"I hate you," I clench my teeth around my steering wheel. "You are dead to me."

"Don't say that!" Savannah drawls inaudibly … to me.

Life has taken a bloated tryptophan turn over the past couple of days, and my car has taken a few extra turns itself in just the past half-hour. A half-baked premise involving something like going far away to appreciate where you came from — that and one too many tumblers of soothing elixir punctuated by some superfluous talk about "finding a pulse" — and we're careening down the darkened, underdeveloped thoroughfare at the nether reaches of Alafaya Trail like two strung-out models in a David Lynch movie.

"I think my Mulholland just fell," I seethe nonsense as Savannah strokes a tree and attempts to talk backward. "Do you even know where I'm taking you?"


Oh. We finally pass a subdivision called Wisper Palms when I realize that we've officially exited spelling limits. Night-vision images of a Blair witch or a cannibal's bonfire sputter behind my eyes, and if I press down on my eyelids real hard, I can almost see streetlights. Alas, the horizon reveals shadows of some kind of industrial smokestacks just beyond a red-and-white guardrail that will let us go no further.

"This is where the sidewalk ends," Savannah Silversteins.

"In New Jersey?"

Turns out that we had just passed our intended destination, Avalon Park, which is, sadly, not a Roxy Music playground with a Bryan Ferry wheel. Instead, it's the eerie stillness of a Pleasantville condo/house/retail monstrosity of seemingly self-sufficient means: a congested cul-de-sac of Baldwinian Parkitude promising single-family peripheral existence from the low $300s. You could be home by now?

"I don't hate you as much now," I peek into the fancy storefronts. "And, for the moment, you're only in a coma."

Surprisingly animated is our point of destination, the Town Tavern on the circle of the town's center. A middle-class mélange of quirky middle-agers and Dockers-and-boat-shoes types (endemic to younger first-time home buyers) salt their dogs at a convivial pace, while, perhaps obligatorily, a karaoke challenge pollutes the clean air with the sounds of yesteryear.

"With arrrrrrrms wide open!" Stapps one showstopper, and something has been knocked loose.

"Where's the bathroom?" Savannah claws her own stuffed ass.

"Take a left at the Panda," offers a booth-seated reveler.

The Panda is a claw machine full of stuffed animals, but that isn't important. Why we're really here, I've just found out, is to claw the stuffed ass of Savannah's radio colleague and Internet-rumored sex toy, Scott (of night-timers Jody and Scott). He isn't here yet, but Drew Garabo is, playing host or judge or something to this "ultimate" $500 battle of aesthetic displeasure.

"What are you going to sing?" he quizzes some almost-pretty girl mashed up near him.

"It depends on how much I drink," etc.

Anyway, by the time Scott arrives — Cusack-cute (Cute-sack? Eww) in a sweatshirt — we're playing overdressed flirty on the front deck.

"You want to go to Pulse?" Savannah rediscovers an earlier theme. "Billy's got a ‘thing' at Pulse."

"Is that the place where guys get free drinks to take their shirts off?" Scott seems interested but isn't letting on. "I don't want to drink with shirtless guys."

Me neither, much less at the home of my longest $40 grudge. But if we're looking for a pulse, than little seems more obvious than, well, Pulse. We giggle about how Savannah needs to get her year-old sexy back, how magically hot Scott is (Schott?), how he totally wants me instead, and then we head off to the gay.

"The white in here," Savannah sniffs, "it makes me want to do coke."

Anyway, our mutual hair-ticulturist, Joel, is working tonight in the black-walled bar, so we make a heroin sway into the horse.

"It smells like farts and semen," Savannah sniffs, again.

And just then, a bar stripper's thonged ass descends on her Sexy face, all musky and gyrating. Said Sexy face quickly falls into her hands which fall abruptly to the bar. This isn't working out. We're looking for a frontal, throbbing pulse, not the rhythmic pull of a magic button. What's a horny girl gonna do with a bunghole?

"Let's go smoke," she says.

Outside, a lanky fag is drawn to Savannah's L.A.M.B. Gwen boots. He says he's a designer (for himself) and suggests that she dye them black. Why?

"I just came from a mod party and I haven't had a chance to change," he eludes fashion.

"You're wearing black boat shoes," Savannah calls him on it.

Clearly Pulse isn't where the pulse is, so we phone up Scott and decide on a neutral, if black-shod, meeting place: Independent Bar. Scott says he's here, but our kiss-kiss perusal of the premises reveals the opposite. Instead we're accosted by an inexplicable mutual fan, one of measurable intoxicated derangement. He paws at Savannah for a while before escaping to me, making sure that I know that he's a "flipper," someone who flips between the Monsters and the Morning After shows to achieve the perfect mix of early-morning insanity. Then he realizes something erroneous.

"You're Billy Zane!" he Titanics. "From the Orlando Sentinel! You're a serious writer, aren't you? She's beautiful! And so are you, I mean, if I was into that sort of thing."

"Er, thanks."

Anyway, Scott finally shows up with an O-Rock posse, sporting a new, dangerous glaze in his gaze. And try as she might, Savannah can't seem to penetrate it.

"I'm gonna rape your ass!" Scott growls into my face for no apparent reason.

"Gawd, I told you he was trying to get with you!" Savannah squeals, pulse elevating. "I hate you!"

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