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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Place to Hang Out with Treebeard
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons

By the age of 5, most South Floridians would rather watch their television flicker than have a close encounter with nature. But perhaps because of the popularity of Lord of the Rings, it "Ent" impossible to get those kids interested in the gigantic Lofty Fig at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. How could they resist the opportunity to hang out with the shaggy monster that so resembles their beloved Treebeard? The 70- to 85-year-old giant -- like those pesky invasive Australian pines that got hacked away a few years ago -- is non-native, according to rangers at the park, but has historical value because it was likely planted by Mr. Birch, who donated his estate as a public park (opened in 1949). Since the tree is located next to a covered picnic spot ($80 to rent for a day) and a playground, you can admire its winding, cavernous trunk while you drink cold beer and play volleyball. Of course, there's always the option of sitting around the house watching Billy and Jenny's soft little arms maneuver Playstation controllers while you try to figure out how to pay for their ADD meds, but it might be nice to try natural light -- and we don't mean the beer -- for a change. The beachside park with winding trails and preserved natural habitats opens at 8 a.m. and closes at sundown. Entrance is $4 for a carload and $1 per person for walk-ins.

3109 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33304
MAP
954-564-4521
Best Political Gaffe

We know that a lot of guys, including mayors, enjoy some Internet porn. And there's nothing wrong with that as long as you play by a couple of rules. First of all, you gotta keep your wanking rate below that of the average zoo monkey. And second, you need to hide your tracks. Everybody knows it's going on, but that doesn't mean anybody wants to see evidence of it. And it's that second part where long-time Pembroke Pines Mayor Alex Fekete screwed up in a big way. He sent his personal laptop computer to the city techies to have it repaired for a virus and left, oh, about 23,000 pornographic photos on there for all to see (which makes us wonder if he also didn't break rule number one, as well). And see the smut, city employees did. Then they sent it to the State Attorney's Office for an investigation. Thankfully, there were no charges, since there was no child porn in the mix. I'm not sure, but if you've got 23,000 dirty pictures on your computer, it's no wonder you picked up a virus. Fekete, in his defense, insinuated that some saboteur had infected his computer with the porn. Yes, the dreaded evildoer Pornman struck again. Now this was all a major-league F-up, but it's not even his biggest gaffe. Hell, it happened three years ago, and somehow Fekete escaped media scrutiny. No, where Fekete really whacked himself, so to speak, was by bringing up his little pornodrama at a political function in February. To a group of retirees, no less. It was a pathetic attempt at damage control, since the Herald and Sun-Sentinel jumped on the story. Well, to make a long story a little longer, Fekete isn't the mayor anymore. The disturbed retirees voted him right out of office in March. The good news: Now he has plenty of time to pursue his other, um, interests.

Best Scandal

Not even those overwrought 1980s prime-time soap operas -- like Dallas and Falcon Crest -- ever came up with a better script than what's been happening at our public health system. It begins with Austin Forman, the scion of the county's most powerful family. J.R. -- I mean Austin -- rigged a sweetheart deal with the tax-subsidized North Broward Hospital District to build a medical office building. With the help of district CFO Patricia Mahaney, he and a couple of partners stood to make $100 million on the public's dime. But then Alexis -- I mean Mahaney -- who'd gone on an exotic vacation to Africa with Forman, got too greedy and was busted by the feds for embezzling NBHD money. A federal grand jury has since convened to investigate the deal -- and the scandal leads all the way to the governor, who happens to be the president's brother and heir to the White House in 2008. This one hasn't played out all the way yet, so we can't wait for the next episode. Readers' Choice: Miriam Oliphant

Best Reason to Read City Link

Um. Oh. Well. Uh. Shit. You're younger than you think you are.

Best Radio Personality

You don't so much listen to Jim "Mad Dog" Mandich as you rubberneck him. He's a loud, obnoxious, full-of-himself, loutish, often-wrong boor. In other words, he's perfect for that abrasive medium called radio. What's more, Mandich is perfect for sports, especially since he's a former jock himself, having played several seasons as a mediocre tight end for the Dolphins. With his sports pedigree, Mandich has a special insider quality that somewhat tones down the repulsive nature of his character. (Though he could never touch the smarm level of his WPLG-TV (Channel 10) television partner Jimmy Cefalo, another former Dolphins receiver). Mandich doesn't just talk about sports; he's liable to ramble on about the hangover he has from freebie cocktails he drank the night before or provide an anecdote that reveals his lecherous nature. You never know what this train wreck of a man is going to say next -- and that's what really makes him hard to ignore. Readers' Choice: Neil Rogers

Best Sun-Sentinel Writer

Pretty much the Sentinel's bite-size version of Jim DeFede, Mayo's heart is in the right place. The former sportswriter has a conscience and a Jimmy Breslin-like way of reporting issues rather than just commenting on them. He zeroes in on controversial topics and provokes meaty debate. Willing to cast a withering sidelong glance at the folly of our ways, Mayo pisses people off, and that's good. A recent misguided letter-writer complained that the columnist "should be more objective," because, "after all, honesty and objectivity are the only things that distinguish you from the tabloids." Hey -- we resemble that remark! As a columnist, Mayo is paid to spew his opinion hose over anyone who gets close to it. You know you're soaking in it.

