It was about 11:20ish when I pulled into the parking lot at Harmonious Monks. There weren't many other cars, so I got a pretty good spot.
As I walked toward the front doors and the glow of the neon lights, I couldn't help but feel a bit excited. I had never been to a bar at 11:20ish. I didn't really know any of the people inside. And I definitely didn't know where this would lead me. I was hoping it would lead to exciting friends who would take me to fun dance clubs and teach me how to twerk.
When I walked in, the place seemed mostly empty. The lights were low (I later came to know that the lighting standard was, "If you can read a newspaper in here, the lights are too bright."). The tables and chairs were tidily placed in rows. Sitting at a few of these tables and the surrounding booths, there were about 10 patrons. They mostly sipped on beers and watched a man with a curly mullet sing some Bret Michaels karaoke. I don't mean to say this with derision. He wasn't doing it to make a fool of himself and his friends and supporters were not laughing. He genuinely loved "Every Rose Has Its Thorns".
The bar was manned by a single bartender: a tall, fit blonde with a collection of tattoos on her shoulder and back. Leaning against the bar on one elbow was a tall man wearing a blazer and sporting the second curly mullet I'd seen in as many minutes. He looked around, surveying the place in a supervisory way. Next to him was Dawn Karaoke.
She waved at me excitedly and motioned for me to come up to the bar. I nodded and made my way over to them.
Dawn had her hands and arms in full presentation-mode as she introduced me to the tall man in the blazer. "Dennis, this Asia. The one I told you about. She sang karaoke at Wing-It."
"Very nice to meet you." He shook my hand.
"He's the owner." Dawn explained with an emphatic nod.
Dennis was very charismatic and professional. He asked me if I'd come to audition. Audition? I guess I had, though I hadn't really thought this far ahead.
"Yes sir." I responded.
"What can you sing?" He asked.
Hmm... tough question. I really should have come prepared with some kind of repertoire. Since I had just been "discovered" singing Respect, I responded, "I really like singing soul music like Aretha Franklin."
"Meh," he responded, "The people who come into this bar aren't really interested in Aretha Franklin. Do you know any rock?"
What? Rock? Like... rock and roll? My brain went totally blank. "Umm. I can sing Joan Jett."
Did I really know any Joan Jett songs? She was the only female rocker I could think of.
"But Joan Jett only sings 4 notes," He said.
We both thought for a moment. Or rather, he thought while I counted how many different notes were in Bad Reputation. There aren't many.
"Can you sing Alanis Morrissette or something?" He asked.
One song flashed into my mind. It was a song my high school friends and I used to blast in the car on the way to Barnes and Noble.
"I can sing You Oughtta Know."
"Yeah. Go do that." He said.
Dawn gave me a big thumbs up.
I made my way past the patrons toward the DJ. He had long, rock-and-roll hair and a kind face. I told him what song I wanted to sing.
"Alanis. Excellent. Ok, take a seat. I'll call you up in a bit."
I went back up to the bar and sat by Dawn. The tall, fit bartender came over and asked if she could get me anything. I responded with a shy, "No, thanks."
Before too long, my name was called. It was time to sing. I took a deep breath and headed for the stage. I stepped up, took the mic and waited for the music to begin.
It was then that I remembered that Alanis Morrissette's You Oughtta Know has some interesting karaoke difficulties. To start, the song begins with drums and Alanis's voice. This means there is no cue for what key or what note on which to begin the song. Second, this particular song contains an unflattering word about 3/4 the way through. This was not a word I was accustomed to saying and I hadn't had time to think of a good replacement.
These were the thoughts racing through my mind as I looked out over my tiny crowd. Dawn gave me another thumbs up. Dennis waited patiently for the song to load. Or maybe he was judging the way I was dressed. "Did she just roll out of bed?" He may have been thinking to himself.
Luckily, problem 1 was averted - the karaoke track began with playing my opening note. Whew. The track started to play. The sound of soft drumming filled the room. I put on my best performing face and began to sing.
"I want you to know... that I'm happy for you..."
[Insert dramatic sequence as I sing. Think Xtina in Burlesque.]
I tried to sing with expression and angst, channeling my best man-hater. I wasn't able to think of a good word substitution for the impending expletive so it was replaced instead with a big awkward blank space, but other than that I felt good about my performance.
I finished and smiled at my tiny crowd as they applauded me. I walked back up to the bar where Dawn gave me a big hug. I looked at Dennis. Dennis looked back at me for a moment.
"Let's go sit over here and talk." He gestured toward a booth against the wall.
We had barely sat down when Dennis said, "I'm going to hire you."
My heart jumped into my throat. What? Hire me? My head was spinning. Was this my plan? I just came for sketchy friends and dance moves. Getting hired to work in a bar felt like flying past my mark and landing in a scary unknown.
But what was I expecting? I had just auditioned for the owner of a bar.
I let out a nervous giggle and said something like, "Really? Wow. Ok."
"Have you ever been here on a weekend?" He asked.
"Well we put on a big show with a live band where all the servers get up and sing different songs. We've recently added pyrotechnics. It's pretty cool."
I looked around at the sleepy patrons, now listening to an older man whistle into the microphone. Dennis, sensing my disbelief, added, "Yeah. This place transforms into something totally different on weekends."
He started explaining pay (I could expect around $4/hour plus tips) and other information while I was still processing what was happening. OK, so I could be a server/singer. I had never worked in a restaurant before. I knew next to nothing about alcohol. There were dozens of reasons this was a terrible idea. My college degree was on fire somewhere in the back of my mind. I snapped out of my introspection in time to hear about the uniform.
"You'll have to wear a tanktop with black pants or shorts. The tank top can be any color." He explained.
Uh oh. Not ok. "Umm. Can I wear a shirt with sleeves?"
"Well, everyone wears tank tops."
"I don't wear tank tops. I'll have to wear something with sleeves." I was already turning into a diva performer with demands.
Dennis looked at me, trying to figure out if I was serious. Then, with a kind smile he gestured toward my t-shirt (I had since removed my hoodie). It was a plain white v-neck from target. Every girl in America owns this shirt in 30 different colors.
"Can you get a few t-shirts just like that one, only black?"
I smiled, "Yeah. Definitely."
"That'll be fine."
I then realized I hadn't asked a crucial question. The very question that had kept me from gaining employment with the PGA.
"Would I have to work Sundays?"
Dennis smiled again. I think he found some kind of tender humor in how naive and, perhaps, religious I was turning out to be.
"We're closed on Sundays."
I smiled. He looked at me quizzically, perhaps sensing my inner battle. "I'll give you two weeks to panic and bail." He tapped the table in a conclusive sort of way and got up to go tend to some owner-ly duties.
I sat in the booth, exhilarated and terrified, some very Mormon thoughts flying through my brain. Could I work in a bar without being tempted to drink? Would I have to fight off inappropriate advances from drunk men? Was it potentially dangerous? Dennis was starting to walk away. In a quick moment of desperation I got his attention.
"Hey Dennis?" I said.
He looked back.
"I'm Mormon. Is there going to be any problem with that?"
"Why would there be any problem with that?"
"I don't know. I just wanted to get that out of the way. Just so you know."
He smiled again, laughing to himself about the strange homeless-looking Mormon singer he had just hired to work in his bar.
Dawn rushed over to get the update. "I got a job." I said. She cheered and gave me another hug.
I repeated to myself, "I got a job."