Scenes From a Karaoke Bar
The Billboard Astrology Charts
Brooke sings Fight For Your Right to Party, by The Beastie Boys. She manages to do it badly, even for a song that demands so little of a karaoke singer. It’s likely because her focus is more on posturing: A fist in the air, a heavy-footed strut, thrusting her breasts forward to empathize the word fight for the glassy-eyed stoners playing pool…
in the back of the bar. She wants them to think that she’s on their wavelength, that she can do anything they can do, match them shot for shot, punch for punch, tattoo for tattoo.
But she’s doesn’t want to. Brooke only wants them to think she does, because they say that’s what they want, a girl that can just hang out, chill, get high. But they’ll find her out one day. She tries too hard, wearing her efforts like a badge, or brightly colored plumage.
The brim of a pub cab worn at eyebrow level, the way she’s the first to condemn others for not taking part in a group tequila shot to stoke up ridicule from rest of the boys, and the way her song choice shouts look what I picked louder than listen to what I’m singing.
The only question is if they’ll find her out before it’s too late for Brooke to put on a new hat, or if by then it will be all she knows. An occasional willingness to travel to the bar by skateboard loses novelty as the years pass, and like other trends, Brooke’s time in the limelight will be forgotten due to its lack of substance. Her thriving fanbase, gathered around the pool tables of the world, will wither into an occasional nostalgic passing fancy lost to social evolution.
Brooke finishes her song and starts back to her throne, swinging a wide arcing high five to a lecherous bald man seated at the bar ogling anything that might wear a skirt as she passes. His polo shirt is stretched tightly around his bulging belly reaching reaching reaching to reach the waist of his jeans where its tucked in and tied up with a brown leather braided belt. He thinks this is the height of fashion, and with all the drinks he buys, few will argue.
After thanking Brooke for her performance, the KJ announces the specials and crowd to tip their bartender, then calls Chantell, to the corner of the bar referred generously to as the stage, singing her name to the tune of Jolene by Dolly Parton. Chantell, Chantell, Chantell, Chaaanteeeelllll. I’m telling you it’s time to sing your song.
Chantell is a fat girl. Not big boned or full-figured, but fat with generous rolls under arms and chin and a jello-like jiggle in her cheeks, though she doesn’t know it. Every week she wraps all 250 pounds of her up in polka dots for this dance. She prances forward on eggshells, connecting hoofs shod in kitten heels three years out fashion to the sticky linoleum with a delicacy that resembles grace. She holds the microphone lightly in her right hand, the pinky raised slightly as she makes flirty eyes at Mr. Polo Shirt while the intro to her song plays, an old jazz ballad. She sings it well enough, hitting the right notes in the proper key, but does so in a childish manner best befitting Betty Boop, all the while winking and making faces to the audience that resemble a hunting trophy’s leer.
She blows kisses to her “fans” when the songs ends, and daintily prances back to her booth to resume her favorite topic of conversation: how badly all the men in the bar want to fuck her—not sleep with, have sex with or screw, but fuck, a ferocious violation employing the subtle nuanced distinctions of a jackhammer—while her husband, a man with an equivalent figure but possessing the good sense to avoid polka dots, buys drinks for her suitors.
Next up is Mr. Graves, a skinny man in his late 20’s who looks forty years out of time in his signature 3-piece suit and porkpie hat. He takes a bar stool to the stage to assume his signature stance (seated with one leg spread aside to look like Tony Bennet or Dean Martin after twelve times the number of drinks Mr. Graves can afford on a cashier’s salary) and he begins his signature act, a teen-marketed top 40 pop song sung with a gravelly moan ala Tom Waits for comic effect. This week it’s Britney Spears. A cigarette hangs from the corner of his mouth and his non-mic hand clutches a glass of neat bourbon as he groans out a request to hit him one more time. The girl he started this act to impress doesn’t come here anymore.
The KJ gives the microphone to Brad the bartender next, who sings a Billy Idol song while pouring drinks to the giddy delight of the college girls out for a 21st birthday party. Their previous experiences requesting alcohol from men generally involved the men requesting other sorts of favors in return. This one does tricks.
A conga line breaks out when someone sings The Banana Boat Song by Harry Belafonte, a gay man sings It’s Raining Men to the great discomfort of the “dudes” at the pool table, an almost frighteningly enthusiastic Metal Eric growls out Cowboys From Hell by Pantera then raises his glass to the memory of their slain guitar player Dimebag Darrell. Eventually the 21st birthday goes up as a group to sway arm in arm singing The Piano Man by Billy Joel. For a moment, the KJ feels it might be about him.
All the while, Todd the Schizophrenic sits at the bar talking to himself and fawning over over young blond girls, patiently waiting his turn to sing a whiny out of tune rendition of the 80’s techno pop he loves so dearly, and Ian the alcoholic sits in the corner waiting his turn to order another drink or a grant from the national endowment from the arts, whichever comes first.
Astronomers claim that the universe is constantly expanding. But things stay pretty much the same every Thursday at The Backwater Lounge: too many stars and not enough sky.