Something has gone very horribly wrong. Trapped in a shades-drawn, couch-sore tailspin peculiar to drunken housewives with traveling husbands, I've spent the better part of the week in a personal panic attack. Whatever. I don't care anymore.
Except I do.
Or at least I used to. To that end I'm dragging my tightened chest and sour lugubriousness out to Rollins to guest for an hour on my friend Tony's 91.5 FM WPRK radio show. He's given me free programming reign and if I squint myself into a dyslexic tizzy, I can turn WPRK into WKRP without even having to have sex with Loni Anderson. Sweet.
We set into the task of the hour: dragging me out of my cracking sap by means of playing things that have "never been played on the radio," mostly meaning third singles from third albums by third-rate celebrities with no records currently in print.
"They usually play math rock on this show," Tony giggles.
The formula: 3+3+3=0. No matter the veracity, the scheme works. The Blow Monkeys finally get their place in the sun, The Go-Go's never broke up, and Pet Shop Boys have a new single (which they do … it's called "I'm With Stupid"). Hello 1988! I love you!
By the time "Wham Rap" is Ridgley-ing its way through approximately four muted car stereos, I'm practically dancing around the studio. I'm positively effervescing in the giant pool of my irrelevance. But then "Wham Rap" skips, and my chest tightens again. My life is a scratched CD.
An hour later, downtown, things are lightening back up a little. On the underside of the overpass perpendicular to Church Street (math!), Tony and I have settled into our pace of cultural surveillance, brushing off panhandlers and philosophical zeitgeists alike. Then one of them cracks our veneer.
"Hey, can I have a cigarette," he one-tooths. "Oh, wait. Are you like one of those Boo-wie people?"
This when I'm clearly a Wham. Still, it's a welcome anomaly, and something else for us to purposefully giggle about while avoiding a transient gay bash. What we're here for, at least for right now, is a photography exhibit by my old friend Wheat Würtzberger, who may just be the nicest and cutest person ever. I've been advised that the space to look for is above the Dragon Room on Church, which alone feels very New York, and my head is already buzzing with notions of drapey sheets and Spartan loft lifestyle. The buzz is stopped, however, by a sidewalk sign announcing the art show.
"Young Never Lasts," it reads almost prophetically. "It totally doesn't!" I raise my brow in Tony's direction.
But it sorta does. On the way up the stairs of what is a surprisingly ritzy establishment, I bump into the salt-n-pepper shaker of youth that is Jim Faherty, who, in warning me not to grab his ass again, gets his ass grabbed again.
"I just bought this shirt at Urban Body today," he gays. "I thought of you."
Upstairs it's a who's who of the Downtown Old Guard (plus Jason Ferguson), hipsters and parents alike. Wheat's portraits of shaggy-haired youth blistering in the sun are fantastic, and conversation is flowing around far faster than the two bartenders can provide the libations to float it. Somebody asks to take a picture of me holding Vitamin Water with them, and I feel either famous or old (maybe both). Adding to the wanton youthfulness, Nick Drake is drifting over the sound system. He never lasted, either.
But youth isn't everything. This space, reportedly called "23," is slated to be a 25-plus bar, which is a mathematical shame. In others, though, it's incredibly promising, as is the whole magical evening so far. So far.
Then Tony knocks a picture off the wall while performing a bathroom exit and, like a skipping "Wham Rap," we decide it's time to go. But where? The '80s, that's where. Duh.
Over at Back Booth, the re-revolution is in half swing: kids born in '85 dressing like it's '83, anorexicly shoehorned into their tight jeans and tight shirts just to squeeze out giant haircuts, and squeeze next to big girls hung over from last year's Duran Duran tour. We're here to see Clear Static, who opened for the Durans, but we're not very excited. In fact, nobody is. There's an eerie calm that occupies this space, like all the energy has been used up getting ready. All that's left is a scowl … which is, you know, like, contagious.
"I just caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror," mirrors Tony. "And I swear I saw my father in the '60s … or '70s … or '80s."
I'm rather more partial to my mother.
"I bought some Nagels at a yard sale for $12," my Duran friend Stephen says without irony. "The guy who owned them died. They smelled like cardiac arrest."
Oh. This must be what it smells like 20 years later. For Clear Static's first couple of anthemic songs, Tony and I stand with the small masses in relative, or appropriate calm, trying to figure out some way, some elaborate plan, to save the day. And then it comes to us: we'll dance it away! Mostly because it worked in Footloose.
So at the drop of a Wham button, we break into the most ridiculous Ringwald flails we can muster, drawing occasional scowls from our surroundings and spitting them back with fortified teenage rebellion. Two younger girls decide to join us, and for a good 10 minutes all is right with these five square feet of the world. We've saved the town, or the bar, or the business, or whatever. Why? Because we firstname.lastname@example.org