Generally, I don’t miss living in New York City. Though I wouldn’t trade the experiences of my six years in NYC for anything—one positive, of course, was that I found a job at Kirkus—I grew weary of the pace and chaos and needed to make a change.
People frequently ask what I miss most about New York, and the answer is always the same: friends, food, and music. I have all of these necessities in abundance in Charleston, but the variety can’t compare to the city. And when it comes to local, historic watering holes in Manhattan, few can match one of my favorites, McSorley’s Old Ale House. Opened in 1854, McSorley’s is unapologetically simple and old-fashioned: two beer choices (light or dark ale) served in small glass mugs that employees carry a dozen or more at a time, sawdust on the floor, basic cheddar cheese plates with crackers and raw onions—and that’s basically it.
The bar’s incomparable atmosphere is difficult to capture, but in his new book, Two and Two, Rafe Bartholomew does just that, providing a vivid history of the bar and a firsthand account of working there. For more than 45 years, the author’s father has been behind the bar, and Bartholomew has spent hundreds of hours in the dim light of this NYC institution. Though he served as a bartender, as well, Bartholomew is also a trained journalist (Grantland, etc.), and his writing chops are on display throughout this fascinating chronicle of a legendary bar and the many colorful characters who have inhabited it over the decades.
Our reviewer rightly noted that the author “expertly weaves together entertaining stories from his nights behind the bar (note: never work at an Irish pub on St. Paddy’s Day) with more poignant moments between father and son,” resulting in a “touching, redolent memoir” that should appeal to barflies and NYC historians alike.
Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.