May 27, 2016
Born in Ireland, Fergus "Fergie" Carey is one of the biggest personalities in the Philadelphia bar and restaurant scene. Known for his long, silvery locks and his devout commitment to the arts, he's helped shape the Philly food and drink landscape with keystone watering holes like Fergie's Pub, Monk's and Belgian Cafe.
Here, Carey shares his favorite poem, what bar he likes to lounge in that's not his own and how he nurses his hangovers.
What Philly bar do you enjoy going to when you're not at one of your own?
I like a bar called Bar. It's at 1309 Sansom St. That would be my escape. It's a long, dark bar and is as simple as can be. I like to sit farthest from the street in the corner by the jukebox on my own — play some music and be entertained by a bartender named Happy Hour. An hour in there by myself is like a mini-vacation.
You're kind of a Philadelphia icon in your own right. Maybe not Benjamin Franklin, but close. Why do you think that is?
Wow, that's a hell of a compliment, but totally undeserved. I do love Philadelphia — that helps. I am an immigrant that seems to have done well for himself; people like to see that and admire it. I do things and I help out — I help small and large theater companies. I ran the bar for the Fringe Festival for years; I have been throwing a giant block party every Memorial Sunday for 23 years; I help out David Guinn the muralist with his project Freewall; I give back and I am involved. I love living in the city. I love being able to walk to a gig at the TLA or a play at the Wilma or Arden; I love cycling around the city and taking advantage of all it has to offer; I love the vibrant beer and bar scene. The restaurant scene is mad also. I feel lucky to live here. I guess the love shines through — that helps.
How do you, personally, nurse your hangovers?
I cure my hangovers in a bar called Bar — see above. I actually dress up to the nines if I have a hangover, trying to fool myself and the world. Thinking that if I look very good, I will feel very good. It doesn't really work but I look spiffy. A beer always helps — that should be my motto.
Not everyone realizes, but there's quite a bit of poetry reading that happens upstairs at Fergie's, and you're quite the lover of the arts. Have a favorite poem? Or maybe a piece of theater that's been put on there?
We have poetry regularly — every Wednesday at 7 p.m., to be precise. Moonstone Poetry run it and they keep it interesting. I love having theater there also. We have done plays there with Brat Productions, Inis Nua Theatre Company, A Play a Pie and a Pint and many others. I love Irish monologue plays. They work great in a pub. Two of my favorites are 'Hooked' by Gillian Grattan and 'Eden' by Eugene O' Brien. We had a great extra poetry session there on a Sunday afternoon in April to celebrate the centenary of the Easter Rising. We had some original Irish-American poets and then many people recited their favorite Irish poems. Here's one of mine:
A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him up for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.
Imagine: You get to have one more drink before you die. What would that be?
It would simply be a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Perfection in a bottle.