The Unexpected (Singing Mississippi, #37)

Despite many phone calls insisting Burgers and Blues in Ridgeland, Mississippi had karaoke, it wasn’t on their online calendar, so I found a backup just in case things fell through. The task was surprisingly easily, given the state was Mississippi and the day was Monday – my experience in scheduling has led me to learn that states with limited urban areas and the beginning of the week are not easy; combining the two should have been an out-right challenge, but I’m grateful for the surprise. Not sure how I didn’t find it before – especially since it’s on Steve’s page. No matter, I found it and I had a backup plan with zero heart racing. I’m silently proud of myself.

Taking the smaller roads led us through Jackson to get to Ridgeland, and we found ourselves driving on the worst roads I have ever been on. Potholes, rumble, and inadequate patchwork made for a bumpy ride for passengers and a ruining one for a car. These streets are not for frequent driving yet many must do it daily. And this was right around all the state and capitol buildings: State Street, where the Department of Corrections building is much more impressive than that which houses the Department of Education. At least there was a library a few blocks down, but the overall picture is despair.

When we got to the hotel it was pouring rain and we get drenched getting our stuff into our room – which wasn’t completely serviced, so off to a second room we go. We have to park somewhat far away because they are repaving half their parking lot (too bad they can’t fund road improvement). That should have been a warning sign, but instead we considered ourselves lucky to get the last spot, parked and ran in.

Because the clouds looked threatening still, we didn’t take the short walk over to the venue, and it’s just as well. Turns out we needed the backup after all. There are very few people in the restaurant, and the stoned host mumbles that he isn’t sure if they are going to have karaoke or not, and the manager is at Sam’s so he can’t verify. Instead of taking our chances there, we go off to Jackson where we saw a sign about a place being voted best BBQ – Pig and Pint – two of our favorite things.

The three of us split a meat platter and the greens are amazing. So is the mustard sauce atop delicate pulled pork. The bartender is eager to serve us beers we will like, asks us our preferences, and pours us samples. Steve gets an IPA, Dave a gose, and me a pale ale – all local. He tells us there’s trivia if we stick around – there’s free beer in it for us. Free beer and trivia are also two of my favorite things. We stay. First round we are in second to last (7th of 8) and we laugh at ourselves and Mississippi by saying we are scraping the bottom of trivia in a state that scores the worst in education nationally. By the end, we finish a respectable second, miles behind the first place team and just ahead of the wait staff. That wins us a gift certificate, so we leave with two cans of beer and a bottle of that yummy sauce.

Timing is perfect as we roll into the karaoke venue; it started late, but people were just starting to sing as we got there. The KJ wears tiny glasses and a Sesame Street T-shirt; he takes a cigarette break on the balcony almost every song. He’s very apologetic when he mispronounces my name, even though it’s completely the fault of my messy handwriting (Krish vs Kristi – it’s happened before). Songs are put in by scribbling on the back of a piece of bar tab paper. Rotation is set and new people are added in at the end of each round.  The song book is weird, as it’s inconsistently organized alphabetically by last and first name. Still, I manage to only find two songs by Diana Ross and neither is the Theme from Mahogany; there’s a lot of Styx though, and I wonder about the motivation behind the inventory. The microphone stand isn’t quite right, and when I put the mic away after my first song (which was neither Diana or Styx), it starts to slide out, coming close to falling to the ground before the KJ leans over to catch it. A patron laughs “Stick it in, don’t slide it in.” I figure it out the second time it’s my turn on the tiny stage.

The venue itself is an Irish Pub in Mississippi, which makes me laugh, because I don’t see anything Irish about the state. Then again, there’s little Irish about the place it except they have Smithwick’s Red on tap, dark wooden walls, and Scotch eggs on the menu (they also have fried pickles and fish tacos). Then again, there’s a lot of group singing and the song choices lean toward the depressing. Mostly the night is a small crowd of friends helping each other out on songs while also making fun of them all in good fun. There’s a lot of laughter, too. Maybe it’s a good Irish Pub after all.

Irish pub in the deep South.

We get back to the hotel and there is no parking because half the lot is closed down (remember? I only sort of did). There is also no one at the front desk. A person on a phone tells us to double-park, but I don’t feel good about blocking someone in, so we park at the Lowe’s next door. Dave gets up at 5:30 to move the car. I’m grateful as I roll over and go back to sleep.

The basics:

  • Location: Fenian’s Pub, Jackson, MS
  • Miles traveled: 197
  • Songs sung: Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac), I Can’t Help Myself (The Four Tops)

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