Karaoke

Last night I was part of a group that went to a karaoke bar. We got up on stage to sing the Bill Withers’ classic Lean On Me, and of course watched other people perform as we waited our turn. From this limited, never-to-be-repeated exposure to the karaoke world, I’ve reached several conclusions:

1. Most people (including me) can’t sing or dance to save their lives.

2. Most people who enjoy karaoke don’t realize number 1, above, applies to them.

3. I had no idea that growling, headbanger-type songs are popular karaoke fare. It was disturbing enough to realize that some people would pick such offerings to be their songs to perform, but watching them belt out troubling lyrics that scrolled by on the screen upped the disturbing quotient to the nth degree. You want to steer clear of anybody who thinks it’s a good idea to publicly perform those songs.

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Walking Past The Drive-Thru Line

I’m on the road again, staying in one of those generic hotels that is located in a busy commercial area, right next to a Chick-Fil-A and a Carl’s Jr. restaurant.  It’s one of those places where you walk out of the front door directly into a parking lot for a bunch of other businesses in a strip shopping area.

Let’s just say it’s not exactly a bucolic hotel setting.

But, the hotel location does have the advantage of requiring me to walk past the drive-thru lines of those two fast food emporiums on my way to and from meetings.  It always brings a smile to my face, because hearing the interactions between the customer in the car and the employee working the intercom as I walk by is pretty hilarious.  It makes me think that fast food drive-thru lanes are probably the worst communications systems known to man.  In fact, you could argue that they are consciously designed to avoid effective communication, rather than promote it.

Start with the generic message that you get, asking if you want to get the new menu item the place is featuring, which causes the customer to wonder whether they are talking to a real person or hearing a recording.  Then there’s a long pause, while the customer wonders whether they’re supposed to go ahead with their order or wait.  When the employee finally says go ahead, the flustered customer proceeds with the order, and there’s inevitably one or two questions from the employee that the customer doesn’t understand.

Squawk — “Do you want to Super-size that?”

Squawk — “What?”

Squawk — “DO YOU WANT TO SUPER-SIZE THAT?”

Squawk — “No.”

Squawk — “Would you like to make that a meal?”

Sqauwk — “What?  No.”

And then there’s the awkward pause at the end, where the customer wonders whether the employee is done firing questions and the conversation is finally over and they can just drive ahead and get their food.

We’ve grown accustomed to this kind of stuff in the drive-thru line, but hearing it from a distance makes me wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to just stop, park, and talk directly to a real person when ordering food.

 

Ode To An Early Morning Flight

Richard said he liked my occasional verse on the blog. Every wannabe writer likes a compliment now and then, and it’s been a while since I’ve composed some doggerel, anyway. So below is my ode to an early morning flight.

Ode To An Early Morning Flight

Whene’er I fly there’s a choice for me

Do I fly at 6 or half past 3?

The pros all say the morn is right

To avoid delay and cancelled flight.

From that viewpoint, a.m. is best —

But what about my lack of rest?

If I book a flight that heads out early

I know my sleep will be all squirrelly.

I’ll worry that I’m oversleeping

And miss the plane and end up weeping.

I’ll toss and turn, and slumber poor

And wake up when the clock strikes four.

But later flights I must beware

For fear of storms around O’Hare,

That leaves the schedule all akimbo

And put me in a traveler’s limbo.

There’s no good answer, sad to say

So I’m at the gate to start the day.

Tube Steak Follies

Food & Wine magazine, recognizing that we have entered the height of the outdoor grilling season, has published an article about their taste test of the best hot dogs out there.  The article raves about a hot dog that “tastes like steak.”

f5xdfnkThe article says that the Kansas City Cattle Company Uncured Wagyu Beef Hot Dog — which is a mouthful in itself — will change grilling forever.  It explains:  “The umami! The spice! The beefiness! It was basically like eating a steak in a bun, or an elevated “tube steak,” if you will. The flavor had real depth and smoky undertones, and the texture and color (darker, more brown than red) was different than most hot dogs—in a good way.”

