"I think panty purses are the new cummerbund," stitches my waifish friend Chloe, who is clearly named that because 1) one shoulder is exposed by her long, sexy slip dress and 2) she probably hasn't had a meal since Kids came out.
She goes on to extol the virtues of the cummerbund and the fact that she started a thrift-hipster-girl trend that even I am unfamiliar with, swaying in and out of underfed consciousness with phrases like "Oh, I've seen it. It's happening," while I try to imagine just what size of wristband constitutes a cummerbund for the über-hip and emaciated.
But what about panty purses?
"You just sew up the leg holes and attach a fashionable strap," she rolls her eyes in such a way that even Parker Posey would feel dowdy.
Tonight we are on a quest to find something new something gay but still something new. My friend Rufus (who is actually Tony, but seeing as we're excavating certain New York high-rise cocaine circles, he's gone all Wainwright), Chloe and I have piled into my Jetta, sunroof open, trying to catch some sort of a Less Than Zero mind train that might result in verbal alchemy akin to both revelation and column inches. Lots of talk about losing your virginity in your panty purse when you throw it out the window follows, as does a conversation about Britpop Lothario Jarvis Cocker, who apparently resembles Chloe's current psychosexual interest.
"Does he POKE you?" I pull out some old graphics terminology from my BASIC days with my Commodore VIC-20.
"No!" she clutches her panty purse.
"So that means that I can't say 'Jarvis Cocks-her' in my column?"
More eye rolls. More Sevigny. I'm not high, but I swear I can't feel my teeth.
My crew of downcast gazes stretched by furrowed brows is growing understandably impatient. We are, after all, on our way to International Drive a leach to patience in general but we're also giddy with nervousness at the discovery of a New Gay Bar. "You want to take me to a gay bar, gay bar," skips Chloe like a bad indie-disco record. Yes; yes, I do. The only problem is that even though it might seem that my crotch alone is probably the most reliable divining rod for drinking establishments of same-sex flirtation, something about I-4 and then I-Drive has thrown my penile compass to the south.
So I'm doing the I-Drive dance, hopping three lanes here and there like somebody who wears a hip purse and enjoys Wet 'n Wild, imagining that the bile that occasionally accumulates in my throat is this year's latest liquor sensation and swallowing it back dutifully. By the time we circumnavigate the general area of potential penetration, the three of us have distilled our distinctive wit into a liquid that closely resembles ipecac.
Fifteen stops into I-Drive, we're finally able to locate an ATM at a Walgreens, but only after a bizarre encounter with a foreigner in an easy chair manning what appears to be both his 24-hour grocery store and his home. Who has a 24-hour grocery without an ATM?
"I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee, yeah," blares the Walgreens sound system, burning out beneath the over-white fluorescence of late-night condom shopping. Rufus (Tony) and I, predictably, twirl until our Carly Simon skirts rise above our heads. But everybody just stares straight ahead. Like nothing's happening. Like nobody cares.
"But there's a World of Denim out there," Rufus will later comment. "That's got to account for something."
Yeah, maybe. But it doesn't account for direction. I have to cell-phone Eddie, a friend gayer than I, just to finally find out where it is my karma lies. Or rather, where the Karma bar that his lying ex-boyfriend frequents is actually located.
"On your left, you'll see a Don Pablo's," he refries my beans. "It's behind there."
OK, then. So much for the highbrow. Chloe quickly dips from Sevigny to drugstore perfume, while Rufus is now more of a red-eyed Chaka Khan vehicle than a former meth-head with a penchant for vaudeville. As for me, driving anywhere on I-Drive looking for a gay bar makes me feel a little bit like Aileen Wuornos, looking for a bathroom mirror so that I might preen that "I look gooooood."
Once inside, just past the rainbow Bud Light sign and the obligatory Touch Tunes digital jukebox blaring something by Geri Halliwell at an unreasonable volume, we're simply happy to be in the presence of backlit liquor. So we order, stand stricken for a moment and then realize that, like at most bars, there really isn't anything to do.
In fairness, Karma is a new bar, one that is honorable in its intentions to be an actual gay watering hole (purportedly for the hospitality set) in the middle of the nausea-inducing, family-fingering clime of I-Drive. The fact that there are at most 10 people in attendance is probably more a testament to its newness than its failure, and it is, after all, midnight, Wednesday, I-Drive, in the mist and midst of a tropical storm. That said, flyers that advertise "Karma's Kollege Nite. Kreate Skandal," indicate the sort of grammatically challenged trappings that are not only juvenile, but the cause of many a copy editor's early retirement. Still, it's a Regal Beagle, not unlike every other small-town gay bar without a lighting budget, and it's got room to grow.
"Everything about this hurts," Rufus roughs.
"Omigod! It's your JAM!" Chloe humors me, as the strains of Erasure's "Chains of Love" fill the empty room. And alas, I'm in a gay bar. A place to sit, drink and realize how lonely you are while RuPaul lip-synchs. Hmph.
"I don't really know what to write," I go all verbally flaccid to Chloe.
"Don't worry," she wipes the irony off her shoulder. "You're giving back to the community one Skyy Screw at a time."