It was the best of times; the streets seething with idealists, organizers, stinky dreadlocked youth, real-live Communists, and Montanans. It was the worst of times; rows of little men and women swaddled in riot gear playing "superhero." It was a dangerous circus of the absurd, a fabulous spectacle that eclipsed even Celia Cruz's funeral. Even cops couldn't get enough of themselves.
Police posed for one another with their rifles. Giddy as a gaggle of drag queens, four cops let a passing pedestrian snap them near Wolfson Center. One cop squatted like an action figure, while his partners struck Charlie's Angels positions. "You look like a TV show," the pedestrian quipped. "Yeah," the officer said, smiling.
Meanwhile masked kids were dragged away by undercover agents, young punks threw rocks, and the pigs set off tear gas. Cool! Female protesters used their banners to shield comrades who peed on a royal palm. Activists with foam dolphins on their heads roamed in formations: "Stay in the pod, people. We don't want to lose anyone." Television cameramen worked the crowd in yellow head-to-toe chemical suits. The drama!
Cuban radio fumed that white kids were distributing Granma, the official newspaper of Cuba, on Flagler Street. One commentator said the kids got copies from the Cuban diplomats in Washington. The outrage!
On the outskirts, street thugs mobilized. Muggers reported that cops had told them to snatch the cameras of radical-looking out-of-towners. A Kentucky film crew heard this from a homeless guy as they wandered around the fringes of hell. As they walked along NE 11th Street, two men rushed them. "Give me the camera," a knife-wielder spat. The defrocked filmmakers walked just two blocks to where thousands of cops were keeping law and order.
After getting a look at the large-scale street theater, an octogenarian leading a group from the Alliance for Retired Americans uttered gospel: "Jesus Lord, look at these children."
A pair of Miami locals tried to make their guests at home. "Welcome to Miami," they gloated. "Enjoy yourselves." -- From Staff Reports
Santa's green tree
Steve Brand is irate. He's part of a 21-year family tradition of bringing Santa's Enchanted Forest, a Christmas theme park, to Miami. The event boasts a visit from Santa, an enormous Christmas tree, carnival rides, and more. Why would New Times tarnish this happening by crowning it "Best Place to Go Stoned"? "It's a family event," Brand stresses. Well, that was May. And now, Steve, you deserve verbiage regarding what's new about the park with nothing creepy or crippy about it. In fact the only green we'll stress is the verdure of your 90-feet-plus-tall Norfolk pine Christmas tree. The centerpiece is decked out in teal in honor of our Marlins. Our very own Pudge Rodriguez flipped the magic switch earlier this month to kick off the event. And what surprises! Not one, but two roller coasters, including the stomach-scrambling "Crazy Mouse," a teacup/coaster hybrid that puts the s in stir. The park is open 5:00 p.m. to midnight through January 11 at Tropical Park, 7900 Bird Rd. Admission costs $17 for adults and $11 for children. Call 305-559-9689. -- By Victor Cruz
Historian leads pedestrians to past
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You've just witnessed Miami as a police state, complete with barricades, riot gear, and handcuffed protesters. Now see it as history through the eyes of Miami's master historian Dr. Paul George, in another installment of his enlightening tours: the Downtown Miami River Walking Tour. George starts way back -- roughly 2000 years -- with the onetime Tequesta Indian settlement near the mouth of the Miami River, now known as the Miami Circle. Learn as you stroll past the spots where three Spanish missions once stood. Get the inside scoop on Miami's two slave plantations and the military forts that once marked the horizon. Then explore some of downtown's architectural glories with the Gusman Center, Burdines, and DuPont Plaza, along with a peek behind the scenes of Gesu Church. The tour meets at 10:00 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 400 SE 2nd Ave. Admission is $17. Call 305-375-1621. -- By John Anderson
Holy Sea Cow
The manatee is one of this state's most beloved and mysterious creatures. But as annual counts show the state population dropping below 4000, it's likely that most Floridians have spotted manatees only on license plates and team logos. Thanks to the carelessness of humans, this mermaid of old sailors' tales is in serious danger of becoming an old tale itself. But man can do much to turn the statistics around. Save the Manatee, the organization dedicated to protecting the water mammal through education, rehabilitation, and advocacy efforts, has created an Adopt-A-Manatee program similar to the ones that help children in foreign countries. Each new member who "adopts" a manatee online will receive a photo of their charge, membership materials, a newsletter, and while supplies last, a 2004 calendar. Cost is $35, with about 88 percent of the proceeds going directly into the programs. A great holiday gift in the short and maybe long run for just about any conscientious Floridian. Visit www.savethemanatee.org or call 800-432-5646. -- By Margaret Griffis