My first job out of college was in Philadelphia. The only time before that I’d been east of Arizona was the summer before, when I had an internship in New York. So everything East was still very new.
I lived near the Art Museum. The “Rocky” steps, the azalea garden, all of that. You should have seen during the Republican Nation Convention masses of people wearing almost identical khakis and blue blazers and Rick Santorum haircuts running in groups up those stairs. It disrupted people’s commutes. Truly frightening.
Not too long after I moved in to my tiny apartment — I have balls of socks bigger than that kitchen — I started wandering around to neighborhood bars and restaurants, trying to get a feel for the place.
Philly was my first experiment with eating my way around town. I went to college in Reno, but never really felt connected with the place. Philly was the first time I felt at home far away from home.
I went into one place and asked for a good local beer. Someone offered Yuengling — but with a misleading description.
“It’s like the Budweiser of Pennsylvania,” he said.
Ew. No thanks.
He meant it was ubiquitous. Nothing more. But I took it as a statement of quality.
It was probably at a party when I had my first Yuengling lager. Not Budweiser. Porter followed lager and black-and-tan followed porter.
I learned quickly that in Philly, there were maybe four bars in the whole city that didn’t have it. And nobody needed to actually order it by name. Go to a bar, say “lager,” and Yuengling appears.
And then I moved away. California, Oregon, Arkansas — no Yuengling. I’m not saying it’s the best beer on the planet or anything but it gave me a sense of place. It felt like a little bit of home. I’d bribe friends to bring me some from Memphis, where for whatever reason you can get it. A friend in Florida would text and taunt me. (Florida, Yuengling people? Florida?) I’d visit Pennsylvania and just need one — it told me unmistakably where I was.
I guess I know more than I’d like about psychological addiction.
So then I move back to Pennsylvania. Other side of the state this time. Pittsburgh. Among my first tasks:
It’s not strictly a Pittsburgh thing. I get that. But this is my site. So, ha. Or something.