Not a creature was stirring… (Singing Tennessee, #39)

It’s pretty darn smoky in the double-wide trailer that serves as a bar off the beaten path of Nashville. Cans and bottles of beer are the only drinking options, and the food menu is a few microwavable items scrawled on a piece of paper stapled to the wall. Cash only. Karaoke started an hour ago, but the only patron here is a trucker with a beautiful, deep voice singing country music ballads. It’s unclear how long he’s been there, but his presence seems natural as if he’s been there for a while. He sits next to the stringy KJ with long hair, and the two of them lean over the computer monitor, debating on what song to choose next. The trucker sings a couple more as we’re getting our beers and settling in, and asks if it’s OK to do one more before he has to hit the road again; he’s got 15 more minutes on his break and “singing is a good way to keep this trucker happy and sane.” Unlike him, we have all the time in the world, so he entertains us with some Waylon Jennings. Then the bartender sings something from a lesser-known country artist and the trucker asks him about the artist. They discuss him and other good country options to try in the future.

It’s clear the trucker isn’t in a hurry to hit the road again, and so he goes back to the stage and asks us if we knew Wildfire; two of us do. He lets us know somewhat apologetically that he’s never sung it before, and it shows a little, but he chose it because the song “makes me weep like a baby when I’m alone in my cab.” As I listen along, I realize the tune is also more unfamiliar to me as I would have thought.

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The lonely trailer

I decide I’m ready to sing, and the trucker sticks around to listen, then shakes our hands, and leaves. His hand is at least twice as big as mine, but his grip still gentle. The only ones left are the three of us and the people who work there. I mention to the KJ that he should sing more, but he said that last night was slow as well, and he had to sing a lot, so tonight he’ll be taking it easy. This leaves me and the bartender as the only ones singing. I put in another song, and follow up with another while I’m up there – songs that aren’t a usual part of my rotation. I fumble through parts of them out of unfamiliarity but it doesn’t matter at all. Slow nights lend themselves to slow songs and experimentation.

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Keeping up with the theme of the place.

An hour later and still no one else is here. A group of three women did come in while I was singing and exchanged words with the bartender – no idea what it was about, but Dave heard him say “That’ll be a thirty-five hundred dollar fine if you do that,” as they walked out the door.

I promised a friend I would sing Barry Manilow while I was on this trip, and tonight seemed like the only time I would actually live up to my word. I sat on the stool, and then apologized into the mic for what I was about to do. I sang, and laughed as both Dave and Steve filmed me for proof and probably later blackmailing purposes. A couple of others walked in during that song, of course. While it wasn’t pretty, it was good fun, and I always feel better when I follow through on what I say, no matter how small or silly. As we get up to leave a bit later, one of the patrons is standing out on the balcony. He waves goodbye and compliments my “bold song choice” for the evening without knowing the back story. I thought about explaining myself; instead I thanked him as we drove away.

The basics:

  • Location: Santa’s Pub, Nashville, TN
  • Miles traveled: 424
  • Songs sung: Desperado (The Eagles), The Theme From Mahogany (Diana Ross), The Name of the Game (ABBA), Weekend in New England (Barry Manilow).
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It’s all OK (Singing Florida and Alabama, #34 & #35)

I hit a wall: feeling tired. Tired of planning all of this and having it not go right. Afraid that one thing is going to mess up and hold the agenda back for days. I’m trying and it’s weird to see this as hard, but sometimes it is.

When I called a couple weeks ago, the people at Seville Quarter said the karaoke would start at 8. When I called them back the next week, they said 8:30. Then the guy at the door of the venue said 8:30 or 9. Then when we walked into the bar a little before 8 (mostly to avoid the cover charge that would be imposed later), the server said karaoke would start at 10 and I almost lost it. Changing my plan that day in order to fit two states in one night and then it all seemed to go to hell. The karaoke did start at 9, and all was fine. But how was I to know? I still fear the worst instead of believing things will work out. And things always work out.

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The bar was in a crazy complex of bars and nightclubs housed in a building from the 1800s.

When my name is called, I’m so tired and confused I tell the KJ the wrong song – One Things Leads to Another instead of One Way or Another. When he references the Fixx, I change it, though at this point I would have laughed if the wrong song came up. All I need to do is sing and it counts. The entire audience consisted of Dave, some staff, and three bored looking 20-somethings, staring at their phones.

We say goodbye to the super-nice staff and Dave drives the 45 minutes to get to Foley, Alabama a little after 10. Two guys wearing confederate flag caps are singing a country duet. One of the guys is also wearing a confederate flag leather vest a confederate flag chain wallet pokes out of his back pocket. A woman flicks her cigarette ash onto the carpet. A sign on the wall says that a drink consists of 1 ¼ oz of “liqour” unless otherwise specified.

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This way to Alabama karaoke!

Everyone here is very friendly; it’s just not the kind of place for a deep conversation. This is how I imagined a lot of my karaoke experience to be – sitting side by side with many whose politics and life views are completely different from mine, but still managing to have a good time.

As we get ready to go, we chat with the KJ about my journey and he is excited we chose Foley as our Alabama stop. He says he also has a bucket list to sing in all 50 states, but is only up to 9 right now. A drunk woman wanders over and tells us to “call the Google” to make sure the roads we want to take to Louisiana aren’t closed due to the flooding. I take her advice and am glad I did. Most of the southern route is shut down, so we cut up north the next day.

The basics:

  • Locations: The Seville Quarter, Pensacola, FL; Scuttlebutt Pub, Foley AL.
  • Miles traveled: 335 to Florida, 28 to Alabama
  • Songs sung: One Way or Another (Blondie, in Florida), Queen of Hearts (Juice Newton, in Alabama).

Who knew? (Singing Georgia, #33)

Never did I imagine I would…

…Karaoke to church organ music – in a choir robe;

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Lyrics (not sheet music) are in a big binder, sometimes in the right order!

…Participate in a group meditation at a bar;

…See a 1970s Olivia Newton-John album cover on a wall in downtown Atlanta;

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As if this wasn’t amazing enough, the organist sang “Physical” later that evening.

…Be a part of a karaoke group photo;

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Group bonding.

…Hear a guy from the UK sing Milkshake – thick accent and all;

…Witness the KJ/organist refer to Kegel muscles, crabs, and miniature menopausal women in polyester pantsuits;

…Sip sangria while sitting on a plastic sofa that matched my dress a little too well;

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The sangria was delicious!

…Laugh and cringe at so many things on the wall;

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…Lose my place in a song I know so well – and expect it to happen;

…Feel so comforted in a bar whose slogan is “fuck fear;”

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…yet I did all these things at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium.

Amen.

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The clouds as the sun set over Atlanta that night.

The basics:

  • Location: Sister Louisa’s Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, Atlanta, GA
  • Miles traveled: 182
  • Songs sung: Only the Good Die Young (Billy Joel), It’s Raining Men (The Weather Girls)