Wayne’s World: The Bathrooms are alive with the Sound of Music

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By Wayne Chan

by Wayne Chan, AsAmNews Humorist

I have decided to be a brain surgeon.

I have no relevant experience or formal training as a brain surgeon, but I do have some time on my hands and thought it might be challenging and fun. I’ll probably kick off my new role as a brain surgeon this weekend with something manageable – nothing too demanding.

Wait a minute. Did I say I wanted to be a “Brain Surgeon?” I’m sorry… that’s just silly. What I meant to say was “Karaoke Singer.” There’s not really that much in common between the two. First off, karaoke singers don’t usually hold people’s lives in the palm of their hands. Hearing? Possibly. But lives? Probably not.

For those who don’t know, karaoke (pronounced “Carry-Okey” in the West) is a popular phenomenon that began in Japan where patrons take turns singing lyrics to pre-recorded music.

I have participated in karaoke both here and in Asia. While the experience in the U.S. is fairly straightforward, out in Asia it is much more elaborate. For those of you who might have an opportunity to karaoke in Asia, I thought I might provide the following observations as a primer.

Karaoke clubs are often located in posh hotels throughout Asia. Once you enter the lobby of a club, you are greeted by a hostess dressed in formal attire who will escort you to a private and elegantly decorated Karaoke room. You are somewhat surprised by all the pomp and circumstance sur- rounding an activity that is typically reserved for your daily shower.

You and your friends enter a small room lined with an “L” shaped sofa
on one end facing a large screen on the other. The more exclusive rooms also include an adjoining restroom in case nature calls or can be used as a makeshift “quiet room” for those who would rather miss the least talented member of the group straining to hit the high notes of “New York, New York” (“ These little town blues are melting awaaaaay!”).

Once seated on the sofa, a waiter will take drink and snack orders. While the karaoke room charges are very reasonable, you suspect that the club makes up the difference in what they charge for food and drinks. Either that, or there must be a worldwide potato and barley shortage forcing the club to charge eighteen dollars for a bag of potato chips and a beer.

The next order of business is to select songs for everyone to sing. Seeing as how this is a Chinese karaoke club, most of the songs are in Chinese, but a good number of them are from the west as well.

As far as I can tell, all Chinese karaoke songs are about love. There are songs about being in love, falling in love, falling out of love, looking for love, finding love, songs by singer Courtney Love, tennis matches with a score of 15-love, words that start with “L” that rhyme with “dove”…you definitely start to see a pattern.

As for me, I never have to worry about selecting a song. Like it or not, in the course of the evening I will inevitably end up singing the Righteous Brother’s “Unchained Melody.” For some reason, if you are from America and have been invited to a karaoke party in Asia, you are required to sing that song. I believe you have to agree to it before they’ll issue you a visa.

On top of that, the person operating the karaoke machine always raises the pitch of the song, so the only way I can reach the high notes is if I’m wearing some really tight pants. By the time I reach the climax of the song and reach that last high note, no one can hear me except for any stray dogs or dolphins that happen to be nearby.

Although the written word can hardly do it justice, I thought I’d give you a sampling of my performance of that final verse:

“ I-aye-aye-aye NEED your love!!!”
“I-aye-aye-aye-aye need your luh-huv,”
“God speed your love, to-who-who-who-ooh, me-HEE-HEE-EEE!!!”

The bathroom really gets hoppin’ when I get to that part.

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Writing, by it’s very nature, is a process bound in isolation. Any writer, whether they are writing the next great American novel, or in my case, trying to describe in vivid detail the experience of being walked on by a heavy set masseuse, creates their work alone. A writer writes alone, usually in a quiet room, away from any potential distractions. Yet, it’s what happens outside that room that ends up being the subject of most of my writing. For example, a few days ago, I fell down a long spiral staircase. It took me so long to fall down these stairs that I actually had time to think about things on the way down. How long is this going to take? Why do I keep wearing socks when I know how slippery these stairs are? I wonder if my kids are watching me falling down these stairs? How can I only be halfway down these stairs? After I’m done falling, should I immediately scream or should I quickly take my socks off so my wife can’t tell me how many times she’s told me that I shouldn’t wear socks when I’m on the stairs? How much longer is this going to take? These are the types of topics that I write about in my syndicated column. And yet, since I’m rarely present when someone is reading my column to get their feedback, I sometimes make an effort to make sure that people are still interested in what I’m thinking when I’m falling down a set of stairs. A few years ago I started attending some writer’s conferences to see what other people were writing. This conference happened to be the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop held every other year in Dayton, Ohio. One of the workshops was called something like, “How a Writer Finds Their Voice”. My understanding is that a writer’s voice is the perspective of a writer as well as their individual writing style. Finding your “voice” is essential for any writer. Even after I started writing my column, I have wondered whether the perspective of an Asian American writer, particularly one that was writing about, let’s face it - drivel, was a good “voice” for a writer. As I sat down for the “Voices” workshop, I noticed that of the 200 or so writers in the room, I was the only Asian in the room. Not only that, I was the only non-white person in the room. Towards the end of the presentation describing several helpful exercises to help writers find their “voice”, there was a question and answer period. After a few others took their turn, I raised my hand. Hi. My name is Wayne Chan. I write a syndicated humor column, and I write from an Asian American perspective and tend to write fluff pieces about eating “Sushi on a stick” at the county fair or how I once used hand signals to communicate to my dentist of what to do to me since he didn’t understand English or Chinese. Do you think my “voice” is one that people will want to hear? After a brief pause, the presenter said, “Look around you Wayne. Everyone here is looking for their voice. You have one sitting in your lap. Go for it.” I’ve been following his advice ever since. I hope you enjoy my fun. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it. Excuse me, but I need to go downstairs to get something. Wish me luck.

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