Friday, August 08, 2003

The Karoke Professors

A group of people I instructed in a course invited me to a dinner. An innocent forenoon beer binge with random plates of food littered across the table. Like a parish hall disco from my youth, the lads are to one side and the lasses to the other. With myself, like a spectator at a ping-pong match stuck slap bang in the middle. I try my best to be enveloped by the women so as to chat pleasantly about the trivalities of love, death and marriage but over the course of the dinner the men get increasingly drunk and start to strain acorss the table to suck me into toasting and guzzling booze. They stand up like primary scholl students who want to go to the toilet as they clink and slurp. Quite soon the faces are red and their bositerous and cheeky side is unleashed.

The loudest and silliest student, who may also be the oldest, and by virtue, considered the funniest, is the first to get to the point.

“Do you know how to get to Karoke… (pause for effect) by hand?”
He bursts into laughter to such an extent that you’d think the whole restaurant was laughing. As his own biggest fan he chuckles away for a minute or two. The women smile politely and nibble on. Their untouched drinks curdling. I sit expressionless. I think about cracking a reposte: Does that mean you cartwheel to Karoke? But the joke, like all plastic things at sea, would be lost . I sigh and eat on.

Then one man beside me reaches for my arm, pulls me closer and whispers to my ear. “If you like Karoke, you should let me invite you, I am … something of an expert.”

I look at him. He’s a nerdish sort of fellow. Not the type you can imagine in a sleasy embrace in a red-lit leather-couched back room. I think about the grammar, ‘you should let me invite you.’ I stare into space. There I picture a hoard of spotty undergraduates following tutors and professors into seedy Karoke bars over bridges away from the heart of the city.
"Rule 1! Don't be ridiculously obvious!"
Then after two hours of field study they return to the libraries and lift wieghty tomes from high shelves and study the birth of Karoke. Learn how the Japanese invented it. How it means 'Empty Orchestra' in Nipon. They'll learn by heart diagrams, theories and formulas. They'll study how to sing, guzzle beer, cradle a lady and peel oranges simultaleously. The High Art of Karoke is a dextrous affair. Then after three years of intense study they'll sit the examinations which will include a practical assessment by the experienced madames themselves, where theory is put into practice. They'll be assessed on fluency, rhythm, tone and duartion. Most pass with flying coulours. On graduation day the Professors will apllaud and make grand speeches about how the graduates were once boys and now they are men, and how they are ready to enter the world and take their places in Karoke booths all across the nation. They'll cheer in unison. Mortarboard hats will be tossed in the air. And then like a swarm of busy bees in summer one and all shall start cartwheeling off to the North, East, South and West in search of the nearest place to sing and snuggle.

All of these thoughts flash past my mind when I rememeber where I am. The nerdish fellow is still daydreaming, perhaps reminiscing on a particularly fine piece of singing and fondling from his youth. A performance worthy of adulation. An a+ routine where his professor nodded in appreciation and a madame breathed deeply, her heart a flutter, flushed with surprise at his powerful presence. Like Pavarotti with a hard-on stuck in a tin box, he literally burst into song.

“Yes” He continues proudly, pushing his glasses up his nose, repeating for emphasis. “Something of an expert”
"I hadn’t realised it was a field of study," I tell him as if embarssed by my amateurism. "Tell me, how much study goes into this sort of thing?"
“Oh I’ve studied for a long time”
“And your wife, does she like to sing?”
“Oh no”, He says suddenly very seriously, taking the dig in the ribs to be an honest change of subject. “She’s too busy looking after our children”
“Yes,” He finally adds before getting stuck into a fresh beer, “We are very concerned about our childrens future”

I lean back and silently raise my glass and toast.

God speed future. You can't come too soon.

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