National Competition Day 2: Defining Karaoke

I have a healthy breakfast with a dose of care. Waking up in a friend’s house, she long gone to work, fresh purple towels placed on the vanity for me (my favorite color!). I debate showering, but want to shave my legs. I start sitting on the side of the tub, but then slowly let the water fill a bit higher and then slide into a half-filled tub and think about my song today. I sing a part of it and start to tear up: “Twenty-five years and my life is still/ Trying to get up that great big hill of hope/ For a destination.” I like it. This is the song that has my passion behind it. I’m pondering inserting a political comment on the end, but won’t be sure if it’s the right thing to do until it’s time.

I put on an $8 thrift store dress that hasn’t been washed and it smells a bit musty. I decide that turquoise earrings and red boots are fine together, but bring a different pair of earrings, just in case. I go bare-legged and think my figure isn’t all that bad in this tight-fitting outfit; it’s one of the first times I haven’t cringed at my body in months, if not years. Though I do wish my hair was a little more… something. I’m ready to go except for extra mascara and lipstick.

I stare out the floor-to-ceiling window and admire the 21-story view of the Sound that reminds me of my privilege. Right now, in the safety of my friend’s apartment, I feel safe enough to just bring my song to the judges hard and leave it all on the table. This is what Anthony – 2014 World Karaoke Champion and  my friend – means about the passion needed to sing at the National level. I try not to think about the third round, because chances are there won’t be a third round for me. If there is, I’m totally screwed.

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My view before I head out to sing on Day 2

I check my Facebook and see a friend has posted a video of “the darkest day in karaoke history” on my page. It’s awful, and I struggle to listen to the whole thing. But, in many ways, THIS is what karaoke is about more than any contest – a family getting together to share a memory, to reach each other. I fix my hair one more time and walk to the venue.

Once again, people are milling about outside the bar, smoking, dressed and ready to go. I feel a little better about my wardrobe choice, but not my much; people compliment my boots. They are pretty awesome. People talk about theater backgrounds and how they are shaped by them – the costumes, makeup – all of it helps them transform into the song. I don’t want to admit I have a theater background, too, for I don’t use those tools to transform. I simply don’t see karaoke as performance. I go inside, feeling isolated from the conversation.

It’s a lot colder today so sitting near the open front of the door isn’t the best idea, but small tables are few and far between, so I keep my spot. The competition finally begins at 11:15 (10:30 was the goal). The first up for the day sings beautifully, but too soft in places. His voice breaks and his nerves show. Loud cheers come from his team as he sings. It must be nice to have that support; I felt none as someone who came alone. The next singer performs and sounds strained. It turns out he sang it in the wrong key so he gets a redo. The crowd cheers. The host reminds all of us to stop the song as soon as you notice something is wrong.  Another sings Prince, while undressing; the performance is clumsy and I cringe a little. There are several songs in a row that rely on costumes, gimmicks, and choreography. To me, too much performance took away from the heart of these songs and voices, but the performers all seem pleased as they step off the stage and hug their supporters. I love their positive energy – I don’t have it at all. Who over-performs and who is right on? A wrecked clown sings My Way, and I think that’s right on; or perhaps I just identify with the interpretation a little too much. We hear the song redo and its simplicity is breath-taking this time around. Then a man sings Luther Vandross equally genuine, followed by a passionate rendition of Summertime. I like these performances the best. The perfect balance of authenticity and performance.

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Someone goes all-out to perform Tina Turner

I put my “Fuck Fear” button on that I got while singing in Atlanta and get ready for my turn; I wish I had a “Black Lives Matter” button, but this will have to do. I sing and I feel I did better this time around. I sang as best as I could, though I was shaking more than I ever had. I felt angry, frustrated; I put myself and my feelings into that song. “And I pray, oh my god do I pray/ I pray every single day/ For a revolution.” I struggled to not choke up as images of Terence Crutcher – the latest victim among so many – flash in my mind. “What’s Going On?” Still, no one greets me as I step off the stage. Few come up to me afterwards to offer words of encouragement. My best simply isn’t good enough, and I feel OK about that.

I leave after Group C is complete and my friend is home from work. I leave with more questions than ever: When is a performance no longer karaoke? Is Ave Maria a legitimate karaoke choice (I mean, can you imagine singing that in a local dive bar)? Why do costumes make for a better performance, or do they? What happened to the idea that karaoke is a shared experience? To me, individual interpretations of songs take away from a sense of community and a past we can all relate to. And I can’t help but think that’s one of the essential components of karaoke; without it, the performances are transformed into something beautiful, but something else beyond the shared experience of song.

