Tourists (Singing Delaware, #30)

We spent the day poking our noses in thrift stores, buying fruit at a local farm stand, eating amazing Mexican food in a hole-in-the-wall bakery in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere (Georgetown, DE to be exact), and driving several miles to take a picture of a sign. In Ocean City we ate crab cakes, bought the T-shirt, and wandered over to check out the waves. All the hotel balconies were decorated with sandy, bright, salty towels, hanging out to dry for the next day. I was hard-pressed to see a woman not wearing a bikini.

Just over 3000 miles to drop Dave off, if we went straight back…

The second ocean town of the day, Rehoboth Beach, was the final destination and site of karaoke. First, we had dinner and pre-song beverages at Dogfish where I savored the wood-aged offerings and Dave enjoyed some IPAs. When it was time, we ventured out into the night crowds and walked over to the karaoke bar. The crowd seemed to skew older and screamed tourist; the small exception to this was a group of men off to the side, eyes glued to a big screen showing the Olympics.

A typical touristy coastal bar.

The KJ opens the show by warning us that the mic and speakers were a bit on the fritz; I noticed a bit on my first song as the volume seemed to come and go – not that it was a big deal, for this was hardly a place that took the singing seriously. I like it this way.

As the evening progresses, the songs get a little more flirty. A woman in a very short skirt with a slit up the back struts her stuff as she sings Madonna (one of her friends throws a dollar at her); a man growls a version of You Can Leave Your Hat On to a whooping audience. Still, a wonderful rendition of Frank Sinatra gets equal attention. This is a bar full of support and enthusiasm.

One non-singing patron in particular contributed to the positive energy. Drunk enough to tug up his shirt to reveal his hairy grey chest, he is the first to cheer and dance. I laugh as he walks up to the KJ to request a song – not to sing, but to hear. The KJ smiles and lets him know that the singers choose the songs: that’s how karaoke works. A tad crestfallen, he turns to be and asks he turns to me and asks if I’m going to sing the Stones. I try to let him down easily, and he replies “Well, shit biscuits.” Then he hears me sing Donna Summer, and gets the whole bar to dance along. I think I was forgiven.

The basics:

  • Location: The Pond Bar and Grill, Rehoboth Beach, DE
  • Miles Traveled: 189
  • Songs sung: Dreams (Fleetwood Mac), Dancing Queen (ABBA), Last Dance (Donna Summer)

Beyond the song (Singing Virginia, #29)

We walked over to the karaoke place less than a mile away from where we ate – a Vietnamese restaurant. It was the first time in a while where I’ve been singing in a place where I would trust the ethnic food. The walk was nice after filling my belly with Bún chả; bugs louder than I’ve heard in a long time, the weather perfect. The cobblestones that make up the sidewalk in Alexandria are uneven and I wonder how many women stumble and sprain their ankles thanks to a combination of high heels and cocktails. Even in my sensible sandals, I had a hard time keeping a steady path.

We get to the bar a bit ahead of Stefanie, a friend I hadn’t seen since high school, and bit ahead of the music. The Olympics are on TV; I think about how Molly and I used to watch them together and feel a pang of sadness. Summer or Winter, there was always an open invitation to sit on her couch every night and I often took her up on it. Sometimes there were snacks, sometimes wine, sometimes both, and occasionally neither. But there was always her company and the Olympics. Always the joy of seeing winners light up, and the support of other athletes around them. During the Olympics, everyone seems to support each other. Later that night, I would have my first dream of Molly, us talking about everything and nothing all at once.

Stefanie arrives and we hug. It’s really nice to see her and I love feeling instantly relaxed around those I haven’t seen in decades; one of the benefits of this road trip is the reconnections I’ve experienced and I’m grateful for each one. The bar is large, so it looks empty but by the time the karaoke starts at 9:30, there’s a list of people ready to sing. The song choices focus on classic rock and adult contemporary. For the first time since I’ve started this journey, the singers are racially diverse, which is reflective of where we are – outside our nation’s capital, in one of the larger cities in the US.

Diversity lives here

I go up to the station to put in a song and introduce myself to Jerry, the KJ, and tell him about my journey: “You’re living the dream,” he says, and then gives me advice on where else to sing including a bar in Hollywood, CA he just came back from (Brass Monkey). He’s right, and not the first person to say this, but I’m never sure what to say when that happens. I feel guilty and embarrassed at the luxury I have to be able to do this.

I sing Walk Like and Egyptian because Dave likes that song and I think I can do it. I lose my place a couple of times during the fast-paced lyrics, but overall not too shabby – I will try again for sure and add it to my repertoire. I get high-fives as I leave the stage; one guy sort of holds my hand a little too long, though, and I need to tug free as I pass by. Stef says people at the bar were clapping along.

There are a lot of strong singers here; one of the best singers I’ve ever heard sang this night, belting out an incredible I Never Loved a Man. The woman on the stage was Aretha; you didn’t even need to close your eyes to believe it. When she was done, I went up to her and told her how amazing her voice was, and she thanked me warmly. I realized it was the first time I’ve ever gone up to someone to compliment their performance; it feels weird to do, but of course it’s appreciated. It happens to me quite often, yet somehow I’m still too shy to do it myself. Something I would like to change.

My final song is Sister Christian and I sing it while the men’s 400 meter freestyle relay is going on. I’m just as interested in the race as the rest of the bar, occasionally stumbling over the lyrics as I watch the wrong television screen as opposed to the monitor. Michael Phelps wins his nineteenth gold medal and people cheer for USA during my song. I smile, finish, and watch the replay, wishing I were on Molly’s couch.

The basics:

  • Location: Rock it Grill, Alexandria, VA
  • Miles traveled: 55
  • Songs sung: Walk Like an Egyptian (the Bangles), Summer of ’69 (Bryan Adams), Sister Christian (Night Ranger)
Alexandria smells of money, but not for everyone.

You do what you gotta do (Singing Maryland, #28)

Some nights aren’t really meant for singing, but I gotta do it because that’s what the schedule dictates. Earlier that evening, Dave and I met his long-time friends at a brew pub. It had been ten years since they’d connected and they had a lot of stories to share and times to remember; most of them were pretty raunchy. Then karaoke duty called us away as the couple drove an hour back to their house where their two kids were waiting. I was sad to see that part of the evening end, and hope it isn’t another ten years before their paths cross again.

The karaoke place smelled like fish, which made sense since it was in the back of a seafood restaurant — but still, it was over powering. The formal dining area was closed by the time we got there; we made our way to the back bar where the show was already underway. A woman wearing a college LAX hoodie and holding a Bud Light Lime was singing Black Velvet while Dave ordered a Yuengling, his go-to beer on the east coast. I settled for a club soda and lime. There was horse racing on the television. I sing a song and turn to Dave – we agree we’d rather be in the hotel room watching the Olympics. Over and out!

The basics:

  • Location: Callahan’s Seafood & Lounge, Frederick, MD
  • Miles traveled: 65
  • Songs sung: Something to Talk About (Bonnie Raitt)
I wuz here (for 10 minutes).