Everyone Here Claims to Be Irish

McSorley’s Old Ale House in New York City

What I truly love about St. Patrick’s Day is the simplicity of the whole thing. Rise early, comb the closet for the suitable green couture, dust off last year’s plastic hat, and find your way to an Irish Pub. The demands are few, and the rewards are many. Unfortunately, on this fine March morning, we find ourselves where we were last year at this time–still unable to procure that coveted seat at the bar. The ongoing threat of COVID continues to hinder our revelries and our need to claim in mass on this particular day that we are all Irish!

While there may be a good reason to call into question some of the exuberant behavior of the felt shamrock crowd, I still support the idea of human beings coming together to celebrate the possibility that we are all the same–because whether we like it or not, we are all the same–Irish, French, German, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, true-believers, non-believers, black, white, brown, red, yellow, and yes even Republicans and Democrats. And after this brutal year of enduring a global pandemic along with the normal maladies that plague our kind, and for the sake of the children in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and for those gathering at our southern border–I pray for more days where we come together to celebrate our common humanity!

Happy ST. Patrick’s Day!

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To help you enjoy your in-home High Holy Day we invite you to listen to some great Celtic music by Dave McBride and the superb Irish band Runa at our free downloadable podcast site by clicking on Sit Downs and Sessions.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

An Insurrection at the Irish Pub

“Few know it, but the Devil rewards insurrection. After all, rebellion is the original sin, and he did conceive it.” Tanya Thompson (Author of Assuming Names)

On the morning of January 6th, after the careful application of my standard risk calculus of contracting COVID, I decided to chance a bit of public space-time with friends at Cryan’s Irish Tavern in Annandale, New Jersey. I was looking forward to this early afternoon communion because it would be bringing together myself, David McBride, and Henry Bonnell–three like-minded souls that shared a common interest in colonial history and the American Revolution. Of particular interest to both David and I were Hank’s stories about his family’s nearby property, which had operated as a coach stop and tavern during the War of Independence.

In regards to the Patriots’ cause, the Bonnell Tavern, established in 1767 by Lt. Colonel Abraham Bonnell, was a hotbed of political and military activity. The area’s first contingent of “minutemen” was organized there, and the tavern also served as headquarters for the 2nd Hunterdon County Militia Regiment. But as we spent our luncheon engaged in romanticizing rebellion and revolution over pizza and pints, 200 miles south of us, thousands of so-called patriotic citizens were carrying out their perverse homespun version of Lexington and Concord on the steps of the Capitol.

It wasn’t until several patrons requested a channel change from sports to news that we all became aware of the horrific national tragedy unfolding in Washington D.C. And in keeping with our “house divided” model of getting along, there was a spirited call to turn off CNN in favor of Fox–proving once more that it’s not the feed but the filter that determines our view of reality. Or, as the late Marshall McLuhan often stated, “The medium is the message.” But unfortunately, if we continue to rely on the partisan echo chambers as our sole source for news and information, we will unwittingly accept lies as truth. And sadly, more politicians have risen to power on lies than on the truth!

So what we are to make of the chaos and violence visited upon our nation’s capital on that terrible afternoon? Nearly two weeks later, and I am still struggling to construct a proper postmortem. But first, we should consider what we know to be true. There are 74 million Americans that voted for Donald Trump. The majority of them probably voted for all the regular reasons–party loyalty, single issues, economic self-interests, dislike of the Democrats and their policies, and finally, that chemistry that attracts them to a particular candidate. But it now appears that over 70% of Trump voters believe that the election was invalid and that somehow it is not possible that 81 million people voted for Joe Biden–but the mathematical data suggests otherwise.

A recent breakdown of the electorate’s political leanings by the Gallup organization gives credence to the election results. In October of 2020, polling showed that 31% of American’s identified themselves as Democrats, 31% identified themselves as Republicans, and 36% identified themselves as independents. But further polling found a 4-5% advantage toward Democrats over Republicans once independents cast their vote. And when you factor in those Trump-leery Republicans that threw their support to Biden–the math becomes indisputable.

But what can be said about people that scream their intent to take back the country while parading Gadsden and Confederate flags through the halls of Congress? First off, the anti government right-wing extremists have been spoiling for armed conflict long before Donald Trump came into power. But with an administration that provided office space for white nationalists in the West Wing actually on the verge of vacating the premises, the time to act may have seemed to be now before those discount rates for insurrectionists at Trump’s D.C. hotel expire. By the way, those rates will not be honored after January 20th. But before I let my sarcastic tendencies overtake this post entirely, I’d like to seriously deal with the behaviors of some of my white brothers and sisters.

