By Annie Kinnett Nichols

My new love is the sound a ping-pong ball makes hitting the table, followed closely by the sound the ball makes when it hits a paddle. This is made even sweeter when it’s my friends and I playing the game.

Whack. Pop. Whack. Pop. Love.

I have a lot of strange friends. Most of my friends are, shall we say, eclectic. And so it’s probably their fault that I’ve become a ping-pong devotee. I started playing ping-pong at Sister’s Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium at the Telephone Factory. I would play while visiting my friend Grant Henry, or stop by after an art opening in the building or when I was taking of Hollis Gillespie’s Champagne & Ping Pong Writing Classes.

I look back to those years and realize I was just a neophyte. I didn’t know how to serve correctly, kept the ball in play even when it was clearly dead, cheated, lied – anything to make a point. Clueless. Those days are over. Grant moved his ping-pong table to his own bar – also called Sister Louisa’s but know to the locals as simply Church – changing my destiny forever.

I decided to learn the real game of ping-pong, and my husband Tim and his BFF John agreed to teach me. I played every chance I could. One day, I actually beat John. I jumped up and down, ran downstairs and informed everyone of my prowess. Then, I ran across the street to Tim’s studio and announced to everyone in the office my success. It was a very proud moment indeed.

When I returned to the table, John quietly informed me I had not actually won because I didn’t have a two-point lead. Lesson learned. Grrrr.

Since that day, I haven’t beaten John, or Tim, or Mohan, or Steven, or Jamie or anyone else, but I still try to make it to every tournament at Church (which are held on Monday nights), I practice at Victory Sandwich Bar and I got my picture in Creative Loafing’s ping-pong article. I’m representing!

My secrets are simple: Watch the ball, play people that are better than you (in my case that’s everyone there), wear lip gloss in case you’re gonna be photographed (it happened to me, I wasn’t wearing any, it wasn’t pretty), wear wedge heels or seriously cute boots, an urban/edgy outfit and try not to cuss. No cheating. Always be a good loser until you win, which I’m sure will be some day soon.

My goals for my illustrious ping-pong career are to make it to the second round at the Church tournament, then the next round, then one day beat Grant. He’s promised me $1,000 if I can beat him and I will post the picture on Atlanta INtown’s website of me holding the check up after crushing him like a gnat.

Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium is at 466 Edgewood Ave. (corner of Boulevard). For more, find the bar on Facebook.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.