Since 1959, the U.S. has consisted of 50 states. This Saturday night, in Honolulu, Hawai’i, I’ll complete the achievement of having karaoked in all 50!
As recounted here, in 2017 I made great strides in my American Karaoke Tour (the domestic subset of my World Karaoke Tour). By year’s end, the number of U.S. states in which I’ve karaoked had soared from 28 to 42! Thus far in 2018, I’ve karaoked in 7 of the remaining 8 states – bringing my total to 49, with only Hawai’i remaining to be checked off. This is the story of how I got to 49 during the present calendar year. This post also covers a trio of new-to-me cities, in states that I’d previously karaoked in, in which I sang in 2018
One introductory note: for two of the states covered in this post, I lack karaoke videos to share with you. In early July, I discovered that at some point during the preceding few weeks, Facebook had deleted eight of my karaoke videos, without prior or subsequent notice to me and without explanation. All eight of the videos had originated as live Facebook video transmissions which I then saved to the “Timeline” on my Facebook page. (Four were originally broadcast from locations in the U.S., including cities in two of my “new states” that are discussed below; and the other quartet were originally broadcast from various European cities.) There was no valid reason for the removal of any of the videos, which were fully compliant with Facebook’s community standards. (If any record companies had objected to any of the videos on the grounds that the musical content – i.e., the underlying song – was copyrighted, Facebook’s written guidelines provide that I should have been given the opportunity to address such objections. But I was never notified of a challenge to a single one of the videos in question – which, notably, don’t generate revenue for me – and my complaints to Facebook were met with silence.) Moreover, because the deleted videos all originated as live transmissions rather than having originally been recorded as MP4 files, I didn’t have backups of them, so I’ve lost the priceless memories that the videos represent. (I’ve subsequently downloaded copies of all my remaining karaoke videos that are housed on Mark Zuckerberg’s site.) But you don’t care about any of this, because it’s not like you were even going to watch all 9 of the surviving videos that did make it into this post. 😀 So let’s talk about travel and karaoke!
1. Little Rock, Arkansas (March 2018)
In early March I travelled to Little Rock, the Arkansan capital. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was from Arkansas, and he chose to build his Presidential library in Little Rock. Touring that library was high on my agenda for that city. While the facility contains copious historical information, my favourite feature was its exact replica of the White House’s Oval Office.
Karaoke in Little Rock
My song selection in Little Rock had nothing to do with that city or Arkansas. Instead, I simply chose a song that I enjoy and had wanted to sing on my American Karaoke Tour for a long time: “I Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode.
Arkansas thereby became state no. 43 on my American Karaoke Tour. Actually, that was originally supposed to have happened in November 2017; but an urgent project at the law firm where I work necessitated the postponement of my Little Rock excursion. Better late than never!
2. Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi (March 2018)
Next up was the great state of Mississippi. I chose to visit the town of Biloxi on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, as I like cities that are on the water. Sadly, due to its location, Biloxi is vulnerable to tropical storms; in 2005 it was walloped by Hurricane Katrina, and even today it bears some scars from that cyclone. It was poignant to visit Biloxi’s memorial to Katrina’s victims.
Karaoke in Gulfport
My karaoke appearance in Mississippi took place in Gulfport, a town nearby to Biloxi. My first song of the evening was “Love Hurts” – not the famous version by Nazareth but the cover by Jim Capaldi, as I felt its key and arrangement would be better suited to my vocal range. (Mr. Capaldi was best known as a drummer, vocalist and lyricist for Traffic, a band whose original members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. He’s one of several artists to have covered “Love Hurts,” which was originally recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1960.)
Mississippi thus became state no. 44 on my American Karaoke Tour; and I had now completed all the states in the American South!
