Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Hoboe Finds Home...

I had never in my life considered visiting Pennsylvania, let alone moving here. The way my life has been in the past few years it sort of felt like I would just turn into a tumbleweed and blow off into the dust. Since May 2010 I have been riding the river of life wherever it took me, from the Washington coast, down to Baton Rouge, up and down the west coast to California, a few layovers in Portland, a year in South 'stralia, picking apples for a couple days in Yakima, New York City for a long week, and then suddenly I found it. Or maybe I just got sucked in. Instead of taking the train across the country back to Seattle (which I did NOT want to do), I rolled the dice again. A lady friend in Chattanooga said I could stay with her as long as I wanted (brave since we have never actually met outside the confines of the internet), and another lady friend invited me to visit her in Harrisburg PA. The clincher was when she told me she had work the very next day painting. At the time I had around $39 so it was a no-brainer. I changed my reservation and boarded the train at Penn Station. Bound for the land of Will. I. Am. Penn.

I can see Will.I.Am Penn running down this street with a no nonsense suit made of glow sticks

On the train I had no idea what to expect. It didn't matter because I was moving. The clickety clack of the railroad train was calling. The land was all ripped apart with factories and canals through New Jersey, but it was something to be seen. When we got to Philly the houses changed into brick townhouses, the graffiti came back onto the periphery and again the old factory buildings I love loomed like the ghosts of great railroad and steel magnates shaking their fists at the sky and the ravages of time. But the road wound on.

On the road we always pack it in and pack it out.

I had been helping an older gentleman figure out how to use his computer and log in to his email, and throughout the trip he narrated to me the history of the area, from his perspective. The one piece of his perspective that stuck out was how the Germans and Mennonites refuse to learn. According to him (he was a professor and small town journalist) they simply would not read anything or study anything except The Farmers Almanac and the bible. Funny that I forgot that until right now.

If the Germans encounter any books they throw them off this ledge. Devils Pulpit, Lehigh Gap.

We pulled in to the old brick train station and I got off the train and went to inspect my surroundings. It was cloudy and cold, but I could see some architecture I liked. The dome of the capitol (or some damn dome) was rising above us into the chalky gray sky. Since I was waiting for a friend to pick me up, I considered running around the corner to buy a six pack of beer to kill the time. Lucky for me I didn't, the state of Pennsylvania has to be the most difficult place in the union to buy beer. Let me tell you a little about the arcane liquor laws...

No reason for this picture, but if it makes you want to drink beer, you are in for a few surprises...

The first time I visited a grocery store I took a stroll around to "check the prices" of the beer. It was nowhere to be found. Was the store owned by the Amish? The were using electric light and such, so that was unlikely, unless the whole power grid was attached to a giant treadmill in the basement, but that seemed a bit of a stretch. Finally I asked my friend who told me non-plussed that you had to go to a beer store. Now this was beginning to sound disturbingly similar to Amarillo TX, a place I had the misfortune to visit in November 2010. Things were getting desperate.

The next day I worked helping a friend of a friend move, afterwards I got the chance to pick the brain of a fellow beer drinking, whom I will refer to as Beer Drinkin' Bobby Bryant. What I learned was somewhat strange. he told me that you had two options for beer buyin' in PA. Option one was the beer store, which obviously had beer. option two was at bars. Of course I have encountered bars that sell beer to go before in Ellensburg WA and in 'stralia. What I hadn't encountered was the crazy ass law which limits your purchases to two six packs. Of course Beer Drinkin' Bobby Bryant said that as long as you left and came back in and made a "different" purchase, there was no limit. In Pennsylvania you can buy as much beer to go as you want as long as you go in and out of the bar a bunch of times. It sounded like something which predated prohibition. Well, I was OK. I was alright. I was working and stuff. But a couple weeks later I was really jonesing for beer. It was time to go to the beer store...

I think it was a Saturday. It didn't matter. I was getting beer. Probably a 12 pack and maybe a couple of nice IPA's in 24 ounce bottles. Yes. That was exactly what I was after. This was going to be awesome. So into to the beer store I went. Of course I must inform you that the beer store was also a butcher shop, though the beeves and stuff were in another part of the building. OK. Hold it together. It's about to be beer time...sort of.

Walking through the door I found myself being funneled through a sort of maze made out of different kinds of beer. Stacks and stacks! Cases and cases! It was amazing really. They had so many kinds of beer it was silly. It was also quite nice and a bit out of my price range. I realized that they were all in cases, and cases of IPA is in the $30-40 range, so I moved on through the beer fort (it was like a cross between a maze and a fort, so maybe I will call it a "mort"). Finally I found something up my alley, cans of Yuengling lager, the local brew. I figured I could get a 12 pack and then find my IPA's...I figured dead damn wrong! It took me about 20 minutes of wandering through the mort to realize that they ONLY SOLD IN INCREMENTS OF 24!!! That means, no IPA bottles unless I am going to pony up for the whole deal. It was surreal to finally understand that in PA the only way to get less than 24 beers was in a bar, but you can not buy 18 beers anywhere, unless you go to a bar, leave and come back! As much as I strove to find reason within this madness I couldn't get past the idea that it was actually just a really dumb law.

This is what everyone does here when they finally actually get beer (I was actually dead sober).

 That said, my liver has been doing well since I moved here. The town is beautiful, the people are kind of crazy (which works for me), and the Susquehanna river flows on past. Maybe I didn't provide you with any actual reasons I am staying here, but hell, I never signed a contract, you get what you get!


  1. So katy wants to know why beer drinking bobbybgets a shout ? And she is left with "friend of a friend". And i am just a friend. We r not even token lezzies. Lol.

  2. Welcome to my state! Sad I've never even been to our dear capitol...