Historically, whenever white America seemed threatened by a period of black success or an influx of immigrants, some of whose religious beliefs conflicted with those of your average Anglo-Saxon Protestant, there have been those ready to employ violence and terrorism under the pretense of patriotism. Whether it was in response to Reconstruction or just a matter of Jackie Robinson rounding the bases, these racist malcontents have sought to prosecute a lost cause–a cause that wants to restore their misguided 1776 vision of an America that is solely the domain of white Christian privilege. While they have been very successful at maintaining white privilege–they’ve failed miserably at the Christian ethic part of the vision! Or, as that profound philosopher and rocker Alice Cooper once said,Drinking beer is easy, trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion!”

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There’s more discussion about the attack on the Capitol on our podcast at Sit Downs and Sessions.

Click here to learn more about the restoration of the Bonnell Tavern in Clinton, New Jersey.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

What I Believe

Man of the mortal world–do you believe in me or not?”Marley’s ghost

“Once we decide that anything goes, anything can come home to haunt us.”Bill Moyers

The Christmas tradition, whether it be secular or spiritual in practice, asks that we suspend our skeptical ways in favor of believing fantastic possibilities, and I have concluded that there resides within the human brain a place that allows children to believe in Santa Claus and adults to believe in the Saviour–a wonderful place that operates on simple faith and is more often than not a source of peace and comfort. But unfortunately, those same neurons and neural pathways that can foster strong beliefs without the benefit of any tangible evidence can also give rise to dangerous distortions of the facts when driven solely by fear and prejudice. So the question is, what dubious beliefs are currently under consideration?

There is, of course, that one about the hijacking of the 2020 presidential election being perpetuated by citizen-elect Trump. And with 55% of Republicans believing that the election was rigged in favor of President-elect Biden, and with 126 congressional representatives backing that belief by way of an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court, one might believe that there is some truth to this one. But as to those members of Congress that sought a judicial Hail Mary from the Court, I suspect that many of them arrived in Washington on the Tea Party Express. And while they know that Joe Biden’s ascent to the presidency is legitimate, their innate distrust of government coupled with their hopes of dismantling the Federal Bureaucracy might be reason enough for this particular group of presidential patsies to favor despotism over democracy!

Now, as to what the Republican voters that are yelling foul truly believe, admitting defeat doesn’t come easy to anyone. And when a country’s politics become as personal as an English soccer match, the hooligan contingent seldom exits the game gracefully. While that crowd is usually content just making noise, on occasion, their grievances are aired in a somewhat more aggressive fashion. But this is not Liverpool vs. Manchester United. It’s the Proud Boys and the other 1,000 hate groups now operating in America challenging the Constitution, the rule of law, and the peaceful transition of power. And when we consider the cult-like behavior exhibited by some Trump supporters, the potential for an armed response is all too real. To downplay that threat would be to deny the bloodshed and loss of innocent life caused by people believing the lies and distortions disseminated by past Svengalis, false prophets, and ruthless leaders. America can ill afford another Charlottesville–nor the world another Nuremberg!

Now, as to the matter of what I believe–I believe in love, kindness, compassion, tolerance, and that divine spark which offers to all the Scrooges of the world a shot at redemption. In short–I believe in Christmas and everything it represents–but after a year of pandemic and presidential politics–I believe I’ll have another drink! Pour me whatever the ghost of Christmas Present is having.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

To all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

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To help you celebrate the holiday season we’ve created some timely programming, including our free downloadable director’s cut version of A Christmas Carol. This Dicken’s classic features past performances originally recorded and broadcast over WDVR-FM. Click on Sit Downs and Sessions or the Podbean logo above to listen.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

A Cause for Celebration

On this past Monday evening, as a prelude to our post-election podcast, I popped open the last bottle from my 2018 stash of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration IPA. There was certainly cause for celebration–but it was not in celebration of one man’s victory or another man’s loss–nor was it about partisan party politics. My jubilation ran much deeper!

To me, the outcome of this year’s election is not just about the resilience of American democracy–but it also about the restoration of those cherished American values that have been, as of late, lacking in the Office of the Presidency:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Dignity
  • Decorum
  • Diplomacy
  • Dedication to public service
  • Kindness
  • Class
  • Empathy

And on this Veteran’s Day, the respect and gratitude that all those who have served in our nation’s armed forces truly, deserve!

