Holocaust Memorial

Traveling east on Dade Boulevard in Miami Beach, you are transfixed by a massive bronze hand that stretches to the sky. As you approach, you see the hand is only part of a compelling and complex sculpture. Surrounding it are humans cast in bronze, their faces twisted in agony and pain, clawing and crawling over each other to reach the outstretched palm. Known as the Sculpture of Love and Anguish, the hand is the centerpiece of Miami Beach's Holocaust Memorial, the most poignant monument in the county. Architect and sculptor Kenneth Triester, who completed and opened the memorial in 1990, created a place that not only honors the six million Jews killed in World War II but also provides a place where survivors can find solace and the public can see and feel the impact of the 20th Century's greatest crime. The memorial is open seven days a week 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Ten years ago, Booker T. Washington wasn't even a high school, and five years ago, when Tim Harris took over the football program, the Tornadoes were flounders in an ultracompetitive sea of Miami prep football full of great whites. Harris's work to build the program from the ground up culminated this year in the school's first Class 4A state title, its first perfect season, and a number four ranking in the ESPN National High Elite Top 25 poll. Oh, and the Tornadoes track team, which he also coaches, won a state title too.

With a 57-7 record in his five years at the school, the 42-year-old Harris was named USA Today High School Coach of the Year. Booker T. shut out eight opponents this season, including two in the playoffs, on its way to a 14-0 record. The team gave up a paltry 66 points all year —an average of 4.7 per game.

Harris's nickname, Ice, comes from his childhood emulation of NBA great George "Iceman" Gervin in basketball games, but could just as easily describe his cool and collected demeanor on the sidelines.

Finding a public restroom that isn't nauseous is a challenge. If only there were some sort of restroom guide — a Zagat of shitters, if you will. Enter Crappers Quarterly — an online magazine that reviews public restrooms all over the globe and traces its humble beginnings to some shit-talking University of Miami students. Ten years ago, William Kercher III and his buddies were joking about how cool it would be to start a magazine that reviewed the world's porcelain thrones.

Kercher, a web designer at the time, ran with the idea. He and his crapper-critical friends began reviewing and photographing facilities everywhere they went. Today the site includes bathroom breakdowns and snapshots from a dozen U.S. cities, 30 countries, and even a few cruise lines. Judged on user-friendliness, cleanliness, privacy, and facilities, each crapper gets a rating from one to five toilet paper rolls.

And if you run out of descriptive pseudonyms for dropping the kids off at the pool, CQ has a long list of those too. Here's one to relish at tax time: "IRS audit: You had a hard labor and gave birth to a nine-pound turd. So you named it and claimed it as a dependent."

Miami's moment as a crime town, a noir town, a Scarface town, has passed. The Magic City has been replaced, in the literary canon, by locales that understand real violence: Fallujah, Afghanistan, the Sudan. Now we have multiple farmers' markets, decorative lamp posts, and pineapple festivals, and it's time for the city's consciousness to return to its rivers, to imagine Biscayne Bay without dead bodies surfacing at its edges, to try to reconcile the impact glass of high-rise windows with the impact of an afternoon asleep by the pool, the skin of a palm frond with the aluminum casing of a can of Schaefer beer. In other words, poetry has arrived, along with Campbell McGrath's seventh book, appropriately titled Seven Notebooks. Winner of the Kingsley Tufts prize, a MacArthur Genius Grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, McGrath is in the on-deck circle of poetry's highest echelon and seems intent on bringing the Magic City with him. With his keen eye for the shards of modern culture and a deep concern for the landscapes of the mind, McGrath has sung to, for, and from Miami many times. Whether explaining the Holocaust Memorial to his son or deconstructing sunlight as it enters his beer at Scotty's Landing, he's a poet of his time and place. Perhaps now, with his most formally impressive collection to date on the nation's bookshelves, that place is ready for him.

Trading Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis for pitcher Andrew Miller and centerfielder Cameron Maybin was vintage Marlins stuff. Unload the guys we love for twerps. Dump the present for the future. Hit us fans in the stomach. Hard.

But hold on a minute! The generation of Marlins who will stay here — at least for a bit — might have finally arrived. The Marlins will be revving up to move into the new Marlins Stadium (planned for 2011) just as these two guys are hitting their strides.

Maybin is a phenom. As a friggin' high school freshman, he led his North Carolina team to a state title and was named most valuable player. He was honored in 2004 as the Baseball America youth player of the year and has labored in the minors for a couple of seasons. In his second major-league game last year, he hit a homer off Roger "Liar, Liar" Clemens.

This spring, the 21-year-old was competent, but not striking, batting just under .300. He pulled a hamstring, which hampered his speed. And he faced reasonably strong competition for a starting spot.

Upshot: He'll likely get time to develop — both in the minors or on the bench. And that's just fine. Because it means the guy will come online as the Marlins prepare for a third World Series victory.

