Swelter 39

And when you're not, everything does. A dispiriting New Year's Eve, drizzly and Madonna-less, a flurry of cellular phone calls not quite panning out: Enos was around, Ingrid reportedly didn't have "the authority" to bring an entourage. The Century party after midnight, drag queens walking the runway in the rain, breasts popping out of Apollonia's dress like a renegade Jack-in-the-Box. Sloppy and drunken, the citizens of South Beach acting as if they don't go out every night. The von Furstenberg affair at the last-call stage, the host perfectly amiable, heading over to Paragon. Byblos, a big improvement from the Cave era, Louis Canales working on installations in the back patio and a women's room bar. Norwich and Bartsch delighting in the Beach, the whorehouse of the Western world. Music pounding in the front room ("It's the ultimate seduction: acts of sensation without sense"), the regulars lolling outside, one social veteran wailing, "God, why are we all pretending that there's any energy to New Year's?"

Five a.m. outside the crack house on lower Collins, a pregant hooker on the steps, beeper tucked into her socks, smoking and drinking. Out of nowhere a hurled invective, "Faggot!" and a fully loaded beer can flies out of a car, hitting us squarely in the back. Breathless and aching, facing another tainted year of degradation, evil, and the banality of fame. Sunrise, a dirty dish rag wiped across a leaden sky, and for some reason, the last line of The Great Gatsby comes to mind: "And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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