Best Blog 2009 | The South Florida Watershed Journal | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

What happens out in the Glades... well, ends up in South Florida's faucets and sewers. Following the ups and downs of the water table that feeds Miami is key to understanding bizarre concepts such as "why you still can't legally water your lawn even though it's been raining for a month straight." While at first glance, this site might seem extremely dry, the journal is occasionally poetic, often funny, and always charming in its presentation of the watery world. It tackles all subjects on multiple levels, so everyone can understand the science on their own terms. The blog is also chock full of graphs and images, both the highly illustrative and the simply beautiful. When not directly addressing the rain-to-tap-to-ocean cycle, the blog looks at tangentially important aspects such as weather prognostication for Super Bowl Sunday, pigging out at food festivals, and the existence of skunk apes.

Ponzi scheme got you down? Go to Hell. Hell's Bay Chickee wildlife adventure campsite in the Everglades, that is. It's part of the 99-mile "Wilderness Water Trail" between Chokoloskee and Flamingo. The only way to get there is to paddle — no motors allowed. From Flamingo, it's an eight-mile "one way in-and-out" Hell's Bay canoe trail marked by more than 160 white PVC pipes that'll challenge your navigation skills as you traverse maze-like turns through mangrove tunnels before arriving at the open waters of Hell's Bay. Float up to your back-country chickee and hoist yourself up to the roofed, open wooden platform on stilts where you'll be sleeping. No fires are allowed, so bring a portable stove if you wanna cook. Now sit back and relax; you're in the middle of nowhere and your phone can't get a signal. The frogs croak, the birds squawk, the water ripples with fish and gators, and you can feel all the trivial pursuits melt away as you focus on the elements of survival. You'll want to make this trip between December and April; otherwise, the heat and mosquitoes will either kill you or drive you crazy. A camping permit is required and costs $10 to process and $2 a day per person (though it's free May through November, probably because of that heat and those skeeters). You can rent a canoe at the Flamingo Visitor Center, but if you wanna go to Hell's Bay, you have to BYOB (bring your own boat). Yes, the trip will literally take you to Hell and back, but at least you'll get some peace of mind along the way.

Mere blocks from the dark heart of CocoWalk's most touristy trappings, Mr. Moe's is probably the last place you'd imagine fishing for your dinner. Yet there, wedged alongside the other arcade consoles, such as Galaga and Pac-Man, is a highly unconventional crane game called "The Lobster Zone." Feed the machine two beer-soaked singles and the challenge is on. But rather than trying to pluck some plush toy from an overflowing prize pit, you've got exactly 60 seconds to snag one of seven live crustaceans wading in the saltwater tank. Remember though, no matter how lazy those little guys seem at first, they really come alive when that mechanical claw goes grabbing for them. So stay laser-focused because, if you succeed, Moe's kitchen will prepare your catch and serve the spread — with corn and coleslaw — at one of their winners-only picnic tables. However, if you fail on the first try, just spring for a few extra attempts. A lobster for the cost of a pint is still super-cheap.

We could explain why this video is so funny, but it's better to just let local poet and Hialeah native Yaddyra Peralta guide you through the entire thing: "Okay, when it starts, the guy's wearing a fat gold chain and hanging out with chongas — the gangsta-looking girls with tight clothes and loads of gold. Singer shakes hands with guy wearing a straw hat. These guys walk through traffic around 49th/103rd Street, selling water, flowers, churros, etc., and any reference to the canal is supposed to be funny because (a) they are ubiquitous in Hialeah and (b) you're not supposed to go near them because they are dirty, gross, and full of crocodiles (according to your mother, of course). When you catch guys swimming or fishing in them, it's supposed to be the most disgusting, ghetto thing in the world... 'The canals are not the beaches of Holguín, but I'll go for a swim.' Holguín is one of Cuba's most beautiful beaches and historically where Christopher Columbus first set foot. The singer inserts the English word swim, pronounced sween, which rhymes with Holguín. Of course, you know about the famed Hialeah Cuban Spanglish... More references to water, mud, and factories. There's a myth that it rains more in Hialeah than in any other part of Miami, probably because any amount of rainfall causes severe flooding... double-entendre food items... Chicharrones are more meaty and fatty than your standard pork rind and really good but eat too much and they'll kill you... Chancleta is flip-flop. A chancletera is a woman who always wears flip-flops no matter what the occasion... 'I give them the finger and say f*%$ you!' You'll see this happen anywhere: the mall, outside at school between parents, in traffic, the bus stop, dentist's office... The one thing I haven't referenced, because it might be obvious, is that the whole backdrop with the tires and the cars has to do with the popular Hialeah pastime of pimping out your car. There are loads of mechanics and body shops in Hialeah. Oh, and I never want to hear this song again. You owe me a beer."

It was fate that brought Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins together. During the off-season, the New York Jets waived Pennington after four solid seasons with the team, casting him aside like an old tire to make room for newly acquired Brett Favre. Yet when the Dolphins signed Pennington off waivers, the immediate reaction from most Fins fans was exasperation. Pennington entered the picture as the latest poster child for the Dolphins' ever-revolving door of middling retread quarterbacks since the great Dan Marino retired. Conventional wisdom said Pennington was too weak-armed and injury-prone, and his pair of prior shoulder surgeries only stoked the flames of doubt. But Pennington proved that leadership, class, a tireless work ethic, and pinpoint accuracy can be just as effective as a laser-rocket arm. Cool, collected, and sharp, he took charge of the once-hapless Dolphins from day one and led them to the greatest turnaround in NFL history.

