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

In the Event That This is My Final Post–Please Do the Following

Indian Rock, Upper Black Eddy, PA

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Robert F. Kennedy

Throughout the journey, which has served as my own minuscule piece of the puzzle called life, I was pretty much convinced that I was more than ready to deal with whatever hand nature dealt. My deterministic tendencies toward the consideration of our collective fates always took into account the possibility of pandemics, apocalyptic pandemonium, and political pestilence. But the idea of facing such scourges without the benefit of an open bar was simply inconceivable–suffering without solace–retribution without refuge!

As to the possibility of this being my last post, I’ve always been aware of those ever-lurking threats to my mortality. And while I don’t consider myself to be in that high at-risk group during this particular health crisis, I do tend toward increasing my odds of injury and death whenever some extended period of being housebound presents a reason to tackle some long-overdue upgrade or repair. At this juncture, I’ve come to the unequivocal conclusion that I’m actually better off on a bar stool than a step stool.

While I may appear to be unduly lamenting the lack of local libations, it is not by any means my intent to downplay the seriousness of the situation. Thousands have suffered a dreadful passing, and thousands more will probably leave this life without the comfort of having loved ones at their side. And for the vast majority of us, it seems that there is little we can do other than to shoulder the fear and uncertainty as we maneuver around the masked scoundrels, scam artists, and self-absorbed survivalists in the paper goods aisle of our supermarkets.

Again, if this is to be my final post, the previous paragraphs could be my last chance to achieve my lifelong allotment of alliteration. So with this clustering of consonants in concert now, hopefully, out of my system, I will endeavor to continue in a more acceptable literary fashion.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a ‘glass is half-empty’ kind of guy. So even amid this extreme threat to our human family, I believe that for every conspiracy-minded individual, political hack, grifter, criminal, and malcontent attempting to take advantage of our misfortune, there are thousands of heroic people performing immeasurable works of care, sacrifice, and charity!

Unfortunately, history has too often shown that while the ranks may swell with good soldiers, the outcome of most conflicts will be determined by a handful of people at the top. And, sadly, it always seems to take an event of extreme magnitude to nudge leadership in the right direction. So all of us are forced to suffer to some degree during Mother Nature’s version of timeout in the corner. As for myself, I have chosen to view this as an opportunity for all of humanity to reflect and reboot. There could be, in fact, a rather profound gift attached to these hard times–that rare second chance to address the disparities that have always plagued our shared existence on this planet.

While this period of sheltering in place may present its own set of problems and put additional strain on our close-quartered relationships, there are, in fact, some unintended benefits. Crime rates are down, home improvements are up, we’re emitting fewer greenhouse gases, and in what is my favorite bit of irony, the Saudi-led coalition has initiated a two-week ceasefire in Yemen with the goal of slowing the spread of coronavirus. Imagine the idea of stopping a war in order to promote better health practices.

So the real question is not who are we now at this moment in time, but who will we be on the other side of this global crisis. And while we are not totally to blame for all of the hardships that befall our kind, those mysterious forces of nature, that almost seem to conspire against our survival, are on occasion culpable in our plight–but the solutions are almost always within our grasp. If our species is to have any chance of outlasting its excessive stockpile of toilet paper, there first has to be a realignment of human consciousness. And then we must finally, with one voice, resolve to irradicate hatred, hunger, homelessness, and poverty.

And for all of that to happen, we are going need one hell of a lot of kindness, consideration, cooperation, and that which needs no alliteration–Love!

So in the event that this does turn out to be my final post, please bartender–fill my glass to the brim!

Stay Safe and Cheers!

Below are links to a couple of songs that have helped to sustain my spirit during these difficult times. Hopefully, they will do the same for you.

Bob Franke: Trouble in this World

James Maddock: My Old Neighborhood

Check out and share our most recent Podbean podcast episodes at: Sit Downs and Sessions

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Social Distancing St. Patrick’s Style

This moment of sublime male contentment was captured outside the Tir na nOg Irish pub in Trenton, New Jersey on March 17, 2009. Buried behind those smiling faces are most likely the concerns of that very difficult year in American history. Our economy was still in the grip of the “Great Recession” and the earliest cases of what would become the N1H1 global pandemic were just coming to light. But on that glorious sunny afternoon, these gentlemen took their pints to the patio in order to practice a bit of social distancing from the mass of humanity that had gathered inside the late Banjo Billy Briggs’ fabled Irish establishment.

Sadly, this year most of the pubs are shuttered, and the pipes will not be calling. Nature has demanded that we honor the spirit of Erin in gentler tones and more intimate settings. But as I look back on that St. Patrick’s Day of eleven years ago, I am reminded that we as a nation have faced similar hardships–and through the pain and the tears there has always been ample reason to raise our voices in song and our pints in celebration!