3. San Diego, California (March 2018)
My excursion to San Diego was far from my first foray to California; it was my 15th. I’d previously visited, and karaoked in, such cities as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Riverside. But I found San Diego so picturesque, and its weather so perfect, that I wondered why I hadn’t gotten there sooner. From Old Town’s preservation of the city’s Wild West days, to the stunning vistas from Point Loma, to an array of dining options and nightlife in the Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego offers much to be smitten by.
Karaoke in San Diego
My initial song in San Diego, delivered in front of a packed and boisterous house, was “Walking in Memphis.” My original video of this song was among my videos that Facebook wrongfully deleted. Fortunately, my friend Donna, who was in attendance with her husband, had filmed her own video of my performance on her phone. So despite Facebook’s malfeasance, I’m able to share with you a video of my San Diego karaoke debut. It doesn’t quite capture the crowd reaction to the same extent as did the original video, for which my videographer had periodically panned around to show the audience; but I’m very grateful that Donna generated this video and that I’m able to incorporate it into this post.
San Diego thus joined the ever-growing list of towns in which I’ve karaoked in the Golden State.
3. Boise, Idaho (April 2018)
Prior to hitting Idaho, the only image of the state that I harboured was of the place where potatoes come from. In actuality, I found Boise to be a modern, artsy city that still retains its old-West charm. Its attractions include “Freak Alley,” often described as an outdoor art gallery, that consists of high-quality murals and graffiti painted on the sides of buildings; a human rights memorial named for Anne Frank; and the ruins of a historic prison, the Old Idaho Penitentiary, that you can tour – with that tour including its erstwhile death row as well as a “gallows room” in which executions took place, and the “cooler” to which inmates were banished for solitary confinements.
Karaoke in Boise
For my Idaho karaoke debut, I sang a pair of Barry Manilow songs – “Copacabana” and “Mandy” – and transmitted and saved live videos of both of those performances. Both of those Manilow tunes are among the very oldest standards in my repertoire; I’ve been singing both since 1991. However, Idaho is one of the two states for which my videos have been taken from me due to Facebook’s shenanigans.
Although I can’t share the moment with you here, Idaho thus became state no. 45 on my American Karaoke Tour. Only 5 more states remained until no. 50!
4. Fargo, North Dakota (April 2018)
The Fargo-Mooorhead tourism authority encourages people to make North Dakota their 50th state visited, with such travellers gaining membership in the Best for Last Club. I settled for ND being my 46th state when I made a foray to Fargo. Hey, that’s still pretty close, right? I won’t pretend that Fargo is the most captivating destination – my sense is that the most interesting things to do in North Dakota are in other parts of the state – but I still had fun. One of my favourite moments from any of my first 49 states was a photo-op with the famous wood chipper from the 1996 film Fargo. As a history geek, I also enjoyed finding a museum that houses a replica of a Viking ship – a replica that sailed from Duluth, Minnesota all the way to Oslo, Norway in 1982. In addition, a local mall houses the Roger Maris Museum, which honours the baseball player who held the Major League record for home runs in a single season for 37 years – although that “museum” is more accurately described as a display case containing memorabilia. (Mr. Maris, although born in Hibbing, Minnesota – also the hometown of Bob Dylan – grew up in Fargo.)
Karaoke in Fargo
For my opening number, I went with “At This Moment” by Billy Vera & the Beaters. Best known from its use as a love theme on the 1980s television sitcom Family Ties, it has long occupied a place on my karaoke A-list. But you can’t watch my Fargo performance of it here, because North Dakota is the other state for which Facebook improperly deleted my karaoke video. If you’re really curious, you can watch a video of me singing “At This Moment” in Rapid City, South Dakota in July 2015 in this post. I know you won’t click on that link, but it’s there if you need it. 🙂 And that’s right, I’ve sung “At This Moment” in both North and South Dakota! (South Dakota was the 20th U.S. state in which I karaoked.)
In any event, North Dakota became state no. 46 on my American Karaoke Tour.
