This past weekend, I Amtrakked to Washington, DC to audition for “Jeopardy!” (The show periodically holds auditions in various cities around the U.S.) That tryout, held on a Saturday afternoon, was thoroughly fun and stimulating. Now I wait to see if the producers choose me to become a contestant on America’s favourite quiz show; if they do, I could receive “The Call” at any time within the next 18 months. That’s the duration for which I’ll remain in what the producers call the “contestant pool.” I’ve qualified for the “Jeopardy!” contestant pool several times previously; I’m hoping that this time I’ll finally break through!
During the next year and a half, while I’ll continue to read voraciously to maintain my knowledge base (in the event that I do get summoned to compete on the quiz show where you have to answer in the form of a question), I’ll also keep on pursuing my other passions — including, of course, karaoke. Along those lines, auditioning for a game show wasn’t the only amazing and fulfilling activity that my visit to D.C. featured. I also went for a ride with the “karaoke cabbie,” Joel Laguidao, and sang in his vehicle.
I first wrote about Joel, and the phenomenon of karaoke-equipped taxis, in this blog post in 2011 that nobody read because this blog was only a few weeks old. 🙂 That article was written after my first ride with Joel in November 2011, back when he was driving for a taxi service in northern Virginia in the suburbs of Washington. At the time, Joel had recently been featured in a segment on The Today Show on the NBC television network here in the United States. Joel hails from the Philippines, a country whose residents are insanely enthusiastic about karaoke; thus, it’s not surprising that he incorporated the activity into his taxi-driving job.
In January 2012, I took a second ride in Joel’s karaoke taxi. On that occasion, a crew from the Washington bureau of a Taiwanese television station was on hand, and the crew members rode along with me, filmed me singing, and interviewed me. That led to me appearing on TV in Taiwan, as you can see on the left in a screen capture from the broadcast.
Back to the present day: my trip just completed was my first excursion to America’s capital city since the time when I was interviewed by the Taiwanese folks. When I knew that I was going to be back in town, there was one thing I knew I needed to do besides try out for “Jeopardy!”: I needed to once again be a passenger in Joel’s karaoke cab! This being 2015, Joel no longer works for an old-fashioned cab company; instead, he’s driving for Uber. But, just as was the case with the Ford Crown Victoria taxi that he used to pilot, the black Lexus in which he picks up his Uber customers is equipped with an on-board karaoke machine. So if you’re lucky enough to have Joel be the guy who responds to your request for a Uber vehicle, you can sing while you’re being conveyed to your destination!
The Uber app doesn’t permit users to select a specific driver. But I didn’t have to rely on luck to end up with Joel behind the wheel; Joel and I have been Facebook friends since I first went riding with him in 2011, and I reached out to him in advance of my March 2015 journey to D.C. We pre-arranged a timeslot for him to pick me up at my hotel near Dupont Circle. Also joining Joel and me was my friend Eileen, who lives in D.C. And so, on a brisk but sun-splashed Sunday afternoon, Joel’s car pulled into the circular drive in front of the Washington Hilton. After a brief photo opp, off we went!
My first song on this occasion was Billy Joel’s “Honesty.” Here you can watch me performing this timeless classic, which first appeared on the album 52nd Street, released in 1978:
My second song was even more old-school: “There’s a Kind of Hush,” which was a big hit for Herman’s Hermits in 1967:
I’m grateful to Eileen, who I think did a superb job with the videography.
Joel himself enjoys singing, and during our ride last weekend, he entertained Eileen and me with a heartfelt interpretation of an Enrique Iglesias song:
Singing in a vehicle that’s moving through traffic adds another dimension to karaoke. While I will always enjoy performing on stationary stages in front of audiences, karaoke on wheels (with the scenery whizzing by, and my voice being audible to the people outside the vehicle) is an experience I can’t get enough of. It’s an experience that’s shockingly unavailable in my home base of New York City. But if you live in the U.S.’s capital city or are willing to travel there and are interested in singing in Joel’s automobile, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with Joel. However, if you can’t make it to Washington, don’t despair; there are other cities scattered around the world where you can sing on the go. A quick google search reveals the presence of karaoke cabs in such diverse metropolises as Taipei, Taiwan; Helsinki, Finland; St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; and Chico, California. (I’ve also heard that karaoke cabs can be found in Las Vegas, Nevada; Bangkok, Thailand; Shanghai, China; and Singapore, although I haven’t come across any recent links that could help you track down a karaoke taxi in one of those additional locales.)
I’ll be back in Washington this October for my law school reunion. I’m looking forward to that reunion weekend — not only to reconnect with classmates, but for the opportunity to do some more singing in Joel’s car!