“This is the year I finally get into shape and also read more and also stop smoking and also quit social media,” said 34-year-old Karl Curt Gunderson as he slapped a nicotine patch on his forearm and packed a bento box full of string cheese and kale into his newly purchased lunchbox. The junior accountant decided that unlike previous years’ goals of eating better, practicing better hygiene, and working on that novel he tells people he is writing but has never really made much progress on, this year he is going to succeed because he has a plan.

“I ordered loads of cool gear on Amazon to help me on my journey,” explained Mr. Gunderson as he modeled a new pair of sneakers he plans to break in Tuesday morning, assuming he can wake up early enough. “The shoes actually measure my pace electronically and send the data directly to my phone and watch!”

“The trick to changing your behavior is setting a schedule and sticking to it,” said Mr. Gunderson about how he plans on becoming a completely different human being with vastly different interests, proclivities, and habits all of a sudden.

“Starting tomorrow, I’m going to wake up every morning at 5:00 AM and immediately drink a protein shake, then I’m going to run a light 5K, shower, drive to work, have a handful of almonds at 10:15, my bento box at noon, 6 walnuts at 3:00 o’clock, hit up the buffet at Whole Foods for some brown rice and vegetables for dinner, do a P90X Lean routine at 8:00, have a scoop of cottage cheese and another shake at 9:30, shower, read Infinite Jest for an hour, then fall asleep by 11PM,” explained Karl who then started watching Before-and-After weight loss videos in his bed until 2:00 in the morning. “This is going to be so easy,” he said to himself as he fell asleep to a documentary about the harms of refined sugar.

I never said this was going to be easy!” howled Mr. Gunderson as he rushed to get ready for work after oversleeping his runtime by three hours. “I’ll make it up by running a 10K tomorrow,” he told himself as he stormed out the door. By the time he got situated in his car he realized that he had forgotten his premade bento box lunch and Ziploc bag full of almonds and walnuts on his counter. “That’s okay, I’ll just hit up Whole Foods and have some veggies for lunch. Still clean,” he told himself as he lit up a cigarette. “This is going to be my only smoke of the day, for sure,” he said to himself as he sat in traffic for forty minutes. 

By the time he got to work he was starving and made arrangements with his officemate John, who was also starting a diet, to walk with him to Whole Foods, but both were enticed into eating at a new Greek restaurant by a very pushy employee offering 20% off their meal. “The Mediterranean diet is actually very healthy,” Karl said to his friend as they decided to split an order of Spanakopita before their Gyros came.

By the time he returned from lunch and inputted his meal into his new calorie counting app, Karl had fallen behind on his actual work assignments and needed to stay late at the office to catch up. When he did leave the office at 7:45 he decided he would get a very healthy Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese soup from Panera Bread and also a free whole-grain chocolate chip cookie that he earned with his My Panera card that he knew he shouldn’t eat but didn’t want the free pastry to expire. He had one more cigarette on his way home, which isn’t so bad, he thought. Unfortunately, by the time he finished eating his cheese soup and watched Top Chef he was feeling a bit unenergetic and decided that instead of doing a full P90X set he would just do about 6 push ups and 11 sit ups in his bedroom before tiring himself out and flexing in the mirror for several minutes.

Resting a high-caloric protein shake on top of an unread copy of Infinite Jest, Kurt watched a documentary in bed about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle as he searched through Before-and-After testimonials of people who adopted an all-raw, plant-based diet, which he decided he would start tomorrow. “This is going to be so easy,” he said to himself as he fell asleep without remembering to set his alarm.

Twas Nochebuena in Miami and all through la casa 

            sounds of dominoes echoed and songs of azucar;

Papa picked up the lechon from west Hialeah 

            that Abuelo helped kill and put in Caja China; 

Cousins and friends and strangers were gathered

            and all were disturbed when they heard a loud clatter;

A fight had broke out between two cousins named Jorge,

            over a woman named Mary, a recent divorcée;

“I called her, she’s mine!” said Jorge the realtor

            “But I saw her first!” said his cousin (also a realtor);

The fight ended quickly over cups of coquito,

            and soon we all danced and sang ‘Mi Burrito’;           

Glasses were raised and bottles uncorked,

            and we all screamed with glee as they cut through the pork;

“This is so delicious! A feast for the season!”,

            said all at the table except Vera the vegan; 

The tias helped clean while the tios just sat,

            our abuelos told stories, we’re so thankful for that;

So we sat through the night and enjoyed their old tales,

             of a  life long ago, long before came Fidel;

But our eyes soon grew weary and our stomachs grew piqued,

            so we said our goodnights and all kissed on the cheek;

Then we all left the house with leftovers and gifts,

             some insisting they drive, some in Ubers or Lyfts;      

What a great Nochebuena, a thought so sincere,

            one that will never be topped, unless Raul dies next year.    

