You and your pals just completed your own version of Amsterdam's famous Cannabis Cup reefer contest by filling up bong bowls with White Widow and Northern Lights and maybe some Haze. Packing a couple of green leaf, Dutch Master blunts filled with Afghani. Rolling up some Summer Breeze, Bubblegum, and other hydro hybrids that leave all involved seriously stoned but lively upped thanks to North American pot's high quality. (Crappy weed tends to make you tired.) But you aren't smoking crap, and ripification has been achieved. Now what? Since 1971 Richard Bradwell has owned and operated the Neighborhood Fish Farm. Open from 10:00 to 6:00, his back yard features 137 concrete ponds filled with more than 200 species of tropical fish that wait to mesmerize red-eyed stankers like you. Fish from Africa, Indonesia, China, and Japan can be bought or fed or simply stared at for way too long. It's outdoors, it's free, there are always a couple of lawn chairs for a sit. Rock music blares. Sushi jokes are slurred. You can buy a 79-cent guppy or blow $500 on an exotic species that enjoys eating fruit monkeys and birds. You might want to ponder that sort of investment after the buzz wears off.

Filling the oxfords of late local broadcast legend Ann Bishop of WPLG-TV was a challenge accepted by Kristi Krueger, who has proved herself up to the job at 5:00, 6:00, and 11:00 p.m. Maybe her eleven-year tenure as a health reporter helped her become sufficiently inured to calmly deal with Miami's demoralizing daily news cycle, which brims with shootings, child-abuse cases, and bloody hit-and-run tales. Maybe her good humor and refusal to take herself too seriously have allowed her to endure smug Dwight Lauderdale's condescending remarks aimed at her (on the air) all these years. Maybe her class and composure have prevented her from falling apart even as she was allegedly being stalked by a soccer mom. Whatever the special combination of qualities that Miami's best anchor needs, Krueger has. For that we say, "Brava!"

It's no coincidence that the benches at Domino Park (as this landmark is known) face toward Cuba. The old Cuban men from the surrounding neighborhood of Little Havana know the reason, and value it. As each takes a turn sitting on the benches playing dominoes (or fichas), they are reminded that though they sit in the middle of Miami, they will never turn their backs on La Patria. The park, named for a Cuban revolutionary of the late Nineteenth Century, is the hub of eastern Little Havana. People of all ages meet to play chess, throw down some bones, and sip coladas while smoking (Dominican) Monte Cristos to the tunes of El Sol radio. First-generation Cuban immigrants won't live forever, so the next time you have out-of-town visitors, take them down to Domino Park. Sit and talk with an old Cuban about the way it was. Have a cigar and some café, ponder the possibilities ... wait, who needs out-of-town visitors?

During the overheated, slightly premature media frenzy that accompanied the fall of Saddam, CBS affiliate WFOR journalist and cameraman Mike Kirsch was our man in Iraq. As an embedded reporter with the British Army, he reported on the invasion of Basra, winning a 2003 Suncoast Emmy for his efforts. His past wartime adventures include sojourns in Bosnia (where he was attacked by ten Serbian police officers) and Afghanistan. "Mike," marvels his bosses at CBS in a press release, "has a reputation for living his stories." "Surviving" might be a better description.

You won't find localized renditions of The Sopranos or Law & Order on Cable TAP, but you will be inundated with half-hour vignettes about the people and organizations that make this subtropical, multiethnic frying pan their home. A droning commissioner maybe, a cultural lightweight for sure, maybe even a Wayne's World-level egofest. But other times -- most of the time actually -- the station broadcasts way cool shows, often for specific audiences, a much nobler use of the airwaves than lowest-common-denominator commercial TV, which would air executions and sell ads for dirty bombs if they could get away with it. The public-access channel provides time slots for nonprofit groups, government agencies, and educational institutions. These organizations create programs (Haitian Forum, Pasos A La Libertad, Pedacito de Puerto Rico, Ways of Israel) that deliver specific messages to area viewers. Lacking the boring interruptions of conventional TV advertising, TAP makes room for innovative public-service announcements, including a spot that encourages adults to support afterschool programs and another to remind coach potatoes to take care of their colons. Wow, a TV station that can literally save your ass.

