The Quality of Light

Sunrise at Acadia – photo By Bill Trotter – Bangor Daily News

“We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us thru that darkness to a safe and sane future.” – John F. Kennedy

Even while our citizens endured the partial shutdown of government and the near total shutdown of governance, that lead photon on that first ray of sunlight coming over the horizon each morning still managed to awaken the continental United States by hitting its mark on the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park. And while the roads of this nation’s first national park east of the Mississippi remained unplowed, the garbage uncollected, and the visitor’s center unmanned, the sun still continued to shine. It seems the natural order of the universe and nature function quite well without government–the human species not so much!

In the course of my own travels, I have found there is a bit of magic in that light that caresses the coast of Maine. For me personally, it has been a source of comfort, clarity, and inspiration. Not that I’m questioning the effectiveness of sunshine south of the Piscataqua, but that mix of both man-made and metaphorical pollution seems to have somewhat diminished the curative effects–especially along that storied stretch of the Potomac in Washington.

Morning in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Afternoon in Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Approximately 116 nautical miles south of Acadia lies one family’s fortress that has weathered many Atlantic gales and has witnessed many a sunrise since the turn of the last century. And for most of my time, while trying to unsuccessfully coax the ocean’s bounty onto the end of my fishing rod in the waters off Kennebunkport, I was pretty much unaware of the potential political dynasty that was mixing vodka martinis on the lawn and playing tennis on the court at Walker’s Point. But during the summer of 1990, a few months before our armed incursion into Iraq, I became keenly aware that the price of oil was of far greater concern than the price of lobster. It was also during this period that I discovered that the 41st President of the United States enjoyed a good glass of beer as much as he enjoyed his martinis.

Evening on the Kennebunk River near Walker’s Point

“We are a nation of communities… a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” – George H. W. Bush

The talk around town was that George H. W. Bush on occasion would be spotted hoisting a pint with locals and tourists alike. And by the end of his presidency, the opening of Federal Jack’s Brewpub in Kennebunkport would help to make his loss to William Jefferson Clinton in 1992 and subsequent retirement at Walker’s Point a bit more tolerable. And while there may have been a few dark clouds that obscured the late president’s so-called “1000 points of light”–he was a man who truly believed in the value of selfless public service to country and the possibility that we could actually become a kinder and gentler nation. Sadly, the flame of that fanciful notion seems to waning as of late.

“America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” – Ronald Reagan

At the close of of last Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Trump may have been attempting to evoke that Reaganesque view of our place in the world when he said, “We must always keep faith in America’s destiny — that one Nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!” Unfortunately, for many of those most in need of seeing America’s light–that light will be nothing more than a brief glimpse between the slats of some steel barrier on our southern border

“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.” George Washington

During the stifling summer of 1787, our nation’s first president presided over the Constitutional Convention. Hot days and even hotter tempers fueled the often contentious proceedings at the Philadelphia Statehouse.

On September 17, 1787, nearly four months after the convention convened, even the most cantankerous of those among the delegates would choose consensus and compromise–and commit their signatures to the United States Constitution. With the grand bargain now in hand, Doctor Benjamin Franklin of the Pennsylvania delegation could forego politics in favor of his much preferred philosophical musings. With his gaze fixed upon the carving of the sun on the backrest of the chair that gave George Washington some measure of comfort during the trials of that long, difficult summer, Franklin said, “I have often looked at that picture behind the president without being able to tell whether it was a rising or setting sun. Now at length, I have the happiness to know that it is indeed a rising, not a setting sun.”

Closing time at the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island

While I have normally shared Mr. Franklin’s optimism about America’s future wellbeing, as of late, a few vexing shadows of doubt have darkened my horizon. Certainly, many thousand points of light continue to illuminate American skies, but our elected guiding lights have spent too much of their time in retreat under their respective red and blue bushels. So from my perspective, I’m not sure whether I’m seeing the dawn’s early light, the twilight’s last gleaming, or just the flickering lights of last call.

