Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kimchi Mamas Meet-Up (Part 3 of 3: Karaoke)

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So, what happened at the NoraeBang, (translation = "song room") anyway? Mary persuaded 4 of us to go with her to the Korean Karaoke place across the street. I'd never been to one of these before--so I was interested to see that instead of being in a smoke filled bar, like the Acapulco Lounge in Santa Clara, we got to rent a private room with a TV and karaoke machine.  There is a window into the hallway, and video cameras to the front desk, but the only people to hear us singing would be us.

I believe the singers in attendance were Mary, Twizzle, Karen the Californian, Julie, and myself. Click here to read about the dinner that preceded this escapade. 

They did not offer us any drinks, not even water or soda. Seems like the kind of place where booze would be called for, and a lot of it! Not a drop in sight.

Now, I am not musically inclined. At all. This was a major source of stress for me in high school, when your entire social strata can be defined by what kind of music you like. I liked country, because my parents and brother listened to that. My tape player was one of those cheap shoebox dictaphone types they used in elementary school for read-aloud books. Not exactly high fidelity sound there. One blessing was that country music was actually cool when I was a teenager, so much so, that the "real" country musicians even wrote an anthem , "I was country, when country wasn't cool"

I remember one traumatic outing when we were on a field trip, or class picnic, or something. A teacher made some sentimental speech, and all the students started singing the song, "Up Where We Belong", and I had NO IDEA what the song was or the words or tune or anything. I felt like an idiot trying to pretend and lipsynching along with everyone. Of course, the people closest to me knew I wasn't singing...but hey, it's just like church today. Unfortunately, this all plugged into feelings of being an outsider that I felt my whole childhood. As the only Asian in my mostly white graduating class, and one of the few minorities in the school, I wanted to "fit in" just as desperately as most teenagers do. My race precluded that, and music was one of the areas where I felt out of place most acutely. I had found my nerd friends by junior high, but every teenager spoke music--except for me.

So, decades later, here I am with a bunch of women whom I have only just met, and I am feeling a little stressed out. I don't sing well, have a poor sense of pitch, and these ladies were NOT drinking at dinner, so no cover there!

As we flip through the book looking for songs, they are organized by song title, not artist. We put aside the Korean songlist, which was a relief, since the only Korean songs I know are "San Toki" (kids' song) and the Korean national anthem, "Arirang".

Already stressed out from the pressure of having to sing in front of people I have just met, I suddenly cannot remember a single title of any Indigo Girls song. These are the gals I have on CD in my car, and I am most likely to sing along to, and actually know the melody and words. I keep flipping frantically--no luck. OK, how about Billy Joel--fellow New Yorker, I should be able to sing to him, right? Again--my mind had blanked and I can't remember a single song title--nada. Alzheimer's had kicked in luck I stumble across Piano Man. But I can't remember the tune or how the words go!

I am frantically trying to remember ANY artist, ANY song that I can sing--the selections the other gals are making are not songs I know, and I am having flashbacks to high school! My lipsynching trick is probably not going to work in a small room of 5 of us sitting right next to each other!  While I did see some Kenny Rogers songs in the book, it has been decades since the 80's, and I wasn't so sure country was still cool anymore.

In desperation, I plugged in  Huey Lewis's "Heart of Rock and Roll"

and Chris de Burgh's "Lady in Red"

Mary and Karen had done such a great job on the previous songs, that I almost thought there was some vocal soundtrack that I could sing on top of...but no, when the songs I had chosen came up, I missed a few bars while waiting for someone else to start singing. Once I did start singing, well, let's just say it's a good thing Karen was a music major in college, and she is a great sport too. Phew. I hope they couldn't tell how much I was sweating from embarrassment.

I suddenly had much greater empathy for poor DH, who had chosen to sing to me at our wedding. He got the bright idea after attending his friend's wedding and seeing him serenade his bride. Only thing was...his friend had his groomsmen back him up. DH got a friend to play guitar for him, but he was the only one singing at our wedding. My little brother was supposed to do a reading just before the song, but he got all emotional and started all of us crying instead (and that is a story for another day...since I am seeing him soon, I will not tell it now out of self-preservation).  DH then stood to sing to me, and I had tears running down my face, and he got all emotional too... and was sweet that he tried, anyway.  I can't say I have been kind over the years when we reminisce about that part of the ceremony...but I usually stop laughing when he glares at me.

I understand our November Meet-Up is also going to be situated near a NoraeBang as well. I wonder if I can sneak my son's MP3 player in my purse...


  1. Jomama,

    If I get to attend the November meet-up, I'll bring a flask with some "liquid courage" and I'll share! ;)

    Caroline in San Francisco


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