Take a vacation without leaving town, but don't leave home without your wallet (or before requesting a higher limit on your credit cards). Experience a weekend of relaxing in hotel paradise and think of it as a meager sampling of the life of a celebrity. Walking into the lobby of The Setai, you are immediately transported to a tranquil plane of harmony. Good Chi flows from the teak wood and the antique bricks transported from Shanghai. The design of the hotel, described as "Art Deco Fusion," melds the architectural standard of classic South Beach -- it is, after all, a replica of the historic Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel -- with soothing elements of Asian flair. Talismans adorn the walls to ward off evil spirits, so you will experience nothing but positive energy throughout your relaxing weekend stay. You will sleep on luxurious Dux beds with Irish linen sheets, watch your cable shows on flat-screen LCD or plasma televisions sets with Bose surround-sound, and make your morning java jolt with a Lavazza espresso maker. If you forget your bathing suit, simply go to the gift shop and buy one of the very cool Blue Glue bikinis ($120 each). (You decide you want both the purple one with the cute cutouts and the one with green iridescent sequins, so you splurge. You're on vacation, right?) After a hard afternoon of chilling by one of the three pools, you can return to your suite for a soak in your big tub or a scrub under the shower, which is equipped with Acqua di Parma products. Enjoy delicious Asian cuisine or comfort foods prepared before your eyes from The Restaurant or Sushi Bar (about $240) and a Zen-like, mind-altering spa treatment including shiatsu massage and aromatherapy oils, followed by a Jacuzzi soak ($450 per couple). Although weekend packages normally start at $3900, May 1 marks the off-season, which means deep discounts for locals. Two nights will set you back only $1220, which brings the total to $1890 (before the two bathing suits are tacked on to your bill). The effect it will have on your demeanor is priceless.
Imagine you run a business, and the local government suddenly tells you it will begin to offer to the public the same service you already sell -- for free. You'd come up with a plan to stop it, wouldn't you? That's the position Atlantic Broadband found itself in a few months ago when the City of Miami Beach moved in on the firm's turf as an Internet service provider. First the company implied "public safety" would suffer (as if all the city's perverts and con artists were just waiting to log on for free). Then came the chest-thumping that included a challenge under a state law that forbids cities from charging for Internet access or selling advertising. But hey, there's no evidence the city will do either. You know what, Atlantic Broadband? Please don't do us any more favors. Thanks.
HBO Latino honored the most diverse Hispanic community in the United States this year when it devoted two episodes of the program Habla to Miami. The show, a series of vignettes about the idiosyncrasies of being Hispanic in the United States, struck a perfect balance by highlighting the sexy, sensual side of Latin culture without making Hispanics into the bimbos/macho men stereotypical of so many telenovelas. The Tower Theater on Calle Ocho thundered with laughter during a special screening of the program this past fall, but most impressive was how the program helped Hispanics in Miami -- be they from Cuba, Argentina, or Mexico -- celebrate their national differences and their cultural similarities. Puerto Rican native and Miami resident Oscar Hernandez said during the program that he had to go to the Midwest to appreciate these ties. There he came across one other Hispanic -- a Salvadoran with whom he thought he had little in common. "When you're in a place that's neutral and everybody's speaking English, suddenly that person is your brother. At that point you're nothing but a little exclamation point amongst a lot of periods!" He explained. Habla viewers were given an opportunity to appreciate that concept without leaving the comfort of their own Florida rooms.
Those of us with Bacchanalian tendencies have been there: After a night of imbibing, you haul your carcass out of bed and into the shower, expecting hangover pangs to hit as soon as the fog clears. Instead, as the bilious fumes rise from your gut, a different sensation arises and you realize you're still drunk. Wondering if such a thing is possible, you begin reviewing the previous evening's events and realize that, sure enough, you stopped drinking only three hours ago. Which is when most of us call in sick. Or start slurping coffee madly. What we don't do -- what no one should ever do -- is immediately get behind the wheel. Of an airplane. But this is exactly what two drunken jackasses who worked for America West attempted to do about five hours after running up a $122 bar tab in Coconut Grove. Luckily airport workers alerted security guards that pilot Thomas Cloyd and first officer Christopher Hughes reeked of liquor as they passed through security checkpoints. The cops stopped the plane and removed the pair from the cockpit, after which they both failed Breathalyzer tests. Defense lawyers argued the two men weren't guilty of operating the plane while drunk because they never made it into the air. They were convicted June 8, 2005. In July a judge sentenced 47-year-old Cloyd, of Peoria, Arizona, to five years in prison. Hughes, age 44, of Leander, Texas, received two-and-a-half years. Everyone who's ever been an airplane passenger should send a thank-you card to Circuit Judge David Young, who handed down the stiff sentences.
"This is my statement/Sometimes cartoons make me cry/I am an artist." Say what? Some people have a difficult time folding their noggins around Rodriguez's approach to making art. Like his inscrutable haiku, his works can seem like those cookie fortunes that leave you scratching your head and pondering the content for days. The New World Art School grad has been stymieing the public since he bolted out of the gate with his first solo show, "A Pre-Career Retrospective," featuring drawings, paintings, and objects from his childhood. Rodriguez also once had himself followed by a private eye and then exhibited the investigator's documentation. For an early solo at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery, which reps him, he packed the space with furniture he crafted and then hired a feng shui master to arrange it. During his solo show at Snitzer's during Art Basel 2004, he filled the gallery with conceptual odes to failed relationships, including a pair of mannequins on the verge of duking it out (now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art), and capped off the evening with a mariachi band he taught to sing punk-rock tunes. A squadron of international collectors and curators swarmed the event like bees to a honeycomb. The Kemper Museum of Art, the Rubell Family Collection, and the Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz Collection are among those that scooped up his stuff. Some of his recent work includes a neon reminder that the grim reaper is always knocking at the door, and a series of photographs in which he appears as a bearded Castro-like revolutionary in one panel, sports a Pancho Villa handlebar mustache in another, and wears Hitler lip lint in the last, milking beaucoup mileage out of his chin fur. Perhaps the pan of chocolate chip cookies he frosted with his name and phone number while fishing for a date with a girl he didn't know, and then subsequently photographed and titled "You're Just a Friend I Haven't Met," best captures his appeal. We can't think of anyone else in town with the chutzpah to pawn cookies off as art. But you know what? Bert did and ended up with the girl.
