Picture this: You're driving north on U.S. 1 just south of the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel. Along with the little buzz you get from knowing that you're about to drive under a river, you have a pretty respectable view of the ever-changing downtown Fort Lauderdale skyline. Then you emerge from the tunnel, and there it is, a sight only slightly less sinister than Godzilla: the Waverly at Las Olas Condominiums. Even the website makes it sound like the monstrosity that it is: "From the pulsating downtown boulevards emerges a new landmark..." For those of us who have watched in horror as this architectural abomination has taken shape, it really is as if the streets have regurgitated something unsightly onto the northeast corner of Broward Boulevard and Federal Highway. Promotional materials for the complex of pricey units, which started out as rental apartments but quickly went condo, declare that it has a "Post Modern architectural theme with Victorian elements." That's just a fancy way of saying it's a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and ultimately not much of anything but a big ol' mess. Where to begin? From the needlessly busy color scheme to the hodgepodge of architectural elements (which the builders keep piling on), the Waverly is pretentious urban ugliness at its worst. And get this: It's not even at Las Olas but a full two blocks away from the trendy boulevard whose name it has desperately borrowed.

Relatives from Albany or Indianapolis or Pennsyltucky are visiting, and they ain't never seen an alligator, 'cept on TV. So you load 'em up in the car and drive all the way to Shark Valley and pay your $10 and start walking down that road where it's hot as hell and the bugs are out for blood. And you don't see any alligators, not a single one. The lady in the hat and the beige shirt with the nametag says it's the dry season, or some such nonsense, and that wildlife viewing is better at other times of the year. Blah blah blah. Dejected, you drive away, wondering where in this godforsaken swamp is a guaranteed real live alligator to show off to some out-of-towners. We advise a trip to the only gas station on 76-mile-long Alligator Alley, the Miccosukee Service Plaza, located at the I-75 turnoff to Government Road, exit 49. There, just south of the parking lot in a chainlink-enclosed pond, dwells Wally, who is about as regular as Old Faithful. Unfortunately, folks have probably been feeding ol' Wally, which is a bad idea. You won't be that dumb, will you?

The two-mile drive west from A1A along Dania Beach Boulevard -- mostly between two towering rows of unbroken treeline, with nary a strip mall in sight -- is one of the more relaxing in Broward County. Then, just past the jai-alai fronton, you encounter Federal Highway, Dania's boon and bane. By far the most visible strip in the town, the stretch of Federal between the town's northern border and Sterling Road is regularly plugged with traffic. Why? Well, there's the nearby airport, Interstate 595, a dead end on A1A, and a lack of roadways connecting Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. It's a glut of humans and cars -- yet storefronts up and down the strip are shuttered or in mild disrepair. Why? For starters, the buildings are pressed this close to the highway, and a great many of the businesses are dives, antiques shops, and the like. The city has offered money for business improvement loans in the downtown corridor, and the expected windfall of slot machines at Dania Jai-Alai will no doubt alter the landscape. But some new pink paint and gambling traffic aren't going to fix the infrastructure problems of Broward's oldest, funkiest town. Money must be invested, buildings redesigned to accommodate pedestrian traffic, and other things as fun as Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant opened. Otherwise, Dania Beach will remain an eyesore suffering in what ought to be a providential location.

Ladies, move on to the next category. This isn't likely to interest you. OK, now that it's just us guys, here's why Shuck's head is so fine: boobs. Big ones. Perky ones. Tanned ones. A couple of dozen framed photos adorn the wall above the two urinals and toilet stall. A few of them show the mammaries of professional football cheerleaders. But most display booberific Mardi Gras shots. These aren't, however, just crass titty shots; they show some real prowess in pictorial framing and composition. Consider one of the best, in which Shuck's owner, Daniel Stasi, and another man ham it up under a pair of 44 double Ds. A smiling young lady rests her bare mams upon the two men's grinning heads, which seem dwarfed in comparison. "Nice Tots" reads the photo's caption.

Even with its sparkling new condominium towers and rejuvenated downtown, America's Venice has nothing on its quaint little neighbor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Billed as "The Prettiest Small Town in America," this burg is but a half-square-mile located between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Its beach has somehow escaped the knickknack consumerism associated with Broward's other sandy, waterfront patches. And the city's 2,500-plus residents enjoy an extraordinary coral reef only 100 yards offshore. There are also happening bars and restaurants only feet from the pearly-white sand and a jazz concert at Pelican Square every Friday from 6 to 10 p.m.

