What to do on a sunday in Louisiana.
“I really need to get a life because I enjoy this shit too much.”
I blink at Toni’s blunt pronouncement, made just loudly enough for the people at the other end of the plastic picnic table to glance our way, a perplexed look of surprise written on their faces. Immediately, I recognized the look as not one of surprise at her not-too-quiet use of a profane word in public, but rather surprise at her honesty.
Their raised eyebrows didn’t say, “Oh my god she didn’t!” but rather, “Wow. You go girl.”
We’re sitting at Riverside Coney Island, listening to what my small, dedicated group of friends have affectionately termed “Redneck Karaoke.” The emotions one feels at this event normally run from one of sympathy for the “victim” at the mic, humor at the “skill” displayed by the performer, to something approaching Schadenfreude. After all, one should consider himself blessed that he can look at the tone-deaf cowboy at the microphone, a camel in one hand, a budweiser in the other, and say “There but for the grace of God and good breeding go I.”
We’ll skip over the fact that, every Sunday without fail, we’re right there, cheering them on, downing crawfish and beer, and — yes — even singing. Instead, we’ll discuss how this particular Sunday afternoon was different.
Usually, our faithful Karaoke emcee, Wesley, arrives at 2 p.m. and sets up his equipment. From about 3 p.m. until close (sometime after 11:00 p.m.), Wesley will patiently cue up every Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash song in his repertoire while somehow, miraculously, managing to keep the pace alive by interspersing the evening with his own vocal stylings on Patsy Cline or some other standardbearer of the bygone era.
This Sunday, though, Wesley is nowhere to be found at 2. Instead, in his place, in some cosmic act of divine retribution, our dear Wesley has been replaced by a Doppleganger. For standing on our “stage” is a 17 year old blonde girl wearing a shimmer wig, sequined chemise and silver patent leather heels.
For a moment, Judy and I can but alternate glances between the girl on the stage, each other and the sign out front proclaiming “Lainey Wilson as Hannah Montana!” As an epithet, whoever was responsible for the sign had tacked on “TODAY ONLY!”
I don’t have anything against Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, or for that matter little Lainey Wilson. It’s the principle of disappointment. I’m expecting to see Frick and Frack, two close friends who always sing back to back. (The nickname, alas, is what Toni calls them.) Instead of riproaring entertainment provided by geriatric oilfield retirees, we’re surrounded by a veritable sea of six year old girls all screaming “Sing ‘Pumpin’ up the Party’, Hannah! Please!! Sign this for me, Hannah! Please!!”
The waitstaff keeps reminding us, yes…it’s okay to drink beer, wish we could join you, and don’t forget. This ends in just a few minutes.
It wasn’t until later that I began to realize just how blessed we had been with little Lainey Wilson. At least she could sing.
It wasn’t until later, after Wesley had kicked off the Karaoke set, when a woman of indeterminate age and equally indeterminate vocal acumen stepped to the microphone and did to Natalie Merchant’s “Because the Night” things that should be a felony. In that moment, between the totally butchered lyrics, the off-key singing, and the shallow attempt at a low-register vibrato, I suddenly found myself longing for the return of the Hannah Montana wannabee.
Charlie Daniels had it coming. But what did Natalie Merchant ever do to this woman to deserve this?
Moments later, I realize my own plight pales in comparison to one of the waitresses. She’s sitting on the steps leading up to the restrooms, a pained stare on her face that betrayed the realization that she was too pretty, too well mannered, to be here in this. It’s not even the end of her shift and she’s stuck. Is it her marriage on her mind? Maybe it’s trouble at home? Being nosey, I ask.
I was, thankfully, wrong.
“I was just thinking about my baby girl. She has spina bifida and my husband brought her up here today because she loves Hannah Montana so much. The girl got her up on stage in her wheelchair and got her to sing. It was just amazing,” the waitress tells me.
I return to my seat just as one of the weekend cowboys runs to the microphone, as if showing up in between his friend’s song and the moment before Wesley can call out the next name, he’ll get to sing quicker. This time, it works. And as he begins to belt out the notes of a country tune I’ve never heard, I think about what Toni had said earlier.
I open another Bud Lite, take a long draw off the bottle.
She’s right. We need a life. But I think to myself, “be thankful. There, but for the grace of God, you might have been the mom — waiting tables at a crawfish joint and having your day lit up by Hannah Montana.”
And then, I smile, cheer on Bubba at the Bandstand and decide, no, we don’t need a life. The one we have is just fine. Pass me that binder. I feel a hair band coming on.
Note: Check the archives, happy readers. I just imported my old blog from Blogspot.com. Should be some great stuff in there. Happy reading.