Film and theater directors and actors, poets and writers have been allowing audience members to have at them for years in frank exchanges about content and merit, seriousness and triviality. Now the Rubell family, boutique hoteliers and major art collectors, are applying the principle to visual artists. Several times a year accomplished artists like Jeff Koons, Andres Serrano, Ross Bleckner, Cindy Sherman, and Damien Hirst will display their work and appear in the cozy Bamboo Room of the Rubell's Beach House hotel to talk about art with fans and perhaps less-than-fans. So far this year's artists have included Rineke Dijkstra, the famed Dutch chronicler of youth at bay (April 25), and Maurizio Cattelan, the impish sculptor who portrayed Pope John Paul II struck down by a meteorite and got the art world all upset (May 2).
They line up hours in advance, sitting on lawn chairs and atop plastic coolers. Kids with balloons tied to their wrists drink orange sodas and nibble on sugar bread purchased from Calle Ocho bakeries doing brisk business. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen walks by prior to the start, absorbing the throaty cheers of her core constituency. Miami's Three Kings Parade debuted in 1971 after Fidel Castro canceled Christmas and its ancillary celebrations in Cuba. (Three Kings Day honors Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, the three kings who followed a bright star to Bethlehem, where they presented the newborn Christ child with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.) Now a Calle Ocho tradition, Miami's parade features a slow-rolling procession of high school marching bands, Spanish-language radio hosts, entertainers such as Willy Chirino and Elvis Crespo, and sports stars such as gruesomely muscled baseball slugger José Canseco. The greatest cheers, though, rise for the rogues gallery of local politicians. City Commissioner Tomas Regalado and his daughter. City Commissioner Joe Sanchez twice, once on a car with his name stuck to the side and once again, later, on horseback. A grinning Joe Carollo, unaccompanied by a bikini-clad model now that he's unaffiliated with any public office. Angel Hernandez, a convicted felon and newly elected city commissioner, is greeted warmly, as is new mayor Manny Diaz, dapper in a blue guayabera. A red Corvette convertible slowly motors past. In the back seat, receiving blown kisses and the loudest cheers of the day, is the Fisherman, Donato Dalrymple, still a man of honor in Little Havana.
Miami City Hall
Renewing a passport can be a pain. You have to call for an appointment, then you have to wait two weeks or so, then you have to go downtown, then you have to wait, and then -- well, like we said, it's definitely a hassle. Not so at Miami City Hall. The extremely professional city clerk's office offers a painless way to apply for or renew a passport. The whole thing takes eight minutes, tops, and you don't even need an appointment. Just drop by the clerk's office window on Dinner Key, fill out a short form, hand over a small check, then walk over to the camera. Smile. After the photo develops, blush at how good-looking you are, then leave. Your passport will arrive in the mail in a matter of days. If you pay an expediting fee, you can have it even sooner. It's that easy.
This is no joke. Jim Clark, a former WAMI-TV (Channel 61) sports producer with otherwise good credentials, began whipping Channel 9 into shape in the fall of 2001. Under his guidance we can still witness extraordinary performances by one of South Florida's best acting troupes, the Miami Commission, but now we can enjoy the show without the garbled audio. The station also transmits meetings of other bodies that occasionally make important decisions, including the Code Enforcement Board, the Historic and Environmental Preservation Board, the Parks Advisory Board, the Planning Advisory Board, the Urban Development Review Board, the Waterfront Advisory Board, and the Zoning Board. But there's more. Viewers, and perhaps some of our elected officials, can bone up on the basics of our system of government in the United States by watching On Common Ground. This program is funded by various state governments and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Channel 9 also offers the PBS-produced show Crossroads Café, which is designed for people learning English as a second language. For those of us whose first language is English but still need a little more practice, the station presents TV 411, a production of the Adult Literacy Media Alliance. Call for current program times. The station is carried only on cable within Miami city limits, but Clark hopes to have it streaming on the Internet in the near future.
Really, this is more an award for founder/director Robert Rosenberg than it is for a collection of films. As we saw this year with the Miami Film Festival, there's more to creating a successful event than meets the camera's eye. Rosenberg started his fest four years ago with a combination of love, enthusiasm, a good curatorial eye, and a healthy respect for organization. That great mix shows. Each year the festival has grown, but at a controllable pace. The offerings are not so disparate as to lose cohesion, but fresh enough to give us something out of the ordinary. Films were selected well in advance, as were the dates and times they would screen. Thematically this year the issue of identity broke new ground -- gone are those teenage coming-out stories; in are ones about gay men falling for straight women. Not all the films worked, but the festival itself has a firm grasp of its own identity, the best template indeed.
