After a week's worth of almost universally terrible news from State College, it can start to feel as if there's nothing good to be found in the land known as Happy Valley. And we've heard from readers who feel that the coverage is too focused on the negative. Here's a brief and non-comprehensive list (since I've never been there) of some positive things about the town of 42,000.
Please share your own happy things about Happy Valley in the comments section.
1. There Is Beautiful Fall Foliage At Certain Times Of The Year, Including The Time That Just Passed
It's mid-November, and the leaves in State College
are turning have basically already turned. Everyone, especially octogenarians with disposable cameras, loves pretty-colored leaves. There is nothing to hate about pretty-colored leaves, until they turn brown and crusty and fall on your lawn and then you have to rake them. Before that, though, the beautiful fall foliage in Happy Valley was definitely a happy thing.
For some time, Penn State was, according to the Princeton Review, the Number One Party School in the country. Lots of people know this because in December 2009, This American Life aired a show about it.
At one point in the segment, producer Sarah Koenig—who lived in State College at the time—and Ira Glass witnessed "a girl's white ass, peeing" in her front yard. Another neighbor warned that in his neighborhood, "if you see a tampon" in the yard, "you have to get a stick and find the condom," and Nancy Updike interviewed a local pizza delivery guy who said the paint was rotting off of his car because his customers often threw ranch dressing at it. He'd also had his jaw wired shut for two months after getting in a fight with a student who'd vandalized his coworker's car.
This kind of stuff only happens when people have been to fun parties, at which everyone gets so drunk that by 1 a.m. or so, they have no idea what the hell they are doing. We conclude: Penn State must have fun parties.
3. There Is Delicious Ice Cream At Berkey Creamery, Which No Longer Serves The Sandusky Blitz Flavor
Penn State owns "the largest university creamery in the nation." It's so famous that the creamery website has a special page for "famous visitors": Bill Clinton, Martha Stewart, Coretta Scott King, and the entire cast of Cirque de Soleil has reportedly eaten ice cream there. Imagine eating an ice cream cone next to 47 clowns! What a trip.
(As of this week, Berkey Creamery has removed the "Sandusky Blitz" flavor from its website. It was a "banana flavored ice cream with chocolate covered peanuts and caramel swirl." "Peachy Paterno" lives on, however.)
There is a 24-hour Denny's in State College. It is always open. Can you imagine??? It's like New York's 5th Avenue Apple Store, only it serves bacon. Here's a glowing Yelp! review:
This is a restaurant that won't disappoint you. It's 24 hours, and you can come here anytime you feel hungry and treat yourself with some tasty comfort food. My favorite is Country Fried Steak with double Onion Rings side and extra gravy. If you want to have more healthy choice, you can have Lemon Tilapia with Rice. Basically all of them are freshly made for you and taste really good. Usually my friends and I come here around midnight or after midnight. We always have a good time here. The portion of the food is fulfilling and the waiters/waitresses are nice and helpful. After eating, we have a good long chat and pay up on the front counter. Don't worry, they will gladly split the check for you without any hassles. Basically I can't complain about anything here.
God, I could really go for some Pancake Puppies® right now. There is nothing bad about this.
According to AccuWeather, the company's State College headquarters are "home to the greatest number of forecast meteorologists in one location anywhere in the world." If it's going to rain in Happy Valley, you will definitely be made aware of it beforehand, and you can plan ahead and bring an umbrella.
Any town with a good burrito joint is automatically better than a town without a good burrito joint, and that is science. And on the ground floor of the Day's Inn Penn State on South Pugh Street, there is a place called "Mad Mex" that our very own Dom Cosentino says serves really good burritos. Here is his glowing Gchat review:
Dom: Good burritos and the kitchen is open late
We also learned that every Monday at Mad Mex is "Cinco de Monday," which features all-you-can-eat burritos and a "Big Azz 22oz margarita" for just five dollars. This is not your average burrito joint.
State College Area High School is consistently nationally ranked in the Knowledge Masters Open field, which is "a computer-based semiannual worldwide academic competition in which teams of students from many schools earn points by answering multiple-choice questions quickly and accurately." From the team's website:
The State High Knowledge Masters is a school-sponsored club dedicated to the pursuit of all knowledge. But we do not pursue that precious stuff purely for noble and high-minded purposes. Oh, no. We are out for blood.
On a friendlier note, if you'd like to join the team, "simply show up in room 153 South (or in South L.E.) on almost any Wednesday or Friday after school. For more information, talk to Mrs. Gittings, or Ms. Wells, or any member."
One of the worst things about college is that occasional night when you're not sure what kind of alcohol to consume. Sometimes, you just want to drink some Natty Light; other times, you could really go for some fresh homemade jungle juice. In State College, bars like The Phyrst take care of that for you. Here's what The Phyrst (tagline: Are you PHYRSTY?) has to offer each night of the week:
Monday: $2.50 Beer Cocktails (sounds hangover-y) til midnight, $2 Bacardi drinks from 10pm-midnight
Tuesday: $3 Red Bull vodkas til midnight, half price happy hour from 9pm-11pm, free fries from 10pm-midnight
Wednesday: $2.50 Long Island iced teas (morning Walk Of Shame likely included), half price happy hour from 10pm-midnight
Thursday, A.K.A. the "Thursday Pre-Game": $6 Yuengling buckets til midnight, half price happy hour from 8pm-10pm
Friday: $1 Coors Light drafts til midnight (sounds sorority-y!), half price everything from 7pm-9pm
Saturday: $3 Yuengling and Coors Light pitchers, plus a musical group called the Phyrst Phamily plays in the evening
Sunday: $2 Blu Moon drafts til midnight, half price happy hour from 9pm-11pm, 25 cent wings from 8pm-10pm, something called 2TWENTY2 is the musical act.
With places like The Phyrst, you never have to decide what to get drunk on, because your wallet decides for you. That's great.
Even though there is a lot of terrible news surrounding the Penn State Nittany Lions' football squad, the program is still really good this year! They play Nebraska tomorrow in Happy Valley, and the fans will still wear blue and white and go to the tailgate parties and chant "We are... Penn State!" even though a very surreal air will be hanging over everything because, well, you already know why. But college football is still college football, so it will still be on television tomorrow—even if there is a brutal child abuse scandal surrounding it, and even if it exists in a broken corrupt system that is doomed to disintegrate in the next decade or so.
When that happens, there is always the State College Spikes, the Short Season-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last year, the top slugger was Alex Dickerson, a third-round pick out of Indiana. Presumably he'll have moved up next year, but manager Kimera Bartee—who was once traded, in his playing days, for Scott Erickson, and another time for Chone Figgins—may still be there.
To go along with the "Blue Out" campaign, a group of Penn State alumni, students, parents, and fans have kicked off a fundraiser for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) through an initiative called "Proud to be a Penn Stater" (#ProudPSUforRAINN on Twitter). They've already raised more than $130,000, and hope to reach $500,000 eventually—"one dollar for each of the 557,000 Penn State alumni."
Photo via Flickr.