Todd and I had been discussing the trip for months, as each of our demeanors and passions speak to our outlandish personalities. He was, and still is in his soul, a front man for a rock band. I’m pursuing a career in entertainment to fulfill my needs for attention and the spiritual currency called laughter. The two of us together would forever scar the town of Cheney. To quote Brian, it was officially “on like Donkey Kong”.
Never one to second-guess an authority figure, which Todd is (ask him, he’ll tell ya), Brian and I immediately hopped in the truck and ventured left towards the Seahawks training facility. Arriving a bit early gave us a chance to banter and annoy a few individuals, one of which was a suburban housewife-looking woman who was supposedly meeting an ex-Raiderette there at the concession area. That at least allowed some tried and true laughs at the Raider Nation. Most of the punch lines involved a trailer, a 1976 Monte Carlo, mayonnaise, or the rock group Poison. The only thing that kept me from meeting the horror that is a 1982 Raiderette, was Todd and Doug’s (dfarrar777, a/k/a/ Editor in Chief) cool strut to the field.
From outward appearances, Todd’s about as much of a Glam Rock lead man as I am a spiritual advisor to Billy Graham. He wore standard issue Issaquah garb: denim shorts, tucked-in tight-patterned plaid, short-sleeved shirt, topped with a ball cap advertising his baby, the thing that made Doug, Hawkstorian, and himself millions of dollars; Seahawks.net.
Doug’s outward appearance is inviting and confrontational at the same time. He wore a hat, tightly low on the brow shielding his expressions. When his expression was visible, it could alarm with its salty scorn. Then, a moment later, it could ease you with a one-liner or amusing anecdote. He’s one of the unique that’s reserved and outgoing all in one.
After a few necessary moments of small talk, dull zingers, and brief recap of the morning, we shoved off to find a good spot to watch the afternoon practice finally settling on the west side of the practice field, in the exact spot where I watched the morning practice.
The practice itself showed me nothing of note, on top of what I already reported. What is of importance was Doug’s groans of euphoric pleasure while soaking it all in. And Todd and I slipping down a steep hill, while attempting to gain better views. Each time we slipped, our facial expressions reverted to those of adolescent embarrassment, recovering from the gaff with a concealing chuckle. It was right about my slip that Todd proclaimed, “I’m parched, let’s go get a drink”. So off we went to Goofy’s, per my direction.
As we entered, Doug and Todd were as taken with Goofy’s as I was originally. It was just too hip of a place to be in Cheney. We partook in many beverages and a few matches of doubles pool. Of course, Brian and I let dot-nets’ dynamic duo win most of the games.
As the drinks began to set in, so did confusion. The first evidence of perplexed inebriation was Todd’s inability to master an internet ready jukebox. Odd when you consider Todd’s a rock star at night but a web-designing guru during the day. I fell victim to the many Heinekens as well, and was unable to decipher the ambiguous bathroom signage, signaling “men’s” or “women’s”. After finally having it explained to me, I had an epiphany. If I ever own a bar or pub someday, I’ll differentiate the gender of the restrooms with a picture of Elton John and Freddie Mercury.
Shortly after that revelation, all of us were blessed by the presence of John. As was the theme of the weekend, John came to the corner nook and sat directly at my side. While we’re the furthest apart lifestyle-wise, our personalities and senses of humor are eerily similar and compatible. The only difference being that I know football; John doesn’t.
Per the direction of the crew, I was to give Mark some friendly ribbing when he arrived on the scene. At that point, I had met him only briefly, so I really didn’t have much to go on. All I knew is that he had earned some retaliatory barbs from me, since he’d called me a “Backstreet Boy”.
Once he arrived, it took my olfactory senses all of two seconds to pinpoint my area of attack. Mark had more cologne on his body than a French Men’s Choir. It was as if he’d reverted to his animalistic roots and was presenting to all of us. After a few seconds of me speaking to his offensive odor, Marc, Tabs, and John headed across the street to Eagles Pub, aka. “Showies”. A beer after that, the rest of us sauntered across the sleepy, mid-afternoon traffic to join the rest of the crew.
The Eagles Pub is more a warehouse than a local haunt. Tucked in one corner is a full service bar, adorned with stained wood on the walls and a handful of bar stools. Out side of that, there were a few tables and chairs, pinball machines, a pool table, a ping-pong table, and a small gathering of video games. The rest was lazily vacant, something foreign to any resident of a larger city. Space is one thing that never goes to waste in a metropolis.
