Sing, sing a song

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I like to sing, in fact I LOVE TO SING. 

One magical day during my sophomore year at Pitt, there appeared in the middle of the Student Union a big booth.  Within minutes kids started gathering around this big booth and soon it was discovered you could go into the booth and sing a song which could be heard all around the union.  From that moment, I don’t think anyone passing through attended classes that day, instead waited their turn to sing A SONG.  I remember an Egyptian girl singing a country version of Amazing Grace and an Indian friend of mine singing some Beatles.  It was very cool and fun.

A few years later in early 1992, my piece of crap car, with the check engine light on, was stolen from my unlocked unattached garage outside my 3rd floor walkup apartment in Bellevue.  I was so BUMMED.  It was a 1981 Buick Skylark (my first car ever) and I didn’t carry anything other than collision insurance.  At the time, I was making $14,400 a year as a sales assistant and didn’t even know how to take out a loan to get a replacement car. 

Trying to cheer me, my mom picked me up and took me to this bar called Gary’s II to show me something she discovered the week before.  It was karaoke. 

I saw booklets all covered in spilled beer, little sheets of paper and pencils strewn about the tables and bar.  I picked one of the booklets up and looked through it.  Oh WOW, all kinds of songs that I knew were listed and there were microphones and a machine that this older couple were operating and no one was singing.  I put in a song from the soundtrack of Top Gun by Berlin, Take My Breath Away and KILLED IT.

The karaoke guy was like, “YOU ARE SO GOOD.  Put in another song and we will put you right at the top of the line.” Thus started my karaoke singing career. 

A day or two later my car was discovered a couple of miles away from my apartment.  It had a new quart of oil sitting on the front seat (they saw the check engine light too) but my Entertainment Book was gone. Remember those?  Oh well.  I was thrilled to find the car and I promptly stole it back then spent fifty bucks on THE CLUB so that wouldn’t happen again.

A week or two later it was Valentine’s Day and I had taken a chance on something. 

I had spied a very handsome and tall man getting his coffee and getting off at the law firm a couple of floors below my office.   We always smiled at each other and I found out his name was Michael. 

Being Valentine’s Day and all I decided to get a bunch of flowers, leave a note on them and drop them off at his office.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

I waited all day for some phone call or a visit or something and when 5 o’clock came and went I went down to the office to see what happened to my flowers.  It was reported to me that HIS GIRLFRIEND HAD PICKED THEM UP.  Well, here I was bummed again. 

So, single as could be, I got my friend Heather and we went back to Gary’s II to drown our dateless sorrows and sing a few songs.  It was that night that I found my singing partner, Scott, and we have been dueting now for 27 years.  Scott is my best male friend and about the best singer I know!!!!

That night Heather sang her first karaoke song holding my hand and sitting on the stage.    She sang The Rose and I will never forget that.  That night started hundreds of karaoke nights for us and we still get together to belt out a few classics and try new songs as often as we can.

Since then, I have sung thousands of songs and every town I visit I seek out a karaoke bar.  I have waited 4 hours to sing one song at Cat’s Meow in New Orleans.  What is cool about this place is there are HUGE crowds there and everyone is INTO the karaoke.  It is nice when people actually listen to the singing.

I have sung 99 Red Balloons in Germany and was surprised that no one cared.  The song is by a German artist so I thought it would be cool.  Apparently, I was the only one!  😊

I have won contests and lost more, I have seen shy as can be wallflowers grab onto the microphone with clenched fists and leave the stage confident and exhilarated.  I tell you EVERYONE wants to be a rock star. Even you, yup you! 

Back in the early days when we would sing at Mad Anthony’s in my hometown, I remember the Fox’s Pizza Den delivery guy popped in and sang Lady, by Kenny Rogers and it was AMAZING.  I remember it decades later because he was SO GOOD. 

We recently had probably our 15th private karaoke gig.  I am older now and have some resources.  Instead of going to smoky bars and waiting 30 minutes between songs, for special occasions or if we just really feel like having a party, we hire our own professional karaoke DJ.   I can tell you if there is karaoke at one of my parties,  I don’t even talk to anyone at the party. I work on the food and just sing and encourage others to sing.  I’m apologizing now to everyone who has ever attended any of my parties and I didn’t talk much to you!  Sorry, not sorry… see line one of this blog.  I LOVE TO SING!!!  