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Even though the Trump presidency has not quite given up the ghost, we decided to perform a political autopsy anyway. You can listen to the results of our post mortem at Sit Downs and Sessions.

Posted by: Chris Poh

The Unmasking of America

I find it incredibly ironic that so many of those who balk at the idea of wearing a mask because of some perceived threat to personal freedom have no problem blindly doing someone else’s bidding from under the brim of a red baseball cap or from behind the muzzle of an AR-15. Personally, I can think of no greater threat to individual liberty than following those who mask their insatiable need for power and profits behind some bogus brand of patriotism wrapped in the American flag!

If nothing else, the last four years have brought about the unmasking of the remnants of those old demons that still threaten our democracy. Thankfully that threat has been met with the unleashed energies of our better angels. But whether our country chooses a blue tsunami, another red tide, or just a bit of mixed surf during the course of this year’s election, it will be for naught unless we dedicate ourselves to national healing and bringing about social and economic justice to every citizen and immigrant that still believes in America’s promise.

In June of 1863, Robert E. Lee once again pushed his army northward in his second attempt to bring the fight to Union soil. The journey that would eventually end on the hills and fields surrounding Gettysburg would pass over some of the same ground lost during the previous year’s carnage at Antietam. The war-weary marchers would temper their rebellious tendencies as they gazed upon the unburied bleached bones without knowing if the fallen were friend or foe–no blue, no gray, no North, no South–just the unmasked remains of a house divided.

Hopefully, this time around we will choose civil discourse over civil war!

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Listen to our political prognostications and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election at Sit Downs and Sessions

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

The View from Where I Sit is Actually Much Better than Expected

The Café Compadres, Don and Ed, from WDVR-FM

For someone who has spent more than his fair share of time over the past 48 years comfortably perched on a barstool, I thought the lack of accessible tavern seating during the pandemic might drastically impact my wellbeing. But much to my surprise, the same eyes that so often basked in the sublimity of a field of vision filled with gleaming taps, dusty bottles, and neon signs are now quite content to gaze upon open fields, village greens, and backyard gardens as this newly ordained outdoorsman raises a pint or two. While I may not express that same appreciation for Mother Nature’s pub when those cold winds of December freeze the foam in my IPA, I still won’t be as quick to move the festivities indoors. COVID has caused me to look at people and places in a very different light.

Recently, I heard an NPR interview with Ron Finley, known globally as the (Gangsta Gardener). This Los Angelas based artist and fashion designer has, for the last ten years, made it his mission to bring beauty and sustainable agriculture to the inner city. He has successfully transformed narrow swaths of urban environments into food gardens for those populations that often would not have access to or the resources to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The model is simple yet effective–better nutrition fosters better outcomes in both the health and education of our children–and those outcomes foster better communities in our future. But there is also another aspect to this idea of the greening-up of urban America.

Our ability to cope with and overcome life’s challenges can be as much about geography as it is about genetics. When I walk out my backdoor, I step into a world of flowers, trees, hills, and an abundance of wildlife. I could not imagine having to have faced this pandemic and the current political and economic upheaval in an environment wherein even in the best of times, there is little to soothe the troubled soul.

Please don’t take this as a knock on city life. As a former Manhattanite, I find nothing more invigorating than immersing myself in a day of urban culture and architecture. But the beauty and benefits of gentrification seldom reach the steps and streets of those poorer neighborhoods that unfortunately make up a disproportionate part of the American cityscape.

So on this warm autumn afternoon, I will a raise glass to the Gangsta Gardener as I tend to my own flowers–and I will raise another to all those among us who bring beauty and hope to those who cannot find it on their own!

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Go to Sit Downs and Sessions to listen to our latest take on what’s happening both in and outside the White House.

Listen to Chris and the Café Compadres on the airwaves or via the internet every Friday noon until 3:00 pm over WDVR-FM.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Pirating During a Pandemic

Today we will fly our Jolly Rogers at half-mast, as we lift that first ration of rum in memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. To the family, friends, and all who are feeling the pain and loss of this intrepid soul, we pray for fair winds and following seas. But like that ever-dauntless and somewhat notorious great lady, we will sail through the storm and make for safe harbor so we can properly celebrate her life on this the 18th anniversary of Talk Like a Pirate Day!

In keeping with the current health concerns, we have listed below the standard protocols of the day along with further recommendations by the CDC (Center for Deck Control) in order to keep all captains and crews safe while pirating during a pandemic.

