The still-bright evening summer sun lit up the bright red geraniums in the wooden boxes lining the royal blue façade of the bar at the next corner. Regulars-you can always tell who they are-were smoking and talking out front, and they looked like my kind of regulars. A wooden sign adorned with a sinewy troll and the word ELSE’S hung above the door. – Drinking With Men by Rosie Schaap (pg. 208).
Do you have a bar and/or restaurant where you feel like a regular? I have a few places where I feel welcomed, and while I do not get out as often as I used to, as soon as I walk in the door I feel at home.
The passage above happened to Rosie Schaap when she was visiting Montreal for a wedding and had an evening by herself. Those lines felt familiar to me. When we travel, I am always the one who searches for the local bars or “dives” as we call them and then I form our plan of attack so when may stop in at each one. We have little time for touristy establishments and although we have visited some beautiful and fantastic popular spots, we prefer the joints where the “regular” people head after work. That’s where you meet the city and find out the real stories. We also know that bartenders are the keepers of a neighborhood’s secrets and can tell us exactly what we should see.
Drinking With Men is filled with tales set in just the sort of watering holes we enjoy. Not only does Rosie Schaap have a love for bars, but she also understands the sense of community one can find in such a place. And it is not all about having a drink. The focus is learning the rhythm of a place or community. Oxford has the same sort of vibe. You know where to go when you are in the mood for a certain atmosphere. And I believe, as does Rosie, that is a great thing.
Reviewed by LB