The City of Miami's hapless Historic and Environmental Preservation Board actually managed to save a building once. It was back in 2001. The structure was the 75-year-old Firestone building at SW First Street and Twelfth Avenue in Little Havana. But as part of the deal, the guardians of the city's architectural flame decided to let Walgreens tamper with Miami's oldest sign, an 84-foot-long, 36-foot-tall, neon rooftop beauty that spelled out F-i-r-e-s-t-o-n-e. Walgreens recently opened shop inside the old service station, where generations of Miamians flocked for toys, bikes, and appliances, as well as tires and gas. The famous old sign now reads, W-a-l-g-r-e-e-n-s. The chain drugstore, however, did agree to use five of the original letters: two e's, an r, an s, and an n. Those letters, of course, spell sneer, which is about all that hardcore preservationists can do in this town.

The City of Miami's hapless Historic and Environmental Preservation Board actually managed to save a building once. It was back in 2001. The structure was the 75-year-old Firestone building at SW First Street and Twelfth Avenue in Little Havana. But as part of the deal, the guardians of the city's architectural flame decided to let Walgreens tamper with Miami's oldest sign, an 84-foot-long, 36-foot-tall, neon rooftop beauty that spelled out F-i-r-e-s-t-o-n-e. Walgreens recently opened shop inside the old service station, where generations of Miamians flocked for toys, bikes, and appliances, as well as tires and gas. The famous old sign now reads, W-a-l-g-r-e-e-n-s. The chain drugstore, however, did agree to use five of the original letters: two e's, an r, an s, and an n. Those letters, of course, spell sneer, which is about all that hardcore preservationists can do in this town.

In Miami you don't ponder the now-mythical life of Che Guevara so much as argue about it. The legendary Argentine guerrilla's name is cursed, cried over, or simply shuddered at for the loss it represents to so many Cuban exiles. In fact Menéndez's own father, who fled the island in 1960, was as wary as anyone else while paging through Loving Che, asking sourly, "Why did you have to print so many pictures of that son of a bitch?" As Menéndez's title suggests, her novel is an attempt to grapple with those emotions, with that revolutionary moment's enduring appeal to new generations. Forget dry historical accounts: Menéndez conjures up a sweaty love affair involving the protagonist against the backdrop of Havana's 1959 convulsions. Menéndez crafts passages that cement her as one of our city's finest voices of the Cuban experience, one whose ability to create lyricism out of pain is rare.

Hell hath no fury like a reformed dolphin trainer. Anyone who has dealt with Russ Rector knows that all too well. From 1968 to 1975 he worked and performed with the creatures at Fort Lauderdale's Ocean World. Today he is president of the Dolphin Freedom Foundation, which he founded in 1992 as a platform from which he could launch relentless attacks against those who do what he once did: hold dolphins captive, or otherwise endanger them. In 1990 he clung to a buoy off the Dry Tortugas to disrupt a U.S. Navy test of underwater explosives he believed could harm the area's wild dolphins. In 1993 he and other activists made a very public stink when Aruba proposed to build a tourist swim-with-the-dolphins facility. In 1994 he was arrested for trespassing at North Key Largo's private Ocean Reef Club, where he was denied access to check on the welfare of three captive dolphins held by the club. In July 1995 he set his sights on the aging Miami Seaquarium, which keeps dolphins and a killer whale named Lolita. Acting on a tip from employees, he videotaped what appeared to be serious structural problems with the main performing stadium. His protests to county, state, and federal agencies went nowhere. For several years in the mid-Nineties he noisily argued that Lolita's holding tank was too small, again to no avail. But last year the 55-year-old sea-mammal advocate connected. Brandishing another videotape and a safety expert's report, commissioned by his foundation, Rector documented scores of electrical code violations at the Seaquarium. This time Miami-Dade County officials responded, slapping the attraction with nearly 140 violations. Cost for repairs: roughly a half-million dollars. Last month he was at it again. A new report by the safety expert alleged more violations, including inadequate emergency exits for Seaquarium visitors. Is he obsessed? Yes. Is he overbearing? Yes. Is he a hero? Certainly not to Arthur Hertz, CEO of Coral Gables-based Wometco, which owns and operates the Seaquarium. But to many other people, here and elsewhere, the answer is yes. He's a hero.

