Year in and year out, this November fair demonstrates that South Floridians do have an appetite for intellectual stimulation. Over the course of a week, hundreds of bibliophiles trudge downtown to hear writers present their latest tomes, followed by the thousands who fill the streets around MDCC for the final two-day extravaganza. Organizers bring in nationally and internationally renowned heavy hitters in the realms of fiction and nonfiction, but also provide a forum for up-and-coming literary lights and for local scribes. Kudos are in order too for the growing Spanish-language program. We have high hopes for the 2003 edition, the twentieth anniversary, for which organizers promise lots of excitement. In the meantime we're keeping a close watch on what's cooking at the fair's new parent, the Florida Center for the Literary Arts. The hopeful expectation: more food for thought during the other eleven months of the year.

Size really doesn't matter. Nestled along the southern part of the marina, this little rental place gets more fun from less space. Boat sizes range from 22 to 25 feet. There are Catalinas for the faint of heart, Hunters for the more adventurous, and J's for the hard-core speed freaks. If you don't know what you're doing, take a class. Individuals and pairs welcome. After ten hours you'll have a certificate that will let you pilot a 30-footer in an enclosed waterway like Biscayne Bay, and try out your new skills.

We don't know about you, but we've been around these parts long enough to admit to a kind of airsickness and bone-tiredness of all this Starbucks-KFC-Subway-Howard Stern-no money down-fatal accident on the Palmetto-¡tu eres comunista!-we'll pay you to drive this SUV-live on the scene of a drive-by shooting-South Florida ambiance. And sometimes we dream of getting back to a quieter time. When that mood strikes, we're likely to pay our five bucks and slip into the oldest building in North America -- William Randolph Hearst's twelfth-century Segovian monastery (which still operates as an Episcopalian church). Past the gardens and stone cloisters, and onto a smooth oak bench. Aaahh ... starting to feel human again.

Deep in the heart of Little Havana, on many a Saturday night, you'll see a strange scene for Miami: people paying to see performance art in this black-box space. Call it a small sign of our growing maturity -- paying for experimental theater, and not just on one Saturday. The surrealness can include lots of things, and in fact it will. Each event is multimedia. A DJ perhaps, with a photography exhibit on the walls, and two short dance works? Maybe a "band" of electronic musicians and a one-woman performance? The thing is, it's not predictable. It can't be. It's surreal, and it makes Miami proud.

The 37-year-old Garcia was known in Havana as the host of the television program De la Gran Escena (From the Big Scene). "I talked about literature, film, and theater," he says. Anything but politics. His eschewing of that, he says, cost him his job in 1999, after fourteen years on the Cuban national boob tube. "I want to live in a society where debating and thinking is possible, not in a trench in which ideas are used to exclude someone from professional life or from the civil society of a country." Here, on his WQBA-AM (1140) nighttime talk show La Noche Se Mueve (The Night Moves), he is constantly declaiming the importance of pluralism, freedom of expression, the U.S. Constitution, and respect for ideas. "Those things don't fly in a totalitarian society," he notes wryly. Sometimes they don't fly in Miami. For example, when other locutors of the AM waves recently took up the subject of Havana-based pro-democracy dissident Oswaldo Payá, they and callers ragged on Payá for being a dupe of the Castro regime. Garcia, in contrast, had a show featuring Payá himself via telephone so callers could rag on him directly. (Others praised Payá, while some actually attempted to inform themselves by asking him questions.) Because Miami is Miami, Garcia's pluralistic tendencies draw accusations that he is a Red. One night the seemingly harmless topic was "integration" -- as in Cubans in the "diaspora" reuniting with their estranged compatriots on the island. An angry caller boasted that he had left Cuba in 1968 and would never go back until the Communists are gone. He was also sure that most people who travel to and from Cuba and talk about democracy are secretly Communists. The caller even suspected there was a "Fidelito" (little Fidel) hiding inside Edmundo. The host wholeheartedly disagreed, but instead of yelling, he threw the First Amendment at the caller. "You think there's a Fidelito in me," Garcia summarized, "and that's your opinion."

