Best Place to Witness a Fender Bender 2012 | The parking lot at University Commons | Shopping & Services | South Florida

How to explain the hot mess that is the parking lot for this plaza that houses Whole Foods Market, Barnes & Noble, and numerous other yuppie magnets? Perhaps there is a component in fair-trade coffee and organic kombucha that causes people to throw all driving inhibitions — like the notion that you should, you know, not crash into other cars or humans — out the window like so many conventionally grown vegetables. The scene calls to mind a dystopian future wherein the world is given over to a race of Hummer-driving Pilates instructors who have smartphones for hands. Ninja-like reflexes are required for safe navigation, and heaven help you if your craving for raw cacao nibs strikes on a Sunday afternoon.

Convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein implicated tons of people in his blockbuster ten-day deposition in December, but only a few entities were described as being absolutely integral in his plot to steal more than a billion dollars. TD Bank was one of them. According to Rothstein, TD employees passed off bogus documents, helped put on "shows" for investors, and lied to depositors who asked if they could "lock" their accounts to keep Rothstein from getting to their cash. Rothstein said his scheme "absolutely would have ended" if TD performed even a cursory investigation of his dealings, so, while they're probably paying closer attention now, it's still unrivaled in South Florida for wannabe Ponzi partiers.

Time machines might not exist, but thankfully vintage stores do. When shopping at Vintage Diversity, it's all about the hunt, so get ready to dig, and set aside a long afternoon. Wall to wall packed with treasures of yesteryear, there is no telling what's hiding underneath a 1950s gold-embroidered housecoat or an authentic pair of '70s, white, patent-leather go-go boots. Perhaps you're only looking to travel back in time for a Mad Men party or a Warhol Factory-styled event? Vintage Diversity rents out clothing and costumes too. Owner/operator and local vintage queen Melanie Garbo-Byrnes is always on-site and ready to assist with all your vintage needs. Forget about powering the flux capacitor, and drive down to Oakland Park instead.

With Cider Doughnuts, Boston Chowder Co.'s Maine lobster rolls, and Anita's Guacamole, this category could easily be renamed "Best Place to Justify Standing in an Ungodly Long Line," because you will do just that for any of these vendors, all the while producing enough back sweat to fill a Big Gulp. But it's so worth it! In its 17th season, the well-attended West Palm Beach Green Market throws together more than 60 vendors selling everything from locally grown hydroponic greens (lettuces, people), tropical fruits, orchids, artisanal breads and pastas, teas, olive oils, pickles, cheeses, handmade dog treats, heirloom tomatoes, jams, honeys, and potted herb plants that are occasionally hand-assembled by West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio. If you want to avoid the mayor's digits in your herbs, then steer clear of the area during the annual grand opening on October 15, when West Palm Beach parades out local politicians, radio hosts, and TV personalities to man the booths. The market runs every Saturday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. from October through April.

"Where's the bargains?" No, it's not grammatically correct, and yes, you might occasionally find better pricing on Craigslist, but if you are a living, breathing, deal-hunting Floridian, you can't help but utter a Pavlovian "At the Swap Shop!" response anytime someone utters the above question. The Swap Shop slogan that was first made famous on local TV ads a few years back has even made its way into remix territory on YouTube. But it's not just the cheesy slogan that makes the Swap Shop one of the state's largest tourist attractions (the owners claim it is second only to Disney); it's the complete unpredictability of the vendors' goods on display. Airbrushed Jesus T-shirts, discounted adult toys, quinceañera garb, designer perfumes, vintage Atari games, tables upon tables of tube socks, a dozen roses for under ten bucks, and cheap produce can all be scored from one of the 2,000 vendors on hand, seven days a week.

This site, run by renegade Palm Beach Post reporter turned gossip blogger Jose (that's "Joe-ZAY") Lambiet, is way more than just silly pictures of the Kardashians — though they're on there too. While he's quick to pick up on South Florida celebrity news, Lambiet is also constantly rooting through the business of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, keeping it honest when, say, a man robs a pawn shop with an assault rifle stolen from a sheriff's deputy. For scoops on the South Florida scene, Gossip Extra is the place to go.

The gossip here is juicy. Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies dish anonymously about everything from a high-profile murder case to a lieutenant with an alleged pain-pill addiction. Founded by Mark Dougan, an ex-deputy who left the force in 2008, makes no attempt to hide its contempt for Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. On the messageboards, it's tough to sort fact from fiction. But some of the most helpful info comes from the documents Dougan has posted on the site — the probable-cause affidavit in the pain-pill case, purchase orders showing that the Sheriff's Office spent more than $60,000 on barbecue grills, a copy of an internal-affairs complaint filed against Bradshaw. Although the site offers no smoking gun, it is a rare window into the internal politics of a sheriff's office few outsiders would otherwise glimpse. After all, it's fun to spy on the cops once in a while.

Worried about an electromagnetic pulse from solar flares wreaking havoc on the modern world? How about a global pandemic or a complete devaluation of the dollar? No? Well, maybe you should be. Here to guide you gently into that dark night are the South Florida Preppers, a congenial bunch of folks who are preparing, in their own particular ways, for a collapse of society as we know it. They trade pointers and theories about "shit hits the fan" scenarios at a monthly barbecue meeting that's open to all and features free lectures. The local survivalists range from camouflaged gun nuts to checkbook-balancing moms. Underneath their morbid anticipation of total disaster is hope — and faith in the human ability to overcome tragedy in this overpopulated, hurricane-swept land.

A quick scan around this bustling mecca of secondhand finds can leave even the most avid garage-sale warrior with that sinking feeling of being in over her head. With its ten cash registers, internal ATM machine, bright fluorescent lighting, and metal railings for growing lines, World Thrift could have easily been a Winn-Dixie in its former incarnation, but it remains the only place in town to score a vintage silk kimono, a $3.99 collection of mint-condition '70s-era teen magazines, a plethora of options for the next ugly Christmas sweater party, and a White House Black Market dress with the tags still on for ten bucks, all in one afternoon. First visits can be daunting, so here are some survival tips from World Thrift regulars. First: Embrace the sports bra and bike shorts. While this thrift shop has aisles of clothing, it lacks dressing rooms. Experienced thrifters show up in skintight options so they can layer on finds in front of several mirrors. Second: Pay attention to color. Everything is broken down by color, which makes finding that little black dress a breeze. And clothes with select colored tags are half-off daily. Third: Show up twice a day. Serious shoppers come by at the 9 a.m. opening time and then again around 3 p.m., when the staff brings out the second shipment of stuff from the backroom.

The man who runs Abernathy's is not named Abernathy — he's Tom Tahmasebi — but don't let that turn you off. He comes highly recommended, and for good reason: On cars he fixes, he gets the paint a near-perfect match to the original color and makes sure it looks as good as new. The waiting room smells reassuringly of solvents, and the workers are friendly. It's never nice to have to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a messed-up car, but even if this place doesn't offer the biggest discounts, it's a reassuring experience every step of the way.

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