For the next few hours, we drank spirits while filling ourselves with shoddy pizza. There were many laughs, shots at each other, and discussions of the NFL, including our Seattle Seahawks. I wish I could recount the specifics, but my intake of alcohol made those few hours at Eagles a blur. The single, gatherable moment of clarity was John’s new nickname, “Sausage and Peppers”, a badge he oddly grabbed a hold of, never releasing it from his full-grown, yet childish grasp.
Tavern, club, or bar gatherings ebb and flow, peak and valley, similar to the ride a hallucinogen gives. It was during one of the lulls that we noticed the time and realized our destiny; karaoke was within an hour. Quickly, we breezed through the entrance, turned left, and traveled a few blocks to arrive at Willow Springs Station, host of karaoke night. None of us would ever be the same.
From the street, Willow Springs Station looked to be a quaint, fiscally inadequate, drunken trucker and family establishment, serving meatloaf and other comfort foods. Entering through the doors, you would assume the owners intended to mimic the “down home” atmosphere of Mitzels, only to shrug and abandon the idea half-way in. The true horror, however, was behind the restaurant, our home for the next five hours; the lounge.
When we stepped into the lounge, I was immediately taken by its size. It’s inconceivable that any 14 people could drink at the same time, let alone host a karaoke night within it. The stage size resembled a small fishing boat turned upside-down. The dance floor and the bar seemingly merged into one. And there were obstructing pillars and poor table placement everywhere. The décor looked pleasantly inviting on first glance: a mosaic of random, retro sports and beer memorabilia. Upon further analysis, however, you realize that the ensemble is due to attrition and laziness, rather than an attempt to be fashionably retro.
All of us staked claim to the booth and table closest to the stage, with a side to the wall, to insure everyone was within our view. After ordering some drinks, we immediately turned our attention to the karaoke book, and what wonders it held inside. A few of the guys had mentioned that being a dot.net Cheney rookie, I would be forced to karaoke an embarrassing track of their choosing. What they failed to account for was, whatever it is that forces humans to become embarrassed, ashamed, or prideful had been erased from my persona. With that, I turned in my own card, with a smattering of selections.
Fittingly, I was the first one up from the handful of us taking over the bar with our drunken laughter and speak. The first thing I noticed about the crowd, was that there wasn’t any true type of person dominating the room. It wasn’t a trucker, biker, college, sports, or even a stripper bar/club. It was a smattering of individuals that for one reason or another were forced to live in Cheney or visit for the Hawks. The eclectic nature of the audience told me one thing; it was going to be easy to get their attention.
As I took the stage, I reverted to body language of a nine-year old boy, forced to only his underwear, in front of his schoolmates. I insured all who didn’t know me, knew I was embarrassed, bashful, and timid. As the music started, a smattering of laughs and confused murmurs began encircling the room. Sticking with my shtick, I told them to “settle down”, informed them “I was scared”, and reminded them to “laugh with me not at me, I’m insecure”. Then, the lyrics began and I confidently shrieked out, in an effeminate voice “sitting hear eating my heart out baby….waiting for my lover to call…..”. Ryan’s rendition of Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” had officially begun.
I purposely sang the song with enthusiasm and confidence, making eye contact with all I could, to insure everyone in the room either laughed or cringed. I shimmied my shoulders and walked the floor to further raise the energy. During the musical breaks, I would immediately grab a hold of the essence I began with, an embarrassed adolescent. To me, this is the only way to kick off any karaoke night. Make a fool of yourself, get people laughing, and let me be the most embarrassing moment. That loosens everyone up and offers me the attention I consistently require.
After that, there were many other renditions of other songs by your dot.net favorites. Todd and Doug each stuck to their “butt rocker” roots by belting out many favorites, the only one of which I recall is Queensryche. The sickening thing about both of them is they did it well, too well for the establishment. Our full-grown child prodigy, ‘Storian, did a stunning rendition from the “King of Crap”, Billy Joel’s catalogue. Mark performed a couple of songs, but peaked with an outstanding version of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy”…altering the lyrics to accommodate Cheney and our beloved Hawks. Johnny Mac, (aka. Hawkboi) proved he was a professional by nailing a couple of tunes, which is all I can recall due my inebriation. His son, who looked eerily like my friend Brian’s dad or twin born 15 years before him, sang some standard fare country songs, again being a bit too good vocally for my liking.
