AS EASY AS PIE 


Sometimes it feels like you go out just to clumsily trip over your own lower lip. You throw on some sort of outfit different than the one that's been chafing your moist armpits all day, throw back a bit of social lubrication, and then release yourself into the barely audible cackle of outside voices percolating over inside music on the other side of town. Singles wad up in your front pocket, singles parade up and down the bar, and all you can hope for is the possibility that you'll spend too much money on watered-down liquor and wake up with a hangover that devours the first half of tomorrow. You say stupid things, acquire random bruises, and then pull it back together and chalk it up to another night on the town.

Sometimes you should just stay home.

But if it weren't for going out, I'm not sure what I would do or how I would even afford to stay in. (This is the kind of math that makes me a writer.) Fortunately, tonight I'm going out with a sense of purpose. Only recently have I discovered the glory of the nightclub fund-raiser, having myself of late co-opted a number of bars for the purpose of funding the spreading of my political brand … as opposed, I suppose, to the spreading of my lower-class income and, well, my legs and my lips. But tonight I am out to support my friend David Lee's troupe, The Naked Orange Theater Company, and only a little bit to stand there and wait for people to tell me that they're voting for me. I swear.

Lee's hawking the summer production of his original play Pie-Face! The Adventures of Anita Bryant and trying to raise money to make his prolific imagination a marketable reality. Like a true patron of the arts, I'm all for it, especially when I think about how much I hate Anita Bryant and hate pie, but the idea of the two things together makes me smile. The links don't stop there, though, as Bryant used to peddle orange juice for our lovely state, and Lee's group is called Naked Orange. Not enough? Bryant was runner-up for Miss America, and so was I! I'm totally on to something, here. God, I hope somebody throws a pie in my face tonight.

"Mayor Manes!" David tosses as we enter the front doors of Pulse. "Come on in! Grab yourself an Orange-tini!"

I assume that an Orange-tini is not dissimilar to my usual alcoholic trough-filler, the beloved screwdriver, so I figure that I'm fitting in fine. Besides, they're just $2 and they come in one of those glasses that you cannot walk and chew gum while holding without soaking your hands. And lord knows I want to smell good for the cops later. So it's a big "sure" from my mouth, as I rifle through my wallet for the only cash I have, a $50 bill. Now, I know that sort of makes me an asshole, but if you do the math, it also makes me rather poor, meaning I'm a poor asshole. More math, please. Then something happens.

Somewhere in the middle of some mix-'n'-mingle fund-raiser-style conversation with my friend John Sullivan – pieces of percolating factoids splashing against each other (and never sinking in anywhere) about my campaign and his gig as a consultant for the "new" Southern Nights – I feel a distinct loss. I'm barely two sips into my wobbly cocktail and not even one sheet to the wind when I realize that, hey, I never got change. Panic sets in as I contemplate What Now? Do I make myself more of an asshole and raise a stink? Or do I convert myself into a bigger asshole and pretend that $48 doesn't matter to me? Either way I lose. Kind of like this election.

"Juan," I look around for a giant prop pie. "I didn't get any change for my $50. I hate to bother you but … ."

"Oh, I gave it to you," the charade begins. "I know I did because it cleaned out my drawer."

Ooooh, now I'm the asshole again. To be fair, I love Pulse. Although gay, it's not gross. Instead, I think of it as an odd oasis in the gay bar world and an anomaly on South Orange Avenue. I'm friends with some of the management and staff, and have never had a bad experience. I'm also friends with Juan, having acquired the nickname Fresh from him eight years ago, because my hair always looked like a post-coital masterpiece. So I have no reason to be suspicious.

But I do have a reason to be angry. Rather than being free to mingle about and make column-ready small talk with the gathering glitterati, I'm virtually handcuffed to the bar, waiting and stewing, as a manager is supposed to be making his way over. Nearly a half-hour later, he arrives, and he's none too pleasant. Again, to be fair, by now neither am I.

"Well, if you want I can count the drawer," he speaks down and through his nose. "If we find the money, we'll give you a couple of drinks, and everything will be fine. If we don't, well … ." He makes a queenie face that implies life disappearing into thin air, punctuated by a quiet click of the tongue.

"Well, I don't want to be an asshole," I am an asshole. "So count it if you want to."

"Well, apparently you want me to," he clicks again. "Well, don't you think that if it's that much change it should be handed to me directly," I cat back, quietly screaming in my head, "I write a column, I'm running for mayor. Do you really think I would lie, at least about this?"

So, he counts the drawer. And, well, life (and nearly $50) disappears into thin air. "I'm sorry," Juan mouths, quietly slamming the door.

As if by fate, John chooses this time to introduce the owners of the "new" Southern Nights, and they catch angry alcoholic wind of what's going on. I spew a few coherent sentences about how this should never happen, and if it were my bar, I'd front the cash. Except when I say it, every other word is "fuckin'," which makes it all the more intelligent. "That will never happen to you on Bumby," they offer with marketing concern. "You'll always get the red carpet."

David Lee scampers about concerned and promises to take care of things, although I would never accept cash from somebody trying to raise cash for a valid cause. I would, however, accept cash and an apology from a manager at a nightclub whose job it is to keep his bar open and in positive standing. But they don't come.

What does come is the realization that going out is just going out, despite the nature of your intentions. You trip over your lip, spend too much money, and simply wait for the pie to hit your face. Cheers, Pulse. And thank you.

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