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Josh's Top Ten Strange Places in Pennsylvania

Probably we all think that where we live is the weirdest place on Earth, and in fact we might be right. Every town in the world might be in a first-place tie for "weirdest place in the world." This is a weird planet, is what I'm trying to say. But I really do think Pennsylvania is a super-strange place. We have big cities, sure, but we also have the Amish and that whole middle part of the state that would never vote for Obama. We also have some really strange city names that are hilarious if you are twelve years-old or are me. And there are some other just truly odd things. Yes, there's a lot of weirdness here (although for some of the super weird, you have to try Jersey, natch) but I have scoured the state and found the ten weirdest places. Enjoy!

(1) VIRGINVILLE -- I haven't spent much time in Virginville (well, the real one anyway -- the metaphorical Virginville was my home through all of high school and longer than I care to admit). But good ole V'ville has to make any list of strange PA places for its name alone. The signs get stolen all the time, costing the little town thousands of dollars to replace them. Luckily, they make up the lost revenue in t-shirts and beer steins bearing the Virginville slogan: "Please let me get the hell out of Virginville." OK, I made most of that up, but Virginville is a real place & I can't see the sign without laughing.

(2) INTERCOURSE - I've spent even less time in Intercourse than in Virginville (what a surprise, right?) but it's pretty much equally awesome, name-wise. PA pretty much has the lock on strange city names but Coxsackie, NY also really gets me giggling. Anyway, if you travel from Virginville to Intercourse, you will certainly have a great time. (Guaranteed.)



(3) JERSELVANIA - When you drive West into PA from the Jerz, there is a brief moment between the "You Are Now Leaving NJ" sign and the "Welcome to PA" placard. My friends and I always get really excited about the brief second visiting this nether-world and often wonder how to act while in there. Are liquor stores open on Sundays or not? Is it still considered cool to have a cigarette behind your ear? What laws regarding explicit materials apply in this slice of geography? Don't look for Jerselvania on a map, and if you ask your GPS to find it, that snooty lady will tell you to piss off. But it's very real and very magical.

(4) DARKTOWN -- Darktown is weird. It is called "Darktown." That is all.



(5) BETHLEHEM STEEL - Pittsburgh is known for The Steelers, but the greatest steel company of all was near my home in Eastern PA. The kilns pretty much stopped firing before I was born, but the rotting hulk of the steel plant still remains. It's miles and miles of rot -- a crazy post-industrial hellscape, a symphony of broken windows, a riot of rust. Every cool local kid sneaks in to take artsy photos. Recently it was used as the set for Transformers 2 so you will all get to see it on the big screen sometime, but in person it's really the weird deal. They're slowly renovating it and actually recently opened a casino on part of the property, but an epic stretch of decaying weirdness still exists. Come see it while you can!
It really looks just like this:



(6) CENTRALIA -- Centraila is known as "the town which has been on fire for 46 years," in part because it is a town that has been on fire for 46 years. There is a coal seam underneath the city that sparked up in 1962. Roads buckled, huge sinkholes opened up, and residents moved out of town. But this being Pennsylvania, not all of them moved out of town. A few folks still live there, despite the fact that a huge inferno burns under their feet. I like this quote from Wikipedia to sum it up: "Centralia's cemeteries now have a far greater population than the town."

(7) LEATHER CORNER POST -- First of all, yeah, there is a village called "Leather Corner Post," which is pretty awesome. They named a town after a post? Yeah, but not just any post. The corner post. Which was made of leather. Awesome. Second of all, there is a bar called "The Leather Corner Post" where you can see people play the magical instrument known as the boomba. The boomba is a percussion "instrument," basically a pogo stick covered in bells and horns and crap. People pound them up in down (more or less) in time with the music and it's pretty surreal. I went there back in high school when they had boomba night every night. When I first walked in, my friend and I both said the same thing: "Did we just walk into a David Lynch movie?" It is a place which brings to mind deep questions: How on earth did a bunch of ape-like animals ascend from the muck and end up deciding that on this spot, at this time, a bunch of us should get together and beat the crap out of pogo-sticks with sleigh bells on them?

The 'Post has been bought and sort of cleaned up, with a fancier menu and nicer decore. But they still bust out the boom-bas from time to time and you have to see it to believe it.


(8) THE MUTTER MUSEUM - This museum of medical oddities in Philly hosts a wall of skulls, decomposing corpses, and lots of jars with pickled nastiness. It is visited by thousands of people each year, many of whom actually do so on purpose. When my wife made me go, I nearly threw up as soon as we walked in. She's in the medical field and loves the surgery channel, so was cool with it. I decided to hang out in the gift shop, which itself was filled with all sorts of disgusting stuff. You can buy a t-shirt with a picture of a tumor on it. Then I decided to just hang out in the bathroom, where I softly wept on the toilet until it was time to go home.


