My friend Shin Miyata from Japan came to visit over the weekend. He wanted to go to a bar in East L.A. that he had never been to. After discussing a few that were "been there, done that" by Shin, we decided on a steakhouse/bar in Monterey Park called The Venice Room. We arrived just in time to hear someone sing a Karaoke version of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” It was painful. It was so bad that Shin apologized to me on behalf of the Japanese people for creating Karaoke. The Venice Room looks like it was the place to be at one point. Now it seems like it has gone the way of many neighborhood bars in the area. People want sports, so it's ESPN on the T.V. screen the entire night. The décor of the place has been ruined by way too many beer advertisements. And then, there is Karaoke. On the plus side, at least it’s not some hipster joint. The Venice Room serves its purpose. It’s a neighborhood bar for neighborhood people. Drinks are cheap and I can choose to fall into the fun or go to another place for drinks. That night we chose to go to Ordoñez for some late night food since The Venice Room had stopped serving food.
The Venice Room reminded me of dive bars I used to hang out in when I had just turned twenty-one. Each one was a new experience. Some I liked and some I didn’t. Most of the time, the places I liked were dictated on the jukebox. My favorite places were the ones that still had the jukeboxes with the 45’s in them. With CD jukeboxes, there is always that person who will play an entire Doors album. Then you get stuck listening to them sing along with the whole thing and soon you wish the joint had Karaoke. With 45’s, you had the choice of side A or B of a single. It discourages the jukebox hogs. You can’t play the entire “Dark Side Of The Moon” album because it can’t fit on a 45. I got exposed to some great music by not having many choices. The limited choices forced you to listen to artists that normally you wouldn’t listen to. Even if you only played the artists that you liked, you would be forced to listen to the b-side of a single at some point.