Little Havana To Go
For South Florida visitors seeking retail therapy after being sardined on a tour bus with a bunch of strangers they can't understand, Little Havana to Go offers a welcome respite. Located smack next to Calle Ocho's famous Domino Park, this shop isn't your average carved-coconut and strung-shell souvenir joint. Each week dozens of buses ferrying tourists from the nation's hinterlands, South America, and Europe descend on the colorful shop specializing in Cuba-theme gifts. It strictly caters to those bitten by the nostalgia bug or wishing to take a reminder of Miami's exotic neighborhood home. Customers are usually greeted with the sweet sounds of a bolero twittering on outdoor speakers and a shot of cafecito compliments of the house. Walls offer a riot of tropical-theme art from local talent and shelves brim with CDs of classic Latin favorites, T-shirts, guayaberas, coffee mugs, panama hats, maracas, and domino sets. Most of the memorabilia is emblazoned with the Cuban flag and sold in every price range. During a recent visit we were amazed at how many tourists were having their pics snapped in front of the store, surreally posing as if they were in front of a bona fide landmark.
Every year on a Saturday morning just before Easter, hundreds of kids gather on the playing fields just south of Miami Shores Country Club. They look into the sky hopefully while clutching shopping bags and baskets. Then they scream. It hurts your ears. A helicopter descends from the sky and a hand reaches from the cockpit with a trash bag. Next, thousands of marshmallows scatter around the field. The act is repeated several times. Then the chopper comes to within just a few feet of the ground and blows the darn things all over the place. The kids scream again. It hurts ... again. The parents scan the ground for a handful of golden eggs, which might win major league prizes. The kids scream again. Ouch! Finally the authority figures shout, "Go!" and the tots — as well as bigger kids — sprint onto the field and gather the marshmallows. In the end, they trade 'em in for candy. Then the little ones dance and perform other strange kid rituals under a sunshade. This part doesn't hurt. It makes you giggle.
Give Hialeah's political leaders credit where it's due: They've put together an impressive electronic library system. Anchored by the John F. Kennedy Library at 190 W. 49th St., the e-libraries also have three satellite locations in the northern (7400 W. Tenth Ave.), eastern (501 E. Fourth Ave.), and western (7400 W. 24th Ave.) quadrants of the city. Each e-library is equipped with a dozen multimedia desktop computers; the JFK library offers computer tutoring classes in English and Spanish that teach the basics of using a mouse, creating an e-mail account, using word processing programs, and surfing the Internet. Now if we could only convince Mayor Julio Robaina to do away with the city's individual system of street numbers....
Malika Oufkir's life has been a twisted mix of fairy tale and nightmare, brought to life in her haunting memoir, Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail. First published in 1999 in French as La Prisoni?re, the book (which later became an Oprah's Book Club selection and New York Times nonfiction best seller) traces the brutal twenty-year imprisonment she and her family endured. The eldest daughter of Morocco's feared General Muhammad Oufkir, the North African-born beauty was unofficially adopted at age five by King Muhammad V, and then by his successor, King Hassan II, after the former died. For eleven years she was a princess's confidant who lived in the unfathomable luxury of the royal palace. In 1972 the towering General Oufkir led a failed coup against the regime and tried to assassinate Hassan. Oufkir was executed and the king ordered the general's wife, Fatima, and six children imprisoned in several secret locations. Malika and her family spent the next fifteen years incarcerated, surviving largely on vermin-infested soup. One torturous night in 1986, after an eight-year stint in solitary confinement, and having barely eaten for 47 days, family members tried to kill themselves by cutting open each other's veins with fragments of knitting needles. But their collective suicide attempt failed. Desperate, they began to dig with their bare hands. In 1987 the family completed a tunnel and staged an escape, only to be recaptured five days later and placed under house arrest. Malika eventually was released and fled her native Morocco almost ten years later. This past fall she published her second book, Freedom: The Story of My Second Life, written largely from her home in Surfside, where she resides with husband Eric Bordreuil.
