Like a wind-beaten gull with tar on its feet and little bits of candy and condom wrappers in its feathers, Orlando has of late been squawking and stumbling back into something resembling motion. You can see it on people's cautiously optimistic brows a-furrow, and in spotty storefront flashes of optimism. You can smell it in the petrol smoke of people scattering here and there, and, well, in the cooling air and the flatulence of overfed indigestion. Golly, things aren't really so bad now, are they?
Scratch that. Things are awful.
Actually, it's enough to make a little girl want to stay home, play jacks and lose. To jump a rope just to fall. You know, to feel something. I've officially gone all bitter! I'm already four column inches into my weekly drag-myself-out, and I haven't even left the house yet!
"Well, I think there's a new bar over by White Wolf," buzzes beloved editress, Jessica B(e) Young, throwing a lifeline made of off-brand dental floss. "And I think it's gay!"
"Omigod," I feign flamboyance. "We could totally go there and pretend it's, like, a real city! Something like the new, new downtown; a suburban storefront thoroughfare blossoming into a raucous nightlife midway. Something … at all."
"I'm on my way!"
Piling Jessica into my beat-up mobile by way of the now comical (it wasn't always, really) Dukes/Hazzard window-climb, we buzz off to the future, soundtracking the event with the pulsating swish of a certain aging rock quintet who get too many mentions in my column.
"It doesn't even sound like them," she sneers.
"It's totally 1982!" I contort to the beat.
I imagine that Lake Ivanhoe is the contentious shore of the Hudson and that we're like a couple of Jerseyites out for a night on the big town. This is what I always do. This is why I'm always disappointed.
And disappointed we are, once we enter the long, skinny nonevent that is Thursday night at the Savoy. Blurred into beige, gay tastefulness, the bar seems to limn a never-ending path to blandness, holding the high aesthetic of both a restaurant piano bar and a cruise-ship, cruise-joint hideaway. It's pretty, though. I guess.
"What kind of flowers are those?" I phallically follow the glass vases to their sky-high blossom explosions.
"Orchids," edits Jessica.
Oh. Very cheek.
Not much happens at Savoy. We're hypnotized into watching the plasma-screen televisions backdropping the beefcake bartenders, while fielding dance mixes of "Paperback Writer" and "Physical." Wheel of Fortune is on, and at least solving a puzzle implies some kind of forward motion, more so than downing a drink anyway. "Before and After" is the category, and I'm squinting hard at Vanna White, who has been widened, sadly, to meet HDTV standards. Who said progress was good?
"Belle of the ball bearing!" screams a housewife who should never have left the house. "Omigod! I'm the belle of the ball because my name is Sue Ball!"
Sue Ball, meet my balls. The next puzzle, a phrase, quickly jars my head into R-S-T-L-N-E success, and I blurt out, "Walking the tightrope!" And in an insane moment of televised stupidity, the contestant opts for "walking the togastripe."
Some poorly placed jokes follow between the half-baked chuckles of two Weekly employees with drinks in their hands, and we decide we have to go. Even if Extreme Makeover is next.
Outside, I'm greeted by a cell-phoned passerby, who bends a distant ear with the winning phrase: "Billy Manes just walked by. Billy Manes, star of television, stage and screen."
They like me. They really like me. But I don't, so we further our descent by heading upriver to the Lava Lounge because we haven't heard "Finally" by Ce Ce Peniston twice yet.
On the way, we attempt some humor. This is, after all, slated to be the new new, and we haven't even found the first new yet. One abandoned hole retains the spirit of its former identity via screened window lettering: "Country Chic, Postcards, Medical Ephemera … Buying."
"That's soooo my epitaph!" I incriminate my entire being by simply telling the truth.
Other charming nooks of futuristic progress a Pilates den, a plasma-throwing electronics boutique playfully named Mr. Hook-It-Up litter the path. But altogether more interesting is the African Braiding Center. Here you can experience scalp-pulling weaves that range from Wet-n-Wavy, to Pony, to Yaky. We love this, because it's funny.
"Does that mean you want to look more like a yak?" quizzes Jessica, before twirling her own multicolored locks and crowing, "I don't think it's quite, er, yaky enough."
It is. And this will almost be the best part of our evening.
By the time we reach Lava, the tastefully gay vibe is already reaching its muted crescendo. 98 Degrees are removing their shirts simultaneously on innumerable plasma screens, and hugs and cheek kisses are giving way to numbing conversation. Confessions that may or may not involve exploits with staff members spill out of somebody's mouth, and the liquor and walking is finally kicking in. Jessica and I begin to veer our conversation to cocktail gripes about people we work with and eventually exhaust ourselves into the nothingness of our lives.
"I always identified with Miranda," she faux-lesbians.
"And I'm Carrie!" I gay.
Then we shut up. On the way out, a cruel glance comes from somebody else mentioned too many times in this column. She is angry with me for portraying her as a lush in a past diatribe, claiming that I promised I would never mention her and her relationship with somebody famous again. I don't remember that. She says the town is full of idiots who don't get me, and think that I'm actually an asshole.
"And you didn't even make me look witty!" she states. "I'm witty!"
Before accepting my apology, she says I'm a bitter old queen. Which I am. A bitter old queen going home to drink with his stuffed animals, that is. This is the new new.