youth population and they all agree how terrible Pennsylvania is, yet very few succeed in leaving. Perhaps you who are lucky enough to live outside PA read this and were reminded of your own state. Perhaps I’m merely bored because I am, in fact, boring (to paraphrase Harvey Danger). Perhaps boredom is a good thing. But when the same conversations strike about the lack of good government or the intensity of the humidity or the sheer drought of excitement, life ways on you with a uniquely stagnant dread. So get out, Pennsylvanians. I’ll be right behind you, if I can.