Thursday, April 21, 2005

Everything I need to know I learned from karaoke. I’ve done it 3 times. I’m a fast learner.

First was in Koreatown. Not Little Tokyo, like you’d expect. Seems singing off-key is a fad that slinked across the Sea of Japan faster than Hello Kitty.

My friends signed up to perform; peer pressure made me pick something out too. I chose a Frank Sinatra song. Like Elvis, Frankie’s easily imitatable. With ol’ Blue Eyes, you can practically say the lyrics and land Ava Gardner or Mia Farrow.

Unless you get nervous. All the people watching you, the Korean MC introducing you and mispronouncing your name, "Go, Meeaykil!" The lounge music kicks in...

And my voice cracked like Peter Brady: "Tha-a-at’s li-ife!"

I warbled a list of my past experience: “I’ve been a puppet, a porpoise, a pill-popping poonanie pirate...” Damn, I really shoulda read the lyrics. But those made-for-Chee-Z videos on the screen were so distracting. Who directs that crap? And how do I land that gig? Anyway, it went okay, I guess. But I wasn’t gonna get groupies any time Soon-Yi.

Then this old man got up there. He did Neil Diamond’s "Coming to America". Guy was pushing 60, probably came over with nothing and now runs his own business, or he’s a mid-level exec at Samsung... Livin’ the dream. He couldn’t carry a tune. Not a single Tae Kwon Do Re Mi. But when he atonally announced, "We comin to Amireeka -- today! Today!" well, shit, Seoul brutha meant it. No irony there. Just melting hearts and melting pots. I musta had something in my eye...

The next time was in Little Tokyo. I had a lot to drink and decided to saki to ‘em. “Bust a Move”. Yeah, you know it. Movie’s showin’, so you’re goin’ / Could care less about the ten you’re blowin’. See how I updated it? Gotta get with the times, man. And still stay in rhythm. Bang your head like Flea on the bassline.

By the third chorus the bartender told me, “Stand up!” I arose from the couch area where my friends & I had settled. Woulda made Young MC proud. Went into this Japanese joint thinking I might bomb like a kamikaze, but I blew up like Mt. Fuji. This time at karaoke I did improve / I knew what to do, G: Bust a move.

Finally, a pal’s birthday gathering took us to Brass Monkey. The play list was the size of the Yellow Pages. I told my friend to pick me out something. Whatever he chose, I’d be ready. I thought for sure he’d give me a Beastie Boys number. After all, how many times did I say “...that funky monkey...” as a hint? Instead he pointed to that hit by Staind. He knew I liked that song and the lyrics were easy enough: “And it’s been awhile...” over and over. But, nah, too sappy. Gimme something that rocks. Okay, he said, but I had no right of refusal this time.

Later, the host called me up to the podium. All the scotches didn’t dull my senses enough. I felt that adrenaline rush of anxiety. Yeah, I crave attention... until I get it. Then -- look away. Ignore me. Pay no attention to that man behind the microphone.

The guitar strummed the intro. Okay, Mike on the mic. I managed to mutter, “Oh my God...”

Then I remembered running a half-marathon in Orange County. My midsection was in knots the whole race. Something I ate? Or psycho-stomach-ic? Whatever the cause, I knew the effect. Nausea. GI tract achin’ throughout the OC. I knew I was physically fit enough to do my goal time. If I wasn’t so damn queasy. Maybe I should slow down... Then the drill sergeant in my head emerged. Told the self-doubting part of me to shut the fuck up. Quitcher bellyachin’, boy. You need to puke? You gonna die? Do it on the other side of the finish line. And surprise, surprise, I achieved my goal. Without ralphing on my Reebocks.

Some people do karaoke ‘cause they think they can actually sing. I know better. Couldn’t rely on musical ability. It’s all in the attitude, baby.

Pulled out all my air, deep from the diaphragm, and gave out a blood-curdling “Waaaaaaaaaaa!” Everyone in the joint sat up and took notice.

“Welcome to the Jungle! We got fun and games...!”

Did I do the Axl Rose crab-dance? Did I writhe my hips like “ooh, my, my, my serpentine”? Did I make a fool of myself?

Did Axl wear those oh-so-cool bandanas to hide his not-so-cool acne? The answer is a resounding fuck yeah.

But the place ate it up. Strangers were high-fiving me the rest of the night. Shouting that I rock, dude. I’d whisper, thanks. I had blown out my vocal chords.

What did I learn? Whatever you do, make sure it’s meaningful, or at least enjoyable... and then go all out. Warp speed, Mr. Sulu. Yeah, you might look like a geek or bust a gut, but it's worth it.

Otherwise, karaoke -- or life -- well...

It’s gonna bring you down! Hunh!


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