Best Of :: People & Places
BEST DAY TRIP Clyde Butcher's Muck-About Big Cypress Gallery
52388 Tamiami Trail
239-695-2428; 888-999-9113 The Swamp. Is it a place of psychedelic gases and weedy monsters? Do alligators battle pythons for dominion over a few feet of muck? Are creepy crawlies lying in wait for a hapless tourist to wander by? Is it fodder for comic books and horror movies or simply a place of misunderstood beauty? At Everglades photographer Clyde Butcher's studio on the outskirts of the Big Cypress Preserve, the swamp becomes a friendly, inviting place. Every Labor Day even the most citified flatlander can get up-close and personal with the complicated wetlands that give life to the tail end of Florida. There are photographic workshops, displays, music, food, and other festivities, but the real gem is the popular Muck-About. A guided tour wanders through a pristine cypress strand. This is no prance across an elevated walkway. It's a down-and-dirty plod in brown water and decomposing matter sure to destroy some article of clothing. You'll observe nature in its mostly quiet glory. And in case you are wondering, the gators and monsters mostly snooze during the day -- unless disturbed.
BEST ACTIVITY TO DO WHILE INTOXICATED Beer Pong Hooligan´s Pub & Oyster Bar
9555 S. Dixie Highway
www.hooliganspub.com Every Thursday night at 9:00 Hooligan's offers a chance for everyone (yes, the distaff included) to get their balls wet. On one of the Ping-Pong tables brought into the pub for this event, each contestant is required to arrange ten cups of beer (sort of like bowling pins). Opponents then get on either side and attempt to bounce a table-tennis ball into the other team's hops. Each time a player scores, the other team must drink. Because a person has to be pretty much drunk before indulging in such a game, a few misses are to be expected. This makes it even more fun, seeing as the ball will no doubt end up landing on the grimy floor a few times before plopping into its intended target. The object is to make the opposing side drink all ten cups of beer -- including any carpet lint, dust, and other fluff. Yummy.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL EYESORE Miami Herald Building 1 Herald Plaza
Miami Plans for construction were announced in 1958, and before you could say Ugh! the views of Biscayne Bay from Overtown and the MacArthur Causeway were obliterated by this squat, hulking orange monument to stifled imagination. Clearly it was at the vanguard of a style (American Utilitarian?) that would inspire for decades to come the builders of high schools and inner-city housing projects. This is no Tribune Tower in Chicago, an Art Deco ode to that city's daily paper. Nor is it the stately neo-gothic 43rd Street headquarters of The New York Times. It's not even the Freedom Tower just down the road, for many years the distinctive home of the Miami News. This is just a generic orange splat gobbling up our precious waterfront. But there's hope on the horizon. This past March the Terra Group bought the building and the property for $190 million. Terra hasn't announced plans to raze the structure, at least not anytime soon. But one can always hope.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL INCONGRUITY Sears Tower vs. Miami Performing Arts Center Biscayne Boulevard at Thirteenth Street
Miami Amid the grandiose high-rise redevelopment of Miami's downtown, the proud old Sears Tower stands nested within the new performing arts center. The 1929 Art Deco masterpiece once anchored a much larger building and served as a kind of beacon that drew Miami's commercial activity northward from the city center. In a way, it is encoring that role today, as it softens and adds warmth to Cesar Pelli's hard-edged design for a huge (and hugely expensive) facility that, it is hoped, will attract new life to a long-neglected part of the city. Today the tower is overshadowed by the cool glass façade of the incipient new opera house. One is half-demolished, one is half-finished. Awkward neighbors, they both await uncertain futures.
BEST AUDIO TOUR Adam Curry's podcast from South Beach http://radio.weblogs.com/0001014/ categories/dailySourceCode/2005/ 01/07.html#a6993 So you've finally set up your blog. That's sooooo 2004. Goodness, you should already be podcasting for your cyber creds. Podcasting is the new blog, but think of it more as radio broadcasting available from the Internet that you save to your personal MP3 and play when you want to hear it. Podcasts are nowhere as slick or commercial as typical radio talk shows, but there's complete freedom of content and language, and anybody -- absolutely everybody -- can create a podcast with simple equipment and software. They are strangely alluring. There's a bit of voyeurism, a bit of old-time radio-show quaintness, and lots of hilarious and shocking moments that never, ever happen on broadcast radio. Anything still goes in cyberspace. One of the major players is Adam Curry. Yeah, that blond dude from MTV. As well as being instrumental in podcasting's development and promotion, he also yammers on his popular Daily Source Code show. The episode linked above is particularly good. Curry takes listeners on a "sound-seeing" tour of South Beach. Typical sounds of the neighborhood waft by like effects from an old-time radio drama. He speaks to colorful locals and wanders around, describing everything he sees. Curry also explains some of the concepts and technology involved in creating his show. It's as much a learning experience as it is entertainment. Podcasting may still be in its infancy, but the buzz in the industry is that it will shatter radio as we know it.
