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Notes From the Small Pond: Karaoke

Notes From the Small Pond

By Parnell Thill


The ones who are really into it and the ones who are really good at it aren’t necessarily the same ones. Which is fun if you’re in the right mood and pathetic and a little depressing if you’re not. I’m usually in the wrong mood, which is a little nutty since I’m there my fair share of the time. And, while I’m neither really into it or really good at it, I can’t resist after watching a few folks that really are into it — really into it — and a few folks who are really good at it. And watching the dozen or so gonna-be participants and wanna-be participants drink up enough courage to be participants is entertaining itself.

Everyone’s got their Go-To. Years of practice in the shower or car. Sometimes even daring to practice vibrato. Sometimes with hand-in-air like Mariah. Bending at the knees and squinting at the high notes like someone having a sliver pulled.

“I can kill this one, I know it.”


“Don’t Stop Believin.’”

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Tellin’ ya. My jam, bro.”

“I ain’t your bro…bro.”

“No need to get righteous, bro.”

“I said, I ain’t your —”


“Honey. Stop. Come over here. Sing this one.”

“I’m not in the mood….which one?”

“That Ramblin’ Man one. I love it when you sing.”

“Whatevs. I suck and you know it. You’re just distracting me from that D-Bag over there…”

“No,  shut up. I really love it when you sing. C’mon. Please?”

And then there’s her fingers on my arm and smiling up at me. “Please?”

“OK, but not Ramblin’ Man this time.”

“OK, what?”

“How about Operator?”


“C’mon, it’s a great song and I can actually hit all the notes.”

“You’re always singing that one.”

“You’re making my point.”

“Hey, bro, I changed my mind.”


“Yeah, you were right, not gonna sing Journey.”

“I could care less what you sing, bro.”

“I know, bro, but I’m gonna sing something a little more tender.”

“Good for you.”

“That Simply Red song, from the ’80s.”

“…damn, that’s got some seriously high notes.”

“I can get there, dude.”

I’m deciding between Dude and Bro which one makes me more violent. It dawns on me that I’m being a jerk. The guy — my bro, this dude, is just trying to have a little fun on a Tuesday night in a town that’s trying very hard to have something to do on Tuesday nights and succeeding, sort of, compared to 40 years ago when my summer Tuesday nights consisted of my dad dragging the black and white TV out onto the front porch with five extension cords and watching Olga Korbut and, four years later, Nadia Comaneci win Olympic Gold, my dad whispering Blatz whispers about Romania and humming Nadia’s Theme, which was, I think, a rip-off of a contemporary soap opera. Google it.

“Fine, dude,” I hear myself say and feel myself blush. “Sing the hell out of it.”

And he does. And I don’t. I skip Operator and go into that familiar “observe mode,” where I’m not part of the goings-on, just an observer of same. It’s comfortable and a little lonely, but the former outweighs the later as it always has, which is why I’m so damn good at it. Every designated driver knows what I mean.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m jonesing for Nadia, 1976.