Nery Saenz: Knock-knock.

Miami: Who's there?

NS: Nery Saenz.

Miami: Mary Signs, who?

NS: No, no, Ne-ry Sa

Miami: Hold up, is this Mary, like Mary-Mary? 'Cause I straight up told you I don't care what Maury Povich says — that baby ain't mine!

NS: No, not Mary. Nery, you know, the comic.

Miami: Oh, you're a comic?

NS: Yeah.

Miami: So tell me a joke.

NS: OK. Telling someone he's a lucky guy is just another way of saying, "I want to bang your girl."

Miami: Ha-ha, so true, bro! Tell me another!

NS: I'm 26 and live with my parents.

Miami: What's so funny about that?

NS: Dude, never mind. So can I come in now?

Miami: Who are you?

NS: I'm Nery Saenz.

Miami: Mary? Didn't I just tell you to leave?

NS: No, it's Nery Saenz, just Nery Saenz!

Miami: Knock-knock.

NS: Yo, why are you knocking?

Miami: I like to knock.

NS: But you're already inside. I'm supposed to be knocking so I can come in.

Miami: Are you a cop?

This is the life of Nery Saenz. So funny but with such a funky-sounding name that most of us who live in this magical city (brimming with a magical herb that enables us to magically forget everything) can never remember the name of this talented, young stand-up who has the magical ability to force last night's coke straight out of our nostrils. Such is the reason why homeboy had to set up a website with an address that reads, "whatwashisname.com." But once you experience his Miami Improv act, pumped full of genuine and likeable Sweetwater swagger (not to mention memorable jokes about long-term commitments to online girlfriends, cupcakes, and blowjobs), this Nicaraguan-American's name becomes a lot easier to remember.
Karen Russell's debut novel is so impressive that Miami should drop the nickname Magic City and go with Swamplandia. Her book of the same name follows the Bigtrees, a family of gator wrestlers struggling to keep their Everglades tourist attraction open. Orphaned by cancer and poverty, teen daughter Ava ventures deep into the Glades to rescue her sister Osceola, who has run off to elope with a dredgeman's ghost. Ava's trek down the River of Grass becomes emblematic of the murky period between youth and adulthood, the blur between the supernatural and the natural, the dizziness of a place in flux. Russell's prose is impressive, and with Swamplandia!, she plows new literary ground. If it had a name, the genre might be called "swamp gothic" for its traces of Joseph Conrad, Flannery O'Connor, and even Hitchcock. Russell is also quick to recognize South Florida's notorious eccentric side, something she describes in interviews as our "pretty short commute to strangeness." But unlike Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen, Russell doesn't just jeer at Miami's weird characters and mores. She eulogizes them. If you've ever zigzagged your bike around the gators in Shark Valley, Swamplandia! will make nostalgia well up in your throat: "A tumor-headed buzzard cocked its head and looked at us behind the café glass, not quizzically like a sparrow or a gull, but with a buzzard's bored wisdom," she writes, "and I imagined then that this bird, too, must also know the story, and that all the quiet trees and clouds had always known the story." When people ask you what it was like growing up in South Florida, just hand them this book.
Short is not always a shortcut. In fact, it takes real balls to write something as abridged as a haiku. After all, three lines and 17 syllables leave few places to hide. It's strange, then, that the Japanese used the potent form to wax poetic about spring's first cherry blossom. The nuggets seem so loaded for satire. Consider Hialeah Haikus, the amusing and insightful poetry collection by local author collective Foryoucansee. Instead of evoking nightingales and harvest moons, these haikus parody Miami bros, Miami hos, and disapproving abuelas. The collection is now in its second printing after selling 300 copies in its first month of publication and 1,000 soon thereafter. It all started when the authors — a merry band of Miami artists, writers, and actors in their 20s and 30s — began sending each other haiku text messages. The playful exchange led to not only an ingenious book but also live readings where the authors, faces painted as if by a poor man's Romero Britto, recite their five-seven-five verse. "I hate Abuela./Why she gotta call my girl,/'La Tira-flecha'" or "Cool Water and gel —/We roll like 20 heads deep./Belen spring formal."
Two of Edwidge Danticat's books (Krik? Krak! and Brother, I'm Dying) have been nominated for the prestigious National Book Award, one (The Farming of the Bones) won an American Book Award, and Brother, I'm Dying won the National Critics Book Circle Award. Danticat is the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, and her books have been translated into a number of languages, including French, Spanish, Korean, German, Italian, and Swedish. And she lives right here in Miami. At a time when Haiti is deeply suffering, this Port-au-Prince native has been one of its most eloquent voices, chronicling the daily struggles and triumphs of her countrymen both here and at home. Danticat began writing as a "lonely little girl" on a "notebook made out of discarded fish wrappers [and] panty-hose cardboard" on an island where "writers don't leave any mark in the world." Don't believe everything you read. At age 42, this writer has already left her mark.
At the same time writer Chenjerai Hove's acclaim and success were growing in his native Zimbabwe, his popularity with strongman Robert Mugabe was plummeting to levels that could prove fatally dangerous in a virtual dictatorship. And no wonder: His political novel Masimba Avanhu? (Is This the People's Power?) directly took on Mugabe's rule, and his followup, Sister Sing Again Someday, tackled the power of disaffected women in Zimbabwean culture. As the work found more and more readers, Hove's home and office were burglarized, his unpublished works were seized, and his name crept up a government list of enemies of the state. In 2001, he was forced to flee Harare for refuge in Europe. Now, thanks to a program called the International City of Refuge Network, Hove has found a new home to create his art in Miami. Based at Miami Dade College, Hove has used his time in Florida to speak about political violence in Africa, to tackle new works about life as a political refugee, and to explore from abroad the turmoil in his homeland. It shouldn't be a surprise that Hove — whose fellowship lasts until 2012 — has found Miami a fertile place to craft a second chapter in his life. The Magic City, after all, knows a thing or two about how to treat el exilio.
