Remember when fun used to be all freckles and chewing gum in summer short-shorts, the mischief of sneaking a fiver from your mom's purse and a cigarette from her boyfriend's Playboy drawer, wheeling off to the arcade with five pieces of watermelon Bubblicious crammed between your teeth and the biggest bubble ever blown? Life was just a crumpled-up candy wrapper tossed into a pink roller skate, one that your parents just pushed out onto the leisure midway to be raised by a pack of wild pixels. Ah, excess. Oh, distraction.
"Do you think they'll have any good kooook at this party?" Tony's nose only slightly less-than-jokes as he slams the passenger door. "It's only a party if there's good kooook."
Tonight we're determined to recapture "fun," in whatever state it is now available. We've already spent a good amount of time preparing our respective personae for tonight's thematic diversion, the Wonka Party at Parliament House, although Tony's introduction of the "great Jami Gertz stuffed nose of '87" is both inspired and unexpected. Originally, we were aiming for the obvious, only with a bitter lemon twist of localization — something involving short hairy men singing in unison on the way to dirty balcony hotel rooms and not even knowing that they're Oompa-Loompas … at the Parliament House! Because that happens every day! Ha! We would laugh for minutes. Then, after watching a Jersey-Italian family ham it up drunk for Intervention, we figured maybe that would be a more sustainable approach. "Why did you leave meeee! I can't even change a light bulb without you!" and the like, ingratiating their canonic whines into the mingle milieu apropos of nothing.
Clearly, we've been thinking and drinking too much.
"Tonight is supposed to be everything it isn't," Tony's head cracks open like a light bulb, or a fortune cookie.
From the looks of things, he's right. First off, there are 3-D glasses available at the ticket table, and their sole purpose is to make staring at the wall — splattered in day-glo fluorescence indicating some kind of Tim Burton doom — more enjoyable. The bar is loaded with bits of candy genetically engineered to predicate your own personal dental nightmare (hello, Pixy Stix!); there are gambling-like game stations tucked into each available corner; overhead, clips from both Wonka movies are waging their generational war; there are people in costumes; and there are glow sticks.
"What. Are. You. Doing. With. That?" Tony attempts to intervene, but he can't. I've already scooped up a long, thin glow-stick necklace off the floor and slipped one end of its pinkness into the front of my pants.
"It's my catheter," I Jersey-Italian. "I can't help it if I have an infection!" Then I stick the other end of it in my mouth, thereby completing the digestive circle I've only dreamed of aspiring to in the past. Heaven.
Not to be outdone, Tony's got a bag of Pop Rocks and he's about to use them. All it takes is one snot-nosed double dare and he's literally snorting a line of pink combustibles from the palm of my hand.
"I don't feel anything," he yanks back.
"You obviously need to snort some water, then!" I really am a good friend.
But tonight isn't all about amplification and the sort of humor hubris that makes drunk gay men in their late 30s so desperate-sounding and awful to be around at parties. The monthly Monday event, planned with thematic flair by Nicole Ames, really is a ringing success. It's just that in the face of such externalized sensory overload, my internal bad side — and my glowing catheter — are bound to pop out. I hate myself. I'm sorry. It's what I do.
And for a few minutes of sincerity, that'll be enough. The indomitable Liz Langley has been beamed into the affair — because she always is in these situations — and she's reading cards again. Tony goes first, only to find out that he's presently existing "parenthetically" — which, I suppose, is better than pathetically — and that he's weighing options and contemplating change. There is no mention of the Pop Rocks lodged in his sinus cavity and whether those will need to be treated paramedically.
For me, Liz says that I'm a little too hard on myself, that I should stop listening to the "little voices" that are trying to bring me down. It may seem like it takes me 17 attempts to accomplish one thing (or, dear reader, 17 words to say nothing), but that's just my style, and look at where it's gotten me. Here.
Over there, Tony's already moved on to his next endeavor, a future I doubt he could have predicted before tonight. He's on his knees, next to two other guys with their hands behind their backs, and he's facedown in a miniature blueberry pie. It's a contest, see, and he wins it, which should be enough to forestall any more pesky conversations about contemplation, at least for tonight.
"I may be wrong," I nudge Tony in deference to his obvious, fruit-filled accomplishment, "but I'd dare say that you, sir, have just had a little bit of ‘fun.'"
"Of course I did," his nose finally pops, then rocks. "You?"