The feverish world of dance music is populated by numerous and fluid subgenres, from the schaffel of Superpitcher to the dark new beat of the Lords of Acid, and each school has its fanatics and detractors. True, you may not hear Carlos D. spin the Deep Forest remix of "A Forest" unless you un-ass your Lazyboy and head down to Revolver, but for avoiding Rush during rush hour, general car-bopping, or any cruise you choose, props must be given to WPYM, colloquially known as Party 93.1. The dance format cleared the dials of classical music when WTMI-FM fell short and the PYMsters stepped up. The umpteenth dance channel in town has moved forward with a pragmatic lack of sentiment for the long-dead baton gang, sponsoring meet-a-celebrity-DJ contests and shouting down its closest competitor, WPOW-FM (96.5), with a series of robotically shrill ads. Plus, as any carbon-based unit who has lived in a market lacking a dance-music station will tell you, simply having the smoking hip-shakers of 93.1 on the air moves the cultural needle from the now of hip-hop to the future of synthesizers. Even listeners who aren't hanging by their bustier laces for the debut of the instrumental version of "As the Rush Comes" can enjoy the bass, and will occasionally hear a more esoteric old-school set featuring the likes of Ten City or CeCe Peniston. A guest set by the Interpol guys may well be on the horizon.

Mario Artecona makes an initial impression as the sort of unassuming nice guy who would stop during rush hour to help you change a flat; the type of fellow who would track you down to your house to return a lost wallet, a rememberer of first names and birthdays. But Artecona is also clearly sharp and articulate, so maybe it's not so surprising that this person so privately decent is also the perfect public citizen. Artecona, executive director of the Miami Business Forum, took it upon himself to found a political action committee to challenge the Miami-Dade County Commission's shell-game dominance over the area's biggest economic engine, the airport. Artecona wants a public referendum on the creation of an independent airport authority. As he has been successful thus far in both petitioning and inverting the political power pyramid, the referendum is likely to appear on November's ballot.

Best Local Landmark
DinnerKey

It got its name in the Thirties when people began bringing box dinners there to watch the seaplanes fly in and out. The current Miami City Commission building was the old Pan American seaplane terminal. It really helped Miami secure its place in aviation and as a gateway to the islands and South America.

Best Sanctuary From the Fast Track
Well, my track isn't really all that fast, but when I want to completely unplug, I head to Miami Beach. I've got beach in my blood. I really enjoy sitting on the sand, butchering Elvis Costello or They Might Be Giants songs on my acoustic. We tend to take the beach for granted here. Usually we park ourselves just north of the Eden Roc. We've tried the beaches down by South Beach, but I personally exceed the maximum body fat requirement necessary to go south of Fifth Street.

Best Month
August

Okay, this is the one where everyone will think I'm crazy, but I LOVE August. Everyone and their grandmother is out of town; the beaches, stores, and restaurants are hassle-free; golf courses are cheap; you can tell who the REAL Marlins fans are; and people are just too hot and tired to be rude.

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill
Quick seating at Joe's

I know, it's shallow and petty, but we're talking culinary institution here. I've been fostering a relationship with Dennis and Anthony for years. There is a guilty pleasure in walking past the mob scene and getting a table (don't hate the player, hate the game). Cliché or not, Joe's Stone Crab is one of the finest meals to be had in this town. I think one of the street tests of power in this town is how fast you can get a table at Joe's. I'm far from being one of those waltz-in guys, but each season gets better.

Best Cheap Thrill
Catching a set of the Spam Allstars around town is always fun. Free at Jazid on Wednesday nights, cheap at I/O on Thursdays. Another great cheap thrill is the Gulfstream Park concert series. For five bucks, you can catch the "They're still around?" band circuit. Very high camp factor.

Best Reason to Live in Miami
I think it has to be the pace of this place. Miami is a mile-a-minute living theater. Just when you think that things are settling down, something inevitably happens to push the limits. Whether it's Elian, a Haitian freighter, the Miami Circle, public corruption, a botched election, you name it, there is always something that makes us take a step back, but then usually leads to three steps forward.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®