That’s right, the rule is No Karaoke. But that rule got violated last night, under the influence of mass quantities of alcohol as you probably can imagine. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Matt came into town from Atlanta yesterday. A mutual friend of ours died – a guy who’d been a strong father-figure to and big influence on Matt since the age of 10, about when Matt’s own father left the building, as they used to say about Elvis. (Matt is now 28.)
Fred Sale was his name. He ran the local batting cage/arcade business near the airport. He was a gentle giant of a man, with snow white hair and beard, and the Santa Claus disposition to go with it. Yes, he was jolly. Always jolly. He was kind and patient, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He was generous with his time and advice to the kids who hung around the arcade. He was an accomplished mechanic. He was also deeply religious, but far from judgmental. Although our views on religion differed widely, we had lively, fun conversations about spirituality.
I met Fred about fifteen years ago when we were both about 40. With his white hair, he looked much older than me. Turned out he was four months younger. Diabetic and overweight, he didn’t take particularly good care of himself. He had constant heart problems. In the end, his big heart gave out in his sleep on Christmas Eve. Why do so many people seem to die during the holidays?
After the funeral, Matt, my friend Mike and I went out to dinner. We figured that the town would be pretty quiet this close to New Year’s Eve, but we were wrong. The restaurant we went to out on Pensacola Beach (the Grand Marlin) was packed, and Seville Quarter was hopping. One of the many bars in the complex had a karaoke machine, and like rubberneckers at a train wreck we were drawn in.
Karaoke is a much-derided form of entertainment. Everyone thinks they can sing. Most people cannot. It can be literally painful to hear some people torture a song. But here’s the thing: Karaoke brings the people of the bar together. With the right crowd it can be a great time for everyone. There is a sense of collective fun. Nobody boos (although it is certainly justified now and then), and everyone appreciates a singer’s genuine effort. And some of them can be quite good! There was one strikingly beautiful young woman named Kate who would have easily made it through the first few rounds of “American Idol.”
Now, if you don’t like to drink…or if you do your drinking at home, alone, then the bar/karaoke scene is probably not for you. Matt and I generally prefer to see live bands – but then again we’ve seen some horrible live bands that are even worse than good karaoke, if those two words can even go together.
So we’re sitting there getting wasted. Mike bailed early…something about “going to see about a girl.” Matt and I joined up with a small group- a guy and two girls who’d been up on stage a couple of times. I was idly flipping through the song selection book, and you know what, they really do have every song ever recorded in the history of music.
Now let me reiterate: Bob does not do karaoke. Nobody wants to hear Bob sing. But you know… I mean, there were so many other bad singers belting out bad renditions of “Bad Romance” (Lady Gaga) that I thought…well, what could it hurt? Except ears and sensibilities. But Matt’s never heard me “sing” (which we will put in quotes because it is a very loose use of the term). So I gave the DJ my song and waited for the call. I must have been pretty drunk.
I won’t say that my version of Elvis Presley’s “Promised Land” was very or even any good. You cannot hear the music very well up on stage. Elvis’s backup band kept getting ahead of me, and I was struggling and rushing to keep up. And I could only “sort of” hear myself. And what I heard were a lot of bum notes. I’ll tell ya, it sounded NOTHING like my version in the car singing along with the radio. Nothing. In fact, I was surprised (and dismayed) at how bad it sounded.
Poor song choice? Perhaps. Some time later, I gave the DJ another suggestion: Johnny Cash’s great “Man In Black.” By now I must have been very drunk. Hoooeeee, worse than before! It was like the Tennessee Three were on speed, rushing way ahead of me while I stumbled along behind. Way behind. Like Nick Nolte after a three-day bender. Nobody booed- but they could/should have.
The DJ had planned on cutting it off at midnight. But the place was so crowded, and the crowd was so good that he kept going. At one point- and this had to be around 1:00 a.m. he stopped by our table. “I’m gonna stick around,” he announced. “Any requests?”
“Achy-Breaky Heart!” I yelled impulsively. It’s a rousing, crowd-pleasing song of which I thought I knew the lyrics. On the other hand, it’s been years since I’ve heard it. And although the words are displayed prominently on a nearby monitor, I thought I would just “wing it.” Sadly, I thought wrong. Let’s just say, my performance had deteriorated somewhat as the night progressed. Which it does. Ah well…
Matt, always the smarter of the two of us, declined to sing. It was probably a wise decision.
Matt and I have not gone out partying like that in a long, long time. There’s a good reason: We call it a “hangover.” And truthfully, I’m getting a little old to be hanging around in bars, getting drunk and making a fool of myself. I do enough of that at work! Fortunately, neither Matt nor I had a bad hangover this morning.
As always, it was a good visit and a great night on the town, even if the circumstance (Fred’s death) was kind of a bummer and even if we did drink a little too much. We vowed to not do this again anytime soon, at least not until the next time we hang out together. And then he jumped in his car and headed back to Atlanta, leaving me to just chill on a rainy, dreary day and be glad that none of our other friends were there with their cellphone cameras with the quick upload-to-Facebook feature.
See, as long as there’s no video evidence, it never happened. And Bob can still say that he does not do karaoke.