I received word about a few parties down south on a Friday that I was to drive up to L.A. I decided that I’d hit them both before the long drive.
The first was for a woman who turned 103 and a baby who turned 1. The party was at a pizza place on Main Street in Chula Vista. I couldn’t find it, and the woman didn’t answer her phone. I assumed the woman I was trying to contact wasn’t the 103-year-old.
Anyway, that gave me more time for the party down in San Ysidro. I was told it was their second annual karaoke bash, which should’ve prepared me. I walked in while a big Latino guy named Alfredo sang the Wham! hit “Careless Whisper.”
The singers were performing in the home’s dining room, which was packed with people, so I made my way to the back patio. With two coolers filled with drinks, it was the perfect location.
I met a guy named Ed who said, “Last time, it was just coworkers here. A lot of people didn’t sing until the end. Maybe all the drinking helped. By the end of the night, they were ready.”
Since the neighbors could obviously hear, I asked if there were any complaints. “No. The neighbors are all here!”
When someone started singing in Spanish, I said to a guy next to me, “It just turned into an El Torito in there.” He didn’t laugh.
I asked a woman nearby if she could translate for me. When she put her baby down and started to explain the song, I laughed and told her I was just joshing.
An African-American guy sang the first song I liked, the Temptations classic “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”
Alfredo came over and introduced himself. I asked him what songs he prefers to sing. “I like ‘70s love songs. Barry White is great. Singing the disco stuff is always fun, too.”
Ten minutes later, he had the mike again and was singing “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. A guy next to me asked his wife, “Isn’t there stuttering in this song? I can’t remember.”
I talked to a few people at this party who worked for the Border Patrol. One of them said, “Do you realize we have the longest land border anywhere?”
I responded, “Does that make it a lot harder than if...” He interrupted to say, “Well, every hour there is something. Not an hour goes by without something crazy we’re trying to take care of.”
I grabbed a plate of chips and salsa. A tall Latina made the salsa. I was afraid it would be too hot, but it wasn’t too spicy; it was delicious. I asked her what she put in it, but she wouldn’t tell. At one point during the party, though, she said, “There is a secret ingredient.”
A guy overheard this and said, “It better not be pot. I think a lot of these guys have drug tests at work.”
I looked in during one song to see a woman teaching a few people the electric slide. The dining room was small, and it was funny watching them try to dance in there.
Someone asked me if I wanted dessert. A woman had just brought a strudel. And they had cheesecake. Neither are desserts I like. A guy next to me spent ten minutes telling me how crazy I was for not liking cheesecake. He’s probably right. Everyone gives me a hard time about that.
A few guys were looking through the book of songs to choose from, and I heard one say to the other, “You’re not going to sing that. It’s too long.” I glanced over their shoulders and saw that it was the Don McLean tune “American Pie,” which is about ten minutes long.
Someone nearby said, “I don’t want to hear a song with ‘pie’ in it, but I wouldn’t mind if there was some pie here.” I replied, “Amen, brother!”
Since those guys couldn’t decide on a song, three women grabbed the mike. They sang “I Will Survive.” I told Alfredo that I like the version of this song that Cake sings. He said, “How come every woman knows this song?” Someone replied, “Because they’re all bitter. They like to sing about guys who’ve done them wrong...and now want them back.” I said, “A few gay people I know love this song. I’m not sure what the deal is with that.” Someone joked, “Alfredo should be able to answer that for ya.”
Someone brought Corralejo tequila and poured everyone a shot. I was surprised by how smooth it was. My girlfriend had never tried tequila, so we gave her a shot. She didn’t think it was smooth. Someone said, “This can really mess you up. Because it goes down so smooth, you don’t realize how strong it is.”
I asked one of the Border Patrol agents what the legalities are for tourists bringing tequila back over the border. As he explained the amount you could bring, someone interrupted to tell us about absinthe.
I noticed that the singing had stopped, but the music to a song was still playing. I glanced over and noticed that someone had just stopped singing a certain portion of the song. This had happened a few times. And they couldn’t say that they forgot the lyrics because the words continued to scroll on the screen.
I saw kids running around in the living room and an adult carrying a Beck’s beer in one hand and tequila in the other. I saw some folks gathered in a corner who obviously weren’t into karaoke. I asked them why they weren’t singing, and one guy said, “Karaoke is fun for people that love to sing. Or if you aren’t shy. I don’t have a great voice, and I’m not comfortable standing in front of groups. But the party is still fun.”
Another guy had an excuse. He was lying on the couch with his leg in a cast. He said it was a ten-year-old injury that he got in a men’s soccer league. He’d had extensive reconstructive surgery on it. Another guy overheard this and said, “That was your chance to make up some elaborate story on what happened. You could’ve said it was shot in Afghanistan. Or in Vietnam. Not a soccer game in San Ysidro.”
Someone handed me a margarita that had two shots of tequila in it. I figured that now my girlfriend was going to have to drive to L.A.
I heard a group of people getting ready to do the Village People’s “YMCA.” The perfect time to head out.
As I finished my drink, someone speculated on how many people would be able to form the letters in the song.
The Latina was standing near me, and I overheard her rattling off the ingredients in her salsa. I took out my pen and started writing, but she was saying them fast and the tequila was hitting me. A man nearby joked that the secret ingredient was the tomatoes. She explained that they are grown in her garden, and he said, “No, not that. They all have salmonella.”