Friday, August 13, 2010

Sing for Your Supper

I recently guilted some friends into celebrating my birthday with me by explaining that I really needed a night out with people who did not say "duh, Mom" or try to eat spaghetti with their fingers. Well, I don't think I REALLY guilted them into it. It seems like they participated willingly--even though the evening included karaoke!

Yes, karaoke. The lone public performance opportunity for those whose stage is usually a shower stall or car interior. The butt of jokes among those who only go to bars to hear "real" singers. Now I certainly do not sing (even my kids have asked me not to), but I knew some of my friends were good singers and had fun at a previous karaoke birthday celebration. So I hinted around, and several ladies were up for the challenge.

After a nice dinner, we headed over to a bar that I'm pretty sure none of us would have entered if not for karaoke. It's not skanky, exactly, but there is certainly nothing "hip" about it. It's attached to a bowling alley and a "no tell motel." And it used to be known for country line dancing.

I was the last one in our group of six to enter. And I got carded. Nice birthday present for a 36-year-old, although I think the ID checks were random. We found a table (there were plenty) and a heavily-mascara-ed waitress came over to take our order (I don't know how she could keep her eyes open, she was wearing so much eye makeup). My friends ordered some drinks and it immediately became apparent we are moms. Someone spilled a bit of her beverage on the table, and all of us immediately jumped up with a wad of napkins. At least no one pulled out the Wet Ones.

At one point in the evening a guy in his mid-twenties sat down at our table and asked if anyone would be willing to sing back-up for a Meatloaf song. My friends were willing, and I concluded the girlfriend had deemed us "safe" because we were clearly older. Oh, well, I don't want to be in my mid-twenties again anyway.

So karaoke at this establishment attracted some very interesting characters. I looked around when we first got there and had trouble believing anyone would be willing to get up on stage and sing. I was wrong.

First up was a pretty young woman who went by the unfortunate moniker of "Awesome Possum." Yes, possum--not blossom. And she could not sing much better than a possum. She was too busy making googly eyes at the DJ, who was an interesting character himself (more on that later).

Next was the plain Jane who apologized up front for not being there in awhile because she had her wisdom teeth removed. I don't think anyone cared. But if her perceived fan club made her feel better, more power to her.

Now on to the men. A couple nondescript guys took their turns, and then this gentleman took the stage.

He was followed by a middle-age skinny dude with greasy hair, whose mumbling I guess was supposed to be singing. He was photo-worthy, but I was a little self-conscious about taking pictures of all these random people. Soon after, the DJ took the stage. He had crooned a couple songs throughout the evening, but one in particular stood out. I took a picture of the lyrics (which were clearly visible to everyone on the screen behind him), but I'm too embarrassed to post them here--they were that bad. The song seemed to be about a part of a man's anatomy frequently referred to with a slang term that rhymes with "halls." The lyrics also included words such as "chocolate" and "salty." Enough said.

After that performance, this Cinderella had to make her exit. It was a fun evening, and not one I will soon forget. I got home so late that everyone at my house was asleep--and that's a big deal for someone known for dozing off on the couch at 7:30 p.m. Thanks to my friends for indulging me in my karaoke birthday celebration!

P.S. Check out this list of "new" song titles available for karaoke. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga ... Les Mis? MICHAEL BOLTON?!?!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Good, Not-So-Clean Fun

Over the past week, I made not one, not two, but THREE trips to the hallowed grounds of the county fair in my hometown. Where fatty fried confections, big hair and ill-fitting clothing rein supreme, and the language is both colorful and grammatically incorrect.

The fair draws all the locals and many former locals who can't resist the allure of odoriferous animal barns, greasy grub and has-been musical acts. I would be content with one quick visit just to make sure nothing has changed too much, but the other three members of my family have turned into wanna-be "carnies." My husband has passed his love of all things fair to our kids, and they couldn't get enough of it this year. I was there three times, but Alex and Brian were there FIVE times. Poor Lauren--she made only four trips to the fair.

We always go on Sunday, the first day, because admission is free. We were back the next night for the infamous fair parade. The most interesting character might have been the parade watcher in a yarmulke. The town's Jewish population was pretty much cut in half when my parents moved away, so I think he was lost.

Having young kids makes you look at a parade in a whole new light (at least for the first two hours--this parade is LONG). From tiny baton twirlers to teenage sports teams, from harem pant-clad Shriners to men in kilts, the parade is just good, not-so-clean fun.

With many of the "marchers" tossing candy, Alex had fun scrambling for Tootsie Rolls and Dubble Bubble. Lauren, of course, loved all the "royalty"--the fair queen and her court, dairy princesses, Little Miss "Small Town" and more.

My crew was back at the fair the next day, for "kids' day." I will admit I'm not sure what makes that day special, but for as long as I can remember, Tuesday has been kids' day. They got there in time to catch the noon horse races. I was okay with missing that.

On Friday, Brian returned with Alex for the horse pull. Once again, I don't feel like I missed out. I made sure they returned in time for me to take Alex to a local production of Hairspray. I figured that somewhat made up for the other forms of "culture" he had experienced during the week.

This year, for the first time, the local Y held a race in conjunction with the fair. Brian and I run in races occasionally and thought this one might be fun. It was. It was also funNY, because the advertised 5k (3.1 miles) was only 2.8 miles. And part of the course was even on a track! The pièce de résistance was the ribbon I earned for placing first in my age group. Instead of having my time listed on the back, it listed the race start time. I'm happy to have a permanent reminder that the race started at 8:30 a.m.

And the county fair will always serve as a reminder of my "past." A good past, in retrospect, although as a teenager, I couldn't wait to move away. Today, as an adult and a parent with some life experiences under her belt, I can recognize that small town life isn't so bad. I won't be moving back to my hometown anytime soon, but I'm happy to expose my kids to the sights and sounds of my own childhood. As long as they promise to avoid the fried Twinkies and furry talking monkeys.

See you at the fair next year!