Present

8 02 2010

I had the requisite epiphany not long ago that if I am to be living single, and I am, then this time should and will be used to not only get my proverbial act together, but spend some time exploring and developing my interests. For example, never mind what my ex-wife thinks about “stinky food” as I’m alone with my dog and he doesn’t mind, except for the part where he doesn’t get any. I am on my way to gaining proficiency in making Daube de Boeuf with my eyes closed, and progressively better wine as the stock. This might pay off in spades at some unforeseen time, but in the immediate term I am quite enjoying my food comas.

Except I made the error of making Daube de Boeuf with “expensive” wine (over $30 per bottle, on sale for $22) before hockey night. I napped for an hour without an alarm backup and thankfully got out the door in time for the game. I spent most of the game doubled over trying to decide if I was going to heave or if I was just not in a place where I could enjoy the insane richness of my stew.

I was daydreaming about an early bedtime when the word went out that the post-game hangout was going to be at a bar with karaoke. My friends tend to karaoke mid-week exactly at the times of the month when I am flat broke, or damn near. I was going to take a pass but after the game I made a snap decision to meet everyone at the bar.

I mean, what else was I going to do on a Saturday night except walk the dog one last time and then fall into a food coma slumber?

The dog could wait.

Pitchers of Shiner were ordered up, songs chosen from “the book”, and turns taken or waited for.

Travis wanted to sing a Counting Crows song but there was a goof-up somewhere, so he sang something else.

Secret Asian Man Warren got the crowd going with “Folsom City Prison”, which became Important Information as I tried to get a feel for what sort of song would go over well with the crowd. The ends of the spectrum seemed to be defined as “country” and “Usher”.

Some goofball danced to “Macho Man” while the DJ egged him on to actually sing the words. Apparently his table-mates set him up.

Brenda, Harlan, et al sang “Sweet Caroline”.

I made my pick in time – I thought – to be called up before midnight. My dog is resilient when he wants to be but I did have to work the next day. The DJ went out of his way to not pick me, up to and including leapfrogging past my pick and playing non-karaoke songs to encourage a “dance party”.

People asked me what I picked, but I refused to answer as it would be a big surprise – to them – if/when my number came up, or moot if it didn’t.

I finally had to tell the DJ I was leaving and to toss my pick out, and magically, I moved to the top of the list.

Since I kept my pick totally under wraps, my hockey night pals could only guess at what was about to blare from the PA system.

When I finally overcame my feelings of being overwhelmed with the enormity of the song book, and my insecurity about picking a song I wasn’t 100% on, and my desire to entertain rather than bore everyone with some self-indulgent selection that didn’t fit the atmosphere, I was feeling on.

A dramatic musical intro blasted out into the bar. I pointed to the screen showing the song title, pointed at my chest, and pointed at the floor to say, “that song, sung by me, right NOW.”

I had to follow “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood, a bar favorite.

People from my past had a saying about me. Sooner or later, in a vacuum, they all reached the same conclusion. Their eyes would widen at some sort of expectation being defied, or rut broken, or just plain holy-crap-did-he-really-just-say/do-what-I-think-he-said/did, and they’d affirm, “you know, you’ve got to watch out for those quiet ones.”

Well, while I was doubled over wanting to go home and sleep off my food coma and kick myself for drinking two Shiners on top of $30 wine with holy shit kick-ass awesome dinner, not really feeling the karaoke groove, not feeling especially sociable, I decided, enough of this, I am going to be present for this moment.

And the song was right there, in the book.

After the intro, the last words that my hockey night pals ever expected me, mister receding hairline, “gay” apartment (story for another time) having, wine sipping, French cooking, women’s sports loving, book reading, quiet until you know me and I know you, to sing, filled the room.

I get out on the redneck side every now and then…

I really only needed the prompter to remember that’s how “Little Miss Honky Tonk” by Brooks & Dunn started. Once I was over the hump, I was on fire.

The DJ pressed a button to activate the fog machine, that blew out a cloud from a mounted steer’s head over the karaoke stage, a sign of approval.

I went back to my seat to grab my coat and was met with high fives and looks of astonishment.

Travis asked, “what took you so long?”

“What took the DJ so damn long to call me up there?”

Laughs.

I stepped out into the chilly Texas night shortly thereafter.

But feeling warm inside.

And it wasn’t just from the holy shit kick-ass awesome stew.

The stew, and “being present” are going to need an encore soon.

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