There's a special place in the dog-eared American socioeconomic TripTik where men are men and women are whores or barrels to be leapt by motorcycles or brittle pink spittoons blocking stumbling paths in virility saloons. Oily scents of burnt skin and leather penetrate cigar-smoke formations bending light around the dead whistles of a Morricone theme. Wayward beard strands bristle against bottle lips in the dry-dry-dry shuffle of a piercing blue-eyed stare into a piercing blue-eyed stare, then away again. A belch, a gunshot, the whinny of a rattled horse; just three seconds in an eternal afternoon. It's a place that doesn't exist outside the cinema — probably never did — but today it's a place where this overly feminized ass needs to go.
"Yanki, I need your help," I all but lisp into my man-friend's Bluetooth. "There were gift bags and pan-seared scallops, bits of sexy marriage advice playfully tied together with ribbon, mothers and sisters and purses and pink! I saw them. They were there, too. That's right, Crate and Barrel cow-print boxes in different shapes and sizes. I've been bridal-showered."
"I'll be right there." Yanki sets his GPS to "manhood" and hangs a right.
Within two cocks of an imaginary pistol we find ourselves in downtown Orlando's manicured idea of what it means to be a guy. Deep in the shadows of law offices and condo life, a blockaded stretch of Pine Street heaves and grinds like a particularly sweaty ballsack crammed into the worn inseam of some intentionally ripped jeans. The odors of testosterone life aren't quite what I'd envisioned (en-smell-ened?) — dustbowl dank has been replaced by muscle-car exhaust, Bud Light breath and hot dog wafts — but they'll do. I can already feel the lace leaving my body and the inhaled diesel fumes crafting an engine block out of my constitution. Cough.
"Look who's here!" The man behind the masculinity mess materializes as a wobbly denim accident, or Jim Faherty. "Hey! What time's the gay tour? Once every 45 minutes?"
"Erm, no, uh, that's not …"
"Looks like you've already missed the gay tour, heh-heh-heh!"
For months now, Faherty's been hawking his next great entry into Orlando's thematic nightlife cluster, Bullitt, at one point even featuring himself as a mural in a giant poster re-creation of the famed 1968 Steve McQueen film of the same name. Though his dream has yet to come to code-enforced life — that would belie the metaphysics of "Faherty time" — he's arranged a sneak-peek block-party Sunday-afternoon situation to alleviate doubts. There's even a tagline — "a collision of art, music, alcohol and some very bad decisions" — which means it must be really happening. What "it" is remains a mystery.
"Come look at this," Faherty grabs my arm and leads me to a glass display case in the front bar. "This motorcycle is a Triumph, just like Steve McQueen's."
"Was it actually used in The Great Escape?" I hop the McQueen canon. "Which is not Bullitt?"
"No," he gruffs. "But it only has 300 miles on it."
Eternally distracted, Faherty tosses me off to the flaxen beauty of his wonder-flack, Angel, who proceeds to caption each ornamental detail. The bullet holes in the glass bar were shot from a real gun, the cross-shaped hole in the brick wall is actually shaped like a cross, the booths are like real classic-car back seats (sex, wink), there's going to be one of those I-4—style rotating billboards here as a separation, those whiskey barrels built into the walls are going to hold real whiskey, that mirrored oblong decoration came from Dancers Royale and that back-of-an-airbrushed-van seemingly backed in through the bricks is actually a beer cooler. This is a very expensive midlife-crisis rec room, in short, and deserves all the respect its thinning hairline commands.
"There's going to be live music over there," Angel points at a sliver of stage in the corner while leaning against a beam. "I'm trying to get a stripper pole."
"As I see it, you already have a stripper pole — three of them," I point out the obvious, or the beams. "I mean, if you're a fat girl."
I am nothing if not a man.
Outside, a bandana band is unironically swinging Molly's hatchet through the "Now you're messin' with a son of a bitch" refrain of Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog" while tube-topped girls and gray-haired bellies wave their hands in slow motion. It's a dizzying display of otherness, one that feels somehow artificially transplanted here in downtown's stern frown. All of which begs the question: Is Faherty fucking kidding? Or is he some kind of timeless salt-and-pepper genius marinated in business-sense defiance? Maybe we'll never know.
Inside, Yanki and I plant ourselves in one of the back-seat booths (perched on precarious, lawsuit-instigating steps) and try to take it all in. Messy-haired midlife flotsam rushes in and rushes out like some leaky-keg tide sponsored by Tommy Bahama. A T-shirt offering "free mustache rides" gets caught in our collective perspective.
"What do dudes like that do for a living?" Yanki sighs.
"It's his Sunday," I deflate. "Real estate, obviously."
And somehow, none of it takes. All of the overt stereotyping of strippers and tits, the "Dude, I'm wasted" smirks and '60s sex overtures plastered onto (and into) the walls and bars, painted on vans and faces, tragedies that know better — they don't add up to much. It's all some great acknowledgement of a fantasy life, a real manhood, that when parsed is just a collage of cheap souvenirs and cheaper sentiments. It's kind of sad, really.
"Doesn't anyone know how to get old anymore?" Yanki's face creases.
I do. "Let's go."firstname.lastname@example.org