National Competition: Day 1

The morning of the competition and the first day of fall. It’s time for the National Finals of the Karaoke World Championships. My throat is scratchy from screaming at the meet and greet last night (it was so loud in there it was hard to have any sort of conversation), so I have Good Earth tea with honey. My friend and I each have a boiled egg and a banana that I brought from home. I shower and notice all my grey – maybe I should have had my hair done. I put on way too much makeup for the day and also the outfit I’ve been planning – an 80s earthy green top with flowing sleeves, black bamboo leggings, and knee-high black boots; I try to look like a rock star. I sort of look like one, but I also look like I’m shopped at Chicos. I care but I don’t care. I’m a little nervous, but not really. My Uber ride arrives and drops me off at the bar we were at last night. I don’t sing until Group B (1-3pm), but sitting in an empty house will drive me crazy and I also want to watch others. I’m here for the whole thing, not just my time.

Others are already standing around outside and I feel the tension and nerves. One guy is pissed off because they won’t let him bring food into the bar, yet they aren’t serving any yet; he storms around, yelling his story to whomever is listening. He shows a badge in his wallet and claims to be a Sergeant and won’t put up with bullshit – I wonder if it’s real; his intensity sure is, but I can also see him being the kind of guy who pulls these sort of jokes/facades if they serve him well (I find out later he is, indeed, a Sergeant along with a former backup singer for Al Green).

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Where I will spend the next three days.

Attire ranges from t-shirts and camo shorts to purple sequined jackets to ball gowns. Dresses to jeans. I see Mr. Sparkles and the guy who sang Elton John’s Spanish Harlem from the night before; his pants don’t button quite right and I feel bad for him. All of Team Arkansas is here. They travel as a team, support each other as a team, so they will be here together all day, every day says one member. He’s ex-military and now a nurse, soft but hard — a true solid Provider and rock on his team.

10:30 and they haven’t started yet. 10:37 is a kick off song to test the sound system. I assume it’s good, but I honestly can’t tell the difference between a good one and a not-so-good one. I learned that in Kansas City, where the people I hung out with were beaming about the system, and I felt it was just like any other one in any other state. Now, my palms are actually a bit sweaty; I’ve never had clammy palms before and it makes me very self-conscious as I shake hands with the new people I meet at every turn. My manic excitement shows as I chat with Moses from Chicago, who’s dressed in an elegant black pin-striped suit. I really didn’t prepare for this. We both seem to be talking about nothing, two people meeting and saying things just to get out the nervous energy. 11:07 and we still haven’t started. I see Elton John and his fly is down, his clothes are ill-fitting which stands out even more in this crowd, where everyone is so polished. I want to know his story.

I see the guy who sang Michael Jackson last night dressed like the King of Pop today. I see Elton go by again, and his fly is up so I don’t have to pain myself with my inner debate over whether or not to tell him. However, now I see his shirt is ripped in the back and my heart breaks a little all over again; I’m rooting hard for a guy I don’t even know. Nothing he can do about the shirt tear, though, so I keep quiet about it. I don’t want to spoil his confidence; he looks so happy and excited to be here.

The host finally gets on the stage to give everyone a welcoming pep talk: “Enjoy the stage, enjoy the spotlight.” I think about that for a second. While I do enjoy singing, and I do enjoy the stage, for some reason, I stop at finding the spotlight desirable. The smell of weed comes pouring into the venue. I inhale deeply, slowly, and relax a little. Chicago tells me I should write a critique book of all the places I’ve been. He would buy such a book; I don’t press further, but do wonder at the utility of a book that has one karaoke venue per state in it. What sort of guide is that?

It’s Elton’s, turn and he gets on the stage as the host announces his song choice: Sex Machine by James Brown. Elton sings the first few lines then tears off his outer clothing layer – the one so ill-fitting – to reveal a gold, low-cut unitard. The clothes I fretted about so much were no more than a prop. The crowd goes nuts, and I feel tears of relief and happiness come; it’s the first time I’ve felt joy since getting here.

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The man that brings joy (plus the judge who likes tater tots in the foreground).

My time slot approaches and now I’m really nervous. Everyone is fantastic. I see no woman I could beat. I feel better knowing this – like the USA hockey team in the World Cup, you’re out of the tournament, but you still gotta play the games.

