Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tiki Bob's Cantina

Tonight starts much the same way the night before began. It's Thursday and I'm in the International District hanging out with the cast and crew of the much acclaimed show "That's F*cked Up". So there's this funny little detail I forgot about last night- I thought I was going to be in a meeting until after the show was over but the meeting finished super early so I went to the theater anyway to see if I could just wangle my way in by name dropping. I decided that Mr. E might have a better shot at it than me so I was in the theater dressed like Mr. E for the remainder of the show.

Let's just say I have a big thing for the show's MC David Crellin (aka Armitage)- also known as the ringmaster for Circus Contraption. So Mr. E is taking the opportunity to flirt with Armitage and he is very graciously flirting back with Mr. E so I tell him I'll be back the following night and maybe I'd put on a little catholic school girl skirt for him. He said "Only if you keep the mustache" to which I replied "Obviously!"

Which is how you would have found Mr. E if you were at the ToJ that night- hat, sunglasses, mustache, trench coat, school girl skirt. Now that's f*cked up. There are substantially more people that I knew at this particular show and a lot of them didn't know about Mr. E so over all it's an entertaining night, not to mention the amazing show.

There was also this awesome artist, Teague, doing what he referred to as "Kinkatures" which I'm sure you can just deduce what that's going to end up being. He did an incredible job illustrating Mr. E and that's why this blog has such a cool background.


I hadn't fully learned my lesson yet about the drawbacks of having a gang of buddies out with Mr. E so I chose another karaoke night at a bar near the theater. I didn't know if anyone would want to go again since we had just gone together the night before but a few people decided to go check it out with the condition that if the place didn't serve food they were going to have to go somewhere else. All good stuff, we left for Tiki Bob's Cantina.

So we pull up in front of the place and the two folks that were in my car head in while I get Mr. E back on (I don't drive at night with the sunglasses and the mustache makes my nose itch). When I walk in I'm not sure where my friends have gone to. I kind of have a peek around and it is mostly empty, there are two other vaginae (seriously, vaginae? Effing Latin.) and they are paying their bill, the rest of the people in there are what you might imagine stereotypical footballer frat boys would turn out to be like in their 30s and 40s. They look scared of me.

The bartender tells me there's no food so I go to find everybody. We pow wow outside the place for a minute while I explain how douchebaggy it seems in there so they'll be glad they didn't stay, I'm just going to duck in for two songs and head home. Heidi is protesting me staying at the place on my own and I'm like "What are they going to do? Eat me?". I'm parked right outside the front door and the bartender seems pretty cool so I convince her to go get food and I'll be fine. With some coercion they are gone.

I take a deep breath and turn back around. I ask the bartender for a vodka gimlet, he asks to see some ID. Delightfully, my ID still has the fake fingerstache from the Rickshaw gaggle so I show him for a laugh, he makes my drink and I start scanning the room. I'm curious where the karaoke is actually happening, everyone is hanging out near the bar and I can't tell how far back the place goes because there is absolutely no lighting beyond it.

Turns out they have the karaoke stage about 35 feet back completely on it's own in a corner that you can't see from anywhere near the bar. Occasionally an extremely drunk man climbs up on the platform and tries a little country or a little rock and roll. Nobody pays any attention to him.

I look around to make sure I'm really the only woman in the whole place and that's when I see Him. He is 30something hipster guy and he looks like he might be about to leave. I immediately hurry over to him and exclaim "Thank fuck you're here. I was starting to worry that I was on my own in this place." To which he replies "Who are you?". When I tell him I'm Mr. E he argues that it is not me that is Mr. E but he. I am not having any of this so I demand to see some ID, his license says his last name is "Ee". "My dad is Mr. Ee, I'm Ralph" he says. "Ralph, I am your father" I announce. At which point a girl emerges from the ladies room looking curious about me. He introduces her and she smiles a little before holding her finger under her nose to reveal another fingerstache. What is it with those things? Fingerstache needs to go on Hipster Bingo.

It turns out, the only reason they are at Tiki Bob's is because she got a random text that said something to the effect of "Right on, okay, we'll see you at Tiki Bob's Cantina around 10." from someone she didn't know. I'm not sure how they ended up deciding to meet these random strangers but said strangers show up just as I'm getting up the courage to put in my first song. They all start getting to know one another and I'm thumbing through the book. I don't think I've ever seen a thicker book anywhere, and the print is teeny tiny and there are THREE COLUMNS of songs PER PAGE. It's insanity. This KJ must have every standard, classic, and modern karaoke favorite ever known.

