It’s not just okay to love Erie. It’s impossible not to love Erie

Photo by Prevedi Domani | Multimedia Graphic Design

Here’s a fun game: think of something you love. Football. Beer. Star Trek. Ripping pre-verbal kids out of their mothers’ arms at the southern border. I don’t know what you love – doesn’t matter. Now think of why you love that thing.

Chances are, it’s easy to come up with a few reasons. I love beer because it’s delicious, makes other people funnier and better looking, and it’s $1 at the Plymouth. Too easy.

Occasionally though, we’ll love something for no reason whatsoever. Try to think of a great reason to love watching the Kardashians, or smelling your own fart. You feel guilty even thinking about it, and you don’t tell your friends. You wish you didn’t love it.

Ah, it’s a guilty pleasure, you’ll tell yourself. It’s harmless. It’s okay to love my own farts. Is that how anyone wants to feel about their city? If you have to convince someone it’s okay to love you, you’ve already lost.

A shirt from Erie Apparel’s popular “It’s okay to love Erie” collection. We love Erie Apparel more than the slogan. | erieapparel.co

Okay, now let me backtrack a bit, because I love the good folks at Erie Apparel and I don’t want this to come off sounding like Erie-on-Erie crime. I think most fair-minded people would agree Erie pride was at its peak back when the air was thick from the industrial muscle of places like Hammermill and GE. “It’s okay to love Erie” seems to acknowledge that we aren’t at the top but we are on the way up, and that’s a nice sentiment.

I’m sorry, but I want more. Erie’s not some girl begging for your attention until you convince yourself out of desperation that yeah, maybe you like her after all. Erie is the girl from She’s All That who was always Prom Queen material, and if it took you all year to give her the time of day, that’s on you.

I believe Erie is a magical place with the best sunsets in the world, sandy beaches and warm water, and old buildings filled with new ideas.

A place where you can find $1 beer any day of the week, then go right across the street to church and find Jesus.

On certain Mondays during the summer, one of those $1 beer places is a minor league ballpark, home of the Erie Seawolves, where you can get loaded and heckle some douchey left fielder from Altoona for no good reason – then realize there’s an 80-year old guy nearby doing the same exact thing, only he’s doing it because he’s apparently intertwined his own self worth with the fortunes of the team.

Oh, you like hockey? Well I don’t, but going to see the Erie Otters is a great time anyway. Forty-one Erie Otters have played in the NHL including 2015 1st overall pick Connor McDavid, who was the certified balls.

There’s a giant motorcycle rally with a different D-list celebrity grand marshal every year, and there’s not a sexually frustrated middle-aged man within 100 miles who doesn’t love every minute of that. It’s a major event even if you aren’t a biker.

And the wings. My God, the wings. I haven’t checked, but I’d guess Erie eats more chicken wings than most places. Every place in Erie that sells them claims they’re award-winning and they probably are, because there is always some chicken wing contest going on around here.

I’d also guess Erie has the world’s highest roadrage-to-traffic ratio, which I somehow find endearing.

We’ve got all four seasons – five if you count winter as two, which you should – and no natural disasters. That tornado was a fluke.

Speaking of winter, don’t believe the hype. It snows like hell for a few days (fine, months) of the year, and you aren’t soft. Build a snowman, go sledding, crank up the fire, slug some coffee, do all the things you did when you were a kid. Handle the snow long enough and eventually you love that, too.

Besides, when the winter is over, you feel reborn every bit as much as the leaves on the trees. It’s like Moonlight Graham told Ray Kinsella about that middle-of-nowhere Minnesota town in Field of Dreams:

“This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind nevers blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child.”

So yeah, it’s okay to love Erie. It is so much more than just that, though. It’s damn near impossible not to love Erie. I’m not saying it’s perfect; nowhere is. We’ve got our share of violent crime, a big meth problem (not to mention heroin), and some good old-fashioned local political corruption. Find me a place without problems.

If you spend some time here and you don’t love it, I hope you find what you’re looking for…but if you spend half your life moving around only to realize you had the Prom Queen under your nose the whole time, I’ll be the guy on the beach where the land meets the water meets the air, looking at the sun go down under a sky Bob Ross couldn’t recreate, and I’ll be saying I told you so. Because Erie is the best damn place on Earth.

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