(9) 9th & Passyunk, Philly -- This corner in South Philly boasts the two greatest cheesesteak places on the planet. The waiting hungry number in the hundreds every day; bus tours often pull up and disembark. It's worth a visit just for the people-watching (as is much of South Philly) but you need to eat there. Philly folks have strong opinions over which -- Pat's or Gino's -- is superior. It's a vicious rivarly, like Mets-Phillies or Crips-Bloods, only much much fiercer. Geno is out-spoken about his political views (which I don't exactly agree with), but to be honest I prefer his sandwiches. This resulted in a raging internal debate of aesthetics v. politics for me, and in the end aesthetics won. Cheesesteaks know no politics.

(10) Climax Gentleman's Club -- I do believe that PA hosts America's only drive-thru strip-club. That's right: drive-thru strip-club. You either think this is the embodiment of all that is wrong with America, or the greatest idea in the history of human thought, worthy of a Nobel Prize wrapped in a McArthur Genuis Grant and dipped in a bucket of Grammys. I will withhold my own opinion, and simply ask that you give me a call next time you go. Climax Gentleman's Club US Route 22, Congruity, PA.

That's right, the town is called "Congruity." ¡Viva la Pennsylvania!

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( 40 comments — Leave a comment )
terihall
May. 25th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
Josh you are freaking hilarious. And so is PA. Very weird.
jberkj
May. 25th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Teri! PA sure is the weird. Just two seconds ago a guy pulled up at my neighbor's house in a 90 year old car called a "Locomobile." He was actually really nice. I took pictures. http://picasaweb.google.com/joshberk/Locomobile#
terihall
May. 25th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
Oo I looked and then I looked at your other photos to see E and your wife is hawt! You bettah be good to keep her happy! (E is adorable!)
jberkj
May. 26th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks, Teri! My wife is definitely too good-looking for me.
terihall
May. 26th, 2009 12:04 am (UTC)
Aw now Josh. You are a hawtie too!
jberkj
May. 26th, 2009 12:15 am (UTC)
Thank you for honoring my clear attempt at compliment-fishing :)
allah_sulu
May. 25th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
Heh heh ... I can use that ...
jberkj
May. 25th, 2009 10:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Heh heh ... I can use that ...
Ha! Love it! Fantastic!
suzanneyoung
May. 25th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC)
Wow. So, when can I come visit? haha
jberkj
May. 25th, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC)
Any time, Young! Was it #10 that made you know want to come to PA?
lindsay_eland10
May. 25th, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC)
Oh Yes!!! Growing up in PA (pittsburg, punxatawney, and then State College where my parents still live) this list is dear to my PA heart! Thanks Josh! And yes, I have been to intercourse and I have seen the Climax Club

Thanks again, Josh! I'm coming back to visit in June I'll have to stop at a few of these old haunts to reminisce
jberkj
May. 25th, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC)
"I have been to intercourse and I have seen the Climax Club" = something I'm taking out of context. Haha!

Isn't it great that they claim that club is for "gentlemen?"
jberkj
May. 26th, 2009 12:02 am (UTC)
Oh, and I forgot to include a pic of that classy club for gentlemen! http://www.uphaa.com/uploads/19/P1020044b.jpg
jberkj
May. 26th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
And, hey, I had no idea you were from PA! So glad to help bring back (weird) memories!
writerjenn
May. 26th, 2009 12:21 am (UTC)
I have 3 thoughts on this post:

1. I have been to #8. Yes, on purpose. More than once.

2. This post explains a lot about you.

3. I love the phrase "bust out the boom-bas."
jberkj
May. 26th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
I wanted to find some pictures or video of PA boom-ba playing, but when I youtubed "leather corner post" all I found was a video called "Drunken Hillbillies Dancing." [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGsrtdUDRm4] I don't know. They don't seem like hillbillies to me. That one guy knows how to use a camera phone.

Also, somehow you neglected #4, which is that you live in PA too! So whatever weirdness this post says about me, it says the same about you too! :)
writerjenn
May. 27th, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
More Pennsy tidbits:

"Mutter" rhymes with scooter, not with butter.
We're actually a commonwealth, not a state.
Ben Franklin founded practically everything.
Billy Joel sang a song about one of our towns, in which he pronounced "American" with the accent on the third syllable.

