The dreamer dreams that we are watching his dreams. On the back of the Buick Building in the Design District is a magical diptych by husband-and-wife artist team Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt. The 35-by-50-foot digital print of an original oil painting depicts a man sleeping peacefully in a bed. In the panel next to him is an Angel and Devil box. "In fact he is dreaming, perhaps of who he will be that very day," says Behar with a mischievous laugh. "Am I going to be the good Roberto or the bad Roberto?" The piece was designed to be seen from the westbound lanes of the Julia Tuttle Causeway, a reminder to drivers of the intimate space they've just left behind as they guide their cars to work. Real estate developer Craig Robins commissioned and financed the piece, which went up February 2000. Behar and Marquardt don't really consider the work a mural; they think of it as a two-dimensional sculpture because details from the diptych -- two surreal portraits hanging in the sleeping man's room -- also adorn the front of the building. The artists say that creates a sense of "seeing through the building."
The only invitation you need to this soiree is a big, fat full moon climbing into the night sky. Each month, on the official calendar night of the full moon, an often motley but gentle crew assembles on the sand -- with no central planning and no velvet rope. The crowd can grow as large as 500; 1000 is not unheard of. Over the course of the nighttime hours, the Beach is transformed from a tourist mecca where the self-satisfied lounge to a vibrant, feral gathering. You make your own fun here. There's no bar and no sound system. But inevitably drum circles form, people chant, and dancing erupts spontaneously. Sit in the sand and stare at the ocean. Strike up a conversation with that aging hippie or that sleek young club kid or the bewildered sales rep who stumbled up from the Loews hotel. When was the last time you returned home from a night on South Beach with sand in your shoes, a smile on your face, and money still in your wallet?
Sometimes an activist craves a little action. In these post-Elian days, politicos of the Cuban-exile community are full of words like tolerance, understanding, and mutual respect. That's all fine and dandy, but it's also, well, a little boring. For any ideologues pining for the bomb-throwing glory days of el exilio, try an issue of ¡Grita!, where the prevailing sentiment is "The Cold War's not over until we say it's over!" Vintage right-wing rants brand Bill Clinton an "extreme leftist" (Lord only knows where they place Jesse Jackson on the political spectrum) while decrying the closet Marxists ensconced within Brickell Avenue's tony high-rises, all just itching for a little commie subversion. (Somebody warn Johnny Winton!) All that plus goofily over-the-top cartoons that single out Alex Penelas for as much abuse as good old Fidel. ¡Viva las pragmatistas!
Every successful liberation movement has its printed matter. American patriots rallied support for the U.S. Constitution with the Federalist Papers; students railed against the Vietnam War with rags like the Berkeley Barb; the Sandinistas published Barricada while wearing down the Somoza dictatorship. Here in Miami we have Urban Environment League's Urban Forum. The diminutive gazette (six by eight inches) is cute, but it packs a rhetorical wallop. "Make no mistake about it," wrote attorney and UEL member John de Leon in a 1999 issue, "public property belongs to all of us -- rich, poor, black, white, landowners, and the dispossessed -- and not to some politicians who are trying to sell these properties as a quick fix for the financial mess they may have created." That was an early salvo in a skirmish that grew into the war over the future of Bicentennial Park. When hostilities were in full rage, UEL president Gregory Bush penned this epic prose for the October/November 2000 issue: "If you seek explanations for the progress made in revitalizing the waterfronts of Sydney, Baltimore, Portland, New York, Charleston, Providence, and Seattle ... there appears to be a common thread related to time, courage, and vision. It takes time to forge a consensus behind a coherent plan of action. It takes time to listen to the voices from nearby neighborhoods and to assess the different constituencies throughout the region.... Without a thoughtful and powerful vision, poorly thought-out decisions will predominate." The Forum chronicles other land-use and planning struggles as well, though the civic equivalent of guerrilla warfare sometimes leads to irregular publishing dates. Back issues are available on the group's Website (www.uel.org).
Since the object of a first date is getting to know the other person well enough to determine if you like him/her, consider Dave & Buster's the ideal venue. This sprawling 60,000-square-foot entertainment-and-dining complex offers a variety of options for learning about someone else. Consider the Million Dollar Midway, which features more than 200 interactive and virtual-reality games. See just how much that guy really likes to play golf, or exactly how big a princess she is if she won't risk her manicure. Find out if he's sensitive (does he cry when his virtual Corvette crashes?) and see if she's got game (can she swish a basket?). Then move on to one of the countless bars, where you'll discover if your date can hold his/her liquor of if he/she ends up literally being a crashing-off-the-barstool boor. If the date goes smoothly, consider heading for one of several dining areas for a meal. If not, try scanning the Skeeball. No need to bust your chops when there's plenty of pickings at Dave & Buster's.