This last party that we had was very special.  It was the first time we ever had a karaoke bash at someone else’s house and many people had never sung karaoke before so I knew this was going to be FUN.

In attendance were captains of international banking, lawyers, a chief grievance officer for the US Postal Service Pittsburgh Metro area,  a titan of Pittsburgh retail, a transportation specialist, and folks who work in all kinds of areas.  Within an hour or so, everyone was singing and dancing and having a SUPER time.  Yes, many people need some or a lot of liquid courage to get on up there, but many are just raring to go and seeing stars in their eyes.  It is a terrific way to let loose. 

I’m seeing my favorite high school pal this coming Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving for some karaoke and I can’t wait for her visit back home and to sing with her!!  It is the busiest party night of the year so I hear.   

This holiday season I encourage any and all karaoke virgins to get your sing on and hit me up for some karaoke. I’ll be happy to show you the ropes!!!! Sing it loud peeps and sing it proud!  #karaokerocks #pghsinger

Wo ‘Man’s best friend

I love being a dog mom and I can’t imagine my life being complete without a big dog or two.  I have cared for dogs only in adulthood beginning with a 4 ½ year old chocolate lab we named Sophie that we acquired in the late 90s.  Sophie was apparently a breeding dog as everyone loves those rare chocolates and seemingly had never been walked on a leash nor lived outside of a cage environment.  She was tattooed on her udder 4A26.  I will never forget that! 

Sophie needed to be taught how to do everything except be a loving and sweet dog.  I enjoyed Soph so much that when the same neighbor who told me about her said, there are more dogs that need rescued, let’s go, I did.

These labs were in a situation as I remember it where their owner suffered from depression, had stopped taking her medicine and the dogs were in peril.  There had been a lot of them apparently.

I went to the house that the dogs had been moved to and there was this smaller two year old black lab tied up in the house barking her head off.  My lack of dog owning experience made me not have any concerns about a dog tied up INSIDE the house.  I liked her size as a dog that I could probably handle so with zero questions to the current caregiver, much to her assured relief, I loaded up this dog and took her home.  I named her Carly.  She was 60 pounds and took to Sophie right away and she also loved me and my husband but anyone else, eh…. not so much.  OK, so I now had one dog who loved everyone and another one who scared anyone coming close to me, the house or anything that was the family unit.  Now, I was beginning to understand why she was tied up in the house.

This girl was not particularly friendly but boy was she smart.  I started teaching her words and her ability to comprehend language was really remarkable to me.  I LOVED my Carlycue.  She and I definitely had a strong bond.  She was my constant companion and had the funniest sleep rituals which started on a particular side of the couch.  If we had a guest who was sitting there when sleepytime came, Carly would stare them down till they moved.  No other spot would do. When she was ready to go to bed for real, she would pick up this giant purple stuffed alligator toy and take it upstairs to bed with her.  She was just a dear to me.

I feel very bad when I think of one thing.  Carly incessantly licked her paws.  The vet said she was anxious, which I am sure was true and gave me a spray to treat her paws.  What we didn’t know then and I’m ashamed to admit it now, Carly most likely had an allergy to the lamb and rice that we fed her.  Today we know that people and animals may be allergic or sensitive to grains and I beat myself up about the fact that she would have had a better quality of life if I fed her a grain free or even a raw diet.   

We had Carly till she was 9.  She did mellow a bit with time and so much so that in her last year of life, neighborhood kids who were home schooled walked both dogs while we worked away from the house.

Carly developed a tumor in her colon so for the last nine months of her life she took stool softeners and still had a hard time passing poop.  She would look at me with those amazingly emotional brown eyes and I knew that she KNEW, something was really wrong.  During the night she woke up and tried to poop every two hours which was really hard on me with the constant interrupted sleep but as a committed dog owner, I was willing to do whatever to keep her as comfortable as possible.

