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?"
If they're visiting from out of town, there's a good chance they're not familiar with the word guajiro. In Cuba it's the name given to country folk, that island nation's noble peasants. Rancho Don Goyo, a rustic retreat in Miami's own countryside, keeps the guajiro spirit alive on Saturdays and Sundays, when Cuban immigrant Gregorio Arensibia, better known as Don Goyo, throws open the gates to his two-acre ranch and invites in the world. Bring your guests here and let them experience a peculiar and exotic aspect of Miami: This really is not the U.S.A. From noon until roughly 10:00 p.m. South Florida residents hailing from all over Latin America gather for food, drink, music, and dance in an atmosphere that feels a lot like home, whether that was Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, or Cuba. Rancho Don Goyo is marked by an unassuming sign on the north side of Okeechobee Road (U.S. 27) beyond the turnpike, after it opens up under a big sky and a landscape of broad fields. (If you reach the junction with Krome Avenue you've gone too far.) A dusty side road takes you to a makeshift parking lot, then on to the heart of the place -- a ramshackle general store and an immense open-air restaurant where patrons enjoy their beers along with a tempting variety of freshly grilled meats and tangy side dishes. When live bands aren't playing, the jukebox kicks in. Either way the dance floor will always be occupied. If possible try to be there on a Sunday afternoon when local enthusiasts of punto guajiro take to the stage. Punto guajiro is a Cuban musical invention of improvised lyrics set to the poetic decima, a traditional Spanish form favored by itinerant troubadours of yore. At Don Goyo's the tradition lives with an exuberance that requires no translation. Fun and games and barnyard animals for the kids. Ice-cold cervezas and back-slapping camaraderie for the adults. And a very special treat for your out-of-town guests.
Every exodus deserves a festival. The epic flight inspired by the collapse of the Argentine economy is no exception. Luckily those fleeing the new bartering society of Buenos Aires already have Miami's best festival waiting for them. Every spring, for four years now, long-time expat Enrique Kogan has offered tens of thousands of his compatriots a daylong celebration of tangolandia. And thanks to performances by the biggest stars along the Rio Plata -- Miguel Mateo, Charly Garcia, Alejandro Lerner -- the folks back home can see you on Telefe. Whether you are Argentine or just wish you were, you'll find something to love at this paean to the civilization Sarmiento dreamed of: futbol, rocanrol, choripan, dulce de leche, and the national question, asked by patriots and expats alike: Che, how did we end up here?
The irony is just too delicious. This past October marketing executives from Burger King, reeling from the botched introduction of their revamped French fries and gearing up to push the new Chicken Whopper sandwich, participated in an "achievement" team-building seminar on Key Largo. According to published reports, some 100 Burger King employees "used their bare hands to bend spoons, break boards, and smash bricks. Some bent steel bars with their throats and walked over a board of 6000 sharp nails." At the end of the seminar the executives were introduced to the highlight of the evening: an eight-foot-long pit of glowing-hot rocks they were told to walk across in their bare feet. Most of the participants made it over fine, and supposedly enjoyed a surge of confidence that comes from knowing they can overcome any obstacle. Unfortunately not everyone could overcome this particular obstacle. A dozen people suffered first- and second-degree burns on their feet. One woman had to be hustled to the emergency room. A day later several executives had yet to recover ambulatory status and were moving around in wheelchairs. As Burger King spokesman Rob Doughty told the Herald: "We certainly didn't intend for that to happen."

We know what you're going to say: Robert's is not a true farmers market. A splendidly eclectic fruit stand/reptile show/folk revue perhaps. What, you'll ask, about the Coconut Grove farmers market? Or the one outside Gardner's Market in Pinecrest? Fine. But this is our list and this year we're picking Robert Is Here. Yes, it's partly about the exotic fruit milkshakes, which are divine. But Robert Moehling and his crew have so much more to offer. In the fruit-and-vegetable department, for instance, just about everything grown in South Miami-Dade. In season there's U-pick strawberries. Plus live bees in a glass-enclosed honeycomb, every type of honey and preserve known to man, countless pepper and barbecue sauces, key-lime-infused chocolate-covered coconut squares, and many touristy trinkets. Out back is a large pen filled with giant tortoises and iguanas. There's also a one-man band playing in the corner on Saturdays. This is a place where you can truly eat, drink, and be merry.
From the Miami Herald, Thursday, December 20, 2001: "On Sept. 23, 2000, The Herald published a story about a house donated to the Fort Lauderdale Branch NAACP. It included information provided by Hansel Williams, who was interviewed at the house, that is not correct. Williams subsequently said he is not married, has no children, did not live in the house rent-free and that his grandmother did not live there with him."

