The Third Place, Or: Drinking Our Way to Our Ideal Selves


When I got my own apartment, I thought it would make writing easier. In fact, I thought it would make everything easier (except, of course, having money); I would go to sleep and wake up when I wanted, shower without waiting for a roommate to finish, do dishes covered in nothing but the remains of food I myself had chosen. It would all be mine, and so in these ideal conditions I would naturally become the ideal version of myself.

But of course you can’t outrun bad habits; you can’t arrive, whether at an apartment or a job or a relationship, and that’s it, it’s done, game over. Although I love living alone (maybe more than I have ever loved a job or a relationship), I’m no different than I was before. Left to my own devices (the devices in question: my phone, my Gameboy 3DS, and my vibrator) I still stay up much too late and never get enough done. I sink into the cozy solitude of my bed or my couch and watch as would-be productive hours calcify.

So now I try to bust out. Ideal Alanna would surely go to a coffee shop to get work done, or somewhere even more virtuous like the library, but I am only me and I prefer to go to bars. There is a trio of them that I like about ten minutes from my house, near the Myrtle-Willoughby G: Brooklyn Stoops, which is inexpensive and has a very decent brunch; Project Parlor, which is dark and sprinkled with low couches and arcade games (the ideal second or third date spot); and the newest, Moloko.

From the outside it looks small, but Moloko can fit a clown car’s worth of customers. It’s intimate without feeling cramped, with a mix of high and low tables and just the right level of lighting. It is not so cheap as the other nearby bars—my favorite cocktail of theirs, the Wilhelm Rettighaus, costs fourteen American dollars but it is so good that sometimes I buy two (it costs more than the other house cocktails because it contains several different fancy old man liqueurs, for which I developed a taste in my last relationship along with Fleetwood Mac and dogsitting; there is a certain quiet thrill in holding onto something for yourself). But they are democratic and also have Coors Banquet for $4, which I will put forth as the greatest beer at its price point because who doesn’t want to feel like they are drinking a loaf of bread? Nobody I want to know.

I’ve been to Moloko on friend-dates and date-dates. I’ve been when it opened and just before last call. The other night I brought my mom and my best friend and promised they could have bites of my cheeseburger, but it’s so good that I finished before either really had a shot. My favorite times, though, have been when I settle in at the bar by myself and write. It’s rarely planned and so I make do with what I have on hand—a pad half-filled with scribbles from a work meeting, the notes app on my phone. It comes so much more easily than when I’m staring at my laptop in silence, willing something to come so that I know that I belong here, that this wasn’t all a mistake, that I am still worthy and that I will be fine.

The beauty of this is that it could be any bar, in any neighborhood. I remember reading when I was little about seeking out a third place, that wasn’t home or school (in my case, now, work) but somewhere you could just be. Rarely do the words I write at bars turn out to be much good—if anything, hopefully, they’re rough thoughts that get sharpened and focused later on—but that’s part of the beauty, too. I am not the ultimate best version of myself here, but I am a version that despite the noise can get something done, and can also enjoy a really A+ cheeseburger.


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