Blister 


Time, time, time. See what's become of me.

Gone are the binary gender tumbles through fiberglass geometrics, the pop colors over-popped in deafening white noise merchandising mazes, the pleats and placid smiles of a lubricated existence precariously poised for ambitious leaps into almost immediate obsolescence. It was dry like a snake's skin then, but it looked slippery and wet, all Dippity-Do slicked-back hairodynamics and blown fuses for eyes pricked wide open. You jumped and you never really fell, just slowly descended until it was 23, 28, 34, then 37. The numbers got higher as liquor and cocaine sloshed over pill-shaped speed bumps in an ever-narrowing river of sexual juices. "I'd fuck anything" turned into "I fucked everything," flirtation gave way to regret and memory scrunched itself into the eye of the needle that popped the balloon. Oh, and you're gay. More than you ever asked for, then, but somehow less than zero.

An eyelash drops.

"I'm the Susanna!" I side-eye my traveling troupe of nostalgists, all hankering for a hunk of how it used to be.

"Well, I would be the Michael Steele, but she's not there anymore," Erin's Afro-plume of hair shudders.

Tonight, there's that snide resignation that aftertastes nearly all such self-mocking assignations on nights of going out to reclaim — or hermetically reproduce — these past musical glories, but there's also a hint of joie de vivre symptomatic of a bad case of the apocalypse giggles. Yes, we're going to see the Bangles in 2009 at the resin-lined career receptacle known as the Velvet Sessions at the Hard Rock Hotel, and yes, it will more than likely include a myriad of tangible reminders of the origins of sarcasm and discomfort, but somewhere beneath our collective tragedy filters there's still some spark of euphoria or respect for the blurry sequined mess that to this day makes us wear fluorescent socks. At least for those of us who sleep with boys.

"Somebody told me a Susanna Hoffs story recently that gave me a new perspective on the Bangles," Orlando rock god and music industry hangover Jeff Nolan grumbles from the driver's seat. He's implying something heterosexual with champagne poured all over it, but I'm choosing not to inquire. After all, Jeff's been kind enough to chaperone this memory lane sojourn for myself, his wife Erin and her friend Michèle (both of post-Bangles Little Debbies fame), and while surely he'd prefer to be excavating hypodermic needles from the ass of Johnny Thunders, he's being a really good sport.

"What are we listening to?" I Hoffs-huff from the back seat.

"The Shangri-Las, then the Shirelles," he temporally juxtaposes. "I'm a little passive-aggressive like that."

We arrive to the expected fanfare of creeping middle age creeping around a hotel lobby. Long free-liquor lines punctuated with traveling trays of salmon-smeared appetizers clump together into a bubbling mingle-casserole, chattering voices combining into a tubercular cough. On the pink stage, because this is Pinktoberfest and breast cancer is bad, some shoddy auction motif is playing off its raffle rattle through a toupee and bedazzled leather jackets, while the whole of the MetroWest MILF contingent growls its cougar growl. Erin's taken my cue and has started executing some side-eyeing of her own — "Her shoes are really cute, but the rest of her is a mess," "It's nice, but it's pretty Holocausty," etc. — and this isn't so bad at all.

Outside, I immediately revert to ostentatious word association by way of girl-band experiences from my ever-narrowing sexual stream of consciousness to pass the time. To wit, that time at the Pat Benatar concert when Alan and I were so drunk that we just started making out and the crowd split open and the chorus to "We Belong" came on and everybody bought us more drinks and everything was great forever. Or the time when I snapped out of a Rohypnol blackout just as Madonna was crazy-for-you-cooing, "Soldiers making the most of the dark," with a dick in my mouth and nothing was ever good again. Or the time I saw the Bangles in 1988 opening for George Michael at the Orange Bowl and they weren't very good at all. Wait a minute! Why am I here?

"Oh my God!" the lights dim and my jaw drops at the appearance of the diminutive Hoffs. "She's a 4-inch hair commercial!"

Say what you will about the Bangles — or don't, because nobody really ever does anymore — but somehow they have managed to remain exactly the same mascara pancake slumber party that they always were, swinging their hair around and dabbling in mix-tape obscurities (Big Star!) while practicing fellatio on frozen bananas. Time, time, time has been kind to them, and their grab bag of recognizable hits positively shimmers tonight with that wet-look, dry-to-the-touch ambition that made failure in my 20s so unavoidable. Look around!

"Hang on to your hopes, my friend/That's an easy thing to say, but if your hopes should pass away/Simply pretend/That you can build them again."

Up in the VIP section, Erin and I spark our throats like dead lighters to sway and sing along to the saccharine "Eternal Flame," and while no gropes or insertions occur to sexualize the experience, there's a survivors' camaraderie present that only those of us who shift our eyeballs from right to left to make our desires known can understand. For Erin, that desire is to run off with the band and be a Bangle forever, thumping classic basslines into the 401(k) faces of people who don't care anymore. For me, well, it's far simpler than that.

"I'm the Susanna!" I lose an eyelash. Still.

bmanes@orlandoweekly.com

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