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.
Highway coin collectors rarely inspire envy. Imagine handing out change to an endless parade of cars, vans, and tractor trailers, touching thousands of dirty hands each day while sucking down a full shift of lung-blackening exhaust fumes. No envy, that is, until now. Since this past summer, toll takers along Florida's Turnpike and other toll roads have been sporting spiffy new Hawaiian shirts custom designed with flamingos, palm trees, alligators, and other indigenous wildlife. This is their actual uniform, a design wonderful enough to win national awards, a shirt so cool that people -- people who are not toll collectors -- are offering good money to buy one. "We get lots of requests," says Joyce Douglas, a turnpike executive in Tallahassee. "It's a unique shirt but we can't sell them. They are strictly uniforms."
There is word of a poetry renaissance in America (well, at least sales of poetry books are up). One of the progenitors is right here in our Magic City, née the Great Marsh. A Chicago native who teaches creative writing at Florida International University, McGrath told New Times in 1997 his aspiration was to write in "a big expansive kind of lyrical prosy poetic voice talking about America." He continues to achieve that whimsical goal in poems wrought from objects, observations, and experiences scattered from Las Vegas to Wisconsin to Miami. In "Biscayne Boulevard," from a collection published last year titled Road Atlas, he paints a gritty, evocative word picture that is at once local and universal. "Crossing the bay: pelicans and buzzards against a Japanese/screen of rifted clouds, squalls, and riffs in grey, white, azure/Gulls like asterisks, anhinga like bullets.... At 123rd St.: survival/of the fittest franchise/Boston Chicken, Pollo Tropical/Kenny Rogers Roasters/KFC/Which must perish so that another may live?/Oceans of notions/ INS/The Pussycat Theater.... Police helicopter, sweet damselfly, can you track my happiness?/Radar gun, will you enumerate my sorrows?/Bullet, do you sting?" In Balserito, a prose poem, he captures a mysterious aura seemingly emanating from three rafts washed up on a beach: "Ragged planks and Styrofoam and chicken wire, filthy and abandoned but curiously empowered, endowed with a violent, residual energy, like shotgun casings in a field of corn stubble or the ruptured jelly of turtle eggs among mangroves, chrysalides discarded as the cost of the journey, shells of arrival, shells of departure." McGrath is the real McCoy.
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.
You've had dinner. You held hands when you walked him/her home. You know you want to see each other again. So don't ruin it by doing something predictable. Move with eccentric genius by inviting her/him to the baths. Set in a basement grotto of the Castillo del Mar Resort, the baths are a unique way to get to know someone better. For a $20 per person cover charge, you can take advantage of four different types of steam rooms: the Russian radiant room, the Turkish steam room, the redwood sauna, and the aromatherapy steam room. In between rooms you can plunge into a frigid bath or stand under showerheads strategically placed throughout the spa to let frosty water rain down upon you. Massages and mud baths also are available for a charge. Before leaving the two of you can sit in the large saltwater hot tub, which has about 500 gallons of water continuously flowing through it. Not many things bring you as close together as a thorough soaking. The baths are open daily from noon to midnight.

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.
Only in Miami would a swath of green amid Brickell Avenue's concrete jungle be named for a real estate entrepreneur. But credit must be given where it is due. The late developer L. Allen Morris donated a quarter of a city block to the City of Miami, which wisely (for once) preserved the eleven tall oaks and one banyan tree that shade the property. The lush canopy, combined with a cluster of park benches, makes the minipark the perfect excuse to leave the office on those gorgeous subtropical days and enjoy lunch alfresco. Walkways carve a path through the grass and landscaping. No time to pack a meal? Several restaurants are within easy walking distance, and they'll quickly toss something together. Don't like to fight lunch-hour traffic? Jump on the Metromover and disembark at the Tenth Street station across the street. Suddenly feel the urge to take off for the rest of the day? Do it. And tell the boss we authorized it.
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.
For a time it seemed as if Matti Bower was destined to be a political bridesmaid but never a bride. She ran for the Miami Beach City Commission in 1995 and lost to Martin Shapiro. (Had she won, she would have been the first Hispanic to sit on the commission.) She ran again in 1997 but was edged out by Simon Cruz. Having lost twice, most folks would have winced at the thought of subjecting themselves to another campaign. But Bower, who was born in Havana, isn't like most people. A Miami Beach activist for nearly 30 years, her record of public service dates all the way back to her early days as the founder of the Fisher-Feinberg Elementary School PTA. And so last fall, when Shapiro launched a losing bid for the mayor's office, Bower didn't hesitate to run for his open seat. This time she won.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®