The great advantage of these half-baked atrocities of guerrilla journalism sewn in the shadows of life is the enriching horror of being forced to regularly confront the real world: the lust and greed, the rage and madness that spring from thwarted longings, the fumblings toward charity and redemption. The darker-urges beat can be exhausting, a cascade of pure filth and degeneracy, unfit raw material, perhaps, for an uplifting New York Times lifestyle piece on the new American Zeitgeist. But then it's always an interesting journey, and something epic is definitely upon us: the marriage of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, poor Elvis no doubt tossing in his grave and railing against the indignity of colored nancy boys invading Graceland, may be the first clear sign of the Armageddon promised by the ancients. In the meantime it's the local endgame, the pathology lab of clubs, a tidal pool of bottom feeders where life is revealed and stripped bare, blissfully freed from the weight of redeeming cultural values.

The weekend, the neurotic stupor that marks off-duty existence, freed from the pleasant, albeit boring, routines of domesticity: the safe removal of reading and tabloid television, keeping sensible company and regular hours. Friday night looms, the clarion call of the trash fix goes up and life becomes vital again. First stop, Lincoln Road, Greg and Nicole Bilu-Brier materializing in normal-people environs, girding their loins for the return of Velvet. The team setting up shop in the old Boomerang-Cave-Byblos space, ready to roll in September with their patented three-circles-of-sin approach. On to absurd door trouble at Mickey's, finally sliding in with Mickey Rourke and his shaved-head brigade: the ubiquitous bodyguard, Gary James, and the personable Pinky, now running a model-infested dive in Manhattan. Our harmless comments inspiring the ire of hangers-on ("I don't care who you are: No one messes with Mickey in his own club"), the place virtually stripped of its terminally fucked Rourke-goes-boxing thematic elements. Owner Carlo Vaccarezza, a connected individual with the capacity to accomplish truly useful favors, also holding the lease on the Ruins space, apparently too busy to witness the star's trademark skulking-as-theater appearance.

Back out to Washington Avenue, trolling past countless other shaved heads, the fashionable jumping the gun on death chic. Glam Slam's Yajaira, a beacon of light in a palace of doom, sporting the new look and the real cachet of living on the mainland, bidding farewell with an underground Third Millennium house party. Twist, the lush-life boys mourning Barrio's closing-night dragarama fest, an eventful evening with the new drag revue hosts from Mulberry Street Cafe denounced as interloping breeders and pelted with drinks. On to other establishments, trailing the usual pack of wicked teen vixens ("Come on, be cool and take us in with you"), privately cursing our stature in the nightlife industry and the draconian laws of this country. In a more sophisticated society A say, Africa A we'd all be one big happy family of sex. Les Bains, all champagne and dysfunctional sexuality, the usual international maelstrom: strange complements ("You look like Tony Bennett; not old, just rich") and a sublime moment, a beautiful and seemingly nonwhorish woman selling out for free champagne. An aging roue, skanky but rich, tentatively tapping her on the shoulder at the bar, the woman turning around and smiling luxuriantly, lifting a dress worn without panties. The old sport quickly losing steam, Miss Harlot gesturing toward her public parts and whispering, "Go ahead and stick it in -- right now."

The perfect exit cue, the streets alive with less appetizing chaos: the desperately beautiful clashing against the homeless, rooting through Dumpsters like stray dogs; cops in uniform socializing with girls inside clubs and drinking on the sidewalks; Mickey Rourke slowly cruising Espanola Way in a Rolls Royce, a ward heeler on St. Patrick's Day. On to the Orchid and Warsaw, briefly considering staying up for an after-hours party on Ocean Drive, missing our big chance to experience the nasty reality of a police raid. A Billy Budd type spinning off into a sobering reverie, the overloaded milieu apparently reminiscent of Hong Kong, the eternal nightclub becoming ugly one New Year's Eve: "There were thousands of people trying to get into this little exclusive place -- it was sort of like Les Bains -- and the windows started to warp. At midnight, this frightening roar went up, the crowd surged forward, and there were twenty dead bodies, blue from suffocation, laying on the street." Another let's-get-aimless evening winding down, our thoughts drifting back, for some reason, to a Generation X gathering earlier this summer, something of a personal watershed.

It turned out to be that ultimate rarity, a district event beyond cheap publicity and the absurd power structure of clubs, thrown by a couple who were being evicted from their apartment: celebration in defiance of travail, the mark of a real party. Nobody seemed to be selling anything, there were no discreet professional agendas at work, and the fun -- dancing, drinking, the possibility of noncommercial sex -- never stopped for the young. The hostess uncannily resembled the late Edie Sedgwick in tone and style, flitting about madly and being generous to everybody: boys wearing plastic dicks for a lark, bikers, a group of dope smokers watching the early Sly Stallone romp through a porn film. A postmodernist garage band set up in the garden, dressed in Shriner fezzes and jester's hats, corsets and combat boots, making patter ("We suck exponentially, but Lenny Kravitz must die") and good-naturedly flailing away at "Sex in the Gun Shop."

Truly a splendid affair, akin to the no-holds-barred bashes of college, the tide inevitably turning with one wise ass staring at our party and finally muttering, "Simon, right? And you must be Garfunkel?" The unsettling encounter inspiring an unforgivable lapse into lameness, actually finding ourselves calling out to another middle-age guy ("Hey, you're as old as we are") as the music suddenly stopped and everyone began snickering. A simple enough party, but somehow the intimacy proved to be overwhelming. The women were immediate, not just a fantastical backdrop; without the omnivorous power structure of clubs, we were directionless and virtually invisible. In a long career spanning every possible permutation of society, we have crashed wedding receptions in Istanbul, bellied up to the cocktail cart in Newport mansions, spent endless evenings with stunning beauties of both sexes. And never, until that moment, had we experienced perfect social agony, the abyss of being out of sync. But in the end it's nothing, a trifle allayed by the benediction of everyday graces: love, family, friends who understand the rules and the jokes, wonderful jobs where the colder realities of life can be suspended for a time. God grant us all tender mercies and simple blessings.