It's supposed to feel like a little bit of Nantucket down here on the lower peninsula. A fresh and crisp Northeastern respite from the scorching Southern sun. But really the lobby in the new Beach House is Florida through and through. This is no rectangular foyer, stop-over-while-you-check-in type of lobby. Instead you get different lounges with different flavors for different moods, all outfitted (if the blue hue didn't already give it away) by the Polo Ralph Lauren design team. If you enter from Collins Avenue, huge vases of fresh-cut flowers -- usually yellow -- greet the visitor at the entrance, which is decked out in muted blue and white. But no need to dally here. Head for the bright and playful room to the right -- the, well, Florida room. Two walls are windows, with views out to the pool and to the ocean beyond. Lime-green covers the walls; pink, salmon, yellow, green, and blue cover the cushions and pillows on the white-wicker furniture. That may sound noisy but it's not. The colors combine into a soothing balm, light and airy but well removed from the heat. All the rooms are furnished like a bed and breakfast -- knickknacks on the end tables, art books scattered about for a leisurely browse. The main lobby is toned down, furnished in brown wicker with blue upholstery, and trimmed with sophisticated Chinese porcelains and paintings (heavy on deep red and gold, adding an extra-lush touch). From here it's also possible to see the pool area, which really should be considered part of the lobby as well, with its multicolor cabanas, ample seating, and hedges sculpted into sea horses. Grab a drink from the bar and choose your mood: There's no better way to refresh your feeling for Florida.
How to tell Miami's film buffs from our town's film fanatics? Simple. The buffs can be found on Sunday afternoons inside the Alliance Cinema, forsaking a day at the beach for two hours in a darkened room, blissfully soaking up that week's Cinema Vortex selection. As for Miami's premier film fanatic, that would be Baron Sherer, the fair-haired young man orchestrating the whole shebang: taking tickets, hunching over the projector, often painstakingly splicing together the reels. It's obviously a labor of love for Sherer, with the only real payoff being the sheer joy of turning audiences on to his own personal faves and latest cinematic discoveries. And like the best film series, Cinema Vortex most definitely is an extension of its curator -- Sherer's brain unspooling before a flickering light. That means plenty of vintage film noir, lost classics of the American New Wave like Point Blank, as well as offbeat foreign flicks such as last year's Made in Hong Kong and Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 dystopian portrait Alphaville. The common denominator is simply good taste and the unspoken realization that you won't see any of these movies anywhere else in Miami.
The Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa's order of nuns, are the motors that run this convent, also a home for battered women and the best soup kitchen in town. On any given day except Thursday (cook's day off), 250 homeless people eat a hearty breakfast or a full-course meal in the cafeteria at the home, one of many throughout the world. Doors are open to the down-and-out denizens of Miami from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Three long tables and 180 chairs await the tired, strung out, and hungry. Maria, a 38-year-old woman who's been homeless for two years, says she normally eats at Camillus House, but "I come here just for the spaghetti. It's first-class." At 4:00 p.m. domestic-violence victims can have dinner from the good mother's kitchen.
Tantra Restaurant & Lounge
Sex sells, and Tantra is well aware of it. You could even call this restaurant self-aware, the play toward sensuality is so over-the-top. That's why the cuisine has been labeled "aphrodisiac," and dishes have been given fanciful names: A tomato salad is called the "Love Apple" and a Roquefort-Bartlett pear salad is called "The French Kiss." In addition to the menu, you've got owner Tim Hogle, self-confessed "dentist to the stars." Then there's the Tantric décor, designed to stimulate all five senses (not to mention a little below-the-waist action): living grass carpet, marble-backed waterfall, Indian sculptures, and incense that burns like the eternal light. Stir together a mix of celebrities like Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Whitney Houston, and Courtney Love, all of whom have lent their own notorious reps to the place. Then charge as much as you can get away with -- say, $20 for a seared foie gras appetizer, or $46 for a veal steak, or $14 for a wedge of flourless chocolate cake. Voilà! The ideal tourist trap. The saving grace? Chef Willis Loughhead's cuisine is almost worth the hype.
This slickly produced site offers much more than just a peek at a nubile young blonde lounging around her Miami Beach apartment in Victoria's Secret lingerie, with friends who are likewise scantily clad. This is South Beach pixilated. It's about time America's Sodom and Gomorrah had its own Web presence. Happily this is no sleazy porn site, nor is it a classless voyeur site with cameras placed in a sorority-house bathroom. Cher shares herself in a teasingly erotic yet tasteful manner. It's a virtual jaunt about town with beautiful girls as they relax on sunny beaches or party in dim nightclubs (links are provided to many of the Beach's club and restaurant Websites). All for only ten dollars per month. Some lonely soul in Minnesota is very thankful. Cher obviously enjoys being the star of her own show. Cameras record her movements in her living room; she's contemplating a bedroom cam as well. A gracious hostess, she makes a point of e-mailing her admirers in real time. Believe it or not, Cher was a mortgage-banker trainee before she realized she could make more money broadcasting her life and tapping into the South Beach obsession with skin and sun.
