When a guy can afford to donate his salary to charity, you know he's loaded. Arriola, Miami's blue-eyed angel of death -- er, city manager -- made off with a cool $42 million when he sold Avanti/Case-Hoyt, his family's printing business, two years ago. Since then he's done a magnificent job of flaunting his wealth. First he joined Merrett Stierheim's team trying to straighten out the public-school system (salary: one dollar), then quit in a huff, but not before insulting Stierheim by calling him a "horrible leader" who "doesn't respect women, or blacks, or Hispanics." More recently Arriola publicly insulted the reform-minded chairman of the county's Public Health Trust, attorney Michael Kosnitzky, labeling him a "cancer" in that organization. Then he accepted Miami Mayor Manny Diaz's offer to become city manager and loudly proclaimed he'd donate his six-figure salary to the United Way, but not before unceremoniously, gleefully, firing several veteran city officials. Is this what it means to be filthy rich?

The terrible situation that has befallen the country that was once the most solidly middle-class in Latin America has resulted in an exodus. Many Argentineans, especially the younger generation, have relocated to Miami. It is our gain and their homeland's unfortunate loss. Yes, we recognize that a hefty percentage are here illegally, but like other immigrant groups before them, we appreciate their willingness to work (it seems every valet and restaurant hostess hails from Argentina) and the cultural and culinary sensibilities they carry with them. Argentineans have long embraced café culture; even the most humble of their establishments here will have tables and chairs inside as well as outside if there's room. Plus they have a special way with a number of key food groups: beef, pasta, pizza, gelato, dulce de leche, and coffee. ¡Che, bienvenidos!

Nothing like it has ever happened here -- a spectacular success for both Miami and the world that came to see it. It was also a quince of sorts, our own coming out and maturing party. We were ready to host the planet's biggest international art fair and to impress those who followed it here. The Switzerland-based event dropped into the Miami Beach Convention Center with thousands of pieces of the most vaunted contemporary art; local collectors opened their doors and were received with international applause; local artists put their very best faces forward at the Design District's ancillary event -- and everyone smiled. Did people party? Yes. Did art sell? Yes. Were the well-heeled global art-setters awed? Yes. Will the fair return bigger and most likely better next year? Yes.

Readers Choice: Coconut Grove Arts Festival

The Count, as he's known at Miami Beach City Hall, is a small man struggling to balance magnificent obsession with an abiding interest in historical minutiae. Both qualities are satisfied by the Count's 27-year quest to claim a share of the European fortune of distant German relatives, lost somewhere between the demise of Prussia and the Holocaust. But since 1994, when the Count moved from New York to Miami Beach, local politics has been his all-consuming hobby. Nearly every day he can be spotted lurking around city hall's fourth floor, sometimes smoking a cigar on a balcony and keeping a keen eye on the comings and goings of the movers shaking down the latest city deal. "To be honest with you, I have nothing to do," he shrugs. The Count's passions run to public access and the rights of the working class, from opposing the closing of public roads to demanding low-cost housing, to promoting candidates he feels aren't beholden to the Beach's entrenched power structure. "The greed here is unbelievable," he observes. "If I can do a little to upset that, it's a good thing." Of course the Count has his detractors. Some believe he's actually evil, having cast a spell over weak-minded elected officials, and that he has subverted the best intentions of well-meaning bureaucrats. The Count merely laughs at that. "My objections are philosophical, not personal," he says. "I mean, I love these people, but it's one thing after another."

You know who you are. On September 10, 2002, you voted to maintain the county's human-rights ordinance after a bruising campaign spearheaded by religious fanatics who wanted to delete the words "gays and lesbians" from the local anti-discrimination law. For many the repeal effort evoked the days of Anita Bryant's vicious anti-gay campaign, the stain of which still clings. You kept us from becoming a poster city for backward-thinking and intolerance. But it was close. The SAVE Dade campaign squeaked by with just 53 percent of the vote. That's why you're heroes. You voted when it counted.

