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

Good Housekeeping 101

The_Clean_Sweep

A house divided against itself cannot stand.”   Mark 3:25 – as referenced by Abraham Lincoln in his speech to the Illinois Republican State Convention June 16, 1858

To the honorable ladies and gentlemen of the 113th United States Congress,

Now that you are back home in your respective districts, and I assume fully engaged in this year’s midterm scuffle, I would like to share my thoughts on what I believe might serve as a better strategy to bring some dignity, decorum and decency back to “The People’s House” come this fall.

At the age of sixty, I am both the beneficiary, and the occasional casualty of the character of this country. The inherent opportunities and resilient nature of America has allowed me to receive a quality education, become a teacher, writer, hold elected office in the state of New Jersey, own a tavern in the shadows of where Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton, and to function as a voice in public broadcasting during the last twenty-three years. But at the same time, I like so many Americans face a fairly insecure future as a direct result of the ongoing dysfunction and distrust in Washington.

So rather than spending countless sums of donor’s money on trying to defend against the pitchfork politics of those who want to dismantle our governing institutions, those politicians who truly believe in the hopes and aspirations of the Founders should rededicate themselves to the simple idea of providing bipartisan working governance—putting both people and principles before party! This is the spirit that will cause your constituents to live up to their side of the contract by returning them to the voting booth—thus restoring representation that reflects the true will and needs of the majority.

On some of those more practical political issues that will be the focus of slickly produced, half-truth sound bites in the upcoming weeks–here are my recommended responses to those carpetbagging cash cows attempting to influence the outcome of local races from afar:

  •  On Healthcare – While the President’s attempt to tackle an issue, that at  one time was agreed upon by both parties as being in need of major reform, might have its flaws, those relevant points of the legislation, such as providing care for those having preexisting conditions, should be protected. Unfortunately, there still remains too much disparity and inefficiency in our healthcare system. People will continue to die because they cannot access or afford the best treatments available today in this country. That is totally unacceptable! The mantra must be, “repair and improve” this landmark legislation.
  • On Immigration – Every American must ask themselves, what they would do if their children were faced with the conditions and violence that plague those who are crossing our southern borders, before reducing the issue to a matter of simply demanding that the government prosecute and remove legitimate refugees who are portrayed by some as part of some criminal class.

 Secondly, a comprehensive approach to immigration is extremely practical when addressing the future needs of both entitlements and the economy. Any country that has a diminishing birthrate will simply not have enough healthy, young workers fueling its economy, or paying those taxes that offset the financial requirements of those programs designed to provide a degree of well-being and income to an aging population. And in the United States, where today fewer and fewer companies are providing guaranteed security for their retirees by way of pensions and extended health benefits, our own system of Social Security and Medicare must be shored up and strengthened.

In short, our future growth and economic welfare is somewhat dependent upon those who come here from other lands in order to find a better way of life. But hasn’t that always been the American story—and one worth retelling again?

Members of the Continental Congress at the City Tavern in Philadelphia

Members of the Continental Congress at the City Tavern in Philadelphia

While I tend toward George Washington’s point of view on political parties that ultimately they would do more harm than good to the republic, I do support a worthy opposition that brings a different approach, new ideas and rational thought to the table. If enough of our elected representatives were to take the political high road (like those astute gentlemen who came together at Philadelphia’s old City Tavern after adjourning the Continental Congress) those now joining together at that table would be able to dine together, drink together, dialogue together—and yes perhaps even govern together!

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

 

 

One Door Closes, and Maybe, Just Maybe–Another One Opens

City Tavern - Philadelphia

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”  Thomas Jefferson

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  Thomas Jefferson

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”  Thomas Jefferson

Of all those doors that were shuttered as a result of the recent government shutdown, the turn of the latch that most resonated with my personal being was the one on the entrance to the City Tavern in Philadelphia. As someone who has spent many of my days and evenings on both sides of the bar, I know firsthand the plight of those that pull the pints and tend the tables. And there is no act of Congress that will replace the lost revenue of those who depend so heavily on the generosity of those from the general public that can actually get through the front door.

But beyond the fiscal concerns and hardships brought on by the current state of political paralysis in Washington, there was the irony of having to close those places that are meant to honor our past and  to further our faith in the future function of our  government. 

City Tavern SignOne does not padlock the pulpit just because there is conflict within the congregation.

While the majority of  Americans have bolstered their own patriotic passions by visiting some memorial or battlefield, I have decided that I  much prefer the reconstructed confines of that colonial era establishment to rouse my own feelings of national fervor. There are a couple of reasons for my fondness of the City Tavern. One, you can actually toast our liberties with something a bit more in keeping with what the Founders would have put in their cups. And two, other than those that succumbed to the slow poisoning brought on by an over indulgence of Blackstrap, mutton chops, and Flip, there is not the usual senseless loss of life attached to this consecrated piece of ground–truly a place where giants once roamed.      

