Jules’s Jukebox: Songs for Social Justice

As I enter this bizarre week bookended by juxtaposing events, I can’t help but think of that long arc of history bending toward social justice–and popular music’s strong ties to helping spread the word on our society’s most pressing social issues. Tomorrow, our nation will honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Stride toward Freedom while on Friday giving the oath of office to a man who maliciously called one of Dr. King’s civil rights brothers all talk and not action–for the very action of standing up to him. While searching for songs to properly encapsulate this week, I found some amazing lists that I would recommend to anyone for listening (maybe check out this one from Amnesty International). I looked and looked and selected the following two–one for MLK Day and the other for Inauguration Day.

“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday. This Jim Crowe era song from 1939 describing lynching is an appropriate choice for both occasions this week in reality. Rebecca Ferguson, an X Factor UK singer, offered to sing at DJT’s Inauguration under one condition–that she sing Holliday’s haunting “Strange Fruit.” At last check, she was not on the list featuring acts such as Toby Keith, Jackie Evancho, and 3 Doors Down. And now that DJT is no longer attending his MLK Day event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, one would think a reach out to this key constituency would be in order. Instead, he doubles down on the insults to civil rights leaders.

To capture what all my right-wing friends think about where I live and what I believe, I chose to add a little dark irony to the mix. This song was originally written in 1979 as a piece of Juvenalian satire against California Governor Jerry Brown (yes, he is our governor again, hence my tongue is planted in my cheek). Since Governor Brown has vowed that California will work to protect the environment despite a DJT administration’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations, this seems like a perfect song highlight the dichotomy and divided nature of the right’s view of all of us flakey La La Land libs against the pervasive views of the progressives’ views of DJT and his incoming administration.

“California Über Alles” by The Dead Kennedys–a single in 1979, released in 1980 on the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

Jules’s Jukebox: Year in Review, Pt. 2 –The Fabric of My Childhood Unraveling

Tonight’s Jukebox will look and sound a little different. Tonight, rather than songs we will have a combination of words, video, and symphonic music as we celebrate the lives of some of the pop culture icons who left us this year. Most of these people have been part of my pop culture consciousness since I was old enough to remember. With a heavy heart, I look to a future world that has progressed beyond my memories. My generation, the X’ers, are quickly coming to the days where we will attend more funerals than weddings. And this year was a stark reminder of that fact of aging.

  1. Gene Wilder–Wilder died on August 29th at age 83 from complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. Wilder was a mainstay of my childhood. I was lucky enough to have a mother who loved movies. When my brother and I were 4 and 5 years old respectively, my parents went on a date night to the drive-in theater with us in tow in the back seat. We sat in our pajamas eating popcorn and M&M’s and playing with our toys as Blazing Saddles started projecting across the screen. We didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the film other than the bean fart scene and the Waco Kid’s lightning fast hands. We fell asleep, but always remembered laughing at the movie. So when we had opportunities in junior high to watch the film we did. It became a favorite just as much as Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. For my birthday this year, my brother took me to see the stage musical of Young Frankenstein–partly for us to pay honor to my mother (whose birthday was four days after mine) and her love of theater/movies/the arts and partly to pay honor to the late Wilder.

from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

from Blazing Saddles

from Young Frankenstein

2. Sports heroes Arnold Palmer and Muhammad Ali: Both men were constants in my childhood in very different ways. Both were from sports that were not commonly watched in my household–golf and boxing– but both were trailblazers with loyal followings. Whether being “The Greatest” & “stinging like a bee” and protesting against injustice or being everyman’s hero while having a drink named after him and meeting presidents, these icons top the heap in bringing their sports to the mainstream. Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 on June 3rd after suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for three decades. Arnold Palmer died on September 25th at the age of 87.

3. Sir George Martin: The Fifth Beatle died in his sleep on March 8th at the age of 90. Ringo Starr announced his death via Twitter. John Lennon expressed that they worked and learned together. From Sir George’s Rolling Stone’s obituary: “George Martin made us what we were in the studio,” John Lennon said in 1971. “He helped us develop a language to talk to other musicians.” Memorably, Martin played the Bach-esque piano solo on the Beatles’ hit “In My Life.” The solo showed how the producer and the band innovated in the studio–the instrument was a piano recorded at half-speed and then played back at normal speed sounding rather Baroque, like a harpsichord. The song was also one of the first of Lennon’s songs to focus on his personal experiences. “In My Life” is one of the more renowned Beatle’s hits. My brother, who is a huge Beatles fan, selected this song as his first dance with his bride at his wedding reception. Saying good night to the fifth Beatle is like losing our past inch by inch.