"I'll be with you until two this morning. If you have something you want to weigh in on, maybe the over/under for the Marlins, give me a call. Maybe the upcoming NFL draft. I was just going -- " Anyone with even a splash of radio experience knows how hard it is to fill dead time between callers. As the host of the late-shift sports talk show on WQAM-AM (560), Ed Kaplan is more adept at this than just about anybody. Almost every weeknight he can be heard delivering long soliloquies on Pat Riley, horseracing, or maybe something he read in the paper. If the board isn't lit up with callers, he'll just keep talking -- and talking and talking. "Don't get me wrong about Bobby Knight," he might muse. "The man can coach, no doubt about it. I'm just saying he's a jerk." At age 39 Kaplan walked away from a successful law practice to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. Sixteen years later he's still on the air, working weeknights from 10:00 until the last game is played on the West Coast. He specializes in gambling, his discourses often veering into point spreads and handicapping. This pari-mutuel focus comes in handy on a slow sports night, when he may spend ten minutes reading from a list of upcoming races scheduled for the Flagler Dog Track. Kaplan is so skilled at talking nowadays that listeners might not even notice the padding. "QAM sports time is 1:35," he'll say. The Spalding Gray of local sports talk radio finally takes a break.

Think of it as Kiwanis with attitude, or the 'hood's chamber of commerce. One thing's for sure, businesses in NANA, as it's known, don't go down easily. NANA members (about 150 merchants are in the organization) believe there are far too few black-owned businesses to begin with, so they'll fight tooth and nail to save the ones that are up and running. For instance in April a landlord tried to evict Betty's Market from a building on NW 60th Street and Twelfth Avenue for nonpayment of rent, among other things. NANA members, led by founder Leroy Jones, sprang into action with street protests outside and subtler negotiations with the landlord inside. By the end of the affair, Betty's Market was back in business. Members even helped raise funds to restock the shelves.

With the number of legal works of graffiti in the area increasing, the results have been larger projects done in plain view. The Boardroom is one of these pieces. Easily visible to traffic traveling north on NW 27th Avenue, the mural is a purist's dream. Measuring about 12 feet by 55 feet, The Boardroom demonstrates skills in three-dimensional drawing and old-school balloon lettering of artists' tags yet maintains a unified vision as a collaborative work. The Dam Graffiti Crew, which created the mural, includes Ultra, Reuz, Gwiz, Kedz, Elex, Freek, Threat, Task, and Furious. (They prefer to be known only by their tag.) The mural is a self-portrait of the group, featuring cartoonlike renderings of the members seated at a boardroom table. Dressed in military uniforms and blue suits in the painting, they strike various poses of concern and urgency. One slams a fist on the table, another jams down an index finger. Closer inspection of the table reveals that it is made up of the twisted and elongated three letters of the crew's name, "Dam." Above the nine seated individuals hover the artists' names in that baroque calligraphy, the literal and figurative signature of this urban art form.
From the day she began writing for the Miami Herald in 1982, first as a freelancer then as a staffer, Meg Laughlin has wrapped her prose around the lives of some of South Florida's strangest characters and most disturbing stories. We love her for that. At Tropic magazine she chronicled the bizarre machinations of Hank Blair, a U.S. Customs agent who couldn't stop himself from sadistically harassing Susan Billig, the mother of a young girl who mysteriously disappeared decades ago. She looked into the cops' killing of bus hijacker "Nick" Sang and found that the Joe's Stone Crab waiter wasn't what he seemed to be. Laughlin showed us the depth of suffering Magda Montiel Davis experienced after kissing Fidel Castro. And then there's Elian. Laughlin enlivened the Herald's occasionally lackluster coverage of the case with sparkling writing and ample enterprise. She was the one who toted up the eleven times Marisleysis Gonzalez was hospitalized. And it was she who figured out how Demetrio Perez and company were programming the six-year-old at Perez's Lincoln-Martí school. She had no problem cadging Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin into admitting the weird reason she took a side in the custody battle for Elian. All part of a day's work. Says Laughlin: "I'm gonna miss the kid."
Invitations are for the spineless masses and the spiritually lazy. Who are these elite snobs to banish you from their South Beach soirees? What do Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio have that you don't? Money? Looks? Fame? Bah! Level the playing field with the one thing you do have over them: smarts. This takes just a little preparation. First scour the papers for news of a fab event. Then call those responsible and make your pitch. If it's a PR firm, remember the name of it as well as the name of the person with whom you spoke. Say you are "media." Make up the name of some fashion magazine -- Cut or Plastic or some such. If they say they've never heard of you, say it's a Condé Nast prototype due out in the fall. Make sure you dress appropriately. You also can show up at the door with attitude. Approach the person holding the list and give your name. When they can't find it, roll your eyes, look pissed and say, "Maurice with that PR firm, whateveritscalled, phoned me personally, and I told him I'd only do this if he made sure I didn't have to wait at the door." Once inside drink copiously, drop names, and try hard to have fun.
Say it's a fight. A really big fight. The kind of fight everybody wants to see. You can watch it at home, courtesy of pay-per-view, for no less than $50. Or you can go to a bar, where the cover charge can set you back $15, $20, or more. Or you can go to Miami Jai Alai. The struggling fronton will let you in for one measly dollar. Not only does that include a whole evening of jai alai betting action, it also covers the fight, shown on dozens of screens, with cheap beer flowing everywhere. Part with $5 and they'll let you ride the elevator upstairs to the Courtview Club. Eat a surprisingly decent prime-rib dinner if you want (the meal, with salad and dessert, costs only $11) while you watch your own private television. If Felix Trinidad is fighting, though, you'll probably want to catch the bout downstairs in the large banquet room, surrounded by hundreds of passionate Puerto Rican fans. When Tito wins, jump and scream and dance and shout with glee. If not for the fighter, then at least for the bargain.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®