Two month ago, driven by cabin fever and heartache from a variety of sources, I fled my father’s house in Hop Bottom, seeking a new start with a new town. I blame NBC’s sitcom The Office, as well as fleeting visits since childhood, for leading me to believe you were a bleak wasteland of concrete in the tundra of NEPA, filled to the brim with faceless office workers and the occasional paper salesman. I regarded you as a place nobody visited, or heaven forbid lived, unless absolutely necessary. To me, you would be merely a rebound after my passionate romance with stunning northern California.
Today, I confess how severely I underestimated you. Exquisite in your ordinariness, you are everything that a small city should be, and you are my favorite muse. From the kitchen window of my (reasonably priced *cough*) downtown apartment, I watch dusk fall over one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve ever seen. At around 8 pm on a clear day, a few stars hang in your glowing turquoise sky. The sky is zigzagged by telephone wires, more perfectly placed than those in a Paul Madonna drawing. Red traffic lights glow against this backdrop, a pair of sneakers dangles from the wires, and it’s all that I can do to not to lock myself in my room and make abstract art.
I would do something as corny as writing a song for you, but luckily the Barenaked Ladies already took care of that with their song “Light Up my Room” (<- just pretend that dude is me):
There’s a shopping cart in the ravine
The foam on the creek is like pop and ice cream
A field full of tires that is always on fire
To light my way home
There are luxuries we can’t afford
But in our house we never get bored
We can dance to the radio station
That plays in our teeth
My apartment is the bottom floor of a house, and our 6′ x 10′ front yard collects garbage all day as if it’s made of Velcro. Occasionally my housemate or I gather the trash, stuff it into bags, and bring it inside, but mostly the effort is futile. Besides, I prefer to spend my time enjoying the other opportunities that you have to offer, such as:
– The very close-knit and talented art community: This includes a fabulous First Friday, a great summer program for high schoolers called Arts Alive (probably the reason that I got involved in the arts in the first place), and The Pop Up Studio, a little group that arranges a cool new art event once per month. This month’s was a city-wide scavenger hunt, which essentially resulted in 90+ people, organized into teams, tearing around Scranton as if the fate of the universe depended on finding the only parking garage with an elevator that went up to the 8th floor. (My favorite highlight was one of the organizers waiting inside a fancy room at the Radisson dressed as Superman and drinking a bottle of whiskey, although the cookies were great, too).
– A 21+ sports league. The ROC Social Club is the main reason that I have any friends. Weekly, 8 or so adult dodgeball teams gather in the Ice Box to pelt one another with foam balls until it’s time to go out for a drink at…
– One of the 1,000,000,000 local bars. Yes, there is a great selection, with everything from your standard meat market to a great hipster hangout. The Backyard Ale House has a $5 beer tasting on Tuesdays, and Kildare’s boasts both karaoke and trivia nights. With such a selection, I can experience everything from having a relaxed beer tasting to losing my housemate, getting locked out of my house, and/or drunk dialing my friends while sitting next to a dumpster!
– Oh, and your library system is great. With merely a library card (no money required), I have secured a ticket to Laura Lippman’s lecture in the Scranton Cultural Center, as well as a free paperback copy of one of her books. This works for everyone with a library card. The last speaker was physicist Michio Kaku.
Well, Scranton, you’re not perfect. Sometimes I dream of living in a place where a plastic bag isn’t automatically dispensed for a one-item purchase (and my father and I don’t get into altercations with cashiers over it), where I can openly talk about global warming, or where the heating bill doesn’t nearly eclipse my half of the rent.
But for right now, you’re all I need.
(Pictures and mixed tape to follow)