NYC the Hero of 9/11.

There is one word that will be used very,very,often this weekend in commemoration of the Tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th 2001.

That word is Hero.

In spite of the fact that I am normally a cynical and jaded SOB who despises pandering rhetoric I must say that I don’t think the word will be used enough.

It will be used to describe the Firemen and Police and first responders.

It will be used to describe those who lost their lives on the most dreadful day in the history of this Nation.

It will be used to describe the families and loved ones left behind to pick up the pieces of  shattered lives.

Every single time it is used it will be justified and valid and perhaps even understated.

However, the greatest Hero of that day is quite simply the people of The City of New York.

As well organized and effective the attackers plan was carried out, they made a critical error in their stated goal of ruining the American way of life.

The picked the wrong City. In the wrong country.

I have been in enough bar fights to know what it is like to be sly rapped…hit when your not looking. When that happens you usually hit the deck and one of two things comes to your mind once you have dealt with the initial shock of the attack. You can lay there and try and figure out why this happened or you can get up off the deck and kick the shit out of your attacker.

If you are a New Yorker there really is only one option. The latter is the choice, which is exactly what The City did.

The City hit the deck, but it bounced back up and began the fight immediately. They fought back by taking care of each other.

They fought back by giving blood, and money, and time, and heart and soul.

In the lowest and loneliest time possible the one thing all New Yorkers knew was that they were not alone.

New Yorkers knew right from the first moments of the attack that they were in this together. That they would be there for each other in whatever way possible.

As an example of that,  think of this.

When the City was in utter chaos the first few hours after the attacks how many arrests were made for looting or arrests of people trying to take advantage of an awful situation.

The answer is none.

One of the quintessential moments that clearly embodies who New Yorkers are, happened at the Concert For New York a few weeks after the attacks. With big time musicians and celebrities all taking the stage at Madison Square Garden to show their support.  However,the show was stolen by the brother of a fallen firefighter. This big roundfaced Irishman from Rockaway stood on the stage, stated his name and his address, and in true New York fashion told Osama Bin Ladden that if he was looking for a fight, he was more than welcome to stop bye. “I’ll be waiting for you” he challenged.

 The joint went nuts.

I was in San Francisco when the attacks happened and while I was heart broken I was also never so proud to be a New Yorker.

The stories came in not only about the heroic efforts of the first responders but the kindness and selflessness of The City. Stories of generosity, of kindness, of self sacrifice, of giving. I found it odd that some of those stories were told as if it was a shock that New Yorkers were human beings capable of those emotions.

It was no shock to New Yorkers.

A few days after the attack I was having dinner at the Balboa Café in SF with an old and dear New York friend, Pete Hickey. As we had our dinner our attention was split between our conversation and the television watching the coverage and listening to the stories of our fellow New Yorkers.
At one point Hick looked and me and said “ Isn’t it a bitch that something like this had to happen for people to realize what kind of people New Yorkers really are?”

Truer words were never spoken.

There is an old joke about the tourist walking around New York and asking people “can you tell me how to get the Empire State building…or should I just go fuck myself?”

The joke is usually told to illustrate how rude and callous New Yorkers are. I love the joke because to me it illustrates how we don’t take fools lightly. New Yorkers are busy people and sometimes just don’t have the time or the inclination to deal with your minor issues.

Like finding the tallest building in the City.

However when the chips are down when you need help the most…give me a New Yorker any day of the week. This comes from someone who was once left for dead in the middle of Broadway by a hit and run driver. My fellow New Yorkers came to my aid in what seemed like a flash. Reassuring me, calling for help and making me feel that all would be right and it was.  I was in the hands of my brethern New Yorkers.

I never thought for a second that I would write something comparing my feelings to those of Carrie Bradshaw the heroine of Sex and The City. However in one episode when she was going through yet another break up she spoke about how no matter what happened with men or with her career she would be just fine because she had that one…great… true love… New York.

I grew up in Manhattan and that is exactly how I feel about New York. It is the great love of my life. The heroics of the city were no shock to me.

The City is in it’s essence an Heroic place. It’s size, it’s beauty, it’s diversity.