Make mine a double–it’s an awfully long road home–and an even longer road to 2020!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Advertisements

A Journey Shared

Robbie Mcbride

Robbie Raising a Glass at the St. Patrick Pub in Old Quebec City

Glasses Raised…Spirits Lifted…and Journeys Shared, since its inception these words have been the mantra and mission of American Public House Review. And during the course of this online venture, and for a good part of my own personal life, it has been both a privilege and a blessing to have been able to traverse some good roads and to navigate a few patches of tough terrain with my dear friend Robert McBride. We have raised many a glass, shared many a journey, and few have done more to raise my melancholic prone spirit than this exceptionally talented human being.

At present, that exceptional talent is being put to good use as Robbie and his equally gifted wife, Karen, document with stunning imagery and a literary flair their extended travels through Europe and the British Isles.

I highly recommend that we all take some time to enjoy: 

The View From Here

The View From Here

Unfortunately for myself, I was unable to accompany my friends on this grand adventure. But along the way, there have been a few common crossroads that have allowed me to feel somewhat included in the itinerary. Click on the tavern signs below for some virtual pubbing from both sides of the pond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to experience the journey from Karen’s perspective.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Prosperity–but at What Price?

Neville Chamberlain

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at Heston upon his return from Munich

On the afternoon of September 30, 1938, a Lockheed 14 Super Electra, piloted by Victor Flowerday, touched down at the Heston Aerodrome west of London. Among the small group of passengers returning from Munich, Germany that day was Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. The large crowd that had gathered at the airfield cheered Chamberlain’s announcement that both Germany and England had agreed to never again go to war. That ill-fated pact, known as the Munich Agreement, promised all of Europe a new peace and prosperity that would never come to pass. And less than a year after the Prime Minister’s  Downing Street declaration of “Peace for our time”, the dive bombing Stukas of Hitler’s Luftwaffe would lay waste to the city of Poland.

While initially it may have seemed that the British population as a whole celebrated Chamberlain’s efforts at ensuring peace, there were many who viewed it at as an attempt by Germany to lull the English people into a state of blissful status quo as the forces of fascism, ever lurking in the shadows, awaited their marching orders from Berlin. At the forefront of those who who spoke out against the Munich Agreement was the former First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. The man who would eventually replace Chamberlain as prime minister viewed this bargain with Hitler as a flawed policy of appeasement that would inevitably lead England into war, and a crisis of conscience for all those that believed in the rights of self-determination and democracy.

Today. as Americans head off to the polls, we are facing our own crisis of conscience. We must ask ourselves at what price prosperity?  For the sake of some promised growth and financial security, that, quite frankly, no president or congress can guarantee, will we ignore the plight and suffering of those beyond our borders?  Will we fail to address those issues and concerns that threaten our environment? Will we allow our fellow citizens to face financial ruin as a result of inaccessible and unaffordable healthcare? And will we continue to tolerate the blatant disregard of ethical behavior by those in power in exchange for a few more jobs in some coal mine?

Our values and principles hang in the balance. As Americans, if we do not stand for something, we will eventually stand for nothing–other than, perhaps, the national anthem at some meaningless Sunday afternoon football game

Mind you, I am not making a case for either the blue wave or a red tide at this particular political crossroads. If water is to be the metaphor of choice, I’m putting my faith in the constant stream. That stream in which swims the vast majority of Americans who are reasonable, rational, responsible, and always ready to work toward the common good in spite of our differences and varying opinions.

For the most part, historians have not looked upon Neville Chamberlain favorably. But there are a handful who believe that his compromise with the Germans in 1938 bought England the time it needed to rearm and make ready for the unavoidable conflict that lie ahead. And for whatever reason, the wiser minds at Morrison Bowmore Distillers did opt to include Mr. Chamberlain in their commemorative Prime Ministers series of very fine 15-year old blended Scotch whiskies.

So as I watch the incoming returns on this election eve, I will raise a glass to the well-intentioned efforts toward peace put forth by Mr. Chamberlain, but my glass will be filled with a spirit drawn from the well of Mr. Churchill.

