Australian Rules

In late March, I went to a park in Hillcrest for a going-away party. People there dubbed the theme “crokaoke” because they were playing croquet and singing karaoke. The guest of honor was a local actor who was moving to L.A.

I ran into a woman I’d met at other parties. She had a baby with her. I remembered she was on the San Diego Derby Dolls team. I asked her how being pregnant affected her game. She said, “I did some coaching while I was pregnant…right up to the eight-month point. I also did a little fundraising. I’m back to playing now.”

The subject of knitting came up, and I asked her if she had knitted little roller-skate booties for her baby. She said, “We didn’t do any of that, or buy clothes. We didn’t know if it would be a boy or a girl.”

I talked to a guy who’s a local musician. I mentioned one of the bands I’ve seen him play with. He told me he was no longer with them.

I grabbed a Coke and talked to a guy named Dave. A woman was running her hand through his hair and talking about how much she loved his curls. He told me, “I was born in ‘71. And, growing up, my mom would put a pick in my hair. She said it was the style. I told her I wasn’t black. I’d be walking to school and put the pick in my back pocket.”

We all agreed that parents didn’t do us justice when it came to hairstyles.

We brought our dog to the party, and after we met another person with a big dog and they played, my girlfriend took our dog for a walk.

I saw a guy wearing a kilt, and I talked to him about it. He eventually started talking about his appreciation for the Highland Games. As he was talking about his background, someone called him up to the microphone. He used one of the croquet mallets to play air guitar.

Someone offered me a beer and told me that the park we were at is one of the few in town at which you’re allowed to have alcohol. I saw a few other parties going on and asked what the rule is about having karaoke and if a permit was required. At that point, three people had three different answers. I think they were winging it, hoping the cops didn’t show up.

And speaking of wings, I noticed Dave had a pair on. The look seemed to work when he got up and sang a Black Sabbath song. He came over and said, “I’ll sing anything. I don’t care what I sound like.”

As another person took the mic, I heard a shout of “You suck!”

I talked to the actor and asked how hard it would be to make it in L.A. He told me he already has an agent.

A guy told me I had to sing at least one song. I said, “With people yelling, ‘You suck!’?” He then replied, “Well…at least hit one of those balls into a parked car or something.” I laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s why I parked on the other side.”

My girlfriend came back from walking the dog and told me she saw a cemetery. I thought it would be fun if the guy with wings went over there and freaked a few people out.

As I was leaving, I heard someone on the mic that sounded really good. I turned around to see it was Adam Gimbel of the band Rookie Card.

My girlfriend and I dropped our dog off and drove to the party in P.B. for the San Diego Lions, an Australian-rules football team.

Outside the house on Beryl Street, there were all kinds of No Parking signs, but I found a spot.

Nobody answered the front door, so we walked around the back. In the parking lot and patio, we saw people throwing a football around. There was a guy that was 6´4˝ and looked as if he could be a model. He was with an attractive woman, and I was told he was a famous football player in Australia.

I talked to a few guys about their injuries. One told me he had his ACL replaced last year. Another told me he separated two ribs. One player told me sheepishly, “The worst I’ve gotten are shin splints.”

The footballs they were throwing were red and shaped like our footballs, just a bit wider. They felt like rubber. Someone told me the traditional footballs are made from kangaroo skin.

One person had on a promo shirt for Cooper’s beer, which I found out is Australian and one of the team sponsors. Someone came up and said that Americans only think of Foster’s when it comes to Australian beer and that the cans we buy here are brewed in Canada.

Another person came up to tell me that Cooper’s became a lot more popular because it wasn’t as processed and had sediment. He told me that a lot of beer drinkers like it more for that reason.

Everyone was eating meat pies. I had some chips and salsa.

Someone pointed out a player who had tried out for the Cowboys and Raiders.

Bill, who was one of the guys behind this team, told me a lot about the history of how a team was started in San Diego. He mentioned an L.A. team that went to the nationals a few years back and how tough the games are when they play Australian teams.

One guy wore a shirt that read “Down Under Plumbing” with a kangaroo on it. He explained the rules of Australian football. He’s a referee and has been a professor at UCSD for 29 years.

I heard one of the stereos playing the Easybeats hit “Friday on My Mind.” I asked, “Are you guys playing this because they’re an old Australian band?” Bill came over and gave me a 30-minute history on all Australian bands. I was most interested about a band called Hayseed Dixie, which does country versions of AC/DC songs.

The UCSD professor started talking about the blues. We had both seen Cadillac Records and were talking about the way it portrayed Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Willie Dixon.

He told me about a student who gave him some rare recordings and told another story about searching for some rare album by Muddy Waters.

As I was leaving, someone gave me a football to take along. Bill then said, “I hope you took advantage of those No Parking signs we put up.” My girlfriend laughed and said, “I wondered about that. They all had different days written on them, so I figured we could park there. We just didn’t want to risk it.”

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Well Pants...I wasn't claiming that guys do this. I was claiming this was done in the EARLY DAYS of karaoke. When it first started popping up in bars 20 years ago, this is what I witnessed. Guys trying to be funny, or sing crazy songs. Or, they'd sing normal songs and make them crazy, because they were a few sheets to the wind. Women wanted to sign songs they sang well, or really liked.

And, instead of karaoke being fun and entertaining, it became a small version of American Idol, with people wanting to show off their pipes, instead of just having fun with it all.

Wow! So much scorn for the earnest karaoke-rs. Guess you guys wouldn't like karaoke in my family, then. We take it as serious fun, and all are welcome, perfect pitch or no. And what's wrong with showing off your pipes?

It's "croquaraoke", not "crokaoke"! Come to think of it, though, you may have been right about shortening the name, "croquaraoke" looks rather awkward in print. Either way, not to use this comment board as a shameless plug or anything, but if you ever want the 'oke without the cro', feel free to come by the Ruby Room on a Tuesday night. Any shouts of "you suck!" you hear there will be meant in the ironic "we love you and want to affirm your validity as a human being" sense, I promise. Besides, nobody wants to hear good karaoke, that's what American Idol is for.

Pants, it's a great point! When karaoke first started, it was drunk dudes singing Born to be Wild. But somewhere along the line, it's women that wished they had made it, wanting to impress you with their version of "Crazy".

I've seen far too many guys try to rock out power ballads such as "More Than Words" to buy the whole "guys sing fun songs, girls sing boring slow songs" theory. I think it all boils down to the fact that a pitch-perfect voice on a karaoke night is entertaining for maybe all of 15 seconds before it becomes background music. Korean Elvis*, however, man, I could watch that guy all night!

*we don't actually have a Korean Elvis, I'm just using the concept of "Korean Elvis" as an example of over-the-top ridiculous karaoke. We are holding auditions, though.

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