The ball exploded off the bat with a crack like a car wreck and then traced a ballistic trajectory over the outfielders' heads. It screamed like a bullet until a scoreboard some 500 feet from home finally got in the way and earned a crater-size dent for its effort. Until he took the swing that authored that destructive missile of a homer, there was still some doubt about just how ready Mike Stanton might be for the Marlins' 2011 season. He was undoubtedly the brightest spot in the Fish's 2010 campaign, which saw beloved outfielder Cody Ross shipped to San Fran (where he promptly won a World Series), All-Star Dan Uggla traded to Atlanta, and franchise cornerstone Hanley Ramirez parked firmly in the doghouse for not running out fly balls. All Stanton did as a 20-year-old rookie, meanwhile, was bang 22 home runs (including a grand slam as his first-ever dinger), play killer defense in right, and knock in 58 runs. But when he missed most of the Grapefruit League this spring with a quadriceps strain, some observers worried he might face a sophomore slump as the premier power source in Sun Life Stadium. Or at least they did until his very first game on March 24, when he demolished that homer to center in his first plate appearance. And just for good measure, he hit another one out of the park in his next at-bat. Did we mention this kid just turned 21?
University of Miami Lowe Art Museum
Courtesy of Lowe Art Museum
To call the Lowe's origins humble is an understatement. Its foundation began in three University of Miami classrooms back in 1950, until a free-standing facility opened to the public two years later. The museum's original holdings were donated by local philanthropists Joe and Emily Lowe. The initial gift has grown to include ancient artifacts and Native American and Asian art, as well as contemporary works and an expansive photography collection. In 2008, the museum added the Myrna and Sheldon Palley Pavilion for Contemporary Glass and Studio Arts, featuring a dazzling collection of works by Dale Chihuly, Richard Jolly, and William Carlson, among others. It marked the Lowe's first expansion in more than a decade. The research and teaching institution is the top ticket in town, a place where viewers can catch Jewish mosaics from the Roman Empire and ancient Greek urns alongside contemporary Cuban paintings, pre-Columbian sculptures, African art, and Renaissance and Baroque paintings during one visit. It also hosts the popular LoweDown Happy Hour events, which regularly draw national lecturers to the museum and give visitors an opportunity to mingle with artists and curators. More impressive, South Florida's oldest museum has blossomed from its modest genesis in those three musty classrooms to a whopping 17,500 objects in its collection today.
When he's not dumpster-diving or rifling through the shelves of his favorite thrift stores, Pablo Cano can be found in the garage behind his Little Havana home turning junk into art while listening to Cole Porter songs, Tin Pan Alley tunes, and other favorite ditties. Like the toy maker in Pinocchio, this conceptual Gepetto creates enchanting marionettes out of the trash he collects or the sundry castoffs his friends from all over the world bring to his back-yard studio when they visit. Inside his refuse refuge, Cano creates his own version of the Mona Lisa using a candy box for her head, a birdcage for her torso, and bits of rope for her joints. His Cecil B. DeMille-esque cast of characters might include oceanic sirens, '20s flappers, or dancing ants. To make a bull shine in the ring, he coated the animal's hide with a stash of gold cigarette foil paper he regularly receives in the mail from a growing legion of fans. Exhibited in museum shows across the globe, each of his puppets is a complex sculpture all its own. But for more than a decade, Cano has also produced fantastical operatic opuses in which his beguiling creations roar to life. Every year for the past 12 years, the Museum of Contemporary Art has commissioned Cano to create lavish productions that combine his marionettes with elaborate stage sets he paints or draws and the music he loves, conjuring magical displays that mesmerize art lovers both young and old. The Cuban-born artist says his productions — which employ choreographers, dancers, actors, and musicians — spring from his imagination in the surrealist tradition while his work is rooted in dada ideals. Whatever the source of his inspiration, Cano is the rare artist who, like Peter Pan, can transport spectators to otherworldly realms and help them rediscover a childlike wonder through his unforgettable characters meticulously rendered out of trash.
If you need an actual boombox, check Sony. If you need a building painted like some sort of fantastic cartoon boombox, check local artist Sonni. As part of the annual Primary Flight installation of murals throughout Wynwood during Art Basel week, Argentinian-born Adrian Sonni set out to turn an abandoned two-story building into a whimsical boombox, complete with grinning musical notes, painted in bright shades of primary colors. The makeover keeps the building from falling prey to less aesthetically pleasing graffiti and, by virtue of being clearly visible from I-95, gives drivers a reason to smile during a painful commute.
Tower Theater
Photo courtesy of Tower Theater
Cinephiles, rejoice! Though it sucks we'll have to wait another year to see kick-ass local films at the Borscht Film Festival, with the recent rise of art houses in SoFla, we'll be able watch indie flicks from all over the globe on the reg. Right here in Miami, ogling at handsome leading men such as Cary Grant, fashion weathervanes like Bill Cunningham, new cool crap from Cannes and Toronto, and crazy foreign zombies on the big screen is becoming the norm. This new wave of art-house openings is bringing classics and future classics to all corners of the city. O Cinema has staked its spot in the trendy art center of Wynwood, the Tower Theater has Little Havana under control with artsy films in Spanish and English, and Gables Art Cinema is spicing up the City Beautiful with some serious and controversial films. Bill Cosford Cinema isn't just for University of Miami students — it has what movie nerds need — while the Miami Beach Cinematheque screens the widest variety of fancy stuff at its new home inside the historic Miami Beach City Hall.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®