When I walked into Kim's Alley Bar, I was struck by something strange. Here it was Sunday night, but I saw only two people in the bar: the bartender and a man strumming a half-hearted Goo Goo Dolls cover to rows of empty chairs. Not a good sign. I thought for a moment about the prospect of finding somewhere I could drink and ignore all other people except my imaginary friends, but my insatiable thirst vetoed that idea. I turned the corner at the back end of the bar and a welcoming cloud of cigarette smoke hit me — here was a whole other room, and it was much livelier than the first.
I sat at the end of the crowded bar. The bartender practically sprinted to me, took my drink order, and served it like he was being timed — an unbeatable trait in any drink alchemist. He pointed to two pool tables and a Ping-Pong table behind us and told me they were free to use for drinking customers. Before my barstool was even warm, I rushed off to an empty table. I had just grabbed a cue and begun to rack the balls when a man in a torn Cinderella shirt informed me the table was taken and most certainly wasn't free, no matter what the barkeep said. I walked back to the bar with a sense of relief washing over me — I'm terrible at pool. When I returned, the bartender asked why I wasn't playing. I explained what transpired, that Mr. Cinderella was being something of a clownshoe and that I had decided to spend the night drinking instead. He gave a knowning nod. Turns out, the '80s metal fan had been coming to Kim's for about as long as he'd been wearing that raggedy-assed T-shirt. And the more I spoke with the people around the bar, the more I realized this place was not just some watering hole to them — it was their second home. Mr. Cinderella might've been a bit of a douche, but his heart was in the right place: He was just being protective of the place he's been coming to for 20 years now. Still, I decided I'd rather stay at the bar than give pool a second shot. I ordered another stiff drink from the bartender. I'm way better at drinking than making friends with strangers anyway.