On the University of Miami campus it is possible to take a short walk in the woods and end up on what seems like a tour of the globe. Founded in 1947, the Gifford arboretum was named for the first graduate forester in the U.S., a UM professor and expert on tropical woods. At one time there were more than 500 species here, but in the Seventies and Eighties the collection suffered from neglect and a few were lost. Then, as bulldozers prepared to carve more parking lots out of the campus's north end, local activist Kathy Gaubatz stepped in and saved the place from ruin. The collection, which now includes about 450 species, has been renovated and inked in on the university's master plan. The plants are being retagged and a new checklist of the holdings compiled. It is a little-known sanctuary, and according to director Carol Horvitz, a UM biology professor, one of the few places in South Florida to find a fully labeled grouping of more than 90 percent of the 130 species of shrubs and trees native to the area. From a box by the parking lot, pick up a brochure and begin a self-guided tour through thirteen families of tropical and subtropical plants, including palms, figs, hardwoods, and ornamentals. The trail is well marked, the plants all wear tags bearing their common and Latin names, and benches here and there invite repose and reflection. Note the handsome lignum vitae tree, planted more than 50 years ago.

In Miami, the poorest large city in the nation, women and girls make up the majority of those living below the poverty line. It's a disgrace for Miami and a disgrace for mainstream charities that historically have shortchanged programs specifically for women and girls. And it should embarrass the Florida legislature, which continues its relentless drive to eliminate desperately needed social services. The Women's Fund makes up for some of the neglect by funding innovative and often ignored organizations and projects, programs that cultivate creativity and self-reliance, that help girls and women break abusive or addictive bonds and develop their strengths and talents. Women's Fund grantees don't get a lot of money. Last year the three-year-old nonprofit (affiliated with the worldwide Women's Funding Network) awarded a total of $51,500 to sixteen specific projects, some operated by local social-services and immigrant-relief organizations, but most of them unknowns such as MZ Goose, Pridelines Youth Services, and URGENT Inc. The funding totals a mere fraction of what most lobbyists make in a year, but it's a start.
The Banana Bungalow is a youth hostel, but a nice one. Pastel-colored and improbably located in one of the most expensive tourist traps in the world, the bungalow is low-key and freewheeling. The young and adventurous from around the globe pour in and out of this place, wedged into the southern end of the Indian Creek waterway. They sit by the pool, play billiards, trade tall tales by the bar. The bartender decides nightly what the happy-hour special will be, but the beer is always cheap. A night will cost you around $15 to share a room with three other travelers; private rooms $50 and up.
They were proof of Miami's status as the Latin-music capital of the world. They were an engine of economic growth. They were a sign of our slowly developing political tolerance. They were a plot to thrust subversive Cuban musicians into our midst. They were the pride and joy of Emilio Estefan, Jr. They were the downfall of exile extremists. They were a glamorous, gaudy, God-awful fuss. But most of all, they were gone. Poof! Somewhere in Southern California, then-Grammys honcho Michael Greene is still smiling at his sleight-of-hand.

BEST REASON TO STAY IN MIAMI DURING THE SUMMER

Mo' curls

Sure, the heat and humidity is a killer. But just look at those soft curls you've developed, the streaks of gold in your hair, the silky texture. Who needs a high-priced salon when you can get touched up by the sun? Think of it as deep-heat conditioning for free. Indeed the only folks who don't have a reason to stay in Miami for the summer are, well, the high-priced stylists.
The best new building won't be there much longer. It will be taken down not because it is an historic landmark no one cared about but because it wasn't meant to last. But while it stands, it's incredible to behold. Artist George Sanchez decided to create a model of the famous 1929 Le Corbusier house in France, an exquisite example of modernist architecture, and put it up underneath the I-395 underpass off NW Thirteenth Street. That's right -- Overtown at its most blighted decrepitude. It sits clean and sleek -- at night it glows -- amid the concrete and filth of Miami's neglected urban core. Sanchez called it "The Blessing." Maybe that's what the city will need to follow the artist's path and create permanent beauty and hope in an area too long without it.

This place is known for its amazing Saturday and Sunday dim sum brunches, in which customers choose from authentic comestibles presented on rolling carts. And it is precisely this movable feast that makes Tropical a great venue for a debut date. For one thing, you can order as much or as little as you want, which means the date can last as long or short as you wish. Like her? Slowly sample all 56 dumplings, buns, rolls, and tarts. Less than thrilled with him? Over shrimp rice pasta, develop a sudden seafood allergy. Want to test his spirit of adventure? Grab an order of chicken feet or fried squid heads. Need to know if she's got a gag reflex? Serve her a sample of congee garnished with a thousand-year-old egg. Best of all, whatever the outcome of this encounter, dim sum ends at 3:30 p.m., which means you've got the rest of the day to, uh, fool around.
A recent Mendez client is serving a nineteen-year sentence in federal prison after a Miami jury convicted him of espionage, along with four other Cuban agents. But one must judge a lawyer by the principles for which he stands, even when they are misunderstood and unpopular. For Mendez one of them is the Fifth Amendment: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." Numerous Cuban-American lawyers in Miami declined to defend those charged with spying for Cuba. And sure enough, once the trial began, fanatical anti-Castro radio commentators called Mendez a "scoundrel" for taking the job. In so doing they impugned not only Mendez but one of the most crucial of American judicial institutions, the Office of the Federal Public Defender, Mendez's employer. The public defender provides counsel even to the most unseemly of characters, who are, under our system, still innocent until proven guilty. Beating an espionage rap, however, is almost impossible, and jurors were not about to forgive anyone who appeared to be snooping around U.S. military bases. Judge Joan Lenard slammed four of the defendants with the maximum penalties allowed, but Mendez managed to shave 11 years off the nearly 30-year sentence federal prosecutors had sought for his client.

The Fontainebleau was ten years old in 1964, when the James Bond film Goldfinger opened with a glorious view of the high-rise curving toward the sea and its guests drinking martinis by the huge swimming pool and its waterfall. That was when the Fontainebleau was a celebrity hotel that attracted the stars of the day: Steve Allen hosted the Tonight Show there, and its La Ronde Room booked the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and even Elvis Presley. Other movie scenes have since been set at Morris Lapidus's sublime temple of whimsy, loved and loathed by critics for its colorful and hyper-glamorous design and furnishings. Like an aging screen siren, the Fontainebleau has inevitably had its nips, tucks, and makeovers. In keeping with Miami's Latinization, the La Ronde Room is now the Tropigala nightclub, redone in a tropical motif, and Latin-American tourists make up much of the hotel's clientele. And of course time and the economic downturn have dulled the glitz overall. But the Fontainebleau will always be an icon.

To the unaware, Mike Bode could be just any other UPS guy. He wears a brown shirt and brown shorts. He drives a brown van around South Beach, concentrating on Lincoln Road. But he's not. His customers describe him as the hardest-working human being on the planet. Store owners up and down the Road sing his praises unsolicited. Phrases like "amazingly conscientious" come up often. "He never gets down, no matter if he's lugging around dozens and dozens of boxes," marvels one merchant. "He's always up. They need to clone him. The whole world should just be like Mike." It's obvious Bode takes pride in his work. "The best part of my job is being able to make people happy," he explains. "My grandfather taught me to treat people the way you want to be treated. He also told me to enjoy my job. If you don't enjoy what you do, why do it?"

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®