Reading Rainbow
September 23, 2008 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Help a friend survive in Reading, PA.

Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, a friend of mine has been forced to move back in with her parents in Reading, PA. She's grateful that her parents are giving her a hand, but she's starting to go a little bit crazy and she feels very isolated. Her life prior to this was in Los Angeles and New Orleans, so she's away from her friends and experiencing a little bit of culture shock. Please help me find things nearby that will ease the ache of homesickness for her.

The lady in question is in her mid-twenties. She doesn't have drive, so anything will need to be within biking distance or easily reached via public transportation. Her interests veer towards the nerdy (roleplaying games, comic books, science fiction and fantasy), she has a strong artistic streak, and her previous social circles seemed inclined to gather in goth/fetish clubs. Local businesses, museums or groups that cater to that sort of crowd would be appreciated (also, let me know if any of them do gift certificates, as I may be in the market to send her a little something to increase her cheer level). Also, please keep in mind that her funds are very limited right now. This isn't to say that you shouldn't make a suggestion if something perfect happens to cost a bit, but cheaper is definitely better in this case.

I know that this is a bit of a long shot, Hive Mind, but I'd be really grateful if you could help me help her feel a little bit less cut off from the world that she loves.
posted by Parasite Unseen to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You don't really say where she lives in Reading. It's a pretty big place (the city of Reading, West Reading, Wyomissing, etc).

I didn't grow up there, but I did go to school at Penn State Berks for 2 years and I work for a local utility company during the summers.

I'm a little bit of a nerd, so I'll just list off some of the places that I enjoyed..

There's a public museum in West Reading, which is okay. They have a planetarium, which was pretty neat. There's a neat diner in West Reading, a few good local shops (the candy shop is especially great), and some coffee places. Those are all along the main street in West Reading (Penn Ave.. I think).

Within the city you've got the Sovereign center, which is home to an ice hockey team and hosts large concerts. I've seen Guster and John Mayer there over the years. Reading is home to the Reading Phillies, which are pretty fun to see once in a while.

There's a couple of crappy malls, Berkshire and Fairgrounds. I think Fairgrounds is a little nicer, but they're both pretty terrible.

There's a few local theatre groups in town.. I don't recall the names, but I do have a few friends from Penn State Berks who are in them. I bet you could google to find them.

There's 3-ish schools in the area.. PSU, Alvernia, and Albright. Maybe she could check those out and see if there's any interesting groups she could join, or classes she could audit.

It's been about 3 years since I've actually *lived* there, so I'm a little bit fuzzy about things. If I remember anything else, I'll post it. Hopefully there's a few others who are actually locals and can name some more fun stuff :)
posted by pete0r at 12:13 PM on September 23, 2008

She could try looks like a decent selection.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:16 PM on September 23, 2008

World of Warcraft?
posted by jdroth at 12:31 PM on September 23, 2008

This can be a start.
posted by watercarrier at 1:01 PM on September 23, 2008

I believe there are some Reading-area folks on the Playa del Fuego Tribe list--they'd definitely be the ones to know about alt.culture in the area.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:03 PM on September 23, 2008

This can be helpful to network
posted by watercarrier at 1:05 PM on September 23, 2008

I grew up in Wyomissing and I feel your friend's pain :)

It would be helpful to know where exactly she's living, only because she doesn't have a car and Berks County is a car place (there are buses but they are definitely not stellar). Depending on where she is, it would probably be helpful to get a bike to make it easier to get around.

If she's artsy she should definitely check out GoggleWorks in Reading, they offer lots of cool classes (yoga, dance, glassblowing, pottery maybe?) and they have an indie movie theater and artist studios.

West Reading (the Penn Ave stretch) is undergoing a kind of (re?)-vitalization, so there are a few really cute cafes and restaurants, a new wine bar, some neat boutique-y stores, and a farmer's market every week.

The Wyomissing park system, although not extensive, is really quite beautiful and great for a stroll, bike ride, etc (there are also tennis courts).

Reading sadly lacks a train station, but there is Bieber bus, which is clean and reliable and can get you to New York in 2.5-3 hours for those weekends when you just need to escape Berks County.

Finally, tell her she doesn't have to fret too much about money. Reading is a fairly cheap place, especially after coming from LA!
posted by kookaburra at 1:17 PM on September 23, 2008

Game nights are a good way to meet people. I'd recommend she poke around local coffee shops, check the local indie papers, Craigslist, etc. to see if there's one going on.

If not, it's easy to host one. Try to talk to any local bookstore or coffee shop (independent ones are easier to work with) to see if they'd be willing to host it (easy to sell, since it brings in extra business). You don't even have to know anyone -- just get a sign for the night of, put up some fliers around town, and post to Craiglist & The initial turnout may not be strong (here's where she might be able to convince some coworkers to help her by just showing up), but some bribery in the form of homemade cookies might help; if she makes it a regular thing (say, first and third Friday of each month), she'll notice increased attendance as word spreads. There's the added benefit that the cost is relatively low (just the cost of fliers and some socializing), assuming she already has games. On the flier, have her put the time, date, location, a list of games, and a small note to bring games.

If she's a bit on the introverted side, it's best to team up with someone. Craigslist again may be useful here -- just post a request in their community section to see if there are other board game nerds willing to co-host.
posted by spiderskull at 6:00 PM on September 23, 2008

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