A Guy Walks into a Bar


Misty-&-Ernest-SmithThere was nothing special about that Saturday night—except all of the people I met.

Story and Photos by Karim Shamsi-Basha

No, this is not a joke.

It is a real slice of life in Birmingham one Saturday night at a local bar (Avo & Dram). You run into a collection of people like no other at a place with dim light and spirits flowing, so I decided to strike up conversation with some of them and get their stories. I met the most colorful people: a 55-year-old hottie with a cool story, an interracial couple married for 15 years with three kids, a guy who makes art out of fire and sound using physics, and a woman who thinks Excel is the coolest thing in the world. Enjoy the diverse and compelling portrait of our beloved city. After all, what is a city made of if not the people who call her home?

Anthony & Shellie Davis

Anthony & Shellie Davis

“We have been married for 15 years and have three awesome kids. What was it that turned my head? I mean, do I have to say anything? She loves my personality; I can’t even see her personality because of the package. Just kidding. What I love the most about her is that she cares about me even if I don’t do the right thing.”

Barbara Gaines Kenyon

Barbara Gaines Kenyon

“My whole world is focused on children. I plan children’s parties. I am the owner/designer of a children’s apparel line, Kituit Boutique (kituit.com). I am the proud mama of two beautiful boys, Shields and Rivers—they are my life.”

Cass Klimcak & daughter Maddie

Cass Klimcak & Maddie

“I am a dentist in Birmingham at Cass Klimcak Cosmetics and Family Dentistry. I love it. What am I doing here with my daughter? It is girl’s night out.”

Maddie: “I love spending quality time with my mom. She is pretty cool. We talk about things and she understands me.”

Drew Gaines

Drew Gaines

“I am 32 and I work for SLS, a supply chain management company located on First Avenue North. What is that? We are a logistics company, brokers of freight. I love it. I love to multi-task and be efficient with my time. I also love to help others be efficient with their time. Music is my real passion; I play piano and guitar. If I was on an island and could have one song? That is tough. Something from the Beatles—maybe ‘Octopus’s Garden.’”

Jan Faulkner

Jan Faulkner

“I am starting a new job with a law firm and am so looking forward for the change in my life. I need a change. I grew up in Columbiana. The best way to describe that would be one word: Mayberry. Columbiana is very Mayberry-ish. Everybody knows everybody, and everyone is into everyone’s business. I liked growing up there, but I love the anonymity Birmingham provides.”

Jodi Lombardo

Jodi Lombordo

“I grew up on a peanut farm in Dothan. My dad wanted a boy, but he got three girls. I left for New York at the age of 18 with $50, hopes, dreams, and a suitcase. I worked as a bartender and then as an event planner. I lived in a tiny apartment with rats. The microwave was the only safe place for food. I eventually came back South. I am looking for a job right now.”

Clayton Turner

Clayton Turner

“I am a political consultant. Are you going to ask me about Trump? Of course you are. Look, he is leading in the polls because we live in a celebrity culture of sound bites, and the loudest person in the room gets the coverage. He is hurting Republicans because he is leading with fear and anger instead of hope and optimism. What do I want to be when I grow up? A contributor to B-Metro. Seriously? Chief of Staff for a congressman.”

Heidi Helms

Heidi Helms

“I sell custom clothes for Tom James Company in Nashville. I am humbled to say I was selected as one of the top sales people out of more than 500 in my company. I’d been trying to get out of Birmingham since high school; I moved to Nashville and love it. Now I date a guy from Birmingham, so I am back every so often. I love live music; that is what this city needs more of.”

Joe Troncale & Sheila Piery

Joe Troncale and Sheila Piery

Joe: “I’m a CPA. I love Birmingham because of its uniqueness, beauty, charm, and people. It’s becoming more of a destination city, which has drawn millennials and others. I think it is one of the most misunderstood cities in the South. Most people I know who have moved away from Birmingham miss being here.”

Sheila: “I love the people here and the sense of community we have. I love traveling, but it’s nice to come back home.”

Ki Shin

Ki Shin

“I was born in Korea, raised in Saudi Arabia till the age of 5, and then moved to Birmingham. It is home here, but I feel that I wasn’t meant for the South. My parents sent me abroad for study. People here are content; I want more. Not sure what it is, but I am sure there is more. I want to see the world.”

Layla & Dewayne Hamilton

Layla & Dewayne Hamilton

Dewayne: “How did I end up with her? I mean, when you got it, you got it. We met at a Bible study.”

Layla: “What do I like about him? I can be myself around him. That is the best thing ever; we are just comfortable together. We can be ourselves. We both take each other like we are, and we have three precious babies.”

Mary Beth Walker

Mary Beth Walker

“I work at an architecture firm in Homewood and love my job. I have been married to a very sweet guy for two years, and that has been good. You do have to make a lot of changes in marriage; it’s an adjustment. The most exciting thing I have ever done? I studied cooking in Florence, Italy, and now I am an office manager at an architecture firm—go figure.”

Misty & Ernest Smith

Misty_Ernest Smith

“After being married more than 12 years, I love this man much more than the day we married. He surprised me tonight with a re-proposal—far better than the original. We started at Avo with a scavenger hunt, and ended at the Grand Bohemian, where I was greeted with a room full of rose petals, my favorite wine, and a 16-minute video that included all seven of our children (biological and bonus). I will never forget this night.”

Morgan Murphy

Morgan Murphy

“I used to be an executive editor of Southern Living magazine. Now I write books. My latest, On the Road Again, was selected as a best seller by Publisher’s Weekly. It is a book about food in the South.”

Nika Fincher

Nika Fincher

“I grew up in Vestavia Hills. What have I done in Birmingham? That is a loaded question. I went to UAB and was an accountant. My dream job? Make people smile. That is it; I love to make people smile. I am a two-time cervical cancer survivor. I had no hair a couple of years ago, and I used to say, ‘No hair, no care.’”

Whitney McDade

Whitney McDade

“I manage a finance group and love organization and spreadsheets. Yes, I love spreadsheets. I think Excel is the best thing in the world; it is mind-blowing. I mean, we don’t even know what it can do. Do I sound like a huge dork? I know I do. I guess I am an enigma. I am a single mom to a 4-year-old, Hudson. He doesn’t like numbers yet.”

Zoe Cassimus

Zoe Cassimus

“I started Zoe’s in Homewood in 1995, and my son John grew it to what it is today. There are 168 of them across the South. Now he is doing a new concept, Miss Dots. Leola Rogers is the cook at his Sawtooth Plantation Farm and Hunting Club in east Alabama. She is the inspiration behind the restaurant’s name and recipes.”

One Response to “A Guy Walks into a Bar”

  1. Gloria says:

    Great snippets/snapshots of some very interesting people!!!

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