New ownership spurred us to revisit Kathy’s on Hickman, now a sister bar of the Fremont and the Underground. Kathy Gray may no longer be at the helm of Kathy’s on Hickman , but the name and most everything else — including its quirky regulars — remain the same at this Hickman Road mainstay.
8:05 p.m. We arrive at Kathy’s on Hickman, an unassuming green-hued bar with Ireland’s flag flying out front. We step into the dim, quaint room and order Coors Light and Red Stripe bottles and take a seat at a table near the bar, where a few middle-aged men and a middle-aged couple are hanging out and conversing. We spot a chalkboard with permanent drink specials, including the pocket-pleasing Black and Blue, a shot of Jack Daniels and a Pabst Blue Ribbon for $5, and PB&J, a shot of Jameson and a PBR for $5.
8:08 p.m. A middle-aged woman in a long-sleeve green shirt turns her bar stool toward the pool table, asking a younger man, “May I ask you a personal question?” “Yes,” he said. We were hoping for something interesting, perhaps inappropriate. But her not-so-personal-after-all inquiry is about where he bought his shoes. He’s wearing white Pumas, which he claims are a few years old, though they are so shiny and white I’m sure I could see my reflection in them.
8:09 p.m. A young couple arrives, the girl wearing a green shrug. Green Shirt Lady shrieks in delight. Hugs ensue.
8:12 p.m. Overheard from Green Shirt: “My nursing bra keeps acting up.”
8:13 p.m. The bar, which thinks itself Irish, features an abundance of beer signs and mirrored beer signs touting Irish beers and whiskeys. A handful of TVs dot the walls and are tuned to sports. Oh, and a gigantic taxidermic deer head is affixed to a wall. Sing it with me: “One of these things is not like the other.”
8:15 p.m. The bartender, when not slinging drinks for the 10 (or so) patrons, is playing a game of pool with Puma. It could probably win a record for the slowest game of pool to ever set cue on a Des Moines bar’s pool table.
8:19 p.m. A 20something in a Harley Davidson shirt walks in from his cigarette break and alludes to some hubbub going on within eyeshot of Kathy’s. A group of patrons use this as an excuse to smoke. It turns out that a single cop car is parked in the lot of the storage facility across the street, and the cop is chatting with another cop driving an undercover car. No sirens, no lights, nothing. We ponder whether this really qualifies as excitement at Kathy’s, as we’ve seen more action at a Chuck E. Cheese.
8:24 p.m. In the absence of any drunken shenanigans at this laid-back shack, we finally notice how dark it is. The walls are lathered in forest green paint with a bead board skirt. The drop ceiling tiles are either painted green or black; it’s hard to tell, as the light bulbs at Kathy’s are all hued green. Though we realize far less has likely passed as an Irish bar, we’d be remiss to announce that Irish signs and an abundance of green do not an Irish bar make.
8:25 p.m. Nobody’s at the pool table, but balls remain on the table. The bartender is back to slinging drinks, and Puma is chatting up a couple at the bar. Unsure if they’re still playing, we opt out of seizing the table for our own use.
8:21 p.m. An over-40 guy wearing a camouflage cap and a red tee that says “Sinister Theory” approaches my drinking partner, who is wearing a hand-embroidered Za-Ga-Zig bowling shirt. “Are you right-handed or left?” he asks. “Right.” “Me too,” he says. “I consider myself right-handed but there are so many things I do with my left.” We silently pray for him to stop there, but he continues. “I bowl left-handed. I golf left-handed. I shoot a rifle left-handed.” After being described as ambidextrous, he says, “Retardedly ambidextrous. Forgive my language.”
8:39 p.m. A ginormous (the technical term) football player-type arrives sporting some camouflage cargo shorts. Green Shrug and Green Shirt shriek in unison. Again, hugs ensue.
8:50 p.m. We spot a pay phone in the corner. A phone book is sitting beside it. When was the last time you used either?
9:03 p.m. The bartender has warmed some cashews for Camo Cargo. Green Shrug reaches for one. His response: “I can’t let you have my nuts in your mouth.” Oh really now?
9:18 p.m. Green Shrug, talking to Green Shirt: “I farted. I’m sorry. It smells right here.” Green Shirt, smartly, heads out to smoke. But the bartender passes by. “I’m sorry. I farted,” Green Shrug repeats matter-of-factly and without a hint of embarrassment.
9:29 p.m. The bartender is still on the same game of pool with Puma. With our hopes dashed, we head out into the night in search of a vacant pool table.
Kathy’s on Hickman
Kathy’s on Hickman
Find it: 6705 Hickman Road
Hours: 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Friday; noon-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.