Last Christmas I gave the Orlando Weekly my heart, dragging my drunken lover through the company party of house-special wine and sweaty cold cuts, and courting controversy with my own slurring take on how bad things really can be. This was the historical incident in which Alan (the other half) purported to be a goat farmer to music editor Jason Ferguson's teacher wife, cruelly inviting her class to come partake of some of said goats' imaginary milk, while I pinched his leg and mouthed "Stop it!" in the face of my life tumbling down, sheepishly.
The very next day, I gave it away. Or, at least I found out what really happened. Turns out Jason had called me a (reliable) drunk while I was away, er, fetching house wine, and the whole ruse was some form of redneck retribution. But at the time, all I could do was placidly watch editor in chief Bob Whitby get wobbly, teeth-gritting drunk and threaten to bury me in his towering wake, set to the muffled heartbeat of my panicked apologies.
Oh, and fight. I could fight, too.
So, naturally, I shoved a figurative Christmas tree up Alan's ass. We scratched Yuletide obscenities into each other's skin. And we exited with the grace of an amphetamined Ice Storm. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a fuck you.
This year, to stop me from tears, I'm going to do things differently.
"So you wanna go to the holiday party?" I pantomime to Alan's now sober indifference.
"Well I do," I stamp my feet. "And I'm gonna, too."
Having spent countless (OK, two) hours researching the ins and outs of company holiday party etiquette, I feel well-equipped to move and shake my way to the bottom of the corporate heap. It will be done mostly by means of shattering the overpublicized morning-talk-show rules of behavior at corporate fruitcake festivities (meaning I will photocopy my vagina), but also by getting drunk. Because that's what I do.
This year's debacle is taking place at the questionably monikered new downtown yuppie haunt Rhythm & Flow (insert danceable diarrhea joke here), and promises to be more interesting than ever, if only for one reason.
"So what's the deal?" I immediately connect bloodshot eyes with A&E editor Steve Schneider.
"Open bar," his lips bear the fruit of a thousand diarrhea dances. I can die happy … if a little dehydrated.
Eager to ruin my life, along with my standing in this glorious company (where I don't actually work, but do have a mailbox), I immediately sidle up next to Weekly publisher Rick Schreiber or "the Ricker," as I like to call him for a bit of unprofessional nose-browning.
"Merry Christmas," I kick my lips.
"Uh, happy holidays," he's Jewish.
Good start then. Turns out that Rick already has a conversation planned for me something involving how I pissed off the Comedy Improv when I verbally pulled Pauly Shore's receding hair in a previous column and I'm plugged into shop talk before I have a drink to douse it with. I nod up and down at a frightening frequency, managing a few "yeah"s and "but, in the context"s before conceding to the fact that I, in every respect, am an advertising nightmare.
Make an ass of yourself in front of the boss? Check!
Suitably sold out, I slide up to Schneider (plus date) and writer Leigh de Armas (plus fiance) for some hobnobbing with the paid-writer set. Y'know, people who actually have jobs … and possibly connections.
"Well, now that I'm not doing coke anymore …" I stare deep into Steve's critical cleverness for a hint of salvation.
"So you're asking me if I have some?" he clamps my nose.
Some snowballs fall too fast. Sometimes I should shut up. But not now.
Spotting Ferguson, last year's party-poop catalyst and proper surveyor of personality types, I attempt to shatter another rule and diss the décor.
"It's a little bit, um, overdone," I snob.
"It looks like what you would expect from people in Florida who have too much money," he snobs back. "Did you see the snakes in the floor?"
Like I said, I'm not doing coke anymore. Oh, wait, there are actually snakes in the floor, not to mention the electric eels being projected on the wall. I feel, well, uncomfortable.
Maybe I should flirt with Whitby, my editor. Maybe I should grab his ass. Maybe I just did.
"I'm tired of this straight thing," he grabs mine back, in front of his wife, for the first of at least 17 times, while I rub vodka on his lips and beg for a raise. "Let's just do it."
Wow. Let's not.
Also apparently tired of the straight thing, new hottie advertising director Graham Jarrett drops like an unexpected Lancôme counter into the melee, informing myself and curly-fairy-godmother-to-my-soul, managing editor Lindy Shepherd, to let us know that, for vanity purposes, he actually changed his name to "Graham" from a name I shouldn't probably say because I'm already an advertising nightmare. Let's just say that I've never dated a "Jason" (although I have been called a drunk by one). Or a horse.
"Are you ready for your horsey ride?" bears classified director Brian Martin, just like he did last year. "I thought your boyfriend was gonna kick my ass last year when I did that. Oh, hey, we're all going back to my place to play a game of poker later. Wanna come?"
"What if we called it 'poke-him,' heh."
Heh. No. I'll be too busy photocopying my vagina.