Aim Higher

“Aim higher. You don’t need to talk. They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country.”

Part of a statement from Senator Lindsey Graham during a recent interview on Fox & Friends.

“He said, ‘Aim higher. Shoot higher.’ What am I going to do? Wait until we get somebody else in a higher position? A higher office? These are people that hate our country.”

A portion of President Trump’s response to Senator Graham’s call to tone down the rhetoric.

While I could go on ad nauseam about my extreme disappointment with the senator from South Carolina who once fashioned his political behavior after that of the late John McCain, even I don’t believe that presidential apologist and lackey Lindsey Graham was suggesting that the President set his sights on someone in an elected office higher than the four freshmen female members of Congress who were the most recent recipients of Mr. Trump’s bigotry and bogus patriotism.

Perhaps I’m being a bit old-fashioned, but during my lifetime when our presidents talked about improving our aim, it meant walking that high road, taking that next hill, or even reaching the Moon! As we take the time this weekend to celebrate the achievements of all those who brought about the success of the Apollo 11 mission, and to remember the martyred President that united all Americans behind a common goal of placing human beings on the lunar surface, I find the present state of our national discourse disgusting and disheartening.

A well placed wood carving behind the bar of McSorley’s Old Ale House in lower Manhattan bears the following warning for those patrons who might be lacking in proper tavern etiquette “Be good or be gone.” We are privileged to live in a country where a bartender has the right to tell unruly customers to go back from whence they came, but a president, or for that matter any elected official, is bound by their oath of office to accept, tolerate, and even embrace anyone who exercises their rights to legally express their dissatisfaction with the conditions of this 243 year old establishment called America. It would appear that the longevity and prosperity of both taverns and countries depends upon their ability to better serve the needs of an ever changing neighborhood.

Even McSorley’s, a place that had served the enlightened likes of Abraham Lincoln and Woody Guthrie during its long storied history, finally relented on its own bit of provincial prejudice by opening its doors to women clientele in 1970. Today every freshmen member of Congress would gladly be welcomed!

As for the President’s lack of welcome to the ladies of the House, many of his critics have used his latest Twitter feed channeling of McCarthyism as ironclad proof of his blatant racism. While I am not yet fully prepared to commit to that particular point of view, I am of the opinion that what he has done might even be worse than racism. Any politician that seeks to maintain their power and position by pandering to those who are the victims of their own fears and insecurities is guilty of committing an even more reprehensible act!

There is always the hope that through experience and a greater understanding of those differences that divide us, even the most hardened heart will conclude that we are all equal in this life and the next. But demagogues almost always take their ways to the grave.

Thankfully though, our Constitution provides that the person in the voting booth enjoys the same power as that person behind the bar. It’s simply a matter of …

Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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A Post St. Patrick’s Day Confession

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While it is probably more a function of the passing years, this particular St. Patrick’s Day was a rather tame, yet extremely pleasant, undertaking. Four pints and one wee dram of Tullamore Dew was accompanied by a bowl of Irish Stew at McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub in Bethlehem, PA. But there were those other years when my behavior was fraught with a lack of good judgement.

I was reminded recently of one such endeavor by an old friend who had agreed to escort, and would eventually wind up maintaining the upright position of me and another staff member of American Public House Review as we attempted to traverse the island of Manhattan during one of our March 17th adventures nearly twenty years ago. As I recall, that exceedingly warm afternoon’s long stretch of the legs began at Peter McManus Cafe in Chelsea and ended at Molly’s Shebeen on New York’s West Side. As to the finer details of the return trip, one would have to direct such inquires to the steadfast and sturdy host of The Barfly Confessional.

As part of a long overdue thanks and perhaps a bit of penance, we are pleased to announce a new partnership between our magazine and this superb podcast. And as the latest episode of The Barfly Confessional explores the life and challenges facing a priest in today’s Roman Catholic Church, hopefully, our partnering will be the source of many mutual blessings–or at the very least a few well deserved indulgences!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

The hard truth is that David rarely ever beats Goliath

After weeks of hype, I was ready for the match.  My beloved Tottenham Hotspur were to take on Real Madrid, the storied “Galacticos” and perhaps the world’s grandest sports club, in the UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals.  It was the biggest match the club has seen in a generation.  We were in Manhattan early to do some research for the American Public House Review and then end our day watching the game somewhere downtown.  I had my Spurs shirt on and was prepared for anything, but one can never truly be prepared for disaster, and a 4-0 loss is nothing short of a soccer cataclysm.

