But the Jukebox Never Lies

 

Jukebox at J.J. Bitting Brewing Co.

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.”  Otto von Bismarck

“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”   Jimi Hendrix

Of all those Divine edicts that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, the one that commands us to refrain from playing fast and loose with the facts continues to be the one that nearly all of mankind finds to be insurmountable. Perhaps it is because that a certain degree of deceit and double-dealing  is encoded into the very DNA of all life forms. Most strategies for survival are in fact  dependent upon a bit of  trickery and exaggeration.  As to our species, in order to get the girl, get the job, get the vote, or just to get along with one another we’ve all dabbled in some amount of duplicitous behavior. And since we’ve chosen the path of representational government, we must accept the fact that those charged with that task will also mirror our behaviors–the good and the bad–the truth and the lies!

Furthermore, a vast number of those that are considered to be the winners throughout human history have come to their successes by way of a good bluff or an effective poker face. From Waterloo to Watergate, and from Baghdad to Benghazi the potholes in those roads have been filled with a noxious mix of hyperbole and hypocrisy. So are truth and honesty dead having fallen prey to the misguided and disreputable purveyors of reality television and the fabricated offerings of cyberspace?

 As a nation we have faced similar threats to our collective integrity in the past. And those challenges were countered by those among  us who had the courage to strive for that greater truth. A truth that can be found in the brushstroke of the artist, the pen of the author, the lens of the camera, and the voice of the singer!

As someone who has spent more than my fair share of days engaged in bar stool politics, I have normally found that the greater truth is contained somewhere within the jukebox. While others were soothing their sorrows with songs of unrequited love, I was spending my spare change on the likes of Bob Dylan and Barry McGuire. So as we deal with the drama and dysfunction of The Donald and this current dilemma facing our democracy, I would like to drop just one more quarter into the old Seeburg to play one of those voices that still speaks truth to power.

Click on the image of the vintage 1948 Seeburg “Trashcan” model jukebox at the top of this post to hear some additional inspired points of view.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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Mind Your Mouth at McGillin’s

While I am not in the habit of sharing images of myself, and the adjacent photo of this Rogues Galleryauthor circa 1984 might certainly explain why, it is regrettably the only visual record of my time as a tavern owner in Hoboken, New Jersey. That particular chapter in my life would be the first time I would be directly responsible for seeing over the employment of others. And when it came to vetting potential bartenders, I always made it a point to include the following question during an interview. Who do think is most likely responsible for starting the majority of physical altercations in a bar?

Most of the responses to my query would place the blame squarely on the shoulders of those aggressive and angry souls that had lubricated their penchant for hostile action with too much drink. And while I agree that alcohol can easily be cast into that role of the metaphorical accelerant, it is seldom the cause of the fire–and the initial spark often  comes from a source not easily recognized. It has been my experience that many times the person in charge behind the bar, either by design or ignorance, puts the match to that slow fuse. A situation that could have been calmed with a kind word or bit more tact, instead is left to smolder until that which was merely a minor indiscretion erupts into something that leaves someone broken and bleeding on the floor.

It is incumbent upon all of us to understand that our words and our tone will very often be the catalyst of our future confrontations.

After enduring the red-faced rhetoric of last week’s Republican Convention, one might come to the conclusion that our ability to come to terms with those issues that divide Americans can only be addressed in what amounts to some sort of national barbarroom brawl. Dignity and decorum be damned. But while integrity and statesmanship may have been lacking at the podium of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, those fine customers across the way at Flannery’s Irish Pub, that just happened to be the setting for MSNBC’s Morning Joe convention coverage, helped to restore some of my teetering faith in our ability to overcome our differences in a peaceful manner.

McGillin's

With the Democrats now at bat in Philadelphia, the pundits at Morning Joe have set up shop at one our very favorite Philly taverns–McGillin’s Olde Ale House. William “Pa” McGillin first opened his doors to the public in 1860 during our last war of civil discord. The business began operations as the Bell-in-Hand, and it continued on as such until William McGillin’s death in 1901. The lead role for the second act of this much celebrated saloon on Drury Street would be passed on to Catherine “Ma”McGillin. This beloved, no-nonsense lady ran a proper public house that welcomed anyone just as long they were well-behaved and respectful of their fellow patrons.

