Anyone who thought Nat Chediak's career was over when he and the Miami International Film Festival parted ways hadn't been following his career closely enough. An historian of Latin jazz and a music producer (and film producer, with associate-producer credits on Fernando Trueba's homage to Latin jazz musicians, Calle 54), Chediak won a Latin Grammy last fall for producing the Bebo Valdes Trio's CD El arte del sabor. That album went on to win Chediak his second regular Grammy in February. And just weeks before the big Grammy awards show, he returned to the stage at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, this time to present Spanish singer Martirio to a wildly enthusiastic crowd. While we wish him well in the studio, the fruits of which anyone anywhere can enjoy, we are selfishly hoping to see more live performances courtesy of Nat Chediak, presenter.

Much of the success for this year's smash Floyd Collins lies with its solid-gold ensemble that produced one memorable performance after another. Besides Tally Sessions's work in the leading role, the show featured Blythe Gruda as the ethereal, off-kilter sister Nellie, Brian Charles Rooney as their moviestruck brother, Jerry Gulledge as their haunted father, and Lourelene Snedeker as their warm-hearted, long-suffering stepmother. The cast also featured terrific work from Michael Turner as a guilt-ridden reporter, Brian M. Golub as a wannabe folk singer with a bell-clear voice, and Ken Clement as a blustering, officious engineer. To that add Wayne Steadman, Mark Filosa, Terry M. Cain, Oscar Cheda, and Barry Tarallo and what you've got is a dream of a cast.

Miami is poor, poor, poor. Miami is so poor it's not even funny. Almost one-third of city residents live in poverty, according to the 2000 Census. More than eleven percent are unemployed, and per capita income overall is less than the cost of an economy car. Almost half our residents never graduated from high school. Don't even get us started on the lack of home-ownership. The reasons for all this are many and varied and stretch back in time for decades. But in 2002 a glimmer of hope shined through when Miami Mayor Manny Diaz (pressured by the good folks at the Human Services Coalition of Miami-Dade County, among others) announced his intention to make fighting poverty a priority of his administration. To this end the mayor said he would funnel city funds into existing anti-poverty initiatives, encourage residents to take advantage of tax credits and save money, promote small businesses, and attempt to adopt a living-wage ordinance. Not overly ambitious, but certainly a refreshing change from the city's usual strategy of frittering away federal funds for years while the inner cities rot. The mettle of Mayor Diaz has yet to be tested, and the results of this initiative (coordinated by HSC, the United Way, and others) measured, but at least now our people's pain is out in the open. That's something of a victory.

You've never heard an oldies station quite like this one. Yes, Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely" has been played to death by DJs -- but how about Los Locos del Ritmo's note-for-note Spanish-language take on that wistful ballad? Or Roberto Jordán's Spanish cover of Redbone's bouncy Seventies classic "Come and Get Your Love"? Or Vianey Valdez's rousing rendition of the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout"? Welcome to the slightly surreal world of Clásica 92, where these Spanish pop oldies happily co-exist with their U.S. cousins. It's a wonderfully elastic format, skipping across decades and genres, making room for the Eagles and the Bee Gees alongside their south-of-the-border colleagues. Whether you're a Latino nostalgic for the homeland radio sounds of your youth, or an Anglo reliving your past in an entirely new way, Clásica 92 is one of our city's unheralded treasures.

Readers Choice: WLRN-FM (91.3)

SECOND-BEST REASON TO STAY IN MIAMI FOR THE SUMMER

Back-yard mangoes

They're sweet and juicy, big as softballs, and more numerous than flies on a cow. They're versatile, too. You can make them into breads, cakes, salsas, jams, or chutneys. And if you know someone with a tree (and who doesn't at least have a friend of a friend?), mangoes are free all season, from spring to autumn, when mango-tree owners actually are relieved to see the last one plop to the ground. What else could you ask for from a fruit? Only that it not crack your skull on the way down.

With a powerful singing voice and boundless energy, Sessions conjured up the memorable title role in the best show of the year, staged by Actors' Playhouse. Sessions's Floyd Collins was a high-spirited Huck Finn whose entrapment in an underground cave led him from optimism to panic to horrible despair. Sessions is that rare musical-theater performer who keeps his work fully grounded in emotional truth. He adroitly handled the difficult challenges of his role -- long, musically complex solos and significant athletic demands.

For closing down the MacArthur Causeway, BBII lived up to its name. But we're willing to bet that once the film opens, all will be forgiven. The original Bad Boys was arguably the first film to portray Miami as a truly urban center, with all its glitz and its grit, and we have similar expectations for the sequel. Besides the reteaming of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, aren't you just a teeny bit curious about that causeway sequence? Special mention goes to the practically straight-to-video Big Trouble. Based on the book by Dave Barry, the subject of a nuclear device on a passenger plane was too hot to handle post 9/11. Despite its many flaws, the film boasts some memorable moments of Barry's spot-on skewering of the local scene and its population.

BEST REASON TO STAY IN MIAMI FOR THE SUMMER

Sultry nights

Summer in Miami can make you want to hole up like northerners do during deepest, darkest winter. We race between the cool comfort and the deep freeze of office buildings, malls, and restaurants. We shun our barbecues and stoves (who wants to stand over a hot piece of metal?) and our patios (too many mosquitoes). We curse those monsoon downpours that always seem to catch us when we're wearing good shoes and forgot an umbrella. Yet once the sun goes down, the heat and humidity that torture us in daylight meld to create a softness in the air that positively caresses the skin as you glide through the night.

About seven years ago Robert Moehling, owner of the renowned fruit and vegetable market bearing his name, boarded a collection of turtles and tortoises for his friend Richard Paul, who was leaving town. Moehling was thinking trash removal. The creatures helpfully eat his organic refuse. Now the acre he set aside for the hardbacks has become an intriguing roadside stop. About 40 turtles, including bright-green spur-thighs, so-named because of the large scales jutting from their legs, mix in lethargic grace with others termed simply redfoots and yellowfoots. But clearly the star of the show is Centurion, a Galapagos tortoise who is between 160 and 170 years old, weighs approximately 725 pounds, and ambles about like a slow-moving coffee table. Apparently Centurion had some trouble sharing his space with a large Aldabra turtle named M-2. From the sign on the enclosure: "Centurion #11 isn't usually here because he can't stand M-2.... Centurion has his reasons. M-2 walks, stands, and sits on Centurion's food, cuts him off, makes disgusting noises, and doesn't make the proper Galapagos tortoise head-raising signs in greeting." You'll be happy to know they tolerate each other now, so you can catch both. Best of all, Moehling doesn't charge to view the beasts.

Psssst, this is a good one. Absolutely free parking, with only the thinnest of strings attached. A two-block stretch of Twelfth Street next to Flamingo Park's athletic field is reserved for school buses during high school games, mainly football. It's busy a handful of nights a year. The rest of the time? Absolutely free unlimited parking. No residential permit required, no meters, no threat of getting towed. Park there and it's a quick walk to Lincoln Road, Washington Avenue, and the beach. It's such a good spot it'd be a shame to, you know, publicize it in some free weekly.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®