Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Saloon bar socialism in NY

I'm not one for kneejerk anti-Americanism (much overused and misused though that word is) but I never imagined that I'de be out-leftied in a casual pub discussion in the Goddamn United States of America, but in Rocky Sullivan's, a down-at-heel Irish boozer in Central Manhattan, I found possibly the most resolutely leftwing pub I've ever been in while on holiday in New York last week.

It's a belter of a place - sure, it's dark, dingy and the toilets are a bit of a state but the place hums with righteous argument, not in pretentious chin-stroking fashion but in a hearty, engaged and boozy way. When I first got chatting to the barman, Chris, about the Irish peace process I was expecting the standard cartooon republicanism with which Irish-Americans are often, and sometimes unfairly, associated (this is a place with a fair bit of Celtic, Free Derry etc paraphernalia on the wall after all). But no, your man's main criticisms centred on the insufficiently class-based nature of Sinn Fein's politics and how they just weren't leftwing enough.

We moved on, along with assorted other local barflies (including a Bush-ite who was comprehensively blepsed in a row about Iraq), to union rights, the Middle-East and even John McDonnell and the state of the Labour party. It's the sort of amenable yet diverse place you could stay in until 4am without realising it, which is what we did. Rocky Sullivan's also hosts debates, meetings and live music from rollicking good-time pub bands.

Alas, I was told the bar is closing at the end of July, a victim of The Man's high rents and brutal economics, though I'm assured it will be reopening in Brooklyn. Let's hope so.

Fine jukebox too - my selections: It's Gonna Happen - The Undertones; Follow the Leader - Eric B & Rakim; Christmas in Washington - Steve Earle; Novelty - Joy Division; Waiting for the Great Leap Forward - Billy Bragg.


grimupnorth said...

Sounds great. Years ago i went to a similar bar in Greenwich Village called the Red Lion. Long closed....

Anonymous said...

Aye, sounds like a decent boozer TD. Don't be too harsh on the cartoon provos mind- it's not as if NY's their main hangout.

Up the Os.

E10 Rifle said...

Fair do's anon. Do I know you BTW?

Renegade Eye said...

I'm a coffeeshop guy. I don't usually spontaneously get a good discussion.