Catholic Comfort & Irish Illumination

I’ve reached that late moment in life where I dread the prospect of burying my friends, but at the same time, I’m not terribly keen on the idea of them burying me.                                                                                             author unknown 

pals_at_cryans                                                                                                                     So what do three old friends with longstanding Irish Catholic inclinations that haven’t seen each other for a very long time talk about when they finally do manage to coordinate a rendezvous? The answer, of course, is death–or the ever looming prospect  of personally acquiring the condition. And such was the case a few weeks back when Susan O’Brien, Howard Casey, and I gathered together for an afternoon repast at Cryan’s Tavern in Annandale, New Jersey.

Our conversation began with a recap of those friends and acquaintances in common that were either at death’s door or had already crossed that threshold since last we met. After the appropriate number of toasts to those that had gone before us, we entered into a cheery discussion about our individual preferences concerning the benefits of cremation as opposed to accepting that final embrace from Mother Earth. And when those whimsical ramblings had finally delivered us to that perfect state of melancholia, we opted to augment our need for drink by moving the discourse from that of the inevitable crawl to the grave to the current race for the White House .

Soon the only thing darker than the mood in our hearts would be the Guinness in our glasses. And while we shared an equally pessimistic view about the present state of American politics, those instilled parochial school virtues of faith, hope, and charity combined with that indomitable Irish sense of humor would carry us through that particular day.Whether or not those same attributes will sustain us through the trials and challenges that America will face after this election remains to be seen. But as long as my own life is blessed with tavern mates the likes of Miss O’Brien and Mr. Casey, I will gladly choose to carry on no matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The following piece of music by our mutual friend Billy Mulligan, who for the better part of his life has lent his voice to social and political justice, reflects those moments when one might be tempted to seek a bit of divine intervention on the issue of personal mortality.

The entirety of this fine release, Beyond the Paleis available for purchase at CD Baby.

Posted by: Chris Poh for  American Public House Review

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America Revisited

Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends
“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, thought I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why”
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America                                                                                                                                    from “America” by Paul Simon

With a full two years of teenage existence already in my back pocket, Christmas of 1968 would mark some degree of  recognition on my parents part as to the direction my restless awakenings were taking me. On that particular December 25th, while they weren’t quite ready to give into my sense of fashion, they would at least accede to my musical tastes. Bob Dylan’s  Highway 61 Revisited and the Bookends album from Simon and Garfunkel would provide the early high-fidelity soundtrack of my adolescence. And in the summer of 1972, with only a few dollars in my wallet, some Paul Simon inspired optimism in my heart, and a touch of Bob Dylan’s cynicism in my head–I would take to the road in search of my own version of the “American Dream.”

The lessons of those wanderings would not be fully understood until much later in life. But after a few years, it did become clear that I would need much more than acquired wisdom, the generosity of strangers, the benevolence of friends, and part-time employment in order to achieve my share of our national ethos. So I decided to further my education at a New Jersey state college. And it was there as part of an assignment for a film class that I, like those adept marketeers at the Bernie Sander’s campaign, decided to use the song “America” as the basis for a visual statement about the country.

McGovern's logoArmed with only an 8mm Bell and Howell movie camera, I would head onto those mean streets of Newark, New Jersey. Well actually, where I was the streets weren’t all that mean. My goal was to try and capture the faces of American diversity in the Portuguese section of the city. Here there was a thriving scene of ethnic restaurants that were reviving and bringing economic stability to a neighborhood that formally was suffering the ravages of crime and poverty. And luckily for me, there were a couple of decent bars in that part of town that would provide a break from the early March chill in between takes. One of those urban watering holes was the legendary McGovern’s, and the other was a comfortable corner tavern whose name escapes me after these many years. But it was that place that had the greater impact on me during my brief stint as an extremely amateur film maker.

During the two days of shooting, I made friends with an older woman (whose name I also cannot recall) that tended bar on most afternoons. In between eight-ounce Schaefers, shots of Rye whiskey, and decorating the place for St. Patrick’s Day we spoke about those things that were at the forefront of each of our lives. My challenges and issues were by no means as pressing as this human being who was then struggling to survive cancer.  In the matter of a few short hours we had become very close. And I remember saving her the inconvenience of waiting for a bus by giving her a ride to a bowling alley where she would join her mom for league night. I was invited in for a quick beer, and to meet her mother and the other gals that comprised their team. And like a politician in a New Hampshire diner, I would shake a few hands,  share a couple of fond embraces, and then part their company forever.

Looking back at those times, I remember the challenges and fears that tested our national fortitude: runaway inflation, recession, an ongoing energy crisis, Three Mile Island, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, and of course the individual sufferings and misfortunes that are visited upon all of us. But the courage and compassion of those that I met along life’s earlier journeys have hopefully served to bring about a greater kindness and empathy toward all as I negotiate, with now shorter strides, the paths that lie before me.

