Since I just got my first story accepted at a magazine…

Posted in Uncategorized by MamaSass on May 1, 2008

(The NY Press, next issue, 8 million stories column, go pick it up) 

I thought I’d post another story here, since a link to this blog goes out with the story in the mag.So here goes. Karaoke. (unedited version)


Karaoke is, in my opinion, one of the most fraught activities a dirt-poor 20-something living in a big city will choose to do on a Saturday night. Believe me, any hipster with 20 bucks in her pocket who has knocked back a few gin and tonics at the dive bar around the corner will probably be sucked into karaoke at least 3 weekends out of any given month. Once the myriad pleasures of the photobooth in the dank corner of the bar have been exhausted, it is easy to be pulled in by the black-hole-suck siren call of a private room in a karaoke bar. This may have something to do with Belinda Carlisle. Let me explain.

I firmly believe that both Belinda and Pat Benetar have worked out some kind of clandestine, vaguely unclean deal with the underlords of the karaoke world. These underlords are some idiosyncratc combination of nasty Triad gang-members and moonstruck classic-rock fans, who operate ther massive Karaoke consortium above a dim-sum joint in Chinatown. They are sick with power, and control unimaginable jock-loads of cash. Pat and Belinda have obviously sold their souls to these mystery men, because for some reason, whenever anyone goes to sing karaoke, the first song their fingers unwillingly dial up is either “Heaven is a Place on Earth” or “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It’s unfailing, and deeply, deeply disturbing. Sometimes I try to interject a little Meatloaf (‘come on guys, Paradise by the Dashboard Light. I’ll even let you do the girl bits!’) or maybe some Journey (‘Steve Perry has the same vocal range as Pat Benetar! It’ll be awesome!) but no. Belinda first, or no Guns ‘N’ Roses for the rest of the night. I suppose it could be worse. It could be Stevie Nicks.

This is not the only reason karaoke is a risky business. For those of us who enjoy exclusively the private-room karaoke experience, there is that whole time warp phenomenon (and no, I’m not talking about the Rocky Horror song, but don’t even get me started.) In the novel ‘Bonfire of the Vanities,’ investment bankers make the claim of being “Masters of the Universe.” They’re wrong. Or, rather, Tom Wolfe was wrong. I-Banking, although lucrative, is only money power. Karaoke bar owners have more than that—namely, they have power over the laws of physics. When a group of semi-drunk brooklyn hipsters enters a karaoke bar at, say, 1:00AM, prepared to spend an hour and a half wailing away at Bohemian Rhapsody or Umbrella (the Rhianna song that most everybody denies passionately loving) they stagger our, an hour later, only to find that it is now 7:00 in the morning, wherupon they get stared at angrily by legitimate businesspeople on their way to work, and find out that they owe $340 dollars for occupying the room for 6 hours. What?

I’m not making this up. This happens. Ask anybody. You can find most of them in Park Slope, either bartending or being a “freelance graphic designer.”

Most of my friends are complete flakes. This is an established fact, and also the reason why my karaoke jaunts are largely unsucessful. One particular time, my second-best friend, who has been living in Japan for more than two years teaching english and having sex with Japanese band-members with pompadours, came to visit me and my friend Leila in New York. We had planned our karaoke mission for weeks before her visit, ignoring her complaints that in Japan karaoke is their national sport, and therefore she is tired of it and hates it a little, and would rather do basically anything else. Leila and I LOVE karaoke. We are obsessed with a little place called Sing-Sing (clever) in the Village, and if we didn’t get to go with her we would probably make her feel guilty for the rest of her life, even from half a world away (we are good at that.) So my friend Jackie, fresh from her three thousand hour flight from Japan, blearily agreed to go with us. She stopped off on the upper-east side, and we were coming from Park Slope (surprise). This is a rather long journey in both directions, and we arrived panting with excitement at the door to Sing Sing. Jackie met us a few minutes later, looking suicidal, but also quite nice in a little vintage dress and darling green pumps. With no purse.


“Yeah, where’s your purse,” I echoed, my mood starting to sink. Jackie is a flake. Most of my friends are.

“Hey guys,” Jackie said, sounding jet-lagged and surly. “I’ve got all my stuff in my pocket. My money and stuff.”

Let me mention now that we were all around 23 at this point. This fact will become relevant in a few seconds. I look like I’m 16, and still get carded for cigarettes, and Leila and Jackie don’t look much older, though neither of them smoke. We all drink, though. In bars. Where they are legally obligated to ask for your id, to make sure you aren’t trying to sneak by them at age 20. Or 16. Sing-Sing is a bar, as well as a place of karaoke magic.

I think you know where this is headed. The minute the bouncer asked Jackie for her ID, she began to look at first, puzzled, then apologetic, and then, seeing the looks on Leila’s and my faces, a little frightened for her life.

“I…” she began, digging in the pockets of her cute little dress, “I’m 23. Here’s my health insurance card! See! That’s me! That’s my name and date of birth!”

The bouncer just looked at her. “I forgot my ID,” she explained to him, edging away from us. “I’ve been living in Japan, and they don’t really….they don’t really card there?” She sounded unconvincing, to put it mildly.

Leila stepped forward and confidently flashed her ID. “See?” she asked belligerently, “I’M 23.” So is SHE, she said, indicating me. I scrabbled for my ID as well and produced it.

“We’re all 23,” I said, sounding pathetic even to myself. As if two 23 year olds wouldn’t be caught DEAD hanging out with someone who wasn’t herself 23. Everyone knows all 23 year olds hang out exclusively together. The bouncer shook his head.

“Sorry kids,” he said, “I gotta see a photo ID from ALL of you.”

Then he shut the door in our faces.

Emily looked at us desperately. Leila looked ready to kill, and I was tearing up (I’m like that.)

“I’m so sorry—“ she began.

“Forget it,” I said, trying hard not to cry because how much of a loser would that make me seem?

“Yeah..” said Leila, kicking a pebble. “Uh, lets just get a milkshake.”

That’s what we did. Its sort of a lame ending to the story, but again, most of my karaoke attempts are lke that.

They mostly end with milkshakes or tears.

Tagged with: ,