I used to be somebody. But from this vantage point, pressed up against the disheveled armpit of Orlando's fungal hipster overgrowth, you wouldn't know it. It's Friday night at the Bar-B-Q Bar downtown, and although I'm carded at the door, I'm ancient within, prodding my imaginary walking stick through a swaying congestion of boys who look like they might front The Killers and girls who measure their disinterest through the haze of well liquor and canned beer … and therefore should be killed. I don't belong here. I belong here 10 years ago.
Fortunately for me, aXis (look! A giant 'X'!) Magazine is hosting its 10-year anniversary party next door, celebrating a decade of mainstreaming and mainlining in Central Florida's burgeoning frat-boy midsection. That's what I'm really here for, anyway. I just kinda figured that it might smooth the generational leap if I tickled my liver a bit in the now before I dove headfirst into the then. But seeing as I can't even approach the bar at the Q, much less order a cocktail, it's clearly time to grab my generation-straddling gal-pal Jen (oh, to be in your late 20s) and hop a ride on the way-back machine. What we're gonna do right here is go back … OK, next door.
Now, admittedly, aXis stands as something of a competitor to this very broadsheet, overlapping with the Weekly occasionally on the magical musical middlebrow, and tempering its trucker-hatted irreverence with sometimes-similar kneejerks of journalistic conceit. I once tried to get a writing gig there almost 10 years ago, I think only to be told that there weren't really any actual gigs there. So for the most part I've since assumed that aXis was just some kind of occurrence. A natural disaster. An impressionistic splat of everything you already know, pressed together with potatoes.
That said, I like aXis. They have an on-the-scene bar-photo section that reduces the egos of their moneyed demographic to a more digestible 2-inch, deer/headlight morsel. They named me one of the coolest people in Orlando a couple of years back (only to drop me like dirty boxer shorts the next year) which is completely untrue. And Sean Perry, their leader, is a dreamboat. But will this boat sail me through the door?
"I'm not sure if I'm on the list," I bend into the door guy at The Social. "I've been in contact, but I haven't received a confirmation."
Which means precisely nothing.
"Uh, naaah, ummm," he hems then haws, rifling through an extended list of people who are probably the current coolest crop and probably do not write for the Weekly. A few bats of the eyes, a little bit of door-guy apathy and we're waved through. Not the kind of reception I have come to expect (and never receive), but it'll do. It'll have to.
Inside, we're immediately pressed into the shuffling throng of the Social thoroughfare, brushing past people who are my age but are trying to look like they aren't my age, and turning up with your standard fare of fashion tragedy: skull caps, shiny shirts, spaghetti straps.
"Oh, so this is where the people who live at the Waverly go," quips my friend Jen, trying to write my column for me.
"Let me write that down," I let her.
At the bar, we stare listlessly at the wall separating us from our indie youths as if it's some kind of, er, aXis of time. It's like a mystical two-way before-and-after mirror, except in reverse, leaving me holding the jeans-too-large at waist level and tucking the excess skin behind my ears. The after was supposed to better. OK, so it is. But sometimes I think I'd sacrifice my left ass cheek to hop through that wall and feel shameless in public again, all beer and drugs and saying things you don't want to remember tomorrow, all bathroom cock and filigree. These days, I have to remember tomorrow. Or at least I have to be able to scribble it illegibly in a moleskin pad before blacking out and worrying about flipping my new car. I have a boyfriend and a new car. I practically live at the Waverly.
So, like a Singles-era Bridget Fonda, I mingle my way through members of Seven Mary Three and My Friend Steve, stopping to fake-neck with Michael McRaney, refusing the advances of a gorgeous stalker named Stephanie, and throwing harmless sexual innuendo into the faces of everybody I'm on a first-name basis with. In the absence of substance or shame, cheap faggotry is always available on the default switch and I'm on autopilot, girrrrrl!
Girlishly, Jen and I bump into my old friend Lisa, and almost immediately sink into oversexed codespeak, reveling emotionlessly in the Brad and Jen breakup (he doesn't wear deodorant, we surmise), and, later, in the terminology of abusive sexual exploits. I smell a Dirty Sanchez coming on.
"Have you heard of bagpiping?" quizzes Jen.
"It's when you fuck somebody in the armpit."
"Have you ever heard of a rusty trombone?" one-ups Lisa.
"It's a guy getting a blow job on the can."
Just then, Sean Perry of aXis walks by, informing me that I'd better be writing a nice column. "I can't promise you Paris or Fred, but there may be more celebrities, may be less," he dreamboats, coming back a few minutes later to buy me off with drink tickets. OK. A shot of tequila with another aXis personage, and I'm about ready to hop the wall into 20-something-land. But I don't. Instead, I'm sucked into the pure beauty of a now-rare solo performance by Steve Burry. All of the pomo pretenses of the past 10 years unravel in giant swirls of warmth as my friend Steve lilts his rasp around minor chords of timelessness, and a few sensitive people in attendance seem to connect eyes around the room. Everything, for a moment, is perfect. Then Steve talks about a woman leaving a menstruation stain on his L-shaped desk in Pittsburgh, and the moment is gone.
"Hi," approaches the event photographer, presumably prepared to reduce me to a scenester morsel. "You're Billy, right?"
I used to be.