Rather than scrape the bottom of the barrel (or floor beneath a urinal, for that matter), this week, I'm setting my sights on something altogether higher. No, not designer drugs although that could certainly be arranged just about anywhere in the meth lab known as Orlando. I'm thinking of peeling a bit of moldy culture from the extremities of the upper crust. Yes, darlings, I'm moving on up to the east side, directing my Volkswagen to the higher plane of the other half.
Well, not really.
'Wanna go to a wine tasting involving a book signing with me?' I snoot on my cell phone to Tony. 'It's at Nora's.'
'You mean the place next to Brian's on Lake Ivanhoe?' he lowers the property value.
Indeed I do. Brian's is the taxidermied greasy spoon where people in the gray area between College Park and Antique Row like to slum it on Sunday, and although I'm averse to deer antlers on walls, I've been occasionally inclined to push an egg yolk around a plate there. I know irony. I wear it regularly.
But Nora's Lake Ivanhoe Wine and Cigars is relatively new, even if my relationship with Nora herself is far from it. Suffice it to say, she's crazy. And I love her. She used to be a liquor representative in these parts, which basically means that she lived in my wet bar. But now it's as if she's cheated fate by landing in a stationary wine store/humidor to represent herself in vanity entrepreneurship … and, well, high-priced addiction.
'I've never been happier,' she spurts, unsolicited.
'Me neither!' I lie.
'Would you like to taste some wine?' she solicits.
A $40 bottle of wine is splashed daintily into a 10-cent Dixie Cup, and I know I'm in Orlando. The atmosphere is suitably humble: leather chairs in a living-room situation bordered by a somewhat imposing selection of bottled grapes and sundry hipster accessories. Y'know, like White Trash and Drama Queen lip balms, Twelve Step body wash, Viagra body detergent.
'You're the queen of the cheap puns!' I pun.
'No, you are,' she's right.
In the wine cooler, Nora stores some of her personal items: a block of cheddar cheese, jelly beans, oversized Tootsie Rolls. And on the wall hovers a sign that reads, 'When I die, bury my balls next to the old bag.' Tony thinks it's funny, because of my husband's recent mutation into a lower-scoring Arnold Palmer.
'That makes you the old bag!' He's clearly enjoying himself too much.
It do. Speaking of my husband Alan, or not really, here to sign his book tonight is a local author named Doug Howell, an Auburn entomology graduate and former liquor representative with his own Nora history.
'My husband went to Auburn!' I gay, while he awkwardly looks away. I buy his book and the standard small talk of people on either side of a self-published novel ensues. The cover of the book, Things Were Different, has three guys hugging and smiling, one looking suspiciously like Jesus. Very gay. And very deep. Except it probably isn't.
'Are you a writer?' he scribbles anonymous encouragement into my front page.
'Um, yeah?' I drink, vomit bananas and wake up next to another column once a week.
'So what's it all about?' I Alfie.
'It's kind of like about wanting something and getting it,' he cryptographs, 'and how that isn't necessarily a good thing.'
I flip it open and eye a passage: 'The bikini contest started 30 minutes late; but that was typical for Banana's.' What?
'Nora, can I get, like, an actual glass of wine?' I turn philosophically to the only thing that might make this upper-crusty journey worth a column. And because I'm willing to take the risk that wanting something and getting it is definitely a good thing. Something that isn't the banana that I threw up last night.
Nora obliges, pouring me something she refers to as a South African chardonnay into a giant red thing she calls a 'fuck-me glass.'
'I ain't gonna play Sun City,' I make a joke that nobody gets. Oh, Little Steven.
'You know, there's a Sun City in Florida,' Nora apartheids. Oh, well.
As if on cue, talk of the '80s and its requisite exploits drifts around the room, and somebody necessarily takes a jab at my backside while my nose starts to run.
'Billy, can you bend over?' my friend Skotty belches. 'So I CAN'T see your ass?'
And, basically, there's a whole lot not to see going on. Just various members of Bughead, hairdressers, actresses and biker types in leather vestitude standing around and sipping sour grapes. Somebody met somebody who liked Madonna, the Sex Pistols and Duran Duran, adding, 'He can suck his own dick,' and somebody is just about ready to go outside and get some fresh air.
Once there, Tony and I revert to our ancient gay survival technique and rush to my car for some Kate Bush therapy. Kate's got a new album out, and its overtly metaphorical embarrassment is not lost on us, no ma'am.
'Threeeeeeeeeeeeeee … point one four one six … ,' Kate recites nonsensically, but somehow infinitely sensibly.
'There's some geek out there creaming his pants right now,' Tony creams his pants.
And when we walk back in, the lights have been dimmed, the people have exited into their own personal infinities, Nora has kited my tab and, in effect, nothing has happened.
Because even at the supposed high end, nothing ever firstname.lastname@example.org