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Karaoke

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Karaoke.   

It's the human equivalent of wolves fornicating in the wild.

Karaoke. It's a shot gun blast without ear plugs.

Karaoke. It's a piercing shrill from an inebriated ventriloquist.

Karaoke. It's a lumber truck with no muffler roaring up a mountain.

"They have Karaoke till 1 am," she says.

I look at the young woman with an amused grin.

"They're open till 1," she smiles.

1 am? We can go cow tipping till 1 am too? It doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Before I can say a word, there are smiles all around.

"Karaoke? Awesome!," the other woman chimes in.

Uh oh.

This is how mug shots are born, I think to myself.

Suddenly a night of demon karaoke is on the radar screen.

"Let's do it," the girls say in unison.

"You can be my back up singer."

"No you can be my back up singer."

One beer isn't enough lubricant to get me on a Karaoke stage. That much I know.

"Jesse's Girl. Let's do that?"

"No Meatloaf."

"Too complicated," my buddy says.

We pay our bill and leave the safety of the mahogany bar.

Karaoke? It's crack for the ears. It''s wiskey flavored cough syrup.

Karaoke is a knife fight in your auditory canal.

Johnny Cash once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

The unwritten part of that song? The man he shot was singing Karaoke.

Now these women want to risk life and bullets with a Karaoke machine?

This idea was hatched somewhere between rounds 2 and 3.

We're just drinking beers right?

Karaoke?

"We can go downtown Nashville," one said.

"No. The people there are too good. they are looking for record contracts."

They're right.

Music City is Music City.

Karaoke downtown is almost professional.

The next thing I know we are driving through the darkness, and over the hill.

We navigate through suburbia, past the Publix, past the sub divisions of slumbering bliss.

Suddenly we are pulling into a random strip mall filled with nail salons and liquor stores and a Mapco.

The parking lot is desolate, except for the Mexican restaurant at the far end.

It's perfectly situated between suburbia and the waste water treatment plant on the other side of the four lane.

As we walk to the door, the air is cold.

A group of smokers is outside, puffing and polluting the entry way with the foul stench of unfiltered Camel cigarettes.

I pull open the door and the girls rush in, along with cigarette smoke.

"It's so cold," they squeal.

The door shuts and I rub my hands together.

The Cantina is right out of Star Wars.

I swear I see a Wookie in a sombrero disappear into the kitchen.

The room is a barn. It's stucco walls painted orange and yellow. It looks like a forever sunset trapped in a quisinart.

The ceiling is acoustic tile and beams. The floor is concrete slab, perfect for mopping up vomit and spilled taco sauce.

The walls are covered with plasma tv's tuned to Mexican soccer games. The lighting is neon beer signs. Yellow Corona and Amber Dos Equis.

There are Christmas lights twinkling over the bar. Every day is a corona soaked crime scene in this den of iniquity.

The clientelle is diverse.

A table of jolly black people are in the center of this hall. A flamboyant gay man is twirling around the room, seemingly friends with everyone and no one all at once.

"I'm gay," he will say several times to perfect strangers. "Can't you tell I'm gay."

Ah yeah, Tex. I think the swish in your giddy up gave that one away.

There are cowboy white southerners in a booth in the corner. How do you get a farmer's tan in the dead of winter, I wonder?

There are heavy white girls next to them. They have big pants covered by big long sweater shirts. Lucky for them it's 22 degrees out.

There are Korean women at the table against the wall. They look drunk, but somehow still look like they could do my taxes better than me.

There are Mexican servers and bar tenders meandering around.

Nobody is in a rush to do anything.

The service is a perpetual siesta in the middle of a salted margarita glass.

It's midnight and the sounds of warbling cats being strangled fills this acoustically sad edifice.

I scan this dungeon of humanity and recognize sheriff's deputies and cops all off duty.

This entire night is a potential DUI.

The visual is a Technicolor belch.

Upper middle class drinkers next to row house miscreants.

Karaoke knows no class system.

Suddenly there is a screech from the far end of the cantina.

It is coming from the stage where children are singing a song that is one part gerbils in a blender, one part power drill piercing sheet metal.

It is a shrill, a shriek, it's an auditory homicide set to a familiar beat.

The sound is unholy.

I want to throw garlic around my neck. There is never garlic around when you most need it.

I gaze upon this cacophony of off-key misery. It's coming from the stage where three pubescent girls are gyrating like go go boot wearing strippers.

Pour some sugar on me.

Def Lepard never sounded so wrong.

Love is like a bomb, baby, c'mon get it on
Livin' like a lover with a radar phone

The song is garbled, the lyrics uncomfortable coming from junior high kids.

Lookin' like a tramp, like a video vamp
Demolition woman, can I be your man?

The children are surrounded by the stench of alcohol and sexuality as they screech into microphones covered with a bacterial blanket of karaoke.

Razzle 'n' a dazzle 'n' a flash a little light
Television lover, baby, go all night
Sometime, anytime, sugar me sweet
Little miss ah innocent sugar me, yeah

What parents are responsible for this violation of midnight madness? I think to myself.

Karaoke, the evil baby sitter of a fouled up Friday night.

I feel a tad uncomfortable as I watch children in training bras sing a classic rock tune which has all the subtlety of a Madonna video.

I turn away from the stage, feigning interest in a Mexican soccer game.

Sadly, I can still see the imagery of the kids in the Corona mirror hanging over the beer taps.

The kids are white.

In my mind, I immediately rule out the Korean women and the black people as parents.

That leaves a lot of culpable white folk in this karaoke hall of shame.

I wonder if there is a misdemeanor for subjecting pre-teens to the seedy side of suburbia.

Suddenly two gigantic black men take the stage.

They are Barry White and Marvin Gaye.

Sex appeal drips from their deep bass groove.

Karaoke can be painful. But Karaoke can also be a surprising funkadelic moment where fat faced black guys get on stage and belt out a classic.

I watch their big black wives getting turned on in their seats.

Suddenly these women are ready for some Friday night loving.

They came with their husbands, but they are going home with Barry White and Marvin Gaye.

It's gonna be a lot of big ass clothes being torn off in 30 minutes somewhere in the hood.

Can't wait to hear that 911 call.

That too is the magic of Karaoke.

I listen to song after song sung by drunken patrons, jail house miscreants, and cowboys without assless chaps.

It's all pretty bad, but entertaining as hell.

it's now 1 am and the crowd has thinned in this cathedral of vocal contamination.

Suddenly our girls are up.

A quick swig of a beer for courage and up they go.

Suddenly AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long fills the mostly empty cantina.

The familiar guitar riffs rip off the stucco, reverberate off the concrete, ricochet off the glass.

It's hilarious and exciting.

It sounds like gravel being kicked up under the wheels of a Winnebago leaving a camp ground.

The girls, drunk and happy and gyrating like rock queens, work the stage and the microphones.

They rub on each other back to back and dance when there are no lyrics to sing.

Karaoke.

The girls get off the stage amidst cheers and high fives.

"That was fun," they shout, still panting from a hard-earned set.

Karaoke.

A chance to be someone you're not, to take the stage in a bastion of anonymity and tolerance.

Karaoke, a DUI without driving, a Child Protective Services notice on a family night out.

Karaoke.

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