When Catherine McGillin left to stand her round at Heaven’s long bar in 1937, thousands turned out to say goodbye as her funeral procession made its way along Broad Street. It was a testament to the ability of a women to meet and, quite possibly, surpass the accomplishments of her male predecessor–an interesting proposition as the Democrats make their case to a somewhat skeptical electorate.

But whatever the American voters ultimately decide, McGillin’s will continue on as that revered institution that provides the perfect gathering place for those among us that choose to cast-off the cynicism and strive to restore reason and civility to our political discourse!

McGillin's OwnersToday McGillin’s is owned and operated by  Christopher Mullins, his wife, Mary Ellen Spaniak Mullins, and their son, Chris Junior. Click on the family image to enjoy a podcast that includes an in-depth history, a tale of haunting, and a bit of humor from former patron W.C. Fields.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Why…

Vigil for Pulse from Perth

As a nation, whenever we are forced to endure the painful aftermath  brought on by those who use murder as a means of expressing their extreme distaste for society, there seems to be that innate need to make some sense of the senseless– or to apply reason to the unreasonable. The irrational ruthless actions of one man sitting alone at the Pulse in Orlando, Florida, will once again stir our collective conscience to ask ourselves why. Why did this happen? Why do they hate? Why do they kill?

For much of the immediate future, there will be those countless supposed expert voices espousing answers and solutions. And unfortunately, there is nothing like a national tragedy during an election year to fuel the self-righteous indignation of that portion of the political class that tend to speak only to our fears. Those same human beings will attempt to convince us of some greater truth concerning the motivations, affiliations, and ideologies of those that engage in  violent behaviors. But in the end, there will only be a whole lot of speculation carefully woven between the sorrow and the tears.

During my own lifetime, I’ve witnessed far too many of these unconscionable  deeds, and when all was said and done, the theories and explanations always fell far short of our need to know why such reprehensible attacks occurred.

Right up until that moment when Jack Ruby fired the shot that would end the life of  John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald seemed to be redefining his role and responsibility in the death of the President. And after years of inquiries and investigations, we are no closer to knowing the workings of the mind of a man whose loyalties and attachments were mercurial and contradictory to say the least. I suspect that ultimately our understanding of Omar Mateen will be no different. He will be just another name in that long litany of those that have unjustifiably bloodied our history and broken our hearts.

So we are left with only a handful of truths concerning this crime and its political ramifications:

  • Most mass killings in the United States have been carried out using legally purchased weapons. So we can probably save some lives with commonsense regulations that do not impinge upon the intent of the Second Amendment.
  • Some individuals should not have access to either airliners or assault rifles.
  • And certain politicians should definitely not have access to either Air Force One or America’s arsenal.
  • But most importantly, we need not ask why–but instead why not?

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?     Robert Kennedy

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

Pay No Attention to the Curtain Behind the Man

trump_christie

“Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America,”  Governor Chris Christie commenting about Donald Trump at a January campaign stop in New Hampshire

Perhaps it was merely a matter of window dressing on Donald Trump’s own behalf that motivated him to include Governor Christie as part of the political backdrop at the makeshift press room at Mar-a-Lago after Tuesday night’s election returns. The Donald could tout a bit of inside the Republican establishment support while basking in the glow of those very favorable primary results courtesy of the faithful that bank on Trump’s brand of outside the Beltway salvation. But the bigger question remains–just what are Mr. Christie’s motivations for taking the stage at the potential winter White House in Palm Beach?

One might wonder could there possibly be enough room on the same playground for these two blustering, bellicose bullies. And the look in the Governor’s eyes the other night indicated either similar misgivings, or just maybe he was feeling an attack of Catholic conscience coming on. For any of us that have had a past with the Church of Rome, there is always that recollection of some priest or nun that reminded us to be weary of the sin of guilt by association.

There are those pundits and commentators that are suggesting that Governor Christie is simply continuing to set his sights on Washington. Speculation abounds about the possible appointment to attorney general under a Trump presidency. And yes, I could easily imagine Chris and Donald sipping pina coladas at the estate in Palm Beach as they review who on the president’s enemies list should be subject to federal prosecution.