  • Always put your best peg-leg forward.
  • Remember to press your pantaloons.
  • Compliment the fit and finish of your shipmate’s puffy shirt.
  • Never fly your Jolly Roger above the Stars and Stripes.
  • Buy your crew the next round of Grog.
  • Extend your hook to one in need.
  • Never wear more than one eye patch while steering the ship.
  • Share your booty with the less fortunate.
  • And always let your parrot have the last word!

(Additional 2020 Recommendations)

  • Swab and sanitize often.
  • Wash your hooks for at least 20 seconds.
  • Maintain a distance of six feet between those walking the plank.
  • Boarding parties should be limited to no more than 10.
  • Mutiny against any captain that suggests injecting grog as a cure for COVID.

Wishing All Me Hearties Another Safe and Superb Talk Like a Pirate Day!

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Before setting sail, check out our pirate primer podcast at Sit Downs and Sessions.

Published in: Uncategorized on September 19, 2020 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Proper Pint for Every Purse

Taps at McCoole's Red Lion in Quakertown, PA

My point of view as to what makes for a great pub is predicated on three things: ambiance, a good selection of beer, and most importantly, an atmosphere that makes every person that walks through the door feel welcome. Much like the former Bull and Finch in Boston, which the popular television series Cheers was based on, those praiseworthy establishments hold the postman and the patrician in equal regard–and of course, they always provide a proper pint for every purse.

One of the more disturbing themes being voiced throughout last month’s Republican National Convention was the call to save our suburbs from the violent unrest plaguing many of our nation’s urban communities. In their bid to spread fear among suburban voters, the President and his supporters are making the case that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for tear gas on the tennis court and carnage in the cabana. Republicans are counting on the fact that since most of the cities experiencing the violence are governed by Democrats, they will be able to win over those center-right voters that might be leaning toward Joe Biden’s vision for America. While the GOP may have the stats on their side, the main reason why so many of our cities favor Democrats is simply because these large urban areas are home to the majority of people that comprise this country’s racial, religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity–a diversity that the Republican party has mostly failed to embrace.

Earlier this summer, the President and his HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, co-authored an op-ed piece pledging to protect American suburbs from government-mandated low-income housing. While I believe that communities have to right to their autonomy when it comes to zoning, what we have here is just another thinly-veiled dog-whistle by the administration pitting black against white and rich against poor. This may not qualify as a blatant example of systemic racism, but it certainly reflects blatant classism–neither one moving us any closer to that ever-elusive more perfect union!

I grew up in an older sub-urbanized town on the Jersy side of the Hudson River during the 1960s–a period sadly similar in terms of the politics, race relations, and economic inequities. The white flight of that period certainly played a part in defining who we were as a community, and unfortunately, that definition included a substantial measure of intolerance and racism. But while the town of Teaneck had its shortcomings, it did provide equal access to affordable shelter, quality healthcare, public transportation, and good schools to all of its citizens. Whether you were considered underpaid or overpaid for your 40 hours away from the wife and kids, you could at least take care of the basic needs and maintain some level of human dignity. What is shocking and unforgivable is that in the year 2020, many of our nation’s poor and minorities can not make a similar claim!

A Pint from the Wharf Rat in Baltimore

So what does any of this have to do with my penchant for filtering my point of view through the bottom of a pint glass or some pub-centric metaphorical reference to a 70s sitcom? Well, while I don’t particularly want to exist in a world where everybody knows my name, I would like to at least live in a country where everybody’s glad you came!

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Click on the PodBean logo or go to Sit Downs and Sessions to hear our take on this summer’s political conventions.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Good Trouble at the Crossroads

“When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war.” The Honorable John Lewis from the New York Times op-ed published on the day of his funeral

From that very first taste of American history taught to me by some well-intentioned, pointer wielding nun at St. Anastasia’s Grammar School, it was impressed upon me that my freedom to attend Sunday mass and the right to inhabit a small wooden desk for six hours a day were secured by the heroic deeds of brave souls unsheathing swords and squeezing triggers. Conquistadors, crusaders, and countless other combatants filled that early parochial school narrative with tales of the mostly white guys that had fought and died on my behalf. But on most days, by the time 3:15 had rolled around, my gratitude for their sacrifice was on a steep decline.

