I recently ventured out of D.C. to visit my friend Paige in Philadelphia. I boarded the bus in Chinatown, got yelled at by the driver in Chinese, and witnessed an altercation between two passengers who were both clamoring for the last seat on an oversold bus. I should have known that it’s a bad idea to purchase a discount ticket from a company with a hidden basement-level door on a dirty street.
When I stepped off the bus onto the grimy, gum-plastered streets of Philly’s Chinatown, I instinctively hugged my purse a little closer. Perhaps it was the dirt. Or maybe it was the guy hovering in the door 10 feet away, twitching, scratching, watching. Or the woman yelling at the invisible, but obviously stupid, companion next to her. The hotel was just across the street, looking less like the swanky Hilton I had pictured in my head, and more like one of the questionable SE Asian hostels I am all too familiar with.
Paige was already at the hotel, which was also the site of the accounting conference that had brought her to town. We had a great time getting caught up. She is a kindred spirit and surprisingly fun for an accountant. 🙂 I knew my nights would be great, but I was on my own for the day time.
I got a map from the hotel desk and decided to explore the city in depth. Afterall, Philadelphia is the start of it all. What I discovered was a rich city full of “old” architecture, friendly locals….and the famous cheese steak sandwich.
This is worth describing. Buttery, toasted bread piled high with thin, perfectly seasoned beef, grilled onions and provolone cheese. It was huge and delicious, and for a moment I forgot about being socially appropriate as I shoved all 10 lbs of it into my face without pausing for breath. I’m quite sure most men would not have been able to pace me on this. I groaned in satisfaction and then felt a flush of embarrassment as the two guys behind the counter stared in complete awe/disgust at me. It had just felt so right in the moment. Giving myself over completely and without thought to gluttony. As is the case with sinning, the pain came later. My bloated stomach leading the way as I tottered down the streets, people giving way to let the “pregnant” woman through. Mmmmnnnnn…..I’d do it again.
Things in Philly were looking up. I had been impressed with the people and the food. I’d gotten a chance to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. I’d also been taken with the Betsy Ross House. I had learned more about the founding of my country in one day in Philadelphia than I had during almost two decades of formal education. For the record I blame myself for that and not my teachers.
Paige and I had reconvened for the evening. My stomach was down to a more normal proportion instead of the gargantuous cow shape it had held earlier in the day. And then things went downhill. Being from the NW, we both love beer. And being from the NW, we are accustomed to having good beer readily available. I had great expectations from Philadelphia. The Constitution was drafted in Philly’s taverns. The first American lager was brewed here, and the City of Brotherly Love boasts the country’s oldest brewery. So why was it so hard to find beer?! Not to be misleading, we did find some great brews in pubs and restaurants, including a sampler of 8 local brews at McGillin’s Olde Ale House (est. 1860), the oldest tavern in Philly. So there was plenty of hoppy, yeasty happiness to be found, but for some reason, we simply couldn’t find a place to buy a six pack. The convenience stores, grocery stores, and gas stations don’t sell alcohol, and the only other vendors we could find were state-owned and were limited to spirits and wines. Why would they discriminate against beer? It’s un-American! By the time we found a place that sold six-packs to go, we were very thirsty and a little cranky from all the walking around in high heels. I felt triumphant that we had finally located an establishment which was reasonable enough to sell my favorite sudsy beverage. Then the cashier informed me that I needed to pay $15. For six beers. Okay, that is REALLY annoying. They weren’t even imports. The beer I had selected was from New York. In absolute defeat, but still holding on to my beliefs that beer should be affordable, I put the six-pack back, grumbled something rude about the state government, and left the store. This is from Wikipedia regarding the alcohol laws of PA: To purchase a six pack, one must go to a tavern with an off-license, and a person is only allowed to purchase 2 six packs at a time (or a single 12 pack, if available).
I’m convinced that Benjamin Franklin would be appalled at the current beer conditions in the state of Pennsylvania. I digress.