Three short stories

Last night’s Kickass Karaoke

As I climbed up the stairs to the upper floor of the Rivoli, where the every-other-Sunday edition of Kickass Karaoke is held, one of the cute Sunday night bartenders had good news for me.

“Hey, Accordion Guy! Carson’s got some of his library back!”

A number of weeks ago, Carson’s library of karaoke discs, about CDN$1800 worth, was stolen. He’s been working with a small set of discs for the past little while, and since the “eighty-twenty rule” — the one that says eighty percent of the music used comes from twenty percent of the discs — applies here, the pickings have been pretty thin. However, last night was different: there were replacement discs, many of which contained songs we’d never seen in the library before.

“You’re finally doing Sk8r Boi tonight!” said Erik, as I sat down with accordion in one hand and a pint of Amsterdam Nut Brown in the other. I’d been announcing to anyone who’d listen that I’d been working on adding Avril Lavigne to the accordion repertoire. I want to hate her songs, as I’m too cool for them, but they’re just too damned catchy. Besides, even the lamest songs gain 33% more cool when reinterpreted for rock and roll accordion.

The rest of the night consisted of more songs I’d never done before at karaoke, such as Nine Inch Nails’ Head Like a Hole — the first time I’d ever seen it in karaoke form — Avril Lavigne’s other big single, Complicated and Afroman’s Because I Got High (which I’ve done only once).

During Head Like a Hole, Flyerman — another Accordion City local oddball who hands out flyers at concerts while wearing a snakeskin jacket rigged with halogen-bright chaser lights that run up and down the arms and sides and spell FLYERMAN on the back — did his best industrial rock aggro foot stomp on the dance area just in front of the makeshift stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I said, “Trent Reznor’s stunt double!”

“Accordion Guy and Flyerman in the same room,” exclaimed Meryle, “shouldn’t some kind of vortex be opening right about now?”

“We need to get Digeridoo Guy here and it’ll be perfect,” said Carson.

Accordion Guy, Flyerman, Digeridoo Guy. You’d think Toronto was full of second-tier superheroes, just like in Mystery Men.

Carson paused the karaoke activities to show the room the very short Kickass Karaoke promotional DVD he made, featuring highlights from several past karaoke nights, set to the background music of Head Like a Hole. It’s quite well done, features me in the accordion in several shots of one of its rapid-fire montages of stills and captures the anarchic punkish spirit of Kickass Karaoke perfectly.

One of the highlights of my evening was during another new-to-me number, They Might Be Giants’ cover of the old novelty tune Istanbul (Not Constantinople). Michael J, a regular who’d just come from an earlier jazz trumpeting gig (still wearing his dark suit and an undone bow tie) joined me, and we gave the audience a klezmeriffic improv solo that would’ve earned us a spot on They Might Be Giants’ touring band. Michael, we’ll have to do that again soon!

King of the World

I dropped by the Queen Street West branch of Your Good Health yesterday to buy a couple of protein bars and to visit my friend Char, who works there.

“Joey, I had the craziest dream about you last night,” she said. “I dreamt you ruled the world.”

“I like this dream already,” I replied. “Was I a benevolent ruler?”

“Ummm…well,” she said in a voice that wasn’t at all reassuring. “Nobody actually saw you, not even your friends. But there were portraits of you everywhere.”

Not good. The level of freedom in a nation seems to be inversely proportional to the number of portraits of its leader you see in public places.

Char continued. “You used your computer skills to control the weather. And somehow, you knew everything everyone was saying.”


“You used the weather to make sure everyone spoke in a cool way…or else. You made everyone speak some kind of hip hop jive, and when I slipped up and said something that wasn’t quite so funky, you sent this big cloud to rain on me.”

“That doesn’t sound like something I’d do.”

“I know! And in the dream, I was talking about that with Paul, and he said that once, when he accidentally used the word ‘dude’, you sent a tornado after him!”


“And then, we realized that he’d just said ‘dude’ again, so we started running for cover.”

This was all very amusing. I don’t think anyone’s ever told me of a dream where I was dangerous and menacing.

“I promise, Char,” I reassured her, “I would never send a cloud to rain on you unless you were on fire. Or perhaps declared an impromptu outdoor wet T-shirt contest.”

That’s what friends are for

My friend Meryle (rhymes with “hurl”), the cute poster child for ADD, had one of those moments of romantic disappointment at Kickass Karaoke on Wednesday and looked as though she could use some cheering up. As one might discern from some of her blog entries, Meryle is quite uninhibited, and one might even say “bonkers”; she’s pretty much like the character GIR from Invader Zim. If someone could be cheered up with a perfect and completely tastelessly inappropriate kind word, it is she.

I took her in one arm said said “Meryle baby, if Playboy [not safe for work — duh!] magazine ever puts out a ‘Women of ADD’ issue, I promise you, I will jack off only to your page.”

It worked. She laughed her head off and thanked me profusely.

Later that evening, while we were having post-karaoke pizza at Amato, she checked her messages and told me that she’d just received one from a guy she liked who obviously was entertaining some rather impure never-to-be-painted-by-Norman-Rockwell thoughts about her.

“It may be the month of May,” I said, “but for our Meryle, it’s Cocktoberfest!”

More laughter ensued.

That’s one overlooked fact of friendship: like jazz or rock, sometimes it’s all about playing the most tastelessly inappropriate note at precisely the right time.

[Be sure to check out Meryle’s take on that evening.]

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