Then came my own personal awakening at the crossroads of elementary and secondary education during the summer of 1968. From the safety of my suburban oasis, I watched a country at war with itself play out on the evening news. The voices that had so justly cried out against racism, poverty, social injustice, and war were answered with batons, tear gas, and murder. To my way of thinking, a more militant response to the ills of our society seemed to be in order. That September, I began my freshman year of high school–and while I remained under the thumb of yet another Catholic institution, a new generation of clergy instilled in me the possibility of the peaceful warrior. And considering the fact that my faith was founded by a non-violent activist–the idea seemed long overdue.

I still retain much of those teachings that carried me through to adulthood. I continue to support the tradition of honoring, celebrating, and thanking those that have worn the uniforms of this nation’s armed services–but I also believe that it is equally important to recognize the work of the peaceful warrior. Men and women, who like the late John Lewis, have endured untold indignities, hardships, brutality, and martyrdom so that all Americans might share in that promise made at Philadelphia 244 years ago.

My instincts tell me that the political, societal, and natural forces that we now face have brought us once again to the crossroads–perhaps the last crossroads for America. We owe it those resolute patriots that crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776 and those extraordinary citizens that crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” 1965 to chose a better road!

“So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” Congressman John Lewis

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Join us for some further political discussions plus a bit of music and timely insights from singer/songwriter Ellis Paul on our podcasts @ sitdownsandsessions.podbean.com

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

But Whitey’s on the Moon

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”Edmund Burke

“To protest against injustice is the foundation of all our American democracy.” “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.”Thurgood Marshall

 “Civil wrongs don’t make for civil rights,”Adlai Stevenson

A simple five-word refrain set against the percussive beat of a single drum dramatically captured the despair, anger, and the chasm of disparity felt by black Americans in the 1960s in Gil Scott-Heron’s “Whitey on the Moon.” During the latter years of that turbulent decade, I made the jump from childhood to adolescence. And throughout that initial attempt at coming of age, the screen of my family’s cherished 25-inch Zenith console was ablaze with images of F-4 Phantoms dropping napalm on Vietnam villages, Saturn V rockets breaking the bonds of Earth’s gravity–and the conflagrations that illuminated the nighttime skylines of our nation’s inner cities.

By the end of that sweltering solstice of 67 or the so-called Summer of Love, nearly 160 race riots occurred across the United States. And by the time Neil Armstrong took that historic stroll across the lunar surface in July of 69, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. during the previous year all but guaranteed that even the slightest semblance of peace, justice, and equality for African Americans seemed further away than the Sea of Tranquility. Now, as we witness the murder of George Floyd, our ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East, the rocketry of Elon Musk, and the violent clashes in our nation’s cities, we might be fooled into thinking that not much has changed since 1969. But my sense of history and my spirit of optimism say otherwise.

While segregation was officially outlawed in our public schools in 1954 by way of the Supreme Court decision in Brown V. Board of Education, it was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that federal law superseded all state and local laws to include desegregation in all public facilities. But lending practices maintained under redlining created an almost de facto segregation in poorer minority neighborhoods until such practices were outlawed in the 1970s. Also, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups were operating with almost total impunity throughout the South. People were being murdered and lynched. Churches and schools were being torched. And when that rare prosecution of those crimes did occur, white juries were eager to acquit. And finally, overly aggressive tactics and disregard of civil rights toward minority populations by law enforcement were on full display in all fifty states. Much in fact has changed since the 60s–but what hasn’t changed is the nature of a riot.

The vast majority of people that partake in the chaos and violence in most instances were not previously engaged in some peaceful protest or worthwhile cause for the betterment of humanity. Rioters, while made up of several divergent groups that might include your average bully, anarchist, arsonist, sociopath, and low-level criminal, have one thing in common–they are all opportunists. And these individuals would take to the streets whether the backdrop for their behavior was a matter of civil rights or a bad call at a soccer match!

While I personally tend toward a voice of singular dissent, I fully understand the need for protest in mass. Politicians change according to the speed and direction of the wind–and nothing changes that speed and direction better than a few million people literally and figuratively marching on Washington! But as it has in the past, many valid causes and well-grounded expressions of outrage have been delegitimized by our governing bodies whenever the exercise of free speech in the light of day is overshadowed by that free-for-all in the dark of night.

This pandemic and the resulting economic hardships that we now face amid this profound test of our country’s core values will not distinguish between race, color, creed, or political affiliation. But perhaps that shared suffering might bring about some shared solutions.

The time for small steps is over. This moment in our nation’s history demands another giant leap–and this time that leap must include all Americans!

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We attempt to further tackle this very difficult topic of race in America at our podcast @ sitdownsandsessions.podbean.com/

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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