Rosie Schaap, “Drinking with Men”

Maybe it’s a little late for this, but I need to come clean. Sometimes, I read books written by friends or acquaintances. And then I review them. And then I don’t tell you that I know the author. (But I won’t do it any more, I promise.)

Which is not to say that I’m not honest in my reactions. I’m lucky enough to know some very gifted writers. (And, by the way, I draw the line at blogging about books written by my beloved husband, though they are very good.) It may have happened from time to time that I met someone and read their book and couldn’t think of anything polite to post on the Internet about it. In that case, I would keep silent. But my enthusiasm is always genuine. Some things you can’t fake.

Historic whiskey pot still at Jameson distillery in Cork, Ireland, courtesy Stephan Schulz. Rosie is partial to Jameson.

Historic whiskey pot still at Jameson distillery in Cork, Ireland, courtesy Stephan Schulz. Rosie is partial to Jameson.

So why am I bringing this up now? I think it’s because Rosie Schaap, whom I have known and admired for years, is such a straight shooter. I  enjoyed Drinking with Men, and I would like to borrow, for a few hundred words, Rosie’s directness.

Drinking with Men is a memoir, framed around Rosie’s experiences with liquor. They started early, when as a teenager Rosie would tell fortunes for beer in the MetroNorth bar car, commuting to her New York City psychiatrist appointments. (Sometimes the sophistication of a Fairfield County teenager is breathtaking.) Then at 16, she dropped out of high school and left home to … follow the Grateful Dead. Wow.

But Drinking with Men isn’t primarily about being wild and crazy. Rather, it’s about someone finding her way, bar by bar, into her own skin. The MetroNorth commuters admired Rosie’s smarts. The Deadheads offered unconditional (if scruffy) community. The denizens of her local in North Bennington, VT, took care of her physically — and so on. She learned how to behave in a bar, which is maybe an idealized form of how to behave in life: be respectful, listen, buy a round when it’s your turn, contribute to the conversation, go outside if you feel sick. She learned one of the hard lessons of maturity, which is that nothing lasts forever. She even discusses the delicate issue of why and how it works for a good-looking woman to be a regular at a bar. (I would have liked more of this. Why are most bar regulars men rather than women? Do they tune your femaleness out? Is it a brother-sister thing… until it isn’t?)

The unexpected connection Rosie makes is between bar behavior and spiritual behavior. She is an nondenominational chaplain, and in the dark days following 9/11, she volunteered in that capacity. She found that the best way to help people was: “Don’t push. Don’t preach. Pray with them only if they ask. Make yourself available. Show up. Be present.” Good and bad things will come our way and a bar community at its best can sometimes function as a secular church, a contented family, an informal book club — with booze.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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6 Responses to Rosie Schaap, “Drinking with Men”

  1. Barbara says:

    Hi Carol, by any chance was this author interviewed by NPR’s Bob Edwards a while back? This sounds sort of familiar.

  2. carolwallace says:

    That seems likely, Barbara; here’s a link to Rosie’s radio interviews.
    I know she has done quite a bit for NPR.

  3. Barbara says:

    Thanks, Carol. What a great writer Rosie is. Just read her essay on widowhood that was in the link above. Amazing.

    • carolwallace says:

      I will have to read that, Barbara. Frank was a wonderful guy, and the situation was complex. Rosie is a great writer and a great human being.

  4. Patrick Thyne says:

    Carol, Thanks for this. Your dear husband (who is also my dear friend) introduced me to The Tender Bar several years ago. I’ve read it thrice, recommended it to friends who, like me, grew up around booze and difficult fathers, and know I will read it again. So I’m going to order Drinking With Men with the expectation, heightened from your comments, that it will add to my imagination/understanding about my own history. I love being a recipient of your straightforward words and your imaginative curiosity (is that a redundancy?) Rick

    • carolwallace says:

      Oh, Rick, how nice to hear from you. I think JP Moehringer is probably closer to you than Rosie, but there’s still something about her process of seeking peace that might be relevant. XXXX

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