The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Happy holidays from the tropics!

December 24, 2009 |  2:01 pm

I've flown the coop and headed down to Miami, my ancestral home, for a week of sunny tropical escapery. I have fond memories, as a kid in the '70s, of seeing guys posing as shopping center Santa Clauses who looked a lot like the cocaine cowboys who were shooting up the town, making Miami the mayhem capital of the country. It wasn't at all unusual for a young lad to find himself shoulder-to-shoulder with a Santa Claus who was sweaty, twitchy and not at all intrigued by what sort of gifts you were hoping to find under the old Christmas tree. After spending a little time on the lap of a Santa with badly capped teeth and a scar under his left eye, my childhood pal Eddie Saltzman came back, eyes wide, swearing to us that his Santa was packing heat.

GR C MIAMI BEACH FLORIDA

At any rate, I enjoy passing along all these nostalgic memories to my 11-year-old, who loves the whole Miami gestalt, from eating Cuban food at Versailles on Calle Ocho to cruising up and down South Beach, staring at all the wondrous creatures in residence there, to hearing his grandfather explain exactly how he'd palm a $20 bill to the maitre 'd at Joe's Stone Crabs so we wouldn't have to wait in line for an hour for a good table. These are clearly important lessons to pass along to future generations.

I'll be back after the holidays, up and running again, with some equally outrageous tales about the surprise triumphs, the bitter defeats and the amazing excesses that marked the year of 2009 in Hollywood. Until then, stay safe and warm and have a happy new year.

Photo: A lifeguard station in Miami Beach. Credit: Colin Braley / Reuters

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