4. Alan Rickman: I have loved the man with the most distinctive voice ever since his break-out role as a terrorist falling from Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve in 1988. Learning of his passing on January 14th from cancer at age 69 was an unexpected blow–especially on the heels of David Bowie’s death a few day earlier. Rickman’s versatility and exceptional talent allowed him to play the most dastardly of villains and the softest of lovers. Whether he was terrorist Hans Gruber or loving suitor Colonel Brandon or magical double agent Severus Snape, Rickman chewed up and owned every scene in which he appeared. And even better, he’s one of the British Men Reading Poetry with his interpretation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. So we will not belie with false compare…

from British Men Reading Poetry/Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130”

from Sense and Sensibility

from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2

5. Carrie Fisher: Fisher’s death, so fresh in my heart and mind, is so hard to take. Carrie Fisher was the first damsel in distress that really wasn’t a damsel in distress. She created the role of Princess Leia as a strong “soldier” (her word) setting an example for me and my generation as young girls. I still have my original Princess Leia action figures, which she hilariously speaks of in her one-woman show Wishful Drinking (based on her memoir of the same name). I fell in love with Carrie Fisher the author in my college years when I bought her first novel, Postcards from the Edge. Her sarcasm, her wit, her frank and open capturing of life in all of its glory and gory conflict spoke to her exquisite talent as a wordsmith and opened up a whole new career path for her as a novelist, screenwriter, and nonfiction memoir writer. I own three of her books and plan to read the remaining. When I heard of her heart attack on December 23rd as she returned on a flight from London, I feared the worst. Having lost a friend a year and a half ago to similar circumstances, I feared that she would not recover. Despite my fears, I hoped. But when the news came this morning, that she passed away at 8:55 a.m. at the age of 60, though I was not surprised, I was still immensely saddened. My first heroine inspired me to find confidence, to write, to not be afraid of people who may suffer from addiction or mental illness. She was the complete package–someone who grew up in the glare of the spotlight (as the daughter of Hollywood royalty Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds) but was always giving back to the world around her. Rest in peace, Princess.

from The Blues Brothers

from Wishful Drinking

from Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back

“Princess Leia’s Theme” from the Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope OMPS

Jules’s Jukebox: Remembering Lennon

Today marks the 36th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination by Mark David Chapman. Thankfully, Chapman was denied parole for the ninth time in August for the rock legend’s murder. He will come up for parole again in two years. So for two more years we can forget him and remember the man he took from us despite him.

The story of how Lennon died is so chilling, but today I remember not how John Lennon died. I choose to remember how he lived–as an activist  who topped J. Edgar Hoover’s secret FBI “enemies” list (his dossier was over 300 pages), who had to fight deportation from the U.S. for participating in anti- Vietnam War efforts, and who had to battle even harder to secure his green card to live in the U.S.

Lennon’s example of standing up against injustice is not lost on me. I’ve long believed being a BMW (a bitcher, moaner, & whiner) solves no one’s problems. Getting involved, being an activist, learning as much as possible about my issues, educating others, mobilizing and organizing on my issues…those are things that can promote progress.  Lennon proved himself a leader of people–one who would stand up at the front of the crowd and show them how to work for social justice even at the risk of being labeled “subversive” by the U.S. government. One doesn’t have to agree with Lennon’s left-wing politics to recognize and honor his dedication and investment in progressing his beliefs for peace and justice.

Photographer Allan Tannenbaum took the last photo shoot of Lennon for promotion of what would be his last album, Double Fantasy, ten days before his death. Tannenbaum said,  “He loved to push ­boundaries like that,” referring to Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, posing nude. The photographer related that “nudity was just another form of expression for them.” The image most easily found online from this photo shoot shows such happiness and ease from the couple.

john-lennon-last-photo-shoot

One of Allan Tannenbaum’s photos from John Lennon’s last photo shoot.

To honor his activism and his life on this day, I stand with his widow, Yoko Ono, in pleading for common sense gun laws in America. On her Facebook page, Ono eloquently wrote:

Dear Friends,
Every day, 91 Americans are killed with guns.
We are turning this beautiful country into a War Zone.
Together, let’s bring back America, the green land of Peace.
The death of a loved one is a hollowing experience.
After 36 years, our son Sean and I still miss him.
Yoko Ono Lennon
8 December 2016

 

She also shared this heartbreaking and shocking image/meme:

lennon-gun-control

So today’s jukebox duo of songs are to celebrate the activist, the leader, the man–John Lennon.

