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Personal Best Miami 2004 - Seth Kaplan

Seth Kaplan has a whole lot of elfin magic going on, and we mean that in the sincerest form of Lord of the Rings-loving way. The energetic, garrulous, adorably bus-taking spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Elections Department speaks with the clear ring of truth when it comes to one of Florida's most painful subjects -- voting -- and is ever-available to answer questions from the press and the public alike.

Kaplan can actually discuss almost any subject with verve, wit, and an infomaniac's breadth of perspective, and becomes confounded only by superlatives to use regarding his beloved Florida Marlins. Kaplan was there for the first pitch of the very first game back in 1993, and continues to follow the Fish through ticker-tape parades and annoying personnel dramas.

Though the county's elections department has moved from downtown Miami to Doral, where, Kaplan says, he sometimes takes his life in his hands to cross eight lanes of traffic for some Dunkin' Donuts, he is especially beloved by the staff of this newspaper for his years of public-transportation patronage.

Best Sanctuary From the Fast Track
The parks of Key Biscayne

Bill Baggs State Park and Crandon Park -- because I can bike there from where I live. With our geography, you can see a great sunrise from plenty of places in Miami-Dade. Baggs is one of a smaller number of places where you can watch a great sunset. And considering how close you are to downtown, you feel remarkably far away.

Best Month
December

That's when most people in this country are beginning to face several months of living indoors, while things are just getting good in Miami.

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill
Great seats at a Marlins game

Aside from mountains, Major League Baseball was once one of the only things missing in Miami. For a fan like me, just getting the team was great. The championship in 1997 was even better. But now ... I mean, this is the most exciting -- and most genuine -- thing I've ever seen in professional sports. In an era when too many athletes bring shame to their teams and sports, we have a team about whom we can tell little kids: "Watch how these guys play. Listen to the things they say." And there's nothing like watching it all up close.

Best Cheap Thrill
Riding the public bus

Yes, I know, it's supposed to be just a way to get around town. But sometimes, you get a lot more than that. I recently purchased a car after the Elections Department moved out west from downtown, but I had spent the previous three years without a car, relying almost exclusively on public transportation. I could -- and should -- write a book about my experiences. I did a lot of reading while someone else was driving the bus -- this limousine for the masses -- but sometimes I would just look out the window and take in the flavor of the Miami-Dade neighborhoods that so many folks never see while they're bypassing it all on the highway. Yes, the places I saw were interesting, but the people were the best part. Here I am, getting my heart warmed and feeling better about humanity, all for $1.25, while everyone else is cutting each other off and honking at each other in their cars outside.

Best Reason to Live in Miami
It's the same reason as the worst reason to live in Miami: the craziness. I know there are cleaner cities and wealthier cities, cities with healthier economies and better job markets.... But there aren't many more interesting cities -- cities with more character and characters -- than Miami.

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