Spangler is a blue-eyed, ruddy-cheeked 26-year-old with an old man's voice and a talent for the well-turned phrase. He spends his afternoons and evenings attending the most obscure functions, from little girls primping at a hair salon to rabbis blessing a restaurant to a drag-queen diva primping for a night on the town -- in short, the thousand little moments that come and go unnoticed every day in the Magic City. At its best Spangler's prose divines unadorned human motives from piles of random detail, provoking in the reader a moment of recognition. Here's an example from one story: "Like a batter in the major leagues, a restaurant hostess in Miami Beach meets failure early and often. She chooses her pitch: a young couple, good looking and tan, tourists perhaps. She squares herself to the plate: wide smile with white teeth, good eye contact. She swings. 'Hi, how are you tonight? Would you like to see our menu?' They smile in acknowledgment but do not break stride. She misses."

While her specialty remains thrashing the school board, teachers' union, and classroom chaos, this "Pitbull in Pumps" (a nickname from her days in Tulsa television) has branched out recently. She's looked into everything from failing police radios in Miami Beach to prescription drug prices to medical fraud. For her fans, Jilda knows how to cut to the chase. To the retired dentist whose "resonator" had no tangible medical value, the relentless investigator asked, "Have you cured AIDS?" Does she have detractors? Of course, and she's proud of the long list. "Why do I have to explain it to Jilda Unruh?" one of the teachers' union members demanded of her when she questioned him about his bloated contract. Well, sir, because if you don't respond, she might just sink her teeth into you.

Morgan has long been well-known and well liked on the local theater scene, but her work this season really showed off her range of skills. The British-born actress recently knocked off the crotchety Scottish housekeeper Mrs. Hudson in Sherlock's Last Case for Actors' Playhouse, plus some bizarre comedic cameos as an android actress and a wacky wigged hooker in Comic Potential, also at AP. And her work in Tom Walker for the New Theatre was a range in itself -- playing Tom's nightmare of a harridan wife and doubling as his new love, the harried Widow Baine. While Morgan has been lauded for each of these performances, it's the breadth of her abilities that's really remarkable. Some actors do well by playing the same role over and over. Lisa Morgan is never the same twice.

Bayside Marketplace
One can easily debate the wisdom of our city fathers having turned over a waterfront park to a mall developer who populated the place with chain restaurants and stores you can find most anywhere. But such concerns don't appear to trouble the brows of the hordes who routinely descend on Bayside every weekend and who look like they're having a whale of a good time. The worst offense associated with a tourist trap is the feeling you're being ripped off. In fact Bayside is home to some dining and drinking establishments that are not extortionately priced (there are even deals to be had at lunchtime) and have the advantage of decidedly pleasant views of the marina, the port, and the bay from the many outdoor terraces. Just be forewarned: Nights when a game or concert is on at the American Airlines Arena, parking rates skyrocket at Bayside's garage and nearby lots, and the resulting traffic jam on Biscayne Boulevard can make you question why you ever bothered to abandon the comfort of your couch.

The fact that "Patty" is so easy to chant is not the reason 107-pound junior flyweight champion Patricia Martinez wins fans at her bouts. This 32-year-old Chicana, who works as a legal interpreter, is a scrappy, fast, and fearless slugger. She won the U.S. National Amateur Championships in 1997. As a pro she's been unstoppable, amassing a 10-1 record and garnering the number-one junior flyweight ranking from the Women's International Boxing Association. Though her record may win her fighting credibility, it's her skill that has earned her ringside respect. This past March 13, for example, she pummeled number-five-ranked contender Wendy Rodriguez in a six-round match. Rodriguez was ineffective against Martinez's reach, and ended up bloodied. Meanwhile the champ emerged unscathed and worked the crowd. Martinez, in January, knocked out challenger Nancy Bonilla with a fierce flurry of punches in the first round. The fight lasted just one minute, twenty seconds before the ref stopped it.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®