I've done some pretty awful things in my life, spinning recklessly through just about every powder, pill and penis that happened to slap in the general direction of my face, flipping cars, falling on my face … the usual. And like most girls (or girl-alikes) of a certain age, I've decorated all of my personal walls with images that make it feel like it's perfectly OK to be exactly as I am. I've even, in my spare Pretty in Pink time, lovingly crafted a silk and taffeta dress of denial that goes with just about any pair of shoes over the price of $50. According to the venerable local media outlet Axis Magazine, I'm the sixth hottest person in town. There's nothing wrong with me.
Nothing if you don't count everything (and counting is hard … 6 = 1, right?). But is it really time for an intervention?
Only if there's an open bar.
And while tonight may not be the night that my divorced parents reunite, along with all of my own exes, to laundry-list my faults, cry, and eventually throw me into the back of a windowless white van while the after-school special cameras roll, it certainly feels like a certain neurotic turning point of personal embarrassment. Come to think of it, most of the points on my curve do.
Duran Duran are playing at the Convention Center on I-Drive with the Orlando Philharmonic, and my 33-going-on-13 friend David has joined me to attend a preshow "meet-up" of Duranies who have temporarily left their snarky posting posts on the band's message board to actually reveal themselves in the (ample) flesh. It's all a little bit Trekkie convention, a little bit AA confessional circle, and, frankly, none of us are quite ready to admit we have a problem. But to say that we are in any way above this sort of gathering would mean that we didn't just drive a half-hour across town, howling along to songs that we think might make the cut for Duran Duran's orchestral debut, in order to be the first people here. And the fact that "here" is the Bahama Breeze on I-Drive doesn't make admitting that we have a problem any easier. My name is Billy Manes and I have a Duran Duran tattoo, I mean issue (torturous reggae blaring in the background). It all started when … oh, fuck that. Just get me a drink, mon!
For the most part there's not that much to be critical of here. Just people from various walks of life dabbling in forced conversations that expose their unnatural involvement with Simon, Nick, John, Roger and Andy. A few children percolate in the melee, sporting awkward shiny shirts, while their mothers and mothers' friends display homemade T-shirts of undying love or, occasionally, almost-fashionable dress. People prepare their glowsticks to "Save a Prayer" later. Affirmations are exchanged here and there ("I think it's really great that there's something that we all connect with, and have from a very impressionable age"). A gayer guy than me arrives with a giant silver "Duranie" belt buckle. And David and I scowl a lot.
Most of the others have obscure screen names to hide behind TigerBaby, Schmacko, Pimmscup, FallenAngel, amazonlebon, InkAngel, etc. while I live online under the pseudonym "billymanes." I am not the sixth most creative Duranie.
Nor, as it turns out, am I a particularly successful one. Seeing as most of us have chauffeured ourselves past the cocaine 20s and into the liquor-cabinet, "Ordinary World" 30s, the fact that a human resources consultant is talking shop with a wine marketer, while an automotive finance feline drips in speculative figures around adult women who happily support families, should come as little surprise to me. It does. But it also makes me think that if I try to criticize the behaviors of this many people in one room, I'm effectively proposing that we all need to play dead to be happy. Live and let drink, I figure. And so I do.
A waitress named Gina comes by and I have a bit of a moment. Gina was my girlfriend at eighth-grade church camp (laugh here), and we used to communicate over the phone via the lyrics of one Simon LeBon. She has since recovered albeit as a waitress but there's still some sort of sick, full-circle irony going on here. I want out. A few of us exchange cell phone numbers for stalking purposes later (it could happen, it has happened), and we head over to the Convention Center.
"I like your shirt," geeks a girl in the queue to the guy next to me. It's a "Hogwarts" shirt.
I want to die. So David and I mingle about in the common area outside the hall, pointing and laughing at the bulging gut of the American malaise, bemoaning a culture that's already been supersized beyond any natural french-fry threshold, and generally start to think that we're having a really bad time. Or that we're really just assholes.
And then something amazing happens. An older woman who's pushing her blind son around in a wheelchair catches eyes with me, and asks, "Are you Billy Manes?"
When I say yes, her face lights up. She tells me that she reads my column every week, even reads it aloud to her son, and that she thought I might be here. She asks me if I'll say hello to her son, which I do, and then goes on to tell me that they never miss a local Duran Duran concert, and that her disabled son is actually a musician and a big fan of mine.
It's both sobering and beautiful. I am neither.
But it makes for a suitable entry point to what turns out to be the finest performance these bloodshot eyes have ever seen; myself, David and our new friend Helen (from the meet-up) throw all cool caution to the dead wind and basically flail our way through two hours of musical perfection, even the slow bits, relishing these orchestral maneuvers in the dark. There, I said it. No shame whatsoever. Duran Duran are perfect. No intervention necessary.