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Authors Forward:

I wrote this Friday, November 4, 2005. The morning after the events of the story take place, sitting at a desk where I should have been working but instead spend 4 hours writing the overly sentimental type that comes from totally awesome guys whose awesomeness will be known by everyone in his path when he is boozed but goes home and becomes a lonely emotional wreck. Or as onlookers call it, "That wasted jackass". Looking at the date now seems like so little time, but has been several lifetimes for me. There are countless more, and considerably more embarrassing and less-remembered stories that involve Bettie Mayhem and Meat Loaf. Those are the ones she tells her friends so that should I ever meet someone who is friends with her, will remark "Oh yes, I've heard of The Legendary Captain", which is never a good thing. No story that occurred while I'm blacked out drunk can possibly be positive enough to make me memorable, but such is the lot of a binge drinker. This was written when I was hellbent on living out some sort of Bukowski-meets-Sedaris fantasy complete with broken radiator in my shitty apartment and manual typewriter stolen from a central Oregon Salvation Army at age 14 (yes, I still have her, her name is Isis, and she sits in a corner collecting dust. I wonder if I can still get ribbons for her?) and thought all life's best stories came out of a bottle. But now after six months or so of being mostly alcohol-free, I can confirm that it is in fact true. I'm a boring sack now, so stories like this are the ones I will take to my grave with me, and I owe that all to Bettie Mayhem.

End of Authors Forward:

For reasons I'll never fully be able to explain, when I go out drinking I always want to go to dive bars. Sketchy, dirty, smoky places where you don't leave your jacket unattended and the barmaids serve the strongest drinks you'll ever have. Perhaps it's the utter lack of class and distinction that attracts me, knowing that I'm not going to get any sneers or smug remarks about my long hair or tattered denim vest adorned with patches. Perhaps the simple fact is that I myself have no class or distinction. All I know is when I am out with friends I want cheap beer, strong drinks, and a staff that doesn't mind people being jackasses. And that is why every Thursday for some time now me and my friends who live in the immediate area go to The Paragon.

The Paragon is the second sketchiest bar I have ever been to in Portland. In recent years it has become the haunt of low income kids who have flooded into the area because of cheap housing and good access to public transportation. It's the sort of place where you see the same drunk old people sitting in the same seat drinking the same thing every single time you go there. An electronically locked gate greets you when you open up the front door, and you have to be buzzed in by the bartender. And when you enter the floor of the bar itself you are greeted with the smell of acrid smoke that has been permeating the walls for decades. Torn vinyl booths line the wall to your right and the same old man is playing video poker at the back. Lord help you if you have to use the restroom while you are there, because the smell alone is enough to make you heave. Not to mention the drinks which are quite simply, unnecessarily strong. The barkeeps at The Paragon know that you are there for one reason, because you want to get drunk. This isn't the type of place you take a date for a romantic evening; this is the type of place you get falling over drunk at. To this end, there is karaoke. Karaoke only facilitates further drinking because most people want to sing, but know they have to be very drunk in order to do so. Never mind the fact that the drunker you get, the worse you sing. All that's important is you get drunk enough not to care how big of an ass you are making of yourself in front of a captive audience.
Karaoke evenings at The Paragon are hosted by the one and only Bettie Mayhem, the greatest karaoke host I've ever seen or could ever hope to see.

Now, a little back story is required here. Long ago, on a typical night of boozing and bar hopping our cabal of inebriated idiots stumbled upon a bar called The Blue Parrot. When we eventually found a seat our eyes turned towards the karaoke stage and a tall, long blue haired maniac rocker slinking around like a snake. Controlling the stage even when she wasn't the one singing, it was impossible to ignore her energy despite the fact all of maybe 8 people were there for karaoke. Several beers later my eyes are glossing over and I'm approaching the blackout point when I hear some very familiar chords ringing through the speakers. Riffs from my childhood that I couldn't quite place. I looked at the stage and there was Bettie Mayhem standing at the microphone when she started to sing:

"Well the first little piggy, well he was kinda hippie Spent most of his days just dreaming of the city And the one day, he bought a guitar He moved to Hollywood to become a star"

I and my friends immediately looked at each other in shock. This woman, this raving psychotic mistress of karaoke was singing Green Jell-O's "Three Little Pigs". And she was owning it. Onlookers looked at us quizzically as we freaked out that this song was being sung and shouted along during the chorus. Perhaps more quizzically then the elated madwoman on the stage who fed off our enthusiasm for her choice of songs. We found ourselves occasionally coming back to The Blue Parrot a few more times and seeing Bettie Mayhem in action. Every time it was something new and bizarre. From dressing as a roller skating nurse to dressing in very little except for strategically placed electrical tape and/or whipped cream. But the bar itself, we hated.
And eventually we stopped going there. So imagine my surprise when one evening many months later I arrive at The Paragon and find that Bettie Mayhem is the new karaoke host for the bar.

My friends always are goading me to sing whenever we are at this establishment, they'll try to bribe me with shots or resort to out and out pleading. This is probably because when I sing karaoke, I go all out. Most people when they get on stage are too timid to do much but stand there and sing. But if I am going to be putting myself and all of my mediocre-at-best vocal atrocities out there, I am going to really make an ass of myself doing it. Depending on the amount of alcohol I have consumed I've been known to run around during instrumental sections and demand that people dance, jump up on tables, sing to passed out guys, drop to my knees, fall on the floor and generally do all the of the rock star theatrics that the song calls for. I make up for my utter lack of vocal talent with pure showmanship, and my friends seem to enjoy it enough to keep begging me to do it so I must be doing something right.