Group A is done, and it’s time for a break. People go outside to smoke – how can such serious singers be such serious smokers? A group provokes a homeless man who was photo bombing their pictures. It becomes a bit of a turf war and my nerves kick up again. I go inside to remove myself from the confrontation. I order tater tots because I realize I need something to balance out the gin and tonics. I’m slightly buzzed, enough to take an edge off, and also hungry. I share them with Elton, and some other random guy who I learn is a judge; I pegged him as a singer instead, given his blue shiny jacket – it turns out he’s a Vegas performer. A woman has changed into a gown worthy of the Oscars. I’m so under-prepared I almost feel ashamed. At this point, I just don’t want to embarrass myself. All the singers have pipes, the trick is knowing how to play them. Some are spot on, but some seem to overplay them a little, but who am I to judge?

Group B begins and my nerves, after a small break, kick up again. I’m not really nervous that I’ll mess up, though. I just have a lot of adrenaline. And I know out of the four categories – voice quality, technique, artistry, and stage presence – I have the first two down at best. I smell the weed again and relax. An old man, here to watch his son, spills his food all over the floor as a young woman from Pennsylvania sings Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me. This song is normally the death of a karaoke night, but not here; she brings her own style to it, and it’s simply beautiful; it’s the first time I’ve ever been sorry that song was over. This seems to be the case for all the songs chosen. The basic rules of karaoke don’t apply.

The Provider sings the same, haunting song that he sang when I first met him and it’s much improved; it was great the first time, but it has much more dimension now. I tell him, and he says he’s been working hard on it.

I’m up third in the queue – they only let the singers know when it’s their turns three to give at a time –and start burping tater tots. Great. I post on my personal and the MelOdyssey Facebook page, letting my friends know it’s almost time to tune into the live stream. I text Dave, who says the feed isn’t working right, which is OK by me —  I am just touched by the support. My name is called and I go up. The host does his best to calm my obvious nerves by having me talk about my trip; I mention that I have indeed sung in all 48 continental states and that it took me 17,700 miles to do it. Then it’s time to sing; I don’t really want to. The monitors scattered everywhere make it easy to look in any direction without losing my place. I do my best, and try to use the stage, connect with people in the audience, face the judges, smile, look like I’m having fun. I’m not sure if I am. I guess it’s fun, but it’s a different kind of fun, less silly, more of a challenge. I really don’t think of karaoke as a challenge. I guess I’m feeling the competition aspect more than I want to.

I go back to my table and Chicago comes up to congratulate me. Now we are both done. He’s drinking a Corona, clearly on the other side of his day. I meet the group from Oregon who came in late and bond with one of the singers; we talk about race relations and stereotypes, about how he was displaced out of Portland where he grew up and now lives in Aloha. I’m more myself, feeling more comfortable talking about tough issues with a stranger than trying to be “all that” on stage. Very few come up to me after I sing the way they do not just to their own team members, but to others as well. Was I that bad, or not bad at all? Or perhaps I’m just not in the “in” crowd. I start to feel bad.

It’s time for Group C and the sparkly dresses come out. No way could I be a judge – everyone seems deserving. A few, maybe, I can see as “no” (including me), but none for sure in the “yes” column – or, more accurately, there are simply too many in my book. A judge claps in the middle of someone’s song – because she was that good, or because he thought the song was over? My self-confidence dwindles. It’s time to leave. I know how good everyone is and I don’t need to stick around for the rest of this group and the next to know I’m cooked. Pot smoke wafts through the air on my peaceful walk to my friend’s house. When I arrive, we hug hello and get down to the business of watching football. Now I’m really where I should be.

Recap: The numbers

I did it. I have officially sung karaoke in the 48 continental states. Being a researcher, of course, I feel the need to provide you with some data about my trip. Well, here it is:

The travel:

  • Miles traveled: 17,774
  • States visited: 48
  • Provinces visited: 2 (Ontario and Quebec; I only sang in the former)
  • Number of days on the road: 99
  • Number of nights alone in a hotel: 17
  • Number of friends who let me crash at their place: 17
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Random display in Maine

The singing:

  • Number of karaoke venues: 53 (the 48 states, plus an extra in ID, LA and IL, plus Toronto and DC).
  • Number of times I sang: 129
  • Most common artist: Blondie (11 times, 5 different songs), followed by Fleetwood Mac (8 times, 4 different songs)
  • Most common song: Dreams (Fleetwood Mac) and Heart of Glass (Blondie) each done 4 times.
  • Number of different songs sung: 104

I sang in dive bars, strip mall bars, college bars, dedicated karaoke bars (but never in a private room, gay bars, an Eagle’s Lodge, an American Legion, and outdoors twice. I sang to a live band (Utah) and a church organ (Georgia). I sang in cities, rural areas, tourist towns, and suburbs.