Hell hath no fury like a reformed dolphin trainer. Anyone who has dealt with Russ Rector knows that all too well. From 1968 to 1975 he worked and performed with the creatures at Fort Lauderdale's Ocean World. Today he is president of the Dolphin Freedom Foundation, which he founded in 1992 as a platform from which he could launch relentless attacks against those who do what he once did: hold dolphins captive, or otherwise endanger them. In 1990 he clung to a buoy off the Dry Tortugas to disrupt a U.S. Navy test of underwater explosives he believed could harm the area's wild dolphins. In 1993 he and other activists made a very public stink when Aruba proposed to build a tourist swim-with-the-dolphins facility. In 1994 he was arrested for trespassing at North Key Largo's private Ocean Reef Club, where he was denied access to check on the welfare of three captive dolphins held by the club. In July 1995 he set his sights on the aging Miami Seaquarium, which keeps dolphins and a killer whale named Lolita. Acting on a tip from employees, he videotaped what appeared to be serious structural problems with the main performing stadium. His protests to county, state, and federal agencies went nowhere. For several years in the mid-Nineties he noisily argued that Lolita's holding tank was too small, again to no avail. But last year the 55-year-old sea-mammal advocate connected. Brandishing another videotape and a safety expert's report, commissioned by his foundation, Rector documented scores of electrical code violations at the Seaquarium. This time Miami-Dade County officials responded, slapping the attraction with nearly 140 violations. Cost for repairs: roughly a half-million dollars. Last month he was at it again. A new report by the safety expert alleged more violations, including inadequate emergency exits for Seaquarium visitors. Is he obsessed? Yes. Is he overbearing? Yes. Is he a hero? Certainly not to Arthur Hertz, CEO of Coral Gables-based Wometco, which owns and operates the Seaquarium. But to many other people, here and elsewhere, the answer is yes. He's a hero.

Original designs by internationally acclaimed artist Antoni Miralda, world-famous architect William Lane, renowned Pop artist Kenny Scharf. Split-level, wrap-around decks. Beachfront water views, good security, quiet at night. Walk to Wet Willy's, Mac's Club Deuce, dumpsters full of fresh restaurant leftovers. Among the most livable, colorful, whimsical shelters on the planet. $0/month. For more information call the City of Miami Beach's Office of Homeless Coordination at 305-604-4663, Miami-Dade County's Homeless Assistance Program at 305-636-6368, or the trilingual (English, Spanish, Kreyol) homeless helpline at 877-994-HELP.

Original designs by internationally acclaimed artist Antoni Miralda, world-famous architect William Lane, renowned Pop artist Kenny Scharf. Split-level, wrap-around decks. Beachfront water views, good security, quiet at night. Walk to Wet Willy's, Mac's Club Deuce, dumpsters full of fresh restaurant leftovers. Among the most livable, colorful, whimsical shelters on the planet. $0/month. For more information call the City of Miami Beach's Office of Homeless Coordination at 305-604-4663, Miami-Dade County's Homeless Assistance Program at 305-636-6368, or the trilingual (English, Spanish, Kreyol) homeless helpline at 877-994-HELP.

BEST LEISURE ACTIVITY OTHER THAN CLUBS OR MOVIES

Surfing South Beach

For the first time since the Sixties, and maybe ever, there's a thriving surfing community in South Beach. On most winter mornings, up to 400 rowdy surfers litter the ocean, straddling variations of long and short boards. No, our beaches haven't suddenly developed the kind of overhead breaks enjoyed by surfers on the West Coast, or even north of Palm Beach where Atlantic swells make it to shore without being intercepted by reefs and islands. But a growing number of local wavers have discovered that from fall through the beginning of spring, when South Beach receives consistent doses of swells, barreling peaks accompany the incoming tides, big enough for carving. The best known local surfer, Ron Keindl, a former lifeguard, often helps keep order, separating "kooks" from the more experienced riders who might slam into them. "Don't go down there thinking you're going to be the man," he cautions. There are rules, he adds, and "a definite pecking order."

If shelling out 26.7 million taxpayer dollars to buy the tiny spit of land on which the Miami Circle sits doesn't quite qualify as a boondoggle, maybe this does: The ancient site has been reburied. Discovered in 1998 and dubbed Miami's Stonehenge, the mysterious Indian artifact ignited the public imagination and attracted international attention. Six years after its purchase, however, an alphabet-soup of local, state, and federal agencies has accomplished virtually nothing. Experts warned that the exposed Circle was being threatened by erosion, so last fall it was quietly covered with gravel, sand, and promises that a few more years of paperwork would result in the park everyone was promised. Hey, the site lay there unnoticed for at least 1000 years, so what's the rush, right?

If shelling out 26.7 million taxpayer dollars to buy the tiny spit of land on which the Miami Circle sits doesn't quite qualify as a boondoggle, maybe this does: The ancient site has been reburied. Discovered in 1998 and dubbed Miami's Stonehenge, the mysterious Indian artifact ignited the public imagination and attracted international attention. Six years after its purchase, however, an alphabet-soup of local, state, and federal agencies has accomplished virtually nothing. Experts warned that the exposed Circle was being threatened by erosion, so last fall it was quietly covered with gravel, sand, and promises that a few more years of paperwork would result in the park everyone was promised. Hey, the site lay there unnoticed for at least 1000 years, so what's the rush, right?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®