LIKE MINDED 


In dark times like these – y'know, times of depreciated self-worth created by second-degree citizenship thanks to the braided Bible-belts of folk who find Regis and Kelly to be a little too risqué for their morning Wheaties doused in blood – one alternates between teary-eyed, drunken knee-biting and the insane comforts of personal pop-cultural history. If you can't beat 'em, forget about 'em and casually go about your business of taking it (up the ass) like a man. That's the American way and I'm an American gay.

For now, anyway.

And now being what it is – a time of painfully bloody knees – I've decided to pull myself together for another distracting delusion, mostly because I need to get over it. I never cared about politics. I cared about public self-destruction, occasional stomach ailments and Simon LeBon. Fortunately, there's help, hugs even, for people like me. It comes in the form of Internet message-boarding. And tonight, dear readers, I'm attending what I and my fellow soccer moms refer to as a "meet-up": the odd in-person comeuppance inherent to the otherwise metaphorically displaced safety net of the World Wide Web. I don't know what to wear. A screensaver, maybe?

"What time is your sewing circle?" taunts my other half from a distant plateau of mental stability.

"Umm, 7," I click and drag, downloading bile as we speak.

Needless to say, I'm nervous; there's the slight chance I may have crossed a line here, one that I've avoided through my early 30s, that of bland concession. Until now, my obsession with Duran Duran has remained "funny" by being purely stupid and figurative: the occasional stalking sprees of interstate car chases, some jumping into Simon's limousine against the arm of a policeman, a sprinkle of journalistic facade in lengthy-but-legitimate interviews, mascara, etc. But this is a whole new level. I'm approaching some civilized sewing circle of people like me. In a way, it feels like AA, and for that alone I am petrified. I'm eating dinner with addicts, who, for the most part, are like me.

Save a prayer till the morning after, I whisper to myself as I shove my bones into my driver's seat. Save a prayer, indeed.

Saving a table will prove harder. Eight of us turn out for the meet-up, most with obtuse screen names that I naturally cannot place with faces – one a hunky husband with a studded belt – and we're stuck outside Wildsides in Thornton Park for about an hour. It's a Saturday night in Breederville, after all.

"Billy Manes," offers the studded belt as I stroll up. My column precedes (even usurps) me.

"Oh, how'd ya know?"

In fact, most of them know of my weekly tattered reverie, and are a bit reserved about revealing much. Except Schmacko, a friend of everyone I know but me, who doesn't like my column at all.

"Don't worry," he pipes. "You'll all be included in his column."

Party crasher.

Out of the corner of my eye, I recognize one of the girls, but am not sure whether it's just my dilated pupil snagging on an eyelash. Turns out, oddly, that my memory serves me correctly. It's Sasha. Sasha and I go way back, actually, to when I used to shave my soul in Tallahassee. In another life, when I was prostituting myself for CD singles at record shows, Sasha was my main competition, always pre-reserving the latest Japanese obi-stripped picture disc of Nick Rhodes farting, before I could even scratch my wallet for monetary dust. Hell, I even worked at the record shows. In short, I hated her.

"Omigod! I knew it was you!" stealing my (sound of) thunder, then turning to the rest of the tribe. "In Atlanta, in '93, Billy saved my life. I had really bad seats, and he let me come up to the front with him!"

I did? OK.

Anyway, the dinner goes really well. It turns out that all of these people are of sufficient mental capacity to conceal their insanity, and – surely in the name of the love of Duran Duran – we are able to connect with each other like longtime friends. Relatively few inside jokes sputter and bounce, while a general conviviality gains its requisite momentum. You know, the reflex, what a game.

"You interviewed Simon?" digs Sasha, implying that she could make his chicken curl before I could.

"Yeah, I had him," I uncharacteristically embellish the truth.

And then we kill each other. Well, not really. But Sasha does receive an actual full-length chicken bone in her penne pasta, and the whole evening seems to come to a stop because of it. A bone in the flute, as they say, and then it's over. Shanna, the waitress, can't figure out how to compile separate receipts, and the world seems more stupid for it, and I ought to throw in my (ragged) tiger towel and go home.

But I don't.

The group decides to reconvene at the Independent Bar, presumably to pay witness to my downfall, because that's where I typically crash, then burn. There's only so long you can hold this projected elation up before you're aching for a drink-too-strong and a Depeche Mode song. There, the studded belt will force a Mind Eraser shot upon me in spite of my arms a-twisted, and from there the deal is sealed.

A girl comes running up to me with a T-shirt and a ballpoint pen, and I'm hoping she's intending some sort of MacGyver homicide. Instead, it's odd praise.

"My boyfriend would be too scared say this, but he loves you. We came in here because we saw you outside. Will you sign this shirt for him?"

"Well, I don't usually sign autographs," I Nick Rhodes. "Mostly because usually nobody asks."

And then I do, for the first time in my life. Sadly, it's the last step at the end of my cliff. By the time my friend Jennifer pops in for her usual den-mothering, I'm out of my gourd, blathering about the falsehood of my being and the election. I'm blue in a red state.

"You need to go home," she snips my line.

I do. But I'll be flying in second class, thank you.

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