December had already started off on a fortuitous foot when Tara and I snuggled into our seats at Joe Bar on Capitol Hill, steaming up the paned windows with our foamy cappucinos as we watched Blizzard 2007 draw the movie-like qualities out of life: as a soft white began to cast the outside world with a gentler tone, passerby got cuter and people became visibly nicer to each other. A middle-aged couple, appropriately clad in Danskos and Teva gear, opted to take their lattes outside and let the massive flakes settle onto their hair and eyelashes as they sat together on a lazy Saturday morning date. People grinned at each other as they entered the cafe, stamping their boots and shaking their wet hair. Somber dogs peered through the glass as their best friends warmed themselves on coffee and crepes. Joe's provided the jazz-heavy soundtrack, and Tara and I kept hugging ourselves and beaming about how perfect the world was at that exact moment.
(Later, as we tromped through Broadway, we found a bookstore I'd never been to that had, quite possibly, the world's most perfect cards. One summarized our day succinctly: "I bet snowflakes wouldn't be quite so lovely if they were shaped like prostitutes." So true.)
So the blissful beginning of December meant that, despite not feeling my greatest (5 am bedtimes and too much Three Buck Chuck will do that), I had a good feeling about Studio 54 Lives Again. My high school friend Ryan, who works for the Seattle Models Guild, had invited me to this fundraiser for a school in Kathmandu and obviously, despite the fact that I hate people (especially kids) with a passion, I wanted to go to see what the craic was all about. I donned a one-piece pantsuit (tight in the waist but loose in the crotch, for maximum awkwardness in the lower torso region), brushed my hair into a serious white girl fro, and headed out into the snowy night to see what I could find.
The first thing I found was a homeless guy who mumbled to me as I passed him outside the Last Supper Club, "I'm tempted to stab you for no reason." This was, perhaps, the scariest thing that's ever happened to me, besides the time I got groped on the street in Alicante. I chalked it up to him not appreciating the lace tube top portion of my pantsuit and hauled ass into the club.
After tromping ungracefully down a plush red carpet, the second thing I found was: myself, right in the thick of Model Central. Apparently, Studio 54 is a yearly phenomenon in which the big three Seattle model agencies put all their people together in the same room so they can stare at each other and write fat checks for poor kids while getting beautifully drunk (unfortunately, my drunk can more accurately be described as "Bag Lady"). To the untrained eye, watching shirtless guys with bow ties wander around flexing their oiled chests and asking for dollars in exchange for beads seems like a scene out of a skeezy Miami back alley, but to a professional model, this is what "fundraising" looks like. Cover your eyes, kids.
I clutched my free drink tab and headed straight for the bar, desperate for a higher gin:blood ratio before I could face the gorgeous hordes head-on. The bartender winked at me in a non-sexual way, which brightened my mood, and I turned back to the dance floor, sucking on a lemon and looking for a short redhead I could relate to. I scanned the room: giants. Lush-lipped, smooth-skinned, eight foot Glamazons. Not a split end or zit, as far as the eye can see. What an annoying crowd.
I made a personal goal of being purely observant for the entire night, but having at least one entertaining conversation. This is when Ryan popped up, and insisted on taking me around to his various circles and introducing everyone at length ("this is Sergio, he's a photographer..." "Daria, model..." "Francisco, agent..."). After the fourth or fifth blank stare I had to forcibly stop Ryan from continuing on his social rampage and let me stumble around in my own awkwardness. He dragged me to one last circle, and rambled off a few more models' names. One of the guys I recognized from my gym, so I attempted a little friendly chitchat with the most basic of commonalities-- "Haven't I seen you somewhere?"
KIDDING!! I didn't say that. As Mike Birbiglia would advise, what I should have said was NOTHING. What I did say was something sarcastic about not only knowing where he works out, but knowing where he sleeps (trying to make light of my already semi-stalkeresque comment... you know?). My joke went over like the Hindenberg. "So how do you know where I live?" my new friend asked me a minute later.
I'd like to pause narration here for a second to mention that this gentleman was named BLISS. That was his God-given name. Write that down, it becomes all too applicable later on.
As I backpedaled my way out of my overly sarcastic "new friend" test, Bliss became even more confused about whether or not I was actually his stalker or not. Let the records note that the only reason I recognized this guy was because he was awkwardly flexing in the weights section and not because I thought he stood out as a paragon of male attractiveness. As I kindly helped him get over himself, he relaunched the conversation in a new direction that sent me even deeper into my G&T. "So tell me something interesting about yourself," he said, apparently competing for "Biggest Cliche of the Evening." I mentioned something about my near-obsession with travelling and seeing how other people do things, which brought up his recent travels.
I was so excited to have something in common with this vacant-eyed dolt, but when I asked him to tell me more, he just rolled his eyes. "Well, I told you a few minutes ago, but I went to Southeast Asia for a month." I looked around, trying to figure out who exactly he had been speaking to previously that looked remotely like me, but let it go in favor of hearing more... the story already sounded suspiciously drug-induced.
"I went to Asia to search... for bliss. And I found it, right here (points to heart)."
Oh my good God. He just made an analogy with his name. This is gold. I'm leaving this conversation while it's at the peak. Fortunately, Whit showed up and pulled me away to dance at that exact moment.
Ah, Whit. How to describe a person like Whit? He is more of a force of nature than a person, a tornado of random inappropriate comments and stories that are better than fiction. Throughout college, I could always rely on Whitney to bring a heavy dose of the unusual to my life. He would call on a Monday afternoon from outside the sorority, waiting to take me for a spin in his new ride; a massive, gas-guzzling farm truck that looked better suited for central Wyoming than the middle of Seattle. One week later, he would call again, but this time the ride was in his shiny new Audi. Whit had mullets, he had rat tails, he had a joie de vivre that some saw as annoying but which I adored. He worked as a sandwich delivery guy on a bike, as the captain of a massive ship, as a model in Thailand. He came up with elaborate plans to buy Thai property and become a music television VJ. He showed up in random magazine fashion spreads we didn't even know he had done. He always makes me laugh.
Whit was there as one of the Beautiful People, but also bridged the gap as one of the sarcastic people who didn't really try too hard, so we danced in a very aerobics-friendly, non-sexy manner for quite a while. At some point in my Jazzercise endeavors, I got pulled away by Latin Lover Jorge with a minor ponytail who matched my rhythm (miraculously, because after a few more of those drink tabs, it didn't really "sync up with the music" per se) and stuck by my side for the next hour or so. After throwing a few stray dollars into the direction of one of the ubiquitous bare nipples, I closed the night out, content. I think I had more fun the pretty people in the end, anyway.