The City is an Heroic place on a daily, hour to hour, minute by minute basis.

It is not just a City of survivors but a City of people who live life. They work hard and play hard. They love and fight and drink and curse then go to Church. In a moment they can be the hardest asses in the world and in the blink of an eye the most caring and giving people you will ever meet.

The Heroics of that day was how I would expect New Yorkers to act. If anything it was predictable.

I have lived all over this Nation and when I first meet people they figure out where I am from rather quickly.

I have been told it is a combination of the accent and attitude.

I am usually asked the question “Do you miss New York?”

My answer is “ at this point of my life I don’t miss New York… but I miss New Yorkers. With all fucking my heart”

Trump for President….Yikes!!!

Donald Trump for President is a thought that sends chills down the spine of most logical people. How on earth can this glory seeking, self centered, megalomaniac be on top or near the top of most polls regarding potential Republican candidate in 2012?

The answer is clear…the guy is freaking amazing.

Full disclosure: I am not a friend nor am I an admirer of Mr. Trump. However our path’s have crossed both professionally and socially over the years. So I have some insight into the magic of Donald Trump.

The Master Manipulator

My very first exposure to Trump came when I was a Sportscaster on WABC radio in New York. One morning I received a phone call from a listener who gave me a tip on a story. He told me his father was Walt Michaels , the former head coach of the NY Jets, partner in a hardware store and that Trump was going to hire him as the Head Coach of the New Jersey Generals, the team Trump owned in the USFL.

I called Trumps office to confirm. There was a time when Journalists actually tried to confirm things before they reported them. An assistant took a message and Trump called me back in a matter of minutes. He began the conversation by complimenting the show I was on. When I told him what I knew he did not deny it saying that they were seriously leaning that way.

Then he cast his line and reeled in a two hundred a fifty pound Sportscaster.

He says that since he listens to me every morning he has come to the conclusion that I am a very astute football man and asks my council on whether or not Michaels is a good choice or not. I of course swallow this BS hook line and sinker. I give Michaels my imprimatur. In the end Trumps asks me if I would just sit on this for a day and he would call back in the morning to confirm

No problem Donnie, I’ll do that for my biggest fan.

Later that day Warner Wolf broke the story on the six o’clock news during a live pre-arranged interview with Trump.

He got me good.

A few years later I was with WNYW-TV and had to cover on a daily basis the Anti Trust suit that the USFL brought against the NFL. The suit was brought at the instigation of Trump. Pretty much every day for two weeks I had to sit in court and then get Trump’s sound bite at the end of the day. Swallowing my pride I did this dutifully everyday. One afternoon I spotted one of the owners of another team in the league and got a sound bite on the court house steps from him. When I was finished there was Trump looking at me with the look men have when they just saw there girlfriend making out with another guy.

Believe it or not I actually felt bad.

Then I said to myself that I was going to need Trump to keep me up to date on this story so I go get another bite from him and of course that is the one I used on the news that night.

He got me again. The guy is like crack. You just can’t get away from him.

The Trump Charisma.

Many years latter I was living in California and spending a lot of my free time in Aspen, Colorado.

One night I walk into the Caribou Club, a very high end private sort of Saloon where on any given night I was the poorest guy in the room. I was greeted by Little Susie, a local dental hygienist who for some reason felt it was her role in life to fix me up with women.

God Bless her soul.

She drags me off to a back room to meet this blond who had that LA/Aspen look down pat. Fake boobs, puffy fat injected lips, a face that had no movement. All in all pretty hot by some standards but not my type at all. The feeling was mutual and off I went to fend for myself.

When it was time to hit the road I went to say goodbye to Susie who was still with The Hottie who had clearly moved on to much greener pastures… she was all over D. Trump. He and I say hi and he begins to tell the girls what a great Sportscaster I was…Yadda..yadda..yadda…I heard this shit before …Good night Donnie.

For the next few days The Donald and The Hottie were inseparable. This happened during the window of time between Trump divorcing Ivanna and marrying Marla.

I actually had to get on a chair lift with the two love birds one morning. I am not sure but I think at one point she actually smiled, well at least I thought I saw her face move. I saw them at lunch, at dinner,in the Caribou every night.