“If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another.”    Winston Churchill

Mr. Churchill

Mr. Churchill

 

Mr. Chamberlain

Mr. Chamberlain

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

Sunset Over Sedona

Cathedral Rock Above Oak Creek - Sedona, Arizona

Cathedral Rock Above Oak Creek – Sedona, Arizona

“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s, I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again; I wasn’t my own man anymore; I was my country’s.”   An excerpt from John McCain’s 2008 Republican National Convention speech.

Beyond the backyard, childhood fantasies inspired by those tall in the saddle gents that dominated the small screen of my family’s television set on most Saturday afternoons, I was always a bit leery of putting too much stock in the idea of there being such a thing as a true American hero. While I was that typical male child that always appreciated a slow drawl and a fast gun, even then I sensed the danger of letting ones view of reality being shaped too much by the painted sunsets, fan assisted tumbleweeds, and cattle town facades of Southern California. And as to those towering figures that stood at the podium, the pulpit, or at home plate – I realized that success and failure was only a matter of a bad call or the next swing of the bat. So my handful of heroes could almost fit into the hand of a newborn. But among that very short list will always appear the name of Senator John McCain!

John McCain and Ted KennedyWhile countless others have experienced the almost unimaginable physical and psychological pain endured by John McCain while held in captivity, few could forgive their captors–and even fewer would promote reconciliation and a working relationship with their former enemies. But this was a profound human being whose reach could always extend across the aisle, and when necessary for the sake and wellbeing of all–that reach would cross oceans. In triumph and in tragedy he always maintained his sense of purpose and his unique sense of humor. And he never wavered in his service to both country and humanity. I feel very blessed to have stood under some of those same western sunsets that the senator from Arizona so loved. And I am so very grateful to live in a nation that could give rise to the likes of a John Sydney McCain!

Prior to their parting repast at the City Tavern, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 gathered one last time at the Philadelphia Statehouse to sign the document that would serve as the blueprint for our attempt at democratic governance. Among those early American founding mavericks was the esteemed Doctor Benjamin Franklin. Before taking his leave, he made the following observation about the carving of the sun that had adorned the back of the chair at which George Washington had sat while presiding over the assembled body during the nearly four months of contentious debate:

The Rising Sun Chair

 “I have often looked at that picture behind the president without being able to tell whether it was a rising or setting sun. Now at length I have the happiness to know that it is indeed a rising, not a setting sun.”

The sun will once again rise above Sedona, and John McCain will continue to serve this country in death as he did in life. His ghost will haunt those who merit a haunting–and his spirit will inspire those who are worthy of inspiration.

Commander John Sidney McCain

 

 

To this very honorable statesman and sailor we bid fair winds and following seas!

 

 

 

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

The Much Maligned and Dreaded 13

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,”   A bit of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ biblical rational for current immigration policy

In most instances throughout history whenever a politician or government appointee cites scripture, the moral high ground has already been lost. In the case of Romans 13, during the life of our nation it has been used to justify loyalty to the English Crown during the American Revolution, and in support of slavery during the Civil War. Mr. Sessions may want to consider furthering his time at Bible study.

Since the age of eighteen, I have spent some portion of my working life behind the bar. My first patrol of the mahogany rail was at the Montville Inn in northern New Jersey. It was there during the summer of 1972 that I first encountered some of America’s immigrant workforce. My late afternoon crowd consisted partly of Portuguese and Spanish laborers that were repairing and resurfacing the roadway out front. While some of my two martini and three-piece regulars may have felt some degree of discomfort about having to share their space with those who had just put down their shovels in favor of a beer mug,  I found these hard-working men to be kind, generous, and decidedly less pretentious than the local gentry. I was not about to question the legitimacy of their presence.

