Swelter

An impossible vacation taken in the killing fields of ambition, all anticlimax and dashed desires, overhyped and incapable of escaping the specter of work and the insidious barbarism of Miami. The Hamptons, New York with trees, first stop on the folly-of-mankind tour, the Gods of the connected life delivering an idyll in the literary haven of Sagaponack, a borrowed beach house just down the road from Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, and the old Truman Capote place. A self-glorifying prospect of parties and tony softball games, the pitiless drive from Kennedy Airport rewarded by a vision of splendor, a big-ticket house perched on a vast golden field stretching to the ocean. Our lunatic snobbery and resolute ingratitude kicking in immediately, awash in private ruminations about serious landscaping problems, the true God of Judgment demanding instant retribution: the house turning out to be a nearly furniture-free construction site requiring a major leap in thinking, mocking our dreams and delusions. It's all ashes and dust, and no one escapes the toll of real life or gets a free lunch A even in the Hamptons.

Fighting fate, unhooked and unhinged, wistfully recalling a brief revel last summer among Nouvelle Society, this year's reality all about milling around pointlessly. The standard summer-house gestalt of hemorrhaging money and calculating the hourly cost of low-bore diversion, cultivating an interest in fresh muffins, produce stands, and the art of barbecuing. Trudging down to the beach, negotiating the flotsam of used syringes and bronzed pigs on cellular phones, making all the wrong moves. Flinging to-the-manner-rented attitude on an attractive woman, madly backpedalling when she identified herself as the wife of a construction worker from the palace of Roy Scheider. Fricasseed by all the class-war skirmishes in the sun, eyes swollen shut by a pernicious bout of conjunctivitis, ultimately reduced to afternoons of F Troop reruns and muttering "Ring, damn you, ring" at the phone.

The evenings spent combing the cute streets and isn't-money-grand shops of the village, actually having trouble getting into the local Stephen Talkhouse, neighbor Spalding Gray breezing by on cue in a Suzuki jeep with a madly laughing woman. Up and down the status scale, the golden isle not liking us, any notions of simple bucolic pleasures ruined by the Hamptons being the elusive center of the known universe, the social press a constant maddening rebuke: Barry Diller and Calvin Klein having a boys night out at The Swamp, the local gay bar; Ron Perlman and Mort Zuckerman holding fundraisers for Mario Cuomo; the name game featuring everyone from Tina Louise to Princess Di, Marisa Tomei to Matthew Broderick.

Day six, making a flight from pleasantness to the horror of New York, mindful of a line from Edie Beale of Grey Gardens fame: "The Hamptons are beautiful, but they're soooo boring." The Big Apple, our luck holding fast: unable to locate Chi Chi Valenti's weekly "Grey Gardens" party and stumbling around the Village like a rube; actor/World Cup fan Steven Bauer accidentally dislodging our brainpan with an errant soccer ball; a nightmarish day trip to our Irish working-class roots in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Back to the glittering hordes of Manhattan, phone mobilization finally paying off with a night of glory in the demimonde. A press dinner at Robert De Niro's Tribeca Grill, Harvey Keitel hosting Lina Wertmuller of the new Ciao, Professore!, a return to the familiar bosom of social geometry: celebrities hawking a product before useful and momentarily tolerated journalists, both spheres of being maintaining a truce of polite disengagement. The crowd consisting of the angry-cinema school -- novelist and screenwriter Richard Price, Willem Dafoe, John Turturro, the rat-faced guy from Reservoir Dogs -- and assorted scraps, a weird crasher presenting star-shaped wire sculptures to all the stars.

The traveling downtown revue moving on to the restaurant of the nanosecond, Match, one of the owners pitching a clientele ranging from the Rockefeller family to Donovan Leitch, working himself into a publicity lather over an upcoming model party thrown by homeboys Jacques and Pascal -- the grossly unpopular Haitian promoters. An actress from My Life's in Turnaround joining our merry throng, all of us taking a taxing nightcap at Limelight's "Disco 2000," a maelstrom of drag -- Kenny Kenny, Lady Bunny, et al. -- and epic debauchery. An unappetizing middle-age gentleman, naked except for a sound wire connecting his genitals and ears, fondling himself on a balcony. The inner circle filing into a faux VIP room like junkies at a methadone clinic, a drag nurse dispensing free ludes to the needy, whorish club kittens stripping on the dance floor. Ready, as usual, to throw up, jerk off, or die. An urchin from South Beach emerging from the gloom to alleviate the private hell, Miss Tiger Beat amazed to discover that our web of glamour embraces the entire eastern seaboard. It's a small, disgusting world after all.

Back down to the Hamptons, determined to fight the evil beast of bad-vacation karma, a beloved friend unveiling high WASP society to free weekly newspaper trash. Sun hats and flawless carriage, monocles and ascots, idle heirs to great brand-name fortunes with nicknames like "Muffy" and "Boo." A world where life is fun and cozy, and there are always, as someone put it, "such a lot of parties." The social run commencing at an amazing dinner for the New York Philomusica at the East Hampton home of Lauren Bacall, leased for the summer by a New York socialite, the house equipped with Bacall's intensely interesting personal effects. A servant carrying around a can of bug repellent on a silver platter, the chamber ensemble playing before a pool ringed by candles in white paper bags, the Blue Book crowd in rare form: men wearing blazers and loafers without socks, arguing over who best embodied the Jay Gatsby ideal; Chanel-clogged matrons stroking lap dogs, warming up over our clucking about what "Betty" had done to a perfectly charming little house. A long way, thank God, from the Kibble family and the reach of our competitors.

The roll continuing the following evening at the estate of the King of the Hamptons, Anthony Duke, occupying an entire peninsula on Three Mile Harbor. The benefit for Boys Harbor summer camp featuring more WASPs, a picnic, and a stunning fireworks display put on by George Plimpton and the Grucci family. Duke rambling on the public address system A too rich to give a shit about being boring A and finally introducing Plimpton, the old pro setting off the first volley of fireworks and waving grandly at the twinkling yacht lights in the harbor: "Hooray, you boats!" One perfect moment, about all that can be expected of any vacation.

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