We live in an old house. The steps creak when we climb them; the jalousies are made of wood; the trees in the backyard are so ancient they not only provide shade for our kitchen but the neighbors’ as well. We love how this house folds us in and lets us live in our own world. Our house is a cocoon of serenity in the midst of a busy street and new townhouses.
One thing consistently shatters our peace, though, and that is the ultimate icon of Pinoy culture – the videoke machine. As far as we can tell, only one neighbor owns a machine and, unfortunately, the proud owner is our next-door neighbor. Once in a while, inspiration hits them and they decide to crank up the damn machine and grace the whole neighborhood with their ululation. It is a constant wonder why only the tone-deaf singers next door attempt world domination through their singing. The ones who do manage to carry a tune keep the volume at a decent level.
Listening to them (without much of a choice), I have homicidal thoughts. When my murderous musings reach fever pitch, what happens is the barangay tanod come to intervene; or sometimes the neighbors just stop wailing abruptly, as if feeling the hundred evil thoughts aimed at them.
Tonight, we had just arrived from a Halloween thing at The Hub’s workplace when the warbling from next door assaulated us. I was in no mood to be serenaded by Scat Cat and the Sociopaths so I marched next door to demand some silence. The Hooligan wanted to come, too. Which meant The T-Rex was right there at my heels, too. We were 10 steps out our gate when I realized The Hooligan was still in a fairy princess costume and The T-Rex, in a Peter Pan costume. But it was too late to turn back. I figured I’d just use my “authoritative work-voice” so they’d take us seriously despite our get-up.
Next door, the videoke machine was being worshipped with a lively rendition of The Carpenters’ “Top of the World.” I never heard Karen Carpenter screech so high. Fortunately, no one was drunk yet, and the kids and I were greeted by a chorus of happy halloweens. The “singers” were properly apologetic when I said my piece.
When we were turning to go, The Hooligan asked, “Can I sing, too?”
Of course, our neighbors scrambled all over themselves to hand her the mic. My limelight-obsessed daughter, The Hooligan, gamely took the mic and took over, acapella. “A is for apple, B is for bed, C is for a crown you wear on your head,” she sang, with no thought to tune or tempo. I doubt if the “videokers” present ever sang anything more edifying.
Then The Hooligan asked me to sing, which I hesitantly did, prompted by our neighbors’ egging. I sang the first song I recognized, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” I began grudgingly but soon, I secretly admit now, I started having fun. I ate my words and had no problem swallowing. It was not so much the singing, really, but the letting loose that made it a blast. After that, the T-Rex wanted his turn. But that one was over fast because he only has a few syllables in his vocabulary and he says them real quick.
We left with an open invitation to come by anytime to sing again.
(Don’t let me kid you. I plan to google the lyrics to Madonna’s “Crazy for You” when I’m done here.)