Over the many years now spent in the restaurant business, I’ve worked with hundreds of people from different countries, mainly from Mexico and Latin America. Whether or not they were there legally was of little concern. At no time did I ever feel that my position was in jeopardy, nor did I ever see any of my fellow American’s clamoring for the chance to take on the toils and troubles of my foreign compadres. Even the most ardent voices against immigration from our southern hemisphere show very few signs of willingness to send their sons and daughters into the kitchen to wash dishes or the fields to pick lettuce.

In the interest of making a point in a somewhat succinct fashion, I am going to once more resort to my favorite format–the bullet item. And while the following generalities might be called into question by some, I assure you that they will contain more facts and more truth than your average daily White House press corps briefing.

  •  Gangs, whether it be MS-13,  the Aryan Brotherhood, La Cosa Nostra, the Russian Mafia or any of the estimated 33,000 large and small criminal enterprises that operate in the United States are a valid cause for concern. But because of the extraordinary dedication and effectiveness of local, state, and federal law enforcement very few Americans will ever be directly affected by these malicious organizations.
  • In those countries that make up the infamous Northern Triangle, the reality is quite different. The citizens of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are subject to extortion, kidnapping, rape, and murder on a regular basis, and those who commit these atrocities carry them out with near impunity. There should be little question as to why so many woman and children are now knocking on or attempting to break down America’s back door.
  • Throughout our nation’s history, there are those who have preached either the politics of inclusion or the politics of exclusion. While the former has not always gone smoothly, the ladder has always ended in disaster. The graves at Gettysburg are proof enough of that! Sadly though, a philosophy of exclusion seems to serve the demagogues well. It feeds on our fears and prejudices, and it offers simplistic solutions to very complex problems.
  • Consumer economies such as ours, with an aging population and a near historically low birthrate, depend on immigration. Our cash-strapped entitlements sorely need an influx of younger workers. But at the same time though, we need security and sound reform–but this policy of “zero tolerance” offers neither. By all appearances, it is nothing more than an improvised plan by a petulant real-estate developer from New York getting an assist from a self-proclaimed far-right nationalist from California. For Donald Trump, it’s simply about needing to get his way on that unfunded wall along the Mexican border. And in Stephen Miller, the President has found a willing ally who would gladly supply some portion of the building materials by repurposing the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
  • As to the matter of separating families, unless there is evidence of a serious crime or a child’s welfare is in question, the administration’s ad hoc strategy is unconscionable and counterproductive. As someone who has taught inner-city youth and has worked directly with incarcerated adolescents, I have seen the trauma and the irreparable damage that is so often the outcome for those who have been taken away from their parents or have not had the advantage of a stable family environment. Our current course of action at the border may, in fact, help to bolster the future ranks of those same malevolent groups that the President is supposedly trying to protect us from.

While I have never had children of my own, I have on occasion had the good fortune of being able to play the role of the Dutch uncle. The photograph at the top of this post captures one of those special points of passage. It was at the St. Patrick Pub in Old Quebec where I was able to pass along a bit of  my vast knowledge of bar stool etiquette to my godchild Alanna and her older sister Emma.

These days there’s a lot more gray and far fewer hairs on the back of my head–and those two delightful young girls are now two very accomplished young women. Their achievements are the result of individual talent, the love and nurturing of exceptional parents, and a home life that has always been safe, secure, and supportive. Embedded within the story of their lives lie the solutions to our crisis at the border. While a good fence might make for good neighbors, better homes will always trump the need for bigger walls

As we reflect upon the founding principles put forth by those who represented America’s thirteen original colonies, on this particular 4th of July we might want to consider the following about that old bedeviling  number 13:

  • In order to further his own personal agenda on immigration, the President has vastly exaggerated the threat posed by MS-13. This is nothing more than just another variation of the bogey man tactic employed by many a politician throughout our nation’s history.
  • While Romans 13 might provide some cover for the Attorney General and for those who once swore their allegiance to King George and Jefferson Davis–hopefully, the majority of American hearts will answer the call of Hebrews 13:1.

