Best Place To Practice Man's Oldest Pastime 1999 | Stargazing at Bill Sadowski Park | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Before booty-shaking, before Frappuccino, before IMAX, before 24-hour gyms there was nothing to do after a long day of hunting and gathering but sit around and stare at the sky. If such simplicity makes you sigh, "Born too late," take heart. The Southern Cross Astronomical Society wants to tweak your inner Galileo. Saturdays between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. the club sets up its high-tech telescopes at Bill Sadowski Park, a site so removed from city glare that even flashlights are banned as pernicious to the night-adjusted eye. Bring lawn chairs or blankets and a picnic dinner (no alcohol, please). Admission, Southern Cross expertise, and the stars are all free. Miami may be far from heaven, but that shouldn't stop us from looking.
If traffic is a little slow on NE Second Avenue, blame it on two giant paintings on the façade of the Buick Building, a former car showroom in Miami's Design District. The enchanting sight of the 24-by-12-foot portraits of Haitian freedom fighter Makandal and Aztec heroine La Malinche is sure to incite rubbernecking. The works are the realization of the artist-architect team of Rosario Marquardt and Roberto Behar, who developed the idea of creating open-air museums by hanging art outside buildings rather than inside. The two paintings, from Marquardt's series of unsung Latin American historical figures, were enlarged and transferred to vinyl mesh, then tacked into oval-shaped recesses in the façade. Commissioned for the Dacra Realty-owned building by company president Craig Robins, the works are the first "exhibition" of many that Marquardt and Behar plan to hang on the building in order to "suggest the possibility of the fantastic as part of everyday life." Sure beats a fresh coat of paint.
It's something of a looking glass: You enter one of Miami's tougher, more impoverished neighborhoods and find yourself in the Bahamas during a wildly fun street party. Dreamed up 22 years ago by musician Billy Rolle and some friends, Goombay commemorates and celebrates the history and culture of the first black settlers in South Florida. Each June the area around Grand Avenue and Douglas Road fills with celebrants (organizers claim more than a half-million visitors each year); music (three stages plus parades); arts and crafts (straw hats, figurines, shell craft, and plenty more). An undercurrent of energy runs through the affair, enlivened by the parading junkanoos, who are musically abetted by the Royal Bahamas Police Band, R&B singers, hip-hoppers, and others. Some 300 vendors line the streets with kiosks full of sundry souvenirs and every type of island food. Here you can find the finest conch salad and fritters outside Nassau. This festival stands out as a vibrant ode to those brave pioneers from the Caribbean and as a joyful indulgence in island culture. And that conch salad ...
Spokespeople for law enforcement agencies, particularly federal law enforcement agencies, have a mantra: "Can't confirm or deny." And aside from events such as photogenic cocaine busts or captures of fugitive murderers, a lot of public-information officers tend to invoke that mantra for everything. But some do try to help clueless reporters and members of the public; they try to find information they can divulge, or to steer the inquirer to other sources. Pam Brown, a personable Louisiana native who raises Arabian horses in her free time, excels in this realm of flackdom. It's a higher realm in which the spokesperson returns calls, efficiently relays facts and figures, and understands the time and data demands of a journalist's job. And just to prove that good things can't last forever, we now regretfully report that Brown has recently been reassigned to fieldwork.
Just about everybody has cable. Everyone who has cable and gives a dang about sports watches ESPN's SportsCenter. That program's formula of majorly moussed coanchors in snappy suits has established a new sports paradigm and spawned a slew of imitators (on CNNSI and the Fox Sports Network), as well as a sickeningly synergistic ABC noncomedy called SportsNight. So who's getting the short end of this paradigm schtick? The local-news sports guy, that's who. But among the local sports yakkers, would you rather get your Heat highlights from Dan Patrick or Ducis Rodgers? Thought so. The one exception, the lone reason to pick the local affiliate rather than the Boys from Bristol University, remains Jim Berry. He's enthusiastic without being annoying, smooth without being smarmy, and as knowledgeable and accurate as any übernetwork talking head. As long as he keeps his rapping to a minimum, he's the most watchable sports dude around.
Since his arrival in Miami in 1992, widely celebrated Cuban painter José Bedia has acted both globally and locally, showing extensively around the world while remaining active at home. Bedia's magic-realist paintings and installations display remarkable technical proficiency and an astute empathy for the human condition. His suggestive works featuring humanlike animal figures are inspired by Afro-Cuban religion and Native American rituals, as well as universal themes such as emigration, alienation, and exile. Over the past decade, Bedia has been sanctified by international curators as a leading artist of the multicultural age. In Miami his work has been exhibited at just about every local museum, and he has maintained annual shows at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery. He has also participated in public art projects (a Miami Beach shuttle bus; designs for the forthcoming performing arts center) and given frequent talks about his work. Bedia is the most successful of the wave of Cuban artists who came to Miami in the early Nineties. By building his own career, he has boosted Miami's reputation as a cultural city.