Among those extraordinarily gifted gentlemen that attended to some portion of their corporal needs at this outstanding American public house were  Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. And it is in their words and insights that we can find the potential source and possible solution to our current political debacle. Like many of the nation’s founders, both men had some healthy concerns about  the future course of the new government.

In a letter to the  American people published prior to his retirement from the presidency in 1796, George Washington warned against the possible damage political parties might bring upon the republic. Having already been witness to the extreme acrimony and partisanship between Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party and  Alexander Hamilton’s  Federalists, Washington was leery of political parties operating within a popularly elected government.  He feared that the competing political organizations would attempt to silence and punish legitimate opposition, promote regionalism and create undue fears and suspicions among the population.

Unfortunately, American’s have on far too many occasions throughout our history been the sorry victims of our first president’s prognostications. And like most organized groups and institution, the lofty well-intentioned principles of both Republicans and Democrats have all too often become secondary to the self-interests and survival of the party. So it should come as no surprise that a substantial segment of the nascent Congressional class has seized upon the writings of Thomas Jefferson as a source for their inspiration and rationalization for the defunding and dismantling of government. But before they consider closing some doors again, they should also consider these words from Mr. Jefferson.  

 “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”

On September 17, 1787, one of the longest, and perhaps most contentious political debates  in our nation’s history came to an end with the signing of the United States Constitution. With the closing of the doors of the Pennsylvania State House after 114 days of  secret meetings, George Washington and a good number of the beleaguered and exhausted delegates found their way to the City Tavern. There they were able to put aside personal political differences, and rise above the rancor by raising a glass to the common welfare of all Americans.

Front Interior City Tavern - PhiladelphiaPerhaps, it is not so much the words of the Founders, but rather the behavior of those individuals that we should attempt to incorporate into our politics. But in order to open that door to a place where men of reason and benevolence gather for the greater good of the people, we will first have to open our minds and our hearts to that greater possibility!

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

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

 

The Road to Damascus by Way of Easton, PA

 Easton, PA

It had been quite some time since David and I had the opportunity to pull off that lazy afternoon one-on-one brew and chat session. And we mutually agreed that Two Rivers Brewing Company in Easton, Pa would play host to our late summer tete-a-tete. By the time I embarked upon my second pint of  Rastafarye Ale from Blue Point, we had already cleared the small talk about family, friends and the circumstances of our personal being. So as it has been at other such encounters, we quickly moved the conversation into our version of progressive political and philosophical thought. Pint number three brought on the usual, easy to be heard from the other side of the room, bout of preachy pontifications. A well-mannered gentleman at the other end of the bar inquired if he might be allowed to join  the discussion.  

We welcomed Paul, whose accent and appearance suggested a Caribbean connection, into our friendly give-and-take.  After about an hour of  hashing out the current state of relations between humankind within our own borders and beyond, Paul interjected a bold pronouncement.

He declared that he would gladly give up all of his civil rights in exchange for true equality, justice and brotherhood. Once again a man of some insight had come to the conclusion that our most complex of problems would be better served if we adopted and adhered to those simpler virtues.

In that world, there would be no reason to remember December 7th and September 11th. In that world, there would be no call to take the high ground at Gettysburg and Normandy. In that world, there would be no reason to march on Washington or Tiananmen. And in that world, the road to Damascus would not be feeling the pain of the fallen, and those fleeing the ruthlessness–but only the gentle footsteps of fellow pilgrims seeking a better way to treat all of humanity.

he Bar at Two Rivers Brewing Company

Until such time, we can at least work out our differences and misperceptions over a few lazy afternoon pints!

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

Kicking the Proverbial Can Down the Road

Pabst Can

Of all the metaphors that made their way around the media during the debt ceiling debate, the one that seems to have scored the most airplay was a reference ad nauseam to kicking the can down the road. If the recent precipitous drop in the stock market is any indication of Washington’s ability to put off having to deal with the toxic economic brew that is filling the cups of so many Americans,  we have finally reached that point in our nation’s history when our politicians, to use another tired worn-out metaphor, are no longer capable of even  passing the buck.

In response to my own  debt ceiling debacle and employment crisis, I, like the Federal Government, am considering painful cutbacks to certain key programs. My “Drink Only imports and Microbrew Program” will probably have to be downsized by the implementation of a less costly domestic policy. Thankfully, Becker’s Corner in Quakertown, PA features “Turn Back Tuesdays,” a very affordable celebration of those classic American brands that satisfied the palates of past generations.

Becker's Corner - Quakertown, PAQuite frankly, there is something rather heartening and reassuring about drinking those beers that saw my father and uncles through the hardships of their times. So while our elected representatives are pondering what to do next about our ailing economy during their summer recess in places like Palm Springs and Martha’s Vineyard, I will be popping open several PBRs–knowing full well that all we really need to get this party going again is a can of creativity, a six-pack of hope, a case of good leadership and a keg full of caring!