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Thomas Paine Portrait

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

In keeping with the spirit of the day, let us once more celebrate the life of our favorite American revolutionary with Dick Gaughan’s  version of “Tom Paine’s Bones.”

Click on the title or Paine’s portrait to hear the music.

 

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

The Chronically Blue & Red State of The Union

Robot Painting by Eric Joyner

Robot Painting by Eric Joyner

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.”                                       Mark Twain

It has been nearly two months since the grand proclamation of that “new  American moment” proposed by President Trump in his State of the Union address–that moment when those forces that thrive and profit on the unraveling of that delicate weave that is the tapestry of American democracy will be swept away in the wake of some bipartisan epiphany. But according to those who make it their mission to measure the metrics of our discord, distrust, and discontent–our house is sorely in need of repair and reunification.

Even in those areas where one might expect that we were like-minded there are apparent differences. A recent Gallup poll tied to last month’s Winter Games in  PyeongChang found that liberals are 25 percent more likely than conservatives to ski. That may explain why so many of my Republican friends are so concerned about those so-called  slippery slopes.

While it’s easy to blame the pundits, politicians, and the President for what appears to be disharmony by design, there is also the possibility that the incessant polling and pulse taking  is also adding to both the political and cultural divide. We are being convinced by the mere statistical analysis of our beliefs and behaviors that we can’t possibly work together to find solutions or common ground. Even now, as the nation tries to come to terms with another horrendous mass shooting, those on both sides of the gun control issue have their defenses and data points ever at the ready for another predictable partisan debate. And afterwards, what we are left with is just another case of numbness and nullification by the numbers, and the prospect that the United States Congress might once again fail to enact any meaningful legislation.

While I agree with Mark Twain that the search for truth by way of some  numerical measure of reality is folly, nonetheless, in this instance, I am going to stir some additional stats into this already overcooked stew:

  • The murder rate in Colonial America in the year 1700 was 30 per 100,000 people. By the time our Constitution was fully adopted in 1788, the rate had dropped to approximately 20 per 100,000 of population. And when Teddy Roosevelt assumed the presidency after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, the murder rate had dropped to less than 2 per 100,000.
  • During the Twentieth century, the murder rate for that 100 year period reached its peak of just over 10 per 100,000 during the Carter administration. The rate then dropped under President Reagan, it rose under George Bush, and then again dropped during Bill Clinton’s time in office.

Murder and Suicide Rates 1900 - 1998

Murder and Suicide Rates 1900 – 1998

  •   The murder rate in America in 2016, the most recent year of complete FBI crime statistics, was 5.3 per 100,000.
  • Of the approximately 33,000 gun related deaths that now occur each year, roughly 1.5 percent are the result of mass shootings.
  • There are an estimated 73-81 million gun owners in the United States, of that number about 8 million, or 3 percent of the total U.S. population, own 50 percent of all legally purchased civilian firearms..
  • Depending on whose count you believe, the NRA, the group which claims to be the legitimate voice of all gun owners, has somewhere between 4 and 5 million members.
  • There are currently about 236 million people of voting age in America. Of that number approximately 200 million are registered to vote.
  • Nearly 84 percent of Americans, including a large majority of gun owners, favor some level of enhanced regulation of firearms.
  • While nearly 100 percent of Americans seem to have an opinion on just about everything, those opinions don’t necessarily find their way into the voting booth. The average turnout for a presidential election is around 60 percent, the midterms attract about 40 percent of the voting public, and congressional primaries tend to bring out less than 20 percent of eligible voters.

So based upon these numbers, here are some of my observations and conclusions on the overall state of our union and how that might pertain to the contentious debate over guns and the Second Amendment:

1). The steep decline in America’s murder rate between 1700 and 1800 can most likely be attributed to the rule of law versus some frontier interpretation of Old Testament justice–as in an eye for an eye or perhaps a scalp for a scalp. Those brilliant minds that crafted the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution helped to bring about greater social order and a fairer system of criminal justice. But we should not lose sight of the fact that even our Founders, as borne out by the Hamilton and Burr dispute, were more inclined to settle their differences with pistols than we are today.

