This week I wrap up my internship and Saturday I’ll be leaving Erie, PA. You may have noticed that I haven’t written much about my life in the last month or so. That happened because I have been busy lately. I have also tried to avoid talking about work in my blog, so that squashed some of the better stories. Since things are coming to an end now, I figure it would be a good time to reflect on my summer here.
Like most of the other interns here, I had reservations about coming to Erie. It took a while for me to get used to my new life here. I didn’t know many people here and I didn’t have a car, so I felt pretty landlocked for the first few weeks. Thus I projected a lot of my own feelings onto Erie. I decided it was a dreary and lonely place with nothing to do. I haven’t completely shaken that feeling yet either, but I feel better about it now than I did 10 weeks ago.
Around the 4th of July weekend things changed though. I started to develop relationships with some of my fellow interns and did things with them. And when I didn’t have things to do, I found things to do. Finding a bus to the mall went a long way to improving my weekends (and draining my bank account). There were also a lot of things I wished I did here that I didn’t. In any case, I started feeling like I was living in Erie, rather than stuck there. And it made all the difference.
So would I come back here to live and work? I am definitely warmer to the idea now than I was back at the start. It seems, however, what people really like about Erie is not its location, its geography, or its nightlife. It is the people who live there. Nearly everyone I work with who likes Erie has families, wives, girlfriends, or drinking buddies who make Erie a home for them. These type of people make a place special. And it that sense the only thing that was wrong with Erie was that it didn’t have the people I cared about in it.
Well I think I’m over my Dorothy-There’s-No-Place-Like-Home thing now. I feel like my time in Erie and my experiences here have been worthwhile, both professionally and personally. That said, it will be good to be home.
I do not own a car and do not enjoy driving much, so I have always had to find other ways to get around. Generally bumming rides, public transportation, or bicycle has been enough. Last summer my bike died though and I started walking a mile to work at the pool. Sometimes I got a ride, but I did a lot of my commuting by foot. I did not mind that though, since the iPod may be the greatest invention ever for pedestrian commuters.
Flash forward to this summer in Erie. I have been able to get rides to and from work. Everything in between becomes a bit tougher. For the last couple weeks I have been limited to Arby’s and CVS for most of my day-to-day shopping needs, which is a bit limiting. So yesterday I walked down to the Walmart, which is about a mile and half away and took about twenty minutes to get to. On the way there I realized what I really needed to get was a bicycle. And since I got paid this week, I had plenty of money to blow. So here’s my new wheels, which hopefully can carry me around town a little better. Now I just have to figure out where you’re allowed to lock up your bike in the supermarket parking lot.
So I have spent a week in Erie, PA now and I have soaked up a bit of culture here. Friday night I headed down to Ribfest downtown with some of my fellow interns. Apparently these rib shops travel around the country to this and other rib eating events, competing (seriously) for the title of best ribs. In any event, there were a bunch of people there and there was plenty of good barbaque food that was relatively cheap. I got a half a rack of ribs (its only the second time I ever ate ribs) and they were both messy and tasty. It was raining, which was a bit annoying, so we didn't spend a lot of time outside. Too bad, since there was a kettle corn stand there as well.
We ended up going to a bar called Molly Brannigans, a cozy Irish bar that is apparently part of a chain. I was a bit hesitant about going into a bar, being under 21, but it wasn't a big deal. We sat down and people got food and drinks; I just got Pepsi. The atmosphere was pretty cool though, since they had this cool musician who played a perfect lineup of classic rock. He did Piano Man, Come Sail Away, Margaritaville and I think he may have done Tiny Dancer too. Anyway, it turned out to be a real good time even if I couldn't drink.
Yesterday afternoon we went out to the Millcreek Mall for lunch and I picked up an adapter for my PlayStation. While we were there we ran into some other interns, including one of the guys from my office. The mall itself was pretty impressive, closer to the ones from home than the Nittany Mall. Someone pointed out that it was built by mobsters who wanted to build it downtown, but the city wouldn’t let them. So they built in the shape of a gun pointed at city hall. I don't know if it's true, but it is in the Wikipedia.
Based on that entry in the Wikipedia, I found a song that was apparently written by a Mercyhurst student about Erie, PA. You can stream it here. It's funny because it sums everything I have learned or heard about Erie. Anyway I'm getting to know the town and things are going well.
Yesterday I spent part of my last day in Havertown visiting Karakung Swim Club, my summer home for the last 5 years. It was a bittersweet reunion as I welcomed back my friends and said goodbye just as quickly. On the staff whiteboard, a note from my brother announced: "100 Days Till Labor Day". It's hard to believe a summer which has barely begun is only 100 days away from completion.
Today I am writing to you from Erie, PA, my home for 70 of those 100 days. I am here for a summer internship with a major industrial company (I will spare you the details to spare me the litigation). I am staying at a local university here and starting to get settled in. Erie is different than any place I've ever lived before, not just because its next to a body of water. Its a large and sprawling city-town, parts of which are run down. My brief tour suggests it is mostly waterfront industry and strip malls. Maybe there was more at one point in history, but this is all that seems to remain. It doesn't seem bad though.
We did drive out to Presque Isle, which is a state park that features most of the waterfront activities. There were lots of people out walking, biking, fishing, and swimming. We did get out and gaze across at a hazy horizon where Canada should be. The lake is pretty big and it looks very nice – I look forward to spending more time there. The drive up to Erie, by the way, clocked in at 6 1/2 hours. Not as bad as I expected, but I don't plan on making it again anytime soon.
That's all I have to report for now, I look forward to meeting more of my fellow interns tomorrow and further exploring the town. I'll try to keep posting throughout.