Merry Christmas From the Plantain

With December temperatures approaching 90 degrees, at least two South Floridians are finding it difficult to get in the holiday spirit this Winter. Sheryl Davidson and Armando Ribero, both office assistants at the downtown Miami law firm of Draper Mizer, LLP were hospitalized after overheating during a firm mandated “Ugly Christmas Sweater” “Party” held Tuesday afternoon. Both are expected to survive. 

“This is just so awful,” said Draper Mizer office manager Beth Ann Holtzman, still in a sweat drenched “Egg-Nog-Nog-Noggin on Heaven’s Door” sweater. “We wish Sheryl and Armando a very quick recover…cover…excuse me, I’m sorry I just need to sit down for a second,” said the 48-year-old office worker as Diane, her work BFF in an ugly blue Hanukkah sweater, brought her maroon-faced friend a cup of room temperature water which she quickly drank up. “Can you see if the paramedic is still here?” Beth asked Diane. “Maybe it’s just a hot-flash, honey,” suggested Diane, a comment which Beth certainly did not find amusing. 

County health experts are warning residents not to experiment with Christmas Sweaters, attend Ugly Sweater parties, or serve hot chocolate to anyone until the weather dips backs down to the low 1980’s. “Anything above 84 degrees is just not sweater weather,” said paramedic Norman Babo as he strapped Olivia to a gurney. “Are you single? I have a daughter who would just love you,” said Beth to the young paramedic as he carted her off to the hospital for some fruit juice and saline solution. 

The Knight Foundation announced a list of recipient organizations to receive upwards of $37 million in funding for arts programs. Included in the free money are well-deserved grants of $1.5M to O Cinema, $1.25M to the Borscht Film Festival, and a $40 gift card to Pinecrest Bakery for The Plantain that can be used any day except weekends.We are tremendously honored to receive this gift,” said me, the Plantain’s editor, Milo, in between meetings at his real job. “This is exactly the type of community support our organization needs to survive.”
The Plantain plans to use the funds to purchase an assortment of croquettas and finely pressed sandwiches to be enjoyed by the organization’s hungry staff of fake journalists.
When asking myself why The Plantain was not given more money, the Editor rationalized that it likely has to do with the political nature of the Knight Foundation, our outsider status among Miami’s elite, and the fact that I legit forgot to submit an application.
Congratulations Kareem.
M

The City of Miami unveiled a new flag for its historic Little Havana neighborhood that consists of a large cock atop melted Cuban and American flags while surrounded by 20 other flags. What?Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo, who has lived all of his adult life in a multimillion-dollar Coconut Grove home far from Calle Ocho, designed the flag himself. For real?
Carollo said he worked with the flag’s artist to carefully craft a banner that is inclusive and that prominently displays the American and Cuban flags. That thing?
There is even an English language copy of Carollo’s flag design which most people likened to an overly busy poster designed by someone who would believe that graphic design is my passion. Wow

Four of the five Miami Commissioners appeared on stage to reveal the flag alongside Miami-Dade County’s Mayor who appeared with the City of Miami’s Mayor even though the two men are bitter political enemies. So it is real?
The City of Miami’s official social media promoted the flag unveiling event in a tweet which promptly got ratioed heavily by a mix of local residents bemoaning Carollo’s design and hardcore communists promoting Fidel Castro. I don’t want to live in this world anymore.
“How apropos.” Local film director and ignored voice of reason Billy Corben tweeted: “Miami politics is just a big dumb crooked cockfight.” You think he’ll retweet us? I need a few bucks.