For the record, my pairing of Paul Simon’s genius to Super 8 imagery was judged to be worthy of nothing more than a B-. Whereas, Mr. Sander’s short musical take on the matter has been heralded by some as being one of the best political ads in history.

Hopefully, whichever candidate completes that journey to Pennsylvania Avenue they will bring to that coveted address those heroic and exceptional qualities characteristic of those better Americans that they have met along the way!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

 

 

The First of the Day

Noel at the Brazen Head

With only a few more hours remaining before the raising up of that first pint in celebration of  another St. Patrick’s Day, I find myself soothing my own melancholic disposition with the usual measure of Irish music. And even though  it’s been some forty plus years since I first heard Tommy Makem  put his voice to “Four Green Fields,” I’m still in awe of a people that can extract mirth from misery, and create sweet song from the suffering and sorrow that has all too often been the consequence of Irish history. So in keeping with the spirit of the day and Erin’s fine musical tradition, we present a couple of our favorites from the archives of Parting Glass Media.

  • (a reprise of Rebels at the Rock)  – Why this particular video hasn’t gone viral is beyond my grasp of what the viewing public finds entertaining. But here in its entirety is a well-lubricated group of lads attempting to pay homage to that hero of Irish independence, James Connolly.

Irene Molloy And a perfectly sublime rendition of the “Fields of Athenry” from Irene Molly.

Wishing all of our friends a very joyful Saint Patrick’s Day from the staff and contributors of American Public House Review and Parting Glass Media!

Glasses Raised…Spirits Lifted…Journeys Shared!

Rebels United Against the Shutdown

“Our demands most moderate are – We only want the earth!”
James Connolly
 
Depending on one’s position or perspective, presented herein is either the best or worst rendition of the song “James Connolly” ever attempted by anyone. But these affable lads stand united against any shutdown–no matter how many times the bartender makes last call!
 
  
 

Captured live (and later released back to their natural habitat) at the Indian Rock Inn in Upper Black Eddy, PA.

Cheers from American Public House Review and  Parting Glass Media

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from American Public House Review & Parting Glass Media

Yesterday's - Warwick, NY

Click on the images to relive some of our favorite Irish Pub memories!

McGillan's Philadelphia, PA Bull Feeney's - Portland, Maine

The Late Billy Briggs

BrazenHead - Dublin

Molly's Shebeen - New York City

St. Patrick's Pub - Quebec, Canada

Ah the Irish Eyes are always Smilin!McMenemy's Pub - Portsmouth, NH

Parting Glass Media Logo

An Irish Blessing

A Toast from the Brazen Head in Dublin

For a brief time be not of this place,                        but let your spirit take flight across the gray sea and verdant ground.                                               To the land of Carolan and Joyce.                          A domain where words, voice and song become one in celebration of God’s grand design! 

 

 

No matter how hard she tried, Hurricane Irene can’t take this great pub away from us!!

Hurricane Irene has left her mark on my home state of New Jersey, and especially on one of my favorite pubs, the Kilkenny House in Cranford, New Jersey.

St. Pattys Day crowd at the Kilkenny House in Cranford, NJ

When I am not moonlighting as a writer for APHR, I am a professional musician.  And I have been playing this place for the past couple of years.  To say it is one of my favorite places to work would be an understatement.  Great drink, great food, the Kilkenny truly has it all.  But most importantly, the people who work there, and the regulars who drink there, have always made me feel right at home.

Earlier in the week, I was told by some friends in the area that the Kilkenny House was devastated by the flooding from Irene.  I did some poking around the internet and found this sobering report on CNN.com.

photo by nj.com

I have total confidence that the Kilkenny’s owner Barry O’Donovan will rebuild this fantastic pub back to her former glory.  And as they posted on their Facebook page earlier in the week “Oh, but what a great Irish hoolie we will have when that day comes!”

I am not sure what we pub fanatics can do to help, but one thing I can promise is that when the day comes for that hoolie to happen, you will find me that morning waiting at the door so I can get a seat at the bar nice and early.  Good Luck and Best Wishes to everyone at the Kilkenny!!

by Dave McBride

Remembering the Civil War

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of our Civil War, the seminal event in American History.  Though it seems this important historical date has gone largely forgotten by the media, we here at Pub Talk would like to do our part in commemorating this event.

Gettysburg's Eternal Light Peace Memorial

This week, we will look back at some of the best Civil War influenced pubs and music featured on the American Public House Review.  We begin today with a pub in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which happens to also be my personal favorite watering hole found in town, O’Rorkes Eatery and Spirits.

O'Rorke's Eatery and Spirts in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

O’Rorke’s may not be the centuries old, bullet-ridden place one may expect to find in a town like Gettysburg.  But don’t let that deter you one but.  Sit at the bar here, and you will find yourself immersed in the spirit of this haunting town.  Before long, you too will notice that you keep passing the other taverns by for a seat at the bar in O’Rorkes.

By Dave McBride

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