As for myself, I believe Governor Christie was in Florida on the evening of Super Tuesday because he simply can’t stand the idea of having to spend any more time in the Garden State than is absolutely necessary. His travels over the past several years have made that fact abundantly clear. And for the better part of the rest of March, he will most likely not be seen anywhere near the vicinity of the New Jersey Statehouse. And I find that all to be very troubling. Because while there may be many important dates in the month of March that will require the governor to function as the commander-in-chief toady to the Trump campaign–there is no more important date than that of the 17th.

And any self-respecting, bona fide Trenton politician will be spending St. Patrick’s Day at the Tir na nog Irish Pub!  

St. Patty's Day at Tir-na-nog Irish Pub in Trenton, New Jersey

 Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll Poke Out Your Ayatollah with That Thing

Jupiter Ballistic Missile

It’s one thing when your dear old granny attempts to keep you from playing with weapons of mass destruction, but when that warning comes from a source that may not be any more responsible with the use of their toys than you are, well that can be a difficult pill to swallow–hence the challenges posed when one country endeavors to tell another country what is the acceptable methodology and hardware for poking out your neighbor’s eye. That is why the history of arms control is rife with hypocrisy, irony and downright silliness. But even if most of our efforts at promoting greater global stability and cooperation prove futile, the outcome and costs of a failed peace are in many instances preferable to that of a successful war.

As to the potential agreement that was struck with Iran, I find little reason not to give it an honest try, nor do I find the reasoning of those critics of that deal to be worthy of much consideration.

There are those who are already comparing the President and this pact to Neville Chamberlain’s capitulations to Hitler at Munich in 1938. There seems to be this underlying belief that we are negotiating with Iran from a point of weakness.That point of view is patently absurd. This is not pre-World War II Great Britain. We are by no means an unprepared, outgunned nation trying to buy some time. America has the capability, capacity and the will to wage war at a moments notice if we believe in the cause–and initially, we always believe in the cause.

Then there are those ever cheerful voices of doom and distrust, such as John Boehner and Benjamin Netanyahu, forewarning the world of the dire consequences to follow if we place even the slightest degree of reliance on the ability of the Iranians to adhere to the terms of any agreement. First off, Mr. Boehner’s personal displeasure with the President is always evident, and with so many of his fellow Republicans seeking to fill the comfy chair in the Oval Office his political posturing is quite predictable and perhaps even a touch more partisan than usual.

Now as to Mr. Netanyahu’s  pronouncements on the matter, many of his concerns are certainly not unfounded nor are they lacking some historical basis.The Iranian leadership has for too long propagated a constant stream of malice and contempt toward Israel and her western allies. But as to whether or not that same government is worthy of our trust concerning a nuclear arms accord, the State of Israel might not necessarily be in the position to be staking out the high ground in that regard.

To that point:

  • In 1949, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion began a clandestine program to develop an atomic bomb.
  • In 1957, as part of a quid pro quo deal with Israel, the French entered into a secret agreement to help build a reactor at Dimona that would eventually be capable of producing weapons grade fissionable materials. In exchange, France wanted the Israelis to attack Egypt so that both the British and French could enter into the conflict as joint peacekeepers with the real intent of gaining control of the Suez Canal. That phase of the deal ended when the threat of Soviet intervention in the region forced Great Britain and France to withdraw their forces.
  • In 1960, the Eisenhower administration requested information concerning the ongoing development at the Dimona site that was recorded by U-2 flyovers. Israel claimed that the construction was for a future textile factory, but they refused to allow for any onsite inspections by American authorities.
  • In 1964, the United States was thwarted in its attempt to keep Argentina from selling uranium concentrates (Yellowcake) to Israel.
  • In 1968, Israel backed away from signing or ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • Under its continued decades-old policy of “nuclear ambiguity” Israel will neither confirm or deny the existence of its nuclear stores. But it is estimated that the Israelis possess somewhere between 75 – 400 nuclear warheads that could be delivered by way of aircraft, missiles or submarines.

