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

Advertisements

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

 

 

This Stuff Really is Self-evident

download

When you get right down to it,  like many of mankind’s  defining  (yet seldom read)  documents,  our Declaration of Independence is that perfect fusion of optimism and enlightened thought attached to our need to complain about those who hold the power. So it is no wonder that an extremely vocal segment of  society will pervert the words of  Jefferson, Franklin and Adams in order to justify their own delusional rants against some imagined ongoing tyranny. But the true measure of  American virtue will not be decided by that handful of angry voices. The realization of our founder’s aspirations lies  with those who in their own pursuits of life, liberty and happiness do nothing to limit the potential and freedom of their fellowman.  Two such fine people, Adam Price and Susan Kimani, recently paid me a visit at the Indian Rock Inn.

For me this delightful young couple represent everything that is right with America. Susan is an artist and fashion designer who found her way to New York City by way of  Kenya, East Africa. Adam’s origins are somewhat less exotic. This extremely accomplished jazz musician, and may I add fellow bartender, is from Boyertown, PA. During our brief time together, we conversed about history, travel, music and beer. And since  all of us were devotees of the American cause, we reveled in our memories of consuming the Ales of the Revolution at Philadelphia’s renowned City Tavern.

RUNA_Promo_Photo_2014So to Susan and Adam, and all the followers of American Public House Review  we wish everyone a very joyous 4th of July! And to further aid in that celebration, we’ve included an absolutely wonderful version of our nation’s anthem. Click here to listen to the work of Francis  Scott key as performed by the Celtic group–Runa.

Posted by: Chris Poh

 

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

Countdown to St. Patty’s Day; Our Annual Pilgrimage to Jim Thorpe, PA

Today we find ourselves only one week from Saint Patrick’s Day.  And since the upcoming weekend is one normally filled with holiday celebrations, I thought I might take this opportunity to suggest a place to get your Irish on, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

© Kathleen Connally

It seems every Saint Patrick’s Day, we here at Pub Talk and the American Public House Review make some mention of the St. Patty’s Day Parade in Jim Thorpe.  That’s because all of us have a true affection for the event and the people we have met there over the years.  For us, it is trip we look forward to for most of the year, and one the never seems to disappoint.  Let me just say this without getting in to too much detail,   the folks of Jim Thorpe know how to honor the holiday properly.

So if you plan on heading out to Jim Thorpe this weekend, be ready for something near an Irish-American Mardi Gras.  And if you know where to go and who to ask, you may just find most of the staff of the American Public House Review taking in the festivities.  We will either be tending bar, hanging precariously out of windows, singing Irish songs, or trading shots of whiskey for musket-fire.  It’s just all in a day’s work here at the Review!

by Dave McBride


Getting Fracked Up the Loophole

I really owe Tony Hayward, the beleaguered chief exec at BP, many thanks for helping me decide what to watch on the tele last evening. If it wasn’t for his role in helping big oil destroy our southern shores, I would have never thought to watch a documentary on how the natural gas industry might just achieve a similar outcome with our nation’s precious supply of fresh water.

So while Tony was still washing the salt spray off his deck shoes and out of his hair after a weekend of yachting off the English coast, I sat down to watch the HBO premier of Gasland. This truly remarkable and troubling film by Josh Fox  explores the drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, and the effects it has on human health, wildlife  and the environment.

Among the many disturbing facts exposed in the film, in addition to faucets that spew ignitable water, is something known as the “Halliburton Loophole.” In 2005, then Vice President Dick Cheney, and a former CEO of Halliburton, was able to parley a provision into the Energy Policy Act that exempted fracking from the regulations and standards set forth by the Safe Drinking Water Act. That provision effectively stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing or to force public disclosure of the chemicals being used as part of the drilling procedure. 

Amid  the scores of toxic compounds and agents, that can turn your kid’s bubble bath into a pyrotechnic display, are known killers like benzene, xylene and ethylene glycol. In actuality, the ongoing calamity on the Gulf Coast probably poses less of a long-term threat to our wellbeing than that which is being perpetrated by the suppliers of natural gas.

In time remediation of the spill will occur via those organisms that feed on and break down the oil; but nature does not have a strategy to cope with those manmade non-biodegradable  chemicals used in the fracturing process. And if the BP model of preparation and contingency for disaster is typical of the energy industry, then it is highly unlikely that the natural gas boys have a plan or the capability to deal with the next monster that will emerge from the depths of the earth.  