Posted by: Chris Poh

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

Who’s That Knockin on December’s Door?

There is no other marked period of time that has more impact on the human psyche–just the word “December” evokes a vast array of human emotion. Moments of joy, sorrow, regret and rebirth punctuate those last 31 days of each year’s journey.

So in order to help the readers of American Public House Review better cope with those less than pleasant aspects of the  season, our own resident ghosts of  Christmas Past. Present and Yet to Come have cobbled together a special holiday gift package. 

Joel grey as Ghost of Christmas Past 1999

A nicely appointed apparition provides passage through the festive old neighborhoods of Bethlehem, PA and Baltimore, MD.

Edward Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas Present 1984

This rather gregarious ghost spreads the Christmas cheer with some traditional songs of the season from singer/songwriter   Chip Mergott and the Celtic troupe Runa.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

And this somber specter reveals what lies ahead as he takes us on a daily jaunt down the decorated alleyways and streets of Princeton, NJ

Life is Just a Bowl of Chili

“Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili”  Harry James, American Musician/Bandleader (1916-1983)

“Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili”       Last words of Kit Carson, American Frontiersman (1809-1868)

Beverly Blais - Jimmy's Saloon - Newport, RIMy eternal quest for the quintessential bowl of that historic mainstay of Texan cowboy cuisine recently brought me to Jimmy’s Saloon in Newport, Rhode Island. There Miss Beverly Blaise, “The Contessa of the Con Carne” makes her magic utilizing the traditional trail ingredients. The end result is nothing less than piquant perfection!

But chili, like most concoctions at the hand of man, is subject to a bit of interpretation–and ultimately a whole lot of competition–giving rise to that great national culinary contest known as the “cook-off.”                 

Don GarridoI have not been lucky enough to attend one of those splendid events in the southwestern United States, but on a couple of occasions I’ve enjoyed the yearly Super Bowl Sunday chili competition held at Pearly Baker’s Alehouse in Easton, Pennsylvania. It was there that my good friend Don Garrido first introduced me to his own legendary method of taming the capsicum pepper plant. And like all fabled recipes there were more than a couple of surprises in the mix–one of them being SPAM. So clean out your old footlocker, or just reach into your Carnival Cruise Line survival kit, because Don Garrido has agreed to share his epicurean secrets with the readers of American Public House Review.

523 Chorizo SPAM ChiliSPAM Shot Glass

 4 dried chipotle chilies
2 dried ancho chilies
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 ¼ pounds chorizo, casings removed and meat coarsely chopped
1 can SPAM, cubed into ½ in cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1- 15 oz can garbanzos (or black beans), rinsed and drained
1- 14 ½ oz can diced tomatoes with liquid
1- 15 ½ oz can corn niblets, drained
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons Nutella
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1- 8 oz can tomato sauce with garlic and onions
1- 12 oz beer (or ale) 

Place the chilies in a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 30 minutes to soften. When soft, seed and stem the chilies. Puree the chilies with the barbecue sauce in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

In a heavy skillet or Dutch oven sauté the onions in butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chorizo and SPAM and cook over medium heat until browned, about 8 minutes. Drain off most of the fat. Add the chili puree, garlic, garbanzos, tomatoes, corn, chili powder, Nutella, instant coffee, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beer, as needed, to keep the chili moist, but not wet.

(A couple of Recommended Beer Pairings)

Rogue Dead Guy AleWagner Valley IPA

<Rogue Dead Guy Ale

      Wagner Valley IPA>

Posted by: Chris Poh

Finding the Perfect Haunted House in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Harry Packer Mansion - Jim Thorpe, PA

Harry Packer Mansion – Jim Thorpe, PA

Who amongst the living is not searching for that  perfect haunted house? Having grown up in a typical post World War II suburban community in New Jersey, the predominant architecture did little to stimulate my Gothic sensitivities. Cape Cods with raised dormers, and split level colonials just didn’t seem to lend themselves to a good ghost story. But in the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania there is a potential haunting at every turn.

As you walk these dimly lit narrow streets under a pale moon, there is a feeling that just behind every door is that portal to the netherworld, and at every window the vaporous smokey shape and disembodied eyes watching ones tenuous passage through this earthly existence. 

Asa Packer Mansion - Jim Thorpe, PA

Asa Packer Mansion – Jim Thorpe, PA

Two of my favorite potential haunted abodes in Jim Thorpe are the Asa Packer and Harry Packer  mansions. The latter having been the inspiration for the “Haunted Mansion” at Disney World in Florida. But quite frankly, when I’m really in the mood to exorcise my demons, I prefer to dance with the spirit of the barley at the cozy  shebeen at the Gilded Cupid Bed and Breakfast, or the public bar at the Molly Maguire’s Pub and Steakhouse.Cozy Parlor Bar at the Gilded Cupid B&B

 

Happy Halloween from all of us at American Public House Review!

Posted by: Chris Poh

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