"Billy, could you come up here for a minute?" croon-speaks local 10-gallon Joseph Martens of the Johnny Cash-lite Hindu Cowboys.
It's early Saturday afternoon, and I'm laid up on my alleged suitor's lap, barefoot in the Heritage park heritage grass, still crafting my Tammy Wynette battered-wife pose akimbo my current victim (feeling, you know, anonymous), and dreamy Martens wants to poke my cow now? Or does he want to duet with me like any abusive George Jones should?
Nay. On the occasion of Orlando's populist art experiment, the annual Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival, sir Joseph is merely requesting my services in the area of Flav-O-Ice distribution at the opening of his country set. And before I can reveal the shyness and insecurity that have become both my signature and humility, I'm holding a cardboard box of rainbow-colored suck toys provided for the loud and lippy spawn of Orlando's rainbow-colored art dregs. You squeeze it from the bottom, you see, and it melts in your mouth.
"Everybody tell Billy what color you want, and he'll be happy to oblige," offers my new boss.
All of the sudden I'm Steve from "Blues Clues," squatting in grass-and-dirt situations and smiling and clapping with dirty youth. I hear Steve's a real bitch off camera. I hear that I am, too. Two weeks ago, Martens offered a rousing rendition of U2's eye-rolling anthem "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" at the Thornton Park monthly party dispose-all, altering the words to reflect, well, me. "I still haven't found what Billy's looking for," he crooned, while my date shifted eyes and smirked.
"You're a bitch," he said.
Chalk it up
Well, in the inimitable words of Jellybean Benitez (!), watch where you walk, 'cause the sidewalks talk. And if these little cement canvases had mouths, they'd be begging a chalk-free reprieve. Everything from nihilist renditions of singularity and death to, er, sunshines and sunsets bake here superfluously in the shadows of the Orange County Regional History Museum, while little kids and homeless people try to avoid stepping on them en route to the Whole Foods hummus tent.
Local musical luminaries like the soul tributaries The Joint Chiefs and the scowling blister-pusses Precious are texturizing the otherwise soul-free, blister-free, granite event with their own populist art experiments, and it plays out to be quite the hit. Shayni Howen of ex-Sapphire fame has returned to town in her own sex from the city kind of way -- meaning an ironic cowboy hat and its requisite style-challenging belt buckle -- to host her own birthday event, the "Daddy Likes" multi-lineup at Sapphire. We dance together for a minute with the homeless guy while we wait for the sun to set and nihilism to prevail.
It's fun, regardless. Even Steve Garron, the bratty whine fronting Precious, is having a field day, dancing with his preschool daughter up front, then singing something about childhood empowerment ... before breaking into the band's local smash "Bi-curious George." It's a curious day, indeed.
Not as curious as it is, though, when the Bike Week festivities make their way into the same shadowy confines later in the week. Where once nihilism and sunshine danced to sexual ambiguity, now it's the biker chicks and their studded studs doing so to the rattle of Harley engine overstatement. Me, I'm still trying to nurse my own sexual ambiguity. I'm also trying to ceremoniously break up with the aforementioned suitor.
"What color do you want?" I ask him, acknowledging that he's flying a Puerto Rican vacation victim of his into town this weekend and offering epithets like, "You can love two people at the same time." But can you love two different colors of Flav-O-Ice?
I'm winning, obviously. That is, until some biker band breaks into a butchering pound of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" -- at which point I realize my own life has become a little too precious.
"Loving you wasn't the right thing to do," and so on. Apologies necessarily follow. Am I Tammy Wynette or Stevie Nicks?
"Judging bikes is fun," offers a Nascar throwaway with a credential laminate to my Globe-barstool right. While he and the almost estranged suitor discuss the ins and outs of obnoxious throttle and compare Southern accents (Georgia vs. South Carolina!), I'm peering around the premises for any signs of the promised cole slaw wrestling -- something severe and mayonnaisey to manifest just how ridiculous I feel, anyway -- but only find the exposed ass cheeks and Aquanet accidents wrapping around the Lita Fords and Joan Jetts of the Harley circuit. Before I can execute the inevitable Runaways reunion, and don my own fishnets and Aquanet for some side-dished rivalry, the nemesis has to split to the airport.