His name is DJ Forrest Gump and I would link to his page if it didn't have a soundtrack that kicks "Tender Love" on as soon as you get there. I hate pages with soundtracks.

So I'm chatting up the bartender and I give him a selection of songs that I'm considering singing. I tell him to pick one and he goes easy on me with "Say it ain't so" by Weezer. I hand the slip to the KJ and he wants to know what my outfit is about. I evade and he says "Well, it's your turn so get up here, whoever you are." Which is like. What? I just handed you a slip and it's my turn? That is not how this usually goes. But fine, I get up on the platform and have a go at it. I'm kind of shaky and it's a little out of my range so I'm coming off all vulnerable and shy. I'm not sure what sort of first impression I made but I'm pretty sure nobody was paying attention apart from Mr. Ee and his random friends who clap and say I did a good job as I head back to the bar and my drink.

Tipsy 40something guy leaves his pod of friends and approaches. "What are YOU supposed to be? Don't you know halloween isn't until next month?" I'm a little irritated because he's not asking in a way that makes be confident that he's going to care about the answer. I think he's looking for trouble so I say "Look, I'm not supposed to be anything. If I came in here in high heels and a sexy outfit with my hair and makeup all done up you would make some assumption about what I am supposed to be and you wouldn't be right then either. What difference does it make what I look like?" To my surprise he agrees and toddles off. Maybe I'm the judgmental ass out of the two of us.

Apparently I'm not much fun anyway.

I decide I'm going to sing Shadowboxer and then head home. This isn't my kind of joint and the hipsters have moved off to a little booth by themselves. If I ever brought the karaoke crew out here to sing we'd practically overrun the regulars and we could each sing a bunch of songs and really enjoy the huge selection but this isn't the right place to stick out. The KJ convinces me to tell him a little bit about myself and I just tell him the truth which is basically that I started doing this because I was scared to sing in front of strangers but by now it's more a social experiment to see how people will react. After I sang my song he said I should really think about taking off the disguise and trying it out as myself.

I feel a little silly because I'm not really hung up about it anymore but it seems like a novel thing to do so I tell him to put on "My Own Worst Enemy" and I take off my hat, sunglasses, and mustache. He really seems like a cool guy that's open to whatever experience life puts in front of him. He also seems genuinely interested in me and that's always flattering. I am glad he was the KJ that night and I hope he got some satisfaction out of 'persuading' me to get up and sing without the disguise.

Nobody else noticed and nobody but the bartender said goodbye. That bartender was smoooooth but the crowd was not. If I can get a pack of friends down there on a Thursday night some time that would be great but I don't think Tiki Bob's is going to see Mr. E again any time soon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bush Garden

Ah Bush Garden. If ever there was a 7 night a week karaoke institution in the ID it would have to be you.

I chose this venue to be my second stop on the week long Mr. E tour because after the relative safety of Mandarin Gate and the six other people that were in it on a Tuesday night I was hoping to drag some friends along to join in the fun of the Mr. E Karaoke experience. Since a large number of my karaoke posse was working on this incredible burlesque show called "That's F*cked Up!" in the International District I figured I could probably convince some of them to join me.

And join me they did. A whole load of them. We kind of took over the place a little. But something was amiss.

I didn't know it at the time but going out to sing karaoke as Mr. E with a big group of people I'm already friends with just doesn't work. It's like, showing up at a Halloween party and realizing you're the only one who wore a costume. Nobody came up to me and asked what the disguise was for, nobody called me Inspector Clouseau, nobody bought me a drink, nobody anything because I was clearly already having a lovely time with a bunch of people who, at the very least, did not seem fazed by my outfit.

Half way through the night Mr. E became Kat because it was just too freaking hot to wear that trench coat any longer and who was I fooling? There was no mystery here. Just a big group of friends complaining about the poor selection of songs, ordering stiff drinks, doing the Charleston while old men sing older songs, and occasionally getting up there and belting one out.