You didn’t have to be Dr. Ruth to figure out what was going on.

One afternoon I was in Mezzaluna with the guys who owned the China Club. They invited me to their table and I took the only available chair which happened to be next to Elle McPherson. She and I chatted and since I had spent a number of years working for fellow Aussie Rupert Murdoch I shared my crazy Aussie stories with her, much to her delight I might add.

Now here comes the Trump charisma part of this.

The Donald comes in with The Hottie and sits one table away. After a few moments she jumps up and waves to someone and then goes to meet that person at the door. The guy she greets is an older looking man about Trumps age. The Hottie drags the guy to the table and introduces him to Trump.

Now I am sitting next to one of the most beautiful women in the world, Elle (the body) McPherson and she is actually engaged in my conversation and I can’t take my freaking eyes and attention off Trump.

I hear The Hottie says to Trump “ Donald…I would like you to meet my Dad.”  Yep, she wants her father to meet the guy she has been shacking up with all week.

Well the old man starts pumping Trumps hand like he just met his future son in law. They sit together and it was hard to tell who had the bigger crush on Trump, the broad or her old man. I was eves dropping as hard as I could because I was positve that at some point this guy would actually thank Trump for banging his daughter.

Now that’s Charisma. When I meet the fathers of the women in my life they usually look at their daughters and say “we need to talk”.

So it is no surpise to me that Trump is actually wooing people with his bravado and posturing as he pretends to be running for President. It is no surprise to me that there are people who actually get caught up in his BS and think he would be a good candidate. The guy is a great salesman and he is great at selling the one product he know most about, Donald Trump.

The bigger political message is that the American people are looking for change. The last election clearly indicated that the voter is fed up with the status quo in Washington and any person who is of some accomplishment who has not been a career politician is going to get serious consideration. If the fact that Trump is so high in the polls is not an indication that the American Voter is desperate for non politician type candidates… I just don’t know what is.

I just want to warn my Republican friends that when it comes to Trump don’t let him do to the party what he was doing to that bimbo in Aspen. They really don’t need someone to love them and leave them.

To put it nicely.

George Steinbrenner RIP

Today George Steinbrenner passed away at the age of eighty.  He was arguably the greatest owner in the history of sports.  He was in arguably the most complex owner in the history of sports.  On one hand a demanding task master  on the other a soft hearted loyal friend.

On the first day of the 2009 World Series I wrote this article about how I had hoped that George would see one more World Championship.   I have decided to reprint it today without changing a word.  I believe what I wrote about him nine  months ago is exactly what you will be hearing people from all over the sporting world say about him in the next few days.

God Bless George, my condolences to his family.

Steve

Tonight at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx the Yankees will host the Phillies in game one of the World Series.

Of course, as a life long Yankee fan I will be rooting for my team but this year I will be rooting very,very hard.

I really want to see the Boss get one more championship.

You may find this hard to believe but George Steinbrenner is a Saloon Guy.  Back in the seventies and eighties you would easily find George hanging out in George Martin’s or P.J. Clarke’s or T.J. Tuckers or Jim McMullen’s.  I know this because I was known to have a gargle or two in these fine establishments myself.   As matter of fact when Clarke’s almost went away Steinbrenner was part of the group that saved it.  George was known to be a big spender and a good tipper.   Which in the Saloon world forgives a lot.

For the last twenty years he has been an habitué of Elaine’s restaurant.   As a matter of fact I would bet good money that if you went in there tonight you would find that Elaine will be sporting four diamond encrusted pendants, with the interlocking N.Y. Yankee logo‘s, around her neck on a chain. Each one a replica of the Yankees championship rings of the most recent era.   A gift from the Boss.

Like most guys who did sports in the eighties I had plenty of exposure to George.  I was one of the lucky ones who never had to experience his wrath. I think that was due to the fact that I always thought that in spite of all his bluster and the managerial merry- go- round he was the best owner in baseball.   There never has been anyone who was so dedicated to put the best possible product on the field.   He was not always right with his moves or his methods but he always tried hard.   Besides, how can you argue with a guy who turned a two million dollar initial capitol investment into a team worth 1.5 billion dollars or more.

