Wednesday, August 28, 2013


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.
"Um. Ok."
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.
I hadn't.
"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."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dawn Karaoke

Being turned away from the PGA Tour was not the end of the world. I had a kickin' resume and, as previously stated, I had the Lord on my side! No sabbath-day work for this girl!

With endless optimism, I started calling and emailing everyone in Jacksonville who is even slightly interested in television production. I had my name added to the Jacksonville Film Commission website. I called and emailed and applied to jobs at all the news stations. I signed up for and applied to film and media jobs all over Florida. I met with local media enthusiasts who were occasional contractors on media projects. I had a Skype interview with some media entrepreneurs in New York City. At one point, my mom heard on the news that a film crew was coming to Jacksonville so I looked up the production company's information on imdbPro and emailed them with my interest and my resume. I think I may have directly emailed Stephen Baldwin at one point.

The point is, I did EVERYTHING I could think of to try to gain employment in my field. I even went back to the PGA Tour and met with a different division in the media department to see if they needed any production coordinators or assistants. But the few responses I received didn't lead to me working for Oprah or Steven Spielberg. They led me to some bummed out soul searching. I was 23. Unemployed. Living with mom.

Wait, why was it a good choice to move back?

My lack of employment also led me to another revelation. I didn't have any friends in Jacksonville. At least none between the ages of 16 and 40 and/or didn't live in my house. Not that I necessarily needed non-relative, non-Warner-family friends. I kept my social life quite full by sunning myself in the backyard by day and watching The Bachelor with my mom by night.

But I needed peers. I needed someone who could relate to my quarter-life crisis. I was also hoping to have a few stereotypical young-and-single experiences like the ones I had seen in LMFAO music videos. Being at BYU hadn't afforded me many (any) of those. Don't get me wrong, I love BYU and had wonderful academic experiences. But in Provo, if I wanted to go dancing, it would take an inordinate amount of effort to find someone who had the motivation, time, and resources to go with me. It also required an hour-long drive to Salt Lake City. There are no clubs in Provo. There are no bars. There are no coffee shops. There are only 35 frozen yogurt shops and a 24/7 Denny's.

The exception is Halloween, the night I looked forward to all year. This was the night where everyone and their relief society president threw a costume dance party. I would dress up as something fun, but not dance-restrictive and hop from party to party all night, boogie-ing until my feet ached.

Then I would wait 364 days for it to come around again.

Now that I was back in Jacksonville, I was hoping to find someone who would help me live out some young and reckless fantasies. No, I didn't want to wake up vomiting marijuana into a top hat. I didn't want to try any alcohol, drugs or other harmful substances. But dang it, I wanted to DANCE. And sing karaoke. And go somewhere where you have to show ID to get in. I wanted a few sketchy friends who could provide my life with variety and stories about vomiting marijuana into top hats. The starchy, sterile, poverty of Provo had made me a little stir crazy and I wanted to get a taste of teenage rebellion. Or 23-year-old rebellion. Or something.

But no job and no friends led to a lot of sunning myself in the backyard by day and watching The Bachelor with my mom by night.

Until everything changed.

One night my mother and I were at a family restaurant for their karaoke night. Tess, a kind, Filipina lady from church had invited us and I was excited because, without sketchy friends, this would be the closest I could get to any kind of party life.

We showed up at Wing-It, ordered some appetizers and Tess and I put our names on the list for singing. After a preteen finished singing Love Story by Taylor Swift, I took the stage to sing Respect by Aretha Franklin. I enjoy singing this song for karaoke because it fits my range pretty well and it's fun to be the white girl rocking out to some Aretha. The audience seemed to enjoy it and the DJ even gave me his card in case I was ever interested in collaborating on some recordings.

I may not be anywhere close to winning American Idol, but karaoke suits my talents perfectly. People aren't looking to be judgmental; they're looking to see their friends make fools out of themselves. With the bar set low, I always feel like a celebrity when singing karaoke.

When I returned to my booth, my mom hugged me and told me I did great. Then, out of nowhere, a random girl appeared in our booth.
"You did a really great job!" She said.
"Thank you!" I responded, trying to match her enthusiasm.
"Hey are you looking for a job?"
I was dumbfounded. What an odd, strangely pertinent question. "Uh. Yeah."
She launched into her next question. "Have you heard of Harmonious Monks?"
A vague bell went off in the back of my mind. Hadn't I been there once for a tai kwon do banquet ten years ago or something?

Then she went into a spiel that went something like this:

"Well there's this place called Harmonious Monks and all the servers there are singers and they put on a show and it's great. My roommate works there. His name is Ethan and he's gay and a musician and he's so funny. You should come over and jam with us some time! He would just love you. Anyway, I know the owner of 'Monks' (that's what we call it!) so I could get you an audition. I'm sure the owner would hire you. Anyway, take my number! I'm gonna give you my number! And we can get together sometime and you could sing at Monks! That would be so cool."

To be polite, I pulled out my flip phone and added her to my contacts. Her name was Dawn and I didn't know her last name, so I added her as Dawn Karaoke. She complimented my singing once more and bounced back into the night from whence she came.

The rest of the night was fun and low-key. Tess sang some Faith Hill and my mom and I cheered in support. Then it was time to go home and go to bed. Afterall, it was past 9! No one of esteemed repute does anything after 9pm.

That night, after returning back home, I flipped open my phone and looked at Dawn Karaoke's number. Should I delete it? Who was this random girl? No, I did not want to work in a bar. I was a TV producer, not a waitress.

