What is there to do in the rural Pennsylvanian town of Selinsgrove? According to the Chamber of Commerce’s website, “spend time in the local post office.” Er, no thanks. Or perhaps “walk along the river to launch a boat.” Trying to find exciting things to do in Selinsgrove is enough to make you want to launch yourself into the river. I assume explaining your way out of an accidental suicidal attempt while hyperventilating is not an appropriate suggestion for something to do.
While Selinsgrove may lack excitement or a long list of tourist attractions, you will quickly find it’s a quintessential small American town. So American in fact, as I drove into town I either had a small stroke from my McChicken or I heard a faint Bruce Springsteen riff in my head. Only a short few minutes after arriving, I found myself walking some guys dog, talking with little kids on the side-walk and already visiting two-thirds of the entire town. I visited Selinsgrove only recently – in the middle of winter, but I have a sneaking suspicion the town is quite beautiful in the fall.
In my hotel room I eagerly googled things to do. A website popped up with only one suggestion: see a movie at the local cinema. Even though watching a delicious looking Ryan Gosling firing a gun in snug pants is a pretty good afternoon, I couldn’t get to the Cinema – Selinsgrove has no cab service or in town bus routes. You can catch a bus to Manhattan but you can’t get 3 miles up the road. Hours later when I called Paul’s Cab Service from nearby Sunbury, I spent the entire journey trying to work out what a “crick” was and why the driver kept recommending it. Confused, I spent a good 20 minutes in Wal-Mart trying to find one. (It’s a central PA dialect thing – it’s a creek, apparently. Alas, for those who think Wal-Mart sells everything – they don’t sell cricks).
Watching the kids walk home from school I can almost sense their boredom while immediately worrying about them in high school; there’s not much to do other than have a house party, get drunk, go on a dates and try to inconspicuously shag everything that moves without the entire town finding out. It’s an assumption; this is the same town with multiple Lutheran and Methodist churches, is surrounded by hymenoplasty surgeons and is the proud owner of one central masonic lodge. Although there are just under 5500 people in Selinsgrove there is an excessive 9 churches and 6 cemeteries.* (That’s one hyper organised afterlife, it’s a shame they couldn’t be that organised about the 3 lots of separate shopping centres. Why aren’t Monroe Marketplace and the Susquehanna Valley Mall one?)
Selingrove has enabled me to understand certain people I know a lot better. Selinsgrove is a small town with a strong sense of community and morals, whereas I grew up in a city more than 127 times the size (literally) and was far less sheltered and grounded. I’ve never spent any significant time in a small town, and I now I have visited Selinsgrove I can see I’m quite brash and unpredictable.
After a brief tour of Wal-Mart, a lunch at Emma’s Food For Life, a drink at BJ’s Steak and Ribs, a walk through downtown and eating half a cow for dinner at A Taste of Philly, I walked along the freezing crick and then headed back to the hotel to lay in a hot bath for almost an hour. Not only was I going to university the next day in a foreign country, I have to redesign this site, my friends site, a new site, I have to sit 16 exams in the next 3 months, as well as my university course work, graduate in May and work out my visa situation all by then as well. I also realised that despite doing everything humanly possible to show someone I care about them, they don’t care about me at all. To me, there isn’t much more a person can do beyond travel thousands of miles just to see someone, and to care unconditionally but sometimes it’s not enough. In those moments a shadow of darkness fills the air when you realise, what I have done is enough – more than enough actually.
So I packed up and said goodbye to the little slice of America and moved a hundred miles up the road to somewhere just as rural, but brutally colder to test out my ability to live in the same spot for four months. Maybe I will return to see Selinsgrove in the fall.
Have you been to Selinsgrove? What did you think?* According to Wikipedia