The Politics of Karaoke

Few things can tell you more about a person than their karaoke song selections. I’m not going to wax on about folks with terrible taste in music usurping the mic for the better part of the night—no—I mean you can learn a lot about someone by how willing they are to sacrifice their own merriment for the benefit of the crowd. Karaoke is a favorite past time of mine. I prefer the private room Koreatown experience over on-stage-in-a-bar scenarios, but really anytime you can belt out guilty pleasure tunes without fear of social retribution is a terrific way to spend an evening in my opinion. If you’ve ever been to a karaoke bar, you are probably aware of which songs will bring the house down—the karaoke standards like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or anything by The Beatles or Boyz II Men. You also know which songs will lead to awkward pauses and eyerolls—songs with a vocal range far too challenging for the average Joe or anything with 12+ measurements of “instrumental break”s (you can only clap, tambourine, or fist pump for so long). Still, nearly every time you go to a karaoke bar there are a couple of people that don’t seem to have a grasp on The Unwritten Rules of Karaoke, or are acutely aware of them and defy them anyway.

I think most people that are “good at karaoke” would excel politically. The most successful and celebrated karaoke-ers are the men and women that can strike the right balance between what the crowd demands and what he/she wants to sing. You have to be mindful of others but if you aren’t personally invested in your song selections, the performances will fall flat. A general knowledge of the lyrics is essential—think of how energetic and sincere speeches can be when they aren’t stiffly read from teleprompters and are instead performed by heart. You can inject so much more emotion and passion when you’re not worried about misreading the words. Like with the best speeches too, pacing is essential. A karaoke playlist should read like the plot of a good book (or good pornography), a slow build to an intense climax with a sweeping euphoric resolution. You can’t begin the night too intensely or the crowd will quickly burn out. You can’t stack too many ballads back to back without losing momentum. Save the huge group sing-a-longs for the end of the night when everyone is too drunk and hoarse to want to hear the sound of their own voices standout over the mass’s.

No matter how talented of a singer you are (or think you are), practice modesty while karaokeing. Your friends are not there to hear you flex your vocal muscles, they went to have a good semi-embarrassing time among other non-professional (mostly not very good) performers. The more you distinguish yourself from the crowd the less they will feel a part of the process and the more they will wait impatiently for your Mariah Carey marathon to end. Remember too, that no one will be impressed that you know all the lyrics to some obscure Brian Eno song during karaoke. Don’t fool yourself thinking everyone can sing along to that Television song you love so much. Think of how much unnecessary outrage a little arugula caused not too long ago…save the obscure or what might be perceived as “snobbish” for home. Like in most situations, modesty and self-deprecation are heralded above over-confidence and self-congratulation. I’m not saying that you should be completely communistic about it, but limit your personal glory moments to one or two performances a night.

Distilled down, all this essentially means is don’t be a self-glorifying prick. No one wants to party with someone (literally or politically) that elevates their own happiness over that of the masses. So next time you make your way to Koreatown or wherever you get your karaoke on, kick back, drink some Coors Light and sing Third Eye Blind like no one’s recording-to-post-to-facebook-later.

Enid’s

I moved to Brooklyn in February of 2007 and ended up, after answering a string of colorful craigslist ads, in Greenpoint near McGolrick park, an area I affectionately refer to as “Oil-spill Brooklyn”. At the time I wasn’t all too familiar with the Brooklyn neighborhoods, I just knew of a few “good areas” for young folks and Greenpoint was supposed to be one of them. This particular section of Greenpoint, isn’t really what most people are referring to when they tell you how much fun shit there is to do in Greenpoint (except maybe if you’re a Polish old man that has an affinity for brown-bagging it in a park). It was a FAR walk from the train, which made my first few months in New York feel a bit isolating (especially moving here in the winter—most people were more keen to hibernate with their significant others than get a coffee with the new kid in town). All in all though, it was a good neighborhood—relatively quiet, cheapish, and close enough to good food.