2). If we examine the homicide rate throughout the twentieth century, many of our notions as to when and why we are most likely to pull the trigger don’t hold up. In 1901, a year when there were virtually no laws governing the sale or use of firearms, America experienced its lowest murder rate ever. Neither is poverty, prosperity, or war necessarily an accurate predictor of human behavior.

After the First World War, the murder rate climbed steadily for over a decade. But those soldiers who returned from Europe and the Pacific in 1945, were mostly content to leave the tools of their trade behind on the battlefield. And while America’s worst recorded murder rate occurred in the midst of the 1980 recession, during most of the depression years of the 1930s, the murder rate was well below that of the boom years of the Roaring Twenties.

3). The idea that we can legislate away mass murder is akin to thinking that we can stop tornadoes from occurring. But in both instances, we have the tools to better forecast the threat of an outbreak and the capability to reduce the number of dead and injured. When it comes to the regulation of firearms, commonsense and moral responsibility dictate that our laws address the mental health of those that have access to guns and the lethal potential of civilian firepower.

2nd Amendment

For those who view the Second Amendment as some immutable piece of inspired text, I would simply point out that  ever since the Civil War some of the best long robes and legal minds have not been able to find consensus over the use of twenty-seven words and two commas. Even the term “well regulated” has been the focus of rigorous debate. So for all the praise we heap upon the Framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it seems that even these enlightened mortals were susceptible to ambiguity, questionable punctuation, and bad grammar.

The common approach when dealing with any controversy that might arise because of the wording of the Constitution has been an attempt to glean the original intent of those that penned the document. The difficulty with that approach is whose intentions are you going to believe, Mr. Hamilton and his Federalists, or the Anti-Federalist crowd spurred on by the likes of Jefferson and Madison?  So picking your favorite Framer is like our choices for cable news, one can always find a source that will support their point of view.

While our Constitution is the result of some bitter philosophical battles and quite a few compromises, it is probably safe to assume that all those involved in its creation shared the common goal of insuring domestic tranquility for the greater good of all Americans.  The Framers certainly had their fair share of distrust of government, but at the same time, they also were somewhat leery of rule by way of the angry mob. I don’t suspect that they would have called for a well-regulated government sanctioned military entity without also considering putting some limitations on an armed civilian population.

4). With the next midterm election less than eight months away, there are those who are hanging their hopes on the next blue wave while another large part of the nation will opt for a rerun of the red tide. As for myself, I’m not concerned about the color of my state. The solution to our political problems has never been about more Democrats or Republicans–more liberals or conservatives. Positive change can only come about when principled people in power choose the welfare of the country over the survival of their party.

Later today, young people will gather in mass to express their fears and concerns about the violence that has ruined so many lives and shattered so many families. Those among us who we normally ask to march off to war on our behalf will be marching on the nation’s capitol and hundreds of public squares throughout America. Those long marches will be in vain if the rest of us fail to make that short walk to the voting booth!

Posted by: Chris Poh  for American Public House Review 

Author’s note: I began writing this particular piece several weeks ago after a long political conversation with my friend and musician Mike Kratzer. It took a very different path after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Here is a link to Mike’s song Chronically Blue which reflects upon those somewhat old age cynical leanings that even I give into after another one of these American tragedies.

 

Mind Your Manners lads, There’s a Lady in the House

Carol Bishop at Mitchell's Cafe

Carol Bishop at Mitchell’s Cafe

Somewhere just a bit north of my eighteenth birthday, Margaret O’Connor spread a protective wing over me and my best friend, Michael. Maggie was the proprietor of a family run Irish tavern in Port Jervis, New York that had opened its doors shortly after the Second World War. And Michael and I were a couple of young bucks trying to get both our feet and whistles wet in an old man’s habitat–an undertaking that has been known not to end so well. But once the Widow O’Connor discovered that the lads from Jersey  had been reared by Catholics and schooled by nuns, we were given her blessing and welcomed into the family–as long as we minded our manners and didn’t take up one of the regular’s preordained positions at the bar.

