Oct 25, 2013

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Karaoke Funeral

Karaoke Funeral
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There is a Chinese proverb that says, “May you live in interesting times.” They must have been talking about me! I somehow have a strange ability to create great opportunities for stories later. Here is my story about Wednesday night:

Years ago I was a karaoke DJ (sometimes referred to as a KJ). I did this on & off for nearly seven years at at least seven different bars in the Portland-metro area. It had its ups and downs, pros and cons, and at the beginning I was making decent money for the time I put in and the fun that was had. One particular crowd boomed heavily; somehow my mix of perverted curse-filled whit, singing voice and song choices really worked for them. After KJing for under six months they had to get a bouncer to keep up with the crowd in the dark-hole-of-a-bar in felony flats.

Ironically, those years are the most hours I’ve ever spent (and maybe wanted to spend) in bars. I prefer drinking at home where I can make an ass of myself in the company of people who know me and know how much more of me there is. I guess some prefer to drink in the company of strangers, and that is fun sometimes, too, I’m just not as drawn to it. Yet, every now and then, I get a hankerin’ for some karaoke, especially with friends who will sing and laugh and have fun with me.

There’s my lead-in. Bringing you back to the present, it was a nudging that I had been feeling for a while, so I finally acted on it: karaoke night. Last week I sent an email invite to 20 or so people who I knew would enjoy such a thing, and figured if half that showed it would be a pretty sweet night. I picked a place I knew stays somewhat dead (pun wasn’t originally intended) on the weeknights, and that started karaoke early (7pm compared to most places at 9pm) for my pals with day jobs. Due to my busy schedule, I didn’t have many choices for evenings, so I chose a Wednesday that just happened to be the day after the long-awaited Macklemore show. Maybe that in itself wasn’t the best idea.

Apparently I didn’t think things all the way through, because immediately I heard back from someone I had assumed could make it that she couldn’t. I guess I should have asked first! A few people responded they would be there, but more responded they would not. I was starting to get a little bummed, but was confident I/we would have fun no matter what happened. That’s the Mrs. Bright-side in me, I suppose!

Fast-forward to the night in question, Wednesday. All day long (like 10 hours, I think) I had been working on my websites and branding and workshops. I had a hard time ripping myself away from the middle of something I had just figured out with WordPress. I forced myself to change my clothes and make myself look presentable. I ended up only being like 10 minutes late (yes, to my own gathering), but two of my friends were already there. Using my voice-to-text, I had given instructions on the way so they could at least locate each other.

You may be asking, “Why would they need to locate each other? Didn’t you say the bar is usually dead on weeknights?” Well, as it turns out, I should have used a different word when describing what I wanted to the Universe. I had unknowingly planned my evening of fun and laughter…. in the middle of a funeral.

At first we thought maybe it was just the people from the funeral and they had come to the bar to drink together. Alas, no; we got there just in time. Shortly after all six of us were gathered for our night of joy and singing (with pictures of the deceased rotating on the TV screen), people began stepping up the mic. Not to begin karaoke, but to begin telling stories about their transitioned friend.

Now, please don’t think I am heartless. A guy died. That is sad. He was apparently very loved and adored – was a KJ himself, and the bar was full of the people who’s lives he had touched in his work. He was only 37. I am sorry for the loss in his community. But I wanted my Karaoke Night, dammit! I wanted fun, and laughter, and connection, and screaming over loud music! Instead, we ate Chinese food (well, we were there), and felt bad any time one of us laughed at something the other said because there were people crying behind us as they shared the poem they wrote.

One friend couldn’t hang and bailed before we got our food. I totally understand, especially with the long few days she had prior. The rest of us ate and tried not to make eye-contact with the lady walking around shoving the mic in people’s faces – you know, in case they were “too shy” to come up to the front. One of my friends came a little dressed up, and got a sympathy pat from a guy. It was like we had walked into a Portland version of Cheers. We felt awkward and out-of-place. I kept thinking to myself, “Starr, what did you do?!”

For those who didn’t make it this time, you didn’t miss much! No singing happened. Four of us finished up eating and headed over to Trails End in Oregon City. We didn’t get to sing, but at least we got to listen to good music, joke about our strange experience while shaking it off, and be allowed to laugh and talk as loudly as we wanted to without feeling like we were imposing on other people’s process.

Needless to say, it was quite an anti-climax to the high-energy, heart-breaking-open night before with Macklemore and 10,000 other screaming fans. I’ll take that over a Karaoke Funeral any day!

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