Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SEPTA Buses Monk's Tables...and Walls and Windows and Doors...

On Tuesday, August 10, Philadelphia's version of the Hindenburg disaster occurred when a SEPTA bus, trying to avoid a police vehicle responding to a call, lost control and barreled into the entrance of Monk's Café. For those of you not aware, Monk's Café is one of the finest pubs in the city, featuring a dizzying array of Belgian ales, as well as other high-quality, hard-to-find brews. The back bar, which further features some of Philadelphia's best air-conditioning, was mercifully not harmed, but, as you can see, the establishment suffered heavy damage and required extensive repair.

I immediately rushed to the scene and kept constant vigil while repairs ensued. And as I held a candle in the wee hours, mournfully praying for Monk's speedy recovery, perhaps it was my sense of history mixing with my grief that caused me to realize how commonplace was this scene a millennium ago: the smashing of monks' walls, where beer was first concocted...inhabitants of the premises at the mercy of the intruder...the SEPTA bus a modern-day counterpart of the Viking longship...

Sure, no one was wantonly slaughtered that Tuesday night, and few were wearing hairshirts, but the moment echoed a calamity played out countless times during the Dark Ages, as evidenced by the ruins at Clonmacnoise in County Offaly, Ireland.

Look at the catastrophic damage suffered by that small church at right, where, presumably, a longship full of crazed Vikings, hopped up on hallucinogenic mushrooms and seething in a blood frenzy, rowed right up onto land and crashed into it, after which the fearsome marauders swarmed the helpless settlement and drank all the beer without paying for it.

Of course, Monk's Café will be rebuilt—not fall into ruin like so many targets of Viking plunder. And, thankfully, its waitstaff were not carried off into slavery by the bus riders. But the damage to Monk's reminds us that, even a millennium after the Viking Age, we remain in dangerous times...times in which death and mayhem can strike at any moment and ruin a delicious imported ale, just as our monkish predecessors learned. So the next time I'm enjoying a pint at Monk's Café, or indeed anywhere, I'm going to savor every sip, because one never knows when some mode of public or barbarian transportation might come bursting through the walls and send me into Odin's arms for final judgment. Skål!

(Top photo of Monk's Café copyright The Philadelphia Inquirer; second photo copyright NBC 10 Philadelphia.)

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