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;Yay, me. Not only did I just survive my drunken-backyard-baby-pool-barbecue, super-sweet-16 birthday party, but I've also got the weeklong headache that a 34-year-old who is pretending he's super, sweet and 16 deserves. That, a Fabergé egg, and a T-shirt that reads "Billy's Super Sweet Sixteen" on it like a ransom note. I'm golden. So it only makes sense that I should be ostentatiously self-congratulatory on this particular Thursday, throwing my name and a couple of "me!"'s up into the air like soap bubbles, all in hand-clapping celebration of the fact that I am indeed standing like a burnt tree.

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; But it's not all about me.

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;Orlando Weekly, having just been honored with the "Flagship Award" from its parent company, is choosing to celebrate in the only way that it knows how, a happy hour. And while they haven't exactly invited me, I'm going. Why? Because in my own delusional, pain-pill head, I run the goddamn paper while little pixies circulate around my noggin proclaiming that I deserve a raise. I personally have no idea what a "flagship" is, but it must be good. A starched-shirt bigwig from out of town is here to visit, and there are enchiladas.

;;"They're quesadillas," edits copy editor Jessica.

;;How would I know? Anyway, most of the health-insured staff is assembled in a cluster against the bar at One Eyed Jack's, drinking to the future and away from the past … like a flagged boat might. Weekly parties are peculiar things, in that everybody always has something to say or sell, and they say or sell it well: quick polemical bursts of ironic wit, unedited.

;;"I wish I was gay," quips editor Bob Whitby in the direction of my nose, irony and wit alcoholically intact. "Because then I would sleep with you."

;;And I'd sleep with him, too. For a raise. I reach over for a chip with a smudge of coagulated cheese on it, just because I think I'm supposed to or because it's free, and Jessica immediately produces a frown.

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;"If you don't run to the bathroom right now and throw that up, I'm never talking to you again," she uvulas.

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;"I'm merely lining the remains of my stomach for proper alcohol ingestion." I am an alcoholic.

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;"How very straight of you."

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;IT and web guy Ian (very straight) is telling Whitby (not so much) a joke, and for a minute I remember that I'm supposed to be operating as a columnist. I say to myself, "Self, this person is about to tell a joke," and take out my pen and napkin to scribble it.

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;"What's the best thing about sleeping with an 85-year-old?" Ian booms. "Depends," he punches.

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;And I want to go. Instead, Jessica and I scoot away to one of the heavily polyurethaned wood bar tables lining the wall. We make our own joke — something about flies caught in amber, and the fact that the new, 22-year-old calendar editor is named Amber, and how she's the Amber without flies caught in her, etc.; and commence to public laughter. Managing editor Lindy joins us for some gossip and reveals that there is actually a word "crapulence," meaning the feeling of being too full, and now I have to go.

;;Not just because I want to, though. Farther down Orange Avenue, Michael Wanzie is having his own self-congratulatory happy hour at Pulse, his for the success of his Fringe farce, "The Lion Queen." The prospect of a spectacle has me itching, as does my one-chip crapulence; Wanzie's weekly newsletter — his Wanziegram, if you will — just went out yesterday, detailing something about an orgy and a hot tub and an exposed penis in a food line. This event sounds way gayer than me.

;;But not really. When I walk in the door, my friend Drew is sitting at the white piano in the white room whitely tooling through some Broadway numbers. Whether it's the overwhelming whiteness of the room or the whiteness of my hair that makes me do it, I can't be sure. But within a minute I'm standing over his shoulder belting out songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Godspell, reclaiming my teen-fag drama status to the tune of "Any Dream Will Do." In effect, I'm Doodie Garland as backed by the Tipsy Shits, but in my head I'm one of the Cassidy brothers with a career to save.

;;"Billy Manes, as I live and breathe," lives and breathes Fringe queen Tommy Wooten, just about to call me out for my Fringe hate in last week's column. "I thought you hated theater people. But there you are, singing away."

;;I try to keep singing, but he comes and stands next to me, overpowering me with harmony far more in key than my rusted uvula is capable of matching. Then he leans in to whisper something in my ear, something strange and gorgeously mean:

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;"You shouldn't throw stones in glass bathhouses."

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;Meanwhile, an unknown theater woman is making loud monkey noises for every one of my high notes, and I have officially fallen into the scorn of my own creation, trapped like a fly in the amber of my own derision. Fortunately, I'm enjoying it. So much am I enjoying it that I offer an encore to the delight of absolutely no one. It is, apparently, all about me.

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;"Sweetie," a redheaded woman grabs me on my way out. "You're nobody's singer."

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;Ouch.

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;"But that's why I like you," she slurs.

;

;Yay, me.

billymanes@yahoo.com

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