By Grant Sterns

Miami-Dade government suspended all governmental operations this morning and announced it would do so until the weather reached at least 70 degrees. “It’s just too damn cold to do anything,” said Mayor Carlos Gimenez from underneath three blankets in his bed while The View played in the background. The Mayor says once the Government reopens he plans to enact legislation that would prepare the County for future cold weather fronts by providing educational services to the community to teach people how to dress for the weather and how to use their home’s heater. 

Residents around South Florida are reacting to the cold weather change by shivering uncontrollably. Except Dave, who insists he isn’t cold and even wore shorts to work today to prove the point. “It isn’t so bad. I don’t know what people are complaining about,” said Dave as he brought a cup of iced coffee to his blue lips. 

Wearing a light jacket and a really cute knitted beanie she’s had since high school, Jessica Rodriguez stepped out of her Downtown Miami office, took a deep breath of the cool air, and for a moment was able to put the fact that the world is so damn awful outside of her mind. “The weather is so nice today,” said the young architect to herself just before an elderly man screamed at the second-generation Cuban-American to go back to Mexico.

Brushing off the vituperative stranger and trying to ignore the increasingly contentious state of international affairs, Ms. Rodriguez walked a few blocks to her favorite local cafe for a hot chocolate, but it had closed down. “Commercial rent increases really do make it difficult for mom and pop stores to stick around,” she thought to herself before remembering the weather. There was an Au Ban Pan several blocks away so she headed there instead.

“One soy hot chocolate, please”, said a smiling Jessica to a 35-year-old barista who rang her up but otherwise refused to acknowledge her existence. Undeterred, Jessica swiped her card and flashed the barista a kind smile. “Yo, you need to insert the chip,” said the barista curtly in response. “Oh, of course,” Jessica responded as she inserted the stupid chip. After she paid she gave the barista a $2 tip. “He needs it more than me,” she thought to herself and then waited 15 minutes for her drink to arrive. 

As she walked back into the pleasant outdoor breeze, Jessica sipped her hot chocolate and realized it was not made with soy after all. She briefly considered asking for a new cup, but thought better of it because diarrhea can be nice sometimes and she really didn’t want to have another rude interaction with that barista. The hot chocolate was delicious though.

As Jessica enjoyed the walk back to her office she scrolled through her Newsfeed and was almost hit by a car only twice. She was very happy to have had her headphones in so she could ignore the homeless people who begged her for money. Pretending not to hear or see them, she inadvertently made eye contact with a man with literally no nose who held a sign identifying himself as “Cancer Dan.” “Well, at least he get to be outside on this gorgeous day,” she told herself as she tucked her purse under her arm and looked down at the sidewalk as she passed Cancer Dan, who clicked his tongue at her and slurred something about her pussy as she walked by him.

After several minutes of walking around the City with her head in her phone, she noticed her stomach beginning to rumble. She assumed the consternation was due to the whole-milk hot chocolate, but perhaps exasperated by constantly being aware that the world seems to be ending. 

Jogging desperately toward a McDonald’s to use a bathroom, she was told by another old man to get out of the Country. When she finally made it to the McDonald’s it was filled with dozens of black teenagers. “They really shouldn’t be eating this crap,” she told herself as she limped toward the bathroom. There were three teenage girls waiting in line ahead of her, each casually staring at their phone and occasionally taking Snaps and playing with the filters. “Am I too old to use Snapchat?” she asked herself.

It took about 10 minutes for the girls ahead of her to cycle through. When she finally arrived inside the bathroom and depants she pulled out her phone so as to occupy her mind during the act. “Fuck, only 4% battery,” she said to herself but nevertheless started to scroll through her Facebook page anyway.

After several minutes a teenage girl started drumming on the door for her to finish, but she wasn’t close. As she scrolled through her Newsfeed she saw story after story about what was going on with the Trump administration and the people he was picking to help run the Country. “They all look like super villains.” 

The drumming on the door got louder.

“Hey, you taking a shit in there or something? I gotta pee, bitch,” laughed a young voice from outside.

As Jessica strained to finish, she read several more posts about the god awful state of the world, including evidence that Russia was interfering in our elections, how millions were going to lose insurance coverage under the ACA, and that David Bowie was still dead. 

“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said to herself, farting. “What are we going to do. What are we all going to do?” she cried to herself as her phone finally ran out of battery.

As she sat there in silence, with no distraction, she could hear the girl outside the door making fun of her. “She’s been in there forever. Someone better call the health inspector.”