A fail? Not in the slightest. Mr. E got up on stage just moments after arriving and pulled out all the stops on "Oh Darling" and a little later he sang "Somebody to Love" so with the two song quota fulfilled I took of my coat, lent my mustache to a squirrel, and changed out of my sunglasses (you thought reading tiny karaoke song print in dimly lit bars was hard? Try it with sunglasses). I shared a duet or two, hooted and hollered, and then dragged my tired ass home. It was a great night, but I still had very little idea what I was doing or what I hoped to gain from it.

Another day, another karaoke bar.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mandarin Gate

So it's Tuesday night and my first opportunity to take Mr. E out since I decided to head down this path. There are two places that I have already done a lot of karaoke during my "Karaoke is a great thing to do with a huge group of friends as a security blanket" phase- Bush Garden and Mandarin Gate. Being my first night, I had done a little bit of research about who has karaoke when and I can now inform you that Tuesday is the night that Karaoke DJ's (or KJ's as I will refer to them from here on out) like to stay at home watching TV and drinking cocoa. Since I didn't want to head downtown or up capitol hill my options were severely limited. Mandarin Gate was the easy way out of this and since I still had the whole song book to pick from I knew this was going to be a very low impact entry to the tour.

There were five other people in the place when I came in. I grabbed a few request slips on my way to the bar, ordered a ginger ale, and surveyed the room to see what I was working with. As I was writing down my first selection (Eminem's "The Way I Am") the KJ gestured towards me and announced "Looks like tonight is about to get interesting!".

And so it was.

The next person up to sing was absolutely stunning. He was like a cross between BB King and Jimi Hendrix three-quarters of the way through the movie Cast Away and that was before he even opened up his mouth. He did a haunting version of House of the Rising Sun and later he treated us to 99 Problems but a Bitch Ain't One (Entertaining side note- I went to google that phrase to see if it was the actual song title and didn't realize our google page was on "image search" I was very surprised to find that the majority of the pictures that showed up were of OJ Simpson).

The barmaid asked if she knew me from somewhere. I asked her if she'd forget a face like this.

My name got called pretty quick so I put on my "Yeah, I'm a white girl in a fake mustache AND I can (sort of) rap" face and didn't do a half-ass job of it. I noticed some ladies had shown up one or two at a time and were sitting around perusing the books. Feeling a little girl-powery I decided to channel my friend Beth and sing "So What" by Pink. As I was handing my paper to the KJ he couldn't resist asking what I was up to. "Are you hiding from your ex or spying on them?" I didn't have a smart answer for that so I just said "I like to sing?". He wanted to know what the mustache was about so I told him it makes me sound better and headed back to the bar.

Nobody really talked to me at Mandarin Gate but a lot of people smiled and after I sang my second song I got a couple you-go-girls and a round of applause. I felt okay about how it had gone but I didn't really feel like I had done a show-stopper and the rotation was 15 minutes at most so I decided to go for an extra song and picked Sleep To Dream by Fiona Apple.

That was a show-stopper. Pretty much everyone stopped talking for a few minutes to let me have my moment. It was pretty special.

I wasn't expecting to have a wild and crazy night and I didn't but I had grabbed a wild and crazy idea and run with it. I had taken the first step and, in doing so, intentionally headed down a path that was distinctly out of my comfort zone and general realm of experience. There was a story on NPR today about why Habits are a Curse and I can totally relate. Doing things that are completely out of your norm is exhilarating.

I felt accomplished and ready for bed. As I walked out some people said goodnight, once I was out the door some guy having a smoke stopped me and asked me who the real me was. I said "Who's asking?". So he told me a little about himself, his name, where he worked, something funny that happened to him that day. I wasn't ready to take off the glasses and mustache but I did tell him my name was Kat and just said the disguise helped me feel more confident. He said he thought it was unfortunate that I didn't feel confident enough to just go up on stage as myself and sing. It wasn't like I was going to stand here and tell my life story to the drunk guy outside Mandarin Gate for 20 minutes so I shrugged and said "If I was we probably wouldn't be having this conversation." He asked if he could give me a hug and then asked if I was trying to get produced. Not really knowing what that was supposed to mean I just laughed and headed to my car.

Three songs in less than 90 minutes, a fairly decent song selection, and a really comfortable interior make the mandarin gate a great place to go sing karaoke if you're not looking for a big audience and like an eclectic mix of song choices.