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My Turn

Wayne Chan

From The Asian Reporter, V26, #7 (April 4, 2016), pages 6 & 8.

Paul Trudeau never had it so good

My son is either a genius or a diabolical fraud — I can’t decide which.

I recently took my family on a cruise to Mexico. Four days and 14 pounds later, we’re back at home.

It was during this cruise that my teenage son, Tyler, decided to take the stage in the karaoke bar. It was a packed house and by the sound of it, the amateur singers on stage seemed to hold their own, even though they didn’t get much of a rise out of the audience. Tough crowd, I thought.

As a protective parent, I was a little nervous for Tyler. He had never sung in front of a live audience. At the most, we might hear him sing a couple lines of a song as we drove somewhere in the car. He’d never been part of a glee club at school or a choir at church. I wasn’t even 100-percent sure he could sing on key. I just didn’t want him to be embarrassed if it did not go well.

Having earned my chops singing in countless karaoke bars throughout China, I know that singing on stage and singing in the shower are two different animals. Which song would he sing? What if he started singing and didn’t really know it? What if he flubbed a line? What if someone started to laugh? How would my son react? Why couldn’t we just go to the midnight dessert buffet instead?

In the middle of my anxiety attack, the karaoke DJ spoke up. He said, "OK everyone! Our next singer, Tyler, has been waiting patiently, and he wants to show you what he’s got! Put your hands together for Tyler!"

Sitting nervously in the back, I hoped for the best as Tyler spoke. He said, "I’d like to sing ‘Sweet Caroline.’"

"Sweet Caroline?" I thought. The Neil Diamond song??? And then I realized what he was doing.

Before I describe what happened, it’s important to put this in context.

My wife Maya hates Neil Diamond. Absolutely hates him. She thinks he sounds like an old cow. I, on the other hand, like Neil Diamond, and I’m not ashamed to say it. In fact, I think Maya is dead wrong — he absolutely doesn’t sound like an old … OK, maybe his voice does have a bit of a "bovine" quality to it, but I still like him.

About 20 years ago, after being married for a few years, knowing that my beautiful wife had a real distaste for all things Diamond, I decided to have a little fun. I created a mix tape (yes, I know how old that makes me sound) with a bunch of Neil Diamond’s earliest work along with a picture on the cassette box with a really young picture of Neil. Then, to make the tape look like something I might have purchased from a record store (yes, those existed at one time), I titled the cassette "The Greatest Hits of Paul Trudeau."

I thought if I could find some of Neil’s songs that she hadn’t heard before and let her think they were sung by a young handsome guy named Paul Trudeau, that I could get her to like Neil’s music. Of course, I also thought it would be funny if she did.

In fact, it was so funny that I happened to mention it to a couple friends in passing; they thought it was hilarious. It was so funny to them, that they took it one step further and called Maya to let her know that they had just bought tickets to a Paul Trudeau concert and wanted to know if we wanted to go.

Soon after, friends were sending us Paul Trudeau posters and memorabilia, then they asked Maya if she wanted to join the Paul Trudeau fan club.

As to whether all this hoopla was having the desired effect, I asked Maya what she thought of the mix tape. Her response: "I like it, but he does sound a little like Neil Diamond."

Fortunately, my friends didn’t hire a guy to play Paul Trudeau at a fake concert, so we finally let her in on the ruse. I won’t tell you what she did to me, but I will say that I have no memory of my life in the latter half of 1996.

Needless to say, Maya’s hatred of Neil Diamond has only grown exponentially after my little joke.

The problem is, when I shared this story with Tyler, he thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.

So when I heard Tyler say, "I’d like to sing ‘Sweet Caroline,’" I knew he was just doing it as a goof. But it’s what he said next that completely threw me for a loop.

He said, "I’d like to dedicate this to my mom." What he was trying to say was, "You remember how dad pulled that fast one on you with Paul Trudeau?"

But instead, after his dedication to Maya, everyone in the crowd let out a collective "Awwww!"

When he sang the first verse, people started to gather on the dance floor. Then he sang "Hands, touching hands" and the crowd started swaying in unison. Tyler got to the chorus, singing — "Sweet Caroline!" — and the crowd shouted back "BA BA Baaa!" After "Good times never seemed so good!" the crowd erupted with "So good! So good! So good!"

And who was at the front of the dance floor swaying along with her hands in the air? A beaming Maya, smiling back at her son.

Tyler finished the song with a flourish, and the crowd ate it up, jumping and shouting, slapping him on the back when he walked down from the stage and giving him high fives. I’d never seen anything like it.

They obviously didn’t know Tyler was just trying to give his mom a hard time. Funny thing is, at the end of the song, with a big smile on his face and a big hug from mom, giving her a hard time was probably the last thing on his mind.

A genius or a fraud? Who knows. But for a few minutes at a karaoke bar in a cruise lounge, it was a pretty sweet moment, and I owe it all to Paul Trudeau … er … Neil Diamond, that is.

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