Out this month, “Meet the Regulars: People of Brooklyn and the Places They Love” is Joshua D. Fischer’s debut book, and the first to come from Bedford + Bowery. Here’s a new installment of the series.
For more than eight years, Emi Kariya has lived in Bushwick. Nowadays, she finds the neighborhood to be “hip to the max.” Says the 42-year-old drummer and designer, “I don’t have to go to Williamsburg anymore. I used to bike all the way there for every show, every hang. Friends would only hang in Williamsburg. They wouldn’t come here. Now they all travel here. And it’s great.” Now they travel here to spots like The Narrows, the cocktail bar where Emi is a regular.
To be sure, Emi hangs with different people in different ways at different places. Still rocking the scene as a single lady without kids (something she’s definitely had to consider and combat), she still drinks at rock shows and dances to minimal techno and Jamaican dancehall at clubs. After playing in bands like the “cute, gimmicky rock n’ roll” outfit of Japanese ladies Hard Nips, she’s psyched for her next band Evil Daughter, which is experimenting, she says, with edgy pop metal.
Sitting on a swinging bench in the backyard of The Narrows, Emi sips on the drink she had the very first time she came here: the Penicillin cocktail (blended scotch, ginger, lemon, and Laphraoig). She explains that she’s a mature person who can still do youthful things, and The Narrows – with its bold menu of classic and house cocktails and its sleek art-deco interior – is her refuge from the down n’ dirty music and art spaces she also enjoys in the ‘hood. Born in but unattached to St. Paul, Minneapolis, Emi has lived in various spots in the U.S. and spent much of her life in Tokyo. (She holds a dual citizenship.) Through a pronounced Japanese accent, she spoke about getting older in a scene of young people, a life-or-death turning point on 9/11, and the special role The Narrows plays for her as a single woman of Bushwick.
It’s a place to chill, have a nice drink with my really good friends. Everything is a little more classy without being pretentious.
I had the Penicillin, and I was like, “Oh. This place has nice cocktails.”
The rockers and the druggie dancers are not having nice cocktails. If I’m at a show, I love a Tecate. I love Jameson. That’s fine. But drinking here is a different experience for me than party drinking.
The people I want to bring here are my older, more mature friends. More developed artists that are already used to drinking well, drinking maturely in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, or Manhattan. I’d bring them here rather than a packed young joint. No particular conversation is in your ear like other bars with somebody talking crazy drama. I can’t stand those.
Because I’m a woman, amongst all my friends close to my age, I’m one of the only ones that didn’t choose to have a baby – that just stood up for: I really want to drum. I’m not saying that you can’t do both, but I do not think the New York music scene is that nice or will wait for you to take your time, either.
I never wanted a baby, so it wasn’t a relevant question for me. So, my friends ultimately got younger and younger. I live with a 23-year-old. The guy that’s hitting on me on my phone is a 23-year-old. My hanging friends range from 23 to 33 maybe. The people that I work with and consider true friends, that I come to the Narrows with, are a little more older. Basically, 35 and up.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m the oldest one where I’m hanging.
On 9/11 my two choices were to transfer at Chicago or San Francisco. I was trying to go to Japan. If I was on the San Fran one, I would’ve blown up in the tower. I chose Chicago; therefore, I survived. So that was my 50/50 chance. That was the first time I re-thought of my life.
Society tells you a lot of things. “You’re 30. You gotta consider about your baby.” Probably more so for women. From 33 and on, I’ve had to fight to earn my will. Even your friends tell you, “You’re only getting older. What are you gonna do?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I’m fine!” The pressure comes from every direction. Very subtly. My life was about fighting back. I still like going to shows and going dancing. I still close the floor at 4 am.
Where am I at? I’m done with this whole “regaining my self, my true self without the effects of the societal expectations.” And I do think I’m better at it because I’m half-Japanese: different cultures tell you different things. I don’t believe in one way or the other. I just pick my own way. I choose what I believe in. That helps me fight against the societal norm of what you’re told to do.