“Remember” by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

“Power to the People” by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

Cognitive closure and US politics — Later On

That’s from a very interesting Open Culture post by Dan Colman, which begins: There’s a political disconnect in the United States. We have two political parties, each now living in its own reality and working with its own set of facts. The common ground between them? Next to none. How to explain this disconnect? Maybe the answer […]

via Cognitive closure and US politics — Later On

*Jules’s Note: My colleagues and I have long talked of Leon Festinger’s theory of “cognitive dissonance,” the discomfort  an individual experiences when holding two or more contradictory beliefs or values at the same time. The individual may also perform an action that is contradictory to those beliefs or values, but these actions often occur when the individual is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values.  The individual tends to choose the beliefs or values over what the new information show to be erroneous in those held beliefs or values. “Cognitive closure” gives some clarity to how “cognitive dissonance” can exist. This video is enlightening. Take a few minutes and watch.

Jules’s Jukebox: Union Power

Today’s songs have been selected in honor of me and my team entering day 2 of contract negotiations tomorrow. Teachers unions differ in many ways from their working class brothers and sisters, but those of us in union leadership honor our union history and culture. Utah Phillips was a great storyteller and singer in the labor movement, so I selected his cover of Joe Hill’s “There Is Power in the Union,” an ode to solidarity.

“There Is Power in the Union” performed by Utah Phillips (original Joe Hill)

Selection number two, “Which Side Are You On,” is one of my favorite Ani DiFranco songs. Her angry update of Florence Reece’s lyrics to reflect the corruption of our government and the flourishing of corporate greed. The song is more relevant than ever with our new president-elect blending the two like never before in our history.

“Which Side Are You On?” by Ani DiFranco (covering Pete Seeger–written originally by Florence Reece in 1931 during the Harlan County War between the coal miners and mine owners)

So here’s to a productive day at the bargaining table tomorrow…

And here’s a bonus song from the Dust Bowl Troubadour, Woody Guthrie–again, a timely song even though it was written in 1951, about DJT’s father, Fred. While the lyrics to this song were written by Woody, this version is performed by The Missin’ Cousins. The notes on this YouTube video provide a historical account of how this song and other bitter songs decrying the racism of Old Man Trump came to be written.

“I Ain’t Got No Home in this World Anymore/Old Man Trump” by The Missin’ Cousins

Hamilton Star Responds to DJT: Conversation Is Not Harassment, Sir.

Veep-elect MP went to see the top Broadway musical this weekend and was greeted with a hostile audience. At the conclusion of the play, the cast, led by Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr, the most infamous Veep in U.S. history. Delivering an eloquent and impassioned plea to the Veep-elect to work for all Americans, Dixon showed grace and de-escalated a situation growing in intensity only to be accused of harassment by DJT. MP even turned to hear what the cast had to offer according to this report from People Magazine

 

That’s what Hamilton star Brandon Victor Dixon had to say Saturday, after President-elect Donald Trump claimed Vice President-elect Mike Pence was “harassed” while attending the Friday evening showing of the Tony-winning musical.

Pence, 57, had paid a visit to the hottest musical on Broadway — and received heavy boos from the audience upon his arrival.

During the curtain call at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the Broadway cast addressed him directly — with actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays former vice president Aaron Burr in the show — delivering a statement written by the show’s producers.

“I see you walking out but I hope you will hear us,” Dixon said. He told the audience, “There’s nothing to boo here, we’re all sharing a story of love.”

“We welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical — we really do,” he continued. “We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of all of us.”

Video of the speech quickly went viral online — with many weighing in throughout the evening and into early morning as to whether the crowd’s reaction and the speech was justified.

Throughout the course of his political career, Pence has been a crusader for anti-LGBTQ legislation, supporting a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality and signing a 2013 bill to jail same-sex couples in Indiana for applying for a marriage license.

As a Congressional candidate in 2000, Pence proposed to move federal funding from HIV/AIDS organizations to institutions that would provide conversion therapy for “those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Broadway has been a safe-haven for the LGBTQ community for years — accepting, employing and championing many of its members. Hamilton itself stars a diverse cast lead by Javier Muñoz in the title role — an openly gay, HIV-positive actor.

The show was also participating in the twice annual, six-week fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS — where casts, crews and volunteers at Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring productions around the country deliver post-show speeches and accept donations at theatre exits for one of the nation’s leading industry-based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations.