BEST BOONDOGGLE Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust The People's Transportation Plan, approved by Miami-Dade voters in 2002, was supposed to deliver on a lot of promises in exchange for a half-penny surtax. Key to the measure's passage was the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust. The original idea was that the trust would have real autonomy and teeth to oversee disbursement of the $15 billion the tax would generate. But almost immediately county commissioners moved in to play dentist. As the CITT's powers were steadily extracted, the trust began to bleed members. So desperate is it to fill vacancies that it has been advertising for prospective new members since the middle of last year. Plainly obvious to all is that the PTP, despite its billions, will be unable to make good on its biggest promises (mostly the ones involving Metrorail extensions) and that the CITT is making a chump of every person who believed the hype and voted to increase the county's sales tax.
BEST BUILDING LOBBY Miami-Dade County Courthouse 73 W. Flagler Street
Miami Most folks who stumble through the metal detectors at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse probably have a lot more on their minds than reveling in the gorgeous architecture. But ignoring such beauty is practically criminal. (Not to worry; this is the civil courthouse.) Architects August Geiger and Albert Anthony Ten Eyck Brown (true name) designed the Neoclassical edifice in 1925 after a Miami population explosion rendered the two earlier courthouses too small. Over the years, wear and tear and the addition of an enclosed air-conditioning system detracted from the spacious atrium that once welcomed the courthouse's clientele. When necessary renovations progressed slowly owing to lack of funds, the legal community, led by the Dade County Bar Association, came together and raised enough money to finish work on the lobby. Thankfully they kept the air conditioner, but the false ceiling was removed to reveal the breathtaking two-story atrium. If you stand in the center circle of the tiled floor, you not only get a great feel for it, but you also avoid the ghastly Sixties attached rooms. Delicately carved sea serpents, cupids, and nudes grace the brass elevators. Look just above them to see delightful dolphins swimming in the mosaics. Larger mosaics that depict ships circling the state seal are attached to the ceiling at the entrances. Renovations to other sections of the building should continue for about two more years. Oh! Don't forget to leave your sidearms at home.
BEST BUMPER STICKER "To all you virgins out there, thanks for nothing."
BEST CAR WASH South Beach Finest Hand Car Wash 1229 Eighteenth Street
305-604-9282 Do you feel dirty? I mean really dirty? Then you need to have some fine young men and women scrub you down from top to bottom, inside and out, including your tires. With no monstrous machines to smack you around and bend your antenna, you'll be rubbed and caressed until you shine like the day you rolled off the lot. While you enjoy your day at the spa, your owners can relax in the air-conditioned lounge or keep an eye on you from the outdoor patio. A detail wash will set them back only $14 ($17 for SUVs and $20 for trucks and vans), so there will be extra cash to fill you up with the good gas. Do you have a lady driving you around? Tell her Wednesdays are her days to receive a twenty percent discount -- maybe she'll spring for the (regularly priced) $35 wax job.
Readers´ Choice: Busy Bee Car Wash
BEST CAREER MOVE Alberto Ibargüen He may have been sincere in telling his colleagues at the Miami Herald Publishing Company -- from reporters to advertising reps to pressroom workers and anonymous midlevel managers -- that he will miss them greatly. But in fact he couldn't be happier. No longer struggling with a whittled-down, anemic version of a once-proud newspaper under the life-sucking, soul-crushing financial thumb of parent company Knight Ridder and its pinhead CEO Tony Ridder, 61-year-old Ibargüen snagged what must be one of the best jobs in the land -- president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. There he'll be facing a very different, and much more appealing, challenge: how best to dole out some $90 million each year in grants to improve journalism and strengthen the social fabric in communities across the nation.
BEST CHEAP THRILL Miami Jai-Alai 3500 NW 37th Avenue
www.miami-jai-alai.com Who needs slots? For the lousy buck gamblers throw away on spinning fruit, spectators can be treated to the real action: four or more hours of the fastest game on earth. Watch as these international athletes hurl a rock-hard ball at speeds up to 180 miles per hour. (The goatskin ball travels at such velocity it has cracked bulletproof glass.) What could be more thrilling than gasping as the players stand directly in the line of fire with only a helmet and a wicker basket for protection? For a little more money (a lot more for the addictive personalities), place a small wager and feel the adrenaline rush. Even a novice can turn a few quarters into some big bucks simply by playing the odds, which are conveniently posted along with each player's statistics. If you're lucky, this thrill will be so cheap it will actually make you money.
BEST CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE Carol Marbin Miller Miami Herald reporter Miller has been single-minded in her efforts to force the state's Department of Children and Families to change itself from a backward, inefficient, corrupt institution into a somewhat less backward, less inefficient, and less corrupt institution. Since her byline first appeared in the Herald in 2000 (she had previously been at the St. Petersburg Times), Miller has written more than 900 stories, most dealing with DCF and its former chief, Jerry Regier. In 2004 alone she reported and wrote more than 200 stories chronicling crisis after crisis at DCF: "Child Welfare Flaws Exposed"; "Agency Pressured to Aid Connected Client"; "DCF Misuses Funds"; "Two Quit in DCF Ethics Breach"; "How to Explain Why Regier Is Still at DCF"; "DCF Chief Resigns Amid Scandal." It'd be nice to say DCF has cleaned up its act and we can now trust it to look after the state's most vulnerable children. It would be nice, but it wouldn't be entirely true. Thanks largely to Miller, however, DCF is slowly but surely moving in the right direction.