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Nashville TN, October 12th 2002
Larry's Loading Zone, the bar with the name that suggests
either intake with a vengeance or a National Rifle Association
hangout, has Karaoke every Saturday night. Usually my
friend Cass, a northern Alabama bombshell with musical
talent to spare, runs it.

Whenever I'm in town and unemployed on a Saturday night,
a situation that obtains far too often, but nonetheless
on those Saturday nights we sometimes go to karaoke at

Larry's is a habit that the Mint and I picked up from
Captain Midnight when he lived out in this neck of the
woods, before he rented out his condo and moved back
into town. It sits in a strip mall on Smith Springs Road
just out past Nashboro Village.

I like karaoke. I like its socialism and its democracy -
everyone gets all the help that can be gotten, words,
music, backup vocals - brave souls who know they may not
get it right but who are willing nonetheless to risk
falling on their asses by getting up in front of everyone
in the bar and goin for it. Anyway I'm a big proponent of
karaoke because of, like I say, its democracy.

Once, years ago, on a fact-finding mission that took me
to Nevada City, California, my friend Valerie Lowe gave
me a gig as a karaoke dude. The karaoke dude or dudette
spins the discs, keeps the drunks in line pleasantly and
when things are slow does a little singing him or
herself. The gig paid a hundred bills a night as I

Every once in a while I'd get a karaoke king or diva who
would deliver a breath-taking performance...just some
musical peasant who got caught up in the rapture and was
on pitch and in perfect sync and everything, carried
away on the wings of song, delivering the essence of the
tune in all its grandeur, lost in the moment,
self-consciousness having left the building, totally
surrendering to the experience of...MUSIC!. And then
the tune would be over and I could see in their eyes, "Wow.
Was that ME?" And the bar would be whooping and
hollering. And they, musical peasants an all
that, would be left standing there, astounded by the
heights they were capable of attaining. I'd sometimes
have to lead them offstage and back to their chair or
barstool, like they'd been poleaxed or something.
Musical rapture is an experience I think everyone should
have at least once in their lives, and karaoke in that
sense offers something otherwise unattainable for a
non-trained musician.

I had of course before taking Valerie up on her offer
been a complete karaoke snob. Bigtime songwriter,
session picker, blahblah, I was neither able nor willing
to understand that sheer amateurism is the essence of
karaoke. And especially that there is everything right
and nothing wrong with that. Those of us in priestly
castes, be we medical doctors or rocknroll musicians,
tend to forget our merely human origins, and develop an
inward sneer toward those who are not our peers. Shame
on us.

Still, for the occasional rapturous delivery, there are
about a dozen more ordinary attempts, and, balancing out
the bell curve on the other end of the scale, one
absolutely hilarious failure, where the pitch can't be
found with a mullet net, the timing is so off as to
sound like the singer is about a block away from the
music. If Larry allowed dogs in his bar, they would be
howling piteously. And they would be doing better than
the karaoke daredevil of the moment. This, too, is
entertainment on karaoke night. More beer helps, Patty

It's hard for me to put my finger on what the attraction
of seeing and hearing these sometimes rank and I do mean
rank amateurs is for me. Except that somewhere down in
my priestly soul I suspect that we are all amateurs, all
non-professionals, out here alone on the stage of human
endeavor, with no control over the music, just going
along every day trying to hit those notes not knowing if
we can, but trying to get through the song the best
we're able. And every once in a while we soar.

Karaoke as a metaphor of life.

As for me, I do an absolute KILLER "Mack the Knife".