This wasn't a good year for most South Florida head coaches. Pat Riley's championship vision fell out from under him. Dave Wannstedt's game planning was plagued by second-guessing. And four out of five South Floridians can't even name the Marlins' or Panthers' coaches. The only consistent winner has been the University of Miami Hurricanes football team. Insiders know that the most important factor in the Canes' 35-2 record over the past three seasons has been their offensive line, the most dominant in college football. The big guys don't get a lot of glory, but they get plenty of respect. So does Art Kehoe, offensive-line coach and an ex-UM lineman himself. The year the Canes won it all, their golden-boy quarterback, Ken Dorsey, was sacked just three times the entire season, a national record. Over the past three seasons, the offensive line also cleared the way for three straight 1000-yard rushers. When Kehoe speaks, the squad listens or else; the discipline he demands is legendary, which helps explain why he's produced nearly a dozen NFL linemen. But he is also one of the most lovable guys in the locker room, a true player's coach.

Readers Choice: Pat Riley

There's no denying the creaky old stadium in Little Havana is dirty and decayed. If the right nut or bolt were to come loose, the whole thing might come tumbling down. But sporting events like soccer matches and football games -- the two most often played there -- are not meant to be tidy. For a truly raucous sporting experience, no other venue rocks (and literally shakes) like the Orange Bowl. But every negotiation the City of Miami (the stadium's owner) undertakes with current and potential tenants ends in an argument over renovations. The city should bite the bullet and invest in needed repairs. Aside from the storied history (some of the most memorable college football games in history have been played there), the actual experience of being present on a sold-out Saturday afternoon, awaiting battle with Florida State, palm trees swaying at the end of the eastern end zone, Miami's skyline filling the background, is overwhelming, especially if you're sitting in the closed end, where the student section and general-admission seats are located. Quite simply, there is nothing like it.

No local sportscaster has a meaner task than Ducis Rodgers. His hosting duties on WSVN's weekly Sports Xtra should earn him combat pay. In addition to sifting through local team tidbits, commenting on star athletes' antics, and providing steep segues for boring golf highlights, he is required to referee the two most indigestible personalities on South Florida television: fellow reporter Steve "Snide" Shapiro and super agent Drew "Jerry McGuire" Rosenhaus. Ducis always seems to be in their favor as they clamor for his support, but he always puts them in their place with a smiling, backhanded compliment, and they love him for it. He also gets away with saying things other sportscasters won't, speaking between the lines of his engaging observations. When Mike Tyson shammed boxing fans by beating Clifford Etienne in a ridiculous 49-second bout, Ducis introduced the highlights with a subtle cough and question-marked grin as he dragged the word fight from his throat. The man also happens to be quite the cool Miami cat who's a regular on South Beach's glitz-and-glam club circuit. Go, Ducis.

Readers Choice: Jimmy Cefalo, WPLG-TV (Channel 10)

Nicholas Cole is an odd, gentle fellow with the manner of a man not quite of this time and place. Silver of beard, typically clothed in flowing, monkish robes, Cole is a practitioner of the ancient art of storytelling. For years he's been a regular at Renaissance festivals, coffeehouses, restaurants, bookstores, and bars around South Florida. His specialty, you might have guessed, is the medieval tale, which he delivers in full costume, often with the aid of a drum. In another life Cole was a rehabilitation counselor and special-education teacher at local schools. He sometimes claims to be a 480-year-old relic of the Renaissance who is trying to find the Fountain of Youth. But his most fantastic tale isn't about knights and ladies, dragons and goblins. It's about his 2002 run for the District 2 school-board seat against wily incumbent Solomon Stinson. Now, who would believe that?

It's about time Kwiat received recognition as a one-man repertory company. A chameleon of an actor who appears regularly in many local theaters, Kwiat is a director's dream. He can take the tiniest role and turn it into a perfectly realized character. Some of his recent work was memorable -- the brooding Irish drinker in The Weir and the embittered Yiddish actor in Smithereens, both at New Theatre; as well as his hilarious cameos in Comic Potential at Actors' Playhouse. But it was GableStage's Dirty Blonde that really turned into a Kwiat riot as he rolled out one carefully etched characterization after another.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®