As she finally finished she wiped and stood up to walk outside. The sink in the bathroom was broken. Typical.

Jessica left the bathroom and passed the group of snickering teenagers.

“Ain’t she going to even wash her hands, damn!” said one to her friends.

As she walked out of the McDonald’s she recoiled from the smell of oily fries and tried to once again put all of the awful things she had been hearing and reading about out of her mind

“Is the world really this bad,” she asked herself. As she stepped outside the nice breeze once again smacked her. “No, it really isn’t that bad,” she thought, readjusted her knitted beanie, and said out loud, “I love Miami in the Winter.”

The Plantain has learned that your office’s annual Thanksgiving potluck lunch will consist of 15 side dishes and not a single god-damn entree, just like last year.”This is a complete disaster,” said Deborah to herself as she placed another bowl of mashed potatoes onto the table. “This party has way too many starches,” she thought as she welcomed Hector from accounting who brought the party’s third bag of tortilla chips.
Office manager James Morales told the Plantain that he feels office parties like the annual Thanksgiving potluck and monthly birthday parties cultivate a familial environment at work. “That’s why people love working here so much. We’re each other’s family — isn’t that right Vanessa?” James called out to his research assistant Vanessa Ireland who hates him.
“How’s everyone liking the food?” James said to a group of employees scooping up various mashed potatoes with tortilla chips. “Where’s the Turkey? How can we have a Thanksgiving potluck without turkey?” James began to complain loudly.
“Hey Deborah, why isn’t there a turkey? Weren’t you going to make one?” James said to Deborah, who was told to organize the party on top of her already busy workload and was now supposed to also cook a full turkey for 20 people too?
“I have to make a turkey next week for Thanksgiving! Why on earth would I cook a full turkey for this stupid party? Who even wants to eat a turkey a week before Thanksgiving? No one even really likes Turkey. This whole party is a disaster. I have a masters degree, what am I doing with myself?” Deborah thought to herself before smiling, apologizing to her boss for some reason, and scooping herself a ladle of cold mashed sweet potatoes.

Seven year old aerospace engineer child Timothy Richardson is very concerned about the plastic frowning ghost decoration in his neighbor’s lawn. “Mommy, did he die?,” the MIT Graduate young boy asked his mother as she secured him into his car seat. “No, of course not sweetheart. Like I told you yesterday, it’s just a bad joke my love. Now sit tight in your big boy chair so we can get you  to school,” said Leslie Richardson before kissing her son for a little too long on his forehead.

Mrs. Richardson, a 38-year-old helicopter mother who runs a popular “Mommy Blog” called “Take the Mommy and Run”, contacted The Plantain’s editor several times last week to express her concern about the emotional impact her neighbor’s Halloween decoration was having on her son. I was sent to investigate.

“When I first saw Timothy cower at the site of that terrible plastic frowning ghost I realized that it was my duty as his mother to protect him from such ghoulish imagery. It is just so cruel how our society treats children around Halloween. Being exposed to ghosts or spider webs is just not good for their mental health,” said  Mrs. Richardson  before adding “It’s a modern day lynching,” a comment she quickly regretted and asked me not to print.

For the last several weeks Mrs. Richardson has been on a crusade to eliminate every ghost, skeleton, and monster from Coral Reef Elementary School where her son teaches attends. “It has been so difficult to get the school to agree to take down all of its Halloween decorations and cancel its annual charity costume contest, but my perseverance paid off.”

“She threatened a lawsuit against me, the School District, and Timothy’s teacher Ms. Monica for intentional infliction of emotional distress,” explained Coral Reef Principal Henry Wilkinson. “We just didn’t think it was worth the fight.” Recognizing her threat may appear drastic to some, Mrs. Richardson justified it as necessary for her child’s protection. “It’s no different than a child with a peanut allergy expecting his school respect his anatomical differences. My son is allergic to scary things.”

This reporter asked Mrs. Richardson to allow Timothy to sit for an interview outside of her supervision, but was denied the request on the basis of Timothy being “a little scared of red heads. You understand.”

