Best Local Defense Against Terrorism

Call us old-fashioned patriots, but we do all our gift buying at the American Federation of Police and Concerned Citizens. This nonprofit operates out of the American Police Hall of Fame (the Biscayne Boulevard building with the cop car climbing its façade). We can't tell you the number of times we've gotten out of a jam by giving a dear friend or relative the "Pig Face Specialty Lapel Pin" ($4.95) or the double-locking steel handcuffs ($18). As door prizes at dinner parties, we've often distributed wallet-size cards inscribed with the Pledge of Allegiance, room for a signature, and the phrase "I am a card-carrying American" (available in packs of 100 for only $5). Our favorite gift, though, is the "Honor Membership in the Citizens Task Force for Civil Defense Preparedness." It comes with a six-point star nestled in a black-leather wallet and has been issued "in response to the threat against our nation by terrorist states." From the brochure: "I am sure you are aware that Iraq has produced enough poison gas to kill every man, woman, and child on Earth! And that other nations are also involved in terrorist threats against the United States. In addition to our mission to aid the families of police officers killed in the line of duty, we also have as a mission to promote civil defense preparedness. The purpose of this membership star, identification card, and leather wallet is to identify members in good standing who, when called upon by local police, will offer their assistance in an emergency. From the simple task of making phone calls to people in need to offering aid in any natural or manmade disaster.... Understand that the badge does not imply or grant you any police powers. It certifies that you are an Honor Member who may be willing, if called upon by local police, to assist them in an emergency. (Most states, in fact, have laws that require a citizen, when called upon, to assist any peace officer in an emergency.) This star and wallet may help to identify you as a person willing to assist during such a time." The cost is only $75, and it comes with "a preaddressed enrollment in a course that we highly recommend: Emergency Response to Terrorism Self-Study. It is FREE and you can attain a certificate of training by completing the test at the end of the course."

Best Unguarded Moment Caught On Videotape

Henry Fraind

In his many years as the public face of the county's public schools, Fraind had repeatedly proven himself to be inarticulate, insensitive, and inflexible. When school-board members finally got tired of him making them look bad and decided, at their March meeting, to appoint someone else as their spokesman, Fraind demonstrated the wisdom of the decision by offering an upraised arm and fist -- in the universal gesture for "up yours" -- to a parent who had questioned his salary level. How ironic that the first candid, straightforward, concise statement from this guy, captured by the television cameras that record each meeting, came only on the eve of his removal as the district's mouthpiece.
This isn't your typical South Florida outdoor arts-and-crafts shindig. In fact as far as we can tell, there's nothing like it south of Atlanta. Over three days in May (sorry, just missed it) wine aficionados and food lovers gather at the grand old Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables for a feast of the senses. This year's extravaganza, the fifth annual, featured wines from more than 60 wineries spanning the globe. (With wine master Chip Cassidy of Crown Liquors an event director, you can be assured every vintner is top quality.) Food preparation was in the able hands of 25 fine South Florida restaurants, including Norman's, Armadillo Café, Baleen, Nemo, and the Strand. In addition a coterie of Michelin-starred chefs was imported from France to create a sumptuous dinner in the Biltmore's courtyard. Auctions, tastings, and more tastings. This marathon of sublime indulgence in luscious foods and rare wines comes with a price tag, of course. (The event is actually a fundraiser benefiting Baptist and South Miami Hospital foundations and the United Way of Miami-Dade.) So you might want to begin saving your pennies now for the 2001 blowout. Individual events start as low as $50 per person, while deluxe packages can run up to $475 per person. Festival organizers can be reached at 305-913-3164.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®