All you have to do is watch an episode of The Sopranos to see how the nouveau riche have, tragically, trampled upon all that once was the province of old money from the Old World. Tony Soprano and Paulie Walnuts might chomp cigars, swig Jameson, and tote copies of the Robb Report while profanely clomping across Pine Valley Golf Club's pristine eighteen holes. Yet there is one world that so far has escaped the grubby attentions of the crass-but-moneyed masses, and that is the domain of equestrian sports. Horses are not Porsche Cayennes, and they require a rather high-octane attention span; it takes time to learn to ride, handle, curry, and bond with a flesh-and-blood ride. You can bling out a thoroughbred only so much. And riding horses -- really doing it well -- isn't easy. So steeplechasing, dressage, and quadrilles remain for the moment a very blue-blood pursuit. The queen of these human-horse sports is of course polo, which pairs extraordinary equine athleticism with equal effort from riders, who basically play a wicked form of lacrosse astride 1000-pound thoroughbreds. In April 2005, Reto Gaudenzi, the master of Casa Casuarina who is also, as luck might have it, a professional polo player, thought to bring his beloved sport here and arranged for a three-day series of matches on Miami Beach across from the Casa at Eleventh Street and Ocean Drive. Polo on the sand was a novelty, but more interesting was that the matches -- played in innings called chukkers -- were open to the public. Despite frequent downpours and blowing sands courtesy of some errant April showers, it was successful. This year -- from April 11 to 13 -- the polo matches, still hosted by Gaudenzi, moved south to the beach behind The Setai on Twentieth Street and Collins Avenue, adjacent to the public beach on 21st Street. The weather cooperated. More children were on hand -- more observers in general -- and the ponies that weren't playing were stationed where scores of little equine lovers could get close enough to inhale. Polo ponies are actually the same thoroughbreds whose cousins race in the Triple Crown, but they are gelded and generally composed of a more compact, stocky body type, similar to that of a quarter horse. Yet in their polo finery -- plaited manes, tales coaxed into pompons or sleek braids, colorful saddle blankets -- they appear majestic. And these horses can haul hindquarters, possessing both sprinting speed and endurance. They are able to spin on a hoof and not get their elegant legs entangled in the dozen others seeking the five-inch-diameter orange ball. The party behind the polo is no joke either -- beyond the expected open bar, both years' tournaments have offered snacks above the norm, from a dozen flavors of gelato to fresh salmon rolls to crabcakes and éclairs. At the end of this past April's tourney, Melissa Ganzi, the only female rider, doffed her pink helmet to a cheering crowd as her Team Kreon emerged triumphant. It was a gracious, graceful spectacle. Don't you barons and baronesses of Brickell get any ideas.
There really are no small roles in Shakespeare. Were it not for the splendor of the cast surrounding her, Kimberly Daniel would have found it easy to simply steal the show as the Nurse in Rafael de Acha's Romeo and Juliet. As it was, she was just right in a character that can easily slip into vulgarity. Shakespeare's bits of comic relief are always on the verge of being too much, too broad, too big a temptation for lazy actors and directors who carelessly bulldoze through the verbal thickets to elicit the easy laugh. Daniel was funny enough, believe us. But she was as real as she was touching. And, for all her bawdy humor, this Nurse's discovery of Juliet's limp body was a heart-rending moment of raw emotion made all the more devastating by her ability to remain true to the play's glorious language.
Although his best fighting days are behind him, it's difficult to beat Arroyo for narrative arc. From rough roots in Allapattah, he became one of the best boxers Miami has ever seen. He's gone seven rounds with Hector Camacho, one of the all-time greats. He's been in Roberto Duran's inner circle. He's fought the world champion in his weight class, appeared on ESPN, and enjoyed a 21-bout winning streak. He also became a crack addict and serial robber who was in and out of jail for twenty years. Arroyo has since turned his life around, hasn't touched drugs in years, and at age 41, is still winning some fights.
Yo, Vinny! Yeah, you, with the putrid, beer-stained, urine-soiled Wayne Chrebet jersey! You've been living in Miami-Dade County for the past fifteen years and you still talk like you belong in a Brooklyn bagel shop! And didn't your wife tell you that mullets and mutton-chop sideburns went out of style back in 1969, the only year your lousy stinkin' Jets won a Super Bowl? I can't wait to see you later this year at Dolphin Stadium so me and my boys in Section 454 can kick your ass and serenade you with chants of "J-E-T-S suck! Suck!" before, during, and after the game. And don't forget to bring the 24-pack of Coronas and the ten pounds of barbecue ribs you owe us from that bet you lost last season.