It’s nice to know that American food producers have finally developed a tube steak that tastes like a steak — it’s another sign of the rapid progress being made by human civilization, I suppose — but I’m a little disturbed about the apparent migration of identifiable tastes from one food to another.  After all, if you’re looking to have a hot dog, don’t you want it to taste like a hot dog?  A traditional grilled hot dog, in the right outdoor setting, perhaps with a ball game going on in front of you, can be better than a steak.  Don’t we want to keep food tastes in their proper place?  What’s next?  A hot dog that tastes like a cheeseburger or carrot cake?

Plus, as the 2020 election draws closer, we’re heading into the politician hot dog-eating season.  I don’t want Joe Biden and the other candidates out there to take a big bite of a dog and do a spit take when they taste steak instead.

Unstuck

I got a chuckle out of this bumper sticker I saw on the back of a pick-up truck in our neighborhood — and particularly the crossed paddles that tie in to the “Shit Creek” reference — but seeing the sticker made me realize that I’ve never put a bumper sticker on my car.

No smiley face back in the days when that was inexplicably popular.  No sticker expressing support for any political candidate, national, state, or local.  Nothing to show that I’ve been to Wall Drug, or South of the Border, or Disney World, or any other attraction.  No jokes or clever sayings.  No stick-figure representation of our family, or disclosure that our kids were honor students — or athletes, or band members — at their schools.  In short, every bumper and back end of every car I’ve ever owned has remained wholly virgin territory, free of any advertisement for any person, place, or thing.

I’m not sure exactly why, but I’ve never even been tempted to buy and affix a bumper sticker.  I guess I feel, deep down, that a bumper is a pretty inefficient forum to communicate anything important, that no other driver really gives a crap about where I’ve been or who I support, and that as time passes my tastes and interests might change.  The political candidate I voted for five years ago might be exposed to have feet of clay, and then the sticker would need to be scraped off to avoid embarrassment.  And while the “Shit Creek” joke made me smile the first time I saw it, would I still feel the same way after hundreds of viewings, as the sticker faded and peeled?  Or would I regret that I ever cluttered my bumper with it in the first place?  How many people who affix a bumper sticker ultimately experience bumper sticker regret?

I’m just not ready to make a bumper sticker commitment.

 

A Cat In The House

After years — decades, even — of existing in my own cat-free zone, I’m back to living in a cathouse.  Richard and Julianne are here for a visit, and they brought their cat Froli and their dog Pretty along with them.

Even a non-cat person like me can see that Froli is a beautiful cat, with bright green eyes and jet-black fur.  She seems wary by nature, and it took a while for her to get her bearings in the new place.  Pretty, on the other hand, just plopped down on the floor like she’d been here a thousand times before.  Now that Froli is used to the place, she’s acting like she owns the place, too. No table, counter, shelf, or other surface is immune from a Froli prowl and exploration, and she’s apt to be found lounging and stretching just about anywhere.

We last had a cat back in the early ’90s, when we briefly provided services for an extremely haughty and diffident cat named Baby who vanished after we moved to a new house.  Since then, dealing with nothing but dogs, I’ve forgotten my cat lessons and lost my cat reflexes.  I’ve been startled by Froli’s leaping ability, her sudden movements, and her ability to silently appear just about anywhere when you least expect it.  She’s already scaled the screens on our windows and doors in her ceaseless quest to get outside and check out the neighborhood, and I’ve relearned the need to move quickly coming in and out so she can’t dart by.

When Froli jumps up next to you and hits you with her searching, green-eyed gaze, you wonder what she’s thinking.  With Pretty, on the other hand, you have a pretty good idea that she either (1) wants to be petted, or (2) wants to be fed.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be a cat person, but it’s interesting being around a cat again.

Needy And Weedy

Weeds are needy things, when you think about it.  They pretty much demand your attention, and if they don’t get it they grow even more.

Turn your back on them for a few weeks, and suddenly they’re so enormous and intrusive and ugly that you just can’t reasonably ignore them any more and you have to do something about it.

But therein lies the real problem for those needy weeds.  Because they can’t help but but call attention to themselves with their ever-growing, obvious, sprawling unsightliness, eventually they’ll provoke the lazy but self-respecting homeowner into significant action.  And that action is not good for the weeds, long-term.

I’m going to attend to the monstrous, needy weeds shown above today.  They want attention?  They got it!  And they’re not going to like it.  But in deference to these attention-craving weeds, I might just give them a polite round of applause after I dig them out, roots and all.