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I just had another one of those time-travel moments. Not a real head-screw like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse 5. Just a step back.

I was in that bar in Okinawa Japan, circa 1987. Karaoke was a big deal back in-the-day, and Japan was the birthplace. A handful of old drunk guys in sloppy suits were wailing at the bar. They were so drunk, the three of them took turns holding each other up. Lean to the left. Lean to the right. Almost fall off the barstool. Laugh. Sing. Cry. Repeat.

My usual shtick was to get away from the other loud, obnoxious Marines and find a quiet Locals Bar to hang out at. The ones in Tijuana I frequented were normally fun, with Mariachi music, beer, sweat and sawdust on the floor. The Locals Bars in Okinawa were quite the opposite. Never too full, where people quietly sipped their watered-down drinks. It did get loud during karaoke. But not a happy loud. The sing-alongs were seemingly angst driven. Emotional, but rigidly within their lane.

Sometime after midnight, two of the 'businessmen' had left, leaving their sloppy-drunk friend at the bar. The bartender hovered in his vicinity, occasionally topping-off his drink (we didn't know what the term "overservice" was back then). He had chainsmoking down to an art.
During every karaoke session, at least once you're bound to hear that Frank Sinatra ballad. My sloppy-drunk friend at the bar lifted his face to the TV where the words for "My Way" were scrolling. His eyes glistened as the CRT display illuminated his tired face.
And he nailed it.
He sang in his native tongue, but it didn't diminish the impact. He was defiant. He was focused. He was drunk as shit, but he gave it all he had.
There's something about that Old Blue Eyes rendition. Even though I prefer The Sex Pistols cover.

I left the bar just before closing, and one of those tiny Okinawan cabs was waiting for our honorary Rat Pack member.
I never saw him again. I just remember him seeming so sad. I hope that whatever demons he was battling, that he kicked their asses.
Whatever life threw at him, I get the feeling he did it His Way.


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