The Local Oasis by Kate McMurray
Hey, whine and wine? Let’s talk about booze!
True story: my great great grandfather owned a pub in Chicago. My ancestors were of the wave of late nineteenth century Irish immigrants who bypassed the tenements of New York City and instead settled in the Windy City, so it’s funny that I should have ended up in New York after all. But that’s not the point! The point that my ancestors owned a pub! We take our booze seriously in my family. (My grandpa was buried with a very expensive bottle of scotch, which I hope he is enjoying in the afterlife. That is how serious we take our booze.)
However, I am doing my Irish ancestors a disservice. I can’t drink whiskey. I like the taste just fine, but as soon as it hits my stomach, it tries to immediately evacuate back the way it came in. You might think, “Eh, whatever, so you don’t drink whiskey, big deal!” But what do you do when most of your family’s social occasions involve breaking out a bottle of single malt? My father doesn’t drink anymore for health-related reasons, but on his sixtieth birthday a few years ago, he got out a bottle of scotch he’d been saving for years, and wouldn’t I do a toast with him?
I have a similar issue with red wine. I love a really good dry red, but that glass of merlot is basically a ticket to a migraine, so I stopped drinking it. (My mother had the same problem, it turns out, although post-menopause, she can drink red wine again, so I guess I have that to look forward to.) I mentioned this once to the sommelier at my local wine store after he tried pushing an expensive cab sav at me, and his response was, “You’re probably allergic to the tannins.” Sure, I said. “This works for some people: take a Benadryl before you drink red wine. You’ll have no problems.” I don’t know about you, but wine + Benadryl sounds like a coma to me. Does that really work?
So I’ve had to figure out boozy alternatives. Tequila was my weapon of choice in college, but my older self doesn’t do well with hazy tequila hangovers. Lately, I’ve been really liking gin, but the funny thing about gin is that it’s pretty much only good for gin and tonics. If you Google “gin cocktails,” just about all the recipes you get are basically a gin and tonic with different garnishes. Also, I like good beer. It’s hard to go wrong there.
And now you’re thinking, “Woah, Kate’s kind of an alky, huh?” I’ll remind you that I’m Irish, first of all, but also, there’s a surprising lack of alcoholism in my family. I just like the finer things. Like, the main thing that Citifield has over Yankee Stadium is that you can get really good beer from local breweries for, like, $7 (pretty typical NYC bar price for a beer) at Citifield whereas Yankee Stadium wants $9.50 for a Bud Lite, and that, my friends, is one of the greater crimes perpetrated on humanity.
This is related to books, I promise! See, most of my books are contemporaries set in cities. And the nexus of many a social circle in a city is a bar. So I end up writing a fair number of scenes with characters in bars. These are an important element in my latest Four Corners (see, I’m shoehorning!) where the characters regularly meet at the same bar. Their watering hole is a dive sports bar in the suburbs of Chicago (where the novel is set). In my head, the bar looks a bit like the default bar where some of my writer friends wind up more often than not, this Irish pub with terrible service in Lower Manhattan. I think a lot of social groups have that place they end up at when they can’t figure out where else to go. Likewise, my narrator Jake has a gay bar in his neighborhood he goes to when he’s bored; urban neighborhoods always have a few of these, the bars and coffee shops where the locals gather on Saturday night. (Despite its thrift shop chic decor, mine has an excellent beer selection and serves good pierogies.)
These are places where friends gather. They’re where we go when we have a bad day, a birthday, a Tuesday; we end up there when we triumph, when we fail, when we just need to be with our friends.
Four Corners is a novel about friendship first and foremost. It’s about four friends who graduated from their local pizza joint to their local dive bar, who are there for each other through everything. And then one of them leaves. The novel is about the way that friendships change and develop as we age, but how some fundamental things stay the same as well.
Sort of like how sometimes you’re game to try the fancy new cocktail being offered by the bar, but sometimes you want something predictable and familiar.
Since childhood, Jake, Adam, Kyle, and Brendan have been teammates, best friends, brothers. Then one day, when they were twenty-five, Adam disappeared without a word, devastating his friends—none more so than Jake, who had secretly loved Adam since they were teenagers.
Now, five years later, Adam is back, and he has his mind set on Jake. But those years of anger, hurt, and confusion are a lot to overcome, and Jake doesn’t find it easy to forgive. He isn’t sure they’ll ever fit together the way they did. Jake, Kyle, and Brendan have moved on with their lives, but Adam’s high-profile career keeps him in the closet—the same place he’s been for years. Still, his apologies seem sincere, and the attraction is still there. Jake desperately wants to give him a chance. But first he has to find out why Adam left and if he’s really back for good.
Kate McMurray writes romance novels and drinks far less than this post implies. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, which has a lot of bars. Her latest novel Four Corners is available now from DreamspinnerPress. You can also visit her on the Internet at www.katemcmurray.com.