In Miami-Dade County, Steve Spratt was always a little shocking. Low-key, competent, respected -- what could be more shocking in a county employee? Spratt was not only thoroughly informed but able to relay that information without lying, obfuscating, or double-talking. He was a budget expert who wasn't afraid to call a scheme a scam. Surely it was too much to ask someone like Spratt to stick around forever. But he did last a remarkable 25 years at county hall before departing in December 2001 to become the Pinellas County administrator (their version of county manager). Now 47 years old, Spratt began his government career in 1976 as a lowly complaint-taker in the Dade County manager's office, eventually moving to budget director and finally to assistant county manager. Known for his directness and impartiality, Spratt did what he had to do, even if it meant recommending the suspension in 1999 of parks director Bill Cutie, who was later indicted in the famous "missing trees" caper, in which the county paid $1.6 million for 4200 palm trees that were never accounted for.

When Doug Yoder went to work for the county in February 1971 he was fresh out of Cornell University and full of youthful idealism. At the age of 24 he sincerely believed in the notion of public service. And guess what? Thirty-one years later he still does. Yoder has been with DERM since July 1977. In that time he has seen county managers and agency chiefs come and go, but he's still there, worrying about air pollution, water quality, and dump-site contamination while fielding citizen queries and complaints and serving on several national boards, including the Urban Consortium Environmental Task Force. Yoder is beginning to think about retirement in the next few years, but that does not mean he's slacking off. He returns phone calls, brown-bags his lunch, pays attention at boring budgetary meetings and hearings on airborne particulates, and recognizes that he is a servant of the taxpayers. Good man.
While many locals complain about the snarled traffic and incessant bridge openings, single women should know otherwise. Not all of the close to 150,000 people who descend on Miami are men, and not all are rich. But lots are. And they're here to let loose, have some fun, and spend some money. Stroll the marinas and convention center and oooh and ahhh at the gleaming vessels and the exorbitantly priced stuff that fills them. Your giddy, grinning neighbor is sure to fill you in on what he thinks about objets d'ark. And just about anything else -- silence is not socially acceptable here. Now you tell him where to go for a drink afterward. Or he'll tell you: "Hey, we found this great place on the water where you can watch more boats," and you'll pretend that Monty's is indeed a hidden gem. All you have to do now is move with the flow. Easy.

Despite his friendly, low-key manner, Ralph Delly isn't shy about repeating the raciest tidbits circulating in the New York and Miami Haitian communities. In fact it's probably because Delly is so likable that prominent people (mostly entertainment and media types) tell him things -- you know, things that really matter, such as how the size of one band member's member played a decisive role in his acquisition of a new girlfriend from another musician. But make no mistake, Delly dishes plenty of solid material you couldn't find anywhere else (in English, anyway). A band suffers persecution, for example, because it played years ago at a now-politically incorrect venue in Haiti. A songwriter's original compositions are repeatedly stolen by fellow musicians. A prominent Port-au-Prince radio personality decides to move to Miami to escape Haiti's instability. Only one problem, Delly confesses: He'll be mingling at a soiree and find some of his famous sources, worried their secrets may be revealed, clam up in his presence.
Old guy with a skeptical look and big horn-rims sitting in the last booth on the right at Enriqueta's on NE Second Avenue, rattling his newspaper, masticating his eggs, a magnet for fight and art fans throughout Miami, the Fight Doctor, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco. Remember him? For many years he worked Muhammad Ali's corner, through all the boxing classics -- the Thrilla in Manila, the Rumble in the Jungle, the Brawl for It All -- an era when sports-as-show-biz took off behind Ali and Don King's logorrhea, with the Fight Doctor bringing up the rear. To hear him today, after fifteen years on NBC, negotiating a seamless two-hour narrative with hardly a break for breath -- "Sherman's march to the sea, a jerk in Coconut Grove giving a historical-society reading, he doesn't want to admit what a racist bastard General Sherman was! How his 'total war' program in Georgia anticipated the Nazis, how America's policies have frequently been casuistic..." and demonstrating how "hustlers" such as Ali, King, and himself were using the culture's own hot-air tendencies as guerrilla tactics against the general bullshit -- is true instant replay. What's remarkable is that Pacheco had a stroke last year yet hasn't lost a mile off his fast ball. He's still grinding out books and paintings for mainstream and Little Havana consumption; still accepting speaking engagements; and would still beat the pants off HBO's boxing analyst Larry Merchant if Sumner Redstone at Viacom had enough sense to let him anchor the rival Showtime fight shows.

Behold the big yellow school buses unleashed on a racetrack designed for stock cars, running figure eights, nearly crashing into each other, dumping fluids and parts where they shouldn't. Fun for the whole family! It's an exhibition, not a competition, held every other month at one of Florida's oldest speedways. And for a mere fifteen bucks the energized crowd of thousands, most of whom were once carted off to school by those hulking monsters, can't get enough. Call for dates and times.
This superbly crafted sidearm is light enough for women and seniors, and it doesn't have the tremendous recoil of the old Colt blue-steel Army and Navy .45 models of yesteryear. Inspired by the great popularity of the Austrian Glock, it's a top seller in South Florida gunshops like Eagle Arms (14123 South Dixie Highway; 305-234-8446). At $763, without a box of ammo, it's not exactly cheap, but according to George Soler at Eagle Arms, the Mark 23 is safe to handle and a joy to use on the target range: "It's now the weapon of choice for the Special Forces and is seeing a lot of service in Afghanistan."

Our weather is no secret -- sun, sun, sun -- and our kids are used to it. Which is why they have a wardrobe consisting of shorts and cotton T-shirts rather than corduroy pants and wool sweaters. But Magic City munchkins can still get a cold-weather chill if they head up to North Miami and the only regulation-size ice-skating rink in town. Chances are it'll be a new experience for them, but with role models like Miami Olympian Jennifer Rodriguez, who made the switch from Rollerblades to ice skates, they may already be gung-ho. The arena staff offers lessons (group and individual) for all levels, from beginners to budding figure-skating stars. Hockey lessons too. And hockey leagues. And rental skates. And infrequent but regular free skating. And some of the coldest air conditioning in the subtropics on a hot and muggy summer afternoon. Call for rates and hours of operation.
Hurling a household object at your wife + cavorting with tawdry Latin bombshells = successful re-election.
The reason we love this all-suite hotel has nothing to do with the fact that it's only a block from the Lor-e-lei, the legendary waterfront restaurant and bar where you can get great fish sandwiches, down piña coladas with a rum floater, and applaud the ever-setting sun. No, it has something to do with Casa Morada's terrazzo floors, resident iguanas, sprawling sea grape and hibiscus groves, and serene, sparkling pool located just off Florida Bay. And it has even more to do with the individually decorated studio apartments. If you like the wrought-iron furniture you can buy it. Every item is actually for sale. Not only does that policy allow you to take some of the restful Islamorada lifestyle home with you, it guarantees that the next time you come down for a visit, you'll be treated to new décor.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®