Led by Mayor Julio Robaina, the City of South Miami passed an ordinance last year requiring gun owners to place safety locks on all weapons. The measure is intended to reduce the number of accidental shootings, especially those involving children. "We're trying to protect the safety of the children of this community," Robaina declared. "And this is just the beginning." Despite heavy pressure from the National Rifle Association and a lawsuit attempting to derail the law, Robaina and the South Miami City Commission have remained steadfast in their support, mounting an aggressive gun-safety education campaign in addition to handing out free gun locks to any individual who asks for one. During the kick-off celebration of the campaign last August, city officials distributed more than 300 locks. Individuals who do not comply with the law will be subject to a $250 fine for their first infraction, $500 for their second. Already the South Miami ordinance is being copied by cities and counties around the nation.

Hidden among the storefronts of downtown's shopping district is a horde of local talent: musicians and artists, poets and dancers. On any given night, many of them can be found at the Wallflower Gallery. Never heard of it? Well, listen up. You're the one missing out. Gallery hours are 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Performance events take place later, usually Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights beginning around 9:00. Unless otherwise advertised, admission is a modest six dollars. Performers have included Omine, Susan Laurenzi, Dr. Madd Vibe featuring Angelo Moore from Fishbone, Ladybud, and Boxelder. That's a lot of music for an art gallery, but it is indeed a gallery. The work of up to twenty artists and craftspeople can be on display at any given time. This is an unpretentious place that attracts unpretentious people; no snooty champagne-and-cheese receptions here. Try muffins and granola, or maybe some green tea. Before joining the chorus that whines, "Miami has no culture," check out Wallflower.

When songwriter Robert "Raven" Kraft made a New Year's resolution in 1975 to jog along the Miami Beach shore every day for a year, he didn't think he'd attract a following. But after 26 years of late-afternoon runs (even through gale-force hurricane winds), and after logging 76,500 miles, the man was bound to get attention. A coterie of locals, old-timers, and snowbirds gathers daily at the Sixth Street lifeguard stand for a casual eight-mile jog with Raven. Dressed in his trademark black running shorts, black headband, and single black glove, Raven leads his pack with a slow, methodical chug. (He reportedly is one of the nation's top "streak runners," people who literally never miss a day of jogging.) Through the years more than 200 individuals, from financiers to corrections officers, have trotted with the man in black. Complete a run and you're part of this quirky gang. Membership is free, plus you'll be christened with a funky nickname such as Tangerine Dream, the Plantain Lady, and Chapter 11.