The locals will kill us if we tell you about the last free spot on South Beach, so we'll clue you into the easiest metered parking instead. The stretch of Alton Road at Fourteenth Street is often the fastest place to grab a legal parking spot; in fact it's so fast that residents of the adjacent zoned sections occasionally rely on it when all the reserved parking is full. The area is a hop, skip and a stumble away from Lincoln Road and within a sobering jaunt from Washington Avenue nightclubs. Parking is a dollar an hour from 9:00 a.m. to midnight, then free.... And now that the locals have stopped reading: There are a few free spots just south of Fourteenth on Alton. They are hard to catch in the evenings, and you have to really pay attention to parking signs, but hey, if you're cheap, well, challenge yourself.
"Ava Wrestles the Alligator." "Z.Z.'s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers." "The Star-Gazer's Log of Summer-Time Crime." "Lady Yeti and the Palace of Artificial Snows." If the names of her short stories (including the titular tale) aren't enough to entice you, the prose of Coral Gables native Karen Russell should do the trick. This collection of ten stories, Russell's debut, paints a wondrously unique, highly readableportrait of swampy, sandy Florida.
The area around the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts isn't exactly swanky. For the four-wheeled flocks that descend come showtime, the thought of parking on the street is a piss-in-your-pants proposition. Most would rather pay $10 or $20 to leave their automobile in a lot, or more for a valet. You, however, are a sensible city dweller with your wits and little cash about you. So head west on NE Thirteenth Street from Biscayne Boulevard and turn right on NE First Court. Most nights, especially if you arrive fifteen minutes or more early, you'll find a spot on this somewhat hidden two-block stretch. Nothingç Try Thirteenth Terrace perpendicular to NE First Court. Feed the meter and walk the block or two to your show. No pee needed.
Gray summer storm clouds hang ominously overhead. Small cyclones flare up on the roadside and lightning crashes down. You are trapped in sweltering gridlock. Your eyes cross from a mixture of frustration and anxiety, and your vision goes blurry. As you inch forward a few feet, the image of two robed silhouettes crouched over a crib comes into view. "JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON," a sticker informs you. "What seasonç" you wonder."The sticky, sweltering hurricane seasonç" Has Jesus brought this terrible heat and misery down on you and everyone around youç Whyç And did he allow your shirt to fuse to your back and your air conditioner to breakç What have we done to deserve this terrible season, Angry JesusçBut then, maybe the sticker is talking about Christmas (now seven months away), which was actually started by a bunch of tree-worshipping Norse pagans.As terrible road-slicking rain begins to fall, the Jesus sticker disappears into the awful mess, and you continue with your life a little more confused.
Howard Camner, 50 years old, is nothing if not prolific. He has published sixteen books of poetry and written 1500 individual poems, and his name is listed on a staggering number of Websites (640 at last count). But here's why we like this shaggy-haired, bearded bard: He's from Miami, and often writes about Florida in terse, stark, real verse that would make Hemingway raise his scotch glass in honor. Take his poem, "36 Minutes to Yeehaw Junction": "You can almost taste the stupidity/you can feel it slapping your face like a drunken drag queen/you can swerve to the right or veer to the left/you can plug up the tailpipes and cover your crotch/but it's useless/only 36 minutes to Yeehaw Junction...."
Unlike some local Spanish-language weeklies, edited by ink-slinging politicos trying to hamstring competitors for a city or county commission seat, this rag actually reports local, national, and world news with a critical eye. Recent issues included thoughtful coverage on the Iraq War, citing the mounting body count of allied soldiers and Iraqi citizens "tinting the Tigris red." Not to mention the "hundreds of billions of dollars, along with Bush's credibility" pissed down the drain. Other articles questioned the Prez's blind support of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales following the controversial dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys that ignited congressional calls for his head. A story citing the squawk between the U.S. and Argentina during Bush's recent South America swing, in which Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez tried to make a monkey out of Dubya at a rally in a Buenos Aires, was a scream. As was a squib about boxing promoter Don King's pilgrimage to Rome, where he sought an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. The pugmeister's efforts met a sore end, the paper reported, when the Vicar of Christ dissed King, and the latter had to settle for presenting a "Heavyweight Championship Belt" intended for His Holiness to a papal secretary instead. Couple this stuff with an expansive sports section chock a block with international and local soccer coverage, and a steady diet of immigration advice complementing the news, and Argentina Hoy makes for a great read.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®