Let us now have a moment of silence for Don Carter's, the little bowling alley that could, and did, for 30 years. The Kendall branch opened in 1976, when most of the overcrowded suburb was but a gleam in an ambitious developer's eye, and it sadly has gone the way of most Miami businesses that possess any glimmer of authentic retro chic. Shuttered. Kaput. Finis. If you're the kind of "athlete" who owns your own bowling ball and shoes, you'll have to head out to the annoying brightness of Bird Bowl (9275 SW 40 St., Miami; 305-221-1221, www.birdbowl.com) or even farther to the Homestead Bowling Center (111 S. Homestead Blvd., Homestead; 305-246-1333). Hipsters can enjoy Lucky Strike Lanes (1691 Michigan Ave., Miami Beach; 305-532-0307, www.bowlluckystrike.com). Just know that no self-respecting bowling alley serves coconut shrimp and hummus, dudes. Progress has marched on, but the memories remain. Don Carter's felt like the real deal -- musty, dark, and funky. The ambiance could be described as inadvertent kitsch (and isn't that really the best kind?), with cheesy track lighting, garish patterns in the carpet, and a distinct lack of contemporary chic flourishes. And the deals couldn't be beat. On Monday nights, visitors were able to pay $10 for the Bowl Your Brains Out deal: all-you-could-roll plus music, raffles, and Lightning Strikes, a stonerific explosion of special effects, lights, lasers, and fog. Ah, the good old days. Rumors of the location's imminent closing swirled for months. This past October, the following statement was posted on the company's Website: "While we are saddened to see this great establishment close, we will be open through October 2005." The date came and went, and the year came to a close. Two other dates were publicized as being the last call, but Don Carter representatives finally confirmed the tragic truth. The Kendall area landmark went out with a whimper, not with the promised celebration and hubbub. Sorry, boys, no more balls will roll down those familiar wooden lanes. Eventually the familiar gray building will be razed and maybe rebuilt into some bullshit chain store. Sentimental fans will lament, zip up their bowling bags, and then make the trek up to the remaining Don Carter locations in Tamarac and Davie.
This past December, when Chuck Zink quietly entered a nursing home after a major stroke, native South Floridians spread the news that our good friend was dying. To call The Skipper Chuck Show popular would be an understatement. From 1957 to 1979, every youngster in town wanted to appear on it. The production seemed a cheery reprieve from the often scary and confusing world that adults inhabited -- when Zink bravely ordered desegregation, it became a bellwether. No right-minded kid could forget the cheery Popeye's Playhouse at the end of a maze of dark hallways in that giant box where WTVJ shot the show. During his long career, Zink was also an announcer for The Jackie Gleason Show and the Miss Universe Pageant. His day jobs included weatherman and radio personality, and he earned a bronze star for bravery during World War II, but it was as host of a seemingly simple kiddie show that he made a lasting and positive impression on the world. When he passed away this past January, fans found it easy to lift their hands in the Skipper's trademark three-fingered gesture and wish Zink "peace, love, and happiness" one last time.
Route 8A, Miami-Dade Transit's exotic Third-World express through the heart of Little Havana, is an experience unrivaled in our public transportation system and dirt cheap at a buck-fifty. Many joke that for norteamericanos this rickety trip down Calle Ocho is like weathering the Florida Straits on a raft; it'll take you to another country, no passport required. Expect to find yourself immersed in spirited teeth-gnashing forums making mincemeat of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. And if you don't speak Spanish, don't worry -- neither does the bus driver who appears in a zone all his own. Chances are a civic-minded translator will likely come to your rescue. You might also find yourself serenaded by a harmonica player belting out woeful tango standards and passing around a hat. Or you could run into a route regular canoodling with a life-size rag doll. The aging dandy is a street performer who dances with the dummy as part of his shtick, and hecklers yell at him to pay an extra fare as he slinks gracefully down the aisle with his tattered toe-tapping inamorata. Catch the infectious whiff of patriotism exuded by the geezer sporting the "Support Our Troops in Iraq" baseball cap with an American flag duct-taped to the brim. When the lady with the guava-tinge teeth waves her Lotto ticket at a man and denounces him an "infiltrator" before he tucks tail and hops off at the next stop, score one for back-yard democracy. Be wary of the guy waving the rusty garden rake -- it could poke out an eye. When you exit at Domino Park for some local color, don't miss the banner bearing an American bald eagle. It boasts, "Welcome to your Homeland Defense Neighborhood," in English.
