BARELY A PULSE 


Knowing me, knowing you, uh-huh, there is nothing I can do. In between inhaling the brackish red-tide death smell of my latest sinus infection and staring at the taunting recession of my hairline, I can barely muster an eye roll in the direction of nightlife nuancing. This is the sickest I've ever been, and I mean it this time. I totally need a vodka-friendly Saint Bernard and two tickets to paradise courtesy of Eddie Money. How 'bout getting off of these antibiotics? How 'bout stopping eating when I'm full up? How 'bout wrapping all of Alanis' old split ends around my throat and ending this corrosion? I guess I should stop. Yeah. I should.

But not before I attempt a pulse at, umm, Pulse, for a smidge of gay-bar resuscitation necessary to keep my gay card active. I've got some caution, there's the wind, and this is me throwing the former into the latter. Geddit?

Now, Pulse used to be Dante's and I used to work the door there, in between lines of cocaine and occasional meatballs, so the terrain itself feels well trodden. But maybe not so well traveled. In front of me a couple of straight couples are discussing the ins and outs of sidewalk engineering. Apparently one of the male specimens works in something like city planning, which means he's very boring and not wearing a belt, and is concerned about what the handicapped folk – the cripples, so to speak – do when the standard Orlando walkway disintegrates into the standard Orlando pile of dirt. Their quadruple exchanges are unremarkable and their clothing choices very Houston's, but they are significant for one thing, and one thing only. They are straight. And this is a gay bar.

We needn't mince words about the heterofication of Orlando's fey hotspots – I never thought the words 'fire' and 'stone' went well together anyway – but this nimble grouping of blechtrosexuals is putting a disconcerting mauve on my generally pink parade. Just because a bar is architecturally forward and ambiently sound, that doesn't mean that people have to breed there, does it? Haven't we suffered enough?

The whole reason I'm here is really to be something of a meddling older sister; just to peer into a situation – one that is clearly not my situation – and see how it's all panning out. Pulse opened over the summer, and since I've only had occasion to visit once, when a girlfriend from out of town felt the need to shove a dollar bill into a bulging Speedo. I thought it was due for a check-up. You know, like I am … sniffle, bulge.

Like a princess with a slipper and not a pea, I'm given the royal treatment from minute one. Looking and feeling this bad can really get you places, it seems. And I've never been worse.

"Have you found your bartender yet?" queries the general manager, Scott.

"Umm, no … just my bellybutton," I respond in kind.

"Give this man anything he wants," Scott signs my contract, while bartendress Erin tries to muffle a laugh. "Umm, OK," I fall into myself. "I'll have a SKYY screwdriver."

And at this point, Erin starts to yawn, actively. "A SKYY screwdriver? I'm falling asleep."

Breaking my mid-shelf malaise and affection for blue bottles, I scamper up a couple to the Grey Goose. It's free, after all. And I don't feel good. Within an instant, I lock dirty halos with fellow bitchgabber Joel, a Wave hairdresser who's moonlighting here and looks nothing like Cybill Shepherd. I've written about him before, because I can't help it, and he doesn't want me to write about him again. Hi Joel. Sorry.

It's not like I'm really writing about him anyway, as he's chosen to fag up his name for gay bar purposes. Here he's known as Jo-elle.

"Because when I say Joel, people call me Joey," he provides weak, but inspired, explanation. Joey, baby, don't get crazy … and if you're somewhere drunk and passed out on the floor, etc. I decide to refer to him as Joelle when he's on my left side and Joel when he's on my right, because it's binary and not funny at all. He doesn't laugh and neither do I. All is well. Except for the fact that every time we indulge in pithy conversation, his eyes are focused directly on my hairline.

"You have roots. I can't help it," he offers a hairdresser's blue rinse.

Me neither. I try to explain that the reason my hairline is so kooky is because this one time, at band camp, when I had a hair weave to resemble Brett Anderson of Suede, I got drunk, it itched and I ripped it out. His eyes don't move, nor do his ears hear. I'm a broken man and it's obvious to everyone.

So I choose to wander about the upscale gay milieu, occasionally drifting past distended Speedo penises of the Viagra flavor and feeling old and awkward. My only option is to make fun of other people, because I know they're making fun of me. Joel(le) and I get to talking about one particular fashion victim who reportedly demands that each of his libations contain no less than three cherries. It seems a sad eccentricity, especially considering that there's no real metaphor to tie it to (short of a Twin Peaks tongue knot), and that he's wearing a Members Only jacket. He's funny, but I'm funnier.

Erin the bartendress and I start singing Heart tunes to each other, because, I guess, the sky is indeed falling.

"Try, try, try to understand!" she Anns.

"Dog and butterfly," I Nancy.

And it only goes downheart from there. Something funny about Heart and Pulse flashes in my head, only to be replaced by another Dead-Sea sniffle. And I start digging into the later catalog of the sisters, who they say used to sleep together.

"I am the flower. You are the seed. We walked in the garden. We planted a tree," I go one heartbeat too far.

"All I wanna do is make love to you," Erin feeds my demise… in tune.

Funny. All I wanna do is die.

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