GOING NOWHERE 


I am so going nowhere. Some 20 years ago this week I was washed up with the rest of the tween millions in front of my television set, channeling my sense of philanthropy through the close-ups of distended African bellies set to the off-key musical stylings of Bob Geldof and Madonna. I changed the world by watching all 16 hours of Live Aid. No, I didn't make a donation or anything, but surely I ate a sandwich during the spectacle. OK, that's a lie.

This week, as an exercise in similarly software activism, I propped myself up in front of the computer (OK, two computers and a television set) to impress upon the leaders of the world the importance of making poverty history, and never even had to shed my pajamas. Minus soppy-eyed testimonials from Sally Field demanding my weekly allowance, the guilt level was minimal at Live 8, and by some indirect force provided by watching my favorite pop stars (a-Ha! Duran Duran!) flub around with their vocal monitors all over the world, I'm sure I did something. If I remember correctly, there may have been a sandwich involved, too, though not in my mouth.

Through my vigilance and my unending desire to sit in the same place and be spoon-fed entertainment, I'm certain that I've saved the world. Or maybe I'm delusional from lack of actual exposure to humanity, and cackling through the nose-picking, red-eyed mental hemorrhaging that that implies.

In order to allay my unsocialized insanity, I spent most of July 4 pretending to eat at my own front-yard barbecue, circulating around a mass of 20 or so 30-somethings, and spitting up random facts about hunger and hairstyles. Like, "Madonna was actually really good! Did she lose some weight?" I may not have invited Geldof, but I was quickly turning into a miniaturized, even less effective version of him. Mondays? I want to shoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oot the whole day down.

And then go out. My friends Carlie and Jen arrive around 9 p.m., in time for us to watch the Lake Eola fireworks from my house. I assure them that you can see everything from this vantage point, and thusly avoid the throng of smelly holiday holdovers assembled to stare at the sky while their children burn off their fingers. By the time things get underway, all we get to see are the upper arches of the dampened explosions and I feel kind of bad about it.

"Oooooh," I oooh. "Ahhhh," trying to make like the whole situation is better than it is, and convince them that maybe they can't see the fireworks because they are clearly too short to see over my backyard trees and that is obviously not my fault. I am an amazing host.

Anyway, as the rush of underwhelmed, overnourished lemmings is heading back toward their cars, we decide to make like salmon and rush the red, white and blue tide toward our downtown liquor destiny: The Matador. A gaggle of our friends (namely, people we work with) are to be gathering there for no apparent reason, other than the standard wind-down revelry of people who work retail. Predictably, I'm already a wreck by the time the evening's festivities begin, bombed (and you'll forgive me for this ... like a double-decker bus) beyond recognition, neither inward nor outward. Thankfully, we're able to hail a pedi-cab a block into our journey. A guy named Steve is our cruise director this evening. He's got that Puckish quality peculiar to people in this racket, and he's literally going somewhere all the time. I'm not sure when it happened, but the pedi-cab sensation has taken off Orlando, employing all sorts of cute boys who previously sat at the back of class into positions that are both strangely powerful and obviously tragic.

"Hi, Steve," I both blather and flirt.

No response.

Steve wheedles us through the holiday traffic, past angry police and through dark alleyways that make Orlando look like it might be a city.

"This is beauuuuutiful," I shoot again. "If I had known that we had alleys like this, I'd be in another line of work!"

"What?"

"Nothing."

Once at the Matador on Pine Street, the evening's drama ensues. Carlie's lost her wallet, which she assumes flew out when she was checking her Steve-ready tip funds, and now she's aflutter with that sort of girl drama that I don't really get. So I rattle my limited paternal reserves and come up with the idea to retrace our trek on foot, but give up at about, eh, 20 feet. Steve gave us his card after I gave him a $20 dollar tip, so I call him like a 13-year-old drama queen might.

"Hi Steve," I blather and flirt. "Did you happen to find a wallet in your rear? I mean, cab?"

Steve rustles about for a bit, like a boy might, and comes back with nothing, promising to retrace our awkward journey, probably because I could give him another $20. So I'm set to create my own drama. Only I'm not.

Inside the Matador, the shenanigans are all a blur. I tell one of my bosses that I have a crush on him (even though I don't), and that his girlfriend is totally beautiful and that he is totally lucky. My 21-year-old friend Anna makes out in the corner with a sci-fi guy who likes absinthe and is totally my age, which is gross and terribly heterosexual. I speak to nobody in particular about how far I've come as a person, even though I haven't. I talk about Live 8. I go over to Anna and don't exactly whisper in her ear that she can do better and that he is disgusting (later she'll have a hickey the size of a lung on the back of her neck, meaning I was right). Then, I drop my pants. In public. Again.

All of this in a matter of 20 minutes. Something has to give.

"Omigod, Billy," Carlie bounds over. "They found my wallet."

Turns out that somebody turned it in to the cops, the cops called her, everything was intact, whatever. My mission is done here. Jen and I bow out of the bar, as I stumble back into my pants, and we hail another pedi-cab for the ride home. Fittingly, we get a guy named Benjamin who's apparently fed up with his cyclic role and on his last ride of the night and of all time.

"I'm done," he stews, while various unnamable hip-hop beats rattle underneath our asses.

Me, too. I'm going nowhere.

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