Ever since her adolescence, Rosie Schaap, who writes the “Drink” column for The New York Times, has felt an attraction to bars. As a teenager, her obsession begins when she starts giving tarot card readings in exchange for beer in the bar car of the Metro North commuter train. When she attends college in a small town where the local bar is the only means of entertainment, drinking in bars becomes Schaap’s devoted hobby. She even abandons her PhD studies when her favored bar in Tribeca sucks her in and she develops a connection to the men who frequent it; she feels comforted by the fact that the men treat her as a peer rather than a sexual interest or outsider. For Schaap, a bar is not simply a place to become intoxicated, but rather, the center of her social universe and “a safe haven, my breathing space.”
The chapters of Schaap’s memoir are divided up by the (mostly) New York City bars she regularly frequents at different points in her life—when one bar closes, she simply searches for the next community of barstools to welcome her. Her story, however, is most compelling when she takes her memoir out of the bar and into the world, detailing such experiences as being a teenaged high-school dropout following the Grateful Dead. Her tale left me with both a craving for whiskey and a greater appreciation for the hours I’ve spent engrossed in barroom conversations.
By Adrienne Urbanski