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

Indian Rock, Upper Black Eddy, PA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Safe and Cheers!

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

Bob Franke: Trouble in this World

James Maddock: My Old Neighborhood

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

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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

 

 

Getting Off that Bipolar Express

Locomotive 142 - Delaware River Railroad Excursions

Photo courtesy of The Delaware River Railroad Excursions

Every time I turn around it’s Christmas. Whatever happened to those seemingly interminable days when that long wait for the seasonal magic and that big payoff on the 25th of December was more than any child could possible bare? Now I wish that I had it within my power to slow down that express train of time. At best, a very brief detour onto a siding is the most we can hope for before the conductor yells roll on. But still there is a lot time and space between the flicker of a flame, the notes of a song, the words on a page, or the turning of a wheel. All we need do is to look and to listen–and that time will be ours to keep.

We invite everyone to look and to listen as we share some of our favorite musings and memories from Christmases past.

candle_and_tankard Let us set the mood for the festivities by providing you with the recipe for the proper libation. Of course, we’re talking about a Smoking Bishop. Click here to listen to  a detailed history about the makings of this delightful English concoction. The recording was part of a radio broadcast of The Bleecker Street Cafe heard Fridays at noon over the airwaves and internet of WDVR-FM.

And now that your settled in front of the fire with your steaming bowl of the Bishop. Please enjoy The Bleecker Street Players from one of their more memorable past performances of  A Christmas Carol, recorded live at WDVR-RM in December of 2013. Click on the links below to listen or download. As always, we extend our sincerest apologies to the decedents and devotees of Charles Dickenschristmas_carol_logo

And what would Christmas be without a bit music? I’m happy to report that I have finally found a new favorite collection of holiday tunes. Bing Crosby has been relegated to the backseat in favor of singer/songwriter Ellis Paul. His release City of Silver Dreams is just absolutely wonderful! Please enjoy this live performance of Christmas Lullaby from that release.

And before you climb back aboard that fast moving locomotive of life, please receive into your heart this benediction from my compadre  and co conspirator in this venture, Ed Petersen.

christmas_benediction

Glasses Raised..Spirits Lifted…Journeys Shared

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Why Shiver Me Timbers, It’s that Time Again

Wallace Beery & Jackie Cooper in Treasure Island

Seriously, do I really need to remind me hearties  that September 19th is International Talk like a Pirate Day? Now as to whether or not pirates actually ever talked like someone spiked their grog with ground glass is a matter I’ll leave to the linguists to decide. But ever since Wallace Beery’s legendary portrayal of Long John Silver in the 1934 classic Treasure Island, the supposed parlance of the privateer would find its way into the performance of every swashbuckler that ever raised a cutlass while under sail on a  Hollywood sound stage. And in 1952 piratical interjections would be taken to new heights by Robert Newton in the film Blackbeard, the Pirate. 

Robert newton in Blackbeard the Pirate

Click on the image of that bearded, wild-eyed, old captain of the Queen Anne’s Revenge for this year’s crash course in swagger and pirate speak.    

Now that you’ve become adept at the art of the Arrghs, let us review the recently revised pirate code of conduct:

  • Always put your best peg-leg forward.
  • Remember to press your pantaloons.
  • Compliment the fit and finish of your shipmate’s puffy shirt.
  • Never fly your Jolly Roger above the Stars and Stripes.
  • Buy your crew the next round of Grog.
  • Extend your hook to one in need.
  • Stand on the side of your shipmate’s good eye.
  • Share your booty with the less fortunate.
  • And always let your parrot have the last word!

But before you get all caught up in the “yo-hos” of the day, remember that a good number of our fellow shipmates have been facing some pretty rough seas as of late. Who would have thought that a couple of blowhards named Harvey and Irma could cause more hardship and devastation than all the scourges and scalawags that ever sailed the Seven Seas? So before you weigh anchor, why not pass on some of those spare doubloons to those who need your help and support? And remember that a savvy captain never sets sail without a good navigator.

Click on the image below to learn more about hurricane relief.