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing,” Trump tweeted on Saturday morning. “This should not happen!”

“The Theater must always be a safe and special place,” he continued. “The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

Dixon responded, telling Trump — adding that he appreciated Pence “for stopping to listen.”

Muñoz kept things vague – telling his followers on Twitter to “Live/own your truth, let none make you feel small,” and “be the light that shines bright.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda — the show’s Pulitzer-Prize winning creator and former star— stood behind the actions of his cast.

Trump’s campaign manager also addressed Pence’s reception at the musical, retweeting Joe Scarborough who shared an old quote from President Barack Obamasaying that he believed that marriage was between a man and a woman.

“‘I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian.’ -Pres Obama,” Scarborough wrote. “Was he booed on Broadway his 1st term?”

“This is so true. And @mike_pence deserves respect and a peaceful night out with his nephew and daughter. #yourvicepresident,” Conway responded.

Josh Gad —a Tony-nominee for his role in The Book of Mormon – penned a message on Twitter on Saturday.

“I know the booing upsets some of you,” he wrote. “But this is what happens when you run on a platform of hate. When you spend a year demonizing races and faiths. When your running mate teases assassinating and jailing his rival. When you openly supported conversion therapy for Gays.”

“I personally would never boo someone at the a theater,” he added. “But this feels different.”

The Hamilton staff received a request from Pence to attend Friday’s performance earlier that afternoon, producer Jeffrey Seller told The Hollywood Reporter.

“The cast, the creators, we all felt that we must express our feelings to vice president-elect Pence. This is not a normal time, this is not a normal election,” Seller said. “This has not been a normal result. And in a democracy, one must let his and her voice be heard, and we were not going to the show tonight without expressing how we feel.”

“Everybody should be able to see this show, regardless of their politics,” he continued. “But it does just so happen that the politics of this administration have been so negative toward minorities, people of color, gay people that we felt the need to speak up. As a cast comprised of minorities, women, gay people, it was necessary. We had to speak. We had to express how we feel.”

 

Jules’s Jukebox: 1981

The years that are worth mining for music gold are the early 1980s. And 1981 features so many songs that are on my current playlist (I have a thumb drive loaded with 8G plugged into my car stereo). Songs like ELO’s “Hold on Tight,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Who’s Crying Now” (Escape is still one of my all time faves), REO Speedwagon’s “Keep on Loving You” and “Take It on the Run”, and Foreigner’s “Urgent” are in heavy rotation on my stereo. New Wave hits like Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” and Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” added some dance-able pizzazz. DM would go on to become one the most influential bands of my college years, and I’m excited to see them on this year’s ballot for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, along with ELO and Journey.

The summer of 1981, I made my last extended visit to stay with my cousins in Louisiana. The songs I remember most from that visit are REO’s “Keep on Loving You” and Kim Carnes’s “Bette Davis Eyes,” which was the number one selling song of the year. Neither song was a favorite at the time, but both have nostalgic relevance to me now. I forever associate these songs with waking up at 4 a.m. to watch the Royal Wedding between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, much  to my uncle’s consternation–he thought we were being stupid schoolgirls and that we shouldn’t care about the UK’s celebrations. But I fell in love with Princess Diana. She was someone from my own generation who met a Prince Charming, but watching her “happily ever after” turn out not so happy, she became a role-model for me as a strong, independent woman.

charles-diana-kiss

The songs take me back to a simpler, happy times. Songs like Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”making soap opera actors crossovers onto Top 40 Charts and Olivia Newton John making leg warmers a fashion statement in “Physical” made music fun.

Stars like Sheena Easton (who had three hits in the top 100 in ’81) and Pat Benatar kept women in the forefront of the pop/rock music scene, while Dolly Parton and Juice Newton made country more mainstream with songs like “9 to 5” and “Angel of the Morning.”

