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.

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.

Seth Kaplan has a whole lot of elfin magic going on, and we mean that in the sincerest form of Lord of the Rings-loving way. The energetic, garrulous, adorably bus-taking spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Elections Department speaks with the clear ring of truth when it comes to one of Florida's most painful subjects -- voting -- and is ever-available to answer questions from the press and the public alike.

Kaplan can actually discuss almost any subject with verve, wit, and an infomaniac's breadth of perspective, and becomes confounded only by superlatives to use regarding his beloved Florida Marlins. Kaplan was there for the first pitch of the very first game back in 1993, and continues to follow the Fish through ticker-tape parades and annoying personnel dramas.

Though the county's elections department has moved from downtown Miami to Doral, where, Kaplan says, he sometimes takes his life in his hands to cross eight lanes of traffic for some Dunkin' Donuts, he is especially beloved by the staff of this newspaper for his years of public-transportation patronage.

Best Sanctuary From the Fast Track
The parks of Key Biscayne

Bill Baggs State Park and Crandon Park -- because I can bike there from where I live. With our geography, you can see a great sunrise from plenty of places in Miami-Dade. Baggs is one of a smaller number of places where you can watch a great sunset. And considering how close you are to downtown, you feel remarkably far away.

Best Month
December

That's when most people in this country are beginning to face several months of living indoors, while things are just getting good in Miami.

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill
Great seats at a Marlins game

Aside from mountains, Major League Baseball was once one of the only things missing in Miami. For a fan like me, just getting the team was great. The championship in 1997 was even better. But now ... I mean, this is the most exciting -- and most genuine -- thing I've ever seen in professional sports. In an era when too many athletes bring shame to their teams and sports, we have a team about whom we can tell little kids: "Watch how these guys play. Listen to the things they say." And there's nothing like watching it all up close.

Best Cheap Thrill
Riding the public bus

Yes, I know, it's supposed to be just a way to get around town. But sometimes, you get a lot more than that. I recently purchased a car after the Elections Department moved out west from downtown, but I had spent the previous three years without a car, relying almost exclusively on public transportation. I could -- and should -- write a book about my experiences. I did a lot of reading while someone else was driving the bus -- this limousine for the masses -- but sometimes I would just look out the window and take in the flavor of the Miami-Dade neighborhoods that so many folks never see while they're bypassing it all on the highway. Yes, the places I saw were interesting, but the people were the best part. Here I am, getting my heart warmed and feeling better about humanity, all for $1.25, while everyone else is cutting each other off and honking at each other in their cars outside.

Best Reason to Live in Miami
It's the same reason as the worst reason to live in Miami: the craziness. I know there are cleaner cities and wealthier cities, cities with healthier economies and better job markets.... But there aren't many more interesting cities -- cities with more character and characters -- than Miami.

Seth Kaplan has a whole lot of elfin magic going on, and we mean that in the sincerest form of Lord of the Rings-loving way. The energetic, garrulous, adorably bus-taking spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Elections Department speaks with the clear ring of truth when it comes to one of Florida's most painful subjects -- voting -- and is ever-available to answer questions from the press and the public alike.

Kaplan can actually discuss almost any subject with verve, wit, and an infomaniac's breadth of perspective, and becomes confounded only by superlatives to use regarding his beloved Florida Marlins. Kaplan was there for the first pitch of the very first game back in 1993, and continues to follow the Fish through ticker-tape parades and annoying personnel dramas.

Though the county's elections department has moved from downtown Miami to Doral, where, Kaplan says, he sometimes takes his life in his hands to cross eight lanes of traffic for some Dunkin' Donuts, he is especially beloved by the staff of this newspaper for his years of public-transportation patronage.

Best Sanctuary From the Fast Track
The parks of Key Biscayne

Bill Baggs State Park and Crandon Park -- because I can bike there from where I live. With our geography, you can see a great sunrise from plenty of places in Miami-Dade. Baggs is one of a smaller number of places where you can watch a great sunset. And considering how close you are to downtown, you feel remarkably far away.

Best Month
December

That's when most people in this country are beginning to face several months of living indoors, while things are just getting good in Miami.

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill
Great seats at a Marlins game

Aside from mountains, Major League Baseball was once one of the only things missing in Miami. For a fan like me, just getting the team was great. The championship in 1997 was even better. But now ... I mean, this is the most exciting -- and most genuine -- thing I've ever seen in professional sports. In an era when too many athletes bring shame to their teams and sports, we have a team about whom we can tell little kids: "Watch how these guys play. Listen to the things they say." And there's nothing like watching it all up close.

Best Cheap Thrill
Riding the public bus

Yes, I know, it's supposed to be just a way to get around town. But sometimes, you get a lot more than that. I recently purchased a car after the Elections Department moved out west from downtown, but I had spent the previous three years without a car, relying almost exclusively on public transportation. I could -- and should -- write a book about my experiences. I did a lot of reading while someone else was driving the bus -- this limousine for the masses -- but sometimes I would just look out the window and take in the flavor of the Miami-Dade neighborhoods that so many folks never see while they're bypassing it all on the highway. Yes, the places I saw were interesting, but the people were the best part. Here I am, getting my heart warmed and feeling better about humanity, all for $1.25, while everyone else is cutting each other off and honking at each other in their cars outside.

Best Reason to Live in Miami
It's the same reason as the worst reason to live in Miami: the craziness. I know there are cleaner cities and wealthier cities, cities with healthier economies and better job markets.... But there aren't many more interesting cities -- cities with more character and characters -- than Miami.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®