So in the hope of enhancing your housebound revelries we invite you to enjoy the music and tavern tales in this second installment of our St. Patrick’s Day podcast at Sit Downs and Sessions.

Please click on the images below to get a more in-depth read on those Irish taverns featured in this week’s episode.

Inside the Tir na nOg Pub in Trenton, NJ

On behalf of the lads at Sit Downs and Sessions and American Public House Review we wish everyone a Happy and Healthy St. Patrick’s Day!

Slàinte Mhaith

Just What the People Need–Another Damn Political Podcast. Welcome Once Again to Sit Downs and Sessions

Now that we are somewhat recomposed after the outcome of the 2016 United States presidential election, David McBride and I have ended our self-imposed silence and are once again sharing our outlook and opinions in that ubiquitous downloadable voice of the masses known as the podcast. So why the need to add to the estimated 54 million plus episodic expressions of the human condition available worldwide? I really don’t have the answer to that one, but if it does comes to me, I will be sure to delve into it in a future episode of Sit Downs and Sessions!

As to the motivations of my partner in this effort, I cannot speak to those either. But I can attest to the care, honesty, passion, reason, intelligence, and sense of humor that David McBride brings to the countless hours of conversation that we’ve shared over our decades old association. And it is my hope that I can mirror those attributes as we bring our combined fifty years of commercial and public broadcasting experience into this internet medium.

While Dave and I are both lifelong devotees of the American political scene, we understand that there is more to life than just trying to make sense of that peculiar breed of people who inhabit the statehouse, the West Wing, or the Halls of Congress. There are serious global threats, UFOs, and that ongoing search for treasure on Oak Island–all of which have already been addressed to some degree during our fist six episodes. With such a diverse range of topics, those discussions of alien abductions, ghostly apparitions, and mythical cryptids are just simply a matter of time.

So make that morning commute, afternoon workout, or late night whiskey a little more pleasant with Sit Downs and Sessions!

https://sitdownsandsessions.podbean.com

Click the link above to download and share current episodes.

Coming soon to Sit Downs and Sessions aliens and politicians square off over the Capitol!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Apple, Pumpkin, or Impeachment Pie

Article II, Section 4 provides: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

As always, most of us face the holiday season with some level of trepidation–the rush, the expense, overblown expectations, and, of course, those sometimes strained family gatherings. And in the age of Trump, those powwows around the Butterball and sweet potatoes come with the possibility of outright political combat–and what could be more incendiary than discussing the merits of impeachment with some brother or sister who always felt that mom favored you in the first place?

As for my point of view on the matter of getting one’s just desserts, I believe there is more than adequate evidence of a quid pro quo and an abuse of presidential power. But at the same time, I fully understand why nearly half of all Americans view this as nothing more than another exercise in partisan politics at the taxpayer’s expense.

America has a long history of being somewhat reluctant when it comes to challenging bad behavior beyond our shores. Had it not been for the 128 Americans that went down on the Lusitania or the 1,177 sailors and Marines that lost their lives on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Belleau Wood and Normandy might not be part of this country’s collective heroic lore. So it easy to understand why we might be slow to raise concerns over the President’s dealings in Ukraine. On the other hand, had aid been withheld to Kentucky coal miners or Wisconsin dairy farmers because of some personal campaign agenda, I suspect the number of those in favor of impeachment would be very different.

The Signing of the United States Constitution by Louis Glanzman

As to the question of abuse of power, whether it be of a personal or professional nature, Donald Trump’s inclination to abuse whatever power might come his way has been well-documented for decades. So why would his time in the White House be any different? While I may be appalled and alarmed by his behavior, many Americans were hoping that his abusive nature would be turned against those individuals and institutions who his supporters felt had neglected and abused them.

Now, as to this just being about another round of disgruntled partisans wanting to take down the President, I would agree that there are a number of Democrats that might be engaged in just that. But the bias against Donald Trump runs deeper, and that negative view of his presidency has been well-earned by no one other than the President himself! Like most of the populist politicians that have run for office throughout our nation’s history, Mr. Trump has sown the seeds of discord in order to pit one group against another. And no one has been more effective at cultivating such a bitter harvest.

For those who truly believe in the founding principles of the United States of America, impeachment is not about an effort to undo the results of the presidential election of 2016. It is instead about honoring the resolve of those who attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787!

Posted by: Chris Poh for AmericanPublic House Review

Has Jim Thorpe Become a Vortex for Pennsylvania Spirits?

View of downtown from the Asa Packer Mansion

I’m not sure that I buy into those New Age notions of inter-dimensional portals or spiritual vortexes–but there have been those lonely late night strolls through the myriad of narrow brick passages that connect to the dimly lit streets of Jim Thorpe that have led me to consider such paranormal possibilities.

