Karaoke Bar, North Brooklyn

Photo: John St John/Flickr

When I watched you sing Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll,” I had to privately concede that it had taken me up until this moment to actually understand what karaoke was. Everyone else in the room knew what it was because everyone in the world knows what it is. You, however, enlightened me to the obvious: that karaoke is a situation in which “nailing it” has very little to do with the correct words and pitch. That it’s not the getting it right, but the doing it right. We’re talking, of course, about the giving of no fucks. The sound of one hand googling the etymology of “karaoke” is no path to the nirvana of #dgaf. But anyway, yes I googled it and was happy to find it means “empty orchestra,” which seemed rather poetic, especially because the room was full.

It was the birthday party of a sociable musician and every time the door of the basement room opened, it led in a fat yellow slab of light and a fresh burst of people and I’d look up and see if I knew them, and usually I didn’t, and I’d smile, because it’s quite daunting, to walk into a crowded room, mid-song, and have people turn and look at you. You however, walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht. Or at least, like you were walking off Fort Tilden beach. I think your hair was wet and I’m certain you had no shoes on, just — I imagined — some sand between your toes. You were wearing a floral two piece bathing suit, one of those winsome, fifties-ish ones with the high-waisted briefs, and over this, a matching mini kimono, untied. We’d just had “Dancing in the Dark” and you made me want to check my look in the mirror, change my clothes, my hair, my face.

I had already, under a kind of duress of marital obligation, risen to my feet to accompany my husband in a rendition of “The Thong Song,” that famous romantic duet for the ages. Struggling to bring conviction to my ass-shaking, I watched Sisqo bounce, crab-like and rapacious down a beach demanding to see women’s underwear and thought what a sexual-harassment-lawsuit-in-the-making of a song-s-song-song-song it was. 1999: a different time.

After he sings, She had dumps like a truck, truck, truck/ Thighs like what, what, what/ Baby move your butt, butt, butt he just announces, I think I’ll sing it again. And then proceeds to do just that, several more times! That’s confidence. But your confidence was even mightier. You were next up and shit damn you were ready to Rock and Roll. You grabbed the mic, hopped into a wide-legged stance and Robert-planted yourself there like some floral toreador. When you launched into the tumbling opening line of “It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled” you were sloppy and flat and shouty, by which I mean, you were perfect.