While the up-beat, horn-riddled rhythms of Undercover S.K.A. reach the street, the sound is body-muffled at best. Regardless, the streetbound customers bounce happily to the beat, hitting the palm fronds dangling from the canopies overhead. An immense blowup Bacardi bottle glints on the rooftop -- a beacon to anyone within a three-block radius. A clutch of sun-bronzed gals stands in the street merrily chatting on a cell phone and watching the line as it moves slowly toward the front door.
A doorman appears from a side entrance and validates us with a quick smile and a nod. Inside, past checkered tables where people suck rock-shrimp-quesadilla juice from their greasy fingers; past the band, whose sharp suits and slicked-back hair make them appear both stylish and freakishly overdressed; past the Bacardi hut and the windsurfer -- past all that and into a pit of jiggling, gyrating, beer-induced abandon we plunge.
The sweat, sand, and booze are inescapable. The band is loud. A woman in a minisarong giggles and falls into the arms of a tan man with white shorts and whiter teeth. Manish, a 26-year-old Paragon regular, jumps up on a tabletop and sets to bumping and grinding with two young females; red-nosed revelers in the sand below applaud enthusiastically.
"You should've seen the party we were at at 9 this morning," says Steve, a beer-happy mate of Manish's from Vermont. "This is nothing." He smiles as a crush of squealing women with the Friends do presses past. A spray of ice cubes rains down from somewhere on high. Manish beams, his pink leis careening wildly and his Afro-wig sliding down his head at a crazy angle.
"Did you use that notebook to write down phone numbers?" guffaws a passer-by. I smile halfheartedly. Everyone within reach careens to get a look at what I have written.
"No, you need a quote, don't you?" concludes another 26-year-old partygoer. He identifies himself as Jack McDufflepuss. "OK, [the Paragon] needs to be crazier! There needs to be more people! So many that I can't move or drink my drink!" At that a new influx of humanity jostles McDufflepuss' drinking arm. Beer and sand blend, leaving a small puddle of mud at his feet.
"Did I mention that I drink a lot," he continues, without concern, "and that I love women and that there are a lot of women here that I could love?"
At a table behind me, Marti -- a 24-year-old female Leo -- discusses astrology with a young, quiet Cancer. This mating ritual is a tad subtle for the average Paragon dweller. It tends to lose out to approaches based on sudden assaults and the law of averages.
"Hey, wriiiiter-girrrrl," leers a large, sweating man as he boogies in my direction, all pelvic thrust and jiggle. "What do you say?" He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively. I try grimly to look unapproachable. Undaunted, he quickly locates another target, grabbing a nearby woman with whom to bust a rug.
Moments later there's a sneak attack from the flank. A man grabs my face and whispers wetly in my ear. "You're a doll," he says. Alarmed, I go in search of my photographer and comrade in arms, David Duprey.
"I already took your picture," Duprey is explaining to a mob of women with frosted tips. Even before a rum-happy bearded man falls to his knees to beg for "just one morrrre photo," Duprey has the air of a man on the edge.
The band, concluding its 3-1/2-hour set, steps out for some fresh air. Determined to make their own fun, the Paragon revelers erupt into a rousing Counting Crows sing-along in which "Mr. Jones" is sung with unmatched sincerity.
"We bribed a doorman to sneak us in through the kitchen," says a calm 33-year-old Marina resident with a laugh. "Five bucks a head."
I smile and make my way for the exit.
"Did you get mauled?" asks Amy, the conscientious assistant manager of Paragon. I nod.
"Yeah, that happens," she says, smiling.
In the Marina, college need never end.
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By Silke Tudor