There is something pleasantly dreamlike and unreal about Black Point Marina. It's an improbable mix of natural and human construction. On some sea charts the area is known as "the featherbeds." Dog walkers have been known to meet crocodiles on Black Point's walkways. To the south looms the region's only peak, Mount Trashmore. At the marina's dockside restaurant and bar, the Pirate's Den, the beer runs cold, the food is passable, and customers can down pitchers while watching herons fish. A 1.5-mile jetty path that juts into the bay is the perfect place for a stroll afterward. Couples spread blankets on the grass. Families picnic and fish. Manmade Miami is rarely this peaceful.

This past November, when Delfin Gonzalez announced he had bought the modest Little Havana home where Elian stayed, and that he planned on turning it into a shrine, some people thought it would only serve to perpetuate -- even institutionalize -- the tensions that had split the community into warring factions. But that evening, when the winning numbers came up on the Florida lottery, even skeptics had to pause. Maybe the kid does have some kind of supernatural powers after all. The Cash Four drawing paid off $5000 to 192 players who picked the numbers 2319. The Cash Three drawing paid $500 to 913 people who picked 023. Even the number of people who won were combinations of Elian's address. Now what was that story about dolphins saving the boy's life?
Leave the enormous helium-filled cartoon characters to those big-budget department-store spectacles in major metropolitan areas. The little City of North Miami's parade, which has plodded along NE 125th Street every Thanksgiving morning for the past 26 years, offers a satisfying sampling of marching bands, floats, classic cars, cheerleaders, baton twirlers, clowns, costumed characters, and Shriners. Topping things off: a local celebrity grand marshal (past honorees have included a former football player, astronaut, and news anchor). And lest we forget, Santa Claus. Naturally it's all free, but that's not all. In addition to hailing the day to give thanks and marking the start of the Christmas season, this quaint procession ushers in the WinterNational Festival, three days of family-oriented fun featuring food, music, arts and crafts, carnival rides, and sometimes even fake snow. Yes, fake. After all, this is South Florida.
Almost 80 years after John and Zada Schleucher founded a program to help Miami's poor, the Miami Rescue Mission is still serving "soup, soap, and salvation" to the city's lost souls. The mission has grown into a multifaceted facility featuring residential programs for men and women, a thrift store, an education center, and a companion operation in Broward County. Every day the mission's Men's Center on NW First Avenue serves a hot meal at both lunch and dinner to about 200 men, women, and children. The lunch, however, isn't free. Those who wish to eat must first attend a religious service in the mission's chapel. Although that may turn off some people, it makes others feel as though someone has helped the whole man rather than just filled his stomach. At least that's what Horace says as he eats a lunch of beans and rice, salad, cabbage, cookies, and chocolate milk. An ex-addict who has been in the Rescue Mission's residential program for a year, Horace adds optimistically that in three more months he'll be back on his feet, working as a long-distance truck driver. The Miami Rescue Mission helped make that possible when he had nowhere else to turn.
Maybe it's the unobstructed view of the Intracoastal Waterway one gets driving along this winding strip of road that connects Bay Harbor Islands to North Miami. Perhaps it's the fact that, with relatively little traffic coming through, the tollbooth operators will take not only your money but the time to wish you a nice day or a good evening. Whatever the reason we don't mind that it costs 50 cents each way. Really.
"Hence! Wilt thou lift up Florida?"

"Great Gore --"

"Doth not Alex bootless kneel?"

"Speak, hands for me!"

"Et tu, Alex? Then fall, Gore."

Best Way To Get Around South Beach

If you absolutely, positively must go to South Beach, leave your car in the municipal lot at 45th Street and Collins Avenue, then walk to the nearby Eden Roc or Fontainebleau, where you can grab a cab any hour of the day or night.(Aside from the airport, these are the only places in Miami-Dade where taxis line up ten deep.) Head to South Beach. At the end of the evening, cab it back. You won't spend half the night looking for parking, and you won't have to worry about tooling around under the influence. Now if we could all just stop going to South Beach.
True, we renew our licenses only once every six years, but on that fateful day (which, cruelly, comes on our birthday), most of us would rather wake up dead than confront the idea of three hours at the DMV. No more. Thanks to the forward-thinking folks at the division of driver licenses, you can now schedule an appointment at the office nearest you, usually from one day to the next. In and out in about an hour. (What, you expected better?)
Opa-locka. Dusk. The parking lot of an abandoned housing project. The potholed lot is empty save the car of a reporter, who has pulled over to take a cell-phone call. Up ahead a round-faced man wearing a black Martin Luther King T-shirt slowly winds toward the car. He is sipping from a longneck bottle of Budweiser. When he reaches the car, he smiles, revealing a bridge of gold teeth.

"Hey man, you live here? Damn that's nice! I'd live here myself if I could. You're on the phone? Oh man, I know what you're doing. I know exactly what you're doing. You're talking to your girlfriend! Your wife doesn't get off work for another hour, so you're talking to your girl. Don't say no, man! Don't tell me you got no wife. I'm smart. Ah, yeah, that's what's happening man.

"Hey man, seriously. Don't be doing that. You got to stop that. Go home to your wife and kids. I know exactly what's going on here. This is what you do: You call your girl tomorrow, you tell her that you've talked to the Lord and he told you this wasn't right, that you've got to go back to your wife, that your kids need you. I'm smart. I'm smart. And I know. Every month you get more bills. Paying for your girl adds up. Then you get another bill, and you say, “Damn, another bill!' Then you have to look at your kids. Man, I'm tellin' you there's nothing worse in the world than to have to look in your kids' eyes and tell 'em you're a deadbeat dad. You hear me? Hang up that phone, brother! I love you. I want you to do the right thing.

"Oh man, my back hurts. You mind if I lean in here a little bit? You see how I walked up here, all slow and all? That's how I know what I'm talking about man, 'cause my wife shot me in the back. Look here, I'll lift up my shirt. Let me just turn around here. You see that? You see the hole? You don't ever want to be denying no child support. Listen to me! You're going to hang up that phone, brother. You're going to do the right thing. I can tell. I know. I'm smart, man. I'm telling you I'm smart. And I know."

Mikimbin is Cuban slang for tacky, shoddy, lowbrow. Which perfectly describes the show and its completely tasteless hosts, Miguel "El Flaco" Gonzalez and Gilberto Reyes, a.k.a. Los Fonomemecos. They've been a fixture in Spanish-language Miami comedy circles for years, two Cuban immigrants earning their bread and butter with live appearances, principally at Club Tropigala at the Fontainebleau Hilton, and really awful television commercials. Their El Vacilon de la Mañana stint during morning drive on El Zol (WXDJ-FM 95.7) was largely responsible for the salsa station's long-time high ratings. When the duo left last year over a contract dispute, they wasted no time in putting together Mikimbin. If you don't watch Spanish-language TV, you won't get all their jokes, and not every skit is funny. But the good ones are screamingly hilarious. Gonzalez does the best Fidel Castro anywhere, and a recent parody of the truly mikimbin Laura en America (a Peruvian version of Cristina -- strange but true) was to die laughing for.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®