By Chuck Strouse
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Basking in the amber glow emitted from Sushi Doraku's (1104 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-695-8383) sleek, black-topped, and anime-adorned bar sits Erika. Petite and complete with two rock-hard, grapefruit-size melons squeezed into a tiny pink bikini top, she's pretty much the epitome of what every horny fanboy wants for Christmas — a real-life manga heroine. But in lieu of sea-green hair, doe-like eyes, and a schoolgirl's uniform, she dons a short skirt and, atop her flatironed brown hair, a bubblegum-colored Santa hat.
"If I could get Mr. Claus anything for the holidays, I'd give him myself," she says like a straight-up ho, ho, ho.
But just like Jesus' favorite harlot, Mary Magdalene, Erika has a heart of gold. See, she and about 20 to 30 others (in significantly more clothing) are part of a Kris Kringle-themed pub crawl. It's boozing in the name of benevolence — $20 entry fees go to single moms. Which raises the question: What would you give the jolliest of philanthropists — ole Saint Nick?
"I'd get him a GPS system," says Rob, who resembles Hyde from That '70s Show. He appears to be in his late 20s, has a chin sprouting strawberry-blond scruff, and rocks aviator sunglasses above a tight red T-shirt that shows off his biceps. "That way he can get his job done quicker and can get home to attend to Mrs. Claus sooner." He gives a slick smirk. "You know, because it gets cold in the North Pole."
"That's like giving a dragon a blowtorch," says Melanie, a tall and gorgeous 31-year-old with long jet-black, Cher-esque hair who's sipping on a lychee martini at a bamboo-embellished booth. "If the guy's been able to make it around the world and back in one night for hundreds of years, why would he want some silly device that usually gives you the longest and most confusing route to a destination? If anything, I'd get him a custom-made turbo-charged rocket pack for his sleigh. And if Santa is so worried about Mrs. Claus being alone all night, I'd get her the biggest candy cane I could find... preferably one that's battery-powered and vibrates."
As much as I'd like to continue my conversation with this saucy vixen, it's time to dash, prance, or stagger to the next bar so we all can continue getting a-blitzen.
As we walk to Ted's Hideaway (124 Second St., Miami Beach; 305-532-9869), blanketed by the gray, sticky, muggy, nasty, and oh-so Christmassy December afternoon, I strike up a conversation with the only pub crawler in a full Santa getup, a 34-year-old medical rep named Brian. Lean, dark, and new to town, he claims this isn't his first time at the rodeo.
"I've done a few of these Santa crawls back home in Arizona, which is why I own this suit in the first place," he explains. Uh-huh, sure (Chris Hansen has his eye on you now, Brian). "And sometimes those crawls would get really big and crazy. Like once I saw two girls, one dressed as a sexy snowman and the other as a sexy elf, making out on top of a mechanical bull in the middle of a bar."
You're welcome in advance for your "Southwestern Holiday" pictorial, Larry Flynt.
"You know, thinking of it," Brian says, revealing a childlike smile, "I think that's what I'd give Santa for Christmas."
Yet at Ted's — a dive plastered in beer paraphernalia — Jonathan, a stocky fellow in his mid-30s with a slightly crooked grin, has a more practical gift idea.
"I'd get him a really nice ass cushion," he says, insisting it be "Dolphin-themed, because they are the greatest football team ever."
His wife, Nicole, a pale brunet Patriots fan (boo!), has an even more pragmatic present in mind. "I'd give him a Jenny Craig membership," she giggles.
"No way!" says Lauren, a freckle-faced blonde in a ponytail and Gators T-shirt whom I meet at the chipped wooden bar. "I like my Santa round and happy, and I've had Jenny Craig's food before. Give him a good pair of Spanx and some Crisco oil to make all those trips down the chimney a little bit easier." She chugs half an Amstel Light, pounds it on the bar, and then laughs. "Or you can just get him an enema. I'm sure all those cookies wreak havoc on his intestines."
Before I can utter that Father Christmas is the last piper I'd like to see piping, a flurry of plush Santa hats and furry reindeer antlers are headed out the door toward South Beach's eternal frat party: the Clevelander (1020 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-532-4006).
And as we all make our way down Ocean Drive, stumbling through a profusion of sidewalk cafés, Brian, the crawl's unofficial mascot, is ambushed by screeches that range from "I've been a very good girl this year!" to a thickly accented "Give me my weeeshes, Santa" and a seductive "Can I sit on your lap?" that cuts me from the herd and leads me to a table of two tourists.
Holly, the sunburned redhead who uttered the phrase that enticed me, sits in the shade of the Front Porch Café's (1418 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 305-531-8300) light-yellow awning. As she pulls at her white tank top, which is soaked by her wet aqua bikini top, she concludes there needs to be an end to reindeer games.