The dulcet tones of a country guitar pluck their way through my ears. A waitress wearing a tube top she bought from Marshalls delicately balances three pitchers of Coors Light on her alcohol-soaked tray. A man in a blatantly tight pair of Wranglers picks up the microphone, and I reach for my pair of earplugs. Alas, karaoke night at The Pour House has begun.
Recently, my cousin got married in our hometown of Bakersfield. For those who are not familiar with Bakersfield, think of Larry the Cable Guy’s armpit, if it had a Walmart. I moved from there to San Diego almost four years ago and the differences between these two cities are vast. For example, people with good jobs in San Diego have their name printed on business cards. People with good jobs in Bakersfield have their names embroidered on their shirts. Needless to say, the average Bakersfield man’s collar is bluer than an episode of “The Smurfs.”
This brings me to my next point. As I mentioned previously, I recently attended my cousin’s wedding in Bakersfield, but the best part is what happened after the wedding. The reception ended earlier than some of my family would have liked, so another cousin of mine decided to treat me to something special. Seeing as how I had grown up there and already gone cow tipping, I thought I had experienced everything this place had to offer. Oh, was I wrong. As I sat down in her car, two thoughts entered my mind: 1) Why are there so many empty beer cans piled up in her son’s car seat? and 2) Where is her son? My curiosity soon faded as we hit the road in search of some hometown country fun.
As we drove through the streets of Bakersfield, with houses to my left and oil fields to my right, I was wondering anxiously where we were headed. Then, right there across from the liquor store / muffler shop, I saw the bright yellow sign shining brighter than life itself. We were about to enter a country bar called The Pour House. Think of the Double Deuce from “Roadhouse,” only instead of Patrick Swayze cracking skulls, there’s a guy the size of an M1 Abrams tank showing his crack. And the best part of all this? It was karaoke night.
We sat down and ordered some drinks. My cousin seemed to know everyone there by name. She was like Norm from “Cheers,” minus the obesity. I was still mesmerized by the fact that a liquor store could also double as a muffler shop, so the atmosphere of the bar had not sunk in quite yet. I looked around and just tried to take it all in. I felt like I was in the middle of a Brooks & Dunn video. Unfortunately, the singing I heard that night was nowhere near what Kix and Ronnie could produce.
The first cowboy who saddled up to the stage chose “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. As his vocal chords caused my eardrums to burn burn burn, this seemed to be an appropriate choice. It was about this time my cousin proceeded to order another round by looking at the bartender and giving him only the slightest of head nods. I guess when your picture is on the wall underneath a sign that reads “Customer of the Month,” you don’t have to get up to place your order.
The drinks arrived and, as we clinked our bottles together, we sat back and enjoyed the best of what Bakersfield karaoke had to offer. Some were good, most were bad and all were drunk. After hours of hearing multiple renditions of “Chattahoochee” that would make a deaf guy’s ears bleed, we paid our tab, sobered up and headed home. Maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the karaoke, maybe it was the toxic fumes coming from the oil field next door, but I had a smile on my face the entire night. Sometimes, a taste of homegrown fun is what we all need.
That, and a pair of earplugs.