Jumat, 12 Maret 2010

The best pub on the planet?

It may not be the best but it's certainly one of the most interesting. I first visited McSorley's Old Ale House at 15 East 7th Street in downtown New York in 1969. The second time I went was 36 years later, a few years ago, and it hadn't changed a bit. This is hardly surprising as it hasn't changed a bit since it was established by John McSorley in 1854 (which I don't quite remember). It is New York's oldest continuously operated saloon, visited by the likes of Abraham Lincoln and John Lennon, though not at the same time. Woody Guthrie inspired the union movement from a table in the front bar. Here's Woody with the guitar (the stove and tables are still in the same spot):

McSorleys stands like a rock in a stream, looking on resolutely while the world flows by. It's tenacity however has had its downside - women weren't allowed into the bar until 1970 and only then after a challenge in the supreme court by two civil rights lawyers (women). At the bar it's standing room only, no stools, sawdust on the bare wooden boards, walls adorned (yet again) by faded paintings, photographs, and Americana. John Sloan, a painter and member of the revolutionary New York realist group of artists, The Ashcan School, painted a series of oils of McSorley'. Here is the front bar in 1911:

You get a choice between two drinks - light or dark (ale) and it comes in small glasses. For anyone who ever watched the television series father Ted will know what I mean when I say that the Irish waiter at our table in the back room was the embodiment of Father Jack. "Drink!" he shouted between each round, meaning what do want to drink. "Do you have any food?" we enquired at one point, with some trepidation. "Board!" he shouted, pointing at a blackboard hidden by the toilets. It's raucous, boozy, and tremendous fun. The back room corner that we sat in:

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