It's these little things, the floorboard creaks and air-conditioner whispers, the chatter of raindrops on dirt puddles mingling with the syncopated crazy baby voices — "limburger," they say, over and over in hard German coughs, "limbur-GER!" — in my head, that make just sitting here such an insane endeavor. The sound of silence is a symphony of stupid. Everything happens when nothing is going on. A cricket chirps.
"Did I tell you my latest great idea?" Karen Leigh is not receiving enough attention. "You go to Starbucks, right?"
"Well, I was just thinking …" blah, blah, blah, something about Starbucks debit cards that actually know what drink you always drink because you get the same drink every day, but what if the morning shift person gets moved to the night shift and doesn't know your drink because you're a night person, and wouldn't that be awful because that person would have to decipher the Sharpie directives on a cup and then the line would get longer and somebody would get fired, see?
"Marble cake," I mumble. "You've forgotten food choices. What about the muffin-versus-marble cake dilemma. There are holes in your presentation."
"Oh," Karen is undaunted. "Well, here's my other idea, except it's not just my idea but it's also the idea of some Japanese cardiologist from 20 years ago. You know nail clippers?"
"Well, this cardiologist and I were just thinking …" limburger, limburger, limburger, the unfortunate noise of fingernails being clipped has got to go!
"But how does one silence the annoying?"
"The sound is caused by the high-energy vibration in the metal, with a subsequent vibration of the surrounding air molecules, and, hence, acoustic propagations through the air," Karen elaborates. I slip deeper into the ether. "It would have to be eliminated with electric things."
Which brings us to tonight, the point at which we abandon the detritus of overthought and hyperawareness and toss ourselves into structured anticipation. Tonight it comes in the form of a postcard invitation to something just obtuse enough to make it all seem worthwhile. There are electric things implied — some speakers and an electric guitar in illustrated form — so it could quite possibly be the sort of affair required to alleviate the presently pestering minutiae. Also, there is that name, "Back 2 Basics," and although it breaks my standard rule of to-two-too-2 discretion, Firestone's new monthly attempt at "ultimate" nightclub relevance on a Tuesday also suggests renewal. Or something.
"Like hair shampoo? Isn't that a hair shampoo?" Karen conditions.
In truth, even upon arrival neither of us can quite discern what it is. Sure, it's Firestone — electric flashes of light that appear in dark skies out of nowhere; sailors would guide entire journeys by it, but the joke was on them … there was no fire — and as cavernous points of reference go, you could do worse than this glow-stick K-hole full of tragedy touchstones.
But it's also 2009, Tuesday and too empty to recognize. The girl at the door hands us each a gift envelope and we start picking through them for some kind of clue. It's too dark to actually see anything, so it all comes down to Helen Keller guesswork.
"Is this hair shampoo?" I run my fingers up and down a plastic packet of goo.
No. It's actually Swedish Beauty Black Diamond Tanning Système with a "tingle power" of 10! Bleurgh. Anyway, there are other scraps of evidence — a tanning coupon and two Sam Rivers tickets — that present some blushes of uncomfortable demographic profiling, but there are literally only about eight people here to which to apply them. From what we can make out, Firestone has basically pulled couches up to the dance floor, placed a DJ in front of the stage, flipped the switch on the light-'n-smoke machine and taken a bit of a nap. Either that, or this is a high-school nightmare.
"So, it's kind of like a 90210 abusive relationship scenario in which you have to accompany your bar-owning boyfriend to work early and just listen to the echo-echo-echo of techno-techno-techno off the 8 p.m. walls," I think out loud while we sink into a couch. "I think I'm going to get raped."
Karen, meanwhile, has pulled out her iPhone. "There is no mirror application on an iPhone," she ominously observes. Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and other variations of Top 40 thump beneath our collective incredulity, and nothing continues to happen.
"Somebody's going to get fired for this," Karen conjures another debit card solution, or a nail-clipper. "I mean, it's free vodka for two hours on a Tuesday."
By 9:15, the failure has taken on a new hue when a black curtain covering the stage area drops to reveal DJ Deville, a laptop and two video screens upon which images of Sir Mix-a-Lot, 2 Live Crew and Tone-Loc are thrown into a 1992 editing blender. So now it's like a casting call for The Grind.
A sad cocktail waitress high-heels around the vacuum with a full tray of champagne flutes, some promoter walkie-talkie types pace back and forth without purpose and one drunk guy starts to couch-dance with his arms. Here, nothing happening is indeed nothing happening.
"Maybe ‘Back 2 Basics' means like going back to before there were, um, people?" Karen stares into her phone, still waiting for an image of herself to appear.
Or maybe these acoustic propagations of bass rattling the couch beneath my ass are just another, less-enjoyable version of the stupidity symphony I already know. A nail clips, a cricket chirps and …
"Limburger, limburger, limbur-GER!"[email protected]