I always knew it would come to this, I just didn't know that it would be so soon. Nearly 33 years into the damning swirl of life's deep, red drain and I thought that at worst I'd be drinking a swig of Drano and scraping my painted toenails against smudges of pipe rust about halfway down to a septic hell. Instead, I'm here at Parliament House again. Worse, I'm here to play bingo, long B 4 I should be allowed to.

So, essentially, I've bypassed 14 games of shuffleboard and an early-bird shrimp boat at Red Lobster, picking up only a few easily bleachable gray hairs and a questionable kidney or two along the way to my ignoble slouch toward obsolescence. At least I've found the shortest distance between two points: a drink, not a diagonal.

And I am, rather unexpectedly, having the best time ever.

"Omigod, look at this! A lei!" I point and giggle at the plastic pink necklace sitting in front of me on the bar. I forgo my natural tendency to make a lei = lay joke, and shiver the whole thing down my body to my midsection, creating a ratty sash that is the height of fashion.

"That's scary," shivers my friend Tony right back. "Those things barely fit around most people's heads."

"I know. I'm a perfect size zero, and I have a model's brain," I can be very annoying. But not dirty, once again … the sleaze will come later. For now, I just want everything to be perfect, small and pretty.

Tonight is the inaugural edition of the Parliament House's latest attempt at adding a sense of purpose to your Tuesday happy hour decline. Beach Blanket Bingo is the name of the game, and Miss Sammy (or Mr. Singhaus) and Michael Wanzie are the gracious, if ubiquitous, hosts. So there will be some fiddling with balls before some poking of holes. I'm sure of this.

And there will be a bathing suit.

Miss Sammy comes blond-wig wobbling out first in what can best be described as a modest yellow polyester mini beach slip two sizes too small, luggage dangling in clear view with but one reach for the stars. Well, not so much luggage as tightly encased indiscernible puffiness. Like, maybe somebody's a little overgrown in the tropical brush department, or something. Get this woman a weed eater! You get the idea.

"I got a little extra sand in my suit," Sammy itches, running her fingers dangerously close to her adhesively subdued unmentionables.

"Now, Sammy," the bartender, Taylor, cushions his retort. "Did you go and wear a pad to the beach again?"


"Isn't it funny how they call them 'Always,'" Sammy almost crosses her eyes. "I mean, shouldn't they be called 'Sometimes'?"

Before the red tide can get any deeper, the glorious strains of The B-52's beam over the PA and instantly we're all a little bit Kate and Cindy ("No, I'm Kate and you're Cindy!" etc.) But definitely not Fred.

"I met Fred Schneider once," Tony offers an opening clause that most people who hang out in Orlando gay bars possess, readily available somewhere in their small talk arsenal. "I was dressed as the Cookie Monster and I walked up to him and said, 'Ah! You're Fred Schneider!' and he looked at me scared and said quietly, 'Um, and you're the Cookie Monster?'"

Before long, my whole gaggle of friends are screaming along to the best, most ridiculous music ever made, each trading Kate and Fred parts in the crustaceous punk nonsense opera that is The B-52's.

"What's that on your head!"

"A wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig!"

And like sand through a bathing suit, it seems that the whole bingo game thing won't even matter. Not so. For some odd reason, the minute that the rules are explained and the complimentary cards are disbursed, a pall of competitive seriousness falls over the assembly. Gray hairs pop through otherwise perfected coifs, and we're all hunched over our cards like so many bitter widows at a fellowship hall potluck, just hoping our colostomy bags hold up.

Fortunately, a series of physical challenges are to precede each bingo bout for extra cards and/or small prizes … and to break our ridiculous resolve. A free blow job from Miss Sammy is joked about, but sadly most will have to settle for free weekend cover charges, tchotchkes and liquor. Hula Hoop-twirling, a miniature golfing situation (a missing ball is said to be lost somewhere in Sammy's hole, no less), and something like Nerf Tennis with the bartender will follow, and for the latter I'll be volunteered, knock the ball into somebody's head and then leap to the floor for my final shot as if it might actually be padded. It isn't. If nothing else, I will then officially feel like an old lady who loves bingo, rheumatism and all.

"B 10" calls Wanzie as one game begins. "As in what happened to Miss Sammy when she brought home a bear from the Full Moon last night. She was B 10."

Ha! For every number that I don't get, I scream, "Stupid!" because I am.

Somebody inevitably hollers "BINGO," and that somebody is inevitably not me. I never win anything.

"Shenanigans!" Taylor bellows. "I call shenanigans!"

"Tomfoolery!" seconds my friend Roy.

"Hoodwinked!" I try my best, but we all decide that in the current context of overt sexual metaphoria, that "hood" and "wink" are kind of gross together. Scratch that.

My boyfriend, Alan, eventually wins, as does everybody else but me, and we're treated to a certificate for a free night's stay at the lovely Parliament House hotel. Surely that will be great for our relationship, like most all-night cruisy situations that involve partially clothed strangers peeking in your window. Better than the "fuck a midget" child-sized beach chair being offered as the grandest of grand prizes, anyway.

But not better than bingo. Nothing is better than bingo. Pass the Drano, I'm going down.

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