"Come on Captain, I've never heard you sing before!" pleaded Alicia, longtime friend who recently moved into the area.

"There's only one song I'd want to sing right now and it's not even in the book." I say, pouring myself another pint out of the pitcher of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The song is Bat Out Of Hell by 70's theatrical rocker Meat Loaf.

"I'm sure she has it, go ask!" Alicia insists.

"Okay, okay." I resign.

I walk up to Ms. Mayhem behind her back lit DJ table complete with colored lights and more controls then your average spacecraft and ask her if she has the track.

"Yes, but you have to promise me you won't trash the mike." she says, dead serious. The week previous while singing a Boston song I was swinging the mike around by its chord and the substitute host did not appreciate it at all and apparently told Ms. Mayhem. I look at her, aghast. "Promise me, I have to pay for these if they break." she reiterates.

"Okay." I say, although realistically I didn't know if I could keep that promise because I was A. Very Drunk and B. Not exactly in control once the song takes over me, as horribly contrived as that sounds. She leans forward over the equipment and kisses me on the cheek and tells me she'll call me when I'm up.

I walk back to my table and Alicia gives me 10 dollars and asks me to buy another pitcher of beer. Being that pitchers of Pabst are only 5 dollars at The Paragon typically we just buy rounds for each other all night.

"Get yourself a shot too" she offers.

A typical pour at a bar will be about a 1 ounce shot, which is the standard by the book amount of liquor. A pour at The Paragon will be as much as one can fill the glass before it starts spilling. In reality, there are about two and a half to three shots in a typical "shot" at The Paragon. A sizable amount of liquor to take down in one gulp, particularly when it is of the cheapest-in-the-bar variety.
Going back to the table I put the pitcher down and slam the oversized shot in an attempt to loosen up. I always get nervous before singing, but as soon as I'm on stage it all goes away. Bettie Mayhem announces that coming up is a "Meat Loaf Rock Block", and I realize that an acquaintance of mine also at the bar that night is going to sing the early 90's track "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)".
A duet, which he nailed perfectly. I was suddenly very nervous, visibly so. I couldn't follow this guy. Not with another Meat Loaf song. Alicia turns to me and says very plainly "You're fucked."

"Get on up here!" Ms. Mayhem shouts at me, I take a seat in a booth near the stage while the instrumental intro to Bat Out Of Hell starts playing. As it crescendos I slam what remains of my pint and start pacing the stage psyching myself up. Going up to the mike and dropping to one knee and holding out my arms in the classic Elvis pose as the guitar solo rages. Finally, the song calms down and the vocals begin in earnest with a rolling piano line supporting it.

"The sirens are screaming and the fires are howling Way down in the valley tonight There's a man in the shadows with a gun in his eye And a blade shining oh so bright"

I'm pointing at the sky, doing all the microphone moves, and generally being an awesome dipshit, but this is what karaoke is all about. The crowd starts to get into my energetic performance and Bettie Mayhem runs around to get any song entries that are out there. As she steps back up on stage to go back to her DJ booth I'm singing the verse:

"Oh baby you're the only thing in this whole world that's pure and good and bright And wherever you are and wherever you go, there's always going to be some light But I've gotta break out, gotta break it out now, before the final crack of dawn So we've gotta make the most of our one night together when it's over you know, we'll be so alone."

Not one to miss an opportunity for some crowd interaction, and knowing that Bettie Mayhem would be all about it, I grab her and pull her close, look directly in her eyes and sing to her passionately. Running my hands down her face during the "Oh baby you're the only thing..."
line she swoons and starts acting the part that the song calls for. I push her away with the line "We'll both be so alone..." and erupt into the chorus. For the remainder of the song I'm jumping around ("And nothing really rocks, and nothing really rolls, and nothings really worth the cost"), dropping to my knees ("Then like a sinner before the gates of Heaven I'll come crawling on back to you"), rolling around on the floor ("Now I'm dying at the bottom pit in the blazing sun, torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike"). Finally, after 7 minutes the song ends and I am spent. The crowd whoops and hollers and I walk back to my booth to many cheers and pats on the back. Walking back I hear Bettie Mayhem say "The funnest karaoke experience of my entire life!" The next singer starts and I am chatting with my acquaintance who also sang Meat Loaf when from behind me Bettie Mayhem jumps in my lap and starts kissing all over me. Lips, cheek, forehead, eyes, then she gets up, blows me one last kiss and goes back to her duties. Soon thereafter I decide to leave and go home to pass out, knowing I have to wake up early the next morning which will mean about 4 hours of drunken sleep.

Whenever I go out drinking on a work night I always sleep with all my clothes on, including shoes. So that I may wake up at the last possible moment, run a brush through my hair and run to the train stop to catch my train to work. I should also note that I only go out on Thursdays during the work week because I can wear whatever I want to work on casual Fridays. Doing exactly this, I left the house before taking as much as a cursory glance in a mirror. When I get to work I get a lot of amused glances and smirks in my direction, I figure it's because I'm wearing sunglasses inside until my eyes are fully ready for the fluorescent blast of bright light that I'll have to deal with all day. I get to my cubical and sit down.

"Hey man, have fun last night?" James, who sits near me, asks.

"Always, is it that obvious I'm a wee bit hung over?" I respond.

"You haven't looked in a mirror, have you?" he says, laughing.

"Umm..." I hesitantly say as I take off my glasses to look at my face in their mirrored surface. I see all sorts of lipstick marks all over my face. I laugh and start to head to the restroom to wash the evidence off my visage. I respond, "Well, I am The Captain, what can I say?"

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