Best of Miami®

Best Of 2002

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Best Of :: People & Places

BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWNERS

If they're visiting from out of town, there's a good chance they're not familiar with the word guajiro. In Cuba it's the name given to country folk, that island nation's noble peasants. Rancho Don Goyo, a rustic retreat in Miami's own countryside, keeps the guajiro spirit alive on Saturdays and Sundays, when Cuban immigrant Gregorio Arensibia, better known as Don Goyo, throws open the gates to his two-acre ranch and invites in the world. Bring your guests here and let them experience a peculiar and exotic aspect of Miami: This really is not the U.S.A. From noon until roughly 10:00 p.m. South Florida residents hailing from all over Latin America gather for food, drink, music, and dance in an atmosphere that feels a lot like home, whether that was Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, or Cuba. Rancho Don Goyo is marked by an unassuming sign on the north side of Okeechobee Road (U.S. 27) beyond the turnpike, after it opens up under a big sky and a landscape of broad fields. (If you reach the junction with Krome Avenue you've gone too far.) A dusty side road takes you to a makeshift parking lot, then on to the heart of the place -- a ramshackle general store and an immense open-air restaurant where patrons enjoy their beers along with a tempting variety of freshly grilled meats and tangy side dishes. When live bands aren't playing, the jukebox kicks in. Either way the dance floor will always be occupied. If possible try to be there on a Sunday afternoon when local enthusiasts of punto guajiro take to the stage. Punto guajiro is a Cuban musical invention of improvised lyrics set to the poetic decima, a traditional Spanish form favored by itinerant troubadours of yore. At Don Goyo's the tradition lives with an exuberance that requires no translation. Fun and games and barnyard animals for the kids. Ice-cold cervezas and back-slapping camaraderie for the adults. And a very special treat for your out-of-town guests.

BEST CIVIC DECEPTION

You have to hand it to the City of Miami. Faced with the daunting task of persuading voters to pass yet another bond issue to improve the same parks the city had failed to improve after two previous bond issues, commissioners were wringing their hands over this difficult sales job. Then terrorists felled the World Trade Center in New York. And then letters spiked with anthrax began circulating in the mail. And then city officials came up with a bright idea. The bond issue's name was changed to "The Homeland Security and Neighborhood Enhancement" bond. After earmarking a tiny portion of the $255 million to buy a few gas masks, commissioners got what they wanted. City voters approved the bond. Let the spending begin!

BEST CIVIC DECEPTION

You have to hand it to the City of Miami. Faced with the daunting task of persuading voters to pass yet another bond issue to improve the same parks the city had failed to improve after two previous bond issues, commissioners were wringing their hands over this difficult sales job. Then terrorists felled the World Trade Center in New York. And then letters spiked with anthrax began circulating in the mail. And then city officials came up with a bright idea. The bond issue's name was changed to "The Homeland Security and Neighborhood Enhancement" bond. After earmarking a tiny portion of the $255 million to buy a few gas masks, commissioners got what they wanted. City voters approved the bond. Let the spending begin!

BEST RADIO STATION

The pop-radio wars have just begun. Dance-only upstart WPYM-FM (93.1) calls out the big dogs at Power 96 to put up or shut up. Power takes the bait and responds decisively. Sure it plays more commercials, and it saturates us regularly with hip-hop we've heard before, but Power still spins the better dance music, particularly after hours, and it gets bonus points for effectively mixing two very distinct and progressive urban sounds. It doesn't hurt to have competitors dropping Power 96's name so ridiculously often. Latin grooves still reign in the Magic City, but like it or not hip-hop is now and dance is the future. Power has them both covered and plenty of advertisers to keep it in business.