Enid’s was one of the first places that really felt like home in Brooklyn. Situated between “Cool Greenpoint” (the area surrounding Franklin Ave. which seems to get a new restaurant or shop every third day) and where I was residing, it was closer than the Williamsburg restaurants and just as good (or better). The cuisine is definitely in the “hipster homestyle” realm (heavily southern-influenced comfort foods, tweaked a bit for the modern palette), they have awesome brunch (get “The Hungry Bear”: biscuits with sausage gravy and eggs), and the dinner is solid and hardly every so jammed with people that you have to wait for a table.
What I really love about it is the decor and feel of the place. It feels “lived-in”, which makes sense since it’s been a neighborhood staple for years—a friend of mine who moved to Williamsburg when you were still considered a “pioneer” for doing so, told me that in the late 90′s and early aughts Enid’s was the favorite spot of a lot of the local Brooklyn bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (to think they were ever a “local band”). It was quiet and somewhat under the radar, because the whole neighborhood was still somewhat under the radar. Soon after Enid’s was written up in the Times and a few magazines and there was an explosion in its popularity. It became overrun with Manhattanites looking for The Brooklyn Experience and the locals found other watering holes until the inevitable backlash quieted things down. One by one, the chairs were repopulated by Greenpoint and Williamsburg natives and all was right with the world.
I think my first meal at Enids happened well after the neighborhood reclaimed it, I had been set up on a blind friend-date by a few friends that lived a bit too far away to maintain a social friendship (Your notion of proximity and distance is turned on its head when you move to New York and realize that “three miles away” = a forty-five minute, two-transfer subway ride). Up to this point I felt like I was feeling around in the dark for places to eat and hang out so it was great to think “OK, I like this restaurant. This will be my default place to go if I need to be around people other than my craigslisted roommate who was strikingly active in the gay dating scene and watched more American Idol than I thought anyone could stomach.
If I remember correctly I had the pulled-pork sandwich (actually I’m totally making that up but since it’s impossible for me to turn down pulled-pork on a menu this is a solid hypothesis) which is of the vinegary rather than the smothered in BBQ sauce variety. We talked about the neighborhood, she told me about the giant sequined camel on the wall which used to be by the bathrooms but they had to move it when all the people waiting in line began picking off the sequins one by one (it’s still up to this day and the bottom half of the camel is near sequinless), I got a few good pointers of places to go, and by the end of the night the friendship had a foundation. That was just about four years ago, and Enid’s still makes me fell all warm and fuzzy when I go there. It’s hard not to go home after, put on that Peter Bjorn and John album (which was basically my Moving-to-Brooklyn soundtrack) and miss the newness of it all.

Roebling Tea Room

Last night Russ and I had the pleasure of hanging with a handful of serious(ly awesome) type nerds because of the TDC competition judging (which my good friend Jason was also in town for) so it turned into a several drinks evening and warranted what Russ hilariously refers to as “changing the oil”—when you get up in the middle of the night, drink some water, pee, drink some water, take a few Advil, and go back to sleep. I rolled out of bed a bit past 10 and my body beckoned for greasy salty food. Nothing feels better after a night of revelry than a ridiculous brunch. I would nominate brunch as one of the better inventions of the 20th century. Few people appreciate it as much as I do, but in my opinion eggs, bacon and a few strong coffees after a relatively late night is “double rainbow” to the max. I actually own the url “brunchisawesome.com” and before I decided just to roll my opinions about brunch into this site, I was planning on making an entire blog in praise of The Best Meal.

There are about a billion wonderful places to go for brunch in Brooklyn, but Roebling Tea Room beckoned this morning, or really one of their signature dishes did—the baked cheddar eggs with cheese grits, fennel raisin toast and apple butter. Fucking amazing. Roebling Tea Room is awesome for a lot of reasons: their food is delicious, their patrons are all mysteriously good-looking (seriously go one weekend and try to find one unattractive person, it’s off-putting), they have an extensive tea menu making them a great non-alcoholic meet-up option, and they have totally mastered the oh-so-Brooklyn “we’re a factory on the outside but a hunting lodge on the inside” thing.
Roebling is one of the better places to take out of towners, I think whoever designed the space was of the same opinion as I was when building pillow forts as a kid—make the outside as unassuming as possible and make the inside a palace of comfort and warmth (for Roebling, the whole urban rustic thing and for me something more Aladdin-inspired complete with my mom’s asian-y floor pillows and christmas lights). It was a bit crowded this morning, but the wait was only about 25 minutes which is decent compared to a number of places in the neighborhood (though we did have a 45 minute wait a few weeks ago here, so it’s a bit of a crapshoot).
Living in New York makes you incredibly patient when it comes to food. I don’t think most people have a problem waiting the better part of an hour for a decent meal because you know that whatever you’re getting isn’t going to be Reconstituted Frozen Food Substitute that will basically pickle you with chemicals. The unfortunate side effect of all of the amazing fresh organic food at the ready is it becomes much harder to justify giving in to cravings for shitty-delicious American classics like Doritos and Pop-Tarts (wow, now I want a pop-tart).
Anyway, Roebling Tea Room: highly recommend.

Weather Appropriate Footwear

The entire city is already freaking out about the snow we’re supposed to get tonight. It’s amazing how little snow can cripple this city.

I’ve had a pretty complicated relationship with snow up to this point. Of course when I was little—or really just before high school—I loved it, every minute of it. Even the snowsuits that starfished my limbs, making it impossible to deal with the misplaced icy flakes that made their way through faux fur lined hoods. We built impenetrable (in retrospect quite dangerous) fortresses during blizzards—my Dad taking the lead commanding his tiny minions to roll massive (legitimately massive, not just by tiny person standards) boulders of snow to form walls, roofs, turrets, etc.

