Best Place to Live Next to a Lawyer 2001 | North of Davie Boulevard, east of Andrews Avenue | People & Places | South Florida
The number one fringe benefit of living in this section of older ranches and ramblers? Not the proliferation of bail bondsmen in case you get into trouble. Not the proximity to the New River, though that is nice. Not the fact that you're within walking distance of the jail so you can go see Mom during visiting hours. No, the best thing is the free legal advice gleaned from chats with the neighbors over your backyard fence. In some places it looks like about every other home has been transformed into a lawyer's office. And these aren't the persnickety uptown lawyers who wouldn't give you the time of day -- at least not yet, anyway. These are the little guys hungry for business and eager for action. These are the guys who bring their work home with them.
It sounds like a nightmare: You're driving your black Eddie Bauer-edition Ford Explorer through a maze of roads lined with cookie-cutter, single-family homes. Slowly the houses melt together into a blur of fawn-colored stucco, garage doors, and sentrylike mailboxes. Perhaps you've passed your house several times already -- you cannot even recall whether you opted for the model A, with the picture window, or model B, with the bonus room. Your neighborhood, which has the hypnotic monotony of the ocean's rolling waves, has lulled you into a stupor. It sounds silly, but unless you're a homing pigeon or have Lewis and Clark's sense of direction, buying a house in Pembroke Falls could mark your mental undoing. But if the lure of this gated community intoxicates you, try putting a little red flag on your roof -- and hope no one else follows suit.
When it comes to relationships, everyone screws the pooch once in a while. Yet no one screws it more frequently or spectacularly than those darn heterosexual males. This particularly oafish lot is most often in dire need of extraordinary measures when it comes to begging forgiveness of their mates. And guys, when you're patching things up, the last thing you want is an audience. What if you flub your lines? What if she slaps your face? What if she's so moved by your contrition that she strips naked on the spot? Hey, it could happen -- and if it does you'll be glad you heeded our advice and took her to Big Cypress, South Florida's largest expanse of unspoiled nature. In it you'll find 729,000 acres of hiking trails, camping spots, endless views, huge cypress stands, swamps, gators, starry skies, a few easily avoided beer-swilling rednecks, and all the solitude freshly stitched-up romance needs.
Spend enough time watching these people, and you will come to an inevitable conclusion: In addition to providing great theater, the criminal justice system is also a babe magnet. Go to civil and you see hot-to-trot divorcées and racy, newly liberated dudes. Go to the criminal courtrooms and find the beautiful-yet-bellicose Bonnies and their glowering, deliciously dangerous Clydes. And don't forget all those Angie Harmons and Dylan McDermotts, the women lawyers in their sheer blouses and red power skirts, the men in their suits cut just so. Mm-mm-mm. Some of the finest legal tender you'll ever see. And as an added bonus, the ones in private practice are flush with cash. If you don't believe it, just watch them strut outside and climb into their Mercedes convertibles. The courthouse also offers a stage to try out your sure-fire pickup lines, like "With a corpus like that, you can habeas me anytime," or the more daring, "How about you and me get together and check out my legal briefs?" For those remorseless and oh-so-hot criminals, it's even better. Try: "I know you're an armed felon -- but damn you're fine!" Or the sweet, subtle, "Haven't I seen your wanted poster before?" And of course, the old standard: "What's a nice girl like you doing getting convicted in a place like this?"