While I certainly understand why Israel, a small country surrounded by a host of hostile neighbors, might resort to surreptitiously stockpiling weapons of mass destruction in order to counterbalance that threat. I also recognize the fact that the Iranians may be reluctant to give up on their own military ambitions knowing full well that those same countries brokering this tenuous arrangement are fully aware of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.The real solution would be for all nations to disclose and disarm. But it is probably way too late to put that atomic genie back in the box. So we are once again left with only two real options: war or exercising those fragile understandings and promises that possibly spare us from war. I highly recommend the latter.

Because there are certainly better uses for Uranium than building bombs for countries–and most definitely better uses for Titanium than constructing artificial limbs for soldiers!  

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review 

The Burning Kind in Baltimore

THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT McHENRY  BY ALFRED JACOBS MILLER 1810-1874

THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT McHENRY
BY ALFRED JACOBS MILLER 1810-1874

“Baltimore: the Monumental City—May the days of her safety be as prosperous and happy, as the days of her dangers have been trying and triumphant.”   President John Quincy Adams 1827

I, like so many other Americans, was disheartened by those images of the recent civil unrest and violence in the city of Baltimore. The glow of fires against a night sky evoked memories of the riot plagued streets of our urban communities during the 1960s. Now as then, I questioned the logic and motives of those who participated in the wanton and reckless destruction of private property.

Today, my mindset on such matters is much more introspective, and no longer prone to the range of emotions that often accompany the thought processes of someone trying to make sense of human behavior through the eyes of an adolescent. At this point in my life, I’ve come to the simple conclusion that whenever groups of human beings are in disagreement there is the distinct possibility that amongst them are individuals that would prefer to make their point with a gun, a rock, or some incendiary device. And within the chaotic cover of the crowd, or the perceived protection accorded them by a position or institution, these individuals achieve the anonymity needed to commit their crimes of convenience.

This predisposition towards aggression and criminality is not by any means more prevalent in one group than another. It is not a matter of race, ethnicity, religious creed, or financial status–it is sadly just about the nature of a small percent of humankind. But that relatively small percent tends to establish a foothold in almost every situation. And throughout human history they are the ones that set the stage for the confrontations and conflagrations that too often become the defining story.

On the evening of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key, while under temporary confinement on a truce ship anchored in the Patapsco River, watched the relentless bombardment by British Naval forces on Baltimore’s defenses at Fort McHenry. Throughout that long night, Key had to wonder if the city would eventually suffer the same fate that he had witnessed in Washington weeks earlier. Many of the same British troops that had looted, vandalized, and put the torch to our nation’s capital, partly in retribution for similar American atrocities against English settlements in Canada, were now on the threshold of taking this prize on the Chesapeake. But on the morning of the 14th, Key’s spirits would be bolstered by the realization that the heroic defenders of Baltimore had saved the city.

Ultimately, those wishes for prosperity and happiness uttered by John Quincy Adams in 1827 would be visited upon the city. Baltimore would become one of the nation’s leading industrial centers, a major rail transportation hub, and the second largest seaport in the Mid-Atlantic states. But along the way those days of danger would be many, and they would not necessarily always give way to triumph.

In August of 1835, rioting mobs took to the streets of Baltimore in response to the deceptive business practices that led to the collapse of the Bank of Maryland. Bystanders cheered as the disgruntled throngs fueled their public bonfires with the personal possessions taken from the ransacked homes of the city’s wealthier citizens.

Baltimore Riot 1861

Baltimore Riot 1861

On April 19, 1861, just a few days after Southern artillery had accomplished a  casualty-free,  gentlemanly  surrender of
Fort Sumter, sympathizers to the “Confederate Cause” living in Baltimore attacked Northern militia units as they
marched through the city en route to a train bound for Washington D. C. The resulting melee and riot left 4 soldiers and 12 civilians dead. Some historians contend that this bloody encounter put both the Union and the Confederacy in a position where neither would be dissuaded from engaging in a full-scale war.