Unfortunately for myself and the nearly 20 million Americans that live in and around the cities of New York and Philadelphia, that monster is lurking under the bed.

Just north of my home on the Delaware River in Frenchtown, New Jersey are vast reserves of untapped natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. These deposits lie directly beneath the river’s watershed–which also happens to be the largest source of unfiltered drinking water in the United States.

As for me, I hardy ever drink water, but according to the bartender manning the taps at Jack’s Firehouse in Philly, my next pint of locally brewed beer is dependent upon the waters of the Delaware River Basin remaining free of anything not in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot of 1516: sort of the German equivalent of our Clean Water Act which states that the only ingredients allowed in the brewing of beer are hops, yeast, malted barley and good water.

 

So pour me another  pint of IPA, and for all our sakes–hold the benzene, xylene and ethylene glycol.

The staff at American Public House Review applaud the superb work of Josh Fox, and we recommend that before you take your next sip of water or next gulp of air–see the film Gasland!

Posted by: Chris Poh

Throwing the Feds Under the Bus

There it was parked right across the street from my favorite local watering hole, the big bus that delivered the cadre of Tea Party types to my hometown. A small group of men, women and children had gathered to hear  the lady, with the hairdo and affectation of one former Alaskan governor, spread the message and principles of  Liberty in America.org. Being overcome by my own political curiosity, I was forced to put down my pint and venture out to find a place on the periphery of meeting.

The event was conducted as if it were something between a 5th grade civic’s lesson and a Bible study group. The speaker extolled the virtues of the Founding Fathers while damning to hell the 535 current voting members of Congress for their egregious assault on the United States Constitution.

It has been my experience that political fundamentalism is very much like religious fundamentalism. Both share a common belief that a bunch of guys a long time ago, who supposedly stood in better favor with God than the current crop of humanity, were able to divine sacred texts that if properly adhered to would provide a simple black and white solution for all of society’s ills. This kind of thinking has led many Americans to view the resulting document of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as something akin to Moses coming down from  the mountain with the Ten Commandments.

While I cannot speculate as to the actual influence of the Divine on what occurred atop Mount Sinai, I can tell you that God just barely got his foot in the door of the Pennsylvania State House. A motion by the good Doctor Franklin to begin each day’s work with a clergyman leading a prayer was vigorously debated and ultimately defeated.

I’ve heard it said as of late that our political class has done a less than admirable job of honoring the intent of “The Founding Fathers.”  I would tend to disagree with this school of thought, since we know that the framers of the Constitution did not share one common vision as to how to govern the somewhat unruly states of America. Their views on the proper role of government were as conflicted and divergent as those being currently expressed in the national discourse.

 In reality, our beloved Constitution was the direct consequence of the discord, dissention and divisiveness amongst the  states brought about by the more libertarian leaning  Articles of Confederation, that were drafted by the Second Continental Congress in  1777. One might conclude that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the tyranny of one, while the Constitution was the result of the tyranny of thirteen.  

A More Perfect Union - by Alton S. Tobey

In May of 1787, many of the same men that had crafted the Articles of Confederation converged in Philadelphia to reconsider their earlier attempt at promoting  unity,  harmony and governance. For 100 days “an assemblage of demigods,” as Thomas Jefferson had characterized the convention, were shuttered behind closed doors in the longest backroom political deal in the history of the Republic. When the delegates finally emerged from the state house in mid-september, they presented their fellow countrymen not with a perfect piece of consensus–but instead with a pretty damn good piece of compromise!

But that compromise would not be enough to ensure a more perfect union. The strength and validity of the compact would be contested in the courtroom, the convention hall and ultimately on killing fields from Manassas to Appomatox.

On the 17th day of September of 1787, the final draft of the Constitution was signed. With the toil and turmoil of that brutal summer now behind them, the delegates could now attend to their own personal constitutions–certainly a bit of leisure and libations were in order. Many would seek those pleasures at the nearby stately City Tavern. While those of lesser means might have adjourned to the  Man Full of Trouble Tavern. As I am one who fully supports the constitution of the Founding Fathers, I ended my meeting with the local libertarians by returning to an awaiting pint of Harpoon IPA at the National Hotel in Frenchtown, New Jersey. 

Posted by: Chris Poh

Looking for Signs from Above

Since the time of our primordial ancestors man has attempted to discover his fate by turning his gaze toward the cosmos. The marking of any new year  seems to heighten our inate need to chase the comet’s tail or  attach undue importance on the alignment of heavenly bodies

As we embark on yet another cycle of the Gregorian calendar the staff of American Public House Review would like to share some of the intriguing, if not downright mystical, signs that have guided our journey during the past year, and that will undoubtedly help to shape the course of future events.

