BLISTER 


I love Pabst. In a day that's already included the aesthetic conundrum of a hot (but not very) roast beef sandwich at Pom Pom's Teahouse & Sandwicheria, the muted pageant glee of a second-place win for Best Local Writer in the annual Best of Orlando bible, and the amplified irony of Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" blared like a falsetto torture in my car ("That's just cruel," brown-notes Jessica, my co-pilot), I'm faced with this humbling hops proposition.

At hunched-back eye level right in front of me sit two buckets of beer, manifesting some sublime taste test I really ought not be privy to. Not only am I at Colonial Lanes on a Tuesday afternoon for what seems to be either an editorial team-building exercise or a short-bus field trip, but I'm also haplessly involved in an internal bout of mental Pong between two boring brown bottles of bloating bubbles. Will it be the Bud Light? Or will it be the Pabst? Would I like to lose my elbows? Or my knees?

I grab the Bud Light and proceed to fellate any barley-infused escapism I can.

"It tastes like nothing!" scolds my editor (and sometimes jean-shorts promoter) Bob Whitby.

"No, you taste like nothing," I heartburn.

But he's right. Before long I'm inhaling the lowbrow skunk that dares award itself with a Blue Ribbon. I want to be like everybody else, see? It's just like summer camp all over again.

You could hardly call what it is that I'm doing "bowling." There's a tentative walk-up approach, a shoulder-dislocating ball drop and an attention-diverting dismount (I lift my shirt … a lot) to my schtick. Even Steve Schneider's paternal encouragement — he came in first as Best Local Writer, bitches — "That's not so bad!" does little to hold my eyes from the back of my head as I shuffle back toward my earth-toned libation.

"Field goal!" I blather as my ball predictably goes in between the two pins (teeth is what they look like) I'm aiming for, bouncing joylessly off the tongue of some retired prizefighter.

"Wow, you really know your sports!" Jessica feigns support.

"Fore," I putt. "Er, double bogey." Later I'll become known as the ball whisperer, but that's a whole other story.

Jeffrey Billman is the clear ball star today, although his nontraditional (read: slovenly) technique has Jessica and I rolling about with bitch-infused banter about him being "Rob Thomas-ed" when he misses, and likewise being the subject of a future Lifetime Movie — Sloppy Strikes: The Jeff Billman Story — when he excels. Jeff Billman can't win.

But I can.

A bowling alley attendant approaches sometime during one of my pin-free debacles with a, "Hey, Billy. Doesn't look like you're here to bowl," and a couple of knowing glances at the drink in front of me, plus a quick nod to my year-ago political failure. Creepy.

"I have to say I'm glad that Billy's the only one of us he recognized," Jason Ferguson smirks. He's part of the axis of evil.

Three rounds (or frames, or whatever) later, the whole gang has relocated to a giant roundtable in the lounge. Fox News glows overhead with no sound, and the circle takes to its regular squawking of hilarious non sequiturs. Some jokes about Hamas and hummus flutter about, as does the vocal realization that Jason Ferguson wants to join Hezbollah. I knew it.

On another screen, Channel 13 News is in a collective (also muted) gasp about a "cruise ship catastrophe," leading to many premature jokes about bad food, discomfort and, yes, diarrhea. In fact, the ship tilted (or "listed," nautical-heads) to its side and injured nearly 100, but for us it's all fat tourists with burning bungholes.

Meanwhile, I'm two hours late in getting home and by the time I do, my beer-breathed musings on "having to be there" and "Look, I'm second place!" are only effective at picking a fight with Alan.

"You're so selfish," he glares, like my mom always did.

I love myself more than Pabst, apparently.

Later in the evening Jessica and I regroup with the younger half of the editorial scribes for a photo contest at the Matador. Seems that downtown's super-cute Ryan Marshall, with the help of our own Arab bomber, Jason Ferguson, organized a Midnight Madness-like scavenger hunt last week, pulling together teams of hipsters to disposably photograph the hilarity of pseudo-urban blight `ed. note: See "Photo Royale," page 18`. I'm not actually here to judge (hell, I may not actually exist at all), but Jessica is.

"When a golden shower's smell is skunky, blame this skinny phallic green veggie. It's Orlando's City Hall centerpiece," one of the clues typos in a broken haiku. "Because Orlando need's a centerpiece weenie!"

The pictures are less-than-focused, and at least one of the team representatives is offensively glib about "bums." Dan Stone's team dressed up like cat burglars, but beneath such heady metaphoria of cats, burglars and matadors, the charm of the whole event proves a bit too confused for me. Until I look down.

There on my shirt, in assurance of free drinks, sticks a puffy lettered decal. And if I tell you what it says, you'll think I'm lying. But I'm not.

"I (heart) Pabst," it declares. And I guess at this point, I do. More than me, anyway.

billymanes@yahoo.com

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