BEST LOCAL PHANTASMAGORIA

Rain stops, drought threatens, Okeechobee drops, tolls rise, cops shoot, kids die, manatees die, Pan Courtelis dies, Shepard Broad dies, Elizabeth Virrick Park lives, Cubans get smuggled, John Boles gets fired, Tony Perez gets hired, Cuevas gets fired, Stierheim gets hired, the Beach goes hip-hop, Latin Grammys arrive, rain arrives, Latin Grammys split, Reno runs, AIDS infects, more cops shoot, more Cubans smuggled, Lenore Nesbitt dies, Howard Sharlin dies, Luis Sabines dies, Bryan O. Walsh dies, sex plane goes down, Bobby Maduro Stadium goes down, Sunny Isles motels go down, Miami cops throw down, Elian museum opens up, rain falls, thunderstorms roar, Chediak quits, Ninoska quits, Shalala takes charge, UM turns 75, Versailles turns 30, Norcross returns, Yahweh Ben Yahweh returns, Demetrio Perez busted, lawmen busted, civil servants busted, federal agents busted, Surana goes to jail, David Paul stays in jail, Cuban spies convicted, Reno faints, Castro faints, Judd quits, Cristina quits, Fraind quits, more rain falls, Okeechobee fills up, Lincoln Road fills up, tornadoes touch down, crime goes down, sharks bite, snakes bite, Hialeah Park folds, clinics fold, Dolphins fumble, Heat tumbles, Panthers dump Bure, Henry dumps Marlins, Loria arrives, Haitians detained, Miami cops indicted, smugglers indicted, Ramon Saul Sanchez indicted, Warshaw goes to jail, Humbertico stuck in jail, Noriega still in jail, terrorists strike, security tightens, tourists stay away, Art Basel stays away, layoffs arrive, Colombians arrive, Venezuelans arrive, Argentines arrive, Leonard Abess dies, Carlos Salman dies, Carlos D'Mant dies, anthrax strikes, recession strikes, budgets shrink, more layoffs, more AIDS, more cops indicted, still more rain, OB parade gets drenched, Bass Museum leaks, Sweetwater floods, West Nile virus arrives, Ricky Williams arrives, WTMI goes silent, Al Milian gets silenced, school board gets gouged, priests get exposed, Victor Posner dies, Rolando Barral dies, David Poland quits, DeFede quits, Reno stalls, Miami Circle stalls, Indian graves discovered, desecrated graves discovered, OJ gets searched, OB parade gets dumped, Carnival dumps, Miriam Alonso gets busted, Willie Logan gets off, Jennifer Rodriguez gets bronze, billboards take root, AIDS takes off, Tom Fiedler takes charge, Carollo is out, Diaz is in, Kasdin is out, Dermer is in, Pepper is out, Cobo is in, Marlins stadium is booed out, but Miami's animal lovers can cheer at last: After more than 30 years living in the same cramped Seaquarium tank, Lolita the hapless killer whale finally gets a new home.

BEST MOVIE THEATER

Being a cineaste in Miami means making your peace with malls. Over the past few years most choice indies and foreign flicks have landed at either the eighteen-screen South Beach Regal or one of the area's other multiplexes -- not our hit-and-miss art houses. So getting your celluloid fix has meant braving arena-size crowds and nightmarish parking. Fortunately the new Intracoastal Cinema has stepped into a comfortable middle ground, consistently earmarking several of its six screens for art fare. Even better, Mitchell and Nancy Dreier, the couple who own the Intracoastal (as well as five Broward theaters including the Gateway and the Sunrise), have moved past the usual Miramax suspects to spotlight such fare as the joyously whacked Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation, Charlotte Rampling's haunting comeback Under the Sand, and Mohsen Makhmalbaf's timely Kandahar. Plenty of free parking just steps from the front door, big screens, cushy seats, and (in stark contrast to most multiplexes) a relaxed air all combine to make moviegoing an experience instead of a trial.

BEST ART CINEMA
Bill Cosford Cinema
Photo by Conan O'Brien

This ain't the Waverly in Greenwich Village or anything, but it's as close as Miami gets. Part of the pleasure of going to the Cosford is meandering through that gorgeous, lush (and very non-NYC) University of Miami campus. The magic room on the second floor of Memorial Hall is where we get to see, a year or two after the New York crowd does, the recent labors of European directors and their counterparts in the Americas and elsewhere. Among the films on Cosford's multinational marquee this year were French director Jean-Pierre Ameris's Bad Company, a tale of twisted adolescent love and sex; Runaway, an English-Iranian documentary by Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini set in a women's shelter in Tehran; and Israeli director Joseph Cedar's Time of Favor, a drama involving a Jewish soldier who plans a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. And let's not forget the latest screen gems from Canada. "Maelström [director Denis Villeneuve's 2001 opus] is the most celebrated work in French Canadian film history," Cosford's program guide proclaims. The theater screens two films each week. Movie nights are Friday through Sunday. The downside to the Cosford: It's closed during the summer. The schedule is online at www.miami.edu/com/cosford. Admission is five dollars for the general public, three bucks for senior citizens and university employees, and free for UM students. Take Granada Boulevard into the university and look for the signs, which will take you to Campo Sano Avenue and the parking lot. Best to call for directions.