Never one to allow a finicky mother to get in the way of my journalistic integrity, I arrived at Coral Reef Elementary to confront Timothy in front of his peers to find out why Halloween decorations scare him so much and what he thought of his mother’s efforts.  As I, a grown and unshaven man, approached the young child sitting alone in the lunchroom we locked eyes. “Hey Timmy, can I ask you a few questions about Halloween?”

“Could you not? I’m- I’m trying to eat my lunch!” shouted Timothy as he ran off into the bathroom to finish his tuna fish sandwich alone in the handicapped stall. Left sitting alone at the undersized lunch table I was approached by an elderly woman who asked, with appropriate suspicion, who I was. “I came here to talk to a young child about his deepest fears,” I told the woman without blinking.

“I think you ought to go,” she said nervously. As I stood up to leave I grabbed the Ziploc bag full of homemade trail mix that Timothy left behind when he ran away from me. There were peanuts in it – a violation of Coral Reef’s snack policy. God, Mrs. Richardson is such a hypocrite.

As I left the lunchroom I noticed the elderly lady that confronted me staring suspiciously while on the phone with someone; likely the police. 

I attempted to reach Mrs. Richardson again for a follow-up interview but was informed by her attorney that any further contact would result in my arrest. As I became more obsessed with the details of this story I disregarded my editor’s advice and drove through the Richardson’s community and noticed it had been ridded of all Halloween decorations, with the exception of the single plastic frowny ghost that still hung from the Richardson’s neighbor’s home.

I approached that home and spoke with its owner Javier Colon. When asked why he had kept the frowny plastic ghost when it looked like all of his neighbors had acquiesced to Mrs. Richardson’s requests, the man seemed confused.  “Who’s Mrs. Richardson?” he asked, explaining that no one had asked him to take down his decorations.

“Your neighbor…Leslie Richardson,” I explained pointing to the Richardson’s home. “She has a son named Timothy. He’s a shy, nervous boy.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. That home has been empty for years. The family that lived there died 7 years ago. Come to think of it, they died on Halloween.”  

Panic filled my breath and I began recounting the last several days and all of the time I had spent with Mrs. Richardson and Timothy. Had any of that been real? I began to hyperventilate and grasped my head wondering if I had imagined it all or if I had somehow encountered the ghost of a family that died years ago.

“Bro, bro…” interrupted Mr. Colon. “I’m just messing with you, man. The Richardsons live next door. The mother asked me to take down the ghost, but I told her no. That kids got to toughen up.”

I thanked Mr. Colon for his time and walked back to my car. As I was about to drive away I looked up at the Richardson’s second story window and could see Timothy frightfully peering through his curtains and staring at the frowny plastic ghost that, for whatever reason, made him so scared. 

“Mom! The reporter that attacked me at school is outside,” shouted a petrified Timothy to his mother. 

“Get away from the window!” responded Mrs. Richardson as she ran toward the shotgun she kept in her closet.

By 

After a drawn out turf war between the denizens of Brickell and the City, whereby real grass was replaced by fake grass along Brickell Avenue and then replaced again with real grass, Fairchild Tropical Garden in South Miami announced today they would harbor all the newly discarded fake grass from Brickell and cover its gardens with it.”We felt bad for all that fake grass being discarded so soon,” said an 88-year-old Fairchild Garden volunteer named Sue who is just happy to be out of the house. “All of the real plants just keep growing and dying, so why bother?”
Donald Blankership, a retired electrician who spends his afternoons wandering Fairchild’s grounds going out of his way to say hello to visitors, praised the decision to replace all of the real grass with AstroTurf. “We are all about conservation here, and that’s why its so important that we reuse all of that fake greenery.”
The Plantain asked Mr. Blankership whether he thought replacing real grass with fake grass would attract less people to Fairchild, but the 73-year-old native said he didn’t believe so. “People come here all the time to take wedding pictures, and for them, the fake grass looks fine. No one wants to learn about or maintain real plants, and I don’t blame them. Real plants and grass just grow up and die. Like my wife, Eleanor,” said the old man before taking a moment.
“We would have been married 47-years this November. She, she was a really lovely woman. Always a very sweet girl. Anyway, I think replacing the grass is a fine idea. If you’ll excuse me…” Mr. Blankenship then politely walked away, pulling a cloth handkerchief out of his pocket as he turned away.
Crews expect the real grass to be replaced before Christmas, a happy ending to a bitter turf war just in time for the holidays.