Sour Note

Someone had murdered Led Zeppelin. While it’s arguable that the band needed killing, it didn’t need to go out like this.

It was the opening song on the Friday karaoke night at the Lucky Horseshoe. A man with neither talent nor shame got on stage and started belting out “Immigrant Song.” With the opening howl, Becca and I gave each other a look. The pain was palpable and mutual.

It’s a known risk in any karaoke bar. It’s not like they hold auditions to weed out the caterwaulers. I know all too well that terrible singers exist. I happen to be one.

I’m not quite tone deaf. Given multiple tries and someone repeatedly banging on a piano key, I have been able to hit a note provided that note falls within my very limited range. It’s safe to say I’ll never be a crooner.

Many songs and a few drinks later, I was ready to be in a relaxed state of foggy bliss. After all, Friday night is my payoff, my fish treat for spending five fucking days with a beach ball balanced on the tip of my nose. Alas, it was not all that.

It wasn’t that bad, mind you. The scotch was doing its job and not working some evil magic as it occasionally does. Becca appeared to be in fine form. Her broken foot was all but healed and she had a tequila and soda within reach to act as her spiritual advisor. Even the karaoke singers had gotten better. None were phenomenal, but on average they were at least don’t-quit-your-day-job adequate.

Still, the evening was off for me. Part of it was the lack of I&G refugees, who had become a welcome and familiar sight at the Lucky Horseshoe on Friday night. It was more than that though, and like most if the shit in my life, the problem was internal.

The problem started when I asked myself what I was doing there. It’s a question I often ask myself in a variety of circumstances and I never come up with an entirely satisfactory answer. It’s emo identity-crisis shit, picked up as a teenager back before emo was called emo, and showing no signs of going away four-plus decades on.

A partial answer, and an honest one, is that I cannot spend every evening at home without losing my mind. I wish I could. Who knows? If I managed to focus and exhibit some self-discipline, I might even accomplish something.

So here I was instead, making tomorrow’s hangover an inevitability while an increasingly crowded bar made me draw my elbows to my sides as I had no desire to brush up against anybody.

After conferring with Becca, I ordered a fifth round. It would be my last. I felt neither good nor bad enough to want a sixth drink. Besides, I was out of Tums and I felt like it was only a matter of time before my stomach lining got ulcerated into Swiss cheese.

Whoever was singing sounded pretty good. Maybe I was just drunk. Also, it took my mind off the throng of people behind us, trying to push past each other just so they could turn around and go at it again.

I would never get up and sing myself, of course. As I said, I am no crooner. I am able to scream so punk-rock karaoke might be possible. I’ve heard such a thing exists. I shouldn’t get my hopes up though. Maybe it’s only punk the way “Chipmunk Punk” was punk.

I stared at my drink and watched it disappear faster than I could control.