When A Current Affair went on the air in 1986 the second program we ever did was “ The Other Side of George Steinbrenner” it was a very long interview with George and I, in which we touched on subjects not usually reported about him.   We spoke about his childhood and his father.   We covered subjects like his love for music.   Every year he would donate a wheel barrel full of money to get to conduct the Cleveland Symphony for one night.   We covered his commitment the Silver Shield Foundation which sets up scholarships and financial aid for the widows and children of police officers and firemen who lost their lives in the line of duty. George would donate the entire proceeds from one game every year to the fund.   That’s a big chunk of change.   We spoke about his family and he told me he hoped his sons would want to take over the club.   He opened up pretty good to me and I reported everything accurately including some of his not so proud moments.

After the piece aired I got a phone call from John Fugazy who worked for the Yankees and he wanted me to know that in the Yankees morning meeting George told the staff that the portrayal of him was the fairest shot he ever got in the N.Y. media.

I did not become a pal of George’s, however if we were in the same room their was always a cordial and friendly exchange.

The last time I saw him was the reason I am rooting so hard for his Yankees this Series.

It was after the Yankees had beaten the Met’s in the 2000 World Series to make it three championships in a row.    After the clinching ballgame I went up to Elaine’s where the whole joint was in a state of euphoria.   After about an hour the door opened and who walked in but the Boss and his group.   The whole place erupted in spontaneous applause.   George shook as many hands as he could as his group slowly made their way to the table.

I did not get a chance to shake his hand so I waited for them to get settled and then walked to his table in the back.   I apologized for interrupting and said “ George, I’m Steve McPartlin and I just want to congratulate you and your family.” he looked at me and then got to his feet put his hands on my shoulders and said “Stevie, so good to see you, can you believe it, three in a row we won three in a row Steve.”

He then began to cry. Not just tears peaking out the corners of his eyes but a shoulder shaking sob.

I looked into his eyes and I saw humility and gratitude, and appreciation.   No bluster, no fire, none of the expectation of victory that had become his trademark.   I also saw the look of a man who knew that this was something not to be taken for granted.

I also looked into the eyes of a man who knew that this was not going to last forever.

I said to him then “ why not four George” he started to laugh and again pumped my hand and thanked me for coming over.

I went to the men’s room and had to wipe the tears from my eye.

It has been reported over the past years that he is not himself any more. I know what his situation is but that is for he and his family to divulge not me.

I will make no predictions on the World Series except for what George will be wearing.   A blue blazer and a white turtleneck.

I hope with all my heart that tonight when it becomes very apparent that George is in his box the fans at Yankee Stadium will let him know how they feel.   It may be during Roll Call or at some other point I just know my brethren will give the Boss a great memory.

As it should be, for he has given Yankee fans so many memories this time of year.

St.Patricks Day.

When I was a kid St Patrick’s Day was one of the my favorite days of the year.

Like almost every other life experience it seemed so much better in the old days.

I grew up in an almost all Irish neighborhood in Manhattan called Inwood. To be specific I grew up on 213th Street between Broadway and Tenth Avenue. On the corner of the street at Broadway was a Saloon named The Shannon View. That was the center of my St. Patrick’s Day. It was where my folks and their friends would celebrate the feast of the Patron Saint of Ireland.

After Mass of course.

Mostly I remember the music and the laughter and the sweet smell of beer and whiskey. I remember the whole place breaking out in song. Danny Boy would always bring my mother to tears. Tim Finnegan’s Wake would usually have the whole place doing a jig.  The Wild Colonial Boy would have the Republicans in the group shouting out the lyrics.

I loved the music. I loved watching the grown ups be so happy because they weren’t always that way.

One of my most fond memories was a little old lady named Maisie Nolan.  She would get there early in the afternoon to claim her seat at the end of the bar and stay till the sun had long disappeared.  She knew the words to every song and she could dance a jig and a reel with the best of the youngsters. As a matter of fact she was usually the one leading the younger people in song and dance.

Her outfit was the same every year. She wore a green Tam O’ Shanter with a fluffy white ball one top. A long crocheted Kelly green sweater and plus four pants with long green socks.  She always had her small dog with her and the dog wore an identical outfit.

