The Laker Club (Singing New Jersey, #26)

The evening was more about reconnection than karaoke. An odd group of folks, bonded mostly by our shared high school experience, growing up in a small town in New Jersey. A place that thrived on strong community, which stifled me as a teen, but helped me build a foundation of loyalty and commitment to those who are a part of my direct and indirect circles today.

Our Middle School, where the Principal wouldn’t allow us to wear shorts until it hit a million degrees, and my friend Amy got sent home for wearing a “Disco Sucks” T-shirt.


Our gathering was more like the Breakfast Club than a group of friends getting together. We didn’t share the same class in any sense of the word – then or now. Two long-standing couples, one covered in tattoos and dealing with grandparenthood, the other more clean-cut with their first going to college. A mayor and a man helping his family rebuild after the death of the father. A pharmacist and an older sister who was proclaimed “the best baby sitter in the world” by another at the table. Someone who came from hundreds of miles away, dropping back into our lives unexpectedly, after only being in them briefly way back when. All brought together through the past, with a little present thrown in.

The KJ wanders over to our table and passes out microphones as he cued up Piano Man – a song typically seen as the death of karaoke. Perhaps it was to the rest of the bar (my condolences to the other patrons), but for us it was a bond. As he accompanied us on his harmonica, we all began to sing. Those who shy away from the microphone and the stage in general, and those of us who embrace it. I have a vague memory of Senior year when we all got together one week before graduation for some random event. The class musician played that song as good as Billy Joel ever did and we sang together. Never did I think it would happen again. A repeat of the past, with thirty years in between to shift us all so that no moment can ever be the same.

Brenda and Peter
“Son, can you play me a memory…”
Marie and Susan
“…And you’ve got us feeling alright.”

Dear 1980s,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Wednesday night in a bar because of where we grew up or who we love. We have a few common threads, but we think you’re crazy to have us recreate who we were. That would be to see us in the simplest terms. The most convenient definitions. As people who refused to grow.

But what we found out is that we have changed, but also stayed the same. That each of us is a singer, and a mayor, and a baby sitter, a griever and someone lost to distant memory. What do you think of that?


The Laker Club

group shot_cropped
Almost all of us that night.


Thanks to everyone who came out and made the evening such a memorable one.

The basics:

  • Location: Rockaway River Barn, Rockaway, NJ
  • Miles Traveled: 307
  • Songs sung: Long Train Running (Doobie Brothers), Piano Man (Billy Joel), Don’t Stop Believing (Journey)

Hasn’t this been done before? (Singing South Dakota, #6)

The singing didn’t start until 10, which is late for an old bird like me (especially for a school night!). I got to Billy Froggs over an hour early to keep up my momentum. There, I met up with my friend’s nephew and his girlfriend on their second year dating anniversary. Sweet of them to share this time with me.The place was already full of 20 something, many of the women dressed to go out. Men, as has been my experience, put less effort into their look: The unkempt beard/ball cap/t-shirt look is alive and well here as it is in Portland. For all I know they worked hard and were more thoughtful in putting their look together than I give them credit for. The women, however, look completely different than they do back home. Lots of cleavage, short jean shorts, and skimpy floral dresses. Ball caps on the women, too. Enough neon colors to make me wonder whether or not the 80s have come back (have they?).

Much of the crowd is pretty drunk already and continues to progress down that path. The whole scene seems oddly familiar to me, but less from experience than from what I would expect if I watched a movie that featured a karaoke bar. Or a frat party. A woman in a bright orange-billed cap declared the bartender “the best human ever” for placing a lime in her drink. I felt sorry for such low expectations.

Every night here is two-fer, so ordering one beer means double-fisting for the night. I order one, and therefore get two, shandys. I feel like I crashed a college party, which is only further emphasized when a clean-cut dude gets up to sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in the style from the movie Old School, complete with profanity. He only has one beer in hand.

I knew enough to put my song in early and was called up to sing “Working for the Weekend” soon enough. The crowd was into the singing and appreciative, but it wasn’t my scene. Part of me wanted to leave, but I wasn’t done people watching, and my company was great. We talked about sports, dogs, and the differences between the US and Canada. So, I put in a second song not knowing if it would come up in time or not.

Great company, even if I was out of my element.

The stereotypical nature of the night continued as song choices included “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Picture,” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” A fight between two of the really drunk women broke out outside in the smoking area. I’m about to leave when they call my name and I get up to sing “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” I can be stereotypical, too.

The basics:

  • Location: Billy Froggs, Sioux Falls, SD
  • Miles traveled: 290 (I took a more scenic route)
  • Songs sung: Working for the Weekend (Loverboy); Hit Me with Your Best Shot (Pat Benatar).
Off the beaten path.