Best Palm Beach Post Writer

It's an old standard in the news business that any reporter on the same beat for more than a few years is probably a hack. That's far from true for Pat Moore. She's in her 25th year at the Palm Beach Post, covering nothing more significant than the courthouse in the paper's Martin County outpost. Despite job offers in the Post's main office and loads of journalism prizes, including a Scripps Howard Foundation award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment, Moore has insisted upon continuing to cover the same old beat. After all that time, Moore still relishes routinely scooping the cub reporters thrown at her in droves by the Stuart News. Some of her competitors, who typically last no more than a couple of years, include: Janet Weaver, now dean of faculty at the esteemed Poynter Institute for journalists; Tim Roche, Southern bureau chief for Time; and a staffer for New Times. Her competitors have coined nasty nicknames for the matriarch of Treasure Coast reporting (we don't dare reprint them), but sources still routinely go to her first. Now, after all these years, Moore is contemplating retirement. "Well, I'm getting tired," she says in a rare moment of self-deprecation. "I mean, at this point, I can cover a trial almost blindfolded."

Best Herald Writer

Best Herald Writer Carol Marbin Miller The Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Dentention Center is a dreary place. Lots of kids have hated it over the years, and the Herald has done some pretty good, aggressive stories. But when 17-year-old Omar Paisley died last year of a ruptured appendix, Herald social services writer Carol Marbin Miller picked up the challenge. Soon a grand jury, drawing heavily on Marbin Miller's plethora of stories on the incident, charged two nurses with manslaughter for ignoring the boy when they should have saved him. Later, officials made significant changes at the lockup. Just the latest strike for justice by Marbin Miller, the bane of the state's Department of Juvenile Justice, who has been the champion of every abused kid in the region for several years now.

Best Correction Best Journalistic Restraint

A story in The Palm Beach Post Wednesday on the history of cross-dressing included a reference to former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as 'a closet cross-dresser.' Most historians have concluded that Hoover was not a cross-dresser, despite the rumors that have circulated for years. The story appeared on the front page of the Accent section."

That's pretty darn good. But check out the original text from the October 1 article, which -- we swear -- actually read: "J. Edgar Hoover: He gave a whole new meaning to the word dragnet when declassified documents showed that the FBI chief was a closet cross-dresser. Makes you wonder who 'America's 10 most wanted men' really were."

Best Journalistic Restraint Sun-Sentinel Travel editor Thomas Swick Swick described this delicious scenario on March 28 in a story titled "You Can't Hop a Jet Plane": The editor is late to catch a plane to Thailand. A delay at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport means he has only a narrow window to make his connection. When his jet touches down at LAX, he tries to push past the other passengers to the front of the plane. Some let him through, but one man refuses to move out of the way and says, "We've got a plane to catch too." Swick whines that he has only 20 minutes. Then the other guys responds: "I wish we had 20 minutes." Our itinerant master of modesty doesn't just snap back, "Do you know who I am?" Oh no. "I hold back the fact I am a travel writer and that there are dozens of people (at least) back home waiting for my stories." (Actually, our sources report, the true number of interested parties is 16.)

Best Unintentionally Funny Headline

Eye Doctor Helped Blind Patients."

All we wanna know is, did he hold 'em down or actually poke out the poor bastards' peepers.

Best Typo

Reality shows became so ubiquitous there for a while that it became second nature to ignore them. And that would have been the case with The Surreal Life, an utter time-waster starring Ron Jeremy, Tammy Faye Messner, Vanilla Ice, Erik Estrada, and some other losers. Above their mugs, brief descriptors floated, identifying Jeremy as "the Porn Star" and Tammy Faye as "the Evangelist," etc. In a January issue of City Link, until it was corrected, the item provided an interesting description of Davie's own Vanilla Iceman, the one-hit Wonder-breader whose real name is Rob Van Winkle. For seven glorious days, he was "The Vanilla Raper."

Best Effigy

There's no doubt that carrying a gigantic cross on your back makes for a damn good workout. And it's undeniable that Jesus Christ had a handsome physique. Need proof? Check out the life-size statue of him at 6007 Garden Ave. in West Palm Beach, which clearly shows the benefits of his workout regimen. It has rock-hard abs and a Lou Ferrigno-esque chest. The statue -- standing under the awning of a pink, Key West-style cottage -- seems to lend credence to the Dead Sea Scrolls' claim that Mary Magdalene introduced the J-man to the Galilee Gold's Gym. In addition, the able-bodied Savior displays details from the lost stories of Christ. While many portrayals of Christ show him in white, on this statue, he sports a loincloth painted a handsome lilac. And the Savior is supported by two crutches to illustrate the days after an injury ended his run as a point guard for the Messina Messiahs. Animal lovers will admire the accompanying two brown mutts, which are clearly a rebuke of the blasphemous claims that Christ was a cat person. And his forlorn expression, head cocked slightly to the side, implies that Jesus is reciting that famous verse, John 3:17, in which he promises disciples, "Thou will gain naught without pain."

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Best Place to Hang Out with Treebeard: Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

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