Sometimes life really is just the sum of its parts. A pre-pagination glue stick wrestling with a penknife to cobble together anecdotal evidence of life's imitation via politics or controversy or both, just words stuck to page punctuated by such amenities as smoke shops, laser hair removal and this clip-art buff guy or that clip-art Asian masseuse, all slouching toward a happy ending. The duration of its relevance is finite — a week, 80 years — but that's all it is, all that is right there in numbered pages, in two dimensions, black and white with bits of spot color, a flat scrapbook of existence. The. End.
But sometimes it's nice to think it's more.
"But they both meant so much to me growing up," I sniffle and choke at the combined pop punch of Farrah and Michael fatalities. "They were the room to which the latchkey lock of my talk-to-myself childhood opened."
"Oh, shut up," David of the Meatballs big-brothers on the other line. "Today we lost a pedophile and a whore."
"I hate you," etc. Click.
Today has not been an easy day for the emotionally incontinent. There is seepage and there are squirts and snot swirling around amorphous shrines to the legendary but no longer relevant, and I'm caught in the mildly bloody whirlpool of it all. Farrah — I saw that coming, even contemplated my own potential documentary about whatever comes of my trodden anus a few more years into its inevitable decline.
But Michael? Yes, I watched the moneyed marionette seemingly held together by toothpicks and chewing gum stumble through his painful press conference back in March, ending with a prophetic "This is it!" Then, I presumed, he bat-winged his way back into whatever existential cave of immortality he was plucked from and got back to the business of being a one-gloved memory of androgyny for me and millions of other crazy people. You know, "it." Now, I'm looking at the man in the mirror — all grizzled but oddly puffy in places — and I don't like what I see. I think a(nother) part of me just died.
"I can't go there with you on this one," feline copy editrix Jessica brushes off my histrionics.
But she, along with chortle-bus Dave Plotkin, is going with me to tonight's previously planned social distraction. Everybody's favorite monotony monk, Brian Feldman, in a clever bit of synergistic marketing, is bringing his peculiar brand of performance art (heavy on the performance, light on the art) to Frames Forever in Winter Park, and he's doing so in a manner that includes the Orlando Weekly. In reality, it's a politically correct protest of the loss of the free reading service on WMFE and blah and blah and blah, but in my head, given the slip-n-slide of mucus and madness brought on by today's popping of pop culture, it is oh so much more.
"This," I whisper to myself over the strains of "She's Out of My Life" dripping out of my car speakers, "this is like going to my own funeral."
Actually, it may be even stranger than that. We arrive to find Feldman trapped in the shallow glass box of a storefront window against a backdrop of Orlando Weekly pages, pages rendered somehow meaningless despite the presence of invective and depilatory services and hot Asian ladies. Maybe that's the point. Feldman isn't just reading the stories from the June 25 issue; he's making a point of reciting the fine print as well, every word and every number staining the thin paper pages of a week in the life.
"Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Unsolicited manuscripts must be accompanied by an SASE," is followed soon after by "Best Brazilian bikini wax in town. Guaranteed or it's on us."
"Look at his vest," Plotkin Attenboroughs at the strange species on display before us. "It's made out of Orlando Sentinel pages."
"Blasphemy!" team-spirits Jessica.
By the time Feldman makes his way to the real meat, especially an extremely meta entry in Happytown™ intended to be read aloud by Feldman himself — "Wait, did you just hit yourself? Why do you keep doing that?" — the experiment is proving itself to be more entertaining than expected; greater, perhaps, than the sum of its printed parts. So enamored am I that I find myself reading along, as do the other seven or so assembled, but it's weirder for me because, um, I wrote a lot of it.
"Just look at yourself," Plotkin plonks. "You're moving your lips. You love yourself. You are loving this."
I'm looking at the man in the window. I'm asking him to turn the page.
Jessica, meanwhile, is electronically amused by Feldman's inability to trudge through my particular brand of loose grammar, and grabs my iPhone and Tweets the following: "Billy Manes' sentences have been trying to kill me for years. Now they are killing Brian Feldman."
Except they've actually been killing me my entire life, and I'm totally dead now. After two hours, Feldman's only made his way through 12 pages, and my rotting carcass is starting to attract flies. Feldman, to his credit, is already losing his voice. (He'll eventually get through the last lines of this virtually unreadable — especially out loud — column at 3:30 a.m.) The magic has worn off, the words are just words again, and there will be no happy endings.
Back in my car, Jessica and I serenade a none-too-amused Plotkin with Michael Jackson's seminal ode to a rat, "Ben," before I do a quick iPod flip back to the broken-voiced last stanza of "She's Out of My Life."
"I'm out of your car," Jessica coos along as she opens her door. "I'm out of you-ou- our car."
And everything is as it appears. The. End.
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