If you want to get back together good and fast, just spend a half-hour or so together in this dark, desolate zone of urban destitution. Seven years ago a huge homeless encampment known as the Mud Flats was spread out here, and despite a multimillion-dollar cleanup and relocation, the area is still a haven for people with serious problems: window-washers, panhandlers, all manner of lame and halt. They don't so much live here anymore as work here -- there's money in those SUVs trapped in lines at the traffic lights leading to the expressway entrance ramps. This is the time and the place where you and your estranged need each other most. You need, at all costs, to escape from these looming shadows, and this you can do with the help of that wonderful person next to you, clutching your arm like a tourniquet, who will never let you go again.
It can be a little difficult to tell if the men indeed are single, since sitting in saunas and baths is an easy excuse to take off that ring. And a certain percentage are going to be tourists, seeing as how this is in a hotel. But a surprising variety of employed, respectable men make their way to Miami's most soporific hot spot on any given evening (days are not recommended as employed, respectable nontourists should not be lounging). The age and ethnic range also is desirable -- all over the place, that is. But what makes the baths a particularly conducive meeting ground? Well, having no choice but to sit side by side in one of the many overheated rooms or the Jacuzzi has a way of forcing conversation. "It wasn't this hot last time I visited." "Oh, do you come here often?" That kind of thing. But more serious talk can, and sometimes does, follow. How ecotourism is a mixed blessing for Ecuador; which hotels are the best bang for your buck in Moscow; what the best waterways are for boating in Miami. The high temperatures have a way of loosening more than leg muscles, and often attitude gets checked at the door as stress and shyness dissipate into the humid air. If you need more loosening, there are white Russians (the drink) in the café. Open every day, noon till midnight. All days are coed.
The frozen drinks and spicy merengue beat have a way of shaking loose a girl's inhibitions. This Ocean Drive patio bar is full of out-of-town women looking for a Miami adventure. Slick back your hair, splash on the alluring cologne, and join the local Lotharios on the dance floor. Don't worry if you don't know how to salsa. If you can fake it well enough, you'll be a mambo king in the eyes of that little blond sales rep from South Jersey.
Park the car for the day and get on Miami's billion-dollar transportation boondoggle for a self-guided tour of the city. You can enter a station at any point along the 21-mile convex curve from Hialeah to Kendall. You'll travel a crazy parabola through neighborhoods as different from each other as the people are in this highly stratified society. The views are by turns breathtaking and depressing on the journey through Hialeah, Brownsville, Allapattah, Overtown, downtown Miami, and the Brickell area, then south along Dixie Highway through Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, and South Miami. Then jump to the Metromover downtown for a photo-worthy whirl above the Miami River and the pulsing streets of the center city, catching occasional glimpses of Biscayne Bay. Metrorail's history is one for the books. Voters approved a bond issue to build it in 1978, but plagued by cost overruns and construction delays, the complete $1.3 billion elevated train track wasn't open for business until 1985. And it hasn't exactly done much to relieve our ridiculously congested roads; only a tiny percentage of Miami-Dade's population actually uses it. Still we like Metrorail (or Metrorail, as its detractors lovingly call it). It's as much adventure as you can have for a pocketful of quarters.
As a member of the county commission since 1993, Natacha Seijas (the former Mrs. Natacha Millan) has perfected a foolproof method of alienating people. She's mean. She's arrogant. She can throw a scowl that cracks granite. And so as she prepared to run for re-election in 2000, most political observers predicted her time was up. Her archenemy, Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, had made her defeat one of his top priorities. Her opponent in the commission race was Roberto Casas, a popular and affable member of the state Senate. Seijas's chances for survival were considered so slim that even some of her natural allies, such as Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and his stable of cronies, hedged their bets by financially supporting both candidates. But in this case the pundits were wrong. Seijas worked harder than Casas, knocking on doors and acting throughout the campaign as if she were twenty points behind in the polls. Simply put, Seijas wanted it more than Casas. And she concentrated on the right issues: responding to constituent concerns, introducing an ordinance to provide higher wages for employees of companies that do business with the county, and looking out for elderly residents. If a victory by an incumbent can ever be considered an upset, then Seijas pulled off an upset last fall, winning another four-year term. She's still mean. She's still arrogant. And she's still insufferable. But you've got to hand it to her: She fought a hell of a good race.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®