From the Miami Herald, Wednesday, October 24, 2001: "A story in Friday's editions referred to the Batman costume Elian Gonzalez wore at Halloween. Elian arrived in the United States in November and left in June, so he did not wear the costume at Halloween."

On South Beach attending and critiquing over-the-top parties isn't just a leisure activity, it's a way of life. And for local fashionistas, one of the most anticipated fetes is Ocean Drive's annual birthday bash, where the magazine's glossy pages, chock full of beautiful people, come to life. Even the Herald bought into the hype this past year, giving the Loews Hotel-hosted party front-page coverage, and in light of the hordes of would-be crashers lauding it as the season's most coveted invite. Once inside, however, a different truth emerged. Yes, there were the requisite flocks of aspiring models trucked in by their agencies, and a smattering of celebs were coaxed to the shindig by Ocean Drive's wunderkind publisher. But the overall vibe was less fabulous than bar mitzvah: serving stations of food, well-mannered members of the tribe schmoozing away, and a DJ spinning an early-Eighties playlist that stopped just short of Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" -- the usual cue for a hora circle. Only the writhing, half-naked "living sculptures" added a welcome touch of Beach tackiness, reminding everyone this wasn't a post-synagogue affair.

A unique confluence of ugly events led the citizens of Miami to overwhelmingly approve the creation of a Civilian Investigative Panel in November 2001. Leaders and activists in black communities, enraged over the alarming tendency of police to shoot suspects dead even when they were in wheelchairs, had long insisted that someone other than cops should investigate cops. But it took Cuban-American outrage over beatings and questionable arrests during the April 2000 Elian Gonzalez riots to provide the critical mass needed to put the idea to a citywide vote. After that it was groups such as Brothers of the Same Mind and People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE), along with the legal expertise of the American Civil Liberties Union, that kept the flame blazing. CIP members, when the slow-turning wheels of Miami city government finally get around to appointing them, will be able to subpoena witnesses and recommend penalties to the police department.
For its first 43 blocks, narrow little Collins Avenue is at best an inconvenient way to get around Miami Beach. At 44th Street, however, it widens to six lanes, becoming one of South Florida's premier boulevards, a show street lined with fancy and famous hotels, luxury condos, palm trees, and private yachts. This also marks the exact location where South Florida's true character is revealed, for this is where automobile-industry magnate Harvey Firestone built his magnificent Georgian Colonial mansion. Lured by the warm winter weather and the phantasmagoric hype of Miami Beach hucksters Carl Fisher and John Collins, Firestone and other American tycoons scooped up oceanfront property (Firestone's estate encompassed fourteen acres) and erected ostentatious monuments to capitalist wealth. By the Roaring Twenties this stretch of Collins Avenue boasted some of the most audacious private homes south of New York. But Miami Beach was really nothing more than a shifting sandbar, and the alluring vision of South Florida as a land of boundless opportunity under the bright subtropical sun was as illusory as the mythical landscapes that decorated crates of oranges heading to the frozen north. So it was fitting that Harvey Firestone's dream home should be demolished to make way, in 1954, for another dreamscape, the Fontainebleau hotel. Thus began another chapter in the life of this section of Collins Avenue. As the mansions went down, the fantastical hotels went up, followed by the towering condominiums that isolated bay from ocean and man from nature. From inhospitable, mosquito-infested mangroves to concrete canyons in the bat of an eye. It's magic. It's what Miami is all about. And it's all there in this nine-block-long postcard.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®