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At the American Legion in Brandon, VT

As time goes on, I’m going to gather my thoughts about my experiences singing, driving across the country, and life in general. Since I spent most of the journey avoiding interstates, and spent most of my time in local hangouts, drinking local beer where possible, I feel like I’ve gained a larger understanding of this country. It’s by no means complete, nor could it ever be. But this trip has taught me a lot about a lot. I look forward to processing it and sharing it with you.

If you have any questions about the trip or want to hear about anything, leave me a comment or message me! Thanks for sharing my journey with me so far.

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Main Street, Beatrice, NE

Fin (Singing California, #48)

The crowd at The Distillery, a place where Dave used to go for drinks after work, was small and uninspiring. A few of our friends showed up to hang out, cheer me on, and see their friend who’d been gone not quite a year. I was more excited and anxious than I thought I would be, nervous that somehow my name wouldn’t get called and I wouldn’t get to sing and my quest would not be completed. But my name did get called and I did sing. My quest was completed. I felt a small rush of disbelief, which quickly faded into nothing, perhaps a sense of normalcy. I sang one more song that evening, but really the night was just about hanging out in a bar with friends. We left when I was only two songs away of being called up a third time, but I was done singing for the night. It was time to move on.

The basics:

  • Location: The Distillery, Sacramento, CA
  • Miles traveled: 621
  • Songs sung: Don’t Get Me Wrong (The Pretenders), Last Dance (Donna Summer)

I chose Henderson over Vegas because I don’t want to deal with the large party city on a Saturday night – the cost, the crowds, the loneliness. I also don’t like the idea of being there with a car. Though casinos do have parking, driving down the strip is anything but enjoyable.

I stay in a casino on the outskirts of everything and everywhere. The receptionist tells me how he is looking to get the hell out of there and move to Eugene; he even has a realtor helping him live out his dream. I was going to gamble and grab a bite to eat before heading out, but the whole scene was too depressing. When you take away the lights and the glitz and the superlatives, the purpose of casinos is all that remains and it makes me uncomfortable.

I get to the bar in Henderson early, as I was hoping to watch some college football and grab a bite to eat before singing. Instead there’s NASCAR on the couple of TVs and there’s no food served (odd for a place that’s open 24/7). I only had a granola bar and piece of cheese for a late lunch, so there won’t be a lot of drinking tonight, which is just as well.  I order a pint of Rolling Rock; it’s flat and the taps haven’t been cleaned in months, if ever. It’s also one of the smokiest places I’ve been – everyone has either a cig in hand or is vaping. It’s clearly a place of locals and regulars, a place where friends meet to shoot pool or the breeze. A place where the bartender says hello as you walk in, and pours your favorite drink as you sit down in your favorite seat. I grab a seat at the bar, purposefully not directly in front of a video crack machine (though I do debate on blowing five bucks in one, I never get around to it); I hope it’s not someone else’s.

A group of three next to me is chatting with the bartender; one of them asks what “suburb” means, and the bartender replies “it’s a fancy rich town with lawns.” I suppose that’s as close to the truth as any. Then the KJ wanders in and lets everyone know he got a new special effects light bulb to make the show more fun and it literally takes four of them to figure out how to screw it in. Once that’s accomplished all the patrons come over for an awe-struck inspection of this new marvelous addition to the place.

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Pretty lights with questionable placement.

The bartender asked a customer what a Bloody Mary is, to which the patron replied, “Vodka and juice;” I guess the specifics aren’t important. Other things I overheard:

  • “I’m tired. I work five days a week and have a yeast infection.”
  • “I was in her pussy when she woke me up.”
  • “What happened to Chris?”
    “He died”
    “At least he didn’t owe me money anymore.”

Then I spoke to a man who truly believes that Paul is dead. He also wants to get out of Henderson and now dreams of singing karaoke across the US just as I have, but first he needs to fix up his motor home and finish suing his dentist for not replacing his teeth.

