On Monday night, I had some time to kill in Montebello, California. Despite its numerous taco joints, I opted to hang out at a strip mall coffee shop with free Wi-Fi called The Daily Brew.
I swung open The Daily Brew’s heavy glass door and was instantly mauled by a shaky voice. I looked to my right, and a portly man in a Hawaiian print shirt was rocking the mic like a champ. Jesus! What did I just walk into? A printed flyer on the wall confirmed my suspicions: Karaoke every Monday night from 7 – 9 pm.
As I scanned the crowd, I realized old people were everywhere. I half-expected someone to greet me with, “Take out your teeth. Stay awhile.” The table in the middle of the shop was marked, “Reserved.” Apparently, this was the place to be on Monday nights for the dentures and Depends crowd. All it needed was saggy-chested servers in fitted black shirts and fishnets bringing Magnums of Moët to the tables. The faint smell of minty arthritic cream filled the room. It was completely obvious that I was the only person there who wasn’t alive during the Korean War.
I figured I’d only be there an hour. So, I approached the counter, ordered a Café Americano and reclined with my laptop in a comfy leather chair in the corner. After several unsuccessful attempts to log on to The Daily Brew’s Wi-Fi, I decided to kick back and enjoy the show.
Most of the patrons were Hispanic and performing songs in Spanish. Pat, the karaoke hostess, kept smiling at me, as if she was tickled that someone under the age of 60 was there. A sassy senior in a hot pink shirt moseyed by and told me she liked my boots.
As I sipped my coffee, a smiley white-haired woman in mint green sang a Mexican waltz passionately, while making grandiose hand gestures and leaning to the left. I think she was singing about sex. Or a huge burrito. Regardless, the hombres were shouting, “Ay-yi-yi!” approvingly.
“Getting better, Ruby,” her friend declared, as she high-fived Ruby on the way back to her chair.
Next up was a little man who belted a ballad with such intensity, it surely made granny panties drop. Afterward, a tall, older redhead sang The Beatles’ Do You Want to Know a Secret? She worked the crowd so well, it was like she’d been getting folks to ‘throw your hands in the motherfuckin’ air’ way before Snoop.
I recorded my observances, then, glanced up at Pat, who was looking right at me: “Do you want to sing a song?”
Before I could reply, the crowd chimed in. “Yeah, you should sing something!” They were ganging up on me like Night of the Living (Almost) Dead.
I hesitated at first, but then decided that I didn’t want to be rude. I picked a song I figured they would know, Coal Miner’s Daughter. As I stood before these old timers, I felt like a piece of meat—something they could have probably chewed when they had all of their teeth. I was actually a little nervous. I had never sung without a sufficient amount of booze in me. But they tapped their orthopedic shoes happily to the twang of Loretta Lynn. When I was finished, the whole room applauded. It felt like I just made 25 brand-new really old friends.
I escaped to my seat, and Pat followed up with Patsy Cline. After she finished, she tore into a cheese sandwich. In between bites, she called up Freddie. A man in black pants and a black shirt with embroidered roses on it, who looked eerily like an older Danny McBride, sauntered to the front. Before his song, he announced, “The Kings won!” and everyone cheered. I think it would have been more Kenny Powers-esque, though, if he had said, “The Kings fucking won! Devils, you can suck my dick.”
Now, it was time for the woman in front of me, who had been scouring the karaoke songbook for the past hour, to take the stage. And boy, was she worth the wait! In smoky voice, she sang, ‘Hey baby! Meet me with your black drawers on.’ It was clear that *someone* had no plans of going home alone that night.
When she was done, I discovered that it was time for me to leave. As I gathered my things, a lady with periwinkle-colored hair rose from her seat to sing.
On my way to the door, an older woman stopped me: “You did a real good job on that Loretta Lynn song.”
“Thank you.” What a sweet woman!
I bid farewell to Pat, and she gave me her June 2012 calendar, which informed me that, besides karaoke, she does balloons and gifts. She’s also available for parties and events.
As I headed out finally, I heard Pat call behind me: “I’m here every Monday. Come back soon!”