Molly's Shebeen in Manhattan

After finishing our research, my plan was to head uptown a few blocks and watch the match at Nevada Smith’s, Manhattan’s most famous football pub.  Americans and ex-patriots from all over the world pack into this pub on game-day in what can usually be described as a festive atmosphere. But after seeing roughly ten minutes of play I knew the team was in for a failure of epic proportions.  So rather than stay at Nevada Smith’s and listen to the gleeful cheers of the Real Madrid faithful we decided to make the best of a bad situation and head up to my absolute favorite pub in all of Manhattan, Molly’s Shebeen.

Tottenham players after being embarrassed by Real Madrid

At Molly’s we had the pleasure of sitting alongside a couple of British ex-patriots and longtime lovers of the beautiful game.  And though they were not Tottenham Hotspur supporters they took no pleasure in watching me suffer.  Like most fans of football, they too have seen their respective clubs suffer at the hands of the world’s sporting giants, and even occasionally at the hands of a minnow or two.  Neither supported one of England’s big clubs, so we listened attentively and laughed often as they waxed poetic of the glory days on the great rain-soaked pitch of their childhood.

Brendan Behan adorns Molly's Shebeen

If I were at home I probably would have been fit to be tied, but thanks to Molly’s, and the company of her staff and regulars, the days was a great one.  I suppose the moral of the story is this is what makes a great pub.  Atmosphere and conversation are just as important, if not more so, than food and drink.  And even in your darkest sporting hours, the company of a few friends at a pub can always pull you through.  Cheers gentlemen, and may Leicester City once again return to the Cup Final.  Only this time, I know they will finally lift the trophy!

By Dave McBride


Many Thanks Mr. Steinbrenner

I have not followed the game for a very long time. But there were those magic summers with seats in the upper deck, an occasional lucky perch down the third base line, or just some cigarette fogged bar in the south Bronx watching the spectacle unfold on the big heavy box with the disproportionately small screen–in a world where beer only came in one color. And for those rare days when I was out of touch with the drama and theatrics, there was always that inevitable question…How did the Yankees do today? 

Wars, economic downturns, natural disasters, political strife and even affairs of the heart could be put on hold…The answer to my question would determine the quality of life.

I remember those boys of my summers past—Martin, Munson, Chambliss, Randolph, Dent, Nettles, White, Rivers, Jackson, Piniella, Guidry, Gullet, Figueroa, Tidrow, Sparky and Catfish.

And I remember the man who made those cherished memories all possible…Many thanks Mr. Steinbrenner!

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

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is considered a holy day.  The celebration marking the death of their country’s patron saint, the man credited with bringing Catholicism to Ireland, is a family and church day.  But here in America, where the world’s first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was held in 1762 by Irish soldiers serving in the English army, it is one big party.

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In the United States, the Irish pub has come to be ground zero for St. Patty’s Day celebrations.  Those marching in the many grand parades like the one in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, or just attending them, often start and end their day at the pub.  For those of Irish heritage, and those who wish they were, the Irish pub remains a special place all year long.  But on the 17th of March, people are willing to wait in long lines for hours just to belly up to one of these great bars.

And we here at the American Public House Review are no exception.  We seem to find ourselves spending time in many of America’s great Irish taverns.  So if you are sitting home today, or at the office, and you are curious about the influence Erin’s Isle has had on our country, you needn’t look any further than the archives of APHR for some great examples.

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Of course few are more famous the Manhattan’s McSorley’s Ale House on the lower eastside, or P.J. Clarke’s found uptown.  Molly’s Shebeen, also downtown, ranks right there with those two in the annals of great turn of the century Irish taverns.  They are testaments to the lasting power of a great Irish pub. 

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But a great tavern doesn’t need to be old to be great.  The Dubliner in Washington D.C. and the Dublin Pub in Morristown both opened in the early 1970’s, but feel as though they were transported here from Ireland’s largest city centuries ago.  For great music, try Mitchell’s Café along the Delaware River in New Jersey.  Or maybe you will be lucky enough to hear Gerry Timlin play at the Shanacie Pub in Ambler, Pa, where he is at once the entertainer, resident storyteller, and owner.

Needless to say, I love a good Irish pub.  I can literally say I was raised in them.  They are what brought me to my love of great taverns.  Yes, today may be the toughest day to get into one, and rightly so, but it is worth it.  I’ll be leaving for mine in just a couple of hours.

