The Quality of Light

Sunrise at Acadia – photo By Bill Trotter – Bangor Daily News

“We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us thru that darkness to a safe and sane future.” – John F. Kennedy

Even while our citizens endured the partial shutdown of government and the near total shutdown of governance, that lead photon on that first ray of sunlight coming over the horizon each morning still managed to awaken the continental United States by hitting its mark on the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park. And while the roads of this nation’s first national park east of the Mississippi remained unplowed, the garbage uncollected, and the visitor’s center unmanned, the sun still continued to shine. It seems the natural order of the universe and nature function quite well without government–the human species not so much!

In the course of my own travels, I have found there is a bit of magic in that light that caresses the coast of Maine. For me personally, it has been a source of comfort, clarity, and inspiration. Not that I’m questioning the effectiveness of sunshine south of the Piscataqua, but that mix of both man-made and metaphorical pollution seems to have somewhat diminished the curative effects–especially along that storied stretch of the Potomac in Washington.

Morning in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Afternoon in Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Approximately 116 nautical miles south of Acadia lies one family’s fortress that has weathered many Atlantic gales and has witnessed many a sunrise since the turn of the last century. And for most of my time, while trying to unsuccessfully coax the ocean’s bounty onto the end of my fishing rod in the waters off Kennebunkport, I was pretty much unaware of the potential political dynasty that was mixing vodka martinis on the lawn and playing tennis on the court at Walker’s Point. But during the summer of 1990, a few months before our armed incursion into Iraq, I became keenly aware that the price of oil was of far greater concern than the price of lobster. It was also during this period that I discovered that the 41st President of the United States enjoyed a good glass of beer as much as he enjoyed his martinis.

Evening on the Kennebunk River near Walker’s Point

“We are a nation of communities… a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” – George H. W. Bush

The talk around town was that George H. W. Bush on occasion would be spotted hoisting a pint with locals and tourists alike. And by the end of his presidency, the opening of Federal Jack’s Brewpub in Kennebunkport would help to make his loss to William Jefferson Clinton in 1992 and subsequent retirement at Walker’s Point a bit more tolerable. And while there may have been a few dark clouds that obscured the late president’s so-called “1000 points of light”–he was a man who truly believed in the value of selfless public service to country and the possibility that we could actually become a kinder and gentler nation. Sadly, the flame of that fanciful notion seems to waning as of late.

“America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” – Ronald Reagan

At the close of of last Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Trump may have been attempting to evoke that Reaganesque view of our place in the world when he said, “We must always keep faith in America’s destiny — that one Nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!” Unfortunately, for many of those most in need of seeing America’s light–that light will be nothing more than a brief glimpse between the slats of some steel barrier on our southern border

“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.” George Washington

During the stifling summer of 1787, our nation’s first president presided over the Constitutional Convention. Hot days and even hotter tempers fueled the often contentious proceedings at the Philadelphia Statehouse.

On September 17, 1787, nearly four months after the convention convened, even the most cantankerous of those among the delegates would choose consensus and compromise–and commit their signatures to the United States Constitution. With the grand bargain now in hand, Doctor Benjamin Franklin of the Pennsylvania delegation could forego politics in favor of his much preferred philosophical musings. With his gaze fixed upon the carving of the sun on the backrest of the chair that gave George Washington some measure of comfort during the trials of that long, difficult summer, Franklin said, “I have often looked at that picture behind the president without being able to tell whether it was a rising or setting sun. Now at length, I have the happiness to know that it is indeed a rising, not a setting sun.”

Closing time at the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island

While I have normally shared Mr. Franklin’s optimism about America’s future wellbeing, as of late, a few vexing shadows of doubt have darkened my horizon. Certainly, many thousand points of light continue to illuminate American skies, but our elected guiding lights have spent too much of their time in retreat under their respective red and blue bushels. So from my perspective, I’m not sure whether I’m seeing the dawn’s early light, the twilight’s last gleaming, or just the flickering lights of last call.

Make mine a double–it’s an awfully long road home–and an even longer road to 2020!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Sunset Over Sedona

Cathedral Rock Above Oak Creek - Sedona, Arizona

Cathedral Rock Above Oak Creek – Sedona, Arizona

“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s, I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again; I wasn’t my own man anymore; I was my country’s.”   An excerpt from John McCain’s 2008 Republican National Convention speech.

Beyond the backyard, childhood fantasies inspired by those tall in the saddle gents that dominated the small screen of my family’s television set on most Saturday afternoons, I was always a bit leery of putting too much stock in the idea of there being such a thing as a true American hero. While I was that typical male child that always appreciated a slow drawl and a fast gun, even then I sensed the danger of letting ones view of reality being shaped too much by the painted sunsets, fan assisted tumbleweeds, and cattle town facades of Southern California. And as to those towering figures that stood at the podium, the pulpit, or at home plate – I realized that success and failure was only a matter of a bad call or the next swing of the bat. So my handful of heroes could almost fit into the hand of a newborn. But among that very short list will always appear the name of Senator John McCain!

John McCain and Ted KennedyWhile countless others have experienced the almost unimaginable physical and psychological pain endured by John McCain while held in captivity, few could forgive their captors–and even fewer would promote reconciliation and a working relationship with their former enemies. But this was a profound human being whose reach could always extend across the aisle, and when necessary for the sake and wellbeing of all–that reach would cross oceans. In triumph and in tragedy he always maintained his sense of purpose and his unique sense of humor. And he never wavered in his service to both country and humanity. I feel very blessed to have stood under some of those same western sunsets that the senator from Arizona so loved. And I am so very grateful to live in a nation that could give rise to the likes of a John Sydney McCain!

Prior to their parting repast at the City Tavern, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 gathered one last time at the Philadelphia Statehouse to sign the document that would serve as the blueprint for our attempt at democratic governance. Among those early American founding mavericks was the esteemed Doctor Benjamin Franklin. Before taking his leave, he made the following observation about the carving of the sun that had adorned the back of the chair at which George Washington had sat while presiding over the assembled body during the nearly four months of contentious debate:

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.”

The sun will once again rise above Sedona, and John McCain will continue to serve this country in death as he did in life. His ghost will haunt those who merit a haunting–and his spirit will inspire those who are worthy of inspiration.

Commander John Sidney McCain

 

 

To this very honorable statesman and sailor we bid fair winds and following seas!

 

 

 

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

This Stuff Really is Self-evident

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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

 

Takin it to the Streets

THE CONFRONTATION - ENOCH ROBERTS' TAVERN IN QUAKERTOWN - MARCH 6, 1799 - A PAINTING DEPICTING THE FRIES REBELLION BY JAMES MANN

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds..”–Samuel Adams

As a dedicated student of the American Revolution and one who came of age during the 1960s, I certainly hold in my heart a place of fondness for those amongst the populace that engage in public protest when the conditions and circumstances call for it. But even as I watched my classmates and contemporaries take to the streets to rally against the real and perceived injustices of that turbulent decade, my youthful fervor was tempered by a certain cautious scrutiny of those forces that stirred the masses to action. And as I consider the activities of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, I am left with some of the same unease and distrust that I felt for the Tea Party advocates. Having spent as much time as I have in taverns, I know that once we take our differences and quarrels with each other outside there is little chance of achieving a reasonable or peaceful resolution. And even though our history is replete with those instances when a bit of outdoor insurrection made a measurable difference, much like Benjamin Franklin’s old Philadelphia Junto Society, I prefer to inspire and encourage change from inside the agreeable surroundings of a good pub.

Hopefully, there will come a day when we only need to see one man’s poverty to know that too many people are poor—one man’s hunger to know that too many people are starving—and one man’s hardship to know that too many people are hurting. And that the transformation of our society will come about not because of the anger and anxiety of the masses, but because of the conduct and concern of dedicated individuals. 

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

 

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

Liberty through Libation…Redemption through Rum

The City Tavern - Philadelphia

The City Tavern - Philadelphia

Doctor Franklin adhered to this simple prescription for the better part of his life, Liberty through libation.Certainly this was evident during the founding of the “Junto” in 1727, at the public house of Nicholas Scull and again in his later years while providing counsel to his fellow rebels at Philadelphia’s City Tavern.

In between  laying down the groundwork for a new city and a new nation, Benjamin Franklin helped to protect Pennsylvania’s western frontier as a colonel in command of the Philadelphia militia during the French and Indian War. The following excerpt from Franklin’s autobiography comes by way of Kathleen Zingaro Clark, the author of  Buck’s County Inns and Taverns and a contributing editor to American Public House Review.

“We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian minister, Mr. Beatty, who complained to me that the men did not generally attend his prayers and exhortations. When they enlisted, they were promised, besides pay and provisions, a gill of rum a day, which was punctually serv’d out to them, half in the morning, and the other half in the evening; and I observ’d they were as punctual in attending to receive it; upon which I said to Mr. Beatty, “It is, perhaps, below the dignity of your profession to act as steward of the rum, but if you were to deal it out and only just after prayers, you would have them all about you.”

He liked the tho’t, undertook the office, and, with the help of a few hands to measure out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction, and never were prayers more generally and more punctually attended…”

Doctor Franklin

Posted by: Chris Poh

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