“Are you morally opposed to karaoke?”

I should have known right away that I was in trouble when my friend sent me an email shortly before the 2006 PASS conference, inquiring about my level of interest in karaoke singing. Since I had no plans for Sunday, or even Monday night, I replied that I was not morally opposed to such things. Sunday night I was a little too tired from traveling to Seattle, and I knew the importance of pacing myself for the week. On Monday night, however, I found myself in a group of four attendees walking about a mile to a sushi bar in Chinatown.

To the best of my recollection, I have never willingly headed to a karaoke establishment. Well, that streak is now over. After walking through some questionable areas along a highway on 6th Avenue, and passing some even more questionable persons along the way (one was practicing as a toreador, another was simply shouting at us from across the street), we found the Bush Garden restaurant. We made our way to the lounge and managed to find a good seat. It was not hard, because we had doubled the size of the audience when we arrived.

My friend grabbed the songbook and started to fill out pieces of paper, submitting her song requests. There were a few other singers as well, including two women who were more than a little enthusiastic about the event. At one point later in the night, these two women started heckling those of us that had not gotten up to sing yet (that would include me). I did not bother to defend myself, as they started to frighten me. One of my associates referred to the pair as the “Suicide Girls”.

The various levels of talent made the event quite entertaining. Now, I cannot sing to save my life, but at least I am courteous enough to others around me and do not force them to listen to me warble. Fortunately, that is not the case for everyone, and you can witness individuals with no sense of key, or tone, or rhythm get up and sing. Good times. And when someone with even a little bit of singing ability takes the microphone, they stand out and sound fabulous, especially after listening to some of the previous acts.

One night of this was not nearly enough, and I found myself heading back on Tuesday night for another round. And this time, we had doubled in size. Eight attendees now trekking down to Chinatown, looking to relax and be entertained. One of the new recruits was “the Croz”, a person I met at last year’s conference. I am quite certain that if Croz lived within 500 miles of me that I would be divorced, in jail, or both. The guy is crazy. He is like a train wreck. You know you should not slow down, but you cannot help yourself. And you always end up laughing, and what is wrong with laughing anyway?

The Suicide Girls were nowhere to be found this night. And when the eight of us walked in, we brought the place to life. It is amazing how loopy you can get being just a little tired and with just one or two beers. Seriously, I was not drunk, but the atmosphere had me charged up as if I was full of “liquid courage”. Still, I would not get up and sing, even when called out by another participant to join them on stage and everyone in my group started chanting my name. No flippin’ way! I could not carry a tune in a bucket, and I know it. I guess karaoke is not about ability, it is about the audience. In that aspect, I disappointed them. Oh well, maybe next time.

While sitting with the Croz, we also began to notice some of the local flavoring. Actually, it started with the walk over there. About a half block from the restaurant, a pair of sneakers rolled up within a pair of pants was found just laying on the ground in a parking lot. This created quite a buzz among the group, as no one could figure out exactly what that meant. One of us had lived in New York City for twelve years, and even they expressed concern about our surroundings.

When we got inside the lounge, the Croz had another interesting question for me, “what’s that smell?” Sadly, I offered no explanation. He continued at regular intervals for the rest of the night asking me about the smell, and wondered aloud if he was the only one that smelled that smell. I then recommended that he sing some Skynard, but he declined. I then challenged the Croz to sing “It’s Raining Men”. Sadly, he never gave us his rendition of the Weather Girls classic. He did, however, give us his version of “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell that was not only off-key but off-beat as well. I am not certain how he was able to do that, except to say that the Croz is full of surprises.

However, I had one for him. At some point during the night, I let the group in on a little secret. Inside the men’s restroom, there is a couch. That’s right, a couch. No, I do not know why. Nor did anyone else. I have never seen such a thing before, and neither has anyone else. At first I thought I was in the women’s room, but the women were surprised by the presence of a couch in their restroom as well. Perhaps it is to have a place for people to relax on a busy Saturday night when the restroom is at capacity? Seriously, does anyone know why, and does anyone think this is a good idea?

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because I felt the need. Plus, it gave me a great idea for next year’s conference. Instead of forcing a few of us to make our way to some obscure place in the city, we should incorporate karaoke into the welcome reception on Tuesday night. Think about it. With 1,500 or more attendees, surely more than a few would want to get up and sing with no need for ‘liquid courage’. So, with no additional costs (other than renting the karaoke machine), we could have an event that would be more than just an icebreaker.

I think it could work. And so does the Croz.