CN_Logo_Main250x83

Now that you’ve done your crew proud, it’s time to raise the roof and the rum!

Ye Have a Very Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

And while you’re at it, why not sing like a pirate while listening to these two old nautical favorites?

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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

Politics as Usual at the Mecklenburg Inn

Mecklenburg Inn Sign

After every election, no matter what the outcome, I have always held out the hope that those who come to power will quickly cast aside their  political and ideological differences in favor of crafting policy that works for the common good of the American people. There was a time when no matter how visceral or vitriolic  the campaign that leaders afterwards would turn their pitchforks into plough shares–and  put the needs of the country over the needs of the party.

This notion, however naive considering the present tone in Washington, comes from those  memories of true statesmen like Ronald Reagan and Thomas “Tip” O’Neill extending a warm and genuine hand across the aisle or across the room.

While I am tempted to engage in the usual postmortem after last week’s midterms, I will refPresident Ronald Reagan and Thomas "Tip" O'Neillrain from what is usually a fruitless and feckless exercise in trying to gage the will and mood of the American public. I remember those educated pundits of just two years ago that had declared that the Republican party was just a breath away from extinction. After elections of such historic proportions, there will always be those grand declarations about mandates and change; but seldom do those pronouncements correctly reflect the political reality.

There are those voices that claim that this election was about killing healthcare, rolling back economic reform, and bringing about a less intrusive government.  But the real numbers paint a very different picture. Americans are nearly evenly split on all these issues–so there in no clear mandate for either party. But what has been expressed by the majority of the  American people time and time again is the need to end the cancerous partisanship that is threatening the health of this nation. So while many politicians will make the case about some “greater national will of the people,” most politics remains local–and Americans will continue to reward those that serve the needs of their constituents with re-election.

Delegate John DoyleOne such honorable public servant is John Doyle of the West Virginia House of Delegates. We caught up with him at the Mecklenburg Inn a few months back. This venerable institution in Shepherdstown provides the perfect setting for mister Doyle to do what he does best–listening to the people, and when the spirit moves him–belting out a few Irish ballads.

What a better country this would be if more of our representatives  would raise their voice in sweet refrain instead of soured rancor.

 

 

Posted by: Chris Poh

What We Really Need is a Good Tune and a Good Drink

Jukebox at J.J. Bitting Brewing Co.

       The jukebox at the J.J. Bitting Brewing Company

As the Northeast prepares for yet another day of record-breaking heat, I realize that I don’t need to be adding to the abundance of hot air circulating over the continental United States. So rather than embarking on another round of some maudlin discourse or political pontificating, I thought it might be nice to provide some relief to the sultry weather with some tunes and a tonic.  

Some featured favorites from the our jukebox:

Runa Courted a Sailor

Garnet RogersBetter Days

David John and the Comstock CowboysShenandoah

Jackie TiceYou Love the Rain

 Jack TannehillBabe

 

Gerry TimlinWill You Go Lassie Go

  

Now as to that tonic, might I recommend a Singapore Sling mixed with Bluecoat American Dry Gin from our friends at Philadelphia Distilling.

Posted by: Chris Poh

Finding the New Spirit of the Molly Maguires in Jim Thorpe, PA

Standing on the heights above Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania one can not help but get a sense of the powerful mystique that pervades this historic American town. Every door and window beckons to those that care enough to hear the tale. Step through these portals and meet the ghosts of our past and the spirit of our future.

I began this year’s annual March pilgrimage  with a pint and a song at the quiet shebeen located off the back parlor of the Gilded Cupid Bed and Breakfast. My cup was filled with Guinness, and my ears were filled with a tune trumpeting the struggles and exploits of the Molly Maguires. In past years, I would have raised that first glass honoring those intrepid Irish colliers from a bar stool at the old Molly Maguire’s Pub; but unfortunately that celebrated saloon on Broadway, like so many of the region’s anthracite mines,  is no longer in operation. 

