Best Local Writer 2000 | Judith Berke | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Shy and retiring, poet Judith Berke doesn't always come to mind in this era of feted writers receiving gargantuan prizes. Yet her work epitomizes our region, not as a visitor or as a tourist, but as a long-time resident. In "Vizcaya," from her book White Morning, Berke brings us wisdom from another time that is no less valid today: "Under here/are the runaway slaves, and the Indians./On their sides, listening./White now. Almost completely white."

Or in "The Shell": "We hadn't seen a shell on this beach for years./If an Indian had come by/it would have been no less strange -- /and we would give him the shell/and he would give us the beach/and we would think/for a while we owned it."

Even when Berke is not speaking directly about Florida, she evokes it when penning lines like this: "How lovely, to lie under the/rushing out of the leaves/of the mangos, to nibble the grass/even if it's bitter, and look up at the stars/even if there are none...." Berke's Miami is the true, original homestead, just as she is a poet who remains true to herself and the art of poetry.

Aye, matey, it's truly an indoor playground designed just for the wee ones. In fact kids over the height of 42 inches are restricted from entering (parents are permitted; strollers are not). The centerpiece is a play pirate ship, complete with slide (instead of plank) and ship's wheel. "Leaping" dolphins are scattered over the floor and make for great climbing toys. Go during any holiday season, and the playground is complemented by a miniature train the kids love to ride (for $1.50 a shot). All the romping and riding may not be restful for you, but for toddlers it's a good break from boring shopping.
In the often strident world of Cuban radio, locutores regularly inject the airways with a daily dose of their self-serving agendas in the name of el exilio. Maria Elvira Salazar is an antidote to the inflammatory diatribes that blare from AM frequencies. She is la moderadora (the moderator) on her noon talk show Polos Opuestos, one of the few Cuban-radio talk shows in which individuals on opposite sides of a controversy go head-to-head without getting into a screaming match. Where else can you hear Sylvia Iriondo, president of Mothers Against Repression, have a sensible discussion with Marcelino Millares from the Cuban Center for Democracy? Salazar guides the live discussions with sometimes slanted questions, yet nonetheless gives both sides equal time to respond. Even comments from callers are handled reasonably by Salazar.

