When the preacher begins laying his hands on foreheads, the energy in this storefront church surges. Thursday night is divine drama, eons beyond must-see TV. From below the pulpit a drummer keeps a lively beat and an organist accents the preacher's righteous words from an old Casio. The pews are full of women who, with gusto, shout the devil down. Soon you're shouting with them, clapping and dancing as the spirit takes hold. Now the preacher is moving about, laying hands on worshippers and speaking in tongues. High blood sugar is neutralized, a bloody nose is fixed, a path to the Lord is cleared, and ladies tumble to the ground. Everyone is welcome, no velvet ropes, no social hierarchy whatsoever. It's strictly come as you are. The spirit is infectious and the thrill ride goes on till late. Plus there's never a cover charge, though a modest donation is always welcome. The only real cost is that of not saving your sorry soul.

When the preacher begins laying his hands on foreheads, the energy in this storefront church surges. Thursday night is divine drama, eons beyond must-see TV. From below the pulpit a drummer keeps a lively beat and an organist accents the preacher's righteous words from an old Casio. The pews are full of women who, with gusto, shout the devil down. Soon you're shouting with them, clapping and dancing as the spirit takes hold. Now the preacher is moving about, laying hands on worshippers and speaking in tongues. High blood sugar is neutralized, a bloody nose is fixed, a path to the Lord is cleared, and ladies tumble to the ground. Everyone is welcome, no velvet ropes, no social hierarchy whatsoever. It's strictly come as you are. The spirit is infectious and the thrill ride goes on till late. Plus there's never a cover charge, though a modest donation is always welcome. The only real cost is that of not saving your sorry soul.

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?

BEST CRIMINAL CONVICTION IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS

Willie and Sal trial jurors

Gloria Alba and Maria del Carmen Peñalver were in their midtwenties when they sat on the jury that acquitted Willie Falcon and Sal Magluta in February 1996. Falcon and Magluta had been charged with importing 75 tons of cocaine, worth some two billion dollars. Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Sullivan, who prosecuted the case with colleague Chris Clarke, knew something wasn't right about that acquittal, which not only set free the two biggest drug dealers in Miami's history, but which cost taxpayers millions of dollars and U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey his job. Sullivan was right about something not being right, a fact affirmed this past January by U.S. District Judge Paul Huck, who sentenced Alba and Peñalver to five years in prison for accepting bribes to spring Willie and Sal. Peñalver finally admitted to taking $20,000 from jury foreman Miguel Moya, who is now doing seventeen and a half years in prison. Alba was convicted of raking in some $260,000 in bribes. Her husband got nearly five years for participating in the scheme. Meanwhile, Falcon is serving 20 years for money laundering and Magluta was sentenced to 205 years on a host of charges related to the fixed jury. It was a happy ending for Sullivan's prosecutorial nightmare.

BEST CRIMINAL CONVICTION IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS

Willie and Sal trial jurors

Gloria Alba and Maria del Carmen Peñalver were in their midtwenties when they sat on the jury that acquitted Willie Falcon and Sal Magluta in February 1996. Falcon and Magluta had been charged with importing 75 tons of cocaine, worth some two billion dollars. Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Sullivan, who prosecuted the case with colleague Chris Clarke, knew something wasn't right about that acquittal, which not only set free the two biggest drug dealers in Miami's history, but which cost taxpayers millions of dollars and U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey his job. Sullivan was right about something not being right, a fact affirmed this past January by U.S. District Judge Paul Huck, who sentenced Alba and Peñalver to five years in prison for accepting bribes to spring Willie and Sal. Peñalver finally admitted to taking $20,000 from jury foreman Miguel Moya, who is now doing seventeen and a half years in prison. Alba was convicted of raking in some $260,000 in bribes. Her husband got nearly five years for participating in the scheme. Meanwhile, Falcon is serving 20 years for money laundering and Magluta was sentenced to 205 years on a host of charges related to the fixed jury. It was a happy ending for Sullivan's prosecutorial nightmare.

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.

Miami's Only Daily has piranha-ed its writing and editing staff into a skeleton for the sake of profit margin. Still with the likes of Raul Rubiera, Peter Andrew Bosch, and others out shooting photographs, the pictures remain first rate. But with his stylish black-rim eyeglasses, raspy voice, and bandanna covering his baby dreads, Carl Juste is more than just another pretty photojournalist. From the war in Afghanistan (where he spent four months) to the recent revolt in Haiti, from the vapid (South Beach models strutting) to the brutal (back-alley junkies shooting heroin), Juste's first draft of history is strong enough to endure as art. He's that good. The Herald doesn't deserve him.

Miami's Only Daily has piranha-ed its writing and editing staff into a skeleton for the sake of profit margin. Still with the likes of Raul Rubiera, Peter Andrew Bosch, and others out shooting photographs, the pictures remain first rate. But with his stylish black-rim eyeglasses, raspy voice, and bandanna covering his baby dreads, Carl Juste is more than just another pretty photojournalist. From the war in Afghanistan (where he spent four months) to the recent revolt in Haiti, from the vapid (South Beach models strutting) to the brutal (back-alley junkies shooting heroin), Juste's first draft of history is strong enough to endure as art. He's that good. The Herald doesn't deserve him.

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.

Forget the show itself. The party afterward was a lot better. Organized by Ocean Drive magazine, it featured an estimated half-million dollars' worth of fake boobs and legions of filthy-rich old men. And of course every Latin pop star imaginable was there, from Miami's patron saints Emilio and Gloria to Grammy winners Juanes, Thalía, David Bisbal, and the sex symbol himself, bon-bon-shaking Ricky Martin. But only in America (which last we heard still included Miami) can international Latin pop stars stride through an event that's supposedly in their honor yet go virtually unrecognized by camera crews starstruck at the sight of blond brainiac Paris Hilton. She hogged all the attention when she arrived hand-in-hand with gal pal Ingrid Casares and a gaggle of glitterati. The truest sign of a big-time bash, though, was the fact that only a few of the thousands who snagged a coveted pass left before 3:00 a.m. Apparently Latin stars, like most people, feel that a Miami gig isn't complete until the Spam Allstars have performed.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®