The cover photo for the tabloid weekly "Viernes" almost never fails to deliver the goods. Both of them.
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Oh, that aquamarine! No hotel lobby does justice to the Rat Pack era like the Eden Roc does. It doesn't look seedy and it doesn't feel old. It looks wonderfully fresh, as if you just walked through the doors to 1956. The Eden Roc, a Morris Lapidus jewel built in that year, does not offer an icy chrome entrance like so many of the earlier hotels further south on the Beach. No, this lobby comes from a time when cars had big fins and guests carried big drinks (it has blue-green carpeting, for God's sake). It's not just the sea color that makes you want to sink back into this world for hours. It's also something about the shape of the chairs, the placement of the pillars, the rust-and-gold diamonds on the walls, the white-and-green lamps, the piano, all those Grecian accessories. But get your fill of sitting in Eden soon, because starting sometime this summer the lobby will be renovated. The bright and light will be replaced, a spokeswoman says, by "stronger" colors like beige and black. Like all those hotels further south. We've already had to say so long to Frank, Sammy, and Dean. Must we lose this gem, too?

If you want to kick back in a nature-intensive, Old Florida kind of way, just take Tamiami Trail to within about 30 miles of Naples, then hang a left at State Road 29. Once you cross the bridge into Everglades City, you're on the threshold of the Ten Thousand Islands, a maze of mangrove islets and brackish water between the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico -- where us city folks get many of our stone crabs. The tiny Twin Cities of southwest Florida have always boasted a curious blend of insularity and bravado, typified by the recently deceased swamp pirate Loren G. "Totch" Brown. Ol' Totch spent most of his life lurking in and around the islands and Everglades National Park, hunting quarry such as "Chokoloskee chicken" (ibis, the killing of which is now illegal) and "square grouper" (bales of marijuana, the trafficking of which landed Totch and many of his neighbors in the pokey some years back). Yet despite the shadiness of his pursuits, Totch wrote a book about his adventures, thus adding to the mystique of his swampy haunts. They're plenty mystical on their own, though. Whether you want to explore the labyrinthine mangroves by canoe, kayak, airboat, flatbottom tour boat, or airplane, Everglades City and Chokoloskee are perfect staging areas. Check with the park rangers at the visitor center (941-695-3311) for boat tours and canoe rentals. The water is jumping with fish, if that's your pleasure. If you just want to gawk at wildlife as you paddle or putter around, you'll see alligators, osprey, pelicans, cormorants, and maybe a dolphin or bald eagle. You can launch your boat from Chokoloskee, and by all means check out the historic Smallwood's Store in the tiny island town, but Everglades City has all of the lodging. There are a couple of charming B&Bs, but why not go whole hog and stay at the famed Rod and Gun Club (941-695-2101). Sure it's a more expensive place to eat and sleep, but hey, presidents have bunked there. You at least need to pop in for a drink and stare at the Barron River as it meanders by the historic, whitewashed inn. Like most eateries in town, it specializes in seafood pulled out of local waters.
In December 1998 the Miami-Dade County Commission adopted an ordinance that bans corporations from donating money to commission races. Although it won't end the influence-peddling at county hall, it is a step in the right direction. In the past politically connected individuals could funnel thousands of dollars to their favorite commission candidates by writing $500 checks from each of their companies. Some individuals even created multiple corporations so they could write more checks and buy even more influence with certain commissioners. That loophole is now closed thanks to Commissioner Jimmy Morales's proposal. Companies wishing to do business with the county will now have to find another way to grease their pet pols.
Periodically various sections of vice-infested Biscayne Boulevard emerge as the latest darlings of developers and entrepreneurs. At last, these urban-renewal boosters boast, Biscayne is on the verge of moral rebirth and commercial boom. Speculators buy up chunks of the street. And then somehow it just doesn't quite come together; somehow Biscayne is as resistant to reform as, well, as its crack-addicted hookers. Still the signs of new life on this seamy stretch of the boulevard are encouraging. Key is the renovation from 54th to 57th. High-profile restaurateur Mark Soyka, resident of nearby Morningside and originator of the News Café and the Van Dyke, has just opened a new restaurant and gourmet store at 55th, with several other shops to follow. If Soyka can pull off a planned transformation of the gas station of ill-repute at 54th into a coffee-and-croissant market, that just might clinch the turnaround. On the twenty blocks stretching north, many new restaurants and businesses have begun to move in on the kitschy collection of sleazy motels. Wide-open drug and sex sales appear markedly down, though it's still a bad idea to actually walk along the sidewalks at night. You won't be in much danger, but you will almost surely be mistaken for someone -- old, young, churchgoing, no matter the color or sex or sexual orientation -- who is selling or in the market for something illegal.
