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 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

A Good Old Ghost Story with a Great New Ending

Clinton Mill

Previously Published in 2008   On the June 11th episode of “Ghost Hunters” the team from The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) will be visiting the Garden State. One of their stops will be The Red Mill in Clinton, New Jersey. This historic Hunterdon County landmark has been rumored to be haunted for generations. It is hard to imagine a paranormal presence at this perfect pastoral setting. But just down the road a few short miles is a truly frightening location.   

The Now Shuttered National Hotel

Welcome to Frenchtown, New Jersey and the site of the now shuttered National Hotel. Like the Red Mill, this property has also played a significant role in the history of this area. During the 1930s poet, novelist and script writer James Agee lived on the street behind the National. Apparently he found the environs of the hotel well suited to his lifestyle and his talent. Much of his work during that period was accomplished while sitting at the bar .

During the late 1800s, Annie Oakley would visit  Frenchtown with fellow performers from Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. While in town the National was always their preferred watering hole. In recent years the bar was the de facto office of the publisher of American Public House Review. And while I can not prove the existence of the reported spirits that supposedly roam the halls of this hostelry, I can confirm that the  remains of a former long-term guest have not been checked out.

The Main Bar at the National Hotel

But the real horror story here is that a property of this magnitude had been abandoned and allowed to fall into a state of decay. As always, it is not the activity of the dead but the actions of the living that we need to fear.

Exterior The National Hotel

Update: The National Hotel is rising from the ruins and will reopen the week of November 1st, 2009

Posted by: Chris Poh, Publisher

Raising a Cup with Russ

Russ at the Frenchtown CafeAt some point during the inception of American Public House Review I was tasked with coming up with a catchy phrase that would suitably define the mission of our fledgling magazine. During a rare moment of early morning clarity the words came to me.

Glasses Raised…Spirits Lifted…Journeys Shared

It is my hope that these words not only adequately define the purpose of our publication; but that they also represent the greater viewpoint of mankind. In each of us there resides the power to acknowledge and lift up the spirit of our fellowman, and to share with him that which has purpose from our own personal journey.

A couple of weeks back I spent an afternoon drinking coffee with my dear friend Russ Coen at the Frenchtown Cafe. He is a gentleman who totally embodies the editorial philosophy of American Public House Review. Recent personal losses in both of our lives had left us in a mutual state of melancholy that no amount of caffeine could overcome. We spoke at length about the powerful impact of those that had touched us for just a brief moment in time, and then sadly, had passed on leaving an unexpected void.

Bob Dukiet

Bob Dukiet

For Russ one of those souls was the late Bob Dukiet. He shared a story that occurred many years ago about an interlude at Neilley’s Long Bar in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Here are his own words from a posted remembrance of  the  Boston College basketball great and former head coach of the Marquette Warriors, Bob Dukiet.   

My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Bob Dukiet on his passing. It was 38 years ago that I met Bob through our mutual friend, Joe Walsh, at Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. A rainy afternoon in July found us discovering an old honky-tonk piano up against the back wall of Neilly’s Long Bar.Neilley's Long Bar Within minutes, Bobby brought that piano to life with his signature cover of  Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”  The Beatles “Oh Blah Dee, Oh Blah Da” andWhen I’m 64″  followed as a large crowd gathered (ages 21-80+). For many hours, he handled any request from every generation, including the World War I era, “Over There” and the “Marine Corps Hymn.” In spite of my less than admirable guitar playing, we were offered a job for the next weekend and a cardboard sign was placed in the window to that effect. Unfortunately, we had to decline. What a day that was!! Thank you, Bobby. I am sure a crowd will gather around the piano wherever Bob may be, and I hope to some day be there enjoying many more songs and smiles once again. He truly bridged the ages with his many gifts and talents. Thank you, Bob, for sharing them unselfishly.       Russ Coen – Frenchtown, New Jersey

Glasses Raised…Spirits Lifted…Journeys Shared 

Point Pleasant Beach - Photo by Christine Aber

Point Pleasant Beach - Photo by Christine Aber

Broadway Bar and Grill - (Formerly Neilley's Long Bar)

Broadway Bar and Grill - (Formerly Neilley's Long Bar)

Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Christine Aber for her photo of Point Pleasant Beach, and to Vinnie Mattia for providing the image of Neilley’s Long Bar. Also, we thank for the photo of the Broadway Bar and Grill

Posted by: Chris Poh     

The Second Crossing

Washington Crossing The Delaware by Peter Fiore

Washington Crossing The Delaware by Peter Fiore

I watched the President’s  stirring  inaugural address from the quiet of a quaint Italian cafe in my hometown of  Frenchtown, New Jersey. Myself, a local artist and the owner watched the historic proceedings huddled around a small rather conventional television set. Outside the streets were mostly devoid of human and vehicular traffic, due to the day’s events and the constant chilling wind that swept up from the icy waters of the Delaware River.

I was pleased that amongst the President’s profound rhetoric was a reference  to George Washington and the words that  he spoke prior to his fateful crossing of the Delaware to attack the Hessian position at Trenton.

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive … that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

The entire staff of American Public House Review hold our first Commander-in-Chief in the highest regard, hence the abundance of references to His Excellency in past articles:

There is also a past post, “Setting Sail With The Obamas” which equated his potential presidency with those events that transpired on the shores of the Delaware on Christmas Day of 1776. 

Normally I tend to cringe when our elected officials hitch their political fortunes to those that founded, nutured and secured this Republic; but in this case I trust that this man’s intent and inspiration are true! So as we embark on this journey to renew the spirit and promise of 76, we at American Public House Review raise our glasses to our President, his family and the people of this great nation! 

Period Dinner at The White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI

Period Dinner at The White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI

Posted by: Chris Poh, Editor-in-Chief 



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