On Nostalgia

September 9, 2008 at 3:14 am (Beer, Our Favorite Things, What we're drinking)

Fall weather and darkening skies always get me a little dreamy and nostalgiac, usually for nothing in particular. It’s one thing I love about this time of year. Well, that and football. But why do I feel this way? It cannot be just the weather, or the mopey music I’m inclined to listen to. As it turns out, it’s loss. Loss of summer, loss of sleep, loss of the meager tan I had for a few weeks. I am sure most Chicagoans can relate.

Susan Stewart wrote a phenomenal study of the many human conditions called On Longing, and in it devotes an entire chapter to the idea of the souvenir. I read this chapter in my very first humanities class during my very first year at the University of Chicago, and one idea from that chapter that has always struck a chord with me was that “nostalgia cannot be sustained without loss.”

I had lost a lot at the point when I read that paper: a boyfriend, my wisdom teeth, a comfortable life in my childhood home, an entire city that I loved dearly. And, upon moving to Chicago, I lost one very specific thing that is inherent to some of my favorite memories from Philadelphia: I lost Yuengling. True, it’s a commercial beer. True, it’s nothing even close to approximating the lovingly hand-crafted brews that I typically a) choose to drink, and b) peddle here at Lush. But in that lager is home. And we always want what we cannot have.

Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery, and like so many old, East Coast establishments, it does some goofy things–like not distribute outside of the eastern seaboard. Damnation! Q: What’s a girl supposed to do? A: Beg and plead.

Some lovely customers of ours [shout out to Jeremy and Elaine!] recently made the trip out East. In their car. Would it be possible, I asked them, to return with some Yuengling for me? Of course! They brought me a case, and I have been savoring the memories for a few weeks now. Lest you think me crazy, I can say that all Philadelphia area expats I know have similar yearnings for the stuff. Just today, a regular customer came in and noticed me wearing my Eagles jersey, and asked if I was from Philly. I replied that I was, found out he was too, and then proferred him a bottle of my dwindling stash. The excitement we shared over that better-than-average little lager was worth the pain it gave me to lose another bottle of my supply. Nostalgia and loss.

POSTSCRIPT: As it turns out, David Jungling, who founded the brewery, is from the same town that my mom’s entire family is from in Germany, a little hamlet called Aldingen. The entire family that came to America and settled in southeastern Pennsylvania. So we’re probably related, which means that loving Yuengling is in my blood! Score!

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