Spartos eyeballs her boozy comrades at the local pub—a bloated, nefarious lot given to the pursuit of free happy-hour buffets and the universal condemnation of skyrocketing cigarette taxes. Occasionally the objects of passionate interludes, they are never, ever cast in the role of romantic suitor. “Aside from the bathroom stalls,” realizes Spartos, “I’ve been totally looking for love in all the wrong places.” And thus begins her odyssey for amour—or at the very least, a free drink.

It is on the first leg of her trek that she discovers precisely bronzed Neanderthals and flippant Lolitas doing the mating dance at cave-like FLOW (150 Varick Street, 929-9444). The club’s appeal is as base as the ritual: A DJ spins rump-shaking hip-hop and the long, snaking bar’s pièce de résistance is an effervescent column that goes from aqua to fuchsia to chartreuse and back again. That doesn’t stop Spartos from scoping Flash Gordon, he of the thick neck and vain bleach-blond highlights. “I like your Italian horn,” comments Spartos. “Does it bring you good luck?” But not even the bravado from an overpriced Tanqueray and tonic ($9)—or the neon strobes thrown off by the kaleidoscope fountain—can compete with the amazon cocktail waitress in fuck-me boots holding Flash’s attention. “His effervescent column sure went flat fast,” complains Spartos before stomping past the doormen and their heavily guarded velvet rope.

When Spartos spies Super Conductor, he of the prominent nose and arcane leanings, drinking alone at the bar of near-empty CHEZ BERNARD (323 West Broadway, 343-2583), she acts fast. “Is that a French horn in your case?” asks Spartos, unprepared for Super Conductor’s tedious reply, which involves 19th-century experiments in valve technique. Spartos immediately turns her attention to Sandra, the young French bartender who adores music (introducing Spartos to the Parisian club incarnation of “Shaft”) and wine (the sign above the bar says, “Save Water, Drink Wine”). Sandra recommends a fragrant, full-bodied burgundy ($8) and even teaches Spartos how to spit obscenities en français (Va te faire enculer—just don’t ask your French granny to translate). Unfortunately, the old-school bistro is in the process of being bought out by a young investor looking to attract the electro yutzes, fashion whores, and celeb fuckers who’ve colonized the Soho Grand across the street. For now though, it’s just Spartos, Sandra, and, oh yeah, Super Conductor, who, after several glasses of burgundy, directs a long-winded pass mired in Elizabethan couplets at Spartos. But tonight, it’s Spartos’s turn to do the shafting.

It’s not without a little trepidation that Spartos rings on-again, off-again love interest Trust Fund, he of the erratic phone calls and grandiose philosophical musings. Fund can always be trusted to buy Spartos a drink at some amusing, under-the-radar boîte, and MASAT (349 Broome Street, 274-0667) is no exception. With its shiny tin ceiling, classic Hollywood photos, and snappy cocktail menu—not to mention its vintage-porn-plastered bathroom walls—it’s like some steamy Bogie and Bacall vehicle too hot for release. To celebrate the promising turn of events, as well as the free honey-roasted peanuts, Spartos orders a foamy, fanciful Flying Kangaroo ($8; vodka, rum, Galliano, cream, coconut, pineapple, and orange juices). But it’s this very free drink that begins to weigh heavy on Spartos’s heart. “You know what, Trust Fund?” says Spartos. “Va te faire enculer!” And with that, she heads back home to her neighborhood dive.

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