A woman named Froggy starts off the singing with a country tune. She’s wearing an iron-on t-shirt with a frog on it, and green stripes down the sides of the sleeves (think 70s), coupled with a quilted vest of playing cards. At her table, there’s a pile of crafting supplies so she can make paper flowers. By the end of my evening I have two. When I say goodbye to Froggy and thank her for the flowers, she hugs me and says to come back next week.

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My bouquet on the bar

The basics:

  • Location: The Rustic Lounge, Henderson, NV
  • Miles traveled: 234
  • Songs sung: Hold on Loosely (38 Special), Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)
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A home away from home.

Fate (Singing Arizona, #46)

I had planned two days to get to Flagstaff, but for some reason I kept on going. I spontaneously got on the freeway for a bit, to decrease travel time. something I’m usually hesitant to do because freeway driving sucks my soul. As I reached the halfway mark, I got out of the car to assess my options. With each stop consideration, I wasn’t feeling it. My gut said to move on, even though I was tired. I did take timeout, though, to walk out to Horseshoe Bend at the suggestion of the old cowboy running the tourist center in Kanab, WY. The walk was only 1.5 miles round trip, but it was exhausting – up and down a sandy hill in direct Arizona sun. Signs at the entrance warned of extreme heat, and to not leave without water. I looked around me and saw everyone applying sunscreen, so went back to my car and did the same. I also brought my umbrella. There were tons of tourists; most didn’t speak English. I felt comforted by the foreign tongues.

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All of us tourists, baking in the sun.

I got to the site, and was almost too tired to appreciate what I was seeing, though it was beautiful. Then, I thought about my beer heating up in the car and the two-hour drive still ahead of me. I headed back up the hill; going back was the more difficult of the two halves. Despite my precautions, I felt my skin burn. I made it to my car and cranked the AC. After I cooled down, I found the workout gave me the energy I needed to push forward on my journey. It looked like I was going to get to Flagstaff just at dusk. Perfect timing.

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I made it!
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A better shot of Horseshoe Bend

I pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot and stole their internet to look up the bar, and see if they had karaoke tonight as well as tomorrow. When I called, I found out they only had karaoke tonight, not tomorrow as was advertised on their website; I realize this was one of the only places I never confirmed and felt a rush of relief that I was here on the right night. After finding a hotel room and resting for an hour (thank goddess for the time change!), I made it to the venue as a very young crowd starts to pour in. I’d card the lot of them, but I know they’re legal; I’m just that old. I get a Coors Light and a song book, and write out a slip; I had thought about a couple of song choices in the hotel, not wanting to be stymied by my tired brain. My submission was quickly snatched up by someone and brought to the front.

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Karaoke was on Historic Route 66!
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In front of the bar parking lot

I introduce myself to the KJ and let him know my quest; he thinks it’s neat, but is more interested in hearing my opinion of the show tonight as it was “karaoke reunion” night where he invited a bunch of former regulars to come sing. It’s then I realize that karaoke this night was a one-off; there are no more regular shows here. I totally fell into this, and I’m extremely grateful. I also learn that the woman had snatched my slip up and put me into the growing queue because she thought she recognized me from before, but of course that wasn’t the case.

I wait almost an hour before it’s my turn, because the place is that popular. I sing Eye of the Tiger, though I don’t have a lot of energy behind it – too wiped out for that. People sing along and clap loudly when I’m done, as they have been for everyone. It’s a fun group, but I see the large pile of slips representing more hopeful singers at the KJ’s station and know I’m done for the evening. I’m OK with that. I finish my beer, and continue enjoying the show for a little while longer before heading to sleep.

I thought it was my general stubbornness and stupidity getting in the way of a smart journey, but it turns out that wasn’t the case after all –some other forces were helping me sing Arizona that night.

The basics:

  • Location: Granny’s Closet, Flagstaff, AZ
  • Miles traveled: 521
  • Songs sung: Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)

Solo (Singing Wyoming, #44)

I wear my jacket to go out to sing; it’s the first time I’ve needed it since I was in the Dakotas. I had looked up the laws in Rock Springs, WY, and it seemed as though smoking was illegal in bars, but one step inside, and I knew that wasn’t the case. Before getting there, I texted a friend to express fear of going out on my own again, of being harassed, of not being physically safe. I went anyway, but took note to honor those feelings should they have any evidence behind them.

