Japanese kids try to put their fingers up each other's rear ends. It's a game called "kancho!" You interlace your fingers except for the indexes and you leave your thumb out as if it's the hammer of a pistol. When you lock on to your target, you squirrel your pointers up there and yell, "Kancho!"
It's quite a shock to American English teachers who move there, and there's a lot of discussion about it on the Web. I've been reading up on this and forwarding funny kancho stories along to my friends.
So, by the time we'd gotten to Scolari's Office on Wednesday night, we were primed for a night of stupidity.
I was told to check out Scolari's on Wednesdays by Lyz, a hairdresser at the Electric Chair. She said it was hilarious because most of the people in there karaokeing are hairstylists. I wanted to see this for myself, so I called up my friend Ron. He's a stylist who lives on 30th street, a few blocks down from Scolari's.
When I got to Ron's place, I kanchoed him good and noticed he was wearing a tux jacket. "It's the only jacket that'll go with this outfit." In honor of kancho and karaoke, he was wearing a shirt that had cartoon Japanese children reciting emergency telephone numbers; round faces with black hair and slits for eyes with bubbles beside them that read, "0991" with Japanese symbols intermixed.
We must've arrived a bit early for the "Hair-e-Oke" because when we got there, a thick black woman was jumping up and down on the tiny rickety stage and sing-screaming an obscure punk song. I kept looking around for girls with the latest bobs and cuts and streaks and color, but there were none.
At the bar, we each ordered a drink and kept our asses turned away from each other so as not to be kanchoed. The guy running the karaoke equipment passed the mike to the bartender who grumbled out a decent rendition of "I Just Want to Be Your Fuckin' Teddy Bear, Fuck You Everybody" by Elvis Presley. The song wasn't bad, but the drink was fantastic and strong. Bless his little heart. I think the King would be proud.
Scolari's is set up pretty well. There are a couple dead spots -- spots where people won't stand or sit, no matter what. One is right in front of the stage, where the main area for seating is arranged. I was pretty sure it had to do with the sound levels produced by the house system, and my feeling was confirmed.
When a drunken white kid stepped up on stage and the TV screen read "Paradise City: Guns and Roses" everyone in the room cringed. We suspected that the racket was going to be intense because the song requires a high-pitched, screechy Axl Rose impersonation. We had no idea how bad it was going to be.
The kid with the mullet and molester mustache started belting out the lyrics at full speed, only slowing down to scratch out a whiny, "Yeah! Yow! Fuck you, North Park! C'mon!" He got behind on a few of the lyrics and in the same tone of voice started making his own up: "Take me dooooOOoown! Acerbeglasol! Oh won't you please! Blassermazole!" People scattered from in front of the stage for shelter back by the pool tables and on the other side of the room.
Ron and I looked at each other in shock and horror, our twisted countenances mirroring each other's. Simultaneously, we turned to the bar and started shouting. "Hey, down here, need another round! If I'm going to listen to this, I'm going to need more booze!" The barkeep swung by with cocktails and tried to console us with, "We usually have a gong here. We can kick them off stage whenever we want with that, but I don't know where it is tonight." We poured the liquor in before we paid, wincing at the chemical fumes from the stiff drinks. We laid some money down and turned back around to watch Mullet Boy wrap up his big show.
"Yeah! Woo!" he had abandoned any semblance of following the lyrics and was now caterwauling over the synthetic tunes. "C'mon! Everybody scream and clap! Wooo!" When no one answered him with applause, only blank stares and uncomfortable eye-shimmying, he responded with, "You guys fuckin' suck!"
By this time, the booze had kicked in and I was losing my composure. I yelled back, "Yeah! We suck!" And with a final "Fuck you!" he stumbled off stage and the crowd clapped.
On the way through the poolroom to use the can, I was confronted by a knobby-jawed tweeker. He didn't say anything; he stood in front of me, grinding his teeth, all bug-eyed. Not wanting to get into a pissing match with the 'do-ragged loser, I sidestepped him and made my way to the restroom.
Coming back out of the toilet, I peaked out the back door and waved to the smokers. "Hey, guys."
"Hey," they answered in unison. Since I quit smoking, I always feel the need to go back and see the crowd for old time's sake. No matter what bar it is.
When I passed back through, I heard the tweeker's old lady start yelling at him, "I'm tired of you..." blah blah blah. I couldn't hear her exact words over the music, but I figured it was every argument had by every tweeky couple in every crap-stained, beer-soaked, broken-glass-and-bent-pool-cue bar.
Ron and I turned our attention to the television overhead. I can't remember what program was on...it might have been the news or something only half-interesting. The guy who runs the karaoke equipment saw that we weren't paying attention to his butchering of "I Just Called to Say I Love You" and, while still singing, he came over, reached up, and shut the set off.
Once again Ron and I looked at each other in disgust and then at the guy. "I just called," he sang and sashayed past us. "To say..."
Ron looked at me and asked, "Were we just not paying enough attention to him or something?" but by then the swishy little fellow in the beret was already halfway back to the stage.
"Stevie Wonder sold out with that song!" I yelled.
Ron looked back at me, astonished at what I'd just yelled, and I said, "What's he going to do? Stop singing? Look how much he loves himself." The booze wasn't just talking through me, it was now hollering at karaoke producers.
Noticing my lack of awareness or social acuity, Ron pulled me out of there. "Let's go. We're a little too drunk to be in here with this going on." Ron pointed to a bull dyke with a pageboy haircut cuing up "Sweet Child o' Mine."
We hit the aisle running, and Ron momentarily forgot our little game and I kanchoed him. "DAMMIT!" he yelled. On the way out, we ran into a group of three girls who were dressed in black sweatshirts, tight blue jeans, and each of them had a skunk stripe of blond down the center of their black hairdos. "Hey! Those must be the hairdressers!" I yelled out, but we were already threading our way through the crowd on our way out the door.
Searching for another bar on a Wednesday in North Park is a crap shoot. We stopped at Shooterz, which was projecting Family Guy against one wall, and the bartender was the only soul to be seen. The Whistle Stop was showing incomprehensible foreign cinema against one wall while the hipsters fluttered and mingled. "Fuck this place," we said, and turned to leave.
"There's Air Conditioned," I said.
"Too expensive," Ron countered.
On the way to Ron's, we settled on Kadan. There were a few more people in Kadan than at Shooterz, but not so many that we didn't each get a big, comfy leather sofa to ourselves. A girl DJ was playing some decent '80s tunes intermingled with mellow electronic, so we stretched out on the couches with a fresh cocktail. The music was soft enough to hear talking, and Ron and I started checking our messages.
My phone displayed an alert: "1 Text Message Received"
I chose the option to read it from the menu. It was from Ron, who was seated next to me. The message read, "KANCHO!"
Damn! He got me through the airwaves. Clever bastard.