A Night in a Chinese Karaoke

We left a restaurant called The Love Room at 10 and walked under a pulsating LED screen, a teeming river of light in the murky night sky. Karaoke was calling our names.

In Korea, regular visits to the noraebang were a consistent part of my life. I knew their rhythm, knew their menus, knew their song books. I always knew where to look for a tambourine, knew exactly how to work the controller, even as it was swathed in Korean words I never quite learned. I had the 5-digit number for Bad Moon Rising memorized permanently, its consistent coding across all karaoke rooms bringing to mind some deep uniting truth underlying the whole of our universe. I knew exactly how many songs it would take before I could no longer belt out a high note, and how many more songs before I could no longer sing at all. Liquor was beneficial, not necessary: I could scream and sing dry, if the situation called for it.

That I had been back in Asia for two months with no songs to sing felt like a weight on my back, a badge of dishonour on my travelling feet. Was it not my mission in life to walk all the roads, eat all the things, see all there is to see, and sing like a madman the whole way through? Some part of my soul ached, like a piece had torn loose somewhere high above the Pacific and got carried away in a strong wind. I wasn’t really alive if I wasn’t periodically screaming Bohemian Rhapsody into a tinny microphone at midnight.

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The Secret Lives of Chinese Language, Malaysian Foodcourt Karaoke Performers

The Jaded Raven

Street art near the Red Garden.

Every single night we spent in Georgetown, we spent in the Red Garden. Faith and Ty had described the place with wistful sighs and starry eyes–a kind of magical fantasy land where dreams came true, where magical nymphs roamed with beer fountains sprouting from their serene heads, where fresh unicorn meat was always available on the spit. Where the gods of Olympus themselves came down to frolic and enjoy the pleasures of Earth.

It was, indeed, pretty awesome: an enormous cornucopia of Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, and other Asian cuisines; a battalion of viciously efficient, middle-aged beer waitresses; a sea of free tables filled with dozens of happy customers. But the true glory of the Red Garden laid in the entertainment.

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