In the underbelly of the Dadeland South Metrorail Station the late-night bus riders gather. Dressed in sweaty uniforms from shifts at Publix, or drained from monitoring a lackluster parking lot during security detail, they begin their journey home at the sign that says DROP OFF: 500 Midnight Owl. They might be strangers, but there is something familiar among them that makes even an alien feel comfortable with this crowd. They are gushing after long shifts with stories, opinions, observations. All it takes is a nod, a wink, a "wazzup?" to spark up the banter of those who are well acquainted with the night.
In the back of the bus a just-barely-making-minimum-wage salon takes form as the engine rumbles beneath the seats. Transmission, hydraulic brakes, the mechanism of transit vibrates and heats the blue plastic chairs. The air conditioning sighs and the first riders bask in its coolness; a small reward for their long evening.
The 500 bus is full after just three stops. There's the odd mix of passengers who beautifully offset each other. The white-haired little old man in conversation with the young Nicaraguan mother. The skinny homeboy reggaetón-rat's dangerous image is diluted as he sits between the Haitian line cook who hops on at Merrick Park and the nurse with dreadlocks.
As the Midnight Owl skirts Coconut Grove, the discussion turns to the José Calvo murder. "That guy got his head blown off for a Rolex," says one. "No, she thought of the whole scene." "They both had guns." "He shot first and then she shot him." "They say she smokes a lot of crack." "They had money -- that's the crack talking."
The 500 Midnight Owl whisks the riders closer to home, one Metrorail Station or transfer hub at a time. Since April 26, the bus service has replaced the late-night train. From the suburban Dadeland South Station to the Palmetto Station on the outskirts of Hialeah, the shuttle winds its way like a mole beneath the concrete tracks, through metropolitan boulevards taking the people home. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
For the members of the Wildfyre Society, there is no excuse not to get naked. They go shopping en cueros. They view art in the buff. They sip cocktails in their birthday suits and cruise the wide-open sea wearing only their smiles and a thin layer of sunscreen. The society of men who enjoy being naked with other men is throwing its regular Hot Wheels Nude Skating Party tonight. The Wildfyre guys believe in the power of nudity. Okay, so most of them are gay, but you don't have to be queer to enjoy the party. Think of the experience as a male bonding sort of thing. Just remember, if you show up, you have to take off your clothes. You score extra metrosexual points for an appearance at the Jock Strap After Party (with free billiards) at the Jackhammer Bar afterward. The Wildfyre Society Nude Skating Party takes place from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Gold Coast Roller Rink, 2604 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $10. Call 954-523-6783. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Designers aim for fame, fashion
Who's gonna be the next Gianni Versace or Donna Karan? Maybe Marcelo Quadros from Brazil, winner of the New Star in Fashion award for this year's Fashion Week of the Americas, whose line proves Brazilian fashion is more than just thongs and soccer jerseys. Or possibly it's Bolivia's Rosita Hurtado, recognized in 2003 with a Best in Evening Wear award. Then again some other rising designer from right here in our own hemisphere could become a legend. In just its 6th year, Fashion Week of the Americas has become one of the largest showcases of designers from the Caribbean and Latin America, with runway shows, seminars on colors and trends, clothing and furniture design displays, and even student showcases for Miami's own budding Armanis. The event runs through Sunday, May 16, at the Roney Palace Resort, 2399 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets for individual shows cost $20. Call 305-662-0775. -- By John Anderson
With hippies hanging out in local parks, shops peddling clogs on seemingly every corner, and more than one health-food store/hangout, quaint, historic Coconut Grove was once a haven for some of Miami's most colorful folks. The advent of retail behemoths such as CocoWalk and the Streets of Mayfair has wiped out that eccentric granola vibe forever, some think. Recently the area has been about as exciting as an old folks' home. But think again. The 6th annual Coconut Grove Commodore Block Party aims to bring back some zing, at least for a day. From 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. Commodore Plaza will be closed to cars and come to life with entertainment on two stages, featuring Cuban son masters Conjunto Progreso (above), Japanese taiko drummers, Middle Eastern belly dancers, Brazilian samberos, plus Haitian and Colombian bands. A Bahamian junkanoo parade will give a nod to another part of the Grove's past: as a home for many transplanted Bahamians at the turn of the century. Admission is free. Call 305-672-5202. -- By Nina Korman