Everything looks better when it’s not yours. Like when you were a ball of pre-pubescent mischief and wished your best friend’s dad was your dad and that made you uncomfortable because you actually wanted to have your best friend’s dad’s good stuff crammed inside of you and that would probably be frowned upon in a police-involvement, church-gossip kind of way, but still it would be worth it just to have the good stuff.
Anyway, today’s wayward dad with the good stuff is Ybor City, formerly a cigar-wrapped grid of Floridian contraband history and presently home to gentrified populism peppered with tattoo parlors and places to drink. Or, what Orlando wishes it was. Alan and I have hopped the I-4 commute to “go west” like gay people in Australia imitating the Pet Shop Boys might; to wit, Alan’s pouting like an outback Chris Lowe.
“Is there anything I can do to make you happy?” I pout too.
Good. Our unassuming real-life choreography of the silent treatment winds its way around a commercial block, in and quickly out of something resembling a bazaar where one goes to shop for things like giant wooden relief sculptures of the Last Supper and jewelry made out of colored rocks. I don’t know what it all means either, but give it 10 years and you’ll find it all next to a $400 pair of Converse shoes at the Urban Outfitters funnel-cake mullet across the street. Next to me, presumably, forever late to my own Last Supper.
“Where were you while we were getting high?” is cover-band swirling its “Champagne Supernova” in some crowded common area, soon to be followed by “What I Got” by Sublime, and I feel like I just Buffaloed my Tom. But wait! There’s a gay area?
“So this is GaYbor?” I’m gay and bored.
Alan hates me, silently.
We meet up with Tim and Taylor, who are way happier than we are, probably because they’re buzzing about business like cell phones with built-in mouths. Seriously, it’s just one screenplay away from a webcast, an ambition waltz that’s soundtracked by the chatter of every next circuit-blip on the gay network switchboard. Every minute is a movie in the making, every fart a score.
“So what’s new?”
And … scene.
We meet up with Larry (he of the rayon athletic mock-turtleneck) who’s just opened his own little slice of GaYbor in the form of Streetcar Charlie’s, a restaurant that parades as a nightclub at night. He gives us a tour, taking time to explain the superfluous yellow streetcars outside as the marketing gimmick that they really are, while making knowing glances at the hot-guy harem waiting the tables under his watch. By the time we get to the back room – typically a panty- dropping grope corner ending the progression of a queer night out – Larry introduces the unfinished private quarters as a place to “do business” while possibly enjoying a lap dance from a panty-dropper. Amazing.
Once seated, our waiter, named Juan – who doesn’t look like a Juan and is indeed from Kentucky – is keen on servicing us, pants-on. He doesn’t even wince at our venereal inquisitions as to the nature of the crustaceans which comprise a delicious gay crab cake, and knocks virtually every banter pitch we toss right back in our faces.
Host Carlos is not as savvy. He stumbles into our rectal pit just prior to his evening shift.
“I’m the nighttime party!” Carlos Carloses.
“Well then, I’m the morning-after pill,” I cramp.
“I think you mean morning-after cocktail,” Taylor lesions.
And we’re off!
“You’re going to have to have a bunch of those cocktails the morning after me,” Carlos continues to Carlos, in a manner that commands sympathy from the sympathetic.
Juan, unsympathetically, gets it just fine. As Taylor implores everybody in earshot to “cover your orifices!” Juan collapses into cross-legged fetal position onto the nearest chair. Ah, physical comedy.
Because it’s been about 37 seconds without the words “career” and “industry” juxtaposing themselves, Tim disappears from the table to find either or both in the cocktailed mouths of the growing yip.
“Who’s Tim talking to?” Taylor loses a limb.
“Who cares as long as it’s not us?” I’m not very nice.
Tim returns, offering some discussion of how much I hate him, but that’s OK because this is how much he loves me: I’m totally a hero on his MySpace page. I stare and quietly judge.
Unfazed, Tim sees somebody he knows and makes a time-out “T” to try to force them to remember who he is. T is for tenacity.
Anyway, it’s finally food time in my new alternate universe, and my friends who don’t drink are drinking, meaning that GaYbor is totally sneaking into my room at the slumber party and whispering to me that I must never, ever tell anybody this happened. His breath smells like Scotch and I love him very much.
By the time the coconut sorbet arrives for our dessert, everything seems to have gone swimmingly. Alan doesn’t give the appearance of hating me anymore, and things – via a succession of shots of tequila – are appearing to descend quite nicely. Then a pen comes from out of nowhere and writes something directly on the paper tablecloth that appears to read “$100, 8:30” and “champagne,” which is obviously not a euphemism for anything resembling a coconut sorbet financial transaction.
I promise, sir. I’ll never tell anyone this ever happened. Mmm, good firstname.lastname@example.org