5. Casper, Wyoming (June 2018)
In Casper I had the pleasure of meeting my friend Marty. I’d met him online in late 2000 through a message board for the television quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He lives with his family in Casper, and after over 17 years of being “virtual” friends, we finally met in person! Due to the logistics of travelling to Casper (population: just north of 55,000 as of 2016) for a weekend getaway, I didn’t have time to see much there; but it was fun to hang-out with Marty IRL – especially since he shares my enthusiasm for karaoke.
Karaoke in Casper
For karaoke in Casper, I once again went with one of my most-performed songs to start things off: “Oh, Pretty woman” by Roy Orbison. Incidentally, the cowboy hat that I rocked while singing was a loaner from Marty. I wasn’t going to buy such headgear; good luck fitting one into my carry-on for the flights back to New York. 🙂
Wyoming, via the town that’s the namesake of an amiable apparition, thus became state no. 47 on my American Karaoke Tour.
6. Billings, Montana (June 2018)
When I landed at Billings’s Logan International Airport, I was starting to feel like I was seriously running out of states! As with Casper, Billings was hard for me to get to because there are no direct flights there even from any of the airports that serve my home base of New York City. So my sightseeing time during a weekend visit was limited. I did enjoy strolling through Billings’s historic downtown; and making my way through Boot Hill Cemetery, a 19th century graveyard that’s a relic of Billings’s Wild West days and today is incongruously situated across the street from an Applebees restaurant. It was also fun to constantly gaze at the Rimrocks – a rock formation that extends for miles and hovers over the city, even though Billings is at an elevation of 3,126 feet.
Karaoke in Billings
At my chosen venue in Billings, the song I led off with was “Sister Christian,” a 1980s power ballad by Night Ranger. Back before I started travelling frequently, when I did most of my karaokeing in New York City, I performed “Sister Christian” fairly often. However, in the last 15 years or so, I had all but stopped singing it. It felt nice to dust off this old favourite of mine.
Montana thus became state no. 48 on my American Karaoke Tour. I could start to taste 50!
7. Martinsburg, West Virginia (July 2018)
West Virginia boasts some interesting things to see, such as the storied Greenbrier resort, and locales that played roles in the legendary feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families. I didn’t travel to the vicinity of any such attractions. Instead, I chose the perfectly fine but nondescript town of Martinsburg, which is best known for its outlet malls. I did this for one reason: after extensive online research, Martinsburg was the only place in West Virginia where I was able to find a venue that offers karaoke on a weekend night. 🙂
As a bonus, Martinsburg was easy to get to from Manhattan. You just take a train to Washington, DC – the city where I attended law school, and a city I still love returning to – and then catch a relatively quick train ride from D.C. to Martinsburg. On this trip, I spent time in D.C. both before and after my sojourn in Martinsburg; and my time in the U.S.’s capital city included a day-trip to the the Udvar-Hazy Center – an annex of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum near Dulles International Airport in Virginia. As I’m an aviation buff, the Udvar-Hazy had long been on my list.
Karaoke in Martinsburg
There was never any doubt about what song I would open with in my penultimate state: it was always going to be “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Released in 1971, it became one of West Virginia’s 4 official state songs in 2014. Here I am belting it out in Martinsburg:
West Virginia thus became state no. 49 on my American Karaoke Tour, bringing me within one of my ultimate goal!
The moment is at hand
And so we’re down to the final state! (As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve also karaoked numerous times in the U.S.’s capital city of Washington, DC. But it sounds simpler to just say “I’ve karaoked in 49 states” (and, after this coming weekend, “I’ve karaoked in 50 states”). 🙂 )
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (July 2018)
After West Virginia, while I waited for my vacation to Hawai’i that would come at the end of the year, I continued to visit new cities on the American mainland. One of those cities was Milwaukee. I’d previously karaoked in the Wisconsin city of Madison in September 2016. Compared to the college town of Madison (which is also the state capital), Milwaukee, nicknamed the “Cream City,” is much larger and has a character befitting its blue-collar heritage. Among the highlights of my stay in Milwaukee were a Jeffrey Dahmer tour (The notorious serial killer was a Milwaukeean); the Harley-Davidson Museum, presenting a comprehensive history of the motorcycle brand that’s headquartered in the city; and dinner at a spy-themed restaurant called SafeHouse.