We all know that single men are experts on every subject. (Gee, could that help explain why they're still single?) So what better place to play up to their egos than a video rental store? Not only can you ask for advice, you can also tell a lot about the guy by the video he chooses. For instance if he's got a drama in hand, he's probably sensitive and understanding. A foreign flick shows he's educated, open-minded, or worldly and sophisticated. But if he's carrying around an action film, be careful. He could be your average dullard into domestic violence. Comedy? That could mean he's light on his feet and quick-witted, but maybe just a bit fearful of commitment. Something XXX from the adult section? Please, let's not even go there.
Food is a potent aphrodisiac. Ariana Kumpis understands this. Sprinkled in amid her school's more serious fare ("All About Mushrooms," "Phyllo Delicacies") are several whimsical events geared toward the unhitched. A couple of examples coming up in June are "Sushi for Singles" and "Singles Pasta Evening." Guys, this is a good idea. If past classes are any indication, there are bound to be more women than men. Expect those women to be a little more sophisticated than the ones you're meeting at Hooters. And improving your cooking skills can only garner you goodwill. On top of that, if you meet someone you're interested in, you not only have built-in conversation, but an innocuous way to get together again: to practice what you learned. Class size is between twelve and eighteen, and each class lasts three hours. The cost is $30. You can also expect major points in your favor for simply showing an interest in cooking, at least that's what Carmen Celeiro, Ariana's manager, says. "I think men who cook are great. It means they're very sensual."
Ask anyone in the coin-operated arcade game industry and they'll tell you flat out: Pinball is all but dead. [Editor's note: The reference to The Who song "Pinball Wizard" that had been here has been deleted. You're welcome.] Instead of playing that silver ball [We let that one slide.], kids today are more interested in blasting the unsettlingly real and gruesome zombies of House of the Dead 2 or controlling a kung fu fighter by motion-capture of their own movements rather than using a joystick, as in Virtual Arena Tekken 3. GameWorks offers all the latest and loudest amusements, including a very silly looking virtual wall-climbing game, but it scores its biggest points by serving as a museum. In addition to providing a bank of the earliest video games (Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pac-Man), it has, yes, pinball machines. Seven of them, five of which are tucked away on the second level next to the pool tables and the bar. Most who remember pinball's heyday have certainly long passed drinking age. And yet on one recent excursion to GameWorks, who could be seen lighting up the Godzilla table but a tousle-headed youngster no more than ten years old, causing one observer to remark, "That kid sure plays a mean ... [Whoops! Sorry folks. That was close.]
It'll cost you a dollar to catch a glimpse of this postcard setting across the Rickenbacker Causeway, but once over the threshold, you'll see South Florida as most South Floridians only wish it could be. There's so much here to keep you busy that the highlights alone will take a full day.

If the kids haven't joined PETA yet, start with Virginia Key's old-fashioned Miami Seaquarium and its killer whales, manatees, dolphins, and sea lions. Then for a real contrast to the typical tourist trap, find your way to Jimbo's by following the road directly across from Seaquarium's parking lot. A crew of salty regulars soak up the sun with an old movie set as their backdrop. Although it's technically a bait shop, Jimbo's is famous for its smoked fish, cold beer, and crusty characters playing bocce and philosophizing.

The beaches at Virginia Key and Key Biscayne qualify as some of Miami's best, and though Virginia Key's are officially closed and provide no lifeguards, die-hards can still swim and sun there. The less daring can head for Key Biscayne's Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area. The Crandon shoreline is sublime, but don't overlook the hidden treasure: the old county zoo, now called the Gardens at Crandon Park, a serenely beautiful landscape of ponds, wildlife, and lush vegetation adjoining the southernmost parking lot.

At the island's tip is Bill Baggs, named for a former outspoken editor of the defunct Miami News. Still recovering from Hurricane Andrew, which knocked down thousands of Australian pines, the park has been replanted entirely with native species. All the amenities have been rebuilt as well, and now the airy Lighthouse Cafe offers splendid ocean views to match its outstanding seafood soup. The actual lighthouse (South Florida's oldest standing structure) survived the hurricane, was recently restored, and is open for tours every day but Tuesday and Wednesday. A beachside concession rents sea kayaks, hydro-bikes, and sailboards for those who want to get physical.

Bill Baggs closes when the sun sets -- just in time to make your way back to Bayside Seafood Restaurant. This thatched-roof, open-air hangout can be found by following the road for the old Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key. The simply prepared fresh seafood is reasonably priced. The fish sandwiches aren't bad either. But the mosquitoes can be. Just ask the staff for some insect spray. They're prepared.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®