A man in Trenton, N.J., decided to write a book about churches around the country. He started by flying to San Francisco and started working east from there.
Going to a very large church, he began taking photographs and making notes. He spotted a golden telephone on the vestibule wall and was intrigued with a sign, which read, “Calls: $10,000 a minute.” He sought out the pastor and asked about the phone and the sign. The pastor answered that this golden phone is, in fact, a direct line to Heaven and if he pays the price he can talk directly to God. The man thanked the pastor and continued on his way.
As he continued to visit churches in Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Nashville and many other cities and towns all around the United States, he found more phones with the same sign and the same answer from each pastor.
Finally, he arrived in Pennsylvania. Upon entering a church in Lancaster, behold — he saw the usual golden telephone. But this time, the sign read, “Calls: 35 cents a minute.”
Fascinated, he asked to talk to the pastor. “Reverend,” he said, “I have been in cities all across the country and in each church I have found this golden telephone and have been told it is a direct line to Heaven and that I could talk to God. But, in the other churches the cost was $10,000 a minute. Your sign reads only 35 cents a call. Why?”
The pastor, smiling broadly, replied, “Son, you’re in Pennsylvania now — you’re in God’s Country. It’s a local call.”
American by birth — Pennsylvanian by the grace of God.
My mom forwarded this message (more or less — I edited it) to me in an e-mail this morning. I use the last sentence as part of my Twitter bio — although mine says “Korean by birth.” As much as I complain about Pennsylvania — the fact that the mountains make me feel like I’m trapped; the fact that I don’t like evergreens; the factory farms and puppy mills dotting the landscape; the fact that sometimes, I swear I’m the first Asian some of these people have ever seen; the fact that sometimes, the Mennonites (there are very few Amish in this area — most are in the Lancaster area) bike two or three astride at -5 m.p.h. up a hill around a corner; the heavy farming machinery that should be banned from using public roads, but instead takes up the entire lane and the first two inches of the other lane, and doesn’t pull over even though the farmer is driving about ten m.p.h. and there’s a string of 10 Jeeps and trucks behind him. . . .
Anyway. The point is that even though I can find a million and one things to complain about, I’m proud to be a Pennsylvanian, to have been reared here by a down-to-earth family. I grew up watching “Rio Lobo” and “Battle of the Bulge” with Papa (the Panzerlied scene is my favorite, and I may have a slight obsession with World War II). My summers were spent squishing potato bugs with rocks in my grandparents’ garden (Papa was so hardcore he used his fingers). And who needs swimming pools when there’s a perfectly good rope swing near the creek (pronounced “crick”)?
Sarah and I used to dress up in old lace curtains (that Grammy bought while yardsale-ing) and run around their property. I strongly dislike meat, but I love scrapple with maple syrup (or apple butter). Then again, scrapple isn’t exactly a meat. I grew up with Dutchisms, like “brutz” (to complain), “spritz” (to rain lightly), “shasslich” (my spelling may be off on that one) and several other words I can’t spell. I also learned that “fairly directly” or “pretty directly” is a phrase unique to Central Pennsylvania. It means “pretty soon.” My grandmother has a habit of saying, “It wondered me,” when she’s curious about something. My father has always instilled in my sister and me a sense of independence — and we have the black belts and marksmanship to prove it. Favorite pastime with my dad? Groundhog hunting.
There’s something about the Pennsylvanians that make me proud to say that I’m a Pennsylvanian. The fact that, generally, people work hard. That the people aren’t sue-happy (though maybe trigger-happy). That any brief drive on the highway will show that most people own Jeeps, trucks or SUVs of some sort (God help you if you don’t have four-wheel drive in winter — the three different routes to my house all include rather large hills within the last 300 yards – 1 mi.). That we have accurate aim at 300 yards, can tell the difference between pig, horse, cow, chicken and duck manure, and yet we’re members of honors societies. Nevertheless, here’s to hoping that Alan is stationed somewhere warm/hot, with a raw bar and an H-Mart nearby.
Has anyone else ever had conflicting feelings about their home states?