Q&A: Rosie Schaap, author of 'Drinking With Men' gives the low down on the NYC bar scene
Rosie Schaap, 42, author of the new memoir, "Drinking With Men," rents an apartment in Greenwood Heights and will be reading and signing copies of her book at 7 p.m. Tues., Jan. 29 at Word Bookshop, 126 Franklin St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
What would you most like to see accomplished in NYC?
This might surprise people, but more affordable housing. I was priced out of the borough I was born in. The kind of diversity I write about in the bars of TriBeCa in the 1990s no longer exists. For so many of us, buying a home is not even a part of our consciousness. When these large scale developments happen they need to make more housing affordable to low and middle income New Yorkers. And we need stricter rent controls.
What makes a great bar?
The people -- on both sides of the bar. Friendly, professional bar tenders and a mixed, interesting group of people with some regulars. Music should be low enough to hold a conversation, though what kind of music that should be is the subject of endless bar fights. A good neighborhood bar has fair prices on drinks.
Have cellphones destroyed bar culture?
They have damaged it. The Ear Inn has some kind of a sign saying that people can't use their cellphones. Cellphones serve as a social cushion for a lot of people to take the pressure off socializing but I wonder if people are getting worse at socializing because they don't have to.
What good bars are left?
South (in Park Slope) is still a real neighborhood bar, and I'm not saying that just because I work there (one shift a week). We have a TV, but keep the sound off unless someone really wants to hear a game. Walker's in TriBeCa at Varick and North Moore -- it's one of my favorite spots for a night cap. For a cocktail I'll go to Ward III (at 111 Reade St.) and I will always love Milano's (51 Ea. Houston). The Brooklyn Inn (148 Hoyt St.) in Boerum Hill has a magnificent bar with nice neighborhood regulars. Then there are the hotel bars, like Bemelman's at the Carlyle, the King Cole at the St. Regis or the Blue Room at the Algonquin.
You're a Jewish girl who romanticizes being Irish. What's up with that?
I'll never know what's up with that. There are affinities between the two cultures -- the talking, the reading. I was just completely seduced by (William Butler) Yeats and (James) Joyce and (Oscar) Wilde. The people share a cultural pride and their suffering is a part of that. We're both kvetches of the highest order and share an often bleak humor.
How do you know you're not an alcoholic?
Even when I drank a lot, drinking was never hard for me not to do, as smoking is. I am lucky in that I don't have a genetic predisposition, and I don't feel the need to drink.
But I can no longer drink as I did in my 20s. I don't drink alcohol at all three days a week and when I do go out, I max out a three drinks and drink much, much more slowly. I'm fortunate not to be an alcoholic. I realized drinking is not the best place to go when you're sick or depressed. Any romance that connects writing and drinking for me does not maintain.
What's the difference between New Yorkers who go to bars to drink and those who go to dance?
Dance culture starts later. I do like dancing! But I feel a little old for it and I have a bad knee. Both groups have a need for community and are finding it somewhere. We both find something we love and people to share it with.
You mentioned in your book that you and your husband had separated. It was shocking to read in the afterword that he had died. Were you out drinking while he was dying?
Drinking had absolutely nothing to do with our separation. We were in the midst of a trial separation in 2008. Two months in, I got the news I had the book deal and then one night I got a phone call that he had cancer. There was no question but that I would be with him. He came to New York frequently: No way could he be treated for a rare cancer in rural Pennsylvania. I still regard him as my closest friend in the world. I had a rough draft of the book before he died and couldn't touch it again for a year. In three years I lost my husband and my mother. I was mourning -- and we are absolutely entitled to withhold whatever we need to when we're mourning.