Sunday, March 19, 2006

the Lodge

"Where are you going to caterwaul tonight?"

My dad asks me the same question every time I'm in my hometown for a visit. He knows the answer and cannot resist throwing down the punnery.

"To the Lodge, of course," I reply in a faux-snob accent "they'll be expecting me, i shan't disappoint."

This time I am rewarded with a salaam and the wish I break a leg in the karaoke process. Zoom off in the trusty Daewoo to the Three Crowns Lounge at the Travelodge for some Saturday night whoop-dee-doo.

Make a quick stop at the Jukebox (the Bar Time Forgot--more on that later)to holla at my girl Tiffany, who is bartending in this House of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, I am recognized by several especially loathsome specimens and forced to endure skin-crawling hugs. Must flee!

Three Crowns Lounge is in the dungeon of the Travelodge, so you hear the singer as you're marching down the stairs. On Friday and Saturday nights you're greeted at the end of the stairs by a "bouncer" who has the same haircut as the monks in "The Name of the Rose" and wants your ID and his $2. I want my $2!

Slow night, there was just too much partying for St. Patrick' Day on Friday night. Only 20 or so people clustered about the room, mostly regulars, smoking and watching the show. "Trouble!" I hear the shout outs, but can't see who is yelling through the smoke and dim lights. Slowly (I am likewise suffering a brutal hangover; I drank enough Guinness to turn myself into a leprechaun on Friday night) I make my way to the bar and ask the fetching waitress/bartender for coffee. She tsk-tsks me, but brings the coffee in a china cup, on a saucer and everything.

Considering many here would drink whiskey from a doffed work boot, that's VIP treatment. Indeed, there is much love for Trouble here at the Lodge, which is why I keep coming back to a place that only recently fixed a plumbing problem that resulted in occasional gusts of a scent I like to call Open Grave. The regulars all smile and hug me, shower me with compliments.

There's Barry, in his '60s and rocking an awesome snow-white mullet. Barry does not sing, but he is apt to bust out some creaky moves on the dancefloor. Earl's only in his '50s, but he is giving Barry a run for his money on who will win the Lodge's most enthusiastically charming old barfly. Earl, resplendent in the hippie Baja mexican hoodie he never takes off, tells me he loves me all the time and then runs away, giggling. The other regulars say, "Hi" and ask where Superfly is. I explain he's home, handcuffed to the bed then I find a chair to fall into.

A tall, skinny-everywhere-but-her-belly woman who looks to be in her late '40s and goes by the handle Wild Thing is called to the stage, and I marvel at her impressively teased bangs, patterned hosiery, and sky-high heels. She warbles a version of Melissa Etheridge's song "I'm the Only One" that would make Simon Cowell rip out his hair and stuff it into his bleeding ears. When she finishes, she smiles contentedly and returns to her table, where she sits alone.

Like me. My hangover is deeply crimping my karaoke style, I'm truly suffering. I choose low-key selections and nearly pass out onstage under what feel like klieg lights. I suck tonight, but receive polite applause. Meh. Trouble and Wild Thing--we could take our act on the road.

Three dressed-up Latin couples troop down the stairs, laughing and chatting in Spanish. The older guy goes up to Star, the KJ, and whispers something, passing him some cash. I roll my eyes, this can only mean one thing: dance music. Why you would want to go to a karaoke bar to dance is beyond me. Star dutifully plays exactly three salsa songs, they happily dance, we return to karaoke.

Wild Thing assassinates a Heart song this time, so I just put my million-pound head on the table and try to think peaceful thoughts. One last screech and she's done, smiling all the way back to her little table. I'm distracted, talking to Krista while she refills my coffee.

Suddenly, I look up at the little stage and see a vaguely familiar face, hear a vaguely familiar voice expertly singing some Outkast, and some stout-soaked brain cells work themselves into a cohesive thought: Kevin! It's been three years of hard living since I saw him last, but here he is!

We worked together at Ruby Tuesday and at Eat N Park, years ago. We were karaoke buddies back then, singing our brains out at our beloved Carmel's show at the Tally Ho (simply, "The Ho"), this town's notorious gay bar. We partied together and with Lisa, every Tuesday night. Good times. I absolutely adore him!

We are elated. We ditch the Lodge (after I make my rounds of goodbyes) and go to Eat N Park, where some old timers are stunned to see us again. We talk well past 3am, catching up on old times and new loves. We try to call Lisa, but she's in Chicago now, out at a bar where she can't hear us. We exchange email addresses, phone numbers, and lots of hugs. Ah, memories.

The dirty, stinky, often intolerably smalltown bar we call the Lodge is where it's at in this town. People here say All Roads Lead to the Jukebox, but I disagree. It's down the stairs of the Three Crown Lounge that all must pass, there all gossip disseminated, there all beefs carried out, there old friends and new gather to bask in booze and karaoke magic.

See you next time I'm in town, friends!

2 Comments:

Blogger marty said...

Do dead people come to karaoke?

9:45 PM  
Blogger Star, The one and only said...

Hey you, Loved having you, as always, cant wait to get started on this project. I already got some words down today. Hopefully I'll talk to you soon. take care and keep writing it was great.
Star
PS. The guy passed me a CD not money. I play there songs cause usually more people get up and dance. oh well you cant win all the time...LOL till next time gorgeous!

1:00 AM  

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