Smoking Sacrifices

The karaoke at Rusty’s Sports Bar in Hayden, Idaho started at 8, but we had just sat down for dinner in Spokane then, so didn’t arrive until after 9. There were only two singers in the rotation. We had picked this place because there was no smoking in the bar. We wondered if that was the reason for the low attendance. No matter, after a woman with blue hair and a cardigan decorated with skulls rocked some Pat Benetar, I sang Hall & Oates. No one clapped for either of us. America’s Ninja Warrior played on the televisions.

By 10pm, a good-sized crowd had come into the bar, but still the singers were few and far between. Here, karaoke is clearly an afterthought. The set up was super weird. The singing took place on one side of the spacious bar that also included a couple of pool tables and a free-throw machine (those were used quite a bit). One tiny monitor faced the KJs, forcing the singer – unless they knew the words perfectly – to serenade the hosts. At least Madam Karma Karaoke wiped the mics down with sanitizer between each round. She also played several “dance songs” such as “Who Let the Dogs Out” and “Baby Got Back” in between to stretch out the evening. No one danced. The 20-somethings more interested in flirting and posturing around the tables on the bar-side of the place than getting their groove on.

It wasn’t a bad place if you took the karaoke out of it. Clean, well lit, and a super-friendly staff. “Definitely awkward” my friend said after it was her turn to sing. She’s totally right. At 10:28 the KJs left to go outside to smoke and we took our cue and left as well. There was a pick-up truck with a confederate flag in the parking lot.

side view
The “definitely awkward” setup at Rusty’s

Instead of checking Idaho off the list, we went to Coeur d’Alene to sing at The Silver Fox Saloon. This was more like it, except everyone had a cig dangling out of their mouth or resting in an ashtray. A skinny white guy was singing Chef’s “Chocolate Salty Balls;” he was followed by an African-American man who did a great rendition of “New York, New York” while working the crowd. The KJ poured himself a drink from a full pitcher of beer; I wondered if it was his first, and decided no.

I ordered a pint of Bayern’s Dragon’s Breath out of Missoula; it came in a frosted glass and only ran me $3.75. We sat down at a table made from a slice of large tree. The walls were decorated with random artifacts of questionable taste, and advertisements for sweet drinks such as a house-made “Whipped Margarita” and Straw-ber-rita’s.

The lovely decor at The Silver Fox Saloon

The crowd loves my friend’s “Sister Christian” and were equally appreciative of my “Summer of ’69.” Air guitars accompaniment came from a table of bikers who gave me enthusiastic thumbs-up. As I walked back to my table I received some high-fives, which always make me feel good. A woman playing pool stopped me and asked if I would sing some Pat Benatar or Stevie Nicks next. I oblige by putting in “Edge of 17” next.

Except for the fact that this KJ also disinfected the mic after every singer, there were no similarities between the two places.

By the time I sang that song, there were only a few left in the bar. I had to shower when we got home because the smoke soaked into my hair. This morning, as I type this, I feel the effects of a nicotine hangover, my lungs are tight, and my throat’s a bit scratchy. At least there’s a cat on my lap to keep me company.

The basics:

Bar #1:

  • Rusty’s Sports Bar in Hayden, ID
  • Miles traveled: 37
  • Songs sung: You Make My Dreams (Hall & Oates); Just What I Needed (The Cars)

Bar #2:

  • The Silver Fox Saloon in Coeur d’Alene, ID
  • Miles traveled: 7 (from Hayden); 34 to get back to Spokane.
  • Songs sung: Summer of ’69 (Bryan Adams); Edge of 17 (Stevie Nicks)