There's something about the sweaty sock of an Orlando summer that kicks me over the theoretical locker room bench and knocks the forward-thinking piss out of me. You can have your complex assessments of exponential intellectualism and your philosophies on chaos as it pertains to Scientology and the cagey romance of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. Me, I'll simply navigate with a crayon the shortest distance between two points and willfully accept that with drops in barometric pressure there is an apparent squeezing of Orlando's collective brain. I am a simple man.
So here I am, tripping over the ones and the zeroes populating my binary code, contemplating finite combinations over cocktails (one part vodka, one part orange juice) on a dreary Monday night: like how some things go great together, especially when you get your chocolate in my peanut butter, and how other things quite clearly do not. Tonight is set to be an awkward dance through the latter as most thematic indulgences are in these parts and I'm terribly excited at the opportunity to impolitely rubberneck.
"Are you coming bowling?" my Peacock Room bartender friend, Tammy, casually queries with a tone that registers somewhere short of hope.
"Um, no," I hope I'm not.
But I am. The potentially lethal combination of local bartenders and local bowling proves far too spectacular to dismiss after all. It's like being faced with a gaggle of good-looking monkeys freed from their cages for an evening of not eating bananas for crying children. And bowling just seems so unhip that it has to be hip, y'know, like leg warmers and/or headbands.
To be clear, tonight isn't just about one bar staff letting off steam to the crashing futility of balls hitting pins, but rather a liquor company-sponsored event involving a number of local bar staffs going ugly shoe to ugly shoe in the name of drunken superiority. I'm secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of some Ruby Tuesdays pummeling some TGI Fridays in a fit of weekly weakness, but that won't happen. It's just a Monday.
The real devil here is in the details, or more specifically, the drink. Short on more creative ideas how to make their shit taste like sugar, the folks at Jose Cuervo have proposed the unthinkable. Not only are they promoting the noxious mixture of their middle-shelf tequila with ginger ale, they are going a step further to make it seem a bit subversive, but only in a high-priced advertising kind of way. The C&G Society (Cuervo and Ginger, geddit?) suggests that its underground collective is for "when you're too old to wear fraternity letters, and too young to wear the Loyal Order of Caribou Fez," meaning that if you aspire to dues-paying mediocrity, you might as well drink yellow, pungent death on your way down.
This is all so interesting that, by the time I arrive at the UCF-area Boardwalk Bowl way out on East Colonial, I'm thoroughly uninterested. It's a wonder how fast my nose (one) touches my tail (zero, as in I haven't one), and vice versa. This is me. At a bowling alley. Discuss.
Inside, the event is already in full swing, although you wouldn't necessarily be able to discern that with a casual glance. The place is packed and were it not for the assorted Hooters-girl rejects in bright yellow T-shirts, I would be forced to assume that this is just another runoff of middlebrow people who do this sort of thing. Thankfully, I run into my friend Laraine Gardner, who's with the Independent Bar clan, and she quickly settles into being my beard.
"Have you tried it yet?" I shake a little.
"No, I'm not sure if I want to," she hesitates, then gives in. "But I hear it's free."
So Laraine and I go on a quest for the holy gruel that brought everybody here tonight. The genius is that bartenders were lured in by the promise of free (but awful) alcohol and pizza, in hopes that they would carry the sickly sweet idea back to their faithful masses of questionable judgment. The bowling "competition" isn't really the issue at all (you can hardly even tell it's happening); it's clearly about corporate plying. Genius, I say.
More than willing to bend over, even though I wasn't officially invited to do so, I'm hot on the trail of my C&G booty … which proves to be harder than you might think. The first amateur bartender we encounter directs us all the way across the bowling alley to a different bar, which only makes us want it more. So, naturally, we order something else.
"We're out of pitchers! Recycle your pitchers!" Bartender No. 2 interrupts me with a poorly timed scream.
By the time we reach our liquid destination, I'm having pre-drink pains just watching the wound-up bartendress overpour the cactus liquor, two parts to one. Not enough to keep me from trying it, even throwing it back, but enough to make me wisely (if a bit dramatically) hold my nose while doing so. The trick with Cuervo, I've learned from experience, is not to breathe out of your nose for two hours after your first gulp. In this case, the sweetness of the ginger ale catalyzes the nausea of its strange cupfellow, and even the nose trick doesn't work.
I snort. I gag. I die.
All around my imagined demise, things start to become a little more odd and a little more clear. Frat boys in Bjorn Borg-irony chic jump up and down in slow motion while the plethora of 18th-birthday boob jobs swell and deflate like cartoon eyes staring me down from every direction. Either I'm on acid, or I've stumbled into The Big Lebowski.
For the rest of the night, I'll be an accessory to the Peacock Room team even bowling one ball in my socks and rattle submissively to the greatest booty hits of 1989. ("It's my hand, it's on my hip, and I'm dipping"). I'll say some things that only I find funny, and then I'll immediately forget them. In short, I'll be me … at a bowling alley. A simple man. A stupid place. A rancid drink.
Some things do not go great together.