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Shell Game

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You walk down the beach, searching for seashells, but as far as the eye can see there are none. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Gone. When the powers-that-once-were manufactured the Miami Beach coastline, were shells not part of the equation? Or is nature just holding out on us? Probably not. The most likely answer for the shell shortage has a name: Roger Abramson, shell artist.

The creator of the giant seashell-covered menorah that made its debut on Lincoln Road three Hanukkahs ago, Abramson was once again overcome by the can-do spirit of the Jewish holiday. In honor of the occasion in 165 B.C.E. when Jews rededicating their Jerusalem temple after a victory over Hellenist Syrians found a tiny bit of oil that lasted a miraculous 8 days instead the single day they thought it would, he decided to create a giant shell-covered dreidel that spins. Similar to a top, the dreidel, usually thought of as a toy, is a meaningful symbol of Hanukkah. Emblazoned with 4 significant letters of the Hebrew alphabet (which together mean "a great miracle happened there"), the dreidel was used by Jewish prisoners to play a game that allowed them to do something verboten: discuss the Torah, or Jewish book of laws.

Working a couple of hours each day, Abramson says the project took him 2 1/2 months to complete. The more than 20,000 shells are bonded onto the 10-foot, 950-pound top with a combination of thin set, stucco, and liquid nails. Of course, every single shell was one that Abramson collected himself, and he ran out of supplies several times during the construction phase. Yes, that wild-eyed man, running across the beach, bucket in hand, was him.

As of Friday, December 19, the first night of Hanukkah, Abramson's spinning dreidel joined the giant menorah (lit with oil each day) at the oval on Lincoln Road and Euclid Avenue as part of Miami Beach's only public observance of the holiday. Although Hanukkah officially ends Friday, December 26, the menorah and dreidel will remain in place through Thursday, January 1, 2004. -- By Nina Korman

Street Life

Lit Up

THU 12/25

Maybe if you'd turn off that space heater when it's all but 70 degrees outside, you could stop grousing about your enormous electric bill. Living in this cozy climate, you should be well aware that heating costs almost 3 times as much as cooling. Just be glad that you're not one of the many residents of North Miami's Enchanted Place (NE 137th Terr.). For years the generous folks on that street have been temporarily jacking up their electric bill by stringing millions of lights all over their front yards, along rooflines, in trees, even on other light fixtures. It's their unique way of spreading holiday cheer and drumming up funds for the Youth and Families Program run by Care Resource, a local organization devoted to eradicating HIV via prevention, treatment, research, and support. This year every homeowner participated. As you drive along the street in the evening, you won't see a darkened gloomy house breaking up the brilliant monotony. The display continues from 6:00 to 11:30 p.m. nightly through Wednesday, December 31. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. -- By Nina Korman

Seeing Florida Naturally

Images capture area's splendor

SAT 12/27

There are rainbows, but there is nothing like a late afternoon Florida rainbow arching perfectly from north Biscayne Bay and stretching colorfully to the other side of the Rickenbacker Causeway. There are storm fronts, but the dramatic black streaks across the sky when a summer storm appears suddenly above Miami is truly breathtaking. Though it may be hard to notice, living in our increasingly urbanized metropolis, nature is king in southern Florida. Photographer Marilyn Brown makes it her life's work to capture the subtle and booming phenomena of the region's natural treasures. From sunsets in Bahia Honda to dewdrops in Cork Screw Swamp Sanctuary, her handcrafted silver gelatin prints speak the language of nature in the Florida climes. Her exhibit "Natural Florida" is open daily from 10:00 a.m. at the Deering Estate at Cutler, 16701 SW 72 Ave. Park admission is $7. Call 305-235-1668. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez

Still Strutting

SUN 12/28

Now in its 22nd year (the 2nd without the pall of the King Orange Bowl Parade), the wacky and satirical nonparade known as the King Mango Strut continues its assault on commercialized mainstream thought. In the past groups such as The League of Dead Voters, The Citrus Canker Nazis, Manny Diaz Missing Trees, and The Gay Boy Scouts of America have collectively razzed the community. This year the theme is Weapons of Mass Distraction, so prepare yourself for lots of street theater poking fun at Saddam, John Timoney, the FTAA protesters, and more. There are no parade committees, no advertisements, no slick TV people in charge, and basically, no standards. Without the criteria that killed King Orange, mango strutters have full freedom of expression. The opening banana drops at 2:00 p.m. at Commodore Plaza, Main Highway and Grand Ave., Coconut Grove. Admission is free. Call 305-401-1171. -- Juan Carlos Rodriguez


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