All this arrhythmic bouncing, the plips and plops of dribs and drabs as gray turns to black and wet to wetter. It's a night of random globules acting out their unattached insignificance amidst the pull of gravity and the push of humidity, a night of racing thoughts underprocessed in the flippancy of disconnection. Try as we might, Tony and I can't seem to concoct our typical alchemy fizz of conversational escapism and sum our parts to greater. I may be blaring Next Big Thing Britpop into the surround sound of our huddle, dicing off bits of wishful hyperbole and tossing them to the floor, but it all boils down to pedestrian duty: the husband and the curfew, the tuna casserole in the oven, the shop talk. Have all of our synaptic firecrackers finally gone and revealed themselves for what they truly are? Have the little plastic pie pieces collected into a full pie circle only to reveal that all pursuits are trivial? The raindrops outside don't seem to be arguing.
"It's really sad when life is less interesting than Facebook," Tony pokes.
And it's Facebook that lands us on tonight's pursuit of trivia, specifically the in-group-speak of what seems to be a growing — if defeatist — encyclopedic drinking trend at gay-ish speakeasy Sip. Little hints of competition occasionally penetrate the ceaseless Internet feed about who's coming back to win this week and who just knows that their bottomless knowledge of fifth-century spores will finally push them into pole position should the right line of questioning arise. It all seems painfully grown-up, with a dash of Sapphic Jeopardy! pride thrown in, and tonight it may be just the antidote to our solemn inwardness.
"We're gonna win." Tony sounds less convincing than a casserole.
"That's the spirit."
At first blush, Sip doesn't offer much in the way of sensory distraction. Scattered tables start to fill up with politely shuffling quiet people while overhead the inconsequential dance "hits" parlay a muted backbeat via gay bar music service videos. Tony and I sidle up to the bar and are greeted by owner Allen — who reminds me that some 12 years ago, we were involved in an over-the-top scenario involving drag queens, Deborah Cox and a model runway over a suburban swimming pool — and a bartender who has a special sour face reserved for cheapskates who order things like house wine and Budweiser. This doesn't feel right at all.
"This is going to be cake for you!" Allen just-desserts. "Also, we have food now! You should try the food!"
Oh, no. But just as we climb our boring asses up on to our bar stools, just after I reveal my relative ineptitude at just about anything without the external brain of a computer at my disposal, Tony unravels a yarn that makes me momentarily believe that this particular trivial Sip might be just the trivial Sip I was hoping for. He has a secret weapon.
"I've never told you this before," his eyes drift off into the middle of nowhere, "but I'm a distinguished member of the Caker Concentration Camp."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, at the ecology studies compound in the bleakest realms of Wisconsin, that is the name of my trivia team."
"Erm, is caker like a white Canadian thing?"
"It's funny because it's stupid." He doesn't laugh. "What is it in Walden? ‘I went to the woods to live deliberately.' So what are we going to call our team?"
"Bananarama." I'm far less deliberate.
Initially, the whole trivia meme carries itself out without too much difficulty.
"No blurting," orders a man with an assumed British accent. "And no PDAs."
Done. There's a multiple-choice question about which continent boasts Angola among its countries ("Africa," I Toto), something about the last name of somebody named Jefferson who led the Civil War Confederacy (Davis), then some more modern references to Avatar and Lady Gaga to keep the gays happy.
"I think it's funny that this place has the ‘one person per restroom' signs on the bathroom doors." Tony's mind wanders to a stall.
"Actually, it's appropriate." A baggie of trivia falls out of my left ear. "This is basically the manufacturing point for lesbian Hoovers."
Somewhere in the middle of this exchange, we get tied up in our own distractions. We can't quite place which country's flag most resembles that of Puerto Rico (Cuba, not France, duh), and when quizzed on just what kind of substance Chateaubriand is, we flub and scribble down "wine."
"So are we on bottom now?" I grimace as our first-round answers are tabulated.
"Aren't we always?" Not funny anymore.
Appropriately, the evening's real attraction comes in the form of word jumbles — because that's what we are, word jumbles — which are scattered throughout each of the three rounds. And boy, do we think we're smart when we're able to decipher "ritdup" into "putrid" and "renute" into "tenure." It's as if the whole putrid tenure of our endeavor at public intelligence might be worth it after all. Sure, we may have just missed that obscure presidential query about McKinley, but pluralism, the gold standard and the Spanish-American War have nothing on us. We're masters of the obvious, wizards of the words of right now; also, ask us anything about the ecology of Nowhere, Wisc., and we're likely to come off as the smartest, most boring people ever to dispense with their humility in a bar on a rainy Monday night. We are golden.
But then the plip-plop of tumbling associations fails us when we need it most. The last jumble is a hard one, a collection of letters that when pressed between our weary heads is rendered a useless term of science fiction codespeak. We make it more difficult, cobbling together the bits of ether into a term of otherworldly nothingness. "Sonardrip?" we tepidly concur.
Nope. It was "raindrops."firstname.lastname@example.org