Miami's municipal-bond rating is improving. Mayor Joe Carollo will serve out his term in office. An eerie calm permeates the city's tumultuous political environment. Don't thank government leaders. Thank Miami attorney Ben Kuehne. His courtroom argument was simple: A proposed charter referendum for a "strong mayor" amounted to an illegal recall of Mayor Carollo. That was all Judge Fredricka Smith and the Third District Court of Appeal needed to knock the referendum off this November's ballot. Kuehne's pro bono work allows the mayor to complete his term, and earns for his firm, Sale and Kuehne, invaluable publicity. (What? You say he did this solely on principle?) The political stability should last until Carollo's next outburst at city hall.
First things first: There is no beach at Jensen Beach. It's not on the ocean. But it does hug the western shore of the Intracoastal Waterway (known up there as the Indian River). Caribbean Shores is a funky waterfront inn just outside of town, which is just north of Stuart, which is about 100 miles north of Miami, which basically means it's a completely different universe. And that's good news for anyone seeking relief from the pressure cooker we call home. The facilities at Caribbean Shores include a two-story, standard-issue motel; a dozen or so charming old-Florida-style bungalows; and a big house on the water divided into four suites. The informal atmosphere is enhanced by whimsical color schemes (pastels everywhere), and the views across Indian River are splendid, especially from the "Swan" suites. But don't expect fancy amenities or organized activities. The Shores isn't a resort, though you'll find a pool and a fishing pier and nice landscaping. It's just a delightful place to spend a couple of relaxing days alongside the water. You can bike across the causeway to Hutchinson Island and its alluring, wide-open beaches. Or you can wander around the old part of town and pick through a nice assortment of antique shops. For dinner drive up the road to Conchy Joe's, famed for its conch chowder and fresh seafood. Lodging is quite reasonable, particularly in the off-season, which runs from May 1 to December 1. Pretty decent Website, to boot.
Can we fudge just a bit? Let's call it the "Best Couple of Miles of Miami." Loosening the definition is worthwhile, for all aspects of life in Miami are symbolically represented along this stretch of blacktop. The journey begins at Biscayne Bay in the shadow of wealth and power: the Miami Herald building, the Grand and Plaza Venetia condominium towers, the Omni complex. Across Biscayne Boulevard you plunge into Overtown, where, amid the abandoned buildings, garbage-strewn lots, and potholed streets stands the sleekly rehabilitated Ice Palace Studios, an entrepreneurial beacon for the city's vision of a new film and fashion district. Press onward beyond North Miami Avenue, where social life is an outdoor affair and beverages tend to be cloaked in paper bags. Not far beyond NW Seventh Avenue a couple of small clapboard houses stand as sentinels to a bygone era, before the interstates ripped out the heart of the neighborhood, an era when Overtown was a hustling, bustling community. Duck under SR 836 and you're transported to the sprawling complex of high-rises devoted to the healing arts, anchored by Jackson Memorial Hospital. Just past Twelfth Avenue the tall buildings address not physical ills but societal ills: the county's criminal courthouse, the main county jail, the State Attorney's Office, the public defender's headquarters. Two more blocks and the street changes once again, this time into a quaint neighborhood shaded by majestic oak trees. The cozy homes don't house families, however; they are occupied by law offices catering to the defense of accused criminals. Fourteenth Street finally hits a dead end at the west side of NW Seventeenth Avenue, along the banks of the hard-working Miami River. And there you have it on one street, just about everything that comprises life in this subtropical metropolis: wealth, poverty, demolition, renovation, depression, optimism, inequity, justice.

She may be the baddest chick, as she proclaims in her recent hit single, but this 21-year-old Miamian is part of a new breed of female rappers who rhyme as hard as any man and who aren't afraid to talk shit if you get in their face. A graduate of Northwestern High, Trina, as she's known, was working toward her real estate license when Trick Daddy asked her to sing on his 1998 hit single "Nann." Soon Trina had her own record contract. Her first CD, Da Baddest B***h, has steadily moved up the charts, which is particularly gratifying for Trina, since she wrote all but one of the songs. "The rapping is cool, 'cause I have always liked writing," she told the Herald not long ago. "The best thing about it is that I am just being myself."