If any single artist traces the trajectory of art in Miami from local pastime to global force, it's this graduate of Havana's vaunted Eighties Generation, who arrived in South Florida via Mexico City's alternative scene in the mid-Nineties. Novoa has steadily widened the frame of reference for his political critique to include not only Castro's Cuba but the shimmering promises of his new homeland. His 1996 exhibition at Ambrosino Gallery centered on "La Habana Oscura" ("The Dark Havana"), while the architectural renderings and installations of his "Recent Works," shown in the same gallery a few years later, examined the technology of surveillance generally. The literal frame of his work has widened as well: Te Fuiste (You Left) escaped the boundaries of canvas and took over gallery walls in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Sarasota, and Indiana. In the "social experiment" called "Publickulture" at the Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art this spring Novoa was one of seven artists who broke through the boundaries of the museum to become part of the social landscape. Just how prominent a point of reference Novoa has become will be clear when the Miami Art Museum's yearlong "New Work Miami" series culminates with a specially commissioned installation by Novoa in fall 2001.
Miami Tower
The array of lights illuminating the 47-story Bank of America Tower quite literally provides a beacon in a city that too often seems to lose its way. Public officials are hauled off in disgrace at an alarming rate. Racial and ethnic tensions threaten to boil over at any moment. Cold-war passions still dominate civic life. But on any given night we can glance up at the Miami skyline and see the tower bathed in soothing bands of colors: red, white, and blue on the Fourth of July; red on Valentine's Day; orange and green to salute UM's football squad; icy blue with giant snowflakes at the winter holidays. We gaze upon it and instinctively our mood softens. Beyond that, the structure's history entails the kind of bumpy ride that is the Miami experience. Designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, it was inaugurated as the headquarters for David Paul's CenTrust Savings Bank in 1987. CenTrust collapsed, and Paul went to prison for gutting the institution. The Resolution Trust Corporation has sold it twice since then. Current owner is National Office Partners, which considers the building's illumination to be a serious matter. "We view this as a civic-pride thing, really," says property manager Jay Windsor. Two workers require nearly four hours to change the colored lenses on nearly 400 1000-watt lights. But one glance at the incandescent glow over a darkened Biscayne Bay and you can see it's clearly worth the effort, a reminder that no matter what else, we live in a beautiful place. Sometimes that's enough.
Artistic director Michael Hall did South Florida theatergoers two favors this season. First he brought the socially relevant and riveting docudrama The Laramie Project to his stage. It was the first production after the play's off-Broadway debut. Second he assembled a troupe with the range and experience to make the production not only important theater but good theater as well. Dressed in drab brown tones, the ensemble of eight portrayed more than sixty characters, from townspeople to ranchers, doctors, reporters, and friends of Matthew Shepard, the young gay man who was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die by two local boys in Laramie, Wyoming. With fluid and subtle transitions, these characters switched roles seamlessly, revealing an unforgettable cross section of small-town America and a staggering array of attitudes. The Laramie Project featured Kim Cozort, Jason Field, Laurie Gamache, Jacqueline Knapp, Pat Nesbit, Mark Rizzo, Robert Stoeckle, and Michael Warga.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Known the world over for opulent accommodations, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group constructed its latest masterpiece adjacent to downtown on overcrowded Claughton Island, also known as Brickell Key. A November 2000 opening introduced Miamians to a heretofore unknown brand of low-key luxury. More than $100 million was spent on the wedge-shaped building, which includes a serene lobby accented by elegant bamboo trees, 329 expansive rooms decorated with modern furniture and plush fabrics (bamboo floors in suites), bathrooms covered in Spanish marble, and balconies that overlook Biscayne Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, or the Miami skyline. Add to that a state-of-the-art gym, a charming swimming pool with Jacuzzi, a lush full-service spa, the splendid restaurant Azul, and the more-casual but equally enticing Café Sambal. Rates that range from $550 to $4000, and recent guests Spanish rulers King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia suggest a stay that few simple folk can afford except in the off-season.
The operative word is organic. This is the place to find it fresh and in a pleasant, natural setting. Cactus fruit and mustard greens, rutabaga and nectarines. Flax seeds and bee pollen to lift you up. Rows of tight green asparagus bundles, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. A rainbow of peppers like you won't believe: purple, green, red, yellow, orange. Fantastic mushrooms: oyster, portabello, shiitake, and crimini to name a few. Fruits to fit your moods. A variety of oils, butters, and freshly baked breads. Perfectly reasonable prices and a diligent staff of Birkenstocked twentysomethings to offer a helping hand. What more could you ask for?
Coconut Grove Playhouse
What made Coconut Grove Playhouse stand out this season is the same phenomenon that made the birth of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup a hit -- the pairing of two things that normally don't go together. In this case two kinds of theater: the big-name, high-profile stars and full-scale productions the mainstage puts on, and the more intimate and diverse productions found in the Encore Room. This season each produced an outstanding show: Art and A Bicycle Country. Yasmina Reza's award-winning Art took satire beyond the limits of comedy into the hilarious drama of the human heart and its feckless sidekick, ego. The excellent acting and superb script transformed the Playhouse's mainstage into a blank canvas redolent with the gradations of comedy and drama essential to interesting theater. Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz made his Miami debut of A Bicycle Country, and the Encore turned out to be the perfect space for three balseros adrift at sea. The Encore's theater-in-the-round staging for the set heightened the sense of confinement, especially in the second half of the play, when the stage becomes a makeshift raft. (Set designer Steve Lambert used a hydraulic system to rock the stage as if it were on water in a subtle yet effective visual device.) While the playhouse has been teaming up its mainstage and Encore Room for at least a decade now, this season hit an especially winning combination.
A repeat victory for the no-longer-so-boyish Herald columnist, who last won this award in 1996, following his arrest for disorderly intoxication at Johnny Rockets restaurant in Coconut Grove. (Charges were later dropped.) Five years later the still-single sportswriter has joined George Clooney, Derek Jeter, and Matt Damon as one of People magazine's "100 Most Eligible Bachelors." In the magazine LeBatard squats over a pool table and admits he's "never been in love." People made no mention of "I Am the Hunter," the notorious 1800-word essay LeBatard wrote for Cosmopolitan in 1997. "Men like me travel in packs, pursuing perfume, and we find the chase more intoxicating than everything after it," LeBatard admitted. "We dabble in relationships for the same reason we dabble in hunting: There's an incomparable rush wrapped in the search and discovery. But then, when the last bullet has been fired and the gun is spent, when the conquest is complete and the game is done and we get to see what we've done close up, all that remains is the blood and the smell and a mess to clean up. Doesn't mean we won't go hunting again, mind you. We drink after a bad hangover, don't we?" Hard to believe the guy hasn't found a mate.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®