Those cherished memories of O’Connor’s Bar still serve as a reminder of a lesson well learned–many times the ship sails a steadier course if there’s a lady at the helm.  

Mitchell's Cafe SignTucked away on a quiet street in Lambertville, New Jersey is one of those illustrious local institutions that also just happens to have a very fine woman watching over the house. Ever since her parents retired from the business several years back, Carol Bishop has been the friendly face and guiding hand at Mitchell’s Cafe. With its warm atmosphere, a warm fire, and its exceedingly warm host–the staff and friends of American Public House Review have made Mitchell’s Cafe the traditional kickoff location for any of our extended Celtic oriented celebrations.

So before we get any further down this very long road, let us take the time to wish everyone a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

Mitchell's Irish SessionMitchell’s is also the home of one of the oldest Irish sessions in America. Click on the links below to hear a couple of tunes from past attendee Matt DeBlass.

Posted by: Chris Poh

Back Bar at Mitchell's Cafe

Click on the image above to get some very tasteful decorating tips for every holiday season from Victoria Ann Davis.

What’s In Your Bowl?

The Bar at Keens Steakhouse in Manhattan

The Bar at Keens Steakhouse in New York City

For better or for worse, those gifts from nature’s bounty that have fueled my occasional altered states of mind have been legal in all fifty states since the repeal of Prohibition. I have always preferred a cocktail over cannabis, the grape instead of ganja. and the hops in lieu of hemp. But I will not attempt to make a case for one over the other because I firmly believe that everyone has the right to name their own poison. Furthermore, that poison should be tailored to the mindset and metabolism of the individual. And no matter which way one chooses to go in order to fuel their recreation, I do not want anyone who has begun their day with either a bowl of Macallan or Meshmacan flying the plane or drilling my teeth!

When it comes to trying to understand America’s longstanding conflicted relationship with Dr. Feelgood, one needs to probably look no further than their own liquor or medicine cabinet to understand the precarious position of our physical and mental wellbeing. When we consider the tens of thousands of yearly deaths now being attributed to the nation’s current opioid epidemic, it is easy to understand the thinking of those who might call for stricter laws and another all out war against drugs. But we have fought and lost those fights before–and there is absolutely no indication or evidence to suggest that the heavy handed approach of the past will yield a different outcome this time around. But try and convince one Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of that reality.

Reefer Madness Movie PosterPerhaps it is some lingering childhood nightmare after seeing the film Reefer Madness in his high school health and hygiene class  that has pushed the United States Attorney General to wage a new war on weed after California’s legalization. More likely, its about going after some perceived left wing pot dealer as opposed to locking up the irresponsible physicians and pharmaceutical executives that helped to bring about our most recent addiction crisis. After all, the latter two groups are probably much more likely to donate to the Republican National Committee. Then again, maybe this is just a about a gentleman with deep red southern roots taking on the bluest of all states. And if that is the case, I would like to remind Mr. Sessions about all those years of service to his Alabama constituents who would rail against the idea of any intrusive federal reach interfering with the rights of a state to decide its own future.

Setting the politics aside though, when it comes to putting in place those policies that govern our natural inclination to indulge in the myriad of human vices–interdiction and incarceration have done virtually nothing to curb abuse and addiction. The solution to those problems will be found in better education, better parenting, access to treatment, and individual responsibility. So whatever one chooses to put in their bowl–I strongly suggest that the blend includes a mix of moderation along with the milk of human kindness!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

 

Getting Off that Bipolar Express

Locomotive 142 - Delaware River Railroad Excursions

Photo courtesy of The Delaware River Railroad Excursions

Every time I turn around it’s Christmas. Whatever happened to those seemingly interminable days when that long wait for the seasonal magic and that big payoff on the 25th of December was more than any child could possible bare? Now I wish that I had it within my power to slow down that express train of time. At best, a very brief detour onto a siding is the most we can hope for before the conductor yells roll on. But still there is a lot time and space between the flicker of a flame, the notes of a song, the words on a page, or the turning of a wheel. All we need do is to look and to listen–and that time will be ours to keep.

