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

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

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

 

 

Rigged and Ready for the Real Revolution

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon - Artist Unknown

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon – Artist Unknown

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.                                                             From Thomas Jefferson to William Smith  1787

In modern America it seems that the discontented and the demagogues have always held our third President in the highest regard. From tee shirts to bar room banter, those touting the next revolution are quick to remind us that any rotten fruit that sprouts from that sacred “Liberty Tree” should be pruned with extreme prejudice as per the periodic prescriptive measures supposedly proposed by Thomas Jefferson.

(While I remain  a staunch advocate for the cause of alliteration in literature, even I believe that some degree of poetic license may have been abused during the execution of the previous sentence)

Although Mr. Jefferson felt that a modicum of public rebellion from time to time was  a healthy way to keep an overreaching governing class in check, he much preferred the peaceful coexistence between the powers that be and the people. In what has become known as the “Tree of Liberty” letter, Jefferson expressed his concerns that the Constitution would vest too much control to a central government that was at that time already weary of further armed uprisings, similar to the tax insurrection that had occurred in Massachusetts in 1786 and 1787. Ultimately, Jefferson believed that it was a lack of knowledge that led a disgruntled public to consider taking up arms against the government. Toward the end of his letter to William Smith, he states, “The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon & pacify them.”

Whether or not it is even possible today to discover the facts about anyone or anything is a matter of debate. Political punditry and pitchfork populism are a malignancy that obscure and eventually obliterate the truth. But there is one certain truth that I believe we must make abundantly clear to a distrustful electorate. Contrary to the rants of Donald J. Trump, This election is not rigged!

As it has always been since the onset of this republic, there are those forces in the press and the media that have attempted to influence the vote by way of an institutional or personal bias. Historically, candidates for public office from both parties have had personal ties to newspapers and broadcast outlets. But in the age of the internet and social media there are more than enough sources to support and validate everyone’s version of the truth. The only thing that is truly rigged against us is that portion of the human brain that causes us to occasionally blindly follow those that affirm our own personal perceptions–even if those perceptions are totally without merit.

So before we are tempted to threaten bodily harm against any of our fellow citizens because one of our candidates for the office of President is falsely crying fire in a crowded theater, remember that Thomas Jefferson followed The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants with the words It is its natural manure. 

Hopefully Americans will reject the current line of bullshit and demagoguery in favor of that real revolution that will only come about as a result of reasonable human beings working together to address our difficulties and differences in a spirit of concern, compassion, and compromise!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Good Housekeeping 101

The_Clean_Sweep

A house divided against itself cannot stand.”   Mark 3:25 – as referenced by Abraham Lincoln in his speech to the Illinois Republican State Convention June 16, 1858

To the honorable ladies and gentlemen of the 113th United States Congress,

Now that you are back home in your respective districts, and I assume fully engaged in this year’s midterm scuffle, I would like to share my thoughts on what I believe might serve as a better strategy to bring some dignity, decorum and decency back to “The People’s House” come this fall.

At the age of sixty, I am both the beneficiary, and the occasional casualty of the character of this country. The inherent opportunities and resilient nature of America has allowed me to receive a quality education, become a teacher, writer, hold elected office in the state of New Jersey, own a tavern in the shadows of where Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton, and to function as a voice in public broadcasting during the last twenty-three years. But at the same time, I like so many Americans face a fairly insecure future as a direct result of the ongoing dysfunction and distrust in Washington.

So rather than spending countless sums of donor’s money on trying to defend against the pitchfork politics of those who want to dismantle our governing institutions, those politicians who truly believe in the hopes and aspirations of the Founders should rededicate themselves to the simple idea of providing bipartisan working governance—putting both people and principles before party! This is the spirit that will cause your constituents to live up to their side of the contract by returning them to the voting booth—thus restoring representation that reflects the true will and needs of the majority.

