Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood
Cristian Costea

It's a shame Hunter S. Thompson didn't postpone his suicide long enough to write a sequel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas set in Hollywood's Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which as money-glutted monuments to human depravity go is second only to Vegas itself. If it's people-watching you prize, best to arrive around happy hour on a Friday for the spectacle of those droves of elderly gamblers who make a shuffling migration to the parking lot, squinting up at the sun or glancing sideways to monitor the aggressions of the boisterous teens and 20-somethings who come roaring in on tricked-out Toyotas, flashing ersatz bling and reeking of Axe Body Spray, head on a swivel for the coked-out skanks from their Bang Brothers-inspired fantasies. After midnight, revelry careens toward riot, and in the midst of this mess of unholy humanity, a celebrity may materialize. One may even perish. Surely Anna Nicole won't be the last...

Everglades Holiday Park
Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

It's hard to be a tourist. From the Internet or the information booth on the turnpike, one Everglades tour looks just like the next; one alligator rassler looks no different from another (they each have nine fingers). Holiday Park's fleet of airboats is unique because all the boats have covered passenger compartments. That means you get all of the high that comes with hovering at warp speeds through the river of grass, and none of the wetness that makes you look like you peed your pants doing it. Furthermore, Holiday's guides are mostly local roughnecks who love this land like John Ashcroft loves eagles — and they seem to have a symbiotic relationship with the gators here. Besides being hip to all of the gator nests and hideouts, the guides do a bang-up job during the shows, where they sit on their friends' scaly backs and spread their jaws to basically do an up-close dental checkup. (The gators like it! See? They're smiling!) Beyond these feats, the folks out here on the western edge of BroCo will be happy to rent you a little fishing boat of your own and hook you up with camping trips. The site even has a nifty little general store where you can pick up some trinkets and snacks before you swashbuckle your way through the sawgrass. Mmm, alligator jerky...

Big Cypress Seminole Reservation

When we want to impress visitors, we show them a slice of Florida the way Juan Ponce de Leon encountered it 500 years ago. The beaches will never be the same, of course, but the Everglades have the same silvery light they always had, the same towering clouds, the tropical birds, and, yes, the glowering gators. Best place to get a feel for it is the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, 17 miles up Snake Road from the Alligator Alley midpoint (Exit 49). First the gators: They're right beside the road, dozing in the shallows that lap against the berm or sunning themselves on the banks. Sometimes they'll even wander onto the two-lane road. Don't be afraid. Alligators are a low-energy, slacker breed who'd rather stay in a sleepy stupor than chase tourists. But don't get overconfident, either — they are carnivores, after all. If you're expecting chickees and bonfires, the reservation may be a bit of a downer. It's more of a modern outpost, with a school, a meeting hall, and a little cafeteria where you can eat fried alligator bits in a rocking chair on a veranda. Best of all is the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum ($6 for adults, $4 for kids), with historical displays and artifacts and a mile-and-a-half boardwalk that takes you right into the wilderness while staying safe from the predators below.

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse

A day in South Florida can be stressful: Billboards. Traffic. Hooters girls who haven't updated their uniforms since 1983, still wearing bright-orange shorts and pantyhose. You need a place where you can go to chill out and catch a sunset. Enter the Loxahatchee River Historical Society: You've got them to thank for maintaining the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, a 105-foot-tall landmark overlooking the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the wilds of Jonathan Dickinson Park to the west, visible from 18 miles away. A venture up the stairs and a look-see from the 360-degree platform is breathtaking any time of day, but on the last Wednesday of the month they offer sunset tours.

A 1998 charge of disorderly intoxication didn't stop Fitzroy Salesman from winning election to the Miramar City Commission in 2003. And a 2005 DUI charge resulted in just a 20-month suspension from his official duties. So it's stunning that this battle-scarred politician would have his career toppled by a single brush with 18-year-old Lazavius Hudson. Last Thanksgiving eve, Hudson and his friend were buying sodas at a Winn-Dixie market when they heard Salesman's threats to "shut this bitch down" if management didn't open an express lane. Not to be intimidated, the young men refused to move to the express lane, which triggered Salesman's temper, Hudson's invitation to settle the matter "outside," and, finally, Salesman's pulling a .45-caliber pistol from his waistband. The commish found himself charged with aggravated battery and suspended from his post, which has since been filled by an unarmed commissioner. Maybe it's time Hudson considered a career in politics — he's already proven he's willing to fight official corruption.

