Monday, November 16, 2009

Last Night in a Scary Bar

I went to see my friend Rick, whom I hadn't hung out with for years. We drove to a dive bar (his idea) in a town known primarily for its crime rate. The bar (six pool tables, one bartender, wood paneling) contained the kind of crowd that encourages the avoidance of eye contact. There were glowering men waiting out their parole, a woman with a bottomless cigarette and a hairstyle straight outta "GoodFellas", and other extras who had answered the "menacing person needed in dark bar" ad in the paper. I considered leaving immediately.
Did I mention it was karaoke night?
No one was singing, except the lady with the hair and her male companion, a Hispanic Kenny Rogers look-alike who kept to a safe catalogue of dead artists who mainly sang about getting arrested, drinking, and lonesome highways.
The woman running the karaoke looked normal enough, and had a boyfriend or bouncer nearby who eyeballed anyone who got too close to the equipment. When Rick decided he would go sing (Johnny Cash--smart), the bartender waved me over and asked what I was drinking. Prior to that moment my plan was "nothing" but I quickly determined I would stand out less if I had a drink in front of me. So I got one, dirty glass and all. This was also the first time a bartender had summoned me to the bar from across a room. I didn't know they did that, anywhere.
Rick and I started catching up. After a while I realized I hadn't been stabbed yet so I started to relax. Maybe it was the drink. Rick asked me if I was going to sing and I absently thumbed through the song list.
For reasons that still escape me, I wrote down "Come What May," a duet from the musical Moulin Rouge, on the song request slip and went to the karaoke woman.
"Do you know this song?" I asked her. She nodded. "Would you sing it with me?" I tried, knowing that anyone who runs a karaoke gig not only loves to sing but usually sings pretty well. She shrugged and said, "Sure, I'll do it." If she'd been a good person, she would have said, "Go out the back door now." But she didn't. I sat back down with Rick and continued our conversation. More people arrived, but I was no longer watching the front door.
I forgot about the song, until someone said my name. I went over and picked up the mic and looked out at the bar. Holy crap. I was going to croon a love ballad in this place? Thankfully, the karaoke lady had presumably survived more than one evening in this establishment so her standing next to me would presumably prevent All Hell from breaking loose. As the music began, I had a moment to search inward and try to find the reason I'd picked this song. I ceased my search and settled for cursing myself.
I sang the first line. If you don't know the song, you should listen to it, just to fully understand my predicament. And it was about to get worse.
The karaoke lady, still seated behind her bullet-proof equipment, looked over at me and said, "I don't know this song at all." She made no move for the mic, nor did she stand, nor indicate that she would do anything while I sang alone.
I suppose I could have run for it, but I would have been leaving Rick behind. You never leave a man behind. The only thing left to do was sing.
Then the karaoke lady keys her mic and asks the bar, "Can anyone out there sing this duet with him?" I realized that she was trying to get me killed. A guy with a Tombstone mustache and a cowboy hat with too many feathers on it shook his head in disbelief.
Suddenly a woman raised her hand from the corner and hurried through the crowd: a pretty redhead, maybe 23 years old, vivacious, like a 40's pin-up girl. She joined me, flashed a dazzling smile, and picked up the other mic. What Higher Power of Goodness had sent her?
I finished my opening, and she began her part. She had a voice like honey mead: sweet and powerful. And she knew the song. She was beautiful. She saved my life, man.
We sang the duet, feeding off each other's energy, lost in the music. There was no more scary bar, no more threat of death by pool cue, only the rising crescendo of the song as it ended with its promise of hope and the power of music and two people who don't care about consequences, only love.
The bar was dead silent. Scattered applause, then more, then cheering. I thanked the pretty girl, who laughed with genuine and sudden shyness as she returned to her companions. I made my way back across the bar, and the guy in the cowboy hat--now revealed to be staggeringly drunk--said, "You got a voice from Hell, friend."
I would survive the night. I was untouchable; I was the guy who made the pretty redhead materialize out of the wood paneling and sing like an angel. And the real kind of angel, not the Hell's kind.
Rick was chuckling when I reached him. "I remember why we quit hanging out," he said. "You're completely out of you're mind."

EDIT: Based on a few salacious emails I have received since this post, I feel I should point out that the pretty redhead left the bar with her male friends about an hour after this incident occurred. Thank you for your concern. For an alternate (and fabricated) ending, please visit



Hahaha, no! It's an actor dressed as a legionary. But I have excelent reviews of the pages I did! I'll write you and Shane an email, soon, about this.
Um abraco!


And, hey, I'll be at San Diego Comic Con 2010.
Wait for the news!!!

Who is this Writer? said...


Jenni said...

You definitely need some help in picking your karaoke duets. Just so you know, "Islands in the Stream" is the ONLY acceptable option. And next time, if you're going to sing solo may I suggest "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls. Being that you're a dude, you may have to add a little creativity for the imagination, but you're a writer, you'll pull it off.

singtothe said...

picking a great karaoke song is difficult it's all about your vocal range. so find out how high you can sing and do not go higher.

Who is this Writer? said...

I can sing about as high as that ottoman over there.