Best Of :: Shopping & Services
You will sweat profusely. You will regret never having made a will. And you might very well barf. But once you're back on the ground, you'll hanker to get up in the air again. To actually fly a small plane bears no relation to the experience of sitting on a commercial airliner. You finally begin to fathom: I'm doing something I am genetically not supposed to be doing, and it feels incredible. Eusebio Valdes, the one-man show who owns and operates Miami Fly, has been taking jittery amateurs into the clouds for more than 27 years. An hourlong class costs a reasonable $140, including all expenses, and it takes about 40 hours to become certified as a pilot. His Cessnas are low-tech and sort of resemble '70s-era Buicks on the inside, but they're completely safe — he's never had an accident. The Kojak-domed Spanish native is a watchful and careful copilot who's full of Mr. Miyagi-esque nuggets of wisdom. Our favorite: "There are no dangerous planes, only dangerous pilots."
A freak five-minute tropical storm tore through your back yard in Hialeah, knocking over your wood fence like Matt Mitrione pummeling Kimbo Slice. You had left your dogs on the patio, so they got swept away in the deluge and drowned in a nearby canal. Pieces of Spanish tile zoomed off of your roof and crashed into the windshield of your vintage Chevy Impala, shattering it into a spider web of cracks. Just as you were about to call your insurance company, you got served with a foreclosure notice. Forget the recession. You have some serious demons spiraling around you. Time to march over to Botanica Yoruba and get yourself an ultra-grade despojo, or spiritual cleansing. Located in the heart of the land Raul Martinez built, Botanica Yoruba has helped many souls find peace through the powers of the Cuban orishas. And in case you don't want to get lost in the maze of Hialeah's confounding street system, check out the botanica's online store, where you can choose books from Yoruba's vast library of Santería literature ($4 to $50), purchase exquisite porcelain urns ($55 and $95), and order various spiritual bath concoctions ($1.25 and $2). You'll be able to sleep soundly again.
You're a wannabe South Florida survivalist, so naturally you've made sure the family bomb shelter is sufficiently stocked with bottled water, canned goods, AA batteries, and other basic hurricane supplies. But honestly, that's not good enough. With the apocalypse almost upon us — Hello, 2012! — it's high time you began stockpiling nonstandard stuff such as double-strength nylon rope, fighting knives, stainless-steel handcuffs, emergency germicidal water tablets, fire forks, blister kits, disposable urine bags, and shit buckets. Face it — the next couple of centuries are gonna be tough, and you have only 919 days left till the Mayan calendar hits doomsday. Our advice: Get some help from the old-timers at Jet's Florida Outdoors. In business since 1955, when worldwide nuclear war seemed inevitable, this store's bushwhacking staffers are exactly the kind of gritty end-of-days experts you need. They'll hook you up with all of those aforementioned items for $192.92 plus tax. Then they'll point out the million ways in which you failed to fully imagine the dirty-bombed, zombie-ridden, sci-fi future. Like, what about a 32-ounce bottle of human scent killer? You know people will be food, right? Just go start the countdown, you amateur.
Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly wrote his mistress to arrange a love tryst, saying, "I'm coming home — please don't wash." The magic word behind lust is pheromones, those elusive, odorless chemicals given off in response to sexual stimulation or even romantic fantasy. And while your partner might insist you stay ripe, 99 percent of the population would like you to scrub clean from time to time. What to do? Appease the mate or give in to the crowd? Fortunately, there are soaps, made right here in Miami, that emit powerful wafts of virility while getting rid of that nasty BO. Smelling like a six-pack doesn't sound alluring, but the Beer Soap Company concocts cleansers out of shea butter; manly scents such as tobacco, caramel, and leather; and bottles of frosty beer. Try the choc bock beer soap ($6.50), made with Sam Adams Limited Release Chocolate Bock; Canadian hops beer soap ($5.50), made with Molson; and for the more sophisticated palate, aquadementia beer soap ($5.50), which includes Blue Moon Belgian white beer.
"What is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?" If you agree with Alice, your Wonderland is waiting on Lincoln Road in South Beach at precisely 1111, a number some believe is a passageway to another reality. If there are few volumes in this clean, well-lighted place, most of the tomes seem larger than life, making you feel like you shrunk after taking a swig from the little bottle that read "Drink Me." Pick up a copy of Pancha Tantra, Walton Ford's sinisterly twisted depictions of furry and feathered beasts, for $1,800, or if your pocketbook has shrunken, there's always the trade edition for a mere $70. If you opt for sex, the six-volume, 3,506-page Hugh Hefner's Playboy will set you back $1,300. But, hey, it "comes with a piece of Hef's silk pajamas, worn by the man himself!" Our favorite is GOAT: Greatest of All Time, a $4,500, 792-page Muhammad Ali picture book that Der Spiegel called "the biggest, heaviest, most radiant thing ever printed in the history of civilization." (The "Champ's Edition," which goes for $15,000, comes with the Jeff Koons sculpture Radial Champs, comprising two inflatables and a stool.)
It's becoming increasing difficult to find a good used bookstore. The only secondhand shops staying alive seem to be next to fast-food joints in minimalls and trade in cheap romance novels. So you have to try extra-hard to find an old-fashioned store with curious out-of-print volumes lining tall shelves, spilling onto the floor, and hiding in nooks and crannies. In other words, the kind of place you'd never find in the clean confines of cyberspace. To reach Dunbar Old Books, you need to navigate blind streets that twist into a quiet industrial zone with no sidewalks. Proprietor Mary Ann likes to stay out of the way — she does most of her sales online and doesn't keep a strict schedule. So she'll probably be upset to learn her store has been named, hands down, the best used bookstore in town. Just make sure you call first. And please don't say you heard about it here. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.