Best Of :: People & Places
When we want to impress visitors, we show them a slice of Florida the way Juan Ponce de Leon encountered it 500 years ago. The beaches will never be the same, of course, but the Everglades have the same silvery light they always had, the same towering clouds, the tropical birds, and, yes, the glowering gators. Best place to get a feel for it is the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, 17 miles up Snake Road from the Alligator Alley midpoint (Exit 49). First the gators: They're right beside the road, dozing in the shallows that lap against the berm or sunning themselves on the banks. Sometimes they'll even wander onto the two-lane road. Don't be afraid. Alligators are a low-energy, slacker breed who'd rather stay in a sleepy stupor than chase tourists. But don't get overconfident, either — they are carnivores, after all. If you're expecting chickees and bonfires, the reservation may be a bit of a downer. It's more of a modern outpost, with a school, a meeting hall, and a little cafeteria where you can eat fried alligator bits in a rocking chair on a veranda. Best of all is the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum ($6 for adults, $4 for kids), with historical displays and artifacts and a mile-and-a-half boardwalk that takes you right into the wilderness while staying safe from the predators below.
The Palm Beach Post has kicked some major ass this year, taking down a cadre of corrupt local officials, covering the hell out of the Dunbar Village rape, and producing an admirable series of investigative reports. (While we're at it, let's give a shoutout to the staff photographers, who have done some mind-blowing work.) But as we slog through the fact-heavy, front-page pieces that we know we ought to read (like the complex tale of Palm Beach Aggregates), we're jonesing to get to Page Two — Jose (pronounced Jo-zay) Lambiet's column. Is it gossip disguised as news? Or news disguised as gossip? One could easily mistake Lambiet's breezy writing for the paparazzi-style reporting that is causing the downfall of the collective American intellect. That's if it weren't so well-researched. At night, Lambiet charms his way through Palm Beach mansions and celebrity fundraisers; by the next morning, he's in the courthouse getting the dish on the Next Big Divorce. Sure, he gave us dirt on Rush Limbaugh's 30-something girlfriend and Greg Norman's hookup with Chris Evert, but his stories often go beyond that. Lambiet illuminated how disgraced commissioner Al Lamberti's wife was affected by her husband's scandal, and he kept tabs on rumored-to-be-gay Governor Charlie Crist's dalliance with a local lady. Lambiet tracked the voting problems of Ann Coulter ("The blond Democrat slayer," he called her) and took a Marlins player to task for hunting animals from a helicopter. His scoops often end up repeated in New York papers and national magazines. Because A-listers flirt with Palm Beach. And Jose owns it.
Around the New Times office, she's known as "The Wife of the Pulp." But just because she's married to New Times' own muckraking columnist Bob Norman doesn't mean we should keep Brittany Wallman from claiming a title she's due. Take it from writers who constantly try to get a crumb of fresh news out of Fort Lauderdale bigwigs: it rarely happens. Brittany, it seems, has already banged out every story worth breaking. As City Commissioner Christine Teel once said when begged for news tips or brewing scandals, "Brittany's got us pretty well covered. She doesn't miss much." Take for example last year's big local brouhaha: Mayor Jim Naugle's anti-gay stance that made national news. His comments about needing to buy $100,000 public toilets to curb homosexual sex were so subtle they probably wouldn't have been noticed except by someone who'd been the mayor's watchdog for years. Wallman's biography on the Sun-Sentinel's parenting blog, to which she also contributes, says the reporter "covers Fort Lauderdale City Hall, which is filled with almost as much drama as the Norman household." When Wallman's 5-year-old daughter Lily expressed shock that animals had died during an oil spill, Wallman asked her, "If you're so sad about animals dying, then why do you eat hamburgers and hotdogs?'' That's what we like — a reporter who lets no quote go unchallenged. No matter who you are, Lily.
Folks in the radio biz have been waiting – maybe that's begging – for SoFla radio stalwart Neil Rogers to retire for years. Some of them are jealous, no doubt; even more are flagrantly insane. Some wise listeners, however, are simply holding for the day when Rogers' man-at-arms, Jorge Rodriguez, will take over the show and ascend to the throne atop the airwaves. While Rodriguez may not have always been the best sidekick, over the past year ol' Jorge has solidified into a personality we'd love to listen to for a couple hours each day. Imagine Rodriguez as a character from a Kevin Smith movie: A true student of pop culture, sort of geeky but with just the right amount of grounding in reality, delivering slightly off-kilter rants about his take on religion and '80s freestyle music or just eulogizing the death of a proper Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich. In other words, Jorge allows us the space to vent about the sort of mundane, workaday topics and mere-existence philosophy that fills life in this gonzo patch of swamp we call South Florida. And while it doesn't look like Jorge will be sticking around WQAM after Uncle Neil moves out, we can only hope he lands his own show somewhere on the dial soon after.
The white, arciform lines and teal glass move up from the beach like a giant, 24-story wave summoned by Neptune himself. Designed by the Miami-based architectural firm Arquitectonica, the St. Regis is marked by tiered walls of opulent windows looking out over the 29,000-square-foot pool deck, past A1A to the sea. While the shape of the building mimics the waves, the interior calls to mind the heyday of ostentatious ocean liners, with Italian marble floors, mahogany desks, oak walls, and leather accents put together by the interior design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates. The building is the epitome of the new, luxurious Fort Lauderdale, bringing the opera crowd (or anyone willing to shell out $500-plus per night) to what was once the most hedonistic part of the beach. St. Regis spares no technological advance from the wi-fi-equipped cabanas to the state-of-the-art health club to the wireless, hand-held devices carried by all the on-site butlers. And a skywalk connects the pool deck to the beach, so guests won't have to brush against the disgusting common folk. True, regular people can't afford to stay here, but we can still stare at the beautiful building for free.
This award is unabashedly being driven by our economy. With gas prices at ridiculous levels, the days of the $20-$25 car wash aren't feasible for a lot of families anymore. If you have a multi-car household, it's even less realistic. If you've still got an automobile that needs to be cleaned, check out Carwash Lube on East Oakland Park Boulevard, where you can get an oil change (up to five quarts) plus a car wash for $20. Most oil changes alone cost more than that, and a detailed car wash can top that price at a lot of places. At Carwash Lube, technicians check all your fluid levels, change filters, put air in your tires, while washing your car for you, vacuuming it out, and toweling it down — all for 20 bucks. That's hard to beat.
You have a lot of old stuff you don't want: clothes, couches, kitchen utensils. You like to find good deals on all sorts of items. And maybe you are a hopeless drunk or drug addict who let life spin out of control. Faith Farm, the Christian-based furniture store and rehab center, has something for you, no matter what you need. Since the early 1950s, Faith Farm has accepted money, food, clothes, and household items, and used those things to straighten out the lives of men (and more recently, women) struggling with addiction. They take people off the street, feed them, give them training and jobs, and try to re-introduce them to society as productive, upstanding citizens who no longer depend on chemicals to deal with the pangs of life. If it's not salvation you need but rather a few things for the apartment, you can get new furniture at a substantial discount or sort through the bric-a-brac that includes books, dishes, and just about anything else you can imagine. And as you redesign your pad, you'll feel so good about yourself you might even want to celebrate.
A rule of thumb: If your ol' buddy Pain has come for an extended stay, it's time to knock on the chiropractor's door. Still, with chiropractor signs leaping out from every other shopping plaza, finding the right one can be grueling. Check out A Place of Health. You'll go for a spinal adjustment after that sports injury, or that bad fall, or that car accident, but you'll find a doc who wants you to live well. Donna Watson will put every bone in its place, but she'll also take care of you. This is what Naturopathic medicine is all about. The goal is to get your body as healthy as possible so it can heal itself. She'll also educate you on nutrition, and vitamins and herbs, that'll help give your body the balance it needs. Besides chiropractic care, Dr. Watson also performs one of the oldest healing arts in Eastern medicine: acupuncture. This process isn't as scary as you think, and the benefits are limitless. It has the power to alleviate pain, put your body in harmony, and stop a nasty cold dead in its tracks, all with a few thin needles. She also has a massage therapist on hand.
If hatred lies at the ice-cold heart of terrorism, then it's up to the next American president to make this nation less hate-able. The old white dudes we've put in the Oval Office these last few centuries have not fared well, what with their record of condoning slavery, nuking civilians, and fudging intelligence reports for the sake of a disastrous military campaign. Obama is the only candidate who actually anticipated what's since become conventional wisdom: That as foreign invaders hunting for terrorists, American soldiers would not be greeted as liberators, and that for every terrorist they slew, they created several more. Sound judgment and diplomacy are needed, and if these qualities come from a younger candidate of color who happens to have a Muslim name, they're that much more credible.
Scented candles, ambient lighting, big comfy chairs, and a plasma widescreen... Is this a dentist's office or a health spa? Dr. Nadja Horst's space in downtown Fort Lauderdale is a bit of both, which distinguishes it from those sterile, fluorescent torture chambers that haunted your childhood. But the real proof you're in good hands is a glossy trade magazine in the waiting room, bookmarked to the page that contains an article about Horst. The Q & A section asks what book she's reading, and she answers, "I hate to say it, but mostly dental journals." Kinda nerdy, Nadja, but for us clients it's nice to know we've entrusted our chompers to a real pro.
Sure, the concept might not seem all-inclusive at first blush. These annual gatherings are organized by a bunch of folks celebrating their Scottish ancestry, and to some extent their families' early arrivals in the U.S. of A. (Case in point: The Daughters of the American Revolution sponsor a booth and hand out lengthy questionnaires to women who might be eligible to join because their great-great-whatevers fought the British.) But, really, this festival is about a bunch of folks, many with Scottish surnames, donning funny outfits and playing ridiculous games. Ever see a 6-foot-tall Japanese man wearing a kilt and hurling bales of hay over what looks like a high jump bar? Yeah, didn't think so. Most clans will be happy to take on honorary members, so pick out your favorite tartan and march in the clan parade. (Word is Clan Campbell is always looking for recruits.) There is also, of course, lots of beer, whiskey, scones, and haggis to be consumed. And bagpipe players! The festival takes place over an entire weekend each January, and advance tickets can be bought for $10 at just about any Irish or British pub in Broward County.
Jim Leljedal has weathered a lot in his 25 years with the Broward Sheriff's Office. Working for Nick Navarro, the egomaniacal former sheriff who battled 2 Live Crew and teamed up with the Cops TV show, could never have been dull. Then came the tragedy of Ron Cochran's death, followed by the highly political tenure of Ken Jenne that ended in disgrace and a prison term for Jenne after a federal corruption conviction. Through all that turmoil, BSO has had one calm and steady voice in Leljedal. He's an understated pro who came from the TV news ranks, became a bona fide deputy sheriff, and actually gives a little respect to the ink-stained wretches who come to him for information. His fundamental decency stands in sharp contrast to a few of his peers over the years, some of whom seemed to have gone mad with the power they held over newspaper and TV stations (Elliot Cohen, we're looking in your direction, wherever you are). Leljedal is one of the good guys. Here's to another 25, Jim.