Best Proof That Losers Do Indeed Get Lucky Sometimes

Jimmy Johnson failed as the Miami Dolphins head coach. His best friend, Dave Wannstedt, failed as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. So why was Johnson allowed to handpick Wannstedt as the Dolphins new head coach? Good question.
Pavel Bure is amazing. Good god, the Russian Rocket is the best player in the world right now, the most exciting and prolific scorer in the game, the All-Star game MVP, a strong candidate for league MVP, a reason all by himself to drive to godforsaken Sunrise to watch the Panthers play. And as he flies around the rink, firing stunning slap shots into the net, it's impossible not to recall that the Panthers acquired him in exchange for ... Ed Jovanovski. Swapping a problematic defenseman for Bure is the best trade the Panthers will ever make. It's the best trade any front office in any sport could possibly make. As a front-office maneuver, the trade rivals any of the athletic miracles Bure pulls off on the ice.
WQBA is no longer La Cubanísima. If nothing else this is a clear indication that someone has finally figured out that the majority of Miami's Spanish-speaking citizens is not obsessed with Fidel Castro. The formatting changes that began in late 1997 -- after the giant Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation (HBC) acquired WQBA and three other Miami stations -- have by now resulted in a much more pleasant listening experience. Yes, it's still a hard-line exile station at heart, and Ninoska Perez Castellon, la cubanaza herself, is still holding forth on Ninoska a la Una, comparing Fidel to Hitler (she's good enough to get away with it). But at least you don't have to hear this all day long, as you do on that bastion of bombast, Radio Mambí, which HBC bought along with WQBA but left untouched. Veteran Cuban-American broadcasters Agustin Acosta and Bernadette Pardo remain popular news-talk hosts on WQBA, but other personalities who never even mention Castro have been well received. For example the "Plant Doctor," Jesus Ramos, provides excellent gardening advice. The sports coverage is good, too, including but not limited to live broadcasts of Marlins and Dolphins games.
Recorded compas music from St. Andre's Record Store across the street fills this shop in the heart of Little Haiti, often accompanied by the live drumming of percussion students or the rehearsals of the dance company Sosyete Koukouy out back. Paintings by Haitian artists and larger-than-life photos of folkloric dancers and musicians cover the walls, while frequent readings and panel discussions at the cultural center upstairs stimulate the intellect. With more than 3000 titles in French, Kreyol, and English, Libreri Mapou has been the center of Haitian literary culture in Miami since 1986. For those looking to learn any of the above languages, Mapou has a large section dedicated to dictionaries and grammar books. Newspapers from Port-au-Prince, Paris, Miami, and New York City keep readers up to date on the latest news from the island and across the Haitian diaspora. Sociological studies and historical tomes take the long view on Haiti's often turbulent society. More fanciful readers might turn to the book of folk tales retold in Kreyol by bookstore owner Jan Mapou, or leaf through one of the many naughty novels on the front table by Haitian-Canadian Dany Laferriere, author of How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired. No wonder so many of the most creative minds in Miami make Libreri Mapou a frequent stop.
Nilo Cruz's haunting A Bicycle Country, a play about three Cuban balseros, arrived at the Florida Stage just a few weeks after boat boy Elian Gonzalez was rescued off the Fort Lauderdale coast. Here's betting it will be remembered long after young Elian grows up. Set in Cuba and in the waters between Havana and Miami, the play stakes a claim in the dramatic territory of Samuel Beckett, with its evocative language, startling visual imagery, and existential concerns. Cruz's portrayal of the trio that escapes from Cuba is both literal and metaphorical. Less a political play than a statement about yearning, A Bicycle Country is capable of transcending the narrow politics of 1999 and 2000 and becoming a work that can shed light on any group of desperate people. Which is exactly what great art is supposed to do.
Actress Lisa Morgan is a great supporting player in the sense that, no matter how she's cast, she magnificently supports the interests of theatergoers, directors, fellow actors, and playwrights. Last season she appeared most notably in two shows. As the twittery, resolute mother of the flapper Sally Bowles in New Theatre's I Am a Camera, Morgan's onstage time clocked in at less than fifteen minutes. Nonetheless from her first entrance, she carried a universe of subtext with her. On a larger scale, Morgan's ensemble role in One Flea Spare, also at New Theatre, demonstrated her ability to hoist an entire play, even one as prickly, poetic, impressionistic, and director-driven as this Obie winner. Courageous and inventive, she consistently reaches into dangerous territory with her acting, leaving safer routes for less-daring performers. And that's always a thrill to watch.
Monfort's passion for baseball has its roots in Cuba, his homeland. As a ten-year-old kid, he began collecting mementos from his favorite teams and players. Later he embraced America's baseball heroes as well. Today he can boast of a private collection he accurately refers to as his "mini-Cooperstown." Hanging on the walls of his Westchester home are autographed photos of each and every baseball hall-of-famer. Mounted on plaques are images of America's best players and obscure Cuban peloteros from the island's professional leagues of the Twenties, Thirties, and Forties, each emblazoned with the player's name, the seasons he played, and his achievements -- from the incomparable Sandy Koufax to that master of versatility Martin Dihigo, the only Cuban inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame. Monfort's collection is a multiethnic treasure trove of rarities, some of which still are boxed up in his closet. He owns a 1932 photo of a young Joe DiMaggio eating spaghetti at the kitchen table, and the wedding portrait of famed Cuban baseball manager Adolfo Luque. In Miami baseball circles, the 70-year-old Monfort is considered both wise man and historian. He says he's just a fan. Although he does lend items to special exhibitions, Monfort's collection remains private, for the time being. Maybe someday we'll have a Cooperstown by the bay.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®