Avenue hipness and the nethers of wretched, double-popped overexposure. Staring down at our earthbound feet, looking Bleecker Street busy, and trying to maintain -- simply maintain -- an air of post-Strokes credibility. Anyone see CBGB? Yeah, me neither.
A homeless man walks by and begs for some change on Orange Avenue. Some change? Forget about it.
Now, all of us minions at the trough of fashion are well aware that Orlando isn't really the epicenter of cultural hope. We paddle swans to the center of a retention pond dyed blue, we sometimes eat sushi and we never, never, pass up the opportunity to retreat into our early 20s with a dose of shocking hair color and a fruity futility shot. We are the fiberglass that begat us. Amen.
But on those rare occasions that a single flashing light from Times Square cracks into our thought-space for an evening of hip posturing, we're there to hold a candle up against it. We have to be. What else are we going to do, paddle?
With me on this particular Monday night is none other than my good friend (and copy editor) Jessica Young, sporting some Björk-lite pigtail-twists. We're totally over it. We've decided that we've starved long enough for a dose of tousled-hair chic, and we're out on a school night to prove it.
"Mom," I deceitfully straighten my hair and pierce my lip. "Don't drop me off at the mall! Drop me off at the 7-Eleven near the mall!"
Fittingly, the piéce de duh tonight is to be none other than art-rock tragedy Peaches, she of the bearded-face album cover and the potty mouth to match. With songs like "Shake Yer Dix" and "Kick It" to overemphasize her patented woman-roar, Peaches has taken the world of calculated disinterest by storm, or by the balls, depending on how you fancy your metaphors. Moreover, she's sold out the Back Booth (which is about the size of your grandmother's living room) and has sent Orlando into a trendy tizzy of fashion faux pas. In short, we love her.
But not as much as they do.
Seems the flavors of the moment have decided to distinguish themselves by all looking (and tasting) oddly familiar: a faux-hawk here, a mullet there and a litany of accessories to make the whole thing feel like a revisit to '80s mall trash.
"I've remained decidedly Kajagoogoo for years," I muster some self-defense. "What are these people thinking?"
Well, they're not thinking at all, we haughtily decide, before muscling our way to the front bar.
"Oh, we only have flavored versions of SKYY," our bland bartendress coos, blond hair matching blanched skin, all swirled together like a pool of mayonnaise.
"Well, I don't like flavors," I Kruschev. "Give me the Absolut!"
"You know that delay you get on an overseas telephone call?" pipes Jessica, before cocking a brow in the direction of so-slow Miss Mayo. Yes. Yes, I do.
Meandering through the thoroughfare like a couple of sperm, Jess and I momentarily stop traffic to talk to a couple of friends high on Marinol ("It's for cancer patients who need to eat," one friend says of her pill-form THC. "But I didn't realize that it was for cheerleaders with eating disorders, too!" Ouch.)
Anyway, by the time the hideous opening act hits the stage, we're already stationed far, far in the back -- a vantage point we will use effectively as a means of passing judgment. We're perfect, you see.
The band features a co-lead singer who resembles, ever so slightly, a coked-up Mackenzie Phillips at an ill-advised Mamas & the Papas reunion, all come-hither smiles and squeals of delight. To add to the nauseating effect, a permed-out Joe Elliott type defs the leppard at her side. I think I've died and gone to the Back Booth ... I mean hell.
To bask in this quixotic glory, Peaches herself even descends from her (back) booth up above, sporting a root perm that would make Kip Winger proud, and walks by just 5 feet from my nose (and she's only 5 feet tall, funny). I consider assaulting her, but I'm not nearly that cool.
Instead we choose to comment on the noses of passers-by, those who stumble toward perfection and the bathroom at the very same time, too many times.
By the time Peaches takes the, um, stage, we're hostile to just about everything north of 42nd Street, coining phrases and darting barbs wherever we see fit -- like sports commentators, only without the sport. One boy is featuring a 12-year-old face and a tailed white tuxedo jacket, prompting Jessica to pronounce, "High Macauley Culkin factor -- inexcusable outerwear," before Nancy Drew-ing him on his 17th ladies' room pilgrimage.
"It sounded like they were doing deep- breathing exercises in there," she reports back, hands "Home Alone"-ing either side of her open-mouthed face. "I mean, why do it if you're not going to chat?"
All of which is too much conversation about powdered nothing from two people who ought be too old to care, while the soundtrack of a Vanity 6 situation dying in Berlin pounds its electro-clashery. Just when did I turn into Bret Easton Ellis? Oh, then.
Feeling even less than zero, I'm unable to even appreciate the genius playing out in front of us. Before Peaches can get to her live/videotaped duet with Iggy Pop, or either of her two drag-queen backups can get to their hula hoops, I'm plotting an exit. "Too much!" I stab myself in the soul. The funny thing about the Back Booth, though, especially on sold-out nights, is that you can't really exit. You know, like at a Jersey Great White show or a hotel in California.
"We've got to get out of here," pants Jessica, piled up in mullet-people.
"We'll go out the back door," I pull at the back of my hair. A security guard assures us that there can be no re-entry from that particular exit. "That's OK," Jess drops a half-eaten peach. "We're not coming back."