As you may or may not know, I’m working on a memoir project. This particular blog post was originally a passage that I ultimately cut out of the full-length memoir, but which I thought was funny, so I've decided to share it. Hopefully, it’ll make you smile.
This can’t be right, I thought as I drove through the sketchy neighborhood, my ponytail swinging along while I nodded my head to pre-karaoke show tunes. I passed a group of teenagers – their ass-cracks hanging out, or their bellies bared, depending on their genders – and a hobo pushing a cart full of cans.
This doesn’t look safe.
It was a few weeks after Mom and Tyla had moved me to Philly. I knew no one in the city. Had no friends, no social life, and, since I’d stopped binging and purging, no way to occupy my free time. So, I’d gone on Meetup.com to scrounge up something fun – and free – to do. When I discovered that, that Friday night, one of the groups was offering karaoke at a coffee shop in North Philly, I RSVP’d yes.
Maybe, I’ll meet a potential friend. Or, better yet, a cute guy.
I was almost always looking to meet a guy – probably a result of being raised by a woman who taught me by example that, when you had the right man, everything else was expendable.
Being new to the area, I didn’t know one Philadelphia neighborhood from the next. I’ve lived here for nine years and I’m still clueless. Roosevelt Boulevard sounded swanky and presidential. Plus, the Meetup was happening at a coffee shop. What could be more innocuous than that?
I pictured a quaint café full of professionals looking to let loose after long, hard work-weeks, college-aged actor types hoping to refine their stage presences, and at least one Cher fan in full-on Goddess of Pop regalia. There’s always a Cher fan.
I can’t sing for shit, but I’ll take any opportunity I can get to be in front of an audience. The more public the humiliation, the better. In my next life, I wanna come back as William Hung. And, yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll bang.
I parked the car, got out, locked the doors, then flounced optimistically inside. So what if the area was suspect? Inside, I was destined for a night of Liza and laughter.
I don’t know how I missed the row of Harleys out front, but, as soon as I pranced through the doors, I was confronted with a wall of Hell’s Angels. The leather-clad, tatted-up bikers looked like they lived their lives between gang-bangs and prison bids.
“Hey.” The first one had a neck tattoo, a few inked blue teardrops underneath one eye, and a physique that put me in mind of the Hulk.
Be cool, Dara. Don’t let him sense your fear. He doesn’t know you’re from Greenwich, Connecticut and have zero street-smarts.
“Hey… Is this where the karaoke is?”
Was that barbed wire around his neck? Who tattooed barbed wire around their neck?
I Googled it later and a barbed wire tattoo could signify one of three things – the crown of thorns, years spent as a convict, or stay away – while a teardrop could mean that the wearer had killed someone, spent time in prison, lost a fellow gang member, or been raped while incarcerated.
There was no way Neck Tattoo had been raped.
“Yeah. We’re about to get started in a couple minutes.” Neck gestured toward several equally imposing gangbangers.
Most of them were setting up microphones and amplifiers. One tall gentleman, dressed in head to toe buckskin and sporting a Mohawk, fiddled with a TV monitor. Another, even more imposing, Angel sauntered over and sized me up.
“You can go first if you want.” His tone was half-friendly, half-fatal.
As curious as I was to see what these one-percenters would look like performing Madonna’s Greatest Hits, I wasn’t taking any chances. I’d seen The Accused.
“Great!” My voice struck the only soprano note it would hit that night. “Let me go feed the meter. I’ll be back in a sec.”
I walked out of that coffee joint, climbed into my car, drove home to my safe – empty – apartment, and took comfort in the solace of silence.