The armies of the night, helpless in the face of the social addiction, doomed to wander forever like vampires, seeking sustenance and sensation. A losing proposition of diminishing returns, the relentless eventually losing all sense of perspective. The sheer process of simply going out, anywhere and everywhere, becoming an unfathomable compulsion imprinted in the genetic survival code of the species, as mysteriously vital as the migratory patterns of wolves. A perilous terrain, rife with debasement and disgust, although it's better to be offended than bored, and even the unendurable is strangely interesting.

The social bender commencing with the beyond endurable, a thoroughly entertaining dinner party in Coral Gables, hosted by antique dealer George Campbell. The right mix of dueling dialectics, from old-line Palm Beach to club world, several agendas of fun at work: a welcome home/bon voyage party for Micky Wolfson; a birthday celebration for Norma Jean Abraham of Details, Details; another mingling opportunity for the pros. Abraham traveling with a pack of club owners from Atlanta, the downtown brigade sifting through people-like-us chatter ("Oh, of course, you were in New Guinea when I was in Madagascar"), and the conversational whirlwind of Micky Wolfson, a force to be reckoned with. Wolfson, as ever, remaining in the exact epicenter of life's rich pageant, just back from Washington, D.C., ("Forget about the political world A it has nothing to do with real life. Dedicate yourself to art and beauty...") and heading out again for another Arcadian lark: "First, Key West, a family thing, Cedar Key, Naples, Columbus, the Piedmont region, and then, of course, Italy for the summer."

A reluctant return to Miami Beach and real life, our turgid little Toyota whirring away like a sewing machine, Wolfson keeping up a running commentary: the elegance of the old polo grounds and his father's real estate dealings with Carl Fisher, a proposed La Te Da-style guesthouse off Collins Avenue, the glory of local womanhood: "They run things in this city and owe nothing to anybody. The men here are too accustomed to service industries; an enemy might become a useful ally the next day." Safely ensconced on N. Bay Road, the master of social timing bailing out early and missing a drastic segue, the whorehouse society of the district.

Starting off with a cameo at BASH for a South Beach legends party, the uptown Campbell crowd A interior designer Ton Luyk, fashion photographer Iran Issa-Khan A turning up again, ready to frolic. On to 411, in the throes of bimonthly Avenue A fever, Ton wistfully recalling the days of true watering-hole chic in St. Tropez: "Quiet, unpretentious luncheons with Brigitte Bardot, things like that." Iran in rare form ("The uglier the monkey, the more it plays"), dumbfounded by the passing parade, all Harleys and flesh: "What's happened to this place? It used to be a nice little bourgeois town." One of the more self-immersed decorative elements completely ignoring our pointed remarks and Iran's professional assessment ("You really have the most fabb-uuu-lous figure"), no doubt mistaking the compliment for an invitation to make politically correct pottery together in Santa Fe. The legends collapsing in the release of laughter, the ultimate revenge against the young and gorgeous, clinging to one another in the wreckage.

Moving down the evolutionary scale to club crawling, constitutionally incapable of staying home and savoring the fresh taste of a great evening, denying the cardinal rule of life A the impossibility of having fun two nights in a row, let alone every night. Lost in one low dive or another, the quality of the sexual talent pool narrowing toward closing time. An English punk girl fondling another green-haired thug, bat-shaped tattoos flying in formation up her arms, a celebrity coke dealer reveling in crime: "Feel how soft my hands are, darling; they've never known a day's work and they never will." Everyone engulfed in bad manners, an epidemic of attitude. A woman mock-choking our neck as a public-relations ploy, a doorman painfully tweaking the nipples, the standard surrealistic ingratitude. The press, simultaneously hustled and abused, a role uncomfortably close to Quentin Crisp's tales of early sexual encounters: degrading back-alley homages to young gods, dismissed with a muttered "That'll do for now" when enough momentarily sufficient lip service has been paid. The media-created fabulati, desperate for publicity fixes and yet loathing their benefactors, suspicious that it all just might be a castle of self-deluded cardboard glamour.

A few days off the beat, making resolutions and licking wounds, steeped in sourness. Tuesday and it's Cassis, host Tommy Pooch teaming up with Diva Diane for a Sunday night "Jamaican Me Crazy" party at Chili Pepper and another Cassis effort, the blues-oriented "Wednesday Nite Live." The Poochettes taking in Italianate trade talk ("That fuck's really aggravating me. He ain't no fucking wiseguy; he pays the wiseguys...") and a nicely done video documentation of raucous dining, created by the preternaturally sweet Veronica Milchorena. "Comedy Time Bomb" at Aqua, a procession of comedians working various creative territory, from the semiotic subtext of flight attendant communication ("This smile actually means forget about it, asshole") to slapstick, a woman from the audience smearing a cake in one performer's face, the jokester all professionalism: "Hey, I don't care A as long as it gets laughs."

The weekend, thank God, bringing more laughs. People for the American Way, the constitutional liberties organization founded by Norman Lear, hosting a benefit dinner at Turnberry, actress Kathleen Turner functioning as the requisite totemic celebrity. Dinner at the Riviera with the "Cool People, Hot Places" gang, an internationally distributed television program set to debut in August. Produced by Nanci Ross of Channel 10, with Erinn Cosby and Louis Aguirre, among others, serving as multicultural hosts. Ross describing the concept as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for a younger audience, featuring grunge, raves, and a four-year-old French rap star, scoring big with the hit "It's Tough to be a Baby." The caravan moving on to "Bohemia," the evening losing punch after our fairly shameless "Why I Love South Beach" dog-and-pony show for the cameras. Out into the bleak streets, an ugly accident scene on Espanola Way, a penitent trudging by with an enormous cross, railing into the darkness: "Nobody knows what tomorrow may bring." The next day, in fact, bringing a vista of wretchedness and waste, recriminations and regrets. Night descends, and the social itch begins again, mounting like an insidious fever. The long silence, the end of the whirl, is always near. A sobering prospect, full of fear and dread. But then, there's always the hope of one last beautiful dance.

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Tom Austin