That's what happens when you put a Japanese pagoda smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country. The identity crisis would be complete if only that Pagoda had a snack shack that sold fastnachts and apple dumplings. Luckily, this pagoda's psyche is moderately stable with a coffee shop...and a Buddha in it's window.
Welcome to Berks County, PA. My stomping grounds for 25+ years. Those who've played Monopoly know Berks County's biggest claim to fame...the Reading Railroad. But it's also home to Pennsylvania Dutch culture, the first outlet shopping tourist trap in the country, hard pretzels, Keith Haring, John Updike and John Philip Sousa (how's THAT for a trifecta), and...the Reading Pagoda. Which sits high atop Mount Penn. 620 feet above Reading. Pretty high when you are surrounded by rolling farm land.
Why? Well, why not? In the early 1900's, a genius built a pagoda as a luxury resort waaaaay up on a mountain (that's a 'mountain' by Pennsylvania definition...foreigners would call it a big hill). It wasn't genius. The city of Reading eventually took ownership. They thought it would be genius to make something Japanese a "symbol" of Reading...which isn't in Japan. Not to mention Reading already has it's own Monopoly
square symbol. But we are talking about politicians here. Who thought they were geniuses. They obviously were suffering from their own identity crises. Doesn't take a genius to figure that out.
It's omnipresent. It watches over you from above, wherever you may be in the Reading area. And every night it illuminates with red lights high atop Mount Penn. It's is one of those things that no matter how long you live in the area, you still look up when outside in the evening and point it out to your kids..."Hey look, there's the Pagoda" in the night sky. It's uniqueness is a comforting presence. Kinda like a symbol?
But if you asked Things #1, #2, and #3 WHY the Pagoda really IS genius, they would give you the REAL answer...
...because all Berks County kids know to point their eyes high atop Mount Penn every Christmas Eve. At precisely 9 p.m. this Japanese Pagoda hovering above Pennsylvania Dutch Country adds yet another component to it's identity crisis. It magically morphs into a beacon with flashing red lights. The official signal that Santa has been spotted approaching Reading, and all Berks County kids need to hit the sack. Pronto.
So if you are ever on Jeopardy and say "I'll take 'Snapple Cap Facts' for $500 Alex", you'll know the question to this answer: "Japan, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Santa have this in common".
"What is the Reading Pagoda, Alex."
Believe me, you'll look like a genius.