Approaching my first Christmas in Manchester, UK, I bellied up to the bar in my favorite Portland Street pub. The Fab Cafe had been my regular hangout for weeks by that point. Its walls were covered with sci-fi knickknacks and posters from old cult films like Barbarella. There was a life-sized Dalek in the corner. Even in a new city, in a strange country, I'd never felt more at home.
“I need to send something back for Christmas,” I announced. “My mom is hard to shop for, but I figure I can send her something, you know, Manchester-y.”
The bartender, a large man with an i...
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