My brother and I spent entirely too much time outside, I would come inside after hours of snowball fights, “reconnaissance missions”, and hundreds of snow angels / dogs / pterodactyls. My cheeks would be white from the cold and stung tremendously when the warm laundry-room-air hit them (“laundry room” feels like a novel phrase to me now, living in 3 digits of square feet). There were thermoses (Thermoses! How long since I’ve said that word??) of cocoa, sledding down the still empty slope of the town’s cemetery (creepy in retrospect), and snow days. Glorious snow days. This was when I still enjoyed school and didn’t mind spending the better part of June in a classroom making up for the winter absences. I would wake up at 5am and immediately check the local news channel in the hopes that a delay or cancellation would be posted. There was nothing more thrilling than getting to “Hanover” closing your eyes and praying that “Hazleton” would be next. Seriously, if I could replicate that feeling in my adult life, it would soar past “orgasm” as “best feeling ever”.

When I was a teenager, snow lost a bit of its magic. There were cars to be destroyed, I was lazier and overly cautious of frostbite. The last thing I wanted was to be trapped indoors with my parents (who at this point were separate entities). Snow became inconvenient, something that got in the way of what I wanted to do, not something that enabled a massive slew of fun activities to happen (not having a real backyard anymore didn’t help). I grew up in Pennsylvania on the outskirts of the Poconos, so snow was unavoidable. Every winter became a punishing 6 months of ruined shoes and disrupted weekend plans. I still liked the idea of snow, just not its slushy gray manifestation.

When I moved to New York and no longer had to worry about shoveling out cars or driving over patches of ice, Snow and I breached our impasse. I began to be “OK” with it. I still could only say that I “liked it” when it was falling from the sky at a slow pace, but I didn’t hate it. I welcomed more time at home to do nothing and read or watch terrible action movies (like I need an excuse to do that any day of the week). The only thing I could never get over was the sloppiness of it all. Standing at an intersection, knowing that whichever path I took, my foot would end up in a margarita of muck.

Until this year. Enter weather appropriate footwear. It seems so simple to buy proper seasonal shoes but I’ve always been a person that didn’t have a “summer” and “winter” wardrobe, I just had a “wardrobe”. When you share a closet with your significant other, and have to store your jeans where your socks are because of space constraints, there is no Seasonal Suburban Closet Swap-Out. Rain boots seemed like the ultimate embodiment of “I have too much shit”. If your shoes weren’t waterproof enough for rain, it meant you had a hole in them or that they were cheaply made. But this winter, after we received that whopping 16″ or so of snow and I felt trapped within a 2 block radius of my house, I succumbed to the “need” for snow boots.

Holy shit. Game-changer. No longer do I feel victimized by snow! With my boots on, I am invincible—like my six-year-old self, stomping through the snow, roaring as I conquer it with each step! I’ll no longer be limited to shitty bodega food and Peruvian rotisserie chicken when the weather takes a turn for the worse, I can venture out! Snow still isn’t quite as magical as it was when I was a kid (or apparently as magical as it is to my Georgia-born boyfriend, who stares out the window in wonder whenever the sky starts falling), but I’m coming around.

After comparing any winter day to the brutality that is a New York Summer, where you can do nothing to battle the heat but sit silently and sweat through your eyeballs, I realized something. The non-extreme-weather seasons will always be my favorites, but I’d prefer a winter day to a holy-fuck-I’m-melting summer day, hands down. Amazing what a pair of shoes can do.

Struggling with Addiction

As you already have probably figured out, I have a problem with the Internet. I was very young when I first used it—too young by many accounts—but the discordant yet comforting dial-tone beckoned me to it. It was new, an expensive and all-consuming habit. Within weeks I was blowing most of what little money I had for just a little taste of it. Then came junior high, we had such a tempestuous relationship back then. aol. mIRC—that wonderful and evil place where teenagers were gods, swinging vicious leetspeak swords. Rumors flew. Social-lives were shattered. “Whores” and “bitches” were made. Once I hit rock-bottom (after another user nearly destroyed my self-esteem), I was able to put myself back together and stay off of it for most of my remaining teenage years.
I felt like I was almost free of my addiction, until I relapsed suddenly when MySpace’s call became too powerful to resist (had I learned nothing from the mIRC days??). Still, I was only using it recreationally until things quickly spiraled out of control.
College.
Completely and hopelessly addicted, I was on it all the time, day and night. My need was insatiable. I convinced myself that it wasn’t my fault, that everyone used it as much as I did, but deep down I knew that was a lie. Other people were out living their lives, doing ACTUAL drugs, and there I was, sequestered to my dorm room, unable to kick that habit that was isolating me from everyone I knew IRL. I’ve since graduated from college and pieced together a relatively normal life despite my addiction—though I have probably not gone a day without the Internet since. Some days are better than others, but as you can tell from this new site, I’m far from ready to face my addiction. Until I’m ready to look my pajama-pants-wearing, un-showered and under-nourished self in the mirror and admit that using the Internet is bad for me—I’ll be its prisoner. Time to refresh twitter for the 1000th time today.
Who am I kidding? I fucking love the Internet.