Wonderful Saloon


Detail of McSorley’s Bar, John Sloan, 1912

From The American Scholar:

Starting that June, I spent three months living on Washington Square and taking lunches at McSorley’s, where I watched the NYU students, the Irish cops, and the several cats come and go—all the while using my pocketknife to carve University of Kansas into the wooden table by the window on the right as you go in. Two dark ales for a dollar; a liverwurst sandwich with thick-sliced raw onions, rich mustard, saltless crackers, two dollars. Sure enough, men only.

At the bar there were postcards that McSorley’s would send for you. On the front was a picture of the front door (open) with a bald man sitting with his back to us in a chair on the left-hand side studying (I now imagine) the clientele. Two ale barrels converted to flowerpots flank the door. On the backside across the top were the words: Since 1854 this famous Old Ale House has been known for its fine home-cooked food and excellent Ale served to a world-wide male clientele. Across the bottom: P.S. Meet me in McSorley’s. It is what I would circle with each postcard I wrote to Harris and Lola.

Because it was summer, outside it was beautifully snowing would have to wait: the promise I’ve made to return one winter night to live inside the language of the poem has by now become a mantra: sitting in the din thinking drinking the ale, which never lets you grow old blinking at the low ceiling.

“We’ll Always Have McSorley’s”, Robert Day, The American Scholar

Read Snug and Warm Inside McSorley’s by e.e. cummings