Click on each sign below to take an unparalleled  journey through time and space!

 

A Nation Rising

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler ChristyBy the spring of 1787, less than four years after the signing of “The Treaty of Paris” which formally ended British hostilities in America, the new nation was already facing an internal crisis of such proportions that the demise of democracy in the New World seemed imminent. In response those that had crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation agreed to hold a convention at the Philadelphia State House. Their goal was to strengthen the articles of governance so that the intense differences between the states might be resolved.

Through most of that summer the delegates argued, cajoled and deliberated over several state and individual initiatives designed to stabilize the American government. The harvest of their cultivation and compromise would be our Constitution. Benjamin Franklin made this astute observation about the document.

“There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. … I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. … It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies…”

 The ultimate success of that convention may be attributed to the hand that guided those proceedings. For three months George Washington presided over what was at many times an extremely contentious affair. And when an accord was finally achieved and it was time to ink the deal, once more it was the words of Benjamin Franklin that defined the moment. As he stood waiting to attach his signature to the final draft, he made this comment about the half sun carved onto the backrest of the mahogany armchair that Washington had occupied while overseeing the Convention.The Rising Sun Chair

“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.”

As American Public House Review begins its third year of publication we thought it would be fitting to spend an extended amount of time in the city where our forefathers conceived and constructed our democracy. During our two-year sojourn to America’s historic taverns we have been witness to many of the same attitudes and conditions that threatened the wellbeing of this nation in 1787. But like those men that came to Philadelphia during that long sweltering summer over two hundred years ago, we believe that when good-natured rational people gather to address their concerns and disputes – democracy shall prevail.

Following the signing of the Constitution on September 17th, many of the delegates repaired to the City Tavern for a hearty meal and ample celebratory refreshments. According to George Washington, they “dined together and took cordial leave of each other.”

in that same spirit our staff will spend some quality time in some great chairs throughout this fine city. Because like Doctor Franklin we are of the same opinion that America is not in her decline – but we are in fact a “Nation Rising.” Just don’t ask us to rise before last call.  

Check out these featured locations in the current issue of American Public House Review:                            

Posted by: Chris Poh

Ben’s raiding the cooler again!

As we close in on Independence Day, we all look forward to a holiday weekend full of all those fun and relaxing things that make summer great.  Hamburgers on the grill, a beer in the hand, and friends and family by your side are the things that make July 4th Weekend so enjoyable.

Fort McHenry

For me, I am heading to one of my absolute favorite places on earth, Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  There I plan to spend my 10 days of vacation visiting family, doing a bit of boating, and maybe I’ll even check out a tavern or two.  (Okay, maybe three or four…)  My plan on this vacation, like all my trips to Maine, is to sit.  I plan on sitting on a dock, a boat, an Adirondack chair, or hopefully on an array of well crafted barstools.  It’s time to decompress and as Otis Redding said, “watch the ships roll in and watch them roll away again.”

Boothbay Harbor 

I can’t help but wonder what our Founding Fathers would think of how we choose to celebrate this most solemn of days.  Because of the resolution agreed on back on July 4th 1776, the men who signed it put their necks in the proverbial guillotine.  Years of war, disease, and god knows what else followed during the struggle of the Revolutionary War, and in many related respects the War of 1812 as well.  And in recognition of those events we choose to barbeque.   I don’t know what the founders who lived those struggles under the constant fear of being hung for treason might think of my hotdog and potato salad celebration, but I have a guess.  I think they would find it absolutely perfect! 

st-peters-02

People complain America has become too lazy, too pampered.  How many times have you heard people question what the founding fathers would think of us now?  Well, I like to think on this weekend they would want us to celebrate by exercising the absolute freedom to do what makes us happy.  So while you pop open a bottle of whatever and sit under the stars waiting for the fireworks, think of what Erma Bombeck said…

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.

So as always, drink and party responsibly during this holiday weekend.  But do it knowing that you are not only enjoying yourself to the fullest, but you and your loved ones are also paying a sincere homage to those who literally put their necks on the line for this little barbeque.  Somehow I couldn’t see Benjamin Franklin lecturing us on the frivolity of our Independence Day tradition.  No, I see him raiding the cooler and waiting for the baseball game to start.

Posted by: Dave McBride

 

  •  

Click  here to view past articles on America’s finest  colonial taverns. 

%d bloggers like this: