That one singer…(Singing Maine, #23)

In many places I’ve been so far, there’s been the bar drunk. Sometimes this person is a regular, sometimes not. Sometimes the person is sort of just slumped in the corner when I arrive (and often that person leaves when the singing starts) and, well, sometimes that person tries to sing.

In Portland, Maine, that person was a guy wearing a Tom Brady jersey. He was also wearing a sling, and I’m sure the beers he was drinking helped wash down some pain killers as well. He spent most of the night wandering around aimlessly, but then he eventually stumbled up to the KJ and put in a song. When it was his turn, he grabbed the mic and stared out into the crowd (there was a quite a large crowd for a Monday night), swaying to the beat, or perhaps just in general. The words he was supposed to sing started scrolling by as his mouth hung open. Occasionally he would try to mumble some words.

Then a woman from the bar, more than a bit tipsy herself, grabbed the mic and did her best to complete the song. She sang words which matched the beat; sometimes those words were the lyrics. The Tom Brady fan stood next to her and sang into his hand. I’m not sure he realized what was going on, and he didn’t seem to mind the takeover.

I did a brief search of my blog entries so far and only found one other time I mentioned someone specifically, and another where I talk about a general group of singers, but those women don’t represent what I’m writing about here, as they were highly functional, just having a good time. Before, I’ve seen a woman on drugs try to sing Elvis’ Don’t Be Cruel in Helena. I’ve seen a woman fall down during her rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart, and hand back the mic to the KJ in the middle of the song as her boyfriend helped her up and off the stage in Nebraska. The former was, according to the bartender, a regular and “harmless;” I found out when the KJ expressed concern about what to do with her. I asked the KJ in Nebraska about the second woman and he said he had never seen her before, and felt really bad about the situation – he isn’t really sure what to do when that happens. The guy in Wisconsin was a regular and the drunken inability to sing Elton John is a weekly event, accepted as just part of the general scene there.

There seems to be no one way to deal when the town drunk starts to sing, but for sure it will happen again in my past and future.

The basics:

  • Location: Old Port Tavern: Portland, ME (the other/original Portland!!)
  • Miles traveled: 129
  • Sings sung: Call Me (Blondie), I Want Your Sex (George Michael)
Every place on the coast of Maine has a nautical theme.

Empty orchestra, empty establishments (Singing Connecticut, #19)

It was a long day for both of us, but especially Dave. He was the one who just got off a plane after a 24-hour-ordeal, starting off on the other side of the world. We drove back to the hotel I stayed in the night before, taking the long way down the south coast of Connecticut. I had reached the other side of the country, and rolled 6,000 solo miles. Now it’s time to make this journey with my partner. For our first leg together, we talked about our respective journeys apart – his in China, and the flight through India, mine across the northern part of the US. Together, we wound our way through rich areas: so many expensive car dealerships, showing off their large inventories out front. When we arrived, Dave settled in for his six-hour nap and I went off to sing.

I made it to the other coast!

I find the address of the bar, after navigating my way around downtown New Haven, which seemed brand new and without any character. The street was partially closed, but the neighborhood was safe enough to walk around, so parking a bit of a distance away felt OK. I did an excellent job of parallel parking. I saw a few young women dressed for clubbing stumbling around on the sterile streets.

I walk down a newly-constructed alleyway in the middle of the block and enter the bar, chat with the bartender, and order a local IPA. There are a few people here, and a large stage. It doesn’t look like anyone is considering a performance – that’s because no one is. I’m in the wrong place. I laugh about it with the bartender/owner and the one remaining person there, who also works there as a social and event manager I presume from their discussions. We talk about Facebook and its restrictions on event planning. I finish my beer and go further down the alley to where I was supposed to be.

The alleyway that leads to a few bars — some better than others.

The look of Karaoke Heroes was completely different from the first bar. Here, it was light, airy, and made to look like a private room more reminiscent of an Asian establishment. Comic strip images decorated the walls, and I took a seat in an orange plastic chair at a white plastic table. Silver pleather couches lined the walls.

Everyone here was hammered. A group of women sat up where the couches were, behind a table full of empty Corona bottles and tall cocktail glasses. A few men weaved around the bar, and another couple sat at their table with a tray full of beer cans. The women dominated the singing that night, performing classic 80s tunes. During Time of My Life, they attempted the Dirty Dancing leap to no avail (this was probably fortunate).

To put in a song, you needed to go up to the bartender (who often wasn’t there, or even in the room) and ask for a slip of paper. Then, you wrote your song down and put it by the unmanned computer. Eventually, the bartender would program your choice in and it would show up on the screen – just the song title, no name. No KJ announcing when a song was over and who was up next. Just a list of songs on a little screen that you needed to follow to see when it was time to go up again.

Too bad the first bar wasn’t the right place after all.

The basics:

  • Location: Karaoke Heroes, New Haven, CT
  • Miles traveled: 174  miles (plus another 202 to and from JFK to get Dave)
  • Songs sung: Torn (Natalie Imbruglia), Hit Me with Your Best Shot (Pat Benatar)