When I got to Brooklyn the typical fantasies of Regular Status began. At some point, I thought, I’d find my bar and I’d feel comfortable going there alone to read or write or chat and also to drink. It seemed like a rite of passage for independent city-dwelling adults who liked to have a drink or three. The idea only grew brighter and more alluring the longer I stayed. My beautiful dark drunken fantasies.
A year or so after I landed here, Rosie Schaap’s uber-lovely memoir Drinking With Men came out, the sort of book that will make even a hermit want to wear down a bar stool at her local dive. In each chapter, Schaap was a local at a different bar, each of them “small, welcoming, with a lively chorus of voices and the house lights turned down to a warm glow.” What more could a listless reader want, really. It was just the drinking life I wanted. Hell, it was just the personality I wanted. Ever since my Juicy Juice days I’d dreamed of being the sort of person who felt comfortable walking into an alien room and talking to strangers. And now here I was, a legal adult in the food and drink industry, ready to be a completely average bar patron! I couldn’t figure out why it felt so impossible.
My social anxiety and indecision made the barriers to entry high. There were so many questions to ask: What bars are near me? Which one is good? Like good, but not too fancy but not too shitty, you know? Which one has friendly bartenders? Can I fall in love with a bartender? What do people do when they go to bars alone? Which bar is right for my personality and also what is my personality and who am I?
The first place I felt like a regular aside from the places that employed me was my local coffee shop, where I went consistently because they were friendly and I was addicted to what they sold. I eventually ended up falling for one of the baristas who—plot twist!—turned out to be terrible. I had to move away from the neighborhood for convoluted real estate reasons, and relocated to Park Slope. I moped about it aggressively, looking up and down Fifth Avenue without much hope, nothing hip to be seen.
The thing nobody tells you about Park Slope is that it has excellent dive bars. High Dive was a few blocks from my place and had a happy hour that went late and good popcorn and wifi so I could do a whole lot of things there without really having to interact with people, like I could get my work done and eat a free dinner and have a few High Lifes. I went every other week at most. There was always a more pressing engagement, or I didn’t want to spend money. It never became my place. Even when I got involved with someone who lived squarely across the street. It was only ever ours or his but never mine. I lost a disposable camera there once and silently cried. Now the place is just haunted.
After moving to Bed-Stuy it took me a year to come to Dynaco on a semi-regular basis. It’s a good bar. They have a bunch of beers for six or seven dollars. The negronis are mostly bad but they have a good whiskey selection. They give you goldfish if you ask nicely, the best drinking snack if you ask me. I always told myself it would become my place, but then I never really went much. There’s a bartender there who looks like the sort of man I always think might be my type, looming and burly and willing to chat, looking at you like he already knows what’s going to happen. He got my number. I told myself a funny little lie, that I’d go there and read my book and nothing would happen. He turned out to be—plot twist!—a shitbag. I’d thought it was going to be my place, you know. It’s nice and dark. It’s too busy on weekends but on a Monday or Tuesday it’s perfect, just the thing you’re looking for, friendly and other people actually talk to you.
So that’s not my place either. I live between neighborhoods and there aren’t too many bar options near me. There’s a place that opened around the corner, and I keep telling myself I’ll go there, and then I never make it. But when I’m feeling good and flush, I’ll walk the fifteen minutes to Roman’s. It’s a restaurant not a bar, and that might be what makes me so comfortable there, since pasta is as good a diversion as any, and sometimes an easier reason to be at a bar by yourself. It’s hunger rather than sadness, or that’s what’s implied. I’d do the same thing in Williamsburg when I had money, go to Allswell and have a negroni and eat some vegetables. These will never show up on a list of best bars but they’re my sort of places. My hunger is more likely to make me a regular than my thirst.