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Jesus Christ!!

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I found Jesus in a black velvet dinner jacket hanging on a rack at the Douglas Gardens Thrift Shop. Flared at the waist, the garment was tres-1970s Bob Guccione. Alas the Messiah was bleach stained and at $40 far too expensive. Despite the suede yarmulke found in the pocket, I put Jesus back on the rack and resigned myself to waiting for a markdown to salvation.

Jesus appeared in a prescription painkiller. Oxycondone it was called. Issued by the pharmacy, the name looked suspiciously similar to Oxycontin. As my right knee began to throb soon after arthroscopic surgery, the little amber bottle spoke to me: "Come meet your shepherd, little lamb." Scared of the pills' purported addictive qualities I called my friend, "Should I take this?" I asked. "Go ahead," she chuckled. "Just don't snort it."

The big HE morphed into the visage of Michael Jackson. Who suffers from more stigmata than Jacko? If Elvis doesn't return in a blaze of rhinestone glory, it could be the King of Pop who ascends the kitschy throne for all of us trailer-trash believers. With his plasticized charm, Wacko Jacko was once the son-in-law of the original King -- that's good enough for me.

Seating customers at a Lincoln Road sidewalk bistro, Jesus had hair that was perfectly tied back, his goatee was neatly trimmed, and his aching baby blues screamed Hollywood, except he would not pose for pictures. "You look just like him," I said. He wouldn't lend his image to anything other than the online hunger charity he works with. "Check out my Website," he sneered.

In big things and in small, I search for the so-called reason for the season. He appears as the motorist with the "What Would Jesus Do?" bumper sticker, who cuts me off and then scowls at me as I pass him later on I-95. This Jesus is ugly and he drives like an asshole. So much for Heaven on Earth. This Christmas it's dog eat dog, baby. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez


Shoe Gazers

THU 12/18

Precious jewels on your shoes. What's the point? To have admirers fall at your feet as they gaze in awe at your million-dollar pumps? Ask newlywed Trista Rehn, who, courtesy of American shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, wore white satin sandals encrusted with 8 carats of diamonds (white, not pink, thank God!) at her very publicized, very pink, and very expensive televised wedding to fireman Ryan Sutter. The most expensive bridal shoes in history, she got to keep them sans the stones. But that's small-time: Weitzman and jeweler Oscar Heyman have decorated a pair of size 4 1/2 sandals with slightly more than 120 carats of Burma rubies, a task that took 10 craftsmen 700 hours. The asking price: $1 million, or $50,000 a foot! The shoes will be on display from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. today through Saturday at Sabbia Jeweler in the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne (455 Grand Bay Dr.). On tour since just after September 11, 2001, they were supposed to be sashayed down the red carpet at the Academy Awards that year but were thought too extravagant. Maybe they were just too American? Admission is free. Call 305-365-4500. -- By Nina Korman

The Coquito Connection

From Doña Bene's kitchen, a delicious tradition

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Despite the street-punk gang activity in her neighborhood, the soul of Puerto Rican Christmas simmers on Benedicta Cortes's stove. It's not in her sink, which is full of peeled green plantains soaking up moisture for a killer mofongo. It's not on the counter, where you'll find cuchifrito, fried meats that melt all good Boricuas. The delicacy that screams the season is coquito, a heavenly cream-and-rum-infused concoction that takes eggnog to a higher level. Mrs. Cortes, known to neighbors as Doña Bene, is the local connection. From her kitchen in Miami's Puerto Rican enclave, Wynwood, the smell of rum, coconut, and cinnamon emanates in the afternoon. She packs the elixir in empty wine bottles for numerous customers who call in orders throughout the month. You won't find real coquito in supermarkets. The best comes from steamy, crowded, and chaotic kitchens like Doña Bene's. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez

Merry Melodies

SAT 12/20

If you hear kids incessantly singing holiday tunes wherever you go, a wild band of young Christmas carolers isn't stalking you. You're being serenaded by the Miami CityKids Choir. Born from a summer activity that evolved into an afterschool program, the group was the idea of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. (Wonder how good his voice is?) The professional chorus counts 50 members, inner-city kids ranging from 8 to 18 years old. Currently in the midst of a 14-concert tour around Miami-Dade and the state, they've been spreading holiday cheer at Christmas tree and menorah lightings. At 3 different gigs today, they'll put their lungs to the test and plug their new CD. Catch them at 4:00 p.m. at the American Airlines Arena (601 Biscayne Blvd.) during the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic; 6:00 p.m., doing a Hanukkah presentation at the Downtown Holiday Village (301 Biscayne Blvd.); and 8:00 p.m. at the Miami Outboard Club (1099 MacArthur Cswy., Watson Island) for the Holiday Boat Parade. Admission varies. Call 305-576-1212. -- By Nina Korman


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