On some of those more practical political issues that will be the focus of slickly produced, half-truth sound bites in the upcoming weeks–here are my recommended responses to those carpetbagging cash cows attempting to influence the outcome of local races from afar:

  •  On Healthcare – While the President’s attempt to tackle an issue, that at  one time was agreed upon by both parties as being in need of major reform, might have its flaws, those relevant points of the legislation, such as providing care for those having preexisting conditions, should be protected. Unfortunately, there still remains too much disparity and inefficiency in our healthcare system. People will continue to die because they cannot access or afford the best treatments available today in this country. That is totally unacceptable! The mantra must be, “repair and improve” this landmark legislation.
  • On Immigration – Every American must ask themselves, what they would do if their children were faced with the conditions and violence that plague those who are crossing our southern borders, before reducing the issue to a matter of simply demanding that the government prosecute and remove legitimate refugees who are portrayed by some as part of some criminal class.

 Secondly, a comprehensive approach to immigration is extremely practical when addressing the future needs of both entitlements and the economy. Any country that has a diminishing birthrate will simply not have enough healthy, young workers fueling its economy, or paying those taxes that offset the financial requirements of those programs designed to provide a degree of well-being and income to an aging population. And in the United States, where today fewer and fewer companies are providing guaranteed security for their retirees by way of pensions and extended health benefits, our own system of Social Security and Medicare must be shored up and strengthened.

In short, our future growth and economic welfare is somewhat dependent upon those who come here from other lands in order to find a better way of life. But hasn’t that always been the American story—and one worth retelling again?

Members of the Continental Congress at the City Tavern in Philadelphia

Members of the Continental Congress at the City Tavern in Philadelphia

While I tend toward George Washington’s point of view on political parties that ultimately they would do more harm than good to the republic, I do support a worthy opposition that brings a different approach, new ideas and rational thought to the table. If enough of our elected representatives were to take the political high road (like those astute gentlemen who came together at Philadelphia’s old City Tavern after adjourning the Continental Congress) those now joining together at that table would be able to dine together, drink together, dialogue together—and yes perhaps even govern together!

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

 

 

This Stuff Really is Self-evident

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When you get right down to it,  like many of mankind’s  defining  (yet seldom read)  documents,  our Declaration of Independence is that perfect fusion of optimism and enlightened thought attached to our need to complain about those who hold the power. So it is no wonder that an extremely vocal segment of  society will pervert the words of  Jefferson, Franklin and Adams in order to justify their own delusional rants against some imagined ongoing tyranny. But the true measure of  American virtue will not be decided by that handful of angry voices. The realization of our founder’s aspirations lies  with those who in their own pursuits of life, liberty and happiness do nothing to limit the potential and freedom of their fellowman.  Two such fine people, Adam Price and Susan Kimani, recently paid me a visit at the Indian Rock Inn.

For me this delightful young couple represent everything that is right with America. Susan is an artist and fashion designer who found her way to New York City by way of  Kenya, East Africa. Adam’s origins are somewhat less exotic. This extremely accomplished jazz musician, and may I add fellow bartender, is from Boyertown, PA. During our brief time together, we conversed about history, travel, music and beer. And since  all of us were devotees of the American cause, we reveled in our memories of consuming the Ales of the Revolution at Philadelphia’s renowned City Tavern.

RUNA_Promo_Photo_2014So to Susan and Adam, and all the followers of American Public House Review  we wish everyone a very joyous 4th of July! And to further aid in that celebration, we’ve included an absolutely wonderful version of our nation’s anthem. Click here to listen to the work of Francis  Scott key as performed by the Celtic group–Runa.

Posted by: Chris Poh

 

Disharmony on the Hudson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for some further insights from the Garden State.

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

Posted by Chris Poh

Blue Tag

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

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

City Tavern - Philadelphia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

Still Holding the High Ground

Cannons at Gettysburg

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

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

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

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

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

America still holds the high ground.  

Have a joyous 4th of July!!!

Blue Tag

Posted by: Chris Poh

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