The architectural and sartorial tastes of wealthy Miamians sometimes make you think that maybe this socialism thing wasn't such a bad idea. Armani, BMW, Hummer. What about the Gap, VW, and Ford? But there are instances where rich people do good things. The greatest hit of George Merrick -- the Europhile developer of Coral Gables -- is the 276-room pink monster, the Biltmore. Built in 1924, the Romanesque hotel is almost shockingly grand -- it's crowned by a 315-foot replica of Seville's Cathedral Giralda Tower. The lobby is lined with Herculean pillars, and then, of course, there's the largest swimming pool you've ever seen at a hotel. In sum, if you have a jones for a moment of decadence and a taste of the late Roman Empire, try this beacon of opulence. Rooms start at $150 during the low season. But even if you can't stay here or pay for a round of golf, you can still have a drink in the Biltmore Bar or hit a bucket of balls at the driving range.
A recent poll found that more than 70 percent of registered voters in Miami-Dade County oppose expanding the urban development boundary westward for development. While increased traffic, water shortages, and environmental protection were all good reasons to protest suburban expansion, perhaps there's a sense of cultural responsibility as well. Grunwald, a reporter for the Washington Post, shows us that stewardship is a relatively new attitude toward the River of Grass. He traces the history of the Everglades' destruction from when Spanish invaders sacked the Calusa Indians to the diminution of its annual floods through canals and levees in the Sixties. He posits that the $7.8 billion Everglades revival bill, signed in 2000, might not live up to its promise of reversing 50 years of harm. Most of all, his account of past blunders testifies to the need for protective vigilance today. (Simon & Schuster, $27)
Ever wonder why Miami Beach's Eden Roc Hotel enjoys such a lovely view of a practically blank wall on its southern flank? Back in 1955, when owner Morris Lansburgh asked noted architect Morris Lapidus to design the Eden Roc, Lapidus answered with a hotel grander than his previous triumph, the Fontainebleau next door. This displeased hotelier Ben Novack, who wanted his Fontainebleau to be the most extravagant and exquisite resort on the Beach, so Novack retaliated by building the Fontainebleau's boxy addition, which ruined not only the Eden Roc's view but also poolside sunbathing. Both the Eden Roc and Fontainebleau are scheduled for extensive renovations, but it was recently announced that one of the world's priciest "walls of spite" would stay.
So he's not actually a local sports coach since stepping down December 12. But since Über-coach and Heat team president Pat Riley took (back) the reins from Van Gundy, the Armani-clad Hall of Famer's unspectacular showing has proven exactly how good his successor/predecessor really was. Riley broke up a team that was within a game of reaching the finals last year, signing and trading for a couple of score-first offensive players and veteran point guard Gary Payton over the off-season. The result has been a Heat team that scores about a point less per game than it did last year. Van Gundy had the singularly one-dimensional Damon Jones (a three-point specialist who is perhaps the worst defender in the league) playing unexpectedly great ball and scoring only a point less last year than his replacement, high-price Jason Williams, scores this year. Eddie Jones, who scored and provided the team's best perimeter defense last year, had almost exactly the same number of points per game last season as scoring machine Antoine Walker (brought in after Jones was traded) scores this year. Not that the team is bad -- they're headed for the playoffs, with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. But they have shown none of the pass-first team basketball that characterized Van Gundy's two-year tenure, including a stint before he stepped down this season, when he had the Heat, sans Shaq (sidelined with a long-term injury), playing .500 ball.
There's this thing that's been invented. It's called "blogging." All the kids do it. Seriously, though, online journaling is so four years ago, kind of like Oakland Raiders jackets and Nike pool shoes. Stay away. But the Internet -- the Internet is good. Virtually all the world's knowledge is contained online. When it comes to life in Mia-muh, though, you don't need to be Googling your neighbor to see if he's really listed on Latinamericancupid.com. The basis of needing to know, is, well, needing to know. And what you need to know is stuff like: Is the entire interstate system closed because a part of a crane might fall onto a downtown street? Did the Marlins finally break the tie and win in the 27th inning last night? Who has Suge Knight shot at the Red Room now? And, most important, when will the damn electricity/cable/phone be turned back on in the aftermath of this week's hurricane? NBC 6, the television station, did heroic work in 2005 in the aftermaths of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma; the station took over the FM and AM radio frequencies of several stations, including public channel WLRN, to keep people up to date about the havoc wrought by the storms, and bore the dismaying news about utility restoration. Online, the NBC affiliate, which is based in Miramar and is a hub for the network's national news video feeds, truly excels. During regular times, the site give updates with almost supernatural frequency about the critical quotidian details of Miami urban life, including gas prices, thunderstorm movement via the station's excellent multiview Doppler and vector radar systems, traffic tieups, and the occasional kook barricading himself in a Metrorail station. The site also has a scroll of world news courtesy of its partnership with MSNBC, and does a superb job of gathering sports stats from every team imaginable, all the way down through high school intramurals. There's also a pleasant smattering of the nut tales that keep surfers coming back, such as the recent headliner "Viewers React to Paula Abdul's Odd Behavior."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®