She looked like Barry Fitzgerald in drag

She lived on the bottom of the street and all the kids got a big kick out of her when she would saunter up to the Shannon View. Already singing with a bit of a dance to her step. We’d follow her there like she was leading the Parade up Fifth Avenue.. She would make us all sing a song when we got to the top of the street. Molly Malone was her favorite. She give us a few coins and off we would go to sing the songs of Ireland all day hoping to find others as generous as Maisie.

What a lovely, grand and eccentric lady she was.  She was the first person I ever saw drink green beer.  This was way before it became the fad.  She brought in a little vile of green food dye and would put a drop or two in her glass. She was also the first person I ever saw give green beer to a dog.

The pooch was usually bagged by mid day.  Not Maisie she would last for the duration.

As I got older the experiences would be different. In High School we would all go downtown to the Parade.  I really never liked it much.  The highlite for me was always the NYPD Emerald Society Band.  It was led up Fifth Avenue by a barrel chested Irisman with a great big handle bar mustache.  He would pump his baton with great flourish and he was in total control.  It was a great kick to see him perform.  His name was Finbar Devine and he also grew up on 213th street. Finbar was so highly thought of that after his passing the street outside the First Precint was named  Finbar Devine Place in his honor.

The rest of Parade was fine.  I just didn’t like seeing people drinking in the street and wearing stupid plastic hats and fighting and puking and pretending that they were Irish. It pissed me off.  I stopped going when I was fifteen.  By that time I was tall enough to sneak a beer or two at the Shannon View with my father.

When I hit my twenties my feeling abut St Patrick’s Day did not get any warmer.  At this point I was tending bar and if I had to work that day, and believe me they used to have to make me work, I hated every minute of it.  I hated the Firemen from New Jersey who would come in and for some reason think they did not have to pay for anything.

They also did not feel the obligation to tip.  The cheap bastards.

I will tell you this.  There was not one professional bartender on the East Side of New York who enjoyed working that day.  I am sure it is the same today.

I grew to have a great distaste for the “plastic paddy’s” who would look at this day as an excuse to dress and act like a fool.  That’s not what the day was about and not how I was taught to celebrate it.

In my thirties some of my other friends started to share my feelings.  We wanted to celebrate together but none of us wanted to deal with the loons and hooligans. We found an empty Chinese Restaurant on Second Avenue that had a long bar. At least a long bar for a Chinese Restaurant. For a number of years we would all go there and have some drinks and sing our songs. The owner did not mind since it was usually in the middle of the afternoon and he had no customers. Besides, have you ever seen fifteen people drinking at the bar of a Chinese restaurant?  I didn’t think so.

The owner was a tall thin guy named Jim Chang and we told him that on this day he would be referred to as Seamus Chang.

I think he got a kick out of his new name and I am sure he liked the business. We knew how to drink and we knew how to spend money.  Unlike Firemen from New Jersey we knew how to tip. The third year we did this he told me he had a surprise for us.  About two hours into our celebration he brought out some huge plates of food.

Our new pal Seamus Chang had made us some Moo Shoo Corned Beef.

These days I treat the day with the respect it deserves.  I’ll go to Mass and have some food and drink with friends.  I’ll try not to lecture people about the fact that “Corned Beef and Cabbage” is not the celebratory St Patrick’s dinner in Ireland.

I’ll refrain from explaining that St Patrick’s greatest contribution was not chasing out the imaginary snakes from Ireland but it was he who brought the word of the Lord to the Druid Pagans by using the Shamrock to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Of course there are some who regret that accomplishment.  My good friend Malachy McCourt feel’s that he and Ireland miss the good old pagan days.

I will forgive the plastic green derby’s and the “ kiss me I’m Irish” pins and tee shirts.

I’ll look the other way when I stumble across some stumbling drunk.

I can do this now because in my mind and my heart I know I have had the best of times on March 17th with my family, my friends, Maisie Nolan and Jim Chang. In places like the Shannon View and an empty Chinese restaurant on Second Avenue.

Slainte everyone, and behave yourselves.