Karaoke in Milwaukee
Prior to July 2018, I hadn’t sung “I Want You to Want Me” in public in well over a decade, even though I like the song very much. But after a colleague performed it at my company’s summer outing about a week earlier, I was inspired to resurrect it in Milwaukee.
Thus I doubled the number of Wisconsin locales in which I’ve karaoked.
Key West, Florida (October 2018)
The island city of Key West was the 3rd city I experienced in Florida, following Miami Beach in February 2014 and Jacksonville in December 2017. The westernmost inhabited island of the Florida Keys chain, it’s the southernmost city in the contiguous U.S., situated only about 95 miles north of Cuba. It contains the southern terminus of U.S. Route 1, a highway that runs north all the way to the Maine-Canada border. Among the attractions in Key West itself are the home in which the writer Ernest Hemingway lived for most of the 1930s; Duval Street, a thoroughfare teeming with pubs, restaurants, shops and art galleries, as well as some historic Victorian mansions; and a haunted doll named Robert who’s over a century old. (I saw Robert, who currently resides behind a glass enclosure in a museum, during a ghost tour; but I was too terrified to include a photo of him in this blog post.)
Karaoke in Key West
My Floridian karaoke debut occurred in Miami Beach’s South Beach section in 2014. For an encore, in Key West, I performed a lesser-known John Lennon tune, but one that’s a long-time favourite of mine: “Nobody Told Me.” Recorded during the last months of Lennon’s life prior to his December 1980 murder, it was released on the album Milk and Honey in 1984.
My performance of this song in the Sunshine State closed out the addition of new American cities to my World Karaoke Tour – until Hawai’i.
Addendum: making progress up north
With my American Karaoke Tour nearly concluded, I’ve been thinking about other potential goals to set. Obviously I’ll continue attempting to sing in as many countries as possible; but with my current total standing at 59 countries (out of the nearly 200 countries on the planet), that’s an ever-ongoing project. I believe it’s also good to engage in discrete, achievable quests. One possibility would be to karaoke in the U.S.’s overseas territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands). Believe it or not, I’ve never even been to Puerto Rico! Some of those territories are difficult to reach, though.
Another idea I’ve been floating is karaokeing in all of Canada’s provinces and territories, of which there are only 13 combined – and even all of Canada’s “territories” are on the North American continent. Entering 2018, I’d karaoked in 3 Canadian provinces. These appearances took place in Montreal, Quebec in August 2010; Toronto, Ontario in September 2014; and Vancouver, British Columbia in February 2017. In September 2018, I added a fourth province – Manitoba – to the list when I jetted off to its capital city of Winnipeg.
Enhancing my exploration of “the Peg” is that I have a friend, David, who lives there. Similar to the situation with Marty in Casper, I had known David online for a long time (although “only” about 10 years in David’s case), but had never met him in person. He, his wife Cheryl, and their children did a comprehensive job showing me around. Of course we went to the excellent Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a must for any Winnipeg visitor; but David and his family also took me to places that even a seasoned traveller like me might have remained unaware of if left to my own devices. They even took me to get some poutine, the unhealthful yet delicious Canadian dish. (The ingredients of basic poutine are fries, cheese curds, and gravy; I ordered mine with beef.)
Karaoke in Winnipeg
My debut song in the Peg was “Honesty” by Billy Joel – an artist whose songs I frequently perform. Check out the video:
Manitoba thus became the fourth Canadian province in which I’ve karaoked. That leaves six provinces and all three territories as the Canadian subdivisions in which I have yet to sing. There’s plenty more poutine for me to enjoy!