While many of his competitors seemed to be elbowing each other for the "Size Queen" crown during December's Art Basel cash grab, spunky dealer Anthony Spinello made a convincing argument that small matters. The young veteran of the art fair circuit hired the same company that outfits the growing number of local fairs fertilized by Basel to shoehorn four booths into his eponymous gallery for "Littlest Sister 07," which featured small-format works by 25 artists. Perhaps best reflecting the Basel Zeitgeist, Tawnie Silva's One of These Things Just Doesn't Belong Here depicted two works, including a dancing ice-cream cone on one panel and a proctologist's rubber-gloved hand ready to go rectal on the other. Spinello poked fun at the sensibility driving the torrid art market while adroitly making his cash register sing.

The best mile of Miami, contrary to what you learned as a kid from 2 Live Crew, is not to be found on Ocean Drive. No, North Beach is where it's at. The undervalued neighborhood has all the life and lazy, sandy bliss of South Beach without all the silliness. It's the very best of Miami minus the very worst, all compacted into one happy mile. The fun starts at 69th Street, on whose corner sits the Sandbar, one of the last places a body can have a cheap beer, a good conversation, and a fun game of pool without getting all fancy about it. Microbrews — try the Longhammer I.P.A. — are only $3.50 a pint, so bottoms up! A whole slew of good pizza places and low-key cafeterias line the street going north to 71st Street. Cross that, and you're in Argentine bakery territory: The Buenos Aires Café is a particularly nice place to get a hot cup of coffee, a fresh pastry, and a heart-thawing smile from one (or more, if you're lucky) of the many friendly and pretty waitresses who work there. Take your food outside and watch the unobnoxiously busy nightlife pass by. If it's recreation you're looking for, head north only a few more blocks to the North Shore Open Space Park, a verifiable refuge from the concrete labyrinth of Miami and a helluva place for a weekend barbecue. And remember, the beach — and a lifeguard, for the kids — is right there!

What do a professor, a surgeon, an apocalypse, and Hollywood have in common? Not much. Oh, except for the fact that united, as one inpenetrable force, they made up Team Balderdash, the greatest (and most supercoolest) group of middle school pencil fighters, like, ever.

Pencil Fighting: The Life and Times of Team Balderdash is a clever mockumentary about four pencil-pounding pals, Jackson (nicknamed The Professor), Phillip (The Surgeon), Cornelius (Apocalypse), and Maxwell (Hollywood), who fall apart when Maxwell becomes "tainted by the one thing that'll blind a man enough to do the stupidest of things: love." Yup, puppy love. And in order to preserve the circle-yes-or-no-if-you-like-me prepubescent brand of feelings exchanged between himself and a young lady named Marilyn, Maxwell duels a Husky pencil with his standard No. 2 and loses with a single lick. The rest of the tale unfolds 15 years down the road, when the surviving members of Team Balderdash reunite for one last shot at glory.

Although bigger-budget films have dazzled audiences with glitzy images of South Beach, Pencil Fighting stays true to its 305 roots, shooting, for the most part, in a Miami Lakes playground, a warehouse near Tamiami Airport, and at the filmmakers' Coconut Grove digs, Gold Dickenson Productions. Winner of Best Short Film at both the Orlando Film Festival and the Miami Underground Film Festival, it's showing for free on MySpaceTV at vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=21666289.

But be warned: Drinking milk while viewing may result in it flying out your nose.

The City of Miami Gardens was incorporated in May 2003. Four years later, the community of 100,000 got its own police force — and not a day too soon. The area, which includes much of Carol City, is known for being one of the toughest in Miami-Dade County, with two dozen homicides in 2007 alone. (Rapper Rick Ross has chronicled the mean streets of this area in several songs). To deal with the problem, the city threw its support behind the fledgling department: It hired 159 officers from around the nation, paid them a $12,000 signing bonus, and gave them shiny new Crown Victorias. The department now has a budget of $33 million, making it the fifth largest in the county. Miami Gardens, says chief Matthew Boyd, ''is already at the bottom. The only place to go is up. And when it turns around, give us our due.... If we can get this turnaround, we will be a model for the nation.''

HistoryMiami
Courtesy of HistoryMiami

It isn't easy being a history museum in a city that thrives on reinvention. Yes, we love our Art Deco district. The tourists do too. But there's a new historic site in town, and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida is working hard to give it the attention it deserves. This year, the HMSF secured the management of the Miami Circle, an archaeological site at the mouth of the Miami River. Two thousand years ago, it might have been a Tequesta chief's home, but now it will take millions of dollars to make the site the showpiece it deserves to be. In a town where high humidity, regular hurricanes, and new waves of developers continue to wipe away the city's past, the historians at HMSF know the story of Miami can't be told in one building. That is why they take to the streets and waterways with tours and cruises, reminding us that even if we just arrived here, we are now part of the tale of Miami.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®