How to watch a football game in a Saloon.

I love watching football.  I really love watching football in a great Saloon.

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite locals to watch the NFC and AFC championship games.  I arrived at the beginning of the second half of the Jets and Colts game. All the usual suspects were in attendance and the place had a great energy. It is always a very peaceful and fun place to watch a ballgame.  However, as there always seems to be, there was one jerk in the group.  Much to my dismay he was wearing a Jets jersey.  

He was one of those loud obnoxious know-it-all types who felt he had to comment on every play. He was calling  offensive plays and the defensive schemes in a very, very loud voice.  Most of the time he was wrong.

This guy would give a woodpecker a headache.  

At one point I found myself standing next to him. I commented to my friend that I thought there should have been a penalty flag against the Jets on a certain play.  This jackass preceded to jump down my throat.  I very quietly and calmly explained to him that I would appreciate it greatly if he did not interfere in my conversation with my friend.  

Well, actually I was not quiet nor calm and I really don’t think I used the term appreciate.   He got the message and decided he was going to be my friend.  

I liked it better when he didn’t like me.

For the rest of the game he continued to annoy everyone in the place.  I found myself ducking him at every turn and explaining to anyone who would listen that he was not a New Yorker, actually he was from Australia.  

This episode made me realize that maybe some people need a little crash course in how to watch a sporting event in a bar.  

Enter the Saloon Guy.

First, while most Saloon owners want you to feel at home in their establishment, you really are not at home. Try and keep your language civil and your volume down to a low roar.  

Second, don’t be butting into other peoples conversations.  Sure, it’s a public place so there is really no expectation of privacy, never the less stay in your own space

Third, don’t ever be confrontational with people because they are rooting for the other team.   It’s only a game don’t take it so personally.  Trust me, the players don’t, why the hell should the fans.  

Cheering and yelling and whooping and hollering at the proper time of the game is all absolutely fine and fun.  Just screaming stupid invectives at the television is not. By the way, I thought most people realized this but when you yell at the television the people on television can’t really hear you.   So what’s the point?

Everyone wants to have a great time.  Just try to remember that your idea of a great time might not be the same idea as the person sitting next to you. 

I totally realize that a Saloon is not a Church, and there is no Holy Water in those bottlesbehind the bar.  People are going to get a little loud and rambunctious when they have had a belly full of loud mouth soup.  Remember you are not in your living room and your not alone.  

Having said all that I would like to share a few thoughts as a post mortem for these two terrific football games.  Jets fans should hold their heads high.  What a future that team has with a great young quarterback in Sanchez and a great young running back in Green.  With an outstanding defense and a head coach who looks like he would be the guy yelling at the TV if you were sitting next to him in a Saloon, the Jets will be a fun team to watch for years to come. 

Brett Favre is what we knew he was.  A great QB who will make a mistake at the wrong time of a big game.  Life is always a roller-coaster ride with this guy.  

The Saints are carrying on their broad shoulders the hopes of a city that just a few years ago had no hope at all.  Good luck to them all.

Peyton Manning is the best quarterback ever.  He seems to actually be able to will his team to victory.  

It will  be a great Super Bowl.  So, find a great Saloon to watch the game and have a great time.  Just remember to behave yourself.

Slainte. 

  

  

  

  

  

 

A Saloon Christmas

Most of you will probably think that it is a very sad story to see people sitting in a Saloon on Christmas Eve. I am sure you are all thinking that they are lost souls with no family and nowhere to go.

Of course I beg to differ.

Most great Saloons are filled with people who feel they are family.  As a person who has not had much family in his life I can tell you that I have never had a lonely Christmas.   As a matter of fact some of my fondest Christmas memories come from my associations and friendships that were cultivated sitting at the mahogany of some warm Saloon.

When I was a young bartender Christmas Eve was a great night to work.  All the boys and girls would come in for a snort or two before heading off to the family and they were all usually in an unusually generous mood.

That means big tips.

