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

Why? Because he's so damn entertaining. Because he's not afraid to lie down in a $1000 suit in front of a jury to approximate a corpse. Because he comes up with cute nicknames for opposing counsel (he mockingly told a jury that if federal prosecutor Allan Kaiser got his way, police would blow kisses to criminals rather than arrest them; he called it the "Kaiser Kiss"). Because he moves his arms constantly when summarizing. Because there's not a gag order around that can shut him up. Because if you're a cop accused of something very, very bad, so bad you don't think you have a prayer, this is the guy who will put on a show that just might distract the jury enough to get you off.

Well, okay, the Lord never said, "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor with electoral fraud." But Tony! Neither did He say, "Go forth and bear false witness to petition signatures because homosexuals belongeth to an axis of evil." In the absence of an explicit prohibition, our local Christian Coalition leader apparently figured there'd be no problem. The issue was repeal of the Miami-Dade law forbidding discrimination against our neighbors because they are gay, lesbian, bi, straight, or asexual. Last August state law-enforcement officers arrested Verdugo and charged him with one felony count of false swearing during the Take Back Miami-Dade petition drive that forced this repeal question onto the September 10, 2002 ballot. (Agents also arrested three others in the Take Back family.) A few hours later Verdugo was out on bond, unrepentant, and preaching on AM radio about how he had been framed by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, the supervisor of elections, various prosecutors, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and other members of the homosexualist Mafia. Verdugo hit bottom, however, when he took little Elian's name in vain. He told listeners that his own arrest reminded him of that early morning in April 2000 when federal agents swooped in and snatched the miracle child. Verdugo now knows the power of mercy, if he didn't before. Because he was a first-time offender, prosecutors gave him the option of performing community service instead of standing trial. And so the charge was dropped.

We're not jealous of you Jorge, we're proud! We've seen your handsome face adorning those humorous videos, and we know the rest of the world has been chuckling with them as well. We watched you win Best New Artist at the Latin Grammys, then go on to be nominated for Best Latin Pop Album at the non-Latin Grammys. You were one of the first signed up to Madonna's new label Maverick, and not just because of those looks -- we all know the other pretty boys on the charts don't write their own songs and play their own instruments like you did for Jorge Moreno. That disc that gave us the exhilarating homage to Desi Arnaz in "Babalú," and highlighted your own songwriting skills -- and mixture of styles from pop to tropical to son -- on "Mi Sufrimiento" and "Despertare." And you can still laugh at yourself. You Cuban-American honest-to-God high-quality-product-of-Miami, you go boy!

Readers Choice: Alex Rodriguez

Cuban immigrant Gerardo Gonzalez was one of the most popular boxers of the Fifties. As "Kid Gavilan" he won a world title against Johnny Bratton in 1951 at Madison Square Garden. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Gavilan was notorious for overwhelming his opponents with flurries of punches coming from all angles, and coined a notorious strike called the "bolo punch," a potentially lethal uppercut. He retired at age 32 with a record of 107 wins and 30 losses (28 KOs). In 1958 Gavilan returned to revolutionary Cuba only to have his property confiscated. Like so many others he escaped to that intermediary land of Miami, where he remained a vital source of information and energy in the boxing world. Gonzalez died of a heart attack February 13, 2002, in Miami. He was 77 years old. Papers in England, Scotland, and Australia wrote obituaries commemorating his career.

She came from St. Louis to Miami, innocent and earnest, to get her degree in physical therapy from UM. She got it and began aiding old folks and kids with accident or disease-based problems. An admirable life of helping others. But then she caught a glimpse of the Miami Heat dancers and succumbed to her inner star complex. It's been downhill ever since. Before long Trista was in Los Angeles, a popular finalist on ABC's dreadful The Bachelor, in which a guy goes through 25 hapless ladies to see which one he'll marry. True love on reality TV? Many in here shuddered to think she represented, however tenuously, the best Miami had to offer. When she didn't make the final cut, her audience popularity (imagine that audience...) led boob tube honchos to give her a spinoff all her own: The Bachelorette. This time she got to go through 25 guys and dump 24 of them. Just in time for the final episode, and with commercial sponsors lining up for the kill, she picked a poetry-writing fireman. "We're still together and in love," she recently ventured, adding (to no one's surprise) that she was now looking for a more permanent TV or movie job.

On May 6, 2003, by a unanimous vote of the U.S. Senate, Altonaga became the nation's first female Cuban-American federal judge. President George W. Bush personally nominated her, sidestepping a list of South Florida candidates forwarded by the state's two senators, Bill Nelson and Bob Graham. The move provoked cries of foul. It's clear Bush wanted a Cuban female in the position, and in Altonaga he found a winner. The Yale-educated Coral Gables resident was a career prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office until she became a county court judge in 1996 and then circuit court judge three years later. Even Nelson and Graham, two Democrats, conceded the point of her qualifications and ended up backing the president's pick.

Readers Choice: Gloria Estefan

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®