It’s loud in here. Dark and old, Paddy’s pub is small, crowded, smoky, the smell of spilled beer, cigarettes and sin are inescapable. The old wood room is filled with the raucous laughter of middle aged hedonists. The Grateful Dead sugar magnolias swoons at an ear splitting volume that can be heard long before you reach the pub, inside, the sound is nearly violent. We sit down at the ashtray strewn bar, the bartender a consummate professional materializes almost at once. She reads our minds “22 ounce Yuenglings for $5?” Yes, Please.
Hopefully the alcohol can take the edge off of this noise. “Cheers, Mates!” A bald round face perched atop the prematurely bent, arthritic; yet, solid, body of a lifetime spent in construction welcomes us. Between the thick brogues of his Irish accent along with the stereo now blaring Tom Petty my comprehension is low. I can only understand occasional phrases sometimes merely words. We smile and nod. Tom Petty won’t back down. “Welcome to feckin’ Paddy’s feckin’ pub!” “Have you ever feckin’ been here before?” We assured him it was our first time. “Well then, let me feckin’ tell ya’ all about it, oldest feckin’ Irish bar in Philadelphia.”
Undeterred by the fact that we could barely hear or understand him he eagerly told us a garbled account of the history of Paddy’s Pub. “Twas’ the first feckin’ Irish bar, do ye understand?” “Ay, when they left the old country, first stop when they got to Philadelphia, Paddy’s Pub.” “Ay that Ol’ Paddy, was the first person many of the Irish met, when they got here.” “First they’d stop down stairs for a feckin’ whiskey, then they’d go upstairs, for a feckin’ whore!” Ye’ get it?” “Aye, first Paddy’s was a feckin’ brothel, as well as a feckin’ bar.”
He continued, but the beer had done nothing to dampen the sound of the music. Possibly another one will help. We smile and nod. He continues “Ay feck welcome, we ‘ave a good time here, ay, feck…” (Garbled, he continues and punctuates a misunderstood sentence with gales of laughter.) Our next beer arrives. “Ay, ya I’m 46 years old.” The wrinkles in his face declare he lied. The Doors now: break on through to the other side. “Cheers, ay ya ‘ave a good time in Philly, eh.” He wished us well, drained his pint and went off into the day. Presumably his spidey tourist sense had signaled a tourist in need of a history lesson in a different bar. We’ll never know.
Black tooth grin
Unburdened from trying to understand a thick Irish accent, which is hard in all this smoke, the Pan Handler and I chat, when the Clash: should I stay or should I go now, allow. There’s a heavily tattooed petite lady dancing in a sundress, enamored with attention. Those around her have tired of heaping their affections on her, her primal urge for consideration has forced her to hunt for prey. We are in her cross-hairs. She waves and screams something from across the room. We look at each other, shrug and wave back.
In an instant she is on us. Our wave has been misinterpreted as interest. Like a purring kitten, she wants more. She continues dancing, now in front of us Delite: groove is in the heart. Addicted to attention she pounces every time she senses our attention waning, she yells something out. “Cheers!” she shouts and holds up her glass. The toast is enough attention, but for how long?
She yells something else. I haven’t understood more than six words she’s said, she keeps talking. We smile, we nod. It’s been too long “Cheers!” she shouts again, a traditional toast, already losing effectiveness, her need for notice is increasing. Her smile is beaming, I don’t want to but when she smiles, I look at the hole where her tooth used to be. Her tattoos are colorful she says something else, again I didn’t hear, I smile and nod. She raises her hand, she wants a high five, finally something I understand.
I didn’t understand. The Pan Handler had heard what tattoo lady had said. It was a question, do you swing both ways? She doesn’t. Tattoo’s need for attention was more than I realized. Now she’s talking about drugs. Eventually she runs out of time, money or both and departs. When she does I realize it’s still not even five o’ clock. These old people know how to party.
The Take Away
If it hadn’t been for the sarcastic remarks of a tour guide, we would not have found Paddy’s Pub. Sarcastically the tour guide had said if we wanted a $20 dollar pint in a bar because it’s famous, then try Paddy’s Pub. He couldn’t have been further off the mark, Paddy’s Pub was a bargain compared to every other bar we went to in Philly even if it is famous. He was wrong about the “excellent” burgers at Maces Crossing & even got it wrong when he said to get cheese steaks with provolone. I’m not even sure if he’s from Philly.
Ya wanna go? Here’s the address: 228 Race St Philadelphia. Paddy’s is one of those places that is just so frickin’ old they don’t have a website, but here’s a link to their Yelp page. http://www.yelp.com/biz/paddys-old-city-pub-philadelphia If you like dive bars where old people go to let off steam, this is your place. Be warned it is very smoky and the clientele is a little bit out there but they make for great people watching.
Coming soon; one good cause destroys another in the City of Brotherly Love. Same bat time, same bat channel. We hope to see you there- The Pot and Pan Handler