Accused of abusing his fiancée, Dan Catalfumo followed the textbook defense taken by many a rich man before him. Catalfumo, who heads a $100 million construction empire, faced an aggravated battery charge for a November 2003 fight with girlfriend Heather Hill that could've landed him in state prison for 15 years. So he hired a high-priced legal team headed by Richard Lubin, brought in a cadre of friends to discredit his accuser, and then paraded a superstar list of expert witnesses to pick apart her story. Instead of being an indictment of Catalfumo, it became a three-week, 45-witness trial of Hill's credibility. Instead of choking and beating her, the story became that Hill was a messy drunk who fell into a glass picture frame on her own (don't you hate when that happens?). She caused the 53 stitches, not Catalfumo. And that ex-girlfriend who claimed Catalfumo had beaten her? She was deftly recast as a liar and backstabber who's nothing more than an ex-stripper. By the end, Catalfumo followed in the footsteps of O.J. and walked. A jury acquitted him March 1 on all charges. It was a victory for the justice sys... uh, no, a victory for rich men everywhere who have been accused of abusing their women. And in a court system in which everybody knows it's a waste of time to charge the rich with a crime, isn't Catalfumo the real victim here?

Still looking for a nice suburban home in Broward County? Poinsettia Park and Wilton Manors will set you back at least $400,000 these days. Have your eye on something out west? You better like inflated prices, cookie-cutter adobes, and I-595 traffic jams. In Broward, where anything under $250,000 is considered affordable, the North Andrews neighborhood remains one of the few reasonably priced areas near Interstate 95. Located east of Andrews Avenue between Prospect and Cypress Creek roads, North Andrews is home to roughly 9,000 residents whose single-family houses are set back from tree-lined streets and recently landscaped medians. Built in the early 1960s and now home to an eclectic mix of families, young professionals, and gay couples, the neighborhood has quickly become a happening enclave only three miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

Broward County's eastern parts have been mightily colonized in the past few years. These days, condo skyscrapers are more common than thongs on Fort Lauderdale Beach. But there is a stretch of this God-forsaken sprawl just off the Intracoastal Waterway where you can let down your hair, lean back, and feel as if you are miles from civilization. The southern stretch of West Lake, just north of Holland Park and south of Sheridan Street, is a bucolic area of birds and trees. No motorboats allowed. The best way to access it is in your own kayak by following the secret waterway just west of Las Palmas Restaurant on Hollywood Beach. If you don't own a kayak, you can rent one. Try West Lake Park on a weekend and paddle south. (You can also rent at Anne Kolb Nature Center -- 954-926-2480 -- on weekdays, but it's a longer paddle.) A kayak goes for $7 an hour or $13 for four hours. There are also kayak trails nearby and a moonlight paddle.

This mile has two possible endings -- kind of like one of those interactive mystery stories. And you've got to hoof it. But it has only one beginning, the mansion built by G. Sherman Chides in 1925 at 1 Fifth Ave., the southernmost end of Bryant Park. You can't miss it -- "La Florentia, The Wedding Cake Castle," a fantastical confection decked out in turrets and chimneys, festooned with pineapples, and gates guarded by two stone lions (and, judging from the signs, at least that many German shepherds). Stand there gaping. Then take the path by the Intracoastal, feeling glad that the unbroken line of condos across the water is -- well -- across the water. Pass the Guatemalan boys playing soccer on the green and the teenagers groping each other on picnic benches. Tempting as it is, just walk on by the multilevel wooden playpark -- you're too heavy for that rope swing and too fat to fit through the tube slide. Pass the listing old cypress trees carved with lovers' names ("Alex and Amber," "J.D. loves Amanda"), the boat ramp ("Be a Better Boater! Watch out for Manatees!"), the fogies parked in their lawn chairs, the shuffleboard courts. Here's your crucial decision. Straight on takes you to the remnant of the old Lake Worth bridge, stinky with bait blood and spilled wine, populated by the most diehard group of fishermen you're ever gonna meet (no one has hooked so much as a boot there since 1975). Or if you're coming with us -- up the new bridge, puffing along that gigantic arc right to the top, queasy and giddy with the cars whooshing past and the slow river moving under you. Don't forget to turn around and look back! Those minuscule palm trees and baby park benches, all that glittering water, look like an architect's model, don't they? Now it's just a straight slide down to the beach. A cold beer's waiting for you on the pier at Benny's.

You can lay off the booze, renew your wedding vows, pay down your Visa bill, and apologize to your mother -- maybe that'll steer you clear of the gaping maw of hell. But if you've gotta get to work, there isn't much we can do to keep you from entering the inferno. Like most Floridians, you probably spend 100 hours a year commuting (tally that up against your yearly vacation hours, chump), and for 52 of those hours, you're stuck in gridlock. Recent estimates figure that's costing you $927 a year in wasted fuel and lost work time. The news isn't getting any better: I-95 has developed magnetic force fields (Broward-Hollywood, Lake Worth-Boynton) into which drivers mysteriously disappear, cell phones and all, never to be seen again. Don't get mad; get moving. At getfloridamoving.org, you can post your most vicious traffic rants, send indignant hate mail to your legislators, and cast your vote for "the worst road in Florida." It won't bring down gas prices, but it might check your blood pressure a notch or two.

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