Biscayne National Park
It's infernally hot, suicidally humid; the hurricane threat looms; and the festivals are gone. Not even Grandma from North Dakota will visit. But while much of Miami whines, we celebrate. The brutal summer heat is, after all, a good thing: Water temperatures nudge past 80. (Go ahead. Hang up that wetsuit.) The nearly windless summer doldrums, trouble for our sailor friends, are brilliant for us. Boat rides out to the reef are easy, no need for Dramamine. Best of all, the heat drives away the crowds; North America's great barrier reef is our playground. And amazing Cousteau-ish encounters with brain coral and fire coral and barracudas and jewfish are all so friggin' close. You can try Biscayne National Park, which runs a charter ($39.95, call 305-230-1100) that departs daily at 1:30 p.m. for a roughly four-hour snorkeling tour. You can also go a little farther south, to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. There are literally dozens of reefs and wrecks up and down the Keys. So buy a $25 snorkel and mask, splurge on some fins, and join the happy set.
So you just came into some bayside property and you want to build a hurricane-proof home. What's the first thing that comes to mind? It wouldn't happen to be elevating your house, would it? If archaeologists are correct about the function of the Miami Circle, the earliest known locals built their village on a series of stilts near the mouth of the Miami River. Even 2000 years later, it's still the trendy thing to do: Enjoy Paul George, of the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, as he regales you with tales of the fishermen, socialites, and mobsters who populated Stiltsville, the controversial "neighborhood" located on the mud flats near Key Biscayne. The unique group of elevated homes has been one of the area's most popular attractions since the Twenties, but catch it before a hurricane or government official demolishes the last seven houses. Cost: $39. Next scheduled launch is Mother's Day, May 14.
We were sad to see the wheezing and whining (when they weren't broken down) Electrowave buses sent out to pasture when Miami-Dade Transit gobbled up the route. But the shiny new buses with two separate loops (one up Washington Avenue, the other on West Avenue) are the best. The buses are clean, the air conditioning works, and the view is even better. For just a quarter, you can ride in comfort as you're spying the Washington Avenue riffraff. Arguing homeless people -- "You're a bum!" "No, you're a bum!" -- cause a commotion next to the bus stop. Not-so-casual drug deals take place. And there's an endless stream of fake breasts, shakin' booties, and bare legs strutting in four-inch heels (some even belonging to women). Plus there are plenty of characters on the bus: tourists from Europe, Canada, and the hills of Kentucky; packs of wild, hormonally charged teenagers; senior citizens with grocery carts. Even the drivers are an interesting lot: One particular gentleman who resembles Gopher from The Love Boat keeps things exciting by holding a conversation with a guy in the next lane for six blocks. (He wants to know all about the guy's blinged-out Ford F-350.) We've heard girls on spring break complaining about their hammertoes and elderly vacationers from Buffalo calling friends back home to brag about the balmy Florida February weather. And yes, ladies, plenty of hot, wife-beater-wearing Latinos also ride the bus.
Naomi Wilzig is a Jewish grandmother unlike any other. Over the course of fourteen years, she collected approximately 4000 works of erotic art and penned five books about the genre. "We look at sex as such a forbidden subject. But where would we be without it?" asks Wilzig. But the enormous phallic sculpture in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange served little purpose in her living room -- to call it a conversation piece was an understatement. So she moved the Japanese shunga prints, the portraits of a shapeshifting Zeus in prime seductive form, and renditions of coquettish Rococo ladies into a mezzanine over on Washington Avenue. There the art smolders silently over the nightclub sex circus below, just blocks from Club Madonna. The museum is open from 11:00 a.m. to midnight; admission is $15.
The Miami Heat has demonstrated once again that all a team needs to win in the NBA are two superstars and about six or eight warm, giant bodies. That formula almost took the Heat to the league finals last summer. But then a couple of dippy plays and Dwyane Wade's hurt ribs kept them from knocking off the defending champion Pistons. Most general managers would have locked-in the club's best-ever team, but not Pat Riley. Gone this year are Keyon Dooling, Damon Jones, Eddie Jones, and Rasual Butler. In are Gary Payton, Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, and James Posey. Now Posey is a no-frills workman and fine to have aboard. Payton, Walker, and Williams are all oversize niche talents (Payton, defense; Walker, making baskets; Williams, handling the ball like a yo-yo). They're also recovering malcontents, every one. Along with Alonzo Mourning, then, Wade and Shaquille O'Neal have an all-hothead supporting cast. Will the Heat win a title? They're among a half-dozen teams that have a legitimate shot. Even if they don't, this playoff meltdown should be nothing short of nuclear, a guilty joy to behold.
Taverna Opa
You have to go to the southern terminus of Ocean Drive to find a good deal, but it's worth it. Opa, which also has restaurants in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, is an atmospheric, high-ceiling Greek joint with an open kitchen and a spacious bar area. You can wander off the beach and through Opa's door for a $6 pork souvlaki with pita and fixings, an $8 lamb shank with orzo, a $15 beef shish kebab with rice pilaf, or a selection of four mezze dishes for less than $20. For the price of a mashed potato side dish at the Hotel Victor's restaurant just a few blocks north, you can dig into Opa's wood-grilled lemon half-chicken, side of potatoes included. If you're with a party of six or more, $25 per person will get you a feast of eleven dishes (seven appetizers and four mains). At $3.75 a glass and $18 a bottle, the cheapest house wine is just that -- cheap. Taverna Opa is open from 4:00 p.m. until the ouzo runs out.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®