We invite everyone to look and to listen as we share some of our favorite musings and memories from Christmases past.

candle_and_tankard Let us set the mood for the festivities by providing you with the recipe for the proper libation. Of course, we’re talking about a Smoking Bishop. Click here to listen to  a detailed history about the makings of this delightful English concoction. The recording was part of a radio broadcast of The Bleecker Street Cafe heard Fridays at noon over the airwaves and internet of WDVR-FM.

And now that your settled in front of the fire with your steaming bowl of the Bishop. Please enjoy The Bleecker Street Players from one of their more memorable past performances of  A Christmas Carol, recorded live at WDVR-RM in December of 2013. Click on the links below to listen or download. As always, we extend our sincerest apologies to the decedents and devotees of Charles Dickenschristmas_carol_logo

And what would Christmas be without a bit music? I’m happy to report that I have finally found a new favorite collection of holiday tunes. Bing Crosby has been relegated to the backseat in favor of singer/songwriter Ellis Paul. His release City of Silver Dreams is just absolutely wonderful! Please enjoy this live performance of Christmas Lullaby from that release.

And before you climb back aboard that fast moving locomotive of life, please receive into your heart this benediction from my compadre  and co conspirator in this venture, Ed Petersen.

christmas_benediction

Glasses Raised..Spirits Lifted…Journeys Shared

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Another Holiday in Harm’s Way

 

Christmas Truce Headline in the Seattle StarChristmas Truce 1914

 

Frank Stem was a faithful American patriot, an ardent fan of John Wayne, and someone who knew a thing or two about the harshness of winter below the 38th parallel. By the time I came to know this tough, seasoned Cold War combatant, the boys at the Pentagon had already moved our contest against communism from the frigid Korean peninsula to the soggy, steaming jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam. And Frank Stem had long since swapped out his M-1 Garand and Colt sidearm for a wooden pointer and a felt eraser. This soldier turned teacher now faced the daily threat posed by the longer hair and shorter skirts that filled the rows of desks at a fairly liberal leaning coed Catholic high school in northern New Jersey.

It was September of 1969 when I took my assigned seat in Mr. Stem’s classroom. While this tested warhorse would often espouse the benefits of military service, there was this soft side to his nature like that of the English headmaster, who worried about the fate of his own adolescent charges during the First World War, in the film Goodbye, Mr. Chips. And having acquired ample knowledge of American history along with a good dose of common sense, Frank Stem was probably a bit more inclined to heed the advice of those who had cautioned against getting involved in a land war in Asia. So in a schoolroom upon whose walls might hang a picture of the Duke on horseback, Neil Armstrong on the Moon, or Jimi Hendrix on the stage at Woodstock, this older warrior and his young aspiring activists would often find some middle ground. Unfortunately, in today’s political climate–that middle ground has become our own frightful version of no man’s land!

In the days leading up to Christmas in 1914, soldiers on both sides of the conflict abandoned their trenches and ventured onto that deadly stretch of ground along the Western Front–not for the want of war, but for the possibility of peace. As history has borne out on so many other occasions, there are wiser men among the ranks even when there are only fools at the top. And that simple fact holds true both on and off the battlefield.

I have no idea how Frank Stem would view the current standoff  at the 38th parallel. But my recollections of this intelligent, decent man lead me to believe that he, like myself, would be immensely concerned that the fate of so many lives are dependent upon the diplomatic skills of Donald Trump or Dennis Rodman.

In keeping with those other Christmases past, we at American Public House Review raise a glass to all our  men and women in the armed forces of the United States. We pray for their protection and safe return–and we look to that day when none of our soldiers will have to spend another holiday in harm’s way!

This haunting and poignant piece by John McCutcheon continues to capture that sentiment best.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

%d bloggers like this: