First the former Led Zeppelin guitarist moves to your Las Olas neighborhood. Then the rock god starts showing up at parties, and his wife tries to buy art from your friends. Before long you go to your favorite local bar, and he's there, too, praising your favorite local band. Sheesh. This guy won't leave you alone. You need to chill out, so you go to yoga, but after class, you learn that your yoga instructor is Jimmy's yoga instructor! Maybe Jimmy Page doesn't want to be the best new local celebrity. Maybe he wants to be you.
Every city has a Mardi Gras parade these days. So what separates a good one from a bad one? Access to alcohol, plain and simple. If your city has a Mardi Gras parade yet cracks down on public drinking, your city has a substandard celebration. Hollywood, though, kicks out the jams, combining the best of Carnaval with a little Mardi Gras. The city closes downtown to auto traffic for the big parade, usually the Saturday night before Fat Tuesday, and party people pour into the streets, where they willingly sacrifice their dignity for a few strands of beads. Plus, bars sell beer outside, just like in the Big Easy. After the spectacle passes, make your way to Young Circle and party the night away to live music. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

In the fall peewee football reigns and the smell of popcorn wafts from the concession stand. In winter Latin-American and Haitian teams in brightly colored soccer jerseys take to the field while, on the basketball court, shirts and skins dribble, then dunk. Paths offer biking and skating, an old train locomotive encourages climbing, and ample shelter is available for the days that rain dampens an intimate picnic. At Holiday Park, which was recently renovated, Broward County's white-skirted seniors can find love at the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center; the homeless may unfurl their bedrolls at twilight and enjoy the park's 91.1 acres of respite. And when the downtown skyline is dusted in sunset and framed by green, even a plodding, obligatory jog becomes a holiday indeed.
Sorry, but not all of us are down with this whole New Urbanism kick. Building ritzy, cookie-cutter cities with hyperexpensive shops and homes doesn't sound like a good way to build a sense of community to us. It sounds more like a refuge for the Thurston and Lovey Howells among us -- and that's exactly what CityPlace has become. Go out there and see the beautiful people strolling along the fake Main Street or dining at Bellagio or shopping at some "art" store full of trinkets that only the two Dons -- Trump and King -- can afford. Our recent visit there was pleasant and the food and drinks were great (at $7 per margarita, they'd better be), but the atmosphere was so bland we started feeling like extras in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Rich white people everywhere. Yuck. If we see another brightly colored sweater wrapped around somebody's waist, we're gonna hurl. But CityPlace does at least one thing oh-so-right: parking. The huge parking garages are wonderfully located a short escalator ride from the action, and amazingly parking is free. That's right. No change, no bills, no crazy-ass chips that you have to cash in afterward. Fort Lauderdale, are you listening?

Really, what kind of man are you going to find at a bar? Sure, you'll get lucky -- if you consider a fling with a sallow, flabby, weak barfly lucky. We don't. We want taut buns, bulging biceps, healthy lungs, the whole package. That is why we recommend you skip the bar and try the Firm. We're not saying this is an exclusively gay gym; there is no such thing. But we are saying its strategic location near Victoria Park and not far from Wilton Manors makes it a more likely place than other gyms to meet like-minded bodies. And buff ones at that. Recommended pickup line: "Need a spot?"

It's 11 a.m. on the first Sunday morning of the month, and it's a bright sunshiny day. Call the girlfriends and grab the beach blanket or chairs -- you're going out. It's important to be a little more subtle than you are on Saturday night at the Sea Monster, although almost anyone and anything goes along the New River between the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and Las Olas Riverfront during the SunTrust Jazz Brunch. This is the best place to meet the right kind of girl. As one brunch regular puts it, "The unsavory types are nursing hangovers on Sunday, so they're not here." The cool girls come out in droves because they know that the tunes are good (though not always jazzy), and the people-watching is second to none. The smaller stages, such as the Connie Hoffman Gazebo and the New River Inn stage, provide good music and a few choice secluded and shady spots. Lots of foot traffic means that if you spy someone you like, it's not hard to bump into them "accidentally" and start a conversation about the weather or the music. While chatting, wander over to get a bite to eat from some of the vendors, then invite her over to your blanket in the shade. The rest is up to you.

Gilbrace Ristel may be mobile, but come summertime he isn't hard to find. Ristel hails from Haiti, but for seven years he's been a nomad, roaming the often road-blocked residential streets between Federal Highway and Andrews Avenue near downtown Fort Lauderdale. Listen for the tiny tinkling of ice cream truck themes such as "The Entertainer." The music has a languid sound, like a 45 rpm record played at 33. And though Ristel can't hear this classic summer soundtrack from inside his truck, he seems to move at the same easy tempo, never rushing his young customers as they choose from prepackaged treats with names like Creamy Krunch (Ristel's favorite) and Crazy Coconut.
The advantages of breaking off a relationship at a highway rest/food stop are almost too numerous to list. For one thing, thanks to passing traffic no one can hear you if you choose to make a scene. Then there's the transient nature of the other customers, who are more interested in a bathroom break and a quick burger than they are in your love life. The restrooms themselves provide safe refuge, whether it's to wash your face (if you're sad), scrawl some graffiti (if you're mad), or triumphantly groom yourself for your next, er, victim (if you're glad). And of course the metaphor of breaking up next to a highway can't be ignored: Love, like traffic, may stall. But you will always, eventually, move on.

South Florida breeds car burglars like cockroaches; they're everywhere, they like to rifle through your stuff, and they're pretty damn fast. (The only differences are that the thieves aren't quite as big as the roaches and can't fly.) So you never want to park your car out there in the public domain. But every now and then, it happens: You're meeting friends, you plan to ride in their car, and you wonder what to do with your vehicle. The park-and-ride lots have four attributes that make them perfect: They're centrally located along I-95, well-lit, patrolled by Wackenhut, and free. They also stay open round-the-clock. But Tri-Rail does not recommend leaving your car there overnight, because patrols cease about 9 or 10 p.m. and don't resume until 4 a.m. We, however, have braved it through midnight and even later at times and have returned to find our car as safe as a bug in a rug... or maybe a roach in a rug.
Along the south side of the New River, just west of I-95 and north of I-595, lies Secret Woods Nature Center, a 56-acre oak-hammock preserve that's a favorite destination for busloads of kids on school field trips and hikers wanting to explore short trails to observe flora and fauna. In addition to housing raccoons, otters, and other critters, the park is prime habitat for South Florida's big-ass banana spiders, the yellow-and-black arachnids that weave tremendous, orb-shape webs and sit smack in the middle of them, waiting for unsuspecting bugs to become victuals. Lining the trails on both sides and even creating a canopy above the planks, the eight-legged creatures are literally everywhere. If you're squeamish about spiders, rent Charlotte's Web, then saunter on down to Secret Woods and see if you can find a place in your heart for these colorful, if not exactly cuddly, creatures.

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