Updated: Dec 19, 2021
When I first moved to the Harrisburg area, I knew there was something magic about it. It felt like the middle of the state had been slowly reeling me in throughout the early aughts, so when I finally committed to living rent free with my college roommate in her little brother's girlfriend's mom's now vacant house till their pre-paid lease was up, it felt like the exquisite consummation of a long will-they-won't-they scenario.
The flirtation started small with trying to delve into and mediate the East Shore/West Shore rivalry between two of my roommates and my other roommate's boyfriend. It had a very Greasers and Socs vibe. I found myself asking questions that slowly grew to incorporate more and more of their childhood landscape. "What is this place? Surely a small river is not a cultural divide? I know we're really hungry, but we're also pretty baked; do we really want to drive two hours west on the turnpike for this Cowboy Crunch thing you keep talking about? Remember that time I threw up in the bathroom of Eat 'n Park?"
As the years passed after graduation, I found myself living all over the place and seeing even more. I visited London and Paris. I drove across the entire US and settled down in Los Angeles for a year. Then I took a different route home just to make sure I'd seen all I could. I lived in Southeastern PA and Baltimore, spent a month in Boulder. Harrisburg was the only place I visited that felt like someone had turned a town into a time capsule of the 90's, and I was from the 90's, so I loved that. Who doesn't want to hear Smashmouth and Backstreet Boys at regular intervals decades after their prime?
In graduate school, the attraction became adult. My best friend would lure me north from Baltimore with phrases like "low cost of living" and "abundant jobs" and "Stay on our couch." I even started dating and was dumped by a guy from Harrisburg, but was I going to let that stop me? Absolutely not. In fact, I'd use my proximity to reignite and draw out a relationship that almost certainly should have ended the first time, but that isn't the point because when I got a desk job in Lemoyne, that guy introduced me to podcasts, which would ultimately lead me to the social environment in which I met my husband with whom I created two entire residents of Central Pennsylvania from scratch.You know what I tell those kids? The same thing I screamed over and over my first week in Wormleysburg. "You have no idea how cool it is we can walk to an island!"