“Tell me again why we’re here in this Onion?” The sun gleaming off his bejeweled crown (a thrifty $6 on Amazon!), Carl DeMaio peers anxiously out a window of the fenced Broadway Pier cruise-ship terminal, the new lizard on San Diego’s front porch. Across the way, masked workers in shiny protective suits complete final passenger-taint decontamination procedures on the crippled Carnival Splendor. A handful of media types continue breathless coverage of the bay-front saga.
“Notice they didn’t let the Splendor near this new joint,” DeMaio mumbles. “Don’t know why. Hard to stink up an Onion.”
“Ohhh, Carl!” Lorie Zapf giggles. “Are you still mad that I forged your signature making you my co-host for today’s First Annual Council Karaoke and (Hopefully) Hugs Afterwards Extrava-gala?”
“One,” DeMaio hisses, “there’s no such thing as ‘First Annual.’ Second, I don’t dot my i’s with flowers, Lorie. I’m gay, but come on! I can’t even sing, certainly nothing like Ben Hueso. He’s like Pavarotti to my Eddie Money. Too bad he’s busy shredding—I mean ‘archiving’—to be here.”
“Ohhh, Carl! You’re sooo funny! I’m so glad you gave me the benefit of the doubt over my hate-filled e-mails about you people,” Zapf confides.
“What else could I do, Anita Bryant?” DeMaio snaps. “Run off and embrace Howard Wayne?! I mean, ewwwww!”
Zapf shrugs. “Anyways, you asked, ‘Why here?’ I searched the Google for San Diego karaoke bars, and the word ‘gay’ kept coming up. Well, Carl, you know my comfort level there,” she says to the back of DeMaio’s head while he fixates on the Splendor. “And another, the Camel’s Breath Inn, well that sounds downright Muslim-y. No thanks!”
DeMaio, a royal headache mounting, closes his eyes. “OK, so you took it upon yourself to secure this place for this—.Explain to me again your thinking here?”
Zapf rolls her eyes and sighs. “Ohhh, Carl!
You read what I said!” Indeed he had. Thumping his crowned forehead against the window, DeMaio couldn’t help but remember. After a joyous Election Night watching Prop. D crash and burn and seeing Zapf mop the floor with her opponent, DeMaio picked up the local daily the next morning and read this about his protégé: She said she is hoping to bring all the council members together through a way not often, or possibly ever, used in politics: karaoke. “I want to see each other as allies. It would be great to sing and laugh together and then work together,” she said.
After wiping down the coffee that shot from his nose and splattered across his favorite Grover Norquist-in-a-bathtub pin-up poster that morning, DeMaio pondered his future— one now tied to a karaoke-promoting recovering homophobic e-mailer. He considered tossing a shot of Cuervo Gold into his Mocha Java Espresso / Tanzanian Songea Peaberry blend, but he fought the urge.
“Not the answer. Not the answer,” he chanted. No, as always, he needed to make lemonade out of oranges. “I hold the patent,” he whispered to no one in particular.
“Patent?” a puzzled Zapf asks. DeMaio snaps back into the moment, a tad rankled. “Uh, it’s patently ridiculous to think that we can simply sing ourselves into some kumbaya moment that magically solves this city’s financial troubles, Lorie. You, me and Kevin? We’re cut, cut, cut. The others? Not so much.”
“Ohhh, Carl! Have some faith—well, I know you’re going to H-E-double-hockey-sticks anyway because gays don’t go to heaven—but have some faith anyway!” Zapf pleads. “Golly, sometimes I wonder if you think I’m some naive nitwit.”
“You’re not naive, Lorie.”
“Ohhhh, Carl! If you weren’t gay I’d—.”
Just then, DeMaio notices the rest of the City Council straggling in. They all look pissed.
Kevin Faulconer grabs DeMaio’s wide lapels and yanks him into a corner.
“This is your fault! Karaoke?! Are you serious?! This is on you, man,” Faulconer seethes.
“I’m lip-syncing!” “Chill out, Raccoon Man,” DeMaio snarls under his breath. “I got another Republican elected, didn’t I? Plus, I have my ‘Roadmap to Recovery.’ What you got, stretch? A funny face tan is all I see.”
“I’m so gonna kick your mayoral-wannabe ass.”
“Save it for 2012, Dances with Lobbyists.” The new public-address system squeals, then begins to cut in and out. “This fucking thing on? Check. Check.” The council members turn to see Mayor Jerry Sanders, adorned in a Tommy Bahama shirt, shorts, Ray Bans and flip-flops that scream, “Retire me now!”
“I’m happy to welcome you to the First Annual Council Karaoke and (Hopefully) Hugs Afterwards Extrava-gala,” the mayor’s voice crackles. “Sure fucking glad I’m fucking strong mayor and not part of the fucking council. Can’t sing worth a fucking shit!”
DeMaio and Faulconer look at each other, wondering telepathically when the mayor finally found his voice, the one his handlers call “plain-spoken.” More like plain smokin’.
Sanders continues on. “I see by the gold-embossed program—and I hope you fucking outsourced this, Lorie, ha ha ha!—that we have some interesting performances ahead of us.
“Tony Young—I had no idea there were lyrics to ‘Hail to the Chief ’! Can’t wait to hear your rendition. Todd Gloria—hmmm, you too? Well, OK, but that’ll cost you points for originality! Marti Emerald—says here you’ll be doing a take-off on The Monkees’ hit that you’re calling ‘Last Train to Grantville.’ Wait. Is that a fucking jab?”
Adjusting his crown on his sweat-soaked forehead, DeMaio looks sheepishly at Zapf and Faulconer. “We really going to do this?” he asks. Without a word, Zapf hauls the two up to the dais and pushes “Play.” The sounds of War funk up the room as the trio fumbles with the melody.
“I’d kinda like to be the president / So I can show you how your money’s spent / Why can’t we be friends? / Why can’t we be friends?”
Got a tip—or even a tune you’d like a council member to sing? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.