During the last game of the regular season — in of all places New York, with thousands of rancorous, vitriolic Jets fans breathing down their necks — the Dolphins were fighting for their playoff lives. Win and they would pull off the improbable: finishing with an 11-5 record and a division crown a season after winning only one game. Lose and their season was dead in the water. Favre and the Jets had just taken a 17-14 lead late in the game with a quick-strike scoring drive that shifted the momentum back in their favor. Now, with the weight of an entire fan base on his shoulders, it was up to Pennington to save the game, and the season — against his old team. He answered that Jets drive — and his critics — by leading Miami on a six-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a perfect pass to tight end Anthony Fasano in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning, AFC East Championship-clinching touchdown. Revenge, redemption, fate.

"It's not a revenge factor," Pennington told the Miami Herald afterward, an AFC East Champions cap nestled firmly on his head. "It just so happened it had to come through New York. That's the only way fate would have it. It shouldn't and couldn't come out any other way.'"


Filled with brightly colored play areas designed by local artist Romero Britto, pools with slides, and a large lagoon, Grapeland Water Park — also known as Black Beard's Beach — is 13 acres of fun, refreshing, soak-filled insanity for tikes of all ages. The park opened only a year ago. It features two different play areas — Pirate's Plunge, with its low water level areas, water shooting seahorses, and toddler friendly slides for the little ones and, for the bigger kids, Shipwreck Island, which features a tower with fast water slides and a giant bucket that periodically tips over dumping water onto the folks below. Buccaneer River is a slow winding river that can be ridden lazily around the park on inflatable inner tubes. The family can then wind the day down near calmer waters at the large pool known as Captain's Lagoon. Admission is free for kids 3 and under, $5 for ages 4 through 13, $7 for Miami-Dade residents 14 and older, and $10 for non Miami-Dade residents 14 and older. Group rates are also available. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. October thru April. Days of operation vary, so check the park's website or call them directly.

Miami Dolphins fans haven't had much to cheer about since Don Shula hung up the clipboard. The list of coaches to patrol the sidelines has looked like this, in descending date and professional football coaching ability: Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Jim Bates, Nick Saban, and Cam Cameron. When Bill Parcells was brought in to turn the franchise around, one of the first things he did was hire Tony Sparano from the Dallas Cowboys to whip the Fins into shape. Sparano did way more than that in his first season, guiding the Dolphins to a ten-win improvement, a division title, and a playoff berth. Sparano changed the face of the NFL when he introduced the "Wildcat" offensive package. A few weeks later, almost every team in the league had its own option package, and every defensive coordinator had a whole new problem on his hands when dealing with the Dolphins. The upcoming season is sure to be brutal for the Fins, but after last year, there's no reason to believe Sparano can't lead them into a new era of respectability and realistic championship hopes.

As summer sends the mercury soaring and your little nieces or nephews begin begging you for a day on the town, take the impressionable munchkins over to this lush oasis and you'll become an instant hero in their eyes. Located at Pinecrest Gardens, the former grounds of Parrot Jungle — and open daily from 10 a.m. till one hour before the park closes — this place boasts a petting zoo, botanic gardens, a playground, a miniature water park, and a swan-filled lake. Best of all, admission will set you back only three bucks while leaving the peewees believing you've invested a fortune on them.

Obviously, there's only one answer to this category, but if we say, "Dwyane Wade," what else do we write? And no disrespect to Michael Beasley, who, despite not being the instant double-double machine he was promised to be, has at least shown the rare ability to go into an NBA Jam-like "He's heating up!" mode. But Mario Chalmers was the better of the Heat's two '08 draft picks. Acquired cheaply in the second round after the Chicago Bulls heartlessly stole Derrick Rose out from under us, Chalmers has proven he can be the point guard of the future in Miami. He doesn't possess Rose's ability to get into the lane at will, but Chalmers is a better shooter (1.4 threes per game) and, quite possibly, a better defender (1.95 steals per game). Pairing him with supreme backcourt thieves D-Wade and Jamario Moon means the Heat will be creating fast breaks for years to come and terrorizing opposing guards trying to establish space on the perimeter. Then there's always 2010. Chris Bosh down low, anyone?

DeVito South Beach is the type of fine dining Italian steak house on Ocean Drive that'll sell you a $17 meatball, an $18 hamburger, or an $80 Japanese steak featuring the best of ingredients in the best of environs. It's not a cheap place, which is why you'll find its Wine Down Mondays promotion so inviting. Every Monday, every wine under $200 is 50 percent off. Be there from 4-7 p.m. and take advantage of the concurrently running Monday-Friday happy hour, half off all apps and cocktails, and you're in for a taste of the good life at a well-reduced price. Revel in the opulence of your surroundings as you munch on items such as baked clams or Kobe beef tartare ($8 and $11 during happy hour) as you sip on the likes of Mondavi Reserve, Barolo Cannubi, and Pinot Grigio, which will only cost you about as much as store price per bottle. Cocktails are regularly in the $12-$25 range, so if you're looking to knock back a Millionaire's Margarita (Don Julio 1942, Grand Marnier 100, fresh lime juice, $25) keep it real and go half-off till you're an actual millionaire.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®