This beautifully written account opens with a young J.R. growing up in Manhasset raised by his single mom and living in his grandparent’s run-down house. He glues himself to the radio, listening for his father’s voice, since he is a radio personality. Over the years, J.R. searches for men to replace his father and teach him what it means to be a man. He soon discovers the bar down the street, Publicans, where his Uncle Charlie works. J.R. becomes attached to the bar and the men who spend all of their time in it and is soon spending all of his time in it. The bar is there for him to celebrate his achievements and drown his sorrows and sometimes cause more problems. He goes back to the bar while attending Yale, while starting out at the New York Times, and for many of the major and minor events in his life.
While the memoir is ostensibly about a bar, J.R. so perfectly depicts each of the characters that it becomes about each of them. Joey D, Bob the Cop, Cager and Colt become role models and are painted as much more than just barflies. J.R. describes everything with such detail and warmth, it often feels like you could be sitting at the bar stool next to them.
While J.R. makes plenty of mistakes along the way, his story is endearing and entertaining. It is definitely up there as one of my favorites from my mom’s list.