The author J. K. Rowling apparently found a fair amount of inspiration concerning the behavior of young precocious wizards and witches during her time in the ancient city of Edinburgh. Much of the first book in the Harry Potter series was written at The Elephant House–one of the many fine cafes in this Scottish bastion that can boast the pens of such notables as Robert Burns, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Had the fates which drove her life instead placed her in any number of the appealing pubs and eateries tucked away within the Victorian and Gothic Revival architecture of this unique Pennsylvania community, Hogwarts might have been fashioned after the Old Jail Museum–and the purveyors of broomsticks and potions would have been selling their wares along Race Street instead of Diagon Alley.

The Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe

For the better part of the last twenty years, most of my in-town explorations have been assisted by my dear friends Bob and Sheila–the proprietors of the Gilded Cupid Bed and Breakfast. They have, in fact, become my personal guides to the more spirited aspects of this seemingly otherworldly old mining community. And while they haven’t necessarily introduced me to any of the inhabitants of the ethereal nether regions of town, they have done an absolutely superb job of directing me toward those spirits that please the palate and soothe the soul. And in keeping with those standards, during the course of my most recent visit, they brought me to the Notch Eight Craft House.

This warm and welcoming neighborhood pub, located in the heart of Jim Thorpe’s historic downtown, can best be described as a bit of tasteful gentrification with a steampunk persona. But what sets this unique establishment apart from the competition is its dedication to promoting the state’s craft industry. Whether it’s brewed, distilled, or fermented, if it’s poured here–it’s from Pennsylvania. And with a state that can boast over several hundred breweries, wineries, and now scores of independent distilleries– the spirits should be passing through these portals for a very long time to come!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Sand

Yesterday, I once again forced myself to endure yet another rhetorical rant from that real estate developer from Queens. But then again, who might be more qualified to exaggerate the terms of our latest shady land deal in the Middle East while blaming the former minority tenants for the bad conditions and at the same time being able to extol the virtues of the new owners than Donald Trump?

In the course of his justification for the reckless abandonment and betrayal of our Kurdish allies, he seemed to fixate, as he has as of late, on the word sand. As if to suggest that our involvement in the Middle East is and always has been as barren as the Arabian Desert, a policy with no purpose and a fruitless exercise in protecting those who have only known conflict and war. I will not argue the fact that radicals, reactionaries, and religious zealots, whether they hail from Saudi sands or sunny American shores are capable of holding onto a grudge for a very long time. But most human beings, in spite of their global positioning, want only peace and the opportunity to achieve their own personal potential.

USAF 204th Fighter Wing Over Kuwait - Public Domain Photo

Historically, our presence in the Middle East has seldom been about anything other than our own security and self-interests. Simply put, it’s not about what’s above the sand, but what lies beneath–tethered to a friendship with Israel and a fear of the former Soviet Union. But much has changed since the days of Communist aggression and oil embargoes. North American tar sands challenge Saudi reserves, our once blind allegiance to Israel has been tempered with concerns for the Palestinians, and while the Russians remain ruthlessly aggressive, Vladimir Putin’s brand of transactional leadership seems to resonate with our current President. So why not retreat to a position of America first and the rest of the world be damned?

From a practical standpoint, while we appear to be oozing oil at the moment, in reality, based upon our 20 million barrel a day thirst, the good ole we are number one USA could only go it alone for about five years. And while we may be able to weather a major interruption in supply better than most of the developed world, the resulting economic calamity would quickly find its way through our lovely little white picket fences.

However, in the interest of personal transparency, I must admit that I harbor a bit of my own “America First” tendencies. But in my model of national superiority, we are the first to champion human rights, the first to challenge the rule of despots, the first to provide aid to those in need, the first to give safe haven to those displaced by war and natural disasters–and always the first to stand by those who have stood by us!

My vision of America does not include a sandbox controlled by a petulant child of privilege threatening to withhold the use of his Tonka toys just because he’s not getting his way or fashioned-challenged fat cats scratching their way out of the sand traps at Trump National Doral. In my vision of our troubled republic, the sand in my shoes is the result of peaceful strolls on a beach where all who seek freedom, justice, and protection are welcomed. Until such time, I’ll just let my tired feet carry me to the next friendly Tiki bar.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Setting Sail to Safer Seas

Narragansett Bay – photo by Mark Paltridge

Perhaps it was just the usual flurry of televised bad news and the seemingly never-ending baffling behavior by the gentleman at the helm of our foundering ship of state that caused me to consider forgoing my usual morning cup of coffee in favor of a way before noon tankard of grog. But then I remembered it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day! So before the sun sets over the yardarm, let us once again review my own personal code of buccaneer decorum so that you’ll be better equipped to navigate these troubling tides as you make way for safe harbor and happy hour.

  • 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!

Included below are a few of our favorite shanties guaranteed to woo any wench or prancing privateer.

A Very Hearty Yo Ho and Aaarrr from the Crew at American Public House Review!

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