The do-re-me warm up is over, and given that the flight has flown mostly to my liver by now, I don’t feel like leaning in to shout over an accordion of all things (Rhineland DNA be damned!). I agree to move the date past drinks to dinner. Be open. I suggest a place within walking distance, also conveniently located halfway back towards Chez Me. In case there’s a turnaround and I feel like getting handsy. Or need to flee. Either way. Ginger Viking proclaims it seems too fancy.
Dude. It’s a Bar & Grille. Yes. They serve battered asparagus spears with wasabi sauce and that seems fancier than a tear away ketchup packet. They still have Bud on tap and spots on the silverware. It’s not like they have cloth napkins and escargot by candlelight. The dress code will totally accept your black leather cuffs and wallet chain. Promise.
It’s my birthday and I want to indulge a little petulance but, in the spirit of compromise and Adulting, I suggest a sports bar nearby that opened recently instead. Less fancy. It would be new to both of us. A shared experience. I learned the basics of compromise and when to let it go as a 5-year-old sharing one bathroom in a house of eight people. Elsa has nothing on me. Incidentally, that’s also when I discovered a love of dance from the many pee dances done outside that door waiting on a family member to come out. But I digress. Back to me getting in the Ginger Viking’s nondescript, cluttered sedan since there was no make-me-into-a-skin-suit energy thus far (but with Mace handy, just in case). It wasn’t a longship but it got the job done. We were there in less than 5 minutes, just enough time to enlighten my safety check of my current whereabouts.
I’m used to sports bars having booths with TV’s, or at least a few nooks and crannies. Not this one. One big giant room with fluorescents turned up full tilt. They seat us square in the middle. Center Stage. I like to keep my back to a wall; it’s a thing I have, like not being able to sleep with an open closet door. Maybe I was a cop in a past life. Or a mobster. I made sure to sit facing the doors and sucked it up like a Big Girl. The waitress was wearing a black and white referee shirt in typical sports bar attire. At least now she can throw out the yellow flags for me. It will be all official like. This place is definitely not too fancy. It’s where the softball team comes for a pitcher of beer. Or 10. It’s where couples get a quick bite after being married for years. It’s also apparently the spot for Bar Crawler Karaoke on a Friday night but now I’m ahead of myself. We didn’t realize that until I was almost done my Bang Bang Shrimp Fish Tacos and the fluorescents were dimming down (oh yes, this place is sooooo getting sued by the chain Bonefish Grill).
Sports bars are havens for all foods fried, battered, cheesy, gooey and delicious. If I’m here, I’m embracing the moment. I suggest jalapeno poppers because I love foods that will both clog my arteries and clear my sinuses. It’s a win-win. Ginger Viking shakes his head. “I can’t even eat green peppers. Flares up by IBS.” That’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome folks. Tantalizing first date conversation. Next up we discuss his hernia mesh and the ensuing infection that made him so ill he lost his postal job and lay on the couch for two years. That’s when he tells me with all the fried food and beer he’ll make this his cheat day. Do Vikings have cheat days????
The Ginger Viking before me is slowly disappearing, fading into a sad potato sack with a mop of red string tying it up.
I will say he had a hearty, beautiful laugh. I love a good laugh. I was just a trifle concerned with the lag time between me spewing forth a joke and said laugh. I could actually see the moment cognition kicked in. There was a Yellow Flag time lapse.
I’m finishing up the fish tacos and ready to call it a night, thinking there’s still some Calgone in my future, when a lady with pink streaks in her hair starts setting up a laptop in the corner behind me. Since I faced the door ninja/FBI style I have to crane around, a yogi twist to the back, to see the Big Giant Screen TV fill up with “SIGN UP NOW!! BARCRAWLER KAROAKE STARTING AT 9!!” We settle up with our Ref (and P.S. I paid for my own meal. Let’s not have any more awkward look and look away moments).
As I sit there, rolling the bottle of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat back and forth on the table as digestion begins, the Ginger Viking says he hasn’t done karaoke since they had the big binders of songs to pick. Oh. I remember. I haven’t done karaoke since the shitty basement bar at the Travel Lodge back when I did the not so edited version of Khia’s My Neck, My Back. Back in 2002. These kids today think they’re oh so dirty with their Fetty Wap Radio. Like it’s new. I’m not feeling public songful myself but it’s obvious the Ginger Viking is considering. I am …… intrigued. I may not be pulling on any longship oars tonight but at least I might get some of those swimmable moments yet. At the very least, in people watching. The karaoke regulars have started to file in as I’ve been nursing the last of my beer and they are quite the eclectic bunch.
There’s a scroll across the bottom showing the line-up of performers so each can know how many songs are ahead of their shot at Sports Bar Stardom. I delight to see most have picked handles instead of their names. We really are in a cyber-world. I’m going to love this game. I immediately enlist the Ginger Viking into helping me match handles to patrons and guess what kind of song it’ll be. It’s harder to be spy inconspicuous sitting Center Stage but I have skills. There is no real stage. Where do they stand when they sing? I’m 90% certain T-Bone is the solo gentleman to my left, bopping his head to the Pandora station still playing, a 70’s pornstache engulfing his upper lip, working up and down as he munches on some pre-songbird spicy wings. Maybe it’s the Nascar jacket draped across the back of his chair, but I think he’ll definitely be doing a forlorn country ballad about a lost love and a broke down truck. I’d stake my next beer on it, the beer I’ll definitely be imbibing when my date jumps up to peruse his choices, because he already has the glint of a man on the edge of giving in. Oh, for the love! If the universe has any sense of order Flyboy22 will be belting out Danger Zone. Oh pretty please! Please Universe, do me a solid and make this tiny wish come true.