I took a seat at the bar, where the owner, a female, was running the show; there were a fair number of people inside, but they were all shooting pool so I had the long bar to myself. I already felt better. Technically, this place calls itself a “nightclub,” with its black velour-backed bar stools and red velvety chairs on wheels by the tables. It’s clearly a pool hall first, though, with all four tables in use. It was too dark outside to get a good picture of the establishment; I should have taken one of the inside but didn’t want to stick out. This was clearly a place full of regulars.

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Nightclub in Rock Springs, WY

The karaoke set up here is strange – you can either stand on a huge stage (probably set up more for bands than hack singers) or face a monitor on the dance floor such that your back is to the rest of the bar. Neither seems like a good option since being on the stage would feel awkward to me, especially since no one was paying much attention, instead more focused on their pool games.

While others sing, the bartender and I talk about the hunting season (the reason why the place is relatively empty), cold weather, and the kitchen that’s opening up next week while I sip a gin and tonic. She asked me if I wanted one or two limes, and I opted for two to mask the well liquor taste. One of the aforementioned regulars was singing I Wanna Be Like You from the Jungle Book while simultaneously shooting pool; he ends up doing both ineffectively.

I sing my first song to a quiet audience – they are more concerned with practicing for the big tournament this weekend. When I get back to my seat and drink (bartender said she’d watch the drink, I took my purse up – gotta remember these new habits now that I’m on my own again), two women had taken up residence just next to me. One was making goo-goo noises and rubbing the belly of the other, who was just starting to show the signs of pregnancy. The pregnant lady laughed about being 50 when the kid would be born, then lit a cigarette and ordered a Sprite. A young man walks over and the conversation quickly jumps to a debate over oral sex; the young man claims he prefers dick because pussies smell like fish and look like cottage cheese. The older women let him know that if it does look like cottage cheese down there, then something is seriously wrong. He isn’t buying it. My company leaves for a bit, but their phones and keys remain on the bar. I guess this place is safe after all.

As the evening goes on, the KJ calls out the names of patrons and asks if they are ready to sing. Some ask for more time, and others wander over and choose a tune, interrupting their games. Everyone chooses a slow song. Not what I would have expected here – was thinking upbeat modern country, one of the first times I wasn’t able to peg the song style to the crowd. The guy who likes dick (who turns out to be the pregnant lady’s step son), takes a turn and sings Stand By Me – not bad, but nothing inspiring — unless you’re his step-mom: “He has a beautiful voice. He’s just not competent (sic instead of “confident;” I thought I misheard her at first, but she repeated the mistake often enough that I’m sure that’s what she said). Such a lovely tone; I wish he’d sing louder. Dammit all to hell shit.” Step-mom is clearly an avid supporter, and refers to his “beautiful tone” about twenty times during our conversations; I try to avoid the smoke she blows in my face.

After she’s heard both me and her step-son sing, it becomes her mission to figure out a duet for the us to perform. He says he can harmonize “real good,” but we can’t find a song we both know, even though he only sings oldies. I threw out a few ideas and so did step-mom from the earlier eras to no avail; he kept going to the modern stuff where I’m useless. One of his suggestions was Concrete Blonde by “Martin McBride” (instead of “Martina”), sounding out the words slowly off his phone. I gave up finding a song for us after a while, so no duet; step-mom was clearly disappointed, but he didn’t seem to care much.

Later, her husband came up and asked “Why does Wyoming have wind? Because Utah blows and Nebraska sucks.” He also referred to Wyoming as “God’s perfect square” then a “shit hole” soon after. The bartender asks him how his granddaughter is doing, as she’s in a cast after a mishap on the jungle gym. He would rather talk about how he dislocated his ankle several years ago and, after he had it in a cast for eight weeks, had to scrape the dead skin off his heel with a butter knife. His wife wailed Lita Ford in the background.

I said goodbye to the bartender, and tipped her a buck for the club soda she gave me on the house; I don’t say anything to the strange family next to me and they don’t seem to notice me leave. A police car pulled over some folks across the street and arrests were being made as I headed back to the hotel.

The next morning, my jacket still smells like smoke, but I put it on anyway. There’s a Starbucks across the street; I think about treating myself to a pumpkin latte and accept the fact that fall has come.

The basics:

  • Location: Killpepper’s Nightclub, Rock Springs, WY
  • Miles traveled: 476 ( I took the scenic route; see below for amazing evidence)
  • Songs sung: Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty), Faithfully (Journey)
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Wyoming is beautiful!
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See?