The First of the Day

Noel at the Brazen Head

With only a few more hours remaining before the raising up of that first pint in celebration of  another St. Patrick’s Day, I find myself soothing my own melancholic disposition with the usual measure of Irish music. And even though  it’s been some forty plus years since I first heard Tommy Makem  put his voice to “Four Green Fields,” I’m still in awe of a people that can extract mirth from misery, and create sweet song from the suffering and sorrow that has all too often been the consequence of Irish history. So in keeping with the spirit of the day and Erin’s fine musical tradition, we present a couple of our favorites from the archives of Parting Glass Media.

  • (a reprise of Rebels at the Rock)  – Why this particular video hasn’t gone viral is beyond my grasp of what the viewing public finds entertaining. But here in its entirety is a well-lubricated group of lads attempting to pay homage to that hero of Irish independence, James Connolly.

Irene Molloy And a perfectly sublime rendition of the “Fields of Athenry” from Irene Molly.

Wishing all of our friends a very joyful Saint Patrick’s Day from the staff and contributors of American Public House Review and Parting Glass Media!

Glasses Raised…Spirits Lifted…Journeys Shared!

Disharmony on the Hudson

Cannon Fire at Fort Lee“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” – The American Crisis by Thomas Paine 1776

During those disheartening days of the colonial’s cause for independence, Thomas Paine would begin to pen his inspirational patriotic plea for staying the course in the midst of a full and hasty retreat from an enemy army that was determined to put an end to this fledgling insurrection. On November 20, 1776, in the wake of having taken control of both Long island and New York City, superior British forces, under the command of General Charles Cornwallis, began their advance on the newly established American fortification on the heights overlooking  the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Realizing the need to preserve what was left of his beleaguered army, George Washington issued orders to abandon Fort Lee. The inevitable capture of this recently renamed redoubt (in honor of General Charles Lee, the army’s third-in-command who was credited with the successful defense of Charleston, South Carolina a few months earlier) would unfortunately yield an abundant amount of ammunition, artillery and stores to the English.

As for the fort’s namesake, Washington’s somewhat suspect and scheming subordinate, who had often complained to Congress about his commander’s capacity to lead,  would fall victim to his own lust for libations and the ladies. On the morning  of December 15, 1776, Charles Lee would pay dearly for the previous evening’s pleasures at the Widow White’s Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He would awake to the sound of the approaching horsemen of the 16th Queen’s Light Dragoons with his former comrade, and now sworn adversary, Benastre Tarleton in the lead. This once celebrated soldier, who preferred to diddle while the rest of the Continental Army was attempting to avoid annihilation, would be led back to New York in his night-clothes. For the next seventeen months, General Lee would spend a fairly comfortable detainment in the care of his former employer.  

In May of 1778, Lee was released as part of a prisoner exchange. He returned to active service, but after questionable field decisions at the Battle of Monmouth, and continued conflicts with command; he was suspended from the army at the end of that same year, and permanently dismissed in 1780. Charles Lee died in a tavern in Philadelphia on October 2, 1782–and so ends this tale of eighteenth century disloyalty and treachery in the Garden State.

For better or for worse, the overall nature of man, and the behavior of those charged with the care of the republic has not changed all that much since we decided to make our  break from the British brand of tyranny. However, there may have been at least some lessening in the lengths at which one is willing to go in order to punish their rivals. Instead of stalling aid to those trying to allude their captors while taking flight across the well-trodden pathways of New Jersey–someone is content to simply lengthen the commute home by closing down a few lanes on the George Washington Bridge. Let us just hope that we are sparred the spectacle of that particular scoundrel being spirited away in nothing more than his night-clothes. 

Thomas Paine Portrait“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.” – Thomas Paine

Click here for some further insights from the Garden State.

Click here to enjoy our favorite tribute song to Thomas Paine from singer-songwriter Dick Gaughan.

Posted by Chris Poh

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Another Bah Humbug on Bleecker Street

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit sharing a Smoking Bishop

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”          

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843

Though our journeys together over the last twelve months have been to some extent curtailed because of our individual circumstances, me and my cohorts at American Public House Review  were at least able to once more gather together at year’s end to celebrate the season with yet another attempt at properly paying homage to Mr. Charles Dickens. The following version of A Christmas Carol was recorded during The Bleecker Street Cafe in the broadcast studios of WDVR-FM in Sergeantsville, New Jersey on December 20, 2013. It is with great pleasure that we share this year’s somewhat faithful adaptation of Mr. Dickens’ finest work.