Development is the enemy of Florida, and Steve Rosen is an enemy of development. He came to public attention when snipers were headed to Miami International Airport to slaughter 300 jackrabbits living there. Instead of carnage, Rosen, who clearly is more intelligent than anyone who has anything to do with running the airport, simply paid to have the bunnies wrangled and relocated. Now Rosen is going to court to stop developers statewide from burying alive gopher tortoises, creatures that are nearing a place on the list of threatened species after a 70 percent decline in population since 1910. Developers simply pave over the animals, causing them to slowly suffocate. Florida grants permits to kill the reptiles. Wal-Mart, for one example, built on top of five tortoises, causing Rosen to rhetorically question whether the retail giant couldn't afford to have relocated such a small number of the shelled creatures. After Rosen filed suit, he was quoted as saying, "This is going to be blood and guts. I'm going after them.''
Let the thrill-seekers roar around in cigarette boats, oblivious to everything but speed and spray. For those who want to see Miami by water but appreciate a glimpse of shy animals and birds as well, the key is to travel slowly and quietly. Miami-Dade County's Eco-Adventure programs offer some fifteen different opportunities to see Miami by canoe. Paddle through shady canals on the Coral Gables waterway tour. Appreciate the moon over Miami on a nighttime canoe trip around the Deering Estate. Watch the sun set over Black Point or Crandon Park. Prices range from $15 to $45 -- the most expensive are trips that require transportation by van, like that down Turner River in the Everglades. The tours are lead by experienced naturalist-guides and are rated according to ability.
Giant scaly creatures from darkest Africa invade Miami! Fierce serpents plunder the Everglades, breeding and eating, eating and breeding, and then ... they slither into the city itself! Creepy crawlers lurk at every turn! Wildlife gone into their gaping maws! Pets perish to the ravenous reptiles! Children -- beware! What this place needs is a new superhero. And here he is, Python Pete, a beagle assigned to snake-sniffing duty at Everglades National Park. Over the years, irresponsible wannabe herpetologists (an idiotic group known as "herpies") have purchased small, young pythons, a particularly docile species. A two- to three-foot-long python survives on a mouse meal every week or two. And they grow. Soon they need to dine on rats, then rabbits ... and by the time they're five or six feet and have outgrown their original cages, the snakes become too much for their keepers, who simply release them in the Everglades. There the snakes have flourished, particularly in the southwestern sector, near Everglades City. Except for swamp dwellers and reptile collectors, nobody seemed to care much until recently, when large pythons were found in urban situations, munching on someone's cat and doing battle with an alligator. Taking a cue from customs workers in Guam, where Jack Russell terriers nose through cargo to find brown tree snakes, the National Park Service folks enlisted the aid of Petey, a ten-month-old beagle who is being trained by owner and wildlife technician Lori Oberhofer to be a "first responder." Oberhofer worked on the Guam project and believes young Pete can learn to locate pythons "and then bark." In the decade preceding 2003, 53 of the big snakes were captured by NPS officials. In 2004 they caught 61. If little Petey becomes successful, alligators and kitty cats will rest easy. Of course there is one fear: Nosey beagle consumed by giant serpent!
