A garbage man, a janitor, and you my dear

Until last Saturday night, I'm pretty sure that we were living in some sort of karaoke "28 Days" scenario in which I was the only person left who'd never performed "Dude Looks Like a Lady" drunk in a bar in front of a bunch of drunken bar strangers. (Me and Jagosaurus.)

And I'm actually one of those weird people who enjoys public speaking. I also love reading my own work in front of a crowd. But singing is an entirely different matter. I do not sing well. I have a weird ear thing where my voice echoes so badly in my own head that producing a sustained sound is exactly like putting a bucket over my skull and hitting it repeatedly with a ladle.

Having said all that -- having entitled an entire Flickr set "Avoiding Karaoke" -- I knew that as soon as I'd purchased my ticket for San Francisco this year I'd better decide what song I was going to need to know at 1:00 a.m. when Maggie stood poised over a clipboard with a pencil in her hand waiting for me to choose between "The Tide Is High" and "Like a Virgin."

"I signed you up for HERE COMES YOUR MAN!" she shouted at me last Saturday night at the El Rio, where The Amazing Embarrassonics were tuning up. Karaoke backed by a live band.

"No, I know what I want to do!" I shouted back.

Maggie was the first of us to go up. She nailed George Michael's "Faith."

I looked at Melissa. "What are you going to sing?" I asked. "There's not enough alcohol in the world to make me get up there," she replied. (Her default move was to document the experience.)

Heather went soon after Maggie. The band had a list of like 200 songs but Heather's first choice wasn't on there (I can't remember what it was) so she ended up choosing a John Denver song. While she was standing up on stage trying to focus on the lyrics sheet, the bass player came up to the front of the stage, pointed at her, and said, "Do you guys know who this is?" The crowd looked at him blankly. "DON'T YOU PEOPLE EVER GO ON THE INTERNET?!" he shouted.

Alice amazed us with a terrific version of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." [Check this, it's not Alice but it's almost as good.]

When it was my turn I quickly downed my third vodka gimlet, which had the interesting effect of making me more sober, and then I hopped up on stage. "Waitress in the Sky," I told the guitar player. He flipped through the book and found the lyrics for me. Holy shit, it was like a short story, I didn't remember there being that many words. "Can we stop halfway through and start doing Freebird?" I asked him.

Here's a tip for choosing a karaoke song (just in case you're a bee or a gorilla or something that hasn't been wiped out by the karaoke virus). Choose a song that was originally recorded by someone who sings in the same vocal range as you. For I do not share the same lovely deep masculine voice as dear Paul Westerberg, so I spent the whole song shouting incomprehensibly into the microphone while the guitar player stepped up and sang the rest of the song and I waited for the crowd to join me on the chorus, which they did with smashing enthusiasm.

Sarah "Take It On The Run" Brown went last, and then we split up and Maggie, Sarah, and I wandered around the Castro trying to remember all the words to "Shoop" until we found a packed Castro diner that served french fries and the best tuna melt I've ever had in my life at 3:30 a.m.

Sorry about all the links, but here's one more:

Dim sum at Yank Sing.

I've been slow about getting my photos up on Flickr but as soon as I do I'll add the link here. It was a great weekend.