A song of August, the dirge of sweat, exhaustion, and derangement, ready to embrace the new cachet of heroin addiction and serial murder. The months, years, and epochs spent in the trenches of trash blending into one vast well of spite and noise, a wail of longing, desire, and general hatefulness, hyenas baying before a cold moon. A rotten little town, particularly in summer, and lately the basic premises of human interaction seem singularly distasteful, an unfortunate frame of mind for social reporting. It's a shabby sort of life, this constant round of petty psychodramas and social inflictions, but then, the battered and lame seldom have the luxury of creeping off the great American stage with a dollop of dignity. Everyone, after all, has to keep on making a living, well past the flush and glory of youth.

The usual what's-fun-got-to-do-with-it professional circumstances leading to two consecutive Saturday nights in the district, the heart of darkness quickly losing all rights to flinging attitude at mainland establishments: lousy with cheap gimmickry, boa constrictor devotees, and soon enough perhaps, wet T-shirt contests. A nine-hour evening with a photographer from a national magazine A plugarama columnists are always the most shameless media whores A commencing with a warmup at the nicely done Jessie's, the staff bracing for an onslaught of eager Chili Pepperians descending on the place like locusts. Lucy's, a homage to The Endless Summer, replete with a surfboard bar and a pervasive party-hearty tone: mescal meets Molotov cocktails, rubber sharks perched on theme drinks. Owner Adam Devlet ready to "rock everybody's world," sending a winsome barmaid over to give us a welcoming hug. The tubular wave of courtesy going gnarly at The Ruins. Fighting for the rights of the press with door personnel, the faint hope of a camera-shy famous presence inside dashed with a motley gang of youngsters begging to be photographed, everyone clustering around two very talented go-go dancers. The camera lights inspiring steadily escalating levels of provocation, a besotted lad muttering, "Please, please, keep shooting" during a juicy girl-on-girl moment, the photographer in aesthetic rapture: "Wow, this is so cheap and good -- too bad clubs weren't like this when I was growing up."

On to a series of packed and pointless establishments, closing down at the perfectly hideous Paragon. The walls done up in hanging sequins, concrete-dipped drapes and magazine covers, old lechers and hip-hop thugs remaining oblivious to the crippling techno fare, loud enough to induce brain damage. Two hours of sheer torture, the visuals-are-the-story crew properly focusing on the triumvirate of Madame Woo, Placidia, and the forever perky Kitty Meow. And then it's the unflattering fluorescent lighting of Wolfie's at 5:00 a.m. ("Try and look really tired"), the wizened guide to the new Inferno accepting whatever degradation destiny deems necessary for a publicity opportunity. A gaggle of queens from Paragon chortling pitilessly at the aging-but-still-game trouper, definitely not helping matters: "Oh look, they're photographing poor old Debbie Harry."

A personal-best set the following day, fitful beauty sleep unraveling at four in the afternoon, jump-starting the power plant and stumbling back into the fray. Africa Fete at the new Marlin Gardens, a mini-Woodstock/faux native village presented by the Rhythm Foundation and the Marlin Hotel, a cast of thousands milling around a truly equatorial parking lot, diligently absorbing a tasty array of world-beat music. Too decrepit for public events, heading straight up to the rooftop like a snobbish fish fighting for air and privileges, gazing upon the magnificence of Jamaican rapper-emcee Shinehead from afar: "Here she is, what she is, why she is!" -- pleasant but low-grade strain of Marlin party, record executives lining up at a cash bar, a local publishing legend getting off a great line: "I wouldn't wipe my ass with my demographics." The Miami division of the Chris Blackwell empire stretching from Collins Avenue to the water, the Beach veterans going hard on the property and ruing all the missed real estate opportunities, a friend noting that he could have bought the hotel for a measly two hundred grand five years ago and neatly avoided all the current status scrambling. The evening only slightly marred by the neurotic sickness of this business, an obsession mounting over the possibility of a phantom celebrity gathering in a parallel dimension. Forever ready to ruin our own good time, reduced to grilling a bewildered Blackwell on the roof and finally barging into his suite downstairs, a very sweet couple assuring us that there was nothing even remotely resembling a social occasion in progress.

From there the glory-days contingent taking in Versace's new $10,000-a-pop palm trees imported from California -- the Gritti Palace reborn on Coney Island -- and landing at Lulu's for the Jeffrey closing-night party. The ACME Acting Company's production moving on to Key West, gay heaven circa 1987, the fast set in New York apparently buzzing about neo-mecca ending overnight with the Paragon-Glam Slam transformation. More fey chatter and then a pit stop at San Remo Dune: lingerie models, moneyed roues, and an odd tableau of club performance art, some guy lounging on a recliner in a Batman costume, surrounded by beer cans and flipping through Ocean Drive. The briefest cameo -- a revue with Madonna fucking donkeys might not be compelling enough lately -- before the horror of Washington Avenue, an unsettling mix of Bourbon Street, Coconut Grove, and Palookaville, the district making the inevitable descent into shit. A classic American journey, from fashionable watering hole to Hell Town: It's just begun and it's already over.

The party winding down to a necrophiliac's ball, a corpse chewed into grist by money, stupidity, and a mutant strain of teen beasts: screaming homophobic obscenities and fighting like women, puking on the streets, throwing their girlfriends out of moving cars for a lark. The cancer that drove us out of the Grove in the mid-Eighties -- marauding adolescents and deluded piss elegance, Pop Tart architecture and grotesque politics -- happening all over again. Another outpost of charm rushing toward the imminent specter of small-change gamblers and drunken conventioneers, financially entrenched hipsters missing the curve of chic and clinging to the safe harbor of private fortresses and overwrought hotels, district pioneers madly selling out and futilely attempting to cash in before the fall. Miami, the spoiled child of the American landscape, lacking the historical infrastructure and resilience of other cities, immolating itself with willfulness and greed. A town wondrous beyond reckoning a quarter century ago, an overblown village nestled by a forgiving sea, freed from the workings of publicity. It can't go on and yet it can't be stopped, and at a certain point it becomes home, good, bad, or plainly doomed. The alternatives narrow and you realize that your fates are hopelessly intertwined: Stay long enough and the city will mark and taint your being forever. The madness and desecration can be intolerable, but no other place quite feels right. And always, August is the cruelest month.

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Tom Austin