“I don’t know what to sing.”

“Well, what do you sing along with on your ipod?”

“I don’t really sing along with my ipod-“


Karaoke. Round 1.

I embarked on my first karaoke experience last weekend, dragging three extremely gracious, extremely tolerant friends down the block to Louie’s Pub. The sign outside read “Where Friends Meet” (OBVIOUSLY THE PLACE FOR US), & aside from a back-room birthday party already three sheets to the wind, the place was relatively dead. The lone bartender snatched our id’s from our hands & held them under a futuristic id-authenticity-checker thing, eying each of us with pity suspicion before asking about our drinks. It was clear that we – we were no simple troubadours. No. We were here…with a purpose. We relieved the weary barmaid of her pours, meandered to a table, & readied for action, for tonight, we would sing.

About Louie’s

1. It is small. There is no karaoke stage. The words pop up on flat screen tv’s that are about 20 feet off the ground, & the whole time you’re performing you are either craning your neck up to see the nearest screen or squinting to see one that’s on the other side of the bar.
2. There is no air conditioning or open windows. Louie’s feels like an armpit.
3. Louie’s boasts $1.00 cans of Schlitz.
4. No, really. Schlitz.
5. The karaoke dj is named Hawk. Hawk sings Al Green. Hawk has smooth moves. Hawk will kick your ass, drink your beer, steal your girl, & all you will do is shrug, because, damn. That’s Hawk.

We sat dripping not with charm but with sweat – disgusting gobs of salty, salty sweat, the sort of sweat that slicks across your skin & clings to every bodily fold you didn’t even know you had. Wiping our brows, we took turns passing the song book & talking Jake out of singing Miss American Pie. I dallied as long as I could, but ultimately I had to face facts: I was on a mission. I tipped back my drink, put down my name, & with a few quick swipes of the pen I was on the floor, mic in hand, counting down the beats to Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

I was bad. I was really, really bad. I was sweaty & flat & tipsy & an embarrassment to everyone who has ever met me. & though this is generally true of every karaoke singer, they are usually hindered by one thing I am not: pride. Without pride to hold me back, I was free to do things like dance to The Clash:

…duet to Good Vibrations:

…& to cover Prince’s Kiss so badly that Hawk the Karaoke DJ left his booth to try to offer me some help:

True to the assignment, we wrapped up the night with a group rendition of Don’t Stop Believin’ which, true to the assignment, resulted in a bar-wide sing-a-long of power ballad loving idiots. Sweaty hipsters danced with sweaty birthday revelers who danced with sweaty internet-stunt-performing 24 year olds who danced with Hawk, & everyone smiled sang stood moved laughed. & I thought maybe all this foolishness was really all right.

We’d intended to stay only a couple of hours but the next thing we knew the bar was closing & they were kicking us out. We ran the whole way home, screaming over the sounds of rain & thunder & shoes, still singing. It’s easy not to notice moments like that, the ones where you’re doing exactly what you want to be doing exactly when you want to be doing it with people who love you, with people you love, & you’re loving every minute of it, you’re holding fast to every minute of it, & as every minute of it ticks by you have no problem letting that minute go because good God. How can you not want to know what’s next?