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     CHRISTMAS IN THE OLD TOWN white with green logo
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS POH

With the exception of a bowling bowl taking out all twelve pins, there are few audible signatures as unique as the sound of the braking steel wheels of an approaching subway train as it nears the station platform. And what seemed to me to be an inordinate amount of time during my boyhood was spent underground in the belly of the rolling stock of the New York City Transit Authority. Well before the age of twelve the terms IRT, BMT and IND had become part of my vernacular.

Being a child of the Jersey suburbs I might have been tempted to boast about our weekend family sojourns across the Hudson; but in actuality we bypassed the more glamorous and well-known stops, instead spending countless hours on rocking jolting lumpy wicker seats bound for the homes of relatives in far less exotic destinations like Flatbush and Carnarsie. Those days when my energies were much more inclined to be conquering the spires of Manhattan were whiled away on the front stoops of two story railroad flats in Brooklyn. But there was always that special trip into New York just before Christmas when we would emerge from the tunneled depths of the bedrock to find ourselves at the base of the city’s majestic canyons.


The "concrete canyons" of new Tork City as seen in American Public House Review
NEW YORK MANIFESTS AN UNDENIABLE MAGIC
THROUGHOUT THE HOLIDAYS



Exterior of the Old Town Bar in New York City as seen in American Public House Review
THE OLD TOWN BAR AND RESTAURANT IN NEW YORK CITY




The sign at the Old Town Bar in New York City as seen in American Public House Review





John Chambers at the Old Town Bar in New York City as seen in American Public House Review
BARTENDER JOHN CHAMBERS GARNISHES EVERY COCKTAIL WITH  A TWIST OF CHRISTMAS SPIRIT AT THIS TIME OF YEAR



There was the anticipation of hot pretzels on Park Ave, a cup of steaming cocoa in Rockefeller Center, an escalator ride at Gimbels and of course the mecca of toy departments at Macys. But in order for any of these holiday trappings to occur one was required to first visit the “Baby Jesus.” My mother was an early staunch advocate of making sure that the spiritual aspect of the season was not overshadowed by the commercialization of Christmas. So in keeping with her wishes, the first half of our December trip to Manhattan was usually dedicated to visiting a number of mangers and Nativity scenes in Catholic churches throughout the city. For a young impatient lad this additional show of reverence, normally reserved for Sunday mass and funerals, appeared to be a rather inflated tariff for just a cup of cocoa and some pretzels.

Though looking back I must admit that even as a child these simple displays of the Christian faith did instill a sense of wonder. As an adult I have a less than trusting view of most religious customs and institutions; but every year after Thanksgiving I still put up my Nativity scene. There remains a magic in that tradition that transcends ritual and convention. Adorning the top of my entertainment center in ceramic figurines lays the hope of all mankind - a loving family, safe refuge, the guidance of wise men and the protection of angels.

Recently David McBride and I escaped the pre-noon chill of early December by ducking into the warm confines of the OLD TOWN BAR. This snug inviting landmark on 18th Street houses one of the best looking taverns in North America, and during this time of the year the atmosphere and mood of the place is near perfect. The festoon of green wreathing and old fashioned lights hanging along the mahogany back bar helped to rekindle Manhattan memories of Christmases past.



Even my late mother would have approved of this festive location, for sheltered beneath the branches of their tree was indeed the Holy Family. The pictures of Frank McCourt and Seamus Heaney hanging over my shoulder reminded me of the wise counsel that comes from the east, (Heaney from Northern Ireland and McCourt born in Brooklyn). And John Chambers, our angelic host behind the bar poured a pint of Anchor Steam Christmas Ale that seemed to have the faintest hint of cocoa and baked pretzels.

Here in the OLD TOWN what is best about the secular and spiritual realm becomes one – and like all truly great public houses - the spirit of the season is honored and celebrated every day of the year!   




Nativity display under the tree at Old Town Bar in New York City as seen in American Public House Review
THE RELIGIOUS CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS IS MAINTAINED .  .  .



Tree at the Old Town Bar in New York City as seen in American Public House Review
.  .  . AND THE CULTURAL ONE AS WELL








Wreath at the Old Town Bar in New York City as seen in American Public House Review
olb





OLD TOWN BAR


45 EAST 18TH STREET

NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10002-2003

212-529-6732



www.oldtownbar.com




AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEW text, images, and music © 2007-2009. All rights reserved. 
All content is subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. Email: ed.petersen@americanpublichousereview.com for permission before use.

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