5030 Brunson Dr., Coral Gables, 33124
MAP
305-284-4627
BEST TOLL BOOTH

Bumper to bumper to bumper on I-95. Multicar pileup? Construction? Who cares? You're stuck. But the left lane promises release. You careen up and onto the turnpike. The on-ramp curves up and around and so do you, swerving madly to avoid the little blue Toyota doing 20 and the silver Lexus doing 90, both of which want your spot. Having successfully defended your turf, you cruise on up to the toll plaza at the Golden Glades Interchange. You shoot through the SunPass lane, and in no time you're making speed, a blissful smile on your face. But you've done more than escape gridlock. You've penetrated the barrier between two worlds -- from lunacy to normalcy, from citified to sedate. You've crossed the county line. Miami awaits your return.

BEST ART CHAT

Film and theater directors and actors, poets and writers have been allowing audience members to have at them for years in frank exchanges about content and merit, seriousness and triviality. Now the Rubell family, boutique hoteliers and major art collectors, are applying the principle to visual artists. Several times a year accomplished artists like Jeff Koons, Andres Serrano, Ross Bleckner, Cindy Sherman, and Damien Hirst will display their work and appear in the cozy Bamboo Room of the Rubell's Beach House hotel to talk about art with fans and perhaps less-than-fans. So far this year's artists have included Rineke Dijkstra, the famed Dutch chronicler of youth at bay (April 25), and Maurizio Cattelan, the impish sculptor who portrayed Pope John Paul II struck down by a meteorite and got the art world all upset (May 2).

BEST SMALL-TOWN PARADE

They line up hours in advance, sitting on lawn chairs and atop plastic coolers. Kids with balloons tied to their wrists drink orange sodas and nibble on sugar bread purchased from Calle Ocho bakeries doing brisk business. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen walks by prior to the start, absorbing the throaty cheers of her core constituency. Miami's Three Kings Parade debuted in 1971 after Fidel Castro canceled Christmas and its ancillary celebrations in Cuba. (Three Kings Day honors Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, the three kings who followed a bright star to Bethlehem, where they presented the newborn Christ child with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.) Now a Calle Ocho tradition, Miami's parade features a slow-rolling procession of high school marching bands, Spanish-language radio hosts, entertainers such as Willy Chirino and Elvis Crespo, and sports stars such as gruesomely muscled baseball slugger José Canseco. The greatest cheers, though, rise for the rogues gallery of local politicians. City Commissioner Tomas Regalado and his daughter. City Commissioner Joe Sanchez twice, once on a car with his name stuck to the side and once again, later, on horseback. A grinning Joe Carollo, unaccompanied by a bikini-clad model now that he's unaffiliated with any public office. Angel Hernandez, a convicted felon and newly elected city commissioner, is greeted warmly, as is new mayor Manny Diaz, dapper in a blue guayabera. A red Corvette convertible slowly motors past. In the back seat, receiving blown kisses and the loudest cheers of the day, is the Fisherman, Donato Dalrymple, still a man of honor in Little Havana.

BEST PASSPORT OFFICE
Miami City Hall

Renewing a passport can be a pain. You have to call for an appointment, then you have to wait two weeks or so, then you have to go downtown, then you have to wait, and then -- well, like we said, it's definitely a hassle. Not so at Miami City Hall. The extremely professional city clerk's office offers a painless way to apply for or renew a passport. The whole thing takes eight minutes, tops, and you don't even need an appointment. Just drop by the clerk's office window on Dinner Key, fill out a short form, hand over a small check, then walk over to the camera. Smile. After the photo develops, blush at how good-looking you are, then leave. Your passport will arrive in the mail in a matter of days. If you pay an expediting fee, you can have it even sooner. It's that easy.

3500 Pan American Dr., Coconut Grove, 33133
MAP
305-250-5400
BEST TV STATION

This is no joke. Jim Clark, a former WAMI-TV (Channel 61) sports producer with otherwise good credentials, began whipping Channel 9 into shape in the fall of 2001. Under his guidance we can still witness extraordinary performances by one of South Florida's best acting troupes, the Miami Commission, but now we can enjoy the show without the garbled audio. The station also transmits meetings of other bodies that occasionally make important decisions, including the Code Enforcement Board, the Historic and Environmental Preservation Board, the Parks Advisory Board, the Planning Advisory Board, the Urban Development Review Board, the Waterfront Advisory Board, and the Zoning Board. But there's more. Viewers, and perhaps some of our elected officials, can bone up on the basics of our system of government in the United States by watching On Common Ground. This program is funded by various state governments and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Channel 9 also offers the PBS-produced show Crossroads Café, which is designed for people learning English as a second language. For those of us whose first language is English but still need a little more practice, the station presents TV 411, a production of the Adult Literacy Media Alliance. Call for current program times. The station is carried only on cable within Miami city limits, but Clark hopes to have it streaming on the Internet in the near future.

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BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWNERS: Rancho Don Goyo

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