So stoke the fire, stir the Smoking Bishop, and sit back and enjoy by clicking on the following links:

christmas_carol_logoA Christmas Carol - part one

A Christmas Carol – part two 

Here’s Wishing Everyone  a Very Merry Christmas!

One Door Closes, and Maybe, Just Maybe–Another One Opens

City Tavern - Philadelphia

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”  Thomas Jefferson

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  Thomas Jefferson

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”  Thomas Jefferson

Of all those doors that were shuttered as a result of the recent government shutdown, the turn of the latch that most resonated with my personal being was the one on the entrance to the City Tavern in Philadelphia. As someone who has spent many of my days and evenings on both sides of the bar, I know firsthand the plight of those that pull the pints and tend the tables. And there is no act of Congress that will replace the lost revenue of those who depend so heavily on the generosity of those from the general public that can actually get through the front door.

But beyond the fiscal concerns and hardships brought on by the current state of political paralysis in Washington, there was the irony of having to close those places that are meant to honor our past and  to further our faith in the future function of our  government. 

City Tavern SignOne does not padlock the pulpit just because there is conflict within the congregation.

While the majority of  Americans have bolstered their own patriotic passions by visiting some memorial or battlefield, I have decided that I  much prefer the reconstructed confines of that colonial era establishment to rouse my own feelings of national fervor. There are a couple of reasons for my fondness of the City Tavern. One, you can actually toast our liberties with something a bit more in keeping with what the Founders would have put in their cups. And two, other than those that succumbed to the slow poisoning brought on by an over indulgence of Blackstrap, mutton chops, and Flip, there is not the usual senseless loss of life attached to this consecrated piece of ground–truly a place where giants once roamed.      

Among those extraordinarily gifted gentlemen that attended to some portion of their corporal needs at this outstanding American public house were  Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. And it is in their words and insights that we can find the potential source and possible solution to our current political debacle. Like many of the nation’s founders, both men had some healthy concerns about  the future course of the new government.

In a letter to the  American people published prior to his retirement from the presidency in 1796, George Washington warned against the possible damage political parties might bring upon the republic. Having already been witness to the extreme acrimony and partisanship between Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party and  Alexander Hamilton’s  Federalists, Washington was leery of political parties operating within a popularly elected government.  He feared that the competing political organizations would attempt to silence and punish legitimate opposition, promote regionalism and create undue fears and suspicions among the population.

Unfortunately, American’s have on far too many occasions throughout our history been the sorry victims of our first president’s prognostications. And like most organized groups and institution, the lofty well-intentioned principles of both Republicans and Democrats have all too often become secondary to the self-interests and survival of the party. So it should come as no surprise that a substantial segment of the nascent Congressional class has seized upon the writings of Thomas Jefferson as a source for their inspiration and rationalization for the defunding and dismantling of government. But before they consider closing some doors again, they should also consider these words from Mr. Jefferson.  

 “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”

On September 17, 1787, one of the longest, and perhaps most contentious political debates  in our nation’s history came to an end with the signing of the United States Constitution. With the closing of the doors of the Pennsylvania State House after 114 days of  secret meetings, George Washington and a good number of the beleaguered and exhausted delegates found their way to the City Tavern. There they were able to put aside personal political differences, and rise above the rancor by raising a glass to the common welfare of all Americans.

Front Interior City Tavern - PhiladelphiaPerhaps, it is not so much the words of the Founders, but rather the behavior of those individuals that we should attempt to incorporate into our politics. But in order to open that door to a place where men of reason and benevolence gather for the greater good of the people, we will first have to open our minds and our hearts to that greater possibility!

Posted by: Chris Poh

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Rebels United Against the Shutdown

“Our demands most moderate are – We only want the earth!”
James Connolly
 
Depending on one’s position or perspective, presented herein is either the best or worst rendition of the song “James Connolly” ever attempted by anyone. But these affable lads stand united against any shutdown–no matter how many times the bartender makes last call!
 
  
 

Captured live (and later released back to their natural habitat) at the Indian Rock Inn in Upper Black Eddy, PA.

