The End of an Era

What had me calling up people from across the country while standing on a mostly scary road in Las Vegas Friday night? This.

Our beloved Tong’s. Burned.

If you’re a close friend of mine, and you’ve been to Vegas with me, chances are I’ve dragged you to Tong’s. It was probably after midnight, and you probably have never been the same since.

We found it at the first Television Without Pity summit (back when it was Mighty Big TV). High from just having watched Bring It On (creating the summer slogan “Best. Movie. Ever.”), we needed to sing. We had to sing.

My brand new best friend Dan and I broke back into the movie theatre to find a Karaoke joint in the phone book. After talking to several random strangers, we were led to a karaoke bar that videotaped you while you sang, and gave you a copy of your performance.

We arrived. They took down the microphone as we walked in. Closed.

I pleaded. I begged. I promised we’d buy much booze if they’d just let us SING! No dice. I asked where another Karaoke joint was on the strip. The bartender and a barfly exchanged concerned looks, and then the barfly said, “Well, there’s this one place… but it’s really more a Chinese restaurant… and it’s not exactly… well… it’s kinda…gross.”

“Give me the address.”

One rainy cab ride later, and we were at Tong’s.

Imagine the tiniest, quietest, saddest, emptiest Chinese restaurant. Now enter the sad-ass room on the right, the one with the smallest disco ball. The one with three bar slot machines and a Vietnamese Karaoke list that you can’t read.

I have been to Tong’s probably seven or eight times since the TWoP summit of 2000. Every single time I’ve been there the same five people are at the bar, the same three people are running the place, and the same songs are sung. And boy were they happy every time I dragged in another group.

My mom has been to Tong’s. And Kim has the proof. It is one of the few existing photographs of my mom. She hides from a camera lens or rips up any photos she finds of herself. It is where Dan inappropriately serenaded my mom with “Father Figure” and then had the entire place hopping on “All Night Long.” Omar and I sang a tearful “Separate Lives,” as I was about to move to Los Angeles. It was Omar I called first as I stood in front of the charred, hollowed-out Tong’s. And then I called Dan. And then Allison. And Anna Beth. And Dan again. And again. Because I couldn’t believe it.

Tong’s is where Omar fell in love with “Lady,” and our bartender.

It’s where Tara and Sarah sang “I Don’t Wanna Wait.”

It was the place that inspired Wendy to write Pound.

It was the site of the very first Squishycon. Even though I accidentally sent half of them to a place called “Fong’s Garden“, eventually everybody met up at Tong’s and we sang until the crack-a dawn.

Erica Jackson dot com will miss Tong’s. So will Carol. And Tindo.

It’s where I met Mike.

It was the first time Al and Chris were out in SquishyPublic together.

It’s where I met the MATHletes. They brought me the Pretty, Pretty Princess game.

It was the site of the funniest picture I’ve ever taken with Allison (scroll down, it’s worth it).

It had the grossest bathrooms of all time.

It is where my mom first heard me sing Karaoke.

It fueled our Online Karaoke Contest to the point that we were all disqualified (Letting Allison keep her crown).

It was the site of many, many, many, many horrible pictures of me.

It is where Ray and Blynch booed me. The only time I’ve ever been booed, singing “Smackwater Jack,” a song they accused me of making up. We were there with Chuy’s family. Chuy’s family has been to Tong’s. They don’t like leaving San Antonio, but they’ve had booze from Tong’s.

I’ve been there with stee, Frank, Steph on stee’s birthday. I’ve country danced there.

I’m so bummed we didn’t go last December now, at our third TWoP summit. I just always thought it’d be there.

I sure hope they rebuild, and it wasn’t just an insurance scam. Because man, I’m bummed out that place is gone. It was one of my favorite places in the world.

Also, apparently anything I love will burn to the ground these days, so if I’ve been to your place and had a good time, please make sure you have insurance. I’m the firestatah, punkin’ firestartah.

RIP Tong’s Palace

A box of fifty copies of my book was sent to my house. But Airborne Express has no record of it. Therefore, I still don’t have copies of my book. Some of you have been writing to say you saw it in your bookstore and bought it with your Harry Potter. That’s awesome. But someone’s swiping all of my copies. Apparently another fifty are on their way, this time through UPS.

This prompted Dan to offer to lend me his own copy, which has already shipped from Amazon.

For those of you who want to buy the book but can’t afford Amazon or won’t use it, there’s this site, which does some handy comparison shopping for you. You can also get it at for seven dollars.

Newest cool kids

  1. Understanding Living Trusts [sent by anonymous]
  2. Learn to Crochet in Just One Day [sent by anonymous]
  3. Rock This! by Chris Rock [sent by anonymous]
  4. Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll [sent by Pinky]
  5. A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance, by Jane Juska [sent by Pinky]
  6. The Canine Good Citizen: Every Dog Can Be One [sent by Lisa]
  7. The Right Stuff (DVD) [sent by Lisa]
  8. Like A Mighty Stream: The March on Washington, August 28, 1963 by Patrik Henry Bass [sent by Faye]

Faye and I went to college together. She passed on this info:

[readermail]As for the other recent donation: my friend, Shani Levy, is running in the AIDS Marathon in Honolulu this December. At the moment, she is training hard and raising money to support research. If any of your charitable readers would like support Shani’s efforts, they can donate here.[/readermail]

Today’s request is from Scott:

[readermail]The one about the music you love. Since Radiohead just released a new album, I think it’s appropriate.[/readermail]

And in honor of the upcoming Jane’s Addiction, as well, here it is. I’m going to go wait on my curb for the UPS guy.

Just finished

Stupid White Men… and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation, by my buddy Mike. Reading this book was a bit like preaching to the choir for me, but I wish I had something like this when I was fifteen. I would have driven my parents even crazier.

Currently reading

Shoot Out: Surviving Fame and (Mis)fortune in Hollywood. Someone wrote recently asking where I get all of my books and where I keep them all. Well, there are gigantic piles of books in my house, just like there are dangerously flammable mounds of scripts. But this book I checked out from the library and the other one I borrowed from a friend. Not only are we a little financially challenged these days, but since we’re probably going to have to move, we’ve implemented a “No Buying Things” policy for the next couple of months.

Please donate a book to Oakland

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