Most drivers en route between Miami Beach and Miami via North Bay Village likely pass unawares through this North Beach neighborhood. Overshadowed by nearby Little Buenos Aires (Collins in the Seventies), Normandy Isle is a discrete entity, surrounded by the bay and canals, including one that divides the island in two, offering many residents water access and providing a training ground for crew teams and skullers out of the Miami Beach Watersports Center. The northern half is rooted by the Normandy Shores Municipal Golf Course while the southern half has the commercial district centered around the fountain, informally dubbed the Place Vendome (nearly all the Normandy Sud streets have French names). With sections of single-family homes and predominantly small apartment buildings dating from the Forties and Fifties, it's home to a mix of long-time residents and newer arrivals, Anglos and Latinos (of which Cubans and Argentineans are only the most visible), families and singles (straight and gay), who manage to co-exist. The area is in transition, though, as Section 8 rentals give way to condo conversions, with the accompanying dislocations. But the City of Miami Beach is also investing millions in fixing up the streetscapes and in refurbishing the Normandy Isle Park, to the benefit of all.

The trick is to stash your skank bag (the sizable trash or cloth sacks in which the homeless drag their stuff around) somewhere else before you start holding up a palm tree. That way the cops won't know you're one of them. Then you get a pair of shades, clean up as much as feasible, hide your bottle of Natural Ice behind your back, and sleep in peace. (The homeless are always tired because cops chase them around at night when they see them on the street.) Lummus is a glorious green oasis, and you can dream of the rich babes just across Ocean at the News Café, the Cardozo, or the Tides, who might discover you here, and unlike most other folks, recognize your good qualities.

This hotel has its own creative director! You know the place by its former name, the Banana Bungalow, perched there at the tail end of Indian Creek on Collins Avenue. It still has that fabulous, sweeping-roofed glass-encased lobby. The Fifties rooms have not been remodeled. But the Signature Rooms have been "redecorated" by artists and designers. You can take the Honeymoon Suite, with lingerie, panties, necklaces, and bra hung on a lamp, painted in red on the walls. Or the room covered with little red plaques -- if you take one off, you can write a "secret" message on the white wall underneath. Or you can leave another message in the Message in a Bottle room, with glass bottles hanging in a corner. And the cheesy Gold Lamé room is killer. The rooms will most likely be redone by other artists next year. Down at the poolside patio there's electronica lounge music in the evening, a barbecue on Saturday afternoons and a hip, urban feel 24/7. With rates that can drop below $100, this little island can make South Beach feel cool again.

Readers Choice: Delano Hotel

Every day he assaults the senses of the unprepared and quickens the mirth of the accustomed. Trapped in crawling traffic beneath his welcoming gaze, thousands of worker bees trying to make downtown-Miami money without actually having to live there contemplate his message. Is it a commandment? A suggestion? A calling? A joke? "For a Healthy Clean Tush," Mr. Bidet advises. His stick-figure form, painted on the side of a building, is bent into a sitting position, a large triangle symbolizing a spout of water aimed at his derriere. Even now, a pack of teens with a cell phone is calling the advertised telephone number, snickering, hanging up. Taking pictures. Calling back to ask, "Is this for real?" You bet. Mr. Bidet is but one of the faces of Arnold and Donna Cohen, South Florida's bidet barons, whose bathroom devices have been getting the job done since the Seventies. Donna rattles off a long list of loyal customers, including actors, ex-presidents, CEOs, and TV weathermen. Thanks to what Cohen describes as "a little office out in Los Angeles," this includes notables such as Jack Lemmon, Barbra Streisand, John Wayne ("When he was still alive"), Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Jimmy Carter ("It's what keeps him smiling"). "We thought we'd send one to Clinton, but he was in enough trouble," Cohen quips. Beware the lure of the bidet: Once you've soaked, mere paper becomes almost heretical. "It becomes like a little cult," Mrs. Bidet confides.

Happiness is a bumper lane. On a Friday night. With dance music blaring and all kinds of crazy shapes glowing purple, yellow, and green in the black-light strobes. Kids roll the ball between their legs with both hands; punch in silly names on Don Carter's fancy score-keeping computers; and if Mom and Dad get to paying too much attention to that pitcher of beer, even go shooting halfway down the lane with little fingers still stuck in the ball!

Readers Choice: Miami-Dade County Youth Fair

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®