Cheers from American Public House Review and  Parting Glass Media

 

It’s Time to Let Out that Hearty Annual “Aaarrr”, Another Talk Like a Pirate Day is Upon Us

Errol Flynn from Captain Blood

“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be Pirates.” – Mark Twain

“The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great-grandfather was a pirate.” — Bern Williams, National Enquirer

Once more it’s time to preen the parrot, police the poop deck and press the pantaloons–”Talk Like a Pirate Day” has arrived. And with each passing year since (Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket) set sail on their maiden voyage in the summer of 95, the day has become much more than just another excuse to pillage, plunder and over imbibe. The day now ranks close to St. Patrick’s Day as far as noteworthy yearly observances.

Like that grand day in March, it requires minimal preparation–although my own compulsive leanings do tend to find me spending an inordinate amount of time perfecting the pleats on my pantaloons, and achieving that impeccable edge on my cutlass. But for most, the day requires nothing more than uttering a few rather robust aaarrrs,  and raising a number of generous cups. Another much appreciated aspect of this seaboard celebration is the fact that it does not have attached to it that mandatory inclusion of relatives or family. On this cruise one gets to choose their own crew!  

But before embarking on your own bit of  cavalier frivolity, please take the time to remember that there is a serious side to “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” Today is another testament to the fact that the only thing in life that is truly black and white is an unfurled skull and crossbones against that ever elusive horizon, and that most of our humble existence operates within those arbitrary shades of gray–a place where there is little difference between sinners and saints–and it is only the sanctioning by those higher authorities that separates the pirates from the privateers.

So as we make our  way once more toward safe harbor, let’s raise our tankards high and join in that familiar chorus as we wish our fellow shipmates and scallywags the fairest of winds and a following sea!

Posted by: Chris Poh

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Published in: Uncategorized on September 19, 2013 at 1:41 am  Comments (1)  
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The Road to Damascus by Way of Easton, PA

 Easton, PA

It had been quite some time since David and I had the opportunity to pull off that lazy afternoon one-on-one brew and chat session. And we mutually agreed that Two Rivers Brewing Company in Easton, Pa would play host to our late summer tete-a-tete. By the time I embarked upon my second pint of  Rastafarye Ale from Blue Point, we had already cleared the small talk about family, friends and the circumstances of our personal being. So as it has been at other such encounters, we quickly moved the conversation into our version of progressive political and philosophical thought. Pint number three brought on the usual, easy to be heard from the other side of the room, bout of preachy pontifications. A well-mannered gentleman at the other end of the bar inquired if he might be allowed to join  the discussion.  

We welcomed Paul, whose accent and appearance suggested a Caribbean connection, into our friendly give-and-take.  After about an hour of  hashing out the current state of relations between humankind within our own borders and beyond, Paul interjected a bold pronouncement.

He declared that he would gladly give up all of his civil rights in exchange for true equality, justice and brotherhood. Once again a man of some insight had come to the conclusion that our most complex of problems would be better served if we adopted and adhered to those simpler virtues.

In that world, there would be no reason to remember December 7th and September 11th. In that world, there would be no call to take the high ground at Gettysburg and Normandy. In that world, there would be no reason to march on Washington or Tiananmen. And in that world, the road to Damascus would not be feeling the pain of the fallen, and those fleeing the ruthlessness–but only the gentle footsteps of fellow pilgrims seeking a better way to treat all of humanity.

he Bar at Two Rivers Brewing Company

Until such time, we can at least work out our differences and misperceptions over a few lazy afternoon pints!

Posted by: Chris Poh

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Still Holding the High Ground

Cannons at Gettysburg

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”   General George Pickett’s reply when asked some years after the war as to why his assault on Cemetery Ridge failed. 

Recently, I found myself once again patiently absorbing that all to familiar diatribe from one of my patrons about the imminent fall of America because of the current state of our politically divided house. As a bartender in fairly good standing with the profession, I am expected to patiently listen and not offer much in dissent, ascribing to that time-honored philosophy that states that the customer is always right. But as is usually the case, I opted to give up the high ground and take a step down onto my ever handy soapbox.

When confronted with the pessimistic view of the future of our republic, I normally counter with a quick history lesson that begins with those contentious compromises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and ends on the fields of Gettysburg in 1863. This year marks the 150th anniversary of that defining battle of our Civil War.

