up Catholic, and like many others my age that have veered off the road
to Damascus, other than for weddings or funerals I seldom see the
inside of a church. I will make no excuse for my lack of attendance.
There is no tale of injustice at the hands of some rogue cleric that
has caused me to question my faith, nor have the frailties of human
behavior inherent to all religious institutions dissuaded me from
spending time on bent knee. The fact of the matter is some of my
closest friends are Roman Catholic Priests, and if I were to base my
churchly affiliations or earthly relationships upon the pretense of
principles - human contact
would be nil.
ALE MARY'S ECCLESIASTICAL BAR
So on one
particularly fine summer afternoon in June I am directed to Ale
located in Baltimore’s historic Fells Point district. In both my
personal and professional opinion this area offers one of the best
concentrations of unique neighborhood taverns in all of North America,
and this perfect corner pub surpasses a very demanding local standard
THE ARCHETYPICAL NEIGHBORHOOD TAVERN
Upon entering I
feel compelled to bless myself and to genuflect. I haven’t seen this
much Catholic kitsch since the street concessions at Yankee Stadium
during Pope John Paul 11’s visit there in 1979. In spite of its
parochial provisioning this establishment equally extends its warmth,
welcome and whimsy to papists, protestants and those of any belief or
lack there of.
WATCHING . . . .
. . ALWAYS WATCHING
EACH PATRON IS PROTECTED
AND EVERY ALE IS
|My eyes scan the ecclesiastical accoutrements of
the surroundings and fixate on the pink Jesus statue on the center of
the bar that appears to be watching over the inhabitants of this small
earthly kingdom. During the course of the afternoon, our good-natured
host and owner of the establishment, Mary Rivers, relates a story about
a time when this Fells Point flock was deprived of its rubicund
protector. Apparently some pub crawling philistine had the audacity to
pilfer the good shepherd.
inquiry into the matter was conducted by Mary’s husband and co-owner,
Tom Rivers. His investigation uncovered evidence that suggested the
likely suspect had covered the expenses incurred that day with plastic.
A careful audit of the receipts revealed the culprit, and an amount,
proper and in keeping with the seriousness of the transgression was
added to the offender’s credit card. Of course it wasn’t long before
there was a call received at the bar questioning and protesting the
apparent seizure of funds. But after a tactful interrogation a full
confession was made, and a suitable penance was imposed. It was agreed
that the attached monies would be returned if Jesus was restored to his
rightful place, and that a public act of contrition be offered up to
the local patrons. As to how this second coming played out, I can’t
quite say. That part of the story got lost in the pleasant fog
encountered after several pints of Brewer’s Art Resurrection Ale.
Good ales though do have a way of providing a
pathway to transcendence and illumination, and it occurred to me that
people come to great taverns for many of the same reasons that impel
them to fill those edifices of public worship. Beyond our position or
status we are all wandering souls in search of comfort, conciliation,
community, counsel and conclusive proof that there is magic imparted to
those that drink from the cup of life.
bartender as high priest, Mary as mother superior and Tom as father
confessor I know that this flock will be well cared for. So once more I
raise my glass and toast Ale
Mary’s full of grace and a very generous
portion of Baltimore charm!
note: Many of my favorite days on earth have been spent in
Baltimore pubs. For these times I offer many thanks to my dear friends,
Jack and Kathy who have provided stellar recommendations, safe cover,
transport and shelter for both me and my wife, Fran. - Chris Poh
FRIENDS AND FAMILY