I had a Christmas Eve tradition with two pals.  Billy Owen Coughlin and Wayne Wade and I, all bachelors, would go Christmas shopping together.  First we meet for lunch and have a few beers. Then we would head off to Fordham Road in the Bronx to shop.  Of course between the three of us we knew every bartender or Saloon owner from here to there so we stopped in most of them to spread a little Christmas cheer.

We would hit a very big department store on the corner of Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse called Alexander’s.  The three of us would do all our shopping in about an hour.  I know that sounds unbelievable but it’s true.  We would then head off stopping in all the bars we missed on the way home.

Needless to say we would consider it a Christmas miracle if we made it home with all the gifts we bought.  Yet,every year there was that Christmas miracle.   God takes care of drunks and children, especially at Christmas.

One of my favorite Christmas Saloons is Butch Maguire’s in Chicago. 

It has been there since Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocked over the lamp.  Butch always claimed his gin joint to have been the first single’s bar in America.  I would have a hard time arguing with that considering anytime I have been in the place there has always been a great collection of attractive Chicago Gold Coast types.

Maguire’s is at it’s best during the Christmas season.  Every inch and I mean every inch of wall and ceiling is decorated with the most intricate and wonderfully imaginative Christmas decorations.  Even the most strident Scrooge would get into the Christmas spirit after just a few minutes in this magical place.  I spent only two Christmas Eve’s in Butch’s fine place but even though I am a die-hard New Yorker those kind, polite Chicagoans took me under their wing and made sure I was taken care of.

To all of them this season Slainte my old friends. Happy Christmas.

In San Francisco, Perry Butler’s great Saloon had a wonderful Christmas Eve tradition.  Perry’s is a true family place.  He just celebrated his fortieth year in business and even though the old man is still going strong his children are now running the joint.

Perry’s would close early on Christmas Eve, usually about ten o’clock or so.  Instead of calling last call and hustling everyone out the door the bartenders, Mike McCourt, Seamus Coyle, Hanna Ankhi and Ramsey Mousarwehy and various waiters and waitresses would all get on top of the bar and end the night with a solemn rendition of Silent Night.

There was usually not a dry eye in the joint.  Not out of sadness but out of joy and happiness to have all these wonderful people in your life.

The two former fellows are Irish from the other side.  The two latter guys are from Jordan. 

When the Arabs came to this country as very young men they took entry-level busboy jobs at Perry’s and the Irishmen took them under their wing.  Taught them the Saloon business and the ways of America.  They even helped teach them the language and of course that wonderful Christmas song.

Those of us at the bar who were aware of their story knew it to be one of love and respect.  That was why the water works would get started.  It was so special to witness the bond that was forged between them and us.  Four men of different ages and different cultures sharing with all their friends and customers a song.   A beautiful Christmas song. 

This year when I hear Silent Night sung at Midnight Mass, I will as always, think of the baby Jesus and Joseph and Mary and the Wise Men. 

I will also, as always, think of four bartenders, Mike and Seamus and Hanna and Ramsey. I will pray that we all learn to have the love in our heart and respect in our character that my two Irish friends showed my two Arabic pals and visa versa.

So as you pass a Saloon in you travels this year. Don’t feel bad for those of us sitting there we are probably right where we want to be.

There is something to be said about sharing special moments with people you choose to be with as opposed to people you have to be with.

Happy Christmas to you all.  Thanks for all for your support and comments through the year.

Steve

Tiger’s “tail” is none of our business.

This week the world was shocked to learn that Tiger Woods was having multiple affairs.

Really, a wealthy powerful athlete was unfaithful to his wife. In the immortal words of Sir John Gielgud in the move Arthur ” I’ll alert the media”.

Of course the media needed no alerting. Every news program, talk show and fake news show, were all Tiger all the time.  Morning shows, afternoon shows, night time cable talkers all picking the bones of the worlds most recognizable athlete.

All this attention and I find myself , a certifiable news junkie, not really caring very much about it.

Why?

Largely my lack of concern comes from an age old feeling I have about peoples private lives. It’s none of my business.

I think minding ones own business is a long lost art.  One I really wish would come back into vogue.

There was a time when what athletes did away from their profession was treated with discretion.  Unless of course they broke the law.   The thought that because someone posses a great athletic ability they should be held to a higher personal or social standard than your neighbor is a bit of a reach.