But Jim Thorpe is that resilient community that epitomizes the grit and fortitude of the nation. Today once more you can hear the coal cars of the Reading and Northern Railroad  rolling through the Lehigh Gorge from the outside deck of the  recently reincarnated Molly Maguires Pub. It was there that I ended this year’s journey – raising a final pint in tribute to both the Irish heart and the American spirit! 

All of us at American Public House Review wish everyone a very happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 Click here to enjoy some suitable Irish tunes for the celebration.

    Posted by: Chris Poh

Paying tribute to John Lennon

Each of us has certain dates on the calendar that we just can’t forget.  Whether it is a birthday or anniversary, sometimes just seeing the date pop up on our cell phone or calendar brings back to us a rush of memories.  Now I have never been one who could be described as good with dates, but today’s date is one that will always conjure up a feeling of sadness for me no matter how many years go by.  December 8th was the day John Lennon was killed.

Last year I had the opportunity to return to one of Manhattan’s great pubs, the Ear Inn on Spring Street.  Besides centuries of history, the Ear was also reported to be a regular haunt for my boyhood hero John Lennon.  Each time I go, it’s almost like a pilgrimage to find something about Lennon that perhaps I could relate more closely to.  Even though I am too young to recall Beatlemania, Lennon and the Beatles hold a special place in my memory.  They were my first “favorite band” and Lennon was one of the reasons I wanted to become a musician.  His murder was perhaps the first such event to awaken me to the world outside my suburban home.

Thanks to something called “Rockband”, which has been described to me by kids I coach in soccer as something of a video game involving famous musicians, the Beatles have moved back to their rightful place atop the collective consciousness of popular music.  Sure I may have to settle for watching a digitized cartoon version of the boys from Liverpool, but the music is the same.  And to have a 15 year old ask me what Beatles album I think they should get for Christmas warms my heart and gives me hope that their influence upon Rock and Roll will never fade.

by Dave McBride

The Celts invade Bethlehem, PA again

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is a city known throughout the country for what it used to be.  Once home to the beating heart of American industrialization, the giant Bethlehem Steel plant went quiet leaving the city in dire financial circumstances.  In fact, Billy Joel’s famous song “Allentown” was supposedly written about Bethlehem, but the name just didn’t fit the tune as well, I guess.

Bethlehem's Celtic Classic

Bethlehem's Celtic Classic

But the impression that some people have of Bethlehem as a big industrial ghost town is simply not the case.  Sure, it may not be one of country’s most important manufacturing areas anymore, but it is a terrific place full of cultural delights and rich in history.  Music is at the core of Bethlehem’s appeal, and once a year the Celts takeover for a festival that brings people from all over the Mid-Atlantic to rediscover this still great city.

Gaelic Storm raise the roof at the Celtic Classic

Gaelic Storm raise the roof at the Celtic Classic

Bethlehem’s Celtic Classic, known by locals as Celticfest, is a tradition well into its third decade of existence.  It brings together Celtic food, history, culture, and especially music, to create a weekend party that simply must be experienced.  If you are like me, and you are a lover of Celtic music, this free event showcases some of the absolute best nationally renowned acts in the genre. 

This year’s schedule was one of the most exciting in recent memory.  As usual there were dozens of great acts.  The headliners were Gaelic Storm, the band first made famous by their appearance in the film “Titanic”, but they have since gone on to produce some of the most enjoyable and fun releases in the Celtic music genre.  Also in attendance were the Canadian band The Town Pants, a personal favorite of mine, as well as two artists featured on the APHR Jukebox; Charlie Zahm and Gerry Timlin.  Besides a great Irish balladeer, Mr. Timlin also owns a terrific pub called the Shanacie which the American Public House Review featured earlier this year.

the Keogh brothers of the Town Pants

the Keogh brothers of the Town Pants

Like it is every year, the 2009 installment of Bethlehem’s Celtic Classic was terrific fun.  There were great vendors selling Celtic gifts and music, wonderful food and drink, and entertainment aplenty.  My thanks go out to all who make this amazing and free event happen every year.

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Posted by: David McBridegreen_2

 

 

Published in: on September 29, 2009 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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