Like it does with most good drunk liberals, philosophical socialism shoots from my dilated pores faster than you can say "Chappaquiddick." So it should come as no surprise that I'm suitably, saucily gung ho about tonight's excursion: a trip downtown to Room 3 Nine to join my lefty pals for some inebriated camaraderie in the form of the weekly Drinking Liberally confab (or is that fab-con?). The concept is pretty loose, really, and (not surprisingly) kinda popular in many major cities: Liberals drink and talk too much, effectively producing a cocaine-like hangover the following morning and a pile of regret in the toilet.
This week's event was preceded by the following treatise in the form of an e-mail. "In this week's episode of The Blame Game, host Wink Martindale awards an expenses-paid vacation to Michael Brown. On FEMA's Dream Job, a new winner is named one who has actual experience. Plus, John Roberts sits in the Hot Seat in the Senate Judiciary Committee's Lightning Round. For more, check your local listings or come raise your glasses at Drinking Liberally and cheer the crumbling regime also known as President Bush's AIM Buddy List." Demented and sad, but social.
In truth, I've attended one of these before, way back in the spring when they first started popping up and I was reasonably entrenched in the body politic. I couldn't quite find the table of the group, so I wandered around, drank and eventually went home talking to myself. Because that's just what I do.
In order to prepare for tonight's festivities and inevitable letdown, my friend Tony and I have adopted the peculiar hippie-robot choreography of the late-'80s Merchant/Stipe model, while flailing around in my diesel car to the 10,000 Maniacs wet-rag anthem "What's the Matter Here?"
"You've got it down perfectly!" he encourages me, when clearly he should not.
"I know. I'm a lesbian," I throb from my special place.
What's the matter here is that once again, upon entry to Room 3 Nine I'm unable to locate anything that looks like Ted Kennedy throwing up on Howard Dean's pants while Hillary holds his hair back. I see no Kerry Marys, no Carter Families, no dreamy John Edwards; just the peculiar stares of 30-somethings in dinner-drink 'tween time staring slightly upward with faces that imply both indifference and a hope for something more.
A quick bartendress query and I locate our special table our short bus, so to speak. Three people are sitting in the corner drinking, not really saying much, as if the hangover from last week's event or perhaps last year's election is still creating hammers in heads and cotton in mouths.
"So this is Drinking Liberally," I stifle the irony.
"Yeah, join us!"
So that's what we do, politely shaking hands and kissing babies around our minute political round table. Basically, it's just three nice people: a guy named Christian with fuzzy arms, a girl named Zeke (or something that rhymes with that) and another woman whose name I can't make out either, but she has "worked in the film business." The pressure to make topical small talk squeezes at my temples, so I blurt out something about FEMA, which almost rhymes with Katrina, and we lay into a conversation that we've all already had 1,000 times over the past week, often more convincingly.
"I don't really know, but I've seen the governor and the mayor crying on television since day two, so I think I'll believe them," I liberally take another drink and spit up another hiccup of nonsense. The rest weigh in with their varying degrees of conspiracy theory and we all wind up feeling a little more self-satisfied, if less helpful. In truth, we're doing what they want us to do: blame, which rhymes with game. Eventually, in some swirl of slurs, the game is up.
"Are you more Belinda Carlisle '80s or Cure '80s?" quizzes Christian, adding that he was "too young for punk."
"How old are you?" I flirt but not really.
"Omigod! Me, too!"
And the new game begins: Tony opts for the Cure option, while I Chardonnay-sway in the direction of the Carlisle, adding that, y'know, Andy Taylor played on "Mad About You."
"And Rod Stewart's 'Out of Order,'" falls out of Christian's mouth, and the game has completely shifted into my decided Duran favor. "I have Andy's solo records."
What? I don't even have his solo records. I'm so losing. Either way, it's more fun than talking about race wars under water (what isn't?), and I've found a kindred spirit: a drunk liberal stuck in the '80s.
"I don't even remember the '80s," chimes Zeke ill-advisedly. "I'm only 24."
The redheaded film gal is 40, so we're actually a pretty broad spectrum. A whole demographic at one table. We can all just get along.
At this point I start into my standard stalker brag, detailing limousines laid in front of and high-speed interstate chases, not realizing how boring it all is. None of them read my column anyway (although they "love the Weekly") and from some sources it has been revealed that my general "fagginess," my ability to make the entire Weekly staff hump each other while I "lick" the copy editor, may be the ruin of the whole thing. But some sources give me too much credit. I'm just a lowly drunk fag with liberal tendencies, tripping in bars and talking to myself. Like now.
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