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

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A Bar With A View

The photo you see below comes from Robinson’s Wharf on Southport Island in midcoast Maine.  Just a few days ago, Robinson’s opened a new bar in the downstairs restaurant area, and they made the genius decision to give their patrons sitting at the bar the best view I have ever seen at a pub.

The view from the bar at Robinson's Wharf in Southport, Maine

I don’t want to give too much away about Robinson’s here.  I had the pleasure of sitting at the new bar taking in this terrific scenery the day it opened and I can assure you we will be covering this place more extensively later this year on the American Public House Review.  But until then, enjoy the view!

By Dave McBride

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm  Comments Off on A Bar With A View  
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Setting the Stage for a Damn Good Brawl

Robot Painting by Eric Joyner

Robot Painting by Eric Joyner

Even before the 111th Congress was done packing their valises and war chests to head home for the Christmas break, the pundits and pols were already checking their fight cards and placing their wagers on the next match between the red and the blue. Like most Americans I’m tired of the incessant political donnybrooks at our expense; but still there is a certain measure of gratuitous satisfaction one gets from watching a good scuffle now and then.

It isn’t so much the landed blows that I take pleasure in, as it is the strategy and fancy footwork beforehand. A well staged brawl can truly be considered an impressive bit of handiwork. And before returning to Washington, both Democrats and Republicans might want to take a few cues from the masters of this art form.  

Bull Feeney's Irish Pub - Portland, MaineDuring a recent journey along the Maine Coast, American Public House Review staff editor David McBride visited Bull Feeney’s in Portland, Maine. This fine Irish Pub is named in honor of John Martin Feeney, the son of John Augustine Feeney,  a well-respected saloonkeeper that established several taverns throughout the city during the late 1800s. His son was nicknamed “Bull” because of his aggressive headfirst charges into the opposing line while playing fullback at Portland High School. This spirited rugged  nature would serve him well in later years while working on location in the harsh terrain of Utah’s Monument Valley.

In July of  1914, John Martin Feeney headed west to California to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Francis, who had established himself as both an actor and director in the early years of  Hollywood. And like his elder brother, John would change his last name from Feeney to Ford.

Director John Ford - 1946 This future iconic American director would eventually go on to redefine the craft of film making and cinematography. Few in the industry could match his skill for storytelling, or for being able to stage a good fight. Since Ford had a habit of socializing and professionally collaborating with the rough and tumble types, those classic onscreen contests to determine who was the better man came easy. Amongst the combatants was the pugnacious Victor McLaglen, who actually  at one time went six rounds against then  Heavyweight Champion of the World Jack Johnson.

So before we convene the next Congress, I suggest that all members of the House, Senate and  Executive Branch make a careful study of the bravado, bluster and style of  Top Sgt. Quincannon in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and that of one Squire ‘Red Will” Danaher in The Quiet Man.

Victor McLaglen as Squire "Red Will" DanaherVictor McLaglen as Top Sgt. Quincannon

So let’s shake hands and come out fighting. And remember gentlemen, The Marquess of Queensberry rules will be observed on all occasions.  

John Wayne and Victor McLaglen in The Quiet Man

Posted by: Chris Poh

A royal duck in Damariscotta

So, what do you do when you are on vacation and the weather just stinks?  Where do you go when you planned on spending the week relaxing on a boat, but instead the weather requires a Gorton’s Fisherman outfit in order to do so?  Well, you find a place inside where you can relax and have fun all the same.  During my recent Maine vacation, King Eider’s Pub in Damariscotta did the trick.

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This is a perfectly inviting place.  It captures a nautical feel befitting of the town, while also harkening back to colonial times.  Both the exterior and interior of King Eider’s has almost a historic atmosphere.  If you didn’t know any better, you would imagine this place being a stop for sailors in the 18th century.

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They also have one of the best logos you will find on any tavern…

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So check out the new article on the American Public House Review and feel free to share you thoughts below.  Cheers!

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Maine brewpub Gritty McDuff’s delights

This week, I reported on the American Public House Review from one of the best brewpubs I have ever been in, Gritty McDuff’s in Portland, Maine.  It sits in the historic Old Port section of this seaside city and is practically a landmark in itself.  It is also the perfect place in town to sip some terrific, fresh beer and really get a feel for what this part of New England is all about.

grittys-int5

While writing the article, I had the pleasure of interviewing author James L. Nelson who wrought the book George Washington’s Secret Navy.
It is a gripping account of Washington’s foray into the world of the fighting sail, and even tells the tale of how Portland itself played an instrumental role in galvanizing the thirteen colonies behind the concept and cause of independence.  Take a look at the article, An Historic Pint in the Old Port, to learn more.

Portland's Harbor

Portland's harbor

Last year while I was on vacation in Maine, I passed the time by reading one of Mr. Nelson’s other great books.  This one, called Benedict Arnold’s Navy, is also a must read for any history buff.  It tells the tale of how Benedict Arnold, and officer in the Continental Army, literally built a navy out of the trees of New York and used his makeshift flotilla and his command of landlubbers to drive the British back into Canada and bought the colonies a few more months so that the cause of independence could go on. 


Benedict Arnold's Navy by James L. Nelson

Benedict Arnolds Navy by James L. Nelson

 

In the book this complex man, who is now known to us as a traitor, comes to life.  But here, years before he famously turned coat, we get to see why he was so popular among Americans and why his treason was so painful for so many who were loyal to him.  Here is what Mr. Nelson has to say about Benedict Arnold’s Navy:

I have always been fascinated by the Battle of Valcour Island. There is nothing really like it in history, a battle in which both sides had to build their fleet right on the spot before they could fight, and do so in a virtual wilderness with none of the usual resources they could count on. Adding to the story is the fact that the hero, from the American perspective, is Benedict Arnold, the man who would go on to be one of the most despised in our history. Researching this book, it became even more incredible to me, and even more tragic, that Arnold did what he ultimately did. I can never be excused, but at least I, and I hope my readers, can come to better understanding of why the once national hero made such a terrible choice.

Benedict Arnold’s Navy is the first book-length treatment to look exclusively at the build-up to the battle, the fight on Lake Champlain, and the amazing fallout from that fight on a wilderness lake.

So when you’re done with George Washington’s Secret Navy, give Benedict Arnold’s Navy a try.  Even a non-history enthusiast will find these stories compelling.

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Posted by: David McBride

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