Who's not looking for a handyman? But aren't all the tool-toting studs at Home Depot engaged in some kind of home improvement project for the little missus? Maybe, but Home Depot delivers testosterone in such bulk it really doesn't matter if a high percentage are married. And unlike the bar scene, few married men here think to remove their wedding rings before heading down the hardware aisle. The Home Depot in North Miami Beach offers not just volume but variety as well: penthouse dwellers from Aventura, single dads from the Shores, snazzy decorators from Belle Meade, beefy working stiffs from along I-95. Whatever job you would like done, Home Depot has the man to do it for you. For upscale mates, we recommend lingering by the whirlpools. For successful contractors, try the "professionals" aisle. For apprentices, wander by the benches near the hot dog stand out front. That's where the employees rest their orange aprons and check out the chicks in an easy-to-crack code. If the assessment sounds good, double back, order an all-beef dog and squeeze in.

For whatever reason, Miami is not a huge art-house film town. (Too many other distractions perhaps?) The Sunrise Intracoastal is one of the very few venues in the county to regularly program foreign and independent fare -- and keep it on the screen for longer than the opening week. Easy, plentiful, and free parking more than compensates for the less-than-new interior. Plus the North Miami Beach location is a great compromise when making movie dates with friends who live in Broward. Best of all, the theater is locally owned and programmed by the husband-wife team of Mitch and Nancy Dreir. (The Intracoastal, which they acquired from the bankrupt General Cinema Corporation in late 2000, is one of nine theaters and more than 70 screens the couple now owns in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade.) Earlier this year Mitch and Nancy explained their approach to Sun-Sentinel movie critic Todd Anthony (formerly of this newspaper): "Most of our theaters offer the qualities people associate with smaller, less frenetic movie theaters. It may not be the largest portion of the movie-going public, but clearly there's a significant audience for it. We strive to make you feel at home, from the time you get out of your car in the parking lot to the person who greets you at the ticket box." Mitch is admittedly obsessive. "I'm in movie theaters 60, 70 hours a week," he told Anthony. "I go into the washrooms, I go into the auditoriums, I get behind the snack bar. If somebody decides to spend a good chunk of their evening with me, I want to make sure they have a great time." And that, we would argue, is an award-winning attitude.

The trick is to stash your skank bag (the sizable trash or cloth sacks in which the homeless drag their stuff around) somewhere else before you start holding up a palm tree. That way the cops won't know you're one of them. Then you get a pair of shades, clean up as much as feasible, hide your bottle of Natural Ice behind your back, and sleep in peace. (The homeless are always tired because cops chase them around at night when they see them on the street.) Lummus is a glorious green oasis, and you can dream of the rich babes just across Ocean at the News Café, the Cardozo, or the Tides, who might discover you here, and unlike most other folks, recognize your good qualities.

In Tap Tap one night, talking about the successful poet Rashida Bartley, we became aware of a series of horrified snufflings and belchings, air expelled in violent ssssss's, denoting high dudgeon and street-level contempt. Looking around we saw a purplish-colored fellow in seamed black rags, but with a Ritmo wristwatch and red leather Tiffany's journal, small and boiling, like a fissure in a hotspring. When he had our attention he heightened his voice girlishly: For all tha mo-ments wheeen drrreams were not enuff/ to taalk me into seeing da future.... Trikky winked and scrambled closer over the stools, conspirial-voiced now: "See, even dat crap she write can be im-proved if you stretch and break consonants and riddems, twist da spellin's to sound like brakes squealin' an bumpers scrapin' over dem dead O'town lies, mistuh..." He raked our faces with a steel-comb look: Yeah, I did Rimbaud a thousand years ago had Maldoror's ass/ in my kitchen glass Walt Whitman messed and funk-skank blessed y'all tryin' to write what we sow. Trikky asked for our business cards, accepted a double Jameson's, and said he'd call next time he and his buddies slammed.

Everything you ever wanted to know about local education (from pre-k to post-doc) and so much more. History professor Peterson, a slight man with glasses, a limp, and a sardonic smile, creates somewhere between seven and ten e-mail newsletters weekly and sends them to a few hundred people. The newsletters are partly a compendium of education-related articles in major newspapers and journals, studies, and statistics. But they also serve as a repository of Peterson's analysis of political trends, bald advocacy of ideological positions, parsing of the smallest potential motives behind every decision made by the school board, and tweaking the administration and politicos by endlessly speculating on their essentially corrupt natures. To subscribe, send an e-mail to [email protected] with "subscribe MER" in the subject line.

Now the lone moviehouse in all the beaches, the Regal South Beach undoubtedly benefits from having a captive audience at its disposal. Weekend evenings can be disconcertingly chaotic at times, but its location at the corner of Lincoln and Alton roads makes it unbeatable for the perennially favorite combo: dinner and a movie. With summer upon us, beat the heat and the crowds by slipping in for an afternoon matinee (especially midweek, all the better to feel superior to the 9-to-5 wage slaves). Emerge from the cool darkness into the gentler rays of late afternoon, and amble down to an outdoor table at one of the many local establishments for a libation over which to debate whether the plot of The Matrix: Reloaded makes more sense than that of the original.

Readers Choice: Sunset Place 24

The Miami Herald was a favorite DeFede target for the ten and a half years he was employed by this newspaper. Now that he's toiling away in the belly of the beast, his crusade against corruption, incompetence, malfeasance, official mediocrity, and, well, official idiocy appears to continue unencumbered by the powers-that-be -- at least so far. The first page of the Herald's local section is a far more interesting read thanks to him (and an inspired internal shakeup that affected the other columnists at the paper). Are we sorry to have lost him? Of course. Is he making us proud nonetheless? You bet.

The best man on a mediocre team, center Jokinen leads the Panthers in points, goals, and assists. He was expected to be a star after Los Angeles selected him third in the 1997 draft, but he ended up being wildly inconsistent his first four seasons. Since then he has greatly improved, which is good news for the Panthers, who've been losing steam (on the ice and at the box office) since handing the 1996 Stanley Cup to Colorado. Today Jokinen and goalie Roberto Luongo are playing almost as if hockey actually matters in South Florida. Does it?

Readers Choice: Roberto Luongo

South Florida is blessed with an abundance of theater for kids, but none tops the Actors' Playhouse, which takes children's theater very, very seriously. For starters the Playhouse, one of the area's major professional companies, has created an entirely separate children's division, led by peripatetic artistic director Earl Maulding. He produces a full season of plays for children, as well as providing classes and workshops. Maulding and executive director Barbara Stein aim for excellence, hiring experienced professional actors and designers to staff their children's shows. Then there's the company's National Children's Theatre Festival, which holds a national competition for new children's plays and stages a spectacular weekend event for the winner's world premiere. Finally there's the context of all of this: Children who come watch the plays often discover they want to attend the main-stage adult fare the Playhouse offers. Some kids from the training program end up onstage themselves in the big Playhouse musicals like this past season's The Sound of Music. Actors' Playhouse not only offers the best in children's entertainment, it's providing South Florida with an important cultural service by nurturing the audiences of tomorrow.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®