But my itch for adventure started to kick in. She's young, single and lives with a gay musician. She wanted me to come over and "jam" with them. This could be exactly the kind of social shake-up I was looking for. A nice, non-BYU social experience. Who knows? Maybe she would even know some good places to go dancing.

I opened a blank text message and addressed it to Dawn Karaoke. "Hey it's Asia from Wing It". I made sure to leave out some punctuation so that I would look appropriately laid back.

Then I hit send.

I didn't hear back from Dawn that night. As a matter of fact I didn't hear from her for a while. I shrugged it off and continued my life as usual. I was getting really tan and beginning to feel really unemployable. My impressive resume was starting to look like a list of fun things I did in college. Maybe I could be a waitress, I joked to myself.

Then, one Wednesday night I was watching Frasier re-runs in my mom's room. I was in my jammies, no make up, head-on-pillow, ready to pass out for the night. It was 11pm. Then suddenly I got a text from Dawn. "Hey I'm at Monks and the owner is here! You have to come right now so I can introduce you!"

What do I do? Do I put on some pants and go to a bar at 11pm on a Wednesday because a random stranger texted me and told me I should?

 I showed my mom the text. She shrugged. But it was an excited shrug that was less of an "I don't know" and more of an "Adventure could await you!".

Adventure won out.

I threw on some jeans and baggy sweatshirt and jumped in my car to go meet up with Dawn Karaoke and the mysterious owner of a bar called Harmonious Monks.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Adventures in Golf Employment (or lack thereof)

I was getting a little tired of titling my posts with Part III, IV, LXVIIXIVIXXXI (totally a real roman numeral...) because it was beginning to feel uncreative and lame. So this is a continuation of my "Last 1.5 Years" story, but with a more fun title. Woohoo!

So I was a tiny bit thinner and a whole lot more confident. I was ready to conquer my final interview with the PGA Tour and accept a full-time media position. I felt like hot stuff. Recession shmecession! I can get a job in any climate! Any state! Worthless degree who? Majoring in film is a slam dunk!

The job I was up for was the position of footage logger, which essentially means I would watch 8 hours of golf every day and then type up a frame-by-frame account of what happened. Why yes, it does sound like the most boring job ever. However, it paid money, offered benefits and when people asked where I worked I could say, "Oh you know.. PGA Tour. You may have heard of it. Or golfed before in your life." I certainly had not... and interviewing for a job that revolves around golf made me sweat in weird places.

You see, I know nothing about golf. I have played it zero times and the thought of watching someone play it makes me fall into a coma. All I know is that it's the one sport where points are bad. I have a hilarious joke on retainer for any time I'm playing Boggle and my opponent is losing. "Hey!" I say, "If this was golf, you'd be dominating!" Then I laugh like a comedy genius.Thinking about my interview, I was nervous that I would be asked many golf-related questions or, even worse, someone would try to have a friendly chat with me about a specific golfer. For example:

Friendly person: So did you see how Mansy Pansy Pie played last week?
Asia: Most definitely, good sir! Mr. Pansy Pie put on quite the display with his club and many-dimpled ball.
Friendly person: You are a sham.

As preparation for my interview, I researched "golf" on Wikipedia and realized just how complicated and over-my-head it really is. I looked up golf vocab words like "fairway" and "bogie" and tried to memorize who the good golfers were. I knew if I mentioned Tiger Woods they would know that I was a novice so I had to dig deeper. (Obviously I forgot them all immediately. Hence the Mansy Pansy Pie reference...)

Armed with a random smattering of golf information and a great attitude, I headed out to my interview.

The PGA Tour is mostly headquartered in a large complex called World Golf Village, full of fancy hotels and buildings sprawled over golf-course looking grass and shady areas. (Shady like lots-of-trees, not like you-might-get-murdered.) The funny thing about World Golf Village is that it was built when the economy was booming and it's obvious they planned for a lot of expansion. But when money got tight, plans to expand kind of withered, leaving a huge, beautiful complex in the middle of nowhere. Driving down International Golf Parkway, you'll pass way more tiny farms and pastures than you will Radissons. But I bet those farmers sure feel fancy telling people they live on International Golf Parkway.

I walked in and met my potential employer. I just remembered that his name was maybe Zach. He gave me a tour and introduced me to who my coworkers would be. They were mostly boys around my age. He showed we where my computer would be. It was basically a done deal!

After our tour, we went back to his office to discuss details. This is where my employment train derailed.

You see, golf is a game that people play on weekends, mostly. So people who work in the golf industry have to work a lot of Sundays. As part of my Mormon religion, I take the Sabbath day very seriously and try to never shop or work on Sundays. As maybe-Zach was asking me if I would be comfortable working weekends, I flashed him my biggest smile. "I would be happy to work every Saturday! But, unfortunately, because of religious commitments I've made, I can't work on Sundays." He looked very confused. "Everyone works on Sundays."

My employment confidence was shrinking quickly, but my spiritual confidence did not waver. "I'm sorry I can't." He nodded his head solemnly and said, "Well, that's a bummer."

And that was it. I didn't get the job. He was kind and courteous and showed me to the door. Part of me was disappointed, but another part of me felt amazing. I had just turned down an amazing opportunity because of my commitment to keeping God's commandments! I'm going to get so many blessings! I'll probably work for somewhere even better! Like Working Title Films or Oprah's new network! World, here I come! I've got the Lord on my side!

Literally... these were my thoughts. And while I definitely did have Heavenly Father on my side and I'm sure He was proud of me for sticking to my guns, the blessings He had in mind were much different than the blessings I had in mind.

Then somehow I ended up working in a bar.

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