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So from all of us here at the American Public House Review, to our readers of Irish and wishful-Irish heritage, we raise a glass and say “Thirst is a shameless disease, so here’s to a shameful cure”, and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

Posted by: David McBride

The ongoing thirst for the perfect public house leads to Manhattan’s PJ Clarke’s

In this week’s article on the American Public House Review, Chris Poh takes us to a true Manhattan institution.  It is a place with a somewhat murky history and an incredibly inviting atmosphere called PJ Clarke’s.

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Take a stroll around the place.  See Frank Sinatra’s regular table, and the photos of all the luminaries who have graced these very same barstools you are about to occupy.  You may be impressed with all the famous people, but you will be even more impressed with the overwhelming sense of history and belonging this little brick tavern possesses amidst the shadows of the steel giants surrounding PJ Clarke’s in midtown Manhattan.

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In my posting about Molly’s Shebeen, I mention that certain indescribable feeling that old Manhattan bars have.  It is an atmospheric element that is unique to taverns on this island and PJ Clarke’s defines it.  It is Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen at the same time.  It is all together colonial and roaring twenties.  It is warm and inviting, while also feeling like the scene of a Vito Corleone style hit.  If none of that makes sense, please remember that I started the paragraph by calling it indescribable.

by Dave McBride

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In praise of Manhattan’s Molly’s Shebeen

There is a certain something about Manhattan’s historic pubs that makes them so great.  There is an energy, or some kind of mysterious feel, that seems to come through the perfectly worn wood of the bar or from off the scuffed brass of the toe rail.  You can’t find it anywhere else in the world of taverns, and only the really good Manhattan bars possess it.

One of those truly great and historic pubs can be found on the lower eastside of the Island.  It is an Irish tavern called Molly’s Shebeen.  You can check out the story on the American Public House Review by clicking here.

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As you will read, this is one of my very favorite places in Manhattan.  It holds a special and nostalgic place in my memory as one of the taverns that initially sent me on the road towards an addiction to great pubs.  You won’t find a better Irish pub than Molly’s Shebeen anywhere this side of the Atlantic.

by Dave McBride

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Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 1:02 pm  Comments (1)  
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One For My Baby…

Bull Shot - P. J. Clarke's

Bull Shot – P. J. Clarke’s

There are just too many days as of  late when I find myself feeling a level of post meridiem melancholy that would normally be  reserved for those wee small hours after midnight. But this extended period of  pensiveness does justify my singing the first few lines of that Mercer/Arlen classic at least twice a day now.

One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)

It’s quarter to three,
There’s no one in the place except you and me
So set ’em up Joe
I got a little story I think you ought to know

We’re drinking my friend
to the end of a brief episode
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road…

The talk around Tin Pan Alley was that Johnny Mercer worked out the lyrics to Harold Arlen’s unconventional 48 bar,  key changing melody while sitting at the bar at New York’s P. J. Clarke’s. Another famous patron would  fan the flame of this American torch standard with a version that would ultimately define tears in your beer and late night laments. And this is only fitting, since Frank Sinatra, who is more often associated with Sardi’s and Jilly’s when it comes to prominent city saloons, would always raise his last glass of the evening at P. J. Clarke’s when  socializing in Manhattan.

In the current issue of American Public House Review there is an effective recipe for a Bull Shot which this editor first discovered while sitting at the aforementioned landmark tavern on a similarly cold gray afternoon  many years ago. It occurs to me that there is just enough vodka left to make two.

So I think I’ll throw on a little Sinatra, and have one for my baby… and one more for the road. (Click the last two links to hear Francis Albert Sinatra do it as only he can)

Posted by: Chris Poh

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Remembering a hero

Today, December 8, is one of those few days on the calendar where just hearing the date brings back sad reflections. It was on this day twenty eight years ago when John Lennon was shot and killed in New York City. His death shocked and saddened the entire city and people around the world.

Manhattan was like an adopted home to Lennon, a place where he, like so many artists, thrived. Step inside one of his favorite hangouts, the Ear Inn on Spring Street in SoHo, and you’ll see yet another example of why he found this great city so inspirational.

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Lennon is one of my heroes. As a musician and a writer, I have always marveled at the intense passion that flowed from his creations. So on this sad day, lift a glass with me to this incredible songwriter and artist. Love is all we need!

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by Dave McBride

Published in: on December 8, 2008 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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