The Chamber of Commerce is even now raiding this blog for touristy ideas!
jberkj
May. 27th, 2009 01:55 am (UTC)
And that song is actually about Bethlehem! Also, I once asked Billy Joel's daughter to write a new "Allentown" because we're all sick of that old one. She politely declined.
boreal_owl
May. 26th, 2009 01:19 am (UTC)
Thanks for the laughs! I think the Mutter Museum should be renamed the Nutter Museum. At any rate, I won't be visiting it any time soon.
lindsey_leavitt
May. 26th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
Ah, you're making me all nostalgic.
Genos, hand down. Wit Whiz. My next book is set in PA and there is a Geno's shout-out.
Bird in Hand isn't far from Intercourse. Just so you know... geographically.
jberkj
May. 26th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC)
I always say "wiz wit" not "wit wiz." (I like how this probably sounds like total gibberish to anyone else!) But yeah, Geno's for sure! My Dad likes Jim's, which is like when you ask someone if they're a Republican or a Democrat and they say they're in the Constitutional Law Party or some weird third-party and you're like "I don't even know what language you're speaking." You can buy beer at Jim's though, which does add points.

And man, that Bird in Hand line cracked me! Well played, Leavitt. Thanks for showing me up again :)
mindiscott
May. 26th, 2009 02:14 am (UTC)
Virginville and Intercourse. Love it!

(And your commentary just about made me spit out my Raisin Nut Bran.)
iheartmonster
May. 26th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
The Mutter Museum! My mom and I went there when we visited Philly a couple of years ago. I LOVED looking at all of those skulls that showed how people died next to them... and all of the preserved skin diseases. It was really cool, and I only gagged like four times throughout it. :o)
tracidee
May. 26th, 2009 05:39 am (UTC)
Don't be such a lightweight, Josh. The Mutter (Nutter) Museum sounds awesome. Wow, now I actually have a reason to go to Pennsylvania. Weird.
tlcadence
May. 26th, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)
That was a beautiful geography lesson, Berk. Thanks :)
jamerichards
May. 26th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
Even though Kurtis started the rumor that I'm from Pennsylvania---I'm not but my book is set there---I am actually from very near Coxsackie NY! And there begins and ends the funny NY names. Although I like the name of a place pronounced like SkinnyAtlas.

Thanks for the great list. You're Good and Funny. You should be a writer, or something.
christyraedeke
May. 26th, 2009 05:03 pm (UTC)
LOVE this! I remember going to Intercourse on the requisite "Amish Tour" when I was a kid, and being absolutely HORRIFIED That my Dad made my Mom take a photo of him with next to the Intercourse sign. Now I know why I have the sense of humor of a 9-year-old; it's genetic.

I think I need to go to South Philly asap to settle this cheesesteak fued...

Excellent Top Ten!





jberkj
May. 26th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks, Christy! I'd be happy to escort you to South Philly for some cheese steak research anytime. In fact, I insist. (Please don't make me go back to the Mutter Museum though. It seems like something maybe you'd like? They do in fact have a pickled baby there.)
christyraedeke
May. 26th, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
I love anything pickled in a jar! And rows of skulls, too! I like your wife already.

BTW, is your hosehold divided on the cheese steak front or does she like the one you like? Due to her love of the Mutter Museum I'm pretty sure I'll side with her...

jberkj
May. 26th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
Get this: My wife doesn't like cheese steaks AT ALL. The sacrilege! I only found after we were married.
christyraedeke
May. 26th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, the horror!
bree_despain
May. 26th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
I love PA. My first attempt at writing a novel was about a South Philly boy who finds a secret time traveling portal behind a dumpster at Geno's. Reading this post makes me want to start on that book again just so I have a reason to go back to PA and do some cheese steak research. Perhaps I'll have to grab some water-ice while I'm there.
jberkj
May. 26th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
Whoah, that's awesome! You definitely need to resume work on that book. The research will be tax-deductible. Geno's & water-ice for everyone; Bree's buying!
seaheidi
May. 26th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
haha
jennadol
May. 27th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
Add another Pennsylvanian to the mix. Great, hilarious list, Josh! Never heard of the Mutter Museum before (we didn't get out much in Reading), but see the Virginville signs (and trade stupid jokes with husband) every time we pass on visits home. Loved this!
jberkj
May. 27th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
So you aren't in PA anymore, but still have family here? You escaped! Congratulations. Reading is very close to me. (Also, Reading is a great hometown for an author!)
jennadol
May. 27th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
I did escape, tho' with kids sometimes wish we were closer (mom, dad, lots of other fam still there). Reading IS a good hometown for an author - AS King, John Updike, Taylor Swift (an author of sorts) all from there. Where are you?
jberkj
May. 27th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
I'm living here in Allentown. Not far from Reading at all! I used to go quite a bit to see the Reading Phillies, but now we got our own baseball team (The IronPigs, further proof that PA is weird) I go less often. I was thinking that "Reading" was a good literary town just b/c of the pun (as in "I like reading books"), but yeah, good authors too! I know AS King from around the internet. Awesome lady!
jennadol
May. 27th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
Ahhh...yep, sometimes you really have to spell it out for me.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 31st, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
Josh's Top Ten Strange Places in Pennsylvania
Did anyone mention "Blue Balls, PA"?
( 40 comments — Leave a comment )

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