Before you enter this 76-year-old landmark, you already know you're close to paradise. The magnificent Giralda Tower, languorously and glamorously lit against the blue-black Florida night sky, is one clue. But as you walk from parking lot to pool area, the smell of jasmine is so heavy you lose your bearings. Where are you? In a world of which you can only dream? Or Miami-Dade's most elegant province? That's right, this is not simply a hotel. This is another universe. You walk through archways and courtyards, click across elaborate tile floors, sit against carved wood and detailed tapestries, and know you are not in Miami anymore. You swim in one of the world's greatest pools. You eat among brilliant pinks and purples of bougainvillea and verdant banana leaves, treated like a member of the old raj. Speaking of colonial treatment, you take high tea indoors in the fabulous lobby, with choices of tea and finger sandwiches that embarrass Harrods. You sit on your private balcony and take in the tropical landscape cleverly disguised as a golf course. Good theater next door at GableStage, spa in the basement. Nooooo, you're not going anywhere.
The lobby of architect Melvin Grossman's classic Fifties hotel is a monument to space-age design, space-age glamour, and just plain space. Think MiMo (Miami Modernism) meets Grand Central Station. Massive decorative columns hold up an imposing plaster canopy in the center of the room. Underneath it five separate islands of couches and chairs float on a sea of vintage marble tile. A full-size hotel bar runs along one wall. Overlooking the bar is a landing big enough to be its own lobby. And if that's not enough to convey the sense of limitless optimism that fueled the Fifties: Large, curved window walls look out over the enormous pool area and onto Collins Avenue, giving the illusion of even more space. Whoever said bigger isn't always better never set foot in here.
Pit stop not really required, though for joggers and bikers it's ideal. This roadside fresh fruit, vegetable, chocolate brownie, and fruity milkshake stand, located on an otherwise residential stretch of Red Road, is worth a trip all by itself. Located far (and not so far) from the madding crowds of U.S. 1 and the Shops at Sunset Place, and just down the street from Parrot Jungle, Wayside is a true oasis, a quiet little spot with outdoor tables and chairs beneath a lush South African sausage tree and tall, lanky bamboo, where you can bring a friend, a pooch (dogs are welcome), or a good book. The perfect refueling station for the long, strange, never-ending trip we call daily life in South Florida.
The thing is, he'll come to you on those weekends when the bird doo-doo has piled up on your hood from trying to park under trees to avoid the sun, and when you just don't feel like negotiating the traffic to get to the cheapo deals along NE Second Avenue or the expensive sloshings in the parking garages of Brickell high-rises. Joel is a great big guy with an obsession for getting things right (he used to be a plant-maintenance specialist). He'll wash your car for just ten bucks. Vans and SUVs are $20, trucks are $45, RVs are $60, and boats are a little cheaper at $55. ("I like boats," he explains.) He arrives with a truck and all his own equipment, including a pressure washer with a 100-gallon tank so he doesn't have to hook up to your spigots, and he has his own generator and super-vacuum, which he applies to those areas you don't see, like under the seat. "I guess I'm a perfectionist," Alfonso says modestly. And before you know it, even your old Sentra looks swell again. Open seven days, Monday through Sunday, 9:00 to 5:00.
This bar, restaurant, and marina is more than merely a pit stop for hungry tourists on their way to Key West. It's a piece of Islamorada history, a place to bask in the warm sun and the spirit of the Keys, and it's a popular watering hole for locals. Start your visit with a fresh fish sandwich and a cold beer inside the unpretentious restaurant or on its shaded patio. If you can manage to pull yourself away from the table, stagger a few steps through the hot sun over to the Lor-e-lei's waterfront bar, where you can have another cold beer, gaze out at the calm waters, and eavesdrop on the relaxed conversations. If you're looking to cool off, just walk a few steps to the water and take a dip. Closer to sunset the mood changes as the fishing boats glide in after a day out on the flats, breathing new life into the lazy afternoon. The quiet bar begins to bustle as fisherfolk make their way to the barstools to share perfectly accurate, self-deprecating accounts of the day's adventures. There's no better place to watch the sunset. You didn't really want to drive all the way to Key West, did you?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®