The Day I Got Old

Saturday, February 14th, 2009, 12:28 pm

We were sitting in the bar last night after volleyballing for a couple of hours. I was in pain, bad pain, my hip killing me and my back sending out subtle hints that "I’m gonna get you tomorrow, you (expletive deleted). I had a league game Wednesday night and played about the best I have in 5 years. Played pickup last night and sucked. I forgot to re-up the Advil in my gym bag so I sat there sipping cold beer to anesthetize my hip. I was tired, discouraged, hurting.

We were in the dining room of the joint, with the bar just a few feet away. A jukebox was playing some song or other and then I heard the familiar tootling of the song "Happy Together" by the Turtles. "Who the hell picks ‘Happy Together’ on a jukebox?" I thought. This joint is a bit of a dive, in a good sort of way–they give you plastic tubs of peanuts and you throw the shells on the floor, so leave the Manolos at home–and it wasn’t the sort of place you’d normally see people grooving on sixties pop songs.

It turns out that "Happy Together" wasn’t on the jukebox. Friday night is karaoke night at the bar, and some off-key jackass started bleating the lyrics in syrupy fashion. "You’ve got to be kidding," I growled under my breath. This is Pittsburgh, for Chrissakes. Shot-and-a-beer? James Harrison? And you’re singing "Happy Together"? Jesus wept.

I should say right here that I hate karaoke. Hate it. I hate Osama bin Laden–I hate karaoke. For the life of me, I have no idea why its so popular, especially in bars that never offer live music. The bar we play our beach league in has nine-foot ceilings and concrete walls. The one night we were there and they had karaoke the noise would’ve qualified as torture under the Geneva Conventions. Ronnie James Dio would’ve run outta there with his fingers in his ears. If you own a bar, you want people to come in, stay awhile, spend money. There’s nothing more likely to get me headed for the exits than some tone-deaf jackass butchering "My Way". Yet karaoke continues to be a plague upon the land. Is there someone I can call in Japan to say, "Look, I know we dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. We’re sorry. Can you call off the dogs now?"

The guy finished singing and for a few minutes normal music, sung by highly-paid professionals, played over the speakers. "Ahh," I said, leaning back in my chair and swigging my beer. But this serene moment was did not last long. A rather sturdy woman got up and started speaking the opening lines to Alanis Morissette’s "You Oughta Know".

"Aww, please," I whimpered. Because I knew that this was really gonna suck. Cheered on by her girl-gang she growled through the first third of the song only a step or two off the beat. But as happens so often her voice was pretty much shot after a minute and so she did the rest of the song in a treble-less monotone that had me biting my pint glass. "Please make it stop," I whimpered to the gods and they looked down upon my suffering and were amused. She did the whole song, to loud whoops from her friends. I asked for my bill and eyed the door with longing.

No one stepped up to the mike and so there were again a few blissful moments where it didn’t feel like someone was shoving curtain rods in my ear. But the last guy…he finished me. He broke my spirit. For some reason, known only to Satan and his dark minions, this guy decided to sing "Let’s Go Crazy" by Prince. This is rather an upbeat song, yes? How to describe this guy’s voice…it was as if the HAL 9000 had joined a frat at Slippery Rock. Monotonic modulation with goofy phrasing and a harsh Picksburgh accent. "Are you SHITTING ME?" I said as the guy polluted my world with bad noise.

Our party broke up soon afterwards and we all went home. Maybe this is what turning 40 is all about–your back hurts and you don’t like what "the kids" are doing. Then again, the kids singing tonight were closer to my age than 20 and the songs they were singing were all at least ten years old. Maybe it isn’t me that’s screwed up, it’s my whole generation. When future historians write about the end of the Pax Americana (which didn’t feature all that much pax, come to think of it) in the index there’s going to be an entry named "Karaoke, as symptom of American decline–pp.104-218".

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6 Responses to “The Day I Got Old”

  1. Scott Says:

    Maybe this is what turning 40 is all about

    A lot of it is realizing that you’ve been surrounded by idiots for a long time, but you were cutting them a lot of slack, because everybody was having a good time.

    PS Welcome to the rest of your life, bubba.

  2. Arctic Ghetto Says:

    Nice post. Karaoke is hideous. I once spoke rather than sang a tune because I wanted the patrons to hear the words real well. It was a Frank Zappa song concerning a dog having sex with a women. The place was stunned and I loved the looks on their faces as I walked out. You want karaoke? I’ll give you karaoke.

  3. The Brother Says:

    I want more posts

  4. King Kong Says:

    I think you’re old when you care enough to ignorantly think that others, who disrupt the balance of your routine life, are “idiots”. The day that others are judged that harshly, is the day you have definitely become old.

    People are different. Why is it not okay to sing bad karaoke to Happy Together? If we eliminated all of the peeves that Gene has, as well as many other “old” folks, this would be a pretty boring place to live!

  5. Nick Says:

    Gene, what bar was this? I moved to Gibsonia (think you live near there?) and have been searching for a good dive.

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