That's right, the Shriners -- polyester blazers and funny little hats (they're called fezzes). What gathering could better symbolize South Beach's transformation from fashion/celebrity hot spot to the more mundane (and sustainable) conventioneers' destination than last August's Shriners conference? Hey, we're glad to have 'em. Who needs all those limousines, paparazzi, and purple-haired kids anyway?
Say you're in Dallas and you've got a layover in Charlotte. Or make that Detroit with a layover in Chicago. Who would know the difference? Most U.S. airports are as seamlessly generic as fast-food chains and Michael Bolton concerts. But fly into Miami International Airport and whoa! -- time to check your passport. MIA contains a little of everything that makes our city unique. It's loud and boisterous. It's corrupt (recent revelations include dozens of drug-smuggling airline employees and no-bid contracts). The announcements are bilingual, often trilingual (Kreyol being our unofficial third language). You can get a café cubano as easily as the ubiquitous Au Bon Pain dreck you find at other airports. And despite our cosmopolitan airs (MIA tops the nation in international flights), we can be so gosh-darn provincial: Remember when Cigar Aficionado magazine featured a photo of Fidel Castro on the cover and county airport officials tried to ban its sale? How quaint.
Tucked away from view, this triangle of land is wedged between NW Twelfth Avenue, State Road 836, and the north bank of the Miami River. Advertised as the most exclusive subdivision for sale in Miami in 1919, its developer, 49-year-old John Seybold, insisted on deed restrictions to preserve leafy, shaded streets and houses set back on ample lots. It worked! Eighty-one years later, giant banyan trees and moss-draped live oaks shade grand old homes built in Florida vernacular and Victorian styles. The breeze coming up the river, along with the lush foliage, keep the temperatures down. Everyone seems to have a dog, which gives a lively neighborhood feel to the otherwise quiet streets. One of Miami's four historic districts, Spring Garden even boasts a park that neighbors cobbled together themselves. Located on a spit of land jutting into the river, it's appropriately called Spring Garden Point Park.
In October 1999 the Miami-Dade County Commission took another small step in the right direction when it unanimously approved expansion of the powers of the county's Commission on Ethics by allowing the group to initiate its own investigations. Previously the ethics panel could only act if a member of the public filed a complaint. Few in the community had the courage to challenge a sitting county commissioner, and so the ethics commission had received few complaints, even though it was eager to move. The statute of limitations on possible ethics violations also was extended from one year to three. "I think it will give us another piece of the puzzle to fight corruption," Robert Meyers, executive director of the Commission on Ethics, told the county commission. Let's hope so.
Who wants to go to a smoky bar on a first date? Or a cacophonous dance club where you can't talk to each other? And who wants to risk half-a-week's pay at an expensive restaurant with someone you don't really know yet? Tell her to go fly a kite. With you. Drive to the Haulover Beach and use the huge kites to guide you into the park area on the west side of Collins. Find the concession trailer displaying an airborne apparatus. That's Skyward Kites. Buy yourself a kite; they start at four bucks. Then proceed to the park's field, or cross Collins to the beach. Have some fun. Run around. Relax. Talk. By the end of the day you'll know a lot more about each other than you would after a bleary night out. If it's a bust, you still have the kite, and you had some fun flying it. If there's chemistry, invite her out for dinner. Skyward Kites is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until sunset.
"You know, I am disgusted to sit in a democratic country and to have to put up with this kind of sickening anarchy, and this is what this is. This is not about good government. This is not about having a better Miami. This is about just a small group that couldn't get their way in stealing what they hadn't stolen from Miami, and they want a second crack of the apple. Maybe the next election they're planning that for us. Maybe the absentee votes will be coming out of the jails. At least a few of them have gone over there already.... Ladies and gentlemen, this is a farce that has gone on too long. But let's not play around any more. If what the majority of my colleagues want to do is turn this city upside down, let's not play around anymore. If this is what you all want to do, do it now. But let's not play around anymore.... I'm fed up with the corruption that I see around us, corruption that, frankly, starts with some right up here. Because when you steal from this city, how in the heck, how in the heck can you expect an official like this to do right in all the other important things that we have to do with this city? And that's the problem we have. Frankly we have some people up here that are not honorable. They are dishonorable. Individuals that I am ashamed to serve with because I've never seen anything like this before. So if this is what you all want to do, if the majority of you want to turn this city upside down, then go ahead. Let's not waste any more time. Do it today."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®