A few years ago, selecting Bober as the best anything would have seemed unthinkable. He was, after all, just a weak Hollywood city commissioner ebbing and flowing with Mayor Mara Giulianti's political tide. But a funny thing happened to Bober on the way to mediocrity: He grew a pair. First he got the upper hand over Mara with his ethics reform crusade, and then he took her seat away from her in the January elections, knocking off Hollywood's reigning queen of mean and jolting her lobbyist-led political machine. Instilling hope in his beaten-down city earned Bober big respect, but the real question is what he'll do with his new powers. Too often political upstarts have come in with grand promises only to disappoint mightily (recently ousted Pompano Mayor Kay McGinn comes to mind). Along with the people of Hollywood, we'll be watching.

Pardo is one of those rare politicians who has done more good before gaining elected office than most officials do in their entire careers. Pardo, of Riviera Beach, basically saved the municipal beach at Singer Island from developer Dan Catalfumo and his giant Ocean Mall project: She led the signature-gathering effort to bring about the referendum for a five-story height limit on the beach. The people passed the measure, dooming Catalfumo's plan, which had been approved by a rubber-stamp commission. After beating the commission, Pardo decided to join it; she was elected over incumbent Jim Jackson in March. If she's half as effective in office as she was on the sidelines, great things are in store.

Out in the open, on the dais, is Stacy Ritter, a powerful Broward county commissioner. Slithering behind the scenes is her husband, Russ Klenet, a well-heeled lobbyist who is most famous for selling the commission a lousy touch-screen voting system that wasted millions of taxpayers' dollars. Together they are pretty darn powerful. And awfully damn corrupt. Ritter voted for Vista Health to receive the county's health insurance contract. At the same time, Klenet's firm was working for Vista. While Ritter publicly favored the county's airport manager, URS, Klenet counted them as a former client and internal company records showed he continued to assist the company in its lobbying efforts even after his wife was elected. It's so romantic, really, the way they take care of each other at their respective workplaces. It may not be a priceless marriage, but it's worth something.

The best public restroom in South Florida is a marvel. It's got a gorgeous view of the ocean and is very near to all of Fort Lauderdale's best beach bars. It's a quick walk from both BeachPlace and Las Olas Boulevard. It's also robotic — self cleaning, if you can dig it — and runs on a timer to keep the pissers on task. Also: it doesn't exist. The Fort Lauderdale city commissioner's harmless toilet scheme was derailed last year thanks to a series of harebrained comments from Mayor Jim Naugle, who claimed that the timer-equipped toilet would be used to keep gay men from shagging in the loo. This naturally raised the ire of the non-loo-shagging gay population (which is, you know, pretty much all of them), who were quick to recount all the times their own psyches were irreparably damaged when they stumbled upon heterosex in the city's many non-robotic stalls. And so a debate was had, ugly viewpoints were aired, and Mayor Jim's ceaseless fanning of the flames finally exposed him in public for the attention-hogging, dirty-minded parasite he is. Which means Fort Lauderdale Beach's non-existent toilet is maybe the single greatest shitter in the land — with the possible exception of a very real john in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

This year we have a quote that not only deeply impacted South Florida, but was heard 'round the country. It came from Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle, via the Sun-Sentinel. What would you expect from a raving right-wing nut-job who calls himself a Democrat? The man once told New Times that he welcomed high housing prices because poor people could make a living taking care of wealthy homeowners' pets. Here, let's play a game. Guess which of these actual Naugle quotes we chose as the very best:

1. "Who's against tapping someone's phone if they are talking with al Qaeda? Only a crazy, wacko liberal."

2."I'm supposed to subsidize some schlock sitting on the sofa and drinking a beer, who won't work more than 40 hours a week?"

3."I don't use the word 'gay,' I use the term 'homosexual.' Most of them aren't gay. They're unhappy."

And the answer is... Number 3. And the reason it's at the top of the list is that, along with his crusade against the phantom menace of man-on-man bathroom sex, it created such an outrage that Mayor Jim got national attention and has become officially marginalized. Any hope of a decent legacy is dead. Naugle will forever be remembered as "that homophobic mayor." Hope he's happy (or "gay," if that's his preference).

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