Ready for Lust

Finding yourself operating in an over-it-all mode you are once again struck with the need to embark on an effort to create something of a memorable night out. You are no longer satisfied with dipping into the same watering holes filled with scenes inspired by rap videos or Doug Liman's Go. Shrill music and debating the talent of 50 Cent or any other ex-con-turned-rapper is a task best left to those willing to engage popular culture's lowest common denominators. You, on the other hand, are trying to get over the numbness of feeling like your time in the nightlife crawl is, well, "over," a reality far more important and immediate in the scheme of things.

This present state of "overness" derives from a need for change in social scenery. Your friends are great, and going places where everyone knows you does have its moments. Free drinks tend to be a part of those aforementioned "moments." Still something has to be done to spice up your nights on the town a bit. All the alcohol in the world won't make the monotony go away. At least not all the time.

The only solution you can think of besides bungee-jumping from the sidewalk into a pool of glass shards is to head over to that forgotten netherworld of hipness known the world over as Ocean Drive. What was once a centerpiece of chic in South Beach has now become one long sidewalk eatery, the home of Bostonian tourists and frat boys, a place where you can't escape those goddamn girls selling blinking lights (and yes, they want ten bucks for a blinking heart ring). As Don King would say, "Only in America!" But you gotta love it.

There may be no other place in the world where you will find such a high concentration of flamenco guitarists and men in business suits guzzling fruit-flavored drinks as if they were straight out of some happy hour from hell, all ignorant to any sense of panache and only able to focus on the kitschy name of some daiquiri gone mad with alcohol content. These are our kinda folk! Rounds of coma-inducing Slurpees for everyone! Let's party!

The scene at Wet Willie's on Eighth and Ocean stays true to its original intent of being plucked from a Fort Lauderdale spring break movie, no matter the time of year or hour of night. Somewhere your friends are filled with anxiety standing in line, waving invites, and signaling to some rude Frenchman that they, too, are on the mythical "guest list" like the hundreds of other people behind the ropes. You scoff at the thought of them while you pound down your high-octane, Big Gulp-style drink.

There are no illusions of getting lucky with some hot Scandinavian über-model here. The reality is that your options are all girls from some Midwestern Division II college soccer team. Sunburned but athletic, they're on vacation and the right mix of random people and liquor are affecting them. Odds may be in your favor, tiger.

But after a few drinks and smiles that lead to no promising conversations, you quickly concede that you are unable to master the language of these simpleton tourists. Being the imp of cool that you are has its downsides. The women may be pretty to look at under certain influences (kaleidoscope-colored alcoholic beverages), but they are more work than you expected. Besides, it is impossible to get past that hellish chortle that the cute one has.

Shuffle on to Mango's at Ninth and Ocean where the crowd is older, maybe even drunker, yet still resembling a hand-plucked group from Duval Street. There are also enough Latin honeys to make you want to go out and buy caseloads of Marlene Goodman's Let's Learn Spanish Picture Dictionary.

"Hola. Mi nombre es Clubbed! Como estás?" Bearing a dose of your best high school Spanish and some salsa and merengue lessons, you now trot onward with eyes set on a trip down south of the border.

True to the reputation of all things tropical and Miami, the women inside Mango's ooze sex. Grupo Exitos puts on a helluva show with its rapid-fire rhythms. But really, who is here for the music? You stare on like some deaf-mute ogling the Latin honeys. You practice your best Spanglish and dig into your pocket for that key chain your friend brought you back from the Dominican Republic, all the while hoping that you can pass for a second-generation something-or-other.

Soon the ladies join in on the ogling as Mango's own Chippendale dancers jump onto the top of the bar decked out in muscle shirts, cowboy hats, and chaps. The women go wild and you are quickly forgotten in the fervor of it all. A scrawny little something is unable to match the sexual mojo of the super hunks gyrating and thrusting their pelvises like Elvis. Any hopes you had of getting lucky with a too-sloshed damsel have been plucked away by the arms of these godlike male figures. They have been given teen idol status by the screaming women ripping at their shirts. The three caballeros atop the bar grind away at the ecstatic women drunk on Banana Cabana drinks and Latin lust. Maybe if you can slink far enough into the corner no one will even notice that you were here and you can slip out the back and head over to ...

Clevelander Hotel is just a block up from Mango's. There is bound to be something going on here at this notoriously rowdy poolside party that is home to "Splash," a "hot body contest" that with luck will turn into some "skin to win" showdown. There's music here as well, but again, if we wanted music we would be in Nashville. Besides, hearing some cover band crank out top 40 tunes can be mildly depressing, a helluva culmination to what may have once been a promising music career.

But instead of a bar band, there's a DJ spinning the song that won't die, Nelly's "Hot In Herre," then Miami's kiss of death, Will Smith's "Miami." No poolside soiree is complete without a bit of hip-hop camp. So the DJ throws in some "Rapper's Delight" for good measure.

Suddenly in the midst of this barrage the conscious starts to cry out for some 50 Cent after all. No sense in agonizing over Ocean Drive any longer than needed. It is what it is. Leave it to the barfly locals and the tourists. This land is not our land.

So you head out west to Washington Avenue, and its maddening orgy of attitude, as yet another pointless night of fun in South Beach comes to a screeching halt. You pause for a moment in surreal solitude on the corner of Washington and Tenth and absorb your world here in Thunderdome, your lawless surroundings void of morality and meaning. And you love every bit of it.

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Lee Williams