If this particular wrung-out rag of a Monday night were something more than a reverse howl of sleep apnea intended to indicate the limitations of my physical being — if it were science, instead, precision of a quantifiable sort meant to be studied in a vacuum of sterility — there might be an argument available to my tongue's tip, something about historical origins and cyanobacteria coating stromatolites in the blue-green wish-wash of an asteroid impact. Single cells multiplying in the merry-go-round of the earth's rotation: sunrise, sunset. Chaos limited by objective properties, or good and evil, or life and death. A sky peppered with stars as the only means of separating here from there, light years away. That would be nice, but that's not my history. Mine smells like beer-basin formaldehyde teeming with fruit flies, and it's happening all over again.
"Wow. All the stars are falling out of the sky tonight." Mad hatter Anthony Cole looks up from the pool table just inside Will's Pub. "Drip, drip, drip." His spindly fingers leave comet trails.
It's an ominous beginning to a nostalgically immersive trip, a particular link in my personal timeline that I've somehow managed to misplace over the years. There's no misplacing it tonight. It's all right here, grinding in the guitars, laughing in flannel. Bring on the jam bands. It's 1997.
Like a blacklight rendering of a nervous system, most of the pressure points — the ones that managed not to be overtaken by the deleterious behavior that gathered us into this pear-shaped Orlando body in the first place — are still glowing here tonight. The overall mood is one of a not-quite-nursing-home-aged high-school reunion seasoned with been-there humility borne of marriage licenses and divorce papers. By "here," I mean in my head, of course.
Everybody else is the same as they ever were, possibly with a few more features on the relief maps of their faces, smiling, laughing, falling over their words. The old 2 p.m.-to-2 a.m. Will's Pub crowd of weed and blow and accidental sex and jukebox heroics waves like an invisible flag over a displaced empire. I got older; it somehow just stayed the same. Now I'm this buzzing fruit fly thirsty for some embalming juice, flitting about with nowhere to light. Perhaps I'm overthinking things.
You know who doesn't overthink things? Jim Faherty.
"Everybody always asks me why I don't get pissed off when you call me out in your column," his sandpaper voice matches his sandpaper features. "I'm like, ‘It's called Blister!' If I wanted to have smoke blown up my ass, I'd call the Sentinel."
"But do you remember that time I literally blew smoke up your ass?" I bluff, or cough.
He looks nervous, says nothing, then hops topics to the fact that he is now the father of a 1-year-old — adding that there should be a law against that — then drinks some more.
But Jim's not the real reason for this overwrought careening into the nostalgia pool. Shayni Howen, the redheaded goddess who used to make Faherty palatable back in the Sapphire Supper Club days, has pulled into town with her now-husband, Kevn Kinney, and his band Drivin' N Cryin'. If anyone can smack me out of this hoarded head of useless associations, it's Shayni. She and the band have just disembarked from the Lynyrd Skynyrd Simple Man cruise — LYNYRD SKYNYRD CRUISE!!! — and Shayni's been plopped in front of me for regaling purposes. I need to know just what kind of trouble happens when the Outlaws, .38 Special and Drivin' N Cryin' are thrown into Royal Princess context (or "Straight to Hell") and forced to wear leather in the sunshine. It must be the greatest story never told! I can hold on loosely no more.
"It was really nice, actually." Her cowboy hat barely even tilts. "Everybody was super-polite, there were no egos, it was all very ‘Hi, how are you?'"
On stage, the Ludes — fronted by my former apartment-mate Jeff Nolan — are at least doing their job of stabbing middle age with their last remaining coke nail, belting out a chorus of "Fuck! Fuck! Kill!" And that's what we used to do, at least figuratively. Now we're all too busy being nice and growing beards. Well, not all of us.
I recede into a corner with Nolan's wife, Erin, and we collectively decide that we'd prefer our nostalgia to sparkle with the dangle of oversized hoop earrings. This could be my last gay chance! Several Jody Watley impersonations follow, as do requisite Shalamar references, but our stab at muted karaoke only bears fruit when it conjures somebody else's misfortune: namely, the one-armed guy who handles the karaoke over at Colonial Lanes. This communicative discombobulation disintegrates into talk of him tying his shoes (he wears "zips") and some ill-advised choreography involving not raising the roof.
"The roof, the roof, the roof it is tilted. We don't need no water, let the motherfucker tilt." Yep, that's as good as it gets.
From all of that comes the brilliant idea that, hey, we've still got it! Let's form a band that covers Lene Lovich songs naked and hates everybody! It'll be huge!
Up in the sky, a bright star grows an eyebrow just to wrinkle it down at me, offering a distant-but-pointed reminder that you can't ever really go back, even though — at least in Orlando — you can almost equally never go away. This energy is neither created nor destroyed; it just is, however uncomfortable that balance might be. Another star just falls in the form of perennial musical nice guy Brian Chodorcoff, who breezes by as if only to remind me of what I most certainly already knew.
"We're really getting old," he winks. "And I mean it this time."firstname.lastname@example.org