Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ailing for Ale

Some people are looking forward to turkey and cranberries next week. I'm one of them. But, I'm ALSO looking forward to sharing laughs with friends around an oak table absolutely covered with empty beer glasses...

And, of course, the mobile Irish bartenders goading drinkers into either downing more pints or moving along.

I can hear Bartender Tommy catcalling the Wall Street types now. "Come on lads, this is not a coffee shop."

This is the greatest bar ever established in the scope of documented history. You'll just have to take my word about that if you've never been there. Because, it's not up for debate.

McSorley's is located in way downtown Manhattan on 7th and 3rd. Opened in 1854, the bar has fiercely resisted all change in the last 150 years. They still serve only house brewed "lights" or "darks." They still serve brew in glass mugs. They still serve beers only in pairs. Hell, they only started serving women less than thirty years ago (and only then by court order). The place, right or wrong, has always stayed as physically and legally close to the era in which it was founded. It was the only legal pub in NYC during prohibition. My grandfather, later on, used to head there for corned beef and cabbage after knocking off work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the '40s. Now, when I go there, I can feel his presence and the echoes of past generations in the oak long since dried out.

For all it's history, McSorley's remains a small ale house. Yes, it has appeared in a few movies and does market the signature ales. But, I know when I walk in there late next weekend with some friends from back East, law and sobriety are going to be the last things on my mind. There'll be a table cleared and tourist types sent packing by Tommy. One hundred days away from New York is a long time. No matter where I am, it always feels like the Empire State building is a homing beacon. Bartender Tommy likes to say, in Irish brogue, that "it's an honor to serve professionals." But, next weekend, it'll feel like it's my honor to be there more than ever before.


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