Baltimore Rail Strike Riot 1877

Baltimore Rail Strike Riot 1877

On July 20, 1877, Maryland Governor John Lee Carroll ordered the state’s  National Guard to quell the spreading unrest among the striking workers of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad who had blocked rail service at Cumberland. As troops left their armories in Baltimore and headed toward the Camden station they were physically harassed by citizens who supported the strike. The guardsmen responded by opening fire on the attacking mob. It would take the further intervention of federal troops and marines over the next two days to restore order. By then 10 people were dead, scores of soldiers and civilians were wounded, several pieces of rolling stock were destroyed, and portions of the rail yard and station were burned.

After the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4,1968, the city was subjected to that same wave of emotional outrage and bloodshed that was sweeping through the streets of so many of America’s poorer neighborhoods. Even today, sections of Baltimore remain blighted and scarred by that weeklong period of rioting.

While I am not quite ready  to pen a new national anthem over recent events in Charm City, for it appears now that both the police and Baltimore’s criminal element might be taking advantage of the situation,  I am cautiously optimistic about the overall local response to the initial mayhem that occurred as a result of the death of Freddie Gray. In our nation’s past, all too often those voices that could have brought about calm remained quiet as the bullies and belligerents on either side of the issues ruled the day.

If we are to have a constructive conversation concerning America’s ongoing racial and economic divide, we must first silence the discord of those that would have us burn down the house in order to make a case for better furniture.

Click on the image below to read about one of our favorite public houses that has proudly weathered the tumult and turmoil of Baltimore’s stormy past.

The Wharf Rat

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

We the Fearful People

S&W 357 Magnum

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

In the last few days, I’ve allowed myself to become a party to no less than three heated bar stool discussions concerning the current national debate over the Second Amendment, and the potential impact by way of regulatory legislation on our rather well-armed citizenry–I myself being among that gun-toting populace. As usual those on both sides of the argument are armed with their  statistics, perceived truths, and enough claims to the moral high ground that it might appear to the average detached  American that both sides are right. And to some degree both sides are in fact justified in wanting to cling to their much cherished positions on the matter. Because the national discourse of the moment reflects some of the same misgivings expressed by the Framers of The Bill of Rights in 1789.

As to the Second Amendment, there were those Founders who felt that the only way to insure the future freedom and security of the new nation against the possible tyranny of government, be it foreign or domestic, was to make sure that a citizen’s right to own and carry arms was  enshrined in the Constitution. But there were also those equally wise and well-educated men of the time that were fearful of the potential mayhem, mob rule, and anarchy posed by arming a civilian population. So like those much revered fellows of the eighteenth century, we find ourselves once again bringing our own exaggerated personal fears into play when trying to consider the proper and legal role of the gun in American life.

There are those who live in  fear of  that armed threat lurking in the shadows that wants to take away their lives. And there are those that live in fear of that threat lurking in the legislature that wants to take away their arms. But for better or for worse, we have as much of a right to our fears, no matter how unfounded, as we have to our personal perspectives concerning firearms and freedom of speech. So perhaps we would be better off  if both the gun advocates and the gun control people admitted that their passions are more likely fueled by fear than by actual facts. And at this particular juncture in our nation’s history we might consider a respectful dialogue in lieu of demonizing those with an opposing  point of view.

My own personal instincts on the issue tend to put me in league with those that believe that additional laws banning the use of certain types of weapons will do little to stop the type of carnage recently experienced in Newtown, Connecticut. On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman killed 14 people and wounded 32 others at the University of Texas in Austin using only a shotgun, an M1 carbine, and a couple of standard hunting rifles. On the other hand though, if some of the measures being suggested today, such as a waiting period to purchase and using mental health records as part of an overall background check, were in effect at the time of the Texas Tower shooting that tragic event may have been avoided. Charles Whitman purchased weapons at two separate locations on the day of that random killing spree. And months earlier, he had sought out both medical and psychiatric help in an attempt to deal with an ever-growing sense that he would soon lose control of the ability to keep in check his own violent urges and fantasies.

Lastly, the term well regulated was apparently key in the penning of the Second Amendment. And even though the case can be made that rules and regulations don’t necessarily change behavior, it is those decrees coupled to the force of law that says who we are as a society. We the people might want to consider foregoing a few of our own fears in the interest of domestic tranquility–and the possibility of actually achieving that more perfect union.

Posted by: Chris Poh

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