Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Karaoke without a net.

Karaoke without a net.

In South Haven there is a bar we pass every time we drive to or from Photogal's farmhouse. It's one of those sort of prefabbed looking places, a little rough around the edges, and obviously aimed at attracting locals and not the more affluent out-of-towners that tend not to leave the downtown South Haven area unless they're going on winery tours or indulging in similar activities.

Now this bar has one of those lit-up signs, with the big arrow pointing towards the establishment, advertising karaoke on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; and every time we've passed the place -- for the past year or so -- I always joke that we HAVE to go there and do some karaoke.

Well, last Saturday Photogal called my bluff.

We were on our way home after dinner when she turned to me and said, "Maybe we should finally just check it out, huh?" So we pulled into the lot, surrounded by pick-ups and station-wagons, exited the Jeep and crept to peek in the window. We figured we'd better survey the place before entering to the soundtrack of a skipping needle followed by a breeze from all the heads snapping in our direction.

The scene we captured was of a brightly lit room, reasonably packed, with lots of dudes playing pool. The inhabitants were definitely locals through and through, with a fair amount of camouflage peppering the crowd (it's deer season), but overall it looked like a crowd we could handle ... or at least outrun if things suddenly got weird.

You see it's one thing to enter a strange bar with a bunch of friends, since the more folks you have with you, the deeper your safety barrier is. But when you enter a room with no one else but your ex, and things go South, you might find yourself face-down in the dirt with a busted rib circled by a bunch of angry townies.

Of course, if we all worked off the above theory, we'd never try anything new, and we'd continue to live in a bubble that reflected unfair stereotypes inward instead of dashing preconceptions with reality. But I digress.

I admit when we entered the room we attracted more than a few confused glances, and the bartender seemed slightly stymied when we actually started ordering drinks and shots. As the evening went on though, we noticed people started to loosen up around us, but I don't think the ice finally broke until I sang my own version of "Sweet Caroline." Folks that have seen me karaoke know that I love to twist the lyrics of that particular Neal Diamond song to create new narratives, and I also like using it as a good warm-up song since it's a slow burn for the vocal chords.

For the Michigan crowd I adopted the standpoint of a housewife tired of cleaning her trailer and waiting for he man to return with the days hunting spoils. I could see Photogal stiffening when I started singing about shooting deer -- since she knew I was already pretty drunk and could very likely say something to offend the room en masse -- but at the last second I veered into praising the hunters of the room and got a couple whoops and cheers in response.

After that it was all over. Folks would come up and briefly chat with us, and as Photogal downed Tecate after Tecate I noticed she was spending a lot of time with the karaoke songbook. At first I thought she was trying to pick out another song for me, but I slowly realized she intended to sing! Photogal! Singing! In public!

I was stoked.

After much debate she decided on Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" -- ironic for a host of reasons -- and dragged me up to do it as an ad-hoc duet. Apparently the crowd liked a) Fleetwood Mac b) Photogals' voice and c) my el dorko posturing and hopping about. And apparently Photogal loved karaoke, because we were BACK on the stage a few minutes later chugging through Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me" complete with crowd sing-a-long responses.

After that we sat back and enjoyed a few songs by this one guy with a tremendous voice that would vacillate between country and soul standards. We marveled at the fact that there are apparently specially built glasses whose entire purpose is to house J├Ągerbombs.* And I smoked far too many cigarettes. Last call was announced and we realized, with great shock, we had been in the bar for somewhere along the lines of 4 hours or so. I'm not going to say we walked out with any new friends, or even that there weren't a couple of folks that obviously were rather suspicious of us and our clothes (and, perhaps, our song selections since they veered pretty far from the standard country selections).

I will say that we had a blast though, and will surely indulge in some more karaoke at that bar at some point in the future. I'll also say it was probably some of the most fun Photogal and I have had out on the town together in a really long time. And finally I'll say this; the out-of-towners that never make it out of the tourist-friendly spots are really missing out and depriving themselves of some honest, off-the-cuff, wholly entertaining, fun.

*Obviously we've been living sheltered lives for far too long. Although, in our defense, the bartender had no idea what "Maker's Mark" was.

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