On the third and final day of the battle, July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee ordered Confederate forces under the command of  General James Longstreet to attack the Union center lodged on Cemetery Ridge. After an impressive, yet mostly unproductive exchange of artillery fire, Longstreet gave the reluctant nod. And under the blistering heat of the afternoon sun,  three divisions of Southern infantry led by  Maj. Gen. George Pickett, Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble began the ill-fated ascent toward death and destruction. Of the 12,500 men that followed their general’s lead on that day, over four thousand would be wounded by Union steel and fire, and another nearly twelve hundred sons of the South would soon join their other fallen comrades under the blood soaked soil of Pennsylvania farmland. 

On July 4th , Robert E. Lee remained readied on the battlefield assuming his Northern counterpart, General George Meade would attack–but the guns remained silent. While many historians cite Meade’s cautious nature when explaining his inclination not to press his advantage in the aftermath of Pickett’s Charge, I would like to believe that there may have been a more transcendent reason for the quieting of hostilities on that particular day, something akin to the Christmas truce of 1914. There are those sacred days that serve to remind us of the possibility of  achieving that greater potential for good as both men and nations.  And those days should always be honored as intended by those that have gone before us.

America still holds the high ground.  

Have a joyous 4th of July!!! 

Blue Tag    

Posted by: Chris Poh

 

Terms of Engagement

Cowboys at the Rusty Spur in Scottsdale, AZ

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been spending a bit of time with the latest book to make it to the top of my perpetual must read pile before my somewhat languid brain loses its ability to even process the written word. In this particular instance, I’ve actually given an author’s efforts something of an in-depth dabble as opposed to my usual cursory perusal. Certainly this amounts to the highest of praise for John Fabian Witt’s Lincoln’s Code. This excellent narrative examines America’s role in defining the rules of government sanctioned armed conflict, with an emphasis on Abraham Lincoln’s input on the matter of trying to bring  fair play, dignity, and perchance even a touch of charity to the bloodied fields of combat. While I do not discount the sincere intent of those who throughout history have endeavored to bring a modicum of humanity to the battlefield, there is that ever skeptical side of me that questions their underlying motives–whether it be the likes of Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington or any other supposedly enlightened and regarded individual. 

I’ve always suspected that the call for order and civility in the midst of organized carnage is as much about justice as it is about those that started the fight trying to avoid retribution and the hangman’s noose when the fog of war finally lifts. And then of course there is the political practicality of having something left above ground to exploit and govern after the fallen have been properly placed below ground. Perhaps the only thing that might appear to be somewhat more disingenuous or hypocritical than our attempts to codify the institution of war is our attempts to codify the institution of marriage. But at some point during the current session of the Supreme Court, those erudite legal minds seated in chambers across the street from the U.S. Capitol will consider doing just that.

While I understand the level of discomfort expressed by those who argue against gay marriage on moral and religious grounds, I have come to my own conclusions based on personal experience. During my time behind the bar, I have established close friendships with a number of long-term committed gay couples. In all instances, these loving people have fostered  positive changes in environments that normally would have been less than accepting of any homosexual individual prior to them quietly working their way toward establishing regular’s status. In fact, their  presence helped to bring about a greater degree of acceptance, patience, tolerance and kindness toward all clientele, no matter what their gender, political persuasion or sexual orientation might be.

In the text of his Second inaugural Address, Lincoln reminded us to act in accordance with the words of Matthew 7:1, “let us judge not that we be not judged.” It is time to award all who choose the bonds of steadfast love an equal place at the bar–in hopes that we all may be granted an equal place at that eternal table.

Posted by: Chris Poh

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Chasing the Green Dragon

Paul Revere's Ride

Other than my regional attachment and loyalty to those gentlemen from the South Bronx that don the pinstripes, I’ve always held the city of Boston and its feisty spirited citizens in the highest regard. The town that is the very embodiment of our founding cause also played an important role in my own personal quest for identity and independence. During my formative years, the ultimate extension of the boundaries of that restless suburban teenage rebel was a road trip to Beantown. Once I got over the elation of having put over two-hundred miles between myself and my parents point of view about proper public behavior, I would on most occasions give into that more circumspect side of my personality.

