Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Franz Kafka was so sickly and miserable that he whiled away half his life in sanatoriums and wrote volumes about man's alienation in a grotesque, unintelligible, and hostile world. A visit to his funky South Beach namesake (open 7:30 a.m. to midnight) might have improved his humor. After all, its gracious staff and low-key atmosphere are enough to put even the most anxiety-ridden existentialist at ease. The pleasant vibe is thanks, in part, to the benevolent Deamici family, which owns and operates the business. Some member of the clan is usually around to lend customers a hand or, if needed, a sympathetic ear. Kafka Café also offers fast Internet access for just $4 per hour -- far cheaper than its South Beach competitors. And it has dozens of magazines you won't find elsewhere. Looking for the latest issue of Action Pursuit Games, the paintball enthusiasts' rag? Kafka has it, along with Feminist News Journal, Fly Tyer, and Concrete Wave. It also sells French, Italian, Arabic, and Spanish newspapers and cheaper-than-cheap used books. Hardcovers run just $3, softbacks a paltry buck. There's no discernible order to the shelving; The Ann Landers Encyclopedia sits cheek and jowl with Ice Hockey Made Simple and A Nietzsche Reader. So be prepared to do some trolling. But your effort will almost certainly be rewarded. And once you're done hunting, you can kick back on a sofa, enjoy some treats (think Nutella crpes, fruit smoothies, crisp salads, and espresso drinks). Or, better yet, take in some deliciously quirky art, like the armless, chartreuse-and-indigo mannequin that dangles from the ceiling.
José Luis Burgos is a barber at the Razors Edge in Miami Shores, where he has worked for eight years.
What is your greatest triumph?
1993 I left Cuba in a small boat, but soon the motor quit. So I started rowing. I rowed for hours -- through the night. I lost all my food and didn't have much water at all, but I kept rowing. Finally, after seven days, when my water was just about gone, I spotted a small island in the Bahamas. Soon I was spotted by an airplane, then picked up by the Coast Guard. That was the most dramatic thing ever to happen in my life
Last year we gave this little-indie-store-that-could the title of Best New Record Store. A year later, Sweat has won the hearts of all who deem themselves hip in Miami and has undergone some serious growing pains. The original location took a major beating from Hurricane Wilma, and the store was eventually relocated to a small warehouse at the back of English bar/longstanding live rock and roll venue, Churchill's. Could there be a better place for a record store? We don't think so. Fans can feast on Churchill's delectable pub-style grub and then wander into the tranquil aqua atmosphere of Sweat to rummage through racks of vinyl, CDs, and DVDs, as well as quirky toys, magazines, and locally made jewelry. Preloved records go for anything from one to five bucks, and for many of the new CDs, all you'll need is a Hamilton. Sweat opens late -- usually around 2:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday, but it closes at midnight. So after that killer local band plays its set on Churchill's stage, fans can creep back to the store to cop an EP. The store has its own book club that meets regularly to discuss edgy, well-written literary works. Plans to start craft and movie nights are in the works. A laid-back afternoon at the independent bastion finds a hipster clad in black, picking up albums by the likes of the Beta Band, Joy Division, Outkast, and Le Tigre. Lauren Reskin (nickname Lolo), the orange-haired, label-owning DJ/record store co-owner, is busy behind the counter, putting the finishing touches on the latest issue of the store's newest project, a funky, free zine named The Sweater. Late-period disco videos by Serge Gainsbourg burble in the background, screened on a gigantic TV set that dominates the small space. A hippie chick clad in paisley stumbles in, carrying an armload of old records. "Look at these! I found them in the dumpster," she exclaims, as Lolo leaves her post to shuffle through the pile. "Who would throw away records, man?" the hippie girl wonders. Old vinyl and young music lovers have found a good home.
The kind of store you find on every block in parts of Manhattan, Blue Note has dusty bins that are potential treasure troves. There's always some schmuck who bought the new Ghostface expecting hip-pop, or the Minor Threat discography because the guys from Good Charlotte mentioned them in an interview. These people can't handle musical truth, and because they have rushed to Blue Note and unloaded their barely used goods, you can capitalize on their bad taste. The only thing wrong with Blue Note is that visiting the store is a reminder that Miami lacks more like it.
There is no doubt that Museo del Disco has an enormous catalogue of Latin music on hand. What's not in stock is easily ordered -- which is typical these days. However, Museo del Disco offers a singular thing of value, one that is impossible to obtain from any Website: its owner, the exceedingly colorful and entertaining Hinsul Lazo. The fortysomething native of Pinar del Rîo, Cuba, is happy to talk about music -- or anything -- in prose purple enough to make a Rosetti blush. Here in his words is a description of the fantasticality of Museo del Disco: "It's in a warehouse district, and it's a gorgeous store. No, it's a beautiful store. It's like no other store in this city. Not because it's mine. That's the word from all the customers. They walk in and they're amazed it's so neat and organized. It's a warehouse but it's decorated like a dollhouse. The furniture's red, the walls are white. The light boxes around the entire store are red. It has pictures of all the old records, the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. What if you were looking for a Miles Davis CD or a John Coltrane or a Billie Holiday, some great CD? There are only two ways to find them. Either online, because that's where people go because they don't think any store's going to have them. Or you can go to my store. And you'll find it in my store. Because that's what it's about. My store's a music store. We special-order things for people. It's the old style. And by the way, nothing in my store is bootlegged or burned or counterfeit. It's all original product. From everywhere: Cuban, Colombian, Argentinean, Brazilian, Venezuelan, Mexican product. Buddy, everything. I bring in from Puerto Rico. I import directly from Cuba." So there you have it.
While serious vinyl fetishists might consider their post office box the hippest place on Earth, less-accessorized turntablists should mosey down to Grooveman Music to completely outfit themselves with all the necessary accouterments. You can literally walk in and purchase everything you need -- consoles, music, bags, clothing, and even sunglasses -- to play DJ in front of the mirror at home. Although this place might not have the stacks of old vinyl that DJs crave, it does have a good selection of current dance tracks both on vinyl and CD. And there are scads of listening stations. The music section is heavy with house, trance, electro, dance, and drum 'n' bass, but one is still permitted to indulge in the occasional guilty pleasure like Madonna or Depeche Mode.