I made it to Lancaster, and I’ve already met a dozen people, mostly bartenders and barmaids, but, hey, who knows more about a town than the person who has to listen to everyone’s life story. So, I considered my time spent in the local bars to be valuable research time.
For instance, the bartender at one downtown establishment told me not to bother to look for an apartment on the south side of town. “The south side is a shithole.” Unfortunately, that was after I had spent the entire morning checking out the apartments listed in the local newspaper, all of which happened to be on the south side. I never should have waited until 2pm for my first beer of the day. I could have saved myself a lot of walking if I had spoken to a bartender sooner.
By then, I had already ruled out getting a place in that part of town, anyway. I don’t have very high standards, but the south side of town looked too seedy for even me. I was slightly tempted by one entire house that was for rent cheap. It was right across the street from a supermarket, which is usually a big plus, but even the two condemned buildings next door looked to be in better shape than it was.
As I continued my meandering around the town, I ran into a couple Jesus Freaks on the corner. They originally asked me for a few minutes of my time, but, for some strange reason, they ran away long before their time was up. I don’t think they ever met an Agnostic before. They promised to pray for me. I promised to drink for them, and I’m a man of my word.
Since I completely struck out apartment hunting on the first day, I thought it might be wise to push back my check-out date at the motel where I am saying, especially since an Internet search showed all the other places in the area to be more expensive.
“Mike,” I said to the front desk clerk, whose real name is probably Rajishkebob, “would it be possible for me to extend my check-out date for another 4 days?”
“Sure.” Boom. It was done. He didn’t have to check anything in the computer.
I didn’t have to plead my case for an extension. I already had the extension, but I still felt compelled to tell him why I needed to stay longer, so that he wouldn’t just think I wanted to stay longer because I was so impressed by the place. “I’m looking for an apartment downtown, and I think it may take longer than I thought.”
“We have apartments here,” he said. “Free Wifi, continental breakfast, and a pool. You don’t want to live downtown. You’ve seen Downtown. Downtown is a shithole. It’s better here.”
Remember that Rene Zellwiger line in the Show-me-the-money movie, Jerry McGuire, “You had me at hello.” Mike had me at free Wifi.
So my apartment hunt is finished. Ta-Daaaaa. Damn, I’m good. I’ll still keep my eye open for a more permanent place, but, at least I now have an address, The Knights Inn, Rt 30. I have a beautiful view of an Amish farm and I’ve seen a few horses go by, some trotting faster than nags I’ve played at Yonkers. (But, to be fair, the nags I bet weren’t being chased by cars, trucks, and buses.)
And tonight I celebrated my new hometown, by taking in a local minor league ballgame. The Lancaster Barnstormers were playing the Long Island Ducks. To make sure that I would make the right first impression on my new neighbors, I wore a Long Island Ducks hat and t-shirt to the game. I also brought an official Donald Duck duckcall quacker bill which I had borrowed from Brother X.
The locals actually got a kick out of the quacker, and instead of getting beat up, I made some new friends. When I told one of them about my plan to look for a new apartment in all the towns with Amtrak connections to New York and Johnstown, he thought that was a good idea. “Skip Harrisburg, though,” he said. “Harrisburg is a shithole.”
I had to laugh. It seems that everyone I met in this town from the richest to the poorest was happy and friendly. They were all thankful for where they were living, because, in their opinion, anywhere else was a shithole. I was caught up in it. I was thankful that I had found a place that was convenient to everything, on a major bus route, comfortable, clean, and where I woke up to look at a great big beautiful Amish farm.
When I got off the bus, I stopped at the bar next door to the motel for a nightcap, and after a few pints, the barmaid asked me where I was from.
“Originally, I’m from New York. But now” I smiled, “I live next door.”
“Shithole, with a pool and Wifi,” I corrected. Gotta represent my new neighborhood.
Peace & Love and all of the above,