The Shops at Sunset Place
Keep in mind that this behemoth contains more than 502,000 square feet of retail space. Then consider the multitude of twists and turns it takes to find your way from one location to another -- say, from the parking garage to the IMAX theater. (Did M.C. Escher design this place?) Finally take note of the mall anchors: NikeTown, GameWorks, the Virgin Records megastore that frequently hosts teen icons such as Ricky Martin and Britney Spears. Add it all together and it's practically impossible not to lose, um, we mean ditch, the kids for a few hours, if not permanently. Throw in some funds, maybe a roll of quarters, or hell, just relinquish the credit card and send those ever-growing feet to NikeTown, and you've bought yourself a free afternoon. What you do with it is up to you. But we wouldn't recommend dining at Sweet Donna's or Wilderness Grill, two eateries at which it's pretty darn difficult not to run into the very kids you just jettisoned.
The lanky swingman has been a Heater his entire professional career, mostly lingering at the end of the bench but hanging around because of his defense, rebounding, occasional three-pointers, and perpetual hustle. To make room for some younger players, Pat Riley cut Askins before this season. Instead of continuing to ply his trade in a lower-echelon league, Askins decided simply to chill out in Miami. Why? Because he has a guaranteed 1.75 million clams coming in from the Heat this year, that's why. The New York Knicks offered him a ten-day contract at one point, but he turned it down. Who can blame him? Would you rather chase Latrell Sprewell for a week in practice or take lunch at Soyka with Johnny Dread -- and still get paid? Yeah, thought so.
Lyric Theater
This Overtown theater mirrored its dilapidated surroundings when the Black Archives History and Research Foundation took possession in 1988. The roof bore a massive hole. A fire caused extensive damage to the interior. Birds claimed the abandoned rafters. Thanks to $1.5 million in grants and a ton of elbow grease, the 400-seat venue, built in 1913, celebrated its grand reopening this past March. Roof repairs keep the elements out and fresh paint adds a sparkling touch. A large mural on the south exterior wall depicts 27 black leaders. Inside, metal seats and clear sightlines invite patrons to relax in air-conditioned comfort. It's an invitingly intimate space. You can almost imagine what it must have been like when, in its heyday, the Lyric anchored an entertainment district frequented by legends such as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and many others. "Progress" in the form of I-95 and I-395 destroyed the neighborhood and threw it into poverty. The Lyric's restoration is a source of pride in black Miami and should serve as inspiration for Overtown's long-overdue revival.
Everglades Alligator Farm
Forget all your nightmares about big toothy beasts that threaten pets and small children from back-yard canals. Alligators can actually be quite cuddly -- at least newly hatched babies are. Don't believe it? Find out for yourself at this alligator farm and airboat attraction, which has been breeding alligators since they were an endangered species. There was a time when owner John Hudson released the reptiles into the swamp when they were big enough to take care of themselves (say, three feet or so). Now that they've rebounded throughout Florida, alligators are bred here to be turned into tasty fried nuggets and expensive shoes, not to mention a tourist destination. Despite the commercial aspects of the place, it's still fascinating to tour the breeding ponds, filled with fourteen-footers, and visit the hatcheries and grow-out pens. The latter are where you'll find the wee ones, which have teeny teeth and are cute enough to briefly be considered as pets. Tamp down that urge, but do take the opportunity to plant one on the little smiley face, the only time you're likely to encounter a gator when it's safe to do so.