When we knew it was time to put her down,  we cried and cried and as I write this, I have to stop and give in to the cry at the memory of all this.  It was HORRIBLE to have to put a dog down who in every other way had so much life in her yet.  She was far too young.   In the song Mr. Bojangles, it goes His dog up and died He up and died. After twenty years he still grieves.  Sigh.

Since Sophie had been malnourished in those early years, she had gum disease which resulted in multiple teeth extractions.  She was also covered in lipomas but none of the ones we ever tested had issues.  The vet had said she would die of organ failure eventually but didn’t need teeth and was in good enough shape. So, we spoiled her and rubbed her belly and got her really soft beds to ease aching old joints.

Sophie lived till a ripe old age of 16.  We took her to PNC Park on her last birthday May 20th 2008.  They have Pups in the Park events which are awesome.  She had a BLAST. 

In the end, she was a very lumpy, bumpy and smelly-mouth girl, but she had a GREAT life and I wasn’t as heartbroken about her when she passed.  EVERYONE loved Sophie and remembered her name.  Carly was an afterthought as a common black lab and few remembered her name.  Of course her lack of putting herself out there to anyone probably had a lot to do with that!.  She was just misunderstood!  😊

I had two cats when I first got married who were already older so with Carly’s passing, things started going downhill fast.  Every time I walked into the vet’s office, they handed me a box of Kleenex. Over 24 months, we lost them all and were parents no more.  It was weird.  It was too quiet and part of me was gone too not having any fur beings to care for. 

After both dogs were gone, I remember dreaming about them being alive and in the dreams I would look at people and ask them, ”DO YOU SEE THEM TOO?”   It took me a long time to recover from the losses of those dogs.  I don’t know if it is because I don’t have children, but I really REALLY connect with my dogs and I missed them so.

Many years later in my new life, I wanted Mitch and I to have a dog.  Friends of mine had posted on Facebook about a litter of labs recently born in my hometown of Ambridge and I thought how full circle that would be, so we took a look. 

We brought a cat collar and I told Mitch to pick one.  The little puppies were exactly what puppies are.  They were brown, blacks and yellow bits of fur, small, soft, noisy.  They were scampering and rolling around, piddling and mouthing each other.  Only black ones were left at this time which was fine.  We watched them in awe. 

We met momma and daddy and now with many years of dog owning experience under my belt, I saw dad was HUGE and was mildly worried at the size these dogs would become. 

Mitch had owned labs in the past and assured me we could handle it so he chose one and placed the cat collar around his neck.  A BOY.  I had never been a momma to a boy dog.

It was going to be a few weeks till the puppies were weaned and allowed to come home so we set about getting things ready.  We needed a name.  I went through about 100 suggestions then said BANDIT and Mitch said YES.

Bandit puppy and his littermates were born on Leap year so will have his 2nd official birthday on Feb 29th 2020 but he is 8 years old.  He has one gray hair on his whole body, several lipomas now and as Carly was before him, he is SMART.  He likes to be with me ALL THE TIME and first thing in the morning, when I am peeing, he likes to get his morning briefing to see what the day has in store for us.  I swear to you, he understands it all. 

This is Bandit Puppy!!!

Bandit is with me with every chore.  He helps me feed the chickens and let them out in the morning, he is with me in the gardens, the greenhouse, helps me cook dinner and cleans up any spills unless it is of a vegetable nature.  Those would rot before he would eat them but he loves anything meat, cheese, egg, bread, and PIZZA related.

At night, he closes up the chickens with me too and loves to see the eggs.  He and Bubba, his brother who we rescued from up near our cabin, get eggs on pretty much every meal.   

Bubba and how we acquired him is worthy of his own blog which is coming soon but suffice it to say, the addition of Bubba to our family has been a blessing for all.  Even the cats have warmed up to him and we can ALL lay on a bed or couch together. There is definitely love between cats and dogs which is a first for me.  The only time Sophie, Carly, Katerina and Hercules would tolerate each other was when momma lit the wood fire at 5:00 pm and laid out THE BLANKET.  For some unknown reason, everyone was lulled into a trance in front of the fire and during that time, all trespasses were forgiven.  When I look back at those early days of being a dog momma, I think of those winter nights and the love we all shared staring at the dancing flames and am content.