When I was a young sportscaster in the seventies I used to frequent a Saloon called McTeagues. It was owned by Larry McTeague who had a solid friendship with many of the NY Yankees.  It was not unusual to find many of them in his place after a ballgame and staying till the wee hours of the morning.   It was also not unusual to see them leave with some lovely Upper East Side dollies.  Even the married guys.  Shocking.

One time, I witnessed a certain happily married Yankee canoodling with a well known young women who was well known by most guys on the East Side.   If you get my drift.

I thought I had a great story and went to one of my mentors with what I knew and asked him how he thought it would play if I talked about what I knew on the radio.  He told me it was a great idea, if I never wanted another player in any sport to speak to me again.

It just wasn’t done.  There was a trust.  If the players accepted you in their inner social circle you had to keep your mouth shut. 

It was none of your business.

I understood this because the thought that I should mind my own business was drilled into my head at a very young age.  In the old neighborhood a guy who could keep his mouth shut was a valued friend.

When I was a young bartender I hung out in a Saloon called Chambers.  It was owned by a great guy named Jack Chambers. It was also the most popular bar in the area and Jack ran it more like a club than anything else. You were welcome as long as you behaved yourself.  He was well known for not tolerating any shenanigans.

I was one of the young guys who hung out there. Most of my friend at Chambers were seven or eight or ten years older than me.  I was always mature for my age.

One fellow was named Mickey Butler he had a bit of a surly personality and a gruff voice that sounded like he had gargled with razor blades but like all the guys he was stand up all the way. One time a new fellow was coming around trying to make pals and get into the inner circle that almost every bar has.  He sat next to Mickey and decided to make him his new best friend.  He kept asking Mickey questions, “are you married”? “How many kids”? “What do you do for a living”? Mickey put up with this for a while and then said “why do you want to know so much about me” the guy said he was just trying to be friendly.  Mickey says to the guy “ well then you should know that my father lived till the age of 99” the guy takes the bait and says “ wow…what was his secret” Mickey without missing a beat says “ he knew how to mind his own fucking business”. 

Message delivered.

I also was taught that if there is one area of life that you really needed to mind your own business it was when matters were between a husband and a wife.

Most of the guys were married and to the best of my knowledge did not fool around.  However there is always the exception.

One fellow had a beautiful wife and two great kids. Yet for some reason he felt it necessary to dally in the valley of a women who barred a striking resemblance to a kitchen witch.  We all wondered why but non of us ever asked.

One evening about six of us guys were watching a ballgame and our other pal, the one cheating on his wife, was at the end of the bar with the girl.

The door opens we all turn to see who it is and low and behold it’s the wife. The whole place got so quiet I swear even the jute box shut up.  If this were a movie a cold wind would have blown the door open.  As the wife walked the length of the bar the six off us looked at each other, never speaking, silently we knew what we had to do, we had to do the manly thing, we had to get the hell out of there.  We picked up our money and walked outside.

The girlfriend locked herself in the bathroom, the bartender walked over to  the TV and pretended to watch the game.  Outside I was given the duty of checking things out through the window.

The wife was giving it to our pal real good. He looked like a fourth grader getting balled out by Sister Mary Battle Axe.

It occurred to me, that if it was none of our business, why was I nominated to spy.  I was told by the older guys it was to make sure nothing got out of hand.  I was to let them know if anything physical happened. “Either way” I asked?  They looked at each other and once again with out speaking to each other came up with the same conclusion.

She could whack him a few times but if he raised his hand to her we were going in.

Thankfully no one hit anyone.  The wife ran out in tears.  The girlfriend, once she felt safe to come out of the Jane, left.  Our pal was at the end of the bar his head in his hands.  I looked at my pals and once again asked with my eyes should we speak with him.  No.

 After some time we could hear our friend crying . A real cry. Sobs and loss of breath, heaving shoulders  and the whole ballgame. I got up to go down and console him and one guy grabbed me sat me back down and said. “ It’s none of our business, even if he was doing it in front of us, it’s none of our business”.

That’s how I feel about Tiger. Even though it happened in front of us. It’s none of our business.

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