That bitch refuses me that small favor but she still does not disappoint. Turns out you sing right at whatever table you currently inhabit. Just grab the mic and stand up. T-Bone does indeed start with some country, a little Garth’s The Dance bobbing that ‘stache up and down with each warble. Flyboy22 goes with Springsteen’s Glory Days. Close. Same decade. Oddly, Flyboy22 actually looks to be about 22. I totally miss the mark on that one. A buffet of typical sing-along, fun karaoke songs flies around us. There are a few surprises. The pierced guy at the next table over does a Bowie tribute. The Ginger Viking’s name is scrolling on the list now. To my disappointment, it’s just his name and not NorseGod15 or anything similar. He hasn’t told me his choice of tune.
He takes the mic and I lean forward ……. And proceeds to belt out one of the most obscure, arcane, Emo songs I’ve ever heard. Lay on the tracks, grab the third rail, jump off a bridge and plummet Emo. His voice is relatively good. Clear. But I can’t look at him. This is slit your wrists music. My choices are to stare at my beer, while on display at Center Stage with the room staring at us, or turn back yogi twist style again to watch the bouncing lyrics on the Big Giant Screen TV. I choose lyrics.
As soon as he returns the mic he’s on his phone, searching for his next depressant ditty. I state my intention to head to the bar for that next beer but he waves me off, holding the phone to his ear so he can ‘listen to the melody to get it right’. Maybe I should order two.
I sidle up to the bar to buy myself another birthday drink to find a co-worker chatting up our Ref, who is now off the clock and looks to be about six shots in. I really want to give her a whistle and have her try to blow it now. I work at a place with thousands of employees and my interactions with this co-worker are limited to glancing blows, but we are on a first name basis and friendly. He seems to know everyone in the place. The Ref blearily begs him to show me pictures of the time he came in as Amy Winehouse and danced on the bar. I barely register the Ginger Viking is up with his next mascara laden, shotgun to the temple tune. I’m too busy talking about drag shows and learning about my co-worker’s drag persona Sissy Swallows. “Girl, it’s expensive to be a girl!” Oh honey, don’t I know it.
I sigh a heavy sigh and say I better get back to my date. Ms. Swallows offers me a rescue but I decline. “It’s an OK date”, I offer. It is the truth. It’s not awful. It’s not great, can’t wait to have another. There haven’t been any ginormous Red Flags waving. Just enough yellow ones to feather Big Bird.
Before I depart Ms. Swallows informs me to watch out for Ted. He’ll be in soon and it’s a show not to miss. Apparently he does the exact same song every Friday, lurching from table to table in the hopes one day he will be flashed. Ms. Swallows refers to it as ‘that titty song’.
I don’t have to wait long. From my vantage perch facing the doors I spot this Ted as he swings in. Ted is 60 plus a decade with the bulbous nose of a sad clown or a career alcoholic. I don’t see any red shoes so I’m betting on the latter.
The Ginger Viking informs me he signed up for one more and then we really need to go. He hadn’t realized how late it was and his newly blind cat is overdue for her medication. These are the things I can’t make up. I tell him we have to at least wait for Ted. Ms. Swallows says so. He relents as he sees Ted’s name scrolling two performers behind his. Birthday wish and all.
I try to chug through my beer as the Ginger Viking queues up his final swallow the whole pill bottle anthem. Something about riding the boulevard and pretending we’re in love. It sounds like they’re almost out of gas. I hope they have AAA.
The title of Ted’s song pops up. Show Them to Me by Rodney Carrington. I’m familiar with the country comedy song stylings of Ray Stevens a la The Streak but somehow I missed this one. I’m not sure which way to look, what I want to watch more. The lyrics to make sure I’m hearing correctly or Ted as he weaves table to table imploring the ladies to ‘Unclasp your bra and set those puppies free’. Oh, do Google if you have a moment. Here’s a taste:
Show them to me, show them to me
Lift up your shirt and let the whole world see
Just disrobe and show your globes and a happy man I’ll be
If you got two casabas
Show them to me
It’s the lyrics I’m pointed at when Ted croons ‘If you’re a big fat man I’m a titty fan/and I’d love to see yours tooooooo’ so I miss the moment Ginger Viking initially jumps up from the table. I turn back just in time to catch my date’s shirt pulled up and his freckled nipples laid bare directly at Ted’s bulbous nose. It’s exactly the kind of spontaneous, freewheeling behavior I love. We did both check we would rather have ‘interesting’ lives than ‘normal’ ones. It’s almost enough to take back a few yellow flags. Almost.
The song closes to rousing cheers, thanks partially to the Ginger Viking’s Girls Gone Wild moment. He shakes Ted’s hand in a manly grip. I hear Ted guffaw “I knew it would work one day!” This will be the swimmable moment I take with me. This is the salvageable treasure from the deep sea dating dive.
The Ginger Viking drops me at my drive, any American Psycho fear vanquished right around the time he started talking about his IBS. There is no lean in. No kiss good night. I thank him; point him back at the main strip to Hansel and Gretel his way home. He waits until I let myself in before he drives away, a nice gentlemanly gesture. I fire off a text to my safety check that I’m still fully clothed and tucked safely behind my engaged security alarm. It’s just before midnight. There’s still time for Calgone to take me away.
The next morning my phone whistles with a text incoming from the Ginger Viking. He claims the sleep deprivation from our pre-date texting session made his brain sluggish so he wasn’t able ‘to get a read on me’. Would I be amenable to a second date? As a believer in honesty as the best policy, because that is what I prefer over ghosting and lies, I tell him I got more of a friend vibe. We had already agreed pre-date neither of us was looking for new friends. Good luck Dear Ginger Viking.
We’ll always have Ted.