So following a few much appreciated pints of Watney’s Red Barrel at the now defunct Pooh’s Pub over on Kenmore Square, I would let my legs carry me across town and down those same cobble stoned streets and alleyways that wore away the  boot heels of British Regulars, local militia and Continental soldiers alike. After enduring some rather chilling blows off the Charles River in the course of my fall and winter perambulations, I was grateful that Henry Knox’s  artillery perched on the Dorchester Heights had not permanently removed all traces of English culture from the city after the strategic departure of William Howe’s  troops in March of 1776. Nearly 200 years after the end of the siege of Boston, and long before there was a Harpoon IPA or a Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig, at a time when most future New England craft brewers were still pilfering an occasional Narragansett from their father’s basement reserves, it was an English ale that fortified my constitution as I chased history’s ghosts down the path of partisans and patriots. 

During my last visit to Boston, myself and David McBride, a fellow student of America’s falling out with King George the Third, decided to indulge our love of colonial history by taking some pre-Christmas cheer at the Green Dragon Tavern. What could provide a more authentic setting to ponder the merits of  rebellion than an old brick pub with a sign outside the door that read, “Headquarters of the Revolution 1773 – 1776.”  Unfortunately, this was not the same public house where the likes of Hancock, Adams, Warren, Revere and other prominent Bostonian Freemasons and the Sons of Liberty conspired against the Crown. That particular tavern, located on another site, ceased to provide comfort and safe haven to its enlightened clientele in 1854. And while the current Green Dragon is an absolutely eye-catching pub that always offers its patrons a  friendly and inviting atmosphere, it was not quite the eighteenth century touchstone that we had envisioned, so we instead focused our journalistic attentions on the Warren Tavern in nearby Charlestown. That particular trip was over two years ago, but the current tragedy and needless bloodshed that has befallen the people of Boston as a result of the Marathon Bombings led me to reconsider some our own past cause oriented actions.   

When we think about the American Revolution, we tend not to recount the carnage and immense suffering of those who fought, and those who were the unintended victims of the conflict. The telling of that glorified story has always tended to skip over the gruesome and less than honorable aspects of our nation’s founding. And until the advent of modern photography, no one other than the direct participants and witnesses could fully grasp the realities of war. That is why an  Alexander Gardner photograph from Antietam is much more likely to present an honest unsanitized accounting of events as opposed to artist John Trumbull’s depiction of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The camera seldom lies–but the artist’s brush is always subject to a desired effect or particular point of view. 

Then there are of course the points of view of those on either side of the struggle  to consider. British authorities and loyalists referred to the Sons of liberty as  the “Sons of Iniquity.” Even Benjamin Franklin was uncomfortable with  the more extreme behaviors of  some of his compatriots. Throughout human history, the cruel and sadistic  have justified their atrocities by echoing the words of some greater cause–God, freedom, liberty and justice. And while I suspect that I would have been among those plotting the uprising at the Green Dragon had my soul’s time and space been eighteenth century Boston, I would have stood in forceful opposition against any individual that tortured and murdered those whose loyalties simply remained rooted on the other side of the Atlantic. All too often, one man’s celebrated dissident has become another man’s terrorist.

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon - Artist Unknown

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon – Artist Unknown

Thankfully, on American soil, the vast majority of  our  insurrectionists and iconoclasts have exercised a fair degree of restraint when voicing their displeasure with the status quo. For the most part, the rule of law, ethical standards, and our governing principles have prevailed, thus sparing the general population from the terror and senseless loss of life that is all too common on so many parts of the globe. But there have been those periods throughout our own history when some of our more self-serving malcontents have inflicted undue amounts of harm and hardships on our fellow citizens. Among those singled out in these campaigns of targeted terror were women, Blacks, Native Americans and homosexuals. And all too often, these extremists and assassins operated with impunity because the institutions of government, law enforcement and religion turned a blind eye–in effect providing cause and cover to this brutal criminality. It was only after those institutions were pressured to assert their legal and moral authority to prosecute and marginalize those guilty of such heinous illegality, that these waves of domestic terrorism finally subsided.    

While we may never fully understand the motives of  Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,  it is important that those that may have influenced their ideology clearly stand in condemnation or be held accountable for their culpability. For it only the unified voices of moral clarity that will make possible the peaceful pursuit of life, liberty and happiness as envisioned by those that raised their tankards and consciousness at that ever elusive Green Dragon.

Sign at the Green Dragon Tavern - Boston,MA

Posted by: Chris Poh

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