But today’s quarter is buying two songs that I loved for their disparate styles:

“Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie

I first heard this song from Queen’s Greatest Hits. It was the one new song on the album. And it was my immediate favorite (yes, even more favorite than “Bohemian Rhapsody”–oh, the blasphemy!). I think I was the only one of my friends to even know this song, and when I went to see Queen on their Hot Space tour, I wanted them to play the song so badly, and was disappointed when I didn’t hear it. Having heard the song be sampled over the years (when I did my student teaching, all the students knew the famous bass line and finger snaps–but they crushed me when they proclaimed it was Vanilla Ice and who is this Queen you are talking about?) “Under Pressure” has only become more influential over the years, and it remains one of a handful of songs that speaks to me philosophically as well as musically. The song’s lyrics always spoke to me then, but they mean even more to me today in the aftermath of the recent election:

“…Because love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
And loves (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves…”

“Stand and Deliver” by Adam and the Ants

Adam and the Ants sure made pirates look sexy and fun! This hit from the band’s Prince Charming album remind me ultimately how happy and fun music from the 1980s could be. I wanted to dress up as Adam Ant for Halloween that year. I can remember being thrilled to watch music videos on a summer afternoon because I could move the rabbit ears on the TV just enough to get a reception from one of the local independent TV stations that hosted a teen music show. That show, and these glammy, sexy videos gave me a glimpse of life outside of my small, one stop light town in central Oklahoma. Hence they speak to me still today. These early music videos were almost as good as reading a historical novel.

Jules’s Jukebox: 1980, pt. 1

By the time 1980 rolled around, my life was nothing but a soundtrack. So many songs connect to certain images, times, events, people. There were simply too many songs released that year for me to pick one or two. So I’ve busted the Jukebox into three parts.

Part one features two songs that are absolute standouts for different reasons.

“Call Me” by Blondie was the number one song of the year. It hovers near the top of my all-time favorites list and it is on my current playlist on my phone. While the song was featured on the group’s album AutoAmerican, it was used in the movie American Gigolo the movie that launched Richard Gere to stardom. The song was composed by Debbie Harry in conjunction with Giorgio Moroder, who wrote and produced the movie’s soundtrack. I’ve always loved this longer version of the song that appeared on the soundtrack as opposed the shorter, radio friendly version on AutoAmerican.

My second choice for today’s Jukebox, I’ve selected a song that brings back bittersweet memories. My mom was so excited when John Lennon released Double Fantasy in November 1980. The first single from the album became a quick favorite in our household.

“(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon became for me synonymous with the former Beatle’s death on December 8th. I can remember crying in bed as I listened to DJs on the radio confirm what Howard Cosell had announced on Monday Night Football–that Lennon had been assassinated by a deranged fan. Double Fantasy went on to win Album of the Year at the Grammy’s in 1981.

Veteran’s Day: Lest We Forget

red-poppy-wreath Veteran’s Day is this Friday.  There will be a smattering of small ceremonies to remember those who fought in our wars, but many who work “banker’s hours” will just see it as a day off work. I’ve long lamented the lack of understanding I’ve witnessed with regards to Veteran’s Day over the years. I admit to being guilty of that lack of understanding as well.

I have many veterans in my family, but none would talk about their service or the need to remember except in their own private way. My Grandfather, whom I never met, created a scrapbook filled with old black and white photos from World War 2 that he would take out from time to time to memorialize his comrades. The remaining pictures are now faded, and the ink is worn off, so my Grandfather’s story is lost to the ages. This saddens me.

My uncle, who died last year, rarely spoke of his time in Vietnam, and he never shared that he had won a Bronze Star while serving overseas. It was only after he died that we learned. His headstone lists his services, but following his last wishes there was no Honor Guard at his funeral. My family’s aversion to speaking of their service meant that we rarely showed our appreciation of said service except to occasionally place wreaths on Grandfather’s grave site on Memorial Day.

Now with the Iraq and Afghan wars so fresh in our minds and hostilities still thriving overseas, it seems that our paying honor to our men and women in the military is making a comeback of sorts. Americans have such a short memory, yet our modern world is forcing us into remembrance.

The UK seems to get this remembrance thing a lot more than we do here in America.  Our British allies will memorialize their veterans as well as they call this day Remembrance Day. Veteran’s Day/Remembrance Day was originally called Armistice Day, as it marked the end of The Great War. Since the 20th Century was the bloodiest on record, the day came to mark all men who fought in the battles of the many wars of the past century. When my son and I traveled across the UK this summer, there was not a single town in which we visited that didn’t have some sort of statue or memorial erected with a base covered in red poppy wreaths. These memorials and remembrances were not confined to November 11th. Our visit was in July. Yet we saw red poppy wreaths in London, Plymouth, Wales, and Edinburgh.

red-poppy-londonLondon, England, UK.

I know that Americans have a bravado as well as a humility–to show no weakness or need to have these exploits remembered. But the remembrance is for more than these men and women who have served. It is so we, as a people, as a nation, never forget their service, their sacrifice, or the reason they were put in the most horrific of circumstances to begin with. In Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, his protagonist, Paul, queries about what would happen if just one man–his Kaiser– had said no to the war. He laments that one man’s choice impacts the lives of so many farmers, students, and mailmen. These lessons about why we should or should not fight a war, from those who served honorably, are what we must remember and honor this Friday.

