This is the last thing I need. (Not-so) fresh from a road trip to hell and back, and thoroughly engaged in self-indulgent wound-licking, I'd be far happier to crawl up under a crack rock, laugh a little maniacal laugh and die. Just halfway into my emotional breakdown, and my battered hip begins to vibrate tauntingly. Is it nerve damage of the most embarrassing sort from many tortured years of awkward nonsleep? Is it a chigger? Is it, gulp, a misguided crustacean?
No, it's the batphone.
"Billy! It's Jennifer Crider! I'm in town!" it squawks blood into my bent ear. "Come and get me at the Altamonte Bahama Breeze! Now!"
Oh no you don't. I didn't endure these 32 years of self-flagellation just to be yanked out of my glamorous Whitney Houston fall-apart on a dime (bag). I haven't even achieved the sweats yet. I need more time!
In my head, my conscience (also known as Wendy & Lisa) is vocoding something like, "Say, hey, two thousand zero four, party over, it's out of time."
But the mere presence of Jen (otherwise known as Prince) in my five-mile vicinity extends the song to include its dooming chorus of "Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999!"
Like hell we are. Like hell, indeed.
You see, Crider and I date back to the high '90s, jointly being carried out of just about every nightclub (meaning three) in Orlando after mistaking certain powders for powdered sugar. We were innocent cupcakes, I swear. It's just that everybody else wanted us to skin our knees because we were so painfully fabulous.
"How did you get so lucky?" she would coo at me daily.
"I don't know," I would Britney back. "I've been lucky my whole life. It's something of a curse," swiftly dropping to the floor.
We were like a white-trash version of the Hilton sisters, mostly because her grandfather used to own the Hilton in Cocoa. The similarities seem scary, looking back: blond, fun, perfect, lucky. Plus, she was kind of like a sister, if only in that fag-meets-hag kind of way. She's since relocated to NYC via a stint in South Beach, riding the advertising wave to its narcotic heights (sniff). And to think she started here at Orlando Weekly. To think, I never left.
Although history never repeats, old television shows often do, so here it is that we find ourselves engaging on a fast-forward track through what used to be; kind of like a VH1 clip show, but without Hal Sparks pretending to be straight: I Love Who I Used to Be Even if I Shouldn't.
I rescue Jen and co-worker Keith from some sort of big-gutted-seminar social just in time. She's already squawking at four-drink volume, and who knows what would have happened to her überjob had she thrown back another? Well, I do.
"How ARE you!?" she shakes the shingles.
"Totally FABULOUS and LUCKY!" I make myself vomit.
Steer clear of us if you know what's good for you.
Our historical journey begins at Will's Pub, because that's where it always began. Jen wants to see Will Walker, because she may or may not have scraped her knees near him way back, back when he was single. Keith is just along for the ride, and to the tune of Air Supply burning his backseat ear, is already saying things like, "I've had more fun in the past 10 minutes than I have in the past two days!" We're an easy sell.
Will greets us with due uncertainty; you don't forget train wrecks, after all, and it's hard to muster a brave face when one is coming back at you. Toot sweet, we exit, while Jen squeals things like, "He's still so dirty-grungy cute! He was always so dirty-grungy cute!" and I hold one eye open.
Next stop, Peacock Room obvious, I know, but also remarkably nearby and full of actual liquor. Ornate ambience and a dirty-grungy DJ ("He's so dirty-grungy cute, too!") prevail as we plop down onto an asymmetrical couch.
"It's like bed, but without the pillows," I wave some South Beach cred, to absolutely no effect. There is no "cred" anymore, only contrast. Several splashes of vodka, and enough hobnobbery to make it seem like I've made something of myself, and we're quick to go. This is like speed dating, minus the annoying phone calls. We always dated bars, anyway.
And sometimes, we danced on them which makes our next stop all the more appropriate. Our whole goal tonight was to end up at Dancers Royale, partially for the tits, but also because a mutual friend does hair (down) there. Plus, we have a straight guy on board, and there's always some odd point of leverage when it comes to the exploitation of women.
"Orlando Weekly is in the HOUSE!" the DJ outs me upon entry. I'm only recognized in the most glamorous of climes.
Some Li'l Kim is engaging the guy in front of us in ass-clapping, and he is strangely unmoved, meaning he must be gay, too. Jen threatens to start a strip-bar fight in the stripper's defense, when she's not threatening to drop trou and climb a slippery pole herself.
"Everything is happening so fast," I think to myself. Why can't it happen faster? Then I cut my finger on a barstool. Following a few platonic exchanges with strippers (they read me, you know), we're strutting Lucite towards the exit, in search of our next contrast, or, perhaps, a lifeline (or bandage).
We find it at Pulse (heh), where even on a Monday night, there's a dirty air of smutty celebration. Keith has never been to a "gay bar" before, so he clings tight, while oiled-down men slither in deference to our torsos. Jen befriends one and is practically tossing oily salad before anyone can utter the word "gross."
On the way out I measure the damage done to my very existence by this revisionary trek. We all agree it's time to stop while we're all still standing, and (relatively) wound-free.
"That was the best time of my life," beams Keith from the back seat.
That was my life.
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