Miami City Cemetery
There's just something chillingly alluring about a cemetery located in the heart of the ghetto. Miami City Cemetery is an especially wicked treat. It is the final resting place for famous city pioneers such as Julia Tuttle, William Burdine, and Miami's first mayor, John Reilly. The eleven-acre site was purchased by the city in 1897 from William and Mary Brickell for $750. Today, if you want to bury a loved one in the cemetery, you must own a family plot in which a relative of the deceased has been interred for at least ten years. That's because with 9000 occupied gravesites, the cemetery is full. And this being Miami, the cemetery has been at the center of its own little controversy -- like the time back in 2001 when cemetery workers were misplacing bones and forgetting to rebury the remains of poor dead saps. On Halloween, historian Paul George, to celebrate his birthday, takes you on a guided tour of this legendary boneyard. As he lurks from plot to plot, George relays tales about the mysterious deaths of the inhabitants. To learn more about George's cemetery tour, call the Historical Museum of Southern Florida at 305-375-1621.
Catherine Keener is associated with her indelible indie film roles as promiscuous, icy, neurotic urbanites settled firmly in New York City (or Los Angeles in the case of her most recent film, Friends with Money). It is shockingly pleasant to realize she not only is a native of Miami but also attended our city's estimable private Catholic school system. Indeed Keener is a graduate of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School, which was named number one in the nation by the National Association of Roman Catholic Archdioceses in "Catholic Identity." Keener, who at age 46 seems just to be becoming a beauty, got her break in films with one line in the 1986 Demi Moore-Rob Lowe vehicle About Last Night .... After fooling around with small roles in big pictures, Keener hit her stride in 1995 at age 35 with prominent roles in art films. Living in Oblivion, directed by Tom DiCillo, and Walking and Talking, by Nicole Holofcener, gave Keener juicy, Manhattan-indie parts in which she inhabited characters who were by turns self-involved, vulnerable, caustic, and ultimately tough. In 1998, as the icy, bisexual, manipulative Terri in Neil LaBute's horrifying tragedy of yuppie manners, Your Friends and Neighbors, she cheats on her husband (played by Ben Stiller) with Nastassja Kinski and verbally emasculates Aaron Eckhart's misogynistic jock character. She does all of this without ever quite wiping the half-dreamy, half-bored look from her light blue eyes. Keener is an unconventional beauty, with uneven features and mousy, usually flat, brown hair. But in 2005 she landed back-to-back glamorous leading-lady-type roles, as the object of Steve Carell's dopey affection in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and as Harper Lee in Capote, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. Keener's emergence as a star who twinkled before shining speaks to her patience and discipline, which maybe has something to do with that Catholic school education.
Memory brings its own surprises. Lauren Feldman's performance as the central character of A Bad Friend seemed at first just one fine jewel among many in a solid ensemble generously directed by the formidable Joseph Adler at GableStage. Jules Feiffer's play, not perfect but perfectly timed, goes beyond Old Left nostalgia to warn us all about the dangers of letting today's radical right play on people's fears and hatreds, redefining patriotism as blind evangelical zeal. The message is wise, even necessary, as we live through the most corrupt presidency since Richard Nixon's. For reasons both dramatic and political, Adler's GableStage did a brave and lovely thing in giving this play its local premiere. But it is the ineffably melancholy image of the delicate Feldman as Rose, a vulnerable young girl caught in the maelstrom of her family's and her country's ideological turmoil, that is still resounding long after the curtain's fall. To come on not particularly strong and yet make an indelible impression -- that is a gift.
The Miami Herald columnist is best known for penning holier-than-thou tomes. She recently wrote about the perils lottery winners face when they accumulate sudden wealth. Other days she takes readers on mundane journeys through her life as a doting, caring mother frustrated by the FCAT and the anxieties of sending Junior off to college. Alas, we're still waiting for Ana to tap deeply into her ink-stained heart and give us her moralistic take on her recent pecadillo in federal court. This past January, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Brown ordered Veciana-Suarez to serve eighteen months of probation, pay a $5000 fine, and serve 60 hours of community service after she was convicted on a contempt-of-court charge. During jury selection for a 2003 federal civil trial, she failed to disclose her father's criminal history. At the sentencing, Judge Brown highlighted Veciana-Suarez's columns focusing on values such as honesty, trust, and integrity as one of the reasons for the relatively harsh sentence.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®