This Friday, I send my gratitude to all who have served our country, in war time or in peace. If you have an opportunity, seek out a local VFW or American Legion to find ways to pay honor to our veterans. My son and I will be dropping baked goods by our local VFW as has been our custom the past six or so years. The vets in the room light up to speak to a young man and tell their stories. So join in the remembrance.

My English Summer, Pt. 2: The Pub Crawl Down Fleet Street

Of our four days in London, the most memorable for my son, Tristan, and I would have to be our pub crawl up Fleet Street with my two friends. For Tristan, being only 18, this was a new experience. I’ve never hidden alcohol from my son, and he has never abused my household bar. I have long set out to teach him to be responsible when drinking–don’t drive, know when to stop, don’t binge, etc.

So my friends, Dee & CC, planned with me to make this run as memorable as possible. We picked four historic pubs that had been built/rebuilt in the aftermath of the Great Fire: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The Tipperary, Old Bell Tavern, and Punch Tavern. We set out to have one drink at each place. As it turned out, each of these stops presented memorable moments for us.

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We started at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, rebuilt in 1667 (there have been inns and taverns at the site since the 1200s), winding our ways through the small dark rooms, each decorated with a different theme, to the very back of establishment where we ponied up at a tall table. Tristan and I ordered pints of cider while Dee & CC both picked ales. We talked about our day’s adventures at the Tower of London and other historic sites throughout the city, mapping our remaining time in town. As for the atmosphere, it felt old. It felt like we were in the Prancing Pony in Bree rather than a living, breathing, modern city. We were truly transported back in time. CC disliked the lack of natural light (there are no windows in the dark rooms), so we headed across the street to The Tipperary, an Irish Pub in the heart of London.

The bones of The Tipperary also date back to 1667, though much has been altered in the intervening years. While here, we kicked it up a notch, with each of us ordering Jameson and ginger ale–except my son, who wanted to try his hand at this Irish whiskey on the rocks. He has since said he will add the ginger ale in the future, as the world started to feel a little funny about this point.

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Needless to say, we decided that food was in order on our next stop. So at The Old Bell Tavern, we ordered meat pies and mushy peas. We giggled about eating meat pies on Fleet Street by querying whether Mrs. Lovett had baked them. The pies were delicious though. We definitely remembered the pies more than the cider at this spot. And Tristan began to make a few local acquaintances who were super nice to us, feeding us information–especially since we looked like the tourists we were.

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After filling our bellies with the Bell’s meat pies, we wended our way back toward our hotel to make one last stop at Punch Tavern. The inside of this tavern was dark, but more open than the others. It had a more modern vibe on the inside playing top pop and dance music. The tavern does date back to the mid 1600s (it was mentioned in Samuel Pepys diaries), but was updated in the 1890s to become a gin palace–the fancy way of saying the bar specializes in gin. It’s kept its upscale “palace” decor and theme. Hence, The Punch was packed with millennials. We couldn’t find a place to sit, so we found ourselves in the entryway playing with the games stashed on a small shelf. We ended our crawl by splitting a Sloe Gin Fizz, playing Jenga, and perusing the Punch and Judy art predominantly featured throughout the entryway.

Tristan loved that each spot we visited featured a different flavor for London’s historic offerings (two of our stops were featured on CNN’s list of Oldest, Greatest Pubs). Though he switched to water by the time we hit The Old Bell (all my years of advice payed off), he was glad that he could be a full-fledged adult instead of the pseudo-adult that U.S. law allows him to be. He could walk into the pubs, make his own order, and feel comfortable in his skin. Tristan liked London not because he could drink, but because he could move freely as an adult. And I liked London because I learned that my son would be a responsible drinker, even when presented with the opportunity to be irresponsible.

We have both said we wish to go back to London, as there is so much more to see. Maybe next time we will hit other historic pubs like the The Ship & Shovell or The Lamb & Flag (a favorite of Charles Dickens’), or attempt the Circle Line Pub Crawl–with half pints as I’m a little too lightweight for something so hardcore. Needless to say, gastropubs and high end bars aren’t my scene. I’d rather find a local watering hole and enjoy the pulse of the city around me. On a return visit, I’d like to experience the local scene a little more. So here goes another 5 years of planning for a return visit.

To be continued…