Miami's own comeback counselor, former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, pulled off the legal achievement of the year when he ousted a sitting mayor. Coffey argued in Miami-Dade Circuit Court that Joe Carollo lost the November 1997 Miami mayoral election owing to rampant fraud among absentee balloting. He was convincing. In March 1998 Judge Thomas Wilson, Jr., booted Xavier Suarez, the putative titleholder. The expulsion survived an appeals court hearing. The episode occupies a special place in the tropical hothouse of Miami politics, and not just because of the dead man who voted or the arrest of a campaign worker for buying absentee ballots. This was significant because it also signaled Coffey's return to the limelight. In 1996 the federal prosecutor resigned his post after he was accused of biting a dancer in a strip club. To his credit though, the chagrined Coffey didn't flee town. He stuck around, rightly believing that our collective memory would evaporate like a puddle after a summer shower. Then new opportunities blossomed. It was worth the wait for him. What's getting caught taking a little love bite compared to toppling a corrupt government?
Not since Miami Vice has a television show better harnessed the color and character of Miami. Each Saturday night Sins of the City reveled in the rainbow hues of the I.M. Pei's CenTrust Tower and the quaint mansions of Morningside, along with the obligatory Deco decadence of South Beach. The weekly series debuted this past July to scathing reviews, all well deserved: The plots were almost inconceivably stupid and the acting provoked dry heaves among those hearty enough to watch. (Lead "Sinner" Marcus Graham always seemed disarmingly constipated.) Nine shows later, in October, Sins slipped off the air, seemingly forever. For entertainment-seeking cable viewers, that's probably a good thing. But for the beautiful character actor that is Miami, it's a good thing gone.
Congress passed this law in October 1998 after an unprecedented bipartisan, multiethnic lobbying campaign conceived in Miami-Dade County. The measure grants green cards to about 50,000 Haitian immigrants living in the United States before 1996. These immigrants, concentrated in South Florida and New York, would otherwise be awaiting deportation today . Congress approved the measure a year after passing a similar bill benefiting Cubans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans -- but excluding Haitians. The effort to push the Haitian act through Congress involved players as diverse as Republicans Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; and Democratic lawmakers Sen. Bob Graham and Rep. Carrie Meek. Behind-the-scenes alliances were equally important and featured powerful lobbyists from both parties, plus leading immigrants' advocates, and a host of Haitian community leaders and activists from all over the country. Perhaps most significantly, it was the first time Miami's Haitian leaders stepped outside Little Haiti to wield influence in national politics.
Miami-Dade County Manager Merrett Stierheim is living proof that eventually everything comes back in style. During his original tenure as county manager in the early Eighties, Stierheim was seen as something of an anachronism: one of the last of the old Anglo bosses who ruled this county for decades. When Stierheim was originally county manager, commissioners took little more than a passing interest in the day-to-day operations of county government. Since then county government has been remade. Starting in the late Eighties with Joe Gersten, commissioners began taking a more active role in bureaucratic affairs, and with the advent of single-member districts in 1993, the commission itself became more ethnically and racially diverse. Whether the corruption that followed is the result of those changes is debatable, but the impact of the scandals is not. They have had a devastating impact on the image of Miami-Dade County throughout the world. So when Armando Vidal was fired as manager, the mayor and commission tapped Stierheim to bring order to a chaotic situation. He picked up easily where he had left off more than a decade earlier, seizing the reins of power and paying little heed to the desires of intrusive commissioners. As a result morale throughout county offices has soared. How long this trip down memory lane will last is anyone's guess. As each week and month goes by, Stierheim's autocratic style rankles someone new. But for as long as it lasts, we should enjoy and appreciate it.
It's the graveyard used as a setting for spooky nightmares. Large, creaky iron gates guard the two entrances. Old, crumbling tombstones dispersed among headstones tall enough for someone to hide behind. Fully grown oak and mahogany trees blocking the light to form imposing shadows. From the rich, white, and powerful in the Burdine crypt to the graves of the poor, black laborers buried in the rear, the cemetery's subterranean residents foreshadowed the city's diversity today. To learn more, a lot more, take a guided tour with local historian Paul George (305-375-1492), who'll point out the many war veterans, five mayors, and the city's original instigator, Julia Tuttle, all of whom are buried there.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®