Today is my mom's birthday.
Lauren and I took her out to eat at one of those Brazilian meat houses.
That is what she wanted.
We ate an endless parade of steak, lamb, pork, chicken.
We ate forever.
The room turned warm.
Our eyes glistened with blood and bacon juice.
We paid the bill in meat.
True Grit was playing at the movies.
The rare film that we all liked without compromise.
How often does that happen?
We bid farewell to my Mom and headed back to the city.
Tomorrow morning Lauren leaves for Louisville.
She will be there for five weeks.
Which means I'll have no one to slap me straight when I start letting myself go during the inevitably unemployed winter of discontent in cold, dark Chicago January.
December's been rough lately.
January's looking even meaner.
Fun needed to happen soon.
We went to Cafe Bong.
It's a dive bar known for its karaoke.
I've always wanted to go there.
It looks horrible.
We walked in and were confronted with a thick stench.
It reeked like a vestibule in a rancid Vietnamese sandwich shop.
Lauren balked and made an offended grandmother face.
To me it smelled like adventure.
"C'mon, let's go!"
Once inside, we were greeted by a happy Korean woman, dressed to the sixes.
She gestured at the buffet of tin foiled Korean fare.
It looked authentic and frightening.
The karaoke was in effect.
Behind the bar, a VCR-esque machine sat hooked up to a tube TV.
The production on the videos was very 80's, meaning cheap 90's.
A bearded kid in a tux commandeered the remote control.
You could manipulate the tempo of the song, and make key changes(!).
He led his pack of pals as they passed the mic around the bar, goofing on all the hits.
After each performance, a crazy Japanese cartoon noise would scream your score at you.
Everyone was in jolly spirits.
Lauren and I took the two stools at the end of the bar.
A Marilyn Monroe poster sat on top of a cigarette machine, leaned against a neglected wall.
The corner acted as storage for cases and cases of beer.
We perused the playlist, a thick tattered binder.
70% Japanese (I think), 30% English.
Some of the selections were crazy.
They had four songs by Helloween.
You know, the German 80's metal band.
We drank Corona.
Well, I did.
Lauren wasn't feeling that well.
"We'll go after one song," I promised.
It took me a long time to decide on a song.
As it always does.
I ordered another beer.
Lauren got a soft drink.
We made conversation with the woman to our left.
She was there alone.
We talked about acting and work.
I think she was happy to see us.
She handed me a microphone for a duet.
But that didn't count as a song.
It was my turn.
I had chosen "Night Fever" by The Bee Gees.
I do love that song, and the whole Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
My falsetto was in fine form.
It danced well above the staff.
For the third chorus I sung in my given register.
Then back to the sweet tones of my Corona-courageous obbligato.
I finished the song in tandem with its fade out.
Save for a few smatters, the room laid still as the cartoon made its judgment.
The room of fifteen exploded.
The bearded kid with the tux high-fived and high-tenned me.
It was the first 100 of the night.
He bought me a drink.
Lauren was happy for me, but happier now that the song was over and it was technically time to go.
While I downed my congratulatory beer, the Korean proprietor sang a traditional song.
I think she did "ギテペミロ".
Either that or "ぎのま".
It got the room's attention.
Everyone applauded respectfully.
Then the bearded kid in the tux appointed me to sing Abba's "Waterloo".
I forgot how the verse went.
"Mmmnnnyyaaa..I bryn ni yaya nya nya..."
I did that thing where you laugh at yourself but no one else is laughing at or with you.
The bearded kid in the tux rescued me with an off-mic guide vocal and goosed it up a few keys to salvage the blunder.
We did not score 100 that time.
I still had more beer to finish.
Midnight was nearing.
I asked her if she wanted to ring in the new year at Cafe Bong.
She made a face that said "I love you. But fuck you."
I finished my beer while the men gang-sang a Backstreet Boys song.
The "tell me why" one.
Its karaoke video featured lots of topless European women dancing on a sound stage.
It was the most awesome karaoke video.
And it couldn't get any better.
So we headed for the door.
The bearded kid in the tux persuaded us to stay.
The Korean proprietor offered us buffet food.
But even now, I knew it was time to go.
And we bid adieu to Cafe Bong.
The remainder of 2010 was spent in the comfort of our little apartment.
We set our alarms for the early flight tomorrow.
And had our last sleepover of the year.