I did one last song, at least solo, using my same hack act to pay tribute to Axl Rose. “Welcome to the Jungle” maybe the greatest song to karaoke to, ever, and I treated it as such. I Snaked a swerve with the mic to pay homage, as I cried out “j-j-j-j-jung a knees, knees, ooo ahh, I want to watch you bleed”.
As I do in most settings, I took to randomly walking the room finding victims to unease with my commentary. I bounced from booth to booth, bar stool to tables, and the front and back smoking areas. Each time I came up with a new story of what was ailing me, eventually ending up in a teary-eyed face, laying fetal with my hands over ears. Sometimes the root cause was wearing women’s and lying under the bed, my inadequacies as a man, or the yearning of a farm in Enumclaw. All of which, quickly endeared me to most and again gave me the spotlight.
That’s how the night flowed for me working the room, then returning to home base, our booth. Each time I visited with anyone, there was a new drink in my hand, a new party to explain to my fellow dot.netters, and further discussions of one last duet to be performed. Without my input, Todd had turned in a card with both our names on it.
By the time our names were called, the bar was near closing and John was about to do his Rainman “uh oh, four minutes till Wapner” routine over the lateness of the evening. Once up, I realized that Todd had picked out “Ebony and Ivory”, a song which would be a sure fire bomb given neither of us were African-American (not even where it counts), each of us were more intoxicated than Kitty Dukakis, and I only knew the song, not the words. That thud of a performance set back music and racial relations at least 40 years. As I type this, Reverend Al Sharpton’s on the scene, trying to interpret what went wrong.
By closing time, I had all but lost contact with my partner for the weekend, Brian. Like myself, he had chosen to randomly peruse patrons and groups. Unlike myself, he had no desire to karaoke, so frequent visits to home base, to plan the next song or discuss the previous, were unnecessary. So, his whereabouts were lost on me many times.
With that, I solitarily, drunkenly rambled towards my hotel, conveniently nuzzled behind the lounge. Within 10-12 feet of the exit, I heard an unfamiliar voice call to me “Ryan, come on, get in, you’re coming with us”. It was a “whip” with a couple of familiar young college faces I’d seen in the bar, a young married couple, and, finally, a toxically slouched Brian. The girl who requested my accompaniment was an authority figure due her young frame, pretty face, and co-ed classification. Never the one to question authority, I hopped in the Four Runner-esque, vehicle and headed to a destination unknown.
We arrived at an apartment, which looked typical of any other, located in a small-town college setting. The carpet was gray, spotted and discolored due to smeared and ground dirt. The furniture looked as if it’d been with the apartment for 20 something years, used by whomever the inhabitants were. The ambiance spoke to the current and prior residents’ lifestyle: drinking, eating, sleeping, studying, and drinking.
What’s retrievable, given my drunkenness at the time, isn’t much. I remember that all of the girls present were extremely eager to embrace anyone from out of town. Even the feminine half of the married couple was making me uncomfortable with her consistent flirting, touching, and teasing. My uneasiness wasn’t necessarily due to my marital status, more to the fact that her husband and I had been discussing varying grades of cocaine. And, during that conversation, he confided in me that he’d recently spent a couple of years in the penitentiary for distribution of said substance. While his pretty boy exterior made the validity of this story questionable, it was too risky to disavow altogether. One thing I’ve learned the hard way over the years: if they’ve been in the “pen”, they can fight and are imbalanced…even more so than myself.
Couple the fact that a recently released ex-con’s wife was smearing her body all over me with the random and unannounced appearance of a cowboy; wearing wranglers, hat, boots, everything and the gathering was becoming too dangerous for me to stay. If the convict didn’t shank me with an altered toothbrush, the Neanderthal in rodeo gear would have surely disapproved of the inevitable crack I’d have blurted regarding his clothes or lifestyle. It wouldn’t have been wise to attend the next day’s barbeque or scrimmage with a black eye, regardless of the “street cred” it would garner me. For a rare time in my life, I made the right choice, going to bed. I walked the eight blocks home. Finally I landed face-first in my pillow, as my uncle had forced me many times before, only this time I remained fully clothed.
I was unsure of the exact time Brian arrived back, but judging by the blinding sunlight that hit my face when the room door opened, it was close to breakfast time. We eventually awoke around 11:30 AM,each adorned with a look of confused intoxication. After some re-creation and laughs of the prior night’s events, we showered and headed up to the Fanfest in hopes of meeting up with the rest of the dot.netters.
Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of "Weekend at Cheney's"!