The nation ogled the comings and goings at the courthouse during last fall's postelection battle, but the show goes on, folks. You want big names? How about Johnnie Cochran and Al Sharpton, who recently used the courthouse as a backdrop for basking in the outrage over the Lionel Tate life sentence? Your favorite -- or most irksome -- television news personalities routinely shoot standup footage across the street. And those annoying lawyers in television commercials who promise big bucks for your mishap? They'll be there. But it's the everyday citizenry who most intrigue: the guy who screws up enough courage to contest a speeding ticket; the would-be parents who beam with joy after a final adoption hearing; a guilty defendant's family looking stunned and puffy-eyed as they exit; school kids filing in for a civics field trip. And if you want a snack for the show, the peanut man is parked on the sidewalk most days. Buck a bag.
By the time you get to the police station to pick up an arrest record, you're probably in a rotten mood. Maybe the cops arrested your kid. Maybe your backyard marijuana farm caught a police officer's eagle eye. Maybe, in a last-ditch effort to ruin your fascist boss, you've launched an extensive background check on the bastard. But whatever your circumstances, a festering rage probably pumps through your veins as you stumble into the station; the last things you need are ornery bureaucrats crawling through the motions of locating incident reports. That's what you get, though, unless you had the foresight to commit your crime in Davie. The Davie Police Department records section, located in a spanking new building with an open, light ambiance, offers quick, polite service. The men and women retrieving records actually smile. They gladly explain and interpret police reports. And they even listen politely to the rambling stories of injustice that accompany each document.
Fashion-conscious South Florida has a way of keeping the passé at bay. Hairstyles that have come and gone are usually relegated to backwoods parts of the Panhandle, appearing every so often in Davie or at the odd demolition derby or NASCAR event. But the haircut police evidently haven't cracked down on the Home Depot in Oakwood Plaza, where you can rock your Tennessee top hat without fear of reprisal. You know: your mudflap, your Kentucky waterfall, your IROC cut, your Billy Ray Cyrus. Translated, we're talking about the long-in-back, short-in-front style about which folks guffaw behind your back -- everywhere but here. A recent visit for home-improvement supplies found the SoFla mullet alive and well. Keep your eyes peeled and you may even spot a few tykes with adorable mini-mullets.

The mullet, of course, is a fish generally caught in our waters for sport, rarely to be eaten. (What did you think we were talking about?) But it's one of the most interesting aquatic creatures swimming in our midst, especially in late fall, when the fish begin to spawn. The extremely active critters regularly leap out of the water to feed, twirling their silvery bodies in a frenzy, but during spawning season one can see stretches of local waterways absolutely boiling with sex-crazed schools of mullet. Just before dusk hundreds of the fish congregate under bridges and docks, swirling and churning noisily. Just seconds south of downtown, the section of the Tarpon River that passes under the Third Street bridge is prime mullet-spotting (and -catching) territory.
When original Bice maitre d' Maurizio Ciminella packed up his seating charts and set up a pasta palace of his own a few blocks north of Worth Avenue, a good deal of the glitz went with him. Revlon gazillionaire Ron Perelman may or may not have been his silent partner, but the balding mogul makes it a regular pit stop, at times in the company of his better half, actress Ellen Barkin. Athletes can't seem to get enough of Maurizio's wood-fired, Tuscan-style oven, whatever their game: golfer Greg Norman, All-Pro wide receiver Chris Carter, NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, god-with-a-puck Bobby Orr. Broadcasters also can't get enough: NBC Today host Matt Lauer has been known to break bread sticks with CBS Early Show host Bryant Gumbel. You can't dine anywhere in Palm Beach without running into local boys Jimmy Buffett and Rod Stewart, but Amici has hosted rarer warblers, from the sublime Jackson Browne to the ridiculous Michael Bolton. Perry Farrell and the whole Porno for Pyros crew passed, unfortunately, preferring Maurizio's newer joint, Galaxy Grille, just a short way south.
Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
This down-home campground is easily overlooked as a tourist destination. Sure, there may be more politically correct, environmentally friendly ways to entertain your visiting friends -- but that's not really the Florida way, now is it? No, the Florida way is to fuel up an airboat, drop some tourists on a little island "planted" with plastic orchids, and browbeat them into buying $6 alligator bites while they wait for the start of a show in which a suspiciously sluggish reptile is poked and prodded. But it's all worth it when the airboat driver spots a live one, breaks into a shit-eating grin, and lets the throttle rip. Then you're whistling through the sawgrass with the boat bouncing and bobbing hell-for-leather while your uptight Yankee friends realize they're somewhere they've never been before and maybe will never be again -- and are thus moved to yell things like "YEEE-haw! Get them gators!"

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