Best Politician Convicted In The Past Twelve Months

Alberto Gutman

The state senator pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to defraud Medicare and was removed from office by the governor. Gutman's scheme cost taxpayers nearly two million dollars between 1990 and 1992, according to prosecutors, who alleged that he held a secret interest in a pair of home-health-care companies that ripped off Medicare by submitting false bills for phony patients. Gutman's guilty plea, which came several weeks into his trial, capped one of the sleaziest political careers in Miami-Dade County history. Now, that's saying something.
In a year when a slew of noteworthy writers, including MacArthur Foundation Fellow Campbell McGrath, Carl Hiaasen, Les Standiford, Vicki Hendricks, and Marjorie Klein published books, this selection was no small task. A customer review on Amazon.com calls veteran reporter T.M. Shine "an undiscovered master." And Bill Moyers described Shine's nonfiction narrative of his father's sudden illness and demise a "marvelous, moving, and memorable account of what is hard to explain and impossible to escape." Beyond compelling subject matter, it is deft storytelling with endearing lines like, "We both suffer from what I call Dick Van Patten disease, the most profound characteristics being a fat face and skinny legs," that draws readers into Shine's first book, which was featured on Public Radio International's This American Life this past January. It may seem irreverent to describe a book about a parent's death as entertaining, but as Shine notes in the epigraph (a quote from La Rouchefoucald): "One can no more look steadily at death than at the sun." Thus everything surrounding the pink elephant in the hospital room becomes a lightning rod for Shine's sidesplitting ("He looks like Neil Young going to an early-bird dinner....") and truthful ("A doctor's minute is the antithesis of a New York minute") observations about losing someone you love.
Stephen P. Clark Government Center
Suited men on their way to someplace else get their shoes shined. A woman vends green plantains and umbrellas under the Metromover. Beneath the bench-wrapped trees outside the county government's headquarters, there is shade and a breeze even on the hottest day. In this multiple-ring circus of the absurd, nothing much happens, yet it is fascinating, mesmerizing. Everyone is either selling, playing a part, or part of the audience. Judges of man stroll by men who preach about the power of a higher judge. While the barker calls out muffled destinations and arrivals, the roar of the train, the screech of the bus delivers the next pack of freaks, jesters, lion tamers, and popcorn pushers costumed in skirts, ties, plastic bags, and tired painted faces. Children of all ages carrying their burdens, briefcases, babies. Ladies and gentleman, step right up: Inside the building politicians and bureaucrats make decisions about our community. Outside is the community itself, in a hurry to get somewhere.
As you roll down the highway in your car, the radio blasts the last few notes of the Commodores' sappy hit "Three Times a Lady." Suddenly your speakers begin to rattle. You turn down the volume, fiddle with the bass, adjust the treble. Nothing works. That hum is still there. Not to worry: Your stereo is fine. It's just broadcasting the basso profundo voice of trusty disc jockey Freddy Cruz. Host of the station's nighttime love-song serenade The Quiet Storm, Cruz has been unleashing his sultry Spanish accent over the Hot 105 airwaves for the past fifteen years. Back in 1985 the show was heard 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. on weekdays. A loyal listening public has made the station number two in the market for the 25-to-54 age category, and now the people get five stormy hours of music per night during the week (8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.) and a special old-school edition on Sunday (8:00 to 11:00 p.m.). After a hard evening on the air, what's a radio personality to do? Why get a day job, of course! For a while Cruz's inimitable pipes could be heard in two languages. After a few years on Spanish-radio WCMQ-FM (92.3), he became the production director for the Spanish Broadcasting System, a local chain of FM radio stations. When does he sleep? He claims to get five hours per night. "People hear me on the radio so relaxed but I'm really hyper," he notes. "I like to stay busy. I like to work." Not that he has to do much of that when guiding his listeners through the storm. In 1985 he spun records on turntables, then moved on to using CDs and tapes. Now thanks to computers, music is brought forth at the touch of a button. Fine by Cruz, who gets more time to take on-air dedications, growl song titles, and chat with the folks at home. "I love it," says the deep-voiced DJ about his long-time job. "The listeners are so loyal. I talk to people who started listening fifteen years ago and now they have kids; some even have grandchildren. I feel like I'm in their living room. I'm part of their family."
Miami's most prominent reading series, by current authors of predictably high caliber, is a good way to defy this city's tendency to settle for beauty over substance. And no doubt about it, intelligence more often than not cultivates a singular kind of beauty. In short, good-looking women go to these things, and they probably are smarter than your average barfly. If you spy a single woman at a reading, chances are good she's looking for more in a mate than a walking billfold. And if she's alone, she's either single or her boyfriend doesn't share her interests. All the more reason for you to sidle up and see if she wants to deconstruct Susan Sontag over an espresso.

Best Sign That Tom Fiedler Is Spending Too Much Time At The Gym

In a New Year's Day column, the Herald's opinion page editor asked readers to think of him and the other members of the paper's blandly predictable and pitifully self-important editorial board as "fitness instructors for your intellect."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®