WRITER AND BARTENDER Rosie Schaap has been a friend of mine for more than a decade. In the fall of 2007, when my first book, The Faith Between Us, came out, she hosted a book-launch reading at Good World Bar and Grill, an establishment she writes about in the final chapter of her new memoir, Drinking with Men. It was also around this time that I had one of my most memorable New York bar experiences: an afternoon drinking with Rosie and a handful of other regulars behind the scenes at Good World’s sister bar, White Slab Palace, which was then still under construction behind plywood barricades. Once opened, White Slab — which is, alas, no longer with us — is where Rosie celebrated, with men and women alike, the debut of “Drink,” her regular monthly column for the New York Times Magazine, in October 2011.
Rosie and I have often talked about matters of faith, belief, and religion — often while drinking. One chapter of Drinking with Men, “Bar Chaplain,” details her decision, around 2000, to answer a call to the ministry. When Rosie handed me an early copy of the book from behind the bar during her weekly shift at South Brooklyn’s SOUTH, she asked me to pay special attention to that chapter. Later, when she agreed to answer some questions for the Los Angeles Review of Books via email, I made these matters the focus of our conversation.
– Scott Korb
Scott Korb: If this is not too abstract a question to begin with, what do you see as the relationship between the service you were drawn to as a minister and the kind of service you do as a bartender?
Rosie Schaap: Long ago, while working for an independent, commercial book publisher, I started to get restless, and felt called to ministry — not in a big, dramatic way, but in this quiet, persistent, internal way. I enrolled in an interfaith seminary just around the time I left the company and went to work for a grassroots antipoverty nonprofit organization. This was a long time ago — around 2000. Back then, I felt very strongly that my faith, my interest in being of service to other people, and my interest in social justice were tightly bound together. (I’ve never believed that people need to be religious to do good in the world, but for me those impulses were connected.) I guess what being a minister, or even a community organizer, share with bartending — at least, I think, when you’re doing it right — is that all of these vocations demand that we take people as they are, at their best and at their worst, and try to care for them and look after them.
SK: Do you see connections — beyond the obvious role confession plays in both — between religious services and the service that goes on in bars?
RS: I’ve neither given nor received a good barside confession in a long time! I kind of miss that, but I’m sure it’ll happen again. But, beyond that, I think that both sites of worship and bars are, in a way, sanctified spaces. They are set apart, they are neit...read more