My blogging buddy Peter Panepento at Outside Erie gives voice to Erie expatriots; those bright young minds raised by hard working, many union-card carrying parents who gave their kids a good education, only to find little opportunity to use their new skills in their hometown. The kids eventually took their talent and Erie values to places like Cary, NC, Fairfax County, VA, Cupertino, CA, Aurora, CO, and Seminole County, FL.
Of my close friends who graduated with me at Mercyhurst Prep over a quarter-century ago, only a couple of us are raising our families here. The rest are doing quite well, using their Laker high-achievement capabilities in management or team-leading capacities in their chosen fields. They live in growing, progressive communities with rich schools and sparkling shopping centers, miles and decades away from their community of origin.
This past weekend many of them flew or drove into Erie on a lark, basically to view a hockey game. The story goes is that my buddies John and Tim (brothers) live in Colorado, and they will go and cheer the Mercyhurst College menâ€™s hockey team when they play several games at hockey schools in that region. When they found out that the Air Force Academy was coming to Erie to play the Lakers, they called for a road trip, convincing Joe to come up from FL and Mike from VA to catch up with family and friends in this neck of the woods. We all had a great time getting reconnected, which always happens when we get together.
Although Mercyhurst split the two-game series with Air Force, what was more fascinating was my friendsâ€™ reaction to developments (and lack there of) in Erie. Maybe it is best described by the following random quotes:
â€¢ â€œIâ€™m surprised what the hotels are able to charge for a room in Erie!â€
â€¢ â€œJoel, whatâ€™s the deal with upper Peach? Where are they getting the money to spend on all those stores?â€
â€¢ After a trip down lower Peach and State: â€œWow, things are looking pretty rough.â€
â€¢ â€œThatâ€™s strange that they donâ€™t offer a â€˜No Smokingâ€™ section, thereâ€™s whole states banning smoking in restaurants and public places.â€
â€¢ Opinions on Bayfront Convention Center: â€œWhoâ€™s going to come here? Looks like a white elephant to me.â€
â€¢ On the Tom Ridge Center: â€œCan you believe that something as nice as this is in Erie?â€
â€¢ On the Ravine Flyer II being constructed at Waldameer: â€œThatâ€™s going to be cool!â€
Donâ€™t misunderstand me, my friends really do love Erie and are proud to be from here. But when your point of reference are some of the most â€œfashionableâ€ areas to live and then you come to Erie for the weekend, in the winter, the town confirms your deep-seated take on the place of your childhood, a place where it is great to grow up, get an education, and then get out.