Back in the sepia-hued olden times of downtown's meager nightlife push-along, nary a crack in the sidewalk went unscuffed by some sole-less Chuck Taylor swinging from a hip with a wallet chain attached to it, while up a little higher a shave-sided head with long stringy hair bobbed in the wind to laryngitic funk-rock being thumped out whatever bar door could barely contain it. It was all Chili Peppers, O-Rock, Sublime, odor and dumb skinny girls with fat boyfriends who never shaved. These were what men with bellies hidden behind florid Tommy Bahama shirts will forever refer to as the "glory days."
Some years ago, a frenetic wind poured down Orange Avenue, replacing gluttony with anorexia and dragon tattoos with fixed-gear bikes. The hoarse participants of the bygone era were all soaked up into the upper-reaches of their 20s and plopped down into Windermere properties or Daytona Beach, where they explored the glories of alcoholism.
The phone rings. And rings. Uh oh.
"What are you doing tonight?" Karen Leigh squeaks a squeak somewhat more tentative than her usual bleat.
"I cannot be seen, my soul is dead, I'm washing my hair," etc.
"Oh," she pouts like only girls can over the phone. "I was hoping you could go with Miguel and me to the aXis Magazine holiday party at Tanqueray's."
"Sean Perry asked specifically that you be there," she phone blinks.
Wait, he's hot? Dammit. For a split second as I descend the stairs to Tanqueray's I'm confronted with a strange anthropological headwind. Maybe the gargle-spit-jump tendencies of the lost generation preceding didn't just evaporate into middle age after all; maybe they've all just gone underground.
Inside, an impenetrable melee of fashion-free middle-brows are crammed into one heaving mass of middling conversations that when heard all at once sound like "CACK!" There's some kind of Santa photo situation going on in one corner, an unkempt band setting up in another and a foldaway fellowship hall table covered with greasy appetizer morsels lining the far wall. As the wallet chains start clanking, my fight-or-flight impulse shivers up the hairs on the back of my neck until Karen Leigh grabs my arm and seals my fate. I'm in for a night of group therapy for the hopelessly 1997s. I have become cumbersome.
"Oh my god, are you guys going to play the raffle!" a chain of strippers in genitalia-covering Santa outfits flutters by. "Oh, wait!" they all throw their sparkle fingers up at the same time, "We're all out of tickets! Right back!"
Karen Leigh and I make our way to a dark corner in back while Miguel fetches our social salve, and we're quickly down to the business of quietly pointing and laughing. There's the white-studded belt with the love handles falling over it, there's Metromix's Kelly Fitzpatrick trying to a get a free-drink bracelet to make this worth her (or anybody's) time, there's Christmas-ruining Trevor from the Weekly who bought me Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in this year's big gift exchange to "bring a little socialism into the office," there are numerous Rage Against the Machine devotees and their long, stringy hair. And here come the Santa girls again.
"Told you we'd be back!"
Ugh. Miguel, who is somehow involved with aXis in a socio-economic capacity, shows up with our medicine in time to stop my machine from raging. Deep-voiced fratboy talk of sports, marijuana and sports follows, as it is wont to do, and Karen — who has excused herself in the middle of this decline — returns to report on a Santa girl situation in the bathroom.
"Did you see that one doughy girl who's sporting just her tiny red satin underpants and an ill-fitting T-shirt in there?" I quiz.
"Yes," she reveals. "All of the other girls were telling her that she looks just fine."
Somewhere in the mess of conversational overexposure, the man of the hour, aXis publisher Sean Perry, makes his way over to our table with a resounding "brah!" burp. Now, Sean is what Sean is, and he's reasonably cute at being whatever that is, just stumbling his way through life moment's like they're posts along a never-ending fraternity row populated by occasional Wrestlemania matches.
"What's that movie?" He Bills, then Teds along his own excellent adventure. "The one with Phillip Seymour Hoffman about that writer?"
"You mean Capote?" I smirk.
"Wouldn't you like to be, like, the Truman Capote of the aXis crowd?" he issues forth the best question ever asked. His forehead crinkles. "But who would be our Andy Warhol?"
"Let me guess," I play along. "I could be both, because, you know, the hair. Or, better yet, maybe a girl in a skimpy bikini laid prostrate across the Orlando skyline?"
Sean goes on to pitch me some idea about sitting in a circle of beer and Jim Faherty and somebody from Wrestlemania and him and indignity while we all discuss the "issues of the day" for the purposes of later publishing it.
"As long as I get the soggy cracker at the end?" I grimace.
That won't be necessary. Just as this little crack in the intellectual sphere is reaching its clumsy denouement, the beret-wearing singer in the corner band starts croaking out his "test, test, test" sound check before relaxing into a stoner funk gnarl that would make Gavin DeGraw uncomfortable. Grunts about a kid in a classroom picking up his guns necessarily follow, Jeremy, and I'm heading for the door.
"C'mon," Sean doth protest too much. "You need to get your picture with the Santa girls. We'll send it to you on your Christmas card."
"No, thanks," I ascend into the cold hard now. These glory days are firstname.lastname@example.org