"It's an underground thing," says Joe Aronesty, explaining the nuances of the wig business, which serves the needs, mostly, of women who've lost their hair. So Joe, who is all tact, quietly runs his "head" shop from the hidden recesses of his Lincoln Road clothing store. The shingle reads "Melissa," but that's actually a brand of funky Brazilian sandals available there. The storefront may be jammed with trendy women's apparel and folks actually buy the stuff now and then, but once you cross the threshold of this establishment you're simultaneously entering "the Paris Boutique," the latest incarnation of a wig shop Joe created in Atlantic City. The same address is also the headquarters of www.WigSalon.com, providing elegant drapery for naked feminine pates via the Internet. It is that online gambit that pays most of the rent.
You can buy hip women's wear in many commercial centers in South Florida. But finding a replacement for your hair and the right ear for your trauma requires a specialist. Joe is, in fact, a veritable wig mogul, a second-generation provider of ladies' hairpieces with all of the requisite manners accrued in a life lived at the crucible of women's baldness. You could say that wigs are, if not in Joe's blood, then in his hair.
His former store in the Northeast dwarfed competitors worldwide with an audacious 3000-square-foot showroom. Upward of 400 shaggy pieces, a cornucopia of redemptive possibilities, were brazenly on display. But that was the chintzy Jersey shore, circa 1990s. This is South Beach, Lincoln Road, circa early new millennium. The last thing the powers that be want to see is a store with "character." Fashion accouterment so closely associated with heartbreak? Not here on the Road where beauty, with its sister myth of immortality, makes the world go 'round.
Hence, the subtle subterfuge in the service of decorum. -- By Victor Cruz
Melissa and the Paris Boutique are located on Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. Call 305-672-3131.
Move beyond the ranks of the technologically challenged
Forget about working a computer, you've just figured out how to use the ATM -- and boy are those little suckers convenient, located all over town! So what if you have yet to conquer e-mail or learn the most rudimentary word-processing program? Now you can be in the money anywhere you go. While you lack the bucks to buy instruction books or hire a geek to be your private tutor, every day you valiantly attempt to cross that digital chasm. Local nonprofit organization E-Equality (2700 Biscayne Blvd.) can help with "Bridging the Digital Divide," its series of free (free!) two-week courses for low-income/disadvantaged folks just like you. They have all the equipment. You only need devote two hours a day, four days a week to programs like MS Word, MS Excel, Photoshop, and Flash. Classes are offered morning, noon, and night, and a new cycle begins biweekly. Call 786-924-4125 for details. -- By Nina Korman
Along SW 22nd Avenue in Shenandoah, a street sign beckons Rocky Raisen Way. Is that an old hippie, a long-lost ice cream flavor? No. The man whose name hangs above SW 19th Street is perhaps the most colorful character in Miami-Dade County. In his 32 years teaching science at Shenandoah Middle School, Raisen methodically took instruction in creative directions. He taught periodic tables and biology through square dancing. In 1979 he and 2000 students entered the Guinness Book of World Records by forming the largest equation, E=mc2, in honor of Albert Einstein's 100th birthday. Raisen left teaching in 1992. Since then he has embarked on the quest of chasing his childhood dreams. He's roamed with buffalo in Wyoming, and trudged the Amazon alongside anacondas. He claims to have trouble paying for lunch as there is always an old student picking up his tab. There are no boring subjects, he is known to say, only boring people. At 69 years old Raisen is certainly not one of them. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
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T 'n' A at FTAA
It's Monday and all the city is bracing for a naked anarchist explosion. Bike police and helicopters are hovering above and around the South Beach Gap at 673 Collins Ave. "It's four minutes to nakedness," a photographer snickers, setting himself up for a money shot.
It's the first organized action: a protest in front of the Gap, which today functions as a symbol for sweatshop labor, exploitation of the poor, and globalized corporate greed. Soon a white boy sporting ragamuffin dreadlocks is spotted hanging out with an Indian chick with a shaved head, bangs, and dirty black tights. They sit on the sidewalk eating fruit. They have to be ANARCHISTS. More protesters arrive with banners, but to the media's despair they are wearing clothes and waving banners extolling the virtues of hemp. Creamy hippie girls flash the cameras. "No clothes is better than wearing GAP." Subversives wear bandannas over their faces -- guerrilla style. Rufus from Vancouver, B.C. and Liz from San Francisco hide their faces. Flexing and preening for the cameras they become media darlings ... and fashion plates. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez