They flopped, naked, across the art gallery's floor. They looked like fish, struggling to return to water. As they flopped by your feet, you watched as the muscles propelled them around the room. You watched them flip from backside to frontside, and moved to get out of their way. The dancers from Rio de Janeiro put on quite a show, courtesy of Tigertail Productions. Mostly it was about movement, as a single man opened the performance by slowly, slowly moving his hand; and three women entangled themselves in each other so you couldn't tell whose hand belonged to which body, whose hair hung from what head. Eventually, on the eve of war, they put up a political protest (okay, sometimes bits of clothing kept coming off). At the end you couldn't help but look at the human body in a very different way, and maybe come away with some respect for other bodies about to be shocked and awed.

Residents experienced shock and awe when Miami administrators used public money to actually build something decent in Model City, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the nation's poorest city. This $3.5 million, one-story facility is so nice that even Commissioner Art Teele is proud to hold public meetings there at the Black Box Theater or the big new carpeted conference room. So are the prestigious board members of the Model City Community Revitalization Trust, who are planning an artful low-income housing renaissance nearby. A local homeowners association provided some of the pressure to make the community center a reality and now has an office in the building. Some people miss the old boxing gym that once stood on this land, but you can always find a garage in which to punch. You can't take swimming lessons in a garage, however, but you can do that at the Miller J. Dawkins Swimming Complex at Hadley. There is also a fitness center for kids of all ages and a walking track and aerobics classes for seniors. The center is open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. weekdays; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Richard+Molinary%2C+a.k.a.+the+Miami+Fanatic%2C+motivates+the+crowd
Jacek+Gancarz
Richard+Molinary%2C+a.k.a.+the+Miami+Fanatic%2C+motivates+the+crowd
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.

These are arguably the least congested toll booths on the turnpike's Homestead extension. Easily readable signs direct motorists to four SunPass lanes, four exact-change lanes, and eight change-provided lanes. The 75-cent toll also buys you a nice glimpse into the overdeveloped western fringes of Miami-Dade County, with cloned single-family houses to the east and explosive rock-mining operations to the west.

You know who you are. On September 10, 2002, you voted to maintain the county's human-rights ordinance after a bruising campaign spearheaded by religious fanatics who wanted to delete the words "gays and lesbians" from the local anti-discrimination law. For many the repeal effort evoked the days of Anita Bryant's vicious anti-gay campaign, the stain of which still clings. You kept us from becoming a poster city for backward-thinking and intolerance. But it was close. The SAVE Dade campaign squeaked by with just 53 percent of the vote. That's why you're heroes. You voted when it counted.

Over the past several years the name Adrian Castro has been a frequent sight in this paper as a contributor, as well as a 1994 Best of Miami winner for Best Poet of the Spoken Word. But this bard's work is worth a fresh look if only for the joy of immersion in bilingual verse. Chanting phrases, stitching lines together as long prose poems, then repeating the lot in Spanish, Castro, as demonstrated by his much-reprinted Cantos to Blood and Honey and numerous contributions to literary magazines and journals, is a true stylist on the written page, to say nothing of his talents with the spoken word.

His stats aren't as good as those of Eddie Jones or Brian Grant, but this 6'7" forward is still a rookie. And while other rookies -- Houston's Yao Ming and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire -- have caught the media's eye, Butler has played more minutes than any other rookie, and he consistently ranks among the top rookie scorers. He was picked tenth in the 2002 NBA draft, but he was Pat Riley's first pick, an encouraging start at rebuilding a team beset by age, injury, and illness. Butler beat even greater odds just getting to the NBA. The Wisconsin native was a young gang-banger, pushing cocaine for street dealers at age twelve, arrested more than a dozen times, and sentenced to eighteen months in a prison for youthful offenders by age fifteen. That turned out to be his big break. He spent a lot of time on the basketball court, discovered he had a gift -- and the rest is history. As it becomes increasingly clear that Grant and Jones aren't the franchise players their paychecks would suggest, the Heat's hopes for the future have come to rest on Butler's talented shoulders.

Readers Choice: Caron Butler

Just north of the SW 152nd Street exit from the Florida Turnpike, a pink-and-white checkered building with a 50-foot-tall rook's tower provides an odd counterpoint to the endless suburban sprawl of strip malls and cookie-cutter housing developments. The building houses the corporate headquarters of Excalibur Electronics (makers of electronic novelties) and the World Chess Hall of Fame & Sidney Samole Chess Museum. The museum, official hall of fame for the United States Chess Federation and the World Chess Federation, was founded in Miami by Shane Samole, whose father Sid in the Seventies created the first electronic chess game after watching Spock play chess against a computer during a Star Trek episode. The building's medieval theme continues outside, where a giant sword embedded in a boulder stands sentry at the front door, and inside, where suits of armor and stone façades set the aesthetic parameters. There are no audio recordings of Bobby Fischer ranting about the U.N. (although you can see Fischer's old competition table) but there are plenty of other tidbits to chew on. According to a chess timeline (weirdly set in a very dim hallway with pinpoint lights set like stars in the ceiling and ethereal music coming from unseen speakers), the word "checkmate" comes from the Persian "Shah mat," meaning "the king is at a loss," and the bishops seen in modern chess sets were elephants in the original version, which first appeared around 600 A.D. (medieval Europeans, most of whom had never seen an elephant, changed the piece to something they were a little more familiar with). You won't run into large crowds at the museum unless they're hosting a tournament, although Milena Migliorelli, in charge of PR, says they have a following among diehard chessheads: "People are always surprised we're here, although we do advertise in Chess Life."

Mandich may have the experience and credentials to be a jock-talk radio host (including three NFL Championship rings, one from his play as tight end on Miami's undefeated 1972 Dolphins squad), but it's his voice that really reaches out and boxes your ears. Where other jock-talk personalities embrace goofy sports-geek overenthusiasm or know-it-all laconicism (like Hank Goldberg, Mandich's colleague at WQAM-AM 560), Mad Dog's bombastic pipes carry the show. It's impossible to transcribe the stretched vowels and clipped consonants that roll around like gumballs in his mouth, but suffice it to say that the voice makes even the generic parts of his act seem fresh (the studied political incorrectness, barking at callers when the show gets a little slow). Almost everything he says seems funny, including his stock "Never better!" (delivered as if fired from a cannon) in response to callers' ubiquitous "Howyadoon' Mad Dog?" In addition to the afternoon call-in show (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.), Mandich can be seen on Channel 10's Sports Jam Live, though it's hard to get the full impact of the voice when you have to watch him too.

Readers Choice: Neil Rogers, WQAM-AM (560)

Three years ago we said Ricker was our Best Gadfly. Given his dedication and perseverance, this new honor, Best Citizen, is well deserved. Ricker goes to 2500 mind-melting meetings annually, from the Public Health Trust's purchasing subcommittee to the Efficiency and Competition Commission to the Alliance for Human Services' nominating council to the school board's audit committee. Sometimes he's the only public observer. Object: to be the Public Citizen for all those out there who can't attend, and to connect and serve as an information bridge among the special-interest-dominated Miami-Dade governmental institutions that seem so problematic and indifferent to the democratic process. This month his e-mail newsletter, The Watchdog Report, celebrates its fourth anniversary. In a former life Ricker made a handsome living as an international salesman of heart pacemakers. As the hard-working publisher of Watchdog, though, he's struggling financially -- this despite the fact that his weekly compendium of meeting summaries, analysis, interviews, and commentary has become essential reading for anyone involved in public affairs. What his written work may lack in polish, it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. So raise a toast to the man whose official slogan says it all: "A community education resource -- I go when you cannot!"

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®